Category Archives: Board Games

Halesowen Board Gamers #12 (16/04/14)

It was a fairly short Wednesday this week, with the session ending at 10:30 as everyone seemed to be in games that fit in neatly to that scale. The first game I played (With Mark, Steve W & Andy S) was Kings of Air & Steam.

Kings of Air & Steam

Kings of Air & Steam is a simultaneous, action planning, pick-up and deliver game. Andy mentioned seeing it on the side a couple of the times he’s been along, and seeing as I’ve been bringing it because I really enjoy it and wanted to play, I was happy to oblige by sorting it out as a game to play. Unfortunately the game doesn’t really play too well with 2-3 players (Being either too tight or too loose) but we managed to get 4 eventually (Although I don’t seem to be too good at selling the appeal of this one) to play.

A quick note on setup, is that I actually put out the boards to a custom setup where boards d,e,f,g are used, as the default rules are to use the 5-player setup which gives a similar issue to the lower player-counts where the play is too open, this works quite well as with these boards it keeps a factory-city balance while bringing everyone that little bit closer together. After putting all the bits & pieces out conveniently, I gave each player their ship & character boards (Ignoring the basic rules, variable player powers are way more interesting ^^) and we got to setting starting places. This is done in reverse order of priority (Slowest goes first for placing at the start), although Steve’s power was to place 1st and last (Despite being 1st in priority).

The game itself plays out in 5 rounds, with each round consisting of 4 turns of a move + action. At the start of each round, 3 market tiles are drawn (From a stack of 13) and resources matching the types drawn have their values increased on the market board, making those more valuable than others ($4>$5>$6>$8). Players then plan their 4 moves – Each player has 13 cards with various movements on them, and they choose 4 of these, in order, for the round ahead. The ‘moves/actions’ bit happens next which I’ll expand on next paragraph. After that upkeep happens ($1 to bank for each good kept in cargo of airship or in a train depot). Last, factories produce resources to meet demand (1 each + 1 for each market tile of a matching type to the resource being made) before the market tiles are removed to become a facedown ‘demand’ pile, and the next round commences.

In the ‘move+action’ phase, which happens 4 times (For each planned move), players first flip their next movement card along and move their ship on the board (Which happens simulaneously for the most part, with conflicts resolved on a letter for each movement card, or if tied there on individual players ships). At the end of the move, they get a free load/unload of goods, then an action. Actions are a number of things – Build a Depot (For dropping off goods to then ship to cities by train), Movement adjust (Move 1 space if movement went wrong), Upgrade ship/train (To hold more cargo & have better movement/increase distance respectively), ship goods (Move goods from depot to depot or depot to a city) or to elicit funds (Gain $3).

Airships aren’t permitted to land in cities, so they have to drop the goods off at their depots, using an action to then ship those goods to a city that wants them. When they do, the player immediatey gets payed for the goods. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points (1:1 money:points + some bonus points for depots & upgraded airship/trains) is the winner.

In our game, I was able to get a very strong starting position away from the other players, where I had 3 factories nearby. One of the cities I needed to deliver to was also close (Each city in the game only wants one type of good at a time), with the others within reach if I used someone elses depots to ship via. For most of the game I was able to stick around this position, but in the last couple of rounds I moved out a couple of times to get different goods to deliver as I had the cities that were easiest for me to deliver to filled up.

I don’t remember how things went other than that unfortunately, but it ended up a very close one with myself on 157 points and Andy in a close second with 155. There was a bigger gap to the other 2 players of around 30 points, but they were close between them also. I think that a game played again could make for tighter-knit scores, with everyone being able to strategize better from the start of the game with their initial depot placement (Taking the nice start position I had for example, or using the 2 depot start to spread out more early on. I had fun as I always do with this one, really love the movement-planning mechanic!

Paperback

As KoAaS is fairly quick, we had plenty of time for another game in the evening. Seeing as I recently received my copy of paperback, which I kickstarted a while back, I was eagar to give it a go, and people seemed ok with giving it a shot.

Paperback is, essentially, deck-building scrabble. Player start with a deck of 10 cards, consisting of 5 wildcards (Worth 1VP each) and 5 letters (T,S,L,R,N). These are shuffled and placed face down as a draw deck. The buy area is then set up, consisting of 7 piles of differently valued letter cards, & 4 piles of wildcards (4VP,7VP,10VP,15VP respectively). Finally, each player draws the top 5 cards of their deck to form a starting hand, first player is chosen, and play begins. Each turn, the active player creates a word using the cards in their hand (And optionally the top of 4 ‘common’ cards, which are usually vowels), then uses the score of that word to buy cards from the buy area. Each letter has a point value, with all wilds being worth 0 (But usable as any letter). The 4 ‘common’ cards I mentioned are on a special card to track towards the games end. When a player first makes a word with 7 letters, they take the top common into their deck, then the first 8 letter word, 9 & 10 – After the 10 letter word has been made the game ends, or when 2 of the wildcard VP piles run out. Players then go through all their cards and count up the victory point values of them, the highest score wins.

I find paperback a very interesting game, as unlike other deck-building games I’ve played, I find it a real challenge to think what cards are best to buy. The higher scoring letters/double-letters (such as ‘ch’, ‘an’, etc) are great for longer/higher-scoring words but get steadily harder to place (With letters such as J & Z being the highest cost/highest scoring letters). This leads to needing either the right vowels to use them, or wildcards to substitute in, which is good for victory points, but are worth nothing towards words on their own. In addition, many of the letters you gain have traditional deck-building abilities (draw cards, trash cards, etc) which add to the complexity further, as well as sometimes having conditions that are hard to fill effectively (‘+1 card next turn if this is the starting letter of your word’ for example).

It was my first game of paperback at this session, and my strategy was to just try and get the highest value letters I could to make high-scoring words. Steve did very well, and I think he was able to get most of the common cards that push towards game end (The 7,8,9,10 length word thing I mentioned, each common is worth 5 points). What I didn’t really consider is that while going for well scoring letters has the potential for great words, it’s very difficult to actually make something of a random assortment of letters without any wildcards. I think if the game was to go on longer I’d have done much better, but I’d only just started getting the low wildcards and wasn’t often able to make full use of my hand (With a few more in my deck I think I’d have had much much better words). As it is, Steve was able to take victory by ending the game with a 10-letter word and trouncing us all on points, 34-20-20-9 (I was the 9, sad times ^^). Very fun, looking forward to more plays of this one!

So that was the mid-april sessions games at halesowen, had a great time as always and looking forwards to tomorrow for another session of games!

International Tabletop Day in Halesowen! (05/04/2014)

At least 3 of the games here are new to me or new to the group, so this is a wall-of-text warning! If you already know a game just skip to the last 2-3 paragraphs for how the game went =)

This last Saturday was international tabletop day. On this day, initiated by Geek & Sundry, gamers & non-gamers alike are invited to lay down whatever else they had to do, and instead play, discover and introduce board gamers at public events around the world. The organiser, Dave, of the weekly board games group I attend was able to set up the normal room we have on Wednesday evenings for the whole of Saturday for an event there, where we could go to spend far longer than usual on gaming and could invite friends who might not be able to make the usual time. There’s no way I’d turn down the opportunity, so I went along, bringing my lovely girlfriend Grace and later going and fetching my friend Chris (Who shall henceforth be referred to as Handy due to the name clash!) to join the other awesome people at the group for a whole day of games.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

On arrival with my slightly-more-than-I-should-have-bought games I was greeted with a wonderful sight of the whole room being full of people playing games, which I’m pretty sure is more than I’ve seen before at the group. Most were in for longer games (As we can’t usually do so easily on Wednesdays) but one pair were in a near-to-end game of Glen-More, so we grabbed drinks and waited the few minutes for them to finish before suggesting and jumping into our first game of the day – Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.In Legendary, players are pitted against a Mastermind/Scheme combination that is chosen before each play. The objective of the players (usually) is to build up enough fighting power to defeat the mastermind 4 times, before either the hero deck or villain deck run out (considered a draw) or before the ‘Evil Wins’ text on the Scheme card is fulfilled. Players in the game are playing in a sort of battlefield control position as agents of shield, and will be picking up hero cards throughout the game to have them lend their aid to the battle. When the game starts, players have a number of weak Shield Agents & Troopers, and will be using ‘Recruit Points’ generated by this to recruit heroes from the Headquarters area into their decks to gradually build in power over the game. As well as the recruit points (Which is 1/agent) there is also ‘Fight’, (1/trooper) that can be used to attack villains that’re attacking the city and, ultimately, the mastermind himself.

Each turn, the active player draws a villain card from the villain deck and places it in the rightmost space of the city, moving any villains or henchman already there to the left to make space. If any are pushed off the end of the 5-card track, they ‘escape’ and a card is removed from the HQ, reducing the time the heroes have to gain victory. Villains have 3 things that take effect at various times, ‘Ambush’, ‘Fight’ and ‘Escape’, with the former happening right as the card is drawn, Fight happening when a player fights them, and escape happening if they go off the end of the track in addition to the loss of a hero card. There are 3 other card types in the villain deck, Scheme Twists (Which vary in effect based on the scheme in play), Master Strikes (A special effect unique to the mastermind in play) and Bystanders, hapless onlookers who get carried off by villains unless players rescue them.

Next in their turn, a player will play cards (She/He will have 6, which are drawn at the end of each turn after discarding current turns cards) in the order they wish. For the basic cards like troopers & agents, the order doesn’t matter, but the various heroes in the game have effects that are powered only by other cards already played, so it becomes important to work out the optimal way to play (For example there’s a gambit card that lets you reveal the top of your deck and drawn it if its an x-men hero – If you first use another gambit card ‘Stack the Deck’ you can deliberatey put an x-men hero on top for a successful use of the ability). Then, in any order, players can spend their recruit and fight points to gain heroes/fight villains in the city (You can recruit/fight as many things as you wish if you have enough fight/recruit to do so). At the end of their turn, a player discards any cards still in their hand and that they’ve played, then draws a new hand of 6 cards.

Players keep this up until they’ve fought the mastermind 4 times or lost the game due to the evil wins condition (You can always attack the mastermind if you have enough fight on your turn). Presuming they managed to do the former, the game is over and points are added up (Or possible the ‘Final Showdown’ variant occurs, where players duke it out for a few extra points off the mastermind). The points you get are to determine an individual victory, and are picked up by fighting the villains and mastermind – each player maintains their own victory pile of bad guys they’ve personally defeated (And bystanders they’ve saved), making this a semi-cooperative game as players must work together to win, but ultimiately want to nab more points for themselves if possible.

In our game, we were fighting against Dr Doom, against a scheme taken from my custom-schemes deck, which are mostly from boardgamegeek, which has a loss condition of 15 Bystanders KO’d and has twists KO’ing Bystanders directly off the top the deck (+ any in the city). We played reasonably friendly (Generally my preference ^^) and went for unique decks rather than competing for any in particular. The heroes in play were Electra, Punisher, Professor-X, Wolverine & er, one other. I mostly went for Professor-X, which I made use of to get rid of the more competitive punisher cards from the HQ as well as for fighing bad guys, Grace had a Wolverine Focus, and Rachael/Lee mostly went for the other heroes, although we all dabbled outside our core hero when good cards came up.

