China – Part 1

Right, so I meant to post these ages ago, and I never quite got around to it. A friend asked me about blog posts though and it seems a good idea to throw them up!

I actually wrote them on my trip to China in February, which was an utterly awe inspiring experience, and one I’ll never forget.

(Also – Disclaimer: I took pictures for lots of these which may or may not be attached, sorry if it doesn’t make total sense ;P)
(Disclaimer 2 – I wrote these on a phone, so there’s probably millions of little grammatical errors I was/am too lazy to fix ^^)

Day 1 and 2 are together, ’cause I actually got around to talking about the flight for the second post. Although that also means I say practically nothing about what I did with the day – Probably lots of being very shy about going anywhere (I can’t wait to go again, much more confidence in travel and I’m a bit better at 中文 now, though I’m still pretty bad).

Post 1 (Day 1)

The view outside my window. I’ve not achieved much today! I spend something like 2 hours just to buy a phone (I don’t have my phones unlock code because I’m an idiot). I had a bit of a nap and followed up by going for a walk down Wangfujing street to get food..and failed, as the people trying to convince you to go somewhere with them were many, and I got a bit panicky..soooo I found a newsagents and day 1’s food is a pack of prawn crackers… I hope I do better tomorrow when its light and I haven’t had an hours sleep in 30 hours (I fail when it comes to sleeping on planes ^^). I’m thinking I should have worked out a tour guide for the whole trip though, alone is..overwhelming.

Post 2 (Day 2, Kinda)

[Picture of my bag of PG tips tea I took along, not that it got used more than a couple times, Chinese tea was a way better option when available)
Yep, that’s just PG tips, cause screw paying £5 for a hotel cup of tea ;). I forgot to write about my flight yesterday. The longer flight I didn’t talk much, but the short one to Amsterdam I sat between 2 中国人 (Chinese). Catherine on my right spoke English well, but Aili on my left only knew how to say she doesn’t speak English. I mostly talked with Catherine, but I put Chinese into what I said when I could, and Aili understood what I said when I did! :). Aili was going all the way to Beijing, and I walked with her to the gate for the next plane (as English signs are not helpful for people that don’t read English!), before she met with a Chinese girl she recognized, so I parted ways and went for food. We met briefly at Beijing airport too, as I was looking very lost and she pointed where I should go. I was able to find Tina, my tour guide (from Wednesday my tour starts, but they arranged picking me up from the airport) who helped me to the hotel and I spoke about the rest already. It was really nice to meet them both, and the Chinese girl next to me on the 2nd flight too (though she slept most of the flight, and I was feeling too tired for conversation ^^). Anyway, I should probably go and do things, 11:50 and I have not left the hotel!

Changes Part 1 – Games & China

Right, I’ll try to keep this fairly short.

I’m going through really big changes in my life at the moment. One of the big things I’m trying to figure out is what really makes me happy, and I have my doubts that games are really one of those things. The problem comes down to the fact I want ‘real’ experiences, life experiences, ones with people of all types and of unique opinions and takes on the world. Video games don’t provide this, and I’ve cut them out and I feel much better for it.

Board Games are a little different. I got into them a couple of years ago because it opened up social opportunities where I felt comfortable. I met lots of new people all of a sudden, I was happy, I even met a girl I fell in love with through them. But…that stopped being the case quite a while back – I fell into a routine where I just went along and saw the same people every week, and I didn’t notice that it had stopped putting a smile on my face.

So…I feel a bit lost. I’m still happy to have the board games I own, and I still hope to use them to meet people, but I don’t think I want to go to regular games events any more. I’ll still go to games things from time to time, but it’ll be for the people, discussions and opportunities that might provide, and not to kill time as it has been.

So why am I posting this?…Well, because I think this means me posting a blog is going to be less regular, and about unique experiences I have, not just ‘this week we played X, Y & Z.This weekend, I’m going on a 3 week trip to China. I’m kind of terrified, because I’ve never gone on a holiday alone before, and I’m going to be closer to the person I love than I have been in months, yet unable to see her (For anyone that doesn’t know – we broke up), as I feel I’ve had my chance and ruined it. That wasn’t how this paragraph was meant to go…take two.

This weekend, I’m going on a 3 week trip to China. I’m extremely excited, as I have some parts on a tour, some free-form and a part where I get to meet with someone I know (My language tutor), and its’ going to be fantastic. The tour ended up being private, as apparently February isn’t a particularly warm time of the year to attract tourists, which means I get one on one time with a guide for many days, which will be fun for learning Mandarin. Other than that, I don’t know much, but I hope I have the courage to talk to many Chinese citizens and learn a lot, as I’m rather hoping this will be a precursor to a longer visit somewhere down the line.

