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Memorial Day Weekend on + Strategicon!

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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I've had the opportunity to play lots of new games over the last couple weeks, but have been lazy about blogging em, so here are the greatest hits from what I can remember:

Strategicon

Galaxy Trucker: The concept was so appealing, that of galaxy trucker, building a ship from scratch and piloting it through the treacherous depths of space, that I finally picked up a copy. My first ever game was the excellent tutorial walk-through one with Chris, Craig and Brandi. First impression: this game is HARD. On stage three (identical to stage one but with bigger ships), only Chris was able to make it back into port. The rest of us had been left along the way stranded or completely obliterated. The cards that came up were so unforgiving that I wondered how anyone could possibly want to up the difficulty with the expansions. We hadn't fared much better in the first couple of rounds, as encounters were quite treacherous. I managed to play the game a second time at Strategicon, and that experience made me realize we had probably come across, in our first game, one of the hardest combinations of cards possible. Little to no empty space, probably all the pirates and slavers, and as newbies we hadn't stood a chance. The Strategicon game was played with three strangers who had either played the game a total of once or never before. In each round I kept thinking and saying, wait for it, this game gets crazy - and in each round it never did. Lots of open space. Lots of ships to explore, lots of planets to land on, and lots and lots of ships to sell to our crews. I was either first or tied for first going into the third round with a ship that was lacking only massive engine power. I had one battery powered double engine, and tons of storage space filled with cargo when, with a couple cards to go, a meteor shower knocked off my last remaining battery reserves. Next card was open space and I was stranded, forfeiting half my cargo and the second place bonus I would have received, and got knocked back to third place at our table and fourth place overall. The cards were so kind to us that I was the only player knocked out at all, and all ships were nearly intact the entire game. I played once more, introducing the game to some co-workers, and this time it was a much more even mix of good and bad events. It can be a swingy game, depending on the cards and the tiles you draw, but each play is so different, that it should be a lot of fun for a very long time.

My current favorite game is probably Descent 2nd Ed. and with that in mind I signed up for the first edition 101 and quest at Strategicon. I picked up a bundle of all the first edition games to incorporate the miniatures into the second edition. I decided to see if the first edition was worth going back and playing. Sadly the dude running the session had an emergency and wasn't able to make it. On the bright side I managed to find a table running the second edition so Emily and I sat down and played as heroes. The awesome gentleman running it and overlording took into account the quests I had played before and selected a quest I had never seen. I chose warrior elf Syandrel as my hero. Encounter 1 was a skirmish thorough a narrow canyon with the Overlord hurling boulders down, trying to block our way. The OL had gone easy on us, giving us 175 gold to spend at the shop before the encounter. So we slashed our way through, removing boulders and spiders with ease, fighting our way through to the Ettins waiting at the end of the canyon. We quickly slaughtered one of them, and per the reinforcements, the ettin returned at the start of the OL's next turn. However based on the configuration of boulders, the ettin was not able to chase us fully through the canyon since there was no spot for him to expand when ending his movement. We were able to make it past the second ettin and off the map in pursuit of the evil lieutenant without further incident.

Our goal in encounter 2 was to defeat the evil Lieutenant before all of the (not so helpless) guards were slaughtered by the OL's minions. The guards were automatically activated if anyone, OL or hero, ended their turn on a tile containing a guard. The guard would proceed to move toward an enemy and attack. So as we melee'd across a narrow bridge fighting valiantly against two elementals and the Lieutenant, the Overlord was able to use his Trolls to get in close to the guards, attack, and move off the tile, keeping the guards at rest while whittling down their health. After a bit of fighting and poor dice rolling from the OL, a couple of heroes managed to squeak by, rushing through the map to save the guards. Meanwhile I stayed back with Avric, a healer to deal with the Lieutenant. Emily's Widow Tahra and her skeleton familiar had been pestering the OL all game. She and her familiar managed to block in two guards and fend off a troll attack. Between Leoric's healing and my mighty sword, we were able to defeat the overlord handily.

My sympathies went out to the OL on this one - we happened to be a well coordinated group who worked very well together despite never having met, and the experience was much like most of my Descent games - having to graciously accept defeat from characters who won easily through a combination of luck and excellent tactics. Now I kind of want to play this as a hero in order to taste victory a little more often!

Talisman - glad I didn't sign up for the several hour play through of this one. After half a 101 I wandered off, leaving Emily to it. The consensus was the same - the game didn't offer much in the way of novelty, depth, or ultimately, fun. I talked to Chris about it - he has designed a more fun take on it which I haven't played. His experience has been that he played it a lot in high school and college, but always highly modified because the game just isn't that good as is.

Seasons Emily got stuck (her own damn fault!) at a rather lengthy tournament game of Game of Thrones Second Edition (more on that later) so I wandered off to the library to check out a copy of Seasons. It took about 45 minutes to set up, learn the rules and play through a couple turns. Then a group of dudes stopped by, were interested in the game so sat down to play. Overall I wasn't that impressed. My main issue is that there are so many ways to take victory points (or energy or whatever it was called) away from other players that every time a player jumped up on the points track, it was just a slow drain back down until another opportunity to score came up. The dice rolling and selection was novel and fun, the acquisition of various types of energy was cool, as was the transmutation and deciding when and what to spend them on. I also liked many of the cards you play by spending various energies. Like I said, overall though if there were more getting ahead rather than getting dragged back I would have liked it a lot more.

Game of Thrones And now it makes complete sense why this seems to be one of the most common math trade and games up for auction. The 101 tutorial started with a bunch of casual gamers, bright eyed, discussing their favorite characters from the show and the book, and ended in mostly bleary eyes. Part of it was due to a less than clear rules explanation, and part of it was because while technically the game isn't difficult, the tactics make it a very involved game, and something that goes into a depth beyond the more casual gamer. That said, this is a very, very good game. The secret orders, throne and influence tracks, additional cards and bidding with gold make it a deep, strategic and fun game - that is if you know how to play, don't mind longer games, don't play at tables with AP prone players, don't play at tables with rules lawyers, don't mind cutthroat games, and have at least five, preferably six players. If you can meet all those conditions you will have an incredibly rewarding gaming experience. If not, you will probably end up sending it off in a math trade for a slightly used copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

While sitting at the table watching Emily struggle through turns of GoT I got a text notification that a rather cheap copy of Roborally 2nd Ed and Armed and Dangerous had been posted on ebay with a BIN price. I bit, and a couple days later I opened the package, and experienced that old BGG cliché - included in the two boxes, in addition to the aforementioned were: Grand Prix, Radioactive and Crash and Burn. Shock. Awe. Amazement. The seller probably picked up at a thrift store and listed on ebay because whoever the actual previous owner was, was as anal retentive as I am and had saved EVERYTHING - from inserts to packaging. The Armed and Dangerous tokens remained unpunched, all factory floor guides were accounted for, and only the (I think) Crash and Burn reference sheet had been torn off the original packaging (but was included). I never expected to ever own the boards some people think are among the best in the game, and now that I do, I sure as heck am not putting them back up on eBay!

Emily and I also went back to one of our favorite (in theory when it works) games, Mansions of Madness. This time we played The Yellow Sign with the ever gleeful Keeper, Bryan rallying forces against us. I know many of the print-to-order scenarios haven't gotten a lot of love, but this one managed to come down to the very end (or at least feel like it) with three surviving investigators making it to the final puzzle before being swarmed by cultists and dooming the world. In fact, if not for a random fire breaking out in the main hallway, we probably would have won. Bryan indicated he had played the exact same scenario earlier and that the heroes hadn't managed to do nearly as well. Based on my one play I had a good experience with this one, so take that for what it is worth!

Other Purchases:

Managed to pick up a cheap copy of Doom plus expansion here on the BGG auctions - not sure what happened because people only started trying to outbid me after the auction closed. Weird. I got a good price and can't wait to play - I suspect it is a good next level game to play, falling between Descent 1st Ed. and 2nd Ed. in difficulty and play time, which is probably where I max out realistically. As much as I'd love to dedicate 8 hours to a single Descent quest - oh wait, I don't think I would - too much to do and see!


Misc. Work Game Nights

I've had the opportunity to play a few fun, some classic, some new to me, games in the workplace as well!

Citadels - Role selection card game where each player chooses a role in order, can use that role's power on their turn and build a building, draw some gold, or both. Very simple, fun, easy to get into on one try, but in our first play through, very, very unlucky for the guy sitting next to me. His character was assassinated the first three rounds, and one time several rounds later. By the time I build my 8th building, triggering the end (and winning - woo!) he had built two. Not cool, and very unlucky because the assassin players were really only targeting roles they could remember, it being our first time playing.

The Great Dalmuti - Very fun classic card game rethemed and slightly modified by Richard Garfield so Wizards of the Coast could plaster his name on it and sell a bazillion copies. It is a trick taking game, with each player trying to play all their cards first. The person in the Dalmuti seat has an advantage in that they get the lowest person's two best cards and can give up whatever in return. The Lesser Dalmuti does the same with the second peasant, and all commoners (everyone else) plays what they have. The first one to go out becomes (or remains) the Great Dalmuti, and the last one becomes the peasant and is made to shuffle cards and take all manner of abuse. Everyone gets up to switch seats between hands to indicate their place in the class system. Lots of fun as a filler, highly recommended.

