Category Archives: Board Games

Cologne on Board (16/08/14)

Well, I went quiet for a while on here, so I guess I’d better resolve that. I went on holiday for a couple of weeks, and one of those weeks was in Cologne where I went to a games night! (The first was in Brighton, unfortunately I’ve left it a bit too long to remember things for a writeup, but we played Lost Legacy, Arctic Scavengers and the DC Deck-building Game at the event).

Cologne on Board

In August, I went on holiday with Grace to Cologne, as a last opportunity to be with her before she disapears off to China for her year there for University. Seeing as we were going to Germany, I figured we absolutely had to play games somewhere, and on the evening we arrived (After a ridiculous amount of drama just getting to the hotel) we went to a board games evening with a group I found on meetup.com called Cologne on Board.

It was a little intimidating to be honest, to walk into a bar full of people speaking another language, but when we (Alright fine, Grace) got the courage to say hi it was reassuring that many seemed comfortable with English (As the meetup page implied, as it was largely written in English). It’s perhaps a little rude to expect people to speak our language in another country, but I’m not going to complain that I’m conventiently from a country whom’s language is learned to a strong level in many places!

— Bluff —

We had a brief interlude away before even playing a game, as post-flight we were just plain hungry, then headed back and got invited to join into a game running of ‘Bluff’, which seemed to involve lots of dice and a party-like atmosphere, which is to say something of an ice-breaker!

Each player in Bluff has a plastic cup and a set of dice (5 to begin with), this is shaken and put down onto the table at the start of a game, and each player can look at the dice under their cup only. Then, players take turns to move a spare dice around a track with steadily increasing values to say ‘I think theres’ 4 dice showing 3’s’ then perhaps ‘Well I think there’s 6!’. Eventually, the value a player says gets ridiculous enough for a player to call the previous players bluff, at which point all players uncover their dice and they are checked for if there was more or less – If there’s more, the player that called the bluff loses the difference in dice, if there’s less, the ‘bluffer’ loses the difference, and if its’ dead on, all players but the bluffer lose a dice. Dice have no 6 (Well, some did…but that’s just because the owners copy had some extra dice in to squeeze in an additional player), instead having a star side which counts as any number for counting up (Or for the spaces that’re on the board for ‘X stars’).

This was all very simple to pick up, and while I’m always skeptical of games where it can feel like luck that lets someone win, we all had a ton of fun with the game and played a few times. The first time around I got eliminated insanely fast, although I forget if I was calling other players bluffs or they were calling me! I think the winner of this one was (Feck…I forgot the guys name, i’ll go with KBG-Guy 2), although it was close between him and KBG-Guy 1 (Confused by my naming? They both worked for Korea Board Games apparently as I’ll mention more below, KBG-Guy 1 was actually called ‘Yense’ but I don’t know the correct spelling :S – KBG-Guy 1 was also the guy that taught us Bluff and was a very charismatic chap and good at keeping people interesting while teaching ^^.

The next game I fared considerably better, lasting in while others got eliminated ahead of me, I seemed to do a lot better at giving the player to my left (Which is to say…Grace) a hard time making the decision on increasing the bet or calling my bluff. I forget who won this game (And the next, should have kept notes!) but it was fun to stay in a while! The last game we played of bluff we did after rearranging seats a bit to put the decisions on different people (Rearranging seats was a good call..I got a nice sofa-seat instead of a bar stool ^^), and for some reason is the game I recall the least, perhaps because I’d started on beers by this point ^^.

— Abraca… What? —

I think that this was the next one up! In any case it was a cool one to get to try, because this was a prototype game! In Abraca… What? players act as incompetant wizards (Or they forgot for magical reasons or something) who can’t remember how to cast their spells, but are competing to increase their standing in the wizards tower. Players spells are represented by a pool of tokens, numbered 1-8, with as many tiles as the number on them of each, and each being a spell that gets more powerful the lower the number (So the ‘1’ is very powerful but there’s only 1 of them ^^). BUT! these tokens are face-down on the table, and when players draw them into their ‘hand’ (5 to begin) they keep them facing away so they don’t know what they have, but others do, hanabi style.

In a round, players take turns to declare a spell (By number or name). If they have the spell, another player reveals that stone for them and places it onto the game-board to show that its’ been used, the effect takes place (Usually damaging other players, but there’s healing potions and other effects too), and a new stone is drawn from the pool. Placing onto the game-board has the effect that throughout a round the information players have becomes more complete and they can more confidenly work out what tiles they have. 4 tiles are kept hidden throughout them, preventing full information from occuring. If a player fails a spell, they lose one health (Everyone starts on 6, tracked with a 6-sided dice), if they succeed, then they may cast again, but can only pick the same or a higher number – this can occur multiple times.

A round ends when a player is eliminated, or a player manages to cast all 5 spells hence leaving his hand empty, or the pool in the centre becomes empty. Scoring then occurs, with all surviving players gaining 1 floor in the tower (1 point, 8 is overall victory) – If a player was eliminated, the eliminating player gains 1 floor (Unless they self-eliminated), if they cast all spells they gain 1 floor, and also they gain 1 for any ‘secret’ stones they have obtained (Happens through the ‘4’ spell).

This was a really intriguing idea for a game, essentially replacing the clue giving method of gaining information of hanabi with a deduction mechanic, whereby you can guess at what your tiles are simply because others aren’t using those spells, and because each time you fail a cast you know you don’t have that spell for your next turn.

We played a couple of rounds, the first had 2/4 get eliminated (They got eliminated on the same turn through the powerful ‘1’ spell) giving KBG-1 2 points and me 1, the rest I’m hazy on, as I was thinking so much about the information involved and just enjoying the game for the sake of the game.

I’m looking forward to its’ release and hope to pick it up, and hope the one negative I was finding with it was just a circumstance of the night (That the 8 points is a bit too much, we stopped early as tiredness/alcohol was limiting peoples attention span for it). We’ll see when I get it, and to be fair I can always alter the win level when I teach it ^^.

— Lost Legacy – The Starship–

Next up I thought it would be cool to teach a game rather than learn one, so I suggested Lost Legacy which I’d bought along (Yay for travel-size games =P). This is a 16 card deduction game by the designer of, and with some similarities to, Love Letter. Lost Legacy is a touch heavier however and has a fun ‘investigation’ phase at the end of a round rather than the straight highest card reveal.

The objective in the game is to find the ‘Lost Legacy’ card, in my copy being ‘The Starship’ (But the game will have multiple versions, each with a cross-compatible set of cards and a Lost Legacy with a new name, although as I understand they’ll function the same ‘You may not discard this card’ being its’ only effect). However when you find it you don’t immediatey win, having to instead pick out its’ location during the investigation phase as mentioned below.

Gameplay is fairly simple, players have one card hands dealt at the start of the round, then take turns to draw a card then play a card (Hence returning to 1 in hand). Each card has some effect, although in Lost Legacy (Unlike Love Letter) some cards have no effect for being played, being a reactionary matter instead (E.g. ‘If a player looks at your hand while you have this card, you are eliminated’). Some cards may involve ‘the ruins’, which is a pile of face-down cards separate to the deck that starts with 1 card entered blind and can have up to 3 over the course of a round (With the games aim being to find the Lost Legacy, its’ important to try and know if its’ in the ruins or a player hand, and if in the ruins, where in the ruins). The round ends when the deck is exhausted (Although that player finishes their play first).

With the main part of the round ended (Unless all but one player gets eliminated, in which case the survivor would immediately win) the investigation phase begins. One player will call out numbers 1 through 8, and any player matching a number as its’ called gets to reveal as such, then say where they think the ‘Lost Legacy’ card is (Their hand, Another players hand, or ‘the ruins’), the card at that location is revealed, and if the player was correct they win the round, otherwise they are out and the numbers continue to be called. As a result even if a player has the Lost Legacy sitting in their hand (Which is a ‘5’ I should really mention!) players that have kept ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’ cards could snatch victory from their grasp if they correctly deduce its’ location.

Well…that was a horrific attempt at explaining, sorry about that. I forget how our game went, but I don’t think I did too well at explaining which led to a few mistakes. I think people found it interesting though, and I hope that someone at the group picks up a copy sometime from my influence ^^.

