The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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Happy Eggday

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


Forget your fancy speckled eggs, your neoprene scoreboards, your 3d-printed birdhouse action markers, the deluxe start player token you bought off etsy, and the hand-painted laser-cut all-new dice tower that you can't even fit in the game box....

...because THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is the new must-have Wingspan accessory!




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Mon Apr 5, 2021 10:58 am
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Value

John Shepherd
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Sometimes it’s funny what’s considered valuable, and what isn’t considered valuable, isn’t it?

I mean, normally, the foam packaging bits that you get in assorted boxes - that cheap grey squidgy stuff holding your newly-acquired expensive consumer goods safe-and-sound in transit — well, all of that is pretty much destined for the bin, once you’ve done the unboxing, isn’t it? I mean... maybe (like me) you’ll keep the original packaging around for a little while … “just in case I need to send it back”… but that stuff’s definitely going to wind up in the bin before too long (usually sooner rather than later, if Mrs Shep has anything to do with it). And because of that, you assume that those bits of foam rubber cost the manufacturer next to nothing to produce. A big old block of foam… a bit of capital sunk into some kind of cutter, or mould, or something like that… and then mass production. I bet they churn those things out for pennies. I mean… when you buy a new tv set, all of your hard-earned money is all going on the TV, not the packaging? Isn’t it?

But when you turn that whole thing around… when a specifically-cut bit of foam rubber suddenly becomes an object of desire …. something that you would very much like acquire to protect some specific, valuable thing that you own… and some clever entrepreneur cottons on to that fact. Well, suddenly the economies look very different.

This is a long-winded way of saying … I just spent the best part of 30 quid on buying a piece of foam packaging

From gallery of MrShep


It’s sold by a company called Battle Foam … a company which specialises in making foam rubber storage solutions for wargamers and miniature collectors and … in case you haven’t guessed from the shape carved into this particular block… I bought it to provide a home for the Spidicules model that I spent a few days putting together the other week.

Why? Well… it soon became very obvious — shortly after constructing the beastie in question — that this particular “miniature” was going to present a bit of a storage problem. It’s delicate, it’s big, and if it’s left out on open display then Mrs Shep (a life-long arachnophobe!) refuses to come into the games room.

So I thought I’d maybe try this battle foam stuff out to see what it’s like.

From gallery of MrShep


And it seems good … it fits the model quite snugly, has some storage space for a couple of other large figures, slots nicely into an outer crate (sold separately — I went for the cheapskate cardboard box option), and seems to perform its intended function pretty much perfectly. I think it’s going to do a very good job of keeping my Spidicules safe.

30 quid though.

For the stuff that I usually toss in the bin.

Did you ever buy a game “enhancement” that left you questioning your fiscal sanity?

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Fri Mar 5, 2021 9:06 am
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Tooling up for tiny spiders

John Shepherd
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Back in December, I mentioned that Young Rachel was, by far, the most frustrating Kingdom Death miniature that I’d assembled to date. But I think there might be a new contender for that title now. Or, more accurately, SIX new contenders for that title… because over the weekend, I assembled the half-dozen baby spiders that come in the Spidicules expansion.

From gallery of MrShep

Tiny spider pieces


And my word, those forearms are SMALL! Far too small for my fat fingers. I spent quite some time fumbling with these, trying (unsuccessfully) to get them to attach to the spider body in the correct alignment… all the while terrified that if I dropped one of those tiny, tiny pieces on the floor, then it would instantly disappear into the carpet pile and never be seen again!

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep


Eventually I resorted to borrowing a pair of tweezers from Mrs Shep’s makeup bag … which helped massively in facilitating the precision manipulation involved. So much so, that I then went and invested in my own set of “crafting tweezers” on amazon …on the basis that if I continued to use the ones that I’d “borrowed”, then I’d almost certainly end up in some kind of tweezer / plastic cement / WHO-DID-THIS-TO-MY-VERY-BEST-TWEEZERS!!! incident … which didn’t seem like a particularly wise fate to tempt.

From gallery of MrShep

Tiny hands. So sooo tiny!