Settlers of Catan - Played this one with three others, one who was very familiar, two with only a passing familiarity. Due to my general loud mouth and crushing victory in this one I now have a reputation as a very competitive person. Oops, probably best to chill it out and remember I am still in the workplace.

Through the work game night I've met fellow nerds who are able to board game at lunch. The first game we played was Ascension - it was kind of weird not playing on the IPad - a little alien as it took a second to get used to the manual shuffling and drawing. It reminded me of the first time my wife mimicked pushing a kindle button to illustrate turning a page while describing something she was reading.


And today:

Battlelore - My first ever (other than Risk) wargame!!! Chris managed to set up and explain the completely intuitive rules in about 45 minutes. We played the slightly more involved Fantasy Version which is the Medieval Version plus the lore (magic) mechanic which allows for more variety and controlled chaos. (The medieval version is the vanilla tactical miniatures game). So in the base game there are three types of units (archer, infantry, cavalry) with three levels of experience and movement. The board is split vertically in thirds, and the action cards you draw generally allow you to control units on one or more sections of the board. The magic fantasy theme and "Lore" added enough flavor to make it interesting rather than dry. The number of choices based on your hand size, units and the Lore cards (which can be purchased by expending Lore tokens was just enough without being overwhelming, and the terrain types are not too numerous that even on the first time playing I was able to easily reference and play turns without dragging the game out. Of course Chris crushed me, but I still had a fantastic time. I almost never get to play two player games, but this is one I will try to make time for on weekends if Chris is around.

Until next time, keep on gaming!!!
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Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:39 am
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4/4 4/5 4/12 Descent Expansion, Candyland

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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A quick recap on these for memories sake as I got lazy about posting for a couple weeks.


4/5/13

Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Lair of the Wyrm (Chris, Emily, Keith, Kyle) Gold Digger. By far the closest and most fun quest yet. I was happily roasting miners on the northern part of the map as the heroes slashed their way through the Blood Apes and other assorted creatures. Grisban was able to move a boulder easily allowing the heroes to pass through to the Stream and bring Valyndra down from the sky just as she roasted the last miner revealing Jorem's discovery. As my blood ape grabbed it and ran, I felt my strategy was flawless. I had clogged the path for two of the heroes to keep them from making their way back to the entrance, and they were also badly damaged, one knocked out. Tasting victory, and cocky I used Valyndra to attack Grisban, dealing only minor damage. I had forgotten about his power to counter any adjacent attack. His attack dealt something like seven damage, and the heroes who had pretty much given the quest up for dead found renewed life. Valyndra scurried back as far as she could, but Grisban caught up, dealing two more attacks, and slaying her. Meanwhile the blood ape dropped Jorem's discovery, screamed in fury and ate a banana.


4/11/13 Work!

Battlestar Galactica (3 player) Not recommended with three, I think 5 is ideal. I received the cylon card at the halfway point, and revealed myself too soon by sabotaging a mission. I thought I ascended to my ship when I revealed myself (though this wouldn't really make sense now that I think about it) and since I didn't got myself thrown in the brig for my efforts. I managed to drag the game out a bit, but after the humans passed my major cylon crisis card by a hair, it was just a matter of time before they took the victory.

King of Tokyo (x2) (5 player) Another handful of dice with this crowd favorite. One co-worker liked it so much he bought it Amazon prime for next day delivery. I took the second game with victory points by utilizing the swingy re-roll an opponents die at the end of their turn card. It felt a little dirty, even for such a confrontational game.


4/12/13

Run for Your Life Candyman This is the game your kids should be playing instead of Candyland. Essentially it is Candyland (and like Candyland it goes on for far too long) but was still a lot of fun (to play once). Each character has a gingerbread man with six or eight hit points worth of health assigned to each body part which corresponds to the candy on the movement cards. Passing characters on the map, drawing them into cage matches, or using action cards allows you to attack other characters, drawing from the same Candyland style movement card pile to assign damage. Chris won, scooting past the evil twins who do significant damage, like the hand from the Addams family, the rest of his body crumbled or consumed.

Sentinels of the Multiverse (Emily, Emily's Friend, Keith, Kyle) This is the second time I've played and can't wait to play again. The co-op is awesome, the villains both times were cool and significantly different, and the choices in heroes, all different from last time really added a lot. This time thankfully Emily's friend (sorry, can't remember his name!) played a character whose main ability was to heal, and Kyle played a character who had a lot of bots who were able to direct damage to themselves, and I played a dude who stacked on the damage. We won again easily. I'm sure with the wrong combination of heroes things could get a lot harder.

Eaten by Zombies (Brandie, Chris, Craig)

Dixit (Brandie, Craig, Emily, Emily's Friend, Keith, Kyle) Second place - sooooooooooooo close. Apparently I need to be more literal, my clue "It's a long way to the top" with a pig looking in a mirror was voted on exactly zero times while pictures of towers and sky and floating things all earned their players points. Brandie took this one with consistent play. Also I learned what an ornithopter is.

Bonus: 4/13

King of Tokyo (Brandi, Jamar, Jen, Keith) I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Jen is a dice whisperer. She played Panda-kai, evolved a couple times, snuck into and out of Tokyo ninja style to kill me when I retreated, blasted ahead of Brandi and Jamar in VP's while making them think they had a chance, won the game, then threw up her Red Lobster dinner which apparently had not agreed with her. ROCKSTAR. She felt much better after.
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Sat Apr 27, 2013 11:01 pm
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4/19 4/25 4/26 - Descent Interlude, Merchants of Venus, and a Birthday!

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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4/19 Descent The Half-way Point!

Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition (Chris, Emily, Keith, Kyle)

We've made it to the interlude! After I (the overlord) was soundly defeated in the intro, First Blood, A Fat Goblin, The Cardinal's Plight, and having won (a little too easily) on Castle Daerion (before FAQ V2 was posted) we moved on to the Interlude 1, The Shadow Vault which is mandated as the heroes had a 2-1 record in the regular quests. At this point Leoric (Kyle), Grisban (Chris), Tomble (Jamar) and Andira Runehand (Emily) are working together well and all were pretty well overpowered for Act I monsters. The last character I was really able to knock around, Leoric, is now in possession of Heavy Armor and the Staff of Light relic from our last encounter. The Interlude, The Shadow Vault, is another race to the finish on a board much larger/longer than anything we've seen so far. Once again, due to the cold war threat of Kyle's blast power, I chose larger creatures - the Giants with reach, the Shadow Dragons (of course) and the Manticore who are able to pierce X with a surge and can double attack. I was able to slow them up early, causing some damage to the party. Early on Tomble discovered a secret passage, the first to come up so far from the Lair of the Wyrm expansion. It seemed fun, though Chris, who was taking over for Jamar on Tomble was hesitant to explore due to the number of turns it would take to clear the room. But since it was the first, and the party was taking damage, but not in dire straits, he plunged ahead. The room took (I think) six or so turns to complete which was a significant portion of the quest. He managed to clear the room, attacking and killing the monsters that appeared on the turn they appeared, and never really dealing with any major threats. So he emerged from the room, reward in hand, a one time use card that allows him to stop one overlord card effect. Meanwhile, due to Grisban's low awareness, the party chose to go around the river's edge rather than swim through the stream. At that point I was within a couple damage points of downing Andira, the casket bearer so she lateraled it off to Grisban. They ground along, taking damage until they reached the stream at which point the casket was lateraled again to Tomble who had been MIA, but reappeared just in time to fling himself off the waterfall, landing safely beneath. The horde of monsters followed suit, flinging themselves over the edge in a desperate scramble to stop Tomble from reaching the exit. Unfortunately I hadn't the foresight to clog up the exit before Tomble arrived, so within a couple of turns he made his way to the edge of the exit tile. The hero blockade had turned into a hero chase - and then Tomble stopped allowing Grisban one last moment to snatch a treasure they had left behind near the river's edge. So the heroes were again victorious, this time taking a Shadow Rune as a reward. I look forward to the first Act II quest which should be my best chance to win, provided the quest is evenly balanced. The biggest difference from Act I to Act II seems to be the addition of a yellow attack die to the monster rolls.

Meanwhile, Chris has brought the idea a couple of times of changing up his hero for Act II. I had originally wanted to play as is for continuity, but we do have a rather lot of heroes, and as Kyle said, we're playing for fun - if Chris is bored with Grisban, why not.

Then...

4/25 Work!

Snake Oil (6 players) Yet another Apples to Apples variant, and one that blows it out of the water. Each player has

Zombie Dice (6 players) A blah filler - sure it moves quick, and technically you could say there is some strategy in knowing how many dice of each color were left, but it is a really basic push your luck game with not enough strategy for my liking. (See Love Letter below for what a good filler should be.)

Cosmic Encounter (4 players) I introduced the game to three new players, all of whom are excited to play again. Win! I chose the assassin, the player to my left chose an alien with quite circumstantial abilities that didn't come up (don't recall), the player across from me, the alien that can turn any encounter into a chance encounter (pick a hand, if the token is in it, the attacker wins), the and the player on my right, the glutton. The glutton was able to get a flare that allowed him to force a redraw of the destiny deck once per encounter. My power was fun, forcing people to leave extra ships on their colonized planets since I could pick off a ship per turn, twice causing players to lose a colonized planet. I raced to an early lead, getting to four before making my biggest blunder. The Glutton chose to ally with me on defense and I tanked the encounter by playing a negotiate in order to take two compensation cards. The compensation was not great, and I had forgotten the Glutton had drawn a ton of defender rewards earlier on and likely could have helped me win the encounter. The glutton had the best combo of abilities and on his turn we were unable to stop him from colonizing his fifth planet.