— Kings Pouch —

Oh my, what an unfortunate name for a game! Prototype the second here, which was probably not the wisest last game of the evening being a worker-placement style game with possibly a few too many methods of getting victory points! I’m not sure how much I should talk about this seeing as there’s not much information for it on boardgamegeek…but I’m going to rely on the tiny numbers that read this blog to deal with that ^^. (Edit – Just going to mention that this one was taught by KBG-2, who seemed a little less steady teaching in English, which was actually quite a good experience ^^).

In this game, players use their workers to use various buildings on their personal player board (4 being fixed ‘starting’ buildings and the rest being constructed over the course of the game) to gather resources and spend them to well…make more buildings, as well as to influence nobles and to carry out war over an area control map, all with the aim of having the most victory points at the games end (Which is after the 3 ages, consisting of 5 rounds each, iirc)

Each building has 2 placement spaces which are coloured (Sometimes a space can have 2 colours), the latter only being available if the first is taken. The colouring is to tell players what workers they can use at those locations. Each worker has a colour but also a shape, with the starting workers being blue octagonal prisms, with ‘corrupted officials’ represented with brown octagonal prisms and the 3 ‘special’ cube shaped workers (Soldiers, Merchants and Politicians…or something like that, Red, Yellow and Green respectively) – You have to have the right kind of worker available to use a space.

The reason for those 2 different shapes of workers, is that throughout the game you cycle your workers through a cloth bag in a deck-building style (Worker-Building?), drawing 5 at the end of each turn and refilling the bag with your discard pile when its’ empty (Although I should mention that every time you have to do that refill you are required to add a corrupted official, like it or not). When you draw your workers, you’re allowed to deliberately feel (Yep…you feel around in the kings pouch…that name) to pick whether you get the octagonal or cube workers. This lets you somewhat direct what you’ll have available that round, and has a tinge of a push your luck feel as going for lots of special workers risks you might not have the right spaces to place them (The octagonal workers have generally more spaces matching due to the starting buildings), but could potentially use more powerful actions by doing so.

Each round has 6 buildings drawn and laid out, 2 of each type (Military, Commercial, Political – Though again I may be wrong on the names), which are from, I think, 5 pairs of 2 for that age (i.e. 30 buildings to be seen per age, over 5 rounds). This gives each round slightly different focus as to whether there is buildings you want at that time.

Throughout the game, players take turns where they place all 5 of their workers in their turn onto their board (Which isn’t as painful as it may sound because as all go to your board rather than a group board, its’ more an an action selection style and you can plan ahead as soon as you draw your workers). These are then evaluated, providing money, military power, special workers or straight points – Money and Military are volatile resources, so you have to spent them in the round. Finally in the players turn they can spend the money to buy buildings (Listed on the building is the cost), influence nobles (2 Coins + 1 per other noble you’ve already influenced this age) and use military to capture regions on the area control map (1 + 1/distance from capital + 1/other unit in the target region). (So its’ expensive to push out too far, but you can deny others by doing so. I should also mention that in the centre of the map is ‘the castle’ which provides more points than normal regions).

At the end of each age, a scoring phase occurs. Players score for each region they control on the area map, they also score for any nobles they’ve influenced, and they score if they didn’t tax the people this round (A freely usable action to gain 1 money in a turn). This goes onto the score track, as does in-round scoring when some buildings are used, and when regions are captured. At the end of the game, a final scoring occurs where building scores are added too (I think they go on at the end anyway, might be instant on construction).

Anyway, its’ all very complicated and hard to explain a week after the fact, particularly when we only actually played for 2 ages (It was 2AM by that point ^^). I pretty much entirely eschewed military (I did push out by a whole 1 region, which KBG-1 took out later on and I couldn’t recapture as I never got a military building so couldn’t generate enough military in one round to take it. Instead I went quite the merchantile route, gathering lots of money and using it to influence characters to gain points that way (The pair of princesses in particular, who give 5 points, or 7 points if you control both for a total of 14).

I had thought I was doing fairly well, but ultimately not having a massive constant source of points from the influence map led to my loss, with it being a very powerful engine if all players aren’t involved (i.e. because I didn’t deny the others, they didn’t have to fight over it, while still being able to compete with me for the other things, like the characters you can influence. The teacher of the game, KBG-2, was the winner I believe.

It was a very interesting game to play and had some unique concepts, but I think it’s a big shame that its’ final and going to be released as it currently is. Some of the graphic design was a bit off for example (While it was a print+play quality prototype, the art/design was apparently final as its being printed for Essen 2k14), and I think some effort could have been made to streamline the scoring, but I think it could do well enough anyway and perhaps lead to future games with the worker-building style (Though again with graphical design…lots of reliance on colours, not good for some!).

——-

The evening as a whole was fantastic, and I really enjoyed getting to play somewhere totally different, and play games which are totally different (By virtue of not actually being released yet ^^). Everyone we spoke to were lovely and clearly enthusiastic about the hobby and happy to play whatever game fit with the group at the time (As some were more casual than others).

All in all, it was a great experience, and has me wanting to go back to Germany sometime with a plan of going to the event again (But…Also with an unlimited in-germany rail ticket so I can go around the rest of the country too!). Plus I want to go and look in Spielbrett damnit! (A game store which we tried to go to but was closed earlier than the website suggested…but it looked really cool through the window!).

Thanks to everyone at Cologne-on-board!

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Halesowen Board Games #21 (16/07/14)

Viticulture

First game of the Evening was Viticulture, including the Tuscany expansion (Self-Printed Limited Falling Apart Edition). First time in a while as I’ve not really been pushing it – ridiculously enough being because I like the expansion a lot but know I have a fantastic properly-printed version coming which’ll put mine to shame ^^.

Our game consisted of myself, James & Mark, with Mark playing for his first time. We played with Mama’s & Papa’s and the extended board, but no other additions from the expansion. The former gives each player a variable start (Allowing me to start with a windmill and 2 wine-orders, Mark with a tasting room and a wine-order and James with an extra worker and a wine-order, plus one or two other things I forget (Everyone has 3 workers as standard too of course). The latter splits the game out into 4 seasons (From 2 in the base game), making for more action spaces and timing to think of, but less ‘moment-to-moment’ decisions (As there’s only 3 per season). (Edit – Also used properties, which make field values different (5,6,7) and led you ‘sell’ them for money).

The game started off with Mark & James rushing to get vine cards & planting them. I was going to join as one of my initial orders was a cheap fill (Red 4 & White 2), but missing out on getting any vines led me to go for my buildings first (Plus when I did get a vine, it was a 4 White which required both a Trellis & Irrigation to plant). An early card led me trade 3VP for 9 Lira, which helped with this strategy.

Both James & Mark managed to get decent early fields, with James having a slight advantage as he was making good use of his extra worker, while Mark struggled a little to get everything he wanted done with just 3 (Something which is fine in base Viticulture, but both the 3-Player game and the extended board contribute to making things more open, which also makes more workers stronger). I eventually got 4-white (or red, I forget, as I managed to draw 3 4-value vines in my first 4-5 vine cards) – I also started crawling back on VP from my -3 with a visitor letting me swap 1 grape + 1 wine for 1VP + 1 Lira/Year (I think I used the extended boards trade action to get the grapes to do it).

By the time I managed to get back over 0VP, James & Mark had moved ahead by a few and James seemed to have started building a huge amount of grapes, to the point it was looking very worrying for me & Mark. I had a 4R/3W and 4W field but struggled to find a low value red (Needed to be 1 or 2 to fit in the 6 value field), I did, however, manage to also grab a cottage and upgrade my cellar to max, and fill the low value order I mentioned earlier to be on 2Lira/Year. Mark seemed to be doing ok, but was also burning through quite a lot of Vine cards, and missed out a lot on harvesting (He eventually picked up a Yoke though).

When we got into the latter third of the game, James was winning by a…considerably amount, consistently getting to harvest-double and keep well stacked on grapes, so he could keep on picking up additional wine orders. (In hindsight I wasn’t helping the situation by using my Yoke and/or the harvest 1 & get a lira spot). Mark was a bit above me in points, but I had quite a good setup going (I’d finally found a 2-red grape so had 2 strong fields) as well as having almost every building (Lacking a tasting room, as didn’t want to be competing for tours).

