Pro Wrestler and Gaming Addict presents... Here Comes The Judge : A Gaming Blog

Many would say I have a problem. Many would say I spend too much time and money on games and gaming! Sense be damned I say! This regular blog will detail my gaming life - of which there is quite a lot. I will talk about any and all games I play - new and old (though heavily skewed towards the Cult of the New!) So join me in this journey of games and game playing - and feel free to comment along the way. Feedback (good or bad) is always readily received.

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Special Edition: Descent 2.0

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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The lack of updates for the past week is because I have news!

I have been selected from a response of literally MILLIONS of applications (warning: truth subject to lies) to become a contributor to the site of the Dice Tower Network's leading interview podcast The Little Metal Dog Show!

I would like to thank Michael Fox for giving me a chance to open my writing to a broader audience - and being part of the Dice Tower extended family is a fantastic achievement.

So what better title to begin with than Descent 2.0

----------------------------


Originally posted on The Little Metal Dog Show Website

Ah, Descent… where to begin. Well, how about a little context. The coffin box of Descent 1st Edition or D1 as it will be called henceforth, was one of my first BIG purchases after getting back into the gaming hobby.


The classic 'coffin box' in all its glory

Brimming with the nostalgia of my youth – hours and hours spent huddled round Hero Quest, Warhammer Quest and Talisman – this giant box filled with plastic-goodness was almost impossible to resist – and yet the sensation was somewhat bittersweet.

Someone plays the big, bad Overlord, the others play the Heroes. You’ve got all the monsters you could ever need, huge swathes of terrain tiles, chunky custom dice… and a play time you could knit a cardigan in. Like an XXL cardigan. With pockets and everything. But the experience wasn’t what I wanted. In fact, it just raised a few questions.

Why aren’t we just playing D&D? Why does D1 exist? What niche is it trying to fill? Well, it’s a board game implementation of a Dungeons and Dragons-esque fantasy scenario / dungeon crawl but in a more manageable play time? Only it’s not. The game is fiddly, dense and unwieldy. Once the characters get geared up with equipment, skills and plenty of cool-stuff, turns can be a monstrous, analysis paralysis fuelled exercise in min-maxing your turn. Death is an excuse to go shopping, play sessions can be huge and progress is slow.

But the game is competitive isn’t it? For both the Overlord player and the Heroes? Except, from my experience, if the OL goes all out, he will probably kill the heroes handily – and the line of sight / spawning monster rules (which prevent the OL bringing in creatures where the heroes could see them) mean that both sides are constantly ‘GAMING’ what is supposed to be a romping thematic experience.

So, you may ask yourself, why have I spent the first 250 words of this review talking about D1? Well, Fantasy Flight’s Descent 2nd Edition (or D2… see what I did there?) expertly fixes all of my problems with the first edition and brings new things to the table which elevate the experience even further.


The slicker, more streamlined V.2

Up to five players (four heroes and the OL) can approach missions either piecemeal, or as part of a larger campaign (with levelling and persistent equipment etc.) Our first play (with 3 heroes) saw us complete a well-designed introductory quest and the first 2-part mission in one evening! Now for readers who desperately want to avoid spoilers, be off with you! I don’t think knowing the outline of the 1st main quest will ruin the experience – but best be safe.

Right, now they’ve gone… Why does D2 succeed? Well, the quests are excellent. Descent has always had relatively interesting objectives for the heroes - go here, kill that, collect those etc. but the OL has to make do with ‘KILL ALL GOOD GUYS!’ D2 introduces opposed objectives for both – and your performance in part 1 will have ramifications for part 2. For instance, Fat Goblin Part 1 sees the OL’s Gobbos stealing crops, whilst the heroes try to secure them in the farm’s barn. The more crops that the Goblins pinch – the more health the boss in Fat Goblin Part 2 will have. In game terms, this dissuades players from descending into a pure slug-fest. There will be blood, but you can’t take your eyes off the mission objective.

