Here there be dragonsters

My blog of random boardgamey thoughts.

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My Thoughts on "The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul" (mainly the theme) and Where They Lead Me.

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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I've just watched Tom Vasel's review of The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul and some ideas popped into my head. Now, I want to start off by saying I don't own this game, nor have I played it, so these thematic ideas are from what Tom said. Having passed the buck and got my excuses out there already, the theme.

I'm a fan of The Lord of the Rings, I own all of the extended editions, I have the books and have just finished listening to the wonderful BBC Audio version from 1981 (I think). I also like the idea of players losing together or winning individually. So, when I heard of Nazgul, I was really impressed, it sounded exactly like what I'd be interested in. But, from the look of it, it looks like a Euro, which isn't what I'm normally interested in, and certainly doesn't seem to be what was advertised.

But, the theme. Nine (well, five at most) evil wraiths under the control and complete command of Sauron, struggle against each other, backstabbing as they go. When we look to the story, we see that the Evil armies work in concert. Saruman and Sauron work together in transporting the Hobbits, Merry and Pippin. Mordor, the Easterlings and the Haradrim work together at The Pelennor Fields. All of the Evil side was against the Fellowship in the destruction of the ring and there was very little that seperated them (though Saruman would have taken the Ring given a chance).

So would a semi-cooperative game fit into the Lord of the Rings? Well, I think so. But, not on the evil side, but the side of the good guys. In the film of the Return of the King, Theoden asks Aragorn "Where was Gondor when the Westfold burned?" Or even, inside the Fellowship itself, Aragorn and Gandalf argue over the path through Moria. Boromir demands the Ring go to Minas Tirith, and later Denethor questions Faramir over why he didn't bring it. Galadriel is tempted to take it, and I'm sure there are many other events like these.

Maybe a five player game could give to each player one of the non-Hobbits from the Fellowship and they must stop the Enemy taking the Ring back, trying to survive and completing their quests, taking the Ring to wherever. Or possibly, give them characters with power: Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, Theoden, Denethor, etc and have it play similarly to Mordred. So players take actions that would either make them "Lighter", like helping the Fellowship by providing them with supplies, or "Darker", like stopping them or helping the Enemy, and at the end of the game, we see if the Enemy or the Fellowship win. If the Fellowship wins, the "Lightest" player wins, but if the Enemy wins, the "Darkest" player wins.
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Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:17 pm
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eBay, Semi-Cooperation and a Random Idea for Battlestar Galactica

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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I should stop going on eBay. My collection of games I've found on eBay is growing. My collection of games I've bought from eBay and played is not however.

My last two sets of purchases have been 6 decks for WWE Raw Deal and the books for the "The Enemy Within" Campaign for WFRP. I will probably only play Raw Deal with one person who I will rarely see again unless we organise a meet-up (which is unlikely to happen considering our seeming inability to organise things), and I don't Roleplay or GM (although I did for a month or two GM a game of WFRP 2nd edition, before one of the players moved to New Zealand).

Out of my other purchases off of eBay that I've not played, I doubt I'll play many of them at my usual game group. About seven of them are probably too long for 7 to 11 gaming. And then there's 1829. 1829 looks quite interesting and there are some 18XXers at the Lion. Unfortunately I have carry my games in a backpack and travel on the train, meaning I can't really take 1829 to my gaming group. Curses.

I've also recently been thinking of "semi-cooperative" games. I don't think semi-coops are really semi-cooperative, as you're always cooperating with some people and never with some. Mostly they're really team games. But what about games like God's Playground where you need to cooperate to score highly, but you need to be slightly selfish otherwise the others will gain off your hard work. Surely they're more semi-cooperative?

And then to Battlestar Galactica. I've been playing in a few PBF games of BSG, and one of the problematic parts of it is when the Cylons are revealed, or are obvious. At that point the human players can work together with complete trust, while in the show, at this point, the humans turned on each other, probably with more venom than before. So, what if we (ok, I) try to make BSG (my version of) a semi-cooperative game?

