Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New to Me June 2016 --> Did it Stand the Test of Time?

BGG user Martin G does a monthly list - New to you a year ago (date) --> Has it stood the test of time? This month's list can be found at here.

Last year, I only had one new to me game in June, which was only semi-new. Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Road to Legend. I say semi-new because the game of Descent was not new to me at all, but FFG released their new companion application to the 2nd edition, and it changed things up for me. First off, I had only managed to get the game in its natural form (1 vs many) to the table once or twice. The picture here are my painting of the base Descent set, so I obviously have some personal investment in Descent and just beyond that, I really enjoy the game, so not getting it played bothered me a fair bit. I've always been a fantasy fan and a fan of dungeon crawlers, but this game has never really resonated with others like it has for me. FFG had released a couple of solo/co-op adventures for the game (materials from their Game Night kits) and while I liked those well enough, they were really static - static monster sets and basically just a single (hard) quest.

The Road to Legend app changes the original game by providing an AI for the monsters, allowing you to play the game as a co-op (which also means, solo). It is very similar in feel to the released solo/co-ops adventures in that the app provides instructions for how the monsters should activate and behave each round, but the monsters are not static for each quest. Instead of the monsters being the same for each quest or episode, the RtL app picks randomly from all the monster sets that you have available. So if you have a lot of expansions and monster packs (like I do), then you can run the same campaign or quest multiple times and get a different feel each time.

Not only that, but unlike the released co-op adventures, RtL wasn't a single adventure. The app originally came with one small campaign which everyone figured was just the teaser to get you to play Road to Legend and then buy future material. Well, we all did play that intro and were chomping at the bit for more. FFG then released a full campaign - for free! One nice bit - all the expansions and Hero and Monster packs also added additional side quests to the story, which also lent itself to the replay ability of the campaigns. You could play a campaign repeatedly and while some of the adventures would be the same ones (albeit with random monsters from your collection), the travel / side quests would be random.

The only downside to RtL was that there still was no way to solo / co-op play the actual campaigns packaged in the game. So despite my new found "game", I still wanted to play through all the material that I had purchased. So after a bit of hemm-ing and haw-ing, I broke down and printed out RedJak's Automated Monster Variant (RAMV). BGG user RedJak had come up with a system of automating the Overlord player (RAOV) that I had tried, but I just didn't care for tracking the Overlord stuff from session to session). With RAMV, you skip the Overlord and the system defines the monster behaviors for each adventure (or monsters for randomly picked ones in each quest). In essence, it did what Road to Legend did, but in a manually defined way. So RAMV gave me the opportunity to play through campaigns, while RtL gave me similar experiences with new material in an app. The truth is, I probably wouldn't have investigated RAMV without RtL. With the two, I had a new wealth of material to play through (probably more than one guy that doesn't play all that many solo games could play).

So has it stood the test of time? Heck yeah. In fact, RtL released an in-app-purchase called The Delve, which lets you play Road to Legend as a one-off randomly put together experience (think Diablo style dungeon delve). That really lets you dive in and for a quick fix, and lets you scratch that dungeon crawl itch.

Yep, I painted all this. All the monsters from the base game.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What Did I Play Last Week: June 6 - June 12

My fascination with the Race for the Galaxy app on the iPad has continued (as has my poor showing against the AI).

Race for the Galaxy
So a few more games of Race against my friend. We have expanded our horizons a little (and the game), by using the Gathering Storm expansion. I think I'm getting worse against the Hard AI. As I said last week, I've enjoyed playing on iOS, but I still have no desire to do so at the tabletop. The goals that are added as part of Gathering Storm help improve the flaws I have with the base game, but based on the way I've been playing, at least one thing is still true - after about 4 cards played, you can usually tell if you are hosed (with the expansion, I concede that it might be up to 6 cards now). At any rate, the speed of the app makes it a good time killer, but I don't think there is anything calling me to the table for this.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
A couple weeks back, I discovered a solo campaign for Legendary, this past week, I played out the last three scenarios. I really like this game and am excited to play the next campaign. Heck, I'll probably run my own randomly put together one just because I've enjoyed playing this way )(though I'd still rather play it with others). At any rate, I beat down the bad guys and (at least in my head), there was a fun comic story that was played out while I was doing it. My last game was Shield and The Avengers working to save mutants from Loki and the Legacy Virus! Good stuff.

Have a great week everyone and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Legendary Campaign Season 1 Parts 3 & 4

Hello True Believers! As previously blogged, I discovered a solo variant to Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game on BGG by BGG user Sky Zero. I just finished the last two scenarios of the campaign and here are the results.

