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  • Ok this is old news by now. So sue me- I'm lazy.

     

    First of all Tom Hancock Sucks for not playing some cool games with us. That being said he seemed like an ok guy. (though obviously a poor priority for fun  or perhaps he is a really excellent judge of character.)

     This was my 1st Origins. It was both bigger and and smaller than I expected. Bigger in that it was spread out along the length of the convention center which was a block long and each of the rooms was the size of small warehouse. Smaller in that most times it wasn't that crowded. You could negotiate the place fairly easily and at off times some of the rooms looked almost barren (I'm looking at you miniatures room.)

     I went up with a group of people who go every year for the past decade so it was all old hat to them. we stayed off site on the cheap. The sprawling convention center made it problematic hooking up with them and so after the 1st hour there I stopped even trying. I have the attention span of a hummingbird so I was distracted every two seconds anyway.  After an hour or two I got my bearings and it reminding me of an a moderlately large airport more than enything else. There was the same decor, same metal benches and kiosks, and the same signs (concourse D and baggage claim up ahead.)

    So the 1st half a day I spent hitting the dealer room. I was anxious to scope deals on minis. The stuff I want no one is interested in so it was pretty easy to get some specific heroclix, old mage knight stuff and some terrain dirt cheap. After that I toured the other rooms and and hit the board game room. My Friend Janna Nelson had wandered in just about the same time so we registered and got our free Rio Grande games. 3 Commandments for me and Ysphathan for her.  I like her game slightly better and she already had both so we swapped. Thanks Janna!

     Before I go further let me mention that Rio Grande games Went WAY ABOVE AND BEYOND in sponsoring stuff. They offered free games (one upon registering, and raffling off hundreds more, the last day was stack of 10 games. Also they proivided free drinks.)  More than the freebie stuff though was the strong presence in the Dealer room when most larger companies have kinda written off Origins. Its too bad that I'm not into their games more- not enough giant robots with guns but otherwise I can't express how their presence really bolstered the board gaming community.

    I played a few games with Janna (aka lawmamma) and shortly after tried out the new Arctic Scavengers. I mentioned before that I thought it was a solid dominion variant, but way underveloped. I like waht they they did but it needed more variety to make a really interesting game. Screw self restraint - they needed to dive in theme first and come out kicking in screaming. instead its a valiant but restrained stab at remaking dominion. I'm not knocking the designer though- just get started on an expansion ASAP.

     I don't record what I game- I'm more of an "in the moment" guy. Needless to say we played some good games but nothing new (well unless you count tales of Arabian nights new. its definately an improvement on the old one and worth getting if you liked the previous incarnation.)

     Day 2:

    After checking out the auction room (stuff that didn't get bid on in auction) I decided to go hard core minis. The minis players are not overly engaging but I was determined to play something fun. 1st i jumped into a big WH seige. It was scheduled later in the day but I talked the guy running it to do a mini battle. It was tons of fun, though the actions never seems fast and furious enough. It also showed me how much I had forgotten. Like anything else with that level of detail there is a ton of minutiae that you can get into. 

    Buzzing from the bloodlust that my Battleragers of Khorn evoked, I jumped into the biggest dungeon crawl I'd ever seen. The table was 10' completely crafted from the Hirst art molds and filled with lavish detail. The guys playing it were more outgoing and it had two GMs to run parts of the game seperately. None the less it took most of the rest of the day to run. the highpoint of the game was raiding the central treasure chamber and being beset upon by a gaint Dracolich. Thre was a lot of laughing while it gobbled down players characters while other went on a looting frenzy.

    There was also a cool giant hot air balloon  game that I was dying to try but couldn't seem to find anyone who knew what was going on. The hot air ballons were 3' each and had cameras attached to them. they changed postions and altitude seeminly at random. They were too bizare not to try out. Aw well maybe next year.

     I finished up the night playing board games. I helped demo Richard Launius' latest offering. We've touted the game before as Game Z. I demoed it again this time with Tom Vassal and Eric Summers from the dice tower. I had never seen Vassal before and was expecting the protypical eurogamer- quiet, thoughtful, and...boring. Despite all the trash talking Tom has endured around here, take my word that he was definately not boring. This guy is Fun. I know fun- probably the only thing I'm realy qualified to evaluate- and this guy is fun. Next time we meet I'm going to get him drunk and we're going to get tatoos and go whoring. We had a blast playing Game Z and both he and Summers came away from game Z wanting more. I even saw Summers drift over to another game of it later.

     Day 3

    By now even the gallon of coffee I put down wasn't keeping up with my lack of sleep. I started off playing a battery of light games with Chris Tandimeier (a strange Aeon) his brother Matt and freind Ray.Talisman, Dungeonquest and some Thunder Road snapped me out of it. It was amazing how many people came by to see Thunder Road. Its friggin great game and NOBODY knows about it. Chris and both got into boardgaming after 30 years of RPGs and apparently have the exact same collection. Either that or he's just borrowing mine when I'm not looking. Later in the day I tracked down Chris (Lower??  A King in Yellow) and played  Last night on Earth. sometimes that game falls flat but this time it was exciting with some huge  sways of fortune and a slim margin of defeat. He played the game well as did his friends Regina and (Big humorous black guy??) After that I bugged out for a while to get some fresh air and wander Comfest.  Community Art Fest was a block away and had some really great bands. It was half hippie half college kid and half gawkers like me. Every other booth was some liberal organization or head shop.  I enjoyed looking around but all the idealism started to make my head swim. I coffeed up and headed back for more gaming. I hooked up with Janna for a few unremarkble light Euros. Out of the bucnh I liked "whitches brew" the best.  Chris was hating it and part of my enjoyement was watching him suffer through. The high point of the evening was another game of "Game Z" with two guys from  a up and coming company.The game is always tense but this one was particuliarly fun becuase I was giddy on two more ventis from Starbucks. They were was interested in looking at it further and we talked about the game dynamics for quite a while. It was interesting to hear the back side of the gaming industry as well as the trials and tribulations of the owners.

