Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just a Note

I'm heavy in development on the new site with hopes of launching by July 4th.  With that in mind I've put a hold on new content for the blog. Hang in there a few days folks, I think you'll like the new site.
Friday, June 24, 2011

Print On Demand Expansion for Mansions of Madness Announced

Finally, a Print-on-Demand announcement from the folks at FFG that I can get excited about:

From the release:

"A bright young Miskatonic University student has disappeared, having checked in to an infamous Arkham boarding house to study its reported supernatural properties. Now, as the celebration Walpurgis Eve approaches, you and your fellow investigators are tasked with venturing into the decaying Witch House and solving a mystery that has plagued Arkham for generations. But are you prepared to face the horrors that await you?

Season of the Witch, a Print on Demand story expansion for Mansions of Madness, is now available through our webstore! Designed by Richard Launius (Arkham Horror, Elder Sign), Season of the Witch sends players on a tense and terrifying race against the clock. Can you solve the mysteries of the Witch House before they consume Arkham forever?"

When FFG first announced a line of print-on-demand expansions back in march they debuted with a pair of releases for the expansion-unnecessary Death Angel card game, leaving me a little Meh over the whole deal. Then there's this, for $15 a whole new Mansions of Madness story, 58 total cards plus reference (setup?) cards. Not a bad deal and will certainly be on it's way to my home in short order.

More info here and here.

Friday News Round Up

First let me apologize for the slow updates this week and warn that they may continue for another week. I'm converting the site to a more traditional website layout but also trying to make it so the other contributors can easily update.

In doing so I am creating the site in 3 different systems and evaluating them for what I want to do now and in the future. This is very time consuming but I have a lot of new content I'm just holding it until I determine what format to go with. It's my hope that people come to our site for the quality of the reviews and features not the timing. We'll typically not be the first to post a review because we like to play the game a few times and we seldom get review copies. So stay with us because shortly this site is going to get a lot better. Enough with the site update on to the news.

Fantasy Flight was busy this week with announcement. First we had the information on 2 new walker expansions for Dust Tactics. I'm going to come clean I bought this game recently and it is sitting in shrink wrap behind a stack of new games that need to get reviewed and video shot for them but it sure looks pretty.  Continuing on the Dust information was the announcement that Operation SeeLowe was on sale.

Another Adventures preview (here is hoping this is for sale at GenCon) was posted. The Elder Sign preview I linked to the other day A whole bunch of LCG announcements and finally the rules for the next Arkham expansion were posted.

I love AEG they make some wonderful games and they push out a ton of news on a daily basis. The downside is that 99/9% of that news is L5R related and this week was no different so if you want to catch up on everything L5R then head here.

I was really excited when I got my charged email for Space Empires this week, I was then really bummed when a day later GMT posted that they are having shipping delays due to floods in China.  Which means Space Empires and No Retreat are going to be delayed to sometime in late July by my estimates if not longer.

In happier news they have announce 3 new P500 additions and you can find that information here.

It's Origins this week and yes OBGB is not there unfortunately but Mayfair is and well you know they are running some big competition for this little game called Catan.  If you want a little update on day 1 of the convention Mayfair has you covered.

Big news this week is Conquest of Nerath is finally out. I'm hoping to get a group together to play this very soon so I can get a review. Great components in this package.

Godzilla News
Well the big green guy is not attacking. If you read my column earlier this week on quality control you'll note that I said designer Richard Berg was putting together new rules. Well he did and they are much better and I highly suggest anyone thinking of buying this game grab them.

Everyone enjoy the weekend and do some gaming. 
Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Over the next few weeks I'll be moving away from blogger and it's many known issues and failure to add new features to a full fledged site. I'm currently investigating both Drupal and Joomla.

If anyone has any input on either and wants to drop me an email I would appreciate it.

Elder Sign Preview

There is a new preview of the upcoming Elder Sign game up this morning.  Hope to see this one at Gen Con seems like they are pushing to have it there.
Monday, June 20, 2011

QC in board gaming, what is going on?

I was really excited for the release of Gozilla Kaiju World Wars, really excited. However after having played the game several times I'm not so happy. I'll be posting a review this week along with a video but the game leaves a lot to be desired especially on the rules front.

So I was a little surprised to see this post on the board game geek forums by the designer Richard Berg. For those not so inclined to follow the link or to see why Richard is going to be re-writing the rules lets just say that Godzilla is suffering from poor reaction. There are some good components in this game and somewhere there is an enjoyable light game but the rules are possibly the worst I have seen.

