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Game Snobbery: A Plea

Richard Herrera
United States
Vancouver
OR
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As I've been gaming over the past 3 years, I've had fun playing the new hotness, old classics, and refining my tastes. I think it's a natural thing to tend to like certain games or genres and I do not have a problem with it. When I was younger, I enjoyed games of Clue, Sorry, Yahtzee, and more games produced by Hasbro and Parker Bros. Now, I enjoy mainly deckbuilders and card games, but I enjoy "Ameritrash" and "Euros" as well. Does that mean that I do not like the games that I played in my youth. Maybe not as much as I used to, but I don't look down on them.

However, I have noticed on boards as well as some FLGS' that many people will almost alienate newcomers to the hobby because of their tastes. I will see people show up with some of their favorite games, but unable to play due to not having people want to play or turn them away due to their choices. Now I'm all for refining tastes, but when did we start saying that you shouldn't be in a store if you play Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo, or even Monopoly. Yes, tastes have matured, but don't forget where you came from yourselves.

Here's a great example: My first gaming console was the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. Some of the first games I ever played were Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, and Contra. Over the years, I have acquired more systems and games with the latest coming from my Xbox 360 and PS3. I love the Mass Effect Series, Batman: Arkham series, and Borderlands series along with the evolutions of Mario, Zelda, and Mega Man. However, just because I love these new games and series, doesn't mean I have abandoned playing some of the old stuff. I find myself every once in a while going back to the old not just for nostalgia sake, but because they were great games in their time. I almost always purchase a copy of Legend of Zelda for the NES on every new Nintendo console out there just because I love the game so much.

The same should be said for games in our past. Just because our hobby has moved along with refinements of previous titles does not mean we should abandon the old ones if there are those who are wanting to play. Now if there is a better gateway game to help bring in new gamers, then yes by all means introduce someone to it, but not at the cost of criticizing their choices in games. If they want to play Clue, play Clue with them, but then teach them something like Mr. Jack. If they like Risk, try Small World or Memoir '44. Whatever you introduce, do not turn away new gamers to our hobby. I have all but left videogames because of the maturity of most gamers out there and in all honesty I don't miss it. I love sitting around a table with other people talking about life, the game, and whatever else comes to mind; but if we alienate those who want to come into the hobby, probably for the same reasons we did, they will find something else to occupy their time.

Now this post may not address you and I thank you for your welcoming attitude, but if you know someone who does display a game snob personality, try and talk with them about their attitude. If we really want to be snobs, we should do it away from places that are trying to bring new people in to the hobby. You may feel entitled since you've been going to your FLGS for a long time, but if you are driving away potential sales, you can see yourself to the door. Start a meetup and play only the games you want to play and there will be people there I'm sure. You never know if you will create or destroy a lifetime gamer and/or friend by the choice you make.
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Mon May 26, 2014 5:01 am
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Strategic Thoughts on Star Realms Part 2

Richard Herrera
United States
Vancouver
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Star Empire:

Recycling Station:
This is one of the first cards you should try to pick up if at all possible. First, you are going to ignore the 1 economy that you get from the card as it is just useless at anytime. What you really want is to use the other primarily ability that allows you to discard two cards and draw two more. If all you have is scouts or vipers and you know there is something better, take the risk and get rid of them, especially if you get something that can trash them from your hand or discard pile. Secondly, it gives you a 4 outpost. This will again protect your authority and keep you alive.

Space Station:
This is a higher mid-card that you want to acquire due to again protecting your authority. If you have another Star Empire, this is at least good for damaging an outpost or possibly do some moderate damage to your opponent. It is also good for a quick 4 gold if you are in desperate need, but you hopefully will not come to that.

Trade Federation:

Cutter:
Acquire this one immediately. In fact, the only time you should not pick this up is if you can only afford a recycling center and you have to choose. First, you get 4 authority each time it comes out and you get 2 economy with it. If you get lucky and get a secondary kicker with this, you have quite the hit (especially if you have two cutters coming out). I will in fact revise my previous statement and say that if there are two cutters and one recycling station, you get the two cutters first. The cheap price makes it ideal at the beginning of building your deck.

Embassy Yacht:
At first I was going to suggest getting this one just as fast as the Cutter, but now that I think about it, this is more of a mid-game to endgame card as you really need two bases in play to make this worth it. If you have the bases or outposts this can be just as effective as having another recycling station, but that is a big "if." Still not a bad card due to the 3 authority and 2 economy, but again it is more of a late-game card.

Federation Shuttle:
This one can really be acquired anytime, but if you pass on it, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I hesitate to even bring it up, but if you can get one with a cutter or trade ship, it makes it an okay card. Really this one is if you have one economy and the card is out there. It is the only 1 cost card that I am including in the list for the sheer fact you can possibly get 4 authority.

Trade Escort:
This is the only 5 cost economy cost I included and it is only due to the 4 authority and 4 combat. If you miss this one, that's okay as it is really only there for the primary ability. If you can combo it, then great you can draw a card. Not quite as good as the Embassy Yacht, but possibly worth it if you need some authority recovery.

