Tag Archives: Board Games

Cologne on Board (16/08/14)

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

Cologne on Board

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

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

— Bluff —

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

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

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

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

— Abraca… What? —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Lost Legacy – The Starship–

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

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

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

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

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

— Kings Pouch —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——-

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

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

Thanks to everyone at Cologne-on-board!

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Halesowen Board Gamers #17 (04/06/14)

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

Hive

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

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

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

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

Boss Monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Juan

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

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

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

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

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

Halesowen Board Gamers #16, Games Days, UK Games Expo, Catchup Post!

Hey, so I went quiet for a little while, sorry about that! I just lacked motivation for a little while to write up on gaming nights. As it is I’m still going to breeze over things somewhat as I just don’t remember some of the games played particularly clearly at the moment.

The good news is that part of the reason I’m hazy on details of games is I’ve just played so many in the past couple of weeks! As I’ll mention below ^^.

 

Halesowen – Wednesday 21st May

On the 21st I attended Halesowen as with most Wednesdays for games, where I played Belfort, with Mike getting a first shot at the game & a (I think) repeat play for Stan. Belfort is a worker-placement game with a couple of ‘majority’ mechanics that give players cause to go different directions or to stock up on resources a few rounds ahead in order to get bonuses or greater points in a round.

In our game, I opted to try and rush for workers, going for the extra-worker spot when I could, and building 2 extra-worker buildings to further the method. This gave me a nice chance at the majorities when getting resources, but meant I was lacking in income compared to the other players, and I got very few points in the earlier half of their game due to minimal amount of buildings. I don’t remember exactly what Mike/Stan went for, but certainly by the end of the game they had enough buildings between them that I was pretty scuppered and couldn’t catch up – Didn’t stop Mike from screwing me with his last building though, mean! Mikes Win!

Following this, Mike left for the evening due to travel plans early the next day, so we merged with a few others for a game of Heckmeck. This game has players competing to get as many worms as possible, through a push-your-luck dice-rolling mechanic where players try to get high numbers in order to take or steal tiles with worms upon them – If you don’t manage to go high enough with your roll, you return a tile to the middle and the highest-value one remaining is flipped and becomes unavailable. The game ends when no tiles remain.

In our first game, Steve, with his unholy high rolling, which was apparently due to the sacrifice of innocents or some-such evil machinations in the game of Cosmic Encounter the others at the table player beforehand, managed to net a tied victory with Mark. This is past an amusing amount of passing of the tile ’23’ between players, which naturally made it the ‘curse’ tile, ^^.

In our second game, things went differently, with Steve’s luck having worn off and no longer giving him crazy rolls. After more silliness and the stepping in of Dave pointing out that we were playing with a significant rule error (Although we carried on the same) where we were taking a failed roll to not immediately end the turn, I took a valiant victory, woohoo!

Apologies that this is a very glossed over account, onto the random days of gaming I’ve been having! ^^

Games Day with Friends – Saturday 24th May

On the 24th, myself, Grace & some of my friends (Emma, Ken, Kimberley, Charlie) met up for something of a games day (Not everyone was in every game but still ^^).

First up we bought out the Resistance. In this game one team play the resistance, fighting against the oppressive evil government of the future, while the other team are government spies, infiltrating the resistance and sabotaging their attempts to fight the system. Players were Myself, Emma, Ken & Kimberley

In the first game, which we played vanilla, myself & Emma were spies, and while I think Emma got copped fairly easily (First game it’s hard to keep it secret!) I lasted only a little longer, with the game falling to the good guys after I voted against a success mission in a way that was probably a bit too obvious.

For the second game, I introduced every to plot cards. This is an expansion where each round the leader gives one player a ‘plot’ card that might make them vote publicly, or let them steal leadership, etc, either helping a good guy get information or letting a spy deceive the group smartly. Unfortunately for the dastardly spies, Grace was a bit obvious, with a few too many ‘I don’t get its’ (Which is a bit of a meta-gamey way to notice someone’s a spy, but people seem to grasp ‘good guy’ easier than ‘bad guy’ for some reason), and Kimberley just had a downright evil glint to her eyes, win for the good guys again! ^^. I think we’re all just a bit bad at being bad…^^.