Play is streamlined. The core mechanisms remain intact but are refined: Movement is fluid – besides a simple modifier for crossing water and opposing monsters blocking passage, you can go where you want up to your Speed stat. Line of sight is obvious – so as not to affect game flow. To attack, players cause damage / check range by rolling a number of custom dice related to the weapon they are using. Opposing that, new defence dice provide variable protection against attacks (instead of D1’s static numbers) and is simply implemented – tougher creatures (or better Hero armour) have more / better defence dice, but you can’t account for that terrible roll which always gives the underdog hope.

 

Fantastically detailed minis

The other big mechanical change from D1 is the removal of the rather fiddly ‘Threat’ which the OL would accumulate and spend to summon creatures / play traps etc. Instead each scenario has specific rules of how, when and where the monsters come out to play – thus providing a more balanced and thematic experience. The traps / spells are provided in the form of a deck of cards which the OL draws from each turn. In a nice touch, this is customisable by spending XP generated from quest to quest – so as the Heroes skill up, so does the Overlord.

Each of these adjustments fixes a problem from the first edition, and turns Descent into the game I always wanted it to be. It can now be the quick, fun, one-off dungeon crawl where someone gets to play the bad guy as hard as he wants – and the Heroes will have to work well together to compete. It can still be the sprawling, epic, 20 plus hour campaign with development, new skills, looting treasure for cool stuff, buying things at the local shops etc. but delivered in more interesting and engaging bite-sized quests that have a strong narrative through-road.

I think it’s fairly obvious from the tone of this review that I thoroughly enjoy the game. It’s almost like Christian Peterson (Founder and CEO of Fantasy Flight) tapped into my thoughts, extracted my whims and desires and brought it to life… Actually that’s a little scary. Must change my passwords.

Fantasy Flight will make a fortune of this, and the endless expansions that will undoubtedly follow. I’ll see you there. I’ll be the big guy at the front of that queue, frantically waving my money.

Descent 2.0 scores a triumphant 4 GAVELS out of 4
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Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:54 pm
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Wednesday 18th July : Dungeon Command (Heart of Cormyr vs Sting of Lolth)

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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Wednesday at Daventry Vaulters saw the debut of the shiny, new Dungeon Command game system.

This two player game used both of the starter sets of Dungeons and Dragons themed tactical miniatures game: Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth versus Dungeon Command: Heart of Cormyr to the death.

VS


Dungeon Command is a tactical board game, where summoned creatures battle it out to the death. It's not Summoner Wars, though you can feel the influence. It's not even Magic: The Gathering. This is a new pre-painted miniatures game from Wizards of the Coast which feels a little like a more simplified version of classic computer game Final Fantasy Tactics.

I won't breakdown the rules - in fact I'm not going to do RULES anymore beyond a brief overview - but in summary:

At the start of the game, and then at the end of each turn, players summon creatures from a hand of cards drawn from their faction's deck. They then activate those creatures on the play board - moving and attacking. Each creature that dies costs 'Morale' of the controller. When this figure hits 0, the warband flees and the game is over.

Movement is simple - creatures move as per their individual statistic, difficult terrain and obstacles which impede progress are clearly marked on the board. Friendly troops can move over each other (which is nice because it stops log-jams) and yet enemy troops have a 'Tackle Zone' like Blood Bowl which halts progress. This makes placement a tactical challenge, a key part of the game and something I really enjoy.

Combat is absolute. There are no dice - if you attack you cause your damage (unless your opponent uses a model ability or card effect to prevent it.) Yoda would definitely approve. The interrupt / instant style cards that your opponent may play to foil your plans will also force your opponent to 'TAP' that creature's card - so if you can force them to tap it beforehand, they will have no come-back.

There are a wide range of tactical options and effects that can be played to affect a creature’s ability to act and react - for instance spider webs which hold enemies in place. Clever use of these abilities will open holes in your opponents' defence and may turn the tide.

 

Step into my parlour...

This almost chess-like game design choice means that you can plan your actions and execute your strategy. This control is one of my favourite aspects of Dungeon Command.

The prospects of development for this game are huge. Each faction plays very differently, and is almost limitlessly expandable / customisable - that said there is nothing wrong with the game out-of-the-box.