We were able to defeat the mastermind after 4 twists had come up (The 5th would have KO’d enough Bystanders to end the game). Everyone had managed to take out at least a few enemies over the game and contributed towards out victory, but as is the nature of semi-coops there were still points to be determined. Near the end of the game I’d had a couple of awesome combo’s in taking out a lot of enemies at once as well as the mastermind a couple of times, but Grace did well throughout the whole game and took victory. We played with final showdown rules, and I think it was Lee that just about won that for the final mastermind card for a few points, although it was not enough to catch him up at this stage. I enjoy this game a lot, with it competing with Smash Up for most played for me, and I love having a deck of custom schemes that’s 2-3 times the amount I have of official ones. On the them of L*y: *, we next moved onto Legacy: Gears of Time!

Legacy: Gears of Time

I think I’ve talked about this time-turning game before, so I’ll try to keep this short! In Legacy: Gears of Time, players are ‘antiquitects’, making use of a time-machine artifact to travel through time and ensure the Legacy of our race remains intact with the greatest of inventions. Over the course of 4 rounds, players travel back through time, play technologies, influence technologies and play ‘fate’ card special abilities to vie for points and ultimate prove themselves the greatest timelord (Um…well that’s how I’m choosing to see it ^^).

Each round is played over 4 turns. During the round players may only travel backwards through time, and due to limitations of how many technologies can be invented in each age, players may find themselves stuck too far back to make the impact they need. This creates an interesting headache-inducing puzzle of how to make sure that the Internet you just tried to introduce in recent history actually has electricity and computers to be successful. Placing technologies requires you to discard cards, so to get that high-scoring Flight card played you may have to sacrifice other useful technologies till a later time, making it harder still to ensure it happens.

At the end of each round is a scoring phase. First, any non-influenced or duplicate technology cards are removed. Next, points are calculated. Each card is checked and points are given to the player who influenced it the most, but also to the players who have the most influence over it’s prerequisite technologies – For example Red controls Space Flight & it’s successful, so she scores 12 points, blue created Flight, so he gets 6 points for space flight too, in addition to the points that flight gives already. The result is that despite bigger, better technologies being worth huge chunks of points, controlling the more simple things is important for the extra points gained when they’re used for other things! (Basic tools for example is worth just 1 point, but there’s 3-4 things that require basic tools and each give it 1 more point). Thirdly influence cubes are removed from each technology – Successful technologies return the influence to players ‘influence pools’, while failed ones return to the supply (So having lots of successful ones helps you influence things more in later rounds).

Confused yet? Well you probably should be, because this game gets beautifully complex while maintaining a fairly simple level of mechanics (If you want railroads to happen, you need to create a combustion engine, if you want a combustion engine, you need the wheel and fire) which are fairly intuitive in their tech tree’s. When you add in that there’s a lot of player interaction in the game through being able to infleuence other players technologies and go back before them to invent them earlier (Making theirs obselete) you have one heck of an awesome game.

In our game, I started with Space flight in hand, as well as a few other cards of lower levels to complete. I would probably have gone for the more basic cards first, but after another player put down Flight as their first technology, I jumped at the chance to put a high-scoring card down and tied myself to trying to make sure everything needed for Space Flight would happen throughout the game. Grace got Genetics fairly early in the game also, while Lee & Rachael had a bigger variety of things to go for, as well as filling in the infrastructure for our high scorers which net them plenty of influence for later in the game. The first 2 rounds went by very friendly, and we got the higher technologies working very quickly with everyone having just the right cards to make it happen. I got out into the lead a bit along with Rachael thanks to Space Flight working from early in the game, although it was giving Lee as many points as it was to me ^^. When the 3rd/4 rounds hit, things got tense, as we could no longer just help each other out due to the constraints of what we had left to invent. I invented another high-up technology, the internet, with Rachael discovering an analytical engine that let it work. A number of other technologies changed hands but for the most part everything stayed intact with the big technologies still working. Thanks to multiple counts of technologies being nicked from under me I went into the last round with only 5 cubes to the 7-9 of the others.

In the 4th round, a lot of under-handed control-switching went on! Grace stole Space Flight from me (That I couldn’t really do anything about as I had so few cubes), leading me to put 1 influence cube on her Genetics and use a fate card that made a tech I influenced worth 0, revenge!

San Marco

This was the ‘new game to me’ of the day, so I’m glad to have been able to try something a little different. San Marco is an area control game with players trying to get the most (aristocrats?) down onto the various islands for scoring. Each turn, half of the players draw 5 (action?) cards and 3 limit cards, then split that hand up before offering it to the other half of the players. As the other player gets first choice, you need to find a balance so that you get what you want. Within each round everyone keeps going until someone hits their limit (10), after which all other players get one addition turn before moving the round marker onwards.

Cards have a variety of actions. First is to just place a cube in the shown territory, in order to vie for majority. Second switches out one opponents in any territory for one of your own. Third is to build bridges, which can hop a cube to another island when placed (Making the first cards slightly stronger as you get choices), 4th is an expulsion card, so you can remove other players cube from a selected territoy (2-5 removed, decided by a dice). Finally there’s the ‘Doge’ (Much wow), when you get this card you can move the Doge piece across any number of bridges and then score him based on who has the most/second-most cubes on the island he ends up on. You have to pay points to use other players bridges, or if he’s on an island with no bridges you can just pay 2 points to move him anywhere.

For our game, we had Mike strike out an early lead on points, while Grace kept pace not much behind and me & Handy lagged way back. Despite not getting a scoring card until the last round, I was ahead of Handy for the most part just from other players scoring Islands with my cubes on in second place. As we were quite far behind, myself & Handy generally did a lot to mess with grace & even moreso with Mike, which catapulted Handy up to near Mikes score. Naturally I started plotting with Grace after as the 2 players at the back, which gave her the chance to push back again. When the game came to end-game scoring (All islands are scored instead of just the ones the doge moves too) I was able to net a ton of points as my poor performance over the rest of the game had led to my having more cubes left on the board than anyone else. Myself & Grace ended up on a tie for first, which resolved to Grace being the victor with control of San Marco.

It was quite fun, but I’m not sure how I feel about how strong the king-making aspects of the game are. It was pretty cool to be able to manipulate how well the other players were doing despite being far behind earlier on, but it also resulted in a lot of sling-shotting on the scoring rather than much consistency. Still, I think this would be a great game for introducing new players to games!

Resistance

As a member of the resistance, it’s up to you to perform missions against the evil government and take them down. Between 4 & 9 others will join you to aid you in those missions, but a number of them have loyalties elsewhere!

As a spy, you and your cadre of traitorous kin have infiltrated the resistance and have been assigned to sabotage their raids. Unlike the resistance, you know exactly who’s on your team and you must work with them to keep the resistance in the dark to succeed at your task!

Anywho, this is a bluffing and deception game of 5-10 players and 2 teams. I struggled for a while on how to talk up how this game goes which is why I went outside the walls of text norml for those lines above ^^. There are 5 missions, each with a different #players requirement, and the first team to get 3 missions go their way are the victors. Each turn one player is denoted the teams ‘leader’, and must find a team to go on a mission with you (Of course you could avoid picking yourself, but why wouldn’t you if you’re a good guy..) to hopefully get a success on the mission track for your team. Once you’ve made your selection, all players vote on if they think it should go ahead, if equal or majority reject, the mission doesn’t go ahead and the leader token is passed around for the next player to build a team to do it instead. If 5 rejects happen in a row then the bad guys automatically win, so a team has to be accepted eventually.

If a majority vote for a mission to go ahead however, then the players in that mission get given a pair of cards – a success and a fail – and choose one to put in for the mission. The cards going in are shuffled (And so are the others to obscure who put in what) and then revealed. If even a single failure card makes it into the mission, then the spies win that round, otherwise the resistance are successful. The mission marker is then moved onto the next and the attempts track is reset to 0 ready for the next mission. As mentioned above, as soon as one team gets to 3 missions their way they win! The great bit about this game then is the deception and bluffing each person much manage to ensure victory for their team. The resistance need to try and prove themselves that way so that they’re accepted on missions, while the bad guys want to do the same, while trying to redirect distrust onto the innocent. A very simple game suddenly becomes hugely complex and interesting!

The unfortunate bit about the game being deeply tied into the discussion it invokes is that it’s really hard to talk about it after the fact! In our game, Myself, Suzy, Mike, Handy, Grace & Mark, all playing resistance members of course (Despite their being 2 spies, what) worked to complete the missions. The spies did well, with 1 being in the first round and letting it pass, and both being in the 2nd round and letting it pass threw a huge spanner in the works as it put them in good stead. The 3rd or 4th also had Suzy and failed, so I was somewhat suspicious of her, but I was totally oblivious to Mikes treachureus nature throughout! After those first 2 passes 3 missions in a row failed with us trusting the pair of them far too much, well done spies!

Resistance vs Resistance Avalon
A couple of people have mentioned not being sure what the different is between these 2 games. Well, for the standard game as we played on Saturday, nothing but the theme, the difference comes in with what things can be added to throw various spanners in the works! In resistance, there are a set of ‘Plot’ Cards (I haven’t played with these yet so not 100% on the following), each time a mission is to be made, the leader of that mission draws one plot card and gives it to a player of their choice. Each plot card has a special effect, such as looking at another players allegiance, or forcing them to play their mission cards face up. The effect of this be that individuals get better information over the game, but the spies have more opportunities for deception (People may trust them more as they know they succeeded a mission or two, but they can still fail the next for example!). I really want to try out a game using these to really get a feel for the effect it has on the game.

In Avalon, you instead get ‘roles’. These are similar in that individual players get abilities, but they’re instead tied to the allegiance card players receieve at the start of the game. The main two are Merlin & the Assassin. Merlin is a good guy, but knows who all the bad guys are, and the Assassin is a bad guy that, if he/she can guess who Merlin is at the end of the game can win the game for the bad guys despite what else has happened. This has a huge impact on the game, as the bad guys get a big focus on trying to work out Merlin, Merlin has to do his best to stay hidden while also pushing for good teams for missions, and the other good guys need to try and trick the bad guys that they are in fact the real Merlin players! Those 2 are used pretty much every game, but there’s more such as Percivil (Good, knows who Merlin is), Mordred (Bad guy, hidden from Merlin), Oberon (Bad, knows noone) and Morgana (Bad, Reveals to percivil as Merlin). I think Avalon has the better system, but picked up resistance as I’ve not tried it and Coup is in the same universe ^^.

Smash Up

In Smash Up, players choose 2 factions from a variety of uniquely themed possibilities, then ‘Smash them up’, i.e. shuffle them together to make their deck of cards to play with. In our game on Tabletop Day, Grace had Robot Pirates, Handy had Trickster Plants, I had Steampunk Elder Things & Mike had Alien Zombies to vie for superiority.

The aim is Smash Up is to have the most points, with the end of the game being triggered when one player hits 15 points. Points are gained by placing minions out on various ‘base’ cards that are drawn at random and laid on the table. Each minion has a power rating, and when the power of all minions on a base reaches or exceeds that bases ‘breakpoint’, it will score, giving points to 1st/2nd/3rd more powerful contributor. In addition, each base has a special effect that comes into play, such as ‘Each time you play a minion here, you may play another minion of power 2 or less’, or ‘After this base scores, return the highest power minion for each player to the bottom of its’ owners deck’.

Each turn, a player may play 1 minion and 1 action from their hand in any order. Most cards have instantaneous effects, but some also have ongoing, (Permanently doing something) talent (May use this once on each of your turns) or special abilities (At some specific time, usually ‘Before a base is scored’ or ‘After a base is scored’. Once they’re done with their turn, bases are checked for breaking, with any that have power at their breakpoint triggering to capture (At this point, players can play ‘before this base is scored’ cards – even if this makes the base go under the breakpoint, it will still score now). Scores are then distributed to the players with the most power, in the case of a tie, both players score the higher amount of points.

