August 30, 2011

A Post Without A Witty Title

We got an early start on Monday, as I was able to get most of the day off. Over the weekend I had picked up a copy of an older Fantasy Flight game from the Silver Line called Scarab Lords. The game is essentially a two-player battle game. Each player takes on the role of the ruler of a house in a fantasy-based Egyptian realm, bidding their minions and their gods to take supremacy and rule all.

I had looked the box over on the shelf several times before finally deciding to buy it; and I'm glad I did, because I think it's a lot of fun. The artwork is really nice and the components, while simple, are good quality and provide a great game in a small box. The decks at first seem a little unbalanced, with the blue deck appearing the weaker of the two. I did determine afterward that we had missed an important rule that allowed a player to essentially skip their turn, and for a discard, replenish their hand.

I also came up with a modification to the advanced rules that replace the deck-building aspect with a shared-deck idea. I was able to test out the following day and found that it works out very well. It does have the side effect of making the game a little bit longer, but it adds a nice way to avoid decking out the opponent so quickly, as well as adding some more chances for random swings in power.

After William arrived, with cold beer to compliment the pizza, we sat down to a three-player game of the Call of Cthulhu LCG. I had set up a sort of draft box using the core set and the two larger expansions "Secrets of Arkham" and "Order of the Silver Twilight". We each chose two factions, dealt out an equal number of cards from each, and added a few neutral cards to flesh them out. As the decks were composed entirely of one-off cards, it added to the randomness of play.

The game is overall a very good one, but it does fall down a little bit in terms of multi-player friendliness. It takes a little bit longer and tends to get a little lopsided. Sebastien suggested that it might play better with four players as opposed to three. William eventually pulled out a victory taking a third story card. Sebastien and I each had two but were simply unable to stop his final push. By the end we were getting a little tired of the game and started throwing strategy out the window in favor of big swings with all or most of our characters just to see what would happen.

The final game was William's newly arrived copy of Quarriors. Yes, you read that right. The game's name sounds like an explosive sneeze but it is actually pretty good. It's a sort of deck-building game with dice. The artwork has a fun cartoony type style, and it and the dice are very colourful. The first few rounds took a little while to get going because we were harassing William as he read through the rule book. A few beers and a long day turned almost everything into a joke at that point, so 'scoring with the dragon' took on a wholly inappropriate meaning beyond the regular game terms. I enjoyed the game though and would certainly be inclined to give it another try.

For VS System on Thursday we're playing a sealed constructed format which I'm also looking forward to. The format lends itself well to a nice, even playing field for all, and gives everyone a chance to make use of cards that you might not otherwise. I'm expecting to see some interesting stuff hit the table. It should be fun.

August 23, 2011

Countdown to the EVE of Nightfall

Yeah I admit it's a pretty contrived title, but I wanted to hit everything in there that's happened in the past week. The biggest thing has been my nutzo work schedule, which not only had me working late on Thursday, but for almost all of Sunday as well. That was a real shame because the weather here on Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day.

The format for Thursday's VS System tournament was Countdown, and I wish I could tell you who played what and how it went. However since I wasn't there, and no one has given me any details, all I can tell you is that cards were brought and games were played. I think.

Monday's scheduled game was EVE: Second Genesis. If you've played the online computer game you might have heard of it's CCG counterpart. The card game shares a lot of artwork from the computer game, and boasts some truly fantastic original art as well. The cards look great and I was looking forward to playing.

My anticipation was quickly dashed however. Within the first four or five turns, almost nothing happened and peace reigned in the galaxy. Sebastien's cartel started to build up a presence in the outer regions while William and I struggled to cobble together a few measly ships. When we finally did, we flew them around and generally avoided each other like children hiding behind a mother's skirts.

Finally I had a ship strong enough that I thought I could gain a minor victory and take control of an outer region in William's control. Issuing orders my ship went off in search of conquest. The orders I gave them however, were the wrong ones. Laser fire was exchanged, nothing happened and my ship withdrew in shame while Sebastien watched, or napped, I'm not sure.

A few rounds later I decided to try again and sent all of my might against Sebastien's unprotected home region. He had wealth, ships and power, but had unwisely left his starbase completely devoid of defenders. The cost for this mistake was his life, and his sanity, as he was forced to watch William and I struggle with the combat mechanics of this game for another half hour.

William set down to building more ships, faster than I could, flying in and doing a lot of pointing at cards. I pointed at cards too, we spent some time being confused by all the results of said pointing; and when the game was over we packed up all the cards and agreed that it sort of stunk.

EVE Second Genesis is slow to start, boring while it's not your turn, and the combat system really isn't any fun. The targeting system for applying battle damage isn't smooth and made our brains hurt even though the math was simple. I wanted to like it, and still think the cards are pretty awesome looking, but it's very unlikely we'll bother to play again.


Two out of three then? No, not another game of EVE, please! We tried out yet another new game recently added to my collection: Nightfall. Yep another deck building game. Cooperative games, and deck building games seem to be a major trend in gaming for the past few years...and I really can't complain because I happen to like both genres.

Nightfall appealed to me for two reasons. The first was the theme. It's set in an end-of-days-where-the-sun-has-burned-out-and-monsters-have-appeared world and players control legions of undead, zombies, humans and werewolves trying to destroy one another. The second appeal-factor was the nature of the game itself. In games such as Dominion and Ascension, while both very good games, the level of player interaction is low to non-existent. The whole goal of Nightfall is to chain cards together so that you can attack and destroy your opponents.

We were only able to play a single 2-player game and it was a bit of a runaway win on my part. William and I were both trying to figure out how to chain cards together in a useful manner and I got off to an early lead. I'm not certain that the game is entirely balanced for a two player game, but 3 or 4 should balance out very nicely. I'd definitely play it again.

