Aug 272013
 

gencon-logo-01[1]By Peter Ruth II

Folks, I’ve been working long hours to get this GenCon 2013 Special Edition Magazine written up for your enjoyment, and this 32 page extravaganza of game reporting is nothing short of a labour of love. I think it’s the best work I’ve done in a long time, and I’m really quite proud of it. I only hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

It took a lot of time out of my gaming to do several hundred interviews with players, GMs, event people, and booth folks, but you’re worth it. I tried to get the big name stuff as well as some of the smaller stuff, and I also wanted to include a little bit of everything, from RPG to Euro to Ameritrash to Miniatures, and I really had to cut down from the 900+ photos I took in order to create a snapshot of what the con was about this year.

It’s a 65MB download, but it’s worth every byte. Hell, every bit. Here’s the link:

Link: Superfly Circus 2013 SE Magazine Download

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Jul 182013
 

Shuriken[1]I’m not sure if I’m getting some clout after all these years, but I was offered a chance to take a gander at a prototype version of the new Kickstarter project, Shuriken. I wasn’t paid to look at this, I wasn’t offered a free copy, nothing. I was just offered the chance to play a game that depicts a metric ton of funky ninja doing ninja stuff. So, while this is still a Kickstarter, which means that this review is only valuable if the 7/12/2013 draft of rules on their website remain the same. I can’t even comment on the components other than the dice (the same company is a dice company), because I have no idea if they’ll remain the same or, rather, as pictured on their Kickstarter page, which look really great.

Now, this game is themed about ninja, but it’s not really a ninja game. Ninjas stalk silently, and by the time you realize a ninja is about to jack you, you’re already jacked. Silent, deadly assassins dealing in ancient dark secrets of death do not run five deep into a garden and burn the place to the ground. If I had to characterize this game, it’s more like the scene in Big Boss when a gang of dudes are brawling, breaking things, and destroying pretty much everything. So, if you’re looking for a ninja game that is about stealth and silent infiltration, this is NOT the game for you. If you’re looking for a bad ass brawling game that is about strategy, making game decisions that matter, and chucking fistfuls of dice at the enemy forces, THIS IS YOUR HUCKLEBERRY.

MAsterninja[1]I really dig this game, as did my cadre of ninja warriors who played it with me. We played it as a 2-player and 3-player game and it played well with both, although I think I favour more people playing as there’s a lot more “screw you” going on, let alone more decisions to be made on whom to take out, and when.  I’m not going to bore you with a rules review, as you can read this article, so you can surely read the PDF rules online, but I will go over the game in a general way so you know what it’s about. Seriously, though, this is a really, really good game.

Unlike most brawlers, this game has several styles of play, but the main idea is to wipe out as many enemies as you can until the end comes, while accomplishing secret missions which give you points. Surprisingly, there’s little actual killing in the game, since beating an enemy doesn’t kill him, you simply capture him; captured ninja are worth victory points, as are the secret missions. The missions are quite varied in what you need to do, such as destroying a tile (very un-ninjalike) or repairing one (again, very un-ninjalike) but there’s all kinds of other missions as well.

One of the coolest things about the game is most tiles grant some sort of bonus, but when they get torched, they screw you over. Now, tiles are destroyed by rolling “flames” on the dice, which bear a one in six chance of happening, so it’s hardly easy to do, and more often than not, it happens accidentally. The bad news is that when a tile is destroyed, every ninja on the tile is killed (one of the few times) and sent back to their owners’ ninja pools.

Orchard[1]There’s a built-in timer in the game, so once the turns are up, you count the ninjas you captured, count the missions you accomplished that provide points, and the winner is the one with the most points.  It’s a very simple system at its core, but the way the game is designed, there’s a lot of choices to be made in deploying and upgrading your ninja units.

One of my favourite things in this game is the combat system; the combat setup is very much like Ikusa or Conquest of Nerath in the sense that certain units attack at certain times, in a certain order, and the defender chooses one of its attacked units to perish. This mechanic really adds to the game in a lot of ways, with the most pronounced being that it’s the main reason to upgrade base units to swordsmen, shuriken tossers, or master ninja, who attack during all phases but are limited to one per side.

