Monthly Archives: November 2013

Random Musings #3 – Gifts

Despite where Christmas originally came from, a disproportionate part of it these days if gifts. Regardless of whether you show your love for friends and family in other ways, the giving of gifts tends to be almost a requirement at this time of the year.

It isn’t of course, and I know probably just as many people who’d rather not be given a present (or obligation as some would call it ^^) as would. Personally I just love to give friends and family gifts at this time of the year and strive to do so far as many people as possible, limited by what I can spend before going completely bankrupt! I thought I’d dedicate this post to being about presents and such in general.

Family

This is always the hardest one, as while I love my family, I simply do not know what kind of things they would want or need! With my parents it’s difficult because they simply have more money than me. If there’s something they want or need that I could afford it’s very likely they already have it! With my siblings it’s more that I don’t know well enough what they might want as we don’t have enough in common (Plus I don’t see them often enough). As a result I tend to just quite directly ask what people would like for Christmas, and after being redirected a few times (Ask your sister/ask mum/ask…etc) come up with something small that’s not usually very unique, but means I can get them something they want and make them that much happier on Christmas day!

Last year I tried to do something a little more special, and didn’t just get what I was told I should, at least on for my Mum & Sister. I went on shapeways.com instead and found a cute dragon for my Mum and a Pendant for my Sister that I thought they’d like (I think I was right :P). I got a couple of other things too, and went with standard fare of ‘sweets, socks and the like’ for my Dad, but felt so much happier than many Christmas’s that I’d found something that little bit more unique!

This year I don’t feel confident enough in how much money I have (Due to getting a car) which is a shame as I’d love to do something similar. Instead I’ve gone with asking what people would like and will try to pick a gift for each that will cause the biggest smile possible anyway. Next year I hope to save up a little to go with shape-ways again, or some other such custom gift (Perhaps I could learn to design my own 3D models to get printed for them!)

Friends

Friends are much easier to buy presents for, mostly because they don’t expect it and no matter what you give it’s a surprise! Last year and this year I’m prowling dayoftheshirt.com to find unique design t-shirts that fit the people I’m buying for. This is such a fun option as it’s usually <£10 each and with themes that my friends will love.

On the other hand it does feel a bit more awkward, as while I don’t expect things in return, it’s possible to make a person feel extremely guilty by doing this and it’s not the reaction I want! I don’t know how to get around that other than not buying them things, but that doesn’t feel an option to me, I want my friends to get cool things from me! Awkward ^^

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Eurgh, I feel like all that was a bit lame, so I’m going to stop right here! I hope I manage to get people great things despite a tight budget (And have some ordered already!) and give out some smiles this Christmas!

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Random Musings #2 (Christmas Soon!)

I like the idea of calling posts ‘random musings’ because it gives me an excuse to type nonsense as a way of delaying until I final get around to thinking of something that’s actually interesting to read to someone, maybe. Lets just go with an update on board games for the past week.

Friday – UoB Tabletop Gaming Society

I try to go to the society at the University I live by every Friday. Sadly I’m no longer a student but as I still enjoy going, I’ve taken to the idea of driving over there as soon as I finish work at 5 to play games until the late evening (2-7 was normal, but people stay around till around 11 if I go, particularly as I bring more games than the society gets out themselves ^^). Anyway we had time for a couple of games last Friday although I always wish I could fit in more.

First up was Kings of Air and Steam. There was 6 people about and we were trying to decide on a game when a 7th walked in and it immediately settled the matter, as this was the only one going to that player count. I’m really happy about that as I love this game and it’s better with more players, plus I’ve now been able to introduce most of the regular Friday tabletop people to it so future plays will have less teaching! It was a tight game between 6 of us, with 1 of those 6 being a dirty pirate and using his steal money/goods powers to good effect. The 7th managed to sneakily find a corner where noone bothered him much, and shot out to a ridiculous lead, leaving it 200-something to 100-120 for the rest of us. I came last, as tends to happen with KoAaS as I make a lot of mistakes while teaching (It’s hard to remember to upgrade your airship when you get asked 6+ questions a turn ^^). In the end though it was a fun mess and I loved it anyway!