4/26 Chris' Birthday!!! Love Letter, Drunken Monkeys and Milf Pelts

For Chris' birthday we threw a BBQ potluck and boardgame extravaganza. As the man of honor he got to choose a game he had been wanting to play for a while - the original Merchant of Venus which he had of course updated with his own rule modifications.

Love Letter (Emily, Josh, Keith, Kyle) - I see why this one shot up the hotness list so quickly! This is the opposite of Zombie Dice on the spectrum of filler in that it offers lots of strategy and a little bluffing while still being quick to play and easy enough to pick up after one three minute round. I highly recommend picking it up. Kyle jumped into an early lead, taking the first two rounds by means of assassination and naming the princess who I had looked at in Josh's hand, and he had subsequently traded with me. Then Josh took a couple, holding the princess a total of three times and winning twice. Then Emily went on a card naming tear to eliminate two of us, and won a round. I finally won my first round, and Kyle won a third at which point we called it to move on to Chris' birthday game, Merchant of Venus.

King of Tokyo + Power Up! (Brandi, Cristian, Dan, Donnie, Jamar, Jen) Shots edition! The house rule on this one is that if you leave Tokyo you must take a shot, if you die, you take two. Since Jen doesn't drink, Jamar had to take her shots for her. Since he was her designated driver, she had to carefully choose her strategy. Dice love Jen, she evolved three times in her first three turns. One of her evolutions gave her a target token which rotated around the table and caused the player holding it to take an extra damage. Dan died very early on, but had bought the two headed creature - allowing him to regenerate. Brandi killed Jamar on accident. He was at one health and she had a card dealing damage to all other players, even those not in Tokyo - rolling a paw while trying to heal on her third roll. After a drought on heart roles for all players, Jen, in Tokyo rolled four paws, killing Cristian and Brandi (who had the target token) and bringing everyone to their knees. Donnie was able to eliminate Jen leaving Donnie and Dan to duke it out. It was a race for victory points, with Donnie getting there first.

The Resistance: Avalon (Brandi, Cristian, Dan, Donnie, Jamar, Jen) Cristian, using his evil Sauron eye CORRECTLY pegged Brandi and Donnie as spies immediately, but wasn't able to peg Emily as she was on her phone and he doesn't know her that well. The good guys were able win three of the first four missions. Fortunately the minions were observant and through process of elimination they were able to assassinate Merlin. Cristian and Jamar seemed convinced Emily was good eliminating them from contention. Whenever Jen was asked who to put on a team she always chose correctly for the good guys, and finally was caught making frantic eye contact with Jamar and Cristian, so the Minions were able to have a come from behind victory.

Merchant of Venus (Chris, Josh, Keith, Kyle) The game went about four and a half hours with three all new players. We played standard rules, up to 2000 galactic credits, but with a bunch of component modifications. Finding the original tech and equipment a bit dull, Chris added a bit of spice to them, mostly I think by adding various types of shields or lasers. I haven't played the base game so it's hard to know what was original and what was changed, but this version seemed to add a lot more variability on a players turn. Except for the play time I enjoyed the game a lot. It offers a great deal of strategy, and each player can hone their own play style based on the tech they get. Kyle was able to race around the board thanks to having tech that allowed him to bypass all yellow AND red spots, PLUS he had a ship that allowed him to roll four dice. Fortunately early this was balanced out as he was therefor only able to carry one good. He wasn't able to recover fast enough - upgrading his ship to carry two goods in time and finished in last. Josh went the real-estate investor route, piling on deed after deed. I believe he had a shield of a certain color, and moved fairly efficiently, finishing in third. I had a foil which allowed me to land on planets for free and more importantly a hyperspace jump tech which allowed me to jump to any hyper-gate on the board if the number matched a die I had rolled. It proved effective enough, especially later in the game to get me the second place finish... which means of course, Chris finished first. His victory was undoubtedly due to playing efficiently. His main tech ability allowed him to peek at one hidden token on the board per turn. He used it quite wisely and took the victory. I'll happily play this game again. It is thematic, strategic and most importantly, fun! The flavorful backstories of the alien races were hilarious, and the names - immortal grease, the eeep race, and a good that sounded enough like "milf pelts" and had us cracking up.
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Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:19 pm
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03/22/13; Work; 03/29/13 More Horror

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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03/22/13

Arkham Horror (Brandi, Brandie, Craig, Keith) Lets just co-op the corporate-speak term "learning opportunity" as it turns out we did a whole host of things wrong, from not alternating first turn which I think had a much larger effect than anticipated, to generally not really coordinating as we should have for the first half of the game. Brandi's character was most memorable, as the hobo with the dog. She kicked butt, slaying monsters, finding a ton of cash in the other worlds, and eventually transforming from derelict to salaried sheriff. Meanwhile I started as (I think) Michael McGlenn, a dude with machismo to spare and a Tommy gun to match. Unfortunately this came at the cost of brains/sanity. On my first encounter with what should have been the equivalent of crushing a cockroach, I failed a sanity check (or two) and was lost in time and space. I'm not sure why, perhaps it was an environmental effect, the ancient one's overall ability, or something on that particular encounter card, but being lost in time and space immediately ended in death. As a result I got to bring in another investigator, and this time foolishly chose Michael's reverse doppelganger, a woman with a ton of brains and only three machismo. Or life, or whatever you call it in Arkham. That ploy was an abject failure as I was locked into a small section of the board surrounded by monsters with magical immunity. Additionally, my draw cards were crap and I was essentially weaponless. I piddled around my neighborhood for a while, doing what I could (read: not a whole lot) and it was only a matter of time before the Ancient One awakened. Upon awakening I was immediately killed while the other three investigators made decent rolls, allowing them to keep most of their items. But as usually happens, one by one they dwindled down, Craig, then Brandie, until finally only Hobo Sherriff Brandi survived. She managed to bring the Ancient One within a single health token of death. In the end though, it turns out the great evil was only toying with her, and she died along with the rest of Arkham.

Indeed Brandi had such a good time despite the loss that she has declared her like of board games to have expanded from Resistance and Pandemic to include all cooperative games!


03-28-13: Work, or just another Gloomy day at the old office.

Finally, "real" games at work! This time I learned Gloom, which I had seen on Tabletop but wasn't all that interested in. It is a light card game with just enough strategy to keep it interesting for a few plays. The game has a novel aspect in its clear modifier cards which you place directly on any players family members in order to make their lives better or more miserable. Generally more miserable. To give a broad overview up the game, each player attempts to decrease the point value of your characters (make them more miserable), increase it for opponents, and try to kill off your own characters with the lowest score possible. You can't kill off your characters until they are in the negative value, and when a player manages to kill off all of their family members, everyone tallies up their score, the lowest winning. The real charm of the game comes in the descriptors of the modifiers and death cards which include things like "chased by children" and "mocked by midgets." Each one prompted a fun visual which generally lead to some explanation of how the character came to find themselves in that situation. There is additional strategy in that some of the death and point cards have symbols that if played on the right characters can provide opportunities for point bonuses. The game has lots of luck of the draw, tons of flavor, and just enough strategy that while I wouldn't purchase it, and I would play it again.

Next and finally, we played a game of The Resistance. Two of us had played before, one was familiar with Werewolf, and in the shocker of shockers, and a first for me, none of the new players managed to reveal their role card before the end of the game. (Mad credit, work peeps!) We had nine players, three spies, and six resistance. I was a spy and we managed to do okay, winning two of the first four missions. By the final mission though, there was enough information out there that even though one good guy was still suspect, the other members of the resistance had seen enough role cards that they were certain their five chosen members would pass the mission. The game was lengthened out a bit longer than it needed to be as people used up their power (?) cards, taking control of missions, passing leaders and so forth. Several people were big enough fans that they want to pick up a copy.


03/29/13

I decided to change the general Friday game night at my place from every week to every other week as life tends to get in the way and most people can't make it that frequently. Instead I'll host a general game night every other week and in between host nights for the Descent/Risk Legacy folks who are the ones that tend to show up every week anyways.

I started out with a quick tutorial and semi-play through of Stone Age while waiting for everyone to arrive. It is a worker placement game that only took about 20 minutes for everyone to get the hang of. It is a very basic dice rolling worker placement game. I was able to teach it fairly easily as I downloaded the excellent ipad version and had played it about four or five times with different numbers of players each time. I wish there was a way to do this for all games *cough*mageknight*cough* as I am confident this is one of the few games we would have played through a first time without making rules mistakes and needing to consult the rule book every thirty seconds.