Now, from the 10,000 foot level, this is simply a tile based brawler with a bunch of nice chrome to spice things up. It has variable player powers, secret goals, a mess of units in four different types, and the best part, destructible terrain. It’s a very fun, easy to learn, fast playing game, and I’m absolutely going to back it. It has some neat “stretch goal” rewards, although there’s a couple really dumb stretch goals such as “200 likes on Facebook” which just kind of stinks of “we need advertising badly”. They’re FortressAT.com advertisers, so if this sounds like your kind of game, then check it out and drop some money on it. I think it’s worth it, personally, provided it doesn’t stray too far from its current form.

Funding looks like it’s a little bit shy right now, so it may never see the light of day, which truly sucks. There’s a veritable sea of ridiculously crappy games out there that have been funded, so if this game doesn’t get funded, it will be because of FMC‘s who couldn’t recognize a fun game if it kicked them in the jacobs. As noted, it might look a little too simple, but this is just on the surface; it’s got plenty of decisions that matter, plenty of plays that will require good timing to pull off, and best of all, it plays very quickly, with turns taking no longer than 25 seconds or so, not counting combat resolution. My only beef with the entire product, as shown, is that it really doesn’t have the classic ‘ninja’ feel, it’s really just a lot more like a bunch of bad dudes fighting and breaking stuff. But, I like bad dudes, and I like breaking stuff, so I like the game.

Why Bruce Lee Approved This Message:

  • Fast play makes this a game that keeps you engaged
  • Really ace models and nice artwork gives the game huge “bling” factor
  • Well designed, time-proven mechanics make this easy to play but hard to master

Why The Ninja Are Extinct:

  • Ninja are stealthy assassins, not brawlers, so the theme it pretty tacked on
  • Some of the cards aren’t quite specific enough at this stage of development
  • Four styles of ninja is good, but I’d liked to have seen more poses per style
  • There’s very little actual death, just mostly capture

Overall:
As I said, I wasn’t paid to play this, as you know I’d never do, and I wasn’t bribed, coerced, or promised anything to review this. In fact, after a couple more plays, I’m returning this prototype copy. Furthermore, I don’t know Brian Wood in real life or even on a forum, and could not identify him in a lineup if he was the only one in it. I just saw this game, made a post on Facebook, and he contacted me to take a gander. It takes some balls to do that because you know how I can be if you read my articles. Luckily, it was better than I though it would be, and therefore, based on our plays, we can wholeheartedly recommend it.

I’m not going to give this game a score as I usually do because it’s not a “final product”, per se, and I don’t want to get caught up in a mess if it changes substantially. All I can do is tell you what I played as shown NOW, and how we liked it. Short version: every person here at the Circus gave it a big thumbs up, and I was told to spend my money on getting a release copy when it ships. So, there you have it – I’m buying into it, and I don’t buy many games that aren’t Heroscape these days, and especially not Kickstarter games, so it must be pretty darn special.

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Jun 032013
 

MissionCommandSeaBox[1]By Peter Ruth II

Alright, fans, this is going to be a good one, so strap on your seat belt and let me take you downtown where best stuff happens. You see, there are very few games that I think are a solid 10 rating based on factors such as production quality, value, and the most important aspect of any game, the level of fun it provides. Well, Mission Command: Sea isn’t a perfect 10, but it’s pretty damned close. The one thing that it lacks, the one thing holding it back from a destiny of greatness, is just a little more complexity. But aside from that, it’s nearly the perfect game. It’s fun, fast, brutal, has a body count, and the winner doesn’t win by amassing the most ubiquitous “victory points”, you win by blowing the other guy’s army up, hospital-hurt style.

As an added bonus, if you play break out this game at any game table in the world and get a dour look from someone, you have immediately identified one of the many plonkers of the board game hobby. The kind of person who could not identify fun with plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. The kind of person that others call “a wet blanket” or a “Debbie Downer”. It’s like a Geiger counter set for “dolt”, in the same vein of BattleBall and Thunder Road. I’m sorry, but if you don’t like bad ass little carriers, two full flights of F-14 Tomcats per side, little destroyers, plastic molded mountains, and a load of dice, you’re probably among the ranks of the plonkers. I’m not saying you have to love the game like I do, but to not admire it is a pretty good indication of your place in the world.