Richard has made multiple posts indicating that rules were either removed or re-written. In fact the monster cards are missing a range attack defense rating. Richard indicated it was removed but not necessary for play. If that is the case why was it included in the first place and why was he posting about it on the forums?

It really raises an interesting question. How much say does the designer have on the final input of his game? I'm sure this varies by company. For instance I find it hard to believe a designer associated with GMT doesn't see the final rule book before it goes to print. However in the instance of Godzilla if you read a lot of different threads on the subject you get the idea that the system and rules delivered by the designer to the publisher were different then what shipped.

Publishers make calls all the time on making games easier or more accessible but do they do so without consulting the designer? Perhaps I am putting too much of the blame on Toy Vault the publisher. This was a licensed game and by Richard's own account in our interview with him they contacted him. Maybe the designer washed his hands of what happened after submitting the rules and now that the game is taking some well deserved critical hits he is making it right. I find that hard to believe though based on how Richard is responding in the forums.

Whatever the case may be we as gamers are suffering because of the lack of quality control. A company like Fantasy Flight is a much large organization then Toy Vault yet their games lately ship with numerous errors. If you bought the initial version of Civilization you have cards with printing errors. If you bought Mansions of Madness you have a game that has so many errors in some cases it is unplayable out of the box without the faq. In the latter case you have to buy the first expansion to get the fixed mistakes. In fact FFG is re-reprinting an Arkham Horror expansion because, and these are my words not FFG's, the original expansion was pretty much useless.

Wizards of the Coast one of the largest publishers of gaming products has shipped some of their latest games with really poor quality control. The new edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill had such terrible components that I couldn't even play the game because of the warping. Wrath of Ashardalon had cards that warped minutes after unpacking the game. To their credit WOTC replaced the components for free and in the instance of Betrayal actually had them redone on better material.

7 Wonders second edition printing has color errors on the age 3 cards that they are now going to replace. I could name many other games here. These aren't instances of one or two products being damaged in shipping because as gamers we know that can occur.  These are instance of poor quality control and lack of testing.

The average board game cost more then the average video game and the cost continues to rise as the quality goes down. Even though once in a while you get outstanding components for your value in games like Claustrophobia and Dust Tactics the norm lately is damaged products and cheaper material.

Board gaming has been on a recent resurgence in the last five plus years which has allowed companies like FFG to grow and prosper. However if costs continue to rise and quality continues to go down the hobby is going to take a step back.

As gamers we deserve better.
Friday, June 17, 2011

L5R makes it's board gaming debut at Gen Con

Never heard of Legend of the Five rings well that's ok it;'s been around a while. I'm not sure this is a big surprise since I've been hearing about it for a while but AEG has finally announced the L5R themed board game called Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan.

This game looks pretty interesting and will be for sale at Gen Con so we'll definitely try and get a look at it down there. In the meantime head on over to the official announcement. I do like the fact it comes with over 2 dozen miniatures.
Thursday, June 16, 2011

GenCon Questions

I started laying out my GenCon schedule this week. Trying to secure appointments with various companies and designers. GenCon is always a mad house and as press you don't get much more time then the average attendee in the exhibition hall.  I like this because GenCon should be about gaming and not something crazy like E3.

I haven't attended an E3 in years but I still have bad memories of it. Anyway the openness of GenCon makes it very hard to get people's time on the floor so I like to set up as much as I can ahead of time. So I'm throwing this out to all of our OBGB readers who can't descend on Indy in a few short months.

What do you want to see? Who do you want me to talk to? Get me those request either in the comments or via email and I will try and make it happen.

Also it's been a rather slow week for reviews on OBGB because I've been spending much of my free time looking at converting the site off of Blogger into a more traditional site. This is taking a lot of time but in the end I think it will be worth it.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hump Day News Bits

It's Wednesday so that means we're half way home to the weekend. It also means I've been sick officially for 1 week now. Summer colds and sinus issues aside lets see what is happening in the gaming world.

WOTC has posted a little preview article of Conquest of Nerath. This game comes out on the 2st and I have it on pre-order so we can do a review.

GMT has posted a video overview for Fading Glory on their site. 

Those wanting a good preview look of Battleship Galaxies can head over to heroscape.com and look at the nice pictures.

