Thursday, July 27, 2017

Legendary DXP (Beta) Preview


I received an invitation to join the early preview (i.e. beta testing) of Legendary DXP last week and wanted to share my early impressions. Currently, Beta testing is underway for iPad only (not iOS as phones are not included, just iPads). Please keep in mind that anything I describe is still in an early form, and anything can change at this point.

For those not familiar, Legendary DXP is the upcoming electronic form of the popular Upper Deck Legendary system. It was originally released in tabletop form as Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building game. There is no Marvel license here, but if you are familiar with it, this is the same game with a re-theme. 

For those unfamiliar to Legendary, it is a deck building game. Each turn your hand of cards will deliver an amount of purchasing power and/or an amount of attack. A steady stream of heroes is available to purchase as well as a steady stream of villains for you to beat down. Finally, there is a mastermind behind it all who is trying to pull off his plot scheme (i.e. the game's scenario). The heroes and villains and mastermind and scheme can all be randomized to vary the game and the approach (though currently, the set of available cards has been limited). 2-5 players (or bots) team up to stop the mastermind and if the mastermind can be defeated, then the points each player has scored over the course of the game determine the winner. Otherwise, everyone loses. Based on the details of the scheme, a loss can happen in varying ways - too many villains might escape or the players take too many wound cards or simply run out of time.

As I mentioned, currently testing is only for iPads. The development team has said the tentative release schedule looks like Android users should get access to the game around October, and the game should be available on Steam around December. The game is built on the Unity engine, so the singular code base should make for the same experience regardless of platform (of course, your performance milage may vary). The iPad version of the game is set to launch at GenCon in mid August. The game itself will be free in a limited form (i.e. the card sets available) or $2 for an expanded version or $5 for the full version. There will also be in-app purchases the allow you to get gold coins, which will in turn unlock cards, sleeves (card backs), playmats (i.e. backgrounds), and more. Of course, you will also be able to earn coins and more through weekly tournaments and giveaways. 

The Legendary DXP looks good so far (to be fair, I am playing on the large iPad Pro, but still...). The art team has done a good job with all brand new art made just for this version of the system. The art is bright (mostly) and the text is generally clear and easy to read. There is a small bit of iconography, but it doesn't take long to learn. For those familiar with Legendary: Marvel - Alamyth is the city, Guild Hall the SHIELD Helicarrier, Mayor Shufflebottom is Maria Hill, etc. I love the playful names. 

The animations are slick and fast (too fast at times) and the interface is generally ok (a number of suggestions have been made repeatedly by testers to improve the interface, as it currently has a few flaws - I won't bother to enumerate any of that as it is likely to change some based on feedback).

Currently the Beta has only supported two play modes while bugs are worked out - Quick Match and Solo. Solo is essentially you and two bots playing, while Quick Match is 3-5 real players playing it out. Currently, the bots are dumb, which actually makes it hard to beat the Mastermind in most scenarios (they don't tend to do the "smart" things to prevent a loss, like saving hostages or finding ways to not gain wound cards). I'm excited to see what the custom mode brings and to play in the Gauntlet (tourney mode).

One thing to note - this game requires online play. All of the logic is on the game's servers, not in the apps (to prevent cheating and exploits), which means that currently you can't even play solo offline. There are tradeoffs to this kind of game, and while I generally dislike online only games and non-async games, this one has been a blast to play (UI flaws aside). I think async wouldn't really work well for this game, as there are a lot of things that happen on each player's turn and between turns that require each player to respond.

Turns have a 2 minute time limit (even if playing solo) which keeps things moving along at a good clip. I don't have a good feeling for how long a game takes, as the solo games are hard to judge because of the dumb bots. (Also, if you drop out of a solo game, you can't get back in - you can get back into a quick match, though occasionally the re-connect doesn't work quite right. Again, this is an early build, so those kind of issues aren't unexpected). A 5-player (real player) match might take about 25-30 minutes (which is MUCH faster than at the table).

There isn't currently an undo feature, so a card played is a card played, which also speeds things along. Generally, a turn only takes about a minute or less once you are familiar with the card choices.

And that's it for now. Let me know if you have any questions (for me or that I can ask of the dev team).