Components are of high quality. Map tiles fit together well, the cards are well designed and clear. In addition, everything is artistically pleasing

 


The minis are fine. I'm glad that they're painted and easily identifiable. I am not a painter or miniature guy in any way, however, and I can imagine people turning their noses up at the somewhat slapdash paint-jobs.

Now, I am a tactical game fan and I like a fantasy theme. I love Summoner Wars. Dungeon Commander is therefore RIGHT in my wheelhouse and it scratches that itch I've had since playing Magic as a youngster - that being a chance to manoeuvre, position and attack your opponents in a physical space, as opposed to the abstraction of attack and block.

This is the game my 12 year old self would have sold his little brother for - and now, as a more grizzled 'hardcore' gamer (whatever that means) I am excited to explore the game more, and the prospects of what is to come in the same system.

Right now, Dungeon Command is 4 GAVELS out of 4.
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Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:05 am
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Monday 16th July (part three) : Milestones, Saboteur and King of Tokyo

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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--23/7/12: EDITED TO ADD EXTRA CRITICAL THOUGH--


King of Tokyo! I love King of Tokyo.



This simple dice game uses a 'Yahzee' esque rolling and keeping mechanism to its full potential as players feel the power at their fingertips as massive monsters and fire-breathing behemoths clash over domination of Tokyo.

Players adopt the roles of various, copyright-protected monsters (NOT-Godzilla, NOT-King Kong etc. plus a small Bunny piloting a giant Robot Rabbit!)



There are two distinct paths to victory in KoT. Score points or kill all the other monsters.

The genius of this direct conflict game is that, like Cosmic Encounter, your choice of WHO to attack is taken out of your hands. If you're OUT of Tokyo you attack whoever is in. If you're IN Tokyo then you attack everybody else. This means no one feels they are being picked on, so when player elimination happens - and in such a short game this is hardly a problem - there is less frustration and hurt feelings.

ON THE DICE


Trios of NUMBERS (1's, 2's or 3's) generate those points towards a winning total of 20.

LIGHTNING BOLTS generate little snot cubes... more on those in a bit.

Any CLAWS on your attack dice indicate an attack. The monster in Tokyo after being wounded may retreat out - forcing the attacker to take their place. Also, entering / staying in Tokyo will also generate points.

and HEARTS on the dice will heal your monster - but here's the rub: you cannot heal whilst being in Tokyo.

Snot cubes can be spent to augment / mutate your monster from a communal set of 3 special power cards drawn from a deck. These could include wings, laser breath, healing ability etc. which give you extra cool stuff to do during your turn. There are also VP cards that can be purchased (usually at the cost of health) that push you towards that winning target.


Mmmmmmmmm Parasitic Tentacles...

As stated above, I really enjoy KoT. It is a short, fun, dice rolling game and therefore inherently luck driven - but with just enough decision making to keep you engaged.

Mechanically, KoT is simple. The ability cards are a little wrinkle in the gameplay which makes each time out slightly different, but ultimately this is a push your luck game where the decisions can be easy (if you're almost dead, get the hell out of Tokyo) but can also sit on a knife edge (can I survive one more round?)

The reason KoT will almost always travel with me to game nights is that it virtually guarantees a fun, light, engaging experience and works equally well as a warm-up or end-of-night game. With a group that gets into the monsters-destroying-Tokyo theme (loud growling noises optional) King of Tokyo is a load of fun.

The theme, art and satisfying, chunky dice make this experience another one of my favourite fillers. King of Tokyo scores 4 monster sized, Tokyo annihilating GAVELS out of 4.
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Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:09 am
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Monday 16th July (part two) : Milestones, Saboteur and King of Tokyo

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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After the deflating experience that was Milestones, there were rumblings of a 10 player game of Saboteur.


Really? Saboteur? 10 players? Time to R-U-N-N-O-F-T


Only I was trapped in the corner, with no way out – and social convention prevents me from making a quick exit through the bar window, so Sab it was.

