Everything that sucks! And some things that don't.

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Verteidung!

Christian Heckmann
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For reasons of up-to-dateness, we interrupt the current program for something that is sure to get me more clicks. I think. I don't know. It's worth a try, I guess.

So someone over at Taverna Ludica Games fucked up in a major way. Probably not just one person. I mean, someone must have... you know, taken a look at that cover at some point in time. I don't know if the writing was already on the wall or if German online shop Spiele-Offensive is just leaning super-hard into TL's fuckup, but they have plastered the... erm... "German name" of this game all over their homepage. What am I talking about? Well... this:

From gallery of Harblnger


That's the cover of the German version of The Defence of Procyon III. In this country, the game is apparently called "Die Verteidung von Procyon III". "Verteidung" is not a word, in case you're wondering. "Verteidigung" is, though, and it's the translation of the word "defence". So... someone at TL seems to have lost two letters in the process and nobody noticed until it was too late if I understand correctly. I don't know, I have the English version, which also keeps me from having to fight "Hauben" and "Rasseln", which sounds absolutely terrible to German ears. Nevertheless... first "Tyrannen des Unterreuchs", now this. What a time to be alive?

Anyway, I've got The Defence of Procyon III and I played it yesterday and I want to talk about it. So it was a four-player-game (duh) between Imagine, P., T. and me. I played the Expedition and teamed up with Imagine's Armada against P.'s... I don't know, slimey crawly things and T.'s space-blobs. Look, I can't be bothered to remember everything, right? They were the enemy, so we shot them up real good.
In the beginning, at the very least. P. opened with an attack on the Eastern side of the board, trying to take out my Jammer as soon as possible. Which I actually didn't really care about. Sure, the Jammer could put those white cubes into his combat-bag for energy, but I was like "Hey, that Railgun can just destroy his annoying little buggers anywhere on the board, I want to fire that each turn". And so I mostly did that. Anyway, the Jammer sustained some damage but I decided to put some pressure on the Empress, sending Mac to take her down a notch. Which didn't seem to bother P. that much yet. He retaliated relatively quickly by sending the Empress to the attack and through cardplay bringing Mac very close to defeat and then having his spacebound buddy finish her off with a bombardment. Which was a shame but didn't impede me that much. There was a huge squabble at the Eastern Pylon where a couple of marines under the command of O'Hara stalled the enemy like you wouldn't believe, while Sergeant Keeler pretty much held the Western front all on his own without sustaining any injuries. It was fun is what I'm trying to say and the alien-threat didn't seem that pronounced to me.

That is until the wound-rounds kicked in. Soon enough, I was hardly able to do anything, because wound-cards left me without any momentum. But by that point, we did have a comfortable lead ahead of the aliens and I was confident that the Armada could seal the deal. And yeah, that's pretty much what happened. With a score of 34, Imagine jumped a scientist-vessel to safety (three points), bombarded the Western Pylon where Keeler was still trading happy-slaps with two small guys and a single big bugger with a mere HP left (another three points) and then I played a card that let me move my heroes around and then score a point for each habitated area with two or more military units in it (which turned out to be three after the movements for another three points). T. was unable to cost us more than one point with his next move and so we commandingly won the game on turn seven with 42 points against the aliens' ~25 (not too sure about that number but it was in that ballpark).

From gallery of Harblnger


So... The Defence of Procyon III, eh? Hm... What to say, what to say? This is a tough one for me. Not because it's a bad game. Which it isn't. Not because it's a spectacularly fantastic game. Which it isn't either. But because I'm kind of unsure whether it's worth the effort.

Let's talk about good things first. The game fundamentally works. It's attractive. It shouldn't outstay its welcome once all of the players know what they are doing. I mean, our game took a bit over three hours and ended on turn seven of a maximum of ten, so the time-designation on the box (135 minutes) is very, VERY optimistic (and no, these time designations are not or at the very least should not be for people who know the game, because people who know the game don't need to be told how long it is, because they've played it and know how long it is for them... these things should be catering to first-time players, always, period, shut up, thank you), but despite a bit of downtime, it wasn't boring. The theme works and the bipartite gameplay with boundary points between the two theaters feels unique to me and is a fascinating thing, although none of us felt that the interplay between the two boards or the fundamental cooperation between the alliance partners was especially strong (it wasn't nothing, but it also happened in rather insular instances). And yeah, there's four different "games" to be found in here, so if you have a group of people with different tastes in gaming-mechanisms but want to unite them over an asymmetric war-game, this might be just the game for you.

On the other hand, if you like the theme and the flavor and would like to play a straightforward wargame that covers the fundamental things that The Defence of Procyon III does, you're shit out of luck, I'm afraid. Because what some people might perceive as the game's biggest strength (the completely asymmetric factions with their fundamentally different playing-styles), I personally see as its biggest weakness. Not because any of them is flawed or broken or what have you. I absolutely can't judge that, I played the Expedition and most of the time had no idea what was actually going on on that other board and only had a very basic understanding of what my direct opponent was actually doing all game long. Those pointers about your direct opponent and your ally in the rulebook are all fine and dandy but they absolutely don't help with getting a feel for what that thing you're fighting against is actually capable of, what any given move means or could telegraph, what you should actually be doing or preventing your opponent from doing. Maybe that's part of the charm? Playing something where you only know what you can do and how you can do it might make for some intriguing tension, but that evaporates a couple of games down the line, when you've seen everything the game has to offer.

And that might be the biggest "flaw". For all of its asymmetry and different playstyles, "everything" (almost, I think there are some cards removed for the alien-spaceship-player) is present in every game. It's always these four factions on this map duking it out with the same units in the same positions and the same goals. And on a basic level, all four players are doing "the same". This game is big on... I don't know if that expression exists, "input asymmetry" instead of "output asymmetry". In a game like Cthulhu Wars, everybody is basically playing the same game (pay power for actions to try to conquer gates), but the things that one faction can do varies wildly from the ones that another can do. In The Defence of Procyon III, everybody is playing a wildly different game to in the end kind of do the same thing. Move units across a board and beat up the suckers that look at you funny. It's a bit more complicated and involved than that, but you get what I'm aiming it? And yeah, the way you play every faction does lend some flavor to them and probably shapes how you approach... anything in the game. But ultimately, the self-containedness of the whole thing (always the same four factions on always the same board, yadda yadda yadda) makes the whole "every faction plays their own game"-part feel - as Imagine put it right after the game - very, very gimmicky. Not like this game wouldn't have worked any other way. This could very well have been a game with two rulesets instead of four. One for ground combat, one for space combat. And those could have been even similar to each other with just slight adjustments to serve the thematic implications. Would it have made the game better? I don't know. It would have potentially made it less interesting. But maybe more playable?