So anyhow, this game is not very complex, which is my only complaint in any way, shape or form. The object is to scramble fighters from the flight deck, loaded with Sidewinders or Harpoon missiles, and to put two hits on the enemy carrier. Defending each carrier are two destroyers bearing both close-in ABM weapons as well as surface to air missiles. It’s not an incredibly difficult game to learn, and while luck certainly plays a role, this is first and foremost a naval strategy game. Placement and movement of fighters is critical, as is the weapons load-out that you choose for each plane, which is represented by a face-down token on a plane’s base, so that your opponent doesn’t know what kind of weapon it bears. Top that off with the fact that the quality of the plane’s pilot is printed on the underside of the plane, and it is quite a lovely little naval combat simulation with all kinds of strategic subterfuge and tactical choices.

Above and beyond the fact that the game is simply the perfect Ameritrash filler game, that can be taught and played in about an hour, what cannot be overlooked is the quality of the pieces. Note that I didn’t call them bits, because that would not give them the respect that they’re due. People say, “they don’t make them like they used to”, and in this case, that’s absolutely true. This game comes with a huge board, four little islands with which to hide your beautifully modelled and painted carriers behind, four lovely little destroyers, sixteen wonderful little F-14s in two colours, and last, but not least, perfectly crafted flight stands to hold the planes in the air. I simply cannot envision the components of a game being so wonderful for such a small price today. To me, it’s sort of like when Space Hulk 3rd Edition was released, how we all marvelled at the beautiful wee beasties and noble Space Marines. Obviously, they’re not that good or detailed, but for a twenty dollar game, you cannot conceivably bitch about the contents today. This would be a fifty dollar game today, easily.

TheMaverick - MCSeaGamePlay[1]Back to my one complaint, which is more of a minor gripe than an actual complain, the game is just a wee bit too light in complexity. I wish that the carrier could move, but once you place it at the beginning of the game, it’s static; a sitting duck, as it were. But not only can’t it move, it can’t shoot, either, which it total silly. My bestie is a former carrier jockey whose sole job it was to launch planes off the deck of the Vinson, and he knows for damned sure that carriers are loaded with ABM and close-in defensive weapons. So, that part seems a little bit gamey to me, but considering that they had to draw a line somewhere to keep the game from dragging on too long, it makes sense why they did it that way.  We always play the house rule that carriers get one shot per turn to take out incoming Harpoons on the “destroyer move or shoot” phase, and it does add some length to the game as well as putting a focus more on batting down enemy planes than going after the carrier.

It’s worth mentioning that this is a remake of the classic Carrier Strike game, but I think that this game does some things better, especially considering it does away with the card combat dog-fighting. In that game, you drew some cards and essentially played ‘War: The Card Game’ for five rounds, counting victories, which always felt to me to be a bit overkill. It’s been simplified now where you roll the number of dice shown on the plane’s quality number, and keep the highest roll. This can be augmented by +1, or one die may be re-rolled, if the plane’s carrying a Sidewinder, and in the case of a tie, both planes crash and burn. It’s a cleaner system, with the only advantage going to Carrier Strike in that carriers can move.

Anyhow, every Ameritrash enthusiast should own this game, hands down, and I’ll stake what little reputation I have on that statement. I love naval combat, so I am biased, but good God in heaven this game is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played. This one is on the list of games I’ll never sell, trade away, and if my house goes up in a blaze, it’s one of the first games that will be replaced. Unless you’re a plonker, you will like it. I never have trouble getting this game to the table, everyone I have played this with has rated it very highly, and the only guy who didn’t like it is a verifiable card-carrying plonker.

Why I Want To Be Maverick When I Grow Up:

  • The components are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
  • Gameplay is fast, furious, and total fun
  • It’s easy to teach, easy to learn, and doesn’t require “a learning game”
  • It’s twenty dollars, even on Ebay, which is vastly under priced in my opinion

Why Milton Bradley Went Down With Its Ships:

  • No carrier movement or defensive guns takes a bit of realism away

Overall:
Why are you still reading this? Go get this game, unless you’re a plonker!

Rating:
4.5/5 Stars
Read the rules here:
http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Mission_Command_Sea_Game.pdf

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May 132013
 

Pegasus Logo[1]By Peter Ruth II

Friends, I’ve decided that I’ve been remiss in not sharing with you the vast pool of knowledge that I’ve learned over the years regarding tabletop miniatures gaming, and so this is the first of many articles that will pass on some of the laborious research I’ve carved out of the Internet. The tag will be “Miniatures Gaming 101″ and I’ll be putting articles ranging from figure sources, game rules, painting tip sites, terrain building help, the best books to buy, and all manner of things relating to all things miniature. I’m not a great figure painter, though I can hold my own, but I am a very capable terrain builder, so I’ll likely share some of my projects with you fine folks as well. So, let’s begin with a great source of material to quickly and cheaply get a table going for a skirmish: Pegasus Hobbies (PegasusHobbies.net).

