Dr. Finn’s Games
A friend of mine brought over a little card game to the last Grand Rapids Area Boardgamers game day. It came in a VHS video case. You know the old big bulky ones? The cover proclaimed “Scripts and Scribes A medieval Game of Strategy and Intrigue.”
I was, well, intrigued. I love card games. They are my first love in gaming. I have spent countless hours playing Spades, Euchre, Hearts and Rummy. I was eager to give it a whirl. It turns out that it really is a wonderful game. After really enjoying Scripts and Scribes I looked up Dr. Finn’s games.
It turns out he is an interesting cat. The blurb on his web site reads: “Games should be a good time: easy to understand, quick to learn, and fun to play. Games have come a long way since Monopoly thanks to some great strategy games that have broken the mold like Settlers of Catan and Carcassone. Dr Finn's Games are a perfect "gateway" to this new world of games, easy to understand, exciting to play and straight from the designer.” He has self published these games in “limited runs of 100-200 games. If the game is well received, we may make additional runs.”
I picked up Slush Fund from him directly and signed up for his email list. Being on the list I was lucky enough to be among the group of people who were able to order his most recent game “The Trial of Socrates.”
Manipulating victory points is a common element in all three games I have played by the good doctor. All three are short, easy to learn, have a nice flow of play and most importantly are (as advertised) fun. The type of game you want to play a couple of times in a row, once you grok what is going on. I would call them Super-Fillers. If you are looking for some games to have on hand while you are waiting for the entire gang to get to game night, these are perfect!
In S&S VPs are dice – value starts off at 3 and during game play cards (Bishops) come up that allow you to add or subtract from the VPs. There are two phases of the game. Both phase are different hand drafting mechanisms. In the first you are building your hand by picking cards off the deck. You have 3 choices. Put the card in your hand, put it in an “auction pile” for the next phase, or put the cards face up (enough for every other player in the game). The face up cards are then drafted by the other players. Play goes round and round until the deck is depleted. Then the auction phase! Yes, I can hear you groan, but fear not friends! It is quick and is just another hand drafting mechanism for this game. Cards come face up one at a time, and you bid gold for cards that aren’t gold, and some number of cards for gold cards. In the end each player has a hand built consisting of various suits. The player with the most points in a suit gets the die, i.e., the VPs. Most VPs wins!
Slush Fund is billed as “An exciting game of bribery, scandal, and politics”. It has VP cards that are added to the politicians you are trying to bribe, scandal cards that subtract VPs, and Thief cards that can steal bribes from other players bribe piles. You play your cards on your side of the politician card and after all the machinations are done, the player with the most money in his bribe pile wins the politician. Base point of politicians is 7 plus and/or minus any VP or scandal cards in that player’s pile.
The Trial of Socrates is a light worker placement filler game. This is a very homespun affair. It has almost a prototype feel to it, production wise. The components are simple but perfectly functional. You place follower tokens of various value face down in various areas of the “board” and are vying for the VPs in each house. The worker (cube) placement mechanism allows you reveal tokens values so you assess where players are in the race to control the houses. A second cube allows you to choose between playing cards, drawing cards, or adjusting your tokens around the board. Most points wins the house VPs and most VPs wins the game.
Some may be turned off by the low production quality, particularly The Trial of Socrates. Much like Winsome games, it actually is part of the charm of the games in my opinion. In the two card games, the cards are fine quality and I rather like the art. Some of the folks I have played with complain that the cards in S&S are a bit hard to differentiate. That is a fair criticism. I would put it down as a minor gripe rather than a reason to not try out the game. It is also perfectly fair to note, that theme in all of these games is utterly superfluous. It is there for ambiance only. It works for me just fine, but may be a disappointment for fans of theme heavy games.
These may sound like the stuff of any usual dreary Euro game, but these games are absolutely a blast. Each of them play in about thirty minutes. While the game play is quick, there is a fair amount of strategy hidden in the simple rules.
If you are looking for a nice filler game (or two) I would highly recommend you check these out. I would note that Scripts and Scribes and Trial of Socrates may be hard to purchase right now. I understand that S&S will be re-released by a professional publisher, hopefully in 2010, albeit under a new name. So keep your eyes open and if you get a chance to support a small publisher I think you will be well pleased with these games.
