Captain's Blog

Thar be games ahead... Keep a weather eye out for the random posts, amusing anecdotes & incoherent ramblings of a life long gamer. You have been warned! Aaar!

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Building a Goblin Fleet from Scratch - Part II

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In my last post, I showed you how I went about creating a ship for the player created Goblin Fleet for my Man O' War game (the rules are over at the Sea of Claws). I had been wanting to give it a go at actually building some ships to use so I could play this fleet and after setting up a nice modeling area in my den, I finally dove in.

The two ships in this post are the Goblin Raft - which is a small Ship of the Line classed vessel, and the Freebooter, which is an Independent classed ship. One of the things I had wanted to do with my modeling of the Goblin fleet was tie the appearance of the ships into a similar overall look to bring a sense of cohesiveness to their design. I had a few metal parts to use from the official Games Workshop miniatures for the Orc fleet, but those are as hard to find as Hen's teeth these days, so I had to use the few I had sparingly and instead use readily available styrene (plastic) for the majority of the ship construction.

All the ships are a raft design so I basically created a simple raft design for each that used the same dimension styrene parts - but cut them to different sizes and into different layouts to give some variety. I took the styrene and scribed it with a modeling knife to give it a simple wood grain look that will paint up nicely when completed. The Freebooter, Hullbusta and the Goblin Hulk, have a raft design with larger flat pieces upon which the "planks" rest, while the smaller Goblin Raft uses squarer dimensioned pieces to give it a more compact look.

You can see what I mean by comparing the three ships discussed so far:

The Goblin Raft:




The Freebooter:




And the Hullbusta from the last post:



Using the same sized pieces in different lengths, different layouts and in different ways, makes all the ship look unique, but also makes them look like part of the same fleet because they are similar in details and appearance.

The Ram at the front of the Goblin Rafts are smaller than that of the Freebooter and was purposely modeled this way as the rules differ between the two and the fluff text specifically mentions this fact as well.

Note the size of the ram (and the differences in raft designs again) in both photos:





What's great about these two ships is that they are made ENTIRELY out of readily available plastic parts from any good hobby, model or train store. This ia also true of the Hullbustas but to a slightly lesser extent due to the metal parts used.

Next up is the grand daddy ship of them all - The Goblin Hulk!
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 5:22 pm
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Man O War - Building a Goblin Fleet From Scratch

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I'm a member of the Yahoo! group The Sea of Claws - which is one of the last bastions for fans of Man O' War. I created the group years ago and our membership as steadily grown to over 2700 now - with about 200 active currently.

We get a lot of player created submissions and one of the most impressive was the addition of a Goblin fleet for the game. This was a completely fleshed out submission with rules for multiple ships, flyers and other special rules so players can make a new fleet with little effort other than buying or making some ships to use.

I recently set-up a nice modeling/painting station in my house and this fleet was a good way to break it in. The fluff text for the Goblin fleet describes the ships as rafts that have been hodge-podged together (similarly to the Orc fleet). Since official Man O War miniatures are hard to come by (to cannibalize), I realized that the majority of the ships would have to be scratch built.

I took an inventory of what I already had that could be used and found a lot of styrene strips of various sizes and shapes that could be used. I also had a few spare parts from some old Orc ships that I had already used parts from for other conversions.

With a general idea of what I had in mind, I began with the construction!

The first ship I made was the Goblin Hullbusta. The fluff text describes this as a raft with a huge ball and chain attached to a (Orc) catapult that, when fired, propel the ball overhead (attached to the chain) and smashed it down on the enemy ship like a knight's mace. Cool in concept but a bit difficult to model without a lot of pre-made parts to canabalize.

Not having enough extra or spare Catapult parts from my existing Orc fleet, I decided to model this ship slightly differently. Instead of a overhead mace attack, I'd keep the general idea of a ball on a chain, but instead model it more like a wrecking ball attack. This turned out to be much easier to do as I was able to use a bunch of wooden parts picked up from Michael's (a craft store chain out here on the west coast). I made the rafts from cut pieces of the Styrene sprue that the original MOW masts came on, as well as new cut pieces of styrene from my strip stock. A wooden toothpick and a small segment of metal chain completed the necessary components and I kind of just built it as I went - not entirely sure how it would turn out,but with a general concept of the overall effect I was looking for.

Here is a shot of a completed Hullbusta along with most of the components used to make it:



You can see how the majority of the ship is made from styrene - I only have used a metal wheel from some odd miniature I had for the top of the hub and then I cut off a piece of an old Orc Epic 40K miniature to mount behind the hub. I made the "ball" from two piece epoxy putty (green stuff as it's more commonly known).



Finally, here is a shot of the completed squadron:




Without any official ships available for this fleet, some creativity was needed to field one. Since I relied mostly on readily accessible components, I can easily replicate this squadron as many times as desired. Of course the metal components I used are limited, but styrene substitutions could easily be crafted too.

The styrene "raft" components will be used in a similar fashion on the other ships to tie the fleet together and bring some visual cohesiveness to the fleet. I'll go into detail next on the Goblin Raft and Freebooter, while the post after that in the series, will detail the Goblin Hulk.
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Sun Aug 26, 2012 4:32 pm
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CCG Games Suck

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Wait. Let me explain.

I've never been a big fan of the whole CCG game model - lure you in with a decent starter deck and then slowly bleed your wallet dry by the desire to obtain oh-so-entincing rare cards that are harder to come by than a Jar-Jar Binks fan. You justify each purchase of "1 or 2" boosters by saying it's "really not that much money", but you never are honest with yourself nor do you sit down and take the time to total up your total investment either.

It's a fantastic marketing plan from a business standpoint initially, but like the vast majority of CCG's that hit the shelves, the desire quickly fades once the players realize that the game isn't that great, something newer (and better?) comes along or they simply come to their senses once they realize the sheer insanity of it.

Consequently, I don't buy CCG's. Well, let me clarify that - I don't buy them when they first come out, but I have been known to purchase a few in bulk once they are heavily discounted.

Which brings us to this past weekend.

I'm in my local FLGS and I've just picked up some card sleeves and plastic card holders (which I use for bits storage on many games - out with baggies!), when I pass the Clearance Rack and there are a bunch of new additions to the shelves - most notably, complete display boxes of Tomb Raider Collectible Card Game. Each display box contains 48 boosters and - what's this?... they have a price of $3.00 on them! That's right, $3.00 for a complete unopened display box of 48 boosters (with special foil cards). Now in the past, I had already picked up the two Starter Decks for this game (again at a huge discount), so here is an opportunity to really flesh out the game for a ridiculously low price.



My original purchase of the game was because it's one of the few CCG's that can be played solo without completely bastardizing the rules - the game was designed with solitaire play in mind. Since I travel alot, this game was appealing as it's small enough to pack in a suitcase and play in a hotel room. With a display box (or two) of boosters, I could really expand my game play (not that I had played either starter deck a single time up to this point, but you know what I mean). COOL!

I decide upon 2 display boxes - a whopping $6 out of my pocket, but John (the owner of the store), says that I should get at least one full set (about 210) cards from the boosters I have just bought. Technically the two starter decks already cover the first 50 cards so, I'm pretty optimistic. I pay the man and head home.

Once there, I set-up a small card table in my game room to begin opening the 96 packs and see what I have. I realize that I've never done this before - never once have I purchased a full display box in one fell swoop. This is kind of exciting!