Finally FFG has a preview of Arcana posted.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Operation "SEELOWE"

Every time I see an announcement about Dust Tactics I kick myself to prevent me from getting into this game system. I have enough really cool games involving miniatures that don't get played.  Operation "SEELOWE" is a campaign expansion for the system and FFG have posted the rules.
Monday, June 13, 2011

7 Wonders Replacement Cards

If you're on of the people like myself who purchased the second edition printing of 7 Wonders and have the mis-colored cards then you're in luck...maybe.

Asmodee is offering a full replacement deck of Age 3 cards however you need to get them from the store you bought the game at. For someone like me who ordered online I may not be able to do that as a lot of times online retailers don't support this. I would check with your local store if you want these new cards.

Read more here.
Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tales from the Cylon Front--The Best Cylon Win Ever!

As mentioned last week, I was able to attend my normal Thursday Night gaming group for the first time in about three months and it was a fun time.

I ended up playing Battlestar Galactica (BSG) and was able to pull off one of the most dominant Cylon victories of "ALL TIME."

Before I hurt myself patting me on the back, let me tell you what happened and let you decide.

As many of you know, BSG is a team co-op type of game with a lot of known and unknown information. I've long thought (especially in a 6-player game) that the Cylon team is most effective with a revealed Cylon and an unrevealed Cylon teaming up to win.

That's sort of what happened on this past Thursday, but the way it went down was legendary.

Anyway, when you start a game of BSG, you get a loyalty card, and I was the President and a Cylon on the first turn. Some people struggle with this setup because often times they try to be too aggressive in screwing the Humans.

Me, I play it straight up. . .actually so much so that there should have been doubt from my human players because I was doing everything by the book and then some. For example, I burned all of my cards to get us extra jump distance. . .burned all of my cards to not lose a chunk of resources on another crisis card.

The reason there is simple, if I keep all of the resources in the blue, the Cylon sympathizer is a Cylon and does not join the humans.

For this game, I didn't care about the 3-3 aspect as I had something much more devious in mind.

As President, you are able to get quorum cards throughout the game--often times, unless there is a huge crisis or the game is in the late stages, that's all the President character does as the quorum cards can help against the cylon horde--of course, when the Prez is a Cylon, this power can be wielded to harm--and harm it did. . .

After a close vote on a nasty crisis card, the (human) engineer ended up in the brig. As President, I had two quorum cards that threw characters in the brig. So, I hatched a grand plan, to not reveal and see if I could get all three humans in the brig.

Eventually, it all just fell into place. . .the humans flew past the 4 distance and got to seven. . .the cylon sympathizer was revealed and a cylon because (thanks to my help) the humans were in incredible shape. I think in fact, they were only low on food. . .but none of that would matter as in a couple of short turns, they realized their fate. . .my turn came around and boom I send the Admiral to the brig. Now that leaves one character as the CAG and the Admiral and both of their human partners clinking their cups against the bars of the brig.

The funny thing was right before this, the humans were like "this game is in the bag." The other Cylons were like, this is going to be tough. Yeah, not so much. . .another rotation of turns came around and I dropped my other two great cards. . .the first allowed me to auto-pass/fail an on board skill check. . .so when the Admiral tried to get out of the brig. . .I simply said. . .fail. Done.

My turn comes around and the final cog of the plan comes to fruition, the final human is sent to the brig and I become the unrevealed Clyon President, Admiral and CAG.

Normally, if the Cylons have one of these titles it's brutal for the Humans--all three=GAME OVER

The humans shortly realized that even though they were only a jump and a half from the win. . .

. . .that they were HELPLESS. They conceded victory to the Cylons and I completed what was simply one of the most dominant if not the best Cylon win of all time.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Gears Preview

FFG has released another preview of Gears or War. This game is really starting to get my interest.

Last month, Fantasy Flight Games announced the upcoming release of Gears of War: The Board Game, a fully cooperative board game for one to four players. Designed by Corey Konieczka, this action-packed battle against a cunning AI opponent is based on the wildly popular series of third-person shooters by Epic Games.

Today, we’ll take a brief look at the chief protagonist of Gears of War, Marcus Fenix, and we’ll see how his COG Character card conveys his unique stats and abilities. Then we’ll examine several Order cards, discussing how these versatile components are used to execute a broad range of tactical options.

Full news as always at their site.

FFG Announces Elder Sign

Well this is curious and unexpected. This game seems to leverage the Arkham license and reduce the game time.

Fantasy Flight Games proudly announces the upcoming release of Elder Sign! This fast-paced, cooperative dice game by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, the designers of Arkham Horror, is loaded with supernatural intrigue for one to eight players.

Find the full news here.