Arkham Horror (Brandi, Brandie, Chris, Emily, Keith) This game went a lot more smoothly than the last in nearly every way. A look back at the rules by Chris confirmed we were only doing a couple things wrong this time such as reading tomes while sucked into a portal. Even if we had followed the rules to a T, we would have won really handily thanks to Emily's researcher character who allowed for a reroll of all unsuccessful dice once for any investigator in a round. The Big Baddie this time was a god who had no ongoing environmental effect, but rather called for the inclusion of "black items" in the monster pool and cultists who, when killed, were returned to the pool, rather than taken as trophies. Characters were dealt randomly except for to Brandi who insisted she get the hobo with a dog character back. This time everybody's random items were a great combination of physical and magical weapons as well as useful spells which allowed us to keep the board fairly clean of monsters from the beginning. I was the old dude with limited movement but excellent lore which made me good with the magic and spells. Chris was Michael McGlenn, who I had played with last time - a man with a tommy gun, and not much else. Brandie had a well-balanced character, a psychologist which allowed her to regenerate one sanity per turn. Our group managed to seal the required number of gates (for the first time ever in my four times playing). I had resigned myself to thinking that was the fool’s road to victory. In fact it was apparently such a quiet night in Arkham that the terror track had not moved up even one stop, and the Ancient one was still four doom tokens away from awakening. In fact the only evidence anything had occurred during the night would have likely been a missing persons report filed for poor Emily who we made the decision to leave sealed in one of the portals. Hey, better safe than sorry, right? Plus it's Arkham, so I'm sure she'll find her way back when another portal opens shortly. All in all it was a pretty good day in Arkham. One note though, f*** my luck with the blessings. In the three times I've played this, I have been blessed four times, including twice in one game, and each time have lost the blessing by rolling a one within the second upkeep turn of having received it... Perhaps my soul isn't clean enough for a blessing. Oh well, I guess a Tommy gun will have to suffice.

Mage Knight (Craig, Josh, Kyle, Tom) Josh bought and taught himself and Tom the game (kudos!). They both love it and described it as a mad, mad game in which the designer threw every game mechanic into one game. It features deck building and RPG elements, could be cooperative if you wanted it to be, is perfect for solo play. In fact the only thing they haven't discovered in it is worker placement which they decided is probably in one of the scenarios that they haven't read through yet. So Josh and Tom took on the daunting task of teaching the game to Kyle and Craig, and as a result was the only game we have attempted as a group that went LONGER than a game of Arkham Horror. As a result I was able to watch the thrilling conclusion. Tom had blown by everyone in leveling up with some sort of awesome combo he had created by purchasing a card at the "market". Kyle was in second by twenty or so, Craig in third and Josh in last. The scenario they played had the characters going to sack four castles. Collectively they sacked a grand total of zero castles, and instead focused on killing monsters and dragons in an apparent "sword-measuring" competition despite the game's allowing them to team up to defeat the castles. The biggest surprise of this game is that Tom, hater of co-ops, and sword measuring connoisseur, actually wants to try again in full co-op mode.

Mage Knight got a huge thumbs-up from Tom and Josh, a thumb up from Kyle who wants to play again, and a thumb down from Craig who was unable to do anything and finished the game with zero wounds, and at pretty much the same level he had started at. He felt it was an issue with the game design in that by falling behind early on, there was nothing left for him to do on the board. However he is willing to give it another go.
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Wed Apr 3, 2013 9:05 pm
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03/09/13 Secret Agency; 03/15/13

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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03/09/13

Pit (Brandie, Chris2, Craig, Donnie, Emily, Josh, Keith, Tom) We started the night with a quick game of Pit, dealing people in as they arrived. Tom won by completing his set in three of the numerous rounds. Once everyone had arrived we put it away and moved on to:

The Resistance: Avalon (x2) (Brandi, Chris 2, Brandie, Craig, Donnie, Emily, Josh, Keith, Tom) A new Tom favorite! He is generally a fan of strategy games with minimal luck, but surprised me when he said he had purchased this social game - a variant on the classic Werewolf. This is one of the few games Brandi will turn off the new Tomb Raider (or Black Ops) game for, so she came over. Luckily I was on the side of good both times because I am dreadful as a minion. Good won the first game through a combination of luck and good reasoning. The first two teams chosen threw no fail cards which gave us a big advantage, after that it wasn't too hard to isolate the Minions of Mordred. In the second game I was thrown on two of the starting quests and able to convince everyone I was good. The quests were tied two-two and the vote was passed to me. I had previously established that Josh was a fellow good guy, and felt pretty confident Chris2 was as well. I was sitting next to Brandi for both games and noticed a completely different playstyle from the first to the second game. In the first she had been good, so the second time I (accurately it turns out) had her pegged as evil. We were on the fence about Chris2, Tom and Craig. Chris2 insisted if he weren't on the next quest the game was as good as lost. I actually believed him over Craig, but don't know either one of them well enough to know when they are lying. Josh eventually convinced me that Chris was really good at the game and was probably lying so I kept him off the team. Cards were flipped and Craig was revealed as the assassin. It turned out even if I had followed my instincts and chosen Chris2 we would have lost anyways as just before the first mission got underway, Tom had revealed to Craig his identity as Merlin. I'm not sure what the strategy was there, I suppose it could have paid off handsomely, but in this instance it didn't.

Agents of SMERSH (Chris, Keith, Kyle) I'd had so much fun with Tales of the Arabian Nights, the choose your own adventure boardgame with much theme and moderate to low strategy that I really wanted to give this one a go to see how it matched up. (It's been more than a week between the playthrough and this post, so I'll only mention my general impression as I don't recall many of the rules details.) I didn't find the cold war era setting nearly as engrossing as the Arabic folklore either before or after playing. While the choose your own adventure and master skills are lifted straight from Arabian Nights, the strategy was far deeper, and felt somewhat derivative of Pandemic in both the board design and the cooperative aspect. There were many cool reveals in the storytelling aspects (one spoiler only) finding out for example, that SMERSH had replaced the president of the USA with a robot. Unfortunately there were far fewer of those memorable moments than Arabian Nights provides. My biggest complaint though, is that the encounters aren't strung together as well as they are in Arabian Nights. Arabian Nights feels like one epic story told from beginning to end. SMERSH never reaches that level of cohesion and suffers a bit for it. I will play again as I am determined to beat the game, but ultimately I'm not sure it will ever deliver the level of immersion and fun as it's closest competitor.

Settlers of Catan (Donnie, Emily, Josh, Tom) Tom made up another one of his custom boards, scavenging bits from the various expansions to come up with a behemoth of a board.


Work!

The evening started out promising with a table being set up for one of my favorites, Battlestar Galactica. Two thirds of the 16 went off for a game of Taboo, the rest of us went to learn the miniature strategy fantasy football game Blood Bowl. After a quick recital of the rules, my opponent and I we were left to fumble our way through four turns, consulting a chart and rolling dice while the games owner went off to play his own game on a second table. Despite more rulebook consulting than playing, I can see the appeal of this one - there is a ton of strategy in what is a relatively simple game. The second Blood Bowl table got sucked into a game of Cards Against Humanity while we finished up, my opponent throwing a hail-mary and winning 1-0. We joined in on Cards Against Humanity for a few rounds, and by the time we finished it was too late to start Battlestar. I couldn't wasn't able to convince anyone to try a new game, even something as easy as King of Tokyo. Instead they pulled out Pictionary which we played until we got bored and decided to swap out Pictionary cards for Cards Against Humanity cards. I won't go into details as it was work, but overall the night was a blast and it is always cool getting to know new-to-me co-workers.


03/15/13 - A little bit of Gamenight

Smallest showing yet, with only Chris, Emily and myself. I used the opportunity to finally break out my own copy of:

Mansions of Madness (Chris, Emily, Keith) I set up most of the board before they arrived. It took about twenty minutes or so. We played the Inner Sanctum scenario, and Chris and Emily playing two investigators each. Overall the game wasn't as close as it should have been with me as keeper routing the investigators pretty badly. It was my first time hosting as the keeper, and probably my fault it was as lopsided as it was - since I was trying to remain somewhat neutral as an opponent, trying to teach the game and trying not to cross the fine line of revealing too much of the unique story or clues that hadn't been revealed yet. Unfortunately the investigators made several mistakes that turned out to be fatal. The first was that they didn't realize I had limited movement. I was goverened by my keeper cards and could only move one monster per turn by paying threat tokens. So instead of running, the investigators chose to stay in the spaces with the Monster so that they could attack the next turn - even when they had ranged weapons which would have limited my attacks to one attack on a single investigator per turn. By the time we all realized this one of Chris' investigators was stunned, and unable to pass the evade check to leave the area. Right about that time Chris utilized one of the items he had found and made the greatest final mistake - revealing the objective. He was currently double stunned and at the mercy of one of my Hounds of Tindalos, a cultist, and a zombie, and it was revealed that my objective was to:

*Spoiler*

...kill at least one investigator. This took exactly one turn from the reveal even as one of Emily's investigators rushed to try and rescue him. She was able to deal some damage, but not enough kill the hound which would ultimately do enough damage to kill Chris on the next turn.

*End Spoiler*

Chris is a big fan of the thematic games, and now that he has a much better idea of how to play I'm confident this will go much better next time. As it was we played for nearly three hours, with the investigators doing pretty well in clearing out the clues and solving the puzzles and locks. From what I understand only one of the other scenarios in the base game I haven't played is really good, and the other two range from lame to broken. I'll probably give BGG user Bleached Lizard's optional rules a shot since they add some really cool ideas to the overall game, my favorite of which is giving the keeper three different action types. The most interesting of these, a diminishing action, can be done repeatedly but at greater and greater threat cost each time. This makes for a much more thoughtful and strategic game while playing as keeper.

