Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Games for Christmas 2008

Santa left me two games under the Christmas tree this year and I tore into them on Christmas morning.

Manoeuvre is a quick playing low counter density game using a variable map and cards. There are eight nationalities in the game: France, Britain, Russia, Spain, Austria, Turkey, Prussia, and the US. Each nationality has their own deck of 60 cards tailored to the characteristics of that nations fighting style and leadership in the time period (Napoleonic Era) the game is based on.


Brood War is an expansion to StarCraft: the Board Game. I got Star Craft last Christmas. Brood War adds new unit types for all six factions in the base game.  The Terrans get two new unit types, Medics and Valkyries. The other factions each get three new types; the Protoss have Dark Templars, Dark Archons, and Corsairs; the Zerg receive Lurkers, Devourers, and Infested Terrans. Each faction gets 17 or 19 new combat and technology cards to add to the base game. The new combat cards provide attack values for the new units, while the technology cards provide new techs for the new units. Some of the new abilities include "Collateral Damage", "Recharge, and "Mind Control".

Brood War comes with 4 sheets of new goodies; Six more "planets", Installations that are placed on planets like Bases but provide new abilities to the faction that can build them, three new module types, a new "Defend" order, new Building tokens, Hero tokens, and more.
What I really find interesting and can't wait to try out are the new Leadership Cards. At the start of the game and at the start of each turn that begins a new stage players will select from their hand of Leadership cards one of them to play for that stage. Since there are three stages, players will get a chance to play 3 Leadership cards during the game. Each faction's Leadership cards are specific to that race and some of them seem to be pretty powerful and cool. No longer is a special victory condition automatic during stage 3 of the game. A player will have to select the Special Victory Condition Leadership card at the beginning of the game otherwise the only way a player can win is by the Conquest point method. There are three stage I Leadership cards for each player, one of which is its special victory condition. In addition, each stage I Leadership card has a different starting force mix. I'm looking forward to trying this out.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TOMB - A Description and Mini-Review

TOMB: Recruit a Party. Kill the Monsters. Take their stuff!

Dana bought me TOMB for my birthday so I could play it with the kids. It was a fun game but, I don't see how it is possible to finish it in an hour, which is the playing time printed on the box! Claire, Cody, and I played it on Sunday; I think it went at least 2 hrs before we quit to go get something to eat. I had not read the rules before we started to play so that added to the play time but I think it could have went 3+ hours before we would have completed the game.

The game box says to "Recruit a party. Kill the Monsters. Take their stuff." And that is basically what you do in the game trying to collect the most experience points (XP) from killing monsters and taking their treasure by game end. The game ends once all of the crypts on the game board have been explored and cleared out.

SET UP: To setup the game you pick which dungeon map, of two, you are going to play on then each player draws three cards from the Crypt deck. Starting with player one, determined by die roll, and going clockwise each player places one of his/her drawn Crypt cards in one of the cypts on the board and then draws another card from the Crypt deck. This continues until all the crypts on the map are fill. Each crypt on the map has a size rating, the number of Crypt cards it takes to fill it, ranging from 1 to 5. A Crypt card is either a Treasure, a Monster, or a Trap. As there are 200 cards in the Crypt deck, way more than you will use in a single game session, each game will have different traps, monsters, and treasures on the board. As you can see, each player, depending on their memory, will have a little idea of what is in the crypts but not the full picture.

Once the map is populated you set up the Inn board which consists of shuffling the four decks that your party may draw from when they are at the Inn. The four decks are ITEM, TACTICS, PRAYER, and the SPELL deck with 25 cards in each deck. The ITEM deck consists of, as you guessed, items that you assign to a specific member of your party. Most of the items will fall into the categories of weapon, bow, helm, armor, glove, or shield. There are a couple of items such as the torch and caltrops that don't fall into any category. The rules state that a character can have only one item of each type attached to it. So your brave fighter will not be lugging around 3 swords, two bows, and two suits of armor; no overloading your characters which appears to be standard in other dungeon crawling type games.

