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Archive for the ‘Boardgames’ Category

SRBIG

Star Realms by White Wizard Games is a fast-playing deck building game using the “Center Row” mechanic also used by the popular game Ascension.  The game was launched via a very successful Kickstarter and is now seeing a steadily increasing popularity in Boardgamegeek due to it’s combination of affordable price, quick gameplay, interesting decision-making, and confrontational nature.  This game was tailor made for me; I’ve toyed many times in the past with developing a deck-building confrontational space-themed game, so even though I missed the Kickstarter finding that one already existed was quite exciting.  I really enjoy Rune Age which has a similar confrontational deck-building style, as well as Ascension which uses a very similar Center Row mechanic.  After a few plays I can tell this game is a solid gem and one that I’m happy to review and recommend.

SR1

Components

Part of the elegant design of Star Realms was the decision to make cards the only component, which allows the game to sell in a tiny deck box and at the incredibly low MSRP of only $14.95.  The base game only supports 2 players, but 2 base games (raising the price to $30 MSRP or roughly $20 from online retailers) allows up to 4 players at once which is still a very low price point for the amount of gameplay you get.

The 118 cards in each copy of the game are broken down into 2 10 player starting deck cards (8 scouts and 2 vipers for each player), 10 neutral and always available Explorer cards, 18 cards that can be used to track Authority totals (basically life counters) and an 80 card Trade deck used to populate the center row.  The cards in the Trade deck all belong to 1 of 4 factions, with each faction having 20 cards total.  The physical card stock is acceptable but I did sleeve mine due to all the shuffling involved; fortunately they are standard trading card size so easy to find sleeves for.

The card art is vibrant and colorful, with a slightly stylized look that suits the feel of the game just right.  While this sort of art is very much up to taste, I enjoy it.  It is all from the same artist and so has a consistent style.  The card layout uses symbols to describe the most common abilities, with text used for the few cards that have more complex abilities.  It’s quite easy to tell at a glance what most cards do, which is nice since you are constantly evaluating new cards as they appear in the center row.  Overall the design of the cards is nearly perfect and does much to improve the experience of the game while also keeping it easy to teach.

Personally I don’t use the number cards provided to track authority, I prefer to use a counter of some kind such as the Threat Trackers from the Lord of the Rings LCG or just a pad and paper.  However the cards are a nice thing to have as they allow the game to be transported and played with just cards alone.  They are also kind of necessary to make the game complete in the box so I can understand and appreciate their inclusion even while I choose not to use them myself.

SR2

Gameplay

Players play starship cards to (more…)

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pic149765_md

Though pretty much all my recent posts are related to computer gaming, I have in fact been playing and enjoying some boardgames recently also.  Today I want to post about a small, light game I picked up specifically to play with my kids that has turned into a pretty good investment.

Coloretto was first published by Rio Grande games in 2003 and the basic drafting mechanic in it has since spawned a whole series of games including Aquaretto and Zooloretto and their many expansions.  Zooloretto is a great game that I have owned for years and enjoy as a light game that is often acceptable to non-gamers due to the fun theme and simple mechanics.  Coloretto I somehow missed until seeing it on a list of recommended kids games recently, but it is an even simpler and more accessible game that has the benefit of being playable by even younger players (my older kids are 6 and 4).

Components

The game comes in a very small, portable box and consists of 88 cards; 63 cards of chameleons in sets of colors, 3 “wild card” chameleons that match all colors, 10 “+2 points” cards, and 12 other utility cards (last round card, stack cards, scoring summary cards).  The chameleon card art is vibrant and the lizards on their various colored backgrounds are quite cute.  The utility cards are clear and easy to understand with nice colors.

The art on the +2 point cards are a bit abstract, showing some kind of sky background, and perhaps my only complaint as they don’t contribute to an already pretty thin theme; not that it detracts from gameplay, but a weak theme can make it a tad harder to draw new people in.  I’ve taken to calling them “lizard food” so that the kids understand you just always want them.

Gameplay

I want to make an effort in my boardgame reviews not to let my review devolve into a full-scale rules explanation, but in this case the rules are so simple I’m gonna pretty much cover them completely.

Each player starts the game with a lizard card of a different color.  The remaining lizard color cards and +2 bonus cards are shuffled into a common deck, and a number of stack cards are placed in the center equal to the number of players.  Each around, players rotate taking turns in which the player either (more…)

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photo-full

Ok maybe not profit, but if smashing planets has appeal to you look no further than Planetary Annihilation, an up and coming RTS title from relatively new developer Uber Entertainment and with involvement from Jon Mavor of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander fame.

Some History

The very first RTS title I ever played was actually C&C: Red Alert but the first RTS game I really sunk my teeth into was Total Annihilation which I picked up fairly cheaply from a video game store back in High School and fell completely in love with.  The grand scale of combat, the real-feeling physics of the projectiles and units, the ridiculous explosions and destruction, and the very open-ended strategy had a huge appeal to me.