Till next time!
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Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:28 am
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03/01/13

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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If last week was crazy, this week was much calmer, and even a little bittersweet as it is Dennis' last game night with us before his move up north. Everything gelled, no arguments over what to play, and everyone just had a great time.

I tried to start the night with another round of Paris Paris, but during the rules explanation enough people streamed in that we quickly went over the limit and moved on to something more group friendly. In putting it away we dropped a house/business and I think one of the pups may have eaten it. I'll have to count to verify. :/

King of Tokyo + Power Up! (Chris, Cristian, Dennis, Emily, Keith) I said it out loud so it wouldn't come true again, and it still came true - I died first. Again. This time I managed to get into Tokyo fairly early and survive a few rounds with only minimal damage, finally sustaining 5 total and yielding. Cristian, who had been sharing the board with me in Tokyo Bay moved up to Tokyo, and Chris took his spot in the Bay. Then Cristian rolled 5 damage ending my game quite early. We played with the expansion but this time it came into play far less than previous plays. It's all in how the dice are feeling any given night. Emily had never played before but like everyone else, picked it up quick and had a sneaky play, purchasing a card that dealt three damage to all players including herself. This brought Cristian and Dennis down to one each, and with Dennis stuck in Tokyo, it was his doom. Cristian never really recovered and went out shortly thereafter. One of Emily's evolution cards gave her the power to go to 12 health, something she frequently took advantage of. Chris managed to heal up rapidly as well, and bought a card, the Sidekick (probably expansion), that was slightly confusing, especially with only two players remaining, and said if he was killed by another player his health went back to 10, his points to zero and his fate was tied to the player who had killed him. It was something to the effect of if they won, he won, if they died, so did he. Emily's strategy thereafter turned to chasing victory points, a category she was already well ahead in due to her 1+1+1=3VP card, and something she achieved fairly quickly to win the game.

Pickomino (Chris, Cristian, Dennis, Emily, Jamar, Jen, Keith) Since Jamarnifer had just arrived, we knew we would have to split up for any substantive game and decided to play at least one game that could incorporate all of us. Luckily as much as the dice hate me in King of Tokyo, they seem to love me in Pickomino. The game went four times around the table, with me scoring two to three worm value dominoes each time. There was plenty of petty stealing around the rest of the table, with the 26 being the hot potato this time for some reason. Luckily I managed to steer clear and won easily.

Walking Dead: The Board Game (Chris, Dennis, Emily, Jamar) Jamar was determined to play this one right after our last apocalypse simulator session. It turns out this game is just plain hard to beat, even when played correctly. About a half hour in we were done familiarizing ourselves with the rules and set up of Power Grid, and they felt their game was almost over. Then their luck changed and they kept rolling sixes. A six roll allows you to keep any scrounge card you may have used rather than discard it as usual. Dennis and Jamar died first and became the zombie team, and therefore the ultimate "winners" but not before Emily managed to make it to the very last corner card she needed. She had the supplies to get her down to having about a 50% chance of rolling a win - then Jamar played a fury card on her. She needed a 6 just to survive with no ally's left, and of course the dice didn't go her way this time. I believe they ran out of scrounge card very early on and only due to miraculous rolling did the game go to an hour and a half. The key difference between this session and the one we played wrong is that they felt like there might almost be a tiny chance of winning and that the game is not impossible to bead. But boy is it hard. (That's what she said.)

Power Grid - Brazil Board (Cristian, Jen, Keith) Meanwhile it had been a while since we played Power Grid so it took some time to re-familiarize myself with the rules. We chose the Brazil board for the first time. The board is fairly straight-forward, and the rule modification fairly minor. Trash is a more popular resource in this game, and so trash power plants are excluded when discarding 8 plants to get down to the correct deck size for the number of players. This leaves more trash power plants than normal, so the refresh rate on the trash resources is boosted to make up for it. Uranium is still the rare resource here, and coal becomes the second rarest after the second phase.

I recently moved Power Grid into second place on my favorite games list, just after Descent. The lengthy play time and the fact it doesn't cause riotous outbursts a la King of Tokyo kept it from seeming glamorous and from getting played very often. Tonight I was reminded why it is such a great game. The conflict and agony is often internal, so an outsider watching won't be engrossed. The picture was essentially this: Three people staring at their money, then the power plants, then the resources. One might exclaim, "Damn!" then look back at their power plants, the ones up for auction, then back to the houses. Then they make a move and exclaim holy crap! Not very cinematic, but good god is it tense for the players.

Jen had an extraordinarily strong start, picking up several cheap power plants for cost. I made big errors in calculation on bids as I tried to remember the strategies and to hit the right balance between bidding and town placement. Nevertheless I made enough mistakes that I was trailing significantly for a little more than half the game. My chance finally came when Cristian bid Jen to astronomical heights on an average late game plant that they both "needed to have" for some reason. It powered six cities and was the first of its kind to show up. I think they both forgot how many of those there would in stage 3. The money spent kept Jen from powering her many cities. I eventually passed both and encountered a tense moment late game when I realized Jen could run the market on oil leaving me able to power only a handful of my cities which would likely dash my chances for success, or even second place. Luckily she was in the mood to buy and after Cristian beat her on a plant, she purchased a wind powered plant and removed one of her oil consumers, ensuring enough resources for all. Cristian made the mistake of buying too many resource heavy plants early to mid game and suffered for it. On the last turn he was at 13 cities, and bought only one with the potential to power six. I was planning on ending the game that turn, sitting at 15 cities and easily able to afford 2 more, plus the power. Jen then surprised me with the amount of cash she had - buying three cities to hit 17 and trigger the end game. She blocked out my cheap spots and forced me to go another direction, though luckily I was still able to purchase the two cities I needed to match her 17 - being a dozen dollars shy of getting the 18 I needed and could potentially power to beat her outright. We bought our resources, and with enough to go around, powered all our cities. Jen finished with six dollars to my sixteen. It was much closer than we had realized - her lead early on was extraordinary, and nearly gave her the edge even with the mistakes. Man, I love this game.

Pandemic (Dennis, Emily, Jamar) We were about halfway through Power Grid and this trio needed a medium weight game to carry through to the end of the night. Since Dennis and Emily had never played before Jamar chose a beginner variant. I only had two check-ins with them. In the first Jamar was regretting choosing the beginner variant since they were cleaning up the disease left and right without a real challenge. The second time I checked in they had lost - the one single city in existence that couldn't have an outbreak and couldn't possibly come up next did - and the world perished.

Monopoly Deal (Dennis Emily, Jamar) Yeah, we still weren't done with Power Grid. This may have been the longest ever game our group has played of Monopoly Deal at almost a half hour. Jamar was again the only one who had played before. It definitely left him with a huge advantage, even in a game as luck driven as this one. To their credit, Dennis and Emily held on for quite a while, all parties getting one or two monopolies with houses and/or hotels. It was all for naught as Jamar eventually took out the competition with his third monopoly.
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Sat Mar 2, 2013 11:37 am
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02/22/13 New People!

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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New People!

This was a crazy night, with something like 13 people, 5 of whom were new!

Paris Paris (Donnie, Josh, Keith, Tom) I had just picked this one up at the Strategicon auction for a couple bucks. The rules were easy to understand and explain, and the gameplay simple. Tom immediately declared his hate for it while the rest of us rolled with it. Each player takes turns going first, drawing 5 tiles and placing them on the corresponding bus stops on the board. Then each player removes a tile, replacing it with their house until there is one tile left. The tile is then scored and moved to the side. When two tiles of the same color match, a scoring round takes place on that bus line. Only having played it once, I can say there is a certain element of strategy, and a certain element of luck at play. I have to play several more times to figure out the best strategy for placement. So far I go for my secret line, ends of lines where I will have little chance of being pushed out (as there are fewer tiles), and depending on the turn, taking a space to ensure a Grand Tour, or scoring round. I won with 50 something, a couple of people were in the 40's and Josh a little further behind. I'll give this one a few more goes as an evening opener, though am not sure how quickly it will wear out its welcome. So far though, a good buy! Also, I noticed there is a print and play expansion which allows each player to have another scoring strategy. I look forward to giving it a try.

Attribute (Donnie, Jamar, Jen, Josh, Keith, Tom) Once again we went back to the well of sheep at Jen's request. Now that I think about it she has sheep sweaters and a general thing for sheep so I shouldn't have been surprised. This is the second time we played this less artsy high octane version of Dixit. Like any good party game it played even better with six than it did with three. We played until the scoring sheep ran out, I won with 7 while Donnie came in second with 6.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer + Return of the Fallen (Brandi, Brandie, Emily, Kyle) Kyle managed to get the ladies table, and what better game to introduce them to than Ascension. Brandi picked up on it right away (it was all 3 ladies first time playing) and she quickly began comboing up. She is mostly a social game fan (Resistance, Bang!), but had found another category of game she loves: the Shopping Game. When she started viewing cards as coupon cards and discount cards she really got into it and eventually ran away with it. The number of cards in her hand at the end was quite impressive. This against the man who wrote a 7 part blog on how Ascension was like life - this must have been part 7 in action. [geekurl=http://kyletfujita.com/tag/ascension/]7 things about life I learned from the game Ascension – Part 7[/geekurl]. Ultimately Brandi liked it so much she bought the ipad version, played it nearly a dozen times over the weekend, and ultimately confessed she had also purchased the expansion.