Because that's also the problem with everybody playing their own game and learning it from their own rulebook: For the first couple of games, there's nobody at the table to double-check whether what you're actually doing is correct. I don't think we made any major mistakes but there was always this unease of "Are you actually playing your faction correctly? That does sound kind of wonky...", where we had to either trust the person who had read the specific rules or bring the game to a screeching halt while somebody else checked the specific rulebook to find out whether the other player misunderstood something or forgot something. And at the end of the day, it isn't that complex of a game. Convoluted? Yeah. Confusing? Certainly. But every faction's central mechanism is relatively straightforward. So as implied, I'm not sure whether the amount of depth to be found here is worth the amount of overhead that comes with it.

And finally, I'm a bit turned off by the way player turns are handled in this game, because they can lead to a lot of downtime. I don't know how else the whole thing could have been designed, given the asymmetric nature of the factions, but I feel like this game-structure where each round, every player takes a grand, sweeping turn with different actions and phases and stuff before the next one starts and you have to wait for three other guys or girls to finish all of that before you can go again is something that belongs to the gamedesign of yesteryears. As said, I don't know how that could be remedied, it wasn't super-excruciating, it might decrease with more plays and it's maybe just a personal pet-peeve of mine, but... I just thought that I'd throw it out there.

So after shitting all over The Defence of Procyon III for half an hour straight, what do I ultimately think? Well... it certainly is an ambitious game. Partially ambitious in ways that I think make it stand in the way of itself, but I've always been a proponent of designers approaching a game with a clear and unique vision instead of chasing trends or something, so I give Dávid Turczi a point for that, whatever that's supposed to mean. And yeah, I think I want to play it again, try out the other factions, maybe even play the Expedition again, because they were kind of fun. But yeah, since my gaming-group is regularly rotating and I don't want to have to introduce new people to it, I honestly don't know when and how I'm gonna even try to do that. So ultimately, The Defence of Procyon III is a good game, I think. But what is being a good game worth if it's too cumbersome to get it to the table? I let you decide that...

So anyway, here's my Bandcamp-page. Go check it out. My "Christmas song" was released in an exclusive capacity today, so I think I'm gonna wait another couple of days before I put it up on Bandcamp. Probably until December 6. But today is Bandcamp-Friday again, so... if you want to support me, today would be the day to do so. Thanks a lot.

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Germanizing Games - Es war einmal der Zasterhort!

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Here's a disclaimer: Even though this series of posts is called "Germanizing Games", unless further reinforced, I don't suggest that all of the games featured on this article have original English titles. "Germanizing" is just a handy word that doesn't one-hundred-percent describe what I am doing here. Also this list isn't meant to be comprehensive when it comes to box cover artwork and it's not supposed to focus on this. Excursions into this subject are to be understood rather as a bonus than the centerpiece of these articles, which is the differences and similarities between English and German titles of board games (no matter which one is the original). That said, I don't own all of the board games out there, I can't double-check everything, I have to work with what the Geek gives me. If there are factual errors in what I write here, I'll be thankful for corrections.

Alrighty, let's continue to germanize some games, shall we?

Board Game: Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game


Board Game: Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game


The way Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game was translated into German shouldn't be even remotely surprising to anybody who has ever been even in vague contact with the German way of telling a story. "Es war einmal..." is the usual way us Germans introduce a fairy-tale (and/or other tales) and it means something to the effect of "There once was...", while "Once upon a time...", if translated literally, would give you something like "Einst, vor einer Zeit...". Yeah, it's pretty similar. I mean, why wouldn't it be? It tries to express pretty much the same thing. It's a bit unclear where the expression originates from. I'd have guessed that it would be the collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm but it could also be that the original version was H.C. Andersen's "Der var engang". Who knows? The German subtitle "Ein märchenhaftes Spiel..." means "A fairytale-like game...". Kind of. See, while "Märchenhaft" can mean "fairytale-like". But it also can mean "fabulous". So... we're so good when it comes to puns, aren't we?

Board Game: Castaways


Board Game: Castaways


Náufragos is Spanish (or Portuguese) and means "castaway". Which might explain why the game by Spanish designer Alberto Corral is called Castaways (with the subtitle "Náufragos", apparently) in English. German publisher Lookout Games decided to be a bit artsy-fartsy and respect the game's heritage, which is why in Germany, the game is still called "Náufragos", albeit with the subtitle "Die Schiffbrüchigen", which means "The castaways" in English. Pretty simple, eh? Still, I found it kind of interesting.

Board Game: DungeonQuest


Board Game: DungeonQuest


Wow, what a throwback. Did you know that DungeonQuest is actually a Swedish game? It was originally released in 1985 under the title "Drakborgen", which translates to "Dragon Castle". Next up, there was a Danish version called "Drageborgen" (meaning roughly the same thing as "Drakborgen", although Google Translate tells me that "drageslot" would be probably more appropriate), a Norwegian one called "Skatten i borgen" (which if my rudimentary knowledge of Norwegian doesn't deceive me means something along the lines of "The treasure in the castle") and then the first English version that went by the aforementioned name DungeonQuest. German publisher Schmidt Spiele went back to the original idea and called the whole thing "Drachenhort", "dragon hoard", and commissioned some fabulous artwork for the cover. Contentwise the German edition seems to be a mixture between the English and Swedish editions, character art and names were apparently taken from the English version, while the card-artwork came from the Swedish version. There's also a weird tagline for the German version. It says "Gemeinsam oder allein - wer wagt es und dringt in das Verlies des Drachen ein?", roughly "Together or alone - who dares and invades the dragon's dungeon?". Not exactly the English "Dare you face the dragon's challenge?", which would rather be "Traust du dich, die Herausforderung des Drachen anzunehmen?" in German.

Board Game: Pit


Board Game: Pit


Speaking of throwbacks... Holy fuck, the uppermost picture is apparently of (one of) the first edition(s) of Pit. That's from 1903. That was more than twenty years before my grandfather was born. 118 friggin' years ago. That's a long, long time ago, in case you didn't know. It's also not a very good game. Amusing for five minutes or so, but that's about it. So I have no idea why it seems to be popular to this day. Ah well, what can you do? It looks like it took the game a while to come to Germany. I'm not sure whether that horrible (and entirely too small) cover up there is the first German edition, the Geek doesn't know either, but yeah, that game, called "Zaster" (a word derived from "saster", the Sinti-expression for iron which is a German slang-term for money, kind of similarly used as "dough"), was released in 1978. Three quarters of a century after the original English version. It also came out during that terrible time where German publishers decided to put photos of "happy families playing the game" on the covers of everything. It's harrowing if you asked me. They also slapped a very weird tagline onto the cover that you probably can't read because it's so small. It reads "Devisen, Devisen - wer hat zuerst 'n Riesen?". Which rhymes, so it has to be poetry, right? It means roughly "Forexes, forexes - who's the first to get a grand?". Real smooth.

