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Gaming!

This past weekend I got together with friends for some board/card gaming, with the specific goal of getting some titles to the table that we haven’t tried yet.

It was an excellent day filled with good times. We had a five-player game of our perennial favorite, High Noon Saloon, and played several titles that were new to me such as Aye, Dark Overlord and We Didn’t Play Test This at All. However there were two games that stood out in particular, for very different reasons.

The first was Galactic Strike Force by Greater Than Games. I’m a sucker for spaceship games and I adore their other masterpiece, Sentinels of the Multiverse, so I was more than eager to give it a try.

The result?

Well…

Okay, there’s a game in there somewhere. We found it. We put a lot of effort into finding it, but I can’t say if I like it or not. I think it’s fun?

Way back in the day, my friend brought over the original release of Sentinels of the Multiverse and we gave it a try. That first publishing taught us two things; Greater than Games can produce amazing products, but they also write rule books of questionable clarity. It took a little effort, but we figured it out and have been Sentinels fans ever since.

The rules of Galactic Strike Force are more fiddly and it took four of us, all experienced gamers, constantly referencing the manual and the online FAQ before we finally got into the groove and made the game work. After all that, I’m not sure if I like it or not. I want to give it another shot now that we have a handle on it, with different characters and a different opponent, to see how it shakes down.

On the other end of the spectrum, we played my new copy of Tail Feathers by Plaid Hat Games. This is the aerial combat game set in the universe of Mice and Mystics, and it is a fantastic game.

Right off the bat, the figures are spectacular. There are several detailed armored birds on tilting flight bases. You have rider miniatures you can put on the birds and a number of ground figures. The quality of game pieces has skyrocketed across the board and even given that high bar the figures in Tail Feathers stand out.

This game also nails the theme to an amazing degree. The board, the rules, the pieces, all contribute to feeling like you’re involved in a battle between noble mouse knights and dastardly rat brigands. Even the range finder contributes; it’s designed to look like a stick with a leather wrapped handle. The stick defines the range for missile weapons, while anything within the range of the leather wrapping is at melee range.

The rules are clever, innovative, and laid out in a clear fashion. I read through them twice and was familiar enough to get us going. From there it wasn’t hard to know where to find specifics as needed. We jumped past the basic game and used several of the advanced mechanics right away. I feel confident that in our next game we’ll toss in all the rest.

I can’t say enough good things about Tail Feathers. My only mild criticism is that for the moment it’s a two player game. I believe that a four-way war would be both manageable and epic, if we had the factions to carry it out (two sets of the core game would certainly work). However from all reports there will be expansions to expand the number of factions and how many people can play.

I don’t want to give the wrong idea; often when you talk about a game needing expansions it’s because the core game doesn’t feel done. That’s not the case in Tail Feathers. You get a lot of game in the core box, plenty to keep you entertained. In addition, if you already own Mice and Mystics (which I do not), you can use those characters in Tail Feathers.

Finally, let me tell you a tail of heroes. In our game there were two standout figures, two amazing rodents who rose to become legends. The first was Super-Rat, a no-named minion who could not be stopped. He survived drifting from one tree to another on a leaf and survived after all his companions had fallen. Hero mouse knights on their bird mounts could not stop him. An entire unit of mouse archers could not stop him. Without mercy or hesitation he laid siege to the mouse nest and gave victory to the rat invaders.

His counterpart was Super-Mouse, who was also a no-named woodland warrior. He crept across the meadow to attack the rat’s nest. He faced a rat champion in single combat and bested him. He single-pawedly almost turned the tide of battle and came within a whisker of saving the game, rolling maximum damage with his bow several times in a row. In the end it was not enough and the mice still faced defeat, but the legend of these two valiant vermin will forever resound in our gaming halls.

TailFeathersMed

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Gaming

 

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Considering House Rules for Star Trek: STCS

Following up on yesterday’s post, I’ve been thinking about some house rules for Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator.