When it came to the last year, which was to be triggered by James, of course, as he not only had orders to get him onto the end points but a ‘spare’ sparkling wine that he could have sold-directly to hit 25 anyway. I’d managed to get early in the turn-order (Might have been in the #1 spot having been #7 not long before in fact) which let me get an order filled to slip ahead of Mark, then sell Wine ahead of James for a further 4VP and cube movement. With all passed, I was at 21, James ~28 and Mark lower down (I forget where, apologies but I was starting intently at James’ marker wondering what else I could have done – A few things in fact as I certainly didn’t play perfectly). We then added on the end-game VP from the map (A feature of the extended board introducing an area control mechanism for a few extra points) – I jumped up 5 to 26, James to 30 and Mark an extra point or two.

So the victory went to James! First time in a good while I’ve had my ass kicked at the game, which is a pretty refreshing feeling so well played sir ^^. Mark did well for a first game, and could probably have hit 25 had there been one more year, and the scores between me & James were close, at just 4 apart (Perhaps I should have tried to convince Mark to block the other sell wine space, would have been a tie ^^).

Looking forward to the next play, quality of the print be damned =)

Steam Noir: Revolution

We had a good 45-minutes left for the evening, so opted to go for something short. I’d brought along Steam Noir & have been wanting to give it a spin for a while, just haven’t got around to getting people to play ^^.

Steam Noir is a bluffing/deception game where players are taking part in a revolution against ‘the empire’. Players try to maneuvre their faction into a winning state, but you have to be careful as there’s 3 possibilities.
1 – Succesful Revolution, and your faction is a small amount in the lead (<15 points ahead)
2 – Succesful Revolution, and you’re in 2nd on points with the highest >15 points ahead.
3 – Failed Revoluton, and you’re last on the points track.

This represents that either you’ve led a revolution and the people have accepted your faction as the new leaders, that you’ve led but appeared no better than the empire being overthrown, leading to your being kicked out of the revolution, or having failed to overthrow the empire, are the faction getting the least blame and hence least lashback from the empire.

Gameplay takes place over 3 months, with 4 weeks in each month. Each week, players play cards simultaneously (3 times) to determine a weekly winner (Who gets points on the main track, with the players supporting that faction that week getting points for their own hidden faction). At the end of each month players flip their temporary support cards (Chosen at the start of the month) and if that faction had most support that month, they get some additional points towards their hidden faction.

As the game continues, the various factions will go up the points track depending on how they do in invidual weeks. When the 3rd Month is over players flip their hidden faction cards and add the points they’ve built up to those factions on the track. The winner is then determined by the conditions mentioned above.

I’ve barely done the game justice in that explanation, as it’s a remarkably er…odd game to play, feeling quite different to anything else. The simultaneous play of cards each week is fun though, and can make the game fly by quite fast (We took an hour, but was probably ~30-45 minutes if not for explanation/checking the rulebook time).

In our game er…Well I barey know what was happening to be honest, but the suffragettes (purple) flew out ahead early, with green/blue not far behind and yellow/gray staying at 0 for a fair while. Mark got a lot of points towards his hidden faction quite early, supporting the strongest faction for a large part of the first month, although all 3 of us got good chunks of them by the end.

The endgame had the Empire getting it’s ass kicked, suffragettes out in 1st place, green in 2nd, merchants 3rd, empire, then the other 2 factions further back. James was supporting the suffragettes, Mark green & myself the merchants. Unfortunately I’d not been able to get my faction many points and was in a terrible position (By the time I noticed how awful I was doing, the empire was too far behind for me to even go for a ‘last place win’. Purple & Green were within a few points of each other, so the highest win giving James the unexpected victory (Unexpected as he was quite unsure what was going on throughout – I don’t blame him as this is a very strange one to learn).

It was fun anyway though, and I really like playing even if it is difficult to work out how to approach things. The temporary support mechanic that I barely mentioned lets you supporting factions outside your main one as an investment to get points back to your main one later, which can give a good swing to that faction at the end, making it so other players want to work out which ones people have to try and block them.

Would love to play with the max of 5 sometime, as I think having all 5 factions represented by players would make for a very interesting difference to play, and make it yet more of an important concern as to what factions each other player has. Sometime soon, maybe ^^.

Anyway that’s all for this week, did some gaming on Sunday so I might post about that if I have time to write it up ^^. Till next time =)

Afternoon Play (06/07/14)

I arrived a bit early to Afternoon Play on Sunday to see Heather & Simon playing Splender, one of the Spiel Des Jahres nominees for 2014 (Alongside Camel Up & Concept, which they also seem to have picked up at the UK Games Expo ^^). Seeing as it gets so much hype I watched briefly before we opted to play something that isnt’ Splender, seeing as the pair of them have apparently played a hell of a lot recently, and the game they’d played when I arrived was their 3rd just for the day.

Voluspa

After a period of failing to make a decision on what to play, we went with one of my games – Voluspa. For those who may not know, this is a fairly easy to pick up but brain-burning tile placement game. Players take turns to put down tiles, numbered 1 through 8, and if the placed tile is the highest in the row/column it scores 1 point per tile in that row/column. The tiles 1-6 (1-7 potentially, but we weren’t using the nio-hoggr tile I have from the new expansion) have special abilities which give them their value.

In our game, we played with the base game tiles, 2 from the saga-of-edda (Included in the base-box – Hel & Sea Serpent) and 2 from the new expansion I received recently (Raven & Dwarf). Hel lets you break up lines (7 is the maximum length, but the hel tile creates a split to make 2 smaller lines), the Sea Serpent can score over gaps in either the row or column it scores, the Raven is placed twice and can go atop other tiles like a dragon, and the Dwarf has a special scoring method where it scores the value of adjacent tiles divided by 2).

Our game started off fairly friendly, with me using a Loki on the initial tile making for an easy to score against 0 tile. A good spread of tiles were used early, with no trolls coming out until later in the game (Trolls block placement next to them, so with them being left out till mid-game it kept opportunities for scoring plentiful early on). Another rule of Voluspa is that the maximum length of a row/column is 7 tiles, which is also a contribution to a wane in points opportunities in the mid-game. Another tile we used,

Loonacy

Following our game of Voluspa, we gained an extra player (Adam, I think/hope). We changed game to ‘Loonacy’, which is a fast-playing symbol-matching game (Which seems to be a popular mechanic among small games ^^).

Each card has 2 pictures, from probably 10-15 possibilities (No idea how many exactly). 2 cards are placed face-up in the middle of the table, and each player is dealt/takes 7 cards to make their starting hand. In real-time, players try to match symbols on cards in their hand to ones on the table (Only one of the 2 images need to match), putting the card down atop the other when they see a match (One at a time, but can just play very quickly ^^). If noone can place, everyone draws a card, flipping so they see it at the same time, and play continues. First person to run out of cards wins.

I was a little worried when this was suggested as it’s a loony labs game, and while I found Fluxx fun for a few plays it has a tendency to overstay its’ welcome (And ‘Are You the Traitor’ from them is a pretty half-arsed attempt at a bluffing/deception game). But I was assured it was particularly quick so well, why not ^^.

The first game I was able to run my hand down to 2 cards before the first draw, and down to 1 for another 3-4 after that where the opportunity to put down my last didn’t show, but finally did netting me the win, with others in need of a flag which didn’t go down until my winning card ^^.

The second game went considerably faster, with I think 1 draw before Heather emptied her hand ridiculously fast & taking a speedy victory ^^.

Concept

Next up we got some more players involved and changed to the game ‘Concept’. I only know Jenny’s name from the additions so the others are unfortunately to be known as ‘P6’, ‘P7’ and ‘P8’ =P. (Note, I wrote the next paragraph multiple times…Remarkably hard to explain this game without the board in front of the explainee).

Concept has a similar er..concept..to something like charades or pictionary, without the aspect where you have to be um…competant. Players take turns to present ‘concepts’, which they do by placing pieces in 5 colours onto a board of images, which each represent something, such as ‘liquid’, ‘green’, ‘nighttime’, etc. The other players try to guess what your concept is while you do this – the first to guess correctly gets 2 points, and each player involved in presenting the concept gets 1 point (You always work with the player to your left, and can optionally invite others to help present, they get to see the card then, but can’t get 2 points for guessing). For one I did yesterday, I put the main concept marker on ‘naval/marine’, with a cube between fire & water (Spoiler: Steamboat).