Some factions (Cthulhu ones) have another mechanic called ‘madness’. Some cards in these decks cause players to draw madness cards into their hand. Each madness card is identical, with the ability ‘Draw 2 cards or return this card to the madness deck’, and are worth -1VP at the end of the game (So even though you ended the game by getting to 15, you might actually have less than that when checking scores), as a result, it’s good to try and spend actions to get rid of madness cards if at all possible – Though the draw 2 cards ability might also be enticing.

As far as our game goes, I’m not sure what to bring up as it’s quite a tactical game with little long terms strategy (Which is fine for a 30-60 minute game ^^). I did very poorly, as I was unable to get enough minions out onto the field to get many points – I did manage to use my Elder Thing twice (10 power minion, unaffected by other players cards), but doing so requires destroying 2 of my other minions which led to the ‘nothing much out there’ situation ^^. I was also only able to get my powerful ‘Everyone else draws 2 madness cards’ near the end of the game so didn’t get much opportunity to spam it (Which I could have done with steampunk). The finally nail in the coffin is that the other players were being frustratingly ‘friendly’ in going for different bases more than competing – Some of my minions have effects such as ‘Each other player at this base draws a madness card’, which is powerful…If I can hit more than one person at a time.

The other players fared somewhat better, with mike picking up on how to effectively use the aliens to farm VP quickly (Place invader for instant VP, retrieve to hand, rinse-repeat), which is strong in that noone can stop you from doing it (Particularly with Zombies where you can retrieve from discard even if it’s killed) – I think his only mistake here was in retrieving it the same turn as placing it, as leaving it out to be killed would actually have been beneficial as Zombies benefit from minions in the discard pile. Handy did reasonably well and I think was roughly on par with Mike for points, while Grace raced into the lead as the ‘friendly’ nature I mentioned of little competition for bases also meant Grace build up powerful robot combo’s over multiple turns, instead of needing to find ways to do it in one. Grace took home a tidy victory by the end of the game.

Among The Stars

Among the Stars is an excellent Card-Drafting game, with mechanics akin to 7-Wonders in choosing cards, but in my opinion going far above-and-beyond with variable setups, variety among cards, and lack of silly icons to represent everything. In this game players are building Space Stations, which they build off of their Main-Reactor that they start with, to vie for the most points and the best station. Each player in the game gets a race that provides some special ability over the course of play and while they have small impact, can help to give some direction in how to build.

Each turn in Among the Stars has players choosing a card from their hand, building it (Or discarding for an action), then passing the rest of their cards onto the next player (Clockwise first year, Anticlockwise second, etc). To build a card, the cost in the top right is paid (Generally just credits, but sometimes power also) is paid to the supply, and the card is placed adjacent to any existing location in their station. Each card has an ability, described on the card, that provides either an instanenous bonus (white background) or delayed bonus (yellow background) as well as a direct point value (Delayed bonuses are calculated at the end of the game). Alternatively they can discard for an action, which is either take 3 coins, or build a power reactor (A cost of 1 coin location that provides 2 power). I should also mention that power is an area-limited resource, in that it can only pass 2 distance by adjacency, so to build power-hungry locations on the edge of a station first requires some power reactors built in the right positions.

Each year, players take 10 credits and 6 new cards from the deck. All 6 cards are used over the year either to build or for actions, which means stations get quite large and complex, making for an interesting puzzle in making best use of the abilities on the cards used. The 10 credits each year are quite tight, so it’s likely played will need to discard for coins a few times in a game if they want to be able to build the higher scoring locations in the game.

In addition to the above are a few extra elements to add in when players know what they’re doing. First is objectives (Which can be added first game really, but we had a high player-count and a time-limit on Saturday ^^), a few of these are drawn at the start of the game and placed face-up in the middle of the table – At the end of the game, these are checked and given to the player that fulfilled the conditions on each (Such as most military locations, or least power reactors). Next is conflict cards, which I still haven’t played with despite playing the game an absolute ton – These provide additional discard-actions that introduce higher levels of player interaction in the game, with the set in the base game letting you take one to compare a specific location type in your station to another players and stealing points off them accordingly (I don’t think they’re hard to use, I just haven’t felt a need for super-heavy player interaction, would be nice to try it though!).

Also not used on Saturday is additions from the Ambassadors expansion. This expansion introduces ‘ambassador’ cards, which also introduce an escalation style akin to 7 wonders ages where ‘1st phase’ cards are used in years 1/2 and ‘2nd phase’ cards in 3/4, with the latter being more tilted towards point scoring and the former towards building an engine (Note that even with the standard cards, the game escalates anyway as the configuration of each players station opens up possibilities for each card built). 3 ambassadors are made available at all times to players, and when discarding for an action a player can ‘buy’ one of the ambassadors, inviting them to their station. To do so they place one of 5 ‘bureau’ cards in their station and then keep the ambassador card in front of them to use over the game (The bureaus are no-effect locations in each of the 5 colours/types, which can be good to complete delayed abilities such as ‘build a 2×2 of purple/recreational locations’). Many ambassadors have player-interaction aspects, and are an awesome addition that I’ve played with a few times and look forward to introducing more frequently as I get more players into knowing the game. (There are also new locations and conflict sets with ambassadors, the former of which I just use in every game for variety).

Our game on Saturday was the last of the evening, with Myself, Grace, Handy, Ian & XYZ(Mark?) playing. After a messy start thanks to the cards not being quite stored properly, I got the game set up (With help for shuffling/sorting ^^) and ready for the 5 player game. One of my favourite parts of Among the Stars is seeing the different configurations people come up with, My station was pretty haphazard, partly thanks to my use of a section seal where I had to split my station in two to most effectively score points, and partly due to tireness ^^. Ians on the other hand was very tight, and revolved around a 4×4 square he’d built for his 2 racetrack locations, with the other 3 being other totally different shapes. Through the game everyone was fairly even (Although Handy dropped back quite far at one point, seemingly to do nothing but get piles and piles of credits, likely as his race let him score 1 point per 2 at the end of stead of 1 point per 3), with everyone having a neat mix of delayed vs immediate abilities (Objectives tend to mix that up more ^^). In the end, Ian struck out into the lead, with myself in second and the others in er..positions that you can see on Dave’s blog ;).

I had an absolutely fantastic day, and I look forward to opportunities to do the same again in times to come. Many thanks go to everyone involved, organizers and the rest of you there to play alike! In fact after playing games all day, myself, Handy & Grace went back to mine and played another game, also getting my housemate Ken involved!

DrunkQuest

Yes, that’s right, we played a drinking game, a gloriously ridiculous and punishing one at that! DrunkQuest is a game that takes very obvious inspiration from Munchkin, but presents it in a format that’s considerably more fun, and that works great for well, consuming large quantities of drink. The game comes with oversized cards that make for each reading, with there being 3 different types – Player cards, Treasure cards & Monster cards.

At the start of each game, each player takes from the player deck a random hero and either a ship to captain or realm to command. Their hero has a +/- ability that they can use as actions in the game to perform a unique effect, and the ship/realm have an ongoing ability of some kind (The ships are slightly more complex, as you have to ‘load’ them with treasures to active the ability, with you also being able to ‘fire’ the cannons with to give people drinks). Each player then draws 5 treasure cards and a first player is chosen, and the game begins.

Each round, a monster is drawn for the active player. A monster will have some effect and a ‘drink’ value required to defeat it. All players then get a chance to modify that value by playing actions – The active player gets an action, then each other player in turn gets an action, and finally the active player gets one more action before the ‘fight’ commences and well…someone drinks copious amounts of alcohol. Also, at any time players can play ‘instant’ cards, such as ‘copper – choose someone to take a drink’, ‘gold – everyone takes 3 drinks’ or other more interesting effects.

It was the second time I’ve played it on Saturday (The first being on my Birthday at the end of last year), and we had an absolutely excellent time with it! Throughout the game, asides from having many, many beers, we had a number of status effects going around (Which we didn’t play with the first time as they were bonus material from the kickstarter that I wasn’t sure about). Highlights being a ‘compliment’ effect that made my housemate compliment how great someone is every time they beat a monster, ‘vampirism’ that I played on him as soon as he cleaned the compliment effec, making him talk like a vampire to avoid drinks, a cat card that requires Handy to meow before and after every sentence and a number of others besides, on top of the standard modify-drinks and fight monsters mechanics. I wasn’t able to do particularly well over the game, only getting to level 3 (6 wins) while the others were on level 5 for a good amount of time before Handy won, but I guess that probably means I had less to drink ^^. Love it!

Halesowen Board Gamers #11 (04/07/2014)

This last weekend was international tabletop day, and the halesowen group had an event for it on Saturday! But…I’ve got to get Wednesdays session out of the way first! I’ll try not to leave it too long before getting the big event done =)

Euphoria

First up on Wednesday we played Euphoria, as I love the game but haven’t bought it along in a while. In this game, players act as higher members of society in a dystopian city, where they vie for ultimate authority over the city in order to advance their own agenda’s. Players gather resources, dig tunnels, build markets and make deals in a race for getting ultimate authority over the course of the game.

In this particular game, I got a pretty cool pair of recruits, with one allowing me to use food instead of bliss (Wastelander), and the other bliss instead of a resource (Icaran) when building a market (Or along those lines). This meant throughout the game I could use all the Icaran markets pretty freely as I needed only a stockpile of food to go there (Replacing the bliss with a second food). I’m not sure who had what, but I think one of the others had icarus/wastelander and the other wastelander/subterran – which also worked in my favour as it meant the allegiance for my recruits got pushed up pretty quick.

My general strategy throughout the game was to grab food and turn it into resources through the Icaran markets. I used the tunnel a couple of times too for some artifacts to cover myself against markets being taken. I did a fairly early ethical dilemma from that as I managed to get the right artifact to do so (netting me a second Icaran with an ability I didn’t really use). Phil went for lots of water for extra workers, while also visiting the cloud mine fairly frequently for bliss to feed workers and for using their markets. Ed’s tactic presumably involved flooding the city, as he got huge quantities of water throughout the game, which he later started churning into stone through the Subterran tunnel.

For markets in the game I got in on (or solo’d in one case) nearly all of them, which had it being Ed & Phil dealing with the most negative effects (Though blocking me from pairs was a pain when I had 2 pairs of artifacts in hand!). After seeing the consequences of missing out on 2+ markets at a time the others soon started joining me or reserving artifacts to place authority on one after building. I tried to make use of the trading rules of the game a couple of times, offering Ed or Phil clay in return for water (as we could have instantly thrown up markets) but both turned me down to stop me from getting ahead – It’s a shame as this is the first time I’ve tried introducing the game and remembering to tell people they can trade…and noone did ^^.

The game ended with my using one of the constructed markets that required a teddy-artifact and a commodity. As I had a pair of teddy’s that I couldn’t use due to the market penalty I was more than happy to take the opportunity to get my last couple of stars with them ^^. Phil was close behind with 2 stars left out of his 10, but despite the extra worker than me didn’t quite get there, and Ed finished further back with 5/10, partly as he had a huge amount of spare  water/stone that he’d taken too long to start capitalizing on for authority. A fair first game for both!

Love Letter

Next up we played Love Letter. This is a very simple deception game where players have to get their letter to the princess to ultimately win her affections. Each player has a hand of one card, a member of the court or guard, and takes turns to draw 1 and play one of their cards. There’s various abilities on the cards that let you manipulate your way to having high numbered cards (Highest number at end of roudn wins) or to eliminate the other players so only your letter is left standing at all.

We played as a filler as we were looking for something fairly straightforward, and finished in I think 5 or 6 rounds, with Phil getting to his 3 tokens and taking victory.

