Oh Good, Another Gaming Blog

The gaming adventures of one man and his gaming wife, plus stories from game days and other random thoughts.

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Dune might be the best game ever

Fat Tony
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My regular game group isn't getting together tonight because of Thanksgiving, so it's a good time to look back at last week's session, where we got in a 4-player game of Dune. I'm still thinking about it a week later, so that's a good sign.

I was vaguely aware of the game when I started hanging out on BGG, many years ago, and at one point I was fairly serious about making my own copy, or acquiring a copy of Rex: Final Days of an Empire. When this was announced, I was definitely curious, but I have a hard time justifying owning big, long games that require several people. So naturally, I was psyched when my friend bought a copy.

We had actually tried to play a week earlier, but due to a variety of factors, we weren't able to finish the game. That game featured the following factions:

Atreides
Harkonnen
Fremen
Bene Gesserit
Spacing Guild
(me)

Our second, successful game featured these factions:

Atreides
Harkonnen
Fremen
Emperor
(me)

The game ended in round 10, with an Atreides victory. In an odd departure from canon, the Emperor and the Fremen had an alliance, and had actually met the Fremen victory condition heading into round 10, but we weren't able to hold on.

Everyone loved the game, but it's definitely a lot. The ability to ship in troops from off-world definitely threw a monkey wrench in everyone's plans at some point: it's just so different from every other game involving troop buildup, where it happens more slowly. Overall, though, the game lived up to everyone's hopes, and it really feels like Dune.

What are your thoughts on Dune? Any strategy tips, or thoughts on the various factions, expansions, or advanced rules?
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Wed Nov 24, 2021 4:10 pm
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My daughter and I are Heroes of the Star Realms

Fat Tony
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Sunday night, my family and I were recovering from a long weekend, capped off by the time change. Around 6 pm, with all of us already thinking about bed, my wife suggested a movie. Our 10-year-old daughter wasn't up for that, so I suggested a game. She loved that idea!

Next step: picking a game. Wife was too tired to join us, and suggested Star Realms, knowing Daughter was a fan. I asked about Star Realms or Hero Realms, and got the answer I was hoping for: "Why not both?"

I won both games, but that wasn't necessarily Daughter's fault. Hero/Star Realms is a notoriously swingy game, and if you have a couple of cards that trigger each other, as I did, it can end quickly. Still, in both games, both of us were in the teens for remaining health before it ended.

Although I own several expansions for each game, we stuck to the core set for both. Our family did have a lot of fun over the summer playing Hero Realms with the Dragon boss deck, and we're all eager to try that again. I promised Daughter she could be the Dragon next time.

She handles the rules to the game pretty well, and understands the basic strategy, which, naturally, has me wondering if she's ready to try Clank!

Who else has played these games with their kids? What are your favorite ways to play them? Have your kids tried the expansions, or moving up to Clank?

ETA thank you for the Geek Gold!
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Tue Nov 9, 2021 6:53 pm
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Deception? Secret Hitler? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've heard of those...

Fat Tony
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Slowly, but surely, I'm getting caught up with what everyone else has been playing for the past several years.

I've been going to game night at a friend's house for games once a week. There's usually only a few of us, and we only have a few hours, so he'll just pull something out from his collection. If we can have something set up ahead of time, even better. Last night, we had 6 people, so it was a good night to pull out a couple of social deduction games - Deception: Murder In Hong Kong, and Secret Hitler. Both games were new to me.

Social deduction games aren't my favorites, but I really enjoyed both of these. Both of them have enough actual rules that they actually felt like games, instead of party activities.

(We also played Mille Bornes, which was also new to me, but isn't a social deduction game. It is a fun card game, though.)

In general, I've done a terrible job of keeping up with new releases in recent years. Our collection is large enough that I'd rather just play something we already own, and if there any trends in games that have emerged since, say, 2015, I'm probably unaware of them.

Also, in recent weeks, I got to play Memoir '44 with my neighbor. That's one of my all-time favorites, and I appear to have gotten him hooked. We also got in another play of Ascension, which has become a legitimate rivalry between us.

