Friday, 24 January 2014

Open Gaming at Brimstone Games February 15th

The Windsor Gaming resource returns to Brimstone Games on Saturday February 15th from 6pm until Midnight. Brimstone has a huge gaming area with tons of tables, chairs and great lighting. I'm told by the owner Sean that we could fit 60 of us in there.

This is an open, all ages, theme-less gaming event. Just a bunch of us getting together to play some games. Magic the Gathering and Warhammer are popular at Brimstone along with the usual mix of card and board games.

You can find Brimstone at 3298 Walker Rd. Parking is available on the south side of the building and on the street around back. Note Brimstone used to be located in McGreggor. This is no longer the case, they moved into Windsor last year. Some internet mapping sites seem to have not gotten this figured out yet.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Check this out: a card game you don't need a table to play on. Oddball Aeronauts (Prototype) Review

I was contacted by maverick:muse back near the end of 2013 and asked if I wanted to check out a new game they were working on. This new game was a two player card game that simulated a fantasy airship battle. The most unique part about the game was that it was played "in hand". This meant that it didn't need a surface to play on. That game is Oddball Aeronauts.

I checked out some of the links Nigel Pyne, the game's designer, provided and I was blown away. First by the artwork and then by the way he made the whole surface-less thing work. I really liked the look of Oddball Aeronauts and jumped at this chance to check it out before the kickstarter goes live in February. My prototype copy showed up a couple weeks ago.

Since getting the prototype I played a few games with my wife. I also brought it out to one of the Windsor Gaming Resource events and showed the game off to a few people. I figured I've given the game enough of a shot now to write up a formal review:

Oddball Aeronauts Overview

The prototype box I received is a bit thicker than an old Magic the Gathering starter set. Inside were a couple pages of instructions and 54 cards. The cards are split into two 24 card decks and there are 6 additional encounter cards. I will admit the instructions were currently a bit rough. I communicated my questions and concerns to Nigel and he assures me that they will be fixed in the final version of the game. You can check them out yourself here: Oddball Aeronauts Beta Rules V2D

The back of the cards showing the two factions airships
The theme of the game is an aerial airship duel between two factions: Pirates and Pendragons. These factions and characters come from something maverick:muse is calling the Oddball Realms. The art for this realm has a steampunk anthropomophic slightly anime look to it that I really dig.

To start the game each player chooses one of the factions. Each faction has it's own 24 card deck. To that deck each player adds three encounter cards that are randomly selected. You then hand your deck to your opponent who shuffles it and then hands it back to you face down. When both players are ready you flip your decks and begin.

Holding your deck of cards eliminates the need for a table
All of the stats for the for the cards are located on the left hand side with the artwork taking up more than half of the card on the right. There's a reason for this. They way you play is that you slide the cards out to the left so that you see three cards at a time (as shown there on the left). I thought this was particularly well done and is one of the main ways that the game eliminates the need for a surface.

Each card has three statistics on it. Each statistic has two numbers: a rank shown as a number and a bonus shown as a number with a plus. In addition every card ha a special ability which is located below the stats. Only the special ability of the top card is used each turn. The skills going in order from top to bottom are: Sails, Guns and Boarding. There is an exception to this: events. Event cards do not have skill numbers.

Example of an event: here the Pirates would recover 1 card
Once both players have their top three cards showing, both players check for an event. If both players have an event they are both discarded. If only one player does then the event happens. Events generally have players comparing one of their respective skills on the top crew card shown. Some events check for the lowest skill others look for the highest. Once the event is resolved it is discarded.

The way you discard cards in Oddball Aeronauts is the other way that this game keeps the cards in your hand instead of on the table. When you have to discard something you just flip the card over and put it at the back of your deck. Sometimes you will be told to recover a card, when that happens you look through your deck and find the first card that is face down and flip it face up. I thought this was also brilliant. The game ends when one player's entire deck has been discarded aka flipped over and in that case the other player wins.

Now that there's no events in either players hand we can get to the meat of the game. The active player is going to look at his top three cards and pick one of the three skills to attack with. The opposing player then chooses which skill they want to defend with. Now here's where it gets interesting: both players then decide how many cards they want to use for support. Player simultaneously hold up either one, two or three fingers (We found using a rock paper scissors like pumping motion and counting "one" "two" "three" and revealing worked well) to indicate how many cards they will use. 

Here comes the math bit: now each player adds the skill on their top card to the bonus of any other cards they decided to use. Note this can be one, both or none of their support cards. The player with the highest total wins the round.

Example Pendragon cards
Both players now have to discard the cards they used. Then, based on what skill was used by the winner, players recover or discard cards. If Sails were chosen the winner gets to recover two cards. If Guns were chosen the looser must discard two more cards. If Boarding were used, the winner gets to recover a card and the looser must discard a card. This resolution system adds a nice level of strategy to the game and gives a valid reason to not always just go with your highest combo. 