Next up we broke out Galaxy Trucker, a hectic real-time spaceship building game where players rush to grab tiles from a shared lot to build a ship that hopefully survives the race/flight phase. I don’t really know what to specifically mention about our game, asides from it was a lot of fun, and really great to see how the new players ships formed after each build (As particularly in the first game or few games, players respond heavily to the last flight and get gradually better at filling the space on their board). I had a really quite unfair advantage as I’ve played the most (I think, Grace has played a lot too and her ships were closer to mine than the rest of the groups) – I should have had a handicap, and we gave me a rough-road in the 3rd round, which actually turned out to have almost no effect by plenty luck on my behalf (On open space, a random component from my ship would fall off, only 1 open space happened, which was my first and only piece lost all game). I won, but more importantly I got to introduce people to this fantastic game and I really hope everyone had a blast – Next time I’ll do rough roads right from the start for me!

Next up we headed to the pub for a while, dropping Kimberley who was going out somewhere (I forget where, oops) and meeting up with Charlie. Emma had pointed out Love Letter as a game she recognized before we left so we’d taken it along, and I introduced the table to the game. Love Letter is a little deduction game, which while it soon feels like an ‘automatic’ playing game, is a fantastic introductory thing to play, and a convenient game to carry to a pub with its’ tiny size. I think there was 4/5 of us up to 2 out of the 3 cubes needed to win before a rather foolish error on my behalf gave the game away to <redacted> (And by redacted, I mean my memory sucks).

After a couple of drinks, we headed back to my house and got out the last game of the day – Ticket to Ride: Europe (Also losing Grace who had other commitments to go and get on with). It was the first time for all 3 I think (Ken, Emma, Charlie) so things went by mostly friendly (Though I’m pretty sure Ken dropped a couple of deliberate blocking-moves in there). Thanks to a block that Ken did against me however, my circuitous route also let me complete a ton of extra short routes which I picked up over the game (I had and completed 10 in total!) which I figured was a fairly easy win – Not so, as Charlie also managed to complain a hefty chunk of extra routes to his starting ones, but still giving me victory, with a mere 2 points difference – I hope we can sort out another game sometime as that was scarily close for someone’s first run at a game. Ken/Emma were a bit further back, but both completed their starting routes which is what I tend to expect new-players to work on ^^.

It was a fantastic day, and I’m very happy to have been able to get friends from Uni involved with some of my games. I hope the opportunity to play with them comes up again!

Games in Bristol – 28th-30th May

I had the last week of May off as holiday, which was thanks to planning to do things on Thursday/Friday (Which I didn’t actually end up doing ^^) and figuring I may as well have the whole week. An old friend of mine, Simon, has his ‘weekend’ on Tuesdays/Wednesdays so by suggestion of my lovely girlfriend I gave him a ring (Well, his girlfriend Nat a ring anyway, seeing as his phone was being lame :P) and sorted out driving down to stay over on the Tuesday night. Last time I visited I threatened to bring some of my board games along, as they both enjoy games but have only the more mainstream/traditional affair, naturally I had to follow through and took a nice selection ^^.

I arrived in Tuesday around 4ish, meeting up with Simon after a brief hiatus of wondering how the hell to find the farm they live on. After a catchup Simon suggested Forbidden Desert sounded like an interesting game to try which I promptly fetched and set up. We did random roles, giving me the navigator & Simon the climber (Yay mobility!), and went with novice as the difficulty. The first few rounds were pretty much learning rounds, and he’d gotten the hang of it before long, with us absolutely kicking the games ass as we went. I think we finished with only 1 oasis having been flipped and enough water to last another couple of rounds – I think that the 2P game may be a bit easy on novice, particularly as it’s hard to get excited to play a coop again when you win it without issue the first time around, still, a victories a victory!

The next game we got out to play (I think) was Ticket To Ride: Europe. I bought this along as it’s just such a fantastic ‘gateway’ game, and seemed like a good choice for playing with Nat now joining us to play, who didn’t want to go for anything too complex. The game went by pretty smoothly, and I was able to get a very healthy amount of extra routes completed over the game with the power of stations, netting me a win, this time.