D&D campaigns are stalling out these days, mostly due to the real Big Bad of every campaign: scheduling. We'll get there, someday...
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Thu Oct 21, 2021 5:45 pm
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Latest obsessions

Fat Tony
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Nothing like family, friends and games...and music and beer...and pizza and bean dip...and actually having time to play games...
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After a year and a half, and all of my close gaming circle now having been vaccinated, I've got my gaming career more or less "back on track." So naturally, it seemed like a good time to actually update this blog with what I've been into lately. I'm going to try and do this once a month or so (hah laugh ).

Dungeons & Dragons - my neighbor got me back into D&D after a 20-year hiatus. The plan was to just play with him and his kids at first, but I slid right back to where I was 20 years ago, and it's been glorious. Thanks to Roll20 and Discord, I was able to keep playing during the darkest times, and I'm very grateful for it.

I'm currently playing in a Curse of Strahd campaign, which I believe is almost over, and I'm DMing Tomb of Annihilation, which is just starting to really take off. Our group has future campaigns in mind as well, and we're looking at other systems as well (Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, and The Expanse immediately come to mind).

BattleTech - a game I've been interested in for decades, and I finally decided to take the plunge. I did use the Beginner Box to introduce myself and a few friends to the game. Everyone loved it, and agreed we're ready for the full game, which I managed to find at Barnes & Noble online for retail price. If you're an experienced gamer, and curious about BattleTech, you can probably skip straight to the Game Of Armored Combat, but I don't regret starting with the Beginner Box. Worst case scenario, you'll have an extra map, minis, standups, etc.

Memoir '44 - an old friend that's found new life, largely thanks to me finally acquiring a copy of the New Flight Plan expansion. That made me want to introduce this to more people, and through that, I found out the DM of my Curse of Strahd group is a HUGE Memoir fan. Now we're planning an Overlord game at some point, and I couldn't be more excited!

Other games: I have a group that regularly meets on Wednesday nights, and we've played some really fun, new-to-me games:

Mansions Of Madness
Legendary Encounters: Alien
Above and Below
Spirit Island
Dice Miner
Horrified

And some favorites of mine that we're planning to play:

Clank! and its various expansions, plus the Space! version, which I personally prefer
Cosmic Encounter
Hero Realms
Power Grid
New Frontiers

What have you been into lately? What should my friends and I check out?
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Thu Sep 16, 2021 5:52 pm
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Remember to make time to play games!

Fat Tony
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In the past two weeks or so, I've managed to get together with friends to play games four times. A few of these times were regularly scheduled events with a group that I'm officially a member of, although I rarely go, and one was with a good friend at his house.

These gaming sessions are the first games I've played since August, and between them, I've come very close to equaling my total number of plays for the months of May through August.

There's a good chance you can relate to this. In my case, I've got a daughter, who's at the age (six years old) where she's got a lot of extracurricular activities, birthday parties, etc. I've got a job that I love, but it comes with some very long (and occasionally odd) hours, and lots of extra side obligations. I also play guitar at church, and play in a band on the side - no gigs lately, but we hope to record in 2018. And of course, I have a wife that I like to see once in a while.

So when I don't have anything going on, I tend to want to just hang out with my family, and more than any of my other interests, it's gaming that has to take a backseat. And with the holidays underway, another involuntary gaming hiatus may be just around the corner.

Still, the gaming I've gotten in lately has made a huge difference. I've been in a general funk lately, and I'm noticing a little extra spring in my step after finally playing some games. And with Secret Santa giving us some extra motivation to get games on the table, and another session scheduled with a friend the weekend after Thanksgiving, things are looking up.

How do you make time to play games? Do you have a regular game group? Is gaming built into your family's schedule? Do you play with co-workers at lunch? Looking forward to reading the responses - thanks!
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Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:53 pm
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Tony's Stupidly Long Thoughts on Battlestar Galactica, Pt. 4: Daybreak

Fat Tony
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First of all, apologies to everyone who's actually been following this series of blog posts. Real life and work, man. For those who are just joining us, I'm blogging my comments for Battlestar Galactica and its expansions, in order to make my collection easier to browse. (You can find the previous entries here, here and here.) There have been two major developments in the world of BSG since the last post:

First, Richard Hatch passed away. Rest in peace.

Second, BSG and its expansions have all gone out of print, been removed from the Fantasy Flight website, and are now going for serious money on Amazon and eBay. Hence, this series of posts is now much less useful as a buyer's guide. If you see the game or any of its expansions available at a reasonable price, don't hesitate to grab them.