About 2 years ago, Avalon Hill (Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro) released a collectible miniatures game called "War At Sea". Being a Naval geek and having wanted to play a Naval Miniatures game in forever, I bought quite a few of the minis (The Complete US Set, the Complete Japanese Set, quite a few Germans and Brits) and played the game hot and heavy for a few months. The game is fun, but it is lacking. There isn't quite the depth of strategy that you can get from other games I've played. My biggest complaint is that Destroyers are pretty much easy pickings almost to the point of uselessness. Planes are nice but once the carrier gets in gun range of the battleship, it gets chewed up. Submarines are next to impossible to kill because once the destroyers are gone, they can not be hit by anything else (unless the planes survive). So while the game is fun, it is hardly a good Naval game.
At Gen Con, one of my friends ended up picking up a copy of "Victory at Sea" because we have been eying this game for a while. Everything I've read about it seems to indicate that it is closer to what I am looking for (although one of these years I would like to play a game he and another friend have been talking about called "Fletcher Pratt").
So last night, we got a chance to play it. For our first battle, we did the Graf Spee against a Southampton class Cruiser. According to the rules these should have been evenly matched which looking at the stats, they should have been. He had the Graf Spee with better guns and I had the Southampton with better aiming. It turned out to be a pretty lopsided affair as the Graf Spee sent the Southampton to the bottom.
So then we played the Bismarck vs. the Missouri. Again according to the rules this should have been a fairly even match. I had the Missouri and ended up smoking the Bismarck.
Anyways, even though we ended up steaming our ships towards each other, the battles still felt about right. You could tell the difference in speed between the ships (In Axis and Allies the ships either move 1 or 2 spaces, so there's not really all that much difference between a destroyer and battleship in speed) and I have a feeling had we done one more with destroyers, that would have been even more apparent. There's also different target numbers depending on the silouette of the ships (battleships have a lower target number than the cruisers, I didn't see destroyers), so smaller ships get harder to hit (although throwing 9 dice at one will hurt it, I think).
I think if we had did a bigger engagement with Destroyers, it would have been a nice donnybrook as the Destroyers could lay smoke (something that not all destroyers can do in Axis and Allies) and I think the differences in the ships would have become even more apparent as the Destroyers would have been able to turn tighter and move faster. All in all, the game seems pretty fun and I can't wait to play it again.
Handing a new player the Vagabond is simultaneously the best and worst introduction to Root.
So Victory Point Games just announced they have purchased a laser cutting machine and are making counters so thick that they can be stood on edge. [VPG announcement]
Given that VPG recently had GMT release the de-luxe version of No Retreat!, I wonder if they decided to keep that money in the family. The new, fancier games are called "Gold Banner" and for now they won't cost any more. I plan to snap up as many as I can afford before they raise their prices. It sounds like they will upgrade their existing quiver of games to the Gold Banner standard starting with their best sellers and games that are expecting expansions. I'm personally hoping for Nemo's War, Dawn of the Zeds and Zulus on the Ramparts.
They also announced their plans for broader distribution, including Amazon fulfillment. I'm looking forward to seeing Forlorn Hope with chunky counters for sale by Amazon for $25 with free shipping. My overdraft account is trembling in fear.
Alan Emrich is doing something that I think is really kind of special. He's running a small games business and apparently doing extremely well since he was able to cut a $1000 royalty check to one of his designers. He's also teaching classes on game design and encouraging folks to get out there and make games, not just play them. And the games he's publishing are well worth your time and money, covering some unusual subject matter and providing some very fresh gameplay ideas that are sorely lacking in the "majors".
In this article over at Gameshark, I'm reviewing three of VPG's multiplayer games- CIRCUS TRAIN (which Ubarose reviewed a while back and got me interested in), LOOT & SCOOT, and FORLORN: HOPE. In a future column, I'm going to be covering a couple of their solitaire games including SOVIET DAWN, ZULUS ON THE RAMPARTS, TOE-TO-TOE NUK'LR COMBAT, and NEMO'S WAR. NEMO'S WAR is one of the best games of the year, it's _outstanding_ and hugely thematic.
It really amazes me how much narrative, detail, historicity, and gameplay these guys are packing into really small footprints. TOE TO TOE has like 20 counters and it feels more thematic than games I've paid five times as much for and that have hundreds more components.
They've got a new one out that I wish that I could have covered, it's called FINAL FRONTIER and it's very obviously a Star Trek game. It looks fun. Anybody play it yet?
Pictured is James Mason as Captain Nemo. He's PISSED. That is a stern look of disapproval if ever I saw one.
