Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd: July 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No more games - play what you’ve got! Part 5, Fortune and Zombies, Kid

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.  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. 
So here’s a list of the games we’ve managed to play recently to try and get through the remaining half of the games list.  Looks like we’re falling behind schedule so far if we’re going to play everything by year’s end, so we’ll have to try harder to fit in multiple games in one session, or maybe see if we can have some day sessions.  It also doesn’t help the mission when we play other games that were never on the list in the first place, but that doesn’t stop it from being a ton of fun!

Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game

I reviewed this game a couple of years ago here:

One criticism I had back then was the limited number of Danger cards, so I ended up designing a bunch more to help flesh out the decks:

I still have wave 2 of this in development actually, need to finish that off some time.  But FFP have also fleshed out the array with their new expansion material Treasure Hunters, Rise of the Crimson Hand.  They’ve also got some small card packs of web only expansions – I ordered a couple of these years ago for A Touch Of Evil and got absolutely and generously tax-shafted by Her Majesty’s Customs Reprobates on them.  But in spite of this, and at the risk of tipping my hand too early on my latest opinion of this game, I just last week went ahead and ordered a bunch more of these web-only packs for Fortune and Glory too (Sands of Cairo and Danger Pack 1).  As with most of FFP’s games, FANG really comes together with the expansion material added in.  If it was cost effective I’m sure they’d release all the expansion material up front, sort of like they’ve done with Shadows of Brimstone, just so they could share everything with you and get you properly into the adventure.
We went for a competitive game with me as Nigel Harrington and Sam as Grant Jackson, and we were up against the Mob this time, who are slightly less aggressive than the Nazis, but with the Zeppelin floating around dropping Nazis off around the world anyway, just for good measure.  The Mob still managed to give us a good run for our money/fortune, and whilst Sam ‘remembered how to play’ (i.e. mucked around with personal missions and hanging around the new Docks encounters) I set off on my adventures and bagged an early artifact.  Sam finished racking up some cheap glory and went chasing artifacts too and the race was on.  As the Mob influence spread we were hard pressed to keep up.  We also misplayed the new City encounters for the first few turns too, we were having a roll on the City tables no matter what City card we drew (instead of the Just Another Day cards), which altered things a little, but not game-breakingly so.  Although FANG is very much a dice fest, so luck is a huge factor anyway.  Given the theme, I don’t find this to be a problem at all however.  Whilst Jackson tooled up and went about punching mobsters to bits, I flew around the world, bagged my last artifact and headed home to Bombay to sell it.  The Mob had spread too far and wide and would almost certainly win on the villains’ turn.  I needed to survive one city encounter and sell my loot to win.  I drew the Robbery card: roll a die, 1-3 = your artifact gets nicked, 4-6 = safe.  So I rolled the die…

Players = 2
Expansions = Treasure Hunters, Rise of the Crimson Hand.
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 9


“Shall we just play Zombies and get it scratched off the list?” Sam asked.  I sighed and agreed.
I’ve got expansions 2 and 3 and 3.5 and just recently sold off number 4, so we went with the base game, with 3.5 already shuffled in.  I have a strange fondness for Zombies!!! just because of nostalgia really.  I’d just bought my first place with my then fiancĂ©e, now wife, who begrudgingly played a few games with me over the summer as we listened to tunes and enjoyed the wine and sunshine, and it just encapsulated another little peaceful and pleasant chapter of my life.  It was also just before I started really getting back into board games after a 10 year hiatus of college, university, work, and going out and getting smashed, and it was something of a gateway game for me.  If you ignore the years of Games Workshop board games and HeroQuest and Space Crusade and so on, which I played to death as a kid.  So, a return-way game.  A stepping stone to the cosmic terror of Arkham Horror.  I even went so far as to redesign Zombies!!! with a medieval theme… just before they released MidEvil.  Only mine had orcs.  Anyway.  We scanned the rules and shuffled the deck and set off into the fairly bland looking town full of zombies.  I love that there are so many zombies, something Last Night On Earth (a way superior game) struggles with.  The evolving modular map is cool too - something I’ve always really liked in games is that feeling of exploration and discovery.  That’s as many plus points as Zombies!!! gets though.  The game went kind of long, not as long as it has done in the past.  Sam had the most zombies by miles.  Then he died a couple of times.  Then he drew the helipad, at which point I had the most zombies.  So he placed it near him.  Then I played a card which teleported me to him, and then I rolled higher on my movement dice and escaped, because we’d already placed all the zombies so the helipad was pretty empty.  I don’t know if we were supposed to take the zombies from somewhere else to fill it up but by then it was late and we wanted closure, and that was that.  It’s a nice game for casual gamers maybe.  I like the idea of it very much.  But this is going on eBay and I won’t feel the need to play it again.  In fact, if someone wants my copy of Zombies!!! 1, 2, 3 and 3.5 I’ll be happy to do you a very fair deal?  I could even throw in When Darkness Comes and The Nameless Mist??