This game should be a lot of fun. Players are secretly given roles at the start to either be happy, honest gold digging Dwarves, or dirty, insolent, traitorous saboteurs. Then in turn and from a small hand, the Dwarves will play one card. Normally, this will be laying map cards linking the starting point towards one of the 3 ‘mystery zones’ that will contain the Gold. Obviously, the good dwarves are trying to make the connection, the saboteurs ensuring that it doesn’t happen.


Evil Dwarf...

Beyond map tiles, players also have cards that allow them to peek at one the mystery zones ‘reliably’ informing the rest of the group as to its contents (if they believe you). There are also ‘rock fall’ cards that remove map tiles from the board (very useful to the sabs) and equipment break and repair cards that can be played on yourself or other Dwarves.

When your equipment (minecart, pickaxe or lamp) is BROKEN by one of these cards, you may no longer play map tiles - so the social game is all about making sure the other team is prevented from aiding / wrecking the route to the gold. Only you don’t know who the other team is. Or who your team is… and so it goes.

I LOVE the description of this game – it sounds fun – but I am yet to really enjoy a game of Saboteur. If you have poor cards or if you’ve had your equipment broken then you may just have to discard and pass on your turn. With 7-10 players, this could be several minutes until your next go.


There's gold in them thar cards...zzzzzzzzzzz

The arguments and heated accusations that work so well and have a distinct and immediate focus in The Resistance are tedious in Sab. I do play with smaller games hoping that this will be the game that ‘works’ but I’m growing tired. Maybe it’s just not as good as the sum of its parts might suggest.

As a play experience, for me, Sab is a one GAVEL game (out of four)
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Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:19 pm
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Monday 16th July (part one) : Milestones, Saboteur and King of Tokyo

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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Woah! A lot to get through on this blog, so I might split it into parts. Fire and Dice saw me get the newly purchased 2012 release of Milestones to the table for a full 4 player game (Matt, Peter, Vicki and myself). Co-designed by Stefan Dorra, I picked this up on his name and the fact that the game looked to boast some interesting mechanisms. I love For Sale and have sung its praises in an earlier blog post., and was looking for a similar 'lightness of touch' and elegance in his most recent mid-weight Euro. Does it sound like there's a but coming?

There it is

Well, Milestones is indeed a mid-weight Euro game with some interesting mechanisms. It all works. Points are duly earned by doing stuff. It's just a shame the whole process is a horribly dull, soulless and solitary experience.

Players start with a single meeple on their individual play mat / rondel which will allow them to choose their actions. Initially that board is seeded with tiles that feature a pair of resource spaces.



Each of those resources can be claimed by moving your guy, in a clockwise direction, around the board landing on the resource you want (from Sand, Wood, Stone, Grain and Money). Any marker of the same type that you pass on your way to that destination also generates one more of that resource. Clever placement of the tiles is therefore key to maximise your income.

On the row after the resource tiles are buildings that allow you to buy more tiles, exchange goods for cash, and then spend those resources on roads, markets and houses. Those are placed on a communal central board in various ways to score points.



As everyone has access to all of the options, you are - in theory at least - trying not to set up your opponent. It also means that there is often a really obvious move to make. That's right, none of that pesky decision making stuff to be found here...

The signature gimmick for the game at least feels fresh: As you reach the Castle space, the starting spot on your rondel, you HAVE to stop each time and discard down to a maximum of 3 goods in your supply. You also have to cover one of the resource spaces with a blank tile. This offers an imperative to keep adding to your tableau. In addition, players earn a valuable extra coin when landing on a specific space ONLY IF the numbered resource tiles on your tableau are in numerical order from left to right. Not exactly hard to do, but it guides your hand on tile placement. I do like this idea. Like I said, it works, but I hope a better game implements the idea in a more engaging way.

The components and board are fine. Graphical design is clear and unobtrusive. So what didn't we like about this game?

It's so mind meltingly boring!


So who wants to play Milestones...

Everything is so calculable: "I'm going to put a road down, because I need to score, and I need to spend my cubes before the castle forces me to discard - but that sets you up to get double my points...so I'll wait" and waiting is not fun.

