My cheap copy of Star Wars: Outer Rim from (Mass)Drop finally arrived, but I had to finish my playthrough series of Blackout: Hong Kong first (Part I, Part II -- two more videos left for editing!) and do an unboxing of this and other backlogged games (three more videos left for editing!), but after filming those, I kept this one on the table to give it a go.
Setup and started a few turns. Of course I had to go with Han the man to start (he shot first ya know!)... but then read the AI setup and had to pick an opponent. Went with Lando as the two old friends have a "friendly" race.
The game is really a bit of a table hog for solo. Was hoping to keep it tight for a single ship, but nope. Have to setup a second player and ship. Of course, if I kept my table clean of other games, I'd have more room too! You also have seven decks for "encountering" planets and navpoints and six decks for acquiring ships, missions, bounties, and gear, etc... So 13 little decks + the AI deck.
AI deck (Can we agree "Automa" is the new "Coke" -- and not "new coke", blech! -- and all these decks will eventually just be called that?) is pretty easy to manage. Never been a fan of the "discard face down to the bottom of the deck" mechanic. All the card decks do that (except the databank which go in numerical order). Would prefer "discard face up" so that becomes your cue to reshuffle, otherwise everything just runs in the same cycle. But for now I'm playing "as written".
So first off (can I say that in the fifth paragraph?), this is most accurately a blend of Firefly: The Game and Fallout more than anything. People keep trying to cast aspersions on the game and compare it with Xia: Legends of a Drift System, but the only commonality there is
Similarities Between XIA and Outer Rim 1. Xia is also set in space. 2. Xia also uses "fame" as the winning condition. 3. "Xia: Legends of a Drift System" contains the letters: S, T, A, R, O, E, I, M
That's about it.
Yes, you can explore in both games, but exploration in Outer Rim makes sense. In Xia it's just busy work. Outer Rim has the planets and connections all laid out as it should be. You're exploring/investigating what's currently happening in the area. With Xia you're playing Columbus, ignoring all the knowledge available to you (as in the in-game character, not you the player) and "discovering" what each tile is during the game... and getting famous for it. No long range sensors or star mapping in Xia. It really is gamey and makes no sense.
Outer Rim also has easy to use, enjoyable solo system, something Xia is sorely lacking (yes, even with the Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion which I helped playtest -- XIA : Variants of a Solo System). As I've said before, there is a GREAT SOLO GAME somewhere in Xia... it's just not been revealed yet. I hope to get a copy again soon and create an AI deck that works.
Final comparison, fame is a little harder to earn in Outer Rim, even for the AI. In Xia, the AI just rolls a die and gains points.
Back to Outer Rim overall though. It moves pretty fast and so far has been fun to play. Someone complained about the ship cards not being "boards", but after getting my copy I just don't see an issue. They are a bit thin, but they are made to be swapped out and flipped through the game, so they don't stay in play too long. Being a Fantasy Flight Games release, I'm sure there will be expansions coming very soon too.
Brook City, the latest release from Blacklist Games and designers Adam Sadler and Brady Sadler, is another great game using their "Modular Deck System". Combining decks for the various parts of the game, in this "case" the cops, the criminals, and the current case (four short of the "7 C's of History"), produces a host of combinations and increases replayability. It's a fun, unique system (bearing only the most superficial similarity to Sentinels of the Multiverse, to which it's erroneously compared).
However, unlike their previous Street Masters (a nostalgic martial arts romp using the same MDS), Brook City is just a tad bit overproduced. The Kickstarter promised and delivered minis galore! Minis for the cops. Minis for each car and vehicle. Minis for each crime boss and his/her henchfolk. Lots and lots and lots of plastic in the game. There is also a large roughly 3x2' board to sit on the table, Card areas for each cop, a card row to be maintained for each criminal, as well as one for the case. A lot of space, especially for the solo player.
