Sneaky Meeples

Trials, tribulations, outdoor adventures and occasional board game commentary. Join me as I try to squeeze some gaming time into my life as a travelling IT consultant.

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The Blogger's Dilemma

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: I like a small collection of gamesMicrobadge: I play with Yellow!Microbadge: I Love Gaming with My GirlFriend!!!Microbadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
I finally feel ready to talk a little bit about a game I've now played ten times, but I haven't yet because of it's somewhat unique nature.

Sometimes it's the smallest thing that piques my interest in a game. Regular readers know I'm a big Terraforming Mars fan, which all started when the artwork for the Deimos Down card made it into the frontpage's trending images. Crashing one of it's moons into the Red Planet? What game is this?! "And the rest..." as they say. During a quiet moment in my holiday last year in Kefalonia, I was browsing the big UK board game group on Facebook and noticed an image-post that featured an excerpt from a rulebook. The gist of it was "this game might reference some heavy real-world issues but please remember it's only a game." Intrigued. What game was it?

The King's Dilemma

Less than half an hour later I had a copy ordered.

From gallery of Zveroboy

First of all, this will be a spoiler-free post as much as I can make it. I certainly won't mention any of the main story threads, and if I do single out any dilemmas or decisions, I'll keep them as vague as possible and without any mention of their immediate consequences or aftermath.

My parents and I had such a good time with Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 a few years ago that the idea of another legacy game was well received, but something competitive, based around negotiation, debate and discussion? Compared to my usual gaming fayre it's a complete anathema, and coupled with a medieval fantasy theme?

Actually it was quite an easy sell. As a family we were all on the Game of Thrones hype-train at various points, Rachel and Dad have read the Song of Ice & Fire books in all their gory and intricate detail, and Mum and I are reasonably well-read in the Middle Ages. I offered to be the "Games Master" and do the teaching, admin and scoring, and so we were all set to manage the kingdom.

Typical luck though that I order a legacy game like this, get Rachel and my parents onside to play it, and then we end up in a lockdown, eh? TKD sat rather forlornly in my Kallax all through winter, occasionally being pulled off the shelf for me to read and re-read the rulebook, background lore and descriptions of the various noble houses. Even after reading them three or four times each, I had no idea which one I wanted to play. I figured I'd let everyone else pick first, and being the only one with any role-playing experience, I'd do my best with whatever remained.

When lockdown relaxed enough that we were able to sit round a table again, I couldn't wait to get this off the shelf.

So, which of the mighty and honourable lords and ladies of Ankist are sat on the King's Council?

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Lord Ellsar, Marquess of Tiryll, offering his gratitude to a productive worker

I have to say, Dad has really leaned into his choice of House. Tight-fisted and conservative down to a tee, any decisions that might benefit the peasants and better their miserable lot in life are resolutely resisted. As Lord Ellsar, he's willing to throw around money and favours to get the other Houses onside if they're unsure, but rarely the other way round. He's a hard man to buy, but sees the benefit of religion and often sides with my fanatical House Bleddri when matters of faith arise.

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Lady Beveron, Marchioness of Wylio, using sound reasoning and facts to manipulate the Council

With Rachel being new to role-playing games, she was more drawn to the Houses with simpler goals and desires, and so the pursuit of wealth and knowledge is her main driving force. The most prestigious House so far, winning many of our early games, she manages her Power and Gold reserves well and seems to have a knack for knowing when to pass, when to manipulate, and when to go in big. She's definitely my main opponent and also hard to predict.

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Lady Ockoo, Duchess of Olwyn, watching everyone else bicker and argue while she gets rich

It took a few games, but now she's getting the hang of the mechanics and how the Resources move up and down the board, Mum as Lady Ockoo is not quite as assertive as Rachel's Lady Beveron but just as unpredictable. Definitely a moderate, most of her decisions are done to try and keep balance in the Realm, but she's willing to be bought if the issue is one she doesn't care about one way or the other.

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Lord Bleddri, Duke of Natar, when the Council vote against building yet another temple

I have no idea why I was drawn to the rulers of Natar and their knack for religious fanaticism. Maybe it was the role-play challenge, but also with Rachel and Mum choosing quite middle-of-the-road Houses, some occasional extremism might shake it all up a bit. They might say I go too far, and indeed words like "frothing" have been used to describe my performances, and I'm able to spin most, if not all, of the kingdom's issues in a religious light. From a gameplay perspective, I'm not sure it's working, I've come last more than anyone else and easily have the most Crave points. But it sure is fun.

