Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Games of 2011

As the year is coming towards its end I thought I would post about the top 5 games that I have played this year. 2011 has been a cracking year for games, there have been so many good ones but these are my top 5.

1 A Few Acres of Snow - (My best 2 Player Game of the Year)
This has been my favorite game of 2011. I like most of Martin Wallace games and this one could be his best in my mind. Its a 2 player game that uses deck building mechanics and has a play time of about an hour. For me it fills the gap when there are 2 players who haven't got teh time for a game of Twilight Struggle.
I have played it quite a few times now and although its a little unbalanced for new players its definitely one that been asked for repeated plays.

2 Lord of the Rings the LCG - (Best Card Game of the Year)
Production and support on this one is great, which is understandable as its a Fantasy Flight Game. Its a solo or 2 player card game where you are trying to win an encounter by using a deck of cards. The game plays very well and you feel like you are actually controlling the characters from Middle Earth as you are trying to complete your chosen adventure.
Its been heavily expanded with monthly packs of cards. I don't have all of them but the ones I have picked up have added to the game.
I am now attempting to create some custom decks with the cards I have so there is still plenty of game here for me.

3 Quarriors - (Best light and Dice Game of the Year)
Mix up a deck building game with dice and you get Quarriors. Its a light game that plays very quickly. A 2 player game can take around 10 minutes. There is a high degree of luck in the game, but another game can be setup really quickly. It's probably the lightest game I have played this year but its short playing time has meant its been played the most.

4 Mansions of Madness - (Best production of the Year)
As far a box size goes this is the biggest I bought this year and for good reason. I love this game, its a Cthulu Mythos inspired game similar to descent. The boards and minis are brilliant and I have enjoyed every game of it. My biggest gripe with the game is the setup time. There are so many cards and counters this can take a while and you have to make sure you do it perfectly otherwise you will break the game. I haven't played this enough mainly for this reason. I like to set up the game ahead of time and I don't always get the time.
Expansions for this have started to appear and I expect to see a big box with more minis is in the pipeline.

5 Troyes - (Best Heavy Game of the Year)
I like dice games and this one get you rolling them quite a bit. But the luck factor is taken away as you can use other players dice for a cost. This is quite a heavy game and it takes a few plays for it to sink in. But once it does you will be playing a fantastic game.

Biggest disappointment of the year, generally I will play any game and see some good in it. The designer has put the time in to create the game and a publisher has invested in getting the final product to market. That said my biggest disappointment this year has been Barons. I liked Glory to Rome and expected something as good but the game just didn't work for me. It seemed a little too easy and would quickly end once players built churches. The cards and artwork seemed a bit too harsh and it came in once of CCG's trademark plastic boxes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

More Meeples for those Sea Monsters

I really like Survive as do most of the game groups I bring it to. The problem, it only plays with up to 4 players. So when a 5-6 player expansion hit the shelves it was a must buy, especially when its only a few quid.

The expansion comes in a little box and opening it up you get a whole host of little plastic meeples and some tiles. The meeples are nice, but they are not as good as the wooden ones in the base game. You also have to put numbered stickers on the base of all of them which takes a while. When playing with 5-6 players you use different combinations so as to even things out. Reading the numbers on these new meeples is much easier than the base games which is good. I just wish they had kept up with the wooden ones.

The tiles were a bit of a mystery, but reading the rules that came with it there was apparently a printing problem with the first run. One of the mountain tiles was left with white border so players could quickly figure out what tile it was. These replacements are used to resolve this. Not sure about this, were they free or am I actually paying to fix someone else problem?

Happily the game plays quite well with 6 players. It's always going to be a bit of a bun fight but with more players it does become a little more hectic. Meeples are very quickly dispatched by an assortment of monsters swimming the shores of a shrinking island. It's a fun game and one that you can't really take too seriously. In my last game I lost every single meeple under my control. I was doing well at the start, head down and happily being ignored by all the other players. Then things turned nasty when they all realized I had not lost a meeple. One by one they were eaten, drowned or sucked under by a whirlpool.

To spice things up we had also decided to play with the Giant Squid expansion. This adds a number of large white squid to the game. These can be particularly nasty as they can pluck poor meeples off of beaches and out of boats. Nowhere is safe! As an expansion goes its pretty small and cheap and a great accompaniment to the 5-6 player expansion. It just adds to the fun and chaos.

So Survive continues to be a popular game and its nice to see that the mini expansions that have been so far released have added just enough to the game. It's not changed drastically or made things more complicated. It's just given you the opportunity to kill off more players meeples in different ways.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Domain in space......

Gaming has been mental the last month, both face to face gaming and on the web. A lot of new games have hit the table but I wanted to chat about just one for now.

Eminent Domain has hit UK stores and after a demo I picked up a copy. Its been touted as a space version of Dominion, and although it does have deck building elements I feel that it is more than just a Dominion clone.

Game play is very simple, there are 6 different base cards in the game. With each having its own Action and Role ability. All players start with the same distribution of these cards as well as a home world. You then shuffle and draw 5 cards from your starting 10.

The first thing you have to do is decide which card you are playing and use its action section. This action only affects you and can range from warfare cards which give you fighters, to survey cards which add more cards to your hand.

You then pick another card to play, but this time instead of one from your hand you take one from the piles of cards in the center of the table. This acts as the timer mechanism, the game will end when a number of piles are empty. This card is now played for its role ability. Most of the time its the same as the action but usually the person picking the card gets a bonus or different effect. Every other player can now discard cards of the same type to also use that action. So for example if I chose the colonize card I can now tuck it under a planet to go towards its colonization cost. If I also had 2 more of these cards in my hand I can also put them down. Other players that also have colonize cards can also put them into play. If they don't or don't want to use them they take a card from there deck instead.