Scenario 3: Replace Earth's Leaders with Killbots
Mastermind: Dr. Doom
Villains: Enemies of Asgard and Radiation
Henchmen: Doombot Legion
Add Red Skull and Magneto Mastermind cards to the Villain Deck

For this scenario I decided to go with a couple of X-Men - Storm and Cyclops and added the God of Thunder himself to the mix - Thor! This looked like it would be a good combo of heroes and there'd be some synergy, but for whatever reason, it was a very mediocre grouping and this session was ridiculously close to be a loss. I kept the scheme scenario in check, but never could put together much fire power in any single hand until  I had nearly exhausted the hero deck. I managed to put together just enough to fight Dr. Doom my last two rounds, defeating his scheme on the last round. I managed to collect 40 points in bad guys and had a single bystander. Unfortunately, 7 villains escaped. This was easily the longest scenario I played out, as it took a whopping 25 turns to win. I kept Cyclops Optic Blast as I wanted something with a little zip (attack) for the last scenario.

Scenario 4 & Final Showdown: The Legacy Virus (12 wounds)
Mastermind: Loki
Villains: Enemies of Asgard and Brotherhood
Henchmen: Doombot Legion
Add Red Skull, Magneto and Dr. Doom Mastermind cards to the villain deck

I considered re-using Wolverine (who I like) but instead decided in my head that the "story" was better if Shield and the Avengers were sent to stop Loki while most of the X-Heroes were laid out with the Legacy Virus. I had Cyclops and Rogue in my starter deck, so they weren't completely out of the narrative. I brought in Nick fury, Iron Man, and Captain America. The first couple of rounds were hard and I was KO'ing SHIELD agents left and right. For the first time during the campaign, I bought Maria Hill in order to get some $$ back into my deck, so I could afford the heavies. Meanwhile, the Legacy Virus was getting nowhere. Captain America kept the wounds out of my deck and my deck's tech cards had put me into a "draw my whole deck" situation much like an earlier scenario. In 11 turns, I defeated Loki. I scored 53 points (I used all my bystanders to slow down the flow of bad guys). Only 1 villain escaped (though with a bystander).

Because this was the end of the campaign, I now had to face all four of the Masterminds, one at a time vs a 6 card draw in a final showdown! I only counted attack and disregarded the recruit values. I managed to put all four villains away once and for all.
  • Defeated Red Skull 14-11
  • Defeated Magneto 29-12
  • Defeated Dr. Doom 24-13
  • Defeated Loki 44-14
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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Cult of the NOT So New June 2007

BGG user JonMichael Rasmus (jmsr525) has been doing analysis of the games and their trends each month for, well what seems like forever. I thought it might be interesting to look back at what was so hot 10 years ago, so sit back and enjoy this blast from the past. Based on information in the geeklist - BGG Top 100 Analysis June 2007 / 2nd Quarter 2007 / 1st Half 2007.

Prime Movers for June - Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Yeah, this continued its rise, moving up 11 spots to #76. If you have read my last few of these look backs, you probably already know how I feel about this game (if not, I'll catch you up - I don't like this overrated game). Based on where it ends up in the future, I suspect that you get to read my complaining about this game for at least the next 6 months or more. Not sure there is a whole lot to say here, that I haven't already said before.

Still a thing? Sigh.

Falling Star - Leonardo da Vinci
This guy fell 9 places. Technically, to be a "falling star", the game has to fall more than 10 spots - this was the biggest loser this month ten years ago. This guy was here a couple months ago too. I read that Leonardo da Vinci is a worker placement game with an interesting bidding mechanism (well, maybe 10 years ago it was, who knows...). I scanned the reviews and it seems to have been your basic worker placement with a thin theme and average art. It was falling last time we saw it too.

Still a thing? Leonardo da Vinci continued to fall, and today sits at #848

Hot Lava Birth for June Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery #58 Notre Dame #61
Here are a couple of really good games. Age of Empires III is a really good game and it was not at all like the RTS computer game of the same name. I don't know how Glen Drover came up with a game that was attached to a randomly strange license (i.e. which came first, the license or the game). Whatever - it was a good game. Worker placement / action selection kind of mechanisms with some area control and exploration. Heck, with all the different ways to score points, it too is almost Feld-like. I ended up trading this because it wasn't getting played, but I would still happily play it if I was offered the chance. If there was a flaw, it was that you could get hosed on exploration. One bit of luck in the game could swing it. I feel strongly that Chad Jensen used the action placement setup from this game for Dominant Species.