I begin the slow process of opening each pack: carefully tearing them open, look through the cards to see what's what - mentally noting each "new" card that I have't seen yet. Wow, there are a lot of cool effects here - interesting gaming elements like "Save Points" and alternate "Lara's" to use. This looks like it's going to be a fun game.

Sweet.

I continue opening each booster pack - much faster now, as it's taking longer than I thought it would if I try and read each card. OH LOOK! My first foil card - Awesome! I wonder how many of those I will get in each display box? Here's another! I go through the first display box and I have 4 of them - numbered 5 through 8 (almost half of the 10 total and I've only gone through the first display box!).

I continue on.

About 20 minutes later, I'm done - a huge pile of wrappers, several large stacks of cards and I'm feeling pretty good about having at least one complete set of cards. Well, excluding the foil cards anyway, I already knew that I had doubled up on the ones I had opened in the first display box. That's ok, they were bonus cards really - ok not bonus cards, but I should be able to get the missing ones if I grab one more box... not a big deal.

I begin the slow process of sorting all 768 cards - first into stacks by "tens", then I go through each stack and find at least 1 card of each number for that group of 10. Initally, this process is great. I've got all the 50's... all the 60's... all the 70's... oops! Missing one from the 80's - no wait there it is... and so on. I'm moving along at a good clip thinking that I may get two complete sets out of this, but I suddenly get to the 150's and I'm missing 4 cards. FOUR. Dammit.

I sort the 160's and 170's... CRAP! I'm missing cards from theses stacks too. Suddenly, I realize I won't even have ONE complete set. Eventually, I see that I'm missing 2-4 cards from every grouping from 150 though 200, and I'm missing 6 of the foil cards. I think it took me about .01872 seconds to decide to jump in the car and go buy some more booster display boxes (before someone ELSE does!) and as I sheepishly walk into the store, John looks up from a graphic novel he is reading and asks how it worked out.

I tell him, I'm short a bunch of cards and I walk over to the Clearance Rack again. There are still 4 more display boxes there (whew!). I stand there for a few moments, my indecision growing and becoming more and more obvious. One. I definitely need one. Maybe two. One for sure though. What if one doesn't cover it? Ok, then it's definately 2. TWO really should cover it, right? I mean c'mon, that's another 768 cards for Pete's sake! I can't believe that I wouldn't get the 20 or so cards that I need if I get two more display boxes. It's only $6 anyway.

I pick up the two and I actually get the thought into my brain to just go straight to the register and buy them when it hits: There are two display boxes left. Only two. I should just get them, right? It's only $6. Well, $6 more, $12 total. $12? Man, I don't want to spend that on a game I barely am familiar with - I've never even played it actually. I should just put these two display boxes down and be happy with what I have already. I've already spent $6 too. If I grab these other two, I'm then into the game $12 and if I but all four, then it's $18! That's crazy! I don't even know if I like this game!.

This goes on for literally ten minutes - during which time I picked up between 1-4 display boxes and set them all back down again over and over and over. I'm sure John thought I was nuts. Eventually, it's decided - TWO boxes. THAT'S IT. If I don't get what I need from them, I'm DONE. I don't need to have every card anyway. Right? RIGHT? F*ck. I'm tempted to grab the last 2 again but I refrain and buy the two I meant to get in the first place. I feel like an idiot, but I head home, suddenly very optimistic about my chances for completing my collection.

At home, I immediately head back to the card table. It's not pretty. I'm ripping open the packs, quickly scanning the cards (there's one I don't have!) and hoping to get the rest of the foil cards I'm missing too. Display booster box #3 only has 3 foil cards in it. WTF! The others had 4 each in them. What a rip-off! I have to admit I was getting a little pissed at this point. I dig into the 4th display box and tear them open like a mad man. I'm not seeing anything new for a long time. I must have everything - right? Must be. That's good. I just need a few more foil cards I'm missing. The 4th display box had 5 foil cards in it so my 4 per box average holds up (whew!).

Finally, I'm done and the sorting begins anew. Another 45 minutes go by and I.m done with that. Now is the moment of truth! I pick-up where my incomplete set left off. I add the missing cards to my stack of 150's... fill in all the 160... Yes! This is good!... 170's.... 171... 172...174... 176... 173... 177... 178... 179... Where is 173? Where is 175? Did I miss one? Aha! Here is 175 in the stack of the 180's!... I need 173... 173... Son of a B*tch!

It's not there. I continue on... still missing some 180's, 190,s and still missing FOUR of the foil cards. Out of 8 cards I only got 2 I didn't already have. This is unbelievable! I've got 1536 cards here - how can I not have at least one complete set? What a crock of sh*t! I hate these damn games. This just validates exactly why I never buy them when they first come out. It's a total ripoff and you can't ever be sure you will get what you need. I look at the side of the booster display box and see the suggested retail price of $95.99 on it. I realize I've got the equivalent of $384 of CARDS sitting here.

My sanity comes back to me and I pack everything up into the cardboard card box I also bought to hold all these damn cards and put it away.

Lesson learned (again!).

I get out my copy of Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game and play a couple of quick games. Now this is much better. No booster cards required. Everything I need comes in the box. THIS is how games are supposed to be. I scoff at those fools that play Magic: The Gathering and how they are just throwing their money away. They won't ever get my money! I'm too strong for that.

Now, If you'll excuse me, I need to um... go out. To the store, I mean. The grocery store that is. I'm serious! I'm not going to the game store. I don't need those last two display boxes. I DON'T. I probably won't get the cards I need anyway, so what is the point? I'm not going there, really. (I do only need a few cards though). No, I'm not going down that path!. (I bet I'd get most - IF NOT ALL, of the cards I'm missing. After all it's another 768 cards!). No, I'm not seriously considering going there to get those... Just talking here...

Hey John!
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Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:13 am
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The Unplayed List - Part I (The Basis for the List)

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It's been awhile since my last post here and although I have numerous topics I eventually want to get to, there is one i particular that has pushed it's way to the top of the heap - The Unplayed Games list.

A Common Story...

When you first are starting out in the hobby, you most likely don't have a list of this type. You have a few games that you play a lot of and once you buy a new one, you immediately take it for a spin and see how it plays out. Games are all new to you at this point in time, why on earth would you bother to buy a game and NOT play it?

As your collection hits twenty games or so, you may realize that you are playing certain of your older games less and less as your new favorites come into the picture - grabbing all the attention and table time as you eagerly explore all the new mechanics and game play that they have to offer. Luckily, the time available for playing a new purchase or two most likely still dwarfs the total amount of free time devoted to gaming. But not for long.

If the gaming bug really takes hold, you'll find yourself increasing the size of your online gaming purchases. You will see that you are adding new games to an order - games that you originally had NO intention of buying at this point in time, simply to push your order into the realm of free shipping. Next thing you know, you are getting multiple TANGA alerts to tempt you into buying every game that pops up because it's such a good deal - even though you would never have bought the game otherwise.

And suddenly, it happens.

You realize at some point, that you now have 5 or 10 or even 20 games that you've recently bought (or at least in the past few months), that you have not only not played, you completely forgot you even purchased! How did that happen? That can't be right can it? How did I manage to get 10 games - some still in shrinkwrap even, and they've already been obscured by other games on the shelves?

Now multiply that effect by 10 years or so and you'll wake up to see that you have HUNDREDS of unplayed games in your collection. HUNDREDS!

Now I recently have been going through my collection and giving each game that I KNOW I've played in my lifetime an arbitrary log of a single play - just to remove those precious few games off of my list of shame, but even after I complete that (and I'm in the middle of doing so), I know that I will still have a sizable amount of games that have never been played once. Never. It is these games that this list is primarilly going to address - but there is another subset of my collection I'm looking at too.

