Kevin L. KitchensUnited States
As promised in my previous post (Great? Check! Western? Check! Trail? Check! Solo? Say What???), I've taken "Garth" the second more specialized Automa for Great Western Trail for a spin and documented how the cards work and show the results of a game. I compare the two where appropriate as well to underscore the differences in mechanics.
"Garth" Automa Rules and Cards: GWT Specialized Automa for Solo Play
In all, I think both of the solo Automa work great and provide a very tough competitor at even the "normal" level. I cannot imagine playing them on the hard challenge (but will someday!).
I do believe that these options DO make Great Western Trail a must buy, even if only for solo play. The Automa run smooth and with little management and allow you to concentrate on playing the game. And the game is that good. One of the best worker placement games there is. Alexander Pfister has created a masterpiece.
I am almost exclusively a solo gamer and look at the gaming scene seen through those eyes. I also literally like alliteration. TWITTER: @onesuponagame
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09 Nov 2017
Over the past nearly three years, lots of articles, reviews, tips, images, etc. have appears on this blog... I was starting myself to get lost trying to find something!
So to remedy that I've created a new geeklist: Ones Upon A Game: Reviews, Mods, Images and Videos Index to refer to find the potentially helpful diamond in the rough.
I welcome you to subscribe to the list as a whole or just to games that are of interest to you... if such a thing is of interest to you.
- [+] Dice rolls
I know the second wave of Mechs vs. Minions appears to be hitting homes this week, but I picked up a decent deal on a first wave copy a few months ago. I finally took a moment to pry the lid off the HUGE box and setup the tutorial. Finished that and here's my initial thoughts.
I don't hate it.
Seriously, it's a pretty cool system of "programming" and "overriding" commands to complete a mission. You draft cards from a set of five and them place them on your program board. You can also discard them to swap program slots or repair damage. The system works very well with simple rules, an alphabetical help booklet (that most games should have). Lots of fun.
It's also quite beautifully made and there is a WOW factor when you open that HUGE box and see all the organized trays of minions and mechs and components. Very nice. You can tell a lot of love went into the design and the bang for the buck is one of the best values in all of gaming.
It's way overproduced and that is a big strike, IMO. I didn't realize until I actually started playing that ALL the minions were the same (correction: they aren't the same). While some missions may alter their stats (don't know still early playing), they all die on one hit. The poses are the same (correction: no you idiot, I just told you they ARE different).
Helps on production to have a single mold, butthe practical side of me is like... "Why minis?" Why not just simple counters. The minis last on the board (so far) a very short period of time, so the "bling" of them being identicalminis is very short lived.
Plus they take up a ton of space in the box -- each mini-on has its own slot in the stacking plastic trays. Even with keeping them as miniatures, it would be much easier to just store them all in a box or other container (organization is for separating different things to make them easier to find after all). Since there are FOUR layers of these large trays to sift through, plus a large lid, the box itself + the lid + removing three of the trays to access the bottom takes up a load of table space. Even if you stay the removed trays into the upside down lid as you remove them, wowza.
It doesn't help that the vital components (boards, cards, programming tracks) are all on the bottom level either. Once that wow factor wears off, there will definitely be some annoyance at the setup shuffle each time you want to play.
Unlike most games where they come disorganized and require a foam core insert or Plano boxes to improve them. MvM is overorganized and would require a downgrade just to make it a little more functional. But in this case, I think getting rid of the provided inserts/trays would reduce the value of the game in the eyes of a potential buyer.
Don't get me wrong, the gameplay itself is a blast and I look forward to the first mission (NO SPOILERS PLEASE!!! NONE!). But I may have to buy a second table to set the box on while I try to play the game.
It plays quite well solo too, but the program strips do take up a bit of space (being long for six stacks of cards). Mats in a two rows of three cards might function a little better, especially for someone playing multiple characters. I played two in the demo. Not sure how I'd fit three strips or even four without having to walk around to literally different seats.
The painted minis for the mech are cute and each come with their own programming strip which details their special ability. A bit large and chunky though... the whole game could have been scaled down by 1/3 or 1/2 and been a much less cumbersome beast.