Resistance

For our last game of the day we brought out Resistance: Avalon which Ed had brought along. We first played a standard game of resistance, which has a team of arthurian loyalists trying to complete missions, while a team of evil minions of mordred try to sabotage them without being discovered. The bad guys know who the other bad guys are, but the good guys know nothing (At the start of the game, after being given loyalty cards, all players close their eyes, bad guys open their eyes to see each other, then they close their eyes, then everyone opens and the game starts). The second game we introduced a couple of Avalons roles, Merlin & The Assassin, which I’ll mention later.

 

The first game had myself and Phil as the bad guys, against Mike, Ed & James that were good. Unfortunately for us, that mission happened to have 2 good guys picked (Which we pretty much had to accept as there’d have been no reason to reject it, hence revealing ourselves). Worse still is the second mission was the same two, plus the other good guy selected, and again there was no good reason to argue against the mission going ahead, putting it 2/0 (3 wins). The 3rd round we managed to argue a different team, which got me into the mission which I got to fail. Unfortunatey the 4th we couldn’t find a way to convince people to include me/Phil again with the suggested mission being the same 3 that succeeded the second, ack! (This is one of the things that makes the game better with more players, as it’s less likely to get so lucky on the first 2 missions!).

In the second mission, I got Merlin (With Phil & James being good with me). Now this is a bummer for 2 reasons, first of all because it’s very difficult to hide that you have more information, and secondly because 50% of the time I’ve played this game I’ve been accussed of Merlin despite not having played him yet, eep! Mike was the assasin in this game, a role that means that even if good guys win, the bad guys steal victory if the assassin guesses Merlin correctly. The first 4 missions of the game had the teams 2/2, and into the last mission lots of indecision had the vote failing a few times, with the leader marker ending on me at the point where we had to accept my mission (5 rejects and bad guys win automatically). This turned out to be an impossible situation, because we needed all 3 good guys on the mission, and while I knew who they were, I couldn’t say so outright or the bad guys win anyway. Unfortunately despite a ridiculous amount of time trying to keep things going until the right team was suggested it never happened and I had to give in and just pick all the good guys. It got accepted and we had the 3/5 to win, but it was to obvious that my delaying was due to being Merlin and I got assasinated, giving it to the bad guys. Aaargh impossible situations!

Well that’s all for Wednesday, I’ll try and write up the awesome Tabletop Day from Saturday before too long. I played Legendary, Legacy, San Marco, Resistance, Smash Up and Among the Stars so I’ll be talking about this soon ™

Halesowen Board Gamers #10 (26/03/2014) + Sat 26th Games Day

Bit of a shabby post, & it’s a week late, but er…deal with it ^^. I’ll try and get the 2nd April halesowen writeup done a bit quicker ^^ (Where we played Euphoria, Love Letter & Resistance: Avalon)

Halesowen

Last Wednesday we chose… well, we took turns saying we didn’t want to pick for a while before I decided to go with Viticulture as it was getting the most glances! The players were Steve, Art, Lina & myself, with the addition of James who turned up a few minutes later before we’d started the game. Everyone but James was new to the game so I stuck to the original board and only had Mama’s & Papa’s included from the expansion pack. This module (Which I’ll never play without) provides variable starting conditions from the game, which helps to free up the board a little in the first year.

Now unfortunately I remember little about what people went for specifically in the game, as asides from being quite tired I was teaching and trying to make sure I’d given everyone correct information rather than remembering how they were going out things! Everyone worked out what they were doing alright, although we had a fairly long game of it. Almost everyone followed my lead on buildings in getting a cottage to get a hold of more visitor cards, while also trying to work on their wine orders. I did the same but I tend to try and have lots of variety in grapes/wine so that I will have what I need for future orders as well as current ones.

The game went by fairly straightforward, but finished with quite a spread on points. I think this is down to new players not being sure when to start switching from building up their vineyard to trying to capitalize on it for points. In the end I managed to finish up top with 24, James on second with 20 (Which is nice to see as I get the impression he feels some AP in Viticulture), Steve in 3rd, Art in 4th & Lina in last place, who had plenty of grapes/vine on their way but got cut off from having the time to use it to fill orders. I had fun as always and hope the others did too (Which I believe they did!). Apologies for the lackluster session report here though…

Random Saturday Games Day

On Saturday I planned to meet with a couple of friends for games. Our initial plan was to meet at the Universities guild of students, but we realized upon getting there that it’s shut for the holidays (Or for weekends at holidays at least). We fell back on playing at my house and gathered to start at around 4pm.

The first game of the day was Smash Up, pitting Ghostly Plants (Handy) against Ninja Zombies (Ed) and my Miskatonic University Bear Riding Team. I mostly struggled to keep up, and while I managed to get within a point of the others around midgame (8-9-10) I had no minions out at that point and couldn’t find opportunities to win bases. Picking Miskatonic turned out to be a mistake, as neither of the others were playing a faction that gave out madness cards I had a lot of wasted abilities. Handy used the ghosts well, finding many opportunities to discard himself down to few enough cards to activate special abilities (Something I seem to find nearly impossible with ghosts). Ed’s Ninja Zombies did a good job of being annoying, with constant whittling away of foes while not being able to lose minions himself (Well, not for long anyway). I can’t remember which of them won in the end, but it wasn’t me ^^.

Next up was Cutthroat Caverns, which Ed had brought along. Cutthroat caverns is a rather munchkin-esque game and has you playing characters fighting your way through a dungeon, while being sure to trust no one. The game is semi-coop, with players fighting the same enemies but competing to get the killing blow and steal all the glory (prestige). I don’t really enjoy this kind of game much but it got me to smile a couple of times and I took victory with the ridiculousness of temporary quad-damage (Yay one-shotting things).

I didn’t really want to force games on people, so I asked the room what they’d like to play next. At my reaction to his briefly pointing towards Munchkin Handy suggested that if I don’t want to play that we have to go with Quarriors…I’ll definitely take the dice spamming option! In our game Ed raced out into the lead early on, while I went for a ton of spells and Handy got lots of ghosts, which never seemed to come up on the creature side for him. Ed got very close to victory, but the power of a reroll spell and a death incantation held him one point away for a long while. In that time me & Handy got close (17-18-18 I think) before Ed’s handful of victory spell dice that he’d built up (He had 4 of the 5 available) finally hit the spell side without us having enough reroll spells to prevent it. Funny how I chose this over munchkin then we played stop the leader the entire game =P

The final game of the day was Legendary, as it had been briefly mentioned earlier and I knew Handy would stick around a little longer if I picked it over my other games ^^. We were fighting Kingpin, with a custom scheme of mine ‘Dream Corridor’ where the mastermind first builds in power, then rapidly whittles away the hero deck, killing off the players time to beat him. The heroes in play were Gambit, Wolverine, Nick Fury, Black Widow & er..Electra I think was the last. After the dickery and shenanigans of the last 3 games we played this very cooperatively, with Handy & Ed letting me build a Gambit deck and me leaving them the other’s where they were wanted. They both got a lot of bystanders and had a lot of points from keeping the villains & henchmen at bay, but the awesome deck-cycling built up from gambit meant I was able to win most of the fights against Kingpin and take the most glory home, but more importantly we kicked the bad guys ass ^^.

Cool week =)

Halesowen Board Gamers #9 (19/03/2014)

I just want to briefly say that you should consider supporting Tuscany/MERCS:Recon on kickstarter as they’re both EU friendly and look really awesome =P (Also SDE…but you might get shafted for customs/shipping/taxes…I just want to play it when it’s out ^^).

First of all, I want to apologise to the guys I played with this week as I was a bit woozy, yay illness =P Still, we managed to fit 2 games into the evening and had a good time despite my making a mistake or two!

Archon

We started with Archon, which I’ve been wanting to play for a while but thanks to some minor design flaws (visual) has been difficult to introduce – I’ve got it out twice before with friends and they didn’t want to play past the first or 3 years as it was a bit of a strain to see the pieces on the board. I’ve painted the player pieces so they’re now blue, green, orange & purple rather than black, grey, white & unpainted. I’ve also replaced the resources, black cubes are now black cylinders, grey cubes are silver cubes & unpainted cubes are paper meeple things, the white cubes for stone I left the same – This makes them much easier to recognize representations of the resources they represent, iron, silver, paper & stone respectively. The board still isn’t great with it’s lightly coloured spaces in a light background, & resources are still shown as cubes on it (Might try and make stickers to show the replacement resources more clearly) but I’m happy with the look of it all now and feel it’s playable! ^^.

Archon is a relatively straight forward worker-placement game, in that you’re gathering resources to change into points as you go through the game, but it gives you lots of choices to go about this while having some interesting mechanics regarding the placement of those workers. The game is placed over 9 seasons, with 3 seasons to each year. At the end of each year an attack occurs, followed by a scoring phase I’ll go into shortly. Over those seasons, players gather resources, construct buildings, research science, contribute to religion & train knights to build up the city and set themselves up to receive points.

Before they can get to that however, players need to set up their starting workforce. During the game each player has 10 cards representing such, and at the start of the game everyone has 8 courtiers, with the other 2 needing to be made up from special workers to be ready to go. The options are Merchant (+1 resouce/gold/whatever when visiting certain bouard spaces), Scribe (Take a second action after, but not another scribe), Cleric (Use an action space even if full) & Tax Collector (Anyone visiting a space with a tax collector pays 1 to the player that placed it). There is a chart on the board to represent what each player has and how much each costs, and start resources prevent having 2 of the same at this point. When you take a special worker you also get points, so essentially everyone starts with a few points as this happens first.

With everyone up to 10 cards, players can begin with the game, almost. Each round only uses 5 cards, so first everyone chooses the 5 they want in the coming round – The other 5 will be used the following round, and then they’ll get to pick again in the 3rd, etc. I can see the choices being quite strategic with a few plays, but we were all essentially first-timing it so it was pretty much ‘split them fairly evenly’. We then take turns to place our workers, which we do by discarding cards. The worker placed is determined by what card is discarded, so discarding a merchant card means you’re placing a merchant etc. Some spaces on the board have 2 ‘cards’ shown, and you either need to discard 2 courtiers or 1 special worker to use those action spots. If a player finishes a round with cards left in hand, they move up in the player order for the next round.

The first thing players will want to focus on is getting some resources. Spaces to do so are the repository (Take 1 resource from a small selection which changes each round), the marketplace (2 transactions for buying or selling resources), the barracks (take 1 recruit) & the treasury (Take 2 coins). These spaces are quite tight so being earlier in player order is important to secure them (Particularly if you want to merchant the repository to take 2 resources instead of one). Next is spaces to advance science & religion, which take 1 paper/1 gold & 2 gold respectively, and can be done up to 2 times per placement, in the same vain is a spot to turn recruits into knights (1 recruit + 1 silver into a knight, again can be done twice with 1 placement), all 3 of which are generally important to do once/year at least (for points). The other 2 spaces are the ‘engine-building’ ones, which are the guild (replace a courtier with a special worker – note that this means you never get more workers, just varied ability ones) and the builders merchant, for constructing buildings which give ongoing benefits throughout the game (Such as take 2 paper each season, gain a cube when visiting the market, etc).

