ones upon a game

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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The ‘Verse Just Got a Whole Lot Smaller

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Decided to make a smaller board so that Firefly: The Game wouldn't be quite such a table hog.



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Wed Feb 6, 2019 1:56 pm
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The Index is a door to finding treasure in the dark...

Kevin L. Kitchens
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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.
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 3:24 pm
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Downgrades, Upgrades, and a Sidegrade...

Kevin L. Kitchens
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A long awaited Kickstarter arrived with the release of "upgraded" Nemo's War (second edition) from Victory Point Games. Like Dawn of the Zeds (Third edition), this one features their new "downgraded" style of die-cut counters. Unlike Zeds, these are more of a matte finish and much easier to play with. Nowhere near the quality of the excellent laser cut counters, but those beauties appear to be a thing of the past. Apparently many customers threatened to mutiny against VPG if they kept the laser cutter. Don't get me wrong... for die-cut, they are very nice and very thick -- on par with the best cardboard I've seen. And the game itself is very stylistic and I cannot wait to play it soon.

The classic John H. Butterfield WW2 game D-Day at Omaha Beach received a much needed "upgrade" with the addition of a mounted board. No more Plexiglas required! The "downgrade" is that for the counters they used the v1.0 artwork vs. the corrected v2.0 artwork, so several of the counters are in error. If you register your game at the Decision Games (I) site, they'll send you corrected counters at a (much) later date (toward the end of the year).

As for the "sidegrade", I finally tracked down a copy stateside of the V-Commandos: Secret Weapons expansion for V-Commandos by Triton Noir. This adds new missions and layouts to the base game as well as new characters and special enemies. Still hoping to find a copy of V-Commandos: Résistance at some point, though you cannot mix and match the expansions into the game together.

If you're interested in seeing what each of these looks like, check out the unboxing videos below.

Thanks!

Ones Upon a Game covers board games from a solitaire perspective.

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Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:44 pm
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Warfighter WW2: Location, Location, Location

Kevin L. Kitchens
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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
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Wed Dec 28, 2016 2:48 pm
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Now We're Back in the Fight

Kevin L. Kitchens
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DVG's Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game was a hot little title a year or so ago when I first came out. I loved it (in most respects), but then suddenly soured on it for some (looking back now) unexplicable reason. It's a tough game and when I found I was playing the rules wrong in my favor and still getting trounced, I just gave up on it. I went from painting the mini-soldiers, making Warfighter Location Sleds, and promoting the second edition Kickstarter campaign to renouncing the game completely as my initial Games That Didn't Click: Warfighter by DVG.

I never actually hated the game. I just found it so frustrating that it wouldn't get much play from me. Looking back, I think I just overwhelmed myself with all the expansions etc. for starting off. There were too many options and it just paralyzed me. Warfighter is a like a deck construction game where all the chosen cards are available to you from the beginning. A vast variety of combinations of soldiers and gear was made worse (in a good way) with all the choices the expansions brought. I froze and then shoved the game away.

But over the past year, I've seen that game has matured and still holds a place in the hearts (and minds?) of many gamers. So I decided to revisit it again. The folks at DVG were kind enough to agree with me that I was perhaps a little too hasty in my verdict and set me up with the second edition so I could give it another go.

This time, I'm starting only with the base set and easing into it. I've sleeved all the cards (for easier shuffling), re-read the rules (second edition is much better!) and going to play the introductory short mission -- just to get my feet wet in some wet work. Unlike The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43 which I did reacquire to try again (Great Gatsby! Look What's Returned!!!), going through the rules and setup for Warfighter has been a joy. (Hunters didn't last long. I tried to get it out and set it up and just couldn't make myself do it. It's gone again).

One concession I made to only playing the base game, is that I have opened the Warfighter: Expansion #9 – The Footlocker and brought out the new (and VERY improved) gameboard, the extra counters, the DVG Tray, and the replacement cards.

My unboxing video of that expansion is at the very end of this post (apologies if the volume is a little low, it was late).

So I'm very much looking forward to continuing this journey back to the battlefield with Warfighter. I let you know how it goes. If I survive of course.

