Sunday, 15 October 2017

#ReducingThePile - New (to me) games played in September 2017 - Part 2

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts where I talk about my quest to reduce my pile of shame.  You can find the other posts under the hashtag: #ReducingThePile.

This is the second part of my September update. Check out my last post to hear my thoughts on Century Spice Road, Roll Player, Stratos, and GIFP. Today I talk about three more games that were new to me that I got to the table the second half of September. 

Clank!: Sunken Treasure - This is an expansion for the amazing deck builder Clank!. Clank has quickly become my favourite deck builder. It combines the classic Games Workshop game Dungeonquest with Thunderstone Advance. You start off as a pretty unskilled thief trying to go in and raid a dragon's lair. It uses deck building to represent your increase in skill and the treasures you find. It's a fantastic merging of push your luck, gotcha, and deck building.

Sunken Treasure adds a new double-sided board, one new set monster and a bunch of new cards for the adventure deck. the theme is that parts of the dungeon are flooded and there are new mechanics for swimming, splashing and a new piece of equipment: scuba gear (for which they give some fantasy excuse). Overall there isn't a lot new, which is exactly what I want in an expansion. They make the game just a bit more interesting and introduce something new but similar to how other things work.

As an added bonus you don't have to pull out the sunken treasure stuff if you still want to play with the original boards. You just don't use the new fish monster or scuba gear. The adventure deck stays the same. Overall I think this is a great expansion that just makes a great game even better.

Mechs Vs. Minions - I'm sure you've heard the hype on this one already. It's hard not to. I have to say that so far, the game lives up to the hype. Yes, it is one of the most beautiful games ever made. Yes, it has one of best box inserts ever. Yes, the price is crazy low for what you get (not that it's cheap).

So really what's important now is how good the game is. Right now we have played the intro adventure and played the first official mission twice. Twice because we failed badly the first time. We opened up the packet for mission three and read it but have not played it. So far we've had a great time. This is programmed movement, similar to RoboRally but it's much less random. For one you draft your programming cards, and second: once cards are slotted they stay there for the entire game. So this is actually more like an actual program as you add to it each round, unlike other programmed games I've played where each round you start fresh.

The one thing I hate in co-op games is the Alpha Gamer/Quarterback issue that can come up. I didn't see this as a problem in this game. I think each player has enough to worry about with programming their own mech that they don't have time to try to tell the other players what to do. Sure we all discuss general strategy but there definitely wasn't one player saying: Draft this, put it here, then do this, etc.

Troyes - I have heard fantastic things about this game. It's been out of print for a long time and is selling for just silly money on the secondary market. Troyes has been a grail game for me for some time. Then Geektropolis had an auction and I was able to get a sealed copy for an amazing price.

It was worth the wait. I really dig this game. I will fully admit I don't really dig how it looks. I think it's an ugly game. That said it works. The graphic design makes it very easy to see what is going on, on the board at a glace. At least it does once you get used ot the iconography.

Troyes is basically a dice placement game though you never actually put the dice on spots. You use the dice to select actions and then place meeples or cubes to represent that you have done them. What's really fascinating in this game is how you use the dice. You build sets of 1, 2 or 3 dice that all have to be in one colour. The neat bit is you have your own dice (based on where your workers are placed), but you can buy dice off other players. Then you use these dice to do actions. There's some math here as you total your dice, divide them by some number and that's the number of times you get that action. So, for example, one spot on the board may be Get 3 money for 4 yellow. If you play 8-11 pips worth of yellow dice on this spot, you get 6 money. If you put 12 pips worth of yellow dice you would get 9 money

The actions that are available each game change with a bit part of the replayability in the game coming from this. There are 3 different versions of each card and there are 9 cards in play each game. Adding to that there is also an event system that happens each round and has players fighting brigands and dealing with foreign workers.

Really there's far too much going on here to explain in a short review. The important part is that I really dig this game. I've even ordered the expansion for it as I hear it makes the game just a bit more forgiving for everyone (one of the things it adds is a wild die that can be used to make sets with other dice). If you dig medium to heavy Euroes you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

That's it for me for September. So far October has been slow so I may not have much to talk about by the end of the month, but you never know. I did get in two brand new games last night at The CG Realm game event and there's still half a month to go.

What have you recently gotten out of your pile of shame?

On the weekend of November 4th I'm going ot be gaming for at least 24 hours in support of the Children's Miracle Network of Hospitals and I would love your support:

Monday, 9 October 2017

#ReducingThePile - new (to me) games played in September 2017 - Part 1

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts where I talk about my quest to reduce my pile of shame.  You can find the other posts under the hashtag: #ReducingThePile.

Today I look back at the new (to me) games I played in the month of September.