The final game of the day was Voluspa, which Nat bowed out from leaving it as me vs Simon. I was pretty impressed at how quickly he picked the game up, with the kind of ‘suboptimal’ moves most people fall into a lot in their first few games being few and far between, although I was still able to eke out a victory by the end, just certainly not without having to try ^^. The Jotunn tile was blamed I think, as it is in many games, as people seem to prefer the dragon (Dragon places atop another tile, Jotunn does the same, but pushes that tile to the end of the row/column), presumably as you don’t have to think so hard about placing it ^^.

The next day, with Nat having gone to work, Simon suggested Caverna, one I’d bought along a whim not really expecting any interest. I’m glad that the interest was there though as I think it’s a brilliant game. Simon went for his cave as a priority, using spaces that directly give food in order to feed his dwarves, while I focused on building up my farm – we each also had a single adventurer (I got mine to block him for an extra round, bit mean but meh =P). I came out on 61 points while Simon came out around 20ish give or take a few, but I think most importantly we both had a great time with it and wanted to play again ^^. We were supposed to meet Nat at 1pm as she had a break for a few hours before more work, but we kind of overshot a little with Caverna and didn’t make it to nearly 2pm, where we had lunch in a terrifyingly expensive chip shop/restaurant in Western Super-Mare & had a look in a miniatures/guns/lego/misc shop as Simon & Nat figured I’d enjoy it (Correctly, although tempting the wallet like that is cruel!).

When we came back, Simon suggested a game of Ticket To Ride, but I countered with Smash Up as I knew Nat would probably want to play later (I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded an extra game, but I don’t want to over-play it too much ^^). I think we had Steampunk Bears (His Factions) vs Time Travelling Spies (My factions) – I ultimately won, but I think this was the least enjoyed game we played, possibly due to our factions/player-count but partly as Simon seems to have a vendetta against card games ^^.

With Nat returned later on, we jumped into another game of Ticket To Ride: Europe. This went very differently from last time, as while before I was able to work on some extra short routes, this game I barely had my starting routes done before Nat had run out of trains, ridiculously quickly in fact, such that both me & Simon were stuck with something like 15 train pieces left each. I did get an extra couple of short ones done, but Nat dominated on points thanks to completing all her 3 starting ones and having used the 8-piece long track which gave a ton of points – We could have blocked her fairly easily but just didnt’ realise we needed to! Well played!

The last game of the evening didn’t actually involve me. I decided to get Nat & Simon to face-off over a game of Jaipur, a set-collection game where players are trading goods to try and impress the maharaja. The game plays quick, and as such such is done over 3 rounds in a best of 3. Simon won twice in a row for a swift victory, but they both had fun and I heard murmurings of wanting to buy it from Nat (Buahaha, I’ll get them addicted to ‘designer’ games yet! ^^).

The last thing we played was on Thursday (I stayed an extra day after we played late enough into Wednesday that I didn’t fancy driving back ^^), which was Qwirkle, as it was the only game I’d bought that hadn’t been tried yet. Not much to say about it but I had a considerably score lead over Simon (Nat was at work since before we woke) taking the win, before he went to work and I headed home. Absolutely fantastic few days, great to see an old friend & his lovely girlfriend, and get to introduce them to some of the games I’ve gotten to try & own over the last couple of years!

UK Games Expo – 31st May to 1st June

So I originally planned to go to the expo on the Friday, but as I’m lazy, and as Starbound is obscenely addictive once you have strong weapons and drills I got slightly distracted until it was too late in the day. Hopefully next year I can get my ass into gear and do the whole 3 days ^^. I spent most of the time there just wandering around & sorting out passing on Archon & getting Space Cadets: Dice Duel (Yay Math Trade), as well as picking up Village which I’d agreed to on boardgamegeek.

On the Saturday I headed in at an ungodly early hour with a friend I met via my girlfriend, Adam. On arrival we also met with one of Adams’ friends Victor that I’ve met once before, although even though it got bought up I forget where, oops :P. In any case, they were eager to jump into some random game and Frankenstein’s Bodies was the first stall we happened upon after that thought.