For anyone who’s interested, I’ll be going to Beijing from the 2nd to 7th, be in Xian 7th to 10th, Chengdu 10th to 14th (Where I get to meet up with my language tutor!), Guilin 15th-16th, then back to Beijing until the 21st in the swanky ‘Hotel Prime Wangfujing’ (Which has a pool, yay!). So be sure to ask me about these places when I’m back, as shy though I may be, I’m sure I’ll want to talk about it to all the people =)

And this is me, signing out, until some-time in the future, to talk about China, or some other trip that I hope to go on (I rather don’t want to let any weekends go to waste any more, not when I could be travelling to hostels ^^).

Halesowen Board Gamers – Power Grid Deluxe, Europe (17/12/2014)

At this, last halesowen session of the year (With Christmas Eve/New Years Eve not being ideal dates ^^), there was a fairly small number in attendance of 8. Mark had eminent domain out and seemed eagar to play, while Dave got Power Grid: Deluxe out, with the europe map for it being the only PG map not played this year. I really have no desire to play eminent domain, so I joined in the Power Grid group with Dave, Simon, Suzy & Mike (I may be remembering incorrectly…but I think the only other time I’ve played power grid was again just because I wasn’t interested in eminent domain =P).

Power Grid

I don’t know that there’s much in the way of differences for this power grid ‘deluxe’ map, although I think the low numbered power plants that weren’t out from the start getting shuffled into the main deck is a difference to the norm. From what the regular players were saying, I think the market also changed more than the 1st to 2nd phase, but I didn’t really notice anything special with that. There’s also a couple of small ‘ease-of-play’ changes, to make some elements clearer (Like who’s bought a power plant in a given round), which I quite appreciated having only played once before. Finally, the map is prettier, which is a bit over-whelming before you start, but clear and functional as soon as there’s pieces down on it.

Gameplay, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a race to have the most generators across the map, which you can actually power up in a given round. Each round consists of a few parts – Players buy power plants in a basic auction (The 1st player picks one, players take turns bidding, when everyone passes the last bidder gets the plant and pays their bid, each player can have a maximum of 1 plant per round). Next players buy resources, starting from last place, with a market that works such that the more people buy, the more expensive things get (I.e. being in last place is good, because fuel is cheaper for you). The next thing to happen in a round is that people buy power plants on the map, paying a cost for each connection followed, and for actually building a plant – At first each city can have only one, but later a 2nd & 3rd can be placed in a city by different players, but at a higher cost.

Finally, players can spent the fuel they have to power up their plants. They then receive money based on how many cities have hence been powered, which is roughly 10/plant at first (Plus 10 ‘free’), but on a reducing scale, such that as you approach endgame you’re gaining maybe 6/additional plant rather than 10. At the start of the next round, player order is updated (The player with the most plants built going first), resources generated and it begins again. When someone first builds their 7th plant, ‘phase 2’ begins which just changes resource generation rates and allows a 2nd plant on each city. ‘Phase 3’ begins when the power plants deck is gone through once, which changes generation again and allows a 3rd plant on each city. The game ends in the round that someone builds a 15th power plant (Regardless of whether they can power it), with the winner being the person to power the most in that round.

* I should mention, the blocked off areas were Russia and the area south of Russia.

I’m not sure what to say about our actual game. Start positions seemed somewhat favourable to me/Suzy (To me anyway), as we blocked off a corner each, while the more experienced players clustered rather aggressively in the middle, where connections were much cheaper but there was less available space for expansion (I did still start very close, but grabbed 2 cities that made it very expensive to push past into the area behind me, which is to say Sweden/Norway.. I think).

In terms of early power plants, I was first player but let the first couple of plants I bid on go to other players (A coal and an oil plant), ending up with a gas/oil combined plant as noone out-bidded me (The player starting the auctions would lose out on buying a plant if he passes, so you have to bid at least the minimum for the first turn at least) – although this did mean I could power both of the cities that I started with.

For the next few turns, I pushed out into the heavily contested area as much as I could, as it both made it even more expensive for people to get into the area behind me and was generally cheaper than expanding there yet anyway. Dave carved a little corner for himself where he could hold 4 cities that were cheap to power, Simon went Southwest and Mike just pushed out through the cracks (He was surrounded so fairly limited I think on where to go). Suzy also pushed into the middle rather than into the corner behind her. My first somewhat aggressive move of the game was to slip a plant in behind Suzy in Birmingham, which was a bit more expensive than the area behind me, but not too much (I think 22+10 instead of 17+10), and was somewhat necessary as the middle area was too tight for me to spread out into. My confidence got a bit hurt when she revenge-expanded, paying a ton of money but slipping a plant behind me into Stockholm, which was a pain as that would be an expensive space to skip over.

