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  • Wargames about Wars I Know Nothing About

    Battle Cry

    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 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.



    warlords od EuropeI'm thinking about changing the name of my column at to "Barnes Bitches About Price". Because that's what I'm doing again in my otherwise favorable review of Conquest Gaming's WARLORDS OF EUROPE. It's eighty freaking dollars. For a game that ought to cost half that. I bet it'd sell three times as many copies with a lower price point.

    The problem is that the game is priced competitively with FFG products and other releases, so it's hard to fault the company for keeping up with the times. But it's the kind of game that needs to be $40 so that kids can buy it, not just hardcore hobbyists who have no compunction at dropping that kind of money on a game. What's more, the game is very old fashioned and somewhat outmoded (but it's a good kind of old fashioned and outmoded), so it makes recommending it tough when $80 can buy you a more innovative and forward-thinking game in this same genre.

    I actually liked that the game was MUCH closer to the old Gamemaster games than most recent examples that have tried to follow that path, and it's extremely clear-cut, straightforward, and unadorned. There's not a god damned thing "clever" about it, it knows exactly what kind of game it is and it plays to its strengths without over-reaching or trying to dress things up with a bunch of unnecessary rules, chrome, or detail.

    But $80. Read the review and decide for yourself if that's out of range for you. I'm sure some of you "I'm alright Jack" types have no problem at all with the price, but I think it's not healthy when a game like this has to be sold at this price to cover costs and be competitive on the market.

  • Warriors of God -- Solo Play on Vassal

    I started off with a quick post to What Board Games Are You Playing but I'm going to spend a minute to move it here so that it can get a little more attention from people looking for it.

      For those unaware, Warriors of God is a two-player low-chit-count wargame from Multi-Man Publishing, part of their International Game Series.  It is set during the 100 Years War in England and France (1300s roughly).  Originally designed by Makoto Nakajima, it was published as a magazine game in Japan, then was picked up by MMP and plushed out into a very impressive looking standalone title.  It's Japanese heritage becomes apparent when you review its very unique turn ordering, and provides the kind of gaming that has you rubbing the back of your neck when you're even carrying out small actions like placing a new unit or deciding on one more round of attack.  It plays in about 3 hours . . .

    . . . assuming you're playing in real life of course.  I'm playing on Vassal, the online engine that permits me to save games and even log each move of each piece as the game proceeds.  I generally play in 20 minute bursts two or three times a week, so games run about a month when I stick to it.  I have trouble finding opponents for wargames, but Warriors of God works exceptionally well solo since all information is fully available on the table.

    I'll lead off with copies of the entries I've already made in the forums.  Initially I just did a drive-by brag that I was managing to get a game in, but MSample asked a question and I got on a roll.



  • Watership Down: I Die in the Burrows and a EuroQuest Rises Again

    Rabbitz in cagez

    EuroQuest 2011: The Year of the Golden Rabbit

    I enter the hole and experience a great pain.  Then I spot some dudes and start gaming.

    In attendance: Various and sundry members of the Wednesday night crew. KingPut. Army Pete.  Sci Fi Steve.  Hustler Pat. Little Big John.


    Games Played

    JAB Realtime Boxing x7, Hammer of the Scots x3, Julius Caesar, Sekigahara x2, Tin Goose, Martian Dice x5, Panic Station x2, Small World,  Age of Steam (base map), Ninjato, King of Tokyo, Dungeon Raiders x2, Tonga Bonga, Die Burgen von Burgund, Serenissima, Fearsome Floors (two-monster variant).

    Games that were new to me...


    JAB Realtime Boxing

    One of my favorites of the con.

    I feel like a flailing mass of spaghetti whenever I play this hyperactive box-fest.  But if you can keep your eyes and mind darting in three directions at once - and somehow I can - you'll have a fair shot at the championship belt.

    Two-player games aren't always easy to squeeze in, but when they only take 5-20 minutes and are silly in the pugilistic extreme there's no reason not to play.

    And I'll say it again: COM-BOW!

    As yet, I am undefeated at 7-0.  I take all challengers.



    Sekigahara's upstart departure from other block game systems is refreshing.  The cards are the thing, not the blocks, and the one-upsmanship combat procedure found elsewhere (cf. Friedrich) is refined and possibly perfected.

    As far as rules depth and learnability, Sekigahara is truly an introductory game of war strategy.  But simple doesn't mean simple-minded.  The game manages to capture the sweep and sway of field and siege battles, while also rewarding advanced planning - and all in a way that doesn't intimidate new grognards.  Everything is quick, clean, and an immediate rush.