I have to confess I haven't played with this expansion all that much, and I still don't really have a feel it. My PBF group only played it a couple of times (including a game that ended at distance 4!). As for face-to-face games, I kind of wish Mutiny was optional, but it's impossible to remove without taking out several Crisis cards, the new Treachery deck, the alternate Zarek and Apollo characters, etc. Because of that, and so I don't have to re-teach the Treachery rules, Colonial One locations, and other stuff, we're jumping in with both feet, using all of the "core" components from all expansions and phasing in the optional stuff.

Otherwise, this expansion is noteworthy because it essentially replaces about half of the Pegasus expansion. Although I've complained in the past about BSG repeatedly changing key rules and mechanics, all of these changes are for the better.

New and Alternate Characters: So far, the alternate versions of several base game characters are my favorites from this expansion. Politician Lee Adama is already my favorite Political Leader, and Pilot Helo is pretty great if your group is into aggressive scouting. The new Zarek is a little frustrating: he doesn't make the old Zarek completely redundant, but pretty close (more on old Zarek below). I haven't played Cult Leader Baltar yet.

I'm excited to have new Cylon Leaders, especially Athena and D'Anna. The other new Human characters are pretty cool, but I just don't find them as compelling as those in the previous expansions. Doc Cottle is a favorite among fans of the show, for sure, but was anyone really clamoring to have him in the game? Or Hoshi? I guess I'd rather have them than not, though.

Cylon Leader Motive cards: These are far superior to the Agenda cards in Pegasus. When using the Motive cards, the CL feels much more like part of the group, as opposed to before: with Agendas, the CL always seemed cut off from the main action. And with four cards total, the CL really keeps everyone guessing and is much more of a "wild card" than before. A great improvement to the game.

Mutiny cards and the Mutineer: Mutiny cards still have an impact on the game even when they don't get played, as players are forced to make decisions based on whether or not they'll get brigged. Being the Mutineer is a challenge, and simply having it is an improvement over the Sympathizer (which I've never hated, but it's not great). Overall, this mechanic does a great job of forcing the Humans to work against themselves, which is one of the key themes of the show. (The Personal Goals option in the Exodus expansion was an earlier, less successful attempt to create this dynamic.)

New Skill cards and the new Treachery deck: Just edges out Pegasus for the most interesting set of new Skill cards in an expansion. The new Treachery deck is far better than the original: the new cards are much more likely to have an impact, and they encourage Cylons to remain hidden. Reckless checks are better, too.

The Search For Home: Still getting the hang of this one. It definitely has fewer moving parts than the New Caprica or Ionian Nebula options, so that's greatly appreciated. And even though it won't enter play all that often, I love the Rebel Basestar: it's nice that characters with so-so OPGs and Super Crisis cards can now have another option. Plus, thematically, it's awesome.

New Colonial One and Cylon locations: The names can be REALLY confusing if you're used to the old Colonial One locations. The President's Office is now the Quorum Chamber (exact same function), and the Press Room is now the President's Office (again, same function). And the one brand-spanking new location is called - wait for it - the Press Room. Ugh. Also, the revised Administration location kind of screws the original version of Tom Zarek and takes away a check on the President.

Random: Holy cow, you can get your OPG back now?!?!? Also, plastic Centurions. Sweet.

Finally: I haven't addressed this yet, because it's a side effect of both the Mutiny cards and the new Treachery cards, but this is the expansion that introduced the dreaded "brig-fest" to BSG. And yes, it's a tremendous pain in the neck when that happens. No real way around that one.

With all the changes and improvements in Daybreak, it's tempting to recommend this as a first expansion, but the whole thing gives off a distinct "not for beginners" vibe. So, in the old days when this game was readily available, I would have advised new players to save Daybreak for last. Now? By all means, snatch it up if you see it.

Thanks for reading!
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Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:03 pm
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Tony's Stupidly Long Thoughts on Battlestar Galactica, Pt. 3: Exodus

Fat Tony
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Thanks to everyone who has read and chimed in on the first two installments in this series! If you're just joining us, I'm migrating my very-long-for-the-comments-section thoughts on the BSG series over to this blog, in order to make my collection easier to browse and get spark discussion with other BSG fans. This time, we're talking about the Exodus expansion.