Finally you discard and draw back to 5. Pretty simple so far.

The only part of the game which can slow things down is the research action, if you have enough of these cards and choose the research role you can take a research card. These are limited in number and give you different actions or effects. Usually altering or improving the strategy your are playing. For example the improved warfare allows you to build more fighters. You can play without these cards if you want a more basic game, but if you have played any deck building game before there's no reason not to put them in.

Planet cards are discovered with survey cards and can be either settled using colonization cards or forcibly controlled using warfare. Once the requirements have been met the planet is yours to use. Planets will usually allow you to produce and trade resources for victory points. They will also be worth points at the end of the game. Finally you will need more matching planets to research the higher tech levels. So planets are what you are aiming to get in front of you throughout the game.

The game plays well, once players have got there heads around the action/role differences they should be getting to grips with the game. What I like is that you can always choose the role you want, so your never really stuck trying to work your strategy. If you don't have a colonize card in your hand but want to settle a planet, just pick one from the table as your role.

Component wise this game is lovely, good strong box, good looking artwork and loads of lovely plastic fighters. Tasty Minstrel have really put together a good game here.

I am hoping that there will be a future expansion, it's crying out for ways to trade with other players attack there planets and steal technologies. As well as more technology cards and different planets there is quite a bit of scope for the game.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I am happy to play any game. I might not be good at some of them but I am still happy to pull up a chair and give it a go. I also find it difficult to give a game a really low score on the geek. Generally I feel like there might be something in there and someone has spent the time on putting a game together and getting it published.

Every once and a while comes along a game that I really have problems with and last weekend it was Lego Creationary. My kids like Lego, they seem to get more and more every year and are happy to build whatever there imagination creates. A couple of years ago Lego came up with a range of games, we picked up a few of the cheaper games and they were pretty good. Usually roll and move or roll and pick type games. Nothing ground breaking but they are fun and the kids enjoy them.
Creationary on the other hand is just terrible, the concept is quite good. Mix up pictionary with a box of lego and you have a new build and guess game. Players roll a dice then pick a card from one of the 3 piles of cards. Each card has 4 different objects to build on it, one for each colour on teh dice. So if you rolled a yelloe you would build the yellow transport object, green the nature object. The piles are supposed to be in different ability levels so the objects should be harder to build.

All sounds good so far, rules are a bit light with players getting a "determined" amount of time to build. We went for 5 mins, not wanting to drag things out. The ability levels of cards don't score any more or less points. I decided to handicap myself by using the level 2 cards while the kids went for level 1. I quickly changed to level 1 for the reasons below.

There are 2 major problems with this game, the amount of Lego you get just isn't enough. Not only are you limited with the amount of pieces but also the colours. My first object was a bee, easy I thought until I realized there were no black pieces in the box. I had to substitute brown for black. This happened a couple of times, Flynn got a tiger and started building one. Quickly telling us the yellow was actually orange. He ran out of pieces after building 4 legs.

Teh second issue I have with teh game is the objects. The Arc de Triumph maybe a great site in Paris but its difficult for a 7 and 8 year old to know what it is. Model T Ford, its a car!. Well yes, i'll give you that. You see a Lego car looks like a Lego car. Especially when you only have 4 big wheels and 4 tiny wheels in the box. How are kids supposed to know the difference between a transporter plane and a passenger plane. It's tough and there were a few moments when they both yelled airplane.

So, Lego Creationary is a good idea but poorly implemented. I would love to see the design team make all of the models on the card using the Lego in the box. I know that you could argue about cost and such but I think they fell short here.
The card design needs a little help, adding the names of things would also help and teach them a little as well.

Will I play it again, probably. The kids seem to enjoy it and I like to get involved but I think there will be some tweaking along the way. The best thing about the game is that the cards have sparked there imagination with other things to build which is a bonus.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's a bit chilly

This week is shaping up nicely on the gaming front. Monday saw Quarriors getting played along with A Few Acres of Snow, tonight should see more games being unboxed and hopefully Quarriors will get another outing.

I enjoy playing wargames, but as much as I enjoy playing combat Commander I usually prefer to play something that plays a bit quicker. Memoir 44 usually wins here, probably because its quick to play and with the overlord bits can take more than 2 players. If a wargame is on the cards its usually been booked up in advance, playing a 3 hour Twilight Struggle doesn't usually just happen.

This is where A Few Acres fits in nicely, its a 2 play war game that uses cards to perform actions. It should only take about an hour to play and it has enough depth and strategy to keep it going for a while. It's not going to replace Twilight Struggle as my favorite 2 player war game but I can definitely see it being played more often.

The game follows the war over modern day Canada, with players taking the roles of either the British or the French. They both start with a number of settlements and to win the game have to either take the opponents capital or use up there settlements. Scoring then happens and the one with the most points wins the game.
Each settlement is represented by a card, as you settle you add more cards to your deck. In addition you can buy other cards to help with your money, military and settlement actions. These cards have symbols on allowing you to use them to perform actions. For example, if you wanted to settle a location you would have to play a card that connected to that location. Then another card showing the correct travel symbol. Finally a third card with a settlers symbol on it. Cards played are then put on the discard pile and you draw back to 5. This is only one possible action of many available to the players. The first time I played I was slightly overwhelmed with the options available to me. Settle, raid, siege, fortify, generate income, put cards in reserve .... getting the right combination of cards to perform the actions is a different matter.
There is an element of deck building going on, as your deck increases with cards from new settlements and other cards you purchase, but only drawing back to 5 at the end of your turn can really hinder you.