For the better part of this year I have made a concentrated effort to try and play a lot of the great games that I have in my collection that have been languishing on the shelf feeling neglected. In some cases - a small few, there are some games that I've actually played when I first got them, but these games - for whatever reason only saw a single play. Add those to the list of totally unplayed games and you can see I have my work cut out for me.

I have not yet finished adding my "Unlogged Plays from Memory" but I can show you a partial list of games unplayed out of the first 300 games in my collection. There are more to comebut for now, I wanted to see if I was alone in this or are there others out there who also have a growing list of Unplayed Games that are willing to join me in my quest to shorten their lists alongside me.




The Unplayed List (The 1st 3rd)

Here are the games I have decided I need to play at least ONE TIME (Taken from the first 300 games in my collection):

Age of Steam, Alhambra, Amun-Re, Arkadia, Atlanteon, Back to the Future: The Card Game, Battle Cry, Boomtown, Buck Rogers: Battle for the 25th Century Game, El Caballero, Caesar & Cleopatra, California, Carolus Magnus, Cathedral, Cave Troll, Chang Cheng, China, China Moon, Clans, Container, Corsairs,I Go!, D-Day (second edition), D-Day, Deadlands: Doomtown, Dragon Masters, Duel in the Dark, Dungeoneer: Tomb of the Lich Lord, Sun Tzu, Ebola Monkey Hunt, Entdecker, Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings

I will cross each played off this list and take a look at it next year!



Points of Discussion:

Do you find yourself with an increasing number of unplayed games in your collection? Have you already fought this demon and beat it? If so, what did you do? Stop buying games for awhile? Force yourself to play everything bought? How many unplayed games are there in your collection? What game(s) in my list would you recommend that I play as soon as possible?
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Sat Jun 25, 2011 5:21 pm
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Just What I Needed - The CARS at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA

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Short Version:

The TOP TEN REASONS that contributed to a Fantastic Evening.


1. I was a Junior in High School when The CARS came out with their self-titled debut album (Disco was at it's PEAK at this time and like most High School guys of this era, Rock and Roll was where it was at).
2. I never got to see them in concert when I was young.
3. I probably wouldn't have been able to splurge to see them now on my own.
4. I have the best Best Friend a person could ask for...
5. ...who - although is not the huge fan of The CARS like I am...
6. ...bought my wife and I a ticket...
7. ...and got to the venue 6 hours prior to the show...
8. ...to ensure we would be first in line
9. ...and then was cool with my wife and I going to the front row, while he and another friend watched from another vantage place.
10. The CARS stepped out of a time machine and put on a fantastic show.

The Long Version:

The year is 1978 - the summer before my Junior year in high school. I am the typical teenager: I loved cars (owned a 1975 Trans-Am), loved music and loved to party with my friends. Disco music is at it's peak and there is a big backlash building towards that genre of music - not only in high schools, but all across America. "Disco Sucks" t-shirts were being seen more and more frequently.

Rock and roll radio stations are few and far between as the radio airwaves are filled with the Bee-Gee's, Gloria Gaynor and Chic's "Le Freak" and there was little refuge from it all in a world prior to MTV and iPods.

And then it happened.

Sometime in May of 1978, The CARS released "Just What I Needed" as the first single from that debut album and it quickly became the anthem for those of us tired of the Disco incursion. Everyone I knew had the album and those with a cassette player in their car had a copy of the album as well.

"My Best Friend's Girl" and "Good Times Roll" soon followed, and as their image and music began it's climb to eventual super stardom, my friends and I played their debut album over and over and over again. Times were a bit different then - my parents (and most of my friends parents) would allow my friends and I to drink beer at the parties we would throw - provided all car keys were confiscated and those too drunk to drive would stay the night. (Try doing THAT today!)

At the end of our Junior year, The CARS released their 2nd album: Candy-O and the first cut off of it was "Let's Go" hit the airwaves on June 12th, 1979. With the risque and over-the-top album cover by famed Playboy artist Vargas, The CARS suddenly became the bad boys of the airwaves and the moms of our female friends were suddenly concerned about this "sex music" that everyone was playing. Benjammin Orr suggestively licking a lolipop on the back of the album cover did little to dissuade their fears. Their daughters were in trouble and they knew it. Luckily for them, we were the "good boys" that their daughters hung out with and they were allowed to spend time with us.

The following summer - prior to our Senior year in school, was spent driving, partying, swimming, partying and going to the beach to party some more. With two albums by The CARS to pick from now, we could listen to them twice as long (which we did) and there were endless debates over which album was better, who was the better vocalist, and which song was the best. There was no debate however, that The CARS were our favorite band.

I could go on and on about that year and all the times spent listening to them (and other top groups of that time like Styx, Foreigner and Journey), but I think you get the idea. Concert tours were a big, extravagant expense for a teenager at that time and although I did go to my fair share, the stars never aligned for me to see them - something I always regreted to this day. Well, until last night anyway.

More albums followed. I bought them all. I enjoyed all the solo albums from Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr and even Greg Hawkes. There were more hits, more great videos and somewhere along the way, The CARS reached superstardom status. Their "Heartbeat City" album was their most successful, spanning several major hits - "You Might Think" winning the "Video of the Year" at the MTV Music Awards and "Drive" establishing itself as one of the most signature ballads of that entire era.

When their last album came out in 1987, they had their last big hit "You Are the Girl" and soon after that they went their seperate ways. Ric Ocasek was qouted as saying "There will never be a reunion - and you can take that to the bank." "Never say never" I always thought, and although the chances were slim, I still hoped one day they would get back together.

When Benjamin Orr passed away from Pancreatic Cancer in 2000, the hope that their would be a reunion tour all but disappeared and The CARS were regulated to my nostalgic memories, and still frequent playing at home and on my iPhone - much to the chagrin of my two daughters.

"That sounds so Eighties dad."

Yeah, I know.

Flash forward to early April of this year. Someone in Chit Chat posts the link to the news that their is a new video out for The CARS.

WHAT? DID I READ THAT RIGHT? NEW VIDEO FOR THE CARS?

I quickly devoured the two videos ("Sad Song" and "Blue Tip") and saw that they would be touring... and NEARBY in Oakland, CA!

Holy Crap! After 24 years, my favorite band had a new album out and one of the few cities the tour was stopping in would be closeby. I had to see them, I just had to.

Unfortunately, real life tends to makes things difficult. A while back I was unemployed for 9 months and it took it's toll on us financially. I'm working now, but there is little extra money to spend on extravagant things like Concert Tickets. I'm working now, but not at the pay level I was at 2 years ago. Real life sucks.

I am very lucky however. I have some pretty amazing friends. The one I've known the longest is my friend Clyde. We literally met on the first day of Kindergarten many, many years ago and we have been the best of friends for nearly 45 years now. He has always been a great friend to me and through the years he's always been overly generous to me - even though I've never been able to reciprocate in the same manner. He is extremely thoughtful, though he'd never admit it and he has often surprised me with a extravagant gift (I can't even remember how many of the video game consoles I own he has given me over the years). Through the years, I've been to many concerts I would not have been able to afford on my own due to his generousity and he pretty much topped them all with this one.

When I heard about the new album and tour, I naively thought I was the one breaking the news to him, but unknown to me, he had already purchased tickets for my wife and I to join him. I'm sure he was amused by my comments about selling some stuff on ebay to afford the tickets.