Basic Cards:

Explorers:
I do recommend picking up Explorers if you can't get or afford anything else. They are good early on and you can use the money to buy new cards then trash them to do some early damage or get rid of a base or outpost if you have a few. However, I would limit the amount you acquire to 3 or 4 to not clog up your deck. If anything it is also a good way to thin out your deck.

Scouts and Vipers:
Like most will argue, get rid of vipers first and scouts second. Again I pick up Explorers to help with costs and damage, so the faster you get rid of these two, the better your draws.

Thoughts after a couple of plays:

So I tried playing myself for a couple of games and had a horrible trade row the first game (all machine cult and nothing else for 5 or 6 rounds). On my second game it was a little bit closer, but still lost to my normal strategy. This has led me to rethink a bit. I still recommend all the cards I've listed, but if you can get some other small stuff that can help, do it. If anything you can use your machine cult scrap powers to get rid of them later on. I still believe this is a viable strategy in the long run and more testing is required. If you can limit your deck to about 30 cards total, you will cycle. Other base cards and attack cards may look nice (and they indeed can be if you can afford them), but you definitely want to limit them. In fact, if you are lucky you will scrap them from the trade row and your opponent won't get a chance to touch them.

Star Realms
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Mon May 19, 2014 2:09 am
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Strategic Thoughts on Star Realms

Richard Herrera
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In preparation of the upcoming tournament being held at my FLGS, Cloud Cap Games in Portland, OR, I have obsessively tried playing Star Realms to figure out the best strategy and even now that I have a list of cards which I will discuss here, I wonder if I need to thin out my deck more. It is a balance as some really limit themselves as to what to draw and how much to draw which makes this game so fun and addicting. You never know how things are going to turn out. Just yesterday, I played someone for the first time and I was completely obliterated the first time we played, yet on the second, I lost by 9 authority and had they not had an outpost out, they would have been defeated. Every game and player presents a new strategy which is what keeps me coming back (on a side note, yes last night I dreamed about playing the game).

Let me get some things out of the way. First, this is not a definitive list of what you should and should not play. Some focus on one faction, some focus on all of them. Here I will try and get a nice spread of every thing. Second, this is based on my play style. It may be similar to what you do, but even I will admit that this strategy is a bit on the crazy side as you are aiming for a specific set of cards and there are numerous available. I will aim to only have a total of 40 in my deck, but even that is high, though I am counting the initial 10 in that as well as a few explorers. I would think a good cap would probably be 25-30 cards including your base deck. Finally, depending on what your opponent's strategy is, you may need to change yours on the fly. My assumption is that your opponent will probably be very Machine Cult or Star Empire heavy, preferably the former. If they get your cards, oh well, but that is why I look at 40 to fill in those gaps. If all goes according to plan, you will have about 25-30 cards in your deck when all is said and done due to trashing and thinning.

So here is my list of cards, their cost, and their priority. I've put some thought into these cards, but these are my initial thoughts and only through many playthroughs will I know if it is successful or not. Fortunately, I have my wife entering the tournament as well, so we can try different things on each other. Here is how the list will be organized:

Faction/ Card Name /Number of Cards/ Cost/ Priority (1= High, 3= Low)

Blob/Battle Pod/2/2/1
Blob/Blob Destroyer/2/4/3
Blob/Blob Wheel/3/3/2
Blob/Ram/2/3/2

Machine Cult/Battle Station/2/3/1
Machine Cult/Patrol Mech/2/4/3

Star Empire/Imperial Fighter/3/1/2
Star Empire/Imperial Frigate/3/3/2
Star Empire/Recycling Station/2/4/1
Star Empire/Space Station/2/4/2

Trade Federation/Cutter/3/2/1
Trade Federation/Embassy Yacht/2/2/1
Trade Federation/Federation Shuttle/2/1/3
Trade Federation/Trade Escort/1/5/3

None/Explorers/4/2/2
Basic/Vipers/2/0/3
Basic/Scout/8/0/3

Okay, now that you see my plan, here is why I think this may actually work. Note that none of my choices are more than 4 economy with the exception of the Trade Escort. Let's start with the Blob.

Blob

Battle Pod: This one is really a no-brainer. It has a low cost, does 4 combat with a 2 kicker, but most importantly it allows you to scrap a card in the trade row. This definitely can ruin your opponent's strategy or possibly bring out something of lower cost for you to acquire out of your list. This should be one of the first cards you get due to its low cost and long-term usefulness.

Blob Destroyer: This is your powerhouse so to speak. Its low cost makes it an ideal mid-to-late addition in your arsenal and its secondary ability is again useful for stopping your opponent or really hurting them and sending damage through to their authority.

Blob Wheel: These are the only bases I have in my deck and the reason behind that is the low cost. The combat is negligible, but if you can get that slight boost each round, it helps. If there were more than one hive, I would move that into this spot, but same defense with only a slightly better combat makes it hard to want and its bonus is dependent on playing almost exclusively blob. That said, if Hive is available early, it might be worth it.

Ram: This is your mid-range damage dealer. At this point if you have a few battle pods and maybe a blob wheel, you need to pick the ram up to do some damage. If you can get both great, if not, that's okay because there is plenty out there to hurt your enemy with as you will see in a bit. The trashing for 3 gold should only be used as a last resort if you need to pick up something desperately. However, that should never be the case with this deck.