Our first game was a bit of a learning one, I won but we realized that the game should have ended a fw turns earlier. We also realized that we were too busy trying to expand and siege each other to think about how we would score in the end. That said it was a really good game, we were left discussing it for a while afterwards. Thinking about what we had done right and wrong and how we always seemed to be limited in what we could do. There were times I was desperate to expand but just couldn't get the right cards in hand. Realizing now that I should have been using the reserve action a bit more often. But then I would have needed more money.......argh!

So, A Few Acres is a very good 2 player wargame. But I think labeling it as a wargame could put people off, is Twilight Struggle a wargame? Both games are set around a time of conflict but there are no combat tables and piles of dice being rolled.

I really think Martin Wallace has come up with a great game here and its one of my favorite games of the year so far.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's all about the dice.

Dice, you either love them or hate them. They also seem to come and go into fashion in the gaming world, and at the moment it looks like they are definitely coming back.

Recent games such as the excellent Space Frontiers and Troyes have brought dice back into favor. Both games get you to roll a number of dice and place them on the board in various worker placement guises. Troyes also allows you to buy dice from your opponents which is a really nice way of getting around those really bad dice rolls.

With Quarriors being released I think we are going to see a new wave of dice games. This is because Quarriors is the first dice building game. When Dominion was released it created a big buzz. It was the first deck building game and has spawned a number of copies and games based on this mechanic. Thunderstone being one of my favorites.
Quarriors takes the cards out and replaces them with custom dice. You draw dice from your bag, roll them and then use then to summon monsters or buy other dice from the pool in the center of the table. It sounds simple and I am sure it is, but working out the dice combos and efficient dice management techniques is going to be the hard part.
Although my copy hasn't arrived yet I am really looking forward to trying this. It has gone down very well across the pond and I believe all of the copies sent to the UK were sold out by pre-orders.

I suspect like Dominion, Quarriors will spawn not only a number of expansions but also some other games that use a similar mechanic and I am sure that some of these will be just as good.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Thunderstone, this time online...

Thunderstone, the deck building game with theme is now available to play online over at Yucata. They have done a very good job of making this one and I am now feverishly playing a handful of games.

If you haven't managed to try Thunderstone its a deck building game where you are building up a deck of hero's and items. You can then delve into the darkness of the dungeon to fight the monsters and try and claim the Thunderstone.
There are a few elements that make a good hand, you need light. Without it you get combat penalties that get worse the deeper you try and go into the dungeon. So torches, lanterns and wizards all help generate light. Weapons increase your combat value but you have to be strong enough to wield them. Food helps here by bolstering the strength of your heroes.

there is an element of leveling up your heroes as well, as you defeat monsters you gain experience points. These can then be used in the village to upgrade your heroes to the next level. Each hero type has 3 levels and there powers and abilities improve as they level up.

As well as experience points, monsters are worth victory points, as well as the highest level (Level 3) characters. The Thunderstone card is also worth points but its hidden somewhere in the bottom of the 30 card dungeon deck.

Thunderstone has been very successful and spawned a number of expansions. Each adding more cards and slight rules additions to mix things up. The game was also re-released as Dragonspire.
This edition added a dungeon board and makes things a little easier to understand. It's probably where you should start if you are thinking of buying into the game. Although its not necessary if you already have the first base game.

Other than Thunderstone online gaming has been a little quite recently. 2 Weeks in Italy helped recharge the batteries. Or at least top them up with the local Chianti. Ryanair's luggage restrictions meant that I could only squeeze in a few card games to keep me going. But Coloretto and No thanks always go down well and helped while away the evenings.

Hopefully this months purchases should arrive soon, I am expecting a few games including the expansions for the excellent Lord of the Rings LCG. I will talk about these more after a few plays.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


This month has seen a few parcels delivered. It's always nice to see those jiffy bags and packages waiting patiently for me when I get home.

So what did I get, well 7 Wonders Leaders was a must. 7 Wonders was my most played game of last year. The fact that its simple to teach, can handle 7 players and is pretty quick makes it a great go to game. I wasn't bored with the original as I think it still has plenty of life in it but I am a sucker for expansions. Especially if they are reasonably priced.

Leaders adds 40 cards, a few tokens and a new wonder, the Collosium of Rome. the meat of the game is the 36 leader cards. The artwork on these is really nice and I hope it will get players into researching who these people were and what they did. They are a really diverse selection that effects how the game is played, but not enough to make it too difficult.

At the start of the game everyone is dealt 4 Leaders cards. They pick one and pass the remaining 3 along. From these 3 they pick one and pass, and again until you have 4 leader cards.
Now at the start of each Age you get to play a leader. You can play the cost in gold and add it to your area to activate its ability. You can discard it for 3 coins or finally use it to build a part of your wonder. similar actions to the main game so nothing to difficult to understand.
The abilities are ranging from VP gaining abilities, cheaper card building, extra science cards, etc. The icons make them easy to understand and the rule book does a good job.

So far I am really impressed with this expansion, it adds enough to the game without making it overly complex or bloating it with useless rules. I can see every game of 7 Wonders will now include the Leaders expansion.

Paperclip Railway was a game I was very keen to try at the UK Games expo. It sounded like a fun little train game that uses paperclips to represent the railway tracks between stations. Unfortunately it was sold out at the expo, but I received an email last week offering me a copy as there were several pre-orders not picked up. I couldn't say no so a copy was posted out.

I haven't played it yet, its down to be played tonight but after reading the rules and pouring over the components it looks like it will be a lot of fun.

I will post some thoughts on the game after its been played.

Lastly there is Barons by Cambridge Games Factory. They are mainly know for the excellent Glory to Rome. Barons promised to be Glory's little brother. I saw that the first print run was quickly being snapped up so ordered a copy.