So why am I only blogging about this now, ten games in, when for Pandemic S1 I wrote up a blow-by-blow account?

Partly it's the design of the game. There's at least half a dozen dilemmas to resolve in each game and there's no way I'm going to record what each one was and how we all voted. Plus, with the core of the game being the voting phase and the discussion that entails, I don't feel there's a good way to capture that in written form. It's a game much better suited for live viewing on Twitch, because the energy and atmosphere of the debates and deal-making can't, in my opinion, be done justice if confined to mere text.

Then there's the weird paradox of blogging about a legacy-style game and writing content that would obviously be full of spoilers.

Aside from that, I've simply wanted to indulge, wallow and savour the experience after being denied it for so long. Mum, Dad and I still talk sometimes about our Pandemic S1 campaign, but we talk about it in such a way that an outsider listening in would think we were actually there, on the ground collecting samples, treating the sick and saving the world. A shared experience unique to us. It felt, and it still feels, real, visceral, something my parents have never experienced from a mere board-game before and, for me, something that reminds me of my halcyon days of EVE Online, that feeling of being able to say "I was there."

We're ten games in and only have two of the six "mystery stickers" down, so we've still got a long way to go. You won't see me post about The King's Dilemma again until we've finished it, at which point I'll post up an overall summary and collect some thoughts and comments from the rest of the table.

For now though, I'm not sharing this experience. This one I'm keeping just for me.
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Mon Jun 21, 2021 3:40 pm
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I Can Crush A Meeple Between My Glutes

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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It's not often I browse the BGG forums. The times I do, I honestly find it rather boring, with the same type of posts cropping up over and over again.

"Is theme X too common/rare/problematic?"

"How can I get my wife/girlfriend/spouse/family/children/friends into board games?"

"KALLAX OR BILLY?!"

But every now and then something grabs my attention and provides some actual content. So imagine my surprise when I come across a topic that seems to bridge the gap between my two hobbies:

Gamers into Weight Lifting/Fitness?

It only takes five replies for a typical turbo-neckbeard response to appear.

"lifting weight is dangerous"

No shit Sherlock. Every exercise is a lower back exercise if done incorrectly. If you really want to see people being meat-heads and messing up their bodies for "da gainz" then OE Fitness is a veritable rabbit-hole of content, funny and cringe-inducing in equal measures.

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Luckily I've got my +10 Strength belt and +5 Gloves so I'm all set.

I didn't set foot in a gym until I was 24. About 6 years ago or so I started going to "boot-camps" that a local fitness guy ran, hour long sessions of varied and intense exercise, anything from punching bags to crawling under nets to flipping tractor tires. From that came an initial interest in kettlebells and a go at some programmes, but it wasn't until furlough last year that I was able to finally push through the plateau and make some serious changes.

Perhaps I'm not a weight-lifting board gamer, currently the barbell is just one of many tools at my disposal, but I'm a gamer who takes my personal fitness seriously and I get that might be a weird combination for some people. Do I work out for vanity? A little bit maybe. I can't deny it's a nice feeling to be told that I'm looking good or my arms are bigger. I got a good deal of pleasure a few weeks ago when I filled three donation bags of old clothes now all too big and baggy for me. Everything labelled "XL" is gone, and most of the "L" stuff too.

But until we get cyberpunk-style cybernetics and we can transfer our brains into whatever android bodies we want, I'm stuck with this one. So I want it to run and function and work as best it can. I'm an IT guy, I sit at a laptop all day for God's sake. I have to run and lift and jump and press-up because I want to keep playing games for as long as I can.

You can be a gym rat and enjoy a bit of Azul.

You can be a Terra Mystica world champion and bench 100kgs.

I don't really know what my point is. I dunno, just, take care of yourselves, I guess, however you choose to do so.

I'm not a personal trainer but I have wondered sometimes whether I might post more about my fitness journey and my goals. Could I be BGG's first bench-pressing blogger?!

From gallery of Zveroboy

Now that Rachel's finished another of her Wasgij? backwards jigsaws I've got the gaming table back, and since she was out doing her fitness thing (some sort of dance-aerobics thing apparently set to a banging Eighties-Nineties-Noughties mega-mix) I figured it was time for old favourite Assembly to see some play.