September was a much better month for gaming for me. I got in 24 game plays through the month. Of all those plays eight of them were brand new games for me. Below I take a look at four of those eight games.  You will have to wait for part 2 to see the other 4. 

Century Spice Road - I have been hearing about this game a lot this year. Many people are calling it The Splendor Killer. Having now played the game I can see why. The games are similar.

In Century Spice Road is all about collecting resources to buy cards that let you collect more resources or upgrade those resources so you can buy other cards worth points. See, very Splendor like. Each turn players either use the cards they have to either collect or upgrade resources or they purchase a new card to use later. There's also one-third option, and that's to pick up the cards you've already played. This is one of the best mechanics in the game as it's a really hard decision as to when to pick up and when to keep using the cards you have. This reminds me a bit of Concordia.

Overall I liked Century Spice Road more than Splendor. There's just a bit more going on and a bit more depth and both I found very welcome. There is one problem with the game though. The designer put out two versions of the game. The Spice Road version which I played and a Golem version. The Golem version, to me, is so much cooler but you can only get at Cons and Special events. This means I will probably never pick up this game as I would much rather have the fantasy-themed version.

Take this as a lesson designers: for some people, me being one of them, theme matters.

Roll Player - Over the years I've said many times that some of the best times I've had with RPGS is just making characters. My wife and I used to head down to a local pub just to sit there and make a slew of Traveller characters.

Well someone in the board game world realized this and decided to make a board game that's all about making an RPG character. That game is Roll Player and it's fantastic. I really like this game. It's going to be up there in my top games of 2017 for sure. I've already played 5 times and enjoyed every play.

In Roll Player, you are making a D&D style character by filling in a character sheet with six-sided dice. Like in an RPG three die sets get you stats of 3-18. Race modifies these number. Each player gets a class card which tells them what they want their stats to be when done and the points given for hitting those numbers. So you could get 4 fame for having exactly 18 STR for a fighter. In addition, players get backgrounds which determine which coloured dice should go where. Each character also has an alignment goal that awards or subtracts points based on where the character's alignment ends at the end of the game.

Gameplay consists of drafting dice then placing them. Where you place dice gives you a way to modify your existing stats. For example placing a die in STR lets you flip one of your dice to the opposite side. DEX lets you swap two dice and so on. After drafting players go to the shop and spend gold to buy traits, skills, weapons, and armour. Traits give alignment modifiers and end of game scoring. Skills modify alignment as well and are abilities you can use mainly one per round. Weapons give continual abilities and armour adds a set collection element to this game.

If you are a fan of both RPGs and board games you really need to pick this one up.

Stratos - It's not often you find board games made right here in Canada. Earlier this year I was approached by Board and Table games out of Guelph Ontario asking if I would be willing to review their game, Stratos. It was sold to me as a mix of Dungeons & Dragons and Catan. I finally got to try the game for the first time in September.

While I wouldn't say it's D&D meets Catan I can see where that comes from. In Stratos, each player starts with just a couple of Peasants on a very abstract but well-made world map that is created through sets of 4x4 tile grids. Each tile representing a different type of terrain. Players take those peasants and use them in a race to get 10 victory points.

The peasants themselves can harvest resources. Resources can be used to upgrade character, buy new characters, purchase spells (used by the Mage character) or traded in, in full sets for points. New characters bought can be more peasants or other fantasy character types. Mages can cast spells which break the rules in some way (with each new spell cast giving one victory point). Archers can attack other characters at a distance (with kills giving victory points). Fighters can attack adjacent characters (also earning victory points for kills). Explorers can explore the various terrain tiles on the board which leads to a somewhat Talisman like feel as you draw cards and have an encounter from an exploration deck which can be either good or bad). Every character action involves rolling dice with a chance of failure, upgrading your characters removes this chance.

Really it's all far too much to get into in this short review. Overall all the various characters and options mean that there are a ton of different ways to get those 10 points. Some victory points are temporary as well which means there can be some nice back and forth. The components are a real mixed bag and the huge amount of options makes the game a bit finicky. Overal, at this point, I would say it's neat and that I need to play it a few more times before I have a solid idea of what I think.

GIPF - I recently hosted an auction in support of a good gamer friend passing away. I picked up this game at that auction. I've been curious about the games in this series for a long time. DVONN, YINSH, TZAAR, etc. I have heard really positing things about all of them over the years but never actually gotten to play any.

What I didn't know is that all of the games are part of the GIPF project. A rather ambitious deal where all of these games, which are all stand-alone abstract games can all also be used to improve and expand the base game: GIPF. A rather neat idea. At this point, I only have GIPF though, so I can't talk about how well that project went. I did think it was neat that the first game in the series I bought was the 'base' game.