Players = 2
Expansions = Zombies!!! 3.5 Not Dead Yet
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 4
Rating in 2014 = 3

Gears of War

Having beaten all the mission scenarios previously we decided to try Horde mode for the firs time.  Sam is an eggs-Box GoW veteran and informs me how true to the video game experience this board game is, which I see as testament to the game, because I really dig this board game.  A sort of finessed cooperative Doom with sexier tiles and minis there is a shit ton of replayability in this box because of all the different scenarios and monster types – particularly how the monster types themselves change each mission too.  Horde mode is very tricky indeed, and though we beat the first couple of waves barely breaking a sweat in the process, the baddies started piling up thick and fast, and getting tougher in the process.  We had a neat little layout, and I was the guy who can pick up ammo and weapons without discarding cards (Sam was the dude who can cover during other players’ turns even after cover fire has already been used), and I was nipping around and grabbing stuff till we had ammo up to our ears.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  As soon as the boomers started showing up the tide turned and the game, as it often does, amped up the difficulty and began to crucify us.  We couldn’t seal emergence holes fast enough, or get to the ammo drops, as we got hemmed in and ambushed again and again.  Before long we were shot to ribbons and bleeding out around wave number 4.  It’s a shame that FFG doesn’t seem to be going anywhere with the license on this (they should really retool this system to another theme too), though there are mini expansions available through Print on Demand I believe.  Would happily take another bash at this game any day of the week, probably the best sci-fi minis shooter out there at the moment. 

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 8



Finally got around to playing what might be my favourite board game.  I absolutely love everything about this game, from the tech developments, to the ship upgrades, to the exploration, to the crap shoot (with my rolling) ship battles, to the scale of the conflict.  It could be because I recently finished the Mass Effect trilogy and have been reading some mind blowing Iain M Banks sci-fi stuff recently, which I don’t usually go for, but this game just really taps into everything I enjoy about games.  Then when you throw in all the expansion goodies it really just becomes a great, great gaming experience.  At one point I stepped away from the table just to look at it all.
We played 2 games back to back both as the Terrans with 4 ancient home worlds.  In the first game I wiped out Sam early on with a quick push to the galactic centre.  I started to worry it was “broken with two players” etc.  But we were both just unprepared for such a quick rush game.  So we played again and had an absolutely epic battle this time.  It certainly shines in multiplayer but two player is also an excellent experience once you throw in Rise of the Ancients.  We both drew hives early on, which balanced out beautifully when we both chose to keep them in play, ending with Sam taking the centre and annihilating my dreadnoughts.  I had a tricky early start having drawn my hive on the first turn, and with the ancients attacking my peeps three turns in a row.  But when we totted up the points those early battles paid off with their reputation rewards and I won 45 points to Sam’s 44.  If I was only allowed to play one board game for the rest of the year I would be fine if this was it.  Perfect 10, can’t say enough good things about this game.  It’s up there with Through the Ages.

Players = 2
Expansions = Rise of the Ancients, Ship Pack One
Games played in 2014 = 12
Rating in 2013 = 10
Rating in 2014 = 10

Bonus Game Plays!