Review Who Would Win

Published: 2009
Publisher: Gamewright
Rules Complexity: Easy
Players: 3+ Age 12 and Up
Type: Competitive

Artwork: N/A
Bits: B

Gameplay: C
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Overall: B-
Gamewright provided the copy of this game for review.

Who would win takes the random argument you have with your buddy in a bar to a new level.  In this game your pitting two well know people in a contest and it is your job to argue who would win that contest.

The game comes with 100 character cards, 100 event cards and a 20 second sand timer.  You need at least 3 people to play this game but it is best enjoyed with at least 5 or 6 while having cocktails. First you assign someone to be the time keeper, that person still gets to play the game but acts as the focal point for who is debating who and also is the arbiter on all disputes.  In other words pick wisely and stay away from anyone involved with the NFL for this role.

In the first round each player will square off against the player to their left, in the second round against two players to their left and so on. The goal of the game is collect 5 event cards or depending upon your play group avoid fisticuffs. 

The current player will draw a character card, his opponent will do the same. Then and event card is drawn.  The other players not participating will act as the judges for the debate that is about to happen.  As an example you might draw Bill Gates and your opponent Muhammad Ali and then the event card pillow fight.

The current player then has 20 seconds to make an argument on why Bill Gates would win a pillow fight. Then the opponent has 20 seconds to plead his case. Finally the original player has 5 seconds (or so) to give a rebuttal. 

After this is done the other player point to the person who gave the best argument, not necessarily which character would win the contest.  The winning player gets the event card.

As a concept Who Would Win is great, with the right group of people and in the right setting it can be fun. However as a game there is just too much left open for interpretation.  Players sometimes vote for who they think would win the contest, players vote for their spouse etc. Perhaps that's examining a game whose intent is a quick pick up and play title a little to closely.

Review: Joe Name It

Published: 2011
Publisher: Gamewright
Rules Complexity: Easy
Players: 2+ Age 12 and Up
Type: Competitive

Artwork: N/A
Bits: B

Gameplay: B
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Overall: B

Gamewright provided the copy of this game for review.

Joe Name It is a fast and fun trivia game being published by Gamewright as part of their port-a-party line.  The games in this line are meant to be easy to learn, play fast, be portable and best of all inexpensive.

In Joe Name it you're not only playing the other players but the game itself. The player will draw a card which will have a trivia question and have a reasonable amount of time to provided an answer.  This of course sounds like every other trivia game you have ever played. However Joe name It's questions have you giving a random number of answers.  You do this by rolling the six sided die that comes with the game. So you may pull a question that says Name _ one-hit wonders and roll a 4 on the die. You have to then provide 4 one hit wonders to claim the card.

The other twist with the cards is each is labeled at the top as either Any Joe or Just Joe. An Any Joe card means that any player can answer the question.  The first to shout out the required number of responses takes the card. A Just Joe card is for the player whose turn it is.  In either case if no one can come up with a correct answer in a reasonable time then Joe (i.e. The Game) gets the card.  The first player or Joe to collect ten cards is the winner.

In the rare case that there is no answer to the question / number combination you can say "No Joe" and claim the card. However if another player can provide an answer they get the card. Any disputes will need to be resolved with a smart phone or some other form of internet device and a search engine.

The game comes with 200 cards and the questions range from easy to really difficult. Even though the age is 12 and up we were able to play the game with our 8 year old daughter even thought a good deal of the questions were outside her knowledge level the mechanics were easy to pick up. Perhaps Gamewright should consider alternate questions packs which could really expand the age range on this game.

Overall Joe Name It is the better of the two initially released games in the port-a-party line. It's easy to learn, fast to set up and plays quickly which is what it's design goals were. I'd recommend Joe Name It not only to parents with tweens but also adults who always bust out a game at a dinner party.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011

News Bits

Yesterday being my birthday and the 1st day of E3 had me pretty busy. Here is some of the news I missed. Remind me to beat the people who are helping me with this site :>

Fantasy Flight

They announced another adventure pack for the LOTR LCG. I think that puts us at 5 announced packs and zero released.

A new preview for the Adventures sequel is up. I can't help it I'm very excited for this game.

The rules for the revised Arkham expansion Curse of the Dark Pharaoh are online. I'll save my snarky comments on how FFG is milking customers by making them pay to fix mistakes, look at the recent Mansions of Madness FAQ if you don't believe me.


Has announced that they are going big at the Origins convention. You can read all about it on their site. I wish we could attend as I would like to see Bull Run being done by Martin Wallace but it doesn't work with our schedule. If anyone wants to play reporter for us drop me an email.