    Plus there are mechanical frills - mostly focusing on card management - that keep everything orderly and thoughtful, and dashes of Far East flavor and color contribute to the experience.

    A minor complaint is that block secrecy will wane as the game wears on, though some would argue that knowing the identities of particular blocks may not be a major concern in Sekigahara.  When the merry-go-round hits the brass ring, the only thing that matters is whether your enemy's cards match his intent.  That the blocks are present is irrefutable.  Whether the blocks can be deployed is another.

    So do pay attention to the number of your cards in your opponent's hand, and if possible scout for Loyalty Challenges in the reflection in your opponent's glasses.  My record defense against a loyalty assault?  An opponent played three of the four possible Tokugawa LC cards against my golden hordes in a single all-or-nothing battle in Kiso.  And yes, I deflected them all.  So the golden Sun rises again over the land of my honored ancestors.  Until I get beaten down badly in my next game, that is.  

    Note:  It's unfortunate that players not wanting their heads to explode are forced to read the posted rules clarifications on sieges, group movement, and mustering into battle.  The rules are easy.  They just aren't all there.


    Martian Dice

    Since Martians are superior to zombies in every way (training, flexibility, etc.), it only makes sense that Martian Dice is better than Zombie Dice.

    Panic Station

    The infection mechanism is a luminous stroke of Sci Fi wizardry, and the basis for what should be a groundbreaking game. If you haven't yet played and are wondering why the designer chose to allow gasoline trades (only) to prevent bug outbreaks, you'll find out soon enough.  Tense decisions all around.

    Regrettably, Panic Station bounds toward the edge of greatness, leaps with enthusiasm, and cackles maniacally as it crashes into the rocks below.  One example: Panic's mechanical idiosyncrasies are major obstructions to what should be unabashed fun.  Both sessions moved forward haltingly (stop/start, stop/start, hey I'm starting to get sick) just to get all procedures, items, and locations straightened out.

    Not including player aids, for example, was a colossal act of dumbness.  Nothing ruins the game more quickly than players needing to consult the rulebook after every trade to see what a new item does, as the simple act of reading lets everyone know that the player's received card wasn't an infection card.

    And what does one say when a player reveals that "Our friend Joe just passed me an infection card. Everyone avoid him."  Uh, thanks?  Next game, please?

    All of which is a real shame, because casual to medium-casual gamers - who I thought would be the target audience - don't have the patience for dealing with Panic's full-geek level of complexity.  So what could have been a power hit is instead a niche experience for John Carpenter fans.

    If the game becomes part of your group's regular gaming beat, and not too many new players join up, I could see this going somewhere.  If not, do your best to enjoy the ride.  Come morning, we'll see who's human and who is not.



    An epileptically bad combination of Eurogame mechanisms (set collection, multipliers) and mass market Amerigame nonsense (random cardflips galore).

    O mighty ninja, why do you seek refuge in the mists of dawn? Is it so you can divert my attention with Z-man overproduction as you spray a wave of dark shuriken at my family, my nation, my hooded future?

    The world will never know. 


    King of Tokyo

    I was unexpectedly impressed with the "damage many others" mechanic: Those monsters inside Tokyo damage those on the outside, and vice versa.  And if you want to flame out and take 2-3 other inhumanoids with you - knowing that you won't last another round - you can.  That's a thing of beauty.

    This would be an instant purchase at $15-20.  But it's a "nevermind" at whatever exorbitant price they're charging.

    Dungeon Raiders

    I no longer need to spend my daydream hours wondering whether someone will ever fix Zombie in my Pocket.  Adventureland Games did it independently and better.

    Dungeon Raiders outshines Cutthroat Caverns, Masquerade,  and other light 'n nasty card-based adventure systems.  Yes, it only involves playing numbered cards while fighting through dungeon "levels".  Many of you will hate it. But that doesn't make it bad.  It just means your taste has not evolved to my exquisite level.  Or it could possibly mean that you don't smoke as much Quaalude as I do.  Call it 3:2 odds.

    Order placed...


    Tonga Bonga

    The game dances along at a spry pace until the completely broken endgame comes along.  As others have stated, once you're significantly ahead on money and someone is headed back to base, there's no need to establish any more camps or spend any more money.  You just steer your treasure-laden ship in circles until someone else ends the game.

    A shame, really, because the mechanic of tempting other players with money to enhance your own movement is pretty slick.

    The obvious variant is to forbid someone from winning unless they've established all four camps.  A better payout ($15-20) for the person ending the game also wouldn't hurt.