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Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:29 pm
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There and Back Again - Boomerang Games Explained

Kevin L. Kitchens
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I've mentioned in a couple of posts now about what I call "Boomerang Games" and while the name is probably self explanatory, I'm gonna be myself explanatory. Like a boomerang, these are games that I've cast off at one point only to get them back again. For one reason or another I didn't want them and then later had a change of mind/heart/psychotic episode and got them back again. Typically they are games that as they come up in conversation, I get a little wistful about and wondering if I made a mistake.

Looking through my collection, there seem to be quite a few of them. So here's some of them and their story of there and back again in my collection.








Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?
As recently discussed (Navigating the Labyrinth) I got Labyrinth back in early 2014 or so and was completely overwhelmed. The COIN series and this older first cousin are very complex and unlike anything most gamers have played before. But once you understand how the unique system works you end up with a very meaty and very satisfying experience. I gave up too soon and sold it away. Then a play of Fire in the Lake unlocked the game play mechanisms as well as using a bot AI, so I repurchased it and I'm glad I did. The bot opponent even made me jump onto the newly reprinted Empire of the Sun second edition, which now includes AI for both sides.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
This one also I got early, but due the frustrating and unfamiliar gameplay, I sent it packing. But so many people rave about it and I'm a big LOTR fan (and found the "LOTR ___ Deck Building Games" to be a little lacking) that when it was available in a Math Trade, I jumped on it to see if I could figure out what they love. This is recently covered here (Well Whaddaya Know? I Actually Won One! (or Die Ungoliant Spawn! Die!)) but in summary, I did break through the gameplay wall and have now beat the first scenario twice in a row (last night thanks to the timely arrival of Beorn and then Gandalf who just strolled up and finished off the Ungoliant Spawn without a struggle). Still don't like the deck construction aspect of any game, but I am now so converted on the gameplay that I sleeved the cards and am ready to take on the second scenario.


First Beorn knocked the spawn to one health, then Gandalf arrived and hit her for four damage. Game over.


Navajo Wars
Got this on a friend's strong recommendation and there was never any doubt, it is a beautiful game both stylistically and in its design. I played the tutorial and then the short scenario and won the game on a die roll (like a soccer penalty kick, the rules essentially say "in this state, roll a die. Heads you win, tails you lose.") and that soured it a little for me after the long(ish) time spent playing. But it was the long play time that made me sell it away. But more than others this one always had a fond place in my memory so I determined to get it back. Which I have done, but have not yet brought it back out to play. Soon.

Fortress America
Not sure this one should count, but technically it does. I bought this on an Amazon sale several months ago and never played it. I saw a few reports about it not being good for solo play, so I traded it for a copy of Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939 (great, great game which I no longer own ). Then I started seeing more reports and videos of how it actually was fun for solo play. Argh. So the next Amazon sale, I bought it again. Still not played.

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Operation Barbarossa 1941 (second edition)
Bought this from a fellow solo gamer because I'd heard so many good things about it. This also included the Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 game. Played a couple of scenarios, but I am/was/am/was/am chock full of WW2 tactical two-player-played-solo games that I ended up trading it BACK TO THE SAME GAMER for a new copy of Xia: Legends of a Drift System (another great game that I no longer own, though not necessarily good for solo). Then the legend of the drifting Conflict of Heroes: Eastern Front – Solo Expansion started firming up and becoming a reality (Photos of Conflict of Heroes: Solo Expansion from Origins!) and I had to have this one back again. So I do. And any day now, I will be enjoying this against a true solo AI.

Star Realms
This is a great game that has a decent solo mode against a couple of official challenges as well as some community developed ones (Star Realms Challenge #8 for example). This one only left the collection because 1. it was out of print and I could maximize its trade potential and 2. the excellent app was coming out (at the time, of course it's out now). As it's been reprinted I snagged another copy that sits sealed in my collection for the day I need to teach it to someone and play in person.

