Thursday, April 10, 2014

Win a copy of 1066, Tears to Many Mothers!!

Dear readers of my humble blog,

How would you like to win a copy of 1066??
This is your chance to win an unused Printer Studio prototype copy of my forthcoming game 1066, Tears to Many Mothers, posted free to anywhere in the world!



Note that this is a ‘prototype only’, the cards for the official release will look substantially different - i.e. all the artwork - so this is pretty much a one time opportunity. You will receive 172 (count em!) linen finished cards with gorgeous art but you will not receive any tokens with the game (you'll need generic tokens of 2 different colours, and a first player marker would be handy). You can download the rules from the BGG 1066 files page here:


All you have to do is pop a Comment on this page below explaining why you’d like to win a copy, and the most creative/interesting response will be chosen on 31st May 2014!

NB.  This competition is not connected to the Games4GeekGold listing on BGG.

Thanks for reading and good luck!



Tristan

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No more games - play what you’ve got! Part 2, Return of the Living Deck Builders


I’ve banned new games from being purchased in 2014 to allow us a year to play through all the games we’ve already got – and there are a fair few of them, though a very modest collection compared to many other gamers.  If a brilliant, must-have game emerges this year I’ll just have to wait to see if it survives a few months of fair reviewing and the cult of the new to become a lasting classic, and if so I should theoretically have no problem picking it up in 2015 anyway. 

Truth be told, we’ve not passed the first quarter and I’m already wavering a little on this rule with the launch of the MERCS Recon Kick Starter.  If it goes anywhere near as mental as Myth it will be too good to resist given the amount of toys on offer for the standard pledge amount.  I pledged Captain on Myth and I’m worried about the seeming lack of structure and rules palava but very much looking forward to my international package arriving, whenever that might be.  And once our American friends sort out the rules FAQs and make us some nice reference sheets to get stuck in with I’m sure the whole game will run like a dream… 

Anyway, I’m definitely keeping an eye on Recon too to see how it goes, and already threw in my dollar pledge to keep up with their updates, and also because – despite all the rules hassles and apparent issues with Myth - they genuinely seem like a great bunch of guys.  Also, the Fireteam Zero KS game looks sweet too, with a great theme and cool minis…  Must.  Resist…

February was all about play-testing 1066, and getting to grips with Sedition Wars, which was an unexpected development considering I’d only originally bought the game for parts.  But Sedition Wars turned out to be a neat replacement for Space Hulk, which you can read all about if you scroll all the way down to, um, the next sentence…





Sedition Wars: The Battle for Alabaster

I didn't KS the game, and judging from the hate in the BGG forums I feel really bad for those that did.  But it was going ridiculously cheap in the UK last year (£20 for 50+ minis in the core set) and I needed the gluing and assembly practice for when [thing=55690]Kingdom Death[/thing] arrives.  I was dreading the process, but the barrier to entry on the game turned out to be even more enormous for me than I’d thought:

  • The rules are a mess and took a thorough re-re-reading, with much head scratching.
  • I had to glue in all the FAQ updates to the rulebook, and some of those didn't make sense either.
  • Having not assembled minis since a Warhammer skeleton set when I was a kid (I should post pics of those – they’re hilarious, like each dude has a giant mutant fungal infection, if fungus looked like massive glue globs) I had to invest in some precision sprue clippers.
  • I had a nightmare with poly cementing the figures because they all just fell apart overnight, undoing all of my meticulous work, that was one disappointing morning.  Lesson learnt – don’t bother with poly cement.
  • Eventually got some loctite glue from eBay and spent three nights gluing the buggers together (everything except for the big monster's mouth tentacles, which I’ve left in the box to this day as being too fiddly for now).
  • Managed to glue my forefinger and thumb together too, which are now permanently in the 'A-okay' pose.
  • Then we had to pilfer the doors from Space Crusade as the game doesn't come with any, even though they're pretty essential to the gameplay.
  • Then we had to nick the tiny red dice from Warhammer Quest to track character's health because the wound counters were too cluttered.
  • Had to buy a hobby box to store all the counters in, which are poor quality paper counters, a few ripped whilst being punched, and paper particles were [i]everywhere[/i].
  • Then when we finally played there was much rules up-looking on BGG required midgame too.
  • Also, the tiles are afflicted by the dreaded warping.
  • Universal Head's rules summary is essential to play it as are his updated character cards, so thanks once again UH for saving the day.
  • And I still have to paint the minis.  Luckily I’m not a minis painter, so that will probably never happen.  Although, now that I’ve moderately successfully tackled gluing minis…
  • Anyway, had I known there would be so much prep involved I might have avoided it altogether.


All that said, when we finally got to play, I was quickly addicted!