The following afternoon, equipped with a set of no less than FOUR exciting new tweezer variants (and a smart storage case too!), I managed to get the whole batch of the little beasties stuck together without losing a single (plastic) limb!

From gallery of MrShep

There’s definitely something a little bit frog-like about these spiderlets.

And with a lick of paint (or two), the brood were ready to be introduced to their also-recently-completed mummy…

From gallery of MrShep


Exciting new death opportunities await! devil

From gallery of MrShep


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Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:10 am
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She's got Legs...

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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Yesterday was a bit of a tedious sort of a day. HR had noticed that I’d fallen behind on some of my mandatory training courses, and a message had been issued by the-powers-that-be demanding that I catch up on a whole bunch of training material that I’ve been dodging for the last 18 months or so. Stuff that’s vitally important for me to know. Such as: the 4 different classifications of asbestos risk that might be encountered in UK offices (if we actually worked in an office building any more...). How to devise a bomb threat evacuation plan for your place of work (I haven’t had an awful lot of bomb threats sent to my house in the last 50 years or so, to be honest). The requirement to designate a first aider and reserve first-aider at work (Well, I guess that’s going to be both me AND Mrs Shep in the frame for that one then). And what I should and shouldn’t divulge about my work life when I’m writing social media posts on the internet…

oh.

ANYWAY…

This (and other slightly-less-but-not-entirely-useless material) amounted to something in the order of 8 hours of "self-learning interactive content", delivered in variously-sized segments. Which struck me as a bit of an ordeal, were I to sit through it all contiguously. So to break the day up a little bit, I decided to maybe do a spot of KDM monster building between sessions. Not that I’m in any way suggesting that sitting in a room full of plastic cement fumes will help you get through a day of dull corporate training. Except… maybe that’s exactly what it'll do. Because by the end of the day, I’d managed to pass all of the assessment exercises with flying colours, AND I have a new Kingdom Death Quarry constructed and ready to paint. So everyone’s a winner, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d document the process with photographs. (That’s the monster building process, not the training process). So, today I shall be building: A Spidicules*!

Now… don’t read too much into the fact that I’m building an early-game KDM quarry here; I haven’t played the Watcher showdown yet, and the forthcoming Kingdom Death Diary chapter could go either way.

Theoretically, at least.

But it’s always nice to have your options covered, right?

Removing the mummifying layers of plastic wrap revealed the following content. But can you tell what’s wrong with this scene?

From gallery of MrShep


Probably not, unless you know your Kingdom Death Monster kits inside out. Basically… there’s a duplicate sprue which shouldn’t be there (the one containing the body ball), and a different sprue is completely missing. As it turns out, the missing sprue is part of the Silk Armour kit — i.e. components which allow you to build survivors who have been equipped with Spidicules-sourced equipment. And while this means that I at least have all the bits necessary to build the monster itself (so the omission isn’t quite as bad as it might’ve been)… I’d still rather have the armour kit than not have the armour kit, as they sell for $40 a pop in the kingdom death shop! The only problem is this particular box has been sitting on my shelf-of-potential for nearly 18 months now — and it seems a little bit cheeky to go to Kindgom Death support and ask if there’s any chance of a replacement after all that time.

Though… I mulled it over for a bit… and decided to give it a shot anyway. After all, KDM ‘aint cheap … and since they charge boutique prices, it’s maybe reasonable to expect a touch of white glove boutique-grade service too?

…so I popped my issue into the web support form, added the above photo, and crossed my fingers. And within a couple of hours I got a reply from The Dark Mediator (or Rebecca, as she signs her emails) advising that a replacement will be in the mail ASAP. Hooray! All Praise the Dark Mediator! …good work, Kingdom Death support!

Anyway, on with the build… and the first few pieces — the head — went together pretty quickly. Looks like a happy little soul, doesn’t she? (I’m pretty sure it’s a she. I mean, I’m not an expert in sexing spidicules … but the expansion includes egg tiles and a brood of spider babies)

From gallery of MrShep


A little later… we have some spiny appendages in place. Whiskers? I dunno. I mean, at first glance the un-initiated might think that those are her legs.

