Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Knew It!

So last night I'm playing Torres (session report coming) and Nathan Winchester tells me I'm doing it wrong - that the tower pieces roll over from phase to phase and round to round. I tell him, no they don't - that'd be retarded and makes no sense. Lo and behold, the rules support exactly what he said. But I'm POSITIVE that was not how Jason Sato taught me the game. And I'm right - apparently Kramer changed the rules. Which is dumb. It is a dumb rule change. Part of the game was always the decision over using points for moving and/or creating knights which not only used action points, but wasted some of your tower pieces. Now there is no waste. After about two rounds, you should have enough tower pieces to always place as many as you want in any round - which is full on retarded.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Something of No Interest

Fantasy Flight games now does premium card sleeves in multiple Euro game sizes. They have been doing standard CCG sleeves for a while, but lately there has been a market for smaller sleeves - eurogame sized sleeves. Currently there are two producers: Mayday Games and Fantasy Flight. Both are producing 59x92MM sleeves. Mayday originally came out with their version of the penny sleeves in this size (penny = thin and cheap) which pleased the Dominion crowd to no end. I was among those that purchased 500 of them (actually, I purchased 1000) for Dominion. Then I traded Dominion and the other 500 away. Why? I decided I didn't really need to own Dominion and I also decided that I didn't care for the super thin sleeves. I waited until Mayday offered a premium version of their sleeve (125% thicker) and bought a couple hundred. Since I saw some of the FF ones at the store, I grabbed some of them today to compare the two. So here is what I'm seeing:
  • Both about the same thickness - they feel about same.
  • The FF ones are larger. Not by a large amount, but very slightly wider and longer. Noticeably longer once you put a card in.
  • The FF ones are clearer. Having said that, once I put cards in both sleeves, I didn't notice the difference, nor did I notice one being easier to read than the other.
So, which should you pick? Based on the above, the Mayday Games sleeves. Slightly less long and wide means easier shuffling. But here is one more reason to buy the Mayday games sleeves. A pack of 50 from Mayday is $0.13 cheaper than the ones from Fantasy Flight. Not a big deal, but if you want to sleeve the 1000 cards for Dominion and its expansion you save $2-3 (yeah, another 50 sleeves!). Both are available from the producer as well as through Boards and Bits (which seems to have the best price).