As we came close to phase 2, there was a bit of a tense round where just about anyone could have pushed it into happening, but noone really wanted to. Had I been earlier in placing plants I think I would have triggered it (Mistakenly), but as I was in 1st place (Hence last to build) I had the benefit of knowing noone else would and left it for a round. In the following round, noone else seemed to want to push it again, but I was no longer last to build, so burnt a ton of money in expansion to get another city in the corner by Suzy, another one protecting the corner from further ‘invasions’ and a couple East of stockholm at fairly high cost due to Suzy’s annoyingly placed plant in Stockholm ^^. I was only able to power 8 of the 10, but I think it was worth it thanks to having a fairly safe area for another 3 plants (While Suzy was sharing the area, that actually made it less likely for anyone else to push in, and still had some decent priced areas to build in that I almost certainly wouldn’t get blocked out of thanks to being in phase 2).

The next round was a buying fest, as phase 2 makes a lot of cities available to build in all of a sudden. Dave went from 4 to 8 plants for example, with everyone else having similar jumps in size. At the start of that round, I’d managed to swap one of my ‘powers 2’ plants for a ‘powers 5’ (I had 4-2-2 before, hence 8 powered), and I snuck a plant down South, as it was actually about the same price as my nearby options at the time, and secured that I’d have cheaper buys later. Suzy ignored my attempt at blocking out the area East of Stockholm and again, as phase 2 lets you share, stepped through to make things a touch more expensive for me there while also securing that she’d have plenty of plants for the endgame.

My next couple of rounds were all about getting capacity. I got to 13 plants (Leaving the 2 in the corner and noting what they were going to cost me so I could have spend as much as I wanted to get the capacity, knowing what amount to leave aside). I ended up with a renewable energy ‘powers 4’, which was not ideal but the best I could get, meaning I just wanted to try and get a ‘powers 6’ or ‘powers 7’ of some kind. In the 2nd to last round, Simon got past me in terms of plants build and the amount he could power, but fortunately I think just didn’t quite have enough money for a 15th plant that round (He was on 14!). This did however also have the effect that it made it clear the next round would be the last.

In said last round, Mike & Dave were both well, scuppered already. They’d unfortunately not been able to get the capacity to compete, so, post buying power plants which was extremely easy to do (We’d hit phase 3 a round or two before, which means 6 are available, and are all fairly good ones) as noone bothered to bid-war on each other, Mike took the opportunity to ‘brown out’ Simon, who was set to have 16 plants all powered (While Me/Suzy easy looked set for 15) – a ‘brown out’ being buying up all of the available resources, such that someone can’t obtain the fuel they need to actually power their plants, Suzy also had coal plants and did the same, such that Simon was only able to power 11 of the 16 he had at the end. Fortunatey for me, the plant I’d picked up in that last round was a renewable that powered 6. It had been a touch more expensive than other options, but meant I had 0 need for fuel (I had a gas/oil 5, but already had the fuel from the round before).

In the plant buying round, Dave/Mike did what they could to block the cheaper options for the players closest to winning, but, as I mentioned before, I had a cheap couple of options in a corner so far removed that it would have cost insane amounts to get there and block me, which wouldn’t really have made a huge amount of difference (I could have built elsewhere at higher cost, but I still had enough money to do so). Suzy was able to build a ton of plants in that round, doing her last 4 from 11 to 15 to match my number of them.

The game ended with a tie between me and Suzy with the tie-break on money going in my favour by only about 20 money (Considering the cheapest extra plant to build at that point was about 25+, that was close!). I’m not sure of the orders between the others, but I think Simon was dead last thanks to the heavy denial on fuel locking him to 11 maximum powered, while Dave/Mike were just a plant short of their goals (Mike actually wasn’t far off from the win only a round before, but had passed on a gamble of a good plant coming available, and lost that bet, so couldn’t get the capacity).

I had a lot of fun with this game of Power Grid, thanks largely to a strong starting position that meant I didn’t feel too much stress over where I could build (I tend to struggle to enjoy area-control style games when things are too tight, as it can feel more like work than play). I think that the experienced players (Although they were new to this particular map) made certain mistakes in terms of not putting enough pressure on me & Suzy (We’d both played just once before), but I enjoyed winning anyway =P

Afterwards, it was a bit of an early finish, but the only game set to be played looked like Love letter, which I don’t really like to play except with non-gamers (As its’ to introduce people, but a bit stale in gameplay for me personally), so I left people to it, wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and headed off till the new year! Thanks to all who were there, it was fun =-)

PS – My apologies that I left a dirty plate/glass up there…I remembered when I was already in the car and driving that I’d eaten upstairs, bit unfair of me to leave it to someone else to take downstairs, sorry =P

Uni of B’ham Tabletop Society and Bread and Games! (12th & 13th December 2014)

My Top 50 Games (2014)

If you watch this blog via twitter, you’ve possibly already seen my top 50 list, if not, and you’re interested, have a link!
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/182805/smoothsmiths-top-50-games-year-two-2014

University of Birmingham Tabletop Society

Lost Legacy

As it was the last Friday of term for the Uni, we were set to change venue at around 7, and as such there wasn’t really time for any significant game on arrival. I broke out Lost Legacy though, as its’ a quick 5-10 minute game, and we ended up running 4 rounds, starting with just the flying gardens then shuffling in the starship cards when we gained a 5th player. I won, with 2 games won out of 4, with 2 of the others getting 1 win each. Its’ a really nice filler game, totally can’t wait to get even more decks to mix in ^^.

