Saturday, 18 June 2016

Blood, Sweat and Tears - Metaphorically

Guild Ball tournament review

I'm almost slumped over my keyboard as I write this.  It's a really good sort of tired, not the type of tired I got from Malifaux tournaments where I would immediately have to get home and fall sleep due to the mind numbing headache that I would have.  I'm not entirely sure why Malifaux used to make me get headaches.  I would think on it, but it involves brain power I really don't have right now.

Today was a lot of fun though, even the vicious defeats were still a giggle.  Guild Ball, even in tournament games, just seem to be a massively social game.  So, here is a review of my five games (means I've now played nine games in total of Guild Ball, and I have to say I'm definitely hooked on this).  I took Midas and friends (Flask, Calculus, Vitriol, Compound, Venin, Mercury and Snakeskin), though I only ever swapped out once the whole tournament.  I can't remember the exact details of the game, but I'm going to highlight if I can

Game 1 - Pete Coyle (Union)

So game one was my first time against Union.  I was somewhat worried about what was going to happen here, having no idea of how to play against a team genuinely makes life a little harder.  So I decided to bring in my "normal" team, if such a thing is possible after four games.  I had Midas, Flask, Calculus, Compound, Venin and Vitriol.  Pete had Blackheart, Coin, Mist, Gutter, Averice and Greed, and Rage.

So, from this game I learnt a couple of tricks certainly.  Firstly Mist is amazingly fast, but doesn't do so well when he gets pushed off the side of the pitch by Midas.  Admittedly this left Midas out of most of the rest of the game (only appearing again at the end to kill Gutter; she didn't get to hang around long in most of the match), but it was definitely funny.

Rage hates Venin, with a burning passion.  More accurately he really doesn't like Venin standing next to him for most of the game and throwing Sacrificial puppet on him.  Without anyone else around to do anything to him, redirecting the first hit back to Rage stops him getting his additional free hit.  There are ways to break this trick, but that did sort of mess him up.

Also Vitriol has serious anger issues, running up with the ball, scoring a goal and then killing everything that came near her was definitely good.

I managed a 12-8 win, with one goal and four take outs.  Pete, I think, got 4 take outs.  It was a cracking game.  At one point we were at 8 all, but there was no way that Pete could take anyone out due to the Venin speed bump in the middle.

Game 2 - Rob Smith (Butchers)

I realised my mistake immediately.  Winning the first game meant I was playing someone way more experienced that me, and to make matters worse I was playing against Butchers (who I hadn't experienced yet).  Ox, Princess, Tenderiser, Brisket, Shank, Boiler and Rage lined up against me, and in a vague hope I could slow down the incoming mess I swapped out Calculus for Mercury.  Sadly, it really didn't work out so well.

It's difficult to explain what happened.  I spread out, but not enough that Rob couldn't chain this kills together.  I over committed Midas and Mercury (twice) and an experienced player was well and truly able to take advantage of it.  That said, it was still a good game.  Rob made sure he explained where I made mistakes as the game progressed, and gave me plenty of ideas of future reference.  I was actually amazed as to how much Rob went through the game with me, and I really appreciate it a lot.

It was a 12-0 loss and all through take outs, painful painful take outs.  Butchers are able to output masses of damage, and even Venin couldn't pull off his damage redirection shenanigans, he was just folded up and sent to the sidelines in a little box.  (I also forgot to take a photo before, during or after this game, I really wasn't thinking).

Game 3 - Mat Cook (Fishermen)

Yay, a team I've played before.  Mat Cook took the male voice choir of the Fishermen (Shark, Salt, Sakana, Greyscales, Kraken and Jak).  I'd gone back to Calculus, I'm not sure why, it just made sense.  Winning the initial dice roll helped, I thought, but Shark still got to the ball even with it being almost all the way back on my start line with Vitriol.  With a little bit of tackling back and forth Shark scored the first goal and Jak had managed to punt Venin off the board.  I wasn't impressed and I was 6-0 down already.  However, the situation was such that Midas was now in the middle of the board on his own, and had managed to take where'd they go off of Greyscales.