Race for the Galaxy
Along with Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm, this one I finally got and taught myself how to play and loved it. Why the bot has not been packaged into the base game is beyond me (as marketing tactics are beyond me), but it's a great solid game. Then I discovered I could actually play this against human beings online via http://boardgamearena.com and suddenly I felt the need for the physical version was no longer there. Away it went in a math trade and then after a short period of withdrawal I found that I missed having it available to me (and that bot is just so much genius). So the next math trade I was rounding out my want lists and back to me it came (a different copy of course).

The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43
Last (and certainly least) is everyone's favorite Yahtzee variant. Another early "everyone else is doing it so why can't we" acquisition, the Hunters just fell flat in my opinion. Die die die die die (as in roll). However as I've seen, my tastes have changed over the past year or so and as covered here (Great Gatsby! Look What's Returned!!!) there is a chance that I might actually like this one now. A chance. So I tried and won it in a Math Trade (I like Math Trades as much as the USPS) to see if perhaps I could say to the sub-game (see what I did there?) "It wasn't you, it was me". However I reacquired it in March of this year and then finally tried to get it one the table several weeks ago. But as I pulled everything out I thought "nope... not ready for this." and put it all back into the box. Perhaps the wounds are still too fresh or just that sinking feeling has yet to replaced by the desire to feel things sinking. Who knows. I did start envisioning a alternate play of this where I'm heading a US Crew who took over a German sub and is operating behind enemy lines sinking German shipping. Thought of researching a whole tonnage chart for that!

So there you have it. My list of (current) boomerang games. There are few other that perhaps will be added to this list at some point. But time will tell.

Do you have any games like this? That you initially liked or hated but got rid of only to reacquire? Would love to hear yours too.

Thanks for reading and happy gaming!
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Thu Jul 9, 2015 1:57 pm
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Well Whaddaya Know? I Actually Won One! (or Die Ungoliant Spawn! Die!)

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Wow. Just wow.

All the negative I've said about The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, about how it didn't make sense. Was brutal. Unfun. A lesson in frustration. How it's basically as bad as Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island in those areas.

Well, go figure. I just beat the Passage to Bangkok Through Mirkwood scenario in my first attempt of my second real attempt to play this game.

Another "Boomerang Game" for me, I bought it early in my new hobby back in October or so of 2013. A big fan of the LOTR movies and seeing the love poured out for this in the 1 Player guild, I jumped on it. Got it out and immediately felt like slamming my head into the wall when playing it. So wait, if I defend, I cannot attack? What? If a try to advance the quest, that character cannot do anything else? Seriously? But all that in-game frustration aside, the pre-game deck construction aspect of the game was totally a game-killer.

When I was about 12 years old, I found a combination lock in the dumpster of our apartments. Yep. 12 year old boys in the 70s loved playing in dumpsters and seeing what cool stuff people threw out. We (the neighborhood "Our Gang") once found a stash of fund-raising chocolate bars. Yep. And they didn't go back in the trash either. So I found this lock and thought "I'll just keep trying different combinations and eventually I'll find the right one!". Remember, this is pre-Atari. It was something to do when you're 12 and still a year away from the even more impossible "Try to understand girls" stage of life.

Such is the "fun" of deck construction.

I know some of you like that umpteen million combinations and trying to find the right one. You have all the time in the world to play "what if" with three "Gandalfs" and two "Stewards of Gondor" -- or would two Gandalf and three Stewards be better? ARGH! I'd rather do taxes!

But then I learned about the BACK TO BASICS: A Killer deck using only cards from a single Core set. Using only cards from the base game and removing the root canal that is deck construction, here was a pre-made deck that could actually work with all the core scenarios. Yay!

I put in for it in a Math Trade and won a copy again (new in shrink) and determined to get through a game -- or die trying. Figuratively of course.

After one false start a few months ago (just wasn't in the right frame of mind), I tried again tonight...

...And the Ungoliant Spawn is no more!



It started to click how cards could work together. How a person is either advancing the quest, defending, or attacking. And sometimes can do others if they get re-readied.

But of course you all know this. I'm just a late bloomer.

Must have been all that dumpster chocolate.