     Sunday morning I was ready for more shopping but everyone else wanted to go so all my wheeling and dealing for sunday clearance was for nought. on the upside I came home +$100 I had intended to spend. I had a great time and i'm definately going back. Hope to see ya there F:atties.

     Steve"You'd_be_amazed_at_what_you_can_Break_with_a_hammer"Avery

  • There's an article up on Time magazine's website that discusses the trend away from the death penalty in many states in America. While I would never be one to take games so seriously as to say that games and life are the same, I think that some of the discussion around criminal elimination and player elimination in games can follow along like-minded tracks.

     execution

    Player Elimination

     

    I'm sure many of the readers of F:AT will immediately jump to the defense of player elimination, as it is often considered one of the staples of Ameritrash. Likewise, the usual suspects that answer to the siren call of the Euro will decry the notion of player elimination as detrimental to the enjoyment of the game. Take this quote from the Time article and see if it sounds familiar-

    "The death penalty is not a deterrent, it doesn't reduce crime, it's expensive, and it's unfair."

    Obviously player elimination isn't going to match up exactly with the death penalty (there's no crime or expense to it) but I think the gist of what opponents to the death penalty say can resemble what opponents to player elimination say:

    • It doesn't add value to the process
    • It is unfair to the person eliminated

    For death penalty opponents, the first bullet above encompasses the notions that executions don't act as a crime deterrent, they don't reduce crime and they are expensive. In Euro terms, this equates to player elimination failing to keep opponents in the game (diminishing your play options) as well as immediately making eliminated players into spectators, and with the change, boredom. We don't have the technology to know if executed criminals turn into bored spectators, but depending on your belief system, there's a chance that might also be true.

    For proponents of elimination, both real and gaming, the first bullet is a mixture of falsehood and half-truths. Executions do deter crime (the person executed is sure to never commit another crime) and while they may not reduce crime, nor come cheap, neither do encarceration. There may be no more value, but there is certainly not less.

    For the AT gamer, player elimination is the *ultimate* deterrent. Play poorly, and you are out.Some of the most intense gaming moments for me have come when I am either on the brink of elimination or pushing someone else to that point. No move becomes more important than the one you make to save yourself from elimination. As to becoming a spectator? If that is such a harsh punishment, then you are most likely playing with the wrong group. You either have opportunities for filler games with your fellow "ghosts" or you entertain yourself.We're all adults, you can find some way to amuse yourself.

     

    The question of fair, for either kind of elimination,  is really kind of silly. Life isn't fair. This is why Jim Fixx dies of a heart attack and shallow humans like Paris Hilton live a life of luxury. Attempts to make things fair for anyone have, in both life and games, almost always made thing unfair for everyone.

    So where do you sit, F:AT? Is it fair to compare player elimination to the death penalty? Too simplified? Do the feelings you have for one translate over to the other?

  • This may surprise you, but game blogging is not a great way to make a living. I expected piles of money and beautiful women, but that has so far not been the case (aside from the beautiful woman I married, but I don’t think that was because of my blog). Because of that, I don’t have a lot to spend on games. Combine that with an almost-two-year-old son at home, and my gaming dollar is stretched pretty thin. So when I want to get a new game I do a lot of sleuthing. Unless there’s some recent windfall of cash, I usually buy used games, either from friends or people online. And of course, I trade my games.

    In fact, I’ve developed a reputation among my gaming buddies as the guy who trades everything away. That’s understandable, because I really do love trading. It’s a great way to get new titles onto your game shelf for little or no extra money (less the amount of the original game). And it’s a skill that every gamer should hone, because it gives you far more bang for your buck. There’s much less risk involved in buying a game when you know you will likely be able to get it to someone else for something you like more. So here’s some tips to become a great trader:

    Get over your collection
    When someone gets into the hobby, they tend to buy a lot. Since a new gamer is only just forming their tastes, they will often buy something that they end up not liking. Even if you do like a game, a constant influx of new titles will mean that you may only play a game once or twice, then let it collect dust on the shelf. But of course, you can’t get rid of the game, right? You’re trying to build a collection, and other people like to play it, so its worth holding on to.

    Bull, I say. I have many good friends who feel this way, but I respectfully disagree. You may be building a collection, but it’s a collection for you (and maybe a wife and kids). If you don’t love a game, it can probably go. And if your friends own the game anyway, you can usually play their copy as often as you’d play your own. It’s surprising how few games you need in your collection, and if you do get rid of a game and regret it, you can probably just get it again later on. A couple of years ago, I bought a used copy of the Vlaada Chvatil’s Dungeon Lords, a fun management game set in a cool dungeon environment. It was a fun game, but I began to wear out of it after about five games. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get rid of it yet, but I was able to find a good trade for it. And the truth is, I’ve never regretted making that move. The essential games in your collection probably comprise a very small percentage.