Machine Cult:

Battle Station: These merely exist to keep you alive. It wasn't until I had a few games in that I realized the importance of having outposts. They force your enemy to focus on them and keep your authority intact. With the low-cost to purchase, these should never be passed up. If they survive, they are great for a boost to combat if you have your opponent on the ropes.

Patrol Mech: This is how you build your hand, do damage and with a little luck, clean up your hand, but there are other cards that will do a better job in this deck. This is really here for the secondary ability and the damage since by the time you acquire this, it may be late in the game.

Star Empire:

Imperial Fighter: This low-cost fighter does little damage, but like the blob, it messes with your opponent and that is why it has a mid to high priority. Anything that can possibly hamper your opponent is a great thing. If you get lucky and get all three out, half their deck is gone which will give you an extra round to prepare for whatever may be thrown at you. On the other hand, it may clean up what your opponent doesn't want so be careful.

Imperial Frigate: Just like the fighter, this does some damage and forces your opponent to discard a card. It too has a mid priority, but if possible, try to pick it over the fighter.

To be continued...

Star Realms
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Sat May 17, 2014 10:03 pm
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Games I've Played and Why I Continue to Play Them: Star Realms

Richard Herrera
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While I enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid, I was never really into "space." I had no desire to be an Astronaut, see new worlds, or really anything outside of the safety of the third rock from the sun. However as I have experienced in this hobby, something about space and the unknown just seems so fascinating. One of my first purchases in fact was Twilight Imperium III, but I have yet to get it to the table besides just teaching myself how to play the game. None of my friends I believe are ready for something that massive and I don't have a regular gaming group that would probably be up to the task.

I don't feel discouraged though as there are many games pertaining to space that I have in my collection, one of which is a gem that I picked up recently called Star Realms. In Star Realms, you're the commander of your own small fleet (of Scouts / Vipers) looking to carve out a section of the galaxy to rule. Unfortunately, that sector of space is also looking to be claimed by your opponent. Using your trade resources, you can purchase the loyalty of powerful ships and bases from various factions, using their combat power to raid the opponent and reduce their authority over the sector. Completely destroy their authority, and become the undisputed ruler of this new Star Realm!

This deck-building game has allot of strategy in a small box. Using one deck, you and your opponent will purchase ships, bases, and outposts that will help you attack your opponent's "Authority," restore your own, and purchase new ships, bases, and outposts. All these options come in the form of factions which have their individual perks. First there is the Machine Cult, a group of machines which seem to specialize in cleaning up your deck and causing damage. Next is the Star Empires, a group which has some decent damage, but also tends to cause your opponent to discard cards and bring out more cards into their hands. The Trade Federation specializes in restoring authority to a player and giving them buying power. Finally, the Blob seem to specialize in devastating attacks that cripple your opponent. Bases give defense and other abilities that can combine with your fleet. Outposts are distinct in that they must be attacked before a base/authority can be attacked.

Every ship and base/outpost has a cost that you must pay to acquire from the trade row. As you amass your fleet, your deck will get bigger and bigger. By using abilities that clean out your deck (mainly through the Machine Cult), you will streamline your deck to make it easier to get better cards sooner. Almost every ship, base, and outpost also has a secondary effect that is triggered once you have two or more ships, bases, or outposts from the same faction. These abilities may range from damage and drawing more cards to restoring authority or gaining more buying power. A few cards do have a trash can symbol that allows you to "trash" the card and activate that effect. Once a card is trashed, it is removed from the game. Each person begins the game with 50 Authority and the first to get their opponent to 0 Authority wins the game.

Star Realms is not the best game out there by any means, but it is honestly one of the best, new deck-builders. The way cards can combo off of each other means that no one strategy is sound. The trade row varies from game to game, but there will definitely be a few cards that most will try and acquire early on to give an advantage. While the game is designed for two, the makers of the game, White Wizard Games, includes multiplayer rules in each box. Thus if you and a group of friends each bring a box (up to 3), you can have some fun playing free-for-all, raids, emperors, etc.

I've heard this game described as "Dinner Dominion" and that is not far off. I have played a few games with my wife while waiting for a meal at a restaurant and on a tiny demo table at my FLGS. This game is fun, portable, and has lots of replayability. As far as interaction goes, while you are telling your opponent what damage you are sending their way, it's not highly interactive. There are some promos out there on BGG as well as Amazon to spice up the game with a solo mode and I think even a co-op mode, but I'm not 100% sure on the latter. For the price of $15, you would be hard-pressed not to give it a try. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up as it is currently in high demand. Even if you don't like it, you could always sell it and I'm sure there will be someone willing to purchase it as most are buying 2 decks at the moment. If you love the space theme and want something that feels like a battle that can be played in about 20 minutes, Star Realms is the best bet for you.

Star Realms
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Thu May 15, 2014 6:24 pm
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CDF Story Progress

Richard Herrera
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Just thought I'd share a bit of the story that I have so far. It's rough, but it is a start. All names are a work in progress.


Game 1 Story Part 1

In the 21st Century, mankind finally learned that they were not alone in the universe. It was not an easy discovery as humanity realized just how far advanced the rest of the galaxy was in comparison to their accomplishments. What seemed like a great opportunity to know their world more, also brought fear to the hearts of others. Humanity was fortunate that it was the Draconica that first made contact as the Matriarchal society saw the potential in them given guidance. The Draconica took humanity under its wing and revealed to them many secrets on Earth and the Draconica homeworld of Persephone, the last out post of the Sol system.