I have no idea what format to write about this game in, but lets try this (Sorry I can only remember a few examples on the spot!)
– Main concept marker on ‘speech/saying’, other cubes placed in an arrow pointing from ‘eye’ to ‘torso’.
– Main concept marker on ‘person’, cube on black. Subconcept cube on sun, and another on ‘inversion’
– 3×3 set of cubes places on ‘Wind/clouds’
– Main marker on ‘location’, cubes in a cross over ‘city/place’. 3×2 of red cubes placed on the star

(Admittedly most of those are ones I was on the ‘placing pieces’ side, as it’s evidently hard for me to remember what other people put down ^^).

– The first of them took a while for us to get (I think it was Simon/Heathers first one played of the game). In fact they had some help and extra subconcepts were put down asides from what I describes (One on naval/marine for example, to get the ‘navel’ bit ^^). I don’t think I’d have got it given hours, ‘navel-gazing’ isn’t the most obvious of phrases to me :S

– The ‘person’ one was one I picked from the card, for ‘Silhouette’.

– The 3×3 of cubes, which I said to avoid saying nine as that’d be too easy to guess, was for cloud nine (The main concept marker was on movie, forgot to mention ^^).

– Finally was the one we used as a tie-breaker between the 2 players on the most points, so the rest of the 6 of us put out the pieces. The 3×2 of red cubes had a line of 4 blacks added to make it a clear flag (Chinese flag!) and the cross over the city…Forbidden City ^^.

All in all, I think it’s a fantastic game and am looking forward to my own copy arriving, as I think this will go down well with housemates/friends who’re less into more complex games, while still requiring a good amount of thought into the play. Many thanks for Simon/Heather for bringing this along as it was great fun to play with 8, which probably won’t happen for me too often ^^.

Evening Play

Braggart

After concept we were getting near the closing time for the cafe that Afternoon Play is held at, so with the group splitting into ‘heading home’ and ‘moar games!’ I joined the games option and went to Evening Play (In a pub, so unfortunately a less pleasant environment ^^).

We arrived before the other Afternoon Play group (There’s 2 cafe’s its’ held at, although I’ve only been to the one that’s 30 seconds from the train station =P), and with 6 of us at the table initially ‘Braggart’ was suggested and become the first game of the Evening (Myself, Adam, JP, Nasia, Jenny, and er…Player 6, sorry my memory is awful, this is the person right next to me as well!).

Braggart is a game of, suitably enough, hanging out in a bar and bragging about past adventures (For we are grand adventurers who have many a tale to tell!). Over the game you try to obtain cards to perform ‘boasts’ (Stories), which must consist of a deed and a foe, but may also have a Scene and result for extra points. In the deck are also ‘plot’ cards helping you restructure your hand or steal cards, and ‘liar’ cards which let you interupt someone’s story and swap one of their cards for one of the ones in your hand.

The result is a particularly fun game of ridiculous stories which have a tendency to get even more ridiculous when people call you a liar on them (Although for the most part, people leave your story alone if it’s funny enough! One of mine in our game was ‘Astride my Mighty Steed, I married off my Sister to an Evil necromancer, and won a reward for it’ (Well, roughly, I think I mixed up a couple by accident but that’s the gist of it!).

I don’t remember many of the stories told (For our adventurers were having many a drink telling them after all) but a good time was had, with JP & Adam getting a healthy chunk more successful stories than the rest of us (If your story scores highest in a round, you keep all cards as score, otherwith just the highest-card…I never got the highest). The end-score was a huge range of 40-something down to my petty 17.

Hanabi

Finally, with Jenny/Player-6 heading off, the 4 of us remaining (There was plenty others about, but in games at the time) went with ‘Hanabi’, a game I haven’t played before, but one I’ve had a mild interest in with it’s rather unique mechanic where you don’t know your own hand.

Hanabi is about building up an impressive firework display, with the aim being to impress the emperor and avoid having your heads chopped off for sloppy work. This is achieved by playing cards in 5 colours (6 as we accidentally had the ‘rainbow’ set in there as well), but you have to play first the 1, then 2, then 3, etc for each colour to get them down (You can of course do all the piles at the same time). Of coures you don’t know what you have, so that’s quite difficult ^^.

On a turn, you can do a number of things, play a card (Either put it on the right pile, or into the discards and lose one of the 3 lives for getting it wrong), discard a card (Throw it a way, restoring a clue token and avoiding losing lives, but potentially losing an important card – e.g. there’s only one of each 5, 2 of each 4, etc), or giving a clue (I.e. use up one of the 9 clue tokens). To give a clue, you tell one person only, either all the cards they have of one colour, or all of 1 number (E.g. ‘this, this and this card are 1s’). It’s then up to the individual player to remember that those cards have that information (Of course you can help yourself along by positioning cards smartly).

Our game started off with things going pretty easily, as with 9 clues to give and nothing down on the table, it’s easy to give people the information to get the 1’s down on the table. Before running out of clues to give, we managed to get the 5 1’s and up to about 3 on the green pile.

When those initial clues are out though, the game gets that much more tense, as while you probably have some information at this point (I knew I had a 5 for example), you can only discard or play, so either throw away a potentially useful card or sacrifice one to recover a clue token. We were able to get many of the 2’s down fairly quickly, but things slowed down past that, particularly as we happened across a rainbow card (In there by mistake) and decided to keep it in as an extra suit – A quick reshuffle to spread them out (As they weren’t well distributed as they weren’t supposed to be in the deck ^^) and we continued with play. I think I lost us the first life somewhere around this time, though I can’t remember what I did to make that happen.

We were able to get to the required score to be considered a success (I.e. not have our heads chopped) but opted to try and carry on and hit a ‘stretch’ score of 25 (18 is the pass point). Things went a bit downhill by this point however, with us struggling to pass the right information for successful plays, and I ended up discarded a few important cards as I was given no information + got left not being able to give out clues.

When we neared the end of the deck, we’d lost another of the 3 mistake chances along the way and with one left, couldn’t risk playing again, which meant we couldn’t hit the 25 score (Not sure if we could have at that point anyway, but could have been very close had we taken random chances on playing cards).

I think we finished around 22-23, and had lots of fun. Very happy to have had the chance to play Hanabi, as it’s a very interesting one to play, forcing players to work together (While also being frustrating, because you are totally reliant on others!). It’s also a difficult one to deal with any distractions in, as JP demonstrated by forgetting which of his cards was a red, then getting told 2 were 5’s (Had he known which was the red 5, we could have done a good amount better, losing a life instead as the yellow 5 was a mistake to play) – On top of that, he got told which 2 cards were 5’s twice in a row, when the information he was missing was the colour, eep! (Interestingly, while I usually forget what everyone else did in this game and remember my own things, it’s a bit opposite here ^^).

After Hanabi it looked like the next game was to be Avalon/Werewolf, and seeing as I really wasn’t feeling up to wasting time on a traitor game headed off home (I do like them btw, but got to be in the mood, as I get ignored/permanently considered-a-traitor because I’m too quiet anyway). Thanks very much to everyone there and especially those that organise it, hopefully see you next month!

Halesowen Board Games #20 (02/07/14)

Among the Stars

First game of the evening was Among the Stars, which I’ve been wanting to get a play in for with the Ambassadors expansion in play (As it’s probably last year since I last got to use it!). This seems to be one of the games that I get chronic new-player disorder with, and end up avoiding the extra stuff, but on this occasion my desire to use cool stuff took priority ^^.

The Ambassadors expansion for Among the Stars adds a new action that can be performed when you discard a card (In base you just have ‘Take 3 Credits’ or ‘Build a Power Reactor’). This new action is to invite an ambassador to your station, which is to be chosen from a few available (We used 3 but I have a strange feeling it could be dependant on #players), paying the cost and immediately using their ability. Rather than place them into your station as locations, you keep the ambassador in front of you and place a bureau card into you station representing the place you have for the visiting ambassadors (Well, sometimes, as ambassadors that have you build a location have you discard a bureau instead).

Essentially, what this adds to the game is more options and a touch of player interaction. The ambassadors are generally equal or perhaps a little weaker than building more locations, but if they happen to get you that precise thing you need, may just be worth it. The interaction aspect comes in as you need to consider that other players will also be looking to invite ambassadors, which may interfere with your plans.