First of all - obligatory:



As with all of the BSG expansions, there are several components here that I've only used with my PBF group, and not yet on the tabletop. My comments and observations:

New Characters: Overall, a better and more interesting selection than Pegasus, and less bloated than Daybreak. Cally is my favorite support character by far, Gaeta is long overdue and Tory is possibly the best President in the game (along with Daybreak Lee Adama). Still trying to figure out Anders: I can't imagine a situation in which I'd choose to play him. Star Player is a pretty cool ability, though.

New Skill cards: The 0-strength cards with their Skill Check effects seem to be primarily suited for making the Destiny deck a little more intriguing, rather than simply "will it be positive or negative?". If these cards turn up in people's hands, they're more likely to be discard fodder, but super-clever players (not me) will find ways to make them work for them in skill checks. The 6-strength cards are great, and I'm glad there's only one of each: when these cards get played for their text, it's an event! At first I was surprised that the Consequence mechanic is so little-used, but after a couple of games, I find that if it comes up even once or twice that's more than enough.

New Loyalty deck and Execution rules: In theory, the possibility of only one (or no) Cylon is kind of cool. In practice, though, it kind of sucks if you're the only Cylon (although I have won a game as a solo Cylon ). Still, I suppose this fix was necessary in order to keep people from abusing the Airlock.

Conflicted Loyalties: I've only used these in PBF games. They're amazing on paper, but like the original Cylon Leader rules, it's a base hit that should have been a home run. The Final Five cards seem to be more fun so far than the Personal Goals, which is the opposite of what I expected. If you own the Daybreak expansion, the Mutiny cards in that set do a great job of forcing the Humans to work against themselves and inadvertently sow discord, so I'd suggest using those instead.

Cylon Fleet Board: I've softened my original stance of "we will use this ALL THE TIME" quite a bit. It's still by far my favorite part of Exodus, and possibly my favorite BSG expansion element overall. For the humans, the Cylon ship threat becomes more constant and steady, but also more manageable (definitely better than waiting ages for a Cylon attack Crisis or getting 6 in a row!). And who doesn't want to be the CAG and/or fly a Mark VII? For the Cylons, the Basestar Bridge introduces more options and gives the Sympathizer more to do if he ends up on Team Cylon (if you're still using the Sympathizer, of course). And if you find having the Pegasus board helps out the Humans too much, the CFB will take care of that.

On the other hand, the CFB definitely adds to the complexity of the game, and the Cylon ships can add up to an overwhelming amount pretty quickly. And yes, it can also be "gamed" by clever players. After playing a couple of PBF games without the CFB, I found I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. I still prefer to play with it, but I'm perfectly fine with leaving it out, if that's what the rest of the group wants to do.

Ionian Nebula: Again, only used in PBF. This module is for the hardcore fans of both the game and the TV series. In fact, I can't imagine using this with my face-to-face game group for a good long while. Very unpredictable and not for the faint of heart. I used to think that only 7 cards for the Crossroads phase was low, but considering we won't be using this module much, it's probably okay.

Given its modularity and how much I enjoy the Cylon Fleet board, along with 75% of the characters, I've decided this is my favorite BSG expansion, and probably the one I'd suggest new players buy first. Curious to hear what others think.
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Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:55 pm
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Tony's Stupidly Long Thoughts on Battlestar Galactica, Pt. 2: Pegasus

Fat Tony
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As I explained in the first post in this series, my comments for Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and its expansions had gotten long enough that I felt the need to separate them out into blog posts. This time, we're talking about the Pegasus expansion, the first released for this game.

My comments for this expansion come with two big caveats. First of all, there are some key components that I've only used with my PBF group, as you'll see if you keep reading. Secondly, a good chunk of this expansion has been re-written or just plain tossed out with the Daybreak expansion. I'm currently in the process of revising these comments and adjusting my rating accordingly.

The Beast Itself: I like it, although it works best if you're also using the Cylon Fleet option from the Exodus expansion, as they balance each other out pretty well. It's almost always better to use the Pegasus CIC location over Galactica's Weapons Control (I'm still not sold on Main Batteries: I prefer sending Vipers to deal with Raiders), but using the Pegasus weapons is not a safe bet. You also gain the ability to soak up damage, but this is offset a bit by the fact that human losses due to damage were rare to begin with. If you're not using the CFB, you could probably leave this out with minimal house-ruling, although you'll miss the Airlock (see below).