In this game, each player has a board (Well, 2 laminated sheets, I presume it’s a single board each in the final version, which is being kickstarted now) with 2 operating tables, and a set of cards. Each round has players take turns to take a random card from the deck and 1 card from a set of face-up ones available, then play 2 cards. Cards are either body parts (In 4 Colours & 2 Genders), master-surgeons that block part-stealing and make stealing better for you or ‘take-that’ style action cards which let you steal parts from other players. This carries on until someone has 2 complete bodies in front of them. (Or the deck runs out twice, but there didn’t seem to be enough things resulting in a trashed card for that to happen). It was ok, but ‘take-that’ style gameplay where players screw each other over constantly is really not something I’m a huge fan of. In any case, I had to run off for a pre-arranged meet to buy Village from a bgg’er before the end, with Adam apparently winning the game in my absense (out of 5, 2 were random people that joined us). The gameplay is quite simple though, so maybe cool for a younger generation (Still…it’s also 50-70 minutes for what I was expecting to be 20-30 when I sat down, based on the compenents and style of play).

I met back up with Adam & Victor at Lunch Time, as well as 1 extra guy they’d picked up who they know…who’s name probably begins with a J but which I maybe slightly promptly forgot. I was the only one with any games on me, so we got Euphoria out (The only Stonemaier Game I got played while there sadly, as I was struggling a bit with confidence to go and introduce random people to them despite having bought them along to show off, a shame really but hey…maybe next time). In any case, I took home the win, having managed to maneuvre favourable trades to myself a few times while building markets, as people are suddenly more willing to do that 3:1 trade when they want to avoid the negative consequences ^^ (I should also note, this is the first time I’ve ever had people trade in a game! It was a nice addition so I hope I can convince other groups to do the same). After Lunch we split as I had to go find another BGG’er to give him Archon =)

Later on, when I decided to go find people again, I ran into a significant hitch that my phone went flat. I spent a considerable while wandering trying to find enough people I knew for games (If I’d just gone and stopped somewhere that wasn’t mind-numbingly hot then I’d have realised I could have just gone to the game-hall and set up Viticulture with a flag for players…duh), past which I came across various individual people I know but never finding a few together (And the individuals were generally on their way somewhere or leaving etc :S). After coming across my friend Greg and finding he was headed to the playtest hall to playtest his upcoming game Wizard Academy, I had one last look around then went to try and join, to find him leaving the hall for some reason while I got distracted by coming across Tim, who I know from a Birmingham games group ‘Bread and Games’.

This turned out to be great opportunity, as he mentioned that there was a copy of Dead of Winter in the trade hall *squeels excitedly* which I was definitely up for giving a shot. We got there right as a game finished, and after a while of looking for someone to show us how to actually play, were able to get started on the game. My survivors were both comically silly, being Sparky the (Wonder) Dog & Iforgothisname the Mall Santa. Unfortunately, we only got one round into the game (Albeit that was enough to get a feel for the core mechanics, and my god has that left my excited about this game!), although we did manage to complete the rounds objective and get a 3rd of the way to the main objective with some lucky rolls on picking up Zombie samples (Plus, my personal objective was 2/3rd complete as I needed 3 survivors to be removed by the time the main one was completed…Although sadly Sparky was one of those 2 that perished, after running around town and killing 3 Zombies in different locations in rapid succession. VERY excited, and very happy I pre-ordered! I went home not long after, as I just wasn’t feeling up to continuing to try and find people for games.

The next day I went in with my girlfriend Grace to have another quick look around. We weren’t there as long, only going in for around lunchtime, but had time to go around all the halls, and for me to pick up money from games sold and finish up sorting the math trade by grabbing Space Cadets: Dice Duel (Can’t wait to play, looks like a lot of fun, but eep 4-8 is a hard count to get ^^). Having sorted that, we headed to the halls to see if we could find a demo or something to get into and play, with the first thing that interested both of us being Hive (Although Grace had a demo of a sort of colour-based chess-style game from ‘Burley Games’, I forget the name, started with a K I think). Hive was a lot of fun, and interested me more than most abstracts, so we picked up a copy of our own (The beautiful tiles helped with the decision ^^). We then headed to the Monarch Suite to see if we could sort out a game of something there.