Your own little puzzle game is initially interesting, but soon becomes a chore: Your turn could be 10 seconds long - literally as short and simple as 'get 2 resources' - whilst opponents have 5 minute turns min/maxing their victory point options.

If you get behind or make a mistake, you only drift further back: The player who builds their tableau well have an engine that keeps getting points. There is no Catch-Up mechanism.

There is ZERO interaction: besides trying to NOT set up scoring for your opponent.

I could go on. This was a HUGE miss for our group. With games like Québec going down so well - and filling that similar mid-weight Euro slot, I can't imagine Milestones reaching our table ever again.

Milestones earns a mightily disappointing one GAVEL out of four - and a trip to the eBay pile.
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Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:48 pm
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Thursday 12th July 2012: Eclipse!

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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Board Silly in Leamington, and as I hadn't got my favouritest game to the table for a while, four of us (only one new player) entered deep space once more with Eclipse.

I've said pretty much everything I have it's say but the game, it's still awesome btw, and the newbie picked up the win. Perhaps we were going to soft of him, but after finding the super 4-hex movement alien technology, his cruisers were invading enemy space like it was going out of fashion and, despite arguable "GOING!" a turn early, held on to enough space to claim the win. The hidden victory points, the various tactics, the seeming domination of plasma missiles strategy failing over and over again! I love Eclipse. If I were a girl I would let it have my babies...

Too much info?

Sorry...
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Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:11 am
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Wednesday 11th July 2012: K2 & 6 Nimmt

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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Another busy night at Daventry Vaulters.

First to the table was a five player game of the 2012 Kennerspeil des Jahres nominated mountain scaling game - K2



In K2, each player takes control of a pair of intrepid mountaineers, racing to reach the highest point on the 2nd highest mountain in the world.

The first that struck me about this game is that during setup, almost like a co-operative game, you can adjust the difficulty to customise your play experience. Do you play on the easier or harder approach to the summit? Do you want to make your charge in summer or winter? As players become more experienced, you can ramp up the challenge – and this also allows for the game to be more manageable for younger players and families – no wonder the Spiel committee warmed to it.

Mechanically, the game is pretty simple. Drawing up to 6 from a standard player deck each turn, players choose 3 per turn. These are resolved to either add ‘acclimatisation’ / health points or to movement points that are spent to get your guys up the mountain.
As the climb becomes tougher, more movement points are required to scale the next available space – and the lack of air will cost you health points. If these drop to zero, then you will die and thematically tumble down the mountain to your icy grave.

The weather will impact on proceedings. The forecast both measures the turn number (of which there are 18) and provides a heads-up as to how bad the weather will be on future turns. Bad weather = harsher conditions = more health point penalties = DEATH!

Players can build tents to mitigate the bad conditions (but only your guys can use your tents – OUT INTO THE COLD ABYSS YOU RED MEEPLE!) Further up the mountain, there are also increasing limitations on how many guys can sit on a space – so actively blocking your opponents’ passage becomes a valid and vital tactic.



Points are gained by marking the highest point your guys have reached and they are guaranteed to score those points at end game – as long as they don’t die. Hitting the peak (and posing for a celebratory photo) will therefore be followed by a sprint back down towards more hospitable climbs and maybe a nice warm tent.

Components are solid – and the board is particularly attractive. The only thing I don’t love are the meeples. As you are controlling two guys who act independently, have separate health bars and can construct their own tent, they need to be identifiable. This is accomplished by having a round meeple and a jagged meeple. This is a solution, but it can be hard to identify from afar – maybe some sort of Fat and Thin would have worked better? Maybe one could have worn a hat? Ultimately though, this is a minor niggle.

The play experience was fun. Leaving one of my guys at the back – almost at base camp – allowed my jagged meeple to move up, pitching a tent around the halfway mark and then sprinting for the peak during a break in the weather. A small miscalculation, however, left my lead guy out on his own as a cold snap hit. As in, cold snap-ped his arm off so he fell into oblivion. I limped home into 4th place.


Aaaaaaaaa I can see my house from here........