When he let the cat out of the bag in a brief email to me - "I have tickets for the two of you. Be there." - remember looking at my wife in disbelief and her commenting "We have the most amazing friends." (This is just a few weeks after my other amazingly generous friend Shawn took me to Florida to attempt to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor launch - again when I could not have afforded it on my own. That is another story however - so stay tuned).

So we are up to last night, driving to our other friend Jeff's house to carpool to the concert. The two of us are decked out - I'm all in black, an homage to Ric Ocasek of sorts. My wife is looking stunning in a black a white outfit with a slight 80's vibe to it. I'm actually wearing black suede shoes that I still have from the early eighties. We're listening to the new album again - probable the 5th or 6th time since I picked it up the day before. I've been subjecting her to all the old music for the past week and she has been enjoying it from what I could tell.

Unknown to me, Clyde has been at the Fox Theater since 1 in the afternoon, making sure that we would be first inside - my choice of vantage points ensured. He is a professional concert goer - he probably see's 2-4 shows a month (this amount being heavily curtailed from his earlier days of 1 or 2 A WEEK prior to his being married). Did I mention that although Clyde enjoys their music, The CARS were not really a band he was into growing up. He doesn't even own a CD of theirs - except for the newest one. Again, this was really something the guy did for a friend of his because that's the way he is.

The Fox Theater is one of his favorite venues, he knows the ins and outs of the place and he describes the way the floor is set-up: the main floor and 2 more tiers each with a railing to lean against. He tells me the front row will usually be ight up against the stage and that I'll have to strain my neck to look up at a steep angle if that is the case. He and Jeff plan to take their usual vantage point - dead center at the 1st tier rail, but I should go where I want to. I struggle with it, but it's a once in a lifetime chance so I have to go for the front row - regardless of the potential pain it may be. My wife's back is hurting her so she plan's to watch with them.

Finally the doors open and we rush in... I quickly take my spot:

Dead Center.
Front Row.

Unbelievably, there is a walled pit in front of the stage about 5 or 6 feet deep. I am back JUST far enough to allow a great close view without having to crane my neck up at a weird angle to see. I text my wife and tell her the layout and within a few minutes she has moved down with me, the two of us securing our area to avoid being crowded and crushed against the barrier. This turned out to be unecessary, the crowd was cool - they were here to see the band of THEIR youth too. I then noticed that the age range was a lot higher than the last concerts I remember: plenty of bald spots, pot bellies and wine drinkers are in view. Definitely an older crowd.

There is no opening act and at 8:20, they finally take the stage. First up is an appropriate tune: "Let's Go" - and the crowd went wild. The first minute of the song was drowned out by the cheers, whistles and clapping that continued from the audience. The CARS were back and we wanted to let them know how much they were loved.

The show itself was fantastic. It was amazing. It was awesome.



To quote one of the reviewers I recently read, "This was the sound of a band picking up a conversation in mid-sentence."

They sounded just like the did all those years ago: Elliot Easton nailing every guitar solo he had - and there were a lot of them; Greg Hawkes playing his quirky and signiture keyboard sounds like a frenetic mad scientist; David Robinson with his cool synth drum set-up, delivering the heartbeat of the group with precision and style; and finally Ric Ocasek, all 6+ lanky feet of him, clearly having fun and enjoying himself as he delivered the vocals to not only his mainstays, but to those of missing bassist Benjamin Orr.

There were some differences in the way those songs sounded, but it also was COOL to hear a new take on those tunes. The audience was not disappointed and clearly the band was a bit surprised as to how MUCH enthusiasm the crowd was showing them. As usual, the two who did the most talking were Easton and Hawkes. Ocasek his typical quiet self for the most part (something that he get's unfairly knocked for).

There were 5 or 6 songs from the new album, a lot of the expected tunes and a few older surprises as well.

Here is the Set List from last night:


1. Good Times Roll
2. Blue Tip
3. Since You're Gone
4. Up and Down
5. My Best Friend's Girl
6. Hits Me
7. Touch and Go
8. I'm in Touch With Your World
9. Keep On Knocking
10. You Might Think
11. Drag On Forever
12. Free
13. I'm Not the One
14. Sad Song
15. Heartbeat City
16. Let's Go Play

Encore:
17. Moving In Stereo
18. Just What I Needed


With Benjamin Orr missing from the group, his bass parts were taken over by Greg Hawkes who either played them himself (on an original Bass Guitar owned by Orr) or they were programmed and synced to his keyboard licks and were played automatically. At one point, Hawkes even mentioned Ben, stating that they miss him and they remember their friend.

All in all it was too short, even though they played for nearly 90 minutes. I had to remember that these uys are in their late fifties and early sixties - so I had to cut them some slack in that area.

The highlights for me were the full audience participation of the opening hand claps for "My Best Friends Girl", Ocasek laughing and smiling as he had the audience sing his signature "But you kept it going till the sun fell down. You kept it... GOING!" on "You Might Think", and the total awesomeness that was the live version of "Moving in Stereo".

My wife recorded a snipet of that in video that and it's now uploaded below:




I'm sitting here on Saturday morning, still elated to have not only seen my favorite band, but having seen it in the way I described above. It couldn't have been any better short of being longer, a backstage pass or having Orr still around.

Clyde is an amazing friend and I truly enjoyed this once in a lifetime moment.

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Sat May 14, 2011 9:05 pm
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"Move Like This" - 24 years later and The CARS are STILL F'n AWESOME!

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Yesterday I went down to Best Buy to pick up the new CD from my favorite band of my youth - The Cars (yes, CD - I hate iTunes!). That, in itself, was an interesting venture - the nearly 50 year old Dad, somewhat out of place with all the young tech gurus at the local Best Buy... trying to find the CD.

It was kind of comical actually.

I had been to the store just a few days earlier looking for the CD (it wasn't out yet) and knew right where it should be. As I'm standing there, looking at what CARS CD's they did have, one of the young kids comes up to me...

BEST BUY EMPLOYEE (BBE): "Can I help you Sir?" (SIR? WTF?! When did that happen?")
ME: "I'm looking for the new album - umm.. CD from The CARS - "Move Like This". (Way to go - he probably doesn't even know what an album is.)
BBE: "Carts?"
ME: "The CARS"
BBE: "Cars. Hmmm... That doesn't sound familiar"
ME: (No shit). "THE CARS. It just came out today."
BBE: "I don't see it."
ME: (Yes, I didn't either, that's why I'm talking to YOU.) "Yeah. I didn't see it either."
BBE: "Are you sure it came out today?"
ME: "Yes. I Am. It's even in your advertisement today. There is a special edition by Best Buy even."
BBE: "Oh. Okay. Let me call in back - maybe it hasn't been put out yet."

I walk around for a few minutes while this kid is looking and talking to someone else in the back. While I'm standing there an older looking guy comes up - must be a manager.

BEST BUY MANAGER (BBM): "Have you been helped?"
ME: "Yes, I have, thanks. I'm waiting to see if you guys have the new album by The CARS."
BBM: "New album from The CARS? That's cool - I hadn't heard that!
ME: (This guy at least knows who they are) "Yeah, they are playing The Fox in Oakland tonight - going to be great!"
BBM: "I'm jealous! Let me see if I can find the cd for you."

He wanders off and I continue looking around. Another young kid comes up to me...

BEST BUY EMPLOYEE #2 (BBE2): "Are you looking for a CD for Cars?"

He is actually holding up the soundtrack to Pixar's CARS movie.

ME: "THE CARS. The band. Not the movie. (THE you numbskull, it's THE CARS.)
BBE2: "Ok. Sorry. Let me go look so more."