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New To Me July 2016 --> Has It Stood 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. I had a pair of new games played in July 2016 and both were interesting enough that I thought I'd talk about both.

Millennium Blades
I first heard about this game the month before at the 2016 Geekway and saw it in play a couple of times. I was fascinated by the crazy stacks of cards and being a fan of deck builders, I sought this out shortly after returning home. I had no clue what I was getting into. This isn't a deck building game. I mean, it is, but not in the Dominion et al sense. Oh no. This is a game about being a CCG player, so there is truly some deck building, but its about the whole deck building experience. This game defines what it means to be META.
The idea is that each player is a CCG player and you spend half the game buying blind boosters (with your wads of cash - literally they are wads) and trading and selling cards in order to build a deck. This is a real time part of the game where you set a timer and do a mad dash to grab cards and figure out your tourney deck. You can also score points for being the best "collector" (like I said, it is super meta). In the second half of the game, you go to a tournament and pit your deck against the other players for rare card prizes. Then you rinse and repeat this a number of times. The tournament play is a little basic, but it works for this game, because if it was more in depth than it is, this would take days to play, not hours. The game itself is fun and the card sets amp up the entertainment value. Most of the "sets" are themed and more than just a theme of Giant Voltron like robots, or Dragons, there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek parodies like sets mocking Mario Brothers and Firefly. And like a real CCG, there are lots and lots of ways to approach the game and win (and lots of ways to win at tournaments). There is some real depth to the game. The only downside is that the game is a little long, and it takes a long time to shuffle the 80 card sets you decided to use and then separate them all after (we usually build the monster set and play at least twice with it, since you won't see but a fraction of the cards yourself anyway). I haven't played this in a while, but its a keeper and I need to get it back to the table.

Patchwork
The other new to me game last year was Patchwork - Ewe's spatial 2-player game of making quilts. My daughter and I got introduced to this by a friend and it immediately became part of the collection, though didn't see much table time. When it arrived on the iPad, my love Alyson and I played it a lot online. If you aren't familiar with the game, two players face off buying scraps to best complete their quilt. Only a couple pieces are available to a player on their turn, and pieces cost both time and money. There is a set amount of time in the game and the player who has spent the least amount of time at any given moment is the current player. So a player that expends a large amount of time for a single piece may give their opponent multiple turns in a row (meaning multiple chances to get the pieces they need/want). However, on the time track are small single space "patches" that allow the player that gets there first the ability to fill in those inevitable holes in their quilt. Additionally, some quilt pieces have a button (or two or three) - buttons are currency and points at the end, so in a way, you are also building an engine. So like any good game, there is a balance to everything you do, which packs a lot into this nice little two-player affair. Has it stood the test of time? Eh, it is ok. I really played a lot of it on the iPad (and still do from time to time) and it has lost some of its shine for me. It still is a good game that I'm not perfect at by any means. I'd actually rather play it on my iPad than at the table though. The app is nice for quickly showing you whether you can buy a piece and will automatically pass for you when you don't have enough cash for any option. This speeds things up and in my mind is a good thing.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What Did I Play Last Week: July 11 - July 18

Sheesh! After missing a weekly recap post for most of last month, I'm actually posting on time this week! On with the show!!!

Splendor
No tabletop for Splendor, oh no. Played a couple of games of this with my love Alyson on our iPads before bed this last week. The mobile app works really well, but I think I'd only play this way head-to-head for a quick fix. Splendor itself is a great game and not much work and not a huge footprint, so the tabletop option is usually a good one. But for a quick 10 minute, right before bed fix, the app is the way to go. In our first game, I rushed to end the game, but Alyson had about 4 options on how she'd beat me and she did. In the second game, I somehow ended up with a crazy stack of red cards and just about every big point card that needed a lot of red was on the board, so it didn't take much to just run through, pick them up and end the game before she had anything going. Which is how I normally win at Splendor - I get a lucky streak of stuff that lets me grab stuff. When I try and plan it out, I get killed.