TACTICS are cards that grant special abilities to your party. Some of the cards are "use once then discard" and others can be used over and over by your party until lost (by the character that it is assigned to dying). The Tactics effects can affect all aspects fo a player turn, combat, recruitment of new characters, movement, etc.

PRAYER and SPELL cards can be used by Cleric and Wizard characters or characters that have a non-zero value for Holiness (PRAYER) or Magic (SPELL). Each player then picks a party counter to represent their band and places it in the Inn. Each Prayer and Spell card describes what effect it has on the game, when it can be used, and if it is a one and done type of card or if it can be used repeatedly by a character it is assigned to.

Ok so how do I recruit my party? There are 84 possible character chits that you are able to recruit but only a small subset of these will be used during a game. The character chits are placed in a bag for random drawing during the course of the game. When a player's party is at the Inn, one of their available actions for a turn is to recruit a new party member from the available characters at the Inn. Now the game is ready to begin, but before we begin let me tell you about the dice.

The game provides three colors of 10 sided dice, green, blue, and red of which the faces are either blank or are imprinted with a axe symbol. Rolling a blank face is a failure or miss and rolling an axe is a hit or success. The green die has an axe on 3 of the 10 faces, the blue die has 5 axes, and the red die has 7 axes. Obviously you want to be rolling the red dice as much as possible. All game elements where success is not automatic require rolling a die or dice of a certain color or colors to determine the outcome. The color and number of dice rolled is dependent on the character attempting the roll and his or her ability that you are rolling against. Character abilities can be modified by the items/treasures it is equipped with and by Prayer, Magic, and Tactics cards that have been played.

There are 4 base character types in Tomb, Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard. There are also characters who are a combination of the base type, Cleric/Fighter, Fighter/Wizard, Fighter/Rogue, Cleric/Rogue, Cleric/Wizard, and Cleric/Fighter/Wizard. Each character is rated for 4 abilities, Attack, Skill, Magic, and Holiness. Fighters tend to have better Attack abilities, Rogues better Skill abilities, Wizards are highly rated for Magic, and Holiness is the high ability for Clerics. Each of these abilities are rated with a number and color of dice that a character will roll when using that ability, for example a fighter may have an Attack rating of 3 red dice while a wizard may only rate 1 blue die for Attack. All characters have a hit point (HP) rating; this is the number of wounds needed to kill the character. Finally, each character will also have a special power listed on its card. These powers can be extra movement points while in the tomb, bonus hit points, bonus dice, bonus card draws, etc, etc.

Once the Inn is setup, the second player starts off by deciding what they will do, ie first player to place an item in the Crypts during setup goes last. On their first turn, a player pulls 5 characters from the character bag and chooses 1 of them to join their party. The other four go to the Inn where they can be recruited in later turns. Once this first turn of recruiting has taken place by all players a regular turn is started. Each player may do the following on their turn in order:
1. At the beginning of a turn, take as many Free Actions as one likes. Free actions include redistributing cards attached to their characters, healing all characters in your party of all wounds if they begin the turn at the Inn, and using React(ion) Cards.
2. Perform One Standard Action. Standard Actions are Act, Draw, Heal, Move, Pickpocket, Play a Card, Recruit, Return to Inn, and Raid.

ACT - A player may use a Turn Action on a Character card (chit),  other Card, or a Space on the Board with an associated "Turn" Action. Character Cards, Cards or Spaces may have a special ability associated with them. If that ability is labelled with the word "Turn" then that means it takes the whole turn to use that ability thus you may use one "Turn" action per player turn.

DRAW - If a player starts their turn at the Inn they may draw a total of two cards from the four draw decks on the Inn board. Weapons and Item cards must be assigned (attached) to characters in your party when drawn. If a weapon or item can't be legally assigned to a party member then it is discarded. All other card types drawn go in to your hand, which has no hand size limit, until played at which point they will either be discarded once resolved(one time use cards) or attached to one of your party members (cards that can be used again and again until lost).

HEAL - Parties that are in the tomb area, ie not at the Inn, and have at least one Cleric in their party may perform a Heal Action to attempt to remove wounds from characters in their party. Roll dice of each color equal to the total of all Holiness of all characters in your party. Each success (axe) rolled allows the removal of one wound from a character. The player may spread the healing love around in his party as they wish.