Notre Dame is a Feld design - definitely a point salad game, but also at a time when his designs included some mean game mechanism that made the game punish you if you didn't manage that part of the system (ie In the Year of the Dragon). This wasn't nearly as brutal as In the Year... What sets this game apart was the card drafting / action drafting. I still enjoy this game from time to time.

Still a thing? Notre Dame currently sits at #178. As I mentioned, I don't think this is a bad game in any way, but as was the case with a lot of Alea/Rio Grande games in the Big Box series, the availability probably contributed to it dropping over the last 5 years. And while I don't mind the negative game element (rats in this case), I get the feeling that the general game buying population prefers their games not have that element (Ewe's designs got less and less "demanding" after Agricola for example) and Feld's design evolution seemed to reflect that. AoE:III also fell at some point, but only down to #118. While this was getting popular, it was originally published through the now defunct Tropical Games and then was only available through Eagle Games IIRC. This made it a little harder to come by. It also was in an oddly sized (oversized) box. Don't ask me what that has to do with the price of tea in China, but I do recall disliking the box.

Top Ten Trends for June
Twilight Struggle +1 #5, El Grande -1 #6, Shogun +1 #10

More top ten shuffle! Poor El Grande was beginning its slide out while the new hotness was taking its turn in the spotlight. Shogun had been a winning mover for months before, so it was no real surprise that it finally broke into the coveted Top 10. I've mentioned this before, but if you haven't played El Grande, you owe it to yourself to go find four friends and play. You can play for free on yucat√°.de!

Still a thing? Twilight Struggle continued its climb over the next 10 years and is currently at #3 on the charts - a spot well deserved. El Grande, while still a classic, has fallen out to #49. Ten years after breaking into the top 10, Shogun now sits outside the top 100 at #111. Shogun is still an excellent game with one of the coolest gimmicks ever designed for a game. Games like this are one of the reasons I enjoy this retrospective - I hope I'm highlighting games that a new generation of players may not have had a reason to look into.

Top 5 Winning Movers for June (Highest ranked games that have shown any positive position movement in the last month that aren't in the top 10.)
  • Commands & Colors: Ancients - One of the best of the C&C system games. While I don't care that much for the theme/period and so on, mechanically, one of the best. Blocks look boring? Honestly, they made this one of the easier ones to manage/play. I'd still rather play Battles of Westeros, which I think ended up being the best of the system variations.
  • Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition (Second Month!)  - still the king daddy of space empire games.
  • Hammer of the Scots - A true block war game that I still haven't played.
  • Crokinole - One of the best dexterity / skill games ever made. Pricey equipment limits access for a lot of players, if you see someone with a board, ask to play. When you own a nice board, you don't just want to show it off on the wall.
  • Pillars of the Earth - A solid worker placement game that is supposed to be getting a reprint in 2017! Does it still hold up? New players may decide for themselves. It has been scarce for a long time now.
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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Legendary Campaign Season 1 Part 2

As previously blogged, I discovered a solo variant to Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game on BGG by BGG user Sky Zero. Today I continued into scenario #2
  • Scenario 1: Negative Zone Prison Breakout
  • Mastermind: Magneto
  • Villains: Spider Foes and Masters of Evil + Red Skull
  • Henchmen: Hand Ninjas and Masters of Evil
Interestingly, the campaign had Magneto, but not the Brotherhood (as defined on the Mastermind card). I debated for half a second and just went with it as defined. The first thing to decide was the three heroes I'd play with for the scenario. I really wanted to keep a matchup that thematically wasn't just odd. Because of the Spider Foes, I started with Spiderman (he also worked as an Avenger, at least  in my head). Because of Magneto, and to up the attack factor, I went with Wolverine. Because I had kept Rogue - Energy Drain (red) from the previous mission, I needed a hero with some red options or Rogue was going to be useless. I decided to go with another Avenger - Black Widow. An odd Avenger group, but one that matched up to all of the bad guys pretty decently and thematically.

This group didn't sound like it'd have the ommph I'd need to take out some big villains and the first couple rounds of buys felt like I was loading up on only really cheap cards. This particular scenario (prison break) also looked like it was going to go south almost immediately. For the solo play, you draw two villains a round. The scenario is a loss if 12 villains escape. Scheme twists? Each forces a draw of two more villain cards. It took only two rounds to fill out the city and for the first bad guy (Green Goblin and a bystander) to escape. The villains were also fairly tough and I wasn't sure I'd get to enough attack heroes before a bunch of them escaped. A couple turns in though, I had 8 attack and took out Magneto for the first time. In a huge stroke of luck, I rescued 8 bystanders with that! The importance of that being - the solo rules let you spend a bystander to avoid a villain draw. Using those cards to stymie the flow of villains let me quickly get to a point where I was pretty much drawing my whole deck each time. Black Widow and Spiderman were adding bystanders to my pile (and it turns out that one Black Widow card had attack equal to the number of bystanders you had rescued, so she was dishing out huge amounts of damage).