Board Game: Cube Quest


Board Game: Cube Quest


And the final one for today, Cube Quest, a silly little die-dexterity-battle that has a really pompous and self-important air in its original English incarnation, if you asked me. I mean, sure, that gigantic die in the sky is kind of goofy, but apart from that, you'd be forgiven to think that this is a real strategy game or something like that. Not when it comes to the (first) German edition, though (there's a second one that was released this year, which also comes in a tube-package). Because that one has a super silly title ("Rumms", which basically means "thump" or "crash"), a sillier subtitle ("Voll auf die Krone!"... a bit hard to translate, we Germans have the expression "Voll auf die Fresse!", which translates to "Right in the kisser!", so "Voll auf die Krone!" should be "Right on the crown!") than the relatively serious "Clash for the crown" and more cartoonish artwork, not only on the cover but also in the game itself (if I remember correctly... the playing-mats are identical but the dice have wackier artwork on them). Which is a good thing, I'd say. Cube Quest is a stupid and silly albeit actually really fun little game and the German presentation really sells that, if you asked me. So good work, Kosmos. You did good this time. Don't let it go to your head, though, you've fucked up far more often...

And that's it for today. Hope you learned something and were entertained in the process. This will probably have been the last Germanizing Games post for the year. I mean... maybe it wasn't. Maybe I'll do another one before New Year's Eve. We'll see. Anyway, here's my Bandcamp-page. Check it out. And have a fantastic day.

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Thu Dec 2, 2021 11:15 am
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Upriver, downriver...

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Here's a bit of an outlook: At time of writing, I've still got enough material for eight more "On the table"-posts besides this one. That should last me for another two and a half weeks. Which means that I need to get some more gaming in before the middle of December to be all set for the rest of the year. Also exactly six days from now, this blog will celebrate its fourth anniversary. That's quite something, isn't it? Which means that Sunday after next (or next Sunday? I don't know whether four days from now is gonna be "next Sunday" or "this Sunday"), I'll have to start with the countdown of my favorite 75 board games of all time. These are some obligations, right? Anyway, here's a game...

Board Game: Riverside


Riverside is (one of) the (two) first game(s - hard to say whether this or Doodle Dash came first, both came out in October of 2021) released by Chilifox Games, a new publishing company founded by brothers Åsmund and Eilif Svensson. You might know the latter of those two from his work on highly regarded games like Santa Maria, Capital Lux or Avenue. That last one being one of my most played flip-n-write-games ever, so since Riverside is a roll-n-write-game, I was intrigued to find out whether Svensson could make lightning strike twice.

Riverside does have a kind of unique selling point when it comes to roll-n-write-games, if I'm not mistaken, by bringing a modular board to the table. Yes, I know, that's not something super-unheard-of in board games in general, but I haven't seen a roll-n-write-game feature something like that yet. Then again, it isn't that spectacularly mindblowing here either. You're just building a river from tiles and the basic form of the river is always the same, locations of different scoring-opportunities and the distances between those only change from game to game (plus the "advanced variant" adds a tile that blocks off one branch of the river). The main ship always moves along the river in a predetermined pattern (from one side to the other in a straight line, then it turns and then goes back down in parallel) and each turn, you first pick a die to fill seats on one of your smaller tourist-boats and can then launch a trip to a nearby landmark. Filling the seats not only unlocks one-time-special-abilities but also increases the multipliers for certain types of trips, which is useful, because you can only take a trip if it nets more points than the previous one of the same color. Once the ship has finished the journey, points are tallied up, a bonus is given to the player who has the most "captain points" (points for the special trips to the two stave-churches on the board, plus their lowest scoring category when it comes to the other kinds of trips) and a malus to the person with the fewest captain points. Highest score is the winner.

Which in both of our games turned out to be me, although the second time, it was kind of close and I only secured victory through the 30-point-swing between the first player in regards to captain points and the second. Which is a pretty big deal if you asked me. But yeah, the second game was kind of close, thanks to a super-speedy pace of the ship and some missed opportunities on my part. Still, victory is victory.

From gallery of Harblnger


So Riverside is fun. Central gameplay is very easy and intuitive. Basically, each turn someone rolls a couple of dice, separates them into two groups (all dice higher than the median roll and all dice equal to or lower), the ship moves as many spaces as the median die showed, then everybody chooses a die (not exclusively) and progress happens. You can also pull off a couple of tricks, like adding the number of the special green die to your roll for a price (not really a price... you have fourteen "heating"-spaces that you can cross off over the course of the game and every time you add the green die and/or choose a die that is higher than the median roll, you have to cross off as many as the chosen die/dice show in pips), use one-time-abilities that you unlocked and/or increase your range for a turn a couple of times (you can only visit locations that are up to three spaces away from the ship, usually). But yeah, generally speaking, it's a very simple and intuitive affair.

Also kind of solitairish. I mean, as implied, those end game points (both positive and negative) for most and least captain points can be a huge deal (especially in a two-player-game, where they are a definitive difference of 30 points, unless both players tie in regards to captain points), but it's the only point of interaction in the whole game. Which isn't that big of a deal, because the whole thing should take fifteen, maybe thirty minutes top, depending on how quickly that ship moves and how long people deliberate their options.

As said, it's fun, though. The visual appeal of the box cover and the board are neat (although the player sheets are a bit drab), the opportunity to combo moves into each other might not be as outrageous as something like That's Pretty Clever!, but completing a row of that color, which gives you two ticks of that other color, which lets you then complete another row and so on is always a lot of fun. The variable game length and slight push-your-luck-aspects, where you have to decide whether to go for big points in one category or try to even your scores out to get a lot of captain points (plus potentially that bonus) are neat things and while the modular board doesn't change considerably from one game to the next, the layout can definitely have an impact on your approach.

Look, Riverside isn't gonna blow anybody's mind. At the end of the day, it's a quick, relatively pretty, easily playable filler-game that doesn't do anything super-unique but combines its tried and tested elements in a pleasant way. I had fun with it, I'm looking forward to playing it again soon... and I also might run a game of it here on this blog in the near future. Would that be something you'd be interested in? If you said "No", tough luck, I might do it anyway!

Also here's my Bandcamp-page. Yes, it's the beginning of December now and my Christmas-song still hasn't released. Just be patient, it'll come.

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Wed Dec 1, 2021 11:26 am
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The eighteenth haul of the year!

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Man, these things just keep coming, right? Yeah, looks like it. After that semi-drought during the middle-months of this year, new arrivals just keep coming in recently. That might partially be on me, because I keep thinking "Hey, I do have the money to check this or that interesting thing out" and then I do. But also some of those featured today were Kickstarters that I've backed a long time ago, so that's out of my hands, I'm afraid. Anywhere, let's go check out the things that recently came in. Starting - like always - with board games.

From gallery of Harblnger


IKI had been sitting on my want-list for quite a while (a quick bit of research suggests since May of 2017) but seemed to be mostly unattainable since. That is until Sorry We Are French decided to publish a new and updated version of the thing. Which looks quite good and also got decent enough buzz. I don't really know what originally made me want it and as is so often the case, I'm not sure I'll actually like it very much, but I am kind of looking forward to playing it, because yeah, it sounds kind of intriguing and also looks nice.