There was a time, so long ago, that I was playing Battletech, Mage Knight, and all manner of miniature game on paper mats. Yes, they do serve a purpose, but why would you want to if you didn’t have to, and further, if it wasn’t prohibitively expensive? It’s because I didn’t know just how many miniatures companies are out there, nor did I know just how inexpensive miniatures terrain can be if you know where to look. Well, I was at a game store just before I got sick a year and a half ago, and I saw this wonderful, detailed church sitting on a Warhammer table. After inquiring, it turns out that the guy spent all of two hours painting and assembling it, and the amazing part, he spent just over twenty dollars on it.

Gothic City Ruins Box[1]I immediately got online and found that this company’s products are both inexpensive and ubiquitous, and so I jumped in with both feet and got both a Gothic City Ruins and the same church set that I had seen at the store. As soon as I got it home I realized just how easy it was going to be to turn the box into what would be the ruins of the Esoteric Order of Dagon church, an ancient, decaying factory, the burned-out hulk of an old apartment building, and so many other terrain features. Within an hour I had glued it and assembled it, and because I tend to overthink things, three hours later I had the whole thing primered, painted, blackwashed, and three-color dry-brushed. It is simply amazing how wonderful these things look once you’ve got them painted.

I’m never one to do something half-assed, so I took it further once I’d had it for a year and really got interested in making beautiful landscapes to play on, so I then based the entire set, flocked it (including adding moss to the model), and put another ten dollar Pegaus set of rubble in the center to create the illusion that the top of the building had fallen in long ago. In all, it looks just like I hoped it would, and I’m out maybe a total of 6 hours time and forty bucks in materials. That said, it was very nice looking with a simple blackwash/drybrush treatment, and the flexibility of the sets are such that if you were to buy two, you could present them on the table as four sides of the same ruined building.

The second set I got was, as I noted, the church itself. The beauty of these sets is that you can make them in a great many configurations, and so I made mine a little non-standard, since I’m a pretty non-standard individual myself. I ended up making it an “evil church”, airbrushing the entire thing flat black and following with a grey drybrush treatment. I also airbrushed ~flame light~ on and around the lanterns but it didn’t turn out as well as I liked. It’s still got some work to go, a year later or so, but it’s been good enough for my table so I haven’t put effort into it to get it to what I consider “quality work”.

Pegasus Ruins Done[1]About a month ago I downloaded and printed the free rules for “The Skank Game”, otherwise known as Warlords of the Wasteland 2085, which is a post-apocalyptic skirmish game that includes vehicles and very light RPG elements. I was looking for a Fallout-esque game and therefore I needed to have some post-apocalyptic game pieces. Well, a forum member at Fortress:AT was talking about Pegasus’ Syberclicks terrain, which is the Warhammer 40K equivalent of the Hexagon terrain (shown left), so I bought both the large and small packs, which cost a total of $32.00. Well, let me tell you, it’s really quite modular in that you can build virtually anything you can imagine, much like Lego products, but with a very “hodge-podge”, scavenged feel to the buildings. As usual, I couldn’t follow the directions as listed, so with the small set I made something not remotely resembling the shown product, which integrated into the walled wasteland outpost I

Gothic Small Set 1[1]created using the large set. The wife likes it, and she’s a tough customer to please, so I’m content. It’s very lightweight, so I think it really will need to have a base on it to sturdy it up. It snaps together with these clips that I believe were sent by the Devil himself, because after 2 hours of modelling, my fingers were LITERALLY bleeding. They’re a real bitch to assemble, no doubt, but it’s worth it. As you can see from the photo of the frames, there’s a bazillion little rippy bits and each one is sharp as a razor, even after you’ve removed them from the frame. The clips come in six styles, from 90 degrees to multi-angle three-way, and there’s a lot of flexibility in what you can do. Again, these things bite into your hand like a spur when you assemble the buildings, so be advised that you will not get out of this without some serious finger damage. I’d argue that it’s worth it.