First, I did find the excessive damage rules. It’s specifically for sub-systems that get hit, like shield generators and sensors. These systems have damage tracks, from one to five, with each point on the track being harder to make repair rolls on. The excessive damage means that for every full five points of damage done to the system, another box on the track is marked off. Thus a four point phaser hit counts as one on the track, while a 12 point hit would mark two boxes off.

There is no corresponding rule for weapons. Those have a different track with the statuses Operational, Damaged, Repaired, and Inoperable. Repaired weapons are limited to half power. I am considering something similar for excessive damage, maybe making damage of 10 or more points automatically destroying the weapons.

Regarding my dissatisfaction with shields I’ve been considering two options:

  • Double the amount of shield points you get per power point. For example, instead of a 1-to-4 ratio, make it 1-to-8. My concern with this solution is that part of the tactical aspect of the game is trying to get the firing angle on your opponent where they have light or no shields. However, in our previous games we’ve never been able to maintain very strong shields. Even in my Excelsior, I never had a single shield facing up to maximum strength. I only had all my shields powered up on the first turn, and then at a minimal level. Combined with how often we’ve dropped shields completely to power weapons and movement, and how quickly a salvo can strip off a ship’s shields, I don’t think this would unbalance the game or reduce the tactical aspects. I’m leaning towards this solution.
  • The other idea I was thinking about was reducing how much damage weapons do to shields, say 1/2 rounded down. A five point shield would still stop five points of damage, but the shield level would only be reduced to three instead of being completely stripped off. This has more of a Star Trek feel, but adds one more step of math to the game, and while not a complex equation by itself it will still slow the game down. It also doesn’t address the power allocation issues that often lead players to run with few or no shields at all.

Combining the two is also a possibility, but that would be a significant change. I think trying one at a time would be better. I also don’t want to increase the length of the game too much and by improving the shields I run the risk of doing that, so caution is best.

1000px-USS_Exeter_remastered

 

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Gaming, Science Fiction

 

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Boldly Going

This past weekend a friend and I cracked open a game I haven’t played since the 1990’s, the Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator by FASA.

This is the space combat game that FASA released to go with their Star Trek role playing game and it was a favorite of ours back in the 80’s and 90’s. The FASA Star Trek line was an excellent example of a licensed game. FASA never created a set of role playing rules that I cared for, but they excelled at world building and the Star Trek universe they created was a beautiful melange that combined the original series, the animated series, the movies, and most of the book timelines into a working whole. It was a more complete and solid continuity than what the shows actually provided.

And while I was not a fan of the RPG rules, the Combat Simulator played to FASA’s strengths. It’s a solid and versatile set of light wargaming rules that convey the feel of starships slugging it out in deep space. We found the rules far more accessible than the venerable Starfleet Battles, and for the time period the production values were excellent. The counters are on thick cardboard with full color illustrations. They are so nice that over the years I’ve used them for other space games.

This is a game I’ve been wanting to get back to the table for a while now and for our first combat I picked a battle between classic foes; two Starfleet Constitution class cruisers named Hawk and Broadsword and two Klingon D-7M Deathbringers named Blood Penguin and Wilhelm. We used a moderate sized map with several planets, asteroids, and moons to thread through and set up on the far sides. By random draw I took command of the Starfleet forces and my friend marshaled the Klingons.

Federation ships are tanks, less maneuverable and with fewer weapons, but those weapons are more powerful, have more complimentary firing arcs, and longer range. Klingon ships are faster and more maneuverable, with more weapons and a penchant for rear firing guns. While Starfleet would rather pound targets at range, Klingons prefer to over run their enemies and fire weapons where their targets have lower shields.

With this in mind my Constitution ships came out at a cautious pace hoping to get a long range alpha-strike in, while the Klingons came fast and dodged through the sensor shadows of the planets. This proved to be a tactical mistake on my part, as I severely underestimated how much distance a starship can cover. My slower speed also gave the Klingons a tactical advantage, letting them move after I’d moved my lumbering cruisers. Before I knew it, the D-7’s had overflown me and opened fire.

