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  • Barnes on Games- Tanks and Cuba Libre H2H Reviews, Space Hulk, Betrayal at Calth, Zombicide: Black Plague

Barnes on Games- Tanks and Cuba Libre H2H Reviews, Space Hulk, Betrayal at Calth, Zombicide: Black Plague

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Barnes on Games- Tanks and Cuba Libre H2H Reviews, Space Hulk, Betrayal at Calth, Zombicide: Black Plague
There Will Be Games

Also, Che Guevara and Frank Sinatra.


Two new head to heads are up at Miniature Market. The first is Gale Force 9’s new Tanks game, which I think is pretty swell. It is pretty much a ground-based X-Wing with WWII tanks. A lot of the game is familiar for X-Wing players, but it’s also somewhat simpler with WAY looser movement rules and a really cool way to express changes in accuracy (both targeting and being targeted) in relation to speed of movement. It’s really easy to play, my kids are totally into it right now and we’ve got ten of the tanks so we can run four or five each in a game. It’s a neat product because they are also model kits- yep, sprues and glue – so there’s an activity in putting them together that kids will dig as well. But they are a little tricky and there’s customization options, so they aren’t quite “easy” to assemble.


I really like it. Like Charlie says in the H2H, it doesn’t have much depth and it may not have much longevity in the “scene”, but I kind of don’t care. It’s a fun tank battler. We throw out the 3’x3’ green felt and some Heroscape terrain and have a blast.


The other H2H is Cuba Libre, this one with Dan Thurot. This is my first encounter with COIN, and I am freaking bananas for this game. It’s really kind of just a chromed-out area control game. But you have four different factions that do different things and have completely different agendas of varying degrees of codependency. And then there is this card activation thing that feels like an evolution of the classic Hermanian CDG system. I really like the subject matter, and I love the interplay between the factions. In some ways, it’s closer to Dune than just about anything else since. I’ve only played up to three players with one automaton, but the way it automates non-players is really well one even if it adds some complexity and time to the game. Can’t wait to dig into Falling Sky next and from there, I’ll probably wind up with all of the COIN titles if they are all as good as Cuba Libre.


I’ve got reviews for a couple more Stronghold games in the pipeline, the big winner (other than Animals on Board) is Steller Conflict. Who knew that Light Speed was getting reprinted?


The Summer of GW continues, I’ve got the “playing” article about Battle for Vedros on the way. But I’ve also been getting back into Space Hulk with a friend lately. I had not really looked at it in a while, and opening that box up again I was stunned once more with how freaking great that game’s production was. In 2016 money, it would probably be a $250 game. We’ve done the first three missions back and forth, really enjoying getting back to it again. Still one of the benchmark classics, regardless of a couple of sourpusses out there who scoff at either its dice rolling or its puzzle-y elements.


Playing Betrayal at Calth a bunch too. I think it may be the most underrated, unsung game in the hobby today. It’s awesome. I think back to all these years of wanting to play something “like” 40k but in a board game format and settling for less. But this is the real deal. I think it is brilliantly designed, economical, and almost defiantly simplistic. I love how it handles wargear- shooting and assaults mean that you total up weapons and ratings of everybody in a hex and roll it up. If you get a critical, you can choose one of the critical effects of the weapons you used. So you get these decisions to either strip the enemy of activation points with a bolter or treat the first model’s armor as 0 with a meltagun.

There's apparently another Calth-like game about the Battle of Prospero coming later this year.


I like how the Dreadnaught works as well. If you attack it, you draw a card that shows a hit location and its armor value. If you beat it and do enough wounds to reduce its stamina to 0, it takes permanent damage. You can even one-shot it if you are lucky.


Last night I played it solo and afterwards I decided- at 2 am- to start painting the Word Bearers I already primed red.


Zombicide Black Plague is also holding my interest well, and we’ve had a couple of fun 6 player games. It’s a total hack and slash, but it has just enough rulesy stuff to make it interesting and cool. I especially like how it escalates, with the end game usually finding the characters completely swamped or locked down by the horde. One of the things I always liked about Zombies!!!  was that it captured the visual of a massive horde of zombies bearing down on the players and few zombie games have really done that since. But this one does.


It’s fun to take a chance on shooting into a space with friendly characters, more fun to go barreling in with two swords and try to chop through a building. I think Wulfsburg is essential more for the addition of powerful new items than for the wolfz. But they are cool enough and the Wolfbomination is nuts, he activates three times and can just completely wreck a character. At first I didn’t like how there is really only one combination to kill the Abomination/Wolfbomination…but now I love having an almost unkillable adversary on the board.


Very surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it, thinking about getting more of it. Especially the Deadeye Archers.