And he wanders off.

There is a tap on my shoulder and I turn around to see the manager standing there - the new CD in hand.

BBM: "Here you go. It was on a cart to be brought out. We only got in 9 copies - you've got the first.
ME: "Awesome! Thanks a lot!"
BBM: "I grabbed the 2nd copy - thanks for the head's up."
ME: "No problem. I need to play the hell out this until tomorrow night.
BBM: (Laughs)

I look down and see the price: $13.99 - it was supposed to be $9.99 according to the ad. Before I can say anything he says:

BBM: "It will ring up correctly - enjoy it and thanks for shopping at Best Buy"

So back to the original topic... the NEW CD FROM ONE OF THE COOLEST BANDS OF THE 70's and 80's!

I had heard a couple of the songs already on You Tube - the first single "Sad Song" is a slice of classic Cars sounds updated with a fresh, new vibe. It's catchy, and both familiar and new at the same time. The opening guitar rifts and hand claps sound like they came right off of their debut album, yet there is much new stuff to love.



Listening to the rest of it was like a journey down memory lane - lots of trademark bits and a recognizable style, yet still different and produced to sound like today's music. How the hell they pulled that off is beyond me, but I'm not the only one who feels this way apparently. Here is an excerpt from the review in Rolling Stone:

"There are moments when Move Like This, the first new album by the Cars in 24 years, sounds so much like a Record by the Cars that you find yourself laughing out loud. Take "Sad Song," on which the opening salvo - a terse guitar strum set against the machinelike thwack of snare drum and hand claps - is such a note-perfect evocation of the band's vintage attack that it almost plays like winking self-parody. Ronald Reagan was mired in the Iran-Contra scandal when Ric Ocasek and Co. released their last studio album; Benjamin Orr, the Cars' bassist and co-lead singer, died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. But the Cars haven't moved their music an inch. This is the sound of a band picking up a conversation in midsentence."

Read the whole review HERE.

Several songs are already in heavy rotation at our house:

Soon - a lush balad that the wife loves. THis would have been a signature Benjamin Orr song had he still been with us, yet, Ric Ocasek's vocals serve it well in a whole different way.

Blue Tip - The other video that is out and another familiar yet new take on their music. I find myself humming this one as I work on the laptop.

Keep on Knocking - Rocking guitars and fantastic Greg Hawke's keyboards.

Rocket USA (demo version) - Only availablke on the Best Buy CD, this is the "Moving in Stereo" or "Shoo Be Doo" cut for this album. Haunting and sounding very techno - this is like a cut of the Tron album from Daft Punk. Very addicting.

Why The CARS are not in the Music Hall of Fame is beyond me. The phrase "Classic Cars" now has a whole new meaning in my book. I'll let you know how tonight's show is too.
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Fri May 13, 2011 10:07 pm
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Most Wanted: Games that I MUST have

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Time for some self-indulgence!

This might not be that interesting to most out there - it's really a wish list for the wife to see (*wink wink*), but it still might be fun to share this with the 2 readers I have!

With the economy the way it is, a previous 9 months of unemployment, an unexpected tax bill and my current job being one more of necessity than a big money maker, my game purchases have dropped way off the map this past couple of years. I am pretty much regulated to my birthday, Father's Day and Christmas and even then it's toned way back.

That doesn't mean I'm still not drooling over every new thing that comes out - as well as some classics that I need to finally add to my collection. There are quite a few games that have been on my radar for awhile and I thought it might be fun to not only list them, but to prioritize them as well (the wife DOES read this Blog mind you!).

SO here we go... What am I drooling over the most?

1. Vinhos

This has got to be in the top spot I think. It's got a great theme (who doesn't love wine?), seems really deep and involved and looks like it will reward those that take the time to get into it (like Agricola does - we are now playing Farmers of the Moor on the level 3 dificulty, using the complex decks and the Through the Seasons mini board with no problems). Is it out already? I don't know - I have buried my head in the sand until I can afford it!

2.The Great Fire of London 1666

This was on my wishlist last year for Christmas but unfortunately wasn't out in time to make the wife's Christmas order from Thoughthammer. I believe it has since been available, but again - it's a big luxury item right now so I am hoping it stays in print long enough to eventually allow me to snag a copy. I love the unusual mechanics in this one (I've downloaded the rules and could probably play immediately without refering to them I've read them enough!). I'm thinking this will be a great 4-5 player game with more people meaning more chaos in how the fires spreads.

3.Catacombs

Another 2010 Christmas List game that turned out to be not available at the time of her game order. There is a reprint coming soon - and I hope to grab one of those copies before they are all gone as well. I think this game will be really fun - the premise alone is enough to make me want it, but I think it will really shine with the kids as well as the adults. Of course the expansion is coming out too...!

4.Galaxy Trucker

I missed the boat on this one when it first came out and basically passed by it without a 2nd thought. I then saw Dungeon Lords and was very intrigued - enough so to buy a copy based on the theme alone (no recommendations or convention playings to help me to decide to get it). After playing it ONE time - I knew that I had to try Galaxy Trucker too as the design was just too inspired to think it was a flash in the pan. Now Galaxy Trucker is on my wishlist and it's a game I MUST HAVE!

5.Twilight Imperium: 3rd Editon

Here's a game that I own the original edition of. A friend of mine has the 3rd Edition and I can get my fix of it whenever I want, but FFG has pushed me over the edge to get my own copy with their recent announcement of another expansion for the game: Shards of the Throne. I've downloaded the rules and printed them up (as I do for most games I am wanting to buy), and I have been salivating over all the new feaures for the game - new races, new tech, new systems, new cards and new ways to play. This is the type of gaming that I wish publishers did more often - offer me lots of variety and optional rules and let me tailor the game to my liking! Naturally I need all the expansions too!

Discussion Points:

What do you think of my choices? Are they games on your wishlist too? What game(s) am I not including that you think I should be considering too? Do you own any of these games and if so do you agree or disagree with my choice to include it? Do you think I have a good shot at winning the Lottery?!
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Wed May 11, 2011 4:06 am
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The Arkham Almanac - The Time Has Come.

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If you've been following along with this blog, in last week's entry I posted the 2nd half of my Favorite Expansions for Games Ranking in the Top 100.

The last entry on that list was for Arkham Horror: Innsmouth Horror Expansion and it was the only expansion that I had not yet had a chance to play personally.

Until yesterday!

We sat down to play a 3 player game of Arkham Horror - each player with 2 Investigators each and we added in the Innsmouth expansion as I had been wanting to play it since I've owned it. One thing we learned almost immediately with this expansion - it is relentless and steps up the difficulty very quickly.

Within the first few turns, the Mythos Card draw had already had us place 3 counters on the Deep One's Track and the Terror Level had been raised by 2 - and we hadn't even got our feet wet (so to speak). Luckilly, there were two Investigators in our group that could not ne arrested (Wendy Adams - Street Urchin and Mark Harrigan - the Soldier), so they were dispatched up there in anticipation of Martial Law eventually being declared and were good candidates for placing clue tokens on the Deep One's Track to counter it's effects. We also had Patrice - The Violinist, who gained clue tokens relatively easily and could allow others to use hers when they were spending them, so she was able to feed them to others as they needed them to close gates or place on the Deep One's Track.

However, this blog entry is really not about a Session Report for our game, instead it's for the discussion of an idea I've had gestating for awhile in my head and it always bubbles back up to the surface after playing a game of Arkham.