I have played it a few times now and although its a pretty good game, I have played better. The players are trying to win the game by building a Cathedral. To do this they need to spend cards from each of the 4 coloured decks. Cards in the game can be used in many ways, as "money", lands that increase the size of your barony and as action/buildings or knights.
you basically start of playing cards face down as resource generating lands. These are taxed to add more cards in your hand. This increases your options, so you can then place more lands or spend the cards to use them as knights/buildings or actions. You quickly realize that you are not going to be able to buy all the cards you want and deciding what you will have to use as payment starts to hurt. Its a balancing act of increasing the size of your realm to generate more cards as well as building up the special ability cards. All this while playing knights to attack the other players and defend your realm.

I really can't put a finger on why I am not overly enamored with this game. The components are ok, some of the cards have been cut a little wonky and the plastic box that the game comes in is a little cheap. The game itself is ok, its just missing something.

I am now eagerly awaiting the first expansion for the Lord of the Rings card game. I played my first 2 player game of it last week and it worked really well. In fact maybe too well as we managed to blitz the starting scenario. Previously playing Solo I wasn't doing that well against it. Having 2 players seemed to help with multiple cards. We were using the Spirit and Tactics decks and questing seemed too easy. We were maybe a little lucky in that we didn't get that many attacking mobs.

First print run has sold out, but I believe that the second run is hitting distribution shortly.
This has so far been my favorite game so far this year. It's just so easy to get a game in by myself that it's replacing time on the Xbox.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm playing Solo

The usual questions a gamer asks is, how can I get my partner to play or what games can I play with my kids. These are usually because gamers want to game and a weekly or monthly meet just isn't enough.

There are a few games that can be played solo, but I have had mixed results with them. Deathwing was ok, while Runequest just seemed to go on and on.

I recently picked up the new Lord of the Rings Living Card Game. It's a co-op/solo card game set before the LotR films. As its one of the LCG range the cards you get are fixed, this cuts out the booster addiction of trade able card games but does make things expensive if you want to build your deck with multiple copies of the same cards. As of now there are no expansions for the game, but I expect there to be new cards coming out every month.

The game itself is very good, the player cards are divided into 4 decks. Each deck is completely built up of cards from its theme or power. So there is a very strong "tactics" deck with lots of combat cards another, the spirit deck is very strong on quest completion.

Playing the game is relatively straight forward, although there are quite a number of steps to each round. You or the players are trying to complete a quest. This is made up of 3 separate card locations with each requiring a number of quest tokens played on it. Once there are enough tokens you move onto the next card. So each round you have to put some of your characters forward to help fulfill the quest. To counter this cards are drawn from the encounter deck and values are compared. If you have more than the enemy you put some tokens down if not your threat level increases.
Threat is measured on a spinny dial thing. If you ever reach 50 then its game over! After you have quested you get the choice to travel, this enables you to take out a card location from the encountered area making questing easier in the future. Although quest tokens are now placed on this card as opposed to the main quest cards. In effect acting as a buffer from you completing the quest.

The next couple of parts of the round deal with combat. You have to compare your threat level with the enemies in the encounter area. If your threat is higher then they will attack you. Combat is pretty simple, you first have to declare defenders to stop the incoming attacks. Then declare attackers to fight back. There never seem to be enough characters on your side of the table, but cards can be played to help.

Played cards cost resource tokens, you get one of these for each character at the start of the round as well as a new card to add to your hand. Add the end of the round your threat counter increases by 1, in effect acting as a clock and pushing you forward.

The base set comes with 3 quests, I have played the first quest 3 times now and still haven't completed it. the first time I made some mistakes with the rules while the last 2 have been very close. Games are taking around 30 minutes to play which is really good. I can get a quick game in while the wife is watching something on TV without ruining a whole evening. With more cards on the horizon I think there will be more quests available and a greater selection of cards. I might even start changing decks around to see if I can build on things.

Overall the Lord of the Rings LCG is a really good package. The cards and bits are of really good quality, something Fantasy Flight are always good at. The rules seem a little daunting at first but give them a couple of reads and watch the online rules trainer and it should all fall into place.
Due to the short play time and the four starting decks this game is going to be picked up quite a bit in the future.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Unlike the kitchen boy I love playing new games. Even just the once ;-)
One of the new Hotness games is Alien Frontiers. I have managed 2 plays of dice based game and I can see why its gathering pace as a great game.

The game is a usual chase for victory points, but to get them you have to colonise the planet and have the majority in its areas. To do this you have to gather resources, build ships, crab cards and build colonies. All of this is performed with dice.

Dice are usually the bane of my life. They hate me, but they feel so good. The clinking sound of dice being shaken always draws a look from other tables and in Alien Frontiers its all about the dice.
Once you have rolled you dice you place them on the board into the different placement areas. Certain dice combinations can only be placed in specific areas. For example to build a ship you have to put a "double" in the ship building area. To use the resource stealing space raiders you need a "run". Add to this the fact that there are limited spaces and the players dice are only removed from the board when its there go can make some resources harder to use.

There is a deck of cards in the game. These represent alien artifacts and technology that can affect the dice and the game. For example there is a card that will allow you to flip a dice. Or reuse one. Or even take a pip off of one dice and add it to another. These can sometimes be invaluable when you are desperate to roll a double to build your last ship.

Both times we have played Alien Frontiers its been a very close game. With the winner winning by 1-2 points. My only issue with the game is the last rounds can take a while. When you are down to your last colony and getting it into play can win you the game you mind has to go through a number of choices. Trying to optimise your dice and card powers can sometimes take a while. However this isn't enough to put me off the game.

Finding a copy is a little tricky, Clever Mojo games have pretty much sold out of there second print run. I belive that Ystari have picked it up for the Euro market. But not sure if they are doing an English language version. But until then if you are intersted in the game and can find a copy, grab it now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Its a Ripper

This week I managed to play Letters from Whitechapel. It's a very strongly themed Jack the ripper game where one player is Jack while the rest are the policemen trying to apprehend Jack before he can make it home.