After a while of looking, we found noone with a ‘looking for players’ flag thing, so we sat on our own and found one to put out to see if we could get a game of Dice Duel in (We wanted to play something I didn’t own really, but as there was noone after players…). No such luck, but while I was putting away the components that I’d had out to look at (And for reading the rules) a guy next to us said hi and I played a quick game of Hive against him (Winning, buaha…I’m sure it won’t last but I’ve won all 3 games so far ^^), before he suggested we could play a game of his. Despite the fact I have my own copy sitting at the post office to be picked up, we were for Boss Monster.

In Boss Monster, players are the head-honcho’s of fantasy dungeons, and work to build up a deadly set of dangerous rooms before attracting adventurers to their doom. Each room has treasure symbols, which make theirs more attractive for specific things (So if you have the most weapons treasure, then a warrior/fighter will probably come to your dungeon). If your dungeon kills the adventurer you get their soul, if they get to the boss…to you, then you take a wound. 5 Wounds and you’re eliminated, 10 Souls and you win. The game seemed to be going fairly evenly, albeit I had more wounds than the others from some early beatings, but I was able to nab a whole slew of adventurers one round by destroying a ‘jackpot’ room which doubled the treasure value of my rooms temporarily. This got me to 8/10 souls, and despite the others catching up over the next couple or roudns (The guy having enough damage to take out any contender and Grace having better things to attract the heroes to her dungeon than me, I was able to eke out a win. Hooray…Seriously though…did we move to another universe, I’ve said ‘I Win’ a scary amount in talking about expo games…the one I didn’t win was one I left early in Oo.

In any case, the expo was a lot of fun, and while I’d have loved to have played many more games, and right into the evening on the Saturday, I struggling to find the confidence this time around, next time I’ll take less stuff or buy a back-pack so I don’t feel quite so demoralised from the heat/exhaustion of carrying stuff all day (Plus I’ll actually eat…My first bite of food was subway when I was leaving on the Saturday). I do hope the Bring + Buy is bigger next time though, as it was particularly cramped, but I sold the last couple of games I have that I don’t want so I can be happy about that!

If anyone gets to this paragraph, thanks for reading! Apologies that I went quiet for a while, but this post should catch me up and I’ll hopefully be back to writing about Halesowen each week now!

Halesowen Board Gamers #15 (07/05/14)

Random News-y Things:
UK Games Expo No-Ship Math Trade

I mentioned this before, but the trade wasn’t actually up then. Anyway the geeklist for the no-ship math trade has been posted so if you’re thinking of joining in here’s a link ^^. Again, if anyone wants to make a trade and can’t get there themselves I don’t mind sorting it if you pass things through me at halesowen the week leading up to/week after the expo ^^.


 

Our meetup this week was pretty shoddy for me, as I wasn’t exactly in the best state of mind when I arrived. Not sure if I was just tired or something else, but I failed to say yes to any game offer and went to get a drink to avoid making a decision. Thankfully when I came back, Ian, Scott, Mike & Stan had kept a spot open at the table for a 5th player to Kingsburg for me =).

Kingsburg

Kingsburg is a dice-worker-placement game where players are building up kingdoms and fending off the evil that would attack them. Players use their workers to gather resources, fortify defences and prepare for the attack that comes at the end of each of the 5 rounds.

Each round has 8 segments to it.
1 – The player with the least buildings gets an extra dice for the next segment.
2 (Spring) – Placement Phase
3 – The player with the most buildings gets a victory point.
4 (Summer) – Placement Phase
5 – The player with the least buildings gets the ‘ambassador’ token.
6 (Autumn) – Placement Phase
7 – Each player can pay 2 resources (Wood, Gold or Stone) to gain 1 defence.
8 (Winter) – The top attack card is revealed and rewards/punishments dealt out based on players defensive strength.

In each of the 3 placement phases, players roll their dice (Each player has 3 to start with), set up player order (Lowest total first), then take turns placing them. Each space has a number from 1 to 18, to use a space you must be able to make the value of that space with your dice (E.g. a ‘4’ and a ‘5’ to take the 9 space), with ways to modify such becoming available over the game (There are ‘+2’ tokens to increase 1 dice/season, and the market building lets you modify up or down by 1). The higher the value of the space, the more resources provided, but of course you need to use more of your dice (So while a 9 might give you 2 resources, you could potentially do 2 separate placements at 3/6 to gain 2 anyway, but there’s only 1 of each space so you may get blocked).