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Tue Jul 7, 2015 6:46 am
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Labyrinth: The Final Turn

Kevin L. Kitchens
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So I'm approaching the final turn in my first solo game of Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?. I have to say, the AI bot gets pretty easy to run with practice. My options as the US became more clear and apparent as to what they affect on the Jihadists' side. The push and pull was a lot more obvious this time around. Not saying I'm any good at strategy (as the current state of the game indicates), but likewise, I've left myself in a position to pull off a win -- if the dice go my way that is (edit: no I didn't leave myself in a position to win).



I am sure that I've made mistakes in the playing of the bot throughout the game (One Deck). But I'm pretty sure any errors have been mostly in the favor of the AI. If something seems to be too easy for me I recheck the rules many times to make sure I got it right. I know I misused the random country for cell placement early on by limiting it to Muslim countries instead of just letting them pop-up all over the globe. So that was to my benefit until I caught it probably the second time I needed to use it.

I have managed to play Jihadist cards from my hand many times where the event was not playable, so that would negate their impact -- especially on a single pass through the deck. So I'm probably in good shape to pull off a win (I'm losing now) only because those cards won't reappear. Were I doing a 2-3 deck pass, I'd be in more trouble down the line.

Prestige is my major issue right now, it's fallen and it can't get up (sitting on 2). I need to try to pull it up so I'm not penalized in the War of Ideas rolls, or try to get Aid in a country to counteract that -1 penalty. There are no Islamist Rule countries right now, likewise there are no Good countries for the US. There are 13 "Poor/IR" countries, so two more is a auto-win for the Jihadists. My goal is to hammer at the few "Fair" countries I have and try to get one to "Good" status, claiming these resources and ending the game with 2x the IR resource total. Not sure if US wins with 0 resources, since 2x "0" is 0 and the US does have 0, but I'd feel better with at least 1. Afghanistan and Somalia are the two big locations for cells and I have enough troops there that Major Jihad is highly doubtful this turn, so I'm not predicting any conversion to Islamist Rule in this phase. So far the WMDs have been kept out of their hands too.

NOTE AFTER FINISH: Apparently when I read the winning conditions as 2x the Jihadist resources, I missed the minimum requirement also of 6 for a US Victory playing 1 deck. So I really had no chance to win this one whatsoever.

My final hand (fortunately US Heavy) consists of the following cards: Former Soviet Union, Al-Ittihad al-Islami, Amerithrax, Renditions, Sistani, CTR, Predator.



And now... on with the game.

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Mon Jul 6, 2015 7:00 pm
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Navigating the Labyrinth

Kevin L. Kitchens
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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is another one of my boomerang games. I bought it early in my renewed gaming hobby because of the theme, but then got it to the table, was confused by the complexity, and couldn't see myself ever pulling it out again. Of course this was all nine months or so ago, I've matured much since then!

But seriously, after many lighter games (nothing wrong with them) as well as getting my teeth cut a little more on games like Twilight Struggle (I hear it's pretty popular) and Fire in the Lake (bought new, played it, enjoyed? it... but the Vietnam theme wasn't for me), I decided to jump on a chance to get it again via the GeekBay.

(I'd love to get A Distant Plain if I could find it/afford it, but I think running just one AI vs. three is a much better solo experience.)

So as it's sat here a few weeks, I finally brought it out to the table. I determined that I am adult enough to play this one and get through it... and enjoy it!

So a quick refresher (i.e. complete reread) of the rules, a tour of the 1-Player tutorial to make sure I had the flowchart down (hey, I could do the FitL one, I can do this) and I'm off. Playing the full "2001-?" scenario, but only doing the single pass through the cards so I don't bite off more than I can chew. I'm sure I will make mistakes, but like many have said... "Make the mistakes, you'll learn from them." So with nothing to fear but fear itself, I'm diving in.

So far, have completed the first couple of rounds of card play (4 cards each side) and this is the state of the game.



I did see the amazing and Excel-lent Labyrinth: The War on Terror Game Engine, Version 1.6 and hopefully once I get more familiar with the game, I'll be able to play against the AI without the flowchart.

Baby steps.

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Sat Jul 4, 2015 3:58 pm
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