I spray painted the assembly after I glued it, and while you don’t need to glue it, I wanted this to be a permanent structure so I used some CA and with a fine needle tip, dispensed a small drop at each joint and let the capillary action draw it into the connector. It’s very durable now, and I left several joints unglued so that I can break it into two pieces for storage. I’ll base it using some small lengths of plasticard epoxied to the bottom and flocked with sand. I may even use some modelling clay or Sculpey to create small berms along the base to make it look as if the structure has been there a while.  What I was going for, in all honesty, is Hexagon Box[1]something like a scaled-down version of the”juice” refinery in The Road Warrior. This photo shows what I built, and in retrospect, I really should’ve primed it, but the Rustoleum Hammered Copper spray paint usually sticks to pretty much anything. This is just the first coat, and only sprayed from top down. I ran out, so off to the store I go after work for another to finish the job. Once I’ve got it coated, I’ll airbrush several layers of brown, grey, red, orange, and yellow on it to create a very rusty metal look, then I may or may not hand-paint some “hot spots” of dripping rust effect.

Along with the Hexagon stuff I also got the Pegasus Technobridge, which runs $15.00, and will save me a ton of time having to scratch build it out of Plasticard and balsa. It’s the same as the church stuff, very simple to construct and looks great right out of the box, although I’ll be painting it, probably to match the outpost, and then putting some sand on it here and there to give it a more realistic look.

Now, Pegasus also creates some pre-painted stuff as well. For fantasy, or even some early American settings, you can buy a lot of small buildings that come ready-to-play. These are made of a hard stone material, perhaps even dental stone, so they’re really rather heavy for their size compared to the Gothic stuff. This Small Stone Cottage cost me $13.00 and its larger brother cost me maybe five dollars more. They’re a single, solid cast piece, so these are really only good to create the feel of a village rather than actually allow you to have door-to-door fighting. I’ve used these for Strange Aeons, and they fit in passably with my 1920′s period pieces fairly well. It beats having to build and paint a Plasticville O-scale building, which I’ll get into in a another Miniatures Gaming 101 article, when all you want is a prop piece to sit on the table as a thematic line-of-sight blocker.

Outpost[1]In conclusion, you can get a lot of really great terrain, and I mean an entire city block’s worth, for around a hundred dollars with Pegasus, and the stuff is so easy to assemble, aside from the Hexagon finger-scourge stuff, that it’s a no-brainer. My only complaint with any of it is that they have only a few “lines” to choose from. I’d love if they moved into doing something like Plasticville, but in different time periods. It would certainly save me a lot of time in sourcing parts to kit-bash into what I want. Hope you enjoyed the article, and there’s much more to come.

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Apr 222013
 

SettlersofCatan[1]By Peter Ruth II

I’d heard about Settlers of Catan a hundred billion times, at least, as it’s widely called “The Fazzer Of Ze Euroz Gaming”, and I’ve heard it panned by Ameritrash folks as a gaming atrocity. Although not as widely hated, at least publicly, as renaissance farming or weenie trading games, it has been the subject of scorn and ridicule. “It doesn’t have a body count”, they said. “It doesn’t have much player interaction”, the said.

Well, don’t mind the bollocks, because “they” are invariably full of crap.

I had played Settlers of Catan all of one time up until 2 weeks ago, and it was a learning game four years ago at GenCon, with some guys I had never met. Me, being my usual self, just saw there were three guys about to play, so I sat down, and said, “What color am I?” One of them said, “Mediterranean tan?” and I figured I was at the right table. They graciously allowed me to play, although none of them had played, and by the time we were done, 2 and a half hours later, I realized that not only was I at the wrong table, but I was playing the wrong game. They bad mouthed the game the whole time, I later learned that we were playing it wrong , and I had subconsciously written off the game as another crappy Euro game. “How could it be so popular?” was ringing in my ears. So, I went back to playing games where people get blown up, cleaved in half by energy weapons, or where demons and zombies roam freely.

Fast forward to three weeks ago, when I decided to trade for a copy of Settlers as a gift for my bestie’s wife, the one staunch proponent of all things Euro and Tikal in my little gaming legion. Now, since I always get screwed into being the game teacher, I figured I had better learn the game before I tried to teach it, so I bought in on my iPad. What a horrendous mistake that was. “Why, pray tell is that, Mr. A Pimp Named Slickback?” you might ask? First, no need for the “Mr.”, and the reason it was a mistake is that after purchasing the game, it is the only game I’ve played on my iPad since. I mean, we’re talking addiction-level playtime, in excess of 80 hours over the last 2 weeks alone. Worse still, since I’ve learned it I’ve requested it at every game night, multiple times. Holy Mother of God, what a great game. I’m desperately hooked at this point. I’m not saying that I’d suck your dick for a sheep, but I’m not saying it’s out of the realm of possibility.