Over the next 10 years, humanity learned much from the Draconica with regards to space travel and intergalactic politics. Soon after, the first brave scientists and soldiers made the journey to Persephone thanks to the Draconica's engineering expertise. What was once perceived to take many lifetimes now could be reached within a matter of hours. Upon arrival, the scientists and soldiers were given access to some of the galaxies most perplexing secrets. It was there diplomats from other worlds presented themselves and the galaxy became a much more known and smaller place. Soon many were making the journey to Persephone for leisure, curiosity, and diplomacy.

However, not all alien races have shown peaceful actions as a few factions of ruffian races seek only their glory, pleasure, and pursuits by causing untold damage and chaos across the cosmos. There are whispers even of an unknown force who's shadow is growing ever larger. Even some of the allied races who wish only for peace are feeling its effects as their behaviors seem to change over time.

As new alien races were encountered, factions began to form and were divisive on whether unification was in everyone's best interest. Those more cynical than most began to see the aliens as a threat to their safety as there was nowhere in the galaxy they could not be found. Others saw monetary gain from the secrets they could uncover on distant worlds. Yet most believed that uniting under a banner of allied forces could only be in everyone's benefit. Every race from all over the galaxy debated and queried as to how to integrate humanity into their culture and it was decided that a council should be formed.

The first Intergalactic Council is meeting today and you have been sent to escort your representative to this historic meeting. Many seek to profit on the outcome and others wait with bated breath. The meeting is being held on the Intergalactic Celestial Enclave (ICE) that acts as a gateway into the Sol system and beyond. The corridors are decorated with banners from almost all nations. As a member of a military escort for your diplomat, you are allowed to carry your pistol with you, but no one is looking for a fight at such a crucial time. Doors open before you in a large room where races of aliens you've never encountered before are standing around and becoming acquainted. Hope fills your heart as you believe that this will be one of the greatest moments in history. Just as the council is about to convene, alarms start blaring on the ICE. Everyone looks around panicked as to what trouble is brewing. Your gut tells you that the diplomats are the target and it looks like those around you agree. The enemy is coming from somewhere and you need to hold them off so that the Council can escape.

Objective: Get the Council to the escape pods and hold off enemy forces until they escape.
Number of enemy groups: 4, one at each escape pod
Level: 1
Set up: 12 diplomats, 2 each (Humans/Drakk/Seraph/Vangards/Rhycons/Draconica)

Game 1 Story Part 2

It was a hard fought battle, but the diplomats were able to escape. You had never anticipated so much opposition, but you held your own. Over the emergency communications channel, you hear a distress call. “If anyone can hear this, this is Sinclair. I'm currently hidden, but others have been taken hostage by a second wave of enemies. Soldiers have had their weapons taken and look as if they are going to be executed soon. There's no way I can take them out myself, if anyone is out there, please help them.”

Despite your best of efforts, you realize that not all are accounted for on the ship. Among those being held are some friends of yours whom have gotten you out of some tight situations. You contemplate leaving them to save the rest, but you know they would go to hell and back for you. A few others are in the same boat and decide to help you get them back. Packing everyone in as tightly as you can leaves only room for a total of 20 people to get off the colony once the other shuttles launch. Get to the hostages and save as many as you can before they are executed.

Game 1 Story Part 3

Beaten and battered, you believe your work is done. Those whom you rescued are grateful for saving their lives. With a weak smile and a pat on your shoulder, the remaining soldiers board the shuttle. It looks like you are due for a long rest on your way back to Earth. Your eyes begin to drift as the shuttle bay doors begin to close with a soft alarm...that is until they won't close. Others work to get the door closed but notice lights begin flashing in the distance.

Over your emergency communications channel, you hear a distress call from one of the shuttles. “This is John Winston! You have to save the plans we were developing on the station. They are essential if we are to keep Earth safe from hostiles. I know you are putting your life at risk, but without them, the enemy may know how to breach our defenses.” There is a self-destruct alarm that starts blaring overhead. Part of you thinks you should just kick the door and get moving, but you know whom is asking for you to take on this task. It looks like you better make this quick.

Game 1 Story Part 4

The smell of fresh air is short-lived as you touch down in the rubble of a fallen city. You've never had the opportunity to visit much of Persephone, but you know that wars waged years ago between the Draconica, Rhycons, and other hostile races. Others seemed to have landed nearby as well and are slowly exiting their shuttles and helping the wounded. What looked only too close for comfort has come to Persephone. Apparently the enemy has far more troops than you anticipated and is making it difficult to account for everyone.