  • There is way more going on here than in Space Hulk for example, with tons of individual character abilities, which can be activated in different ways on different turns.
  • There are cool terrain features to interact with which change the landscape of each scenario.
  • The flavour text is great, and really bulks out the huge rules book, though I didn’t read all of the flavour because…  it really bulks out the huge rules book.
  • The back and forth play of actions and reactions makes for incredibly tactical and tense games.
  • The minis are some of the best I've seen, and I especially love the overall look of the Vanguard figs.
  • The tile art is really nice, if a little dark.
  • And for a few weeks earlier this year this was all we played.
  • The theme is a total winner for me, and it feels a little more gritty and nasty – vanguards getting infected and mutating into baddies, corpses turned into radioactive spores which can turn into monsters too - than say, Doom, which I also enjoy, but which is more cartoony.  I think I prefer Sedition Wars.
  • The force points totals for choosing your guys each mission gradually open up as you progress through the scenarios, which means you can learn the basics with the first scenario and then you get to move on and access the bigger dudes and abilities as you go along.  I’m really looking forward to opening up the bigger squads and bringing out the big guns.  On both sides.
  • In fact I'd happily go back to play it again right now, whilst the rules are still vaguely in my head, preferably.
  • And now I also have some basic glue skills to apply to KD:M when it lands…


In our first two games I bagged two wins against Sam as the Strain, and the first game could not have been closer, with it coming down to the last die roll, which is kinda what you want in a game like this.
Then we played another session the week after and as I was the Vanguard in scenario 2 Sam wiped me out handily, which does mean that currently the Strain are unbeaten.  But I think it’s too early with a game like this to judge if the Strain are over-powered, it certainly didn’t feel like it in our second game.
Definitely want to play again with more force points to see more of the game and to try for a win as the Vanguard, but overall, and more importantly - for the price I paid - this was a really great purchase.

Games played in 2014 = 3
Rating in 2014 = 7.5



Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game

Took quite a few sessions over the years with the base game alone before I realised I needed every expansion going for this game.  Started by picking up Survival of the Fittest, which I think was a mistake as Growing Hunger makes for a more sensible progression, and SotF assumes you’ve already read the GH rules anyway.  But once I picked them all up we were off, all the expansion decks got shuffled in, and we haven’t looked back.

We decided to have a bash at Plague Carriers, because it didn’t look too complex, and I think we’d only played it once before.  Sam played the zombies, with me as Victor the crim and Goddard the teach, whilst Dan was Sally the schoolgirl and Sam the diner cook.  We hobbled off to a tricky start but soon tooled up our heroes.  With fairly few wounds and some meek resistance from the Walkers, we raced out of hiding and hopped around the board getting head shots on all the plagueys with some added dynamite fun from Goddard and his permanent ‘lighter’, handily wiping them out with about 7 turns to go on the sun tracker.
As light and breezy as this is once you get past all the rules and FAQ issues, and as dice and card reliant as the luck is, LNoE is such a fun game, it will always have a place in the collection, even though it can sometimes go long for what it is.  And occasionally, like this time, the end result can be pre-determined maybe sooner than you’d like.

I’m intrigued by the levelling up rules from Timber Peak, but I’m not seeing the value in getting that as well as the base game now that we already have the LNoE expansions instead, and there just isn’t room in the collection for both.  Plus LNoE has so much replayability built in.  I’m also reminded that I picked up the Horror Clix game Freddie Vs Jason for £2 a few years ago, and the minis and bits from that went straight into the box for LNoE.  Which means at some point I’m going to have to sit down and design that Freddie Vs Jason Vs Zombies Vs Heroes scenario…

Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 9
Rating in 2014 = 8




Thunderstone

I love the art style for this game, love it.  I really like the idea of light and its impact on the different levels of the dungeon, but I think it’s poorly executed.  It’s just basic maths at the end of the day, but it detracts a lot from what you’re doing whilst you’re working it out, even after a few plays, and there’s so much adding and subtracting that you really get less of a feel of dungeon exploring, which is ostensibly what this game is.  I hear they’ve tightened this up in the new edition, but I’m not really interested in re-buying the game again.

However, as a light deck builder, this passes the time nicely.  The random setups give tons of replayability, but can deliver some occasionally very odd gaming combos.  This particular session we ended up with only really high cost heroes in the line up, which meant it took us longer to get going, but then we beasted through the dungeons more quickly once we were up and running.  The pace was pretty even, though it felt like Sam was dominating for the most part, levelling up his heroes more often than I was.  But all those extra village visits would be his undoing as I just kept chipping away at all the monsters, and eventually beat him to the Thunderstone for the victory.  Just.  The scores were 47 to 45!

A good solid deck builder, but not the best deck builder…

Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 8



Dominion

Sam properly kicked my arse at this.
I’ve still got tons of respect for it as the daddy of Deck Building Games.  But it feels like most other DBGs have improved dramatically on the design since.  This feeling might be mitigated with expansions, but why bother doing that when you can build on better DBGs already instead?  And there are so many Dominion expansions I’m not sure I’d know, or care, where to start.

That said, it’s a good, fast playing game, with occasional minor confrontation thrown in with certain cards in the random set up, like Militias and Thieves.  Again I like the card art in this game, which I’m a sucker for, though the box art is bafflingly rubbish – seems like a missed opportunity there, but certainly didn’t hurt its sales figures!  I don’t really get the feeling of building my city, but then I don’t really get much thematic satisfaction from deck builders, because everything you build or develop quickly disappears into your big stack of cards.  I think Mage Knight (or even Pathfinder) handles this deck building implementation more ‘thematically’ by making it a set of spells, items and actions you have available, instead of buildings or people that occasionally pop up, depending on what hand you’re dealt.