The reason players want these resources is because at the end of each placement phase, there’s an opportunity to construct 1 building. Each player has a personal board with a 5×4 grid of buildings that can be made. There are 5 ‘categories’ of building (Y axis), and you must build from left to right, hence the more powerful buildings are on the right hand side. To construct a building, you just pay the resource cost shown to the supply, and place one of your building tokens on it to signify its’ completion. You then get the VP value for it immediately, and some ongoing effect (Such as ‘+1 to battle’ or ‘-1 to battle, but +1 dice in placement seasons).

After the 1-7 steps have occured, the attack occurs. The attacks, which steadily get harder throughout the game, just come with a number for success/failure/draw, a ‘success’ resolution and a ‘fail’ resolution. All players with a higher defence value than the monster(s) get the success, less get the failure, and draws get nothing. The player (or players) with the highest defence then get 1 bonus point and the next year begins (resetting defenses to 0), cycling until the 5th years attack has occured when the game ends, and the player with the most victory points wins. Also, when the attack occurs a D6 is rolled, with that value being added to the good sides values, so a high roll there can mitigate a poor defensive stat.

I’m not really sure what to say about our game, as I failed to catch every rule so just went with a ‘poke and prod and see what happens’ route (Which isn’t to say it was a bad explanation, I was just being bad at paying attention, and I quite like learning through trying things ^^). Because I’m just a valant, lovely person, I tried to avoid going anywhere near the defensive buildings in the early game (Although really I just wanted to see if it was valid to ignore it and focus on points/resources/etc). As a result I went for the top 2 tracks (Religious/Commerce) first. These proved slightly counter-intuitive as the religious track has nice mitigations for poor rolls, but the 3rd part of the commerce track makes it unlikely for poor rolls to happen (As it provides +1 dice). In the meantime, everyone else seemed to go heavy on the defence/battle track (Though I think Mike was going commerce quite heavily too).

Around the middle of the game I gave up on my complete ignorance of defenses as the negative effects on the attacks seem rather unnecessarily powerful. That helped me draw once again (I never beat a monster, but the first 3 rounds I did avoid the negatives for failing). In the 4th round, thanks to having tons of dice (3+Farm+Least Buildings) I was able to grab the 17 spot, that asides from resources/vps lets you look at the upcoming attack. Here’s where my not catching everything said during explanation hurt, as I knew there was a building loss in negatives, and bought a cheap building instead of defense (I placed a worker on the 3 space for 1 wood to build it, that I could have easily got onto the 5 space for 1 defence). The bit I’d missed is that the building lost is forced to be the highest ranked one you have (I had assumed it was just the rightmost on a track of your choice, so as I only had 1 in the defenses track I thought I could pick that), oops ^^.

The building I lost was my merchants guild, that I’d pretty much only just build and gave 1 gold at the start of each placement phase. The loss of it had me losing anyway, but I didn’t really try particularly hard to get points after the fact, opting to try and get the resources for church/cathedral (Which was enough points to maybe get me to near the 4th place score), but ended up 1 stone short (That wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d got the 4/5 gold the merchants guild would have provided). Seeing as I couldn’t even get close to matching anyone I didn’t bother building the church either, figuring I may as well lose in style =P.

Over the game, Stan consistently had the most buildings, and I think got the ‘1VP for most’ in at least 4 of the 5 years. Ian had the most defenses, getting the +1VP for most defence after each attack, Mike was on the least points for most of the game, but seemed to get a good engine going from commerce letting him make a good catchup near the end, and Scott definitely did things, and I even looked at his buildings a lot, and seem to have promptly forgot (sorry ^^). Not sure if it was Scott or Ian that won, but I’m sure Dave’s post will fill in that information =).

As far as opinions of the game go, I quite like it, with the placement being a really cool aspect with the choice of going for something big or splitting up your dice for multiple placements (With the latter also presenting interesting opportunities to block other players). The little bonuses every other round which have both catchup mechanisms and rewards for most buildings are a nice touch too.