The Broadsword was lucky, taking evasive action and avoiding harm. Hawk was not so lucky. The Blood Penguin came in behind her and unleashed all her forward weapons at point-blank range. The Hawk barely survived, her hull savaged by the attack.

I realized I needed to up my game to have any chance of survival. Throwing caution to the wind I dumped my shield power into the engines, trying to match the D7’s. The Hawk surged across the sector, the Blood Penguin in pursuit and looking for the kill. Broadsword broke off from the Wilhelm and moved to provide long range support for the Hawk, while Wilhelm dodged behind a planet. Hawk turned to make a last stand, damaging the Blood Penguin, but the ruthless Klingon ship unloaded again. The Hawk exploded, however the Blood Penguin had miscalculated and was too close. The D7 was smashed by the explosion, barely surviving, but too weak to endure the Broadsword’s avenging salvo.

A running battle ensued as Broadsword and the more nimble Wilhelm danced for position. In the end Wilhelm was able to win position over Broadsword and deliver a killing blow, but again the captain had miscalculated and was too close. The combination of the Broadsword’s final attack and her death explosion was too much for the D7 and she also exploded.

It was a lot of fun to bring this game out of retirement and it was fun to see that even though the game is more fiddly than modern designs, it’s still a lot of fun. In fact I think it still fills its role well as something that can introduce players into more complex wargames.

I’m looking forward to bringing the Starship Tactical Combat Simulator out again soon, perhaps with another player or two. Maybe add some Romulans, pull out the cloaking device rules, or maybe write up rules for a Doomsday Machine.

 

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Panic at the Castle

I introduced some friends to Castle Panic last night and much fun was had.

Our first game went well. Everybody quickly got the hang of the game and while things got tense, we won the game with a couple towers to spare. Since the players now had a good feel for the game we decided to play another round. We figured we had everything under control.

Oh fate, you cruel mistress.

In Castle Panic, at the end of each player’s turn they draw two tiles from the monster pile. These are usually new creatures to add to the field, but occasionally something else turns up. On one of the first turns in the game the player reached for the pile and drew… a tile saying to draw four more monster tiles. Among the extra four monster tiles was… a tile saying to draw three more monster tiles. Among those three tiles was… the Goblin King, who is added to the board and requires you to draw three more monster tiles.

Instead of drawing two tiles he ended up drawing 11. Insert your own Spinal Tap reference here.

Suddenly the field went from being mostly empty to holding a horde of chaos. To make matters worse, two more boss monsters appeared among the evil legion, driving their minions forward with wicked glee. The odds were good that we were about to be overwhelmed, but if we did survive the terrible tide the end game would probably swing in our favor. After all, we’d just removed a huge chunk of the monsters from the pile.

We buckled down and the battle was brutal, but in the end we prevailed. One lone tower still rose above the blood soaked battlefield. A costly victory, but a heroic one.

Castle Panic continues to live up to its name.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Gaming

 

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The Hills Rise Wild!

Happy International Tabletop Day!

Tim over at The Savage Afterworld has sponsored a Blog Hop as a chance for us to celebrate some of our favorite boardgames. For my entry I’ve picked an old favorite, a game of mayhem and madness, The Hills Rise Wild! Released in the year 2000 by Pagan Publishing, this is a light miniatures wargame pitting up to four Lovecraftian clans against each other in a violent battle for the sake of their favorite Elder God.

“It’s an inbreed, corpse-fed, blood-red bonanza! Old Wizard Whateley kicked the bucket! And his precious copy of the Necronomicon, a book of powerful magic, is up for grabs.”

“Pit your team of drooling horrors against your friends in an all-out battle of bullets, brawn and brains.”

-The Hills Rise Wild! Back cover

Full disclosure; I was a playtester for this game.