New Dawn

After moving to Nuffield, as I had no desire to join in the game of Battlestar Galactica starting up, I waited till we had enough for a game, and as there was 4 of us, suggested New Dawn. This is the second time I’ve got this to the table, unfortunately still with no MHQ’s (So Andrew’s Mobile Headquarters were yellow ticket-to-ride trains, perhaps less classy than the top-hats we used before, but still awesome).

We were pretty slow to start, with all 3 others at the table being new to the game (Andrew, Matt & Jay), but the ‘one-thing-at-a-time’ nature of the game helps to smooth out the complexity somewhat and by the 3rd year (of 5) people had about got the hang of it. I’d only played once before (And we had rules wrong for that), so we were all still in a state of ‘see what happens’ for the most part, although I’d picked up an ‘aid to the alliance’ card earlier than in the first game this time, seeing their value more, which naturally everyone else picked up on and copied doing ^^.

Moving on, I made a couple of mistakes, such as not taking opportunities to shift my MHQ’s when buying a new one (Such that I could get earlier captures in the next round), although this wasn’t much a problem as I kept being the last player anyway! The first player token in New Dawn rotates to the player with the least bases, and Matt, to my left, struggled a bit to get how to place them so he kept being first with me last =P. A couple of the others also missed opportunities where they could have placed MHQ’s better, but it all evened out.

Towards the end of the 3rd/start of the 4th round, I’d got myself set up to start scoring some decent points, and hopefully catapult from being on the least points to the front (Points are fairly tight, so being behind is generally not too far behind). At about that time, security came in for locking up, and we realised we had only about 10-15 minutes left. Our 4th round was done at lightning speed, and we finished part-way through it rather than finish off and create an angry security guard instead of a nice one. This was awkward for me, as I was set to score very good points on my next action! As it is, I came last, with scores something like 17-16-16-15.

Ok so not much happened this Friday, but I had fun, and I enjoyed New Dawn again, and looking forward to more plays, and of course to the stretch goals and metal credits arriving for it (And the missing yellow MHQ’s!).

Bread and Games

Myth

On Saturday, after a bit of a weird Morning where I woke up feeling like I was tipsy (No, I hadn’t been drinking the night before ^^) and spending a few hours just relaxing and wondering what the hell caused it, I invited my friend Chris (Handy) along to Bread + Games, a board games event near the centre of Birmingham. We turned up a bit late, but it wasn’t long before Tim came over and asked if we wanted to play something, then saw Myth and sounded excited about it. Naturally, Myth then became the first of the night.

I got everyone to pick their class before we started, as its’ just much easier to describe things with the mini’s on the board, particularly as each class is unique in some way so requires a small bit of explanation for each. We opted to try and start on a 12×12 tile, but drew a quest for 6×6 so put one out. We then read the rest of the text…and just got a bit confused. The quest had 5 crawlers starting on the tile, then running away unless we could catch them. They’d apparently run up to 2 tiles away, but the quest didn’t specify if those tiles are set-up normally, nor if the initial tile has normal set up…It was just weird, we drew again.

This time we got a quest that made more sense, so put out the 12×12 we’d been previously eyeing up. Lairs started with 3 extra minions to usual, and someone just needed to kill 4 enemies in one blow to succeed the quest (Done this one before actually, and it was way too easy, so..). Setting up the tile I chose to put out 2 lairs, one as orcs, and one as crawlers, and we got to work quickly with the soldier charging a line straight through 4 of them to immediately complete the (way too easy) quest.

People got the hang of what to do fairly quick, though Peter had an unfortunate initial couple of turns of not doing much (Curse of playing the archer, as you have to build up arrows or move into melee while being a very vulnerable class). What I should have made more of a point of, I realized, is that the lairs needed to die, and fast. By the time we realized, there was a swamp of minions between us and the lairs, and it looked like we were doomed.

A very sloggish session later, past our suicidal rogue Carl almost dying only to be saved by Handy the acolyte, we finally started on the crawler lair. In the meantime, Peter, who’d sneaked around to the left, decimated the orc lair solo with an Orion’s Tears (May use all ammo in one attack, 1 damage/arrow) and another attack. With both lairs dead, it was just a matter of time till we could have got everything cleared up, but decided to move on to other games at that point, as I don’t think any of us were feeling particularly incensed to carry on.

I think it was my fault for putting 2 lairs on the tile and perhaps a bit far away from us to be able to take out the lair fast enough for it not to drag. I am starting to worry about the games length a little though, particularly as I got the impression before I had the game that an act would be about 2-3 hours, but that’s how long chapters are taking (You do 1 chapter/tile, and an act is multiple tiles in general). I really hope I can get a group down enough with the mechanics for things to speed up though, as I’d love to start exploring the acts, stories and character progression parts of the game!