Is it easier than I remember or is it just harder with 2 players? I won all four games with 24, 25, 25 and finally 27 points. Aside from the first one I forgot to even give myself one of the special character roles. The final game was played with the "Re-sequence" rules from the expansion Assembly: Re-Sequence & Override, which adds the rather simple extra rule that the modules must be locked in clockwise order (but your first lock can be any) and I think I'll just play with this rule forever now. It's a really seamless addition and kind of makes sense in a thematic way, building your ship up from the first module rather than just willy-nilly.

More games of it tomorrow perhaps, since I've strategically left it all out on the table ready for another play.

Oh, and before I forget.

I drew a certain amount of flak from the Old Man the other week, as I had neglected to mention on the blog that when we played the Terraforming Mars: Big Box, he beat me, 103 points to 96.

Tony G (not to be confused with Tony B despite a shared love of trains) played a strong game on the board and managed to grab all three milestones before I could, the latter of which easily cancelled out my lead on terraforming.

Congrats Dad on a well earned victory and a very enjoyable game!
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Fri Jun 11, 2021 7:00 am
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Standing Atop Barf, I Fell

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Presented with minimal commentary.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Looking east from the summit of Barf, a piece I call "Hound Surveying Skiddaw".

Bassenthwaite Lake is below the edge, but in the distance is Thornthwaite Forest with Dodd poking out above the pines. Behind are Long Side and Carl Side, and further afield the mighty mass of Skiddaw.

From gallery of Zveroboy

On the Cumbrian coast, north of Maryport. The hills of Galloway visible across the Solway Firth.

From gallery of Zveroboy

A relic of Cumbria's Roman past, the remains of the bathhouse at Ravenglass.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Haystacks, from the village of Gatesgarth at the southern end of Buttermere.

From gallery of Zveroboy

The ascent is a rather varied experience, above Scarth Gap one needs hands and an eye for solid footholds to climb the rocky crags.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Haystacks summit view, looking northwest along Buttermere (just peeking in, on the left) and Crummock Water. The fell dominating the top right is Grasmoor.

Mere moments after beginning my descent, a trio of USAF F-15 Eagles came roaring down the vale and over my head, an event so at odds with the tranquillity of the fell-tops yet still awesome to witness.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Innominate Tarn, a few minutes walk below the summit of Haystacks, the 892m/2927ft Pillar rising in the background.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Just above Green Crag now, Warnscale Beck winding its way along the valley to Buttermere. Crummock Water in the distance.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Definitive Lakeland literature. Ordnance Survey maps and a full of set of Wainwrights, the latter a bargain from the bookseller on Keswick market.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Games. Unplayed.
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Fri Jun 4, 2021 4:31 pm
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Returning to Tuscany

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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A slightly misleading title, but alas there is no actual, real world movement happening between myself and those green rolling hills, as much as I would love to revisit the area after my business trip there just over two years ago when Viticulture Essential Edition was my gaming companion of choice.

No, it's a more digital return, with a temporal regression, as Tuscany is the focus of my current Crusader Kings III play-through. I've taken some time off from CK3 after my Celtic Britannia play-through back in February, but I've burned out a bit on Satisfactory and after a few abortive starts (where I was steam-rolled or made bad decisions early on) I've managed to finally get a game that's stuck and shows some promise.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Ah, there we are. Little Tuscany nestled in the absolute hell-scape of medieval Europe. I started off as Carlo, Count of Siena, and quickly managed to incorporate the neighbouring counties of Orbetello and Orvieto under my rule. Upon the 867 start date, the King of Italy is Louis II "the Younger", one of the Carolingians. In our alternate reality, he was swiftly killed off by his half-cousin (I think?), Charles II of West Francia, then it all fell apart and for a time I was somehow part of the Kingdom of Lotharingia. Closer to home, the Duke of Tuscany, my immediate liege, lost his title to the much stronger Duke of Corsica just as I was plotting to take the title for myself.

There was a brief dabble in Waldensianism (it's like early proto-Protestantism) which didn't last long when the next-in-line of my L'Aquila dynasty came back from his education in Francia a Catholic. The Duke of Corsica finally popped his clogs at 50-something (pretty good going considering he had the traits of Wounded, Scarred, Obese, Drunkard, Disfigured and Slow) and was succeeded by his thoroughly disliked and dim-witted albino son. By this time I'd stashed enough gold and raised enough soldiers to seize both my independence and then the title of Duke of Tuscany, before promptly declaring fealty to the Pope.