    In my first game I also did the unimagined:  I rolled three seasick sailors all at once.  Them's low odds, cap'n.


    Burgund von Burgund von Burgund...

    Our game went like so:

    I take a 30-second turn, and I grow increasingly bored while others take 5-minute turns.  Though I did learn in my burgeoning agony that my nails need trimming, the ceiling needs washing, and everyone else in the room is having more fun than I am.

    Speaking of praying for a heart attack so the game ends more quickly, I do notneed to play another game where the game's winner is determined by massive endgame swings in VP due to bonus/multiplier tiles. Sure, if I cared about these spoiler tiles I could go for them myself.  But I don't.

    So if I see you coming with Burgund I'll be running the opposite direction.  Nothing personal.  It just means that I don't like you.



    Broken like the dreams of a roadflattened armadillo.  For all the reasons others have described.

    Depending on the warmongering attitudes present at the table, a player can get eliminated on the FIRST TURN.  Our one and only game took a full eleven minutes because we immediately turned on each other until only one ship remained.  That person won.

    Hoo boy.  Glad I didn't pay for that one.


    The End

    If you weren't at EQ 2011 you owe me a dollar.   Or a game of JAB.  Your choice.

    I'm waiting...



  • Ways for publishers to get out of the "wargames ghetto"

    With the opening of the Kickstarter for Sea Kings(, and the prospect of publication of two other crossover games I’ve designed, Seas of Gold andGermania, I’ve been trying to define what these alternatives (or escapes) from wargame publishing are about.

    In connection with the “Future of (Tabletop) Wargaming” that I wrote about some time ago (, we have three broad categories of games: 

    1) the “wargames ghetto” two player “simulation” games that are often hex board and cardboard counters with numbers/statistics on them. There are wargames that aren’t actually in the ghetto, such asBritannia, usually because they don’t use counters with numbers on them or hex boards, but also because some of them are for more than two players (Brit is all three). They’re still wargames, and many people for many reasons don’t or won’t play wargames.  Insofar as they're not hex-and-counter I might have divided wargames into two categories.

    2) the “crossover” games designed to attract both a significant segment of the wargame crowd and a large segment of the non-wargame crowd. These usually have both a board and cards. This is divided further into two parts:
         A) the semi-wargames or “peace games” where players will do best if they are not involved in warfare/violence but warfare often occurs; usually the board and the maneuver component is more important than the card component.
         B) the games that may involve habitual violence, and certainly a lot of player interaction, but are not wargames, such as Sea Kings and some race games; the card component is usually more important than the maneuvering-on-the-board component.
    In all of these, maneuver or placement, and geospatial relationships, are vital parts of the game, just as they are in wargames. But the primary objective has to be something other than conquest.

    3) the games that may or may not include violence (such as a zombie game), do not involve much maneuver or geospatial relationships, and frequently are primarily cardgames. Many of these are “screwage” games (where you mess with your friends). Munchkin, Bang!, Nuclear War are some of the most well-known screwage games, though all of them with large flaws for contemporary players.
    There can be exceptions, but most of the above games involve considerable player-to-player interaction. And almost all of them are models of some reality, rather than purely abstract games.
    Remember, these categories are related to moving out of the wargames ghetto. There are lots of other categories of games not included here. For example, there’s a vast body of games that do not involve maneuver/geospatial relationships, a vast body that are abstract (that is, not models of some reality), a vast body where most of the player interaction is with the game, not with other players. Some games are all three.

    I’ve focused recently on the crossover category, with Sea Kings now on Kickstarter and several race games in early development (such as a chariot racing game).




  • WBC: When you gotta eat. A restaurant guide.

    Like some people do with smoke breaks, I use eating at WBC primarily as a way of getting something necessary done while at the same time decompressing and spending time away from the crowds.  I ate with a group at the end of the convention  mostly to catch up with a guy I didn't get to talk to much.

    Here is a list of places very close to (or even in) the Lancaster Host (the convention hotel).  All of the places I went were right off of Lincoln Avenue, the street the hotel is on.  All restaurants close at 10 PM except for a select few.

    The Lancaster Host/Vista Restaurant: If I needed something quick, I grabbed a pretzel for $1.25.  At some point, you may just have to eat at the Host.  One morning when I was feeling so much pain I could barely walk, I grabbed scrambles eggs hash browns and bacon for nine bucks.  If you HAVE to get something at the hotel, I recommend getting a burger at the Vista.  A bacon cheeseburger and fries costs about 8 bucks and is truly amazing.  There is one problem:  you sometimes have to jump through hoops to  order.  The hotel decided not to allow carry out orders during the time they served their catered food to us convention goer.  I just went across the street.