If you have played Scotland Yard then you will have a very good grounding on how the game plays. I like Scotland Yard but think that Letters is a much better game. The components are better, the theme works really well and the mechanics of the game make for a tense experience, especially if you are playing Jack.

Game setup is very simple, the board is placed on the table. There is an explosion of numbered circles and black boxes on the board. Jack uses the circles to move while the police use the squares. Jack picks a location for his home from one of the circles. This is hidden from the rest of the players. To win the police have to apprehend Jack and knowing where he is moving to each night is a great help.

The game now plays over 4 night, each night Jack will determine which of the 7 locations he commits the murders. He must then make his way back home while the police are trying to close in on him.
All of Jacks movement is hidden and recorded on a separate sheet. He has a couple of special moves to play. These allow double movement with a carriage or sneaking through alleyways. These are limited per night and the number available decreases through the game.

The police move 2 squares and can then ask Jack if he has moved through a neighbouring numbered circle. If he has a clue marker is placed. This helps the police try to determine where Jack is going and ideally the location of his house.
If the police are certain that they know where he is, instead of asking for a clue they can arrest the location. If jack is there the police have won.

On my first play I was Jack and made it to the end of the third night. I was one step away from my house when I was caught. The last few rounds of trying to out maneuver the police was incredibly tense.
We played it again straight after, this time I was part of the police team. We managed to block Jack from getting home on the first night. Partly from a lucky break with the placing of the police but after you gt a few clues you can try and figure out where Jack has been.

Letters from Whitechapel
has successfully built on the Scotland Yard game and delivered a strong game with lovely pieces and a solid theme that ties everything together. I would definitely recommend trying it out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dice Tower Awards - 2010

The Dice Tower 2010 award nominees have just been released. It's a bit of a mixed bag in my mind. There are a few that will definitely get my vote while others I really want to try.

String railway and Dominant Species both sound really good, but its impossible to get a copy so I doubt I will get to try them some time soon.

Best game for me, 7 Wonders. I have played this game so many times and still enjoy it. As for the other categories, I need to think a bit more.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RPGs in a couple of hours.

I used to play many RPG's when I was at school and college, but commitments change and its been years since I have filled in a character sheet or described a dungeon. Sometimes I miss it, but I really don't think I have the time to invest in a weekly RPG meet or the extra time needed to design and prepare as a DM.

Every now and then I hanker back to the good old days and pickup a RPG manual in the shops or browse an article online. They always remind me of some amazing times when my Elven Ranger managed to save the party or when my Street Samurai went berserk in New York.
As RPG's are all about the storeys they weave through amazing set pieces and player interaction you just can't fault them for theme and for leaving you with these great memories.

Board games on the other hand don't quite compare. Sometimes they do, grabbing that Dominion win by using a great card combination or a game of Combat Commander where your brave Russians managed to defend the grain silos of Stalingrad. But these seem to be thin on the ground.

There are a few RPG crossover games now, Descent and Mansions of Madness seem to be the main ones that I have played. Although there are a few others that I have yet to try. What I like about these games is that they can distill the elements of a RPG into a few hours of game play.

Descent seems to be the best of the Fantasy games, with the Road to Legend expansion adding some campaign play into the mix. I have played Descent a few times and its been quite good fun. Although I would prefer to have more puzzles and RPG like additions to it. It seems to be more about monster killing and treasure grabbing.
Mansions of Madness seems to have hit the sweet spot a little better. But then Cthulhu was always more about the insanity than the combat. I like the way the game plays out with the party having more to think about than just follow the path to the big monster.

Mansions seems to have captured the imagination of its players, with home brew scenarios and extras being talked about. I have been intrigued with what I have read and come up with a few ideas myself. The game just seems to lend itself to being built on. And with its lovely components it's hard not to think about what you can add to the game.

I would like to try a sci-fi themed game or even better a cyberpunk themed game. Getting a complete game down in an evening would certainly get my vote and if Vladamir Genocide the crazy Russian Street Samurai could make an appearance then even better.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

El Grande

El Grande is in my eyes a classic board game. In the realm of Settlers and Age of Steam. A solid design that is still playable. My favorite area control game is probably Shogun, but I think there is maybe more player interaction and screwage in El Grande.

Monday night saw it hit the table, and it went down very well. It was a very close game but I was pipped by Mudhoney by 5 points in the end. I was doing really badly but managed to pick the scoring card a few times and having the majority in my designated area scored quite well several times over. What I didn't manage was to score enough points over multiple areas. I tended to keep to only a few areas.

The Castille played its part with numerous cubes being placed into it then moved onto the board. This is one of my favorite parts of the game. Trying to think where to put your cubes on the board but also trying to make sure they help you get the majority and not swallowed up by an influx from the other players.

Why is it that all good area control games have to have a tower?
We also played a couple of games of 7 Wonders, the first I lost. I was just too spread out and had the Mausoleum as my wonder. Playing the B side doesn't allow you to score that many points. The second was a tie but decided on coins, I lost.
I still really enjoy this game, its quick and easy to teach and has enough options to keep it entertaining. I am looking forward to the leaders expansion later in the year.

Must do better.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An explosion of Plastic

It seems to me that every new game has some plastic piece in it. I am not adverse to them if they add to the game but I wonder if they are really necessary?

When I rebooted my board game hobby it all seemed to be about wooden cubes and meeples. Plastic mini's were a rarity other than in a Games Workshop box.

My copy of Dungeon Twister and Arkham Horror came with cardboard figures and that worked fine. Yet Mansions of Madness is filled to the brim with plastic figures for the investigators and monsters.