New Caprica: My only experience with the NC objective so far is via PBF. The choice of practical actions is somewhat limited, which I think is okay: you don't want it to drag on forever. I also don't necessarily agree that you want to lose civilian ships before reaching NC: in theory, you will have lost all of the population or whatever that was on those lost ships, which is bad in the long run. My tabletop group will get around to trying it eventually, but we're in no hurry, and I could see it being a "one and done" kind of deal. When playing via PBF, at least, it's become my least favorite objective. I just find Ionian Nebula and Search For Home to be more fun, and if we're not using those, I'd rather take it easy and head for Kobol.

Cylon Leaders: Great in concept at least. When playing Cylon Leaders with the Agenda cards (and to be fair, I've only used the Agenda cards when playing via PBF) in this expansion, the CL can be a bit cut off from the main action, and the Agendas themselves are of wildly differing degrees of difficulty and require very different strategies. The Cylon Leader Motive cards from Daybreak are far better and mostly correct these issues.

New Human Characters: More playable characters are always welcome, and there are some good ones here, with one big issue: Cain's once-per-game ability can be severely game-breaking. A house rule or some sort of official fix may actually be in order: my favorite suggestion is to reshuffle the Destination deck before drawing, so the Blind Jump can't be set up with a Scout. Overall, I prefer the characters included in Exodus and Daybreak.

New Skill cards and Treachery deck: All are very cool. Reckless checks are a great concept, and the Treachery deck adds a whole new dimension to the game. Both of these were improved upon with Daybreak, of course (and in the case of the Treachery deck, completely replaced). I also prefer the new Investigative Committee cards to those in the base game.

Airlock and Executions: Probably the most controversial part of a pretty controversial expansion overall. The concept is fine and basically mechanically sound, and the concerns expressed over players employing a "execute everyone until you know who the Cylons are" strategy were mostly unfounded: not only is it against the spirit of the game, it's terribly inefficient. (That said, the revisions made in Exodus don't hurt.)

Random: Movement abilities (on character sheets and skill cards) are a cool concept that I would have liked to have seen more of in later expansions. And of course, plastic baseships. Awesome.

I've been playing BSG since before this expansion came out, and at this point, it's hard to imagine not using it. However, given the improvements and revisions made in the other expansions, it's hard to call this an essential purchase. My guess is that most BSG players will want it eventually: the Pegasus board is nice to have, and you'll probably want Caprica Six, Admiral Cain and some of the other iconic characters included in this set.
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Mon Jan 9, 2017 7:12 pm
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Tony's Stupidly Long Thoughts on Battlestar Galactica, Pt. 1

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Every once in a while, I'll scroll through my collection and review my comments. Some games naturally elicit longer comments than others: there's just more to say about Dominion than Through The Desert (for example). But holy cow, my comments for Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and its expansions are out of control. It's one of my top 5 games (currently occupying the #2 spot), and I used to play PBF games constantly here at BGG. I've developed some pretty strong and detailed opinions on most aspects of the game, and the various expansion elements as a result.

So, I'm migrating my comments over here to my blog for a few reasons. One, I want to make it easier to scroll through my collection. Two, it seems a shame to have my comments in a spot where only I will see them, but it also seems silly to post a review for a 7-year-old game that is comfortably in the top 50 here at BGG. Finally, I just kind of want to see what other people think.

This first entry talks about the base game and the system in broad terms: future entries will focus on the individual expansions and go into greater detail.

(Also, a note: these really aren't all that long for a blog post, or a review. Within the context of the individual game comments, though, they might as well be War And Peace.)

Anyway, although most of my plays are via Play By Forum here on BGG, tabletop is still the way to go when you can. This is one of the 2-3 most thematic games in my collection: like the TV show (regardless of how you feel about the later seasons), it feels both epic and small-scale at once, with the same sense of paranoia and impending doom. Rules-wise, it's reasonably complex, especially once you add expansions (although even then, it's still no Arkham Horror). However, once you've got a grip on the mechanics, they sort of fade into the background and it becomes all about the cat-and-mouse game between the Humans and the Cylons. Simply an incredible experience: few other games even come close.