More to come, but those are my initial thoughts on this hot newish title.
- [+] Dice rolls
Play, play the game tonight
Can you tell me if it's wrong or right
Is it worth the time, is it worth the price?
I'm not a fan of making extensive "how to play videos". Especially for a yet to be available title. There is too much riding on me in terms of learning it right, playing it right, and presenting it right. Odd too since I'm normally always right (or at least think I am).
So I'm happy to say that I was in fact wrong about the Lock 'n Load Tactical: Solo system and how it actually plays out once you get past its known "limitations" and proceed into the gameplay itself. It presented an AI challenge on par with its older sibling Conflict of Heroes: Eastern Front – Solo Expansion. The flowchart usage becomes very reminiscent of the GMT COIN Series in that it becomes somewhat easy to remember what the final action is going to be given the current state of the board.
So continuing the setup (with a couple of changes) from before (Lock 'n Load: To Solo or Not to Solo...That is the Question!) where I waxed ineloquently about the fears I had with previous attempts and the number of decisions I would be forced to make, here's a couple of full turns of the game using the solo system as well as some final thoughts.
Couple of things I would definitely like to see changed either on release or future editions. Smaller flowcharts for quicker and easier reference. And instead of the large charts, add more detail about following each chart to the rulebook. Secondly the rulebook could use a little more fleshing out in terms of clarifying some of the gotchas that might develop for experienced and new players alike. Of course, these could be resolved with updated PDFs as well.
Otherwise, as I say near the end of the second video... I wanted to stop recording the session and just play. Which I did. And had an excellent time.
Definitely keep this one on your hot list and grab it as soon as you can as well as the new and improved versions of the Lock 'n Load Tactical series. You'll regret it if you don't.
- [+] Dice rolls
Part II and Part III with actual gameplay: All You Have to Do is Fall in Love, Play the Game...
After several stops and starts using the Lock 'n Load Tactical: Solo with Lock 'n Load Tactical: Heroes of Normandy, I've picked up a few tips and hopefully will be successful this go round.
As promised, I'm recording the process and present in a multi (at least two) part series to give you an idea of what the solo system brings to the Lock 'n Load Tactical series.
In this first video, I select a scenario to play and give a general overview of how the cards and flowcharts included with the expansion work, how they vary from the scenarios found in the Conflict of Heroes: Eastern Front – Solo Expansion, and the pros and cons I've noticed or felt so far.
I want to be candid and honest in my assessment of the solo expansion clearly spelling out what I see as strengths and weaknesses. However, I do feel that some of the issues I'm experiencing might be due to my skill level and not the game itself. From what I understand other testers and preview players have had great success using it. So take my personal opinion with a grain of salt and look more at what is actually there and how you would feel about using it in your own sessions.
- [+] Dice rolls
Mayday Games Crokinole Board 2017
Mayday Games (yeah, the card sleeve folks) are no stranger to making Crokinole boards, having created three versions in the last five years. In December 2016, they ran a Kickstarter for their fourth design, one they feel is the best of all of them. This one features a mahogany finish playing surface, tournament size and dimensions, as well as a circular shape overall. While there are square and hexagonal boards (outer shape, the playing surface is always circular), a circular board is better because no matter where you are on your shooting line the edge of the board is always the same distance allowing you to rest your hand comfortably.
OK... so promises, promises. Did they deliver?
First it's hard for me to say since this is my first board. As I kid I loved the dexterity game Rebound and the strategy of getting your pucks close to the edge without going off. When curling started gaining public attention over the last few Winter Olympics, I found that to be a very "cool" sport to watch as well. But I'd never actually heard of Crokinole until a couple of years ago and was immediately fascinated. But a decent board could easily run in the $250-300 range which to me was just too much. So when Mayday offered theirs for $99 and the previews indicated it was a high-quality board, I was in.
The game arrived double-boxed and padded in a large 3'x3' package. If you want to see the board and what you get, click on the unboxing video below.