MOVE - All parties start with a base movement point(MP) allowance of 10 MP. The base can be adjusted up or down by character special abilites, treasure, or other items in the game. Each MP allows a party to move one space horizontally or vertically on the tomb map; there is no diagonal movement allowed. In order to enter a crypt a party must stop on the tomb door square at the end of a turn. On the players next turn the party may then enter the crypt.

PICKPOCKET - A party must have a Rogue, and be in the tomb area. There is no pickpocketing allowed in the Inn. The player chooses one of the Rogues in his party and a target item or treasure from another player's party. The targetted item/treasure must be in another party in the tomb and be within the movement limit of the Rogues party in the tomb. The targetted party player then choses one of his characters in the party to attempt to "catch" the Rogue in the act. Both players then roll the number and color of dice from their Skill ability with the targetted player winning ties. If the Rogue wins, he steals the targetted item/treasure and must assign it to the Rogue. If this is not possible the item/treasure is discarded. If the targetted player wins then the character gets one free attack roll against the Rogue. The Rogue suffers any wounds from this attack and may be killed. If the Rogue survives he/she is returned to your party. 

PLAY A CARD - Some Prayer, Spell, and Tactics cards are marked as a Turn Action. These cards may be played in the Inn or Tomb (but not when resolving a Raid) and counts as the player's action for the whole turn. Some cards are marked as Battle Actions. These cards can only be played during combat and counts as the characters action for that combat turn. Cards marked at React Actions can be used in addition to any Standard Turn Action.

RECRUIT - While at the Inn, a party may spend its whole turn recruiting a new member to its party. A party is limited to a maximum size of 5 characters unless some special ability/item/treasure allows differently. New characters are recruited from the available characters in the Inn; if there are no characters in the Inn then you are out of luck. Newly recruited Clerics and Wizards allow drawing one card from the Prayer or Spell deck respectively. If a character has both Magic and Holiness then they allow drawing a card from each of the Prayer and Magic decks.

RETURN TO INN - If a party is in the tomb it may use its whole turn to return to the Inn. This can also be done during combat, as a character's battle action, if the battle is not going well for its party. Once at the Inn the player may choose to bank any attached treasure cards.

RAID - At the start of your turn, if your party is on a crypt door, it may enter the crypt to attempt to kill monsters and take their treasure. Crypt encounters are resolved in the following order, Traps, Monsters, and Treasures. Each crypt is labelled with either an L or an R at the entrance. When a player enters the crypt the player to the L(eft) or R(ight) of that player takes up all the tomb cards in the crypt and becomes the Crypt Master (CM) for this encounter. The CM decides the order of how Traps are resolved and once all traps are cleared the combat decisions for all the Monsters in the crypt. If all Traps and Monsters are defeated the Treasure is awarded to the raiding player. At this instant, the raiding player must either bank a treasure or attach it to one of his characters in the party. Only banked treasures and treasures attached to surviving party members at game end cound for XP at the end of the game. Once a treasure is banked it can't be stolen or attached to a party member. The downside is that some treasures have great special abilities but if banked can't be used. If you attach a treasure to a party member you can use the special abilities of the treasure but the treasure can be stolen (pickpocket) or lost if the character holding it dies. The CM then controls the resolution of the raid starting with any Traps.

TRAPS - When resolving Traps, the CM reveals how many characters can attempt to defeat the trap and what attribute is used, that's it. The raiding player doesn't know what the effect is for failing or what the target number (TN) is for success. The raiding player then rolls the number of dice allowed by his/her character abilities. The CM then determines of the trap is defeated or not. If the attempt failed the raiding party suffers the effects of failure listed on the card and if successful the CM reveals the effects of success. Whether the party fails or succeeds, the raiding player must decide if they will continue resolving any further encounters or retreat back to the crypt entrace space. If the party retreats the encounter is over, the CM replaces all cards back into the crypt space, and the next player takes their turn. If the raiding player continues and all traps have been resolved then the CM continues the encounter by revealing all Monsters in the crypt.