Smash Up

We played 2 games of this. For the first game, we just did a ‘grab a couple’ run at the factions, as I wanted to grab a couple monster smash ones to try (I went with Vampires and Mad Scientists), the new player to the game Josh got Dinosaur Somethings and Caz (I have no idea if that’s how I’m supposed to spell that..), being about as Brutally ridiculous as you can in Smash Up, went with Zombie Robots. If you dont’ know Smash Up, follow this link and scroll down to the second to last post, and check their ratings =P https://boardgamegeek.com/article/17686416#17686416

I’d tell you about all the drama, except it was just one ridiculous robot combo after another and an early mall crawl for the zombies to get the tenacious Z’s out. Caz won something like 15 to 4…

The second game was a bit fairer, and saw Neil joining us. I played Super Spy Werewolves, Josh Shapeshifting Geeks, Caz Dinosaur Bear Cavalry & Neil was Alien Elder Things. I got off to an awesome lead, making good use of the Werewolf temporary boosts to net 9 points before anyone else hit 5. Sadly for me, the result was I had about 4 or 5 turns in a row trying to get a mininon down and getting it thrown off the base I was trying for each and every time (The base was ‘Before this base scores, reveal the top card of your deck, if its’ a minion, play it here’, which is great with Spies as they get to fiddle the top cards of their deck).

In the end, Neil managed to grab the win with an epic combo where he dropped 2 Shoggoths and some other power boost onto a base to solo cap it with the crazy burst of power he had on the base. I wasn’t expecting to win, but I didn’t see it coming for sure ^^. I did get to have some good fun through the game though, as I managed to use Spies to get rid of both Caz’s King Rex (The best Dinosaur Card) and Neils Elder Thing (The best Elder Things card), funnily enough also messing with Josh, as his Mimic’s could have been very powerful with those minions in play ^^.

I had a really good night, and I think Chris did too (He was playing a game with very…black and white…art, ‘Cave Evil’ I believe, while I was in Smash Up). I got to chat to Jenny for a bit, and Greg, who I really want to meet up with sometime for a game of Wizard Academy. There’s some really fun people to play with at Bread and Games so I really should try to go more often (Though Saturday has a tendency to clash with other stuff =P).

Till Next Time, Play More Games! (Yeah I’m quoting Tabletop, =P)

Halesowen Board Gamers (10/12/2014)

This week, after messing up a bit in terms of bringing the main Myth box but forgetting the secondary one (Which is pretty much required), I opted to wait and see what else got played. Fury of Dracula got set to occur as someone had previously asked Dave to play it, and Mike wanted to get ‘Shipwrights of the North Sea’ played. I wasn’t really sure about either, but the 3rd game being looked at seemed to be City of Remnants, so I went for Shipwrights with Mike & Suzy =P

Shipwrights of the North Sea

This is a card-drafting game, where you’re trying to gather the craftmen and goods to build ships and buildings for VP, with the game ending when a player completes their 4th ship. Each player has their own board, with a money-tracker, 2 ‘workshops’ (To build ships), a Mill (To store goods) and your Village (To hold Villagers, shockingly). Players will be putting completes ships above the board, tools to the left, buildings to the right, and craftsmen below, throughout the game.

Each turn starts with a drafting phase, the player who currently has the 1st player token draws #players+1 cards, keeps 1 and passes clockwise till all have 1 card, the last beind discarded. Then the player who went last draws 4 and does the same, but passing anti-clockwise, then the 1st player does 4 again, so each player now has 3 cards.

Next, players perform actions. They can play cards (To start building a ship, get a craftsmen in play, gain 3 gold or w/e it may be), gather goods (spend 2 money + 2 workers for a variable amount of goods based on the current ‘next card’ in the deck (The backs of cards have that information on them)), or build a ship (Spend the resources required and move it from the workshop space its’ in to above your board).

That’s about it, some cards are tools, that you pay to get buy give discounts on building ships, some can be aggressive, such as stealing a craftsmen or good from another player, some are buildings, that usually cost lots of gold but give VP. All in all a perfect recipie for a <1 hour game (Its’ not <1 hour, but I’ll get to that later…)

In our game, I pretty much decided to go for any ship providing money. The reason for this is because you need otherwise need workers to generate money, but have to spend workers to get things, and that seemed far too much to think about =P Mikes first run was for extra worker-generation (Same kind of effect ^^), while Suzy got a bit of extra capacity and gold generation from her first ship and decent points (4, whereas my 1st ship was 1vp and Mikes 0vp).