My normal thought with Fish is that I can't outscore them, but I can kill them if I get my hands on them, but I just couldn't work out how to get to them.  With Midas on his own though, and a good kick out, I managed to immediately score back, and the resultant kick out really wasn't good for the fish.  While Greyscales got to the ball first, Midas was then able to get over to the right side of the board to get in the way.  Fourth turn Midas, first unpredictable moving out of the way of Jak's ramming speed and then dodged around and stole the ball from Greyscales, more dodges and running later and I'd managed to get to another goal.

Shark did end up with the ball again, and promptly scored.  With the fish on a 10-8 lead and absolutely no damage on any of the fish anywhere I had one option.  A bad kick out to Vitriol, I lost the ball and Sakana booted it to the middle of the pitch.  A badly wounded Venin ran up and booted it towards Midas, but Salt managed to nick it.  Jak shoved Venin out the way, but Midas was still lurking and stole the ball and took the last shot of the game.

This was the only instance of the Midas show, with the rest of the team running about after the fish just to get in the way.  In my opinion a really really lucky 12-10 win for me.. really lucky.

Game 4 - David Millington (Moticians)

I've played these before too.. not like this though.  It all started so well.

Having kicked off to the Morticians I took a big gamble and sent Vitriol off at pace to steal the ball and score a goal.  At the same time Cosset did the crazy lady thing and went off to hit Midas.  Sadly in range and in sight of Compound, who punted her to the floor and Midas went a little postal on her.  6-0 up, great start.

So Midas still had influence, Obulus was in sight and unable to get away, great though I, I'll go have a go at him.  Apparently I can't hit the broadside of a barn when I need to.  Midas let me down.  At this point the coral began.  Midas was beaten off the board and then everyone else just started sucking up damage.  Once everyone was low a pumped up Obulus and David's Rage just went to town.  I lost 4 models in one turn, and having already lost Midas once I was 10-6 down and had 2 models on the board.  Before anyone could get back and lend a hand Obulus had sized up Compound and found him wanting.  I couldn't even hold on long enough to take out a 3 health Silence who was stood right next to Compound and looking like he would die.

It was an interesting game though, if for nothing else than seeing Mortician's played as a killing faction rather than a scoring one.  I'm going to have to give Obulus some more thought, or actually kill him when I have the chance!

Game 5 - James Reece (Brewers)

I did it again, I forgot to take pictures in this game.. thankfully I already had a picture of James' best painted Brewers team.

So there was a chance we would only have four games, all that had to happen was James had to win his fourth game.  He did not, so I got the fun and games of playing against him for game five.

Now James I know, I played against him in a Dystopian Wars tournament a couple of years back, and in fact in Malifaux last year (I'd completely forgotten this til I got home).  We'd caught up a bit during the day and it was really cool to get to play him again.  He fielded what I would assume is a standard-ish Tapper team, with Spigot, Scum, Friday, Hooper and Hemlocke.

There were so many things going on here.  James loaded one side of the board with all his models, but fortunately for me, I was receiving the ball.  The other thing I was quite happy about was that the side the ball was kicked to was fairly tight, and Venin was there.  He didn't last long, but did enough to hold the Brewers back.  In the meantime, Midas and Vitriol went off and scored, and poor Hooper got steamrollered (card and metaphorically) by Midas and Vitriol in the following turn.  In the meantime the rest of the Alchemist team where tarpitting the Brewers, just living through each of the Tapper rounds and then jumping up, healing and lobbing poison on everything.  I actually had all 5 poison tokens I own out at one point.

So, yes, being lumped on one side and with Hooper back on the Brewers did get the ball, and get it to Friday.. who promptly tried to score.. and missed.  So I did have 2 people around her, one of whom was also blocking her line to the goal completely, but still.  She missed.  I actually think the game hinged on this one moment.  Calculus, just back on after being Trapper'd, bounced into action, grabbed the ball and punted it straight to Vitriol.  Still out on her own in the middle scoring a goal was a given, and even though Spigot and Trapper promptly killed Compound they did it too close to Friday, who got herself covered in Compound bits and had to leave the field, meaning I only needed one kill.  Spigot, the poor lad, promptly got picked on by Midas and I managed to win the game 12-8.

Review over

Five mad and really good games.  I'm not actually sure how I'm awake at this time.  I'm now going to go out and unpack and clean out the car as I haven't for a while and I have a very very good and full week coming.  So, I bid you a due and here is hoping I can stay awake long enough.