Why is "Jehmz Mehhhzohn" pissed? Because you're not playing NEMO'S WAR enough. It's one of the best games of 2010, and it along with PHANTOM LEADER rank as two of the very best solitaire games I've ever played. So quit laying out four character, one player games of ARKHAM HORROR that take all day to set up, play, and put away and give the ol' Nautilus a whirl. I think you'll be surprised at how much game this inexpensive, low profile game will give you. And the them is BAD ASS.
This week at Cracked LCD I'm looking at NEMO'S WAR along with three other Victory Point Games solitaire titles. They're all really good ones. That's seven total games that I've covered from their catalog, and I have yet to play a bad one. Can't wait to see what these guys do next.
This 12+ minute screencast is primarily for aspiring designers, not for professionals.
This is a followup to "10 'need to knows' about game design" http://gamasutra.com/blogs/LewisPulsipher/20141020/228137/Video_screencast_10_quotNeed_to_Knowsquot_about_Game_Design.php
The text of the slides follows. Of course, there's a lot more to the screencast than this text.
11 MORE “need to knows” about Game Design
Dr. Lewis Pulsipher
“Game Design” channel on YouTube
Original 10 Wasn’t Enough
I started with 10 “ntk”
But I thought of more than 10, so here some more. Keep in mind, the first 10, taken as a whole, are the most important
But these 11 are also important
Focus on the essence
Professionals design for other people, not for themselves
Professional game design is about discipline, not self-indulgence
Game Design is not Mind Control
There is no perfect game
You probably won’t be good at game design, at first
Games are not just Mechanics
Making a good game takes a LOT of time
Piracy is everywhere (for “digital” goods)
You’re an Entertainer, or a teacher, not a gift to the world
Focus on the Essence
My motto: "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Another form, about Japanese gardening, is "Your garden is not complete until there is nothing else that you can remove."
If you’re making a puzzle, complexity might be a goal; If you’re making “an experience”, simplicity may not be a goal. For most games, the goal is to keep only what you absolutely need
[As this has been misunderstood by someone who didn't listen to the screencast, I interject the following: Your primary goal (for most games, recognizing there are specialized such as educational) is to entertain other people, not yourself. The goal is to entertain, the design is for other people. As such, any list of features that you think will make your game a surefire hit will likely turn into a soul-less mess. So perhaps I could have worded the slide, "Professionals work to entertain other people, not themselves".]
Your job is to entertain or enlighten other people
You are not typical, or you wouldn’t be designing games!
So what you like, may not be typical of what large groups like
Don’t rely solely on your own opinions about the worth of a game
I recently had a game published that I didn’t think was a Big Deal, just a nice little game – but others had different opinions
And I have had games I thought were outstanding, but have not been published
Many designers are self-indulgent, often thinking of themselves as “artists” who are blessing the world with their brilliance – so they do whatever they want
POPPYCOCK! (Though you can do this if you’re not interested in selling any games . . .)
Do player-centric, not designer-centric (or art-centric) design
Game design is compromise. It’s never “perfect”
Some designers want to, in effect, control all that the player is doing and thinking
And if you think about it, a novel can be approached in this way
Though most novelists want to influence, not control
Linear video games can approach this ideal
But most game players want to have the ability to control the outcome of the game (and want “agency” as well)
Better to think of game design as offering players opportunities, not forcing anything on the players
There are dozens of genres for a reason
Tastes of game players vary as much as tastes of music-lovers. (I dislike rap. I like classical. Some people love rap. Some hate classical. And so on.)
And there’s no room for perfectionism in professional design
You need to get games DONE. Especially in video games
The Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns sets in quickly for professionals, less so for hobbyist designers
So at some point, you have to finish even though the game isn’t perfect
You probably won’t be good at it, at first
How often do you start to do something complex, requiring a lot of critical thinking, and yet you’re immediately good at it? Never!
