April 30, 2012

Strange Aeons Test Drive

For the past 6 months or maybe longer Chris and Sebastien have been trying to get me to play a game called Strange Aeons. I have a love of horror and dark fiction, and have run games of both the Call of Cthulhu LCG, and Arkham Horror at various times. Both are excellent games, but are large in scale, difficult for new players, or perhaps just too niche to get some folks into. So I was interested in the premise, but didn't look into the game any further.

Having spent hundreds of dollars on Warhammer 40,000 and a only a little bit less on Hordes miniatures and books…I was reluctant to give it a try. Both of these games boast huge selections of miniatures, countless scenario and expansion books, and lots of room to exercise one's creativity when painting their figures. On the flip side however, they were expensive to acquire and build and it's time consuming to paint large armies for even a smallish battle. However, the biggest difficulty I have with both games is that I've really got no one to play them with. I've tried playing in a few organized events for each but just didn't enjoy playing against the power gamers, rules lawyers and nit-picky-obsessed strangers that seemed to be available as opponents.

Strange Aeons is a game that incorporates a lot of the facets of the Cthulhu Mythos into small skirmish-sized miniature battle. On Sunday, at the 2012 CCEE (I'll post a full article about the expo later), while helping out at the gaming area "Uncle" Mike dropped by. I've never had a game's designer and creator offer to give me a demo, so I figured it would be worth at least giving it a look.

The booth they had was small with some cool gates at the entrance. It looked a suitably gothic and dark place to be holding demonstrations of a game called Strange Aeons. They had a display case of some fully painted figures and a few demo-sized boards to play the game on. I chose to play "Threshold" (ie: the good guys) against Mike's "Lurkers" (ie: the bad guys). While the Lurkers can be all kinds of unspeakable horrors, in this case I was up against a band of cultists. Sounds simple enough, except that my agents were out-numbered by a little over 2 to 1!

While the demo was pretty fast, with Mike simply telling me how many dice to roll and when, I was starting to get a feel for things by the final turn. Two of my three agents had been destroyed and things were looking dark for my last one. Lucky rolls on my side turned the tide in my favour though and the final two cultists were torn to shreds at sword point.

I've only played a single demo game, but liked what I saw enough to buy a core rule book and a pack of Agents miniatures, as well as an Assorted Undead pack. Grand total for everything was $50, and I was given an exclusive H.P. Lovecraft figure as well. I'll likely end up buying some cultist figures, since they're cheap in terms of build points (BP) compared with the relatively high BP cost of the undead models I have; and they look pretty damn cool! Painting 6 to 12 figures for a complete game experience seems a lot more palatable, and affordable, than the 40k or Hordes alternative.  Also, in this game I can use whatever miniatures I have around the house to represent my characters...and no one will yell at me for it.

Will I like Strange Aeons enough to justify spending money on it? I'm not sure in the long run, but I'm willing to give it a shot. At least there's the possibility of actually having people I like to play against. So that's good.

April 25, 2012

Entertainment Expo Anticipation

The Expo has grown a lot since Kandrix, Laurie and their team started things up way back when.  It's funny to think about, since I used to spend a lot of time them when they were running their artist collective many years ago.  We've since both moved into the same neighborhood, but don't maintain any real contact in recent years.  What they've done to start and grow to expo though is a feat to be lauded, not only by their friends, but by the city in general.

I think the expo is a great idea, and has drawn more eyes to the city throughout North America.  Having celebrities, entertainment professionals, artists and all sorts of attendees come to Calgary for the event is not only fun and exciting, but also good for business.  Hotels, shop owners, restaurants, tourism and the city's reputation and culture are enriched simply by playing host to the ever growing event.

I've been an attendee and an exhibitor at the expo, and generally it's been a good experience.  Last year I was unable to go due to the scheduling of the event, but I heard good things.  The year previously I was disappointed by the near-impossibility of attending panels due to the bottleneck and lack of signage around the doors to that area.  However, this year I'm heartily looking forward to it.

I've never attended for the full event except as an exhibitor, so this will be the first time to do so.  The 25th anniversary of Star Trek TNG is also pretty exciting.  Of course I watched the original series as a kid during afternoon re-runs on CBC, but Next Generation was my Trek.  I was able to watch it from the beginning, all the way through to the finale, and it was some great TV.  The fact that the expo organizers were able to bring the entire principle cast together for the first time since the show ended is quite a coup!  I'll be attending as many of the panels as I can, as well as the Exposed event on Saturday evening.

Naturally there are tons of other guests that I'm looking forward to seeing if not meeting as well.  It should be a good time, even if I know my feet are going to hate me on Monday morning.

Now I just have to decide what I can get the legendary Stan Lee to sign for me...