Monday, 6 June 2016

A bit of Nostalgia #5

Scale of Complexity can sometimes be good.

Another Nostalgia post, which basically is a good thing because it means I'm getting back on track with keeping this thing up to date.  Once again I'm going back to a game which I used to play, and haven't had the chance to continue playing for a little while.  In this instance we are going to look at another roleplaying game.  As with last time I'm going to cover what I see as the three main areas of a game: The background, the system, and then the enjoyment level.

Though, always remember, as with any RPG, some games can win or lose depending on who introduced you to it and ran the games.  Believe me, the following game was not for the faint-hearted.

To Parlainth you say?  Piss off!

Welcome to one of the most complicated games I have ever played.  Thing is though, Earthdawn did it with such aplomb that you very easily forgave it all its complexities.  The main thing, however, that drove all of this forgiveness was just how different it was, to anything else on the market.  Earthdawn is a classic, a classic which continues to be developed, but in my opinion it is the second edition of the game that was always worth a really close look at.  Unlike Deadlands, however, even the later versions of the game have used the same system, the same background and the same fiddly dice mechanics of the original.  So lets start with the background.

Welcome to Earth (yes it is meant to be this earth, just a slightly different version of it).  Unlike in our written history, the truth about the Earth is that is goes through a cycle of magic rising and falling.  As magic drops the only thing that is left behind is humanity (and over time our technology), but as magic rises more and more species and "things" can exist.  In fact Earthdawn is set in the same universe as Shadowrun, with Shadowrun basically being set when magic starts to rapidly ascend again.  Anyway, back to the nostalgia.  The last time magic was on the rise (quite a long time ago), an Elven scholar realised that at the height of the magic cycle a rather nasty set of creatures called Horrors come into being.  These things not only feed on the massive amount of magic, but also any living thing that contains it.  Plus, those tasty morsels are even more appetising when they are saturated with Fear.  Of course it doesn't help that all name-giving races are inherently magical, even the humans (and there are rather a lot of them).

So our Elf decides that he has to work out how to beat, or at least survive, the arrival of the Horrors.  Starting as just a library, and over time expanding to a grand city, then the Theran Empire.  The empire traded the secrets they discovered for slaves from around the local area, ultimately demanding tribute to get the clever wards and protective mechanisms the other nations needed to get through the Cataclysm to come.  With the spells and plans of Thera, the people build huge underground cities to protect their people, mostly using the wards designed by the Theran Empire to stop the Horrors getting in.  Problem was, in some places it happened far too soon.  Some Kaer's weren't even ready, others only just sealed the gates in time.  However, when the Horrors came, more people lived through the event than perhaps would have done before.

The game world starts just 400 years after all of this (just?).  Players come from an area called Barsaive, where the Kaer's have begun to open again.  The world outside is a mess, creatures that once where normal and passive are now aggressive and changed.  That's just the fuana, flora and the land itself aren't much better.  More importantly for the characters though, the local Dwarven Kingdom of Throal aren't willing to be a slave nation anymore, and have rebelled against what little forces of Thera are up and about already.  Some Kaer's still sleep, and it is clear that others either opened far sooner, or were broken into by the Horrors.  There is also a sneaking suspicion that not all of the Horrors are gone, and that while it is the weaker Horrors that are left, a weak Horror isn't exactly pleasant to meet.

Taking it one step at a time

So the principle of the Earthdawn mechanics was extremely complicated to the uninitiated.  Certainly reading the rulebook wasn't a sure fire way of learning how the game worked.  I once said to someone that "should you ever want to play Earthdawn, make sure at least half of the group have already played it before".  Doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement I know, but all that I meant by it was that for novice players it could be a little daunting.

The good stuff of Earthdawn was that there wasn't any of the standard troupe about races and classes.
 There were no evil races, and there weren't any evil classes.  They were just things.  A lot of things.  Races are easy to go through; Humans, Dwarves (the main race of the area), Elves, Orcs, Trolls, Windlings (small faeries who were annoying but not kleptomaniacs), Tskrang (Aquatic Lizardmen) and Obsidimen (walking Rock people).  As I said, nothing was evil, you could play pretty much who you wanted (though there were some benefits and drawbacks to more or less all of them).

