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.
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...
SUMMARY 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.
A little over a year ago I released my "Hostage Cards" unofficial expansion for Hostage Negotiator by Van Ryder Games. It was met with more enthusiasm than I anticipated (thank you!). This deck of 27 characters gave a little more depth to the yellow meeples of that game and many felt increased the tension (some said too much!).
If you've not heard me harp on these before, you can read all about them and download the print and play PDF versions yourself if you like.
With the current Kickstarter campaign for the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Tragic Events expansion underway (LINK: http://kck.st/2fuhTs3), it occurred to me that these cards could as well be used for other games. With the limited direct ties to Hostage Negotiator, I decided to sever that connection and make the cards a little more versatile and work with not only HN, but also for Flash Point: Fire Rescue and perhaps other games that use a hidden "victim" component.
So from this point forward "Hostage Cards" are now "Persons in Peril"
Obviously fire rescue isn't about hostages, nor are they "victims" if they are actually rescued, so "Persons in Peril" seemed like an appropriate fit. This deck includes the original 27 character cards as well as five "False Alarm" objects and two straight-from-casting-central cute animals (a dog and a cat). There are also 20 "blank" character cards for you to make your own persons in peril should you so desire. The entire 54 card deck features an all new back image as well.
The 54-card version is now available on The Gamecrafter (LINK: http://bit.ly/2uGANxU). As promised the original "Hostage Cards" will remain free PnP for those who only want it for Hostage Negotiator.
Late last year, tdakanalis introduced a solo Automa for Takenoko (Takenoko Automa (Solo Mode)). Inspired by the great Automa designer Morten Monrad Pedersen, this variant includes 5 difficulty levels as well as a variable deck setup so no two games are the same. But the files were only available as print and play DIY. I was hoping the card designer would release the images (vs. PDF) so we could get printed professionally. So I got tired of waiting...
In light of the current sale at ArtsCow, I've taken the styled deck from the Takenoko files section and broken them apart into standard sized cards. I also created three summary cards for setup and rules to serve as player aids. This results in a 27-card deck and the current sale does not allow for variable card backs, so if you order one of these, you'll get TWO sets: one to keep and one to share.
When Xia: Legends of a Drift System first came out I was quite fascinated by the concept of a beautiful, well-made space exploration sandbox system. I played it some solo as is and had a great time with it. Sure some of the rules were VERY gamey, but it general it was a fun way to pass a few hours. But there was only so much that could be done for solo play, so like most games without staying power, it found another home.
Then I was honored to be selected by Far Off Games to take part in the beta test of the (now) just released Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star expansion. Among the other features of the game, it was going to include rules for solo play. Not quite an AI, but additional features to challenge the soloist in their games.
It was definitely a good start and I enjoyed giving the new rules a whirl, playing the system as is several times. But ultimately the solo concepts did not do enough on their own and they -- as well as the other expansion features -- added even more gameyness to an already gamey game.
Which is frustrating for me because I know there is something great in there somewhere! (I've never played multiplayer, so that may be fine as is, though I would think some aspects like the random movement distance etc. and homing comets would still be troublesome).
Of course you can house rule anything you want, especially in solo where you don't need the approval of others to do so. (In my solo games of Monopoly, "Free Parking" always contains $10,123 minimum for example)
Unfortunately, my second copy of XIA also found a new home after the beta test was over, but fortunately, I kept these notes and am sharing them in hopes that others might put them to use (with or without more adjustments as needed).
UPDATE: After posting this story and the card images, it was requested by the publisher that the print and play images not be made available for this project, so I have removed all the links relevant.
Artscow is having another one of their popular 3 for $18 sales (artscow.com, Coupon Code: NINE25) and as always people are scrambling to find card decks and small deck games to take advantage of the deals (Artscow sale - good solitaire options?).
So combine this with the Artscow sale and voila! Nicely printed decks, as many as you need. They won't be the exact same size as the other cards, a more standard 2.5x3.5, but they don't really have to mix with the other cards either.
So I took the PnP PDFs and extracted the cards, added a border to make the the right size (with some bleed, a printing term) and uploaded them to artscow as a saved project which you can find here:
Link removed at the request of the publisher.
Now to allow the player to keep the different decks separated, I modified the blue back on the original set to be the other six faction colors as well (5 in the base game and 2 more coming in the Scythe: Invaders from Afar expansion). So there are 19 card images -- you'll need all 19 for a deck and then your choice of 13 cards backs.
So while I did each color, I thought others might not want to print all seven decks when they only need a couple of more at most. So instead of a color that doesn't match the opponent's in-game color, they'd want just a "clone" of the Automa deck. So in addition to the 7 faction colored backs, there are 6 more with the same blue back, but with the letters B-G in the center. Your choice.
If you want to change or make more than the artscow project has in it, the card images are here: Link removed at the request of the publisher.
The project I'm sharing has a red set and a yellow set. But you can swap out the backs by uploading a new file. You can get two decks of Automa cards in a single 54 card deck and you have 16 cards left over. By combining two of these sets you can get a full five sets in two decks, with a few cards left over. Or you can find small deck games to round out each set.
By the way, if you're starting afresh, the cards you want are Multi-purpose cards (rectangle). These don't come with the poker values/suits on them.
Scoring is handled manually just writing on the scorecard area with the pen tool. To reset for a new frame, you stack the counters on their respective start locations (with the correct number of balls on each stack) and then use the randomization function to shuffle things. If you're a regular user of TTS not yet full of BS (that is Bowling Solitaire), then you really should pick this up and give some props (and maybe geek gold) to radchad.
Finally, since I really need to learn mobile development for my career, I intend to make this a project for that very purpose. If I can get permissions from the Sackson estate, I'll release for iOS and Android at some point. Stay tuned.