So currently I'm in a fairly good spot I think. I have a pretty powerful army, and being a vassal of Pope Honorius II means I'm well protected from bigger threats because he's got shedloads of gold and even more shedloads of mercenaries. All of Tuscany is now mine, and sitting on the northern border of the Papal States I have a front row seat to the anarchy that is northern Italy. Going to play "tall" for this one I think, concentrating my efforts and economy on making Tuscany a powerhouse instead of expanding and map-painting. There's a few long term goals I can shoot for, like establishing a university in Siena or "Strengthen the Bloodline", the latter of which will require a, err, selective breeding program, to achieve.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Aside from my medieval shenanigans, Red Rising has been my solitaire game of choice this week. A first game against the AI opponent, "Tull Au Toma", on Tuesday left me thoroughly beaten but comfortable with how the Automa operates and works.

I managed two games last night, the first of which ended in a dead tie, 234 points each, broken in my favour by having the Sovereign token, phew! After some play-time with Elsa and a reset of the game, I was determined to actually win this time.

And win I did, with a cracking final score of 325 to the Automa's 271! Getting Lysander in the early game allowed me to gain a couple of extra cards in hand which really opened up my options, and I was left with, I think, I really impressive set of cards at the end of it.

Helga and Pax paired off nicely as did Orion with Pax's namesake starship. The addition of the Morning Star, worth full points because of Orion's presence, and the Ash Lord with a nice triple-blue bonus, were a ton of extra points. Finally a cheeky Gravboot Cobbler, picked up in the final round, scored it's full 30 points with it's end game ability to count as a "wild name" being redundant because everything else was already paired off.

Getting even one extra card is a huge advantage I reckon, especially in a game where most of the time you are basically limited to "play 1, draw 1". It's an uncomfortable feeling in Red Rising to be halfway through the game and have 5 cards you really like and want to keep, thus being faced with the option of either breaking your combos in hopes of something better, or taking that less satisfying "Scout" option which feel like a "half action".

Now that I've got the Automa's process down to a T, it's a joy to play with and is just the kind of AI opponent I like. Minimal upkeep, minimal management and easy to memorise, yet still offering a decent challenge. There will definitely be some more solo plays of Red Rising next week...maybe even a blow-by-blow account?
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Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:18 am
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Things Are Looking Up

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Ah, the gaming table to myself once again. Mostly to myself, Elsa's nose and paws made occasional forays onto the table-top seeking head pats, chin scratches and general attention.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Since the other night I finished with Lux Aeterna, it was already out and ready to go for last night's session. Better acquainted with the rules now setup was much quicker, and I thought I was doing rather well until a neat little chain of unfortunate events shot me into the oblivion of the black hole. I had to play an Event card for an in-progress module, and Memory was my only choice, but only being on 1 integrity it was bound to fail. My Action was to clear the next glitch, looming ominously on the top of the deck, ready for my next turn, and my Speed choice put me on the edge of the event horizon.

Memory collapses, the effect being that I cannot remove glitches. So my Action is wasted, I'm forced to draw the glitch...which being Gravity Surge sends me to my doom. Dammit.

From gallery of Zveroboy

A quick reset, time for another shot. This one went much smoother, navigation and power were quickly restored before I had to let memory fail. Communications then went down, but life support came back up shortly after, and with my actions I'd been able to trim out three of the four glitches. With 9 seconds left on the clock I'd managed to run out the deck, meaning I'd survived, just, but a final score of 19 is a bit average I think. I was -10 due to the ERROR glitch (the "no cache" was my second choice of penalty from it), so I'm a way off my best of 35 points.

From gallery of Zveroboy

And finally a Terraforming Mars to finish. My starting choices were:

Corp: Robinson Industries or Cheung Shing Mars

Preludes: Huge Asteroid, Mohole, Experimental Forest, Research Network

Projects: Indentured Workers, Lava Tube Settlement, Business Contacts, Domed Crated, Herbivores, Inventor's Guild, Space Mirrors, Big Asteroid, Space Hotels, Soil Factory.

This time I figured I'd see what my gaming group would choose while I pondered myself:

Joe: "Cheung Shing, experimental forest, research network, lava tube, domed, inventors guild, space mirror."