I don't think I can list all of the classes, there were so many, but I will highlight a few: Warrior, Sky Pirate, Necromancer, Elementalist, Duelist, Ranger, Archer, Acrobat.. it went on an on, with more being added to the list each time a new source book came out.  The classes were actually called Adepts, and this was because every single hero kind of used magic.  The idea was that anyone in Barsaive could, and often had to be, a bit of a soldier, but the heroes knew how to tap into the innate magic of the world to do even more impressive things.  To represent this, you could buy skills, and this is where it got really complicated.

Each "step" you bought in a skill made you better at that skill.  With me so far I assume.  However, unlike other games, instead of increasing how much of a + you got to your roll, or changing the target number, instead it completely changed the dice you got to roll to do your skill checks.  Step 1 was 1d4-2, step 2 was 1d4-1 and step 3 was 1d4.. easy enough so far.  Step 4 was 1d6, 5 was 1d8, etc etc.  by step 8 you got to 2d6 and then up to 1d8+1d6... it was a good job the step table was on the character sheet in 2nd edition.  Modifiers, like fear, generally changed which step you were on, so it could get very complicated.

Magic, actually lets say spell casting because it is different, was also a new experience for any long term player.  Unlike DnD, where you picked a spell, rolled a dice and saw if it worked, a true Spellcaster could be using up some of their actions, or even rounds, "building" their spell.  The game paid you off for this delay, by generally allowing you to blow the head off of something you hit (if you hit) that a warrior may have to spend some time actually hurting, but that whole click and boom approach to magic just wasn't there.

So was this actually fun?

Dear lord yes.

So here is the thing.  After a while a +1 each level of a skill is just boring.  You don't get a scale of power.  Those click and boom spells are great, but sometimes you are horribly reliant on them (and there was a way to get something like it in Earthdawn, but I don't have enough time here).  As a spell caster in Earthdawn  you really felt the raw and hard work you had to go through the get magic to do what you wanted, and sometimes the soul crushing horror when you can make the spell form, but can't actually throw it in the right direction.

The background, also, made sure that the game worked.  Remember what I said about everyone out there can be a soldier, but only the heroes could do the cool things.  Well, at rank 1 you were more or less the guy that was a soldier, you weren't much better than the normal people in the world.  So you start out doing the same thing they do, man the lines, hold back the local animals who aren't quite right, deal with the small time crones and crooks.  Do it enough though, and you really feel things shift around you, suddenly you are the daring heroes running in to save the army against the Horrors, you are meeting the Blood Elves of Thornwood (not actually the best idea) and diving into Parlainth as it reappears from the mist (a terrible idea).

What Earthdawn does, extremely well, is the concept of scale.  Not only of how much more powerful you become, but the scale of the world, the scale of the dangers and the scale of change from being a new Hero to something seriously special.  Yet at the same time, you could easily be put back into a box and slapped about a bit if you got too big for your boots.

Plus the diversity of what you could play.  It might well be daunting at first, but there were few games which allowed you to truly be something different each and every time you made a character and progressed them through the ranks.  Warhammer Fantasy RPG is probably the only game I have played that really made you feel like your character was growing and advancing in a unique way.  WFRPG probably does it better, but thats for another post.

There are four editions of this game now.  A game so good that when the original company went
under (FASA), it was then picked up by two other companies, before coming back to the resurrected FASA for the fourth edition.  I do recommend 2nd edition (though 4th simplifies some of the dice steps so might be less daunting).  I stand by the idea that it is a rulebook you have to really read to understand, and even then having a helpful few friends that have also read it will make a difference.

And never, ever, go to Parlainth.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Kickstarter #5

Back on track

Yes, its back.  Same as before, I will look through kickstarter and bring you four (this time) kickstarters that I really like the look of.  Once more, I have not been given copies of these games or items (mores the pity), and so these aren't reviews of the items themselves, and so this basically comes down to the fact that these kickstarters have done a lot to catch my interest just through what is on their page.  While I'd like to back them all, sadly I'm on a tight budget, so I might not get the chance, but hopefully a few of you out there will pick these up based on them being on my blog.