A Brief Review
So after that was shot and uploading, I played with the board some more and here are my general thoughts. I really like the board. Again, never played or touched another board, so I cannot say how it compares. Others who have received theirs still feel this is in the "value" range of boards and not heirloom quality. And that's fine. For the price of $99, I certainly could not have built my own, even with the help of a good friend and woodworker.
My particular copy has no real flaws on the surface, though others have mentioned noticeable areas of wood filler which disrupted the wood grain. Those spots were still smooth and stained and don't interfere with gameplay, but apparent nonetheless. Where the sector lines are painted on, some of the paint did get onto the area between the starting line and the ditch (the gutter area outside the playing field), so there is a slight reddish streak, but again nothing to interfere with the game.
The scoring lines DO appear to be true to the required dimensions except for the distance between the scoring line and the 5/10 line which is just fractionally wider than the four inch standard. The center hole to 10/15 line however is spot on in measure.
The game ships with a wooden box for holding the discs and pegs. Drilled into the lid are two scoring tracks and extra pegs are included for those. Oddly there is no marking on the tracks for the actual score. Each section is two columns of 10 holes each (so 20 per side). At the very least increasing the spacing between the 5th and 6th/15th and 16th holes would have given a visual cue to quickly tell the score. A "0" hole would have been nice as well for starting the game. Overall though, while this is part of the package, it's not crucial to playing the game itself.
However as crucial as the board are the discs and this bundle from Midway included 28 of them in black and tan. The discs have a nice gloss finish and seem to be within the tolerances of official Crokinole rules. While only 12 per side are used in a game, two extra are included of each color. The discs are nicely and very slightly convex on one side and concave on the other. This allows you to use one side for faster shots (less friction) or the other for a more controlled shot. You can tell which is which by giving the disc a flat spin on the board.
The union of disc and board appears to be a happy one as they slide very easy across the surface. The pegs for the board are made of hardwood and slip into the pre-drilled holes just fine. Some felt theirs were a bit loose but mine while not 100% identical in tightness certainly don't seem wobbly.
Overall, I feel this is an excellent game board that will easily give me my money's worth in gameplay and even social interaction. With the popularity of Corn Hole in my part of the world, I think people would definitely take to playing Crokinole. I look forward to introducing it at church events and family gatherings.
Mayday added the ability to add on extra items to the order at a great cost, but the ultimate usability of these for me is currently in question.
First they designed a very cool clock insert that attaches to the board face in the peg holes. So if you're storing your board on the wall (highly recommended if not kept flat), it becomes very cool looking and functional. Unfortunately, my clock did not arrive with the board, so I cannot say for sure.
What did arrive were my three extra sets of discs (Blue, Yellow, and Green) as well as a set of screw in pegs (simply 8 square drive screws) with rubber bumpers (tubing you cut to size and sleeve the screws).
The extra discs are not the same quality or size as the included discs. The new ones are smaller in diameter and thinner in height. The weight difference means you cannot mix and match the sets in a single game. So naturally this was more than a little disappointing.
I'm sure the screws to replace the pins are fine, however if you want to use the clock, removing the posts is a little more time consuming. I'm also concerned that once I thread the holes for screws, I'm widening the post holes making the regular posts more loose. These screws do appear to be a standard option however across other Crokinole boards, so it may not be so big a deal as I think. Perhaps I just have a screw loose.
Getting Hung Up on Details
Mayday preinstalled eye hooks on the back of the board in the recess for hanging the board on the wall. This is an awesome touch because getting those hooks in would have been a pain. To hang my board, I took heavy duty picture wire and threaded it between the two hooks and wrapped it so the wire was reasonable taut and stay within the recess as well (to not scratch the table).
Next I measured distance between the edge of the board and the wire when pulled towards that edge (simulating the stretch when hanging). On my wall where I wanted the board, I measured down from where I wanted the top of the board to be to that same distance and made a mark at that height. Then simply where I wanted the center of the board to be I marked the intersection of those two distances. That's where hook would go. The board is 30.5" total in diameter, so I needed at least 15.25" clearance from a cupboard to the right.