Forbidden Island (Chris, Nicole, Vincent) I haven't played this one, but Chris described it as Pandemic, but much simpler, except instead of fighting disease you try and prevent an island from sinking into the ocean before time runs out. He seems to enjoy it.

Monopoly Deal (Donnie, Jamar, Jen, Josh, Tom) Tom and Jamar were quite excited to capitalize on the surplus of players and play a full game of The Resistance. In order to time the finish of all three tables at the same time they pulled out this game. Monopoly Deal is a game of lots of luck and moderate strategy and can be fun if you don't take it too seriously. Not sure how many games they played, but it was a combo of this, a variation on Jamar's classic High-Low: Cards Edition (in which a deck of cards is used instead of a die), and Josh performing magic tricks. It took Brandi and her Ascension cohorts a while to tally up the scores.

The Resistance (x2) (Brandi, Brandie, Donnie, Gary, Jamar, Jen, Josh, Kyle, Tom) And so they were off. Luckily there were enough of us that I didn't have to play, and enough of us who didn't care for the game that we were able to start up a separate table. For some reason the Resistance won both times - the first time they all happened to be sitting next to each other at one end of the table, directly to the right of the first player. I believe the game was won before they even took control of a mission.

RoboRally (Chris, Keith, Nicole, Vincent) I have made a complete 180 on this game. When this game was introduced to us last time, Jen, Jamar, Tom and I hated it. The first time we played it was two boards wide with the clunky first edition starting rules. Additionally the boards were complicated - lots of rotating and stomping on various programming turns. Everyone but Tom (lucky 3 forward starting card) and Chris, who had played many times before, basically got stuck in an endless death spiral. This time however, Vincent, who owned the game and all expansions, and has a man-crush on Richard Garfield - but who doesn't - introduced a much more beginner friendly board, and a single board at that. The programming was much easier this time, flowing quite naturally, and there was lots of robot interaction and laser firing. I believe we played with an expansion or two which allowed us, based on positioning, to upgrade with various weapons. I had a flywheel which allowed me to save a card from last round for the following round, and Chris had a deadly dual cannon, dealing two damage to all in his path. This game has officially gone from meh to King of Tokyo good. I really hope the expansions are reprinted because they add a ton of flare to the game.

Tsuro (x2) (Keith, Nicole, Vincent) It was late, but this one was short enough we played twice. The game is as simple as they come, yet tall on strategy. Basically you pick a starting position, hold three cards with paths on them, play one card at a time, and try to be the last player standing on the board. If your path connects with an existing path that leads off the board, or if your last played tile leads to the edge of the board you lose. You can also play offensively, boxing in other players to ensure they go out first. It was super simple and a lot of fun. It literally takes less than 10 minutes to play. I'd pick up an auction copy for a couple bucks.


Then Sunday!

Descent Second Edition
It was Oscar night, so we used this as an excuse to get together. The ladies watched the Oscars, the dudes played Descent. I'm going to go ahead and say it. This is my current favorite game of all time. We only managed to play one and a half encounters of The Cardinal's Plight before everyone had to leave. The board was photographed and will be picked up this weekend. So I had the conversion kit, but hadn't really used it to full effect as we were still working to understand the game. Now that I know whats going on (mostly), this deck added enormous variability to the scenario. (Plus I also paid way too much for all the first edition Descent stuff so I don't have to proxy figures - totally worth it.) In the first encounter for the open group I played these creatures that morph into any creature within line of sight and use that characters weapon to attack. I couldn't wait for Grisban the Jerk (Chris, with a super over powered character) to get into the line of sight and finally get a taste of his own medicine. Unfortunately that never happened. I believe he killed one creature in a single blow, then he and Jamar teamed up to kill a second creature with two other heroes, and finally Jamar used Tomble to stun the remaining master creature. So if you've played this before you've probably seen the hilarious "stun" threads on BGG. Unfortunately I hadn't. It turns out the card for stun is somewhat poorly written and is mostly interpreted ad taking away a character's entire turn rather than just a single action. We've been playing this rule wrong throughout the entire campaign. I'm sure one or two encounters would have been a little closer if we had played correctly since stun is (was?) one of Jamar's favorite powers. I was able to raise three zombies but only get one off the board before the heroes came storming through. Jamar's search ability (don't remember if it is his character or because of an item) allows him to search two tokens in one turn. So they powered through this one - if we had played correctly I am confident I would have at least two zombies for the second encounter.

Side note: second rule we played incorrectly - walking "through" walls. We had played that corner squares alongside the edge of the tiles were considered adjacent and only took one movement point to get around. It turns out that those that had the black "wall" spilling into them are not. It made a lot of sense when we thought about it - since one of my biggest complaints with the game was that heroes could basically make it from one side of any map to the other in two to three turns. Fortunately both the Overlord and Heroes had played incorrectly, so I don't think one side or another got an advantage.

Back to it: So second encounter, I have one minion and one master zombie at my disposal gnawing away at the Cardinal. Unfortunately he is rolling super well, and I have only done 2 damage in something like six or eight rolls. I chose the Gollums for the entrance room which slowed the heroes considerably - they like to rely on pierce, which the Gollum are immune to. As we left it off, Jamar's Tomble had just snuck past the Gollum to open the far door revealing dark elves, while Chris' characters had stayed behind to finish off the remaining minion Gollum. Oh, I forgot to mention - I finally scored three knock-outs to Leoric of the Book. Two with the Gollum, and the third by forcing all characters to make a * check. Those who failed took a damage.

So, the last thing we (I) did wrong - I didn't realize there are more of certain monsters in Descent 1Ed than the group types allow for, so I didn't look at the number of monsters on the card for four players, but instead just threw all three I found in the bag in into the dungeon. It turns out 2ed only allows for one minion and one master Gollum... Fortunately Grisban being overpowered combined with my terrible die rolls against the Cardinal means this encounter will most likely win anyways. I guess it is karmic justice for stunning my shape shifting characters into submission in the first encounter (and all previous quests). There are enough quests going forward, and we have already found out we have done so much wrong that we really wouldn't be interested in going back and starting this one again. Hopefully this is the last of the mistakes though! I also picked up the Lair of the Wyrm expansion and hope to start instituting it next time!
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Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:09 am
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2/15/13 Work, Friday and Strategicon!

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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Work Night!

Due to Valentines Day falling on the Thursday work game night, it was moved to Wednesday. The turnout was even better this time - 15 people.

Saboteur (8 people) - Scaled well, and was easy to teach. Everyone picked up on it right away, even though only one or two had played before. A perfect opener. One of the guys who had played before took the tactic of outing himself as Saboteur immediately every time, deciding that waiting or staying covert only hurt his chances of success. Unfortunately for him I think the saboteurs were foiled every time.

Formula D (5 people) Another fun, quick game for casual gamers. This was the first time I had played with the new edition and the upgrades in the shifter and trackers for the various car damages were pretty cool. We played a combo of the beginner and intermediate rules, including drafting and damage, but excluding weather. It was a one lap race, and I had a slow start, but by pushing my luck was in or very near the lead with a quarter of track to go. Unfortunately I pushed my luck a little too far, and smashed out with one corner to go. The highlight of this game was a co-worker who managed to end three turns in a row next to another car. When this happens you roll a twenty sided die - only a one takes damage. She rolled three ones in a row. We decided to let her re-roll the last one for the sake of inclusion since it was so early in the race.

Resident Evil - Three of the group split off to play this one. The scoring disparity was pretty huge - something like 16 for the lowest player and 75 for the highest.

Taboo - Fun family friendly game and a classic. Lots of innuendo and laughs - not sure what more there is to say. It was nearly 930, I was tired and took off. Some of the group stuck around to play Cards Against Humanity which is always a blast.

Then Friday Game Night!

Agricola (Josh, Keith, Tom) With all his bragging I thought Tom was supposed to be a master of this game, but this time Josh took the victory. I was surprised by how much I liked this game. I know it is a BGG Top 5 Game, but oftentimes it seems like the top BGG games value concept ahead of fun. I was expecting a bone dry Euro-game, no theme, the place a worker to get an asset to get more workers to get more assets, ad infinitum. And technically that's exactly what it is, but somehow a combination of the harvesting to feed the family, the cute animeeples, and the ever increasing variety of options on where to place the worker made the game much more than just the mechanic. Things got tense as every harvest approached, with worry about whether the family would get fed being balanced by worry that I would have too much empty farmland, and worry that I wouldn't be able to make enough major improvements to substantially increase my harvest. And so it turns out not all "Euro-games" have to be dry as dirt *cough*Caylus*cough* Even if you don't have a favorable impression of Euro-games, I would recommend giving this one a shot - especially if animeeples are involved. It really isn't as dry as you might think.

Saturday, February 16, Strategicon: Orccon

I registered for this years Orccon, my primary goal being to learn as many new games as possible. I signed up for most of the 101 intro sessions and would call the convention a success!