Legendary Showdown: Gamer's Quest - Killer Robot Games

I've got no idea if this is based on the Legendary/Legendary:Encoutners type system.  I am going to guess so, but it really is a guess.

I suppose the thing that draws me to this game is the setting, because its the ctrl-alt-delete universe.  Which just has to be a good thing, and likely means that while this game is based on a competitive card versus card system, at least its going to be funny.  Certainly is the advertising video is anything to go by there is going to be a lot of tongue in cheek fun involved in this game.

I also really like the artwork, which is obviously by the ctrl-alt-delete team.  I think that will help with this game being a lot of fun, and I certainly think it will be nice for the fans to see the correct art work for each of the characters and powers that you get to use.

The rewards for picking this up over kickstarter are also quite interesting.  There are collectors coins, fridge magnets, and a few other silly bits and pieces.  Stretch goals include new characters, new cards, and some oversize cards as well.  Plus there is a collectors edition if you pledge high enough with even more stuff in it and a special unrevealed bit of box art.

Legendary is something we already play in our little gaming group, so something else along those lines would be really good.  However, I'm not sure if Showdown is the same type of game.  Will be interesting to find out.  It is here if you want a look.

Dreamwars - Royal Art Games

So... its steampunk, which is a win in my book.  Plus it has weird horror monsters for you to fight against.  I don't think there was any way I wasn't going to be interested in this at least a little bit.

Dreamwars looks like it has a lot going for it.  The artwork on the board alone looks really good, they have a "random encounter" style play book which means each game you get different things happening, you have a character card which allows you to track everything that is going on.  All in all this looks like a really neat game.

The big thing here for me, once you get past all the art and the style of the game, is that Ordeals book.  The fact that they have the ability to randomise the way in which the game progresses is really good, because a lot of these sorts of boardgames can lose interest once they get predictable.  While a lot of games are going for this "the board also plays" kind of mechanic, it never gets old on me.  Pandemic (with its infection deck), Betrayal (with its traitor book), etc etc mean that those cooperative games are infinitely replayable (well may be not Betrayal, because you do learn what each encounter does in the long run).  I'm hoping this comes up the same.

The miniatures for the heroes also look really good.  Stretch goals look really good, I really like the idea of Rose Black the Queen of Guns.  Have a look at it here.

Vikings Gone Wild - Lucky Duck Games

This is based on a video game I have actually no idea about.  I'm going to have to do research after this and find out more.

Vikings Gone Wild is a Versus deckbuilder game, where you use gold to by buildings and beer to by Vikings.  Makes a lot of sense to me.  Buildings, however, don't go into your deck to be played, they drop down into your pay area permanently and by the seems of things have effects on every turn you still have them.

Scoring is done by attacking your opponents buildings, which obviously also helps because you knock out any benefit the building has.  There are also cards you can only get once you have a certain number of points.

Deck building games are a little bit of a hit and miss for me, mostly because you don't actually get to interact with your opponent generally.  If someone is doing really well, if their deck is jelling really well, then you very rarely get to do anything about it.  I have a feeling this is going to be a little bit more interactive, which can only be a good thing.

There are a hell of a lot of stretch goals already open, but that might be because this kickstarter only has 6 days left to go.  I almost missed it, but thankfully not.  The art is a lot of fun too, plus there are decent organisation boards being made for it, so unlike some Deck Builders this should be easy to manage too.  It's here if you want to look, but go quickly.

Oligarchy - Gary Wareham

I remember the Illuminati game, by Steve Jackson Games.  I also have a copy of, though never played, Netrunner 2.0.  There is something about the style of these types of games that really plays into my Dystopian Sci-Fi nerdery.  Its the kind of Nerdery that knows exactly where my copies of Bladerunner and Fifth Element are on my DVD shelf.

Oligarchy seems to take the Dystopian future ideas which are in Resistance and Coup, and moves it into a CCG/LCG kind of arena.  Certainly looking at the play examples in the original advert video, it has a feeling of being along those sort of one on one card games (a bit like Magic, rather than Netrunner).  Players play as one of eight "organisations" and using characters, resources, events and many other types of cards, try to knock your opponent out of the game.