I’m developing this deck building mechanic as one element for my horror game Blackmoor, where your deck is a set of emotions your hero has.  Playing emotions drives the actions available to you, and as you explore the game, your more placid emotions are gradually replaced with more extreme anxieties, fears and rages, as your hero starts to gradually lose it from the events he’s witnessing.  So, for example, if you see flitting shadows in a darkened room you might get an anxiety card, but if you see a massive rearing tentacled beastie you get a terror card.  An anxiety card might help you to run away from something, but a terror card is less likely to help you, it might even drive you to do something crazy to get rid of it, like murdering an ally or stranger.  And of course if you don’t get rid of that terror card, and it’s still in your deck come the endgame, well, then really bad things are going to happen to you...  Since deck-building decks are constantly in flux I think mechanically it fits nicely with how a person’s emotions are constantly in flux, whereas more fixed game elements, like items or people will stay out in play independently of the deck building aspect of the game.

Anyway, rambling aside, Dominion am good, but not as fun as the other DBGs.

Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 7
Rating in 2014 = 7



Rune Age

Okay, so here’s my current favourite strictly DBG (i.e. not Mage Knight) deck builder.
This is a hugely underrated gem of a game, with loads of different play styles which are all thoroughly fleshed out and enjoyable.  There’s a nice solo option, some great competitive scenarios, some which have direct conflict and plenty of attacking each other, some are more like competitive races, and then, especially with the expansion included – and you really do need the expansion if you get this game, for the extra units, variety and races – there are really cool cooperative scenarios too.

We decided on the competitive racing type for this session with two games of Monument, which we’d not played before (I won both sessions).  This is yet another great scenario, where you’re racing to build your civilisation’s great wonder or, er, Monument.  This is a great, really enjoyable game in any case.  Beautiful art, typical of FFG, set vaguely in the Runebound world, and with the random card load-outs and asymmetrical starting races, punishing event cards in all the scenarios, and the varying scenarios themselves, there is a ton of quality variety and replayability in this comparatively teeny tiny box.  The die roll when tackling events adds a really sweet element of tactical pressure – do I go and smite this dragon now with a potentially under-prepared force, or do I wait until I’ve got the firepower to tackle it and potentially risk my opponent getting there first?  There are also plenty of opportunities to sneakily steal your opponent’s cities and cause havoc with his deck too.  Actually notched this up a point in the rating because it plays so quickly and easily.  Definitely on a par with Resident Evil for best deck builder, probably even better than RE though.

Games played in 2014 = 2
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 9




1066: Tears to Many Mothers

We’ve been play-testing the crap out of my latest two player game design, 1066, Tears to Many Mothers, and I’m really delighted with the results.  Plays much faster and more aggressively than Fantasy Quest, which makes sense since it’s a more directly competitive conflict game, and with a much simpler rules set, which is much kinder on my feeble designer brain when I have to explain how to play it to others.

I put a ton of time and effort (like, hundreds of hours so far) into getting the little historical details to match up with the gameplay where possible, writing in as many of the characters and events involved in the battle of Hastings as I could, whilst keeping the deck sizes relatively pared down – currently just 77 cards on each side - though there are obviously narrative jumps and embellishments to aid the overall playability.  And every card has its own bit of historical flavour text so you might actually learn something as you go.  I should really start pitching this format to schools!  Re-living and re-writing one of the most important battles of the middle ages has never been so much fun!

We’ve repeatedly swapped sides and tinkered and tested and though they’re asymmetrically designed, both decks are evening out in the wash in terms of balance, and more importantly, fun.  There are plenty of cards on both sides which can trigger a moan of despair from your opponent, but also plenty of nasty quick-death cards to effectively counter them.  My mate at work, despite getting his arse kicked every time, keeps asking to play it at lunchtime, which has been an absolute god-send in terms of getting repeated play-testing in.  He finally, literally, beat me at my own game yesterday, now that familiarity with the cards and tactics is beginning to set in, especially in the little details – like manoeuvring Units and Characters into their most effective slots (e.g. the Norman cavalry were stationed at the rear, whilst the Saxon housecarles led the shield walls from the front, so if you can match those positions with your cards you’ll get a bonus), just like in the real battle.  And my gamer buddies have greatly enjoyed trying to break it, of course.  It even gets asked for like, you know, a regular game now, to kick-start the night.  :D

So many games, so many stats, but the most notable victories are the down to the nail ones, where both sides have claimed a Wedge each and are fighting hard for every single point of damage on that last Wedge.  Or when Harold gets his last point of health taken out by an Arrow to the Eye.  Or when the Saxons bagged that final Wedge battle by careful manipulation of… Drinking and Singing, literally drinking and singing their way to victory!

After compiling tons of feedback on everything from the rules, to the card template layouts, to the balance, quantity and relative strength of every card, I’ve ordered the latest and probably final version of the cards from Printer Studio and I cannot wait for them to arrive.  :)

Games played in 2014 = Many.  Tears.  To Mothers.

Oh, and here's a pic of Sam and me throwing down on 1066 at the GNOME 2014 Bolton gaming event, image courtesy of William Riley:




  
So that’s it for now, hopefully I’ll do a catch up again soon.  Here follows the rest of the games we want to get through this year.  Oh, and World of Warcraft: the Board Game has finally gone, I ditched it for £20 at the Bolton gaming event.  Slow and steady wins the race.