Most complex things worth doing, take a long time to do well
Even playing a game well can take a long time to master
Some theorize that you need a great many opportunities to fail/succeed before you can become good at something
And there’s the “10,000 hours” notion, too, though I don’t take the quantification seriously
What matters is the impression you make on the player(s)
MDA: Mechanics, Dynamics, “Aesthetics” (I prefer “Impressions” for the last)
Collections of mechanics can feel soul-less
If you choose mechanics based on a model, they tend to fit together; if they’re just collections, they’ll often not fit together
Most of what happens in game design takes place in the mind – of the designer, and of the players
Outsiders/non-practitioners tend to minimize the difficulty because they don’t see it happening
Moreover, it’s easy to get a game to 80%, it’s the last 20% that takes most of the game design time and effort
And then, if it’s a tabletop game, scheduling and manufacturing can take many months
Mayfair recently published a game they’d had for 8 years
I have a game that may be published in 2015, publisher accepted it in 2005 [sic]
Piracy of “digitally”-produced games is rampant
And there’s practically nothing you can do about it
Free-to-play helps (in video games), but even the in-app purchases in F2P are pirated regularly
Fortunately, not much piracy in tabletop games (unless it’s primarily a rulebook, such as RPGs)
You’re an Entertainer or a Teacher, not a "gift to the world”
That is, if you want to be a commercial game designer
Publishers are in business to make money (mostly, but especially in video games)
Yes, you can self-publish
But a lot more people want games to entertain or enlighten them, than want games to be “art”
“We want to entertain people by surprising them, so I really don’t think we are psychologists – we are nothing but entertainers.” -Shigeru Miyamoto (Zelda, Donkey Kong, Wii Fit, etc. )
Reiner Knizia (over 500 [sic] published games) also says his purpose is entertainment
You want to find all the ways your game can fail, and eliminate or fix them
So the faster you fail, the quicker you can eliminate or fix the failures
Or start over!
Get a playable prototype done as soon as possible – there is NO Substitute
If you’re doing a video game, try to make a paper prototype first, to try things out
About a week ago, I posted up a Video Game Music contest here on F:AT.
Here's the link to it
The Results: everybody who participated won! I'd like to send out a special thanks to Jeb, Rocketwiki, and mjl1783 for actually participating. Rocketwiki had 4 correct answers. Mjl1783 had 3 correct answers, and Jeb 2 correct answers and 2 instances of getting the series right, but not the specific game.
The answers, with associated youtube links of the songs in-game and info blurbs about the games for the interested:
1 - AXELAY for SNES
A SHMUP in the same vein as Radiant Silvergun and other Shmups where you don't get powerups and stuff. You have several different guns you can switch between. Like Radiant Silvergun, has a high learning curve for a shmup and I was never very good at it. This game also features the worst abuse of mode 7 I have ever seen. EDIT: That is not to say that the game wasn't awesome.
2 - Civilization IV for PC
I'm surprised that only Rocketwiki got this one. No one else here has played or plays Civ 4? I have thoroughly enjoyed every Civilization PC game thus far, but this one is definitely my favorite.
3 - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for NES
The tune is "Bloody Tears", which made its first appearance in this game and then became a recurring theme in the Castevania series because of its awesomeness.
4 - X-COM: UFO Defense for PC/PSX
aka. X-COM: Enemy Unknown in other parts of the world. :p This was one of the few actual tunes in the game that was more than an amalgamation of atmospheric sound effects. The tune in the contest video is actually from the PSX version of the game, but besides the quality in sound (PSX is better sound quality, PC had a midi version), they are the same song. Probably my favorite game of all time.
5 - PERFECT DARK for N64
This tune from the game features the Pefect Dark "theme" prominently. One of the best games for the N64. If you can get past the polygons, the gameplay has aged surprisingly well.
6 - TYRIAN for PC
A classic SHMUP that has more variety than I've ever seen in a game in the genre. You can play "arcade" mode, where you pick up powerups from enemies and you don't get much plot. Or you can play the "full game" mode, where there are little to no powerups and you buy stuff between levels and there's actually a plot. Maybe not a very deep plot, but The story/data cubes are, for the most part, hilarious. The game has a very "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"-esque sense of humor. Many of the planets have guidebook entries on them in-game. There's also "Super Tyrian" mode, which is in the vein of Radiant Silvergun, only the button combos to pull off certain attacks are sometimes really tricky (like complicated Street Fighter II moves or something). There's a TON of levels, and 6 difficulty settings. It's awesome (and free to download)!
7 - HOMEWORLD for PC
After putting the contest up, I sort of realized that this entry was way too hard for anyone to figure out. The tune is the "Turanic Raiders battle music". Unfortunately, the track cuts off before the main instruments come in. I know I've heard the game mentioned around here, but I know it would be difficult to get even if you've played the game before. As far as the game goes, no other RTS I've ever played can match the amount of atmosphere in Homeworld. Playing the game is truly a unique experience. The only thing I don't like about it is that it's fairly slow-paced, but in a way even that adds to the atmosphere.
8 - METROID for NES
What a classic game. This was the one tune that all 3 people identified.
9 - AGE OF EMPIRES II for PC
The soundtrack of this game is basically one 30 minute tune. This is the beginning of it.
