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F:AT Thursday: Heroscape, Mage Knight and Trashfest Northeast!

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There Will Be Games

"You want me to do what?"

"I want you to go over there and tell that guy I want to see him."

"They'll kill me!"

"No they won't. You're a likable guy. Why would they kill you?"

"Because that's what they do. That's what all the swords and such are all about. The killing."

"Just for show. Just walk up, use that charm you are so renowned for and they'll let you on by." 

"And what about those wizards."

"What wizards?"

"The funny ones in swirling vortexes of death magic....those wizards."

"Death magic? No, come on now. What makes you say death magic?"

"I took a hint from the disembodied skulls and shrieks of terror."

"A misinterpretation."

"A misinterpre....what?!"

"Sure you misinterpret . Just because you're a screaming skull with flaming eyes doesn't necessarily mean you're a proponent of the annihilation of all life." 

"Well what about the guy himself? He's not just going to come quietly!"

"Take this. It will aid you in your quest."

"A bag?...a bag full of..oatmeal cookies?!"

"Yes, he likes them. Tell him there are more over here."

*munch munch* "Well they are kind of delicious. This just might work"

It was F:AT Thursday!

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The usual group of True Believers were away on different missions this week and while I saw them at different times and in different places, We were unable to get together and assemble our giant robot of awesomeness. 

So it was that I hung out with them separately.

We all have gaps in our Geek Cred, I suppose. Games that "everybody" has played and knows all there is to know about. I had quite a few before the onset of F:AT Thursday but I have been slowly but surely plugging them up. Soon, I will be the unassailable paragon of Nerdery! And then.....ahem....sorry....my latent megalomania showing itself again.

This week another such gap was filled. I played Heroscape.

Now, perhaps you are like the boy in the locker room who nods along while the more popular guys talk about getting to second base with the cheerleaders as if you had any clue about what a real life naked breast looked like. (Not that that was ever me...cuz...you know....chicks dig me). Perhaps you too have never played Heroscape.

But you should because it's a blast.

The game consists of building a battle ground out of plastic hexagons of various colors representing different terrain, blue is water, green is grass, a different green is swamp, etc. The tiles interlock and stack one on top of another so in the end you have this super cool 3D landscape to play on. 

Next you pick a scenario of which there are many. You are given objectives which often are different than "last man standing" and a point value with which to buy your army. Miniature War Gamers are familiar with this concept as are people that have played X-Wing or Attack Wing.

Then you select which minions will do your fighting for you. There are tons and tons of little plastic dudes to choose from. They come in single "Heroes" or multi-figure squads. Heroes as you may suspect are more powerful but fewer while squads have weak individuals but come with 3 or 4 units. 

Let me pause to say how awesome these minis are. Each are prepainted, each has it's own individual pose. Even in squads of four of the same type, each figurine is unique. Now I'm not saying they are as awesome as some professional Warhammer mini done by an artist at home. No. But for mass produced guys? Get outta here!

You set up your army according to scenario guidelines and then have at it. 

The game plays super simple. Each type of unit has a stat card listing it's movement limit, it's range, and strength. Also all the special attributes or attacks it has. All simple and clearly laid out. Combat is simple and effective. The attacker rolls a certain amount of attack dice with skulls being hits. The defender rolls different dice with "shields" canceling "skulls". Each skull left is a point of damage. If a unit takes enough damage, it's dead. (This has been described as the Splat and Shield system of combat but I don't think I like that phrase....just irks me a bit...so I'm not going to use it)

This game has massive "toy appeal". Who doesn't want to play with a miniature of a guy riding a dinosaur and make roaring noises as he devours his foe? There were several sets and many smaller expansion packs released for this game and they are all compatible so you can have U.S. Airborne soldiers with space marine allies fighting Roman Legionaries and their Elf friends. And did I mention the 3D terrain?

The drawbacks are mostly that it is out of print and as it was made at a time when plastic flowed in rivers and resin fell from the sky like rain, it will never ever be made again. This means that it would probably be expensive to get into. At least more than it once was when Master Sets were in the clearance bins for $12. Also, the set up time can be a drag especially setting up the terrain.

One last cool thing is that the game can be "dumbed down" by flipping over the stat card on some units. It eliminates all the special abilities of the units. Why? Well so younger kids who aren't old enough yet to grasp four or five special things can play and still have a kick ass time. I think that's great.

Josh and I played two games. In the first his, currier (a secretly selected unit) had to get across the board without being killed by my guys. He won this one as my Orc Legion was unable to stop his ED209 death robot from gatlingunning them into tiny pieces while his Elf currier minced across the finish line.

In the second, it was a battle to the death over water rights as our armies clashed in the river bed of a drought starved river. Here I was victorious as my Vikings and Space Marines destroyed Josh's 101st Airborne and Devil Dogs (no I don't mean marines...I mean..dogs...from the devil).

It was great.

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Jimbo came over to my place and we played Mage Knight with the new General Volkare expansion also known as The Lost Legion.

"What?" you say "There is a NEW Volkare expansion? I did not know! Now my game is woefully incomplete! Alak AND alas!"

Chill, it's new only in the sense that I had bought it months ago and this was the first opportunity to use it. 

I'm no super genius and frankly the base Mage Knight game is challenging enough, often more than enough, for me. The General just makes it about ten times harder. So that's good.

What he is is sort of a dummy player that moves around the board following an AI based on card draws from his own deck of cards. Card A means that he attempts to scare away units from the offer so that you as a Mage Knight cannot hire them. Card B means he moves and fights anybody in his way. Card C means he moves twice in a specified direction.

"No big deal," you foolishly say, "that doesn't sound so rough."

But that is only because you have forgotten that this guy is a General. A leader of men and of monster. He brings his personal army with him wherever he goes. In the scenario "Vokare's Quest" that we played I think he had 12 or more guys with him including three or four dragons. He makes taking a city, something I rarely am able to accomplish, seem easy.

How did we fare? We WON! We kicked his ass..natch!

(Be advised that the previous line is a total and complete lie. So far from the truth as to be laughable. Hahahaha. See? Laughter.)

The truth is that in a moment of weakness...Volkare and his boys disintegrated my Mage Knight to atoms. I actually did attack him on the last turn to just see how I would fare. I was able to take out about 4 units but in the process took over 10 wounds to my hand. In practice that would have put me out of the game for five turns. In a six turn game, that is a lot.

There are some who gripe about Mage Knight but I still think it is a fantastic game. I get a story out of it each time I play and even if the combat is diceless and "deterministic" I do not feel oppressed or upset by it.

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Talk of deep matters? Trashfest, of course. It's just a few days away and I think it's going to be a good time. Looking forward to seeing some sorely missed F:ATies. Our distant True Believers like Bernie, and Saul, and the Notorious Billy Z. But also to meeting some people like Jason Lutes and the Lego Mancer.

Are you still on the fence about coming? Stop being a sally and come on. It'll be fun.

Also it was good to see that Matt Loter's kickstarter project made it's funding goal. I love it when friends succeed. Someday we will all be millionaires driving our exotic sports cars by day and playing board games in our mansions by night! You know, kind of like Geoff Englestein does already.

There Will Be Games
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