    And even if you love a game, it’s pointless if you never play it. It’s not there to be a museum piece. There are many people who would have the time or group to play the game as often as it deserves. A good rule of thumb: if you haven’t played the game in over a year, it’s time to think about trading it.

    Strike while the iron is hot
    Gamers can be idiots. When a hot title comes out, and then sells out, there will be about a four-month window where a game will be in enormous demand with almost nothing to fill it. A reasonable person would know that the game will be back in print in a few months, and bide their time. But a gamer will pay or trade something ridiculous to get it, often overplaying their hand. You can use this mental illness to your advantage.

    When a game falls out of print and isn’t available in stores, it will almost always get reprinted. Many publishers have a reprint cycle, where they print a small amount, let it run out, then print more a few months after they run out. But there are those who just cannot wait for three months. If you were one of those people who found the game early, you can flip it for way more than you paid. Even if you really loved the game, you will probably be able to find another copy in a few months at regular retail. It’s true that some games go out of print forever, but if it sold out that quickly most publishers will want to print more.

    Last year, a friend of mine was one of the first to buy 2010′s forgettable hotness, 7 Wonders. Like I mentioned above, the game sold out its initial print run, and then was unavailable for all of four months. But in that four months he was able to trade his $45 game for two copies of Memoir ’44, plus all of its expansions to that point. That’s almost $300 worth of game. True story.

    Find a good local game group
    This hobby is primarily a social one. We form connections with those in our community who have different tastes from us, and that’s a good thing. It allows us to try games before we buy them, which is important when possible. It allows people to test genres that they otherwise would avoid. And its great for trading.

    Trading in a group offers one great advantage: if you liked the game, you can still play it. It makes letting go of a title you liked much easier. And if you have a big enough group, you can try your hand at a math trade (more on those later). Some game stores have organized groups that can be a great resource for trading. If they have a mailing list or a Facebook group, it’s always nice to test the waters and see if there are any nibbles for your unplayed games.

    Find a good online community
    Boardgamegeek.com has a lot of faults, but one of the best tools the site offers is its trade function. You can list which games you own that you are willing to trade, and what games you want to receive. It’ll match you up with users around the world who want the games you have and have the games you want. This can be something of a mixed bag, however. Some BGG users have raised pedantry to an art form, and I suspect that a couple are actually computers who don’t understand human interaction. Because of that, many users do not have any interest in trading through BGG, and will ignore all requests sent their way. Check profiles to see if someone mentions their attitude towards trades, and always send a personal message before a trade request. It’s just more polite. You will probably get turned down for many requests, and some people might negotiate a different trade. That’s fine, and a polite refusal is almost always better than no response at all.

    Other boardgaming sites have active forums, and that can be a good place for established members to find trades and bargains on old games. Fortress: Ameritrash has a very good forum for this. I’ve bought many coveted games from those forums, and they also do one or two math trades a year. Which brings us to…

    Math trades!
    Math trading is one of my favorite things. They can be organized either within a local group, among online friends, or even during a game convention. It’s a fun way to get new games, and also provides a kind of cheap thrill of then unknown.

    Imagine you and your friends all have a list of games you don’t want, and you put them all in one huge list. Then for every game you added to the list, you say what OTHER games on the list you would accept in trade for your game. Do this for each of your games, and you have a list of games that you will take for your old games (called a “want list”). Everyone makes a list like that, and then someone who’s running the trade feeds all the want lists and the master list into a computer program. The program then spits out a series of trade loops that will result in games going to new owners:

    Nate has PUERTO RICO and wants IMPERIAL
    Brad has COSMIC ENCOUNTER and wants PUERTO RICO
    Colby has IMPERIAL and wants COSMIC ENCOUNTER

    See what happened there? The computer would tell Nate to give Puerto Rico to Brad, and to get Imperial from Colby. Brad gets Puerto Rico from me, and gives Cosmic Encounter to Colby. Everyone gets something they want.

    When the results and trade loops are given, there will likely be a big meeting where everyone arrives and makes the trades in person. This could be at game night, or it could be a big convention. Some groups (like Fortress: Ameritrash) ship the games to each other, usually agreeing to pay a certain amount of the postage. Every math trade is different, but a good runner will lay out any peculiarities and rules beforehand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

    The best part is that you can place your precious games in the trade with no fear of them going away. I’ve sometimes posted games that I love in a trade, just to see if it would entice other people to post more games that were attractive to me. If nothing catches my eye, I can simply say that there are no games I’m willing to trade my game for. A word of advice though: don’t put something on the list unless you actually want it. Most trades will try to get the most trades for the most people, so if you tagged some derpy game to the end of your list, thinking you’d never get it, don’t be too sure.

    A couple words of warning
    Don’t overestimate the appeal of your game. If you keep getting turned down for trades, there’s a good chance that you are asking for too much. Remember, different things are worth different amounts to different people. The best trade I ever made was when I traded a copy of the pleasant Zooloretto for a copy of the much more interesting (and then out-of-print) Nexus Ops. I definitely got the better half of that trade, but the other guy didn’t feel taken. He got a game he wanted, and I got one I wanted. Value is much more relative than most gamers will admit.

    And if you trade a lot online, postage can add up. There have been some titles that I’ve moved two or three times before I finally arrived at a “keep this forever” game. That’s not a very efficient way to do things, but sometimes it happens. Bear this in mind.

    So there you go, the Rumpus Room’s guide to trading. It’s a terrific way to get new titles and remove old ones you don’t play anymore. I definitely recommend this for the cash-strapped gamer, or for those who find they have a lot of games they don’t ever enjoy. Your collection will be a lot leaner, but it’ll also be a lot meaner.