I later spend significant time playing the RTS staples of the day; Age of Empires II/III, Starcraft, and Warcraft 3.  Age of Empires eventually sputtered out as a franchise after only limited success with Age of Empires Online.  The Starcraft/Warcraft franchise were enjoyable and paved the way for the eventual emergence and dominance of the MOBA genre, while Starcraft II is still going pretty strong.  But the only game that managed to somewhat capture the feel of Total Annihilation was Supreme Commander.  Unfortunately, Supreme Commander suffered from some bad balance design as released.  The Forged Alliance expansion went a long way in correcting this but the damage had been done, and the larger RTS genre was in decline  A true spiritual successor to Total Annihilation was still sought by a niche community.  An open source TA clone had been created and even after Supreme Commander more or less shut down a small dedicated community kept it viable, but the future of the large-scale RTS genre seemed bleak.

Then… Jon Mavor and others announced (more…)

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Xwing

Fantasy Flight has really sunk their hooks in me deep.  Not only am I hooked on two Living Card Games and numerous of their boardgame lines, now they’ve got me with this new X-Wing miniatures game.  Though I can’t say I wasn’t warned; the dramatic success of X-Wing has taken a lot of the gaming community by storm.  In fact, X-Wing is now the single largest grossing game in terms of revenue at Fantasy Flight Games… all the more impressive considering how recently it was released.

So what is X-Wing?  It is a table-top miniatures game using pre-painted plastic pieces on assembled stands with cardboard templates to direct movement and measure ranges.  The miniatures have been carefully scaled and reconstructed based on actual data directly from LucasFilms.  The miniatures are 1/270 scale with magnificent detail and paint jobs; I haven’t seen mass-produced pre-painted gaming miniatures this impressive since Heroscape.  Each ship type has a set of pilots with some varying statistics, abilities, and costs so that the same miniature can actually represent a variety of combat units.  Most ships also have optional upgrade slots which can further increase the cost of the unit but give it even more abilities, making the customization options pretty staggering when you start introducing expansions.

The key mechanic of the game is the hidden orders system, where each ship is secretly assigned a maneuver and then maneuvers are revealed and executed one ship at a time.  Pilots have a pilot skill rating and the system works to the advantage of more skilled pilots as they maneuver last and fire first each round.

The core set comes with an X-Wing, two TIE Fighters, some cards for both sides, 3 dice, and all the templates you need to play.  While certainly fine as an introduction to the system, I think a second core set is definitely a good purchase as you get 3 more dice, 3 more ships, and a double set of all the cards and other tokens.  On top of the core set there are now 12 expansions out, including several larger ships; an expansion is one ship plus tokens and a set of pilot and upgrade cards.

My first game was a slow process of trying to understand how all the mechanics meshed together, but once it clicked our second game was a lot more fun.  I played as the Imperials both games and the TIE Fighters, while fast, have some definite disadvantages in that they can easily speed past their targets and have weak firepower.  Planning and revealing maneuvers becomes a blast with some fantastic tension, and the game system somewhat penalizes collisions which discourages excessive blobbing and keeps the maneuvering interesting.  The most strenuous maneuvers also require you to stress your pilot, taking away actions, so you have to decide regularly how hard to push the limit while trying to best guess where your opponent will end up.

What I was most nervous about was the movement system.  My previous experience with tabletop minis was a long time ago with Pirates of the Spanish Main, a clever game system in it’s own right but which really suffered from an imprecise and frustrating movement and range measuring system.  Fortunately X-Wing uses square bases with precision cut notches for the templates so the movement is much more carefully defined.  In crowded situations there might still be some fudging but on a much more acceptable level than I expected.

For an introduction to the game system I’m pretty impressed, and I can really see the appeal.  As much as I can understand people spending hundreds of dollars on expansions to build very specific squadrons for serious tournament play, I think the game scales nicely down to the casual level also since the point system makes it so easy to come up with a variety of evenly matched teams at all scales and the pilot/upgrade combos makes for immense replayability.

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As if the rush of Lord of the Rings LCG and other news from GenCon was not enough, Fantasy Flight games has officially bought CardGameDB and is going to incorporate it as an official company resource, while maintaining and improving the tools and utilities there for players.

I think this can only be AWESOME for the future of every LCG, it is going to mean a lot more interplay between FFG announcements and forum discussion and the CardgameDB forums and card stuff.  For example FFG can post an official suggested deck build as a link to that deck on CardGameDB now.  It’s not specifically said, but presumably they are paying Drew now so he can put even more time into the website.

It’s definitely a win-win, but it’s also a very fascinating turn of events as this sort of thing is not common with any gaming community that I’m aware of.  Usually companies maintain their own websites and resources as strictly separate from community ones.

http://www.cardgamedb.com/index.php/index.html/_/articles/fantasy-flight-games-acquires-cardgamedb-r779

http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=4305

 

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EveOnline Battle1

As I’ve made clear elsewhere, I’m not currently subscribed to EVE Online.  So any posts I make on the game are from the perspective of an outside observer who is mainly interested in watching the game develop or in watching the large-scale conflicts that are unique to EVE.

However, my younger brother has been playing faithfully and for over a year now has been part of a corp that does primarily low-sec operations with a lot of PVP.  Recently he has sent me a couple battle reports which I think would be cool to post on my blog.