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Own It and I Played It

yep, I own Stratego: Legends. I even own the expansions Celestial Vengeance and Qa'ans Resurgence. I actually even played this game the other day. So what is it? Stratego is a classic board game circa 1947. Two players have a set of pieces with numbers (representing an army), some bombs and a flag. The idea is to capture the flag of the other player. The trick being, you can't see the value of the other guy's pieces until you attack with one of yours. If your number is lower, you win and their piece comes off the board. Find their flag and win. Run into a bomb and lose your piece. There are pieces that can beat bombs, but they are weak. The weakest piece on the board can only beat the toughest piece. So each player would set up their board to try and get the other guy to run into bombs or good pieces while trying to sniff out the other side's flag. Lots of bluffing in the setup and movement. I learned this game as a child - my grandparents had this one in the closet and I got to play it a bunch whenever we visited, so it had fond memories for me. When I first got into board games as a hobby, I discovered that there were a lot of new games and re-makes of older games (we are not talking about re-themes of Monopoly here - stay with me people). I discovered that Hasbro/Avalon Hill had created a new version of Stratego called Stratego: Legends. This version had a board with terrain that affected the game and came as tiles so the layout could be different. The pieces were also new. Not only did it have a fantasy theme, there were unique powers to go with the raw numeric strengths of the unit. How cool. And, I found out that there were expansion sets of pieces. So here was a game I remember loving with a whole set of changes that sounded awesome. I got a copy and tracked down the expansions. And then it sat on my shelf. For close to five and a half years they have sat on my shelf. But, I now have a son who loves to play games. And while I'd love to teach him to play Combat Commander: Europe or something equally cool, I realize that there has to be a certain progression of learning games (think along the lines of JOSHUA from Wargames) - you start with the easier ones and learn basic tactics and strategies rather than being overwhelmed. At any rate, I didn't feel like playing another game of Pokemon or dragging out the Heroscape stuff (though I do love me some of the comic guys for Heroscape) so I offered to teach Ashton a new game. He always loves seeing new games come out and rarely isn't interested. Well, I pulled this out, which he recognized as Stratego (which he had apparently "played" at school), but also knew this was different than the one he played. I explained the rules (which he grasped pretty quickly - it isn't a hard rule set) and we started to play.
So the first thing of note - this is not your parent's Stratego (or my grandparent's). As I mentioned, each side is a unique set of pieces with unique powers that allow them to break rules or behave differently depending on the terrain or who is next to them and so on. The bombs are replaced with spells that both act like a bomb (destroy the piece attacking) as well as the potential to change the rules (ever so slightly) of the game. Some pieces can fly (jump across the board) or move on the diagonal. Others can sacrifice themselves to return a different piece that died to the board. Also of note, the numbering system reversed itself at some point (which I think happened to the original game somewhere in the 70s or 80s). Lastly, you don't setup the pieces. You randomly lay them out. So is this a better game? The purist in me says no. The gamer in me says yes. You see, the purist in me is upset at what this game does to my childhood memories and what it does to the classic cat and mouse game. There is no tension in this version. The gamer in me likes the flavor of this game and the fact that games last about 10 minutes - that's right 10 minutes. Tops. Now, I could certainly see where a couple of really serious players could get some AP and sit there trying to maximize their plays and pieces, but there is too much chaos for that. Your best piece (10) could die - so what? No big deal if you have another piece that can bring him back. Losing it isn't the big swing you thought it was. Also, pieces can move diagonally, so the old "surround your flag with bombs" play doesn't really work. In fact, the setup is random, so you couldn't if you wanted to. So, this is actually an ok game for what it is. Where it fails, is what it tried to be. Collectible. Apparently, they tried to make it so that people would buy booster armies with random pieces to try and get people to collect the whole set of pieces. Having played it, I can say, "Who cares?" It isn't like a CCG where you can really build your army/deck and customize it - yes, you could customize it, but it wouldn't really matter that much. I'm sure it'll get some more play - my son enjoys the surprise element that comes with attacking an unknown piece and the joy when I attack his magic pieces and lose a good piece. In the end, it is the quick version of a classic - maybe it is perfect for those of us in the video game era of quick plays with lots of flash. I have lots of other games waiting for him when he's ready for something meaty (CC:E anyone?)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Heroscape News

Yeah, like I don't have enough Heroscape stuff already... has a couple of interesting things to report. Namely, a new master set is coming out. The new master set has "D&D theme attached to it. There will be an official campaign in the set as well as some new rules and new glyphs." Sweet. Heroscape already has a load of dragons, elves, knights, goblins, etc but it'll be cool to see some units based on D&D monsters too. Additionally, they are going to be releasing some of the previously exclusive figures. It looks like the Elite Onyx Vipers, Nerak from Gencon 2006, and Sir Hawthorne from Gencon 2007 will be made available as well as some re-paints of older figures as new units. Of course, combined with the 70 superheroes my son has (or will have in the next week) it'll just add up to more stuff I neither have room for nor have played. I can't wait :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Space Hulk is Being Reprinted

Well, nobody thought it would happen, but GW is reprinting Space Hulk. The question is - should I care? It is a pretty good chunk of change ($99) for a game with some minis (unpainted), cardboard tiles and dice. Offhand, it sounds a lot like Doom: The Boardgame (which can be found much much cheaper). A lot of folks say this is the better game, but is it $60 better (or $100 if I already own Doom)? Doom is one against many (each player controls a single marine) where in Space Hulk the marine player controls a squad. Doom has a variety of foe type, while Space Hulk is all about one type. There is a GW place not too far from my house, maybe I'll get a chance to check it out, but I'm not sure I'm ready to dump the money on this one yet. If that's the case, then why did I bother posting this like some kind of fan-boy? If they reprint this, maybe there is hope yet for a reprint of Warhammer Quest.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Game Night