Using an ingenious heavy duty "EZ Push Shield hanger" from OOK, I just poked it through the drywall at the marked spot and rotated it into position. After that, hanging the board from the wire was a piece of cake -- and since there is only one hook, it was self centering and leveling.
Now the Bad News...
While this is a great board and an excellent value, Mayday only made a limited supply of them. This first wave just shipped to backers and there are two more to go in April-May of this year. They did make some extras to go to store, but those will be limited in supply and distribution. Hopefully you'll be able to locate one if you're interested. But at the very least, perhaps this has exposed this fascinating game to you and you'll be on the lookout for opportunities to play and/or acquire a board for yourself.
- [+] Dice rolls
After several plays of Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age from Eagle-Gryphon Games, I've managed to write my first review of 2017. It is still January, right? Right?Quote:RTTA:Bronze comes with rules for playing solitaire. I hesitate to call it a "beat your own score" game, because of all the randomness of the die rolls, but the score serves to simply gauge how well you did
So how was the game solo? It's fun. It's quick to play. It's simple to learn. It's not a very deep game of course, nothing akin to it's much bigger brother. But it is certainly a decent filler or travel game.
As always, the full review can be found here: Come on and Just Roll Through It, Baby -- a Ones Upon a Game Review
- [+] Dice rolls
Some of you may recall my initial love for Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game only to have it grow cold after a few frustrating first forays made worse by my own rules errors. But later regret resulted in the game "boomeranging" back to me (Now We're Back in the Fight) and I found it to be an enjoyable and challenging game, made better with some of the improvements to the board, cards, and rules in the Warfighter: Expansion #9 – The Footlocker (Review of that expansion: What It Was, Was Footlocker - A Ones Upon a Game Review).
So flash forward to this year and Dan Verssen Games (DVG) has released a new title in the DVG Warfighter family that lets you flash backward to World War II: Warfighter: The WWII Tactical Combat Card Game.
After unboxing the game and getting familiar with the new rules and features, I've reviewed this title with fresh eyes and a definite love of the theme. While the game is not 100% perfect, especially for those only using the core box, it's still an exciting and strategic romp through each mission.Quote:Overall, I enjoy Warfighter WW2. It may be a personal bias to the WW2 theme, but I like it better than the previous version. I think the art direction and style of the cards is more refined and shows a maturity in design from the previous version. If there is anything about the game itself that I don't like as much it would be the pre-mission planning. Like LCGs and CCGs deck-construction (and in this case team construction) simply presents too many variables and bogs things down when you simply want to play a game.
Now you can choose to activate the objective and read the full review: The Turn of a Friendly Card - a Ones Upon a Game Review
- [+] Dice rolls
23 Sep 2016
Boardgaming, 3D Printing, and the Micro 3D
Ever since I created my race car miniatures for Thunder Alley (Send in the Clones - DIY Thunder Alley Miniatures - Part I), I've thought about different ways to go about creating them that might be easier. I was shocked (shocked I say!) that the online 3D printing services didn't have an existing model for a standard NASCAR stock car. I figured I'd have to get a 3D model and print it myself. But on what? I decided to explore the world of home 3D printing, not just for Thunder Alley, but to add to my arsenal for game modifications and improvements in general. Enter the good folks at M3D who kindly sent me one of their Micro 3D printers to try out.
In this article, I'll simply be reviewing the Micro 3D itself. But like my Silhouette Cameo paper cutter, expect to see more articles in future detailing its use: both my trial and error in 3D object creation and printing as well as a many successful mods and blings that I have (and will) created.
What Comes In the Box?
There are two packages containing the M3D printer currently available for sale. The Standard Edition prices out at $349 and includes the printer, power and USB cable. It also comes with a 3-month warranty. For this review, I was using the $449 Retail Version which comes in a retail box and includes the printer, power and cord as well as upping the warranty period to a full year. A single spool of PLA filament is also thrown in. Software to run the printer is available via download from the printm3d.com site.
The Micro 3D itself is a sleek compact cube (under 8 inches each side) that is available in a variety of colors (some with a small upcharge).