    Check out my blog, The Rumpus Room. It's filled with other meaty articles, covered in the gravy of average writing.

  • Judge Dredd

  • Wow. I am sitting here in a post game euphoria at some really great gaming tonight. Thanks to the rabid collecting habits (and gracious hosting ) of Frank Branham. I got to play Earth Reborn, Merchants and Marauders, and Viva El Presidente' (Junta Dice).

    My  hat is off to Zev who is releasing all three of some of the best games I've played all year (Roadkill Rally being another which was severely underrated).
    I'm going to let Frank lay it out for everyone just why these games are great but I'll tell you this. It is not innovative mechanics or clever ideas. It is solid fun game play.  All three of these games (four if you count RKR) are simple direct and intuitive. I hope this is a trend forming because if it is we are in for some incredibly good AT gaming.

    The evening started great. I had just missed setup and rules explanation for earth reborn and was able to sit in the fourth seat. This is my ideal gaming situation. I don't have to hear a single rule and have three turns of watching what everyone else did.  Then point me in a direction and tell me who to shoot.
     
    Earth Reborn- For all of its detail and extensively iconography. This game is a move your dude and roll some dice. The crux of the game is a bid to interrupt the other players actions at critical moments. There is a bit more to it and I'm sure Frank will give you the full deets soon. I *cannot wait* to play the advanced game.  I will say though that it really doesn't need any more complexity. The gameplay is fun and straightforward with interesting decisions because of the whole (If I do this he may interrupt me and do that...)

    Frank taught the others Cyclades while I insisted on trying Merchants and Marauders. The game was so well organized and simple that we were able to start playing within minutes after punching the pieces. My compliments to designer (or editor) who laid out the rules. After a quick glance of the player aid you can start immediately.

    Merchants and Marauders - Best pirate game I've ever played. I am a big fan of 7th Seas CCG which now takes a close second. The game has 'just enough'. Just enough conflict, just enough choices, just enough atmosphere.  The game play is solid and fun. It is incredibly well done. Simple but with enough details to feel satisfying.  We played a three player game- I was getting my pirate on, but it was the Merchant Jess who won the game (by kicking my raiding ass.)

    Both games ended at the same time and people were all over the place. I pushed for Viva LA Presidente while others fired up RockBand.  I've already raved about this game once before and I think Frank gave an overview somewhere here on F:AT.

    Viva LA Presidente- is so *direct*.  Get your bribes. Secretly decide who you want to attack or defend.  Play a few special cards for flavor and surprise. Then hopefully buy yourself another part of your villa (and 1 point closer to victory). Its a Great Game (tm)  It gives you all the fun of a negotiation game but with added the chance and surprises of dice and card play.

    Wow. What an evening.  I'm going to need a cigarette and some spooning after that one.

    Steve"great way to kick off the holidays"Avery

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  • As anyone who regularly reads my pieces will know, my opportunity for game playing is now severely limited. The only regular opportunity that I get to play outside occasional games against my usually unwilling partner is that one of the gaming groups that I associate with does monthly all-day gaming sessions at the weekend, and said group meets in the town where said partner hails from: so we can pop over and she can visit her family for a few hours (and get a bit of help with the kids) while I get to play some games. It’s a very Euro-oriented group but beggars can’t be choosers and, anyway, there are some pretty good Euros around if you go digging.


  • As you may know, the Fantasy Flight version of Britannia has sold out its second printing and all rights have reverted to me.

    The plan for the new editions of Britannia - don't forget that plans don't always work out - is that there are several versions.  The standard version that has been available in the past will be changed more than I anticipated when I started out two months ago, primarily to make it work better as a way of teaching/understanding British history - to make it closer to reality, if you will.  In the process the game has changed some, which I also think will be interesting for players.  In particular I've eliminated some things that I strongly dislike.  First, it won't be possible for the Romans to make a deal with the Welsh, who then submit although never touched.  This time, they Will Fight.  Second, it won't be possible for a "starving army" to commit virtual suicide by making a bad-odds attack.  Its compatriots will have to come along.  Third, we won't have the Romano-British scurrying for the hills, abandoning their homes and farms.  But they'll be in better shape than in the old game.

    It also won't be a Roman walkover with Romans even known to be killing Caledonians.  The Roman will have more difficult choices.  Unfortunately, players who tend to make a hash of the Romans now, when it IS often a cakewalk for an experienced player, may REALLY make a hash of it in the new version.  There's always a problem in games, whether to design for the 99% expert player or the 33% or the 75%.  When the 99% expert is going to work a bit, the 33% may just get creamed.  Fortunately, the Roman-British are MUCH more prominent in the game - for a while.



    There's a smaller, diceless version (“Rule Britannia”) that uses a new board (21 land areas); and a quick, really small (8 nations) "broad market" version (no set title) that also uses a new board.  I expect these versions will appeal more to current tastes, and may (should) outsell the standard version.

    There's also an "Epic" version that uses the standard board with the addition of Ireland, and will be significantly longer than the standard game (Epic, get it?).  So Ireland will be on the standard board, even though it won't be used in the standard game.

    The standard game will come with several shorter scenarios (4-9 turns), and a new three player game that I am trying very hard to balance, and a 6-7 turn game that covers the entire period using the same colors/sides.