No, that’s not even close to full disclosure. Pull up a seat while I digress.

It was a golden age for our gaming group; a time when we were still gaming regularly. Not only did we have role playing games on the weekend but a group of us also played in a weekly board game night. For over a year this was a sacrosanct ritual, a break in the week’s doldrums not to be missed. One evening a friend said he’d signed us up to be playtesters for this crazy new game Pagan Publishing was working on. Being old hands at Call of Cthulhu and well acquainted with the company it wasn’t hard to get us to agree to test it out.

And test it we did. For several months this game took over our weekly gaming night, not simply due to a sense of obligation but because we were having so much fun with it. Writing up our after action reports was part of the fun and seeing anything we’d pointed out show up in the next set of rules filled us with more joy than a ghoul in a graveyard. There are in-jokes coined at our first gaming session that still live on with our group* and for years after the game was released it hit our tables with frequency. Somewhere my friend still has the original playtest packet.

In The Hills Rise Wild each player takes control of a familial clan devoted to one of the Elder Gods; The Whateley Clan, the Marsh Clan, the DeGhoule Clan, or the Cult of Ezekiel. The game board represents an old backwoods New England village with the locked Whateley Mansion in the center. The goal of each clan is to search the village for the magical Whateley Seal, use it to unlock the mansion, find the Necronomicon inside, and escape with it back to their summoning circle. With it they will try to summon their Elder God of choice into this world, ushering in an age of madness and death.

Meanwhile the other cults are trying to do the same thing and everyone is armed to the teeth with guns. And bombs. And spells. And… other things. The blood flows quickly and in great quantities.

I love this game.

The map is made up by several thick cardboard squares, lain out by the players at the beginning of the game and adding a level of variety to each session. The artwork was excellent for the time, winning the 2000 Origins Award for Best Graphic Presentation, and it still holds up well today. The characters are represented by cardstock standies with nice representations of the characters. There are also a lot of little chits to represent items or statuses like Stunned or Slammed. Let me say again, lots of little chits.

Do not sneeze on the chit pile. You’ll be finding them for days. Yes, I am speaking from experience.

The Hills Rise Wild is not a board game in the way we look at them today. It’s a fusion of board games and light miniatures combat, taking some of the best elements of both to give the players a fun game that moves fast and rewards tactical thinking. Some of these elements might give a modern gamer pause; Movement uses a tape measure? Clan sheets meant to be printed and written on? The game uses damage tables!

Specifically both a regular damage table and the iconic Brutal Damage Table with such popular results as “Say Goodnight!”, “Have a Heapin’ Helpin’ o’ Hurt!”, and the ever popular “Daddy’s Home!”

It’s also possible for nobody to win the game. On more than one occasion we’ve ended with everyone dead, or the only ones left alive being characters who cannot cast the summoning spell.

The game has been out of print for a long time, but copies still pop up on a regular basis so it shouldn’t be too hard to track one down. You can usually find them for close to the original price of around $40. That’s cheap by today’s standards though at the time it was one of the more expensive games available. An expansion was planned for the game called the Reanimated Clan, which would have added Herbert West and zombies to the game, but it never made it to publication. That’s a shame because we playtested it too and we really enjoyed it.

I would love to see a new edition of The Hills Rise Wild and I think the time is perfect for it. Board gaming is going through its greatest golden age right now and urban fantasy, zombies, and H.P. Lovecraft are all hugely popular. The price points and modern production values could allow for including some impressive miniatures and there are some places where modern design ideas could be incorporated into the game. Add to that the ability to leverage the Pagan Publishing name with Kickstarter and a new generation of Hills fans would be spawned.

But until that day comes I suggest you track down a copy, get a few friends, and start coating the field in blood. You won’t regret it.

HillsRiseWild

*Beware the curse of Slippy Finn!

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Special thanks to Tim from The Savage Afterworld for putting on this Board Game Blog Hop! Make sure to check out the other entries at the links below.