From gallery of MrShep


But they’re definitely not her legs. THESE, my friend, are her legs:

From gallery of MrShep


Oh, and some more hands. Because most of the things in KDM have hands. Many hands!

From gallery of MrShep


Four legs attached, and she’s starting to look distinctly spidery now.

From gallery of MrShep


The legs are all on, and I’ve attached the front appendage-with-lure. This was a bit tricky — I think I accidentally trimmed away an important bit of the joint whilst cleaning the part up, so a bit of external support while the glue dried and lots of finger crossing was employed here!

A spidicules’ lure looks suspiciously like a naked female torso. Hmmm. What kind of prey would be attracted to a naked female?

From gallery of MrShep


Speaking of naked people… the kit also includes a small naked man. Who is waving.

From gallery of MrShep


Why is he waving at Spidicules? I don’t know. But I have a feeling that, whatever his motives are, it’s probably not going to work out well for him.

And here’s the finished model! It’s rather large… So I’ve put a regular survivor mini next to it for a sense of scale. Lovely!

From gallery of MrShep


Now… I just need to (a) paint it, and (b) find a place to keep it. (Mrs Shep is a bit of an arachnophobe, and she is very much NOT a fan of this particular addition to my Kingdom Death collection! )

And soon, it might be used in a game. Soooooon…..

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*which is apparently pronounced “Spidiculous”, to rhyme with Ridiculous**.

**Adam Poots has never been best at spelling.
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Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:10 am
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And I… Wanna be… Anachroneeee...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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My final boardgaming experience of 2020… involved filling up a big empty box.

Well… OK… not an entirely empty box.

A box which came my way via a Kickstarter campaign which I backed way, way back in the mists of time, and which arrived at my house on the very last day of 2020. So although it missed its intended delivery date by 9 months or so (thanks covid!), at least it came in the correct year. Albeit with only a few hours to spare

The Anachrony: Infinity Box

From gallery of MrShep


It’s bigger than I expected. In my head, I was imagining something about the size of the big-box version of Trickerion… but this thing is HUGE. A bit bigger than the Gloomhaven box by all accounts (though I don't have one to compare), and it might even give Kingdom Death Monster a run for its money in terms of pure cubic inches (though I haven't measured it... yet...)

Way back, when this first hit kickstarter, I was in two minds about backing it; Anachrony is a game which I really enjoy, but unfortunately I don’t get it to the table very much — certainly not enough to warrant having more expansions for it. However, I was really impressed by the work that Game Trayz did for Trickerion, and the thought of having a similar storage/caddy solution for my blinged-out-with-all-the-miniatures version of Anachrony was at least a little bit tempting… (even if only from a collectors perspective, rather than a actually-playing-the-damn-thing perspective!). Plus, the blurb promised a new + improved robot opponent which makes all of the expansions playable in solo mode (The game’s previous solo mode only worked for the base game). Way back in early 2019, that particular feature was maybe a little bit interesting to me… but if I’d known then what was heading our way in 2020, I would’ve been reaching for my wallet without hesitation

Anyway, I must’ve been feeling a bit flush back in early 2019 (or had a pang of obsessive collector compulsion), because — by complete luck, and despite my doubts — I backed the kickstarter anyway.

And here it is:

From gallery of MrShep


You know what? That’s an awful lot of plastic trays to decant my existing Anachrony collection into. And quite a few new bits to punch out. And lots of new cards to sort. But fortunately one of the half dozen (new!) rulebooks included in the box is… a manual of instructions for using the storage system!

From gallery of MrShep


It still took me well over 2 hours (TWO HOURS!) to get everything punched, sorted, and in its proper place. Which is complete madness, isn’t it? And, looking at that photo, you might be thinking (as I was) … how do you even fit the game on the table AS WELL as all the component trays?

To be fair… it’s not as bad as it appears. Some of those trays are devoted to specific expansions, and the player component trays don’t really need to be on your table once you’ve decanted the pieces. The next morning (my first gaming experience of 2021!), I set the game up to give the new solo opponent a spin, and all the bits fit on the table reasonably well…

From gallery of MrShep


The rulebook suggests that you give the simpler AI opponent — the “Chronobot” (a version of which appeared in the original version of the game) — a try before weighing in with the new, advanced variant — “Chronossus” … but… meh; I’ve played with Chronobot before, and I was keen to see what new tricks Chronossus brings to the table. So I went straight in at the deep end…

From gallery of MrShep


…and it was a very good experience indeed!