I wonder how the amount of plastic affects the cost of the game? If there were two versions of the same game, one with plastic figures and one with cardboard at a cheaper price what would the sales figures be like?

Personally I don't mind plastic figures but if they are not there or as extras I wouldn't really be that bothered. If the plastic figures could be bought as an expansion that would be nice, especially if they were pre-painted.

Are there any games that you couldn't possibly play without plastic parts? Battlelore comes to mind, yet C&C Ancients works well with sticker'd blocks.


Thursday, March 10, 2011


I have fallen for the hype and bought a copy of Mansions of Madness. I like the Cthulhu setting and have Arkham Horror and Mansions looked quite interesting. It looked like it was going to play like Descent but with a slightly different feel.
Reviews were good although I suspected it had a bit of a fanboy following and the bits looked really nice. Cost was going to be a bit of an issue, yes its expensive but you get a lot in the box and currently the game is cheaper than a tank of petrol! (Don't get me started on that one)

On Monday we tried out the game, I played the role of the Keeper controlling the board and the monsters. The three investigators made there way into the house trying to find clues as to what had happened to its owner. It played along quite nicely, I made a couple of mistakes along the way but the game progressed along nicely. The game mechanics work quite well. The investigators need to listen to the narative and try to find and follow the clues. The team got a little waylayed after teh first clue not realising that the time was ticking.

The game ended in a draw, but we all agreed that it was fun and the mistakes made were due to it being the first time we played. I enjoyed being the keeper but could have been a little more evil, I was aware that I wanted everyone to enjoy the game. I forgot to spawn some monsters and left a zombie out in the garden instead of moving it into the house to cause more trouble.

I think the bigest downside to the game is the setup. It takes a while to put together the board and sort through all the cards. There are a lot of cards so this can take a while. I think next time I will sort out all teh cards I need before hand to speed things up but it does add time to the game.
Components are up to usual FFG standards, the minis are great and the abundance of cards and counters are overwhelming. I now need to decide wether or not to paint the minis.

I need to read the rules again and give it another play before it get a BGG rating from me. But so far I am not disapointed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blight of the Immortals

As well as playing board games I spend quite a bit of time playing on the Xbox and other web games. I was introduced to Blight of the Immortals by Jay, one of the designers of the game. Its an online strategy game that reminds me of Pandemic and Defenders of the Crown.
The world is becoming over run by zombie hoards and its up to you and your fellow players to rid the world of the zombie threat. When you log into your game you get to see the overview of the world and your troops, settlements and how the spread of the zombies has progressed. You then raise taxes once a day which is determined by some random dice rolling. Its then time to spend your coins on the different army types that you control. You can also spend your money of improving the defences of your towns or increasing the size of their markets. Markets provide coins so there is a balance of troops vs money.
The troop types are your standard fantasy fair but as everyone is against the zombies your army can consist of Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Centaurs ..... In fact the races are constantly evolving, Harpies were released this week. Each race has its own ability that will help against the zombies. Orc sorcerers with their flaming winds are my current favorite.

Combat is decided on the size of army, fortification levels and some random dice rolling. Its pretty easy to win, just make sure you have enough troops to outnumber the enemy and activate some special abilities. If you loose however, the dead become part of the zombie hoard.

I have been playing three consecutive games of blight and am now really enjoying it. At first I though it was a little basic, but once you start expanding and making a dent on the enemy it becomes more interesting. I find myself logging in a couple of times a day to check on the progress of things and to collect taxes.

Its a cooperative game, but there is a strength rating so you can see which player is currently leading. I haven't finished a game yet but I am doing ok in all but one game so far. I have noticed that there are quite a few players dropping out. If you don't take a turn within 4 days you are removed from the game.

So if you liked Pandemic or Defenders and have 10 mins spare a day, log in and join a game.

Note : I was given a free one month premier account by Jay.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Do you sleeve your games? I have a few games sleeved, and it really depends on how much use the game is going to get and how many cards need sleeving. My copy of Pandemic was quickly sleeved as it was getting played time and time again. While I have only sleeved the character cards in my copy of Citadels.

Dominion is a tricky one, it gets played quite a bit but I haven't sleeved it. I should, but I know its going to hurt now I have every expansion. Also I bet the cards won't fit back in the box properly.

Thunderstone was sleeved when I bought it. Mainly as I was going to take it to the monthly POB meet in the Pub and the tables are not always the cleanest. However I went cheap on Ebay and the sleeves were a little too big. So they fit back in the box at a bit of an angle. Not great but it was ok. Now I have the Doomgate expansion I have more cards to sleeve and went for a large bundle of sleeves from Mayday games. These fit perfectly but I need to re sleeve all the cards from the base game and the Elementals expansion. I have been putting this off even though there have been a few rainy days recently.

If you need card sleeves and are based in the UK then look over at BoardGameExtras. they have Mayday sleeves for most games as well as a few other game components such as draw bags and cubes.

Appart from sleeving cards there has been a bit of gaming going on and I am now beta testing a new online game called Blight of the Immortals. Its an online cooperative game in a fantasy world. I have only scratched the surface of the game so far and will probably write up something more indepth late this month.

This weekend War of the Ring has been proposed. Never played it before but I ams ure its going to be a great game.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thunderstone Freebies

Quick post to point that AEG are giving away some free Thunderstone cards. Just hop over to

Register and hopefully there are still enough to give out. First pack is free, if you want more you have to pay.

I am really enjoying Thunderstone as an alternative to Dominion. I think that although its not as "clean" a game the theme works really. well.

Epic, part 2

After last weeks Epic game of Command and Colours : Ancients, this week we decided to try Epic Battlelore. The table was set, commanders were chosen and cards were dealt. We used the same teams as before and started to play.