Using these things together, players will prepare knights, religion & science which come into affect at the end of the yearFirst off, the city gets attacked and a card is drawn to determine the strength of the attack. If the number is greater than the total knights on the wall between players, the raid is successful and all players lose resources (Equal to attack strength – number of knights) or points if they have no resources to pay. If the number is less than the total knights on the wall, then noone gets hit. After, scoring occurs. Scoring is based on a ‘kings grant’ card (Which everyone can see from the start of the year), and gives points based on science, religion and knights. Each year will bring different demands from the king, and the area he cares most about will be the highest scoring for that year (The card also determines a new marketplace configuration each year). Being able to get the majority in the area he’s interested in is a key point to success in the game. All knights/religion & science is then returned to supply for the next year. After 3 years are up, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins!

Considering I claimed it’s relatively straight forward, that was a lot of explanation, oops! I’m going to try writing a little differently about our game, so not sure hoe well it’ll go… Anyway, firstly I’ll say what I did! My aim at the start of the game was to grab a couple of buildings as well as to try and put out my knights first (You can get a couple of points by doing so). I started with a Scribe & Tax Collector, with the aim being to grab all the important spots before they were lost and deny others from having easy money at the treasury. I managed to get a building to generate paper (2/season) quite early on, but then let myself focus too much on science/religion at this early point to be able to get any other buildings to go with it. I think I got all 3 scoring opportunities in the first year but drew for knights and came last for science. The attack against us was successful as it was 5 to 4, so I lost 3 resources (as did Steve, Stan lost 5). In the second year I decided that as I was finding it hard to get the resources for buildings to go for special workers instead, I got myself to 2 scribes so I’d have one every season, and used them first turn each round to grab 2 actions (With one being the hotly contested repository as I was 2nd place in order of the 3 of us). I tried to make good use of my paper in getting science, but lost the chance to compete over knights (Steve got a building to generate them) so just made the one to get ‘some’ points. As we did the second years attack (Which failed with 3 against 6 knights) and scoring, it became clear that Steve had taken a much better early strategy in the prior year, and pretty much took to competing with Stan, who I was within a few points of. In the last year, I finally went for some additional buildings, getting 2 of the 3rd tier buildings down to get a large chunk of points (One for a straight 9, the other for 2 + number of sp. workers, so 9 again). This managed to take me into second place with a little over 60 points for the end game!

I’m not sure what Stans early focus was, but he mainly kept neck and neck with me throughout the game. We both got a lot of workers, but he got a lot more buildings than me (4 to 1 at one point), however I think he put himself in a difficult position by letting himself stay in last in player order by always using all his workers (I stayed in 2nd after getting pushed back also) – This meant he never got to use the repository very effectively, needing to use a Cleric to go there at all and for slim pickings at that. I think a good number of his buildings in the game were to gain supplies when he placed workers rather than ‘each season’, which I think he missed a few times by mistake (Yay, as he’d probably have kicked my ass otherwise :P). I had a rule wrong so I messed up a scoring opportunity for him at the end, but I don’t think it would have got him ahead of me anyway (Close though), at least we know for next time how it works ^^.

Finally we have Steve, who royally destroyed us in points over the game and was the clear ‘teachers pet’ to the King. Early in the game he rushed a couple of good buildings (Beating me to at least one I wanted, unfortunateuly for me ^^), which had him getting huge amounts of reasources every season. He mostly didn’t bother with special workers until later in the game when I think he just got them out of having spare stuff to dump somewhere more than because he needed to ^^. The first year I think he may have actually been on par/small bit behind us, but he had already started shooting ahead by the second, and was a good 30-40 points over me at the end. Next game I’ll be sure to emphasize the need to rush buildings a bit more, and stare even more at the rules for them as they just feel so, so powerful compared to the special workers (Which I understood to be the sort of ‘alternate engine building’ path.). Very tidy win, it’s just a shame we couldn’t have given him more competition to be racing against!

Gunrunners

Following on from this we had a short gap of time so Stan suggested Gunrunners as the followup game. In this game we’re acting as detective teams trying to bust well…gunrunners, and confiscate the crates of guns they’re smuggling. Each player has a 13 card deck (Symmetric) with a number of agents with values from 1-6, with a few of those having special abilities. Each turn the active player rolls the dice, placing more gun crates into the #players locations that are out, or into ‘the warehouse’ if the number is greater than the number of locations. They then place a card, which can either be as a ‘probationary’ face down agent ready to move in (But not yet counting towards the bust), or a an ‘undercover’ operative directly facedown into a location (Max 1.). When a probationary agent is placed, it flips another players one at that same location face up into the location where their ability if there is one actives immediately. When a location reaches 4 faceup agents, it scores, and in order of highest number at that location players take turns to take half the available cubes (So an 8 cube location gives 4, then 2, then 1). The player who gathers the most cubes by the end of the game (All players run out of cards, or 8 ‘busts’ happen) is the winner, and presumably gets a gold star sticker on the police station wall.

I have absolutely no way of saying how the game progressed, as I wasn’t really thinking particularly strategically at this point of the evening. I can say however that I must have made a couple of mistakes in taking extra turns or something that led me to win, as I ran out of cards before Steve & Stan. Sorry about that, I hopefully won’t be ill next week! =)

Kickstarter Interesting Projects #3 (13th Mar ’14) – Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture & MERCS: Recon

Wow, March is an expensive month! 2 High interest (to me) epic games launched within a day of each other! I’ve backed games from both of these creators before, and while I’ve not yet received Myth it’s expected in a month or so and is shaping up to be very interesting (If apparently a bit in need of an FAQ ^^).

Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture

Stonemaier games, a company/pair of individuals I consider to be the most communicative, friendly creators on the platform, who also find ways to bring great value, are bringing an absolute stunner here, which takes their first game Viticulture to new levels with this Expansion pack. Viticulture is one of my absolute favourite games despite not even being a theme that would normally draw me in, and with these extra modules come something greater than the sum of it’s parts, that is absolute worth looking into. The pack is split into 3 tiers of modules, with the expectation being you unlock a module every 1-3 plays and unlock all of a tier before moving to the next.

The first tier has small impact additions, which work together to smooth out and refine the original game. Mamas & Papas adds variable starting conditions for players, which give people a focus from the start of a game & for me will never be excluded from a game again. Patronage adds a special wine order for each player, which they can fill for a couple of points, and if they fulfill a given condition, a few bonus points on top. Advanced visitors are a new set of cards which are balanced to help out through all stages of the game (Whereas some of the original ones may have had bigger impact earlier or alter). Property cards allow you to sell off fields for money, trading off the space for growing to build up other areas of your vineyard. These come together brilliantly, adding unique player powers & strategy and vastly improving the replayability of the game.

In the second tier are a few heavier impact changes which greatly change the feel of the game. First up is the extended game board, which takes the 2 season play to 4 seasons and adds some new action spaces. The extra seasons make being 1st stronger, but this is balanced by bigger bonuses for going later in player order, a very interesting thing to think about indeed. Special workers are new unique workers that cost a little bit extra but each provide a unique power to the player, 2 are used per game and make for even more unique plays. Finally there are an additional set of visitors, which have more complex interactions than before making for tougher chocies for those you want it.

Finally comes the third tier, which consists of ‘one-at-a-time’ expansions which add to the player boards and bring new elements to the game to consider alongside the making of wine. Arboriculture (Which was also available in the original kickstarter) adds ‘arbors’, which is to say lets you grow tomato’s, apples & olives to add to orders, which also introducing the concept of worker morale, which should be kept high to ensure success. Formaggio, the ‘cheese’ expansion, gives players cows to milk and process into cheese, which can be added to orders or sold individually, but has a management aspect to consider that it may go off if kept around too long!

This is just what’s available so far, with stretch goals adding yet more content to this awesome looking expansion to a great game. If you are at all into worker-placement games, I consider this a must have, and if you love wine on top you should certainly consider giving it a look! The game is scheduled to ship to backers for November, and I fully expect it to have aged wonderfully in that time ^^.

MERCS: Recon

Going a little bit up on the price scale is this intriguing looking miniatures game from Megacon Games. I first heard of these guys when I discovered (and subsequently backed) their campaign for their cooperative fantasy dungeon crawl Myth last year, and was drawn in by the quality and care they take to their products. While I won’t have Myth myself for another month or two, shipping has begun for American backers and it sounds like the game is as excellent a quality as I’d hoped if with perhaps a few shortcomings on rules clarity. Throughout that time they’ve been communicative and friendly, and that’s let me to looking into this new project from them.

In MERCS: Recon, players act as mercenaries infiltrating a ‘megacon’, where they must fight through narrow hallways to capture & interrogate employee’s or find and secure objectives. The game is set in their MERCS universe, an interesting near-future scifi setting with advanced weapons and technology.

The map for each game is created with a variety of tiles which fit together in a variety of ways to create a different layout each time you play. These different layouts will lead to the need for differing tactics as you fight your way through the office, as well as setting up situations where you might want to damage the environment  (Yes, destructive environments!) to open up new routes or even pass between floors to make your way to the objective of that particular scenario.

The endpoint of each game seems to result in what the Megacon guys are referring to as a ‘Breach and Clear’ situation. It’s not really clear to me what the point of this is, but you have an expanded tile to ‘zoom in’ on the action and play out the finale in some epic way (I hope it’s epic anyway ^^). Presumably some scenario’s change this up, with talk of civilian capture scenarios and more.

I’m not quite 100% on my interest in this one, but one backers comment summed up what I want from this nicely – a futuristic style board game that plays out like the popular video game Counter Strike (In fact, I’m hoping for some outdoor tiles that might help me to recreate cs_office ^^. If that sounds like the kind of thing you might be interested in I encourage you to browse on over to the kickstarter page and see what you think!

Ok I’ll shush in a moment. These are some pretty expensive kickstarters and they’re going to be putting me out of budget for games for a while, but I hope of some interest to you as the reader of this post! Again, if you’re interesting in Tuscany and in the area, come along to halesowen board games next week and I’ll show you how it plays, and if you back Recon and want to see their other project then come along to try out Myth when that arrives in a month or two! Till then, byeeee! ^^.

Halesowen Board Gamers #8 (12/03/2014)

Halesowen – 12/03/2014

This week at Halesowen I was going to hang around and let someone else suggest games again, but master-organizer Mike split the highly undecisive half of the room I was in up to groups with me providing a game for 4 of us from that group. Mark showed interest in playing Belfort, as I had the box out as a result of picking up Belfort: The Expansion Expansion, so out it came (Without the expansion, mind, I need a chance to learn how it works before I throw it at people, particularly with new players ^^). The players for both games were: Mark, Ian, Stan & Me.


Belfort

Belfort is a worker-placement game where players are vying to me the most influential participant in building up the city of Belfort. The game is played over 7 rounds, and 3 of these, the 3rd/5th & 7th are scoring rounds. When scoring, players get points based on majority participation in the 5 segments of the city, (5/3/1 points awarded to 1st/2nd/3rd place respectively) and then points for most workers of the 3 types – Elves, Dwarves & Gnomes, with 1st place earning 3 points and 2nd place earning 1 point – There’s no 3rd here. The big caveat here being that scoring points also leads to paying taxes, with each 5 points taking you up a tax bracket (Paying 1 more money per round in taxes), this makes it so after the 3rd round players need to start being careful to ensure they have enough money to spare, or lose victory points if they don’t!

Each round takes place in a number of phases. The first of these is placement, where players can place their workers on the variance ‘plank’ spaces on the board & their own properties. Available in every game are ‘Recruit a worker for 2 money’ and ‘Switch Player Order’ spaces, the former of which has more spaces available for higher player counts (resulting in 3 players being far tighter for workers than 4/5). There are also 5 ‘guilds’ which have spaces available, which are different every game and provide the big variability in the game. In our game, we had 2 resource guilds (4 Wood, 2 Iron respectively), 2 Basic Guilds (‘Place a coin under a property to make it worth 50% more for majorities’ & ‘Recruit an Elf, Dwarf or Gnome’) and 1 Interactive Guild (Gain 1 Coin + Receive 1 resource from each player with less walls than you). The rulebook has suggestions for the distribution of basic/interactive/resource but I just go with 2B/2R/1I as it’s fairly easy to pick up for new players. It should be noted that you don’t immediately get the benefits when you place a worker, that comes later.