The robot's turns are controlled by four tokens (numbered 2,3,4,5) which move around on a matrix of potential actions on the AI board. When it’s the bots turn, you roll a die (it’s a d6, but has face values of 2,3,3,4,4,5 … a peculiar sequence due to the fact that the die has an alternative use in one of the other expansions). You then execute the action where the correspondingly-numbered token is sitting -- following some simple priority/decision rules -- and then move that token along the appropriately-coloured arrow to a new spot in the matrix.

In common with a lot of automa-style opponents, the bot isn’t really playing the same game as you are, and isn’t constrained by resource availability like a human player would be… but the highly-simplified game that the bot IS playing makes it occupy worker placement spaces, snatch away vital resources/buildings/workers, and clock up a steady stream of victory points at a rate and pattern that a human-opponent-who-was-playing-the-same-game-as-you-are might. And the positioning of the various AI tokens at the start of each turn combined with the bias of the die towards “3” and “4” results gives you a pretty good idea of what the bot is likely to do next, and which actions spaces may be under contention in coming turns. Which, for a worker placement game, works out pretty well.

Another interesting departure from the old Chronobot AI is the fact that the number of exosuits that Chronossus will power up in each round is controlled by drawing chits from a bag; some chits show success, and some show failure… failed power-up tokens go back in the bag for the next round, while successful power-ups (mostly) stay out of the bag (though there’s a bot action which replenishes the bag with an additional “success” chit). It's a neat tweak to the bots behavior which elegantly simulates the way that it becomes harder (/more expensive) for a human player to repeatedly power up their suits as the game progresses … and gives a pleasing, semi-predictable ebb-and-flow of powerful/weak rounds for the Chronossus.

So, yeah, it works well, and that was a really enjoyable game. Chronossus successfully delivers a play experience with a similar pace and challenge to multi-player Anachrony, and -- rather interestingly -- raises the prospect of being able to play with some of the Anachrony expansions that I’ve never been able to get to the table in the company of willing human opponents before.

(i.e. every single one of them)

Good stuff!

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Sat Jan 2, 2021 7:10 am
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A glue-smeared weekend.

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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The Tyranny of Small Lanterns is rapidly approaching Lantern Year #20 … so I found myself tackling THIS sprue of plastic pieces on Saturday Afternoon: The Watcher.

From gallery of MrShep


I’ve never really been “into” miniatures gaming before … at least, not since my warhammering and dungeons-and-dragonsing years of the late 1980s (and that’s definitely far enough in the dim and distant past of a mis-spent youth to not really count!). So it’s been really interesting to dip my usually-planted-deeply-in-euro-turf toes into this somewhat-adjacent hobby, thanks to my time with Kingdom Death: Monster. OK… maybe not so much “dip my toes” in, as “jump in to about waist depth” … because the modelling and painting part of KD:M is way more absorbing (and satisfying) than I ever expected it to be.

From gallery of MrShep


I’ve seen pictures of The Watcher before… and, I have to admit that — considering he was the big grand-finale monster of the original v1.0 game — the miniature always left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed. But having now constructed one, and held it in my hand, and had a proper look at it… it’s clear that 2d photos really don’t do it justice. In real life, it’s actually a really nicely-executed piece.

Or maybe I’m now looking at these things with different eyes now, compared to when I started out on this journey?

From gallery of MrShep


It’s not so much what’s included in The Watcher model, as what’s missing, which makes it so effective. The Watcher is a floating, wraith-like presence … it manifests as an empty, billowing cloak, occupied by some invisible, malevolent void — and the scary element is clearly that evil, powerful force within, rather than the flapping bits of material. And the mini does a really effective job of conveying that idea, by delineating all that spooky, “negative space” with bunch of chained lanterns, flapping belts of cloth, and twisting vine-like tendrils.