Setting up the Micro 3D is really as simple as placing it on your desk or table, plugging in the power and the USB to your computer (Mac or PC -- full hardware specifications). I am using it with my Windows 10 laptop. Install the software and follow the brief quick setup steps one the included sheet (calibration is a must) and you're off!
Essentially 3D prints are created by the quick melting and cooling of plastic filament. The two main types are ABS and PLA and the Micro 3D is designed to use 1.75mm PLA. The print head moves on a track back and forth and left and right (X-Y axes) and then up and down via a threaded rods in the four corners. As it moves it melts the filament thread at over 400 degrees and "prints" this melted filament where your model should be solid. The filament is formulated to cool at room temperature, so it sets in place very quickly.
As each layer is printed, the model builds up on the print-bed in 3D until it's complete. It's actually a very ingenious technology and one that's getting better and more user friendly as time goes by.
When you see a 3D printed object, you might think that it's completely solid like a resin cast miniature. But more often that's not the case. Another factor for printing is called "in-fill" and affects the parts of the model you cannot see. You can scale this from only printing the exterior as thin walls or go to 100%. The more you fill, the more filament is used (and the longer the print will take). Most of the time in-fill is not necessary as the PLA is pretty durable.
On the Micro 3D, filament is fed into the print head in one of two ways. First M3D sells special sized spools of PLA that fit under the print-bed and feed up through a cloth covered channel. This allows the spool to be tucked away, but also makes changing spools between colors more of a chore (and prevents more advanced techniques such as changing colors mid-print for a two-toned look). Some users have indicated problems with the internal feeder system, though I had no issues at all when using it. Each of these special spools "contains 250 feet or approximately 1/2 lb (225g) of plastic."
As I burned (get it) through most of my initial supply of filament, I started looking for more and found a standard spool of filament comes in a 1kg or 2.2 pound spool. Excellent quality filament in these larger sizes can be found online for about $20-25 each. These contain about 1,080 linear feet of filament, so you'll get a large number of prints before you run out. The filament from these spools is fed into the machine via an external port into the same print-head (note you can only feed via one port at a time, external or internal). Since I switched to using the external port, I would not consider using the internal port again -- again not for any problems I had, just convenience. But these external sources leave a problem of unspooling the filament. As I'm new to the 3D printing world, I had to discover much of this the hard way. Of course, being a male, I have to discover everything the hard way anyway. Initially I just let the spool turn in its shipping box, but that quickly proved to be a bad solution as the spool didn't turn and the print-head had to tug too much. No worries, I'll just unroll some of the filament in advance. Bad idea. This stuff has been coiled on a spool for some time, suddenly let free it twisted and kinked itself into some pretty nasty tangles! It's on a spool for a reason and it needs to unspool in a controlled way.
My next solution was to take a small stool and turn it upside down on my desk. I set the spool onto one of the legs and fed the line through a squeeze clamp to control the angle into the printer. I'm pleased to say that this worked, for the most part... but still added a lot of drag on the print-head. This led to many troubles with my prints that I didn't realize until later it was the cause of.
Finally, I took the time to research a better solution. Fortunately someone devised one that is made possible courtesy of 3D printing! Using printed clips and some pieces of 1/2" wooden dowel, I was able to make a very sturdy spool holder that mounts right on top of the printer and the filament spools nice and easy right where it needs to go. (Thingiverse Link).
So with software, printer, proper spooling filament and some models in hand (and a lot of trial and error), making my own 3D prints with the Micro 3D has become an obsessive hobby.
Since I received the Micro 3D I've done a LOT of printing with it. Not all of it good. But like any tool at all good results or bad results are the result of your taking the time to use it properly. It all though I have to say I've been very happy with the Micro 3D. I have a friend with a more advanced (and more expensive) MakerBot and I showed him some of my prints and he was genuinely impressed by the quality. That relieved me because I was a little disappointed, but that was because I wasn't fully sure what I was going to get entering into this hobby.