Moving on a little, Mike got a 6VP ship build, which cancelled our his extra worker and reduced his capacity for goods (The higher VP ships have brutal negatives..). I consistently seemed to have no workers, but my second ship was another gold generator so it was less of an issue (I made sure to keep my one-legged worker around, wonderful chap he was, even if he couldn’t stand up without a crutch/another worker). Suzy’s second ship was another 4VP, but I soon got a 3rd ship so I had 4/4/1 (Each adding 1 to my gold generation ^^). I also got a ‘treasury’ VP card, which was 1VP/4Gold at the end of the game, which was a mistake as I’d mis-understood the card (Compared to Suzy having a straight 3VP building, when you have max 12 gold…). Mike got kicked about a bit, with Suzy playing a card that naffed him out of all his gold, and not much later a round where I murdered one of his craftsmen, then stole one of them (Suzy had none, it wasn’t personal!).

Moving on, I got another 1VP building, and Mike got a 3rd ship while Suzy struggled to do her 3rd as someone kept interfering (Can’t imagine who, but if I hadn’t the fact she had no low-VP ship like me/Mike would have won her the game I think). I was able to end the game when I (Finally) got given a Stone Mason (Cheers Mike =P), with both Mike/Suzy being only a touch short of what they needed to play cards to put them ahead on points (Well, sort of, I won the ‘most military’ thing where you get another 3, but I’d forgot about the fact we were competing for that ^^).

Hooray! I won! But oh god does the game drag on a bit. I believe it was about 2 hours, which meant god knows how many turns. The problem is, the gameplay is slick and each turn is a fast draft and playing phase, but you just never seem to get anything done. Everything you do eats away at your workers, and unless you’ve happened to build one of the few ships that increase worker generation, you have a maximum of one per turn. Each ship requires 2-3 so ~10 turns there, then each time you gain resources, which is roughly once/ship you build its’ another 2, so another 8 turns, then each building needs another 2-3 so maybe another 5-6 turns. On top of that you might not even be able to do stuff for many turns as you just don’t have the craftsmen you need and it means spending more turns just hoping for the card you need…

*Breathes*

Now, that’s not to say its’ not fun, and I did enjoy playing, but if I want to play a game for 2 hours, it needs to be deep and strategic, whereas the mechanics and cards here work as a light and easy style game (Particularly emphasised as there’s a bit of take-that. If they could have fit the same mechanics into a game half as long, then that could be pretty cool, but as it is I’m in no rush to play again ^^.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

After that probably over-ly ranty description, lets keep it short this time. I played Lizardfolk, and did my utmost to get people blocked on moves, while pushing up my magic, as the level 5 was ‘1VP per opponent territory you occupy’ which seemed pretty good and easier than most to achieve. Noone attacked me all game, which was a nice surprise but reasonable seeing as I often had a lot of magic (And when Mike did attack someone went for Suzy, which was also worth doing as she’d probably have hit the top of the tower and won if he hadn’t).

Eventually, I managed to get to the ‘4vp’ level of the tower (Suzy was on the 7VP leve), as well as 5 meeples (Mostly scattered in Suzy’s territories, as I kept wanting to use my ‘when you quest, gain one resource of the type of region you moved to’ and Mike territory was full of meeples. Mike pushed quite hard at getting more meeples (He had some magic making it something he wanted to do, I forget what).

In the end, with my balanced approach of magic, tower and meeples, I eked out the win, my second of the evening. Hooray! It was a nice change from my shocking plays last Friday (of TEK) where I just did awful ^^.

Cool Evening, got to try a new game (Omg a kickstarter I didn’t back =P), and won twice. Or maybe I was just asleep in bed and it was all a dream…hard to tell ;)

University of Birmingham Tabletop Society (5th December 2014)

Unusually, I actually ended up being quite short on what I wrote this week, ^^.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

We had a couple of games of this, but nothing particularly memorable. It seems to be remarkably hard to get this game going  thanks to people liking normal werewolf games more in the group, rather than having multiple small games which is why I like this one. Amusingly in one game though, the minion claimed he was trouble-maker to try and put suspicion on himself, then the werewolf in the game also claimed trouble-maker having not realised it was already called. Had the minion just waited until after he might have gotten himself killed for the win, but it was not to be ^^.

Dead of Winter

Splintering into 2 groups, one group went for Battlestar Galactica (Y’know, the full opposite of ONUW ^^), so I suggested Dead of Winter, which while its’ similar in having a traitor element (At least, a ~44% chance of a traitor), its’ much faster and more involving, with the crossroads cards providing a narrative and flavourful characters doing the rest.

For a main objective, we chose the one involving dropping lots of barricades – 10 in the colony, 1 for each other location, to keep the zombies out! We ignored this for a while as we geared up, with me heading to the library and cycling through there for nice blueprints while others covered food and trimming the zombie numbers (In particular at the school, where we got the 1,2,3…Barricades! book that lets you place 1 free barricade a turn, and a Hammer from somewhere that lets you place 2 barricades instead of 1 with a barricade action). I had Mike Cho, the Ninja as a character too, though he was more of an errand boy running around to deal with crisis’ or deliver blueprints than a zombie-killer ^^.