10 - WOLFENSTEIN 3D for PC
One of the pioneers in the FPS genre, and it's still great! It's the original "run and gun" FPS distilled to its essence, pure and undefiled, with good old fashioned Nazi killing. The way to play it nowadays is with the Wolfenstein 3D mod for the ZDoom engine. It's the same as the original, only with modern controls and stuff (its also free).
11 - FINAL FANTASY TACTICS for PSX
A highly regarded classic tactical RPG. It had a lot of depth, a convoluted plot, and a great soundtrack. I picked this tune because it features the FFT "theme" that permeates much of the game's music.
So, is there any/much interest in another one of these? I have another video put together of just NES music; it seems like there's not too many PC gamers here, is there?
Anyway, thanks to the three participants. Now feel free to discuss the games, the contest, whatever, or even give suggestions for possible future contests.
I've been thinking about this for a while, and seeing what some people have done with Wii Music, recording the songs in ways that totally change the original, only confirmed these thoughts... (there are some amazing videos on YouTube that show what you can really accomplish with this game )
I posted this on a gaming forum, but thought I'd also post it here...
There seem to be some games emerging that will be enjoyed by people into the "theme" of the game in real life, more than gamers in general. Wii Music had many bad reviews because to really enjoy the game you have to be into music a lot, and will get the most out of it if you understand what's going on behind the actual game. It's not a traditional game in the sense that there are no goals but the ones you set yourself, and for people that like making music or are willing to learn about music, it is actually very enjoyable. I know I did enjoy it a lot (I'm a musician too) although my disc broke a while ago and have not been playing it for quite a while.
In order to get the maximum out of this game, you need to know (or be willing to learn) about a real life skill and how it works in the REAL world.
There are other examples too. Wii Ski & Snowboard (I missed the first of the series) is a game I'm enjoying immensely since I got it a few days ago. First, for people that know how to ski in real life, by allowing to invert the controls on the wii balance board, it actually manages to come pretty close to the feeling of real skiing, and for people that like skiing that is enough. If in real life I enjoy just going up and down the slopes of a ski resort, why wouldn't I enjoy a similar experience, if compelling enough, on a console? I can see how someone that just wants a racing game they can pick up and play with their current gaming skills, will be disappointed. Skiing is not something intuitive and takes quite a while to master, and someone that doesn't know how to ski in real life, will have to be willing to make an effort to really enjoy this game.
Because if you've never done any skiing, you'll find it hard to change your mindset and realize that when you turn (in real life skiing) you actually set your weight on the foot opposite to the direction you want to turn (so, put your weight on the right foot and you'll turn left). You also don't really "lean" towards the turns (just a bit to counter inertia) but instead you try to maintain your body straight while your legs do the actual turning. When you actually mimic the movements you'd do skiing in real life, the game works very well and that makes it very rewarding (leaning too much will also make it very hard to change direction quickly, so you'll have a very hard time on harder challenges and runs).
So, getting a high level of enjoyment from this game requires some previous knowledge (or at least requires the player to spent some time learning the more realistic controls). Of course, they did include more "arcade" controls, and you might find the game is easier this way, but it loses a lot, and I can see how people would find it not too enjoyable this way because the real skiing experience is lost.
It's a bit like in Mario Kart Wii. You can steer with the wheel or you can steer with the analog stick on the nunchuck. The wheel feels very good and realistic enough, but the stick is just better to control your car. If I'm looking for a compelling driving experience, the wheel is actually required. If I'm just playing an arcade racing game, the stick will work better. But cars aren't controlled with a stick in real life... That's why even though the technology to make a realistic driving sim is there, we don't see many games like that because for people that don't have those skills in real life it is just frustrating... Punch Out Wii seems to be a bit similar in this regard. Sure, it's quicker to push buttons on a gamepad than punch with your fist, and the puzzle nature of the game leans itself very well to the classic controls, but for someone that likes both the arcade and puzzlelike nature of the game and has real fighting skills, the game will be much more enjoyable using the motion controls. It will be harder, because timing is harder this way, but with enough practice the rewards will be greater. Of course, you need to be willing to make the effort to learn something new...
Now that the WiiMotionPlus has been released, we might start seeing more realistic games that will require a previous skill to be enjoyed. I'm not sure how the new tennis games play, but I could see how a game that really uses the 1:1 motions of the Wimote+MotionPlus can start to be too hard for someone that doesn't know how to play tennis. The same goes for golf or any other sport. Gamers will complain that those games are too hard, because their previous gaming skills will not work on those games. Who'll be the "hardcore" gamer then???