As shuttles from Persephone's small military bases begin to arrive, a swarm of bullets strike a few of the incoming escape pods. Suddenly, two shuttles smoke past you, veering off in separate directions and heavily damaged. As they passed overhead, you recognize an insignia on one indicating a VIP on-board. Protocol dictates that all VIPs must be secure if possible, but you see a warship approaching the crash site quickly. Over the emergency communications you hear, “This is Wayland! My ship is under attack! There are defensive mods on-board that will be yours if you can save me!” You begin to move towards the distress call until another emergency call comes in. “This is Sergeant Kerns, our platoon is pinned down and we need help! We have some experimental weapons, but don't have any ammo for them. We are desperate!” Whom do you choose to save?
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Sun Jan 19, 2014 3:49 pm
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Celestial Defense Force

Richard Herrera
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Okay, forgive the title, but it's just a work in progress for what I've been cooking up in my head. While I still think about making my Dragon Force game, I also have been thinking allot about two of my favorite games that I own: The Mass Effect Trilogy and X-COM: Enemy Unknown/Within. I will admit, I have not played any of Within, but I have played Unknown quite a bit and the Mass Effect Trilogy is probably my favorite game series of all-time, even beating out Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Looking at those two sci-fi series, I came up with an idea that sounds kind of cool in my personal opinion and now I'm just working out the details. With that, I have created Celestial Defense Force. Again, the name is a work-in-progress, but I think it would be better than X-Effect or Masscom.

Essentially the idea I've come up with is a story driven game sort of like Mice and Mystics where you progress through a set story like the world of Mass Effect, but you have your own character that is one of four different specialties like X-COM. You will choose which species you are, I currently have 10 different species, choose their specialty and each species and specialty has certain bonuses. As you progress through the story, you will be able to upgrade your weapons, armor, health, movement, and natural defenses. As you progress through the story, you will have a choice of choosing to fight a normal fight or an advanced fight for higher risk and greater reward. To make sure you survive the story, there will be a side missions you can complete between each main chapter of the story. Think of these as ways to grind, but in a fun way.

I've decided to divide the game into three parts. Whether all three would be included in a box or not is to be determined as there are 12-14 chapters per story part. In part 1, like Mass Effect, you have a known enemy and an unknown enemy that is much bigger. In part 2, you are flying around, trying to get a foothold to push the enemy back. In part 3, you are on the enemy's doorstep trying to liberate captured forces and destroy them for good. All three parts will include troops fighting on a map, but space combat is also planned and each side mission and main story has objectives to complete and even some split decisions which will help or hinder you depending on what you choose.

Of all the things that could possibly hinder my creativity is simply coming up with maps as I don't know what kind of maps that I want to create or how big they should be. However, after playing the Indiana Jones DVD Adventure game, I think I like how the tiles are a 3x3 grid that are about 2" x 2" and have pre-printed terrain on them. The good thing about this is with small enough models, there can be many things filling the board. Second, they could be double-sided possibly to save space even if it would cost a little more. I doubt I will ever publish this game myself, but if I found a company that really was excited and able to work with me on it, I would love it. Personally, I would love to use the Mass Effect license for this game, but the races I've developed just need some original art to be interesting.

Perhaps I'll write more some other time as I'm still writing out scenarios and figuring out base stats. At least I have it written down as a start and if I can finish within 3 months, things could get exciting.

Mass Effect Trilogy XCOM: Enemy Unknown Mice and Mystics Indiana Jones DVD Adventure Game
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Sat Jan 18, 2014 3:27 am
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Games I've Played and Why I Continue to Play Them - Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Richard Herrera
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Just a note, this is the first time I've written a blog like this without owning the game...though I hope to change that in the near future as I will say right now, the game is that good.

I grew up in the South, had teachers that were African American, and studied well the rich history of our country and my home state. I remember how every February, I would enjoy learning about the leaders and important figures of history who worked hard during the Civil Rights Movement and what hardships they and their supporters had to face. Even in college, I remember classes which took a more academic approach to the time and talked about more of the taboo subjects represented through propaganda and even our media. I personally never took the subject lightly even when my teachers tried to express the heartache as best as they could from a purely academic standard vs a personal one for some of them.

In Freedom: The Underground Railroad, you play a variety of roles as either you alone or a group of up to four people work together to help smuggle slaves from plantations in the South up to Canada. At certain locations, you can earn money to help buy support tokens which help advance the game so that you avoid opposition that can slow your progress to free slaves. Yet opposition is not the only thing that you can use money to get rid of, you can also use money to buy support that helps move slaves out of the plantations or keep them safe on their way to Canada. Once all support tokens are purchased for a time period you can move on to the next period. Once you get to the third period, you need only to finish buying support tokens and survive the round.

Depending on the number of players, you need to free a certain number of slaves into Canada which is listed on your player card. Right below that number is a track that will hold slaves which have been eliminated from the game due to not being purchased at the slave market and making it to the plantations. Freeing those slaves from the plantations won't be that easy however as you can only have one moved to each area unless they are in a large city. For even more difficulty moving, there are five slave catchers that move along the board toward the slaves that you move. Strategically, moving some slaves one way towards Canada will move the catchers that direction while leaving other areas open. However, at the beginning of each round, two dice are rolled that have the potential to move the slave catchers in a certain direction and if a freed slave is in that area, they are captured and placed back in the slave market. The same occurs if one slave moves in a way that captures another. This mechanic makes every move a difficult one as you attempt to save as many as you can while avoiding the consequences.

If you manage to fill the lost slaves board beyond what it can hold you lose. If you don't get all the support tokens by the end of the eighth round, you lose. If you don't free enough slaves, you lose. The truth is, the game is stacked against you which makes victory all that much more sweet.