April 20, 2012

Risk: Legacy - The Battle Is Joined

Last week for my regular Sunday gaming night, I finally had five people who were willing to sign on for Risk: Legacy. After our customary snacks and drinks (beer...at least for some of us) William, Sebastien, Scott, Collin and I all sat down to break open the game and get things started. The components and rule book were separated and everyone helped get things set up.

Each player chose a starting color randomly and selected one of the starting powers for their faction. Sebastien and Scott secretly attached extra coin markers on some of the region cards and then we rolled off to start placing our bases and initial forces. While our new world looks like Earth, that will soon change! Sebastien chose China, Collin the southern tip of South America, William western Europe, me in Eastern Australia and Scott in the southern regions of the African continent.

The first few rounds were quiet, while everyone stockpiled arms and armaments, solidifying the regions around their bases. Collin was the brave soul who initiated our Earth's first conflict; making the journey across the waters to gain a foothold in Northern Africa. Scott's troops were unable to rebuff him and he was forced to make room for the invaders. William continued his advance throughout Europe, trying to secure the entire continent while Sebastien remained suspiciously neutral. Finally, with no other avenue for advancement, I commanded my Die Mekaniker forces to launch an assault north against Sebastien's well defended souther border. A disheartening defeat sent me back to tend to my wounded soldiers, and pride.

Collin continued to press his advance through Africa into Southern Europe in a bid to stop William from continental conquest. His Balkanians decimated Collin's troops. Faced with massing armies under William and Scott's command, he was forced to retreat from Africa entirely. On the Eastern side of the planet my forces pulled their mechs together in another attempt to teach Sebastien's fur-wearing Clan members a lesson in pain. Heavy losses on both sides were incurred, but I managed to gain a solid footing in Southern Asia after a swift victory.

With his eastern attack plans foiled Collin pressed into the vacant North America instead. Scott and William continued to solidify their positions; peacefully eyeing one another over loaded weapons, tanks and cannons. I suppose when your opposition has as many guns that are just as big as your own...peace is probably a pretty decent compromise.

Having conceded ground in the south to me Sebastien decided to press north into the rest of Asia, foolishly leaving his base undermanned. Seizing the opportunity I pounced on the region and, meeting almost no resistance captured his base. I was now one red star away from victory.

Again Collin struck, this time from the south up into Greenland where William had just started to expand out of Europe. Placing a scar in Greenland and weakening the defenders there allowed Collin to make his advance. But holding Greenland proved more difficult than he'd anticipated...as the newly placed scar hindered his own attempts at defending his territory.

Scott and William continued building their forces and maintaining peace between European and African borders. Sebastien's troopers were trying to eke out a meagre existence the the frozen Asian north. Collin's troops held the entirety of the Americas and I had my small slice of Australia and Southern Asia. However, there was something that had been overlooked.

In the battles between Collin and William over the northern hemisphere's nexus of Greenland, William had left a route on the south eastern side vulnerable to attack. Making the choice between eradicating Sebastien's beast-riding soldiers or pressing in to seize control of William's base was difficult...but it had to be made. I pressed to the northwest, declaring war against the Balkanians. William's troops fought valiantly, causing me to nearly accept defeat, but a line had been crossed and I couldn't allow defeat as an option. Gambling I continued to press and the Balkanian lines broke. Sweeping in I claimed William's base, and victory!

The battlefields are quiet now, but the landscape is changing. Cities are being repaired, survivors giving them new names to help forget the damages of war. Australia has been declared as Chucklandia and is the first seat of power in the coming conflicts.

And conflicts there will be...

April 09, 2012

A Question of Interest

For the past while I've been asking about doing another fan-set to supplement to two that we've already had done. Based on verbal responses from the members individually there are enough people to warrant me putting it together and having it printed. However, I haven't really got the feeling that people are excited or interested in the set, or even continuing with the game.

I'll fully admit that my schedule hasn't allowed me to be at the store for events much this year, but it's pretty discouraging for me as our group dwindles and stagnates. I'm always trying to keep things fresh and fair by doing things like sealed events, and various fun formats, but as people opt out of (or in some cases aren't able) purchasing our fan-sets, it makes the group increasingly difficult to manage. For example, if we don't all have access to a new set, it's simply not feasible to plan any kind of set-based events, like a release party, without planning around each person's card pool. I'm sure none of you would want to have to try keeping track of who has what just to plan a three-hour game night...

I still enjoy the game as I'm sure the rest of our group does. However, I simply want to know if it's worth my continued effort to keep things going. As much as I want to ensure that all of the players have fun, it needs to be fun for me as well.

Please respond by posting a comment here so that we can get an idea of what everyone wants to do. If you have suggestions for an alternate night, other ideas for formats or events, or anything that you think might be helpful, please post those as well.