Everything was going great for us, and we had a huge pile of food (Something like 3 or 4 times what we were using per year) and were still at 6 morale halfway into the game. Things started going downhill when I got an outsider, that turned out to be the Doctor, moved once and got bitten to immediate death with her. We soon dropped more morale down to 3 when another players survivor also got bit, followed immediately by a fellow survivor at that location also biting the bullet. To make things worse, we then realised that we’d still not got a huge amount of barricades out. Fortunatey we had a couple rounds left and it looked like we’d just about make it, even if we did skip out on Christmas Dinner!

Then, the crisis. The awful, awful crisis. A horde of Zombies found us, and unless we could find 4 fuel (Not long after we’d used all our fuel for a previous crisis/people foolishly keeping themselves safe with it while moving), then all of our barricades at the colony would be lost then 10 zombies would spawn there! The coin drops, we’re screwed – We spent the turn scrambling to try and find fuel, but only got either 1 or 2 out of 4, nowhere near enough. All our hard work was lost and the colony was swarmed, and with no chance in hell of both clearing out so many zombies and barricading so many times in a turn, we accepted our new brain-eating lives with great sadness. GG, Well Played Zombies.

At this point, with the group playing Battlestar Galactica on their second turn (Y’know, while we’d played an entire game), we had little time left (About an hour). I had a couple of games I wanted to play that would be roughly an hour, but the security in the building are pretty strict about the out at 11 rule, so we had to go for something quicker, and I broke out Tiny Epic Kingdoms.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

Our first game I got Humans, John got Dark Elves, Rob Elves and Phil…I don’t know what Phil was in the first game actually, but it meant he could have 2 meeples in a region and gain a resource for both (Normally its’ 1/region rather than 1/meeple). John decided pretty early on to attack me, which was a failed attack costing us both a ton of resources, so he then attacked again costing even more, leaving us both hugely behind. Left alone with Elves and 3 forest regions, Rob straight up dominated the game, with there just being no way to get enough resources to attack him without removing ourselves from contention (Phil might have been able to, but John suiciding against me meant we were already both behind). Easy win for Rob through hitting magic level 5 (Which was kind of annoying, because I must have missed a research action somewhere which would have made me attacking Rob more beneficial to me and potentially worth doing (But probably not). Anyway grats to Rob for randoming elves…I mean for winning =P

In our second game, I was Goblins and well…I just didn’t seem to be able to achieve anything. Other players kept forming alliances rather than ever doing any damage to each other so they just steamed on ahead, while I just got my numbers trimmed down before I could achieve much. I was trying to push the tower more than others too, but just couldn’t push hard enough. I forget if Phil or Rob won, but I came 3rd this time around, attacking John on the last turn just so I could be in not-last place (I’m going to go with calling it revenge for his screwing us both in the first game =P).

Good Evening, though I wish I’d pushed harder to get New Dawn to the table, and I lost, a lot =P

Halesowen (03/12/2014)

Halesowen

So, among the ridiculous amount of packages I’ve received in the last few days, thanks to irresistible amazon lightning deals over black friday, there was also one from a kickstarter project! The project in question was that for Artipia’s thematic sequel to Among the Stars – New Dawn. The other things I got shoved aside (LoW, Alhambra and Betrayal at House on the Hill), as Among the Stars is among my favourite games and well…yeah ^^. I’d already mentioned it to Ian, and got it out on the table first thing at Halesowen this week.

New Dawn

Among the Stars follows a great war, whereby the remnants of the various civilised races formed an alliance on what little was left of the Galaxy. In that game, you’re building Space Stations as a testament to the effort to build a better future.

New Dawn goes forward a little, and resources have become scarce in the corner of the galaxy where people now reside. Now, the people of the galaxy need to push back out, and reclaim what was lost in the war. While the effort is seen as good for everyone, there’s naturally a desire from the individual races to want to come out on top…

Mechanically, New Dawn has lots of parts to it, but takes care to throw them at you one at a time, with each round being a series of steps where you just do one thing in each – Produce, Prepare, Explore, Obtain Technologies, Move MHQ, Then 3 Actions (You do 1, then everyone else does their first, then your second, etc), finally is aid to the alliance, where you can burn credits to buy VP cards for a few extra points.

Produce is simple, gain 1 credit per base you’ve built, of the type built (There are 3 types of currency, Military, Economic and Science). Prepare has you draw till you have a hand of 4, from your choice of the 4 card stacks (Military, Economic, Science or Hostile, with the latter being one of the first 3, but you can’t establish a base peacefully). In the explore step, you place one of your cards adjacent to any other card on the board in an empty space (Diagonal counts as adjacent), receiving the ability listed on the card immediately. Buying a technology is just buying one of the cards that are unique to each race, paying the value listed on the top right of the card to place it in one of your 5 technology slots (Technologies can be used once/round at any time).

The next action, move one MHQ, is a sort of preparatory matter for the actions phase. Your MHQ’s, or ‘Mobile Headquarters’ are your centrepoints for taking control of the facility cards placed on the board, and you may only establish bases or seize control of bases that are on or adjacent to a facility with your MHQ. They also provide extra dice towards attack/defense for the purpose of the ‘seize control’ action.