The final interesting thing to mention is that the ambassadors are based around the various races in the game (Which each person is a member of one of, giving variable player powers). You can’t invite ambassadors are your own faction, but can pick up benefits of others (E.g. a Hythian ambassador (Hythian reactors provide 3 power instead of 2) might pump some more energy cubes into your existing reactors). This is a really cool thematic element, as well as making gameplay choices interesting (as you’ll likely step on the toes of the person who’s race that is, in the indirect sense of wanting certain location cards to use it effectively).

Anyway. our game! Players were myself (Nyxtos – lets me cancel one card/player over the course of the game), Stan (Humareen – <redacted>), Steve (Wiss – Can’t build reactors, but main reactor has infinite range and 5 power instead of 2) and Mark (<redacted> – ambassadors cost 1 more credit, but provide 2 points a piece at endgame).

From fairly early on, it was reasonable clear what objectives players aimed to get (From ‘most red’, ‘most blue’, ‘most purple’ and ‘first to 5 ambassadors’). I was generally going for red, purple & blue (Mainly red), Stan & Steve for purple, and Mark for most objectives & blue. For me things went that way as I got a couple of early locations which provided points for having those colours, as well as an early turret which led me to want all turrets which came by me.

As the game continued, Stan/Steve continued to be neck & neck for the most purple locations (Frustratingly, as I had a red/purple location that gave me vp equal to the lower quantity of one of those location types I had, and I had a ton of red already ^^). Mark rushed ambassadors as he wanted all 5 anyway for his racial ability, getting him the first-to-5. I went considerably into the lead with reds, as noone else seemed to want them (Meant I got 3 turrets which was nice, as they scale off quantity of them).

On the ambassadors front, I got one that gave me a couple of credits and made credits worth more points to me (2credits = 1vp instead of 3=1), another an extra vp per empty reactor and er, I had another one but forget what it did ^^. Mark had lots, at least one was for credits, one made the ‘discard for 3 credits’ action considerably weaker for a year (I.e. discard for 1), another stopped us passing our hands for a turn, and a couple more. Steve had a couple giving him some power (Which helped skirt the ‘can’t built additional power reactors’ of his race) and Stan got at least one for credits and I forget what else (Which was fiendish, as I would have taken it to make use of my 1vp/2 credits from my ambassador!).

Other things of possible interest are that both Steve/Stan had quite square stations, built around race-tracks (2 of them in Steve’s case!), Marks was ridiculously wide, being not particularly tall, and mine didn’t really have any particular logic to it, but was a sort of star shape. Also I had a ridiculous amount of delayed rather than immediate abilities, as I just never seemed to have a good layout to get a strong amount of points from the immediate abilities – I think I’ll try and make more surrounded gaps for building things that get points from adjacency in future.

After putting together endgame points, I jumped from 4th to 2nd, Mark was in 1st a little out of reach, and Stan/Steve in 3rd/4th but I forget which way around. It was a good game, although I think I made a few mistakes due looking too much at ambassadors and not enough at my hand/station layout. In terms of powers I feel like Marks was a bit on the strong side (Costs 5 extra credits, but 10 points, whereas most races net maybe ~3 on average, emphasised as credits are generally a little easier to get with ambassadors), Nyxtos which i had I’m not a huge fan as it’s quite variable and reliant on screwing other players, Wiss is a nice one with limited but infinite range power (For those who don’t know, power usually has a 2-space max range, so you need to build power reactors in the right places to make best use of it), unfortunately I forget was Stans humareen provided, but I think it was a few VP.

Arctic Scavengers

Next up, after a brief discussion of what to play next where I for some reason didn’t try very hard to tout Trains and Stations (I feel I should have because it’s a new addition to my colelction ^^), we went with Steve’s brand spanking new copy of Arctic Scavengers.

Arctic Scavengers is a deck-building game where players decks represent tribes in an arctic wasteland, with players digging, scrounging and fighting to get strong and increase the size of their tribe. At the end of the game, the player who has the most tribesmen is the winner.

Each turn consists of a play phase and a skirmish phase. In the play phase, players take turns to play cards to perform various actions if possible from a short list of possibilities – Draw (Take cards from your deck into your hand), Dig (Look at cards from the waste pile, keeping 0-1 of them), Hire(Take a card from the hiring area into your deck, paying its’ cost), Trash (Shuffle any number of cards from your hand into the waste pile). Each action can only be performed once/turn, but you can potentially do all of them. At the end of the actions phase, the player declares how many cards he’s not used and keeps them face-down in front of them.

When all players complete their turns, the skirmish phase occurs. Each player reveals the set-aside cards and the attack-power of these cards is compared, the winner takes the top of the good-stuff pile (It has an official name, I just happen to have an awful memory) into their deck. The good-stuff pile also acts as a timer for the game – If it runs out the game ends (Alternatively I think if 2 piles of hirables are emptied, or something like that ^^).

This was the first time for all of us in our game, so I think there was lots of poking-and-prodding to see how things went. For example the first turn I did nothing, declaring all my cards so I could have the card from the ‘good-stuff’ pile (Which was a group of 5 people, who were pretty useless other than numbers). Other seemed to do plenty of digging, and I think Mark got some extra scavengers (Can do everything, but aren’t particularly special at anything). The 2nd turn I picked up an extra brawler, so that I could aim to win the end-turn skirmishes.

A few turns in I realised noone was using the trash action, so I made use of it to throw away all my refugees (A start-deck card that is pretty useless but worth 1 point and can potentially use tools that you have). I think Stan got rid of a few of his too, but don’t remember seeing Steve/Mark particularly trying to chuck theirs. I think all other players got cards with the medical icon (Required for hiring some cards) which you get from digging through waste, although I got a medpack eventually. For most of my turns I kept a large-ish number of people back, which worked out quite well as I got 4 of the ‘set of people’ cards, particularly good when you consider 1person = 1point and skirmish ties are broken by most people in the fight.

Near the end of the game people finally started being able to buy the more interesting cards. Stan got a couple of saboteurs though he never used them, I got a group leader and grenade which I never used, and I couldn’t really tell what Steve/Mark had as upside-cards aren’t particularly obvious when it’s your first time playing a game ^^. When the game ended, we added up points with me winning on 29 points, which to be honest is pretty much because I was rarely doing anything so won skirmishes a lot. I think it was kind of disapointing that it finished right as we started being able to afford better cards – In fact I think it wasn’t until my last or second-to-last turn that I finally had enough to buy more than a subset of 3-4 of the possibilities as I never seemed to get the medic-symbols at the right times.

I think it’s a pretty good game, but without the (Included, to be fair) expansion content I think wouldn’t stay interesting past a game or two, as there’s just not a whole lot of variety as a result of most cards just being facilitators for the 4 basic actions (I think ~3 of the possible hires had some special text to make them do something different). Certainly up for trying again sometime with the expansion included to see what it injects to make the game more varied and what other mechanics it adds (There was an extra piece for a deck of cards that isn’t used in the base game, which must mean more than just card variety is added).

So er…thanks for the games all! ^^.

Halesowen Board Games #19 (25/06/14)

Kickstarter Interesting Projects:
I just wanted to nab an opportunity to draw your attention to a few kickstarter projects running at the moment which may be of interest to you ^^.

Treasure Chest: Realistic Resources
The latest Stonemaier Games project is for a ‘treasure chest’, i.e. box, of nice looking resource pieces to upgrade the quality of your games. For the amount of resources being included in the box the $33 asking price is fantastic, so definitely worth a look if you like premium game pieces.

As a side thing, because the chest doesn’t tie to a specific game, it can’t be put onto boardgamegeek. Someone in the comments suggested a micro-game that uses the resources such that there would be a specific game to link it to. For the hell of it I’m trying to create such a game, which if anyone’s interested in trying out is an 18-card vaguelly cosmic-encounter related game where each player is a kingdom that needs a variety of resources to complete some objective, but only produce one type, hence must trade/fight for the rest. Based on a trial game with a work-mate the idea’s sound, but needs more work/a trial with more players to be sure ^^.

Tiny Epic Defenders
A thematic sequel to another project (Tiny Epic Kingdoms), this game has players cooperatively defending the joint kingdom that was left after TEK. The game is driven by an interesting escalation mechanic, whereby the ‘hoard deck’ drives the enemies (And player turns), with an enemy card added each time it runs out, thinning the frequency of player turns and introducing new foes over the course of the game. The players advantage of this is they can ‘learn’ the hoard deck in a game, and prepare accordingly (I.e. if half the monsters in the deck attack the forest, someone can sit at the forest to defend it for when those monsters are drawn).