Windup War (NEW!)
I was fortunate to receive a copy of Windup War for review and broke it out last week while I had my kids. I want to get a handful more plays in before I writeup an official full review, but the couple of games we played were enjoyable and the kids liked it. Windup War is sort of a programmable version of Bang! (albeit a little simpler than Bang!). Each played gets a set of programming cards, picks 3 of their characters (each can accept different versions of the programming cards) and then you place orders for your squad, hoping that you can eliminate your opponents. Good stuff. Our first game was a teaching game, so we just randomly grabbed three cards for our squad (which hamstrung my son a bit). My daughter gleefully toasted us both. In our second game, I won out by scoring the requisite number of points while my kids were busy trying to kill each other.

Biblios (NEW!)
For years I've been reading about what a good game this little thing is - so in the last math trade I was in, I added this to my wish lists and ended up with a copy. Hey, guess what? It is a decent little game. I took it with me to work and a couple of my co-workers and I played at lunch one day. Like any good game you play the first time, you start to see things that make you want to play again so you can maybe approach the game a little differently. In our initial playing, my co-worker Mary and I tied in the end, but I ended up with a  handful of gold cards and she didn't have any, so I won the tiebreaker (which was totally not intentional at all). And while having the tiebreaker in my hand, the real issue was that I didn't have a decent feel for how important (or not) the money was, nor did I track what was being collected or manipulated well. Again, first play kinds of things that made us all interested in that next playing.

Carcassonne
Ah Carc! This made it into the rotation of games before bed on the iPad during the last week. None of that crazy month long marathon 4-player stuff, just head to head against my love. I absolutely owned all the farms and scored about 70 points at the end of the game for that and I think all the points for goods collected (Traders). As good as the app is (and it is still one of the top boardgame conversions as far as I'm concerned), it'd be nice if they'd work in some new expansions at some point. I still have the Carc Big Box 2 on my game shelves because there are about 6 modules/expansions I haven't ever tried. I need more variety in my iPad games!

Ticket To Ride: Switzerland
The iPad nightly games before bed series included a couple of different TtR maps. I like Switzerland because Alyson and I have played the crap out of this map and still are willing to play it. (What's the best part about Switzerland? The flag is a big plus) Probably because we know what the tickets are what the ways to go are, what the danger points are etc. My tickets were such that I took a series of routes along the south part of the map, connecting the southern countries and getting a lot of the longer routes that are available. Alyson was going mostly in the central and northern part of the map, so this was a less contentious game for us. As usual, I raced along and ended the game right after she took tickets (which made her none to happy). Switzerland is a great two-player map and mean three player map. Plus, for whatever reason, I love the stupid music for this map and yodel along, which drives Alyson nuts.

Ticket To Ride: Europe
The night after my win in Switzerland, I chose for us to play in Europe. I like Europe, but Alyson always forgets about claiming cities and isn't as familiar with the routes and such (I personally think she'd like this map more since you are less apt to get hosed). At any rate, I had a really nice set of tracks on the southern edge of the map that scored me a ton of points and handily won here too. Since Europe has a 1912 expansion in the app, maybe I can get her to revisit this one a little more.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
After my huge win in Europe, Alyson wanted nothing to do with that map, so I picked this one, which we've both only played once. Thus far, Alyson is undefeated on this map. The games have been close thus far, with her winning by a total of maybe 6 points. This seems to be a race map (ala Switzerland 🇨🇭) so that probably means needing to play a fair bit of it so that its a little more interesting, otherwise I don't really know that I find this map particularly compelling (win or lose).


And that's it for last week! Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Should It Stay or Should It Go - Legendary: A Marvel Deck Builder

During the month of June, I discovered something new (old). A user on BGG had created a modified solo system for Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building game. First off, let me just say, I really like this game. It is one of my top 10 games. I enjoy non-generic deck builders (i.e. not Dominion) and this has been the best I've played.

Legendary is fantastic, because each game is like the outline of a comic storyline. BAD GUY plots to  DO SOMETHING by manipulating MINOR VILLAINS. RANDOM HEROES team up to stop the villainy and rescue innocent bystanders. Seriously, that's how you setup the game. Pick a major villain, pick some henchmen and a plot (each plot has variable things that can occur and different ways you can lose the scenario). Pick a set of heroes (random or by conscious choice) and mash them up to be recruited. And of course it is a deck builder, so you can buy (recruit) heroes to your cause and heroes either have influence which lets you recruit other heroes, or attack values (sometimes both) and of course special abilities which can combo off other heroes. All the players are working co-operatively to beat the villain (but of course, the player that scores the most during the game wins). And the plots? Not random stories made up by 2nd rate authors. Oh no - the plots are straight out of classic marvel stories from the days of yore. Yeah, this game throws you right in the mix of your own comic story.

Despite that, prior to my discovery of this solo system, my last play had been over 15 months prior. That's just not right for a game I like so much. As with most deck builders, this one is a money sink. There are 11 expansion sets (more if you count the Legendary Villains version and expansions). I only own four and my game box is cram-packed with hero and bad guy choices (not to mention plot choices). 

And that's why we are here. Should this heavy box of cards continue claiming space on my shelf?

Heck yeah it should! Solo-campaign play only made me want more! In fact, the first campaign I played was restricted to only the base set cards! Despite that, it was gloriously fun (read about it here, here, and here). The next campaign expands into the next set of expansion cards, and I think after that, I should be enough to figure out my own campaign using the same basic structure. 

I'm trying really hard not to go down the rabbit hole and gather the other expansions. Not yet anyway.    As with most deckbuilders, some of the fun of the game is figuring out what card stacks combo in cool ways with others. I'll let you read (re-read) my other posts on Legendary to see the kind of synergies I found (or didn't). I still have plenty to explore. Again, for me part of the joy isn't just finding cool combos, but the story that gets told in my head. The skirmishes. The frustration in not being able to save that bystander as Green Goblin flies off with a hostage. Legendary give you a great game wrapped in a great package.

It should stay! (but do I need more...)

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Collection Churn June 2017


Somehow, I managed only to moves games out in June and reduce my collection. No new games acquired! (ok, technically there is a trade or two here, but I received the games in July, so you have to wait till next month). Here is the list of things that left the collection and why.

  • Pow Wow - I think I played this game once in the 8 years I owned it. It is something of a party game with bluffing and deduction. I'd rather play Liar's Dice, so sold it.
  • Panamax - I traded for this, but realized I wasn't likely to do much more than have it take up space on the shelf, so it was sold without ever playing it.
  • King of New York - I like King of Tokyo and liked New York a hair better, but even the kids (who liked it) never asked to play it. Again, just another game taking up space on the shelf, so I sold it.
  • Bottle Imp - this is a nasty little trick taking game for three players. I only played a couple times and never really figured out how to be good at it. It was selling for a reasonable price, so I sold it since it wasn't going to get play (especially not over Chimera).
  • Eclipse - I had acquired an extra copy of the game in a trade and was able to put together a trade with Eclipse as part of it. 
  • Time's  Up! Title Recall - Time's Up! might be one of my favorite party games. This was also part of the trade (along with Eclipse). I gave it up because I don't really get to play a ton of party games and also because I have the app on my iPad, which actually works pretty well.
  • Get Bit! Collectors Edition - this was an entry from me in a math trade - I'd get the game in return in July. 
  • Merchant of Venus (2nd ed) - IIRC, I acquired this in a trade and played it. It was pretty fun, but a little long and Ameritrashy (which is not a bad thing). I just couldn't see it ever getting played in my household, so I sold it (plus the box is huge, so I made a good chunk of space).
  • Blood Feud in New York - I hate to say it, but I sold this and it took me forever to get shipped. I lost track of it when I moved and by the time I found it, I couldn't believe I had forgot to get it shipped out. Thankfully the buyer was understanding. This was a game that I heard compared to Samurai Swords, which sounded good to me (again, Ameritrash isn't a bad thing). The reality though - I was never ever going to get it played.
Next month - I acquire a few games (don't worry, I have things still going out the door in the quest to bring the collection down to a reasonable level). 

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What Did I Play Last Week: June 13 through July 10th edition

Sometimes, life just up and rears its head. I fell off posting here and am way behind in posting anything. Let's fix that. Because of the odd span of time, I list these in order of most plays.

Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium
Yeah, I'm still playing this on my iPad. Over the last few weeks, my plays have tapered off, and I'm not playing vs real people as much, but I still fire it up occasionally against the AI (I'm a horrible 25% win clip against the Hard AI). I'm slowly getting better, but still of the opinion that luck plays much too big an impact in the game. Get the right draws at the right time or lose. The expansions change things up some and I like the new cards and game goals, but I'm about done exploring combos and still wouldn't choose to play this at the table. Will I pick up the expansion when it is released on the the app version? Probably. But I can play a head to head game against the AI in under 5 minutes so it makes a good iPad game. It won't surprise me if Race is named for best boardgame app this year, but that doesn't make Race itself a great game.

Automobiles
I got pushed into trying this online (Yucata.de). I'm really glad I did, as this is really a fun race game / bag builder. I played a number of games of it head-to-hed with my buddy Robert (though we've both decided that one particular blue card is not cool with only two players). I don't need this right now, but I'd consider it in trades down the road. There is a series here (Trains, Planes, and Automobiles and as far as I can tell, not related to Steve Martin and John Candy). I actually will probably not end up owning this as it is like Trains - a pretty good game, but not so much that I have to have it.

Can't Stop
More Yucata.de gaming! Inevitably when I play anything on Yucata.de, I find a quick game or two of Can't Stop along the way. I love this push your luck game. I've played it wayyyy too much though (yucata.de stats alone: 899 games, 464 wins). That doesn't count playing the app version on my iPad (which I did with my son a week ago) or any of the numerous times face-to-face on the table. Despite that, I still like playing this game from time to time. I think I won a head to head game and just came up short in a three player game.

7 Wonders Duel
My daughter got over her last devastating loss and asked for a game of this again. I had a decent game path and got the resources I needed and handily won. I probably won't get to play this again for another month... I still enjoy this and it is quick with interesting choices. The shine is starting to fade a little, but it is still a solid game.
Carcassonne
I foolishly created a 4-player online game for my love and two other friends. Async 4-player Carc with Princess and the Dragon is just a bad idea. I think it took us a month to finish. I think I've solidly in the camp that Carc is a two-player game - as a tabletop game or as an async-online game. There is just too much randomness in the draws for the game to be fun for lots of players. And its too long. You can shorten it with less expansions, but I don't enjoy the game without most of the expansions I have available. Catch-22. I may just give up my Big Box #2 collection and stick with Carcassonne the City and the Castle. For the rest, I can just play the online app (which is still one of the best app implementations to date). I kept it for various reason, but I think this last game may have pushed me to let it go. For the record, my love Alyson won the game by 3 points over me (the master of farming).

Dice City
I saw Brandon Kempf with this at a Geekway one year and figured it must be ok, so I acquired it in a math trade. I finally managed to talk my son into playing it one afternoon and found something not entirely dissimilar to Machi Koro - though perhaps more interesting. In Dice City at least each turn feels like you can do something (it might be less interesting, but at least you did something). That being said, the game isn't vastly superior. I also only have the one two-player game to go by so, Caveat Emptor. Dice city is an engine game where your dice rolls give you actions. You can upgrade the spaces on your "city" such that hopefully the dice give you better and better actions.

Las Vegas
Because of the rather sporadic play I do on yucata.de, I often discover games I know have been implemented. This was one I saw, so one day I started a random game with some friends. This is a little press your luck against others dice game that plays best when using the neutral dice. Good stuff for a filler and interestingly, its still just filler even online. A filler for playing in between the slightly meatier other offerings on yucata.de.


Thunderstone
One of my new Punch Board Media buddies, Eric Buscemi, mentioned never having played Thunderstone, so we jumped on yucata.de and I taught him the game. And of course, because it always happens when I teach a game, the newbie starts thrashing me. About halfway through the game, my deck hits its stride and I managed a comeback, but Eric still keeps applying the pressure. I ended up getting a lucky last draw and win the game (non-scored of course). I was surprised how much of the game I still knew all the rules for. Thunderstone is still a blast to play (though the full tabletop game became a little bit overdone, which is why I think they "reset" it with Thunderstone: Advance.

Ticket to Ride: India
After that ridiculous Carc game (which we ended by managing to all be online at the same time), we all decided to play a reasonably quick game of Ticket to Ride. I let Alyson pick and she choose India. Alyson, Matthew and I all started hosing each other immediately while Amelia pretty much was in the clear, which makes it pretty easy to guess who won. I did beat Alyson by a point, which made me feel better about losing Carc, but only a little. Amelia beat us all by about 40 points. I managed a few loops, but drew tickets and was forced to keep one I couldn't finish when I drew it.

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