A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game
Arkham Horror
Call of Cthulhu: Collectible Card Game
Claustrophobia
Constantinopolis
Dark Darker Darkest
Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
Doom: The Boardgame
Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth
Dungeon Lords
Dungeoneer: Vault of the Fiends
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game
Eclipse
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game
Gears of War: The Board Game
Gloom of Kilforth: A Fantasy Quest Game
HeroQuest
Invaders
Lord of the Rings
Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport
Magic Realm
Omen: A Reign of War
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
Resident Evil Deck Building Game
Return of the Heroes
Revolver
Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
Space Crusade
Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
Star Wars: The Card Game
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Talisman
The Ares Project
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
War of the Ring (first edition)
Warhammer Quest
When Darkness Comes
Zombies!!!
1066, Tears to Many Mothers




Friday, March 07, 2014

1066, Tears to Many Mothers - more spoilers...

Ey up - here are a few more cards for those who are interested to have a sneak peek at:







Wednesday, February 26, 2014

1066, Tears to Many Mothers Rules v1.0

Here is the rulebook to my new game 1066, Tears to Many Mothers - any questions please ask away!


I just designed my own photo gift

And now you can see a sneak preview of all the cards on Printer Studio here:


I just designed my own photo gift:



Premium 310gsm (linen) Poker Size Custom Cards (Blank Cards) Playing Cards 1, 13 or 54 photos, $18.24

2014 catch up, creativity and "1066, Tears To Many Mothers" gamers wanted!

EDIT - 1066 has now been added to the BGG database here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/155122/1066-the-tears-of-many-mothers



For numerous horrible reasons 2013 was a difficult year for us.  I’m not going to dwell on it, and I’m determined to minimise its impact on 2014.  The end result is that after an unusually long drought, I’ve recently undergone a period of renewed creativity, the first in a long time.  The kind where ideas keep me awake at night so I have to pen them down and get them worked out as quickly as possible.

Truthfully I’d been banging my head against the wall on a follow up to Fantasy Quest, basically a similar game with similar mechanics, in a horror setting with more of a focus on story and interactive decision making than combat, magic and levelling up.  The players are characters lost in a dark village where ‘very bad things’ are happening.  As they discover secrets about themselves their characters use emotions as resources to play actions which help them investigate their personal stories.  When their fears grow and their contentedness recedes their actions become more extreme and the game becomes more dangerous.  What combat there is happens quickly and is often deadly for the players.  Depending on the players’ ability to stay on top of the situation the board can actually be flipped over as the village literally goes to hell.  I was tiptoeing around the HPL mythos but wanting to develop more of a Hellraiser/Silent Hill type feel in an unspecified era of time.  As the number of choices each player has in each encounter grew the game’s complexity started to widen, and I didn’t want to lose that sense of exploring and mystery.  But I hit a certain mechanical blockage and will have to return to the game another time.  I still think there’s plenty of mileage in the ideas and will revisit it someday, but basically it was becoming too elaborate for me to focus on at this time so it has been shelved for the time being.

Luckily, I’ve had many other ideas percolating over the years…

As a child I always loved the history behind the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and particularly the Battle of Hastings as a key event in that conquest, and I ended up studying medieval history at college.  That such an instrumental event in English history was decided over the course of one battle in one day, and the heroism of and myths about both sides in the conflict always captured my imagination.  When Edward the Confessor died in January of 1066 he was succeeded by King Harold II, but numerous other claimants decided the English throne was theirs instead.  King Harold was quickly betrayed by his scheming brother Earl Tostig, who convinced Harald Hardrada, leader of the Vikings to try to take the throne.  Hardrada soon invaded from Norway, landing in the north-east of England and successfully defeating the English forces in the north.

In response King Harold set a still-unbroken world record by marching his soldiers 200 miles north in just 4 days to meet the Vikings at Stamford Bridge.  The trek was so unprecedented that Harold took the Vikings by surprise and defeated them so decisively that he ended the Viking threat to Britain for good.  But meanwhile Duke William of Normandy had been making his own plans to invade from the south and had already set sail for the shores of our fair country.  Once Harold received news of William’s invasion he had to march his soldiers the 200 miles back down south to meet and battle the Normans too.

And this is where my latest game ‘1066, Tears to Many Mothers’ comes in!

For a long time the game’s incarnation had been as a miniatures/cubes battle game on a map, and progress on it had been pretty slow.  So much of the game had been card-based that as soon as I made the decision to abandon the board fully and make it solely a card game, everything clicked and the game finally came together.  Fundamentally inspired by game mechanics from the likes of Magic the Gathering and The Lord of the Rings LCG but without the collectible nature, 1066 is a two player, non-collectible, asymmetric, competitive card game in the style of Magic, The Call of Cthulhu LCG, Mark Chaplin’s Aliens and even the Uncharted Board Game, which puts players in charge of the Normans or the Saxons and recreates the historic Battle of Hastings.

With a focus on quick, tactical play and a thematic abstraction of the events of the time, there is no deck building required, each player simply grabs his deck and shuffles and play begins.  And whilst there is a focus on some of the legends and mythology of the time you are to be warned, this game may also contain historical information.  :P

After putting the final touches together, I sat down with Sam to road test it, and I was really delighted with the results.  The first few play-tests of Fantasy Quest had been abortive at best and the development process continued for a long time after.  It had been a little soul-destroying (if ultimately very constructive) to have my close friends and family rip Fantasy Quest apart inch by inch forcing me to rebuild it into a much sturdier shape.  But the mechanics of 1066 are so much simpler and directly interactive that we were able to make a couple of minor adjustments on the fly here and there, with a lot of lessons learnt from my other games.  So when we reached the knuckle biting finish of our first game I was buzzing, even if Sam did strike the final blow and win the game.  And then quickly follow it up with another victory by slaying my King Harold with some truly devious card play culminating with an Arrow to the Eye…



Although greatly abstracted, like the real battle the game is fought over three Wedges with players comparing the Might of their cards in each Wedge.  The winner each round inflicts damage on that Wedge equal to the difference, and each Wedge has 10 Health.  The first player to defeat two Wedges wins the game.  Sounds simple, but of course, the game is all in the card play and the varying card abilities.  Each Wedge has three Rows, so players can play up to 9 Units or Characters at a time, with up to 3 Tactics cards in a 4th ‘Reserves’ Row.