3D printing is not resin casting, so prints are not going to be super smooth. Many modelers create objects using colored filament and leave them at that. I was looking to create miniatures with great detail that I could paint. However, the layering of the prints produces clear lines going up the vertical sides of your prints. There are steps you can take to get rid of those lines (sanding, filing, vapor smoothing), but getting rid of them runs the risk of losing detail as well. I plan to explore some of these techniques as I continue to make use of the Micro 3D to enhance games and my table. I'm particularly proud of the dice tower I've actually designed, modelled in 3D, and printed, but that will come later. I am learning though to work within the limitations of the technology and not be as OCD about how things look.
As for the Micro 3D, it's been a champ. And durable. While I was still using the spool on a stool method, I tried to adjust the location of the spool to make it turn more freely. I left the machine printing while I was out for the day and when I came back the line had snagged on the stool, the Micro 3D had walked itself across my desk and off onto the floor! Fortunately the USB came unplugged, so the software was no longer sending print commands. But the two foot drop onto the hard floor didn't damage it at all. A quick recalibration and it was back to work.
Also important to remember about 3D Printing as a whole. It's SLOW. Very slow. At first, you want to see results, so you'll reduce objects in size and resolution to get them out more quickly. But you'll soon come to accept the truth that patience is a virtue. Fortunately once a print begins, apart from leaving your computer on and connected, you can pretty much ignore it. The Micro 3D is very silent, so I've had it running by my desk while working. It does its thing and I do mine. I'll leave it running overnight, while I'm out, etc. just to let prints have the time they need. Some complex prints CAN take over 24 hours depending on the size, infill, and resolution. The longest I did was 12, with more being in the 4-6 hour range. And in spite of the heating element going to 400+ degrees, the Micro 3D is very cool to the touch -- only the print-head should be avoided while it's running.
If you do print at the lower micron end of the scale (Expert), you can get fairly smooth prints. Maybe. As the layers are thinner, the heat from the currently printing layer can actually re-melt the layer beneath, causing fine details to lose clarity. After much testing and discussion with other users, I've found that for most prints, the Medium quality setting (250 micron layers) and in-fill setting of "Hollow Thick Walls)" has proven to be a success with the Micro 3D.
There are a few "wishlist" items that I found I wanted though while using the Micro 3D. While it's limited to 4x4x4" volume for printing, I definitely would like to see a larger print-bed for bigger prints. I also wish I didn't have to keep my computer connected to the printer while it was printing, so some form of printer memory or SD-card printing would be an excellent addition. Finally in order to successfully use ABS for printing, you need a heated print-bed to keep the base warm (not required for PLA, but ABS has some different uses and advantages). The Micro 3D simply has a plastic bed with a sheet of "BuildTak" on it for adhesion.
Fortunately, before I could get this review written, M3D has already announced the Kickstarter (LINK) of the M3D Pro which includes these features and more, including faster print speeds and and even finer resolution of 25 microns. I cannot wait to try this newer and clearly more improved version!
I have been thrilled to explore the world of 3D printing with the Micro 3D printer and am looking forward to sharing various creations designed especially for our boardgaming hobby. If you've heard about 3D printing and wanted to dive in, but the price tag of the higher-end units have kept you away, then you should certainly take a look at what the Micro 3D from M3D has to offer. I'm sure, like me, you'll find you use it for all sorts of projects, both gaming and non-gaming related. And once you start to create you own objects and seeing them come to life on the Micro 3D, you'll be hooked.
I know I am.
- [+] Dice rolls
So I finally joined the Vlaada Chvátil (and Andrew Parks) fan club. Star Trek: Frontiers (based on some other game whose name eludes me for the moment) is an amazing game. And yes, I see how you all love the less superior themed version... Quote:I found the Solo Conquest mission to be a perfect solo game. The AI deck is wonderful for keeping things moving along. Especially when you realize you only have two turns left in the round.Read my full review here: Nothing Compares 2U - A Ones Upon a Game Review
Since it's a long game to play, it's not going to be the game of the week at most game groups. Therefore the solo mode is pretty much the way many will play this one. It's awesome that it was baked in from the start and if you have the luxury of a dedicated table, you can leave it setup for several days (or weeks) as necessary.
- [+] Dice rolls