Next up, we've got the deluxe KS-version of It's a Wonderful Kingdom which arrived well ahead of its projected delivery date that was January of 2022. Woo hoo. It looks good. Nice graphical design, some intriguing changes to the core gameplay of It's a Wonderful World (which I liked), four modules that shake up the game in different ways... What's not to like? Well, I haven't played it yet, so maybe it'll turn out to be an absolute dumpster-fire in the field. But I don't think that that's what's gonna happen. At the very least I hope so. I'll probably try it sooner rather than later, so fingers crossed that it's good.

Second row: "Abgrundtief" is the German title of Unfathomable, a game I was very, VERY unsure about. I am not very fond of Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, I have been growing tired of semi-coop/hidden-traitor/social-deduction-games over the course of the last couple of years and H.P. Lovecraft was a super-racist fuckwit so buying something that is connected to his shitty name always requires additional deliberation. Buuuuut then some day I was like "Yeah but the changes they made in comparison to Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game do sound kind of good and the theme appeals to me more and I'm kind of in the mood for an adventurous romp, so... why not?". And then I bought it. And unboxed it and skimmed the rules. And yeah... I'm interested to try it out soon. I don't know when, how and with whom I'll manage to do that and maybe it'll fall flat for me like its predecessor did. But it's worth a try, I guess.

And the last one (on this picture) is The House on the Borderland, a solitaire-game by the Emperors Of Eternal Evil-folks based on a novel by William Hope Hodgson. I had my eyes set on that one for a while as well but it had been sold out for a while, but then relatively recently, a new printing came in and I decided to get myself a copy of it. I cut out the cards and counters a couple of days ago (it's one of those games) and am looking forward to trying it out soon. Should be good. Damn, I really should play another game of Cave Evil before the end of the year, while we're at it.

Okay, more stuff:

From gallery of Harblnger


When I bought IKI from Philibert, I needed to add something to the order to save on shipping costs. As you do. Then I remembered that P. had told me about Cascadia recently, which he had described as something like "Habitats, only prettier and better". I love Habitats, so I was like "That's impossible". But I decided that it would make sense to investigate myself. So I got the retail-version (which apparently is the same as the KS-version, only missing the promo-pack with additional scoring cards per kind of animal) and it looks nice. Since it's apparently best with small player counts, I think I might try to coax E. into playing a game of it in the near future. I doubt that it'll depose Habitats because Habitats is lovely and has a penguin and also sounds fairly different, but it might be nice nevertheless.

Then I got myself Margraves of Valeria (once again the German version which is called "Markgrafen von Valeria"), because while my track-record with Valeria-games has been mixed (love Valeria: Card Kingdoms, somewhat enjoyed Quests of Valeria and Villages of Valeria) and I'm not a huge fan of Concordia, which Margraves of Valeria was modeled after, this one comes popping up every now and then as "really decently good" and I also thought that a more involved game in the Valeria-setting might be an interesting thing to try out. It sounds a bit basic for the type of game that it is but who knows, maybe it's great. We'll see.

Bottom row, we've got the Tribune: Expansion, which I have already played a couple of times years and years ago, although never with the asymmetric role of the Brutii, which does sound kind of interesting if you asked me. I haven't played Tribune: Primus Inter Pares in a while but I've been trying to get it back to the table recently, because it's a neat game. So... we'll see when it'll show up in a post. Also I have absolutely no opinion about the new version Tribune that recently came out, but I just thought to throw that out there, in before comments going "DID YOU KNOW THERE'S A NEW VERSION OUT?!?". Yes. I knew.

And then there's something else that I added to that Philibert-order, because even with IKI and Cascadia, I was lacking a couple of cents to qualify for free shipping. So I was like "Well, whatever" and added the Alien Frontiers: Expansion Pack #7 into the shopping cart. I don't even know what it does. But I own it now. Yey!

One more for good measure...

From gallery of Harblnger


That first thing is the EXIT Adventskalender: Der verborgene Mayatempel, which I only noticed after buying it isn't actually part of the Kosmos EXIT-line. Weird. But the folks from Ravensburger seem to have been one step ahead in that regard, having published these Advent calendars since 2019 while Kosmos caught up only last year. Anyway, I don't know if it's any good and it's probably more of a novelty than a real full-fledged puzzle-experience (I could be wrong), but E. is into these things and so I thought it would be interesting to try and solve one of these with her. I might report back in the near future, because tomorrow, we'll open the first door. Woo hoo.

And truly finally the last board game for today, The Defence of Procyon III, which arrived a couple of days ago. It's a big box full of plastic stuff and it looks relatively neat (apart from one alien ground-unit that came broken, boo!), although I still dread having to teach this to somebody, because it's actually four games in one with all of the four factions playing very different games. We've got a meeting scheduled on Thursday where we want to try it out (even though we're still semi-missing the fourth guy) so we'll see whether it's any good. I don't have a great track-record with either designer Dávid Turczi or publisher PSC Games, but who knows? Maybe this'll be great. I sure as hell hope so, it's a good concept for a game...

And while we're talking about space-stuff, here's some DVDs...

From gallery of Harblnger


Yes, that's all five seasons of cult Sci-Fi-show "Spacecenter Babylon 5". I remember watching it on and off as a kid and always found it kind of impenetrable and decidedly dark but over time, these memories have turned into intrigued anticipation, so now, I was like "Maybe I should just get it and watch it". First part worked out well enough. Second part... hum. I'm still in the middle of six to eight different TV shows and the looming threat of having five seasons à 22 episodes ahead of me isn't nothing. But I'll probably check it out in time.

Also on the bottom right, we've got "The Hidden" and "The Hidden 2" in a bootleg-twin-pack-release. It's kind of hard to get your hands on these movies here in Germany. I've been wanting to watch the first one for a while now and when I got the chance to score this release, I jumped on it. Dunno if I'll be able to watch the first (or both) movies before the end of the year. We'll see.

Also of course some novels. I recently ordered some stuff from England and I honestly don't really know why I did so. But here we are...

From gallery of Harblnger


I think the initial impetus for this purchase was Tim Powers' "Declare", which I already owned as an eBook but for some reason (mainly the fact that I really loved Powers' "Last Call", which I finished reading a while ago) wanted as a real dead tree copy (relax, the tree is fine, this is a used book, so me buying it didn't hurt anybody, I guess), because "Declare" sounds absolutely rad. Cold War spy-stuff meets Cosmic Horror? I'm in. The rest were more or less casualties of that decision, although it was nice to find a affordable copy of Powers' "Earthquake Weather" (kind of the second sequel to "Last Call", although they are weirdly marketed... part two, "Expiration Date", was called "a companion novel" rather than a sequel, so who knows?), "March Upcountry" sounded intriguing, "Meddling Kids" seems to be pretty divisive but I thought that it could be cool and "Coldbrook" and "Blackwing" had somehow found their ways onto my Google Play wishlist. Don't know why. But since I could get them cheaper this way, I just bought them. This is how I roll, folks.