So here's my idea:

Instead of loyalty cards and having a human/cylon split, what if everyone was a human? Each player has a hand of "agenda" cards and they're trying to complete them. Once they've completed one, he can reveal it as an action and then draw a new card. In the case of having rubbish agendas, they can be discarded for an action and draw a new hand. If the cylons win, everyone loses. However, should the Humans survive, the player who has revealed the most agendas by the end of the game would win.

Yes, I know that that's quite a different game in comparison to proper BSG, but I'm just chucking out a random idea.
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Thu Aug 4, 2011 8:53 pm
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My Gaming Journey

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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What happened to the last two weeks? Well two weeks ago I was in a foul mood and couldn't concentrate on what to blog about. Last week I was afraid my blog would have descended to OMGOSH I WONS OUTPOST!!!1!!!!11!!! or something only slightly more eloquent (maybe).

The fact that I won Outpost and immediately was thinking "My goodness, how on earth did I win, was it this, this or that? Did I just get lucky or did I have an amazing strategy, what was my strategy." I really wanted to play it again, trying to see if I could win again. As such Outpost is my first 10 (a score I had previous thought to myself I would never give). As such my gaming and thoughts on gaming change again.

But how did I get here? (cue wavy lines and a flashback)

I used to be a massive fan of fanasty and science-fiction. I loved watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and then Deep Space Nine. I loved reading the Wizard of Earthsea and the sequel and even Harry Potter (before he was famous). As such, it probably wasn't very surprising for a young Briton to end up playing Warhammer, Warhammer 40K and (when it came out) the Lord of the Rings. And by playing I mean making, and by making I mean buying. Eventually I managed to stop (my goodness the global campaigns were a trainwreck.)

However, I had joined a forum devoted to Warhammer (the Empire faction, if memory serves) which had started a few online games of Diplomacy. I'd never played any of them, not knowing the rules, but I found a copy and started looking for websites that could explain it or could provide me more information I then (somehow) found a video by the incredible Scott Nicholson. I think it was Friedrich.

I then starting watching all of his videos. I bought Ticket to Ride: Europe and starting buying more and more as I found this site (my bank balance curses BGG as it is surely to curse the Student Loan Company after next year). However I didn't really have anywhere to game and my opponents were limited about three or four other people. I then managed to find a game group in Liverpool (seperate from the RPGSoc at the University) where I remember responding to the question "What's your favourite game?" with the answer "War on Terror" shake.

As I went week by week, I started playing heavier and heavier games, however keeping a soft spot for lighter games (like Cosmic Encounter). Scott Nicholson had piqued my interest of 18xx games and so when they were brought out I started having a look at them. I now play them fairly regularly (along with Outpost) at the Lion on Mondays, however I occassionaly play "Thematic Games" gulp or Ameritrash. Which is annoying when 18xx appears on one table and Battlestar Galactica is on the other.

Recently I've been looking at GMT Games and their P500, so I'm now moving into "light" wargames like Here I Stand, The Napoleonic Wars or Pax Britannica, which, of course, are less likely to be played in an evening of gaming, so I'm yet to have played these against people. Shame.

And then I won Outpost last week, breaking my pseudo-taboo on giving a 10 rating. So, where will my gaming go next?
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Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:24 pm
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Narration on Narratives

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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As I look at the games I like to play (or really want to), I see a very eclectic mix. From 18xx to "Thematic" games like Battlestar Galactica, from economic games like Outpost and Silverton to games like Here I Stand. What is the connection to this random collection?

An obvious narrative arc.

Battlestar Galactica and wargames obviously have this as they are based (some more heavily than others) on a particular theme. I always remember the fact that the Admiral jumped us too far on the first jump leaving our fuel supply crippled in BSG. I remember one of my solo plays of Here I Stand, the Schmalkaldic League started on the second turn and the Protestants struggled to take control of the two Electors they didn't have (on the Western border) to get the extra troops.