A good time was had by all – and the tactical decisions you make throughout the game are consistently interesting. Actually, for such a simple exterior, K2 proved to be quite a tricky task (I wasn’t the only player to lose someone) Despite only a limited amount of interactivity, this was a puzzle that we would all play again.

K2 scores 3 GAVELS of 4


We also played another couple of games of 6 Nimmt which continues to be one of my favourite 15 minute fillers. Nimmt was covered by me HERE
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Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:24 am
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Monday 9th July : Even more Québec and 6 Nimmt

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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Monday at Fire and Dice saw Québec again hit the table for my third game in a week.

We played with the full 5 players this time and found the experience to be more chaotic, but no less fun. A tight, competitive, game (with all players relatively close on the scoring track) led to end scoring deciding the winner - and black (played by Steve from Leamington) romped home. I managed to come joint third after messing up my final scoring round - but I left wanting to play again soon to explore other options.

We also got in a couple of games of 6 Nimmt.

Wolfgang Kramer's 6 Nimmt (or Category 5 as it is sometimes known in the west) is a fairly simple, quick , abstract card game - heavily reliant on luck - but great fun with up to 10 players!



We played with 5 which is probably an optimal number to allow a sense of strategy / tactics - The more players = the more chaos. (NOTE: This review / session report comes from an experience as taught - as opposed from the rulebook - so any inconsistencies with the RAW are not my fault!)

6 Nimmt consists of a deck of 104 cards (numbered accordingly.) Each player is given a hand of 10 of these cards. In addition, four rows are started by laying out a single card in each.

Players simultaneously select a card from their hand - they are then revealed and played to the rows in chronologic order. If a card would be placed as the 6th card in a row, then the cards in that row are "won" by that player - and their placed card starts a new row.

Rinse and repeat until the hands are empty. The cards contain a number of Bull icons. The person with the least amount of Bulls at game end is the winner.

Tactically, you need to play a card that will either force someone else to end a row, or hope they end it before your card resolves. Strategically, as every card in your hand MUST be played, you are looking for windows of opportunity to get your numbers out safely in the middle of active rows.

There is a heavy luck element in Nimmt, but just enough choice, and just enough sense that when you get screwed over - you should have made a better decision, to make it worthwhile. Games last a matter of minutes and I'm yet to play a game that hasn't resulted in moans of frustration and cheers of joy.


I managed to win a game not receiving a single Bull! This makes me KING OF THE WORLD!


As a 15 minute filler, 6 Nimmt is one of the best. In 1994 the Spiel des Jahres committee noted this as a recommended game. Well, now Wolfgang can rest easy knowing that The Judge also insists that you add this game into your collection!

4 out of 4 GAVELS
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Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:53 am
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Thursday 5th July: More Quebec and Animal upon Animal

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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Just a quick one, as I've covered these games on previous posts.

Québec hit the table with 3 players at Board Silly in Leamington this week.

With just three, Quebec is a much more controlled exercise. Players are able to get a grip on where the cubes will be going a few turns out of the scoring round, and this allows for a higher level of control and tactical play.

Also, with fewer players there aren't as many architects on the board and therefore fewer potential places to go - so a good player (and I'm not there yet) will be able to anticipate and block buildings to guide the play.

This continues to be a thoroughly entertaining and engaging experience. I feel I can do better and, after being pipped at the post by 1 point (with scores of 145 to 144) I look forward to doing so.

We also got another game of Animal Upon Animal in to end the evening. Really good, harmless fun. Probably will have a permanent spot in my game bag.
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Mon Jul 9, 2012 9:39 am
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Wednesday 4th July 2012: Manhatten Project & Agricola (plus Zooloretto Würfelspiel & Animal upon Animal)

Stuart Platt
United Kingdom
Duston
Northamptonshire
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A busy night at Daventry Vaulters saw 4 games get to the table. Zooloretto Dice and Animal upon Animal have both been covered in previous posts (here and here ) so this will focus on the first of the two heavier games of the evening - a 4 player game of The Manhattan Project. We also played Agricola (probably my favourite Euro of all time) but I will cover that in another post.
C



The Manhattan Project is 2011 worker placement game by Minion Games. It is also probably their most complete design of the titles of theirs that I have played - moreso than Kingdom of Solomon, Those Pesky Humans! and Nile (though I am yet to experience the Deluxe Version of that)

The game enlists players in the rolls of nations competing to build 50 Victory Points worth of nuclear weaponry. Let's get the good taste thing out of the way first. For me, this theme is well integrated and evokes a sense of cold war paranoia and pressure that only adds to the experience. You don't utilise these bombs against your opponents, noone actually dies, it's all about building a better deterrent than the other players.