    All of these except the new 3 player version were originally developed years ago, but Fantasy Flight was not interested in expansions/spinoffs/add-ons.   Britannia was essentially a trophy game for them, because the owner likes the game.  (After the game had been in print about two years, I could no longer get anything posted on the FFG Britannia Web site.  They were "too busy.") With the new edition we can try to bring these other versions to the public.  Most likely there will be a Kickstarter with several choices, and various perks (perhaps a wooden set?).  Time will tell.

    In the shadowy background as standalone or expansions are a Britannia card game and a couple games that use the setting, board, and pieces but are new game systems.



    With that introduction we can now talk about abstractions and things left out in relation to the Epic and standard versions.

    Designing a game that's a model of some reality is an exercise in abstraction.  (Keep in mind that many of today's popular games are not models of any reality.  They are simply "abstract" with an atmosphere tacked on.)  You cannot begin to represent all of reality, it's too complex.  You have to combine things together into one thing constantly, and you have to ignore a lot of things that were very important to people at the time.

    For example, in Britannia the "armies" represent (in most of the Dark Age) poorly-armed agricultural settlers.  (The exceptions are the Romans at one end of the time scale, and the Norwegians and Normans at the other - more or less professional soldiers.)  Armies are both population and soldiers.  That’s the way it tended to be in the Dark Ages, quite different from some of late antiquity and most of the modern world.  A more complex game could represent population separately from soldiers.  One of those shadowy add-on games does, though it's generally fairly simple otherwise.

    An obvious compromise is the coherence of large ethnic groups that were usually not politically united.  The Welsh were never one kingdom, really, though most of them occasionally acknowledged an overlord such as Rhodri Mawr (who is now in the game under present rules).  Picts, Romano-British, Norsemen, etc. weren't united much of the time.

    What I've done in "Epic Britannia" is undo some of these compromises made in standard Britannia, decreasing the level of abstraction.  It's "more true-to-life", though it's still so abstracted that it models effects more than causes.  That is, it's good for showing what happened, and even for giving some idea of why things happened, but it doesn't try to model the causes of why things happened.

    So what does Epic do differently than Second Edition Brit?

    •    Caratacus Welsh leader with change in play order (now also in standard)
    •    Arthur appears for all British nations (now also in standard)
    •    Ravaging/Forays (now also in standard)
    •    Disorder/disunity (Settled Nations in standard now)
    •    Several nations separated (3 R-B nations, 3 Angles)
    •    Separates Roman control from Roman forts
    •    Reduction of Roman capabilities in later years but addition of one relief expedition
    •    Changes the sides (colors)
    •    Ireland included
    •    Absorption of Picts by Scots, Jutes by Saxons
    •    Revolts and second submissions possible
    •    Plague
    •    Stronger Saxons at the end
    •    More leader movement at end

    The reduction in abstraction makes for a longer game, of course.  Contrast it with a game with only 8 nations instead of 16-17 and 6 turns instead of 16 (the broad market version), which is 60-90 minutes (I hope).

    As the simpler, shorter games are likely to become the "standard" for this topic, I have not been too reluctant to add features to Britannia itself that may lengthen the game, if only because there may be more fighting in the early part.  As you see, some of the features of Epic have now been incorporated into the third edition standard game.

    Plenty is still left out, for example the Roman Carausian revolt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carausian_Revolt

    And once again, we’ll remember what happens with plans, and see where we end up - next year.

  • Jim Krohn is the creator of our really cool 4X space game,  Space Empires. In the expansions to SE, Jim has managed to give us a bunch of cool new additions and options without making the game unwieldy – a considerable design accomplishment. In this, Jim’s first article for InsideGMT, he takes us inside his newest expansion, Space Empires: Replicators, on the P500 list now and slated for release in 2Q or 3Q, 2015. Enjoy the article! – Gene


     

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        I got a solo play of King Philip's War in yesterday at Winter Offensive and it was a very rewarding session.   This game is not yet ready for release, but it's on the PrePub list with just shy of 300 orders.

        King Philip's War was the first major conflict of the British Colonies, taking place in New England and lasting about two years.  I have ancestral ties to the war (distant ones obviously) including a pretty harrowing letter describing a farm being overrun so the conflict has a bit more gravity for me.  A pretty obscure war, I don't think there are any other games based on it.  Point to Point movement, simple combat, restricted movement mechanics that makes places that look close farther away than you want them to be.  Two player only, likely to clock in at 2-3 hours.  My solo game from a stone-cold start ran a bit over 4.

        I started from scratch with no coach and got the opportunity to test the entire package beginning to end like a new purchaser.  I decided to use the opportunity to provide feedback to the designer who I have met at previous events, and I play-tested his game Caliphate (a euroesque multi-player wargame) at the World Boardgaming Championships this past summer.  I left feedback this morning; I've already received a response from him indicated the changes he has planned based upon his test groups today.  This will be part of the IGS series from Multiman Publishing, the host of Winter Offensive, their annual convention to benefit ALS.

        In short, in spite of the game still not ready for the printer it played very well. It forced my out of my game -- it required me to break up larger forces to go into the countryside and slash and burn similar to what happened in the actual war.  My initial intent was to build armies and chase after the early victory conditions but they proved elusive. For my first play the Indians had better luck early on, destroying settlements and keeping the colonists in check. The colonists just couldn't seem to get a break, damaging Indian villages but not destroying them (i.e., not limiting Indian provisions or scoring victory points.)  As the game burned on it became apparent that the Indians were in a better position to ravage English settlements, and the points race was on.  I resigned (if you can do that against yourself) with one turn remaining, the colonists well behind and the Indians four small points away from the required 30 for an early endgame.