The game has variation in the form of dire enemies (Bad guys with special abilities), epic foes (The super-bad-guy you must beat to win the game), locations (2 versions of each of the 6 locations, if a certain stretch goal is reached) and characters (Each with unique abilities). This means that the game, while simple in nature, should be plenty replyable time and time again.

In any case, I just love the escalation mechanic, and that it will be a very small-package making it easily transportable despite the interesting looking gameplay. The fast games should be perfect for travelling as an added bonus ^^.

New Dawn
A thematic sequel (Some might say there’s a theme to projects I’m interested in) to the game ‘Among the Stars’. Among the Stars has players building vast space stations to promote commerce & defense capabilities among an alliance following a great war. In New Dawn, players seek to reclaim parts of the galaxy lost in the war, preparing for a new, unseen threat (Perhaps a 3rd thematic sequel game? ^^).

I’m not 100% on the mechanics here, particularly as they’ve apparently been updated/changed significantly since rahdo did a preview at Essen last year. The gist is that you’re placing stations (colonies?) onto the board to gain their effects, with those effects depending on the facing of the card (Each of the 4 directions has an added effect, variable from game-to-game) and what cards are adjacent. Each player has a number of station miniatures they place out on the cards, so I imagine there’s a considerable area-control aspect to consider as well as the card’s individual vp awards.

In any case, I’m very excited about this campaign, as Artipia Games make very interesting products and I love it’s predecessor game. While this is totally different in mechanics, it retains the nice square-cards and adjacency/placement aspect that I most love about AtS, taking it in a whole new direction and expanding on the story. Also, they dropped the price in response to backer comments which was a nice touch, although why they didn’t start it lower when they knew they could I don’t know (I still trust them to deliver a great product of course, seeing as they have put out a number of other successful releases already). Best of luck to them ^^.

Zombicide Season 3 (Rue Morgue & Angry Neighbours)
A new standalone game and an expansion for the Zombicide series. I sadly can’t afford to back this, but the standalone adds a hospital setting and Zombies that become crawlers when hit, and the expansion adds a beat-up neighbourhood setting with ‘seeker’ zombies that get more bursts of speed than other types. I think anyone interested in Zombicide should back at least 1 campaign (It’s fine to get the rest at retail, but you get considerably more survivor variety by backing one ^^), so here’s an opportunity right now ^^>

Halesowen 25/06/14

we went for a big game this time around, choosing the fantastic worker-placement mining, adventuring and farming game ‘Caverna: The Cave Farmers’.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

Seeing as I think I’ve talked about it before, I’ll keep explanation short. In Caverna, players take turns to place workers over a fixed number of rounds (12, I think). Placing workers allows you to expand your personal board (Place tunnels/cavern tiles in your cave, and cut down swatches of forest to place fields/meadow tiles to make your farm). On most rounds there is a harvest phase, so you’ll have to work out some method of creating food through cultivating crops, breeding animals or going on adventures (Which you’ll need to arm your dwarves with weapons to do). You’ll also want to ‘furnish caverns’, which is taking various special ability tiles (Paying a cost to construct them) to either boost your resource production or capitalize on what you have for points.

In any case, by the end of a game of Caverna you’ll have a beautiful array of..stuff, on your personal board and a feeling of achievement, while wishing you had just a bit more time to make everything perfect ^^>

Our game consisted of myself, Stan, Ian & Mark R. Initial aims of the game were that Mark R wanted to go for all his workers (Due knowing that it’s important in Agricola), I planned on Adventuring, Stan Adventuring/Mining & I think Ian took a more ‘whatever goes’ approach due not being overly experienced with either Agricola or Caverna (Which is quite a fun way to play actually, you lose a bit of enjoyment when you let yourself fix to a strategy in games ^^).

In the early game, I managed to be first out of the game to get an adventurer, using it to pick up vegetables/wheat to work on having crops to feed my workers. Stan made good work on digging out his cave, getting the second adventurer (Higher level than mine due his ore mines letting him craft better initial weapons), Mark R seemed to tilt towards his Caves also, making little early headway into farming, and I was sort of not paying much attention to what Ian was building up, but I think it was a good balance of both sides. (Sorrrry!!! You were furthest away from me on the table ^^).

As we moved into the mid game, Mark R’s strategy shifted as he seemed to decide the ‘3 Points per armed dwarf’ furnishing was a good plan (Plus having all your dwarves armed gives you more freedom on which adventure spaces you get). I pretty much stopped bothering with the adventuring route, opting to focus on my farm ¬†– This in response to Ian also getting his dwarves armed, and it not being overly-wise to all go for the same thing. Stan stuck with weapons and mines, getting a lot of them over the course of things, 2 times right ahead of when I was planning to build them!

Towards the later game, Mark R’s armed dwarf strategy seemed to be paying off, with him getting plenty of everything, 4 dwarves & having all of them with weapons, while also getting his farm built up a bit and space for a 5th dwarf (Never filled). Stan did pretty well getting to 3 or 4 ore mines with a couple of Ruby mines (Which I mostly found odd as I don’t remember him going to either of the ruby spaces despite them being extremely valuable when you have 2 mines), his farm was a bit behind but he managed to catch up with getting each animal type by the endgame. Due my change to a farm focus, I’d gone for a ton of workers, getting all 5 out before the end of the game. I was using my crops for food (With the 1 Veg/1Wheat = 5 Food furnishing) so picked up the ‘1 Point/3 Animals’ furnishing for points, as well as a couple of others that were less powerful but all I could afford without wasting turns. I managed to fill in every space on my farm & cave (The last 2 spaces in the cave through the power of rubies, as I needed extra caverns for furnishings). Again, I don’t remember too much of Ians, but he still seemed to have a good balance and sustainable setup, but had minimal furnishings (i.e. less points-farming than the rest of us, but I could have just not noticed what he had – Ian if you read this please comment as I’m curious what you built ^^).

When it came down to endgame scores, it was tight, but ultimately had me taking victory with my focus on farming. I think that this was partly due the high competition for adventuring between players, weakening the strategy for all (And the fact I denied the most powerful adventuring space from the players with better weapons by using rubies to place out-of-order). It also hurt things a little as I forgot to put the level-4 adventurer into the placement-spaces deck as the last few times I played were 2 player (Where you remove it), sorry about that!. Mark R came in second, so having lots of armed dwarves seems to be a good idea, Stan in 3rd (I think he could have come first had I not done certain things that interfered with his setup, such as taking ruby spaces before they built up to be worth too much to him) and Ian in 4th but not far behind.

Fantastic game, many thanks for Mark for suggesting we play, as while I totally love Caverna I won’t generally pick it out due the length ^^. It makes me want to play once with every player count though, as the change in spaces when going to a 4-player game from 2-player the last few times was a particularly fun difference…7 would be excessively long though (I’m still up for it, but I have to find 6 other people who’re insane to try it…^^).

Good Night, thanks for reading =-)

Games Day (13/06/14)

So just an ahead note for anyone interested in my thoughts on the Halesowen night for the 18th June (I wasn’t in attendance on the 11th), it’ll be up in a few days as its’ written but feel I shouldn’t clump posts together or they’ll be ignored (Although seeing as I generally don’t expect them to be read anyway that’s a weird idea =P)

On Friday Evening, myself and some friends – Grace, Chris (Harrison) and Arthur – met up for a games night. There wasn’t any particular plans, but Grace has been trying to meet up with friends one last time as she’ll be going on a trip around Europe and after a brief period back here, to China for a year.

Smash Up

The first game of the evening was Smash Up, which marked our first time playing with the official factions (In this case all from Sci-Fi Double-Feature) and the custom-factions I made for Grace (A whole year ago as a birthday present!) together. I played Shapeshifting Bat-Men, Grace played Adventure Time Spies, Arthur as David Lister (Cyborg Apes + Red Dwarf) and Chris played the hugely appropriate pair of Time Travellers and Doctor Who!

It’s hard to talk about how the game went, asides from that I couldn’t keep up at all throughout the game, Arthur wasn’t able to get much ahead of me (He arrived late, although we did give him some catchup VP at the start, 4 to my 3, Chris’s 5 & Grace’s 6 at the time). This left the main battle between Chris & Grace, which actually had them tying on 15 at one point, before the tie-breaking base fell for Grace’s victory (Although it lasted a while, with Chris delaying the defeat with the time-travellers score-locking – Amusingly not long after Grace removed her own adventure-time base-break prevention card).