My head is full of half-baked, unverified facts and statistics. I recall reading somewhere that sometime in the last 5 years, the videogame industry overtook Hollywood as the leading form of visual entertainment in the western world. To me, that is a huge milestone in the development of an industry that has only been available to the mainstream for the last 35 years.
When I was 10, the two major milestones that entered my life were Starwars and the Space Invadersarcade game. Soon, I had a rudimentary console that played pong and 3 other similar ball and bat games. I played it so much over the summer holidays that I could kick anyones arse at the Hockey game, with my crafty angled goal shots from my forward player.
With my buddies, I used to dream about a videogame that offered the exact cinematic quality of the crop of SF movies around at the time. These were the days before even VHS and Beta, and I was of the view that this was an impossible dream.
Fastforwarding 30 years, our wildest dreams have come true, along with things we never could have dreamed about (such as online multi-player gaming).
Now, each new month seems to bring at least 6 quality videogame releases. That is, at least 6 new titles that most gamers would enjoy playing. Average playing time for seasoned gamers seems to be about 20 hours per title. Therefore, each new month gives us about 120 hours of new games worth playing. That's 30 hours a week, almost the equivalent of a full time job.
To afford these new titles, you need a job. Having a job means you have limited gaming time. We seem to have become a generation of gaming grazers. We eagerly pick up new releases, put a few hours of playtime on them, and then move on to the next new thing.
What sparked this blog was some recent drama in my life. Last week, I came home from a short holiday to find my house had been burgled. My Xbox360 and over 20 games were taken. In a way, I was kind of glad, as the insurance money allowed me to replace my dying 20 gig model with a brand spanking new 250 gig machine.
However, I have had a suprising reaction to replacing my game collection. Amongst my games were a number of unfinished quality titles: Arkham Asylum, GOW2, Halo 3, Saints Row 2, GTA 4 and several more. So far, the only titles that I have felt motivated enough to replace were the 2 Cave multi-region shmups Mushihime Futariand Espgaluda II. With both of these titles, I have completed them numerous times by credit feeding, and the replay value comes in improving my skills, hoping for that elusive 1 credit clear. I have no desire whatsoever to pick up any of the other unfinished top rating titles in my collection.
In a way, my enjoyment of these shmups seems to go back to my days mastering the earliest videogames released.
It has really made me rethink my future game purchases, and my profile as a gamer. The new XBox came with Final Fantsy XIII. I have clocked up about 4 hours of this game. I am enjoying the game - I'm treating it as no more than an RPG on rails. The enjoyment in the gameplay is coming from making snap assessments of battle tactics, pressing a couple of buttons, and watching a pre-generated battle sequence where I have no direct control over the timing of individual attacks and defensive moves. Other than that, I am sitting back and enjoying the cinematic spectacular of the game, which I have to say is pretty damn good.
I'm going to try and play nothing else except this title until it is finished. I am then going to carefully consider my next game purchase. I know that this will mean that I am only likely to play around 6 new titles a year. I will try very hard not to be distracted by the next new shiny title that catches my eye.
Is there too much gaming these days? Have we reached the point of over-saturation of releases?
I went to Essen with a rather long list of games I looked out for but it always proves hard to check everything you want and luckily you also run into happy accidents
Hyperborea was a great start to the show. It allows for different strategies, offers some interesting events and sets up for conflict. It’s rightly been likened to Eclipse. We went through a few rounds and then decided it was a winner.
Run, Fight or Dieis the umptiest zombie game and I realized I was suffering from zombie fatigue after a decade of exposure. And although there is some kind of a challenge in there, it is mostly multiplayer solo.
Spartacusis one of the first games by Gale Force Nine and although it probably isn’t the edgiest design, the intrigue is fun. Trash talk flows naturally and you find yourself booing gladiators that don’t try hard enough.
Theme and the fact that it is published by a Greek company drew me to Gothic Invasion. How can you not get excited for the war that inflicted one of the heaviest defeats on the Roman Empire and saw the death of an Emperor? The designer gave us an overview. Play is card driven with 2 or 3 options per card. Forces and objectives are asymmetric, so there is a lot of maneuver on the map. You can see there is a lot of promise in there. Although it can be played with more than two, there is no rivalry or separate objective. It just didn’t do it for my friends so I was faced with buying a game that wouldn’t get played.