Besides recently announcing they would be a sponsor of GenCon (Is anyone surprised) G4TV had an unboxing video of Conquest of Nerath. That's right I said G4TV! Unfortunately we weren't given a review copy so we'll just have to buy it and review it like we do with 99% of the games we cover. I promise we won't film a slow motion segment of board flipping.
Monday, June 06, 2011

An Old board gamer turns older

Today this old gamer gets a little older. At 45 sometimes I get strange looks when people come to our house and see my gaming room. With shelves full of games with titles like Combat Commander, Starcraft, Ticket to Ride and Descent to name just a few. It's always the same question. "These are your games?"

Once in a while I'm surprised in that the people are genuinely interested. They ask a few more questions and I can see they are thinking to themselves. "Is it ok to still play games as an adult?"

What's really surprising to me is it is usually the wives who have more interest. Of course most of the husbands just have a funny comment and go about there way probably thinking me a geek. I've long since ignored what people think. I was a three sport athlete in high school and also the guy who had the nerds over on the weekends to play D&D or Axis and Allies.

I'm the guy who at 45 will play in a golf tournament on a Saturday morning and then head over to our 3 times a year local convention to play games the rest of the day (did I mention I have an awesome wife). I love gaming it's as simple as that and I hope I continue to game for another 45 years.


In site related news I filmed videos of Ascending Empires, Godzilla and Claustrophobia over the weekend. I need to spend time this week editing those and will post them for you as time permits. This week is E3 week and while not a big board gaming event, it is a big gaming event so I'm interest to see what comes out of there.
Friday, June 03, 2011

Godzilla has arrived

Well a nice surprise for the weekend as Godzilla has arrived at my house. I've got to finish work and then have the girls soccer tryouts to head off to but I'll do an un-boxing video tonight.

Here are a few pictures I took with my iPhone.

Friday Fun Thoughts--A Long Awaited Return to Full-Time Weekly Gaming

So today, I get to finally announce my full-time return to weekly gaming.

After a long two-year layoff, I am finally free to game at the normal Thursday Gaming Group and I can honestly tell you I am looking forward to it.

For the bulk of the last two years, I have had a conflict on Thursdays and have missed an estimated 320 hours of gaming*. (~40 weeks a year. . .~4 hours a week)

In that time, who knows how many games of 7 Wonders, or Civ or the countless other games of _____ that I have missed.

The blank is indicative to how I've felt about keeping on top of new/hot games. It's been hard to keep track while out of the loop, but once I am back to playing full-time, I expect to be plugged back in, which will lead to me putting more and more reviews and general thoughts on the blog.

My eventual hope is to have a "What we played" feature each Friday--covering thoughts on new and older games as well as Strategy thoughts and questions.

It should be fun. . .look for something here next Friday.

Into the Depths of Small World Underground--A Preview

It's been a couple of weeks, so I figured I'd better let Dan know that I'm still here willing to fill the spaces between FFG announcements with odd thoughts about gaming. =)

As a big fan of Smallworld (I've played about 643 games on the iPad), I'm really excited for the new release of Underworld that I'll likely order as part of my upcoming birthday haul.

I had a chance to read the rules the other day and essentially the game plays just like the first title, but adds a couple of interesting twists.

In the new game there are some preset monsters roaming the depths and they guard a random set of Relics and Places of Great Power. These sound like they give you some bonus coins or powers for your active race.

I won't cover any of the races for the preview, but if you are a fan of the series there are some interesting new twists, but I do have to warn you that some of the "new" traits are very "similar" to the current crew in the original Small World game.

Another interesting thing is that if you choose, you can mix and match the races and powers between versions. . .so if you want your Amazons to cause some havoc in the underground you are free to unleash their fury. . .and if the new Gnomes are looking for some fun in the sun, you can mix them into your regular SW rotation.

Anyway, seems like a fun addition to the Small World family and I am definitely looking to pick it up. You can find more information here on the DoW website.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Talisman Dragon Expansion

FFG details the new Talisman expansion.

Playing with The Dragon expansion, players will encounter even more choices and strategic challenges, including a new, dual-sided Inner Region for their heroes to conquer. The alternate sides allow you to face familiar terrain along a path that requires all new tactics, or to venture into the Dragon Tower, where a hero’s every step meets opposition by the Dragon King’s minions and leads him ever closer to an ultimate confrontation with the Dragon King, himself.