What I like less is the heavy impact the attacks can have. Some attacks just hit on resources, which can hurt, but if you don’t have the resources results in losing nothing, but the ones that have a building loss is a ridiculous hit. Much as I realise that it can be prevented by building defenses properly, hitting the highest building which in my case above was a cost of 6 resources, as well as making me lose the 4VP and the effect that I needed and had invested to get, took me from having a fair chance to being in a ‘way as well not even try’ situation…all that and it heavily depends on a dice roll (As a 1 could screw half the table and had the other half victory just for having 1 better defense, while a 6 can mean the people who took time to defend get shafted as they get maybe 1 VP as a bonus for doing so). Bit of a sour feeling basically, but not enough to put me off playing again.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition

With 1 hour left, we turned our attention to the shorter game choices. Seeing as Ian has brought the Winter Edition of Carcassonne a ton of times, without it having been played, Mike opted to champion it and suggested we finally play. The game itself is identical to Carcassonne, but with winter themed art (Snow spattered buildings, snowy fields, icy roads, etc). The included expansion that we played with (Because c’mon, might as well play a different game if we’re going with different art right ^^) is called the gingerbread expansion.

For those that may not know, Carcassonne is a tile laying game where you place 1 tile each turn adjacent to another tile in an ever growing map of tiles (Matching feature to feature), then choosing to place, or not, a meeple of your colour onto a feature on that tile (Roads, Cities, Fields or Cloisters). When a feature ‘completes’ you get the meeple back (You have 7 meeples, so will need to complete things eventually). Most points when the game ends is the winner.

The gingerbread expansion we used adds 6 new tiles to the game, which are all tiles with 3/4 city tiles, but with those cities being split up (So one tile may be in 4 different cities, with a field in the middle). Each of these has a gingerbread man in the corner of the tile, letting you know that you can move the gingerbread man. The way he works is that when a city is scored with him in, or when he’s removed from a city, that city scores 1 point per tile in the city. The person that completed that city chooses an incomplete city to move him to, (Or when a gingerbread man tile is placed he’s moved). This is just a small change that makes trying to jointly occupy cities more attractive.

With our game, Scott/Ian raced out into the lead, completing many cities/roads throughout the game. Myself & Mike hung back, being on 4 points each until 1/3rd-1/2 of the tiles had already been placed! Stan occupied a middle ground, though generally closer to the frontrunners. Both me and Mike chipped into a field that was going to score a fair number of points, competing over the game for control of it before Scott slipped in a few turns before the end to match him. A tile that Ian placed managed to get an extra 1 of my meeples into the field too for a 3 way tie. The final scores had Scott way out in the lead, myself in second, Ian 3rd, Mike 4th & Stan in an unfortunate last place. Fun game, I like the gingerbread man addition, with it being the first expansion I’ve played the game with ^^ (Asides from rivers on the windows-phone version, but that doesn’t really change the gameplay, just the starting conditions). Also, 2nd place! ^^.

Halesowen Board Gamers #13 (23/04/14)

Euphoria

First game of the evening was by request from Mark – Euphoria. Euphoria has players acting as upper members of a future dystopian society where the remnants of the human race are kept in the dark about how bad the situation is through ‘bliss’ among other methods. The game is a race to gain control of the city, either for players own nefarious reasons or to incite rebellion in the masses, and to do so they must make use of workers in and around the city to gather commodities, trading them up for resources or artifacts & ultimately trading those in to gather influence (I.e. placing their authority tokens on the board, of which each player has 10 – First to run out wins).

I feel I should apologise here, as I was really bad at paying attention this week and just didn’t feel motivated to er, try very hard, getting distracted by my phone a bit too much (Windows Phone 8.1 Update, /geekmode). I’ll try to not do that again, but anyway, the game! From the start we had a bit of an almost ‘2v2′ split, with Mark/James both being Euphoria aligned, while myself and Ian had Wastelanders for initial active recruits. This split got emphasized as Mark used his starting roll – double two’s (Multiple dice of the same value can be placed in one turn) – to get energy, doing a turn 1 push on the allegiance track for Euphoria to the bonus-resource space. This meant James, who’s turn was right after, was getting bonus energy on his placements straight off, while myself/Ian weren’t able to get the bonus till turn 3 or so, ouch. I could have made up for it somewhat, with my recruit having an ability that could have got extra food from the farm, but due my lack of attention, I totally forgot for a good while and missed out on getting lots of commodities early on.