If I have one complaint about the BSG system, it's that each expansion rewrites rules and portions of the game after they're well established (new Cylon and Colonial One locations, new rules for executions and handing off of excess Loyalty cards, new Treachery cards, etc.). In order to only have to teach the game one way, I've started off brand new players with the expansions, which would not have been my preference. And once you do that, you get some dilution in the Skill decks, and key cards like Executive Order and Launch Scout don't come up quite as much.

My thoughts on the different numbers of players:
1-2: Yes, FFG has released official rules for playing solo or with one other person. These are good for learning the basics of the game (how skill checks and Cylon Attacks work, etc.), but they don't give a satisfying game experience. If you're looking for an epic co-op/semi-co-op game for 1-2 players, keep looking.
3-4: Haven't tried yet and in no hurry to.
5: The sweet spot. I'm vaguely curious about how replacing one of the hidden Cylons with a Cylon Leader would work, but the 3/2 split of Humans vs. hidden Cylons is just about perfect.
6: The second-best number, mainly because the more, the merrier, and also the ideal number if you want to play with a Cylon Leader. Otherwise, you'll need to play with either the Sympathizer (base game) or Mutineer (Daybreak). You can also check out FFG's official "No Sympathizer" variant.
7: Only played via PBF. I'm a little more open to trying this number in person now that our group has more experienced players.

My preferred combination of expansions:
*All core components (characters, skill cards, Crisis cards, Destinations, etc.) from all expansions
*Kobol objective
*Pegasus board
*Mutiny deck, new Treachery deck and board overlays from Daybreak
*Cylon Fleet board, plus its related components (although I won't insist upon it)
*Motive cards for Cylon Leaders

Saving for later:
*Personal Goals & Final Five cards
*New Caprica
*Ionian Nebula (Allies, Trauma, etc.)
*The Search for Home (Demetrius, Missions, Earth, etc.)

Favorite characters, including the expansions:
Political Leader: Lee Adama (alt.), then Baltar (original)
Military Leader: Adama, then Gaeta
Pilot: Apollo (original), then Starbuck
Support: Cally, and it isn't even close (although I am looking forward to trying Cult Leader Baltar)
Cylon Leader: Leoben, for now

Check out this blog entry to read up on my history as a BSG PBF player with the NCC-1701 crew.

Coming soon: my stupidly long thoughts on the three expansions for Battlestar Galactica.
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Wed Jan 4, 2017 6:02 pm
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Deck-building games and whether or not to remain honor-bound to the randomizer

Fat Tony
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Nothing like family, friends and games...and music and beer...and pizza and bean dip...and actually having time to play games...
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Microbadge: Cult of the OldMicrobadge: Deck Building fanMicrobadge: Owner of Too Many Unplayed GamesMicrobadge: Plano box userMicrobadge: Semi-cooperative games fan
First of all: nearly three years since a blog post?!? Geez.

My friend Matt and I played two games of Legendary last weekend, and for both games I used the Legendary Randomiser app on my Android phone. This is my favorite digital randomizer: nice layout and graphics, and the screen doesn't go black while I'm pulling everything out of the box.

Anyway, for our first game, we ended up with Red Skull and the "Unleash the Power Of the Cosmic Cube" scheme, which just happens to be the Mastermind/Scheme combo used in the beginner setup in the core rulebook. Right away, we knew that we'd win easily, and with Human Torch, Nightcrawler and Wolverine on the team, it wasn't even fair.

For our second game, Mephisto was our Mastermind, and I quickly noticed that our setup included no Marvel Knights characters, meaning we were going to get a lot of Wounds and there wasn't anything we could really do about it. After a very brief discussion, we decided that if you leave things like this up to the randomizer, you get what you get and that's part of the game. Anyway, we lost.

I guess I'm curious what others would have done here. Would you have disregarded the setup in the first game, in favor of something more challenging? Would you have switched out a character in our second setup for one or more MK characters? Or is leaving your fate up to the computer part of the experience for you? Or do you not even use randomizers?

Appropos of nothing, I also use Dominion Shuffle for Android, which gives you extensive customization options but can still raise similar questions.
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Wed Feb 19, 2014 6:05 pm
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