When a player passes out of the placement phase, they distribute their remaining workers (And there will be some) across 4 resource gathering spaces. These spaces provide wood (But requires Elves only), stone (Requires Dwarves only), iron (Requires an elf + dwarf) or coins (Either). These give you a straight 1:1 of number of workers to resources, but whoever has the most workers (Ties don’t count) gets one bonus resource, so it can be worth it to stagger your needs so you can take majorities and get those additional resources. (Also, this is one of the elements of the game which benefits you to be last, as it’s easier to work out where you can nab/block a bonus from other players).

Once everyone has passed and distributed their workers to the collection area, placement is over and the collection phase begins. Players take their workers back from the collection area and take the resources they’re due (Including bonus if they had the majority), as well as taking an extra worker if they invested in one (Not from the guild as that’s on the city board) and order-rearrangement. At the end of this phase, players receive income and pay taxes. Income is from properties, and some of those that you can build have a coin icon in the top corner. Taxes are, as I mentioned earlier, based on your score, so if you scored high early, you’d best be sure you can afford to pay for it now!

Following this comes the action phase. Going in (potentially different to placement as it changes in collection) player order. In this phase a player can build properties, walls or guilds (Spend resources & place one of your house pieces in the city to represent it’s yours), visit the trading post (Buy 1 thing and sell 1 thing), retrieve workers (Getting their benefit at this time) and buy a gnome (one/round) for 3 coins. These can all be done in any order, then at the end of their turn can buy 1 property card (3 are face up, or can take a random) for 1 coin if desired. Being 1st in this phase helps you avoid interactive ‘steal resources’ abilities by running yourself dry, but being last means you’re building properties last and have an easier time getting majorities in the various sectors in the city.

When teaching the game I suspect I placed too much emphasis on early scoring making things difficult for the players. I say this because the first thing everyone did (Including me, to be fair) was place 2 properties in an area away from other players. Ian was the first (I think) to spread out a little. As a result of the ‘gain a worker’ guild I went for a focus on rushing for a lot of workers in this game over getting buildings. The first round of scoring put Ian out into the lead with his wider spread of property placements, me & Stan in the middle of the pack, and Mark at the back who very much avoided getting early taxes. (I think it was something like 3/turn for Ian, 2/turn for Me/Stan & 1 for Mark).

As the game moved forward, I continued to spam workers and tried to keep the space blocked so that noone could contend me for those points, while also taking the space that improved my properties to be worth more for majority as I wasn’t able to build as many. Mark set himself up with a wall to take resources from players so I made sure to build a couple of walls to keep myself protected (As well as get majorities), the side-effect of this is my stack of workers usually just went to gather money so I could pay my tax (Most properties provide income, walls don’t). Ian managed to get out a lot of properties and spread them around (Not many more, but I think he had the most). I think Stan was focused on propeties too, but he was being a little quieter so I’m afraid I missed a lot of what he was going for (Sorry!).

As we moved into the last season (So just after the 2nd scoring phase where our taxes get really quite high) Ian maintained his lead, while I stayed fairly close behind and Mark managed to capitalize on his lower taxes before to build enough for a big jump to catch up with the pack. I got a bit worried through this bit as the territories I was in got quite highly contested, but the extra strength of my buildings from getting that guild every turn in the game helped me keep up enough to do ok. I’m not sure who of Mark/Ian & Stan got the most points from area majorities in the last round, but I believe Ian/Mark got ahead of me until we counted up worker majorities, where my 6elves/6dwarves (Or 7, not sure) net me 3 points each and caught me up to Ian for a tie in first place. Strictly I won from having more resources left over (I tried to gamble with the thieving guild but just got tons of wood when I needed but 1 stone!) but I decided to share the key-to-the-city, for now! Mark was close behind and Stan wasn’t much behind him either (I think that’s the right order anyhow).

Smash Up

Following Belfort, we had roughly an hour left so I suggested Smash Up and some interest was shown so I grabbed the box to play. I have some ‘selector’ cards which me & my girlfriend made to make setup a little more random with a draft for each players 2 factions (As the standard rule tends to result in the same faction combo’s every single game). This left me as Alien Locals, Stan as Robotic Bears, Ian as Elder Carnivourous Plants & Mark as Steampunk Cultists.

If you’re not familiar with the game, the reason we each had 2 factions are because we take those 2 decks and shuffle them together to play, hence the slightly random sounding pairs! Each deck has a number of minions/actions (Usually 10 of each) and those are played throughout the game to try and capture ‘bases’. Each base has a breakpoint, an effect and some scores. When the power of all minions on the base is over the breakpoint, the scores are distributed to players depending on how much power they had there. The effects vary, and could be when minions are played, when it scores, etc. Each turn, players can play 1 minion and 1 action, which may allow them to do further and more interesting effects based on what the card says.

The start of the game set the precent, with Marks cultists stacking him with madness & Ian doling out even more besides with a byakhee on a base we shared. We shared that base because Stan moved one of my minions there of course (And that particular base soon became ridiculous, with 5+ actions on it and a ton of minions, which took ages to capture as the plants overgrowth card nerfs everyone elses minions by 1 power). Mark made the understandable mistake (First time with cthulhu) of using a fair few madness cards to draw cards rather than returning them to the deck, I generally flailed a bit as my minions/actions just wouldn’t synergise and Stan/Ian did pretty well through the first half of the game.

Sometimes that can change, but on this case it was actually a pretty consistent in that Ian & Stan continued to do well at grabbing bases. Most of Ians madness cards came to me & mark thanks to neat choices made by Stan, particularly in where he placed and where he moved minions to (I.e. making it less attractive for Ian to use a Byakhee on bases he was on so he got less madness from it). I continued to struggle, and while I got a base to 10 power without anyone else bothering to compete for it couldn’t quite capture (I had an action that would have made it 15 but didn’t seem to be able to get enough power there until nearly the end of the game for it actually work). A base came out at one point that could have removed all of Marks madness and catapulted him to compete with Ian, but as I had a terraform card I used it to prevent this and hoped it might delay the game long enough for me to start scoring points (Which it turns out was fated not to be).

We started running out of time near the end of the game, and reduced the playspace to make things go faster (When the last few bases scored we didn’t replace them). I managed to get the base I was going for on my own I think to take 3 points, as well as contributing to another, but this only got me to 9 points for the end. Ian got his ‘2 madness cards to every player’ card right near the end which made it extra difficult for us all as we had to waste actions getting rid of it, and Stan, while he did quite well, didn’t quite get enough points down to take the lead off of him. At the end of the game I think Stan had 1/2 madness, I had 4 (Reducing me to 5 points, waaaah), and Mark had well, lots, but had a lot more points than me and finished on I think 7. Ian took the victory here, so congratulations to Ian ^^.

That’s all for now, although I’m probably going to make a post soon about a couple of kickstarter projects if anyones interested in crowdfunding some stuff (Tuscany & MERCS: Recon). If anyone who goes to halesowen each week is interested in Tuscany I can set up a game next week with prototype bits ^^. Cheers!

Halesowen Board Gamers #7 (05/03/2014)

Russian Railroads

This week I opted to avoid playing my own games if anything else caught my fancy. Russian Railroads is just such a game that I’ve seen a Rahdo Runs Through video for, and found myself wishing I could try it out without quite being able to fit it in my budget for games! Thankfully that’s not a barrier when I remember that other people have games too ;)

Explanation for this one took a little while, as there’s a lot to the game with a ton of spaces to go, bonuses to earn, tracks to follow, etc. Each player in the game has a personal player board with 3 train tracks and an industry track, with players being likely to focus on 2 of these 4 things (Probably a 3rd too, but unlikely to finish it). The first track is a long one, reaching from Moskow to Vladivostok, and is where the biggest focus will be if you want to score by building railway, as it has a number of spots for ‘x2’ tiles which double the values of track in those places. The second track goes from Moskow to St Petersburg, and has good options for picking up bonuses (Of which there are 7 unique ones available) as well as a x2 multiplier for the whole line (But it doesn’t support the best quality rails). The 3rd track runs Moscow to Kiev, and scores points for having black track down (Which is normally 0), or a higher-than-average score for grey by taking a bonus that could net you 20 points/turn. The last track isn’t for rails, and instead traces your industry. Moving this track forwards gives you straight bonuses for victory points, as well as triggering factories which you can place along the way (Which also let you jump over gaps in the track).

The big caveat is that you don’t automatically score for advancing this tracks! Throughout the game you need to obtain trains and factories which you’ll place by your board to be able to advance the tracks and capitalize on them. For the rails, this means putting a train to the left of the track (Or 2 for the big line), which then lets you score up to a certain number of spaces along the line. For industry it lets you get over gaps while also proving unique bonuses for when the industry marker(s) pass over them. These 2 things get better throughout the game, but are extremely tight! There are only 3 spaces on the board to get trains or factories, and 4 people to compete over them!

The next big thing about the rails, is that there are various qualities of rail to build. At the start of the game, you have only black tracks, which are worth 0 points a piece and are mainly for unlocking extra stuff (Like the other track types!) as you advance them along the line. You will then get Grey, Brown, Blank and White tracks which are worth more points respectively. The higher quality tracks are build over previous ones, and can’t go ahead, so you must advance the black track along if you want to advance the grey, and the grey along if you want to advance the brown etc, hence making the higher quality rails very difficult to advance particularly far from their starting point.

The game is played over 7 rounds (Less in a 2 player game) with each round being tracked by how many engineers are remaining. The engineers are an ‘available once-per-round’ resource that provide a unique action space for their owner, with the upcoming engineers being available to everyone for a short amount of time. Each round, one player only will get to obtain the latest available engineer, making them a scarce commodity. They cost money however, and money is extremely scarce in russian railroads with only a single space to gain it, that only provides 2 at a time. Money does have an advantage that it can be played as if it was a worker, as well as to a few unique spots which require it (So many rounds the first placement is that saught after take 2 money space). In addition, the player with the most engineers at the end of the game gets a nice bonus of 40 points, and the player with 2nd most gets 20 (Ties are broken by a number on each engineer), so sometimes it can be good to grab one even if it’s not particularly useful to you. At the end of each round is a scoring phase, which is based on your rails and industry so far. As a result the scoring has a cumulative effect so you score more each round than the last (Which has a great feel-good feeling of advancing your setup).

The last 2 things of importance are turn order and bonuses. Turn order is hugely impactful in the game as going first/second gives you good chances at getting valuable money or the rounds engineer, in fact where some games I try to not worry about being in 4th, in this I really had to think about when take the action space to shift myself into first to be able to pickup the commodities I needed most. The bonuses are shown on little tiles of which each player has 7 (Each player has an identical set). Each of these can only be used once, with a number of places on their boards giving them access to them (I believe there’s 4 chances to get one of your bonuses), all are very strong, being worth, on average, 15-20 points at the end of the game, making them worth picking up (Although points go into the 2-4 hundred range so less than you might think!)

*Breathes* So that’s roughly how the game goes, with spaces on the board being to advance rails, industry, take 2 money, take 2 temp-workers or take the engineer. Some spaces take more than 1 worker with players starting on 5 and potentially getting up to 7 later in the game. Things are tight, and only one can succeed!