The first 2 markets in the game went to the other 3 players. The first I just missed because I was being dumb, the second I just had no chance at due timing of when it happened – The second being a block from using pairs of artifacts at artifact markets, which was a bit of a pain when I had a convenient pair that I could have used to get rid of any other negative effect. The other players (James, Mark & Ian) got their first 3-4 stars down before I even placed one, so even when I started paying a bit closer attention I’d already ruined my chances of success – plus I got no early doubles, with just 1 in the mid-game and 1 near the end (Which was just because I got a 4th worker as I was losing anyway and figured the risk was the only remote chance I had). The game ran fairly close between Mark/James, but a poor move from Mark on a Subterran market pushed the Subterra allegiance to the end, putting 1 of James’ last 2 stars down, and giving him the easy victory through his ethical dilemma. A nice win for James, who I’m glad had fun and seemed to enjoy the game much more with a second play (I believe he was less than enamoured before, having struggled to get the gist of the game from 1 play). Scores were I think 10-8-6-5 in the end.

Voluspa

We finished with plenty of time to spare, and we could have fit something longer than this choice in, but I wanted to introduce Voluspa to some new people (A game I picked up recently by trading the horrible horrible game Manhattan Project away). Voluspa is a tile-laying game where players vie to score points by placing a tile and having it be the highest numerical value in a row or column, at which point it scores for the number of tiles in that row or column. When the stack of piles runs out, the game ends and whoever has the most points is the victor!

The tiles have values from 1 to 8, with each of the 1-6 tiles having special abilities, and the 7/8 tiles just being a higher number that’s good for scoring purposes. I’ll just briefly mention them all in bullet points as a drawling paragraph doesn’t really suit talking about 6 different tiles ^^.
1 – Loki: All adjacent tiles are worth 0. (So put alongside a lone tile can score despite being worth only 1, as well as having other interesting uses).
2 – Valkyrie: If both ends of a row have a valkyrie tile, the Valkyrie automatically dominate and score, despite their ‘2’ value.
3 – Skadi: You may replace another tile with Skadi, taking the other tile into your hand.
4 – Fenrir: This tile is worth 4 + 4 for each other fenrir in the row or column you’re looking at (As such is the highest potential value of tile).
5 – Dragon: You may place this atop another tile.
6 – Troll: No tiles can be placed adjacent to a troll once it is placed, except for other trolls.

The game plays fairly quick, in 20-60 minutes depending how much people overthink things, so if you’re interested in how it goes the best way to learn about it is just to ask me for a game, but in any case: Our game went by with us all being pretty close knit on scores, Mark fell back a little early, apparently due to having valkyrie’s that he wasn’t sure where to effectively place, but caught up once he just got them placed and stopped worrying about it. The troll tiles seemed to come out fairly thickly in the first half of the game, making for a quite limited playing field (Likely why the game was fairly long, as people spent a long time convinced there’d be a good move when sometimes there simply wasn’t), with no Loki’s coming out till the second half (Which is a pain, as the can be convenient for starting valkyrie sets due to being the one thing that can get a row low enough for a Valkyrie to score without a paired tile on the other end of a line).

As it came to the last few turns, I kept back a Skadi as I knew it would give me one more turn than the others (The game ends when everyone’s out of tiles, so Skadi tiles can net you an extra turn or two) – I could only see one possibility to score enough to not come in last place, which involved taking a dragon out of a row to make it low enough that placing the dragon again would score it, but as it turned out the only other player left, Ian, had a dragon as his last tile anyway, and he swooped in and nabbed the opportunity before I could, leaving me with a useless dragon and in last place again ^^. I think the scores were the same order as Euphoria, but I’m not sure so check Dave’s post when it goes up…^^.

It was a good evening even if I was a bit lazy about my efforts in play (Apologies again). Looking forward to next week for more games, perhaps Caverna if people are interested (Just the basic game, I’m not interested in trying advanced), plus maybe Smash Up if there’s time as I’m excited for trying out the new factions (Me & a friend at work got some decks out at lunch for a quick look…steampunk time-travellers seem less promising than I hoped, with me having a hand with more than 50% ‘take X out of the discard pile into hand’ style cards in the 5-10 minutes we played, could be nice later in the game but useless with an empty discard pile)…aaaaanyway, till next time!

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!