So anyway, I also forgot another thing, namely the new album by Swallow The Sun, which is lying at home while I'm not, so that'll have to go into the next "New to the shelf"-post. But while we're talking about music, here's a link to my Bandcamp-page. Check out my stuff. It's... music.

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Tue Nov 30, 2021 12:07 pm
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Spreading the plague

Christian Heckmann
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Damn, here I've been wasting a couple of days with semi-interesting posts when I could have used the time to tell you that the great Rise of the Necromancers has been picked up by Mythic Games for their Phoenix Line (that's them teaming up with the original publishers of games they deem good and bringing them back/trying to introduce them to a bigger audience) alongside the new and super-cool looking Undead Sea expansion. This is exciting stuff. I can't wait for that new expansion. The first one was already excellent but that sounds and looks even better. Cool? Cool.

Now that that's done, here's something about Viral.

Board Game: Viral


Viral came out four years ago, got some good buzz early on, then kind of faded into obscurity over time and has probably gotten a second push just recently, due to the ongoing pandemic, which syncs up nicely (in a kind of tragic way) with the theme of the game. I mean, it got a new addon just this year, which was called "Die zweite Welle", "The second wave", in German (stroke of genius or a bit tacky, that's for you to decide). I had ample opportunity to play the thing years ago, but I somehow never did. Couldn't really say why back then, I am a proponent of unusual themes, but this somehow did nothing for me. But now, a bit over three weeks ago, P. brought his copy of the game over and so him, D. and me played it. Without that expansion, even though he had it with him as well.

Viral is a simultaneous-action-selection area-control/majority game with a bit of deckbuilding (not very much of it) thrown into the mix. You are a virus and you want to infect a patient while other viruses are trying to do the same. You do this by playing cards that give you actions and cards that determine where you take (some of) those actions face down to your personal board and then reveal them and do stuff that changes the majorities in different organs so that you can profit best from those. Your grasp on these organs is fleeting at best, though, because a) too many viruses within the same organ lead to crises that do give points to viruses present but then afterwards destroy all of those, b) majorities net you points but also "research points", which mean that those pesky humans invent cures against you and once that's done, you're (mostly) wiped from the board, and c) there's an event per turn that usually gives special scoring-opportunities for specific organs, but those quite often also eject your viruses from the system. Let alone those pesky other players who try to wreck your shit, leading to a constant cycle of building up a presence and having that presence then removed from the board again.

Which happened to me quite frequently. I got ahead early, grabbing some cool new cards in the process (you get new cards added to your "deck" for reaching certain VP-milestones) and kind of making everybody hate me, which is always a great thing to do in games like this. I did fly a bit under the radar come mid-game when the others started to catch up and thought that I had a pretty good shot at winning the whole thing with a final push during the last round, but then D. sneaked out a couple of additional points and beat me narrowly while P. came in third.

From gallery of Harblnger


Here's something very weird: I find Viral's theme (and presentation) strangely icky. I know that this is an unlikely thing for me to say. I love the grotesqueries of Cave Evil and Eldritch Horror, the over-the-top violence of Psycho Raiders and the dark implications of stuff like The Bloody Inn. But a relatively sanitized depiction of human organs and arteries and veins connecting them gives me the creeps? Yeah. Some people are weird that way. Did I ever tell you that the most yucky thing I can imagine is breaking off or otherwise harming/removing a finger- or toenail? Just thinking about this gives me goosebumps. But I digress.

Surprisingly uncomfortable theme aside, there is a lot to like about Viral. It is a quick, easy to play yet decently involved game. It looks good (in a gross way), the way you make points and interact with everything makes both thematic and mechanical sense, the way you add three cards to your deck over the course of the game by reaching VP-milestones is kind of fun and many of these cards have interesting and unusual combinations of actions on them and the general gameplay, where you kind of program not only the actions for the current turn but through this also determine what isn't available for you during the next round does have some merit.

Ultimately, Viral didn't enthrall me, though. It is a fine, simple, relatively light entry-level area-majority-game that is inoffensively playable and does its darndest to keep everybody invested in the game and keep the usually rather confrontative nature of games like this in check by making everything so transitive and impermanent, but that also makes it lose its edge to me. Theme notwithstanding, this is a safe and slick product that shouldn't offend anybody and is therefore unlikely to produce any form of strong response. Plus this constant resetting of majority-ratios and board presence and stuff makes it hard to care for anything. And I also think that the final player in any given round has a definite advantage, that could be match-winning come game-end (this is kind of offset by the players earlier in turn order potentially preventing swingy moves by those playing later, but if that doesn't or can't happen, the final actions in any given turn can completely change majorities and therefore scoring-opportunities).

Viral isn't bad. It's quick and looks good and the icky theme does induce a certain morbid fascination in me. But as a game, it's too nondescript and vapid to leave any lasting impression.

Which is also that someone could potentially say about my musical endeavors. I don't know. Nobody has yet, but YOU might be exactly the person to do so. Go over to my Bandcamp-page to find out. Now!

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Mon Nov 29, 2021 1:00 pm
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Top 50 MCU Characters Of All Time, Year Three Edition, #10-6

Christian Heckmann
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Shit. Two weeks from now, I've got to start with my Top 50 (or rather Top 75, because why not?) Board Games Of All Time, Year Four Edition, and I haven't even started to compile that list. Ah well. Maybe next weekend. We'll see. For now, let's continue with the countdown of the 50 greatest MCU characters of all time. We've entered the Top 10 and... there's probably gonna be one or two surprises. Especially when it comes to the position of some characters, that I'm sure a couple of people will have expected a bit higher. You'll see...

#10: Peter Parker

From gallery of Harblnger


"Civil War" is a really good movie altogether, but I'm still a bit weirded out by that strange part in the middle, where both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark start to recruit random people for a relatively trivial (albeit cool) punchup at an airport. Like teenage-vigilante Peter Parker. I mean, it was cool to see Spidey enter the MCU and Tom Holland is a fantastic actor for the part (and definitely the best one we've seen... I'd say ever), but it conceptually, it wasn't one of the MCU's brighter hours. But Holland certainly made up for that slight misstep with his two solo-outings and appearances in the subsequent "Avengers"-movies. Although he was already 21 when he starred as the 15-year-old Parker in "Spider-Man: Homecoming", he was pretty believable as a slightly geeky, socially awkward youngster and the movies leave enough room to explore his character. Also his relationship with his (surprisingly youthful) aunt is adorable. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" is scheduled to be released... what? Friggin' eighteen days from now? I'm gonna watch "Shang-Chi" tonight and still haven't seen "Eternals" (plus only the first episode of "Hawkeye"...). When am I gonna catch up with all of that? But yeah, this is gonna be great.