Kingdom Builder - A simple game with little interaction, this felt like Smallworld without the fighting. At its most basic, you pull a card, play three houses on that terrain type, adjacent to your own houses if possible. There are various opportunities to score which are randomly selected based on the tiles that have been chosen to play on. That is a terrible description of a really simple, and really fun game, but I'd play again in a heartbeat. There is plenty of strategy based on scoring opportunities, and the game moves quickly enough that the lack of real depth doesn't make the game wear out its welcome before it ends. This is a $35 dollar game in a $50 dollar box, and while I wouldn't pay full price for this one, I'll pick up a copy used as I expect there will plenty of copies available in the near future.

Starship Command Continuing in the theme of way overpriced games that I liked quite a bit comes Starship Command, a card game of inter-galactic warfare. Looking it up on BGG after I played, it seems to have started life as a print and play and therefore doesn't really have the recognition it deserves. Each player starts with five over sized spaceship cards on the table in front of them. The spaceships each have point values, shield and life values, types of weapons as well as various levels of weapons. Each player also has seven random secret cards in their hand, which include weapons of various types and levels, repair cards, boarding cards and so on. The object of the game is to either be the last fleet standing, or to have destroyed the most point value worth of ships by the time the deck of action cards has run out. Play was quite intuitive and the carrier ships provided a nice variable. The game played like a basic Cosmic Encounter, you play damage cards face down, the person being attacked plays a number of defense cards, cards are revealed, and the difference in the cards is the amount of damage dealt. I enjoyed the game, and would recommend it, unfortunately, though I know it is an independently produced game, the asking price of $50 at the con was a bit too high for what amounts to a rather large stack of cards. For the record I feel the same way about Dominion and Race for the Galaxy. As this was a tutorial we didn't get to finish the game, but I suspect another issue may be that it runs a little too long, especially with a large number of players. The official rules say up to ten players, but the downtime would be murder. I wouldn't recommend more than four.

Ra As a huge fan of auction games, this is one I have picked up and put back down at the local game store a half dozen times. The prices at the game store never seemed to match up with a game that seemed really really simple. Unfortunately the experience with this was marred somewhat as the teacher had not played in a while and had to consult the rules frequently as we went along. We managed several rounds of auctioning and just over one full Epoch, only to find out just before we had finished that the winning bidder was supposed to place their bid in the center of the board, and take the last winning bid number. That simple mechanic made all the difference. It went from being a relatively straightforward auction game to one with just enough strategy to keep me interested. Incidentally by the time we had to clean up for the tournament, the lone seven year old at the table was beating his four adult opponents quite handily.

Caylus The auction at last years Strategicon Gateway was probably one of the highlights for us. The auctioneers are so hilarious and entertaining that even if you have no intention of buying anything it is worth going for the laughs. One of those very same auctioneers is a representative for Rio Grande Games, and happened to be the gentleman explaining the rules for this one. Even so, by the time the presentation was completed, most eyes had glazed over. This is a game for only the most determined of nerds. It was repeatedly billed as a perfect information game, one that not unlike chess, was won or lost entirely due to the choices you made. As I've previously established I am more of a theme guy. I prefer player interaction, shouting, excitement, adrenaline, exhilaration, amazement when someone pulls out a miracle play no one thought possible. This game is the opposite of all of that. It is a game for analysts, for people who want nothing to come between them and the strategy that will defeat their opponent, people who want to control every element of their environment. Because of that, this is a game I can appreciate, and perhaps, once I fully understand it, would find it interesting to watch masters of the game play it well. But there are so many more games that are more entertaining, that will serve to bring my friends and I closer together, and let us do things like fight evil, travel through space, or destroy cities, that I doubt there will ever be room for this one at the table.

Kingsburg I knew nothing about this game going into the 101. The title is so generic I had a hard time differentiating between this, Wallenstein and Lords of Waterdeep. Luckily, lame title aside, this turned out to be a euro-game that was much more my speed that the dreary Caylus. Basically, you progress through seasons, each season rolling dice, determining turn order, take turns placing the dice on a very cheerily designed board, then taking the resources associated with each placement. You use the resources to build buildings which give you bonuses, allowing you to build faster, granting larger armies, and generally making the game more interesting. This was probably my new favorite game of the convention. It was a combo of all the games I had learned before it. It was easy to understand like Kingdom Builder, but with more depth. It offered opportunities for strategy, like Caylus, but without the pretension or dreariness. At this moment for me, it is the perfect intermediary.

Mansions of Madness Oh god yes. Finally. After my failed attempt at "Keeping" I made it my mission of this con to finally learn to play this game. We had a fantastic teacher Brian, who was hosting a game session for the first time. He set up the board before we got there, and in the 101 walked us through several turns of Fall of House Lynch to get an idea of how to play. If you have a keeper who knows what they are doing, or are willing to put in the time to learn before your friends arrive, this game will pay off in spades. For the actual Fall of House Lynch play-through, myself and a gal named Emily teamed up along with a father and his daughters to solve the mystery. I was most familiar with the game, and it was everyone else's first time playing. Although not a strategy I endorsed, we started out the game moving through the house as a group. Eventually we realized we should probably split up to cover more ground, and did so. I want to say it was at our peril, but in the Mansions of Madness universe, anything you do is at your peril. Thematically the game is amazing, the characters are very well thought out. The father played the old dude with the cane, and was the MVP, uncovering nearly all the clues, and many items as his high intelligence allowed him to solve puzzles quickly. His daughters played the muscle, much more valuable at protecting the group than at solving the various puzzles. Emily and I played as the religious woman, mostly because from behind the figure looked like a wizard. I won't give the story away because the real joy comes in exploring the house and watching the story unfold for the first time, flavor text adding a sense of macabre to every action you take, and every creature you run across. Ultimately the heroes won the day, running the clock out before horror that had awakened was able to escape to the world outside.

Mansions of Madness was the perfect end to a long and fun day.


Various Convention Observations:

Merchant of Venus and Tzolken: The Mayan Calendar were the games I saw out most. I managed to see all three versions of MoV, and boy is that new Fantasy Flight board bright and busy! The difference between MoV, and Tzolken - the people playing MoV seemed to be having a great time, those playing Tzolken, seemed to be consulting the rule book a lot.

Arkham Horror + three expansions - One insane gentleman decided to host an eight player game of Arkham Horror. I was able to stop by at numerous points in their at least eight hour play-through to check on progress. From what I gathered the investigators weren't able to get their act together in time, the Ancient One awakened from his slumber, and all perished.

Android Netrunner - I just missed out on the 101 for Netrunner. I stood around and tried to pick some of it up by watching it played. Not happening. It was explained to me the best way to learn this game is for someone who knows it to teach you. This seems to be true as Jamar learned it with a dude from his work. They played all week until late every night. It wasn't until the end of the week that they were finally able to play without consulting the rulebook all the time. Jamar's verdict: This game is the shit. Now we just have to find a copy because I am not paying $30 for deck of cards

Mage Wars - Another 101 I skipped out on as something like 15 people had signed up. Based on the reception this one is getting, I will be making a point of learning it at the next convention.

I also participated in my first math trade! I had Race for the Galaxy up and managed to swap it for a copy of Elder Sign in a wooden cigar box and a homemade version of Resistance but I think it was themed to a videogame called Team Fortress. It is very well made. Considering a copy of Race for the Galaxy went for $13 at the auction, I think I made out pretty well, even if the TableTop episode of Elder Sign didn't make the game seem all that appealing. It's at least worth a shot!

Monday, Auction Time!

It ran four hours, and I purchased about 10 games including:

Pandemic (1st ed) for $18;
Agricola which was bundled with Agricola: Farmers of the Moore, for $45;
Perikles in shrink for $12;
Res Publica, a Reiner Knizia game in shrink for $7;
Dominion: Alchemy for $8 (For Josh if he wants it);
Corruption, a card game for $2;
Hispaniola in shrink for $11 (which may be a bust based on the BGG reviews), a handful of other games ranging from a buck to just over 10; and finally:

Attribute a Z-Man game for a couple bucks. Jamar, Jen and I played this Monday night and had a lot of fun catching up on the weekend. It is a cute word association game. Everyone draws and plays a random positive or negative sheep in front of them secretly. Each player draws four cards which have adjectives them. If the active player has a positive sheep, they come up with a category or description which fits one of their adjectives. After hearing the description everyone plays a card face down. If you have a positive sheep, you find a card that matches, if a negative sheep, one that is the opposite. On the count of three everyone flips, and makes a grab for a work they thing has a positive sheep under it. Each player gets one point for every positive sheep they grab, minus one for negative, and plus one for not having anyone grab their negative sheep. That's it, simple, easy, fun for kids and family. My only gripe is that there aren't many cards and no expansions. But for only a couple bucks, this one will have been worth the money.
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Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:44 am
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02/10/12 Mini-Pocalypse & The Sack O' Guns!