I have only played this game once, yet I know it is one that needs to be in my collection, not just because it is a great game, but also it tackles the theme of a dark period in our nation's history with dignity and does not place anyone in the role of the "bad guy." You all are working to free slaves and the game, like Pandemic and other such games, is the villain. I thought about how this game could possibly be rethemed and the movie Schindler's List came to mind along with something in the vein of the Diary of Anne Frank. Essentially, you are trying to save people regardless. One other thought that came to mind is possibly numbering each cube and creating a list of people whom did indeed escape to freedom in Canada for a historical perspective much like a recent game based on the Titanic that came out in the past two years. For one, it makes the loss that much more tough on those playing and it makes you put a face to whomever you are saving or losing.

I believe everyone should play this game at least once in their life and decide for themselves whether the game is for them or not, but in my case I definitely see the merits of this game not only mechanically, but historically as well.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad
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Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:29 pm
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Balance

Richard Herrera
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If anyone were to look at my game collection, they would probably see more thematic vs heavy strategy games. I love games with theme and if an element of strategy is in that game, then I love it even more. That's not to say I don't enjoy a brain-burner from time to time, but in all honesty I just haven't pulled the trigger. Most of this is due to the fact that I don't have a consistent game group that I play games with on a regular basis. For me, an introvert with extrovert qualities (wrap your head around that one), it is hard to form a game group mostly due to work schedules and not knowing when I will be able to play due to family events. I know many have this problem, but it's not so bad that I don't get the chance to game at least twice a month. That's enough for a fix for me, but I would probably game more if I could get my wife to join me.

All that is to get back to my original point, I really don't have any brain-burner games (again mainly due to not having a consistent group/wife that would want to play), but when I do game, it is usually with allot of gamers that LOVE euro games. Gradually, these games have started to grow on me, but at the same time I have a bit of a balancing issue. On one hand, I love thematic, "Ameritrash" style games, yet have no one to really play with unless I form a group or something. On the other hand, I am enjoying the more "Euro" games, but it seems that those are the only type of games that are being played at my FLGS. So with this issue, I'm kind of at a loss. I would try other shops, but honestly, I've gone to a few of them in my local area and they really do not seem to be welcoming unless A) you are a minatures gamer or B) are a Magic player.

I would do meetup, except that I am a bit apprehensive about inviting people to my tiny apartment and going to someone's home is fine except that I don't know what the expectations are and if I don't click with someone in the group (i.e. we really butt heads), I would feel obligated to leave as the odd man out/newest person there.

Thoughts?
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Wed Dec 18, 2013 2:57 pm
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The Design Dream: Dragon Force Part 2

Richard Herrera
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Previously in my blog I basically said that my inspiration for a board game came from a videogame called Dragon Force from the days of Sega Saturn as it was a strategy RPG wargame with different troop choices that have a rock, paper, scissor mechanic. In this post, I want to give an overall view of how this game could be implemented and hopefully this inspires me to do the main part of design this week which is essentially the map and more importantly, the cards. Yep, this will be a card game with board elements.

Units:

For the first part, the cards will have an asymmetrical back so that a person does not know which way is up or down when placing a card face-down. On the opposite side will be mirrored images of the troops and text that will be alongside each image. Here's the example:


--------------------------------
| |
| ---------- ---------- |
| | image | | | |
| | | | text | |
| | | | | |
| ---------- ---------- |
| |
| |
| ---------- ---------- |
| | text | | image | |
| | upside | | upside | |
| | down | | down | |
| ---------- ---------- |
| |
| |
--------------------------------

So on the top side you will see the image and the text will have a number ranging from 1-3 indicating the level of experience of the unit. Level 1 will be a novice unit, level 2 will be a veteran, and level 3 will be an elite unit. The levels also indicate the number of dice that you roll for that unit. If a unit is strong against another unit, it will roll one additional die. If a unit is weak to another and loses combat, that unit and a random unit from your that person's hand is also killed. When a unit is killed, it is placed in a downed units pile that can be replenished at the end of the week cycle or possibly from resting in a nearby castle. Thus the following is how the troop types will range by name, strength, and weakness:

Soldier:
Strength: Monk, Beast
Weakness: Calvary, Harpy, Zombie, Dragon

Calvary:
Strength: Soldier, Samurai
Weakness: Monk, Beast, Harpy, Zombie, Dragon

Mage:
Special ability: Able to reroll any number of dice 1x per level
Strength: Harpy, Zombie
Weakness: Soldier, Cavalry, Monk, Samurai, Beast, Dragon

Samurai:
Strength: Monk, Beast, Dragon
Weakness: Calvary, Harpy, Zombie

Archer:
Special ability: Able to reroll any number of dice 1x per level
Strength: Harpy, Monk
Weakness: Soldier, Calvary, Samurai, Beast, Zombie, Dragon

Monk:
Strength: Calvary, Zombie
Weakness: Soldier, Samurai, Harpy, Archer, Dragon

Harpy:
Strength: Soldier, Cavalry, Monk, Beast, Samurai
Weakness: Archer, Mage, Zombie, Dragon

Beast:
Strength: Cavalry
Weakness: Soldier, Samurai, Harpy, Dragon

Dragon:
Strength: Soldier, Cavalry, Monk, Beast, Mage, Archer, Zombie
Weakness: Samurai

Zombie:
Strength: Soldier, Cavalry, Samurai, Harpy, Archer, Beast
Weakness: Monk, Mage, Dragon

As you can see, since Archers and Mages are weak against everything except Mages, Archers, and Harpy/Zombie respectively. Due to this disadvantage, I decided to give them a little counter balance. Thus, when either Mages or Archers roll dice, they are able to reroll dice once per level. The dice they can roll can either be their own or their opponents with the new result being what has to be taken. However, this can only be done the first time they come out.