#9: Nick Fury

From gallery of Harblnger


If Happy Hogan doesn't return in "Spider-Man: No Way Home", Nick Fury, played to perfection by the legendary Samuel L. Jackson, will probably be the undisputed longest serving character in the MCU. After his first appearance in the original "Iron Man", the "most paranoid and dangerous man on the planet" (as Quentin Beck called him) has popped up everywhere as a bit-player and after his starring role in "Captain Marvel", he's now gonna get a show that is truly focused around him in the form of 2022's "Secret Invasion". And I personally can't wait to see him in this. Some people have lamented that his goofier turn in "Captain Marvel" has made him a less interesting character, but I liked him in it and think that it gives his usual tough-guy persona even more facets. Also at this point in his career, Samuel L. Jackson can do whatever the fuck he wants and it's gonna be great. May he stay with us for a long time.

#8: Tony Stark

From gallery of Harblnger


Didn't see that coming, huh? I mean, for many people, Tony Stark will probably sit comfortably at the top of this list. And here I am, placing the top seller of the whole universe up until the end of phase three at a mere rank eight. What's wrong with me? Well... I am not easily impressed by superficially flashy things. OOOOOOH, NEW EXPANSION FOR RISE OF THE NECROMANCERS! I NEED THAT! GIMME GIMME GIMME! Err... sorry, where was I? Ah, right, Tony Stark. Iron Man. Look, Robert Downey Jr. is (or rather "can be if he wants to") a fantastic actor and he really fills the character of Tony Stark with a lot of charisma and his arc over the course of the ten movies he appeared in has been a very interesting one. But even at the end of it, he's still a kind of terrible dude. Charming, funny (although a bit grating at times), endlessly inventive and pretty badass, sure. But I don't think that I would ever want to hang out with him even for five minutes in real life and some of the things that he has done and caused and planned are kind of appalling. So while he's certainly a good character, I just don't "like" him that much, if that makes any kind of sense. But yeah, rank eight ain't half bad, eh?

#7: Bucky Barnes

From gallery of Harblnger


Still, one worse than rank seven, which is filled by Sergeant James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, the Winter Soldier, the White Wolf, the semi-stable 100-year-old man. Steve Rogers' best friend. Sam Wilson's comrade in arms. Seemingly killed in World War 2, brainwashed by Hydra and kept in cryogenic stasis for a long, long time, only to be released every now and then to commit assassinations all over the globe, you know the drill. He's kind of back on track now (at the end of "The Falcon And The Winter Soldier") after having spent a lot of time making amends for his evil deeds but of course there's still an undeniable darker edge to him that might come back to the forefront in the future. You never know. It's not currently clear whether he'll be in "Captain America 4", even though his connection to both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, as well as his presence in all of the other "Captain America"-movies immediately suggests that he should be. And I hope that he will be, because I really, really like Bucky as a character and Sebastian Stan's portrayal of him.

#6: Phil Coulson

From gallery of Harblnger


And once again I'm kind of bending the canon, because while Agent Phil Coulson ("His first name is Agent") originated within a part of the MCU that is still canonical (he appeared in the first "Iron Man", then in "Iron Man 2", "Thor" and finally the "Avengers"), he gained a lot more depth over the course of the dubiously cannonical TV show "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.", where - spoilers ahead - he was resurrected with Kree-technology after being killed by Loki during the events of "Avengers" and soon became the new director of a new branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the events of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". The show was off to a rocky start, the first half of season one is really mediocre at best, but man, did it take off from there. Still haven't seen season seven (apparently it'll start on Disney+ three days from now... where the fuck am I gonna take all the time from that I need to watch all of this?) although since - even more spoilers - Coulson is "canonically" dead again at this point in time I feel like it's safe to say that his character arc has been completed. And what an arc it was. From uptight field agent to leader against his will, to reluctant father figure to Daisy Johnson and back again, Coulson grew a lot over the course of the five seasons "he" was in. So yeah, me liking the guy as much as I do does mainly stem from his appearances in something that isn't really relevant to the movie-universe (anymore), but I can't deny that I love the man dearly, so... fuck this categorization-bullshit. I'm gonna completely smash that next week anyway.

Which leads us to the big question... Who's gonna be at the top? Which big players haven't appeared yet? Which improbable characters have snuck into the uppermost five ranks? Who do you think will make an appearance a week from now? And which one of those characters will occupy the top spot? Share your predictions in the comments if you want to, that'd be great.

Also buy my album(s). That'd also be great.

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Sun Nov 28, 2021 10:55 am
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Here's what I love about... Deadlands: The Battle For Slaughter Gulch!

Christian Heckmann
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Ah, I'm late again, because reasons (some of them being: Christmas cookies... which is a totally legit reason). And I have a game of Chronicles of Darkness scheduled in 20 minutes, so... this will be a short one, I guess. Because I already wasted enough time clicking on the "random game"-button, waiting for something that I actually played to pop up to talk about in a "Here's what I love!"-post. That didn't work. So I just opened my "played games"-collection and picked something at random. That something turned out to be...

Board Game: Deadlands: The Battle for Slaughter Gulch


I think that it's safe to say that while a relatively prolific designer, the late Todd Breitenstein wasn't a spectacular one (however one wants to measure this). The games he designed with his wife Kerry have their fans, sure, but they are mostly light, random fare that are usually only held together by their themes and the enthusiasm they exude. If at all. I'm not especially fond of Zombies!!!, for example, but I can absolutely picture that the Breitensteins had a blast designing it. I'm also not very fond of Deadlands: The Battle for Slaughter Gulch, because let's face it, it's a barely functional mess of a game. But I'll be damned if it isn't a spectacularly ambitious misfire.

And that's what I love about Deadlands: The Battle for Slaughter Gulch. The sheer ambition of the darn thing. The Breitensteins had a long, good look at the Weird West as presented in the Deadlands-universe and then when it came to deciding which aspects of it to incorporate in their game, they went with "all of them and then some for good measure". In this game, six asymmetric factions vie for control over the frontier town of Slaughter Gulch and by saying "vie for control", I mean "arrest folks, shoot strangers in the face, mine some ghost rock, gamble at the saloon, deploy gatling guns to the main road and sometimes ambush a stagecoach... plus tangle with the occasional werewolf if you throw Deadlands: Invasion of Slaughter Gulch into the mix". It's a wild ride from beginning to end and while hardly anything actually truly works in the game, I can't help but admire the sheer audacity of trying to pull something like that off and then release the result to the public. Like many labors of love, this is a messy thing for sure but there's something deeply human about it.

So that's what I love about Deadlands: The Battle for Slaughter Gulch. That the darn thing exists. I mean, it would be better if it were an actually good game, but... you can't have everything, right?