Ken: "Cheung, forest, huge asteroid, guild, big asteroid, workers, contacts. Fighting the impulse to take everything that draws cards."

Tobias: "The huge asteroid gives you a nice boost on temp to begin with. I would have gone with Mohole for the heat production, though would choose Robinson for the boost to increase production."

As it was I opted for Cheung Shing, Mohole and Huge Asteroid, and Indentured Workers combo'd nicely with Big Asteroid as an opener. Half a dozen reds got played, mainly big space stuff like Huge Convoy and Ice Asteroid to help with terraforming, but the blues and greens you see above were my only additions to the tableau. Everything else was standard projects! Indeed at the end I was only producing +6 on credits and +8 on heat, everything else was zero. Cash was just mercilessly shovelled into oceans, the plant income from the equatorial belt and Arctic Algae did about half the greenery with the other half purchased with cold, hard megacredits.

There was enough money left in the final two generations for a couple of cities and enough buffer gas to hit the 63TR target, my final score being a rather middling 86. Could be better, but could have been much worse!
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Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:00 am
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Out of Practice, Out of Time

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Rachel's rather slow work day yesterday at least allowed her some extra time to finish off her jigsaw, much to her delight, the experience was enjoyable enough for both of us that another will be winging it's way to us shortly. I'm sure too that I have a couple stashed away somewhere at my parent's house, and with shops now re-opening a quick once round the local charity shops might turn up a good 'un as well!

Hidden behind a spoiler on the off chance you, dear reader, are in the middle of the same puzzle, behold it's completed glory:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
From gallery of Zveroboy

With dinners devoured all round (chicken & quinoa stir-fry for the humans, lamb & broccoli chunks in gravy for Elsa) Rachel scooped the jigsaw back into it's box while I set up my solitaire of choice. It's been ages since I last rocked the table solo, and with an email yesterday informing me that Terraforming Mars: Big Box is in-country and on it's way to the fulfilment centres, I figured I'd give old classic Terraforming Mars a go.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Blimey, some of these cards are really starting to look a big dog-eared...sorting the various expansion cards out from the main deck made me realise how obvious the difference is the between the "played over 100 times" deck from the base game and the "played a dozen times" set from Terraforming Mars: Turmoil. The Big Box comes with new cards...right?

Since my playing space isn't massive I opted to trim out the Colony, Turmoil and Venus cards leaving just the Prelude stuff. Corporation choice was an old one or new-to-me Factorum (guess what I chose) but my opening hand of project cards were pretty much all duds. A very slow start to the terraforming process didn't help the cash flow, neither did my (perhaps) overindulgence in the twin card draws of Restricted Area and Factorum's own "pay 3 for a building tag card". Spending 5MC a turn on mostly crap cards was a bad decision.

Come generation 12 (the final turn for Prelude solo games) I was nowhere near done: four oceans left, eight or so heat steps and half the oxygen track remained. Marking it as a loss, I played on anyway and managed to finish it all off (and even build the capital) within 14 generations. Considering it's been 18 months since I last played it solo and I was using a new-to-me corporation....yeah I still lost, no point trying to justify it.

From gallery of Zveroboy

Not enough time for another shot at the Red Planet, but easily enough for a shot at escaping a black hole. Lux Aeterna only hit my table a couple times in 2020 but it was a very welcome gem in the middle of furlough, and it seemed fitting to continue last night's space theme. I had to give myself a quick rules refresher but thankfully setup is nice and quick, so with the EVE Online soundtrack on my headphones (incidentally it's a great soundtrack for just anything space or spaceship themed) and Elsa the Spacedog assisting, the timer was set for 10 minutes.

From gallery of Zveroboy

I was able to get life support restored fairly quickly but this double whammy of glitches put me in a tight spot. The Gravity Surge shot me closer to the event horizon and then forced me to draw the next glitch which collapsed the memory systems. Navigation and comms were next to fail, the first knocking out my cache and the second reducing me to a 3-card draw. Thankfully getting the power back on bumped me back to a 5-card draw and I was able to use an action to remove the next glitch. The end of the deck was in sight, maybe I could run it out for the win?

Alas no...that rule of "your Event card must be for an in-progress system" meant my options for the Speed choice were really limited and I was falling inexorably towards oblivion. With just two spaces between me and the wrath of gravity, I risked a glance at my watch.

Six seconds remaining.