Here is the first battle report, which I have titled “Big Fish, Little Fish”:

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As I was in warp spamming my directional scanner at 5 degrees towards my target, I noticed that the former catalyst had turned into a Gallente destroyer wreck. I dropped out of warp and was immediately notified by my sensors that a Rupture was beginning to warp scramble the remaining coercer. I set to orbit the Minmatar Cruiser at 20km in my Caldari interceptor holding point, anxiously alerting my fleet that I had a tackle.  As four other cruisers painted with my corporation banner dropped all around me, we swarmed the Rupture, unintentionally saving the coercer as it slipped away trailing a plume of smoke from its burning structure.

It was our only kill so far on the roam and had been a relatively slow day.  We docked up to repair our ships and drop off the loot when the local area intel communication channel began to blink.  It was the second day in a row that a large training fleet was entering our Area of Operations.  They usually have about 25 pilots with a large amount of ECM and logistics.  They are frustrating because they hang around on gates for quite a while and their sheer numbers are much too big for our small gangs.

However, today the intel channel had about 30 members, all of which are experienced pilots in the area.  Along with normal banter, I posted that it would be nice to drop 10 Battleships on them.  Quickly, a pilot from SCUM. Alliance said they could commit 5-7 BS.  I discussed quickly with the pilots in my fleet and we had 3 fit Battleships gathering dust just 3 systems away.  Within 10 minutes we had assembled about 11 BS, 1 Heavy Assault Cruiser, a Recon, and a frigate on the gate two systems down from them. Our Arazu Pilot began harassing their logistics pilots with suspect flags and keeping them occupied as we formulated our plan.  We then jumped to (more…)

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starwars

This last Saturday I played in my first ever organized competitive card game event by participating in the local FFG sanctioned 2013 Regionals tournament for the Star Wars LCG.

I went into the tournament with a full playset of all available cards and several sessions of deck testing against my brother, who also came to the tournament with me.  I brought a Light Side deck that exactly matched the “Smuggler’s Caverns” deck made popular on the Smuggler’s Den podcast: 2x Renegade Squadron Mobilization, 2x Questionable Contacts, 2x In You Must Go, 2x Hero’s Journey, and 2x Secrets of Yavin IV.  It’s a strong deck with a lot of flexibility and durability, it’s only real weakness being a lack of blast icons.  My Dark Side deck was a Hoth Navy deck with 2x Dark Time, 2x Deploy the Fleet, 2x Death and Despayre, 2x Imperial Command, and rounding out with 1x Reconnaissance Mission and 1x Shadows on the Ice.  Evan and I had played for the last several Wednesday night game sessions, trying to improve our speed and decks and I felt pretty good about my Light Side deck at least.

Tournament was held at Uncles Games at the Bellevue Crossroads mall. Despite being the only tournament in a pretty large region, only 9 players showed up total. The tournament opened with a bang… literally; just as we were sitting down to begin the first round an entire shelf of games collapsed, with the shelf and multiple heavy boardgames hitting both my opponent and my brother who was standing behind me (somehow I was spared).

My first opponent was fairly new to the game and made a lot of mistakes, I defeated him in both games fairly easily but he was a good sport. My second match was a close tie where I narrowly lost the tiebreaker, both good games. My third match was also a pair of very close games but unfortunately I lost both. I think I ended up placing 6th or 7th but thoroughly enjoyed myself. My brother unfortunately got the bye first round and then played the same new player I did in the second round, but since he had all winds he got to play the championship round which he narrowly lost. So he got to play fewer good games but at least he had a shot at the trophy (which, sidenote, the trophy was pretty high quality I thought considering).

The environment I found to be great. The Magic Modern Masters launch tournament was going on at the same time and that event had probably 40 people or so, which meant we Star Wars folks were crammed into a corner but we still had enough room and everyone who came was incredibly friendly. Some folks were more talkative than others but nobody I interacted with was rude or a jerk about the rules. Several times minor takebacks were allowed (in situations where it would have no serious effect on the game) I felt like there was a good camraderie from the start and it was great to have so many conversations with enthusiasts about the game.

So long story short, I enjoyed myself despite not competing particularly well and would definitely attend next year.

Star Wars is still a very new game and at this point I don’t feel like the distance between the “best decks” (of which there are a few) and the middle of the road decks is that large. As the card pool grows I think the gap between expert and casual players will surely grow but at the moment I think it’s not overwhelming. I felt like the competitive environment was enjoyable and it was nice to see a variety of decks; though there was less variety on the Light Side as I think only a couple players brought Rebels, I never played a Rebel deck all night. I can’t even imagine the kind of variety we’ll see next year.

One note, the Tournament Organizer had originally planned 60 minute rounds but ended up not being able to show up so there was a stand-in. We agreed unanimously as players to move to 70 minute rounds, especially since we knew the tournament wouldn’t require a final cut, and that turned out to be absolutely necessary. We still had several games go to time and I really don’t like how the player losing in the second game always has more to gain by going to time. If there is anything wrong with the FFG tournament system it is the allowance for 60 minute rounds, I absolutely believe that is too short a timeframe for this game.

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