I enjoy playing Silverton (even solo) due to the narrative. With players starting in particular cities, the railway connections people build spider-web across the map. The claims people want change as their railway system develops.

And 18xx? Many people would say it's very abstract, and component-wise? They're probably right, but it is incredible to see how the game develops. From the first companies to launch to the rail tiles and station token placement, these are part of the "story" of an 18xx. 18EU, for example, tells the narrative of minor companies attempting to connect to each other to develop into lucrative major companies. 1841, a game I really want to try, tells of the development of railway companies in Northern Italy during the Wars of Italian Independence.

I'm looking forward to A Few Acres of Snow which should be arriving soon, maybe that will be a deck builder with an actual narrative.
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Wed Jul 6, 2011 5:57 pm
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"Too Chaotic" and 18XX Don't Normally Go Together

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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18XX is an enjoyable series. The fact that each game is a distinct game rather than just a new map makes learning the games more interesting, at least to me.

On Monday, I finally got a chance to play 1829 Mainline. With five people. For those of you who haven't played it, 1829 Mainline is quite different from most other 18XXs, instead of having no randomness, the order each certificate comes out in is randomly determined by a draw deck. Which WOULD be a fantastic idea, in a three player game, maybe four. As we were playing a five player game, by time it came to my turn, the options for which shares to buy would be completely different from the end of my last turn.

The director's shares are also shuffled in. They are sufficient but not necessary to float a company, any three normal shares will work. If you draw the director's share and buy it, then you are the director, unless someone has more shares of the company, standard fare. If you're running a company and someone has two shares fewer than you and finds and buys that director's share, they're now running it. This caught me out and was the final nail in my coffin, as I then had only one company which couldn't afford to buy a train, meaning it's turn would be: "don't want to spend money, can't buy a train, lower share price". (The first nail would be the variant start we played were we auctioned off half the cards from our hands, and I spent too much.)

The track laying is also quite interesting as you can play as many yellow tiles in a row as you want until you hit a city or build a sharp curve. This, along with instant upgrading, means that the board will develop quite quickly, adding to the chaos in this game.

With the random share drawing and the fast development of the track, I'm thinking that Mainline with five is more chaotic than it should be for its length to be enjoyable. While I definitely want to give it another go, I doubt I'll want to play it again with more than four.
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Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:06 pm
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An Issue of Trust

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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On Monday, we had quite a few people turn up. We started 7 Wonders with 7 players (how novel). 7 Wonders is an odd game, as apart from 2 or 3 players, I think that the game plays similarly, as there's a group of players that you can't directly affect and who can't directly affect you. So scaling isn't really that important.

I'd brought Battlestar Galactica and some of the players had decided that it was going to get played. Then the Simon and James thought that playing 1829 Mainline would be a good idea. This caused a split in me, as I wanted to play both. In the end, I played BSG as Mainline got put on the sideline as too many people didn't want to play either of them. I lost BSG, why? Because one of the new players didn't grasp the Conflicted Loyalties from Exodus. This was the only thing from Exodus we used apart from Characters and the cards that were in the skill decks or the Crisis and Destinations decks. He thought the personal goals meant the player couldn't win if they weren't revealed. Why? Bad Explanation? Possibly, but I stated that the Humans would lose the resource if it wasn't revealed at the end. I had revealed one myself and had explained I'd done it so we wouldn't lose a morale at the end of the game. So he'd obviously not been paying attention. This, along with his acting like a Cylons so people wouldn't look at his Loyalty Cards trick, handed the game on a plate to the Cylons. ARGH.