Every card in my hand would push me into the black hole.

Buggerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..........
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Thu Apr 15, 2021 7:00 am
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Tabletop Usurper

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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They say that great minds often think alike. At the same moment I had the great idea to leave our gaming table half-up in the corner of the lounge so that I might play something from the Kallax en solitaire, Rachel had the idea of ordering a jigsaw, and before I knew it the little table had been claimed by the better half.

Of course, first order of business was finding all the edge pieces and then sorting the inners into tubs of general colours, it hasn't taken her too long to get the boundary done and start encroaching inwards.

Just before she set off for last night's fitness class, she offered me the hotseat. "Have a go at it, if you like!"

From gallery of Zveroboy

Washing up done and not really wanting to face an evening at the laptop screen, I thought "Why not?". Been ages since I've had a go at a jigsaw. Though this one is a "wasgiJ" i.e. a backwards jigsaw. On the box is a cartoonish scene of a canal, a boater upon his stern looking back at you, the jigsawer, with a very panicked expression. The image on the jigsaw is what that chap is seeing, so you really have nothing to go on. To quote the box, "you have to use your imagination and the clues provided to piece together what the characters in the image printed on the box are looking at."

A few hours of piecing bits here and there and it's starting to come together, Rachel certainly has her sorting method perfected! Our alarmed narrowboat captain is apparently being tailed by a fast-approaching super-yacht, it's mighty bow surge threatening to drench a sheepdog and its sheep in the neighbouring field, while on the towpath side a chap who's happily lost in his walking music is about to get the aforementioned wave right in the face.

I found myself having to slow down a bit, there was a real danger Rachel would get home to find it completed! Thankfully, she returned just in time for me to have finished all the easy bits, now she can enjoy filling in all the solid blue water and sky areas, and big blocks of green tree tops and grass!
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Wed Apr 14, 2021 9:00 am
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Surviving the Siege

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: I like a small collection of gamesMicrobadge: I play with Yellow!Microbadge: I Love Gaming with My GirlFriend!!!Microbadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
Well here we are. At last. April 12th. The day that England starts to re-open and return to...I'm not sure "normality" is the right word anymore. Here's hoping that some lessons can be learned...mask wearing and hand sanitising on public transport for example, or wearing a mask when one has a cold or flu to reduce spreading it. As much as I am looking forward to an outdoor pint, all I really want this week is a bloody haircut.

From gallery of Zveroboy

This War of Mine: The Board Game continues to be depressingly tough game for Rachel and I, a sedate and oft-interrupted play yesterday saw us go through nearly the whole selection of characters until finally the mighty firefighter Marko caved in under the weight of his hopeless situation and the shelter was finally left empty, dark and cold.

Perhaps the thing we're missing with this game is just that heavy dose of luck that makes-or-breaks these kind of survival games. We thought we were in a good spot getting a rainwater collector and a metal workshop built quite early, a local mechanic even set us up with a free radio, but food was in constant shortage, I think we only had one round where everyone ate something. Most days the whole party went hungry.

Fair to say that while Rachel and I both...enjoy TWoM, as much as you can "enjoy" a game about living in a city under siege, the decisions, experiences and moral conundrums aren't something we want to indulge in too often.
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Mon Apr 12, 2021 11:06 am
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Satisfaction Levels Rising

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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What a productive day!
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: I like a small collection of gamesMicrobadge: I play with Yellow!Microbadge: I Love Gaming with My GirlFriend!!!Microbadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
Another classic Sneaky Meeples month between posts! Ah well. Until this weekend there's been a general lack of board gaming so nothing much to post about on that front, it's mainly still been computer games.

Joe and I's game of Crusader Kings III came to a halt when the Northern Lords pack was released the other week which unfortunately included enough tweaks, fixes and tweaks to break our save game and render it unplayable. Bugger! To be honest the campaign was settling into simple map-painting mode which wasn't all that interesting anymore, and besides, it was time to revisit a previous favourite.


Satisfactory is a game sure to tickle the fancy of anyone who enjoyed Lego Technic or Meccano as a kid. You play as a pioneer for the suitably vague and slightly sinister FICSIT Incorporated, dumped on a virgin alien world with some basic tools and the goal of exploiting the natural resources to manufacture more and more complex parts to send back up to the people in orbit.