Time Masterstries a new approach to deck building by making time the key unit. It works, because the game speeds up and slows down. But I didn’t feel like I was achieving anything worthwhile by building the deck. Somehow I couldn't find a way to hold the cards due to the horizontal design. And who asks €35 for a card game these days? [edit: apparently I was misinformed at the booth or I misunderstood the price: the publisher has informed me the price in stores should be €30 and would have been €25 in Essen]
The evening in the bar and restaurant was spent with Unicum, Verone/Council of Verona and Auge um Auge. All three are excellent for beer and pretzels. Unicumoffers a small box for a short game with a neat betting war hidden in it. This is fun, but I just wish the ‘uniqueness’ argument mattered a bit more. If you can get into the spirit of bogus arguments that helps.
I think that Veroneis a truly great microgame, with all trying to influence the outcome of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets. It is worthwhile getting the French edition because I like the art better (and it automatically includes the Poison expansion, which is a neat addition). Pic above is the English version.
I’m not sure about Auge um Augethough. It is mostly a dice rolling fest with an alliance system. There are some abilities that help you create series, which you need to inflict black eyes on your opponents. But the alliance system is what makes the game interesting, because ganging up and keeping the front runner out of fist fights is the key. It may be a bit long for the amount of fun it holds. Art work nice, as always with Sphinx games.
I first learned of "Fluch der Mumie" from a post by Frank Branham. Branham is an enigma. A gamer floating back and forth from AT to Euro with the grace of a Victorian Banshee. However, since Branham calls himself the Anti-Greg (a reference to Greg Schloesser The King of Euros) I am inclined to listen to him.At first glance I thought "Fluch der Mumie" to be a gimmick game, its vertical board and hidden magnet movement are certainly unique and the game falls into the kid game arena but I find myself enjoying the game. I recently pulled it out after a long hiatus and found that it is quite solid."Fluch der Mumie" played with high stakes can be quite tense. Slowly moving the Mummy while staring your opponent in the eye and then hearing the "click" is one of the great moments in gaming akin with Shooting down the Nazgul in "Lord of the Rings:The Confrontation" or playing the St Valentines day card in "Family Business" with a wall full of gangsters.
On January 29, 2010, I went to my first hard core card driven war game convention "WAM" or the Winter Activation Meeting in Maryland. The website about the tournament seemed inviting. The cover had a picture of Dr. Strangelove.
i haven't posted as much on this website recently as i have no idea about any of the stuff being posted about, except for larry levy jokes. so i figured i would make a post about war games, because i do that stuff. i am not really any good at it, but i like writing, i like war games, and here is an opportunity to combine the two...last week i played a game (wait, make that a turn) of europa. europa, if you are not familiar, appears to be some insane monster game series made by lunatics, for lunatics. we played a case white scenario. that gives you some idea as to whether we fit in the lunatic category. it was a 3 player situation. how? because i played the french, revising history, i got to invade germany in 1939. sweet.
we played approximately one and a half turns in 4 hours. much of this was spent thumbing through the rulebook, scratching heads, laughing at the awful dice rolling of the luftwaffe and watching the frankly inevitable demise of poland. it made me ponder about the type of person who plays these games. what would your average euro gamer have made of it? THIS IS SO IMBALANCED! THE DOWN TIME! YOU SAT THERE FOR FOUR HOURS AND MOVED ABOUT 15 STACKS. I COULD HAVE PLAYED 8 GAMES OF DOMINION! they are right of course. all of those are valid criticisms, but shit, i got some kind of perverse fun out of it. i really have no interest in alt-history WWII, and normally would be much more at home with a wargame that ends in 5-8 hours. but the evening wasn't so much about the game but actually about sitting around chatting, enjoying a beer, pushing counters around and rolling lots and lots of dice.
i think we were playing quite a stripped down version of the game, i wasn't formally taught the rules but germany and poland took their turns before me so i had two hours to learn the rules by watching. this worked pretty well. europa appears to be a generic "GRUMPY OLD MAN" wargame. it is extremely old fashioned, in every single aspect. it works exactly how you'd expect, but with a couple of extra rules for flavour. germany was absolutely crushing poland in those two hours, i felt very sorry for my comrade. finally france gets to have a go. in the rules there is a bit that says french stacks have their combat factor HALVED if they move. fuck me. this game is clearly designed for masochists. anyway, on the first turn this rule does not apply. i ran roughshod over the southern part of the incomplete west wall and into the black forest. my one decent stack of mechanised / motorised / armour even got to 'exploit' one extra hex. i was two hexes into germany! i looked across the board. poland was probably 40 hexes away. and they were going to get wiped out on the next turn. and then the luftwaffe, who i had brutalised on my turn, took their revenge on my feeble advance, blowing to bits my crappy bombers (i had a bomber called a 'fairy', so macho) on their own runways. oh shit. it was dawning on me. europa eschews all idea of fun at the expense of utter, relentless, miserable realism. and this is was why it was fun. if you see.