My friend Amelia Boli had something of a long day down in Tucson and after she finally got back in town, she and Matthew Frederick stopped by for a bit of late night gaming. We had discussed playing Agricola since it hadn't gotten played recently due to Le Havre being the game of choice so I pulled this out for us to play. We did a quick draft of I deck only items and occupations and got started. Matthew managed to expand his home very early and had his family growing rapidly. I managed to get a food engine in place only after a couple of harvests and didn't get an expanded family until WAY too late in the game. With his extra family members, the outcome was decided pretty early in the game and Matthew had no trouble whooping Amelia and I. At this point, I can't say that I prefer Agricola or Le Havre over the other. Both are similar feeling, but different. If I only had one of the two, I wouldn't be terribly disappointed that I didn't have the other.
We felt like we had another game in us, so Matthew taught us Yspahan. This Ystari game is one I have wanted to try for a while now (plus there is a single player computer version available). Basically, its is a tactical luck management game - the options each player has on a turn are based on the roll of a number of dice. The first player gets first pick and then the next player gets to choose from the remaining actions and so forth, then the turns rotate. After 7 rounds, the board is scored then cleared and you repeat twice more. In the end, luck is certainly a factor, but this is pretty short and was enjoyable enough (though I probably took too long deciding my actions). Matthew's first roll of the game netted him a load of camels which he bankrolled into a couple of buildings which gave him an early advantage. After the second round, we had zero chance of catching him. In fact, I scored only enough in the last round to tie his second round score.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Catching Up (part II)

So what if this post has a different title? The night was July 24th and I headed over to the Gamer's Inn for a bit of gaming. I started the night with a game of Excape with Matt Cullinan and Noah Antwiller. Good starter for the night while we waited for others to show up. I started out well, but rolled into crap and Noah outlasted us for the win. Next I pulled out the Flaschenteufel (Bottle Imp) for the three of us. This is supposed to be an excellent three player trick taking game. It may be, but it was a bit confusing the first go round. We all kind of played in a daze. I'm not sure I can even explain it, but basically there is a bottle that you don't want to end up with. Get it and you score negative. The bottle comes to you if you play a low card - lower than the current bottle "price". The trick is to ditch your low cards under someone elses, but to do so means giving someone else points. I need to try it again I think. Luckily we had some arrivals and we called it after one hand - my brain was tired. Next up, we played a very long game of Power Grid. Not only did we play the China map, we played it with 6-players. Noah, Matt and I were joined by Amelia Boli, Matthew Frederick and (new to me) Jeff Stafford. Despite being brain dead, I played a good game until the very last round, when I attempted to raise the bidding on Amelia and got stuck buying a plant that cost me the ability to get the 14th city I needed to be in it at the end. Jeff snuck in a tie-breaker win by $1.
Next up - a little play testing of Cow Tipping by Matthew Frederick. This one should be published this year or next, but there is still a little development work going on, so we tried out some variants to see how they played out. I won't go into them and since this was the first I ever played of the game, I can't say how it compares to the game's previous rule set. It was light and fun and we played it straight up and in partnerships.
The last game of the night was one that I had just picked up from the Game Depot that afternoon on impulse - Tales of the Arabian Nights. I only knew that it was a storytelling game and was astonished by the pure weight of the box. When you open the box, you find a nice set of game bits and the source of the weight - the story book. The game is literally a choose your own adventure "game" (man I loved those as a kid). Set in the Arabian Nights fictional accounts, you journey around the world on adventures gaining "points" towards your secret goals. As you move around the board, you have adventures that are influenced by a bit of randomness and your choice on how you play the story out. My story had me starting out on the wrong foot and I was being PURSUED by Brigands for quite a while. I also went insane, was super envious of everyone, injured, blessed and so forth. For all my stories, I was getting nowhere in the game. IIRC, Noah was able to win sometime in the early morning. So what do I think? I think the game does a great job of telling stories and immersing you in the setting. As a GAME, its pretty simple and luck filled. As an experience, it is well done and fun. Not one I'd pull out all the time, but one I enjoyed and plan to play a bit more.