In addition, the minis in question violate my two rules for effective use of miniatures. First that they be a 1:1 ratio (not scale) so that one miniature is one entity in the game. A character, a vehicle, etc. Here the game commits a minor infraction as for the most part the minis do represent a single character, except for the criminal's goons where they abstractly represent where a crime is taking place that the cops have to deal with through interaction.
The second rule of minis is scale. All miniatures in a game should be of the same scale to each other. Here the characters are not to scale to the map and certainly not to scale of the vehicles. While some may still find the eye candy appealing, it truly kills any immersion factor.
So far all the minis included (which drove up the price of the game), they are essentially just pawns and could even effectively be cubes. The miniatures for any given criminal and thugs are interchangeable with the others. They are simply placeholders (and a waste of materials really). Each cop can only use a single vehicle at a time, so while it's cute to have the various cars and motorbikes represented, it adds nothing to the actual gameplay.
Halfway through my first game, as this stark truth set in, I decided to fix it and make the game take up less space than it needed. Nothing to affect the actual game play (which is still excellent), but make the game easier to manage and keep 100% of the fun.
First off the board. Since a high resolution image of the board was not available, I resorted to photography and photoshop. I took photos of the board in six segments and then stitched them together with the help of Photoshop's align function. The photos didn't do the text of the locations justice, so I re-added that text so it would scale correctly and took the liberty of making the "street" and "river" areas a little more clear with some overlaid lines in black and blue. That done, I adjusted for skew and endup with a roughly 18x12 board which I printed out and resumed my game in progress with colored cubes for the minis and dice for the vehicles. The transition was seamless.
Switching to prototype mid-game
After finishing that game -- VICTORY! -- I knew I needed to make some tweaks to the prototype. I planned to make the board in two pieces and then connect them for folding into the main box. This would result in a resize to about 11.5" tall. I then realized that I could fit the entire game now into the smaller stretch goals box, so I made the board into three sections which would total about 10.67x16.5" when put together. I printed each section on legal sized cardstock, rough cut and glued to mat board from Hobby Lobby and then gave each piece a finish cut to size.
Creating the new (and improved) smaller board
Additionally I knew that I could do a little better than cubes and dice, so I set to work in 3D printing land, putting my new Ender 3 Pro to the task.
I love the cones in Lord of the Rings and used that as my starting point for custom pawns. For the cops, I added a shield to the top. For the crime boss, I went with an inverted cone on top to create sort of an hourglass figure. The goons were hexes set atop the cone (to be the nuts and bolts of the operation). For the vehicles, I created my own "car" through the carving of abstract shapes.
Printing the new pawns on the Ender 3 Pro
Not all the items on the board are miniatures in the full-size game, some are tokens that go in board spaces. Since my spaces were now reduced to about 1/2" I would need replacements. For the "asset" tokens I used the briefcase idea on the tokens and created a simple representation for that. The current lead token, I used one of the goon pawns in a different color. Finally for the "clues" that appear in the game I created two options. For when the clue is on the board in a location, I split the cone down the middle to hold the clue marker on the board. However that still might get in the way, so the pawns themselves can simply serve are the marker and the token state be maintained off board. In at least one case, the clue moves around on the board with a vehicle. So matching cars in the same color would serve for that.
Cops, criminals, clues and assets.
I painted all the new pawns to coordinate with their respective purposes. Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue for the cops with a gold metallic shield. Each also has a car in the same color. Green pawns with Silver briefcases for the Assets. The boss was black with a red "Sauron-esque" band around the center and the henchfolk were likewise black as was the vehicle they might be using. The lead pawn was painted a light brown to match it's cork-board token, and the clues and their cars were painted to match their token color as well.
The new pawns in use on the smaller board.
All the now extraneous components can store in the main game box and the real meat of the game can be kept in the smaller box and less shelf space.
I'm sure I missed some opportunities and needs as I've not played every case yet. For example, I suppose a few small boats would be better than the car "vehicle" pawn riding the waves... but that's a minor issue in the grand scheme. Don't have the Velocity expansion where wrecks can dot the board either. I can always create new playing pieces if it really seems to be warranted (or use substitutes), but for now being able to set the game up in a smaller footprint, more manageable for a solo gamer is a oversized win in my book.