Hands and attacking:

At the start of the game, each player (3-8) will choose a kingdom monarch. For simplicity sake, I will use the game's official Kingdoms and Monarchs:

Wein (Highland, Soldier)
Teris (Palemoon, Archer)
Mikhal (Izumo, Samurai)
Leon (Topaz, Monk)
Gongos (Bozak, Beast)
Junon (Tristan, Harpy)
Reinheart (Trandor, Mage)
Goldark (Fandaria, Cavalry)

At this time they take 10 level 1 cards of their kingdom's specialty as this will be your troops for use. You will also have four generals which you will command and send around the board in addition to your Monarch.

When your General or Monarch encounter an enemy troop, battle begins. After a battle initiates, each player draws up to 6 cards. These cards are your troops that you will fight with against your opponent for the round unless special circumstances allow you to add troops. You move the round timer to 1 and end the battle after 6 rounds in a draw if troops remain on both sides. If one side defeats all the opponent's troops, the opponent has the opportunity to continue fighting or retreat. An opponent at anytime can choose to run from a battle at the cost of 2 cards from their draw deck (before the start of battle) or 4 from their hand (after the battle has begun). If both sets of troops are eliminated before the end of the sixth round, the Generals/Monarchs may duel. At this point, one or both players may choose to retreat without penalty or duel over three rounds.

When troops battle each other, only scores of 5 or 6 count as hits when dice are rolled. If one hits and the other misses, the losing troop is moved to the killed pile. If both hit with 5s, both troops continue fighting. If both hit, but one has a higher roll than the other, the lower troop is moved to the killed pile. If both roll 6s, both troops are eliminated to their killed piles. If a duel occurs, each General/Monarch will roll one die, on rolls of 6, a hit point is is removed from that General/Monarch.

If that Monarch/General loses all hit points, they are captured by the enemy and cannot return to the game until their monarch is captured by a capturing kingdom. At that point, generals join their captor's ranks. If a General is captured again by the former Monarch or ally's Generals/Monarch, they are immediately brought into the ranks of the allied kingdoms. If captured again, they cannot return unless their former monarch is captured again.

The only special rule that applies to troops is for mages and archers. Mages and Archers will roll their dice first and they will always roll dice at least twice. If Archers or Mages roll a 6 on their dice on their initial rolls, they automatically kill their opposing enemy. If they do not, normal combat rules apply.

If you win a battle, you will draw a random unit from a grab bag which has tokens of every unit in it with the exception of Zombie and Dragon units. In addition, you can trade in two level 1 units for a level 2 unit or a level 2 and level 1 unit for a level 3 unit once per victory. This represents how your exploits are made known around the land of Legendra and people seek to join your ranks as well as your troops becoming more experienced. At this point, the game becomes (you guessed it) a deck builder.

Magic:

You may be wondering, why would anyone want to use certain troops if they are bad against other troops? This is where your generals come into play. Your generals and monarchs have a certain amount of magic points that they will be able to use to perform different spells. Depending on the unit and their level, you can do the following:

Soldier - 1) Defeat enemy, 2) defeat enemy and random card from opponents hand, 3) choose a card from opponent's hand to send to the killed pile

Mage - 1) Resurrect 1 random unit to your draw pile, 2) resurrect 1 specific unit to your hand, 3) resurrect 2 random units to your draw pile.

Archer - 1) Resurrect 1 random unit to your draw pile, 2) resurrect 1 specific unit to your hand, 3) resurrect 2 random units to your draw pile.

Cavalry - 1) Next friendly unit gets an extra roll, 2) Next enemy 6 rolled must be rerolled, 3) next 2 friendly units get an extra roll.

Samurai - 1) Next 2 attacking unit can only hit on 6s, 2) Next 2 attacking units cannot use magic, 3) Specific units from opponent's hand can only hit on 6s and can't use magic for the battle.

Beast - 1) Defeat enemy, 2) defeat enemy and random card from opponents hand, 3) choose a card from opponent's hand to send to the killed pile

Monk - 1) Next 2 attacking unit can only hit on 6s, 2) Next 2 attacking units cannot use magic, 3) Specific units from opponent's hand can only hit on 6s and can't use magic for the battle.

Harpy - 1) Next friendly unit gets an extra roll, 2) Next enemy 6 rolled must be rerolled, 3) next 2 friendly units get an extra roll.