And by all means, have a great day of gaming!

The Savage AfterWorld — http://savageafterworld.blogspot.com/ — Escape: Zombie City by Queen Games

Channel Zero — http://www.channel-zero.net — Thunderstone by Alderac Entertainment

Fractalbat — https://fractalbat.wordpress.com/ — The Hills Rise Wild by Pagan Publishing

The Gibbering Gamer — http://www.gibberinggamer.com – Dragon Dice by SFR (formerly TSR)

Random Encounters (From Ohio) — http://randomencountersohio.blogspot.com – Nano Bot Battle Arena by Derpy Games

Troll in the Corner — http://trollitc.com/author/neilrobinson/ — Star Realms by White Wizard Games

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming, Horror

 

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Board Game Bits

Greetings Programs,

I’ve got three bits about board games; two reviews and one news item.

We spent New Years with friends in Columbus, OH and on New Years day we ventured out to one of my friend’s favorite gaming/comic shops, Packrat Comics, in Hilliard, OH. Packrat is a great store, well organized and clean, with a wide variety of comics, games, and other geekish toys. They’re light on role playing games, but other than that it’s an excellent store with a friendly and helpful staff. They also have a good stock of games for customers to try out and the staff is happy to set them up and teach people how to play.

I don’t have a friendly local gaming store so I don’t get to play games in stores very often. Not board games, not role playing games. So I was happy to jump in and play one of their demo games with my friend and his two daughters. The game?

Castle Panic: Published in 2009 by Fireside Games (how have I missed out on this game for so long?) Castle Panic is a cooperative board game tower defense game, in the literal sense. The game board consists of a series of circles divided into six zones and three colors. In the center circle are six towers and walls. The first circle is labeled swordsmen, the second for knights, the third for archers, and the farthest is the forest. On each player’s turn several things happen, including drawing monsters and placing them in the forest, advancing creatures towards the towers, and playing cards to fight back against them. Monsters are placed by rolling a D6 and placing the creature in that zone, then advancing them one ring each turn. Players fight back by playing cards. A card of the correct ring name and color will do damage. For example, if a monster is in the Knight ring of the Red zone, a corresponding card can be used to damage the creature. Play continues until all the monsters are killed or all the towers are destroyed.

The game is fast and furious. The rules are elegant, easy to grasp, and are exciting for both children and adults. Our game came down to a nail-biting finale, with us slaying the final creature just before losing our final tower. This is also a game that would be fun to bling out, either by digging out my old lead minis or printing up some paper figs, perhaps giving me an excuse to get more Okumarts sets.

Castle Panic is a fun game that has earned a place high on my wish list. Packrat was sold out, or one would have been coming home with me.

High Noon Saloon: A game that they did have in stock was High Noon Saloon. This game has been on my wish list for a while, so it was coming home with me. Published in 2011 by Slugfest Games (which may be my new favorite company name) High Noon Saloon is a light, fast playing game about bar fights in the old west. The board depicts the titular saloon, divided into several sections where the characters can duck under the bar, take cover behind the piano or an upturned table, or dive off the balcony. Characters have unique special abilities and players hold a hand of items and actions that range from knives and whips to six guns and rifles. Of course there are also chairs that can be smashed over someone’s head.

Ammunition is a precious commodity and each time you put a gun into play you draw a random bullet card to see how many rounds it has. Other cards allow you to “call out” an opponent, putting both of you into the center of the bar to duke it out, a risky maneuver since there is no cover there.

I do have one small complaint in the components. The cards are fine. The tokens are adequate, not great but not bad. However the board is too small. The character tokens are about the size of a nickle, but even at that size the board gets crowded when more than one character is in the same location. The small scale makes it difficult if you want to swap the tokens for figures. The board also feels too light and I wish they’d used a heavier stock.