Recently I received my Kickstarter fulfillment copy of the collector's edition of Mountaineers by Massif Games, LLC. After first doing the requisite unboxing, I set it up to play. But unfortunately there were/are some issues with the 3D mountain and the turntable. A great idea for a game, but just a little awkward.
First off is the turntable itself. It's designed to be held in place to the main board via one of those two part grommet/connector devices that work great in many of Fantasy Flight Games like the dials in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game or the threat tracker in The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. Whereas those items are designed to stay together once assembled, the turntable and board will not fold back up with the pin in place, necessitating removal (so don't press it too hard when putting it together!). Also each half of the connector is small, so it's hard to get it in place and then remove your hand before it drops through. Doable, but difficult.
The board really only needs a spindle, not a full connector. The turntable is not picked up during the game. So taking a clue from some others, I designed and 3D printed a new spindle that is about one inch tall and just sits easily under the main board. The post comes up through the board and then you can place the turntable over it. The weight of the turntable and normal (no table flipping!) gameplay easily keeps it on the post.
Not necessary, but I opted to add a large washer (this was actually from some light fixture and the piece was stashed in our tool box) between the board and turntable to give a little easier turning.
The spindle is available for free on Thingiverse and you can print yourself or order one printed.
Another problem though is the moutainside pieces. The tabs that go into the notches on the board are just a bit too shallow. They have to be because the turntable "rides" along the main board itself. So unfortunately as your placing pitons and moving climbers, you run the very real and very often risk of upsetting the board itself.
I had seen another user make a large triangle device to go over the mountain (for 1-4 players) and lock them in, but for me this didn't solve the issue of the board flexing inward during play. I had originally envisioned a complex replacement turntable with a spindle and arms and .... scrap that. This fellow's solution was a good first step, so I moved in that direction.
My solution simply involves cutting some pieces of craft of fun foam. I had a piece of black 5mm foam (found at Hobby Lobby or other craft stores) laying around and cut 1/4" strips from that. These I cut into 3" "cleats" and glued them to the turntable with the mountain assembled and in place. I used purple glue stick (which dries clear) and you have to be more patient as the foam takes a little longer to let the adhesive work. Once the outer perimeter was glued into place, I removed one panel and put cleats inside flush against the other two sides and then swapped out the third panel to get complete the inside bracing.
I turned the whole turntable over and put weight on it to make sure the glue cured and adhered well.
Now the panels are braced from any wiggly movement popping them out of the slots during rotation or gameplay. I had planned to go ahead and do the square 5-6 player mountain slots as well, but I had issues just getting that to even assemble normally. Since I would rarely play non-solo or above four players, I just left it for now and will explore that later.
Of course, you can't keep a good woman down either, but since I'm not a woman, using "or woman" or "person" would have been needlessly cumbersome...
Absence of Malice Recently had an unplanned "break" from BGG thanks to the Secret Police once again not liking officially unapproved and unauthorized opinions being expressed (even when done so in polite but confident discussion). This is an area that needs to be addressed as I daresay in most cases the offender doesn't realize they've touched a hidden third rail and just get suspended while the so-called "offensive" comment is left on the site. It's a very odd way of handling things and not one conducive to constructive dialogue between differing parties... but that is a discussion for another time.
EDIT: It would appear "they" HAVE started removing unwelcome (by some) comments from the site. Hopefully in lieu and not in addition to suspension.
But I'm happy to say that in spite of not being able to post or comment here, I made good use of my time, creating a few modifications for games.
Under a Blood Red Sky First up, been loving Blood Red Skies but found that I wouldn't have the time to paint the miniature planes and that in the end (as is most of the time with miniatures), they aren't 100% necessary to the game. All measurement is from the round bases, which are about 1.5" in diameter. So I ordered some 1.5" wooden "coins" and then created 12 labels for each plane type. Made six level 3 and then two each of level 2, 4, and 5. All the coins got a 3 on one side and then another level on the other side. Sealed them with some RightStep Satin and started playing. They work great and less clutter makes it easier to play and measure.