        The map is plush and a pleasure to work with. The movement is easily worked out by just a scan of the available paths, and I found only one place with a technical flaw. Completely usable in its current condition though the colors don't match the text in the rules manual. My guess is the manual will change to the map.

        The instructions had a few oversights that are certain to be cleaned up, but the play is there. I took notes as I proceeded and once I began to understand the limitations on troop movement much of what I had written down as flawed or troublesome completely melted away.  Troop movement is tough -- each side cannot pass through the other player's settlements and there's more than a few of them often in chains that make for big barriers.  When I began to understand that the map became very tight, very risky, very interesting.  English settlements were off on their own, having to fend for themselves instead of depending on help from the far side of the colony.  Indian tribes were separate and non-aligned, though I still have a question out to designer Jon Poniske about the details of the move limitations.  If my suspicions are right there will be even more emphasis on skirmishing, a much better match to reality than what I was trying to foist onto the game, and a much better play overall.

        King Philip's war was about guerrilla tactics and politics.  King Philip, the Indian leader in the war spent much of his time wheeling and dealing with local tribes to get them to buy into the effort.  The English weren't to be left out of that part of the scenario and had their own allied tribes as well.  Tribes tended to fall in with the local power for safety and political advantage, and the game works that in well though in a very simple fashion.  King Philip spends much of his time simply moving, reaching each tribe to bring it into the game on his side.  While the Indian player goes after unprotected settlements with small bands (stacking limit is a merely TWO chits though each has a step) Philip does the grand tour.  The English player raises and deploys troops in four separate regions each turn and brings in Indian allies after a few turns as well, resulting in a fractured force that needs to cover a lot of ground.  The English start slowly and need to hold on for a bit.  Benjamin Church was a critical leader of the English colonists and in the game he arrives somewhere between turn 1 and turn 6, and in my case he arrived in turn 6.  With Church on the board the English move faster, develop Indian alliances and can move through terrain with the same efficiency as their Indian opponents. 

        This is when American colonists first learned how warfare in the Americas would work.  This play was when I learned as well.  Though I tried to fight a standard war, Indian troops were unable to penetrate Boston and Plymouth in spite of some pretty stellar rolls.  In theory that would have been a win for them, but alas it was not to be.  Instead they spent the final three turns sacking unprotected settlements whose troops were assembled into large standing armies in an attempt to win a decisive battle.  It appears I learn no faster than my ancestors of the 1600s.

        The game was good fun, and pushed me to play to the terrain. A solid emulation of North American warfare from the day, this was well worth the time.

                    S.

     

     

  • 4.2 Pounds

    That's what the ASL rulebook weighs. Now it says something that you can use a measurement of weight to describe a rule book but when you consider that the pages that make up those 4.2 pounds are large and contain two columns of very small print you are taking it to a whole new level.

  • "It isn't that hard."

    That, dear reader, is a damnable lie.

  •     So on October 31st, 1985 I sat down to a game of Dune playing the Fremen.  I like the Fremen because they just keep piling onto the board turn after turn.  But that's not why I remember this game in particular; I don't even remember if I won.  The reason I remember is far more basic, more primal.
  • fantasy chick

    Ok, I know there’s already been all kinds of arguments and crap about Runebound in Trashdome so I don’t want to open up old arguments.  But with the latest Trashdome comparing Sci-Fi to Fantasy, I figured I’d take a crack at talking about fantasy adventure games.

    First of all, I’m not a big fan of adventure games.  Ok, I played D&D in 7th and 8th grade and twice in high school but after I discovered girls and beer my interest in fantasy stuff went south.  I liked the Lord in Rings series and King Arthur but beyond that I’d much rather read Military History or Science Fiction rather than read any fantasy crap.

  • I blog therefore I am

    cover_William Gibson's 'Neuromancer'It is a truism that our hyperconnected world — this mighty engine of commerce, knowledge and communication in which codebots endlessly war over the dupes, the data and the users' processing power and into whose coffers even our free activity is given — a truism that this incredible techo-social spectacle- the crowning scientific and technical achievement of the 20th century; that this is the original Cyberpunks' mid-80s low-life visions made virtual flesh (virtual by virtue of the lack of ubiquitious direct neural jacking with its resulting sensory immersion- that emotionally empty screen so beloved of the trolls who soil and poison the social networks). When my pal's copy of William Gibson's Neuromancer circulated round to me back in 1984 little did I realise that I was about to experience with unsurpassed intensity a delicious cultural trope- getting in ahead of the avalanche unleashed by a new voice at the cutting edge of a genre-redefining honest-to-god artistic revolution. No sudden impact this. It was a slow-burning mind-bomb the full impact of which only became evident when, after a month's apparent indifference, I suddenly realised that I couldn't get the damn book out of my mind.

    cybernet head

     

  • Aerial Assault is new game robot card game that simulates the 2014 FRC Robotics competition.

  •  

        I had the opportunity to try out Martin Wallace's Test of Fire published by Mayfair Games.  This is likely the lightest, fastest wargame you'll ever get the chance to play but don't discard it out of hand -- it has some good action going on and teaches the basics without a lot of confusion in the mix.

    Wallace has left the basics of wargaming intact.  Region-to-region movement with only two types of units -- artillery and infantry and frankly the artillery doesn't really count.  This game simulates Bull Run and it's about moving (and losing) infantry in order to take and hold ground.  Union Forces win by capturing key positions, Confederates win by holding out long enough.  Either side can also win by routing their opponents, essentially through destroying enough infantry.