What you absolutely CAN have is a copy of my digital discography for the small price of 50 cents or more. If that isn't a steal, I don't know what is. Go check it out here:

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Sat Nov 27, 2021 4:56 pm
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I just learned about... Hell Night

Christian Heckmann
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I don't want to say that my Kickstarter-backing-habits have shifted from board games to RPGs in recent times, but... the quota of my last ten backed projects speaks a relatively unambiguous language. Seven of those have been RPG-projects. Sure, some Mörk Borg-stuff sneaked in, but there were also some full systems that I did (Survival Of The Able) or didn't (Moonlight On Roseville Beach... "A Queer Game of Disco & Cosmic Horror!"... shut up and take my money!) tell you about. The latest in that line (and as you might have noticed one that I AM gonna tell you about):

From gallery of Harblnger


Hell Night by designer Gavriel Quiroga is (and I quote the project-description) a "doom biker RPG rule-artbook inspired by badass metal covers and the spirit of a strange decade". If that's not already enough to make you want to get your hands on a copy, I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you. But okay, maybe I can delve a bit deeper and convince you to check this one out more thoroughly (even though sadly there isn't too much to check out available yet...).

In the world of Hell Night, there has been an insurrection in Hell, because too long has its ruler lain dormant. A bunch of Archons, powerful demons, have decided that enough is enough and escaped the confines of their respective circles to Earth - specifically the eighties of the twentieth century - to wreak havoc and generally have a good time. That shit doesn't fly with the forces of Heaven who sends a celestial herald that knocks on the doors of Hell and goes "Listen up motherfuckers, you send some folks up there to drag those Archons back before dawn or we're gonna invade your shitty place down here". Or something to that effect. So a bunch of lesser demons are outfitted with infernal arms and armor and cool hellbikes or something like that and are sent to Earth to bring back those fugitives. And those hellbikers are the players, in case you hadn't figured that out yet.

Visually, Hell Night is inspired by stuff like Heavy Metal album covers, Spawn, Ghostrider and the (I'm heartbroken to tell you not very good) movie "Mandy". It's an agnostic setting but it also comes with an optional system based on Quiroga's very own designs Neurocity/Warpland. Those are relatively rule-light/narrative-based systems with a 2D6-mechanism where you have five attributes that range from 5 (bad) to 10 (great) and you try to roll equal to or under your attribute-value to pull off whatever you're trying to do, but you don't necessarily want to roll too low, because every one that you roll (on a complex action, which is determined at the GM's discretion) introduces a complication into the narrative that the players will have to deal with. There's also a "Tension"-system where players "get" tension either by failing tests or adding it to reroll dice and then, if the tension hits a certain threshold, bad things start to happen. I don't know whether all of this will be in place for Hell Night. Quiroga said in the comments that there are some changes, for example the attributes have been reduced from five to three and the classes have been changed (there's a total of five with special powers and stuff), also there's apparently quite a few Edges, quirks that can be used to individualize your character further, but the whole thing should be rules-light and intuitive enough to make character creation a simple thing.

Which is good, because by necessity (the characters have only a single night to complete their task), the game will probably be mostly geared towards one-shot or short-campaign-style gameplay. Which is fine by me, if the whole thing turns out to be good, you can probably expand on it yourself. I for one am mightily sold on this thing. Quiroga promises deep lore and 65 to 70 pages of awesome artwork. The images that you can already see on the Kickstarter-page (like the one above) are really cool and as a RPG/artbook-hybrid, this will probably be worth it to own even if the gameplay doesn't hold up that well. Although, the jaded old RPG-curmudgeon in me is pretty confident that I'll once again play it despite the rules instead of because of the rules anyway. But that's just me.

Bottom line, Hell Night looks and sounds really cool. It's already funded and live for another... what? 57 days? What the fuck? Well okay then, this thing will run into January, I guess. So you've got plenty of time to check it out. Here's the link to the project page.

Also here's the link to my Bandcamp-page. Christmas-song incoming. In... I don't know, the next month or so? Check out everything else I have to offer until then. Today is Black Friday or something like that. My discography isn't cheaper than any day else, but you can get my stuff for next to nothing anyway, so just buy it, okay?

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Fri Nov 26, 2021 11:15 am
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A fleeting joy

Christian Heckmann
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Oh crap, I totally forgot that today is one of the "Top Five Thursday"... err... Thursdays. Well, happens to the best of 'em. So since I have nothing prepared but another "On the table"-post, looks like you'll have to wait for the next issue of this for another two weeks. Sorry. Instead, today, I'm gonna talk to you about...

Board Game: Fleet: The Dice Game (Second Edition)


Fleet: The Dice Game (Second Edition). Maybe also Fleet: The Dice Game. Maybe rather Fleet: The Dice Game, because if I understand correctly, the defining feature of Fleet: The Dice Game (Second Edition) is that it already comes packed with the Fleet: The Dice Game – Captain & Trophy Expansion but we didn't use that for our game... friggin' three weeks ago? Damn. After that drought a couple of months ago, things are really crazy at the moment. I really need to catch up with my most recent endeavors, because there's a lot of interesting stuff to talk about. Ah well, I'm working on it.
Anyway, after playing Fleet: The Dice Game solo one and a half years ago (has it been that long already?), liking it quite a bit and then waiting for a long, long time to actually get my very own copy of it (which was a pretty elaborate undertaking altogether), I finally roped P. and D. into a game of it friggin' three weeks ago. Chance had it that I got a shrimp license at the start of the game, which meant that every shrimp-die I picked, I could use as a wild. So I leaned into that pretty heavily, trying to increase my shrimp-license-count as soon as possible in order to get the other advantages of using one of those, namely first of all also crossing of a star each time I use one and then finally, getting the effect of whatever I used the shrimp-die for twice. It worked reasonably well, especially after I had built the Casino and with a bit of luck was able to increase my chances of getting shrimp-dice. I also grabbed the King Crab license for buildings as soon as possible and then built like crazy, opening a Sea Food Buffet, a Smokehouse, heck, at some point I even started to work on the Fisherman's Pub, because why not? In the end, all of my effort paid off. I wasn't as good as P. when it came to fishing or as wealthy as D., but the mixture of different venues helped me to a pretty good score that won me the game.

From gallery of Harblnger


Way back when I played this game solo, I mused that I'd probably like it most with two players (and the fine folks here on the Geek seem to be of a pretty similar opinion). And yeah, my three-player-game of this reinforced this notion. Not that it's bad in any way with three. It's just such a solitairish affair that there's really no good reason to involve any more than two players in this. I mean... there actually isn't a good reason to involve two, besides the fact that the solo-dummy-player is a bit fiddly and requires just a tad too much upkeep to make this playable as smooth as it should be, so with two players, you might have a bit of downtime if your opponent takes a long time to draft their die for a round, but apart from that, you can just ignore what that yokel at the other end of the table is doing and concentrate on your very own thing.