After the first 10 minutes or so of manual labour, automation starts in earnest, and to see your first simple production line of a Miner sending iron ore into a Smelter, then iron ingots to a Constructor to be pressed into iron plates, will bring a smile for sure. As you progress the resources become more varied, more scattered and the recipes more complicated. Before long you need to combine two parts together to make one, and the production line therefore grows in complexity. One mining rig becomes two, the conveyor belts loaded with ore now divide across 8 smelting units, and you need most of your iron rods for the final product whilst also keeping enough to turn into screws as an intermediate step. Careful you don't produce too many iron plates, now that half of the line is backed up and your efficiency has plummeted!

If you can persevere and learn on the job, then bigger and grander factories become interesting challenges to plan, scout, construct and problem solve. Is it better to make the screws I need from simple iron ingots, or should I spend the effort to make them from steel beams instead? I'll get double the screws per minute, but making steel means finding a coal seam for the required carbon (the in-game recipes aren't 100% realistic, steel simply comes from "iron ore plus coal" but hey, as board gamers we're fine with abstraction, right?).

From gallery of Zveroboy

The game is still in early access meaning that while it's perfectly playable it's still a work-in-progress. Gaming friend Pieter recently starting playing which prompted me to pick it up again and dive back in. I'm firmly in the mid-game now and happily plugging along with my strategy of making satellite sub-factories that each produce a few similar parts, then shipping those parts back to my main storage hub.

Above is me overlooking my most recent development by my nearest crude oil source. The factory in the distance takes in sulphur, coal, iron ingots and oil, processes them all in various ways to churn out explosives, rifle ammunition and filters for my gas mask. I'm the only human on the planet, but there's plenty of hostile fauna to deal with when scouting and moving around, and while they don't actively attack your buildings (like Factorio), you will need to explore the 30-square kilometres of terrain to find more resources and building locations which can be a very dangerous task, hence the need for ammunition and PPE. There's pockets of poison gas, packs of animal protective of their territory, sheer cliffs, steep drops, maze-like canyons and forests full of titanic trees. Tread softly, and carry a big gun. Oh, look! Quartz!

In the middle is a sub-factory producing rubber, plastics and computers. Oil production really hits you for six because it adds in the concept of by-products, so all my rubber and plastic refineries are also spewing out heavy oil residue. Now I can't just bin this, despite working for a rather faceless corporation I'm not allowed to just dump it into the ground, so all that heavy oil needs to go into a bank of secondary refineries where it's turned into petroleum coke. This then powers a bank of solid fuel plants in the foreground! Huzzah, efficiency!

From gallery of Zveroboy

Phew. Finally, some board games. And look, it's new hotness Red Rising! To say I was excited when this arrived would be an understatement, the Red Rising series is one of the best book series I've read (or listened to, it was during my audiobook years), so a Stonemaier Games produced version was always going to be an instant buy.

And I have to say, after two plays today on it's first outing, it doesn't disappoint at all!

From gallery of Zveroboy

The artwork on every card is gorgeous, not a bad portrait in the whole bunch!

From gallery of Zveroboy

The first game was a bit stop-start (usual for us) and a slight win for me, and after an hours' break to prepare dinner and walk Elsa, we knocked out a second game as Rachel's chicken & chorizo paella simmered away. With more of a handle now on the available actions and how the cards combo together, we were much more competitive right from the start. I got lucky with this pair of Octavia and Lysander in my opening hand, 60 points right there!

From gallery of Zveroboy

Alia Snowsparrow seemed too good to pass up when Rachel played her to the board, but I think I was ultimately blinkered by her "24 points if with only Golds, Greys or Obsidians" bonus. I rather carelessly deployed away some Blues, Yellows and Whites that came my way, seemingly trading them up for more Golds. Unfortunately none of the Golds I ended up with bonused each other, so while their core values were decent, I got few, if any bonus points.

From gallery of Zveroboy

As Rachel tallied her score I was blown away, she was nearly 100 points ahead on cards alone! Cassius was worth a ton paired with a "counts as Darrow" Orange and Mustang, who also scored well due to the variety of colours in-hand. Add on the nice pairing of The Pax and Orion for a cracking final score of 360.