The flight stands use an odd rock forward for "disadvantaged" and rock back for "advantaged" indicator. This not only looks silly, but causes planes to take up even more space on the table than necessary... which in a busy dogfight, can be a problem. To remedy this, I just use a green cube for advantaged, red for disadvantaged, and no cube for neutral. Another win.
Sowing the Gears of War Gears of War: The Board Game is a bit of a mystery. Widely regarded as a great system and a respected IP, Fantasy Flight Games dropped the ball big time on supporting this game. Even with the IP license lost, the system deserves another sci-fi theme applied to it.
Be that as it may the community has geared up and created several missions and other mods for the game, including a collection of 24 new COGs created by user Alex Hajdasz. In order to make these more playable in-game without proxying other miniatures, I created a set of standees to go along with them.
You can get the COGs and the standees at the BGG file pages below:
Shine On You Crazy Firefly Another miniatures-replacement project I had in the wings and suddenly had a little time for was for Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats. Again, with no time to paint, had planned when I first got the game to add Standees. This was not only to make our intrepid heroes clearer on the board (in both casual and heroic states), but I was having a hard time matching the baddy miniatures to their respective stat cards. So while I was in the rhythm of making standees, put this set together as well.
At the very least it would allow people to quickly try out the game before they paint or while they paint...
HOME COLLAPSES CLAIMING THE LIVES OF FIVE TWO FIREFIGHTERS, THREE CIVILIANS PERISH IN THE BLAZE FIVE RESCUED FROM CERTAIN DEATH
A housewarming party turned deadly last night, taking from our community two firefighters, a local game designer, a church volunteer, and Tammy Noblestein, the recently married daughter of Soloville's Mayor Thompson.
The Soloville Fire Department responded quickly to the call in the 900 block of Roane Avenue, but by the time they arrived, the flames were quite intense. According to sources a sterno can on the buffet line dislodged and set a tablecloth ablaze and the fire spread from there. As the conflagration increased in intensity, the building collapsed, immediately killing two Soloville's veteran first responders.
Fire Captain Jose Remiriz and FPS George E. Winters perished in the collapse. The third firefighter working the blaze had just exited the building carrying the fifth rescued guest to a waiting ambulance. The rescuer's name has not yet been released.
In addition to Mrs. Noblestein, the other victims were Tash'a Mitchell and Paloma Vazquez. Mitchell, 29, was a designer of board games, including the most recent game of the year "Roll, Draw, Shuffle, and Cut". Mrs. Vazquez, 43, worked at a nearby church, using her sewing skills to make blankets for the community.
The loss of these souls and their contributions to Soloville cannot be understated.
As mentioned, five persons attending the party were brought to safety by rescuers. These were:
As the Mayor is taking time to deal with her direct personal loss in this tragedy, Assistant Mayor Ralph Waldeux issued this statement.
"We thank you for your prayers at this time for the victims of tonight's fire, their families, and for the recovery of the survivors. As more information develops into the cause of this fire and its aftermath, we will let you know. Until then, no further comment."
This was my first time to play Flash Point: Fire Rescue using the new Fire and Event decks from the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Tragic Events expansion. Have to say: I LOVE THIS. Such an awesome and intense way of not only spreading the fire in a less fiddly way, but the event cards introduce new random elements to the game. Excellent!
How I used it is as follows. I used blue cubes on the board for POI markers and then when "revealed" drew a real POI marker from a draw cup. Then if it was not a false alarm, when the victim was rescued or lost, I would draw a card from the Persons in Peril deck to see who they were. If they were rescued, I put them in a discard pile as normal. If they perished, I added them to the discard pile rotated 180 degrees. The POI marker went on the board as normal to keep up with the win/lose condition counts. The male/female/age/race, etc. on the POI counter had no bearing on the deck draw... each POI just represented a "human" (or dog/cat) victim. Special POI markers from the Tragic Events expansion were used if necessary by Event card.