But before players can duke it out at Hastings each side has a series of Objectives they must first overcome, such as crossing the channel to invade England, or marching back down south from Stamford Bridge to meet the invading Normans.  These act as miniature battles in themselves with players inflicting damage on the Objectives to defeat them, whilst also bringing their forces into play for the final showdown where one player will determine the fate of Britain!



And now the beta version is ready for the wider world!  I’ve tried to pare the rules down into a single reference card, which might make sense to seasoned gamers with the decks in their hands, but will no doubt provoke many questions too.  Here it is for reference:




So if your interest is piqued and you’d like to play the game just let me know below or by PM and I’ll make the PDFs available to you.  Please note that as with my other designs, the graphics are all mine but the art is only placeholder stuff and not final of course.

Here are some teasers of the cards:












The Wax seal shows their cost to play in Resources.  You can discard cards for Resources on a 1 to 1 basis, and other cards in play can grant you extra resources.
The cross shows the Character's (or Unit's) Zeal.  Whoever has the most Zeal in a Wedge each round scores 1 extra bonus damage on that Wedge.  The swords represent Might, and the heart represents Health.

This is an ‘Alt Wars’ card game and if there is enough interest I will eventually follow it up with other famous battles, such as Agincourt.

There will be more info forthcoming about the game on this very blog here, so keep your eyes peeled.

FYI, the title quote comes from Eilmer of Malmesbury, writing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1066.  He had seen Halley’s Comet in its perihelian passage and by all accounts it blazed in the sky for days, causing much concern to the medieval inhabitants of Britain.  So much so that Eilmer claimed it foretold the end of his country as he knew it, and he was right:

"You've come, have you? You've come, you source of tears to many mothers, you evil. I hate you! It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country. I hate you!"
- Eilmer of Malmesbury, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066.



And finally, for those of you who have scrolled all the way down here, my next game is a coop and has you take a ‘present day to near future’ squad of elite soldiers up against a series of enemy bases and targets over the course of a military campaign.  You’ll be levelling up your squad, purchasing new gear, upgrades and skills, infiltrating lairs, hacking security, and taking out terrorists, rebels and their henchmen through the scope of a sniper rifle, down the barrel of a machine gun or with the blade of your knife as you choose your own specialist approach to tackling each objective.  Sort of Phantom Leader with commandos instead of aeroplanes…

Friday, February 14, 2014

1066, Tears to Many Mothers

Here's a sneak preview of my next new game, 1066, Tears to Many Mothers:



More info here too:

http://ratdorg.blogspot.co.uk/p/1066-tears-of-many-mothers.html

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

No more new games - play what you’ve got!


Inspired by chats with fellow BGG user boom04, and after reading numerous other gamer blogs about playing x games x times, I’ve decided to put a ban on new games being purchased in 2014, with the sort of cop-out caveat that ‘expansion purchases only’ are still allowed.  Whilst saving shelf space and cash and pleasing my non-gamer wife at the same time, it will also allow us a year to play through all the games we’ve already got – and there are a fair few of them, though a very modest collection compared to many other gamers.  If a brilliant, must-have game emerges this year I’ll just have to wait to see if it survives a few months of fair reviewing and the cult of the new to become a lasting classic, and if so I should theoretically have no problem picking it up in 2015 anyway.  I’m also prepared to be proved wrong and break my ban if it’s THAT good.  However, since I have three Kick Starters on their way this year already - Myth, Kingdom Death: Monster and Shadows of Brimstone (spot a pattern??) - we should have enough to be going on with anyway.

So Sam and I, and whoever we can drag in along the way, are going to go through the collection and tick each game off as we go until we’ve tried the whole list.  Outside of play-testing my new designs and solo gaming I usually only really get a weekly evening of proper gaming so actually playing through everything we’ve got solidly might prove tricky.  So far, in January, we’ve managed to stick to the plan though, so I’m interested to see if and how that persists.  I’m going to outline the games played, a brief overview or mini-review of my experiences with said games, and then at the end of the year maybe even decide which ones are for the trade pile and fight my instinct to not trade anything away.  Here are some thoughts on key games, some games that we won’t really need to play, and also what we’ve played so far in no particular order…




Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

I genuinely had a bout of buyer’s remorse after picking TtA up at UK Games Expo 2012 for a whopping £60, and I figured that despite my enthusiasm for the Civilisation theme it would probably never get played due to time and complexity.  It was a minor agony to pick up and get into rules-wise so when we finally did get around to playing it we took it in stages as the rulebook suggests.  The Basic game in one week’s session, the Advanced game the next, and finally the Full game the week after, with a few rules lookups on BGG.  After that it soon became the regular fixture for three of us for a good few months in 2013 and I absolutely loved it.  After years of gaming, this complex yet bland-looking Euro – albeit with one of my favourite themes ever (always loved Civ on the PC) – unseated all of the trashier minis games and adventure games in my collection to became a strong contender for my favourite game of all time.  And to be honest it remains a contender to this day too.  Nothing beats that feeling of taking a couple of almost cave dudes with pointy sticks and evolving them over the course of an evening (but really over centuries of empire building) into fighter pilots and astronauts.  However, once we discovered the brilliant http://boardgaming-online.com (BGO) the game – and my learning and enjoying it – really took off.  After a comparative handful of weekly TtA games in real life over a few months I’d soon racked up over 100+ games online, and I sometimes won some too.  The online version takes away all the aggro of setting up, playing and tearing down a 5-6 hour game and…  drags it out over days and weeks instead!  But it works beautifully and you can just take it one turn at a time.  I’ll always want the option of being able to pull out the real thing though, and nothing beats that tactility of real cards and physically building your empire over pizzas and beers.

Real life games played in 2014 = 0
Online games played in 2014 = 30+, most of them ongoing



Eclipse

The only thing that knocked TtA aside from its regular weekly spot in 2013 (apart from the fact that we went digital with BGO) was the discovery of another little semi-Euro game called Eclipse, which is weirdly similar to TtA, but which also has plastic space ships which can explore the galaxy and blow shit up.  Seriously I love so much about this game: the awesome components, the development of techs, the blueprints of the ships as you gradually tool up, the absolutely brilliant mathematical way your planets build your economy in science, material and money – it’s just so ‘neat’, the little ships multiplying as your power grows, the exploration aspect of this game, something which I really miss in TtA, and finally, the theme really beautifully evokes Mass Effect, Star Trek, Star Wars, and even the books of Iain M Banks.  I’ve had much less success at winning Eclipse than TtA – I’m not confident enough yet to be aggressive enough I think - but I enjoy it almost as much.  Eclipse became our weekly go-to game in 2013 up until our regular number three player, unfortunately for us, upped and left us to move to Dubai, fortunately for him.  Eclipse definitely works better with three or more players (four players works really nicely) so it won’t see as much play when there are just two of us, though occasionally we are able to rope other victims into playing it too.  It’s on the list in any case, and even if we can’t get a bigger group, Sam and I are going to battle it out at some point and hope that the increased AI presence from the expansion content still keeps us busy and engaged enough.

Games played in 2014 = 0 yet, hopefully this will change soon



Nations

This was an intriguing prospect from the outset, a pared down TtA without all the hassle of setup and tear-down, taking it in turns to take turns - like Eclipse (instead of taking all your actions at once in TtA and then going to put the pizzas in whilst you wait for your next turn), less hassle of upkeep and corruption, more even-handed wars that don’t effectively remove players from the game for hours, etc.  So I squeezed it in as a last minute Christmas 2013 purchase before the gaming embargo slammed down.  It had good stock for me coming from the Lautapeli guys who made Eclipse, and when I opened the box I was only mildly disappointed to see that they’d taken the bland graphic design of TtA and made it…. slightly less bland.  The artwork is a moderate improvement, and the variety of cards is great.  That you’ll only get to see a handful of them each game increases replayability but changes it up from a strategic race to grab the cards you know are eventually coming (in TtA) to a reactive, tactical game based on what might be coming down the line.  It’s unlikely but you might never see any Leaders for example.  Or Advisors as Nations calls them.
It plays a hell of a lot faster than TtA - in one session in January we were able to play three games in one evening.  The solo option is great too and as I’ve said elsewhere it is a doddle to grasp, but a bugger to master, as it should be, and is a great tool for learning the game. There are extra event tiles included specifically for the solo game and a lot of thought has clearly gone into this side of it, which I appreciate, and it rates your play by comparing you to a famous leader like the old Civ PC games used to, so you have a score to strive to beat each time.
I've played about 8 solo games now and would happily break it out again soon. This potentially gives me an unfair advantage in multiplayer games, but you can (and I have) offset that by using the included setup rules to start off on a harder level to other players by producing less resources each turn.
On the whole, I love it and think it will replace TtA in 'real life' for the most part, mainly due to play time, though I will never part with my TtA.

Games played in 2014 = 3



Agricola          

Medieval farming – ugh.  How did this get in here?  Well, I’d been asking for recommendations for Euro games to buy (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/637276/ameritrasher-wants-a-euro/page/1) and Agricola had held the top spot on BGG for so long I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Since I usually prefer guns, swords, dice, monsters and theme in my games the notion of breaking out ‘the farming game’ isn’t usually appealing to me.  But it was on the list, Sam had spanked me at it last time, and I remember enjoying trying to beat my score in the solo version, so we broke it out.  And it was way more enjoyable than I remember!  In fact I seem to remember thinking this exact same thing last time we played.  After some careful agonising and repeatedly bagging the first turn marker just so Sam could not, I managed to build the best farm I’ve ever made and filled every farm space, which I often don’t manage to do.  I also blocked him on the family reproduction and this resulted in a resounding victory which could have coloured my opinion of the game – last time he wiped the floor with me so maybe we only enjoy games we win!  I really like, and am equally frustrated by, having to choose which actions you can do each turn out of the many that you want to.  And seeing this mechanism carried over into much more thematic games like Robinson Crusoe makes me appreciate just how cool worker placement games can be.  It also has to be said that with the animeeples the components really are quite nice, and it’s a pleasant game to look at, though not beautiful.
So many other games owe Agricola a debt and it’s easy to see why.  I think I’d enjoy it more if at the end you had to fend off an army of orcs which came to burn down your farm, but as it stands it’s still a pretty great game, and we’ve not even cracked open the Komplex card decks yet!  Next time…