For the second game of the night we split into 2 groups. 3 went for a MtG variant called commander (I think, 100 card pre-set decks) and the other 4 of us went for Among the Stars. This a brilliant drafting game that plays out like a strongly thematic and much more exciting version of 7 wonders, where we act as various races building space stations for some post-war peace ideal. I went for an odd shape designed to let me get high points from adjacency cards (Lots of gaps for those cards as I went) which confused the new players a lot, while they were being more confined. In the end I almost won, but got edged out by a little thing we very nearly missed, I think credits to vp. It was great fun and I enjoyed having a transporter heavy secure station with some totally peaceful huge gun emplacements. Can’t wait to try it with the expansion, and up to 6 players!

Sunday – Apres Essen Goodie Con (Telford)

The brilliant UK online gaming store gameslore held an event in Belmont Hall in Telford in Sunday, where they had a few new games from Essen available to play as well as a few for sale. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and also wanted to go in part as motorway practice in case I need to go longer distances sometime (I’ve been driving for 2.5 weeks). My lovely girlfriend Grace joined me and we headed over in the early afternoon for a few hours of gaming, which we managed to fit just the 1 longer game and 2 smaller ones (1 of which we gave up on as it was kinda lame ^^).

The longer game was Spyrium, a worker placement game that came out recently with an interesting worker placement mechanism based around a 3×3 grid of cards. When you place a worker, you put it between 2 of these cards, and when you move into your activation phase (Stop placing workers) to use/obtain one of them. One caveat though is that the cost to obtain/use a card (obtain is buildings that you take off the grid, use is people that can be used multiple times) is increased by 1 for each other worker around that card. The result is that a valuable looking card soon becomes too expensive. During activation you can retrieve a worker around a card to gain 1 money for each other worker their instead of using it, so you can also use these heavily contested cards as a money generator. I tried to go for the lesser buildings that generated spyrium/converted it to victory points rather than competing for the high cost cards, coming in 3rd/5. We had to learn the game before/while playing so I don’t know much about what everyone else did unfortunately, I do hope to play again sometimes but I won’t be buying this one!

Game 2 was a game with a few dice (18 D6 in 3 colours, and 1 special big dice) and some imps, you roll the big dice to work out what you are doing (Take the colour of imp the same as dice closest to the die, or take the imp the same colour as the highest die rolled). This ended up being lame as hell because it took so little time to work out the simple ideals that it was more of a ‘I can grab it faster’ than ‘I can work it out faster’, we gave up about halfway through despite it only being a 5-10 minute game, bleh.

Finally we had a game of Eight Minute Empire. I’ve been quite intrigued by this game since I came across it on kickstarter but didn’t back at the time as I wasn’t convinced it could work and didn’t really research it. We were in need of a quick game though as were time limited, and I picked it from the table of stuff provided for trying. We played the basic game but had a good 8 minutes of fun (Maybe 10, the game lies!) with us all going for slightly different tactics. I won with 11 points by a sneaky move at the end taking control of the island to the bottom left, although I’m not sure how tactical the game really was, maybe with a few plays (Which wouldn’t take long to be fair!). If I see this in a FLGS or on kickstarter with another expansion/sequel maybe I’ll pick it up!

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I mentioned Christmas in the post title! I should say something about it really. A few days ago I was asked by my family what I’d like for Christmas/Birthday (as my birthdays only a few days later they get combined). My wish list is pretty much:

  • TomTom – Borrowing my grandads at the moment, but I need one of my own really ^^.
  • Caverna: The Cave Farmers. Looks like a fantastic version of Agricola with some of the aspects that put me off being tidied (Feeding family for example).
  • Legacy: Gears of Time. I have the back to the future card game (kind of like chrononauts) but it doesn’t quite scratch my temporal board gaming itch, so this looks like a good option.
  • Belfort. I’ve developed a soft spot for TMG after getting KoAaS and this looks like it could be of interest to me,
  • Eldritch Horror. Arkham Horror seems a bit OTT to me, this streamlined new version looks great though.
  • Socks. I mean c’mon, what’s Christmas without socks as presents. =)

Can’t wait for Christmas day to try out some or all of those!