Definitely made for a more immersive experience, IMO.
But as I was getting it all set up and incorporating the Khan expansion updates and upgrades, I realized better organization was in order. It's also been too long since I had #FunWithFoamCore, so set off to building a replacement insert. While the plastic trays are nice enough, you cannot combine the components and as usual, they take up more space than necessary. Would love to see how many straws we could recover from the amount of plastic in these oversized organizers.
So this one is really nothing fancy. Cannot make it the full size of the box, since they went with a hinged lid design and the flaps tuck inside the box, but no worries there. Made a section to hold the space tiles and added a couple of small strips of foam core on the bottom to give the tiles a lift to ease their removal. Same with the slot for Khan's ship. The Borg cubes are a perfect height and made their garage slots with just vertical walls (had to cut notches though to ease removal. Khan's ship stands shorter than the Borg, so simply stacked and glued four small squares of foam core together to lift it up to a better height.
Parking garage for enemy wessels; cards safely banded together and tucked in the extra storage slots; Used my generic boxes (5x16mm, 1x35mm) to hold the faction tokens and the player ships.
After that, I was pretty much done with the foam. I'd thought of really getting specific where things go and boxing stuff in, but like with my Too Many Bones insert, keeping it more versatile with smaller boxes holding component groups seemed to make more sense. Especially with a deeper box. (Still waiting for my KS copy of Too Many Bones: Undertow to ship to see if my plan of it ALL fitting in one box comes to fruition -- Make Room for Undertow!)
One of the things that bothered me when playing the game before were the stacks of encounter counters. ST:F takes up a lot of space and if you midjudge and have to shift things around, it's a minor nuisance (#FinalFrontierProblems) repositioning the stacks. So for the last few days I'd been working out in my head a solution to keep the stacks organized, but also stored neatly.
This is what I came up with... a small counter rack, made from a single sheet of cardstock, that has dividers to hold four stacks of counters for the game, although other games would work as well. ST:F comes with eight stacks and Khan adds a ninth one. I wanted to leave room for future expansions, so went with a four stack unit, so with three of these, there is room for three more stacks in the future.
And with the addition of a sleeve, the whole rack can be stored, keeping the counters neatly sorted and ready to go (except for the pre-game shuffle).
So now, finally, that Tribble is off my back and I can boldly go... where I went before, but want to go again...
Those of you playing the wonderful Everdell solo, may find this file useful. It's the solo steps for running Rugwort (the rattie baddie) through an entire game. Nothing fancy, but easier than flipping through the book and missing a step.
Now I love the 3D tree that comes in both the standard and collector's edition of Everdell. Since I love paper crafting, I find the design and function of the tree to be excellent. The draw deck is held tucked in the trunk, the special event cards are in the lower bough, and your seasonal worker increases rest in the upper bough until it's their time to shine.
However, as I mentioned before I added a protective varnish on the tree to keep it safe during the setup and takedown. But as I disassembled the tree to put it away after my last session, I thought how much time this takes and how, playing solo, I've already been impressed by it. I don't need to see it on the board every game. Others have also noted that with repeated use, the tree will wear out.
So off to Photoshop I went. Being careful this time not to use ANY of Starling Games (II) artwork (the photo background is even mine), I created this side board for Everdell, that will fit at the top of the board and provides space for the special events and waiting workers. Printed mine on white 110# cardstock and then spray glued to a piece of artwork mounting board. I rough cut initially and cut the mounting board a little larger. Then when the glue was set, trimmed down to the final size. A few coats of varnish to protect and voila! An alternative board for quick setup and take down.
I'll still use the 3D tree if I ever introduce the game to other players. The wow factor will draw them in. But here's a functional little board that will suffice for my solo sessions in the future. You may need to shift the basic events around a little, or move this board off the main board.