Sounds simple enough right? Well there's just a bit more to it. Remember I mentioned those special abilities on the cards? These mess with the basic system and modify games in a variety of ways. Most of the special abilities give you a bonus based on what skill your opponent chooses. Stuff like "you get +2 guns if your opponent chooses Sails or Boarding" (note it's not that verbose, it's all done with symbols on the cards.

Other special abilities will let you recover cards or they can modify the next round in some way. These next round modifications are handled in a very interesting way. Any modification for the next round is added to the top right of the back of the card. When you discard the card you leave it sticking up just a bit to remind you of this rule in play next round. Something I've never seen before in a game and it works really well. 

So that's basically it. The winner of the round becomes the active player for next round and you rinse and repeat until one players deck has been completely discarded. All this without a single card having to touch a table.

Final Thoughts:

Okay I will admit I was a skeptic when I first read about this whole "card game that doesn't need a surface" thing. I just couldn't imagine how it would work. How do you 'play your cards'? How do you discard your cards? Heck, what do you do with your deck after you shuffle it? Now I know, and I really dig it. Oddball Aeronauts managed to pull off the game you play 'in hand' brilliantly. 

Example Pirate cards
This means that my wife and I can play it anywhere. The last time I actually played a game was standing in front of the cash at Hugin & Munin, showing the store owner how to play as I played against one of the other patrons. Next time my wife and I head out to our favourite coffee shop I'll have her toss the deck in her purse. 

Not only is the game uber portable and playable almost anywhere, more importantly it's actually fun. Sure it's not the most strategic game I own and sure it's not the most engaging two player experience I've had, but it's a solid little game. It very strongly reminds me of the old Citadel Combat Cards from Games Workshop but it takes the basic mechanic (I pick a stat, you pick a stat, whoever is higher wins) and improves on it quite a bit. There are some real tactical choices to be made here. Using more cards to win the round means you are eating through your deck quicker. The different attack types mean that you may not always want to go with your highest skills. There are even ways to combo your special abilities if you can manage your attacks properly (If I use one card now and my opponent is using boarding that will mean that my third card will be on top, which means...).

Overall I really dig this and I want to thank Nigel and maverick:muse for giving me a chance to check this out. The kickstarter isn't launching until February but when it does I recommend anyone who's looking for a fun two player game that can be played anywhere to back this one.

A Bonus for Windsor Gaming Resource Readers

As noted above the Kickstarter for Oddball Aeronauts goes live next month in February. Watch this blog when it does because I've made a deal with Nigel that I think is rather cool. We will be hosting a give away here with a pretty unique prize:
One of the 'Event' cards will be 'Bounty Hunter'. We're proposing that the winner designs the character for this card. They would work with Lloyd to develop the card art, choose a name for the character that will appear on the card, would receive the original artwork and be credited in the rulebook as co-designer of that card.
In addition, once the game is in production we will be getting a couple copies to give away at WGR events as well as hosting another give away here on the blog.

Update: The contest is live:

Monday, 20 January 2014

Cards & Coffee - February 8th

February 8th we return to long time FLGS Hugin & Munin for a night of cards and caffeine. The event will run from 5pm until 11pm. Through the entirety of the event all Tassimo coffee will be half off.

Our last event in January had 22 people show up, which pretty much packed the place. You may want to show up a bit early as the place gets packed and we run out of chairs quickly. To help alleviate this problem Ian will be putting up a table for us to store our games on and an extra table (4 total) so that there's more room to actually play. We also ask that people try to squeeze in two games at each table where possible.

Yeah it's called Cards & Coffee and yes some people dig playing Dominion or Magic or Munchkin but you don't need to stick to card games. It's just an excuse to spend a Saturday night playing some games, any games. Our last event saw games like: Firefly, Zombie Dice, Settlers of Catan, Gloom and Space Cadets Dice Duels.

This is a free, ages event that is open to anyone and everyone. Bring your favourite game or play one of ours. The store always has plenty of demo copies you are welcome to try out and most people who attend bring a game or two to share with the group.

Hugin & Munin is located at 1664 Tecumseh RD. E. in Windsor Ontario. Parking in back or on side roads and free out front after 6pm.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

We've got mice in our house and the whole family loves it! - Mice & Mystics review.

It's hard to find a game that you can enjoy with the whole family. Really hard. There are lots of kids games out there but it seems like many game designers seem to think that kids game = simple game with no decisions to be made. Many of these games aren't even really much fun for the kids and are an absolute bore for parents. At the other end of this scale you find games like Mice & Mystics.

Mice & Mystics is by Plaid Hat Games and is just as much a great game for adults as it is a great game for kids. The suggested age is 7 and up but kids younger than that can still play and have a great time with some help. The original game was released in 2012. Since then there have been some additional scenarios released as well as a full boxed expansion.