The Arkham Horror Game Series:




Take a good look at all those photos - there are 4 large box and 4 small box expansions all together. Along with all that gaming goodness comes new rules that add to, replace, or change existing rules in the game. Even for the most devout fan of the game, keeping everything straight in your head during a game is a daunting task at the very least.

I think that Fantasy Flight Games needs to make a comprehensive rule's manual that combines all of the base game and expansion rules into a single document where everything is discussed in it's appropriate place in the flow of the game.

As it stands, each time you play with an expansion, you are flipping back and forth through several rule books, looking for relevant sections that the additional rule may affect, checking the FAQ to clarify things and struggling to remember all this and keep it straight while also trying to enjoy the game and be immersed in the setting and what is going on.

Now, I am already aware of (and use extensively) Universal Head's AWESOME Rule's Summary, as well as the fantastic, online Arkham Horror Wiki, but they aren't the same as what I am proposing.

The Rule's Summary is great to see the general flow of things and see how and when something fits into the game flow, but you often still need to go read up on the rules (both the original rule as well as the addition) and this is where the flipping back and forth gets tiresome.


Imagine a rulebook like the Duel of Ages: Masters Addendum, where all 9 expansions are combined into a single rulebook. As new additions to existing rules were added over the multitude of expansions, that system suffered from the same problem that Arkham, now does - wasted minutes (repeatedly) of asking yourself "Where is that rule again?" or "What happens with this addition in play?". The Master's Addendum effectively combined the entire series of rulebooks into a single cohesive document that is very user friendly.

I would even suggest taking it a step further by incorporating all the FAQ sections into the rulebook - and locate them in the sections where they are relevant, not in another index that you have to search through to locate what you are trying to find out. How often do you read a rule, still have a question and then need to search through an FAQ to see if it addresses the anomaly you are dealing with.

I can also see a huge encyclopedia of other needed information added to it at the end. How about a summary of all the Ancient One's and how they change the game? Or an Investigator's Listing comparing all the starting equipment, abilities, personal stories, and skills in one place for easy access?

There could be a complete compendium of all the Monsters from all the expansions along with a listing of WHAT monsters come with each expansion so you can add or remove them easily! Why there aren't expansion symbols printed on the Monsters themselves is a mystery worthy of the Investigators themselves!

Are you with me here? Do you see how awesome this could be? Call it the Arkham Almanac, or Arkham Arcana or the Enclyclopedia Arkham Horrorica for all I care, but let's talk about this and see what kind of great ideas we can send to Richard, Kevin, Christian and the rest of the Fantasy Flight Games team!

Discussion Points

What do you think of the Arkham Almanac idea? What are your experiences with having to look-up rules and other important information during this or other games? What would you like to see included in a product like this? What fan produced documents cover some of these ideas already? What format would you like to see the Almanac in? Would you purchase a product like this?
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Sun Apr 17, 2011 10:11 pm
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My Top 10 expansions for Games in the Top 100 (Part II)

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I (still) LOVE EXPANSIONS!

Welcome to the 2nd half of this particular Top 10. If you didn't read the first one, you may want to jump back one blog entry and do so first so you are caught up on what is going on. These first two posts regarding some of my Top 10's were a lot of fun to do as well as being an experiment of sorts. I think on the next one, I'll reverse the order to give a little suspense to the thing. I also plan to do one of these series approximately once a month - maybe less, maybe more, depending on how much people enjoy them.

I also plan to do one more post regarding this particular Top 10 - The Expansions I Passed Up and Why They Didn't Make the Cut, so stay tuned (subscribe!) and you can expect to see that up next.

Without any further rambling, here are the second 5 of my Top 10 expansion of the games ranked 1-100.

Enjoy!

My Top 10 Favorite Expansions (The Full List)
(For Games Ranking between 1-100 and shown in order of their Base Game Ranking)

Farmers of the Moor - Agricola(3)
Le Grand Hameau - Le Havre (6)
Grand Inquisitor & Colonies - El Grande (11)
Pegasus Expansion - Battlestar Galactica (18)
The New Huts - Stone Age (26)
Shattered Empire - Twilight Imperium (3rd) (27)
On the Brink - Pandemic (28)
Rails of Europe - Railroad Tycoon (33)
Innsmouth Big Box Expansion - Arkham Horror (56)
The Alea Treasure Chest Expansion for Notre Dame - Notre Dame (86)


#6Stone Age: The New Huts is a great example of an expansion that can make a game seem fresh and new, without taking away the appeal of what you enjoyed most about the game in the first place.

Stone Age is a great worker placement game that feels very different from other games in the same genre like Agricola or Caylus. You are collecting resources with your tribe members (or perhaps attempting to collect resources is a more accurate statement), and then you use these resources to buy cards or huts to earn victory points. The game is fantastic the way it is, and the way the huts are valued is strictly based on the cost of the resources that you used to purchase them.

Until now.

The addition of the New Huts changes that idea in a bunch of new and interesting ways, yet keeps the overall feel of the game very similar to what it was initially. There are 6 new huts in the expansion and unlike the base game, they don't reward you with points based on the resources you spent to buy them. For example the hut that costs 3 stone should be worth 15 points if the base game criteria is used, but here, it is only worth 5 points. Instead of the other 10 points, you are granted the ability to collect a free stone each turn for the rest of the game! Now you have to carefully weigh the benefits of this hut against it's cost (3 stone) and whether there are going to be enough turns to earn you more (hopefully a lot more!) than you paid for it. There are similar huts for clay and wood and each is tempting under the right circumstances.

For the person going after the set collections of cards, the free resource each turn makes it simpler to plan your strategy and more likely that you'll have enough resources to do what you want and buy what you need card wise.

The other 3 huts offer either a bump up on the food track, a free tool, or an additional tribesman. Again, these incentives are very tempting depending on what you already have (or are behind in), where in the game ltime-wise you are, and how many points you already have. With these additions, the game is just not about racing to get the most points for the huts, as now you can grab huts to give you extra advantages to then get more huts or cards even faster - leaving you with the choice of guarenteed points now or the potential to get even more points later on.

These are simple additions, yet they greatly increase the decisions you'll need to make and take the game to new and interesting places.


#7 Okay, I'll admit that I've only played Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) a few times with Shattered Empire, but this is an expansion that MUST be included in any game of TI:3rd as far as I'm concerned.

This expansion is actually built along the lines of my number one expansion - On the Brink, as it includes a tool box of additional components to use (or leave out) as desired. There are: 4 new unique races, 28 additional system tiles (including the new Ion Storms), 8 variant strategy cards, 1 variant Imperial Strategy card, 22 new and additional domain counters, 28 objective cards, 12 shock troop counters, 8 artifacts, 98 addition technology cards, 14 new single race specific technology cards, 12 space mine tokens, a tile and rules for a "Wormhole Nexus", 16 facility cards, 2 Mecatol Custodians tokens, 40 new action cards, 32 new political cards, rules for up to 8 players, new rules to make Tactical Retreats, Political Card variants, rules for "Simulated Early Turns" to speed up the early game, and finally, new rules for a Winnaran "Yellow" Technology.

Now THAT is a big expansion!

That selection of stuff allows you to tweak the game and alter it to suit your tastes. You kind of have to be a dedicated, semi-regular, player to really get the most bang for your buck out of this expansion, but it will be great journey getting to that level of familiarity to be sure. I always prefered the 1st Edition of Twilight Imperium as it was more of a wargame in that incarnation, but Shattered Empire has easily returned the 3rd edition of the game back up to the lofty levels of appreciation I had for the 1st edition. If you like your games epic, long and very satisfying, there are few games that can deliver an amazing expirence like this one.