At the start of our game, I made a decision to go for industry, as I presumed (Correctly it would seem) that the other players would compete over advancing and scoring through their railroads. I started in last place and stayed there a couple of rounds where I could still pick up what I wanted thanks to the reduced competition for it. Early on this worked well and I had the lead for the first half of the game thanks to industry points happening early on. Mike seemed to focus on advancing his main rail while picking up some industry on the side to gain x2 multipliers through factories he’d picked up. Gordon went very all-rounder, advancing all tracks (Partly for the extra workers) throughout the game, as well as going for industry. Scott focused completely on his rails, with the majority of his focus being on the main track and getting the maximum rail quality onto it.

A couple of years in I decided I wanted to go for an upcoming engineer as it had a space for 2 industry with one worker, which for me and me focus on industry looked like a perfect match. I took first place and grabbed the engineer, planning to pretty much ignore the rest. Subsequently however I managed to get the 2 money space and double it up using my first factory, so I had lots of money which I decided to use for another engineer, (In the end I got 3). Mike struggled to get money and I think the first time he went first he took a different action (Not sure which), which seems to be a risky plan in this game as the money is just so important. Around the middle of the game Scott managed to get his rails to blank which with his x2 multipliers up the start of the track really got worrying. Mike had a lot of x2’s down but just didn’t quite have a high enough quality of track on it to do so well, and Gordon was in a similar situation.

As we came into the last couple of years, Scott had leaped out ahead of me with his x2 increased value tracks (One of the ? bonuses is to increase the value of the better rails). It was hard to appreciate a focus on rails until that point where it got suddenly very scary ^^. I managed to catch up a little after a factory got discarded that gave points for your engineers (Of which I had 3 thanks to the money boost), I made use of activating bonuses through the st-petersburg line to get a second industry token and run it past my factories a second time, giving me some bonuses I didn’t expect and getting me the nice engineer bonus a second time. Gordon managed to finish his 2 shorter rails off getting some nice bonus points while Mike got his main rail to a point it could score well, but a little too late (The lower quality tracks were advanced very far, which I’m not sure is worth it, not for the grey rails at least). Scott got a ridiculous amount of points in these last couple of rounds, with 5 maximum quality rails doubled in value to 20 a piece, 100 points just from those 5 tracks! (Vs my 45 from industry, which would have maxed at 55 leaving me to rely on other sources for the extra points).

Russian Railroads

Russian Railroads

The game finished far from close, with Mike at 237, Gordon at 260, Myself on 345 Scott finishing on a whopping 379! I’m a bit suspicious that the game leans too heavily towards players focusing on one thing with the 2 all-rounder players being far behind, but I think with a little experience the scores will draw a lot closer (Gordon mentioned that his first game had players scores much closer in fact, with a similar array of different tactics). I know I made a couple of mistakes that could have got me a little higher up, and Gordon noted a few times that he’d done silly mistakes too. It was a learning experience though and I hope to play again sometime trying for rails perhaps instead of industry. Thanks for the play Gordon! =)

PS: Apologies for the shocking image quality..dust between the lens and case of my phone means it thinks it’s permanently night time, and I’m bad at manual settings ;)

Weekly Gaming 04/03/2014 (+ Halesowen #6)

This last week has been slightly different, in that I probably played more video games than board games! On Friday night I hosted a small LAN party for some of my friends from University and had an evening making lots of noise in our overfilled lounge ^^. I did still play board games of course, and even managed to slip one in with some of those video-gamer friends :)

Wednesday – Halesowen Board Gamers

At halesowen this week we once again played a game of Viticulture. On this occasion it was a highly overloaded game with a lot of extra content to try out, and I’m very appreciative that James, Phil & Andy were up for playing despite a lot of it being a bit ‘print+play’ ^^.

As I’ve left it a bit long I forget how the games flow went, but there’s a few points I remember about how things went. First of all we had a very worker-heavy game, with all players hitting the maximum of 6 workers, which is something that’s not happened before when I’ve played Viticulture. The extra spots available make it a little more worth it to take this tactic, but I think that a player staying to 4 or 5 could still have kept up just fine.

Another interesting thing is that every player got and used the Yoke. I think this is in part as a result of 2 (3?) of the players having all 3 of their fields populated with vines, and the only way to make use of that was to have an extra harvest opportunity. I was making use of it so that I could worry about using other actions in that season, such as making wine rather than getting the grapes for it. I might not have bothered, but a visitor card gave me 1VP per $2-$3 building, so it seemed worthwhile to have all 3 that fit that description.

For the first few years I didn’t get my vines planted, as I was never able to take the plant 2 spot (James did the same too), I think this was a mistake as I had extra orders at the end that I just didn’t have time to fill. When I did get them planted however I managed to have a well balanced pair of fields, with my 3rd being sold off for money. I spent a couple of years gathering grapes/wine and was prepared to start filling orders when it suddenly dawned the game would end within a year or two! My first order fullfillment was the 2nd to last year, and while I’d got VP’s from some other sources I was at the back of the pack and 2nd-to-last in the pick order for placements.

I opted to go last, and avoided using workers as much as possible (I used one to harvest and one to make wine, keeping the other 5 free), this let me sell wine (Only for 2VP but last year so worth it ^^) and after everyone else passed step in and take both fill order spaces putting me just behind 2 of the other players. Some end game scoring put all 3 of us on 27VP! Andy T was fortunate enough to have more money left over and win the tie-break, so well done for that!
Friday – LAN Party

On Friday I hosted a LAN party for myself and 6 of my friends from University. The first task of the evening was to actually fit everyone in, which I probably should have thought about beforehand! In the end it involved moving just about the whole room around, and nicking a small table from my housemates room leaving us with 5 on one table and 2 on the other, huzzah! :P

I had originally hoped to place Space Cadets before we got computers and such set up, but as we had 7 people and not 6 or less I figured it was best not to push it ^^. Instead, the first game we played was League of Legends with 3 of us while we waited for others to patch as they played other games. It was an ARAM game where we happened to get a comically overpowered team to shred the other side (Something like Lux, Ezreal, Nidalee, Soraka, +1) without needing to get close and having heals to boot.

When all players (Except one who isn’t much of a LoL lover) were patched up, we queued up and had a couple of games of Hexakill. This is a temporary game mode where the game goes 6vs6 instead of the standard 5vs5, which breaks down the ‘metagame’ and leads to hilarity where everyone isn’t quite sure how to arrange themselves best. Our first game had me & Handy top lane as Viktor and Wukong respectively, where we did pretty well (Well..Handy did, but my pick was rushed thanks to Grant ignoring me in picking..-_-). The enemies mid laner got pretty fed on Yasuo (Or jungler, not sure) making him pretty terrifying for a good while, but who ultimately built too squishy so he didn’t last long enough to do too much. We won the game thanks to some good teamplay/split-pushing!

Our second game we went with silly-mode in that we played team-yordle. This was something like Tristana, Lulu, Heimerdinger, Amumu, Kennen & Teemo. This might have gone ok, but I was against Ziggs and got absolutely trashed, thanks to his not needing to worry about turrets with his long range. I’m not sure how well the other lanes went, but as our jungler helped them instead of me despite my comments I presume they were poor too. We lost in the end as we just couldn’t quite draw the game on long enough (I think that another 5 minutes and we could have caught up enough to turn the tide, but that advantage from the early game hurt too much. The other teams long-range ult comp was a bit of a pain too, Ashe ult into 5 others…insta death.

Following this, we changed to a different game to get Dave involved (The absentee from LoL). The game we went for was Artemis, and this time Ash abstained, leaving us again with 6 (I don’t generally want to play Artemis but it’s more fun to play it with others than play solo In a  corner to be honest!). We had a number of games, and I got to try out Comms, Weapons & Helm in that time, which were all fairly fun, although I spent more time tabbed out of the game than not when playing as commons. We won 3 games I believe out of 4, with Handy being the captain in the failed game. The last one we switched from jump drive to warp drive (I’d had helm a second time in a row) which I found a lot of fun for navigating around obstacles in traveling places.

With that done, 3 of us in the room started up a game of openra, which for whatever reason noone else wanted to do (I don’t get the rts hate with this group, *;(*). This was me, Dave & Shakespeare, with Me & Dave as allies and Shakespeare as Soviets I think, plus one computer player who I pretty much didn’t see ^^. Dave dominated the game, as for one thing he seemed to actually know what he was doing. I sat in a corner and occasionally threw things at people as I had a reasonable economy built up, and Shakespeare got pretty screwed in his corner as he didn’t know about capturing oil rigs for the extra income :S

Everyone just sort of split into different games then, ‘War Thunder’ seemed to get played a lot, and Shakespeare who was next to me played some planetside 2. We sorted a game of Red Alert 2 out a bit later on, which ended up just being me & Dave vs AI – we were going to do a bigger game but I think people had difficulty getting it setup, so maybe next time. We lost anyway, probably because I’m really bad at Red Alert! My chrono legionnaires took down a lot of enemies though!

After sleeping, we got some more individual games on before packing up, and I took the opportunity to suggest a board game. With just me, Handy, Dave & Shakespeare remaining we played Carcassonne. It was a fairly friendly game with us playing that fields were worth only 2/city instead of 3, and one where Handy managed to take the victory, damnit Handy! ;)

Sunday – Afternoon Play

The problem with afternoon play is that if you don’t get there right on time, it’s a bit short to do much. We went on Sunday and only actually played one game, with an American guy who was called Jordan or John, not really sure as we both heard different things =P We played Smash Up which he picked up very fast. I was Steampunk Locals, Grace was Miskatonic Zombies and Jordan/John played Wizard Tricksters. The game was pretty tight at the end, with all 3 of us being within a turn of taking victory, but J managed to take it just ahead of me, thanks to lots of screwing me over the game (God damn tricksters :P). Despite my faction I barely managed to keep actions on bases! Good game though.

In the evening me & Grace played a game of Carcassonne while watching Lord of the Rings. I managed to get a lot of cities but really messed up with using all my meeples, missing a couple of good scoring opportunities. Grace neatly took the victory something like 90-70 ish I think! Highlight of the night is that she enjoyed LoTR, great success!

Fun week as always. looking forward to Halesowen tomorrow and whatever other gaming opportunities come up! Till then…um…bye or something ;)

 

 

 

Weekly Gaming 26/02/2014 (+ Halesowen #5)

I usually try and write up Halesowen within a couple of days, but I seem to have been busy a lot of the week and it’s taken me some time to do it. As a result I rolled it into my ‘weekly gaming’ post instead ^^. Apologies about the incoming colossal walls of text but lots of gaming happened this week!

Wednesday – Halesowen Board Gamers

At Halesowen last week I got to introduce 3 new players to Viticulture. I’ve talked about the game in previous posts so I’ll save you the introduction to what it’s about, but suffice to say I really love this game and think the mechanisms are highly thematic and hugely enjoyable. In fact the expansion is being kickstarted on the 12th march which I’m looking forward to, it will be interesting to see how this one goes as Jamey (The designer) is looking to stop using exclusives in his campaigns, something which is often believed to draw a lot of backers in.

Our game started off with players looking a bit too far ahead and trying to think about how they’d get their orders filled, while I appreciate the reasoning it’s interesting seeing what people go for to try and make it happen before realising that it’s going to take a few years to get their vineyards up and running. Mike Started with a cottage, which was set to give him a lot of options throughout the game, although perhaps too many for a first time round (There was a lot of time spent trying to work out what he could manage with the huge number of options ^^). I also got a cottage, as I feel it’s extremely powerful, with a tasting room and Irrigation being other early buildings I saw (Don’t remember who had them, it was a week ago sorry! ^^).