Kickstarter Interesting Projects #1 – SoB, Journey and Templar Intrigue

I don’t really have a specific definition for what to include in a post like this, suffice to say it’ll be for projects that I think look quite interesting, and if I had money I knew was spare, would definitely back.

My inspiration for this is pretty much the first game I’m going to mention, as I think it looks particularly exciting and am rather sad that I can’t really afford to back it. It also put me in a mood to take over a list that ran for a while in boardgamegeek of the 10 top funded board game projects on kickstarter, which you can find at the following url.

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/150923/2013-kickstarter-boardgame-projects
Shadows of Brimstone

Shadows of brimstone is a cooperative dungeon crawler game set in the Old West, with horrors and bandits abound. Players create characters in classic Western roles, then venture out into the wilderness and down into deep mines in search of adventure.

This project, which has been running since October 23rd, has racked up a huge $750,000 sum already, with 11 days left for it, and looks to overtake the hugely successful original Zombicide project in the next few days. With a value that high you can probably guess it’s a miniatures project already, which is has in spades.

Rather than go for a typical approach of a single box with expansions later, SoB has 2 core boxes right from the start with their own set of characters and adventures set in the same world. It’s possible to get just the one of these for $75, but the real starting level is at $150, where you get both boxes and stretch goal content making this a particularly valuable point to back at. There’s also a higher level, mine cart, which includes all the unlocked add-ons, for a crazy amount of content at a somewhat crazy price of $475.

As the project progresses there is some amazing new content being added, from different enemy types to whole new ‘otherworlds’ to travel to and explore. It’s a very exciting project to track as it evolves, although a lot of additions are optional add-ons that will increase your pledge ever closer to giving in to a mine cart level.

I don’t know what else I can say about the project really, except I really hope a friend that’s looking at it takes the plunge so I can try it out when he receives his copy! Go take a look, you may like what you see!

Journey: Wrath of Demons

Another miniatures project of the moment, this project has it’s roots set in Chinese mythology. Through the game you play as pilgrims fending off bull demons as you search for the Sutras, with the ultimate goal of defeating the bull demon king in a showdown at the end.

The game provides a variety of quests to play through, and is open to various paths for your pilgrims to take, be it slaughtering waves of foes, or cleansing their souls in an effort to be better men. The art of the game looks great too, with a huge wealth of art, architecture and drama in the Chinese mythologies it’s based upon.

I’m not quite so enamored with this project as SoB, but I think it looks like something worth a longer glance to those who can afford it. The miniatures are bigger than other games I’m used to, and look like they’d be great fun to play the game with. Currently it’s at $237,000, but I wish them luck in reaching much dizzier heights as the campaign continues and they hit more stretch content.

Templar Intrigue

To finish up, we have something a “little” bit on the cheaper side. This project has a minimum level of $2 ($3 international) for the game, on a pay what you want system where the recommended ask is $5.

The game itself is a werewolf/love-letter style game where you are trying to work out what roles the other players are in and use that to your advantage and win. In this particular game, you do know ‘some’ information about other players, but not necessarily their allegiance! No moderator is required in the game and play is fast, with the aim being to win a few rounds rather than just the one. Predicted play time is 30 minutes for 3 games.

That’s about all I know really, but I think Tasty Mintrel Games are an awesome company and I am more than happy to chip $5 in on this project. I can’t wait to get my hands on both this, and other projects by them as they come available in the future.

That’s all for now, hope everyone’s having a good week, farewell! =)

New Games: Gear & Piston, Byzantio/Nekken

Yesterday morning I received a parcel. it turned out that parcel was the delivery of pair of kick-starter projects I backed earlier this year, both by LudiCreations. I was expecting them soon, but so earlier was absolutely brilliant service, and it’s awesome to know they were sent from Essen!

Gear & Piston

So far I’ve had the opportunity to play this one twice. In it, you are an engineer in the late 1800’s trying to design a prototype automobile to compete with the forthcoming motoring giants. You do this by developing new parts, scrounging for junk and ultimately in order to meet deadlines, using any old scrap that’ll get the thing working!