Keith Hammons
United States
Santa Monica
California
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Jamar didn't want to drink alone so he stopped by and we played a couple games of:

The Walking Dead: The Boardgame (Jamar, Keith) x2 - I now know we played wrong, but boy was this game hard. We determined it was more of an apocalypse simulator than a zombie fighting game. The game-play: draw a hand of five "scrounge" cards which can be used to fight zombies or move players. Roll a die, move, draw an encounter card, resolve the encounter, repeat until a player has visited all corner spaces, obtained the cards there, and returned to the base. The scrounge cards are not easy to come by. In the first game Jamar used two of his to keep me from advancing to the corner spaces as I was rolling really well. Eventually I died, turned into a zombie, and then turned Jamar. We were a lot more conservative with our card use in the second game, but due to terrible rolling (3 or four "1" rolls) it took five or so turns to get from one corner to the next. This time Jamar made it to the third. Eventually though, I turned, and was able to catch him before he got there.

Things we did wrong: apparently you only need to "survive" the double encounters on the corners to receive the corner card. We played that you had to DEFEAT both cards. The second rule we played wrong is that after we didn't win the double encounter on the corner space, we decided we had to move off of the space, then back onto it to reactivate the encounter. Between these two rules, the game was nearly unbeatable and felt more like a soul sucking apocalypse simulator. Not necessarily in a bad way though. It made us realize that as awesome and entertaining as zombie apocalypses are in the movies, we would probably not stand a chance in real life. That said, the game was fun for what it was - an quick playing licensed title. If someone breaks it out at a game night I'd recommend giving it a shot, but wouldn't recommend spending money on it. Also, it does bring some innovation in the unnecessarily giant box - the world's largest mouse-pad game board gets rolled up for storage. Also, as a fan of only the current first half of the Governor season of the show, I didn't get the card called "Sack of Guns" which I assume was a reference of some sort to something in the first couple of seasons. Because what's better than a gun? A sack of guns!
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Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:23 am
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02/09/13 + 02/10/13 Story Time!

Keith Hammons
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Santa Monica
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While waiting for the gang to arrive I broke out this starter for the first time:

Saboteur (Cristian, Josh, Keith, Kyle, Tom) Although it was the first time any of us had played this it took ten minutes or so to read through the very brief rules, sort out the cards and be on our way. The game plays like Resistance-lite. Each player is secretly given a character card with either a dwarf or a saboteur on it. One character card is always discarded so in our five player game there may have been one or two saboteurs. Six cards each are dealt, a player turn consists of play a card (or discard) and take a card. The table is set with a starting card face up, and three objective cards face down seven cards away. Only one of the objective cards has the treasure on it, the other two are stone. The object of the game is for the good dwarves to play tunnel cards from their hand and connect the starting tunnel to the gold before the draw deck runs out. If the deck runs out and all cards are played before the miners reach the gold, the saboteur wins. In addition to the tunnel cards there are action cards which can be played on other players, including three types of broken equipment cards which don't allow players to mine until the equipment has been "fixed" by playing a corresponding repair card. Finally, there are "map" cards that allow players to look at one of the objective cards and helping them determine the location of the gold. The game is played in three rounds, with character cards being shuffled each time. Lone saboteurs receive 4 gold pieces, miners draft the treasure cards equal to the number of players in the game and draft counter clockwise from the player who reached the treasure.

The game plays fast and easy, in the first I was a saboteur, not wanting to cause suspicion I played a few miner cards off to the side and eventually used two maps to find the gold. With one card from the gold I played a dogleg mine card. Fortunately the deck ran out and Cristian had broken several pieces of Josh's equipment convinced he was a saboteur. Round after round each player discarded cards until finally Tom revealed he actually had the cards to free Josh - but that he wouldn't because he was a saboteur as well. 2 treasure to each of us! Second round I was again a saboteur, but this time everyone was conscious of how quickly the deck ran out and made a beeline for the treasure. This time I didn't have the cards I had previously and the miners won handily - as it turns out Kyle, who had played two mine cards in favor of the miners, was also a saboteur. In the third and final round, I was a miner, albeit one with a terrible hand - only one tunnel card, the remaining were repair and one map card. Tom took a little too long on his turns and I quickly realized he was a saboteur. I was able to find the gold with two map cards again (there may be too many of these in the game) and rushed Josh through his turn - who played a mine card straight into the gold - as a saboteur. After Tom explained why that was a terrible play, gold was drafted, Cristian, who had won the previous round, drafted first and last, and won by one treasure. I finished in third and Kyle in last. Quick and easy, I'll be bringing this to work game night for sure!

Agricola (Tom) Tom was not interested in Kyle's latest hotness as he is currently "obsessed" with this game, so he sat down for a single player session. It looks interesting and I promised to play with him next week. He finished with 75 points which is apparently quite good. Meanwhile we all had a blast trying:

Tales of the Arabian Nights (Brandi, Cristian, Josh, Keith, Kyle) This is the choose your own adventure of boardgames and is absolutely fantastic. The heart of the game is a book, which depending on what type of terrain you move to, what card you drew from the encounter deck, what skills you have acquired in your travels, what you roll on a die, and how you choose to react based on the dice roll, will tell the story of your encounter, awarding destiny and/or victory points, sometimes treasure, and sometimes terrible fates like wounds or shame. There seems to be a couple thousand of these stories, so no matter how fantastic of a reaction you choose to have, there is a story for it. The game is set in the Arabian nights universe. Each player chooses their victory condition - a combination of story and/or destiny points up to 20. Alternatively, you can win by fulfilling a story card which is passed out at the beginning of the game.

We were all pretty much sober and we still had a blast. Each story and character really took on lives of their own. Cristian was Sinbad, and so felt he needed to Attack every possible encounter. In some instances it worked really well, in most others not so much. His final score reflected his single track mind - 10 or so destiny, 1 story. Brandi did quite well, finishing in second, piling on the skills and treasure in the end. She absolutely loved it, especially having the opportunity to get the determined status by turning down the advances of a lovelorn stalker. I was last, the turning point coming as I tested the limits of the game by choosing non-obvious reactions such as "cry out" when I encountered a beautiful reef. Alas, the cry out was my undoing as I was so enraptured by the beauty my boat smashed into it and sunk. I then obtained the scorned status which was a pain in the butt to get rid of and slowed my quest considerably. Josh's story was by far the highlight as early on he chose to go along with a strange custom involving being buried alive with his newly deceased wife. He CHOSE to go into the pit with her, surviving but being starved, robbed, and raving mad. It was all downhill from there. In short he went insane and was forced by the game to have others make his choices for him. He was eventually scorned, wounded, outlawed, and in our favorite twist, took on a status that forced him to choose "rob" in every encounter. This culminated in his robbing an imprisoned princess who obviously had no money, and becoming an outlaw. I'll finish by saying his last turn saw him transformed into a dog... Kyle won the game by making solid choices and spreading the story and destiny points evenly. His highlight was an encounter in the special area, the Valley of the Diamonds, which I won't spoil, but was incredibly exciting and propelled him far ahead of the group when he navigated it successfully.

All in all I'm not sure how many times we could play this before we started running into the same scenarios. Even in this one there was quite a lot of stepping in to help unfortunate souls who were beaten, robbed or murdered. However I look forward to being able to play it again as its rather unlike most games out there.

And then SATURDAY!

Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition) (Chris, Jamar, Keith) This time it was off to Castle Daerion for our third quest. I played Overlord, while Jamar took charge of his old standby, Tomble Burrowell, and took over Kyle's character Leoric, and Chris continued on with Grisban the Thirsty, and Jen's character Leoric of the Book. We are playing the campaign, and so far I was crushed in the First Blood, and had some poor interrogations with Splig in A Fat Goblin. This time the set up was easier and for the first time it seemed simple. We only had to look back at the rule book a handful of times (usually going with logic since it was sometimes unclear) and completed set up through quest in about two and a half hours. I've adapted to Leoric's blast power which devastated many of my monsters in the first two by relying heavily on fewer, more powerful monsters like the dragons. In the first encounter of Daerion my objective was to kill four villagers before the heroes lit four torches. I was able to kill three of the four, but in a last minute dash, Leoric sped by me, while Tomble stunned one of my dragons. A poor roll from the minion dragon left the last villager alive, and gave Leoric the time he needed to light the last torch. In the second encounter the heroes needed to keep their king alive and hold out against waves of monsters I sent in to murder the king. I again used the dragons to block the heroes path into the throne room. The minion fell to one blow of Grisban's might axe, but the second, though once again stunned, held them off long enough for the three zombies (one for each villager killed previously) to do substantial damage to the King who had 25 health. My Ettins made it down the hallway, and again managed to blockade the entrance to the throne room, defeating the King quite handily.

The overlord deck is getting more interesting as I am able to purchase more substantial cards. I've chosen the magic path, which seems to really be the only one worth a damn, as the other two paths highest level cards seem kind of lame. In getting a better understanding of the game as we go I am also able to make better choices in which monsters to put up against the heroes. I'm also realizing that the heroes are fairly well balanced in their skills and killing them is quite hard. Thus in this quest, except for very early on, I focused all my resources on fulfilling the objectives rather than harming the heroes. All encounters save for the last one in Daerion have been reasonably close. I know it must be near impossible to balance all the quests evenly, especially as characters progress, but the game is fun enough that ultimately it won't matter for our casual level of play.


Other notes - entered the OrcCon math trade - traded Race for the Galaxy (not my favorite) for Elder Signs. It didn't look that great on Tabletop, but I'm sure it will get played a lot more than Race did.
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Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:08 am
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