High Noon Saloon plays fast and fun. Slightly more crunchy than Castle Panic, it’s still quick to learn and easy to play. It’s a delightful game and I am very happy to finally have a copy.

Greater Than Games: Big news from Greater Than Games. Their recent unsuccessful Kickstarter has not slowed them down. Instead they just launched three pre-order campaigns for their superhero games. Villains of the Multiverse is the latest expansion for their amazingly fun cooperative superhero game, Sentinels of the Multiverse. The expansion will pit the players against an all new villain team, using the same team mechanics in the earlier Vengeance expansion.

The other two pre-orders are for expansions to Sentinel Tactics, their superhero miniatures game. Sentinel Tactics: Battle for Broken City can be played either as an expansion or a stand-alone game. Sentinel Tactics: For Profit is an expansion usable with either Battle for Broken City or the original Flame of Freedom game.

 

The Wraith(1)

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Gaming, Reviews

 

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New Years, Reflections on Gaming

Happy New Year!

Okay, okay, I’ve been busy.

Looking Back:

2014 was a mixed bag for my gaming life. On the down side, I did less face-to-face gaming in 2014 than in the previous years. Commitments for many of us consumed our precious free time, leading to dust gathering on the dice. On the bright side, when we did manage to schedule a game the table was full and more than one game pushed the boundary of how many players we could accommodate. Not to mention how many people would fit around my table.

We got creative with bar stools.

My Sunday night Google Hangout games did good service and helped take the edge off the lack of face-to-face gaming. I even got to switch to the players’ side of the screen, which was a nice change of pace. Our DM ran a Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, where my cleric survived in defiance of all the laws of reason and sanity. I also got to launch a Stars Without Number campaign, checking another box off my GM’s bucket list.

In fact, my wish list for 2014 didn’t turn out too badly, with three out of the seven games I listed making it to the table. That’s not too shabby given our schedules and my gaming ADD. Of particular note have been the Top Secret S/I games, which have been a hit. Board gaming also made out well in 2014, with games like Sentinels of the Multiverse and Pandemic hitting the table regularly. After many years of absence Car Wars returned to my table for my birthday gaming bash. I also attended some board gaming nights at a friend’s place, where I was introduced to several new games. Two of particular note are Boss Monster and The Resistance. I also finally got to watch a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Next time I’m getting in on one of those games. Oh yes, it will happen.

It was a good year for gaming acquisitions too. Flash Point Fire Rescue, which I actually got last Christmas, is a hit in our house. Sentinels Tactics arrived early, breaking some cosmic rule of Kickstarters. On the RPG front the Bundle of Holding sucked many coins from my wallet, but in return yielded a trove of Delta Green and Pendragon books. I am still eagerly awaiting Stonehell Dungeon II to be released, though that has never had a release date and is not a wayward Kickstarter. I’m just such a huge fan of the first Stonehell Dungeon that I can’t wait to read the second.

Speaking of Kickstarters, the infamous Dwimmermount finally arrived! Fulfilling years of anticipation, only to dash them when my book arrived damage. A situation that the folks at Autarch did an excellent job of rectifying and I soon had a pristine copy in hand. I am delighted to finally own this megadungeon, not only because of the long wait but also because it’s a damn fine product. I’ve been meaning to do a proper review of the book, but given how long it took to get it I can be excused for not being prompt on a review.

In other Kickstarter news, Mekton: Zero is still in development. I’m a fan of R. Talsorian Games and Mekton Zeta has the distinction of being one of my most beloved and least played games. Due out this past march, the new edition of Mekton is still being completed. Though Mike Pondsmith is posting relatively regular updates and I’m hopeful we’ll see more before too long.

Looking Ahead:

For various reasons I haven’t had much time to think of a 2015 wish list, at least not as organized as the one I had for 2014. However there are several reasons to hope that our face-to-face gaming schedule will improve this year. Here’s hoping. Meanwhile my Google+ game is still on hiatus for the moment.