Shadowrun: Crossfire

Played the downloadable demo mode version of the game – what a great way to garner interest in the game, with a try before you buy system.  Well, it worked for me.  It’s essentially icon/colour matching but with cool art, interesting theme (fantasy meets cyber punk), and is actually quite brain burny.  Challenging too.  Started out with a Human Samurai and Elf Mage combo and got smashed twice in a row by the Hard level obstacles.  Then the understanding of how the cards interplay started to kick in, and more caution and careful planning paid off.  The third attempt was our first victory, albeit a close one.  Then we set off again with a Troll Decker and Orc Face (?) guy, and the extra HP on these chaps was really helpful, especially with Crossfire and obstacles dishing out so much damage.  Starting out with lower cards and cash (nuyen) feels like less of a hindrance, and victory came more easily (one loss, one win), though it does get hairy when you can’t stock up your decks with Black Market cards as easily.  Definitely interested to see if the campaign play is as addictive as the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game became.  I never played the RPG but the setting always intrigued me.  The art is very pretty too, and whilst I’m a bit tired of deck builders in general, and the gameplay is kind of simplistic, it’s also satisfying and a bit nail-biting.  I think this will be a nice introduction to the Shadowrun world for me.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 5
Rating in 2014 = 7


BGGer Boom04 very kindly sent me a copy of this game, which we had been discussing at length. It sounded very interesting, but lay outside of my no new games policy.  I’d mentally shelved it for this year, but thanks to Dicky it has now been added to the list.  Got to play a couple of games with Sam and I have to say we were both very impressed.  The art and design is pretty shocking, as we’d been warned (I think this was a KS prototype copy, though the final version doesn’t look dissimilar), though it did pan out to be very readable and accessible during play.  And the game play is cruel, fiendish even, and addictive too.  A super-pared down civilisation building game based solely on technological innovations.  We started the first game and realised soon that we were misplaying the cards and not carrying out the second effects, or drawing cards for other people using our own effects, so we restarted and went again and Sam wiped the floor with me.  There can be an early head start issue which is very difficult to come back from.

Then in the second game Sam stepped ahead early on too.  I managed to come back later on by splaying a card that allowed me to look ahead and bring in later cards (Democracy maybe?).  It came pretty close as he was still achieving monumental wonders for his developing civ whilst I was just playing catching up.  Then I brought in Piracy, a card we had both learned to fear from the previous game.  But he nicked my piracy and I thought it was all over.  He used it once and then left it unused for the rest of the game, allowing me to pile up my later cards and just keep achieving and catching up, eventually overtaking him too quickly for him to beat and winning the game.  Both games were good fun, filled with tense decisions and lucky draws.  It did feel a bit swingy sometimes, but on the whole was pretty awesome, and I look forward to playing it again.  I even introduced it to one of the guys at work for a lunchtime play, though we only managed to actually squeeze in a game because I beasted achievements from the outset and stole the win early on.  It can go quite long otherwise.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 3
Rating in 2014 = 7


X-Wing Miniatures Game

This shouldn’t really count in the list to be honest, as it was late at night after our Eclipse session so we just had a quick run through of the basic game only.  My single X-Wing vs Sam’s two TIE fighters.  However, it deserves a special mention because it was - unexpectedly really - stupidly fun.  Way more fun than it has any right to be in fact!  This was a bonus birthday present for me, which had the added bonus of widening my little boy’s eyes at the sight of the miniatures.  He’s at the stage now where he’d like to play anything, and if I can develop an even more simplistic version of the game he’d be all over this.  I could see myself getting into this in a big way if I had the storage for all the extra ships.  The session lasted about fifteen minutes as we refreshed on the rules, and flew directly at each other from opposite sides of the table wondering how it was going to play out.  As we closed for impact we fired off lasers at each other and I expected to be taken out immediately by the two TIEs.  But after surviving the first pass the gameplay really kicked in, and all of a sudden we were bluffing each other, rolling and banking and manoeuvring around desperately to try and get each other lined up for those all important shots.  It seemed the X-Wing was slightly more manoeuvrable and tougher, but slower.  I kept getting clipped by his attacks and was stacking up damage cards before I managed to take down his rookie.  With only one damage point left on my X-Wing the chase was on to destroy his Obsidian (?) pilot before he could land that final point of damage.  We were both flying around his end of the table, and since we didn’t have an official play-mat we may or may not both have flown out of the allotted 2’ square playing area, but in the closing moments of the game I managed to swoop past him and U-turn just in time to deliver the final payload with a pew pew pew, which would destroy his evil TIE fighter once and for all.  This game had been recommended to me a number of times and I’d avoided it because of the collectable nature, but yeah, stupidly fun.  Can’t wait to play a proper game with all the actual rules and stuff…