From gallery of MrShep


I really like the finished model. Some of those thinner tendrils might prove to be a little bit fragile during game use … but looking at the model, i think it’s a really nice sculpt. Definitely something a bit more special than I’d first thought, and a bit more fitting an adversary for that all-important possibly-final boss fight!

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Pleased with the finished build — and aware that it’s always good to have a few things to paint at the same time — I also glued together “Old Joe” and “Young Rachel” … a couple of bonus survivor figures added in Kingdom Death Monster v1.5. These particular models were created a few years after the original game release … and it’s evident that the sculpting + engineering techniques used by APG have moved on quite a bit in the intervening period. These minis are a bit more sophisticated … in terms of the way that they plug together (showing fewer obvious joints and seams), and also seem to be more layered and detailed than the first generation KDM minis are.

From gallery of MrShep


OId Joe slipped together in minutes… it was a very easy build, with everything connecting up very smoothly.

Young Rachel, on the other hand…

Well. If there was ever a KDM mini that I almost hurled across the room in a rage-quitting incident, then this is the one. You can probably tell from the plastic cement strings and webs in the photo that I encountered MANY issues while assembling Rachel. Though I feel slightly vindicated by later reading through some forums, and seeing people ask questions along the lines of: “is Poots deliberately trying to troll us with Young Rachel, or what?”.

One thing is for sure: It is a fiddly, difficult build. A VERY fiddly, difficult build. But with a bit of persistence and trimming, she’s come out looking more-or-less as she should. And by the time I’ve slapped my usual workmanlike layer of paint on, I’m sure that the casual observer will be none the wiser.

‘Phew.

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Sun Dec 13, 2020 11:45 am
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The War Against Grey Plastic: 2020 edition.

John Shepherd
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The Lonely Tree has been taunting me for most of this year. It’s probably a sign of the times that it doesn’t feel like a massively long time since I glued it together … but then I recall that I made a lame joke here on the blog about building it as a Christmas Tree, and that must mean that it’s been the best part of a year since I began this particular KDM project. So my morning turned into a bit of a painting morning, rather than a blogging morning.

From gallery of MrShep


A little little bit more shading work this afternoon, and it should be table-ready enough to torment our erstwhile survivors.

And THEN I get to decide which expansion to build next. Though hopefully I’ll polish the next build off a little bit quicker than I did this one.

From gallery of MrShep


Hmmm. That’s a lot of boxes, isn’t it? Every time I sit down to do a bit of KDM model building/painting I’m reminded how restful I find the experience, and how I always promise myself that I’ll find the time to do it a bit more regularly. (Then inevitably fail).

But I definitely see this as a shelf opportunity, rather than a shelf of shame

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Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:50 pm
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Nonagon vs Octagon; random moments of game-pimping pleasure.

John Shepherd
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There are moments when casual chance and co-incidence bring about a great alignment in the universe.

Moments when two random and unrelated items connect in a manner so satisfying, so natural, and so smoothly-fitting that it feels like the fundamental forces of fate and destiny have decreed that the combination should always have been so.

Connections which — once chanced upon — bring an overwhelming sense of zen, harmonic balance, feng shui, and positive energy to the discoverer.

* * * * * * *


Yesterday, I found myself wondering if my newly-received copy of Troyes Dice might fit entirely within the playing surface of a cheap dice tray that I purchased back in January 2019*.

From gallery of MrShep


Well?...

Spoiler (click to reveal)
From gallery of MrShep


Oh yes.

Yes it does.

In just about THE most satisfying way possible.

Niiiiiiiiice.


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*Because then we could play it on the big comfy sofa. Because all of the best roll+writes are playable on the big comfy sofa!
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Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:10 am
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The Replaced

John Shepherd
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A further collection of artefacts that I chanced upon during the great cupboard sort-out:

From gallery of MrShep


These are all bags of "spares"; pieces removed from games where I've upgraded the original components with better bits. Or -- in at least one instance -- a bag of pieces originally enclosed in a game that doesn't even use those particular pieces(!)

Items (A) and (B) you won't be able to identify; these were wooden disks that I bought to replace the (awful) tiddlywink money in Age of Industry many years ago ... but which were then usurped from the box when I pimped that game a second time, with screenprinted wooden money chips instead.