In the game you place tokens (workers) in a few places to try and gather the parts you need (or prevent others from doing so!) to build your wonder machine. These are:

  • The Black Market. Here you can do dodgy things at the cost of losing one of your actions next turn. These include looking through the next few new parts to take one, stealing a part from another players hand, and shifting your position on a location to get what you want first (or even go last to get the first player token next turn!)
  • The Patent Office. I find it a strange idea for the new parts to be here, but it does the job. Here you can take a single new part from a wide selection (6) or a random one from the stack. At the end of each round all the available parts are discarded and a new 6 are placed out. Also, when a part is taken it is immediately refreshed, so it can pay to take a piece later if nothing really appeals for your car that’s already out!
  • The Junk Yard. Here you can scrounge parts that have been dumped by the motoring giants or other people trying to develop their own automobiles. These aren’t quite so lovely and sometimes have volatility that represents how likely your car would be to just collapse during use. The advantage is that you can take 2 from here, although the selections a little smaller than the patent office too (3).
  • The Workshop. This location is where everyone heads back to their workshop and tinkers with their machine. You can build, upgrade and remove parts from your prototype and work it to perfection here. Going early in the order lets you get more done, but the last player gets the 1st player token next round.

Each game you have a few investors to compete over who provide some extra points based on what you’ve built. One investor for example likes a car with a long range and another just wants it to be comfy, other still might want a really long automobile to roll around in. These are what provide a bit of spice and variety to each game.

I really enjoy seeing what everyone comes up with as the games goes on, whether it’s a dirty petrol vehicle with dodgy components or a luxury hybrid. I’ve lost both the games I’ve played, although the 2nd I at least drew for 2nd place (4 of us). It may or may not help that the first game we just did a few things wrong, and the second we extended the game longer than I think we were supposed to because we just didn’t want to stop with half-vehicles that would be more scrap than not, i.e. not much fun ^^.

The game does up to 6 and is pretty easy to teach, so I can’t wait to get some more plays in and I just hope it doesn’t get stale as one of the players felt it might. I will not rest till I make a petroleum gas electric hybrid!

Byzantio

This is a very interesting game in that I backed it more because I was interested in the company, LudiCreations than because I wanted the game. I wasn’t sure at all if I’d like the game as there’s things involving writing and hidden data which aren’t really something I’m accustomed to and don’t like people doing in games where it’s not a deliberate mechanic ^^

In it, you are competing to control a variety of cities across various regions of the Byzantio world. At the start of the game you write down the cities that you are aiming to have control of and will get points based on whether you get those or not. The reason it’s hidden is that at the end of the game you get points if you can guess your opponents primary high scoring city correctly.

To achieve your goals, you have 30 available actions of a few different types – Campaign, Muster, Advance, Negotiate, Bribe and Expel. There are 30 rounds and a set number of each of these, so you must plan wisely to not limit yourself in later rounds and lose your empire. Advance is an interesting one as it’s the only way for big movements across the map, and you only have 4 of them. Use your last one before having half your cities taken from you and you’ll be in serious trouble.

As it turns out, I found our solitary game really fun to play, with my chosen cities happening to be not too overly competitive with my foes, who really seemed to bicker a lot over their disturbing similar set of places!

In the end I won by having control of 4/6 cities, with a 5th as a draw (Half points). One of the other players guessed my home city, which I had placed as an island which as it turns out, for at least the first game is a really obvious idea to go for (Everyone’s was an island!). I guessed one other persons. Of the other 2 players, one guessed both and the other guessed neither, but they had control of or drew on enough of their cities they couldn’t match my sprawling and beautiful empire!

Very interesting game, and I look forward to my future plays to see how our strategy develops over time. I can see the misdirection elements of the game coming heavier and heavier into play as the players go through it, with next game for example everyone’s main cities being likely to be a nonchalent town in the middle of the map to try and obscure it in among fights over the islands to try and draw people’s gaze away.

I’d like to finish with a massive thanks to LudiCreations, for delivering their projects not just on time, but one a month earlier than the estimate and 1 2 months earlier (If only by a day into those brackets). Very great service and I look forward to backing future board games from them.

Hope everyone’s had a great Halloween and continuing to have amazing parties to do with it!

Bye! =)