The game went from looking dire to suddenly over. In only 8 rounds (note, I mis-counted the previous game, forgetting that I played one more round than I had discarded heroes) I had wiped out Magneto. I scored 36 points (9 from bystanders). For the rest of the campaign I choose to keep Black Widow - Dangerous Rescue (red). With two more scenarios, my next couple heroes probably will need to be beefy attack guys, but my two ladies provide a decent way to thin the deck and slow down the villains. Maybe I can figure out how to go all Girl Power!

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What Did I Play Last Week: May 30 - June 5

This past week I got in a few more games of "Race" on the iPad/iOS but that was it on the electronic front. The rest of the list are actual games played on the tabletop. Without further ado...

Race for the Galaxy
As mentioned, I played a bunch of Race this past week with friends. We expanded our horizons a little (and the game), by using the Gathering Storm expansion. For such a small set of changes, I suck. I was finally playing against the Hard AI at a better win clip, but the expansion has set me back a ton. I'm a bit conflicted on this game. I've enjoyed playing on iOS, but I still have no desire to do so at the tabletop. The goals that are added as part of Gathering Storm help improve the flaws I have with the base game, but based on the way I've been playing, at least one thing is still true - after about 4 cards played, you can usually tell if you are hosed. No biggie if you are playing an AI (two more minutes to end the game or just quit since there are no stats), but I'm not big on conceding games against real players. Nobody likes a quitter.

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game
My daughter wanted a re-match of this game after I thrashed her. My love, Alyson joined us for the first time she's played. The girls took turns hosing me and I ended up with a pretty mediocre result. My daughter got her revenge and destroyed us both. In fact she insisted I record the scores immediately - 145-68-53 For the record, the game is much different head-to-head than it is with a couple of players. We don't play it enough that I've figured out how to be good at it yet. Still a fun little variant from the real game that I'm enjoying more the more we play.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
In my last post on this blog, I talked about starting a solo Legendary campaign. You'll have to head on over there for details. The Cliff Notes version: I found rules for a solo campaign which I started. I played it once and screwed up some rules, so redid my playing of that game/mission. I don't play this anywhere near enough given how much I like it (sitting in my top 10), so this is a great alternative. I really like this particular deck builder, in large part because the license is awesome, but also because the story is particularly comic like and fun. The last expansion set I added to my collection was the Guardians of the Galaxy set, and since my box was then full, I haven't grabbed any other sets. I have no driving interest in the Secret Wars or Civil War sets, though the new X-Men set caught my eye. Before that though, lets see how I feel from playing solo.

Thebes is like that one friend you had in high school or college. Not your best friend, or your favorite buddy, but when they were around, you always had a good time and weren't wishing they'd go away. At least, that's how I feel about Thebes. I often forget it is sitting on my game shelves. It isn't the first thing that pops into my head of things to play. But when we sit down to play it, I have a good time and remember that this is a fun family game. Who doesn't like digging for treasure? Yeah, it is luck filled, yet careful planning is important and helps mitigate that some. In a 2-player game, things are often really even. The thing is, it also is pretty unique (at least in my collection) as far as gameplay goes. I'm happy to call Thebes my buddy, even if he doesn't get much attention from me. Oh, and I won my game vs Alyson, but only 75-73. I had 15pts in conferences to her 1, but she was killing it at sites. She nabbed all but one of the top artifacts from each site. Sheesh.

Have a great week everyone and be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Legendary Campaign Season 1 Part 1

I just discovered a solo variant to Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game on BGG by BGG user Sky Zero. This variant is fairly straight forward. Setup like you would for a two-player game. The Hero deck will act / move like the Villain deck does - draw a new hero at the start of each turn and push the deck to the left, discarding the pushed off hero (he is called to duty elsewhere of course). What else? You draw two villains each round. You can use a rescuer bystander from your pile to reduce one villain draw each round.
This in and of itself is only semi interesting, but he also posted a set of campaigns. I've decided to give this a whirl, since I love this game and haven't played in a long while. I'm running the first season, which is base game only. At the end of each scenario (win or lose), I get to keep a hero from my deck to replace a S.H.I.E.L.D agent from my starter, but in doing so, I can't reuse that hero anymore. On top of that, I can't use the other heroes back to back in scenarios. Here's the breakdown of the first scenario:
  • Scenario 1: Midtown Bank Robbery
  • Mastermind: Red Skull
  • Villains: Hydra and Skrulls
  • Henchmen: Savage Land Mutants
I decided to run the first set of heroes as : Hulk, Rogue, and Gambit. Seems like a legit team up. Gambit and Rogue are having lunch in New York, team up with The Hulk to foil the Red Skull's bank robbery (and as hokey as that sounds, it also sounds like a comic book plot to a tee). Not real sure how the Skulls and the Savage Land Mutants got into the script, but who cares!