MONSTERS - All monsters in a crypt are revealed after any trap encounters have been resolved. A monster encounter is resolved started with the CM chosing a single monster to act. The raiding player then choses one of his party members to act and this continues until all monsters and party members have had a chance to act; this is one combat round. If there are any survivors on both sides a new combat round it started. Combat rounds continue until on side it defeated or the raiding party decides to retreat back to the Inn. The normal sequence of a combat round can be altered by character special abilities or played cards during the monster encounter. A monster may either perform a normal Attack or perform a Battle Action using Inn cards assigned to it or use its special ability. Characters may either Attack, perform a Battle Action, or Flee back to the Inn. If the raiding party manages to defeat all the monsters in the crypt they are finally awarded any Treasure cards that are in the crypt.

TREASURE - Treasure always has an experience point value (XP) and may have special abilities associated with it. All treasure awarded must either be banked for XP or assigned to a party member. Once the raiding player has decided what he/she will do with each piece of awarded treasure their turn is complete.

This completes the description of all things you can do in a turn. Now I will go over the combat system in a little more detail.

Each monster and character has an Attack rating on their respective card or chit. This rating lists the number and color of each die that a character or monster will roll in an attack. For example, Squire Orban, a fighter, has an Attack rating of 2 Blue dice while a monster, such as Skrit Yscar has an Attack rating of 2 Green, 1 Blue, and 1 Red die. In addition, each character or monster may have a special ability that aids it during combat. Skrit Yscar's special ablility allows it to attack each party member in a combat round. This a a pretty good ability as normally one may only attack one monster/character in a combat round. For each success (axe) rolled in an attack one wound is inflicted on the target monster or character. If the number of wounds equals or exceeds the monster's or character's hit points (HP) that monster or character is dead. Killed monsters are awarded as XP to the player; killed characters are placed in the dead pile and the player losses all items and treasure attached to the killed character. When a monster attacks, the attacked player gets to choose the target of the attack but when a player attacks a monster the player gets to pick the target of the attack. Presumably the player's party has more coordination in the defense and attack during a combat round.

Now after playing it only once, what do I think about it? Overall, I would give the game another shot. My kids enjoyed playing it so it will probably make it back to the family gaming table. 

1. The great variety of characters, monsters, traps, and treasures.
2. What is novel in this game is that each player has a chance to play the Crypt Master(CM) in this game unlike in other games, such as Descent.

1. The rulebook - there is already a long FAQ for this game. It appears the game had a poor quality control in the editing - The Map board and some cards use terms that were changed at the last minute in the rulebook, Bar and Blacksmith cards instead of Tactics and Items cards.
2. There can be some long down time for the other players while one player is resolving their turn.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday, Dec 14th 2008 - Kingsburg

This morning three of the kids and I played Kingsburg for the first time. I bought the game the day before on advice of Nevin and read the rules last night.

Cody - Red Lion
John - Black Hawk
Claire - Green Dragon
Christine - Yellow Stag

Description from Boardgamegeek:
In Kingsburg, players are Lords sent from the King to administer frontier territories.

The game takes place over five years, a total of 20 turns. In every year, there are 3 production seasons for collecting resources, building structures, and training troops. Every fourth turn is the winter, in which all the players must fight an invading army. Each player must face the invaders, so this is not a cooperative game.

The resources to build structures and train troops are collected by influencing the advisers in the King's Council. Players place their influence dice on members of the Council. The player with the lowest influence dice sum will be the first one to choose where to spend his/her influence; this acts as a way of balancing poor dice rolling. Even with a very unlucky roll, a clever player can still come out from the Council with a good number of resources and/or soldiers.

Each adviser on the King's Council will award different resources or allocate soldiers, victory points, and other advantages to the player who was able to influence him/her for the current turn.

At the end of five years, the player who best developed his assigned territory and most pleased the King through the Council is the winner.

Many alternate strategies are possible to win: will you go for the military way, disregarding economic and prestige buildings, or will you aim to complete the big Cathedral to please the King? Will you use the Merchant's Guild to gain more influence in the Council, or will you go for balanced development?