    Late night dining:  Sonic is open until midnight, and there is an all night Waffle House.  I haven't been to the all night diner (Jennies) yet.

    Just a jump to the right:  There is a Texas Steakhouse, the Jasmine and Olive Bistro, an Italian place and a Fudruckers within walking distance.  I went for steak once and sushi twice (once out of being denied a Vista cheesburger).  Texas Steakhouse :  If you can stand gaudy western motifs, line dancing and a possible wait, the food more than makes up.  I got a shrimp skewer, 14 oz sirloin salad and drink for about 25 bucks including tip.  Jasmine and Olive:  the sushi is OK for the price you would expect, and the decor is old on the outside, very new and fung-shui on the inside.  the wait staff was very polite, and almost over apologetic.  They deliver to the Host, and they have vegetarian sushi as well.

    And a hike to the left:Other than Sonic, I wouldn't recommend walking anywhere on the left side.  There were a few places (Arby's and a family style place) that were closed for reservations.  Tony Wang's  is about a five minute drive.  Apparently Tony Wang is a celebrity:  Arlo Guthrie ate at his restaurant.   This is the type of place whre the owner greets you and there are signed pictures of entertainers you have actually heard of.  Their lunch specials are very reasonably priced.  Although I almost always order the unavailable Orange Chicken, the General Tso's chicken was superb.  I think the bill was about 20 bucks with tip.  Right next door is Poppy's; I'm not too impressed to be honest.  There food is a little above the Host, but enough to where I would drive there.

    The Lemon Grass was an OK Thai place I found as well.  I typically judge a Thai place by it's Pad Thai.  Even though I wasn't too impressed by that, I have to try some of the stuff Matt Loter ate there; it smelled amazing.  Lemon Grass is another vegetarian possibility.

    On my way out of the convention, I ate at Miller's, it's OK.  I only went to hang out with someone I know; I'm not a huge fan of buffet.  On my way out of Miller's, I was able to snag an elephant figurine for my wife who collects such trinkets.

    I was stuck on Route 30 for a while, and I got a Philly Cheese sandwich for the road at this little dive.  Of course, it's the best damn Philly Cheese I've had in a while, but I forgot the name.  It's about three or four miles past Miller's going east.

    If anyone has any other suggestions for next year, I'd love to try some new places.




  • We Have All Become God's Madmen

  • We Have To Go Back! - Survive Review

    At some point, the idea of “designing” a game becomes impossibly pretentious. It’s a natural concept for gamers, but for everyone else, games aren’t designed. They just are. They exist in a space that must flow as naturally as possible. But gamers like to complicate everything, so we create games that are about little pieces of wood being turned other pieces of wood, which in turn are turned into victory points. And lest you think I’m picking only on the Eurogame set, Ameritrashers are just as guilty. I mean, how many phases does a turn need before we have too many? There’s nothing wrong with complex games, but we have a lot of them, and that complexity is almost entirely for its own sake. 

  • We made it back from WBC

    The good news is that we are finally home.

    The bad news is that the car is still in Lancaster and will be there until the end of the month.

    I just want to say thank you to all of you who offered help and support, and who expressed your concern after the accident. We are all okay. We were able to borrow a family member's car and made it home safely. The car wasn't totaled, however I have a three page list of parts that need replacement or repair, and the car won't be done until the end of the month.

    So the bad news is that we will be making the long trip to PA again at the end of the month to pick up my car.

    The good news is that we may be avalible for some gaming with KingPut and friends on Labor Day weekend, or the weekend after that.

    Also, just because it is so funny when the people keep pulling the really crappy event cards, the car we borrowed made it all the way back to CT, and then totally died in our drive way. AAA just towed it away to the repair shop.



  • We Want YOUR input for a big "Game of the Year" Article!

    Usually, here at the Fortress will feature some sort of "Game of the Year" article.  And while I personally have some candidates (as do the rest of the F:AT staff), who are we to tell YOU what YOUR game of the year is?


  • We were going to play War of the Ring but...

    We went out to dinner, and I had a blue Margarita. Also I had flan. It wasn't particularly good flan. It was probably frozen or someting. The good flan is at the payaya place on the other side of the city. This was the slightly crappy Mexican place down the road. The Margarita wasn't particularly good either. But it was really big and blue. So we are going to watch Firefly instead.  