The system works pretty well. The double villain draw really keeps you pushing. Using only three heroes makes it nice to get some synergy going. Between the Red Skull and Rogue, I thinned my deck down to the point where I got to lay down some serious beatdowns for the last three turns and end the game. It only took me a measly 8 turns to win. In the meantime though I let 5 villains (with their four bystander hostages) run free. My approach was to thin and then grab for the green Hulk and Rogue cards to stack. Apparently worked ok. Gambit's deck really sucks. He helped me move through my cards and activate my Rogue card to deck-thin, but otherwise he kinda sucks.

I won of course, scoring 26 pts in defeated Masterminds, Villains, and henchmen. In the end, I thought about keeping a Gambit card since I can't reuse whatever deck I keep a card from, but I didn't like my choices. I ended up keeping Rogue (Energy Drain) to help deck-thin future adventures.

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Thursday, June 01, 2017

Collection Churn May 2017

I'm continuing to move in the right direction (I think) since I only acquired two games and sold or traded 9 (and 4 expansions). Without further ado, here is the collection churn for last month.

Acquired: Dice City, Scythe Collector's Ed.

Dice City is still (at the moment) unplayed by me. Brandon Kempf got and played this at Geekway 2016 and I saw a picture and it made me put this on my trade list in a math trade. He refuses to accept any responsibility for this landing in my collection. I don't honestly know that it will get played anytime soon. Right now, Yokohama is more on my "want to play" list than Dice City. I have not even looked in the box.

So, Scythe - I found a local (Phoenix area) gamer that was willing to trade his Scythe Collector's Edition for a reasonable set of stuff (see below). It worked out especially well since neither of us had to ship anything. I made a trade to get this for Alyson (my love) for her birthday. It was the first game we played at our first Geekway together (2016) and she really liked it, especially the deluxe bits. To take it up a notch (which is no small feat I might add), I 3D printed some tokens using black and copper filaments. I also asked Jamey Stegmaier if he'd sign the rules for her with a short dedication. He graciously agreed and she was quite touched. We haven't played her new game yet, but my friends tell me it works well 2-player, so I suspect we'll be getting plenty of plays in soon.

Sold or Traded:
  • War of the Ring Anniversary ed - I was part of the original order waaaaayyyyy back when they announced it. I don't know that I was looking to make an investment in it, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't planning to keep and play the hell out of this $450 beast either. Sold it to pay some things that came up last month (paying movers).
  • Kingsburg+Exp - I like Kingsburg, with the expansion. That being said, it never ever got played. They re-themed it with a Cthulhu theme (except you were the cultists), which was cool, but no expansion, so booooo. At any rate, this was taking up space and so was on the chopping block.
  • Ora et Labora - I love Ora, but it was part of the sacrifice for Scythe. I'll probably re-acquire it at some point. Good game, but wasn't seeing table time, so maybe it is ok it went.
  • Madeira + exp - I liked this meaty euro, but it was a little too dense to get regular table time, so it too was traded for Scythe.
  • Jambo + exp - Jambo is ok. I don't know that it ever struck me as SOOOOO awesome like it did a lot of people, so I traded it too. Most of its value came from the expansion which I never even opened. 
  • Taluva - Another that I loved that was sacrificed for my love's present. Taluva is a great game and will probably end up in the collection again someday.
  • Arboretum - the last of the stack of stuff I traded for Scythe. It is pretty, but we have lots of small card games to play.
  • Flick 'em Up + Stallion Canyon - My daughter loves this and is going to be mad at me, but I just don't really like this (though it sounds like the kind of thing I'd think was really awesome). It takes too long to setup and just isn't as fun to me as many dexterity games.
  • Pastiche - For me, Fresco is close enough to this that I don't need both and Fresco is the better game. My main problem with Pastiche is that there isn't really any way to make clever plays to do better than your opponents. You do better when the person before you sets you up to get extra cards. 
And with that I'm down to 239 games (plus expansions). I don't know that I have a particular goal in mind, but getting down to "not overflowing the storage" is certainly a target.