The most interesting thing for me over the game was seeing how the extra factions I’d created came together with official ones. For starters, there was a bit of overlap in abilities (Not my fault! I created them before SFDF was released!) which felt odd, and some cards have rather ambiguous text (Hard to notice considering I knew how they work anyway). I’ve got some tweaks planned to the cards and will be reprinting them sometime, such as bringing the number of minions/action in line for adventure time (They were a very minion heavy 14/6 whereas official decks are 10/10 on minions/actions), as well as some card numbers and card text to make it clearer or to make it different to official cards (Cybermen were almost identical to shapeshifter copycats, so now they copy ongoing abilities instead of immediate ones).

Space Cadets: Dice Duel

Aaanyway, I’ll save that chatter for the Smash Up variants forum on BGG! I think our next game was Space Cadets: Dice Duel (I honestly have no idea what order we played things in, ^^). This is the first time I’ve gotten this hectic game to the table and it was well…interesting.

In Dice Duel, players split into 2 teams, with each team controlling a space ship flying around a fixed area on the table. There’s a number of different roles with unique dice, which are split between players such that noone has the time to do everything they need to when they need to. Each role/station works slightly differently too – Helm has 3 dice which when all 3 lock immediately move the ship, weapons has 6 dice, to make into 2 3-dice torpedo’s by matching symbols, loading them into either the front of back tubes depending which way they want to fire. Engineering (Split between both players in 2v2) has dice to roll which provide energy to the other stations, hugely important when you realise that you can’t roll any dice at a station unless you get energy!

In any case, being our first game things were a little bit of a shambles, as when you have to control 2/3 stations, in real time, and actually get into decent positions to attack the other ship, well…it’s difficult. I was in control of Helm, Shields & Tractor Beams, with Grace being our Weapons and Sensors, while the other team had Arthur doing Helm/Shields & Tractors and Chris on their Weapons/Sensors. The first half the game was heavily haphazard, as I didn’t do particularly great at avoiding nebula’s and ruining the sensor locks that Grace was trying so hard to build up. Our first couple of missiles missed (I think first randomly into space and the other lost by the dice roll), such that we took a damage or two before we got into our stride. After this I put lots of time into shields to avoid further damage, while also tractor-beaming up some crystals (Taking damage reduces your energy dice pool, crystals get the dice back although you still have the damage taken).

We fought back, and hard, with some silky maneuvring/shields on my behalf (Although constantly moving our ship round led to a few missed shots for Grace, sorry!!). We managed to get the enemy ship to 3 damage (4 to win) before getting into a bit of a stalemate situation for some time with both teams having max shields on the sides we kept towards our opponents. The final blow was dealt (By us, huzzah!) when we looped around the back of their ship and shot ’em from behind where they had no shields, right after taking a hit that removed our own shields (I left us vulnerable such that I could move quicker and get where they had no shields up). Boom! ^^.

Boss Monster

With our valiant victory over, we moved away from teams (Temporarily, I think…I really don’t know if I’m getting the order right) to a competitive game of Boss Monster. This 8-bit styled card game has each player building up a dungeon to attract and defeat heroes to harvest their souls, while trying to avoid attracting too much attention such that they don’t take wounds (Take 5 and you lose, whereas 10 souls and you win).

In the early game, I think all 3 of the other players took a few wounds from attracting heroes before they were well enough prepared (I think Arthur had the Mages, Grace the thieves, Chris the Clerics and I just kept tying or getting nothing, aside from ‘the fool’ that I forced to my dungeon with a spell or room ability or something..). Over the course of the game, this mostly continued, with the main source of mirth being that we tied for number of fighters almost the entire game (A tie for most attractive has the adventure stay in town for another round so they build up). With the huge pile of those sitting around doing nothing, the hero deck expired and the epic heroes starting to roll out. I think the penultimate round had a tie for one of the other hero types, followed by a final round where everyone pulled a huge amount (I got all the fighters finally, well needed as I had but 1 soul still while others had ~3-6).

A round of mayhem and destruction later and I think 3 (or all 4, not sure if Arthur got to 10 souls) of us reached the win condition. Unfortuantely for the rest of us, Chris had an extra soul or two and took the victory…I give up being evil, I’m going to just become a teacher or something, humph!

Ticket To Ride: Asia

The final game of the night had us returning to the ‘team vs team’ philosophy, as I not long ago got the ‘team asia’ map expansion for Ticket to Ride. This expansion introduces the concept of team-play to the game, with players splitting into groups of 2 and working with a partner to cover Asia in trains. The main difference from the standard game is that each team has a card-rack which is shared, so one person can put cards there for the other (Although players aren’t allowed to state explicitly…they can hint so heavily that they might as well say it outright what they need..its weird).

All 4 of us, with it being our first game, used our first turns to share what our tickets were with teammates (By standard, only 1 route each gets placed where your teammate can see it, but you can use a turn to place 1 or 2 more of your routes on the rack to make things easier to work out). This meant both teams had 6 tickets visible to go with (Although Chris, who was now on my team, again Grace & Arthur, had another 2 that he kept hidden).

The core of our routes was that we needed to get from the top left to top right of the board. Fortunately we’d got routes that worked well enough together to try and aim to do this as a continuous route, and we planned to go over the top where there’s some long, high-scoring areas. Grace/Arthur seemed to need to get from top left to bottom right (Roughly, I don’t know their destinations of course), and they aimed to go across the middle to achieve it.

Early game, we focused on the left side of the map, getting our small-ish routes over there completed without much issue, then moving to the focus on the right side (Without joining up yet). Grace/Arthur did their bottom right routes as priority, although they got a few trains down in the top left near us too. As Grace/Arthur started moving their right-hand-side routes towards the top left, we used the conveniently opportunity of our heavy density of trains up there (I think more than half our routes were in the area) to block them from being able to join. This didn’t seem to deter them however, and they seemed to start rushing to run out of trains to deny us that way (No idea if that was actually the plan). Fortunately for us, we did have time to link up, just about, although it was across the lower-middle of the map which scored less/train but was easier for us to do at the time. In fact we got all of our routes completed a turn ahead of the Grace/Arthur team ending the game through running out of trains.

Me/Chris had the final pair of goes, and Chris opted (I did egg him on tbf) to try for an extra route, in the hope we’d have one already completed. Nothing quite matched, but one was close and despite my appalling efforts to hint against it (I couldn’t actually see the cards and you aren’t supposed/allowed to be direct), gambled on a high-point option hoping I had a pair of white cards I didn’t have. Adding up points at the end, we had a nice lead until we took away the massive 15 points for the card he chose – Well played Grace/Arthur for not doing random gambles ^^ (We were fine to take routes, but Chris should have taken the 2/3 point one that we definteily couldn’t do instead, as we’d have still won despite the loss of that many points, ack!

It was a fantastic evening, and I’m so happy to have had people around for games right into the early hours of the Morning (I think it was 4am or so when we finished!). I got to try out my newest game and newest expansion, while Grace got to play her personal-Smash Up expansion with the main game. Thanks to all 3 of them for the great time!

Halesowen Board Gamers #17 (04/06/14)

On arrival, a couple of games already seemed to be out on tables indicating what people wanted to play. Neither Power Grid (Although I don’t know that it was actually played in the end) or Legendary really interest me (Tzol’kin…I’d probably enjoy actually playing but it just doesn’t stand out). There just seemed to be myself and Ian having not jumped into a game, so I suggested we play a game of Hive while waiting to see if anyone else turned up.

Hive

I didn’t notice however that James was also not in a game, so he came over to join us. As Hive is 2 player, I suggested Ian/James play against each other instead with myself being a spectator, as it’s quite a short one and I was interested in how others approach the game. In Hive, players have a number of hex tile ‘bugs’ with various movement styles. If they can surround the opposing players queen (With any combination of their opponents/their own tiles), that player wins. Each turn players either place or move (Although they can’t move until their queen is placed, which must be done by the 4th turn), with placement having to be next to their own colour (black/white) tile and not next to their opponents (So you have to start pieces away from the target and use their movement to get them in).