    This is a game where cards play a key role, but it's not card-driven.  That cardboard player aid you see in the image above is what drives your actions, all decided by rolls of the dice.  At the start of your turn you throw the bones and the results give you your options.  A 1 lets you draw a card, 2s and 3s let you activate your artillery, 4s and 5s  let you maneuver and battle for ground with infantry, and 6s let you take any action you want, but only at a location where you have a leader deployed.  The good news is that you roll three or four dice each turn, so you have the opportunity to cascade several actions into a consolidated event, moving multiple units into position for a fight or hurriedly get reserves up the road to reinforce a weak position.  Cards (drawn on a roll of 1 or optionally on a 6) support your actions, help you defend positions, or even provide whole extra actions at no additional cost.

    For those of you frustrated by Battle Cry's heavily card-driven activation system, where units on one flank can be cut to bits while they sit idle, this is an interesting alternative.  Cards add capabilities and flavor to the game, but they're secondary.  Good old-fashioned select-and-activate runs the show, though each turn only offers you the chance to work with half a dozen or so units.

    I'll be honest -- not much of Wallace's patented special sauce shines through on this one.  You can usually feel him sitting behind you when you play his games.  But it's a solid if light wargame that still manages to make for an interesting play.  Small box, small price, simple play.  45 minutes beginning to end.  A great choice for someone looking to get their feet wet in the genre.

    S.

  • Blast City Games


    Please note: Nathan Hayden, the designer and lone man at Blast City Games (makers of San Quentin Kings) was kind enough to send me a copy for this review.


    It’s well known in my gaming circle that I’m not a fan of economic games. Partially ‘cause I suck at them but mainly ‘cause the theme tends to be uninteresting to me. I’m not into kowtowing to some renaissance bigwig, shipping “colonists” to plantations nor do I want to be some blow-hard railroad baron. In After Pablo though. I’m the head of a drug Cartel and I gotta make me some fat stacks all the while having complete domination over my competition. Ohhhhhh, Papa likes!

    Here’s the premise; Pablo Escobar the infamous Columbian drug lord (once listed in Forbes magazine as the seventh most wealthiest person), has been tracked down and killed by Columbia’s Special Forces. As the head of your own Cartel, you want to take over his lucrative narcotics empire, but so do your opponents. “After Pablo”  by Blast City Games, pits players against one another in attempt to control Escobar’s legacy by buying, smuggling and selling cocaine to the US as well as paying for favours to the DEA, hiring a cadre of Lawyers and Assassins and of course starting wars against rival Cartels. The game ends after 12 rounds (or seasons) and the player with the most Command Points (CPs) wins.


    OVERVIEW


    Before getting into the meat of the game I thought that I’d take a little time to talk about one of your main assets. The Cartel Card.

    Blast City Games

    Cartel cards will be used throughout the game in a few ways. Players will either buy or bid for them, play them from your hand for the listed ability or icon as well use them to perform “checks” with.

    For instance, if during a "Crossing the Border" action, a player cannot match all five of the vehicles on the board, he would have to make a “check by drawing the top card from the cartel card draw pile and flipping it over. If there’s an empty alley he has passed but if there’s a cop car, the player is busted and must lose a cube of cocaine back to the off board supply and one influence (from his pile or from on the board) to the jail track.


    Blast City Games

    This draw mechanic is used again during the “selling” phased but players will perform a check by flipping the Cartelthat are on the board It’s simple but it adds another layer of strategy as other players may try to make the on board cards less conducive to the selling player by buying any possible “safe” cards and replacing them with other cards from the draw pile. . This also changes the dynamic of the board in way that influence the next person to buy cartel cards or trying to sell. Most every action changes the board and forces player’s to rethink their next move.

    On your turn, you'll move your Associate Pawn to different areas on the board as you choose one of five actions:

    1)   Taking a Business action will allow a player to either pay for influence on the boards or buy Cartel cards (you must choose to do one or the other, not both).

    2)   Buying cocaine. Players can buy it for $1 per cube of coke (max. of 5 allowed). If a player has the most influence on the Columbian flag, the money goes to him. If no leader is present the cash goes to the bank.

    3)   Start a War. A player will move his Associate pawn to either Columbia or Mexico and try to reduce or eliminate the influence another player has on that country’s flag. Combat is very straight forward the attacker will play any number of “guns” they have on their cartel cards and or “asesinos” (assassins)  in that country (which would have been bought during a previous Business action). Once the attackertotals his combat value the defender does the same. The winner is the player with the higher total. The loser must remove a number of influence according to the difference in totals. If the attacker wins the player adds 1 influence in that country. The defender gains nothing if she wins.

    4)   Crossing the Border. The player attempt to smuggle all his coke cubes across the border using various modes of transportation. A track on the board has five face-up tiles with different transport symbols on them, (e.g. A plane, two speedboats, a dude and an SUV.) The player must try to match those symbols with the cartel cards he has in his hand.

    Blast City Games

    5)   Selling to the USA. This can only be taken if you used the Crossing action on the previous turn. Similar to that you will look at the face-up cartel cards on the board. Each will have a price on the board above every card from $8 to $10. You must sell each cube of coke to one face-up card. You are guaranteed a safe deal if the Cartel card you’re selling to matches your cartel’s colour. For every card that doesn’t you must make a check.