we will reconvene this thursday, apparently poland and germany made it through to the german combat phase vs poland post me leaving, so i should get to push a little further into the black forest, although it looked far too late for the poles already... so we will roll more dice, hopefully have another beer, i will learn a ridiculous amount of facts from two knowledgable wwII historians, and maybe an alternative history will be created. i will have one turn. maybe two if things go well. and it will be an evening well spent.
Sometimes, the high school education of Australia, as good as it is, leaves you unprepared when entering into the baptism of fire that is tabletop wargaming.
You might complain that Warhammer 40,000contains no historical elements, but growing up, I knew more about the tragic history of the Fall of Horus and why the Emperor was so mad about the whole betrayal thing than what I knew about, say, the American Civil War, or the Spanish Civil War, sure, they taught us about World War I, II, Vietnam, that kind of stuff, but not really anything that was related to the board games American companies churn out.
There exist multiple board games dealing with World War II and its various campaigns, but it's slanted towards an American perspective I fear. I guess the reason why Risk is so popular is that it's so divorced from what the common man understands as actual history that it's easily accessible - and won't offend even the most hardcore of war history nuts.
Risk is so vanilla in wargaming history that one coloured troop is indistinguishable from the other in terms of cultural customs and theme. Which is probably why people play it as a means of playing out "taking over the world" in their own living rooms. We aren't really given a real context to the conquest, it's just bragging rights.
I want to try Battle Cry. I really, really do. But I know next to nothing about the American Civil War other than Gone With The Wind is set in those times and that the North won. Australians are so uninvested in the whole politics of the American Civil War that by some quirk of fate, a book written by an Australian about the Civil War called March, was a novel accepted by both sides of the argument over there because neither Northern or Southern readers had any reason to mistrust the other's bias.
I am utterly clueless about the whole Civil War thing, because they just didn't teach it to us at school. There's also a bunch of historical wars they did teach us about in minor detail, if you took the Ancient History unit in senior high. But Ancient History to me wasn't really about learning things, it was just about... well, cramming for exams with as much factoids that you felt emotionally divorced from so you'd get a good mark and get into a good university.
But why would somebody like me try a game like Battle Cry if I have next to no knowledge about the historical context of the game?
The answer is simple. If one has no knowledge of a historical war event used in a board game, the board game makes you want to learn more. Stuff you never even knew existed. I'm pretty sure there's quite a bit of World War II and World War I history I don't understand, but I'm completely lost when it comes to the Napoleonic Wars, which wasn't even covered in my syllabus because they taught about that in MODERN HISTORY, smarmy gits and their contemporary analysis of revolutions, think they're so cool because what they're studying seems more relevant to what we're learning about the Egyptians and Spartans - bloodysmart-alecs laughing at how inconsistent 300 was as a movie based on a comic book...
Ahem. Sorry about that. Now where was I?
Ah yes. Wars they never taught me about in high school.
Essentially the first thing you learn upon graduating from high school, is how much you actually forget. Some might make fun of the historical studies nerds, but by God do they actually retain information about stuff that was actually real, instead of what you digested through exaggerations in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels...
I mean, good LORD. The amount of cramming for exams that happens to children at my age who are only just getting into university now is astronomical - how does the government expect these children to remember anything about what they "learn" in their history classes, no wonder it keeps repeating itself - if history is actually meant to be studied properly you'd get better value learning using a tabletop wargame like Battles for Napoleon or even Axis and Allies or Empire of the Sun than what you expect to have memorised from a textbook in high school.
There's entire bloody epochs of events that people my age were just never taught about - stuff we usually only find out about through the badly researched lens of a Cracked.com comedic list article. I mean... how much of history does the average person actually know, that isn't the entire plot of The Simpsons or the production history of each series of Star Trek?
Board games, particularly ones that deal with real life wars set in a real historical period - that's pretty much some of the best springboards for discussions of historical wars out there eh? Because your kids aren't exactly going to learn all this from their teachers, I know this as a fact because I only graduated from high school a year ago. And I did it longer than most kids. So pity the ones starting kindergarten this year.
I guess this is a case where I'm really asking the older F:AT members who have kids to listen to me on this one. History isn't just a textbook. You have to make it mean something.
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