#8 I find Battlestar Galactica to be a great game - but not one that I would want to play too often. I really enjoy the political intrique, the suspicion, the accusations and the duality of two opposing groups working against each other. It's especially good after a long hiatus fromthe table, where you've forgotten a lot of the nuances of how to play - like some of the more devious ways to subvert the humans when you are a cylon for example. Pegasus adds to the choice of characters, adds in another whole SHIP, adds in new cards (and the brilliant Treachery cards) and alternate way to end the game (which I have not tried, but have heard is the weakest addition to the game).

Like the show itself, the arrival of the Pegasus was a mixed blessing - on one hand you had all the additional firepower, crew and command personnel to utilize, but on the other, you had to deal with the ramifications of all that as well - good and bad. The expansion captures this love/hate relationship very effectively - you will find yourself thinking about making decisions as Admiral Cain would have - even though you may not want to, as often they ARE your best choice - morals be damned. To me, this story arc was one of the highlights of the series and to now have the opportunity to be thrust into the middle of it - and have it all WORK so well, is a testament to how much the designers really worked at making this expansion feel unique and yet familiar to the fans of the series and game.

Like I said, this is not a game I want to play that often as when I do play, I WANT to be thinking it's fresh as I am discovering new ways to play as both Human or Cylon, but I don't want to play so much that I automatically play the same way for either every game either.


#9 The Alea Treasure Chest Expansion for Notre Dame is a fantastic addition to an already amazing game. The base game comes with 9 Grey "person" cards that are labeled in 3 groups. All 9 of these cards will show up during the game one at a time (in group order) - but the 3 cards in each group will come out in a different order each game.

People who have played the game a lot, know what the cards are and can plan their strategy based on that knowledge. The expansion adds in 9 new Grey person cards - allowing you to either substitute them entirely for the originals (and use them by themselves), or mix them in with the originals and randomly pick 3 of the 6 in each group to use in the game. This may not sound like a big game changer, but considering the new Grey person cards offer very different opportunites than the originals, it actually mixes up the game considerably.

I admit I've not played the game nearly as much as some - in fact up until recently, it had been sitting on my shelf UNPLAYED. However, after reading Ender's very detailed description of how the new cards change the game, I HAD to dust off the box and finally play the game. Once the wife and I had played enough times to be familiar enough with the game, I added in the expansion too. Our path will be different with the game - we won't become too familiar with any one particular strategy as we won't be seeing the same cards in each game. For me, this is the ideal situation as once I start to get too familiar with a game it can suddenly become stale and less desirable to play. Sure, I can add in some new options at that time, but once I hit that wall, the additions only help temporarily and I get less bang for my buck I think. Adding in some variety before that point allows me to keep exploring a game, seeing the different ways the game play and strategies change - which ultimately will help keep my interest much longer overall in the long run.

Colosseum is a game that comes to mind that I think suffers from this problem. I loved the game when it first game out. I played it and played it over and over. I raved about it enough to get both my sister and my non-game playing brother to break down and go hunt out a copy of the game on his own. However, the game became predictable - a pattern developed on how to score the big points and to win, you needed to really follow a scripted series of moves to get there. At that point, the game became much less desirable to play for me. I've thought up a few possible ways to mitigate this problem, but for me, I can now only play the game once in a great while - after enough time has passed to where I may have forgotten some of the scripted stuff and can play again in that "exploring" frame of mind.

I think that any expansion for the game at this point would only re-kindle my interest in playing it again for a short term and even then only if it addressed my problems with the game. Had there been some inclusion of components or rules for some variety to the game play from the beginning, I think the length for the "arc of my enjoyment" of the game would have been significantly longer.


#10 Last up is an expansion I have not actually played yet.

I can hear the cries of "FOUL!" already, how can it be one of my favorites when, I've yet to try it out myself? Well, let me tell you and then you can decide if you still feel that way.

As I was first getting into Arkham Horror the second time (yes, I did mean to say that - you can read about what that means in my comprehensive and very popular review of the game: Arkham Horror - A Geeklist Game Review), I was reading a collection of short stories from H.P. Lovecraft and the best story in the bunch was the one dealing with the mysterious seaside Innsmouth - "Shadow over Innsmouth". I vividly recall thinking how cool an expansion in this setting would be and as I was writting the review, it was announced by FFG.

I saw this expansion being used a few times at a couple of game conventions and as I sat to watch thoses games, I really saw how much detail and thematic flavor had been added to the game. There were many additions to the game in this expansion, but the two that stand out were "Personal Stories" and the Deep One's Rising Track. "Personal Stories" were basically a side goal or quest that each investigator needs to complete to gain some item or knowledge to help them. Failure to do so usually involves some kind of penalty or loss to that investigator as well. The best addition however was a totally new and unique mehanic to this expansion and it was thematically perfect in relation to the events of the short story.

Here is the description of The Deep One's Rising Track from my review to summarize this particular addition:

If you've read the story "The Shadow over Innsmouth", you already know about the "Deep Ones". If you haven't, then briefly they are an aquatic, fish like race that lives deep in ocean off the coast of Innsmouth. They are slowly increasing their numbers but mating with the townsfolk of Innsmouth and their offspring begin life normally as humans but develop the "Innsmouth Look" as they age - ultimately turning into one of the Deep Ones themselves!



To simulate the rising of the Deep Ones, the Innsmouth board has a "Deep One's Rising" track that - like the Ancient One's Doom Track, must also be kept from filling completely as it is another way to awaken the Ancient One in play. Any time a gate is prevented from opening - such as by an Elder Sign (or an investigator's ability) OR if a monster's movement on the Innsmouth board moves it into one of the various Vortex spaces on the board, you place a token on the Deep One's Rising track. This is a pretty cool thing as normally the Investigators would be celebrating the prevention of a gate opening , now they have to be very caustious about letting it get out of control. They are not powerless against this new effect however.

Investigators in Innsmouth may place Clue Tokens on a parallel track as well which simulates the collection of evidence by the investigators in order to convince the authorities to conduct a "Federal Raid" on Innsmouth. This extra track is color coded to the various Innsmouth street and locations and during the Upkeep phase, any Investigator in Innsmouth may place Clue token(s) on empty spaces of the track that match their location color. If they can fill up the Clue Token side of this track, a Federal Raid occurs and then all of the tokens get removed off BOTH tracks - giving the Investigators some breathing room.

This mechanic adds yet another thing for the Investigators to have to watch and manage and it is a simple way to capture some of the tenseness that was in the Innsmouth story.


How COOL is that?!

Arkham Horror may not be for everyone, but for fans of the game, this is the kind of additional elements and twists that we want to see - things that keep the game challenging, things that fit into the mythos and things that keep you wanting to play again and again.

Until next time, Happy Gaming!


Discussion Points

Do you agree with my choices? Which ones did I leave out that you think should be there? What are your Favorite Expansions (for Games in the Top 100)? Which don't make the cut? What do you like about your choices? What expansions do you want to try? Which will you avoid?
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Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:41 pm
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My Top 10 expansions for Games in the Top 100 (Part I)

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I LOVE EXPANSIONS!

I do, I admit it. I love everything about them. I'll never accuse a designer of making an expansion just to milk more money out a game - on the contrary, I'll encourage him to give me more of the game I love!