Dragon - 1) Next 2 friendly units get an extra roll, 2) next two attacking units cannot use magic, 3) cancel any 1 magic effect during battle

Zombie - 1) Resurrect 2 random unit, 2) next enemy 6 must be rerolled, 3) cancel any 1 magic effect during battle

As each general and monarch has a certain amount of hp and mp that can be used until they level up (i.e. win 5 battles), their magic is limited because each level of the unit is the number of mp used. So a general who has 3 mp can use 3 level 1 spells; a level 1 and a level 2 spell; or 1 level 3 spell. The same applies to monarchs. After they level up, mp and hp doubles, thus general and monarch cards may be two-sided to make it easy to remember what stats they are supposed to have.

Map:

For a quick thought on the map, there will be 8 home castles for the monarchs, 8-16 strongholds and 16-32 villages between all areas. This will allow for fighting and strategic planning as if you use up all your troops or magic, they cannot be replenished until you reach a castle or stronghold that is unoccupied or occupied by your generals/monarch. Magic is replenished fully in a stronghold/castle, while troops are recovered 1 at a time randomly per day. The kingdoms will be spread out so that kingdoms which have troops stronger than others will virtually be polar opposites on the map.

Dragons and Zombies will not be acquired unless special towers and caves on the map are visited. These areas will be numbered 1-8 and a d8 will be rolled. Each week the d8 will be rolled. If one of those areas is visited, the kingdom will receive a level 1 unit of a dragon (cave) or zombie (tower). The d8 is then rolled and a new unit is placed at the new location. If the location rolled is the previous location where a unit was just acquired, reroll the d8 and repeat until a new location is chosen. Players cannot "camp" locations that produce special units as the paths leading to these areas are considered blocked until a unit is available at the location.

That's all for now. Part 3 will come and some changes may occur in the future.
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Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:16 pm
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The Design Dream: Dragon Force Part 1

Richard Herrera
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As I've been here on BGG, I've weighed in my opinion in game forums, read countless posts about people's designs and waited in anticipation of the new hotness. One forum that I haven't really looked at, but have been curious about is board game design, yet I do not see myself as a future designer of games, but rather a partaker of other people's work. I don't think I will ever publish a game, but that doesn't mean I don't have an idea kicking around in my head. So this blog entry and possibly a few others are just for me to record my thoughts and who knows, maybe I will end up doing something in the future.

Like most of my posts before, my idea for a game stems from growing up playing video games. In fact, the idea is based off of a video game that I love and enjoyed about 15 or more years ago. Back when I was a kid, there was Sega verses Nintendo until Sony came around with their Playstation. I admit, I didn't jump on the PS wagon and instead opted for the Sega Saturn. While most would say that was a bad choice, in all honesty, it was a haven for some of the best RPGs from a great, yet now defunct company known as Working Designs. They put out some of my favorite games with Shining Wisdom, Magic Knight Rayearth, Lunar and Lunar: Eternal Blue (Sega CD), Albert Odyssey, and the inspiration for my game design, Dragon Force.

That's right, before it was used for the name of a speed metal band, it was the name of a strategy RPG that I have yet to really see implemented in the same way with maybe the exception of Advance Wars on Nintendo's handhelds. In Dragon Force you play one of six kingdoms (eight after you beat the game) who enter the "War of Insanity" when one kingdom declares they are taking over the other kingdoms. The goddess Astea speaks to a few of the kingdoms and tells them that a dark god, Madruk, was banished 1,000 years ago, but is rousing to take his revenge on the land and seeks revenge against the descendants of those who imprisoned him. All this leads to all the kingdoms fighting each other and some joining forces to eventually face the forces of Madruk and defeat him once and for all. The plot sounds generic, but the game is anything but boring.

First, the game uses 10 different units: soldiers, beastmen, samurai, dragons, harpies, archers, mages, monks, cavalry, and zombies. While the number is impressive, what really makes it awesome is that each unit is strong and weak against other units. For example, while cavalry are strong against soldiers and samurai, they are weak to beastmen and harpies. You also have four generals besides the ruler you choose which help you fight and they each specialize in different units so that you are not stuck with just one type of unit. By searching different keeps (if you have a general with a high enough intelligence), you can find items, weapons, and medals to give you new units so that you are not stuck with your starting type.

Second, your generals and rulers each have special powers that range from resurrecting your units, hitting generals specifically, destroying units, reducing a general's ability to use magic and freezing units. This means that each battle presented new challenges. Furthermore, the game allowed for different formations to be formed depending on the general. They could form in breach formations (essentially reaching the enemy side faster), raid formation (moving to the edges to avoid special attacks), squad formation (send out individual lines to adjust your strategy), etc. These formations again may help you defeat enemies or survive if you had less units than your opponent.

Finally, when you defeated enemy generals, you would capture them and once a week, have the opportunity to recruit them to your cause. If they accepted, that general fought under your colors as long as they remained happy for the most part (achieved by rewarding them for fighting). If they didn't accept, it was usually due to being loyal to their ruler. However, if you defeated all generals and their ruler, the story would advance where the ruler would join you as well as their generals. When all eight kingdoms were conquered, the end game would begin and Madruk would arise with his armies which the eight rulers now had to defeat and seal Madruk away for good. After all that, the game would restart, allowing you to choose from any of the eight kingdoms to see their sides of the story.

All this is to say, the game was amazing and I think a board game version would be awesome. My ideas of how to implement this in board form will have to wait for another post.

Working DesignsDragon Force
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Sat Nov 9, 2013 5:30 am
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