As everyone was familiar with how C&C works it didn't take long to explain the differences. We took the army of the King of Portugal. We had a reasonable plan but all of our cards were for the center and right sections of the board. Consequently we were immediately attacked on our Left flank.

We made a few foolhardy rushes in but didn't do enough damage and quickly became on the end of a few vicious attacks. Failing to keep our units supported lost us the opportunity of battle backs and we were slowly being pounded on the left flank.

The right flank fared better with a few cavalry charges and we slowly started to take the lead. The winner was the first to 7 flags and we made it to 5. Mainly due to a goblin lizard rider rush in the center that was beaten back. Our next round had some of the worst dice rolls and we knew we had lost. The other team quickly attacked on all fronts and managed to defeat 3 units ending the game.

It was a great game, we didn't learn from our mistakes in ancients. Support your troops!

I have now splashed out on some Memoir 44 expansions so we can try Memoir 44 Overloard. Rounding out the 3 C&C epic games. I am really looking forward to trying some of the scenarios. Tigers in the Snow and Operation Market Garden both look really good.

I need to start reading rules over the weekend.

Friday, January 28, 2011


This week it was Command and Colors Ancients turn to make use of the table and it did so in a big way. As there were 4 of us we had decided before hand to try an epic game. One of the expansions provides another board and a special deck of cards to allow multiple people to play.

We split into two teams with each side having one member who has played the game and one who hasn't. I was teamed up with Gornad and we had a quick chat about the strategy in the game.

The scenario picked was Cannae, one that I haven't managed to win in the past. We decided to play quite aggressively and push hard on both flanks while the warriors ran into the middle. It took a few turns until we had picked up how the game was playing and managed to get in the lead, mainly due to some heroic action by our heavy horse on the Left flank. The warriors in the middle were busy harassing while our light infantry and horse were trying to hit and run on the right flank.

We needed 3 blocks to win against the Romans 5 and we thought that was quite possible. However the dice were against us and we didn't hit anything. Unfortunately the Romans had the luck of Fortuna and came back strong and picked off enough units to win the game.

It was a really good game and playing with teams was really interesting. I was worried that there wouldn't be enough to do for the General after he handed out his orders. As there was only 2 per team the general controlled the center of the board which was good. Watching your commander interpret your orders was a bit stressful. I had plans of hit and run on the right flank drawing the enemy in towards some heavys but it didn't happen.

It was a very good and interesting game. It also looked awesome setup on the table, Ed did a great job of setting up the blocks and packing it away afterwards.

I am now tempted to get some Operation Overlord expansions for M44 and try that with more players.

We managed a game of Defenders of the Realm afterwards which was interesting, but as I am playing it again next week I will talk about it more then.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Release the Kraken!

I finally managed to play Cyclades this week. It's been brought to the game group a few times in the past but I have never been quick enough to get to the table. It always looked good from afar and Gamethyme has been raving about it for a while.

I managed to score the win, but I felt a bit deflated. Three of the four players had managed to build Metropoli and were working towards their second. My first was built by heavy use of Athena and trading in the 4 cards. I had managed to grab 2 more cards and was set to win. All I had to do was get Athena again, but even though I bid high I was outbid. I managed to move around the gods making sure everyone else bid high then ended up getting Apollo for a few extra coins.

As everyone had bid high there wasn't much for them to do and I knew if I could get Athena again I would have the win. I picked the god who wouldn't be available and the others were turned over. Athena was there, but the last of the three gods. Then the monster was turned over and it was the Pegasus. I knew I was in trouble here as it meant one of the others could send in their forces by air ignoring the need for boats. John went first and picked up the Pegasus, I had 1 guy in my Metropolis and he had 2 attacking so it was down to the dice. I won the first attack, then the second being 1 up. That was it, the others couldn't get near me and Athena brought home 2 more cards to win me the game.

I did enjoy the game, but I was expecting more to happen on the board. We all just expanded a little then hunkered down. There was only the 2 dice rolls in the game!
I liked the bidding mechanic, that was really nice and worked well. The components are lovely and the theme of Greek gods helping the players works really well.

I definitely want to give the game another go, but I think next time I will be a little bit more aggressive. Trying to capture islands from the others and building up my Metropoli in other ways rather than handing in white cards.

What is the plural for Metropolis anyway?

I also managed to give Dominion Prosperity a go, it been on the shelf since November unplayed which is a shame. The new cards and treasure mechanic worked really well. It was interesting that players were struggling to get to buy the 11 gold Colony cards when before you always ended up 1 short of being able to buy a province. Royal seal was one of my favorites. When played as a treasure it was worth 2 gold, but the card you used to buy it with end up on the top of your deck. Useful until another player plays a spy card.
But I expect there are better cards in the box somewhere....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Forward Brothers!

I played Spacehulk a lot. I still own the first edition and all expansions but it doesn't get played that much. Mainly due to it being a 2 player game and its with most of my GW games up in the loft.
The new edition of Spacehulk is lovely, I have only played it once but it did look really good and played very well. However the price tag put me off and as I don't play my other copy that much it wasn't going to join my collection.

Death Angel continues the spacehulk genre but is condensed into a couple of decks of cards and scales to 6 players. It's been called spacehulk light and I can see why.

When my copy arrived I opened it up and started reading through the rules. Then put it down again, the rules just seemed to be a mess. Any rulebook that tells you to jump to page 22 then page 21 during setup has not been put together properly in my mind. FFG gets a bit of a bad wrap about there rule books and sometimes its for good reason. I ended up watching a couple of videos on the geek and the picked up the rules again. It didn't seem that bad afterwards and was ready to play.

