Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
Has it been a month since my last entry already? Some of my favorite bloggers have full lives and still manage to find time to write insightful articles twice or more times a week. I can barely muster effort to do one a month! So thanks again for looking in!
Leviathans and X-wing:
I had the chance to play two new "aerospace" combat games in the last couple weeks: Leviathans and Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. I'm undecided as to the overall desire to put these in my collection, but I am willing to share some thoughts after a play or two of each.
Leviathans is another game in the genre of "flying battleships." These are a bit different from genuine space games in that "altitude" is still a part of the combat environment. Aeronef, Dystopian Wars, and Sky Galleons of Mars are other examples of the sort. And in this case, it's exactly the sort of well-produced big-box extravaganza that I'm a sucker for.
The game contains eight beautifully modeled and pre-painted Victorian/Edwardian-era skyships. A mix of destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. There's also a rules-and-fluff bundle that sets the tone and rules of the game. Plenty of game aids in the form of stat cards, a couple double-sided hex mats, counters, and a clutch of custom d12s.
Being open to alternate history settings in games, I'm already reaching for this. But I'm not as willing to gamble on this sort of things as I once was, so a couple friends and I played a couple scenarios pitting a french battleship and destroyer against a British Cruiser and a couple destroyers.
The short of the long is that you won't find anything unusual in Leviathans if you're already familiar with naval games from the dreadnaught-era. And that's what it felt like: WWI ships slugging it out on a hex map with everyone checking off boxes until one side or the other won. Strategy consisted of stripping away the light ships or bringing all force on the largest ship immediately. Tactics were maneuvering to bring all force to bear on one side of a target ship.
The handling of torpedos was the most interesting part of the game. Basically, the launching ship put down a marker at the launch point and then a matching one at a point 18 hexes away. Following movement, lines are drawn between the points and any ship crosses a line is rolled for. Potentially devastating, players would do anything to avoid them. This forced players to make decisions and do things they didn't want to do in a very clean manner. Cool!
And that's where the interest and innovation ended for me. It was pretty humdrum—even cumbersome—after that. Check the arcs. Bracket or Saturation? Roll to hit. Roll location. Did it get through? Did it punch through a hole already made? Check a box. Roll a crit. Roll to repair. Over and over and over.
I'm still kinda interested in this. But really only for the models.
Next up was X-Wing. Another lavish, pre-painted models game. This one in the Star Wars universe. X-Wings vs. TIEs. Luke and Vader in a fur-ball over the Death Star. My friend who purchased Leviathans is already a dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fan. No way he was passing this up.
I've been watching the development of this for some time. I'd really like to jump into a Star Wars game and this sure seems like one I wouldn't hesitate over. Pre-painted. No blind blisters. Popular, evocative setting. For gamers who are familiar with the Nexus/Ares Wings of War/Glory game, you already have a leg up on how it plays.
All great things. Once again, I balk at the price. Three craft and bits for $40? $15 for a fighter after that? I'm already up to my neck in two games like that!
So four of us give it a shot. Our game starts with a pair of TIEs and an Advanced TIE streaking towards Rebel Space to snatch-and-grab a pair of reconnaissance satellites. Wedge Antilles in an X-Wing and Special Guest Star in a Y-Wing intercept...
Then there follows a Wings-of-Glory-like experience that does things a good deal better than the World War II game. And almost as good as the World War I game.
The pros: no cumbersome mats littered with cards and counters. No pre-plotted series of moves. Interesting maneuvers (like barrel rolls) can shake a pursuer and/or put you in a firing position. Pilots can have rules-bending traits that are listed on cards (no need to memorize a symbol). Critical damage effect are given on the damage card. (Again, eliminating the need to memorize a symbol.)
The cons: Despite the low overhead, the board can get cluttered with the turning gages and "boom sticks." Rebel ships ships have shields—which require keeping track of with counters. Droids are a part of the mix, too. And, for me, price. Do I need another game like this?
Mixed: Maneuvers are plotted on a little wheel for each craft and are executed one craft at a time. This can be cumbersome in a large game, since people have to share maneuver arcs (there are no cards) but it also keeps people honest and sets up who occupies a space in the event craft overlap. It is smoother than either Wings' game in that regard.
Overall: I like this better than Ares' WWII game, by far. It's comparable to their WWI game, but I give the edge to Ares on that one.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about my growing interest in Sherlock Holmes. Specifically, shows and films that cover the detective. This was kicked off after I purchased a DVD collection of a series featuring Ronald Howard and H Marion Crawford along with some films featuring Basil Rathbone, Arthur Wontner, and Reginald Owen.
Since then, I have watched a pair of BBC series that ran in the mid-60's featuring Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing as Holmes with the support of Nigel Stock in both as Watson. I also purchased the Granada Television series featuring Jeremy Brett.
It's difficult to judge amongst all them, since each has something to offer. The Ronald Howard series is just plain fun and there is a great rapport between Howard and Crawford. The sets are cheap, true, and the supporting players run the gamut, but I'm very glad to have this set.
In the mid-60's Wilmer and Cushing were both excellent as Holmes—though very different. Cushing comes across as an older version of the Holmes that Howard played. Wilmer presages the kind of personality Brett displayed and even expanded upon.
As productions, the Wilmer series is better in every regard to the one featuring Cushing. The music and cues are more restrained and effective. The sets and transitions between film and video more consistent. The writing was much better. Stock's role was larger and more nuanced. There are more episodes, too, but that is not a fair comparison—neither series survived the decades intact. But we should be thankful that more of the Wilmer series survived than the Cushing.
With the Granada series, all the stops are pulled. There is no video. It's all on film. All the players—even the supporting ones are excellent. David Burke and Edward Hardwicke both made outstanding Watsons, though I give the edge to Hardwicke. Brett was a mesmerizing Holmes. For about two-thirds of the series and the first three films, Brett is top form. Afterwards, his illness took a toll that is hard to ignore. With the Mazarin Stone, I wished that Hardwicke and Charles Gray (as Mycroft Holmes) as the Consulting Detective had completed remaining canon stories together in a new series.
Of all the Holmes and Watsons, Brett and Hardwicke are my favorites together. However, the team of Wilmer and Stock would have given them a run for their money if they had the resources that Granada lavished behind them, too. In fact, there are several Wilmer episodes that I put ahead of Brett/Hardwicke. These would be: The Speckled Band, The Illustrious Client, The Devil's Foot, The Six Napoleons, and The Man with The Twisted Lip.
I have the Soviet series of Holmes and Watson movies on order. I hope to have them in hand by the end of the week.
Over the weekend my FLGS (Great Hall Games of Austin, Texas) had games auction. I picked up a copy of BattleLore for $20 that was basically unwrapped and never looked at again. Also the out-of-print For the People and the fizzled Halls of Montezuema.
I've sold some games at BGG.con and have done alright there, though that's really a buyer's market. I sold some others at Great Hall last year and that was also a bit hit-and-miss. What I haven't done is Ebay or Geek-Bay. What are folks opinions of those?