In Mice & Mystics all of the players work together to play through an epic fantasy story. The story starts in a typical fantasy realm, where an evil sorceress tries to take over the kingdom. Prince Colin and his friends are forced to turn into mice in order to escape. The board game starts from there with the players each playing a hero turned into a mouse stuck in a dungeon cell.

The game is played by selecting a chapter from the story book (best if played through in order) and then setting up the board and selecting mice for each player. The thick beautifully illustrated boards are two sided and show various locations around the castle. Minions, the bad guys, are placed on the board and are represented by very well sculpted plastic miniatures. The mouse heroes are more great looking minis. Each player gets a set of cards to represent their character and their equipment and a central board is set up to hold other important game items like the initiative track, the search deck, the encounter deck and party items.

The scenario book gives the players their objectives and any special rules for each chapter. In addition there is a ton of fluff and background. It's this narrative that really brings the game to life. Playing Mice & Mystics is like playing through a story book. Some of it is just playing through the story as it unfolds but other parts are true decision points where you have to decide which way to go. Do you take a chance and run to the kitchen to warn Miss Maggie or do you decide to skip that area in fear of the dreaded Cat?

Actual gameplay is what you would expect from a fairly simple dungeon crawl. Roll for movement rate then take an action and move or move and take an action. Actions include scurrying (moving twice), searching, attacking or using a special action. Order of play is determined by cards and the bad guys are controlled by the players and move and attack according to some very clear rules in the main rulebook.

Combat is done using special dice that come with the game and are reminiscent of games like Heroquest or Descent: Swords are hits in melee, bows are hits in ranged and shields negate hits. In addition to the combat icons on the dice there is also 1 side of each die that shows a piece of cheese.

Cheese is used for two things. For the heroes it lets them power their abilities. Each hero starts with one ability and when they level up (also done by spending cheese) they can get new powers. These let the mice do a variety of things like heal, magic attack, better defense etc. They are similar to Feats in popular pen and paper RPGs. For the minions cheese represents the passage of time. Every time a bad guy rolls a cheese it goes on the clock on the center board. When that clock fills up with cheese more bad guys may spawn and time advances. If you run out of time the game ends and the bad guys win.

Right now Mice & Mystics is the most popular game in our house. My wife and I enjoy dungeon crawl style games and this is a good example of one. Better yet though is that our kids love it. Our oldest is particularity smitten with the game. At only 6 years old she's figured out pretty much all of the strategy of the game and will confidently play Tilda, "The Healer" in a fun and tactically valuable way. Now my 3 year old, while she loves the game doesn't really get it yet. She has fun rolling the dice but is more interested in sorting and counting her cheese than actually figuring out which Rat she should go smuck next. 

I strongly recommend this game for anyone who enjoys games like HeroQuest, Descent or even Mansions of Madness. One thing that Mice & Mystics improves on all of those is that there's no adversarial play. It's completely co-op. In addition to being a solid dungeon crawler this game is seeping with theme and story. The game is more than just a board game it's an experience and the fact that it's one that you can share with the whole family is awesome.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Games and Grub at the Green Bean - January 31st

On the 31st of January we return to the Green Bean's Windsor Star Cafe in Downtown Windsor. The event starts at 6pm and goes until 11pm and is open to all ages.

The Green Bean Coffee Company, Windsor Star Cafe is located on the third floor of 300 Ouellette ave. You can take the elevator from the ground or the stairs up from the 2nd floor. This is the location of the old Palace theaters.

There's lots of room and great lighting at this venue. We've found it's great for long and short games alike. The large tables are great for those games like Eclipse that are hard to fit at home.

There's no theme to the event. Bring whatever you like, or show up and play some of the games others have brought. Everyone is usually willing to teach anything they bring.

Friday, 3 January 2014

DriveThruRPG 2014 New Year, New Game Sale

Okay this is a heads up post. This sale hasn't started yet but it looks like it's going be a great one.

50% off over 80 core rule books for different games. Based on the info I got in email it looks like Numenera, Dungeon Crawl Classics and White Wolf games will be part of this deal.

It officially starts on Monday January 6th.

The WGR would love your support by clicking the banner above before you go shopping. We get a small percentage of any sales and it doesn't cost you the buyer anything at all.

The First Cards & Coffee of 2014 - January 18th

Happy New Year!

Here's a great WGR gaming event for trying out those new games you got over the holidays. Come out to Hugin & Munin between 5pm and 11pm on Saturday January 18th.

Yeah it's called Cards & Coffee and yes some people dig playing Dominion or Magic or Munchkin but you don't need to stick to card games. It's just an excuse to spend a Saturday night playing some games, any games.

This is an all ages event that is open to anyone and everyone. Bring your favourite game or play one of ours. No XP needed, we'll teach you what we have.

Coffee is also half off for the entire event.

Hugin & Munin is located at 1664 Tecumseh RD. E. in Windsor Ontario. Parking in back or on side roads and free out front after 6pm.