Since the rulebook reckons 300+ is an excellent effort, Rachel was rightfully chuffed, a feeling that no doubt contributed to her declaring "I'll definitely play that again!"
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Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:00 am
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CK3: The Dragon Banner Flies Again

Ben Goulding
United Kingdom
Nottingham
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What a productive day!
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Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: I like a small collection of gamesMicrobadge: I play with Yellow!Microbadge: I Love Gaming with My GirlFriend!!!Microbadge: 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
Part I, 867 to 929: CK3: The Bloody Bleddri
Part II, 929 to 985: CK3: Here Comes Cymru
Part III, 985 to 992: CK3: Danes Kicked Out, Now For the Conversion
Part IV, 992 to 1035: CK3: Filling In The Middle
Part V, 1035 to 1069: CK3: Secession Crisis a.k.a. "Essexit"

From gallery of Zveroboy

And there we have it. A Celtic Britannia. After the Romans pushed our ancestors into the hills and mountains of Wales, after the turmoil and bloodshed of the Saxon, Angle and Norse invasions, King Arthur's legacy has been restored and the name Pendragon shall be feared and respected once again. The banner of the red dragon flies from Thurso to Tintagel, from Connacht to Dover.

The various secessions that rocked the kingdom in the last session were dealt with one at a time. Staffordshire readily accepted vassalisation and reincorporation, but Northumbria and Essex had to be reclaimed by force. The errant dukes had their titles revoked, and loyal Bleddris installed in their place.

Argyll, the Outer Hebrides and Lothian were taken from Alba, and Jorvik reclaimed from some cheeky Norsemen who had sailed over and taken it back during earlier turmoil. Now that I controlled more than half of Alba, usurping the crown caused the remaining territory to fracture into it's constituent duchies and counties. My vassals the Dukes of Strathclyde and Munster were able to roll up Ireland on their own, and it was no big challenge to war for Moray and the final Alban provinces.

The last county I needed to conquer before uniting the islands was Ulster, a task that thankfully, now as Emperor, I was able to leave to my vassal the King of Ireland. Alas, Emperor Wido I did not quite last long enough to see the final unification, being suddenly taken by cancer.

From gallery of Zveroboy

And so, it fell to his son, Wido II, to oversee the final acts and formally reclaim Britannia for it's Celtic peoples and assume the name Pendragon. Thankfully Wido II was crowned just as he came of age at 16, so we should have a long and prosperous rule ahead. Despite his military knowledge I'm again leaning into the stewardship perks, as recent cultural innovations mean I have a slew of castles, buildings and infrastructure to upgrade and improve, all of which require money.

Aside from a few remaining Catholic pockets in Alba, Insular Christianity is now the official religion throughout the isles. Welsh culture has spread nicely as well, all traces of the Anglo-Saxons have been wiped out but there are some Norse remnants in Northumbria still.

My vassals are content for the most part, they all have positive opinions at least, but to cut down on the micromanagement I have granted the Kingdoms of Iwerddon and Yr Alban to the most powerful Irish and Gaelic lords, while Cymru and Lloegyr I will retain direct control over.

From gallery of Zveroboy

It's much the same story in the now sprawling Dutch-Coptic Empire of Jeruzalem. There's been some tidying up of borders and subsuming of rogue neighbours, mainly down the western shore of the Red Sea towards Abyssinia. Our games are very similar at this stage, since we're both focusing on economical improvements and internal stability, but even so there's never any harm in planning for the future.

After all, only 200 years ago, our ancestor was just a lowly Lord on the rugged edge of Wales...

From gallery of Zveroboy

Prydein now stands as the most powerful state in Western and Northern Europe. The nearest nation with a comparable army is the Umayyads in Hispania, so the absolute mess that is Europe is ripe for the picking really.

My initial thought is that, once the empire is better established and I've upgraded my economy, is to take revenge on the Norsemen that nearly ended our line. Conquering Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, installing members of the Bleddri dynasty on the various thrones and converting the population to Insular Christianity seems apt. I then have the option of keeping these kings as my vassals, as part of a larger Empire of Prydein, or cutting them loose and letting them fend for themselves as independent nations.

Whatever I choose to do, the most interesting parts in this saga are done so I will post updates about this game less regularly, as for the most part it will just become an exercise in painting more and more of the map in my colour. Even so, it's been good to flex my writing muscles again and post more regularly, even if it's not about board games. Hopefully more words on that topic will arrive soon, with lockdown winding down here in the UK, it'll be good to finally sit round a table again with counters, boards, meeples and tokens.
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Fri Mar 5, 2021 11:28 am
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