Now, the iPad game is fast, and fun, but only in a limited “I kicked the AI’s ass” kind of way. The real fun is not in the winning, but rather in convincing your friends that they ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE THAT GRAIN, and they should pay you one of each other commodity for it. It’s about the sale; the small victories along the way. It’s about the other players looking over at the person you just took for everything but their underwear, with that, “Say what, bitch? You just gave him WHAT, for WHAT?” look of amazement and disbelieving scrutiny. It’s about the “take that” moment when you put a settlement along an enemy’s road, thereby crushing their hopes of that quick 2 point score they’ve been trying to earn over the last ten turns. Anyone that says Settlers of Catan has little direct player interaction is clearly either not playing it right, or a jizznozzle.

SettlersofCatanboard[1]The game’s rules are very simple, which is a boon if you’re the game teacher, and the game is actually quite simple to understand. You get commodities, you trade commodities, and you build things to earn points. On its face, you’d think that there wasn’t much there, but once you really understand it, every single turn has agonizing decisions that will affect the balance of power. This doesn’t even begin to address the fact that there’s a wild card in play, the “robber”, who is the Catan equivalent of a thermonuclear attack. You drop that bastard on a tile that has an opponent’s building adjacent to it, and you can not only steal that person’s crap, if they have too many cards, they lose half their cards.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the robber poisons the land like a cloud of radioactive fallout, so that the region doesn’t produce anything, which is the icing on the uranium cake. Best of all, he stays there until someone else rolls a seven to move him, or someone has a card that allows him to be moved. It’s brutal beyond compare. The look of consternation and hate that follows such an attack is well worth the price of admission alone. Do it to the same player twice, consecutively, or if several players do it to the same player consecutively, and it is wholly plausible that their face will crack open and hatch a Velociraptor, who will subsequently devour your gizzards in a blinding sea of blood and unabated rage. Like I said, it’s a brilliant game.

If there is one weakness to the game design, it’s that the starting position that you place your initial settlements in is so utterly important that one mistake or miscalculation can cost you the game before you even take your first turn. That said, luck plays a large role in the game as the tiles that produce commodities are activated by a die roll, so even the perfect initial settlement placement can be stymied by straight-up hateful-ass dice. The mitigating factor is that you can trade things every turn, so even if you have bad die rolls, and even if nobody will trade you anything, you can trade things back to the “bank”, at confiscatory rates, to advance your position.

In the end, it’s a really good game that I overlooked for a long time due to a group of guys who poisoned me against it, my own blatant idiocy, and a cacophonous sea of disgust released by dyed-in-the-wool Ameritrashers who decried the game based solely on the fact that it has wooden bits instead of plastic Space Marines. Hell, if this game was re-skinned with Imperial Roads, Ork Outposts, and Tyranid Hives, sort of how Talisman was re-skinned to Relic, Settlers of Catan: 40K edition would be an instant best-seller. And I’d be first in line to buy that crap, aaaaaaw yeah.

Why I’d Settle Down With A Settler:

· Simple rules but complex strategy make this game a real winner

· Player interaction is heavy, with an emphasis on negotiation and screwage

· A modular-board system makes this infinitely replayable

· With many expansions such as the wonderful Seafarers expansion, it’s a living system

Why Catan Means “You’z a Ho” in Catanese:

· Starting positions are so important that it seems almost unbalanced

· The dice-heavy commodity production adds randomness, but can ruin your fun

Overall:

It’s a bit ridiculous to call this a pure Eurogame as the genre exists today because luck and direct player interaction play such a large role in Settlers of Catan. I mean, I understand that it has light rules, and is playable by everyone, so by that standard, it could be construed as a Euro, but it shares so much more with Ameritrashy Dudes On A Map games like Axis and Allies than it does Agricola, in my opinion. The only thing missing from this game is a body count, and with the Cities and Knights expansion, a body count does exist, albeit in a very abstracted way. The long and short is that this game should be in every single gamer’s collection, either physically or digitally, since it’s available for Xbox360, iPad, and on the web.