As we got through the game all players managed to get a reasonably well running system, with 2 of the new players being ahead of me for a while in the game. I spent a lot of time building up and let a lot of grapes/wines sit and age throughout the game for a rush later on (A bit cheeky really as new players don’t really know to do so) of orders. The game actually ended very close between me and Mike, with me being able to hit all the way up to 25 in the final year (I think) and Mike hitting 22 that same year by managing his cards effectively. John came third with 17 and Ian with 10, not quite being given enough time to capitalize his vineyard. It was a good game, although this is a very poor report as I’ve been too busy to get it done earlier!

We finished up with a game of Carcassonne with Me, Ian & Mike as John had to head off. The game went by fairly friendly, although in an absolutely haphazard layout as I was doing some silly placements to try and nab features and take points off the others (Mainly off Mike). In the end as it turns out that was probably pretty stupid, as I left myself trailing in 3rd place with ian 2nd & Mike taking the lead with his French-city building experience proving superior ^^.

Thursday – Games with Mum

On Thursday I went to my parents house for the evening, and took along Caverna to introduce it to my Mum, who bought it for me as a late Christmas present. While an intimidating looking game with a crazy amount of components she was up for it nonetheless so I got it set up after dinner and dived into teaching her how it all works. I’ve got to compliment my Mum here as she’s absolutely amazing at listening to and picking up the rules to games, and while it clearly had her a bit confused managed to work everything out in no time at all (Better than many people who play board games all the time and not just when their son pesters them to ^^).

I usually go for weapons and adventuring for my dwarves, but decided on this occasion to go for a farming route. Mum opted to go for weapons and push for adventurers, spending the first couple of turns excitedly wanting to know how to get her dwarves geared up while getting tiles out into her fields/cave a little bit. While I got myself some wheat planted nice and early, Mum got herself a level 3 adventurer as soon as able and got to work leveling him up. I must have not emphasized feeding enough as at the first harvest she struggled with food and had to take a beggar token to keep her dwarves alive, but this helped her get the gist of the challenges in managing what you should plan for in this game.

Once I’d got my farm in a good state (grain, vegetables and all animal types) I focused for a little while filling in my Cave and having some Dwarven newborn. Mum got her adventurer high enough to furnish caverns and got herself a slaughtering cave before deciding to go for a 3rd dwarf, at this point she asked an…er…interesting question “Why can’t I keep my newborn dwarf in the slaughtering cave”, while perhaps not in those exact words I found it pretty hilarious and explained that she needed a dwelling ^^. She also managed by this point to get her fields well planted with grain and vegetables making her troubles with feeding absolutely no more.

At the end of the game I’d gotten a well built farm and cave (Although it was lacking in mines) with many animals that net me a lot of points. I’d also capitalized on a heavily built up ore spot and taken the ore-storage to net 9 points from that. My Mum had a well balanced finish with an ore mine in her Cave and 2-4 of each animal, as well as plenty of grain & vegetables on the side, but lacking in VP furnishings (I didn’t buy any at all my first game so the slaughtering cave itself was a cool thing to see ^^). The score was 60-34 in the end, and I look forward to playing again. I suspect a couple of games down the line and she could trounce me, so maybe just one more before I introduce her to something else ;).

Friday – UoB Tabletop Society

On Friday at UoB tabletop we played Space Cadets for the first time. I got the game recently at a great price through the UK Math trade, and was excited to get the opportunity to try it out with 4 of us. I don’t know if we did a single rule correct, but this was an absolute blast and I look forward to my next opportunity to play, which will be after much watching of video’s and trying to figure out everything to be able to teach people in less than an hour+ ^^. In Space Cadets, players take the part of different members of the crew of a spaceship, performing their individual & unique tasks to try and come together and complete missions. The actual tasks that have to be done are fairly simple, but you get a very limited amount of time to do them! A timer is used throughout the game giving 30 second blocks for players to simultaneous work on their stuff, hopefully to the benefit of everyone.

The roles in the game consist of the Captain, who does little but flip the timer; Engineering, which involves laying tiles carc-style to generate and distribute energy; Tractor Beams, which means flipping tiles to try and grab nearby objects; Weapons, who has to load missiles with tetris-pieces and grids, then fire them by disc-flicking; Shields, which involves making poker hands to get energy to the various sides of the ship; Jump, to ready the ship and get it prepped to jump out of the system when the mission is complete; Helm, who has to navigate the ship across a map using limited movement cards, and try not to hit too many asteroids and leave the ship overy exposed, and Damage Control, which is for tracking damage to the ship and trying to repair it with a set of rather dubious success-rate cards.

Everything comes together in the game in a hugely hectic mashup where people try so hard and still struggle to complete their deceptively simple bits and pieces. We spent a long while fumbling our way through space achieving little but to take damage before we finally managed to tighten the reigns a little to take out some enemies, but it was oh so satisfactory when we did! We had to leave before finishing the mission, but had grabbed 2/3 crystals and killed half the enemies by that time, so I’m calling that we could have done it despite our half destroyed ship. Huge amount of fun and I look forward to playing this gem some more on games days to come, and perhaps it’s sequel dice-duel that sounds even more fun ^^.

Sunday – Zombicide Games Day

Sunday this week me, Grace & Handy got together to play some games at my house. A couple others were interested but couldn’t make it so we went ahead and three muskateered it. The first game played, which I picked up from the UK Math Trade was Carcassonne, a tile-laying game where players manage their small supply of meeples to try and gather as many points as possible before every tile is used up. There are 4 places you can put meeples (Done when you place a tile) – Fields, which get 3 points/completed city at end game, Cities, that are worth 2-4 points per tile when completed, or half at end of game, Roads, which are just worth 1 point per tile, and cloisters, which are worth one point + 1 for each surrounding tile. The latter 3 of those give you back the meeple (You have 7) when finished off, so you get them back available for other tasks.

Our game went by in a relatively friendly fashion, with minimal nabbing of each others stuff. We got some pretty large cities as we went by but ultimately everything seemed to come down to fields that are worth a ridiculous amount of points. I think I may have won but I don’t really remember, it was a cool looking board after though!

We followed up with Zombicide, which was the main aim of the evening as it rarely comes out (due to length) but everyone loves to play it. We went for a mission in the Prison Outbreak book, #6 I think, where we started with a split party in a prison, with one group trying to open security doors to reunite the party, before the other group get swamped by the spawn zones which are all in their half of the prison. We achieved the first task fairly quickly and all was seeming well, so we added an extra objective that we had to take the extra objectives in order to escape (We could have ignored them). As it turned out it was a real challenge fighting our way down there, as the 2 spawns surrounding that location were a real pain to deal with. Half our party started with dogs however, and these proved to be invaluable in dealing with threats early on, as well as improving Handy’s melee attacks to a silly level when he found a chainsaw. Grace managed to get a sniper rifle together which she made good use of to clear the way of toxics so my dog could melee and our other characters could move a little more freely.

During the game, we had a good number of Abominations come out (4-5 maybe) which I was able to deal with in short order with Brad as I had a 3 damage revolver to one shot them all. We were playing with a custom abominiation rule I made where they get extra abilities as you advance through danger levels (Starting off easier, ending harder) which worked out exactly as I’d hoped, in that it removed the feeling of ‘Guess we’d better search for the next 20-turns’ that they used to come with (Though ironically we got an early molotov anyway). Handy almost opened up the far side of the prison before we were probably ready to deal with it, but came into line as we needed a hand getting to the objective to open the exit door before he released the horde (To get out, you have to open a security door that also opens a ton of cells). By this point we were strong enough to tear through these enemies, and I think every character got up to red level to play with ultra-red weapons we’d had wasting inventory space until this moment. Grace & Handy opted to stick around in the prison a little to play with their new-found guns while I started clearing up ^^. This game is an absolute ton of fun and it’s a shame we don’t get to play it more often (On the other hand it would be a shame to never play other things if we did try to force it every game night). Till next time Zombicide!

We were a little lighter afterwards, breaking out Smash Up, a game that I think all 3 of us enjoy a’plenty. In our first game of this I was Elder Things + Aliens, Handy was Carnivorous Plants + Dinosaurs & Grace was Pirate + Ninjas. I never got the Shoggoths throughout the game which I think helped, as I usually get myself hung up trying to place the damn things, instead I managed to chain my cards well to throw a ton of madness at my opponents. Handy made good use of drawing a lot but ended up using most actions removing madness, & Grace made do quite well but had a very hostile pair of factions that didn’t get enough opportunities to grab points. I think I took victory by the end although it was close and decided by the madness in Handy’s deck.

In our second game, we cthulhu’d up a little more and had Me as Wizard Cultists, Handy as Local Zombies & Grace as Miskatonic Bear Cavalry. Wizards worked really well with cultists as I didn’t feel as much strain in getting rid of the madness they generate as usual, although I still failed to really achieve anything with them. Handy’s locals managed to get everywhere in crazy stacks, and Grace managed to use her bears to have strong control over the battlefield. In the end Handy won, with me coming dead last (Woohoo for the metagame of screw the last winner) and Grace in second place, good game!

To finish up the evening I got to introduce Grace & Handy to Legacy: Gears of Time. I’ve tried to hint at it a lot recently but for reasons unbeknownst to me most people just aren’t attracted to it, I guess they assume timey-wimey + board games = bad ^^. They gave it a chance though and we got to travelling through time screwing with the normal order of invention to no end to make our Legacy’s superior to our opponents. It’s an interesting game in how it really gets you thinking about how to make bigger, higher scoring technologies come into effect while keeping the lower ones under your control to stop them fizzling into non-existence (Which invalidates the higher ones!). In our game I got a lot of points early, but had Handy manage to leapfrog me and deny me a ton of points in the later rounds. Grace got the unfortunate end of having people steal her technologies and didn’t quite manage to catch up, although I think it could have been even closer! Both enjoyed it so I’m happy to have got it out =)

Tuesday – Gameses

My friend Chris Harrison came around on Tuesday evening for a couple of games. He agreed to Viticulture, as I’ve been wanting to try out some more stuff with it and we made the game a whole lot more complex in the process. I enjoyed it thoroughly and managed to net a lot of points, but I don’t think it was much fun for Chris, which seems to be a recurring theme among my Uni friends with this game (Which is a shame as I love it).

Following that up we got out Legendary by Chris’s suggestion. I’ve not played in a while as I felt pretty burned out on it, but seeing as a good number of my friends have said they really love it I decided it needs to start hitting the table again (Plus seeing as he didn’t enjoy Viticulture it only seemed fair ^^). I’m glad we did so, as with a custom scheme I got from the variant forums the game felt refreshed and challenging. We were fighting Dr. Doom, with the caveat that we weren’t allowed to fight him when more than 2 villains were in the city and every scheme twist increased his strength by 1 (8 twists). In addition the villain deck was just 3 villain groups, making them tough to deal with at all. There was 5 twists out before we could even hit the mastermind! Fortunately I got some lucky draws from Gambit’s ‘Reveal top, if X-men draw it’ despite him being by only x-men in my deck and managed to net a few turns where I could take our Doom as we neared the end. I think we were 3 villain cards from losing when I finally took him down a final time. Harrison’s blade focused deck turned out not to work as well against this scheme as it might on others letting me take the individual victory. We saved the world though, wooh! (Or whatever the schemes name was…may have forgotten, ^^).

So that’s my last week in games, which seems to have been quite intense judging from the amount I’ve written! Apologies to anyone from Halesowen that reads that it took me a whole week to get around to writing it up ^^. Thanks for skimming! (C’mon…like you read all that ;))