The artwork on the cards is pretty spiffy too.

August 16, 2011

If The Zombies Don't Get You The Dragons Will

Last night's gaming session had a group of four, which is twice as big as last week. A 100% increase in attendance is pretty good I'd say. Before firing up our Warlord game, we decided to try out a print-and-play game I happened upon last week called Zombie Plague. The game has been around for over 10 years, and recently a member over on Board Game Geek posted up a very nicely done 10th Anniversary Edition. Since I like horror games (and who doesn't love zombies?) I thought I'd print things up and give it a go.

Since the game is electronically distributed for free, we needed some dice and pieces. I just happened to have a copy of Zombies!!! which suited us perfectly. There are three ways to win the game:

1. All of the search locations on the board must be searched by at least one player.
2. The house's windows and doors are all barricaded and the house is zombie free.
3. Someone finds the keys to the car, and all the (surviving) players get in the car.

Very early on in the game the survivors learned that the car was out of gas. One of them headed out to the garage to look for something useful while the others set about barricading the doors and windows of the house. As he made a quick escape to the side door of house he unfortunately drew the attention of several zombies, who slowly turned to follow.

Sheer weight of numbers started to pile up on several of the barricades and the three survivors had to make a fight of it in a very crowded living room. Jason's frying pan was heavy and difficult to aim, making it a poor choice of weapon for dispatching the undead. Seb's hatchet was sharp, but the short handle proved it difficult to land a killing blow. And William's teddy bear was simply helping him stay sane amidst the chaos.

Deciding that they simply couldn't secure the house, and seeing that they were drawing an ever-growing crowd the survivors decided to split up. After some tense outdoor moments and a few bites that proved harmless they were finally able to search everywhere of interest and make their escape alive, but just barely!

I think Zombie Plague is well designed, fun and tense. The more survivor players you have playing, the more zombies they'll attract. There are tons of mini-expansions available, as well as four maps (all nicely designed by BGG-member kwanchai) to play on. I intend to find a suitable box for it and add it to my collection. I'm sure it will get played again.


So where do the dragons come in you say? Well, the scheduled event was actually to play a few games of Warlord: Saga of the Storm. Jason had put together a Dragon Lord deck using Altus Darkheart, and wanted to test it out, so the rest of us formed up our armies and made ready for battle. Let's just say it was brief, bloody and extremely painful. By the end of the first turn there were three level 8 dragons on the field, in addition to the Dragon Lord. We basically scooped up our cards and conceded...none of our armies had characters that could contend with 23 and 25 defence characters. Especially not when they had 4 or 5 hit points each.

August 12, 2011

It's all a Trade-Off

For almost a year, I gave Magic the Gathering a try. I enjoyed the game, it is well designed, relatively fun, extremely well supported, and the players are plentiful. However, the trade-off in my eyes was twofold.

The first issue with the game was the general player population. I played in a few organized events at my local gaming shop, and generally speaking didn't have any fun. The players were far too competitive, and generally not that accommodating to the newer players. I certainly don't mind losing, because in any game someone has to lose in order for another to win; but good sportsmanship goes a long way there.

The second was the frequency of set releases. As a casual player I simply couldn't keep up with the number of new cards, their interactions and combinations. Having to at least be familiar with a new batch of cards every three months is simply too much work in my opinion; that being of a casual player.
So what the heck am I talking about here and why? Well, one of the by-products of MtG having such a high player base means that highly sought after cards can rise in value quite quickly, and quite high. A few months ago I found a Worldwake fat-pack in Walmart, and bought it. One of the money cards in the game is Jace the Mindsculptor, and I happened to get a copy. I was pretty happy about it, as it was the first Planeswalker I had obtained, and I had a blue deck that it should work well in. I was looking forward to trying it out, but as the months passed and people's schedules were in flux, I never ended up playing that I decided to trade it.
I was able to trade a single piece of cardboard for a full board game Shadows Over Camelot, and a deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu. So that single card, that went unused for months, turned into something much more valuable for me: games and cards I can actually be certain I'll use. I don't think that's a bad trade-off at all.
Oh, and I do still intend to play Magic on occasion too! I just won't be playing with Jace (who happens to be banned in standard play now anyway). :P

August 02, 2011

Monday Night Gaming

Starting next week I'll be hosting some semi-regular gaming sessions on Monday evenings on my kitchen table. The way it will work is simple. I'll post a schedule, similar to the VS one, but each week we'll play a different game. In addition to the date and game title, I'll list how many players can join the game. Simply let me know if you're coming by email or phone. When we reach the maximum number of players I'll mark the event as closed or something. Please try to give me a decent amount of notice, and not leave it until 5:30 the night of the game before deciding to there may not be enough room for you by then!

Some nights we may be able to play a few different games. The schedule will only have the main game listed to keep it concise. If you have a game that you want to bring or try out with a group feel free to post a comment on this thread, or contact me directly.

I'm not sure if I can host games every week of every month, as my schedule may not allow it. However, we'll give it a try and see how things go for now.

Games will start between 6:30 and 7pm. We'll likely try not to go past 10 or 10:30, so that everyone can get home and get some sleep before work the next day. If you want to bring snacks or drinks, please do so, but please try to take care of any garbage or mess you might create. Of course I will have a garbage can, recycling bin, glasses and water available...we are playing at my house after all.

Next week we'll be playing the Age of Conan strategy war game. It's marked as a 2-4 player game taking approximately 90 minutes to play. I expect it to take around two hours for our first play, as it's a new game and we haven't had a chance to try it yet. Sounds sort of like Risk, but with monsters, and lusty women, and magic...and Conan.