Yep, I upgraded my upgrade.

But... the rest of them... those are all pieces which ship with popular games. Maybe you can identify the games that got upgraded, necessitating the retirement of these superfluous components?

(Item 7 might be a bit misleading ... these wooden disks have been granted a second lease of life as Decktet chips by having a bunch of stickers attached to them ... and the dice belong to a Decktet game too. So imagine those components in their previous life as plain old wooden disks with no markings on them. There should be a bunch of variously-shaded cubes with them too... but I've no idea what I ended up using those for!)

((And if you manage to identify bag 8 -- a bag containing thirteen small, dark-blue wooden cubes -- then you're way better at this game than I am. I've got absolutely no memory of what I did with those!))

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Sun Aug 9, 2020 7:10 am
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(Pyramidal) Style vs Function

John Shepherd
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The box insert which comes with Pyramid Arcade seems, at first blush, to be a rather good one. It does a nice job of displaying the nested pyramids in a pretty sort of way, and it looks like this:

Board Game: Pyramid Arcade


Note, however, that I have borrowed this photo from BGG user chrisoc13. And the reason for that is… this inlay started to drive me nuts! … because it’s very, very fiddly trying to extract (or replace) a single nest of pyramids from one of those wells without all of the inner pyramids spilling out.

So, my latest 3d-printing project involved making one of these:

From gallery of MrShep


This insert works like a kind of peg board arrangement, into which you insert the pyramid nests pointy-end-first. To be fair, it’s nothing like as pretty, and not as good at keeping the pieces firmly in place as the original version was (a good lateral swipe on the box will topple a few of them out of their holes)… but it certainly makes sorting your pyramids into sets, and getting specified colours in and out of the box an awful lot easier. Plus, there’s lots of room for expansion. Should you be crazy enough to be seriously considering investing in opaque red and silver pyramids in the near future (and maybe another homeworlds set too…)

Anyway, I promised that in my next bout of pyramid game coverage I would tell you all about our worst pyramid experience so far. And that honour falls to… (fanfare…)

Ice Dice

From gallery of MrShep


Ice Dice works like this: There's a pool of pyramids, known as the bank. You roll a pair of dice — one shows a pyramid size, and the other shows a pyramid colour (sometimes you get a choice of sizes, or a wildcard choice of colour) … and you move the appropriately sized/coloured pyramid from the bank, into a central area called “the counter”. Then you choose whether to roll again, or stick with what’s on offer… if you stick, you move the pyramids into your personal collection. If you roll again… and roll a colour that’s already sitting on the counter, you go bust, and everything on the counter is returned to the bank. Keep going until you stick or bust... and that’s your turn.

The subtleties — such as they are — involve the fact that you win the game when you’ve successfully accumulated three “monochromatic trees” (a set small/medium/large pyramids of a single colour) — so that gives you something to focus your luck-pushing on… and in the fact that if the colour/pyramid combo that you rolled/selected isn’t present in the bank any more (which increasingly happens in the later game), then you have to move the appropriate piece from your opponent’s collection into the counter area instead.

And that’s it. Ice Dice is a very basic push-your-luck set collection game, with a dash of opponent screwage/stealing … (a fair chunk of which is screwage/stealing-by-autopilot). And… not very interesting. Certainly not with 2 players, anyway.

I mean, to be fair, The Pyramid Arcade bills itself as being a collection of games that cover the whole gamut of simple-to-complex / random-to-strategic / long-to-short games … but this one definitely lands at the “there’s really not very much to it” corner of the matrix. To an extent that I’m kind of surprised that the Looneys sell this one as a standalone game… and the Pyramid Arcade rulebook specifically recommends that you play THIS ONE as your very first pyramid game.

On reflection, I’m rather glad that we ignored that advice; I think it might’ve soured our opinion of the system from the get-go!

Still, I guess some folks must like it, since it was the standard bearer for the whole Looney pyramid line for a short while. (Then again, so is fluxx…. so… go figure!). And I can kind of see it working as a kids game… maybe?

But… nah. Not for us. There are far more interesting things to be found in the pyramid game world, IMHO.
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Thu May 21, 2020 7:10 am
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