That said, I completely understand if people are turned off by the theme. The Nations Mini-Expansion provides the Japan player with the unique ability to use its Fighter Planes as Bombers... which was as close to the knuckle as I would want to get. Doesn't bother me, but may well bother others. Let's move on.


BOOM!

At first glance, this is classic worker placement - put your guys on the board to generate more guys (both your own and neutral workers), get more resources (money / yellowcake / plutonium / uranium) and also build buildings (a la Caylus, Le Havre or Lords of Waterdeep say) which go on your own personal displays, and it is here where things change.

On any turn that you choose to activate a part of the board by placing your worker, you can then spend as many guys as you like on your own personal display - activating, perhaps, 3-4 buildings at a time. In addition, the Espionage action on the board allows you to activate and use your opponent's buildings for your own ends.

Their is also direct player interation in the game. This is offered by spending Fighers and Bombers to remove opponents defences and then damage their buildings (rendering them inoperational) which is interesting and allows a perceived leader to be held in check - or a particularly powerful building to be tempered.


Love the artwork

So once you're up to speed, you could be spending ALL of your workers pretty quickly - and they don't just return at the start of your turn - you have to spend a whole turn action to return your guys to your supply. Making this decision is one of the key choices in the game, as bringing back your guys frees up the spaces you were in and sends ALL neutral guys from the board and your personal supply back to the general supply. So I have to time 'calling back' your workers in relation to your opponents situation - if I open up all my buildings, is Russia going to espionage into my Power Plant? Back of you Ruskies!

Unlike traditional Euro style games that love their wooden meeples, Manhattan Project has very attractive, super-thick cardboard chits. The cute, 1950's style cartoon artwork throughout takes the edge of the serious subject matter and the iconography is clear - once you're up and running you should hardly need to refer back to the well designed and layed out rulebook.


Awww... so cute. Especially as they're constructing Death Machines!

The game itself on Wednesday was tight. Ecomonic engines were being built and I, as Russia, made the first move on the combat front. The decision was made to bomb Japan and Germany's plutonium factories in an attempt to slow production - but doing so left myself open for an American counterstrike. The US terrorists / liberators shut down pretty much all of my operations. Hmmmm.... this sounds eerily familliar.

It was Paul's America that ultimately snuck up and stormed past the 50 point mark, ending the game and securing victory. It was a sudden conclusion - and to be honest one we should all have been paying more attention to.

Any criticisms? Well, the sudden 'I've Won!' ending can catch you by surprise - and some players dislike that. I personally don't have a problem. Plans for the Bombs / Victory points are drafted from an open supply during gameplay - its just something to be aware of. The only other problem is downtime or 'The DominionFactor!' As players can be spending several meeples at a time on their own display and the resources generated can be spent as you gain them - you can get: "So I'll put a scientist in here to make 3 scientists, which I'll spend here to make 6 yellowcake, which I'll convert here into Plutonium, which I'll now spend to make a bomb, which I'll then explode for testing...and I'm done."

The downtime generated from the planning of such a string of actions (though really cool when it comes off) can be prolonged. It's an issue, rather than a huge negative though. Avoid players who suffer from agonizing AP. That's not just for Manhattan - just avoid them generally.

I like The Manhattan Project a great deal. It is a fresh thematic take on the worker placement genre, with enough interesting mechanisms, limited direct combat and fun quirks to seperate it from the crowd.

The Manhattan Project is an easy 3 GAVELS
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Fri Jul 6, 2012 11:10 am
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