Head over to their website for more information

FAQ for Fighting Formations

I promise I'll eventually get a review of this fine game done. I'll just say upfront if you enjoy WW2 games and are a fan of Chad Jensen this game is a no doubt purchase. Anyway an official FAQ was posted today. It's fairly small because the rules are really solid but it is there if you need it.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Contest Winner

I would like to thank everyone who followed us and tweeted about the contest but we have randomly selected a winner and they have been notified. They will be receiving their prize shortly.

We have other goodies to give away in the future and we'll make sure of two things in future contests.

1. They won't require twitter.
2. They will require some creativity.

Now excuse me while I go clear out the tunnels in hell of these demons.

What's coming this week

Hope everyone had a fun filled holiday weekend in the United States. It was 90+ here yesterday after being in the 50's the day earlier...ah Spring.

On tap this week I have the following reviews.

Ascending Empires which is really more of a game then I expected.

Claustrophobia which causes me to smack myself for not trying this game earlier.

The Port-a-Party lineup of games which went through extensive testing over the weekend.

I'll also be picking the winner of the LOTR contest tonight and once contacted will post here.
Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Games

Well there new to me anyway. The following games all arrived this week.

Space Infantry - This is a solo game from Lock n Load publishing.  The rules are just not very well organized which has been my typical experience with L&L but the game plays nice. I've already ripped through 3 scenarios as they take about 20-30 minutes each.

Ascending Empires - A new one from Z-man games which is getting a lot of buzz. Haven't even ripped off the shrink on this one yet but it is on tap for this weekend.

Dwarf King's Hold: Dead Rising - I've already mentioned my disappointment with the components in this $60 game. The components in Space Infantry are better produced and that game was $20 cheaper.  Setting that aspect aside there is a really good game here for two players. I'll get to a review at some point but there are other items ahead of it.

Claustrophobia - Another two player game similar to Dwarf King's Hold but this one is just has lots of atmosphere. I really like the components and the simple rules. I hope to play this over the weekend as well.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jim Krohn Interview Part 2

Yesterday we spoke with Jim Krohn the designer of the upcoming Space Empires 4X. Today we speak to Jim about his other game nearing release Band of Brothers.

OBGB: Lets move on to your other game yet to be release Band of Brothers. I've been interested in the 101st since I read the Stephen Ambrose book long before the HBO mini series made it popular. What was you inspiration to do a game focusing on the 101st?

Actually it didn't start out with the 101st.  I was a big fan of Squad Leader and I started out to design a simpler squad game.  When I had a working system, I submitted the game to Worthington Games with 4 sample (generic) scenarios (back in 2007).  I told them that my vision was to complete the design by having it follow a unit through WW2 and tell its story.  The Wylies (from Worthington) really wanted me to do the 101st.  In so many ways that was the perfect decision and I am so thankful for it.  Not only did I thorough enjoy my research on the unit, but it has provided a nice mix of scenarios.  As an added bonus, it starts with some infantry only engagements at Normandy and allows the players to ease into the system.

OBGB: Lets get right to it, what's the status of the game? Is it just us (well me) being impatient or does it seem like this game has been coming for a long time?

No, it is not just you.  We had some problems with art along the way that have since been fixed - thank you Brandon and Dan!  On top of that, Band of Brothers is a huge project.  It has 18 scenarios, 10 maps, etc.  A normal wargame comes with one or two scenarios.  With 18 scenarios, this game requires a lot of work on the part of the Wylies.

OBGB: Preliminary rules were posted in September of 2009, are these rules still current? Has the game seen any changes? (i.e. blocks to counters)

No, but they are close enough to get a general idea.  New rules should be posted soon.  They are in final proof stage.  The Wylies tell me that the game will hit the streets by the end of July and the rules will be posted before them.

OBGB: Can you briefly describe how combat works in this game? The reason I ask is the game seems to use suppression and morale heavily and I saw some interesting mechanics in the rules.

Combat is simple and chartless.  A unit rolls against its firepower, modified by the terrain occupied by the target.  If you get equal to or less than your firepower, the target gains a level of suppression.  Each unit also has a casualty rating and if you roll even lower than that, you will cause casualties.  This normally doesn't happen against first line, dug in troops.  The way you kill units is to put them under suppression and close assault them.  If a unit is fully suppressed, they are very vulnerable to close assault.

Suppression on a target lowers the targets morale.  A unit under suppression does not roll against their morale until they try to do something.  This way you will not know how your troops will respond until you ask them to do something. 