Which is a decently enjoyable thing to do. Fleet: The Dice Game is relatively different when compared to its predecessor, Fleet. While Fleet is a decently interactive game of hand- and resource-management, in Fleet: The Dice Game, you're constantly getting bombarded with cool stuff. Not only do you get two die-faces per turn (one that you chose and one that everybody gets), but the special abilities you acquire over the course of the game (via licenses) give you even more stuff and the "roundly income" (which adds stuff to the star-track, where every couple of steps lets you just cross off whatever floats your boat) does the rest. Fleet: The Dice Game feels a lot like That's Pretty Clever! but with even more stuff going on, more tracks, more stuff that intersects, more possibilities to pull off clever moves. And the expansion(s) will probably make it even more intricate.

So it's quite good and I like it. Not as much as Fleet, though, because that's generally more my style of game. I like the hand management, I like the challenge of pulling off good moves, I like the interaction. Fleet: The Dice Game more "carefree" approach is nice and all, but it's lacking tension a bit and I also feel like it might be a tad too long (not in terms of "wall time"-length but in terms of "game arc"-length). When our game came to a close, I felt like I had already completed pretty much everything I wanted to do two turns or so ago and was just spinning my wheels. I understand that it's probably well balanced in that regard, because some strategies probably need more time than others, with a fishing-heavy approach for example being something that you can't really hurry along but need to "wait out". But yeah, while the plethora of stuff getting shoveled your way is exhilarating at first, around turn seven or eight, it starts to wear thin. I caught myself looking up from my playing-sheets at that point during our game, listening to D.'s and P.'s remarks of "Okay, then I cross of this which gives me two stars which lets me cross off that next thing on the track and then I can do this" and I was just asking myself what the fuck we were actually doing. But yeah, it's a pleasant game, if you can deal with this. Which I guess I can, but... not all the time.

Speaking of things that aren't pleasant all the time, here's a link to my Bandcamp-page. Wow, these are getting more tortured by the day...

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Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:24 pm
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A day at the bay...

Christian Heckmann
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So since we're scheduled to start our second mystery in the world of Brindlewood Bay this evening, I thought that today would be a good opportunity to talk about our first completed mystery and a couple of general thoughts about the system...

RPG: Brindlewood Bay


For the uninitiated, Brindlewood Bay is a game that is based on the Apocalypse World ruleset and thematically is not exactly but comes very close to "'Murder She Wrote' meets 'Call Of Cthulhu'". A., T., J. and me are currently playing a campaign of it that is hosted by D. and our likeable little circle of murder-steeled old-timers is... well, pretty much that. We've got Martha, the active one, Rosemary, the affluent and worldly one, Dorothee, the old and mousy one and finally my character, Flora, the kooky one who sometimes says and does completely fucked up things. As you do.

Our first case was the mystery of the dad who went overboard and wound up dead on a beach. Sheriff Dalrymple didn't necessarily "task" us with solving it, but we decided to do so nonetheless, investigating in and around the homely oceanside-town of Brindlewood Bay, mostly in regards to the possible whereabouts and motives of the relatives of Albert Krause, the murder-victim. It wasn't a very complicated investigation. I mean, we did do some morally questionable things (like breaking into vintner Etienne Beauregard's cold storage to examine the corpse and then, when we noticed that we wouldn't be able to leave without leaving traces, slightly devastated the place and made it look like some cats were responsible for it) and potentially drove Albert's son David crazy by lying in wait for him at each and every corner (prompting him to go "Why's the town filled with old ladies all of a sudden?" at one point) but he turned out to be (or rather "we decided that he was" - more on that in a second) the killer in the end, so we didn't feel too bad about it. Turned out, David was deeply in debt and had decided to rob his father's safe for some valuables in order to pay them off. But unluckily for him, his father caught him in the act and by accident, David killed him and then tried to cover up his crime by inventing an unseen menace that had had it out with his father. We weren't fooled, though, and finally managed to assemble the puzzle-pieces so meticulously that not only did all of the responsible parties go to jail, we also found void-clues (clues toward the sinister secret of Brindlewood Bay) en masse AND had one of the cultists reveal herself to us. Fancy, eh?

Our first mystery in the world of Brindlewood Bay was certainly enjoyable. Our characters seem to complement each other quite well and their quirks and idiosyncracies led to a lot of enjoyable characterplay. The ruleset seems to work quite well. I wasn't a huge fan of Apocalypse World and it is pretty much the same here, but this "one roll with huge consequences"-framework seems to work better in a more relaxed setting like the one for Brindlewood Bay is than in something as grimey and brutal as Apocalypse World itself. Also the Maven moves are interesting. My character has the "Angus MacGyver"-move, where she can get herself an advantage by improvising with stuff that can be found in the vicinity. And the way that character advancement works seems to be better as well. It isn't that different, you still designate "goals" at the beginning of a session and then play towards them to get advancement-ticks, but the fact that those goals are real tangible questions instead of just the things that you could roll with makes it more involving to fold them into the narrative, if you get what I'm talking about.

The narrative was a bit hit and miss, though. And that wasn't D.'s fault. No, T. put it very well when after the end of our first case, he said something to the effect of "this resolution doesn't really feel earned". I feel like that's by design, though.
Here's how solving a mystery in Brindlewood Bay works: You investigate for a while, uncovering vague clues that could or could not pertain to the mystery at hand. Once you've gathered enough of those, you congregate and theorize, crafting a narrative how the crime might have happened, incorporating or discounting the clues you found as you go along. Afterwards, you roll two dice, add the number of used (or explained away) clues to the roll, subtract the complexity of the case and then look at the mystery-resolution-table, whether what you just postulated is in fact the solution to the mystery or not. If that sounds weird, it is. But it also kind of works. But... just kind of.
Maybe this'll change with more experience in the system for both the players and the GM, but yeah, in the end, we investigated for a while (mostly just looking at stuff and finding very indeterminate clues that weren't really hard to find), then theorized for a moment, explained some clues away, incorporated others into our solution, then rolled some dice and bam, case closed, evildoers punished, etc. Of course there was some narrative payoff, where we gathered everyone together and explained the solution to the family and the cops, etc. But it just felt anticlimactic and sort of like things didn't really add up but were just worked out to fit the narrative after the fact.

As said, maybe this will improve with experience. Maybe the case we're starting tonight will be amazing. I had fun up until now with Brindlewood Bay because I like the quaint atmosphere, the unusual characters and the more relaxed pace of the whole thing in comparison to other systems with loads of combat and drama and gigantic stakes. But I don't know yet how long that'll keep me coming back. I mean, there's something about loads of combat and drama and gigantic stakes after all, right?

Also I managed to kind of complete my Christmas-themed song yesterday. It might take a while until I upload it to Bandcamp, so you'll have to be patient for it, I guess. But to tide you over until then, here's what currently can be found on my Bandcamp-page. Enjoy!

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Wed Nov 24, 2021 2:24 pm
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