  • We were going to play War of the Ring today but...

    the weather was so nice, we decided we should do something outside. We decided that we could  spray paint WoR figures outdoors. But we didn't have any paint. So we went out to buy paint. We went to a few stores, but we couldn't find the paint we wanted. So we came home and ate dinner.

  • We were just talking about this...

    Came across this post by wargame designer  Charles Vasey, who just designed Unhappy King Charles, on TOS and it really struck a chord.  We had just been talking in a thread here about how wargame designers tend to get a little less stuck in ruts than euros because they make mechanics to actually do something, not just to be mechanics.  And right out of Charles mouth:

    "If I am reading people correctly they view rules like (for example) the subordination rules as chrome. I (on the other hand) view them as part of the historical background without which you would have a simpler game but one which bore little resemblance to the real thing. Without this "chrome" you have players building perfect armies under perfect commanders, something that never happened. This limitation arose from the realities of political power and wealth in England. The earl of Newcastle could raise large armies, I cannot see he would willingly hand them over to anyone else; hence the rule

    But I do see that for some folks leading the strange entities that were 17th century armies is going to be less fun than leading an army that does what you tell it. UKC is an attempt to be period-specific which has both good and bad results. I didn't want a bland one-system-fits-all approach."


    I think this definitely illustrates the difference nicely.  It's not surprising that coming at a problem with this attitude, trying to accomplish something, make the player feel some way, rather than just making a game that works, could make you more creative with your mechanics.



    SAINTS WIN!!!!!!!!!

  • Weekend of Geekery

    This weekend was the third year of being on the FFG Trivia contest team, for the local Science Fiction etc etc group's fundraising show. Between former and current employees, out of 8 teams of 4 people, we had 11 people. 

     We did pretty good, and one of the other work heavy teams tied dead with us - no bragging rights. Hells, we can call bragging rights just because they did not stomp us into the ground like last year. 'Most Improved' :D  There was a catagory for games and the MC cautioned us that we would get mocked within an inch of our life if we missed any. In the 'Pyramid show' style round, we got D & D - which we lost a point because our guy accidentally said 'Player' in the question when the answer was 'players handbook' (Players need this to play...).

     Sunday I got together with Shellhead, Joel P? and Kingput and we

  • Weekly game challenge

    So it's been a few weeks now of trying to do 1 new game per week.

    So far I did Call of Cthulhu LCG

    Warrior Knights


     ..... a week off the wagon...

    and this week was Red November. 

    I had played half a game before, but it was at lunch and 0 people had played it before (right at release!) and we had a full house. Add to that some nitpickers who slowed stuff down, and the guy who showed up late, we did not get very far. I tried the next day to get people playing, but to no avail.

     This time I pestered some new people, one of the accountant ladies, and a card developer. I read up on the rules before hand, not looking forward to a repeat of the last time of trying to struggle through things with unfamiliar people - only to find THEY had both played it before! So our game went pretty smoothly. I sort of wonder if i had shuffled well enough, because things tended to come in clusters, but that could have just been fate. The game stretched barely into a second lunch, and the developer was already booked that day, so we replaced him with an editor type. He faked a russian accent alot of the time :D 

     We won, but JUST barely. Fires, fires, fires everywhere! I kept getting engine books, but the engine was fine. Oxygen pumps... not so.

     My impressions of this game is that it could go over pretty well with my more casual gamer friends. I really want to sort out drinking rules, too. It just screams with that possibility. I packed this to Iceland with me last year, but every time we were chilling and had time and people to play, I had left the damned thing back at the room. It fits in my purse-thing ok, but I was sometimes the packhorse for multiple people,  and I tend to carry food with me when I travel too. 


    I missed last week - so I am taking a game home this weekend. I figure I can try solo Runebound (which I have not finished a game of - we tried it after work once, and someone actually, um rage quit the game. He is a sensitive sort, and was newly hired, and out of everyone in the company, he had the absolutely best selection of shit talkers at the table, and we were in fine form. We did not know he was bothered by this. He's not the sort that likes direct games - or people who say 'oh yah? well you better think twice about that buddy, or I will be coming for you!'  - long story short, he quit the game suddenly and bolted. We all felt like dickheads. We sort of mumbled amongst ourselves and put the game away shortly thereafter. 