Suppression on a unit accumulates easily so you naturally spread out your forces.  You will NOT see kill stacks of men occupying hexes at a WW1 density with large sections of unoccupied terrain between them.  The system is realistic and encourages realistic tactics.

Of course, suppression wears off easily.  If you stop shooting at a unit, they quickly begin to fire back. 

Proficiency is another big element to talk about, but this answer is long enough.

OBGB: Having not played the game I can't say for certain but the game looks to play fast from a combat perspective. By that I mean it seems pretty apparent what a unit needs to do to succeed, is that a fair guess?

Yes, especially since you only ever use a few units at a time.  The game is designed to play on the fly and make quick decisions about a handful of troops.

OBGB: The biggest selling point for me is the ability to follow the 101st throughout the war with the various scenarios. Do you know how many will make the final game?

Should be 18.

OBGB: What do you think sets Band of Brothers apart from other squad level games?

Simple realism.  If it is not the simplest WW2 tactical wargame (5-6 pages of infantry rules and a few more for tanks, guns and artillery), it has to be close.  Simple usually means abstract, but I think this game is the most realistic.  I won't go into all the detail here, but I have extensive designer notes in the rules.  If you are interested, please read them.  They are almost as long as the rules themselves and they explain the reason behind a lot of my design decisions.

OBGB: Do you have anything your currently working on you want to share with us?

The two projects most occupying my time now are the expansions to Space Empires and Band of Brothers.  I'm not ready to divulge all that is in the SE expansion, but the next module for Band of Brothers will focus on the 11th Panzer division in Russia.

In addition to that I have a number of games that are in various stages of completion -

  • Rommel's Obsession - the battle of Crusader
  • Medieval Empires - multiplayer medieval wargame
  • Time Changer - a family euro
  • Starships - a clever, family, space game
  • No name yet - A starship fleet combat game
Plus a couple of more.

OBGB: Finally what games are you playing now?

Of late my wargame playing time has been eaten up by design time.  When it comes to available time, I usually have to make a choice between playing a wargame or working on a wargame design.  With both designs going to print and with expansions in the works, I haven't played many wargames in the last couple of months.  That means most of my game playing of late has involved euros with the whole family.  I also work with kids outside my family and have spent some of my time teaching games to teens.  Some of the most recent - Galaxy Trucker, Space Alert, Endeavor, Glen More, 7 Wonders.

What wargames do I want to get on the table soon?  Besides my own designs - Hammer of the Scots (one of my all time favorites), Twilight Struggle, Hannibal and a few others are on deck.

Again we would like to thank Jim for his time and we eagerly await the release of both games. Check back in the future forimpressions on both of these games and more designer interviews.

Adventures Preview

It's going to be a long, long wait until the 3rd quarter of this year for me. The original Adventurers was a personal favorite of mine and a big hit in the house with the wife and kids. This game seems to come out every time we have people over as well.

FFG has put up a preview of the upcoming game and well the wait just got a little longer for me. I know some people aren't happy that this game is a stand alone product and not an expansion to the original but I'm not one of them.

GenCon is going to be mighty costly to my wallet this year.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jim Krohn Interview Part 1

Recently OBGB had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Krohn the designer of the much anticipated Space Empires 4X. Because Jim was so gracious with his time the interview is rather large so we're going to split it up into multiple postings.  Check back tomorrow for part 2.

OBGB: Jim tell us a little bit about yourself.  How long have you been a gamer?

Since 1979.  Obviously before that I played the games you would find in a game store, but 1979 was when I started playing good games.

OBGB: What got you into gaming?

War of the Ring.  I was a big Tolkien fan and I was introduced to that game.  That brought me into contact with other gamers who then introduced me to Avalon Hill.  I ended up getting many AH games, played a ton of Squad Leader, had a subscription to the General (AH's wargame magazine), etc.

OBGB: What types of games do you enjoy most?

Wargames and 5 player euros (to play with my family all at once). 

OBGB: How long have you been designing games?

Space Empires was my first and that started in 1990.

OBGB: You currently have two titles waiting for release Band of Brothers and Space Empires 4X. Let's start with SE4X, what inspired you to develop a 4X board game?

A friend of mine had a monster space game that he was working on.  We designed and played that game a lot.  Family pressures limited the ability to play it and I started from scratch on a design that would play quicker and easier.

OBGB: SE4X seems like something you have been working on a very long time which I'm sure means it has seen countless iterations. How many times do you think you've played your own game and how many iterations has it gone through?

I could not count how many times I have played the game.   However, I would say that the game went through at least 5 major iterations.