GIPF itself is a very solid two-player abstract strategy game. It's a perfect game for one of those: If you like Connect Four (or Tic Tac Toe, or insert X in a Row Game Here) you will love ... lists. In GIPF you have a big hexagonal grid of lines. Players are placing checker like discs onto this grid from the edges. Pieces follow the lines and stop at intersections. What's neat is that you place from the edge and when a piece moves onto the board it slides all of the adjacent pieces in that line down as it moves on. The goal is to make a set of four of the same colour. Another neat bit is that a set of four doesn't win you the game, instead, it has you remove that entire row from the board. The set of four is returned to its owner but the other pieces in the row are captured.  This bit takes a while to wrap your head around as it's a bit counter-intuitive and it's what makes the game great.

There are two sets of rules included in the game, both a basic and an advanced game. The only real change in the advanced game is that you now have GIPF pieces that start on the board, these are just two standard pieces stacked. When these should be removed from the board the players who own them can instead choose to have them stay instead of removing them. It's surprising how much such a simple rule change like this changes the game.

Check back here for Part 2

Saturday, 7 October 2017

#ReducingThePile August Update

Yep, still behind on this, but slowly catching up.

This series is all about getting games off my piles of shame and new to me games. You can find the other posts under #ReducingThePile.

Today I talk about the new to me games I got played back in August 2017 including a short review of each. August was a busy month and I didn't get out to many gaming events so this is going to be a very short list. I only actually got in 6 plays of 3 different games in August. Not as bad as June but still not a good month for gaming. 

The Dragon & Flagon - Not sure if you have noticed or not but I love programmed movement games. Robo Rally is one of my top games of all time. I also really dig Lords of Xidit, Volt Robot Battle Arena, Colt Express and probably a few more I'm forgetting right now. It's one of my favourite mechanics.

Seeing that mechanic used to represent a fantasy RPG style tavern brawl was interesting. That's exactly what The Dragon & Flagon is: a D&D style tavern brawl that's resolved using programmed movement. Each round players plan out their actions and then they resolve them. There's a neat initiative system here where, depending on what you do, it will take longer for you to get your next action. So a simple move is quick and you get to go in the next segment, but dashing across the room lunging may take you three segments. 

The game looks awesome. It comes with 3d cardboard scenery and wooden components for tables, chairs, tankards, and barrels. The characters are just standees and I think it would have been extra cool if they were miniatures. I plan on stealing components from Dragon & Flagon for use in my RPG games.

The mechanics make this one a lot more fiddly than you would expect for such a light theme.  I've played RPGs with easier combat systems. That said; it's quite fun.  Just be aware getting into it that it's got a learning curve and it is not as light as it appears.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past - my daughters love The Turtles. I have no idea exactly why. No clue where they even learned of them. There must be some kind of universal appeal to them. I already play TMNT heroclix with the oldest and picked this up after hearing it's a much better game. Having now played I have to agree, mostly. 

This is a one vs. many co-op games in the veins of Descent or Imperial Assault. It's a campaign game with one multi-scenario campaign included in the base box and the promise of more to come. The actual gameplay is an action point based miniature skirmish game with The Turtles facing off against many mooks and named villains from the comic book series. That's worth noting, this is based on the most recent IDW comics which are a bit different from the old TV Series or comics I remember as a kid. 

The really neat bit here is how co-operation is built into the game. Each Turtle player has a set of dice they roll at the beginning of each round. They have symbols on them that represent the various actions in the game (swords for melee attacks, throwing stars for ranged, skateboards for movement, etc). Once a player rolls his dice he has to arrange them in a row. This order matters as the two dice on the end are shared with the players on each side of that player. Note there's one very thematic exception to this: Raphael refuses to use anyone else's dice, instead he rolls more dice than anyone else. 

It's a very cool game but there are rules issues. We found an infinite loop problem where the bad guys couldn't lose in our second game. There are rules updates and the designer is really good about answering questions on BGG but I find you do need to do that research before you can really enjoy the game.

Eclipse: Ship Pack One - This is the second expansion that was released for the Sci-Fi 4x game Eclipse. The main thing this includes is new plastic ships for all of the factions in the base game (oddly omitting the factions in the first expansion). It also includes plastic counters for starbases which were originally represented by counters in the core game. There are also a few new rules including some new technologies. The best of these new rules is a new initative system, where the first player to pass becomes the first player next turn, the second player to pass the second player and so on. This expansion comes with some boards and counters for tracking this in a rather elegant way.

I hadn't played Eclipse in a long time and I have no idea why. I remember really liking the game, but man, it's even better than I remembered. We had a fantastic time during our last play. The new ships are cool. The new initiative system is fantastic and overall Eclipse is still one of the best 4x games out there.  I saw nothing to complain about with this expansion. Everything in there was a welcome addition and now my game looks so much cooler.

So that was it for new games for me in August. I realize it's going back a bit, but do you remember what was new to you this past Summer?