Tag Archives: kings of air and steam

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!

Random Musings #2 (Christmas Soon!)

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

Friday – UoB Tabletop Gaming Society

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

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

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

Sunday – Apres Essen Goodie Con (Telford)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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