Games played in 2014 = 1



Runebound (Second Edition)

Thematically, this is more like it for me – high adventure in a magical world!  That said I’ve racked up some negative experiences with FFG, and their games, and particularly their games’ tendencies towards being beautiful on the surface but bloated and messy underneath.  Unfortunately Runebound embodies these traits quite heavily, and this session was a reminder as to why it doesn’t get played often.
We had to use a few variants to make it more manageable and interesting.  We always play 4 XP to level up instead of 5 because 5 would literally be unbearable – next time we’ll probably play the one where it costs 1+n XP to level up where ‘n’ is the number of level ups you already have.  We’ve got loads of the small deck expansions so the treasure deck is split into the three types (allies, magic, and armour/weapons) and three of each card go into each city’s market deck so that you don’t get hosed if you’ve been dealt the wrong hero class.  Luckily we both had fighters so that wasn’t too much of an issue this time around.  You also have to use Judd Jensen’s excellent Cities of Adventure rules or the cities are boring as hell.  And with hindsight we probably should have used Mr Skeletor’s Midnight/Doom Track from the solo play variant just to have a stronger time limit.  It was an enjoyable game bashing baddies, experiencing bizarre and occasionally pointless events (I had an old hero’s ghost helplessly following Sam around for almost the entire game until he finally decided to whack it on the ghostly head), and levelling up, and there’s a metric ton of variation with the little expansions mixed in.  Though it totally vexes me how the easier green and yellow cards dramatically outweigh the more difficult blue and red cards in quantity, when in actuality you’re looking to move on from green and yellow encounters asap, and the reds which you encounter every game, are limited to just a small handful, it just means that all that green and yellow variety is wasted, whilst the reds become repetitious.  It eventually came down to us both having two out of the three runes required to win, but it went on far too long, well over 3 hours, and after it became obvious that Sam was going to beat me to that final rune, it still took another good twenty minutes to play out the inevitable conclusion.  And those movement dice.  :yuk:  I think I remember defending them years ago, but now I just find them overly complex for what little they achieve.
Overall, it was slightly less enjoyable than I remember, and it dragged with two players so I’d hate to play it with more players, it seems designed almost for solo play – if the included solo doom track rules weren’t completely broken.  But Sam enjoyed it more this time around, so again, maybe the enjoyment is more to do with who wins the game…  ;)

Games played in 2014 = 1
                                                                                                     


Defenders of the Realm

I still love this and would happily play it regularly, we had a great time play-testing the free expansion material, and a load of extra expansion content for Richard, particularly the hopefully forthcoming Companions and Catacombs expansion.  Great mechanics, amazing Elmore art, which I was practically raised on with AD&D, and a real sense of tension all the way through, this is easily one of the best coops available.
Sam is slightly less enamoured with it at the moment though.  We lost three times in a row on all the basic settings, which was somewhat of a surprise since the last few times we played it we had no trouble thrashing those generals.  The Wizard and Sorceress didn’t show up in all three games so maybe that had something to do with it.  I love Defenders of the Realm, I think it nicely fills a grand fantasy war adventure niche, and the support of its designer Richard Launius in supplying continuing free content to expand the experience and of its champion, my man DrCrow, in answering any and all rules questions, are just the highest bar set for board games - Eagle Games are so lucky to have both of them involved.  I’m buzzing for the next trove of content that Richard will dream up for this beauty.

Games played in 2014 = 3


                       
Mage Knight Board Game     

This is another long, long game, and one session of it took all night, a session which I won fairly decisively.  Sam played Krang and I played Wolfhawk and we played a standard Conquest game with all the new stuff shuffled in but none of the new scenarios and no Volkare.
It has to be said, I love Mage Knight.  The wealth of decisions, the way the world randomly populates as it goes, the effects of terrain, the varying encounters, reputation, influence, the deck building and levelling up – it all adds up to a really intricate and detailed package, with tons of brain burning decisions to be made every turn.  Thematically I’m not fond of it all taking place over just three days, I’d prefer it if each action represented a day or something, and I’m not familiar with, nor very interested in, the MK world, but these are very small complaints.  Between this and TtA I became a huge Vlaada fanboy, and that led to my impulse purchase of Dungeon Lords, which I still haven’t yet tried.  As a solo game, Mage Knight is pretty peerless.  As a multiplayer game, as Sam rightly pointed out, it’s a lot like you’re playing different games on the same board at the same time.  Outside of PvP, much like Runebound – though a far superior game to Runebound - there’s little else you can do to influence each other, and the PvP is of no real interest.  I get that the threat of it might add an edge to the game or whatever, but if you come to blows in a two player game like this it’s going to seriously affect the rest of the game one way or another.  Next time we’ll play one of the cooperative Volkare scenarios instead.

Games played in 2014 = 1



Dungeons & Dragons: The Fantasy Adventure Board Game

We broke this out over the hols at the family’s when we had a little downtime and there were no other board games around.  If time permitted I wouldn't actually mind finishing the campaign, more for closure than anything, but this is not a bad little dungeon crawler.  Very simplistic, it’s sort of aimed at families or kids, much like HeroQuest.  The levelling up is too arbitrary for me (you finish x adventures so you go up a level) and we haven’t yet reached the more complex scenarios, so it’s more of a little goblin basher early on.  Also, again like HeroQuest, it’s really not that much fun for the DM player.  Will probably hang on to this until my son is old enough to play, but at the moment it’s really just extra parts for the D&D Adventure System games like Castle Ravenloft.