There Will Be Games
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of and as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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JEM's Avatar
JEM replied the topic: #230220 15 Jul 2016 07:40
I think the Zombicide games improve when there's a variety of zombie types in terms of their powers. Black Plague doesn't really have anything comparable to berserkers and toxics (yet) which is where the really interesting gamey parts of the system come to the fore in terms of tactical play. Black Plague disappointed me with its level minimums for the really cool weapons- it meant players already behind on experience points did not have that option to bring themselves up to par with the group xp leaders. I think the archers will add some knots to the game play that will improve Black Plague, though.

I've played Cuba Libre one time, and the only reason I didn't buy it is because the two other people I know who like COIN games each own a copy. I've just about got my head around Liberty or Death and just got Falling Sky for the very different approach to the system. These games epitomise the potential of area control games for me.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #230227 15 Jul 2016 08:51
Check out Fire in the Lake. It has the best soundtrack.
JEM's Avatar
JEM replied the topic: #230229 15 Jul 2016 09:11
Fire in the Lake was the first COIN game I bought, because it was the only one in print at the time. I put it away after learning the subject matter was painfully close to home to a housemate.
Columbob's Avatar
Columbob replied the topic: #230243 15 Jul 2016 10:39
Battle of Prospero? Now we're talking! Even though the Thousand Sons weren't corrupted by Tzeentch yet.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #230248 15 Jul 2016 12:29

Check out Fire in the Lake. It has the best soundtrack.

It also, sadly, has the longest play time.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #230255 15 Jul 2016 13:32
I hated Zombicide until recently. What made the difference was playing it with 6 players. Chaotic and awesome.

Really jazzed about Black Plague because it's ~more~ than Zombicide and the setting is certainly cooler.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #230261 15 Jul 2016 14:25

MattDP wrote:

Check out Fire in the Lake. It has the best soundtrack.

It also, sadly, has the longest play time.

When it came out and we played it several times, we had playtime down to 2-2.5 hours for the medium length scenario.
Egg Shen's Avatar
Egg Shen replied the topic: #230262 15 Jul 2016 14:28
Cuba Libre sounds fucking great. I've sort of had my eye on that for a few weeks. I just figured it was gonna be fairly complex and I wouldn't know anyone else who'd be interested in it. I still think that might be the case...but I kinda want it.

I've got all the kickstarter shit from Zombicide Black Plague just laying in a pile at my house. It arrived when I had a bunch of shit going on and it a few other kickstaters showed up near or on the same day (Last Stand and Tokaido), so I just haven't had a chance to dig into it.

To be honest I thought about ebaying the whole lot because I went all in and have some of the rarer minis from the kickstarter. Plus, I REALLY didn't like vanilla Zombicide at all. However, I'm glad to hear that it's worth while. I think the thing that I appreciate most is that each time you play it the scenarios are self contained. There is no campaign to worry about. That means the thing will actually get played. Also, I just like the medieval/ Army of Darkness setting MUCH better than the Left 4 Dead bullshit that they went with for regular Zombicide. I think I'm gonna crack it open, punch the tokens and read the rules this weekend. Hopefully I can try it out next week.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #230264 15 Jul 2016 15:18
Massive Darkness takes the Black Plague formula and goes high fantasy with it. It is set for campaign but you lose your gear in each mission so it's really just checking off skills on disposable class sheets. Shouldn't be a big deal to do one-off sessions or swap people in/out or artificially advance their level as needed.

Honestly I don't really like campaigns in games. If I was into that I'd just play Pathfinder. That said, the legacy concept in Seafall sounds very neat to me.
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #230269 15 Jul 2016 16:21
It's because you've never had the ability to do a campaign where you play a skirmish 2x a week for 3 months, tracking progress on a Mighty Empires set as the forces of anarchy set their eyes on your territory.

Seriously, every person should do that at least once. It changes your view of what games can be. Strange Aeons is still my favorite game of all time when it comes to campaign play.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #230282 15 Jul 2016 21:11
Or at least a Descent campaign :p. Still the best board gaming experience for me. I've learned with the right stuff, more (time) investment = more reward.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #230292 16 Jul 2016 10:28
I'm sure it's cool with the right opportunity. My group meets maybe twice a month and not always with the same people. Assuming Seafall is a hit, it will probably take us a year to resolve.
ratpfink's Avatar
ratpfink replied the topic: #230295 16 Jul 2016 11:53

charlest wrote: Check out Fire in the Lake. It has the best soundtrack.

Pop in the Cambodia Rocks compliation, go!

COIN games aren't so complex, but they kind of have that Napoleon's Triumph thing going on where they are just so different than what came before. You can't really reuse anything you've learned from other games to help you learn how to play these. Throw in that each faction operates pretty differently and I think most people I've played with struggle a bit at first. Luckily, once you learn one COIN you do have that background knowledge and can pick the others up pretty quickly. And by others, I mean Fire in the Lake cuz it's the best one.