The game is for 1-6 players and takes about 30-60 minutes. So its got the potential to be a quick solo game which is nice. Our initial game was 5 players. Initial starting location is determined by the number of players and a number of location cards are randomly selected and placed on the table. These represent the areas the marines are going to fight through to make their way towards the mission objective. Other landscape cards are placed on the table to represent corridors and doors. These are where the Genestealers are going to spawn from. Each player chooses a marine team and the cards are collected, shuffled and dealt out to make the marines formation. Marines are facing different ways which can cause challenges in the game.
Lastly a number of Genestealers are but into blip piles on each side of the location card.

Play then commences with each player choosing one of their action cards. These are either move and activate, support or attack. Any card you play stays on the table and cannot be used the following round. This stops you just playing attack cards continually. Each team of marines has different effects on the cards to represent the equipment they are carrying or the abilities of the marine.

All cards are revealed and played in numerical order, the support cards generally go first followed by move then the attacks are dealt with. Attacks are easy, you just roll a dice and hope you get a face with a skull on it. Some cards effect the number of genestealers you remove but generally its only one.

Then its time for the genestealers, and marine engaged with genestealers must roll a dice and get a number higher than the number of genestealers attacking him. If not he dies. This is where support tokens come in. You can place them on marines using support actions and they allow you to re roll an attacking or defending roll. So if you have any you can discard them to roll again. Unfortunately if you are being attacked from behind you can't use them.

An event card is then drawn and resolved, them more genestealers are spawned and then moved depending on the icons on the card. Play continues until one of the 2 blip piles is empty, then the marines get to move to the next location in the deck. This continues until the last location is reached where the marines have to fulfill a final objective to win the game.

We managed to win our first game, although at the end our squad of marines was down to 3 men. So only just, I don't think we could have survived another round. The genestealers were piling up and most of the heavy hitters in the squad were down.
The game felt like spacehulk, slightly claustrophobic with a feeling of dread. Play moved along at a reasonable pace, you had a couple of choices in what to do each round which helped. Although you have to work as a team supporting each other and moving to be in the best spots to attack. I think different teams work better than others but there is enough variety in the box to keep the game interesting. I suspect that there will be an expansion for it which will build up the rules and add new locations and marines. Although I don't think I will need anything extra for a while.

So for under £20 you get a pretty decent co-op game that can be played solo. I need to give it more plays to see how well the solo play works but it looks very good.

This page on the geek lists a number of common mistakes and is worth a read if you already own the game.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Toy Soldiers

I was late to the world of Memoir 44, it always sounded like a great game with lots of support but the price tag put me off. Then along came Battlelore as the new kid on the block and I decided to start with that. I wanted to be at a level field with expansions and experience the C&C game system.

Battlelore was great and I picked up a couple of expansions but then it died. Meanwhile M44 was still getting lots of support and a friend offered to sell me his copy. I was a fool to say no and quickly snatched it up with intentions on trying it out with my eldest.

If you don't know much about M44 its a WWII combat game that uses cards to determine which of your troops are active and dice to determine combat results. It's quite a simple system that has been built on with expansions and extra rules.

I played my copy a couple of times, but getting 2 player games to the table is a rarity and knowing that a mate near Warwick was a heavy player asked him for advice on playing online. Vassal was used along with Skype and numerous battle were played out recreating the Normandy landings, the push to Paris and the siege of Stalingrad on the Eastern Front. It all worked quite well in a heath Robinson kind of way.

Now Days of Wonder have released their own Memoir 44 online system. It's still in Beta but its been put together very well. It looks exactly like the board game which is great. The board and pieces make the real game in my mind. You can either play solo against the AI or against another online player. Games cost "gold bars", but you get 130 bars when you sign up. Additional bars can be bought online for real money, but the initial shipment of precious metal is doing fine at the moment.
I am not sure when its going to come out of Beta, I can't image its going to be long. I am also hopeful that more scenarios are going to be released. The main Western Front scenarios are suffering from being over played.

If you like Memoir 44 and don't get enough time to play it give it a go. a typical game takes around 15-20 mins so its perfect for when you have a little down time. If you haven't played it before the rules are available on the web site, give them a read and jump right in. You can't do anything wrong.

client and instructions can be found here.

If anyone wants a game, drop me a mail or add a comment.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

7 Questions

The last month has been busy, busy at work and pretty busy with gaming. Lots of games have been played both new and old with some surprises. Zombie Dice was well recieved for a push your luck filler game. I think I prefer Can't Stop but it fills a hole and doesn't take up much room.

7 Wonders continues to be played and now the core players know the game it doesn't take longer than 30 mins to get a game in. My copy is now sleaved using the mayfair cards from especially as they looked as though they were going to start showing some wear.

Santa brought a few games, my Secret Santa sent me a copy of Small World. I have played it and enjoyed it but never bought a copy for myself. I think that my boys could probably get into the game so it was a good choice. Other Christmas games included a copy of Scotland yard and some Small World and Memoir 44 expansions.

Memoir 44 has become my favorite C&C based game. The fact that you can now play it online with the very good DOW client has helped. I am now looking for someone to work through the Eastern Front and Ardennes scenarios.

Gaming for the year finished with a game of Gambit 7 on New Years Eve. I have often brought a game or 2 to try and last night there was a bit of interest. I came last, terrible at this game and it went down well. So there is a glimmer of hope that other party style games could be well received in the future.

So for this year I am going to make an effort to stop buying so many new games and play the ones I have more. Also to play more games with the kids. They are at the age now where they should be able to understand some more games and their reading skills have improved. So I am going to try the family version of Agricola and maybe Memoir 44 and Small World this month. Also I am determined to get Apples to Apples and Dixit out and see if the wife enjoys them.

So here's to a new year of gaming.