Being their first game, neither James nor Ian seemed to go for any particular strategy, although there was a lot of use of grasshoppers I wasn’t expecting (Grasshoppers jump over a line of pieces), with ants coming out quite late (Ants are one of the more versatile pieces, which can move almost anywhere, though not into tight gaps which beetles/grasshopppers can). Both their beetles (Moves 1 at a time, but can go up on top of the hive, which also allows for ‘disabling’ tiles when its’ on top of them) got placed opposite a gap in a sort of stand-off, as I think if either had moved their beetle the other would have jumped there’s on top (My fault for mentioning you could do that during explaining probably).

It wasn’t too long before players started getting their pieces around their opponents queen. James made use of his queens movement to escape getting trapped before it could happen, while Ian mostly ignored his (queen) bee, leaving almost none of his own pieces surrounding it (Which I think is a fair thing to do, but you probably need to be capturing the enemies quickly or reducing how many pieces the other player has available considerably to get away with it). As Ian left it to be trapped however, he quickly ran out of non-defensive moves he could make, and while he made some pretty cool blocks on movement was unable to stop the last grasshopper jump into the remaining space by his queen, leaving victory to James.

I think it’s a really interesting game (I picked it up at the UK Games Expo btw), which has more strategy than I was mentally giving it credit for whenever I’ve seen it in the past (I mean…it’s just a few tiles, it’s hardly the biggest footprint of game ^^). I’ve only played 4 times but look forward to playing it lots and hopefully inducing some healthy competition with others as I do so!

Boss Monster

Nobody extra turned up, so our next port of call was to jump into Boss Monster, the Dungeon Building Card Game. Boss Monster is a sort of ‘tower defense’ with players building up dungeons leading up to their boss creature, in a bid to kill the various heroes that are attracted to visit their dungeon. The game is played over a few phases – Spawn, Build, Bait & Adventure, and continues until all but one player are eliminated (Take 5+ wounds) or a player reaches 10 Souls (Tiebreak – Least Wounds).

Spawn just has #players heroes come out into town, letting players see what heroes they might attract. Build has each player construct one room in their dungeon (Built to the left to a max of 5, or possibly over another room), hopefully adding enough damage to kill heroes, as well as the right treasure type (Each room has a symbol to denote that it has say, weapons, as treasure) to attract them. The bait phase has heroes in the town move to the dungeon with the most treasure symbols of the type they prefer (So a Fighter goes to a 3 sword dungeon over a 2 sword dungeon), with ties having them stay in town till next turn getting drunk in the bar. Finally, the adventure phase is where the heroes at the entrance to each players dungeon move through – If they aren’t killed they go face up to the side of the players boss as a ‘wound (There’s a symbol on the bottom right so they’re easily stacked and the wounds visible), if they are they are placed face down as a Soul (On the bottom again for neat stacking/splaying).

Players have a number of rooms & spells in their hand, which drives what options they have available to them over the course of the game. One room is drawn at the start of each build phase to hopefully provide options to players.

In our game, everyone got the hang of things very quickly (One of the best things about the game is it’s simplicity to teach). I got a couple of holy relics and a ridiculous amount of spell tomes (Come to me Clerics & Mages), Ian got plenty of Weapons to attract fighters, and James matched my holy relics as well as getting a spread of a bit of everything, but not enough for majority to attract monsters. After a few rounds, James had an unfortunate few rounds where he got no rooms he could place (Only advanced rooms – Advanced rooms must be placed atop a normal room with the same treasure type, replacing it such that there’d be no reason to stack them up or anything). I got a ton of Souls from attacting and taking out Mages, as well as a few of the clerics (Although they mostly just stayed in town as we kept tying with 2 relics each). Ian was doing well and had a powerful dungeon, but just wasn’t attracting quite so many heroes.

When we got to the Epic Heroes, James had a rather epic round where he was able to attract 4 heroes (4!), wiping them all out and jumping from 1 to 9 souls. I played a ‘Zombie Attack’ spell, which sent one back to the start with extra health to try and slow him down (And I think it made him change his building plans and potentially stopped him nabbing a sudden win, although he killed the now Zombified hero without issue). I found myself unable to attract any heroes in the last round, as I’d covered up some of my spellbook symbols and lost the mages interest (I was a bit unsure when I could use ‘destroy this room’ effects which could have changes how things happened. Ian was able to attract 2 heroes (On 8 souls), and while I feared one neither me nor James had what we needed to stop him, even past a jeopardy spell (Which forces a full hand discard and makes everyone draw 2 rooms and 1 spell, to try and find another useful spell). Win for Ian!

I like this game, and I think the art style is very cool, but I think it has a number of flaws. Most of all, its’ very random as to whether you have the right cards to build – rather than player interaction for who has the most of various symbols, it’s pretty much at the decks whim – in addition, its’ possible to draw exclusively cards you can’t even build, screwing you over for 1 or more rounds of the game. In addition, the ‘normal’ heroes range from 4 to 8 in health, but while that’s easy to deal with by about turn 4/5, they spawn from round 2, so some of the players end up taking really early wounds for well…no good reason. A ‘Novice Heroes’ deck with a round or two’s worth of 2/3 health heroes would be a small but much appreciated addition to the game. I think next time I play I’ll have to try a house-rule such as ‘draw 2 keep 1’ or have a few cards out each round to draft from (As I don’t like players missing turns), or use the in-rulebook variant of ‘If a player gains no souls on a turn, he may draw an additional room card’ which should also counter the issue. I really hope future expansions might improve either or both of these problems I have as I do thing its’ an awesome theme and cool game to play otherwise ^^ (Oh, I have the first expansion which we didn’t use – It puts items out for heroes to carry, which give the heroes a special ability making them more interesting than a pile of hit points, as well as a special ability for the player that kills said hero to provide more options ^^).

San Juan

When it came to suggestions for after Boss Monster, we were a bit unsure what to go for, as we’d already played 2 of my games and neither James or Ian had bought anything along with them. I had Among the Stars with me which would have fit in the time, but James saw a copy of San Juan (Dave D’s copy I think) and suggested we play that which we agreed to.

San Juan is a role-selection game, with each turn consisting of players taking one of 5 available roles, which provide a benefit to everyone (Well…except prospector, which is weak but gives no benefit to the other players) but a more powerful benefit to the player. Over the course of the game, players construct various buildings which produce goods or provide special abilities, with the aim being to get the most points by the end of the game.

In our game, as I haven’t played before, I just went for whatever seemed to work so that I could get a feel for the game. An early card let me keep an extra card when the ‘councillor’ role was taken (Doubling it’s benefit as far as I’m concerned), as well as another one I built that produced a good every time the same role was taken (So I pretty much just spammed¬† Councillor and relied on the other players picks to do everything else). I only built one resource location, which was a silver mine, so every time someone traded I could get a ton of cards despite not really paying attention to that side of the game. James’ strategy seemed to rely on cards where when certain things happened, a card was stacked under the building and was worth 1VP at the games end, and Ian I don’t know so much but he did play an annoying card that made for a 6 card hand limit instead of 7. I also built a crane, which allowed me to build atop other buildings (So I could replace my starting indigo mine) as well as making a Park, which let me built the 7 cost ‘Cathedral’ card…but wasn’t really worth bothering with, as between the other 2 players only 1 ‘6’ cost card got built. I lost, 24-28-32, but I think I’d have got ~27-30 points if I’d not consistently forgotten about my Chapel among other things ^^.

I think it was a very interesting game, and certainly quite different in style to anything else I’ve tried, as well as being quite elegant in style. I don’t quite get the seeming emphasis on goods production/sale, as I’d get 4-5 cards each time even though I’d barely paid it any attention, and with a 6/7 card hand limit any more would be pointless (By emphasis I mean that most things I spent to make buildings were more production things…I feel like the game expected more than just 1 silver mine from me). I did see a ‘tower’ card at the end of the game (Although I never picked one up personally) which allowed a 12 card hand limit, and I could see that being impactful, but only if you had it right from the start. Guess I’ll just have to play again sometime and see how repeated play changes things.

Cheers for reading, was a fun night ^^. Shame I didn’t get to bring out Space Cadets: Dice Duel (I got it via a trade at the Expo), as I think it’d be a great use of 30 minutes, but I don’t know that I convince 4-8 people at halesowen that a real-time dice-rolling game is a good idea ^^ (Particularly as I’ve read it’s better with 6 or 8).