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2014 = 7.5


Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set

It’s already been ticked off the list for the year, but has come back into circulation via…  Solo adventures!  Now that all 6 adventure packs have landed I decided to embark on a solo campaign with Valeros, since he’s the closest to the kind of character I would have RPG’d as a kid because I was never really a gnome-druid kind of guy.  I don’t think you could even be a gnome druid in 1st or 2nd edition D&D!  Anyway.  There was no way we were going to fit in a full campaign as a group this year and still play through our entire game collection so I cracked on alone in the evenings when it was the wife’s turn to put the boy down.  I quickly abandoned my old rule of ‘mandatory exploring’ for a single hero as it would have made the perma death rule way more deadly.  So I picked my way carefully through the first couple of intro scenarios, remembering that they are generally more deadly than the 1st adventure path.  My last few solo efforts had ended up in death at the hands of Nualia at the climax of adventure path 1, so I was also wary of tooling up to meet her too.

Last time we left off with this I remember thinking it was good, with great potential, a bit repetitive, and not as inspiring as other similar games.  Well now it’s gone back up another point.  I got hugely suckered back into this and started battering through the scenarios.  Not afraid to run away and live to fight another day I raced through the adventure packs, and took great delight in getting to choose a role for the first time ever, but also kicking myself for choosing Valeros, whose main power is to help other heroes.  Clearing out basic cards from the decks felt very satisfying, and growing my own deck full of magic weapons and allies to boost my lower stats was the big appeal.  As others have mentioned, that’s the main quality of this game, almost to the exclusion of actually playing through the scenarios themselves: developing your hero over the course of the campaign.  I still find the Blessings deck as a timer wanting.  It could have been a cool events deck that may or may not have affected play, especially since Blessings of the Gods are generally the first cards to leave your deck, so neutering interaction with the Blessings deck itself.  Also the arbitrary nature of the encounters, monsters inside village houses and such, can be grating, and the fact that they don’t stick around but disappear back into the decks if undefeated, and random items suddenly appear, when there could have been a loot system for defeating barriers or monsters.  But they’re small complaints, and all in this is a very tight game experience.  I’m so sold back on this I might even look into Skulls and Shackles after all, which I had written off altogether previously due to the personally unappealing pirate D&D theme.

Players = 1
Expansions = Adventure Packs 1-6
Games played in 2014 = 25
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 8

Here follows the rest of the games we want to get through this year, slowly but surely we’re getting there....

1.    Arkham Horror
2.    Call of Cthulhu: Collectible Card Game
3.    Constantinopolis
4.    Dark Darker Darkest
5.    Descent: Journeys in the Dark
6.    Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
7.    Doom: The Board game
8.    Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth
9.    Dungeon Lords
10.  Dungeoneer: Vault of the Fiends
11.  HeroQuest
12.  Lord of the Rings
13.  Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport
14.  Magic Realm
15.  Omen: A Reign of War
16.  Race for the Galaxy
17.  Return of the Heroes
18.  Space Crusade
19.  Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
20.  Tales of the Arabian Nights
21.  Talisman
22.  The Ares Project
23.  The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
24.  Twilight Struggle
25.  War of the Ring (first edition)
26.  Warhammer Quest
27.  When Darkness Comes: The Nameless Mist

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oh Dark Hundred card preview

Oh Dark Hundred is a cooperative card game for 1-4 players who 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.  Here is a sneak preview of the card design I've been using…