Maybe I should stick to economic games next week. At least in those games you know who to trust. Absolutely no one.
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Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:37 pm
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Mansions of Innovation

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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On Monday, I played a game that's been in the BGG Hotness for a while: Mansions of Madness, and while I enjoyed it, there were some things about it that bothered me. I was one of the investigators and we lost. The mechanics were fairly simple, two moves and one action which can be looking at a pile of cards, solve a puzzle, attack or take an extra move. The investigators may take their turn in any order. After they've all gone, the "Keeper" (think Dungeon Master) gets some threat and can use this to take his actions: summoning evil things, moving them, or drawing cards. One of the things I liked was the puzzles, you are limited to a number of moves equal to your Character's Intellect skill. This means that you might be really good at solving puzzles, but hampered by not being able to do enough moves. Now, one of my problems: Insanity. In no way should a player (and therefore his character) be able to treat becoming a few tentacles short of a Lovecraftian Horror in the same way he would react to a stubbed toe. But then people will mention the Trauma cards. If a player has enough health damage or sanity damage, the Keeper can play Trauma cards, which have various effects. However, my problem is with "The Only Way Out" card (or a similar name). You see, when this is played, your character is dead. While the other cards give players a choice: if you do X take one damage, this one is just "you're dead", not even: make a really hard skill check or you're dead. Nope, you're just dead.

After this, we played Innovation, which is a game I've enjoyed the times I've played it. It's chaotic, and it's not always easy to strategise, but you can have a rough idea of what you want to do. The cards do a variety of different things, like: meld (play) any cards in your hand with a certain symbol, if you meld X cards, you get something. Each card has a number of symbols on it which might let you defend against an opponents action, or maybe copy it. This gives another level to the game as you have to think about what other people can do from your action.

I'm sure some of you are thinking "Wait, you don't like Mansions of Madness because of a card, but you like Innovation because it is all random cards?" Yes. In Innovation, any bad cards can be avoided by making the owner play a card on top of it, you can play cards to have more or the same number of symbols on it. The chaos is manageable, like Cosmic Encounter.
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Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:57 pm
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A Rather Crazy Idea

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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I haven't played much this week, as I didn't go to the Lion on Monday.

However, I did play Neuland yesterday. It was an interesting economic game. You are building up a country's engine, however, any of its citizens can use any of its buildings. This means if you build something, you're opponent(s) can quickly grab whatever resource that building produces.

And, well, that's kind of it. I'm playing a few 18XX games by e-mail. Most of which are fun (except for the fact that rails tells you exactly how little chance you have of making a come-back). Speaking of 18XX games, over the past week, both 1829 and 1829 Mainline have arrived at my doorstep. Mainline looks intriguing as it's an 18XX game with luck surprise I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

I've been trying to play some games solo. I've played the three CDGs I have, Here I Stand, the Napoleonic Wars and Paths of Glory, to many errors, I'm sure. I'm enjoying playing these multiplayer games solo, maybe due to the slightly more tactical nature of them.

Another one of the games that arrived recently is Empires of the Middle Ages. So I'm now wondering if it's possible to find a game for each "era" of European history and play consecutively (most likely solo). So far, I also own Here I Stand, Empires in Arms and Pax Britannica. This means that, if I want this to work, I need games set in the Classical Era, the "Roman" Era, the barbarian time after Rome Fell, the time from Here I Stand to Empires in Arms, The two World Wars and (maybe) a game for Contempory Europe.

I'd prefer them to have maps, diplomacy and multiple players. I don't want a desire to stick rigidly to history. So I'm leaning away from adding Paths of Glory to the list above. Any suggestions?
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Wed Jun 8, 2011 6:45 pm
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A month of catching up to do.

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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Wow, just looked at my last post, and that was a month ago. surprise

Why have I been gone? I'm currently in my third of four years of a Maths degree so I've has exams and a project, so that works been a priority. But oh well: gaming!

Two weeks ago, I played Maria. I enjoyed the combat mechanism, but it has one of the things I don't like in some games, forced sides. So, instead of letting the game be free wheeling, I am allied to you and against him, even if at some point in the game, changing sides would give me a better chance of winning. I enjoyed the combat, moving, supply and political events that occurred. I'd definetly give this another go, depending on what was on the other table.

I missed the next week, as I had an exam on Lie Groups and Lie Algebras in the morning. (Don't ask me anything about it, I remember nothing.)