    Every time a player gets a cube “arrested” itis placed on the Jail track. By either playing special abilities from Cartel cards (like the Lawyer/ politician card) or due to in-game mechanics your cubes will /can be moved down thetrack. When the influence cubes move out of the last space (or the "Acquittal" box) they are returned to your influence pool. At the end of the game if any of your cubes are anywhere on the “Jail” track you will lose 1 CP per cube.

    There’s also DEA track that, when triggered, causes the leaders in both Mexico and/ or Columbia to lose an influence cube from their respective countries. This happens after Crossing action has been completed. The bottom two Crossing tilesare discarded, the remaining tiles are shifted and two new tiles are added at the top. For every lightening bolt present on a tile, the DEA marker is moved one space. Once the marker reaches the end of the track arrests are made.

    Luck is a part of this game whether it's through drawing cards to be placed on the board or making checks with but there are thematic luck mitigators thatplayers can use. If you need to get a little insurance before crossing the border you can buy influence within the DEA which allow you to redraw a card during checks. 

    There is direct player interaction by using the War action or by revealing a Snitch in a rival Cartel’s midst.

    Blast City Games

    Playing a Snitch card on an opponent, makes him deal with a negative effect (known as B.S), like losing cash or influence for example. Once the BS has been resolved your opponent then has to deal with the Snitch. They would have to kill him by either using 2 guns, from off of the board or in your hand or removing an influence from your DEA folder or Country flag. Your opponent could also do nothing and receive a “Weakness” chip, which will add anegative number to your final score depending on how many Weakness chips one has ( 1 chip=-1 CPs, 3 chips= -6 CPs).

    MY THOUGHTS

    I really really dig this game and I think it’s a solid title. After Pablo takes familiar mechanics like area control, bidding and set collection and uses them in a way that’s highly thematic and in many ways creates a sense of narrative. Every action and decision a player takes, makes sense within the context of this highly dynamic underworld. You’ll have to rely on short-term planning as things change on the fly but nothing is more satisfying than making a border crossing and sales with all your coke and turning around to start a War to make yourself the leader of a country. The multi-purpose cartel cards are an excellent choice that pulls all the game elements together in a simple yet effective way.

    There's plenty of quality player interaction and players will be involved in nearly every turn as the board changes.

    On the whole the components are good, with the exception of the Crossing Border tiles, which are downright crappy. It seems as though the images were printed out from a home computer and glued with a glue stick onto thin chip board. The blank side seems to have been painted with poster paint. One tile has already begun to peel away from it's backing and the edges on the painted side are beginning to chip.  The Cartel and cash card quality on the other hand is pretty good.

    The playing boards (there are three of them) are made with a chipboard backing and reminded me a lot of GW’s Talisman Timescape board (for those old and/or fortunate to remember). It's not mounted so it will take a little coaxing to get it to lay flat on the table. One can't screw up wooden cubes and they are a great fit for this game as they represent your dudes and of course blocks of cocaine. No Dorothy were not in Euroland anymore.

    One of the most contentious points for some, will be the art style. It’s rough, crude and Naïve but it works for me. Why?  'Cause it feels thematic. I couldn’t imagine the slick graphics similar to that of Cuba or Small World working for a game like this.  In my opinion the art reflects the aggressive and brutal nature of the drug trade, it's edgy, off kilter and a n big improvement over Blast City's other game San Quentin Kings.  I will say the box cover art wholly misrepresents the game with it's pastel, impressionist-like art but other than that I think the artwork for the rest of the game is awesome.

    Of course no game is perfect and After Pablo is no exception. In attempt to soothe game statisticians (Jeb, I’m lookin’ at you), all cards are listed withan arrestprobability for when making checks. For instance if a card lists 2/3 it means two cards in this set of cards are arrest cards.( A printing error on the Snitch card says 0/1 but it should be 1/1 as all snitch cards will cause an arrest.)In my group,I think a player did use it once during a “Selling” check but overall it was largely ignored.  Also at the end of each round, players can buy one "Luxury" item like Women / Beauty (?) or an Estate. What it is really is a straight up CP grab.  You receive no item and it feels anti-thematic in a way.  I was hoping that the items would give you some semi or permanent effect, like requiring an opponent to spend an 1 extra gun in a War action against you if you have an Estate /Compound or something to that effect.

    Another minor niggle was the choice to have the money denominations in tens versus thousands. Having to hire an Assassin for $10 seems a bit silly. It could have simply been solved by having all denominations end with a K.

    So do I recommend this? Hell yeah! It looks like it's currently sold out but if it goes into a second printing I would highly suggest the designer fix the Crossing tiles as that stands out as the weakest element in an otherwise fantastically fun and deep game.

    MY NON-GAMING RECOMMENDATIONS:

    No Country for Old Men (book or film) - Cormac MacCarthy

    Breaking Bad (TV) ( Season 2 specifically)

    Scarface (film) Brian De Palma / Oliver Stone

    Narcocorrido music (Mexican music about Drug lords and their exploits)

     

     

     

     

     

  • Here's a crude pic I whipped up of the map.  The map consists of a central realm (the Darklands where the big bad is located).  A ring of inner realms and then a second ring of outer realms.  The board is randomly set up each game with a few special rules (the mountains must be placed together, the bay's water edges must point out from the game board, and Terror Pass's road has to connect from the Darklands to the outer realms).  There are also 5 realms on the periphery of the map.  These each connect to a Realm on the main board.  The Town of Kortburg is where the characters start, but the other realms are hidden and have to been found.