OBGB: A lot of readers, myself included are always curious of the development process.  Could you briefly describe the process of taking a game from the idea stage to testing and then to ready for production.  When did you know you had something you thought you could take to a publisher?

It wasn't until the early 2000's that I thought something might really come of this.  For Space Empires it was probably different than most game.  I did not set out to design a game to send in to a publisher.  I set out to play a game.  Band of Brothers was probably a more traditional path of development.  With that game I started by reading many books on infantry combat, taking extensive notes, modeling and testing small parts of the system, refining the system, and then doing research on the 101st to write scenarios and confirm my design decisions.

Some of the bits from Space Empires 4X

OBGB: Are you surprised by the success from the P500 orders of this game? Why do you think it is gathering so much pre-release buzz? 

I am completely surprised by the P500 success (and gratified). I think there are a lot of things that have helped the game.  If I were to list a few, I would say -
  • There are not a lot of space games that have a strong wargame feel.
  • On the other hand, it is simple enough so that non-grognards can play.
  • The mounted map has certainly helped to make the game accessible to more people.
  • GMT has done a good job with the game.
  • It has to help that, although they primarily publish wargames, GMT has a number of excellent games that are appreciated by non-grognards.  Space Empires fits in that mold.
OBGB: I imagine your confident in your design and must feel very proud to see it coming to tables everywhere but you know how board gamers can be are there any nerves about the upcoming release?

Sure, some, but not much.  Everyone, from my developer at GMT, to the play testers have been very positive about the game.  Plus, there has been a lot of different hands on the game already. 

OBGB: I think what impressed me is that for a game in this genre the rule book is very streamlined and relatively small.. How did you manage to pull that off? I imagine players can be up and playing in a short amount of time 

Well, that was my goal for my own use.  I wanted streamlined.  I like to play lots of games, and so my goal from the very beginning was a sleek, quick playing game.  It was in the back of my mind in every design decision.  It is why I chucked my complicated attack tables for a simplified combat system.  It is what motivated me to use exploration markers.  It is the reason why the economic phase is only done once every three turns and can be done by all players simultaneously.

OBGB: I don't want to get too heavy into specific rule topics because the rule book is available for all to read. However since the rule book is split into standard and advances rules how would you recommend players start off? Should they play a few games with the standard rules first? Do the advance rules add more time to the game? Do they add more downtime between player turns?

I recommend starting with the basic rules, not only to make sure the system is understood, but so that you begin to understand the ship interactions.  The advanced rules don't add time to the game, but do add strategic surprises that a new player does not need to be dealing with.

OBGB: One of the issues usually with Space conquest type games is the under powered ships get ignored in the building process. I've seen you comment on how SE4X tries to eliminate this problem but could you describe that here for readers who may have missed it?

There are several ways that SE encourages the building of balanced fleets.  Here are a few of them:
  • There is a combat bonus if you outnumber an opponents fleet by 2:1.  This abstractly represents how a larger fleet could more easily maneuver to fire on downed shields or damaged parts of a ship.  You don't want to be on the short end of that stick.  Therefore you are always encouraged to build escorts for you capital ships.
  • Some technology is only available on some smaller ships.
  • Ship Yards are needed to build fleets and available ship yard space sometimes constrains you to build  a smaller ship than you would like.
  • Money - it is always in a short supply and that can often cause you to build a smaller ship.
Near final map
OBGB: Lets talk a second about the scenario or play book. I was very impressed with the options contained in this book you have everything from a single player scenario to an epic 2-8 player scenario which requires a second copy of the game. A main reason players shy away from other games of this type is the time commitment, do you think you have solved that issue with the options presented in the play book?

Yes, the game is very customizable and I intended it to be that way.  It is normally a quick playing game.  However, say you have a very social/slow opponent.  All you have to do is play the game on a smaller map.  If you are playing a 4 player game and some of them are slow, then you should go with team play to speed things up.

On the other hand, if you want to spend an entire Saturday playing it, play an epic two map game, without teams, and play until the last person is standing.

OBGB: Finally if you had to pick something that sets SE4 apart from other games in this genre what would it be?

Its theme and its emphasis on technology and combat.  Many space games have an emphasis on economics and negotiation.  They also are abstract enough that they could easily be set in medieval Europe.  SE has an important economic system, but it is there for the purpose of supporting your fleet and technology decisions.  At the same time, the theme is very strong in this game. 

I suppose the fact that it is fairly simple and quick helps too.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the interview where we discuss Band of Brothers.

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