So to keep things simple my gaming wish list for 2014 is simply to play more. More RPG sessions, more board gaming, and maybe get a few more bucket list games to the table.

I hope you’ve all had a good holiday season and I wish everyone good gaming in 2015!

D20

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Blog News, Gaming

 

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Game Industry News

Via GeekDad comes the news that Asmodee is purchasing Fantasy Flight games. Wow! I knew that Asmodee has been going like gangbusters for the last few years, they acquired Days of Wonder not long ago. Still, this is bigger news to old school tabletop gamers. Founded in 1995, Fantasy Flight has a large stable of awesome games that they’ve put out, including some excellent licensed products. These include reprints of the venerable Cosmic Encounter and Talisman games and the amazing Arkham Horror. Most recently their Star Wars: X-Wing has been taking the miniatures market by storm. Fantasy Flight also boasts an impressive role playing game collection, including the latest edition of Warhamer Fantasy RPG and it’s 40k cousin, as well as the latest Star Wars game.

This is definitely a big deal and with Asmodee’s track record I don’t think we need to be worried. I’m much more comfortable with these acquisitions than I am with Wizards of the Coast being owned by Hasbro. While Asmodee does produce games for the mass market, they have a strong history of making games for gamers and most hobbyists have their titles in their libraries.

 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Random Encounter – New Bookstore

Greetings programs!

Blogging time has been scarce this week, but I’m still here.

Let’s talk about bookstores!

Good bookstores have become disturbingly hard to find and even the big chain stores are getting scarce. Matters are worse for me, as we haven’t had a good bookstore in my town for 20 years.

In a university town. How does that happen?!

So I’m always happy to explore a new bookstore. When I find one that excites me I make sure to share the wealth.

Such is the case with 2nd & Charles.

Tucked away in a residential corner of Dayton, Ohio is a quirky old mall called the Town and Country Shopping Center. It’s an odd location that looks like they took an upscale strip mall and covered the front, creating an atrium and making it a pseudo-indoor mall. One of the downsides to this design is that the stores have very little visibility from the outside. I’m an infrequent visitor to the area and I didn’t know there was a bookstore in the mall, until I happened to drive around behind the building and saw its rear entrance. This was a while ago but I didn’t have time to investigate the store until yesterday.

I was very glad I did. My wallet, not so much.

2nd & Charles offers an eclectic mix of treasures. It sells both new and used items that include books, magazines, comics and graphic novels, music, collectibles, toys, new and vintage game systems, and just about any other fandom-related thing they can get their hands on.

The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and the geek is strong with them. I felt right at home. The store is larger than I expected, neat, and well organized. Best of all, it’s full of product. Some stores have a disturbingly small selection despite having plenty of shelf space. Not so here and they make good use of their space without crossing the line into cluttered.

Their supply of gaming materials isn’t large, but it is interesting. Among a few obligatory Pathfinder books I found other items such as 1st edition AD&D hardbacks, a few Rifts books, a smattering of 1st edition Vampire books, and a few more exotic games from the 80’s and early 90’s. Many of these had clearly come from people’s collections, with some wear showing on the covers and occasional margin notes. One book still had several character sheets sticking out of it. It’s obvious the staff saw them when shelving and decided to leave them with the book.

They understand the appeal. They are of our geekish tribe.

They even had a boxed set of MERP, Middle Earth Role Playing, from Iron Crown Enterprises. MERP was a big deal back in the 80’s, being both the official Tolkien role playing game and a stripped down version of I.C.E.’s Rolemaster RPG. Their sourcebooks were excellent and their artwork was always top notch. The box was in good condition and reasonably priced, so it nearly came home with me. If it’s still there next time that may change.

I was particularly pleased with a display of vintage board games. The sign said, “Kids, this is real retro-gaming. All analog!” The games on display included several true classics, such as Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and the old Avalon Hill Starship Troopers bookcase game.

In the end I spent slightly more than I should have and much less than I wanted to. Woe be unto my bank account if my next visit is closer to payday.