Finally, you have the actions phase, 3 actions each, done 1 at a time going around the table. Establish base lets you place a base on an empty facility by paying its’ cost in credits (With an MHQ on or adjacent). Seize Control lets you try to roll to take a facility, if its’ got noones bases’ on it, you roll to beat its’ cost+vp, otherwise you roll against the person with a base there, again you need an MHQ on or adjacent to do this. Use an Ambassador lets you take one of #players+3 ambassadors that are on the board and perform their listed action, which includes empowered versions of other actions (So its’ good to look at what they give before doing other things). Buying an MHQ lets you put out another MHQ at the cost listed on your board, then move all your MHQ’s. Finally, you can cop-out and just take 1 resource of any type, if you really really can’t do anything else ^^.

Then you rinse and repeat, over the course of 5 years (rounds). On the 3rd round the 4 facility card sets are swapped out with a ‘B’ set, which are higher valued and more geared towards the end-game, and you get to discard your A cards to pick them up if you wish.

It all sounds a little complicated, but splitting into being one thing at a time makes it surprisingly easy to pick up once you’re a round or two into the game. Players compete to have control of bases for resources and try to then spend those resources getting more stuff, VP are based on the bases you control, with a few extra things such as for getting lots of technology cards, having 5 bases of a given type and building MHQ’s.

The Actual Game

Everyone started with economic bases on the alliance card (You all get to place one base on it, hence giving yourself a minimum production of 1 for a resource of your choice), meaning we each had 1 economic credit. This meant we got no technologies for the first round (As buy technology is before actions), except Mark who got one through use of an ambassador (I think I might start next game with a Science base to rush my first technology card). We also all went off onto our own side with our first explores/establish base actions, though could see why you might move onto a card someone else explored.

In the second year, Stan tried to capture one of my bases to use its’ ability (We had a rule wrong, and thought abilities activate when you establish/seize not on explore), failing (ha), while Ian got I think another hostile facility out (He had the first turn too), and Mark got more technology (He was first to have the max of 5 in the game, though Ian got there too by the end).

In the 3rd year, despite us putting out better facilities, I was apparently a hot target as Ian attacked my facility that Stan had previously gone for, sadly with more success than Stan. Mark expanded his Science Empire, having a part of the map with little conflict (As opposed to me/stan/ian who were all getting a bit more in each others way, mostly because of Ian). I tried to attack Ian back, but didn’t realize he had 2 MHQ’s close and his dratted racial power meant that gave him really good defense.

In the 4th round, I picked up a nice military facility that let me seize control of an adjacent facility and pay 2 military credits for +5 to my roll. Naturally I placed it right next to the one of Ians’ I was after and used it successfully despite his strong defenses to take it over. (Leaving me with a neat line of military facilities on the edge of the map, out of the way from everyone else, and mostly facing towards the VP base benefit.

Edit: Base Benefits! Forgot to explain those. In each of the 4 compass directions is a ‘base benefit’ card. 2 orange, 2 green (I think one is more VP/Defensive and the other more token-gaining for one-off’s). When you Establish a Base/Seize Control or Re-orient a facility, you gain each benefit pointed at by arrows on the facility (Between 1 and 3), making part of the game trying to decide what direction you want facilities to point in to get the most useful bonuses.

The 5th round was more of a points grab. At this point Mark looked in a very strong position, and had doubled up most of his bases (Another rule we did wrong, you can normally only have one/facility). Stan/Ian were looking less healthy, partly because of bad dice rolls, but partly because of the decision to make those rolls in the first place, as there’s plenty ways to boost what you roll to avoid losing actions to a failed roll. Stan only had 1 technology card up till this point, so was also missing out on a lot of useful extra effects he could have been doing (I think he may have missed when we mentioned technology is once/round not once/game).

Something I managed to do in this game which usually fails in a ball of fire, is getting people to look the other way when I was doing quite well. The slew of military facilities I had on one edge of the map were all 3VP (The highest as far as I know) and pointed towards the bonus VP benefit (As mentioned earlier). I also had an aid to the alliance card I’d bought much earlier, which I think people had forgotten about, giving me another couple of points.

Aaanyway, the reason I mention that stuff is because I won, hooray! I had 28 points to Marks 25, Ians 19 and Stans 17 (Mark might have won, but Stan went all in defending against him from an attack in the last actions phase so he didn’t get the extra points needed).

Thoughts

I found New Dawn a really interesting game to play. We did play a couple of things significantly wrong though so its’ hard to make a good judgement or say whether the scores were fair. I’m super excited about it though, and I think its’ a fantastic thematic sequel to Among the Stars with more of the beautiful art style from it, while being a very unique and individual game. I hope they come out with more in this awesome universe of square cards =) (Seriously, totally love the square cards in these games, =P).