Rating:

4.5/5 Stars

Check out the website here to see what the game’s like and what expansions exist:

http://www.catan.com/

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Mar 192013
 

star-wars-X-wing-game[1]Lock $ Foils In Crack Addiction

By Peter Ruth II

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m cheap or because I’m a natural-born sceptic, but when it comes to gaming, I’m what one might call a “late adopter”. I didn’t get an Xbox 360 until 2010, I didn’t start playing Heroscape until Wave 6, and I didn’t get Mage Knight: The Board Game until about 3 weeks ago. This is especially true with anything collectible or “living”, because the price for buying into a miniatures game is very high if you make a poor choice.  So, while I played Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures game some months ago, I wasn’t excited enough to jump in with both feet and start building fleets. I have maybe three thousand dollars in miniatures and terrain, books, and whatnot, so a game has to be pretty damned good in order for me to even consider buying it.

Well, I had a buddy over yesterday for an X-Wing game day, and after playing my third game, I was hooked. If you want me to just cut to the chase, here goes: X-Wing is the smartest, most entertaining fighter skirmish game I’ve ever played. This says a lot, because I’ve played probably twenty of these games, from Full Thrust to Renegade Legion to Battle Fleet Mars to A Call To Arms; I’ve got a lot of experience with these games and X-Wing is easily the most approachable and tightest.  The draw, for me, is that the game hits that magical sweet spot where complexity and practicality intersect. Very few games ever hit that spot, generally erring either on the side of simulation or oversimplification. X-Wing, however, gets it absolutely perfect, with enough complexity to make it a game worth playing while having very simple, understandable, and intuitive rules that don’t get in the way of the players. It literally blows every other fighter combat game into itty bitty rippy bits.

Ships[1]Now, there’s been a lot of praise about the miniatures on popular bloggers’ sites, on the dreaded BoardGameGeek site, and in the press. From the perspective of someone who is used to buying Descent, with grey, unpainted miniatures, well, maybe that’s true. But from the perspective of someone who has bought and painted hundreds of miniatures, I’m just not all that ultra-impressed. They’re quite good, I’ll totally grant that, but they’re not so good that I’m all crazy over them. The attention to detail on the model sculptures is very, very good, but the paint jobs are no better than your average Star Wars Miniatures Game model. That’s not to say they’re bad, because they’re not, they’re simply not what I would call a ‘gold standard’.

At ten dollars a pack, which comes with one miniature, a modular flight stand, and some cards, it’s a pretty good deal, when you consider everything, but the miniature itself doesn’t command that kind of price. They’re also very fragile, and I can see some of the Tie Fighters, especially, having their wings broken off, requiring glue. The flight stands are also kind of cheap, with the posts being very thin, maybe a tenth of an inch in diameter, and I can see those snapping off as well if you’re not pretty careful, especially since cleanup requires that you break the flight stands into their component bits. Litko makes some replacements that I think surpass the original design from a “monkey-proof” perspective, but I don’t think I’d buy them unless I broke a stand.

Now, the core set comes with all the bits you need to play, such as tokens and whatnot, and it comes with two Tie Fighters and an X-Wing. It’s about $26.00 US all over the internet, and I think that’s a better deal than buying the expansions for ten bucks a piece. There’s a bunch of cards in the box as well, and you can spend some of your battle point allotment buffing up your ships with all kinds of upgrades, like cluster munitions (banned by 108 countries, but not the Empire) and mines, crew, and other goodies. Each ship also has several pilots, which define what abilities its associated model has with it. All in all, it’s a big bunch of stuff in the box, and quite honestly, if you just wanted to buy the box, I think you’d have plenty of adventure for a while until you realize that getting more stuff means more adventure, more variety, and ultimately, a prolonged experience with the game.

The first wave had the core set, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, Y-Wing, and Tie Advanced expansions, and the new wave that just released has several expansions: Millenium Falcon, Slave One, the A-Wing and a Tie Interceptor. After the three plays I had, playing with everything but the A-Wing and Tie Interceptor, I went online and purchased two core sets, two Tie Advanced, two Y-Wings, one A-Wing, the Falcon and Slave One. I paid $144.00 at Miniature Market for the whole lot of it, if that helps you out, and I spent money set aside for a new shotgun, which if you knew me would make you think I’d lost my mind. It’s simply that good. I could play it all day, I suspect, because when my buddy left last night, I was so wound up and itching for another game that it reminded me of how I feel about Heroscape; I could literally play that game for a couple days straight and never get completely worn out on it. Add to that the fact that you can play two to four players, and that it has some interesting scenarios included above and beyond the standard “kill them before they kill you” formula, and it’s a total win.