This week was a Bank Holiday, which means more gaming time at the Lion, hooray. As we were unsure how many people would be there, we started off with Thunderstone. Now, I'm not really a fan of Dominion, as it seems to be just a mechanic, so I don't mind playing games with something else going on. The problem is that the monster are too random, you start off with three random types of monsters, then you shuffle that deck to randomly select which monsters start. In this game we had some of the hardest types and started with some of the hardest monsters out. This game went on FOREVER because of it. We couldn't kill any of them, and one of the monsters stoppped the others being bounced back to the deck, so it stalled. And stalled. And stalled. Maybe I jsut don't like deck building? He types, eyeing his pre-order for A Few Acres of Snow with worry.

After this we split into two threes, one playing Mansions of Madness and one playing 1825 Unit 1 with nearly all the trimmings, which took a while. One of the problems with it is that by time the companies in the South East of the board come out, the area around them has been developed and could block them out, over the summer, I really want to play with all the Units and Kits together in one game and see if that changes something. As always I lost with a few (probably a lot of) mistakes, sometimes I struggle to plan ahead and often only play for immediate short-term gain when I can improve my income alot more by laying a different tile which doesn't do as much for me now.

I've mainly been concentrating on my Knot Theory project (due in this Monday), so no random thought for me to ramble about down here. But I've got a game delivery which needs opening, so I'll see you next week.
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Wed Jun 1, 2011 2:15 pm
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A Historical Night

Gareth Madeley
United Kingdom
Wirral
Merseyside
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It's the first Monday in May, so that's May Day, another Bank Holiday and a longer game session: We managed to fit Outpost, and 18XX and a third game in, wow!

Having arrived at the Lion, I made numbers to 6, and having discussed options, we decided on Dominant Species, surprisingly quickly. Then a seventh player turned up, alright, 7 seven player Outpost. Again a quick decision scuppered by a Simon turning up. So instead we though of splitting into a 5 and a 3 as Simon T had brought Maria. Except another person was planning on coming and wanted to play that so we'd have 6 and 3. Six player Outpost, I'm not complaining.

I came second in the Outpost game, although I had quite high income, I didn't start turning that into points until quite late. Oops. This is a problem I seem to have when there are resources and points, finding that time to change from improving income to working on getting those all important victory points. Are there any good ways of seeing when that is (for any game)?

After that we split into Steam over Holland and a game of Agricola. an 18XX versus a game I'm not really interested in, hmm, not that hard really. With 5 people in it, there didn't seem much money, just enough to start a company with one private (then again we had one player who'd bought two, and he was unable to start a company). The money felt too tight from the start although that started ramping up, the early limit on finance resulted in only 4 companies throughout the game. I came third, which is my normal position in 18XX - we usually play three player.

With only a short bit of time left, we grabbed someone's copy of 7 Wonders while they were still playing Agricola. I tried to concentrate on getting the blue cards and massing the points while not bothering too much with green or red (as it seems that jack of all trades is master of losing in this game) I think I came second, so I don't think I did too badly. With University the next day, I thought I'd head off, but everyone left had another go at 7 Wonders.

As I look at these games (ok, maybe not 7 Wonders) I see that my tastes seem to lean towards the heavier games, with some interlocking and interweaving strategies with a degree of negotiation, diplomacy and, even though competitive games, cooperation. With orders from GMT and off eBay, I see that moving further into wargames like Here I Stand and Paths of Glory (which should be in a parcel heading in my direction), and I wonder about civilization games.

One of my favourite things about Here I Stand is the fact that it represents history without being constrained by it. So I wonder if there's a game like that over all of history. I know Through the Ages exists, and, regardless of the added time, I'd prefer a map to know where my civilization is, who I'm attacking where the battle is fought etc. I then hear some things about 7 Ages (of which I know very little) and that, for it's length, 7 Ages might well be a good title.

Are there any good "Whole of History" Civilization games that people can suggest?
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Wed May 4, 2011 3:33 pm
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