Expansions can offer so much. They can allow a designer to add in elements that may have been left out - Fresco anyone? The can expand a game system to give you more locations to play - ever heard of Age of Steam? Expansions can also add in new rules and elements to a game like the many additions to Arkham Horror do. They can also ramp up the difficulty to make players work harder and offer new challenges like in DOOM.

Most of all though, I enjoy seeing a creative addition to a game that I already loved in it's original form, yet now can enjoy in a completely new way. The mark of a good expansion does at least one of these things. The mark of a great expansion does many of them. Here are the first 5 of my Top 10 expansion of the games ranked 1-100.

Enjoy!

My Top 10 Favorite Expansions (Part I)
(For Games Ranking between 1-100 and shown in order of their Base Game Ranking)

Farmers of the Moor - Agricola(3)
Le Grand Hameau - Le Havre (6)
Grand Inquisitor & Colonies - El Grande (11)
Pegasus Expansion - Battlestar Galactica (18)
The New Huts - Stone Age (26)
Shattered Empire - Twilight Imperium (3rd) (27)
On the Brink - Pandemic (28)
Rails of Europe - Railroad Tycoon (33)
Innsmouth Big Box Expansion - Arkham Horror (56)
The Alea Treasure Chest Expansion for Notre Dame - Notre Dame (86)

To discuss these however, I'm going to list them in my order of preference...

#1 How I rank my top two expansions probably depends on which game I've played most recently and therefore, the current top spot has to be for On the Brink. Expansions can do lots of things for a game, but this one seems to do it all. If I were to have made a wishlist for things that an expansion for Pandemic were to include it would have been along these lines:

More Roles & New Player Cards
Another Virus
Alternate rules to ramp up the difficulty
Add another player
Different ways for a Virus to react
A way to play against each other

Guess what? On the Brink DID all that! It's a great expansion as you can add in things you like, leave out the things you don't and change the game to suit your needs. Some people might say that this is a sign that the original game was flawed in some way if you need to tweak it with variants, but I totally disagree. Variants keep a game fresh and challenging and allow you to cater the game to your game group. Got some seasoned vets who always win? Add in the Virulent Strains Epidemics and the Purple Cubes. Having some newbies over to convert them to boardgaming? Add in additional Special Action cards and only use 4 Epidemics.

However you want to play, this expansion gives you a complete Tool Box to tweak the game to suit your tastes and it's this kind of expansion that is most appealing to me.


#2 Agricola is a fantastic game. Who would have thought that a game about farming in the 14th century would be so engaging? So challenging? So FUN?

Certainly not me. In fact, I AVOIDED all the hype regarding this game when it initially came out. Only after playing it with a friend (at his request) at a game convention did I see how great this game really was. I love the variety that the Occupations and Improvements bring to the game and find it a constant challenge to do the best I can with what "nature" deals me. I've never played the family version and have no desire to - I enjoy the game being a bit "unknown" as to how things will work out as I try and make the best of the cards I'm dealt with.

It's no surprise that when Farmer's of the Moor came out, I jumped at the chance to add even more variety to the game. I was expecting some basic additions to the base system - more Minor improvements and more Occupations at minimum, but FotM added in so much more! Horses! Peat harvesting! New Actions! and haviung to HEAT your home as well. These items add a level of complexity through interesting and difficult choices that have to be made, without bogging the game down with confusing or strange mechanics.

There are 3 ways to play the game with these expansions, allowing players to alter the 'meatiness' of the game to suit their preferred style of play. I prefer the middle version which allows the addition of the new Minor Improvements (and no Occupations) without over simplifying the game. I'm wanting to try the game full on with the new additons, but that is still a ways down the road.

All in all, FotM is a much more satisfying expansion than some of the others - especially over Agricola: The Goodies Expansion, which is really more for the collector than the game player (some of those decks are really lame and silly).


#3 Surprisingly Le Grand Hameau is my 3rd favorite expansion for a game in the Top 100. It's surprising for a number of reasons, the first being that it is very different from most of the other choices I've made. Where the others tend to offer lots and lots of variety and/or changes, Le Grand Hameau doesn't really change that much at all. I've mixed my set in with the normal set of Special Buildings and each game I shuffle the whole deck and select the 6 cards that will be in the game. Odds are that I will get at least ONE new building in the mix, but I always play it as they get dealt and I don't peek, so I don't know until the game is over if the expansion even came into play.

Even if I do manage to get 2 or 3 cards in the mix, the expansion buildings are all that different from the regular ones so what's the big deal you may ask?

Like Agricola, the unknown aspect of what will or won't come up is intriguing to me. Every game is going to have some unique building or buildings come into play at some time and each time one does, you have to assess the situation, determine if the building is something worth owning and decide how your strategy might change because of it. It's a little curve ball that gets thrown at you each game that you have to react to and how you react can often have a big impact on the game.

The Marketplace becomes really important as you get to peek at the two next Special Buildings that are due to come up and you have to decide which one to bury for another turn and which one is to be built by the town. Knowing what is due allows you to plan for it (possibly buy it if it's worth doing so) and potentially get a jump on your opponent.

Sure, often the building is unappealing, but it's that uncertainty that is intriguing and Le Grand Hameau is a great example of how an expansion can be so simple yet very interesting and appealing.


#4 Next up is one of the older expansions I own and it's also for one of my favorite games - El Grande. I think I was one of the first people to own this expansion back in 2000 as BGG was in it's infancy at the time and there wasn't much chatter on it at rec.games.board either.

Grand Inquisitor & Colonies was part of the larger expansion The El Grande Expansions, but this is really the expansion that I played the most of. Grand Inquisitor & Colonies introduced new territories, ships, and two new action stacks to pick from. One of the coolest things I liked was the addition of Portugal to the territories on the map. Portuagal was always there on the original board, it's just unlabeled and had no scoring track. Adding it in (and the new borders it made) really changed the game up a bit too - most importantly as it was the ONLY region that could not be selected to put your men from the Casillo in.

This alone opened up new tactics and strategies to players. France and the Americas were also included and you could bring back wares to earn additional points as well as having two new action stacks with cool cards in them. There were black cubes that were part of the Inquisitor and if you were in control of him, those cubes counted for you.

All in all, this made a great game even greater - not necessarily better (which may sound like a contradiction), but here was a whole new set of options to change up the game and back then, expansions were more of a rarity than the norm (thought there were some big exceptions like Settlers.

#5Railways of Europe is my 5th favorite expansion. Railways of the World is one of my favorite games but it really is best with at least 4 people (6 being my favorite). Railways of Europe is also better with more people, but it still works great with just 2 - which is how most of my gaming is done these days. Having less territory to fight over in the early stages makes the game more interesting and usually leads to a larger confrontation over a critical route towards the end of the game.

The changes to the gameplay are minor (Major Lines are now available from the start and there are some new cards) so they still are very similar in the overall feel which is a good thing. One thing I like about the series is the way you feel like a real Rail Baron in control of building track, making deliveries and expanding your empire. I also like having to compete with the other players for completing routes and racing to get the higher value cubes before they do.

I've also played the Mexico Map and recently just picked up Railways of the Western U.S. which I'm really wanting to play. Having copies of both Railways of the World and Railways of the World means that I'll have enough track pieces and cubes and I'll be ablt to try out the transcontinental variant floating around BGG right now. SWEET!

Well there ya go - I'm halfway done for now and am looking forward to hearing some of your favorites!

So, until next time - Happy Gaming!

Discussion Points

What are your Favorite Expansions (for Games in the Top 100)? Which don't make the cut? What do you like about your choices? What expansions do you want to try? Which will you avoid?
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Fri Apr 1, 2011 4:10 am
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