Art work looks good, but I think the big thing for me is that this is a market which is dominated by Magic, Yugioh, and L5R (all of which are fantasy based games), bringing in something with a different feel is really important.  You can get into this game for just £20, which is really good, and higher pledge levels will give you a decent range of boosters.  Have to say this is the sort of Kickstarter than I think a collection of card players at a local club should dive into.  It does look like a decent game, and that is always helpful.

It does look really good.  I also noticed, via photos because I'm not able to make it, that this is being demo'd at the UK Games Expo this weekend, so I really hope this picks up really well.  If you are interested in this, than have a look here.

Thats better...

So thats it this week.  Feels better to be back into the kickstarter searching.  I may look at if this is going to happen every week still or if this will be once every two weeks, simply because more options open up that way and finding four really interesting games should happen more often than now.  I will try and decide soon.  Have fun at the Expo if you are there folks.  Hopefully more soon.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Designing a gaming board

Bushido blossom garden

I'm getting a bit lax at updating this, apologies for that.  My excuse is that I've been working heavily on getting my Guild Ball team finished, and that work is actually busy so I haven't had a lot of free time to actually get the posts completed and put up during my lunch breaks etc.

As such, I'm a few weeks behind on what I planned to put up.  It seems a bit silly now to put up all the old Kickstarter ones I had written, and as such I'm going to spend some time tonight sorting all of that out and putting up a decent sized blog post on Kickstarter stuff.  The Nostalgia posts are the ones that took a big hit, things I had planned to write are still swimming around in the void (otherwise known as my brain), but they just aren't in an editing window yet.

Rather than dwell though, the plan here is to look at my next big personal target.  I am finally going to put some effort in to make a decent gaming board.


So, considering I play quite a few games, I have to work out what I want to make a board for.  Bushido is going to be the clear winner here, even if I haven't played it yet, simply because its actually a reasonable target to experiment with.  Bushido only needs a 2' x 2' board, the smallest of the games I play.  This should cut down on cost, and time, so thats a reasonable start point.  While I could tackle something for Guild Ball, a pitch is not really going to be enough of a challenge in terms of modelling hobby, as.. well its flat and basically you don't want fixed terrain features.  Plus they already produce some really nice "mouse mat" pitches.  Malifaux and Mythos lose out for now, simply because of the size of the board.  I haven't even started sorting out my Dark Age stuff so thats also going to be on hold.  Of course the 2' x 2' board also means I can fit in working on it while I'm working through my backlog of commission work.

The final decider though is the setting.  I'm a huge nerd when it comes to Japanese historical culture.  I don't know a lot, but I love every detail I do know.

Also, if I can, I want to run a Bushido tournament at some point within a year.  If I'm going to do that then I need a few good boards for people to play on.  Japanese village boards will be good to make in the long run, but there is something I want for my first board, something a little special.

Cherry Blossom

So this picture is pretty much the inspiration for what I'm going to be going for.  Cherry Blossom trees are/were very important for the Samurai, and gardens were carefully cared for.  As such, my feature board is going to be based off the idea of a Cherry Blossom Garden.

The Centre point of the board will be a small shrine area.  The shrine will need to be an open enough structure that objective markers can fit inside for some of the scenarios.  In addition I need to think about the spaces around that for the other markers that are in the game.

I want to include a couple of bridges and some water effects to do rivers encircling the shrine.  All of this needs to fit into the confines that I have already mentioned in terms of objectives, plus of course the board has to be relatively even, so there isn't an obvious benefit on either side of the board.

Then there is the last bit, the Cherry Blossom trees.. which isn't easy as their aren't really that many good options online.  This might mean I have to work out how to make my own.

Stage One

So the first step will actually be drawing the design, possibly on paper first and then scanning it over to computer to just neaten everything up.  It'll also mean I can make sure that all the spaces for the objective markers are going to work out.  Once that is done then I will be working on getting the materials together (I partly have this already as I have got the wooden base for making a game board already).  I don't want a completely flat design, but on a 2' x 2' area anything exceptionally hilly will likely stop the models being able to fit on the board, so I have to think about how I'm going to do this.
I've got some ideas as well for how to do the trees, but I'm definitely concerned that they will fall apart over time, so thats going to take a bit of thinking through.

In the meantime

I'm just going to put my Guild Ball painting up on here as well, just because.  It at least will show you what I have been up to with my time.