2nd & Charles turns out to be a modest-sized chain, with 23 locations nationwide. If you happen to have one near you, check it out. If the Dayton store is any indication you won’t be disappointed.

Image from http://www.pdclipart.org/

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Books and Comics, Reviews

 

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Another Game Filled Weekend

It’s been another good weekend for me and table top games.

On Saturday a group of friends held a board game night and my whole family descended like gaming locusts upon their home. I got some good quality gaming in and was able to try several games I’d been wanting to play.

The first was an 80’s trivia game. It was a simple roll-and-move Trivial Pursuit clone, but being a true child of the 80’s it was fun to play.

From there I finally got my copy of Flash Point Fire Rescue to the table. We played two games that night using the basic rules, then the next day my family played it with the full rules. Flash Point is a co-operative game where players are firefighters trying to rescue people from a burning house as fires and explosions threaten to bring the building down on top of them. The game has a similar feel to Pandemic, but with enough difference that it has a flavor all its own. Gameplay is fast, easy to learn, and the situation in the house can change rapidly. The full rules add roles and special abilities to the firefighters, as well as complications including hot spots and caches of explosive chemicals to the house. This gives the game more options and adds to the strategy.

The game feels a little more random than Pandemic, though that might have more to do with the smaller scale of a house fire compared to a global scale. The unpredictability does keep players on edge, realizing that rooms filling with smoke may explode into flames with the right dice roll. In our first game we won handily, but in the second the home became an inferno that brought the house down on our heads. We won our third game with moderate difficulty and then decided to keep playing, counting any further rescues as “bonus points”. However two rounds into the extended game a series of explosions had our firefighters running for the doors.

Two thumbs up for Flash Point Fire Rescue!

After that I gave Boss Monster a try. This is a card game where each player takes on the role of a titular boss monster styled in the form of an old NES game. Using your cards you build a dungeon that will lure in mighty heroes and lead to their doom. However, if you lure in too powerful a hero he or she may fight their way through and wound you, and if enough make their way to your lair you’ll be eliminated from the game. Gameplay becomes a balancing act, trying to build a strong dungeon and lure the right heroes to your lair while letting too powerful heroes be directed to the other players’ dungeons. The game continues until one player reaches ten souls (gained from the vanquished heroes) or only one boss monster survives.

I enjoyed this game. The way you build your dungeon and how the spell cards effect play allow for a good bit of strategy. Rounds go quickly with little downtime, which keeps the game fresh, and the entire game has a clever sense of humor. At first I thought all the cards would be based on 16 Bit games, but I was delighted to see nods to other realms of gaming geekdom. My favorites are a card called “Annihilation” that has the green devil face on it from Tomb of Horrors and an idol card that includes a pixilated version of Dave Trampier’s Players’ Handbook cover.

Boss Monster is another winner and might end up on my “To Buy” list.

I watched a few games of King of Tokyo and caught the tail end of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. I definitely want to give Betrayal a try one of these days and still think highly of King of Tokyo. 

The last game I played was The Resistance, which is another game I’ve heard good buzz about. In this game everyone is a member of the resistance against an evil corporation that rules the world. However about 30% of the players are actually spies working to sabotage the fight for freedom. Each round one player acts as the leader and assigns members of the group to go on missions. The group votes to accept or reject the mission, if they reject it then leadership goes to the next player. If they accept it, each member of the team is given a Succeed and Fail card. Slipping in a fail card means the Corporation wins a point. If all Succeeds are turned in then the Resistance wins a point.

The goal is to guess who is a spy and who isn’t. There is no mechanism for outing a spy, the strategy is to only assign loyal members to missions and to reject missions with spies assigned to them. It’s a delightfully fun deduction game filled with paranoia.

I do hope to get back to some face-to-face role playing games soon, but in the meantime these doses of board gaming have been wonderful.

PHB-Cover

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Gaming

 

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