Games played in 2014 = 3



Forbidden Island

Okay, this is kind of a cheat too because I haven’t played much of the actual board game in ages.  However, it deserves a mention because I have played loads of games of it on the iPad because it plays so quickly.  I probably wouldn't break it out in ‘real life’ unless I'm introducing new players/kids – it made a great present for my 8 and 9 year old nephews for example.  I love the simplicity of the game and the theme, the artwork is absolutely beautiful, and I just think it’s really a perfect little game.  I don’t know why the Forbidden Desert theme doesn’t really do anything for me, I guess it doesn’t seem as exotic or interesting somehow – if they were movies I’d be more interested in seeing Forbidden Island than Forbidden Desert.  I guess I should give Desert a go sometime.  Maybe it’ll make another nice present for my now 9 and 10 year old nephews…  But yes, Forbidden Island will remain in the collection as a gateway game should the need ever arise to introduce somebody to gaming this way.  If it comes to game night though, I’d much rather play and get my teeth into something meatier.

Games played in 2014 (on iOS) = 10



Uncharted: The Board Game

Played an absolute crap ton of this at work last year – over 50 games – with a work-mate who’s not strictly a board gamer but who loves the PS3 games.  Thought I'd be burnt out on it but actually still enjoy it when I do get the chance to play.  It helps to be a fan of the theme because it is quite pasted on, and I’m not a fan of the ‘stills from the video game’ art, nor the very basic graphic design, which is actually a bit of a ball-ache when you’re recompiling the decks at the end of each game (Why do normal treasures have the same borders as normal action cards?  Why??), and indeed it seems like a little bit of a wasted opportunity given how rich and beautiful a game based on the Uncharted series could and should be.  But there’s something extremely compelling in its quick fire, highly tactical, take-that style gameplay that just makes every game a tense and very enjoyable battle for your life – grab the treasures, shoot the bad guys, beat your mates, simples.  Also, having played every single variable layout, game type (regular competitive, coop, solo survival and direct shoot-each-other versus mode), and variable powers hero included I’m still stunned at the enormous replayability.  Honestly, on the surface I can see how this game has been overlooked by the community at large, but I picked it up for £20 and it’s actually a little gem, and not one I’ll be getting rid of any time soon.  In terms of price against play time it’s probably one of the most valuable games in my collection, though to be fair that probably wouldn’t be the case if my colleague didn’t get into it the same way I did.  I intend to do a more detailed review of this at some point to try to help raise its profile some more.

Games played in 2014 = 2



DC Comics Deck-Building Game

Okay, this one gets an honorary mention in the list because in the unlikely event that I don’t get to play it this year, like Uncharted I’ve actually already played it enough with my work mate at lunchtimes to have given it a thorough road testing, so it fills that spot of sort of ‘non-gamer’ game.  And it stands up pretty well.  The theme is almost absent apart from the pretty pictures, it’s bordering on a game of top trumps in that respect, but it’s so simple and fast to set up and batter through a game that it sticks around.  It also allows you to pull off some cool, ridiculous combos that aren’t really balanced at all, but that’s part of the fun.  Like with Forbidden Island and Uncharted, I’d usually prefer to play something heavier come game night, but this is a sweet little filler game – and they have their uses too.  I don’t know if I could strongly recommend this game, it just filled a gap for us.  In all honesty, Marvel Legendary looks more compelling, but this game was another cheapy, and at £20 it was actually a third of the price of Legendary in my FLGS. The set up for Legendary looks like a bit of a nightmare, and that semi coop gameplay seems a bit hokey.  And from the reviews if you play full coop it sounds way too easy.  And at the end of the day I’d take Batman over, well, any Marvel hero…  :whistle:

Games played in 2014 = 0



So that’s it for January, hopefully I’ll do a catch up again soon – I think we’re going to crack on with Doom next.  And finally, here’s the rest of the games we want to get through this year:


Arkham Horror
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game
Eclipse
Invaders
A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game
Warhammer Quest
Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Claustrophobia
Doom: The Boardgame
Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth
Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game
Gears of War: The Board Game
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
Resident Evil Deck Building Game
Rune Age
Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
Star Wars: The Card Game
Thunderstone
Call of Cthulhu: Collectible Card Game
Return of the Heroes
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
War of the Ring (first edition)
World of Warcraft: The Boardgame
Dominion
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Dungeoneer: Vault of the Fiends
Zombies!!!
Space Crusade
Talisman
HeroQuest
Revolver
When Darkness Comes
Lord of the Rings
Gloom of Kilforth: A Fantasy Quest Game (this will obviously get a lot more play than the other games, but I’ll try not to go on with myself about it too much)



And here are the games we haven’t even played yet, which we’ll hopefully get to squeeze in at some point too:

The Ares Project
Constantinopolis
Dark Darker Darkest
Dungeon Lords
Magic Realm
Omen: A Reign of War
Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster






Friday, January 31, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Coloured Hero Levelling Cards

Don't know why it's taken me so long to get round to this but here they are - the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Coloured Hero Levelling Cards: