Barnes on Games- Pixel Tactics in Review, Armada AAR, Archipelago, Chateau Roquefort

Barnes on Games- Pixel Tactics in Review, Armada AAR, Archipelago, Chateau Roquefort Hot

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Level 99 does it again.

This week on the Review Corner- Pixel Tactics! I adore this game. It's weird how it's kind blown around under the radar, with multiple standalone releases and sort of a weirdly vague public sense of what the game is all about. It's kind of a card battler, but it's very different. Two sides get a 25 card deck, each card QUINTUPLING as a leader with a special ability, three different ranks of hero, and an operational effect. You need to beat the other player's leader, which sits in the middle of a 3x3 grid that you build with the Heroes. Each rank (vanguard, flank, rear) identifies the function of the card where you play it, and a round is going through each rank and both sides taking two actions. There's tons of choices, melee/ranged combat, spells, traps, tactical movement, clearing corpses... it's really quite a lot of game, even just one of the little $10 sets will give you a TON of play value. But this review is for everything (apart from a couple of minor expansions like an Argent University set), and especially the new Pixel Tactics Deluxe set. Here at Review Corner.

I really love Level 99. They make great games.

Had one of the best games of Armada to date with a friend last night. It was a blowout, but it was one of those games where both players knew the game, the cards, and how to play smoothly. 400 point game, I had three Star Destroyers (one ISD and two VSDs) and a handful of TIE squadrons. I wanted size over everything else. Ryan went with volume- two C90s, two Nebulon-Bs, MC30c, a YT-1300, Dutch Vander (Y-wing ace), Tycho Celchu (A-Wing ace), some X-wings. The scenario was the minefield, so I got to set the terrain and lay mines right in his face. This really threw him for a loop. A couple of ships broke out around them, but he decided to blow through them with the Nebulons. I literally just moved forward, this massive triangle fleet of doom, while he tried to speed up and get angles on my ships.

He managed to just about bring down the ISD with some nasty attacks form one the C90s working with a Nebulon-B that just completely disintegrated after a shot from the forward arc of the ISD. It was just brutal. The MC30c did some great work too, especially with the special torpedos that give the left and right banks extra black dice. But he sped up too much and wound up with it in turnaround for turns 4 and 5, drifting ineffectually behind the scrum.

The fighter game was sort of odd, lots more interdiction and "pinning" than usual, much more use of the escort abilities of the X-Wings and A-Wings. We also used command tokens quite a lot more than we have in the past... which is partially why it just got ugly for the Rebels in the second half. I had the SDs just charged up. We went all five turns and the SDs had practically just decided to flip the shields off, but it was clear that was no hope with both Nebulons down, both C90s smoking and with one or more failing systems.

Took us about two hours all in. Once again, we just built the fleets with Fab's and tweaked them up. I kind of kept mine just like it came up with the random pick- Vader, lots of crew, some special weapons... he wanted Mon Mothma and more X-Wings so he fudged his around a bit and went slightly over, which is why I got the initiative.

Revisited Archipelago thanks to our F:AT Math Trade and Da Bid Dabid's foolish decision to turn loose of this weird, wild game. I have decided that it is definitely Boelinger trolling the entire Eurogames paradigm. From the concept to the mechanics to the fact that he completely pulls the rug out from under the entire concept with those capricious, sometimes brutally unfair winning/end game conditions. I love that it is a game that will tell you "sorry, you failed" and not give you anything in return. I love the market system, as contrived and overly complicated as it is (does it really need TWO markets? ) I even love how he made the huts hard to see on the map. It's like he just did not care about complaints, and just did his own thing.

The way the co-op-ish-ness works is really cool, between the rebellion and the way you have to sort of negotiate to get the crises taken care of... which is a pain in the ass if one player has monopolized the crisis good and there's nothing on the markets, no exploration tokens. And they are fomenting revolt.

It's funny, revisiting it after being away from it, it somehow makes more sense overall and it plays more smoothly than I remember. I thought I'd have to get back into the rulebook, but I somehow managed to pick it right back up.

Also from the math trade- Wade's copy of Chateau Roquefort. What a great game! This is a Zoch kid's title with a sort of Labyrinth-like sliding tile board... with trap doors that drop the mice into dungeons. My kids loved it, although the first game resulted in crying when my daughter lost. It's surprisingly mean. Really enjoying this one, and it's just right for their ages (4 and 6).

Lots on tap for the next couple of weeks. I've got Josh Look's old copy of Arkham Horror, so I'm going to try to get back to that with NO expansions after not playing it for... six years? Seven years? I've got a review copy of Mexica coming, looking forward to seeing how that holds up to ERP standards. Stephen Buonocore, in his infinite kindness, is sending me a copy of the 2nd edition of Stronghold, which I'm really looking forward to trying after failing to get into the 1st edition some years ago. Kyle Mann and I are doing the Head to Head on Talon, which should be a good review. And my son has insisted that I show him Big City after he pawed through it the other day so that will likely get on the table tonight.

Barnes on Games- Pixel Tactics in Review, Armada AAR, Archipelago, Chateau Roquefort There Will Be Games
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Posted: 11 Feb 2016 16:33 by Gary Sax #222273
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Archipelago is staying on my shelf just due to me reading the rules. I may never play it, but I cannot get rid of it because of how stupid the thing is (in a good way).
Posted: 11 Feb 2016 17:13 by wadenels #222274
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Glad you like Roquefort! I was hoping your kids would dig it while I was boxing it up.
Posted: 11 Feb 2016 18:37 by hotseatgames #222275
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dibs on Stronghold
Posted: 11 Feb 2016 19:58 by Da Bid Dabid #222276
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Calling me out by name forces me to reply. The game is just too awkward to love. Could I play it with 3 clones of myself and have a good time? Sure. Can I teach it to people who aren't into board game culture who don't appreciate the so called "weird, wild" aspect and actually get the f'er played? Maybe not so much.

Who do the board gamers deem more foolish... the man trading away Archipelago or the man selling off Clash of Cultures with its impossible to find expansion? ;)
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 02:30 by SuperFlySwatter #222279
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Interesting description of Pixel Tactics, it reminds me a bit of that japanese micro game R / RRR - have you played those? that works as a 3 x 3 grid with cards, having special attacks based on various chess like geometrical links and adjancies, PT sounds like a similar idea

I guess Battle for Hill 218 revolved around a similar idea as well,
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 07:30 by Columbob #222285
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Arkham with no expansion is a fairly quick setup and fun on its own. It just becomes a bit too easy when you know which are the high traffic gate locations, so sealing those block many more from opening in general.

I've been playing a bit of Archipelago with the solo expansion to become more at ease with its heavy ruleset, as teaching it is a daunting task and learning it as well, my group hasn't really felt like it.

Solo expansion is made up of a bunch of different scenario cards with bronze/silver/gold success objectives, such as try to accumulate X number of food cubes before Y happens. There are many difficulties, foremost is the absolute need to buy a development card every turn, so you need to save cash for that. Second, you have a very small population to start (especially the Robinson Crusoe scenario), so the native uprising is a very real preoccupation early on, and sometimes you can crash and burn on turn 1 through no fault of your own. Third, reaching gold or even silver levels of success is sometimes entirely dependent on getting a specific development card, which is just totally random. So the expansion is very puzzly, different from the multiplayer game for sure, but still using the same ruleset. At something like $10 for 30 cards or so it's not a big investment either.
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 07:34 by Black Barney #222287
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Pixel Tactics sounds like Eye of Judgment. Is it a video game? I'm honestly confused.
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 07:35 by Jexik #222288
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I don't like Pixel Tactics. Every time I've played it, it feels like there are serious balance issues. If you get a leader that grants you bonus actions in some way, you just steam roll your opponent. One game I remember, my opponent picked the guy where I couldn't clear my corpses, or something like that- he thought he'd be able to win the long game. I picked the guy that made it so when you played a guy, you could immediately attack with him. Since you can't attack in the first round anyway, I spent the entire first round drawing cards, and then did a series of surprise attacks in the second round. He only killed one or two of my guys before losing. A lot of other cards give you non-choices, where putting them in a certain rank or using them for their sorcery effect is the best way to use the card.

Maybe I need to play it more or see some of the new releases, but in my 5-7ish plays of it, something always felt off or obvious.
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 09:25 by Michael Barnes #222299
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Oh yeah man, the balance is NUTS. I mentioned that in the review. And I do agree that there are some cards that are totally out of whack in some positions- resulting in no-brainer choices for them. But I think it works really well with the low card draw (it takes an action), the variety of action options available and the multiple uses for each card. You can get stuck with a crap leader, but if you can make it up in the card play then it's not an issue. But I have seen games where it was just a blowout one way or the other. There are a couple of factors there, one is that some of the synergies between cards/actions/player choices can result in situations like where your opponent had a very specific ability...that is really only any good if you leverage that against playing a bunch of aggressive killers to actually put those corpses in the other player's ranks. If you can't do that AND hit the leader, you're making bad choices or aren't familiar enough with the game to make that leader strategy work.

But definitely, yes, you can wind up in these games where it seems like a particular leader is far more powerful. The one ("Banyon Rucksack" or something like that?) that lets you play heroes as a free action is just totally OP if you combine that with heroes that have spells or effects that give you lots of card draws.

Da Bid sent the solo expansion with Archipelago, so I have it too...looking forward to playing the "Donald Trompe" scenario...I guess!

Clash of Cultures is going to be back before long...so it wasn't a major loss...and that $$$ went into Armada, so that was a net gain for me across the board.
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 09:36 by Grudunza #222300
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Michael, please check your messages. I need to know where you sent (or if you sent) the package from the last math trade.


The last several times I've played AH (about twice a year at this point), it's been base game plus just one expansion (pref. Innsmouth). That's the right measure of the game, I think. Way too bloated, otherwise. Granted, I do have all of the items and characters and stuff from other expansions (no way I'm ever taking the time to filter all of that out), and the Injury/Madness cards from Dunwich.

Or, perhaps better yet, base game only plus one of the small expansions (pref. the new version of Curse of the Dark Pharaoh). That simplifies things even more, but still puts a little edge into the base game and adds a little more variety. As Columbob mentioned, base game only AH can get too easy with some of the gate patterns.
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 11:31 by Columbob #222307
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Michael Barnes wrote:
Da Bid sent the solo expansion with Archipelago, so I have it too...looking forward to playing the "Donald Trompe" scenario...I guess!

Many of those names are french play on words or puns that most non-francos wouldn't even guess were there.
Posted: 12 Feb 2016 15:06 by Michael Barnes #222335
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Wanted to comment some more on what Da Bid said about Archipelago...you are right on the money, it is an AWKWARD game. From the rules to the process to even the components...it's just so...singular. And I totally hear what you are saying, is it a game worth playing with a group that doesn't "get" the assumed satire or that the design is much more "crazy" than "bad"? It's like an art film in a lot of was...it's not for general audiences, and it's not really a game that you'd want to spring on people coming over looking for a light, fun time. It's complicated and strangely detailed...yet if you peel back the complexity, it's actually not that different than other Eurogames. It's just that it skews more toward detail than abstraction and it does unexpected things like having a really dense economic system that accounts for supply, demand, surplus, crisis-level shortages, monopolies, production and it even impacts things like worker population and political stability. Which in turn affects how some players win the game and influences the matrix of cooperation, and can impact things like religious development (Temple building). And then all of that stuff affects not only what players can or should build, but also the evolution cards- who picks what, which gets left behind, which ones increase in price.

It's really a spectacularly layered game, essentially using Eurogame techniques to present an unusual level of specificity. It's more like a Splotter game in a lot of ways than a Uwe Rosenberg or Martin Wallace one. In fact, it really makes me think of how Splotter games are different than the usual Eurogames fare.