A-Wing and stuff[1]The game’s core mechanic, the one that really makes it shine, is how it handles movement and turn reconciliation. At the beginning of your turn, each ship has a little disc which you program it’s movement on, and then you put it face down. Each ship then moves and assigns actions from worst pilot to best pilot, and afterward, each ship attacks from best pilot to worst. It’s a very clever system that doesn’t sound like it’s all that novel, but it works so damned well because it provides amazing balance to the asymmetrical forces. You can load up on cheap Tie Fighters, but they’re going to be moving first and shooting last, so the more skilled Rebel pilots may blow you out of space before your cheap ties ever get a shot off. It’s just brilliant.

The thing that really struck me as the pinnacle of the game’s brilliance is that in a game like this, luck can play a huge role, since dice are used for combat resolution, but there are enough options to mitigate bad luck that it makes for an engaging experience. You can expend your ships’ single action per turn to allow re-rolls, to automatically block hits, or repair shields. There’s also range bonuses so that you can think ahead to where a shipwill potentially end its movement, allowing you to roll an extra die if you charge in for the kill, or stay back out of harm’s way. In short, it rewards smart play and risk taking proportionally, which is really hard to do in a game that involves dice.

The only thing that I think might turn some people off is the ruler-based movement system. I think it’s really well done, and it comes with movement templates, but if you’re the kind of person who is really stuck on hex or square movement, it might be a detractor. Luckily, the movement rules are very intuitive and contingencies are built into the rules so that you won’t have to guess at what to do when two ships come into contact with one another. It’s a smart system, and since I’m used to using tape measures to play miniatures games, I thought it was a refreshing departure from the standard hex-based systems. It allows a lot more flexibility, and when it comes to fighter combat games, flexibility is where the tactics are at. There’s nubs built right into the bases, so there’s no room for making mistakes or having rules lawyers get all pissy, which is a welcome design feature that’s often overlooked.

RulerAndDial[1]This is a must-have game, no doubt about it. It has everything I want in a game. It’s furious, fun, and matches last about an hour from first move to last dying breath, making it quite fast. It’s an amazing game, and with the large variance in game play based on the fact that each model has maybe thirty permutations when you consider the pilot, weapon, and upgrade cards. I think the only thing that will cause this game to flame-out will be about six months after the point that they stop making new ships. I’d bet there’s going to be dedicated fan-sites if there’s not already, and there’s already a big tournament scene, so maybe, like Heroscape, the game will continue on well past its shelf life has expired. In any event, I know that I’ll be playing it for a very, very long time and my only complaint is that I’m starting so late that I missed out on a lot of the events such as the recent Kessel Run.

Why X-Wing’s Force Is Strong:

  • Incredibly approachable game play with simple to understand rules
  • Very clean design that’s quite smart without being overburdened by complexity
  • Very flexible ship design system allows for a lot of variation in squadron builds
  • Scaling of the luck factor allows smarter players to win, although luck is a factor
  • Nice ship models help immerse you in the game

X-Wing’s Failures To Launch:

  • It’s a bit on the expensive side for a miniatures game
  • The models are nice, but the paint jobs are just above average
  • The flight stands seem to be on the flimsy side
  • Ruler-based measurement can be a turn off to some people.

Overall:

If you like miniatures games, get this today. It’s simply one of the best examples of a mature, well conceived design in recent history. There are a tremendous amount of reasons to buy this game, and the only things I think that might take a bit of the shine off of it for some people is the price, which is a little bit high for a game of this type, and the ruler-based movement, which I love but some people might take exception to. It’s simply brilliant in every way, and I cannot recommend this game highly enough. I put my money where my mouth is, too, and I think for a cheap ass like myself, this is the highest honour I can provide a game – its purchase.

Rating:

5/5 Stars

Learn more about X-Wing at Fantasy Flight’s page here and watch the tutorial:

Read the rules too, by clicking here.
Litko’s Flight Stands, which I think are superior here.

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