     I also have a new roommate - I tend to have a rotating roster of people every lease (or less than lease!) and this one was a friend from college of the current one. The last guy he recommended did not work out, and refused to sign the lease after moving in (note to self: do these things in order for a reason!) and I was chatting with the new guy this week  and he seemed very interested in trying them. He's a Catan player, and poker, and video game nerd. It's a bit of comedy that the guy who recommended him is a bit uncomfortable about nerdy things, and dislikes things discussed around him. When he found us in the kitchen talking Catan, he grabbed a soda and ran like hell while we invited him to play. It's hard to corner people on holiday weekends at times - but I will see if I can! 


  • Welcome to Castle Ravenloft

    Wizards of the Coast were kind enough to supply me with a review copy of Caravenloft1stle Ravenloft. Got to unbox it on Monday, much to the delight of my 4-year old daughter who absolutely loved the figures and is itching to help me play when we go away on holiday. But could I wait that long? Could I hell! So at lunchtime today I played two impromptu session of the introductory solo scenario in the back of my car. This has your adventurer racing to try and find the stairs out of the crypt before Strahd wakes up and starts pursuing them through the dungeon.

    My first choice was a human ranger - not a great choice for solo play as it turns out. The first monster she found was a kobold Skirmisher which she dispatched with ease since one of her abilities to to inflict a single point of damage without a dice roll. And a welcome ability it was too since she couldn't roll a decent dice for toffee. The second tile she ran into a rather more scary blazing skeleton which she missed, and then she ran into a succession of traps that she failed to disarm and which kept slowing her down and eating away at her hit points and since disarm attempts happen in lieu of attacks, the result was that each turn a new creature was added to a veritable horde of monsters following her round the board that she couldn't make a dent in due to trying - and failing - to deal with all those traps. Good thing she's fast else she wouldn't have lasted as long as she did, which wasn't very long at all. When she was on her last legs she drew a "burst of speed" card which allowed her to leg it all the way to the opposite side of the dungeon and get away from her pursuers and gain some breathing space, only to draw a new tile with... another blazing skeleton which promptly killed her.

    My second attempt was with the dragonborn fighter, who is a rather tougher proposition entirely and spent his first few tiles merrily ploughing through monster after monster with little ill-effect. That was until he ran into something as puny as a giant spider which started flinging webs at him, slowing him down, with the result he couldn't explore as fast and had to draw yet more of the nasty encounter cards that have terrible events and traps on them. After a hairy couple of tiles he took care of the arachnid and carried on, somewhat the worse for wear but at least having managed to gain 2nd level.  I was 2 tiles from the bottom of the stack and victory when Strahd woke up but he was miles behind me and I thought I'd have an easy win on my hand. But then I woke a Wraith, one the nastiest base monster in the game, who did me some serious damage after I'd failed to kill him. Still, I drew the next tile confidently, only to get a terrible event which teleported the character and the wraith to the tile furthest from his current location - which was right next to the newly awakened Strahd! The two monsters proceeded to give me a horrific mauling, although I managed to take down the Wraith in exchange. That just left me with 1 tile to explore and the hardest vampire in the history of D&D to deal with so I did the obvious thing and just ran for it. Strahd tossed a fireball at my rapidly disappearing arse which, if I could avoid it, would leave me clear to get up the stairs and out into the daylight. Sadly I took it right on the back of the head leading to a second loss in a row.

    The sessions were really fun and back-to-back they took less than an hour to play including a couple of rules checks. There seem to be a couple of rules ambiguities for a relatively simple game but I just worked round them in what seemed to be the most obvious manner. The game did present me with a couple of real tactical conundrums during my session but there's plenty left to chance too: overall the game seems to strike a good balance between strategy and luck for a short, rules-light game and it's certainly an exciting, atmospheric and entertaining experience.

    This is just an initial overview though - you'll get a few review in a couple of weeks.





    This is sort of a reply to Bullwinkle’s excellent post regarding my previous installment. You guys with me? First: regarding kinds of conspiracies, I think JFK might be fun as a conspiracy thread, but are there whacky enough ideas around? The templar/illuminati thread is has been done to death, and besides, don’t Steve Jackson & Dan Brown own the rights to the whole conspiracy? 

  • What a Day......

    Well, shit.  Today found me waking up to a horrible noise in the house.  Turns out it was the pipes and the entire front yard was under water.  Apparently a water line had broken......after awhile, I was finally able to get it turned off and localized so we can still use our houses water.  Not before tensions ran high throughout the house though.

    On the plus, I guess it is good that we didn't have to call some plumber or city service on Labor Day.  On the downside, I think about 3000+ gallons of water ran down the street.

    Sorry for the completely non-related game post.  Just needed a small outlet for frustration.

  • What Bugs Me About Euros