At the end of each year, during the Winter phase, a random invader will attack the kingdom. In the first 4 turns the invaders did not do any damage to any of the players. On the final game turn, a strength 8 Demon hoard attacked. Only Cody managed to defeat them (I rolled a '1' for King's Troops) with Claire tying them and Christine and I being defeated losing a Cathedral and Town Hall in the process. After the adjustments to the Victory points, Cody won by a large margin.

Cody - 40 points.
John - 26 points
Claire - 23 points
Christine - 20 points

The kids said they enjoyed the game so it will be played more at the Boone House.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday, Dec 13th - Senji and Citadels

The day started off with a trip to Madness Comics and Games down in Plano. They are having a buy 2 get one free sale so I met Mervyn Dejecacion and Nevin Ball down there. Since we always usually play each other we coordinated our purchases so as not to get duplicates. I bought Kingsburg, having never played it but Nevin said it is good, Mervyn got Android, and Nevin picked up Neuroshima Hex!. Merv and Nevin then followed me back to my house where we waited on Mark Simonitch to arrive to play a 4-player game of Senji.

Mervyn and I had played a three player game with Mick Mickelsen at BGG Con 2008 and decided it would play better with more people. BGG Con was our first time playing it so we played a couple things wrong but still were willing to give the game another go. After today I can say that it does definitely play better with more people. A random draw of the factions resulted in Mark being Purple, Nevin being Black, Mervyn Red and I Green.

The object of the game is to be designated the daimyo by the emperor at the end of the game. The daimyo is the person with the most honor at game end which ends once someone achieves or exceeds 60 honor points. Mark started off with an 8 honor Samurai so had first crack of hosting the emperor. In Senji, the player hosting the emperor decides the turn order of many phases so it is a powerful position and the rules even state "you must not let a player host the emperor several times in a row or he will soon be victorious. You have been warned!"

Mark soon added on to his lead and was able to host the emperor for 3 turns. I had tied him for honor at the end of turn 2 but the hosting family gets to decide the tie breaker. Around turn 3, one could see how the players were going to try to achieve their goals. Mark and Mervyn were heavy into collecting Hanafuda cards which are basically the resources in the game. Nevin was pursuing a balanced strategy of collecting resources and building up to attack, and I was going for a military strategy forgetting about collecting resources. In the first turn, I lost one of my initial provinces and being sandwiched between the other three players on the map I had to build up my forces, forced into forgoing collecting resources.

At the end of turn 3, I had claimed the right to host the emperor and I kept it until the end of the game. By this time I had honor somewhere in the forties with the other players in the twenties and lower. My fear was that Mark or Mervyn would make a big jump in the end with their Hanafuda card resource strategy if I couldn't end the game quickly by military victories. As the game went on my forces were slowly depleted and Mervyn moved up to a close second place with Mark and Nevin taking 3rd and 4th, 25-30+ honor points behind.

On the final turn, I was at 57 points but did not seen any good attacking prospects. Merv made a last ditch attack on Mark and closed in to around 53 points. During the Autumn phase Mark made his move turning in resources (Hanafuda cards)worth 26 points and some family members for another 6 or 7 points to jump to 69 honor points. Mervyn could only turn in a set worth 4 honor, ending up with 57 honor, and I could only muster up 4 honor with family members to end at 61 honor. I believe Nevin ended up somewhere in the forty range.

It was a great game and a nice come from behind win by Mark. I definitely want to play this one again.

As Nevin had only and hour left to kill, we played Citadels to end the evening. I completed my 8 buildings first and managed to score enough for the win with Mark a close second.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saturday, Nov 29th: FAB Bulge


Claire and I went over to Nevin's house on the 29th of November. Claire played with Jessica while Nevin and I played the tournament scenario for Fast Action Battles: the Bulge. It wasn't very fast; it took us 7 hrs to play the 5 turns in the scenario. On the last turn I managed to put some of Nevin's German units out of supply to turn a German victory into a margin allied victory. The picture is of the end of the scenario with all the units turned up.
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