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.

Forbidden Island has been nominated for Spiel des Jahres

For those unaware the Spiel des Jahres is the Game of the Year award in Germany. It's a very prestigious honor among the gaming community.  So I was happy to see that Forbidden Island was nominated.

Previous winners have included Dominion and Dixit. Other nominees where Qwirkle and Asara.

This year for the first time the category has been spit and a companion award called Kennerspiel des Jahres is being given for games termed "more complex"

In that category is the game 7 Wonders and well it doesn't matter who else because 7 Wonders will easily win. However I can't say 7 Wonders is more complex then any of the3 games mentioned above.

Our forbidden Island review is listed on the side panel. I highly recommend the game back when I wrote the review I recommended Pandemic over Forbidden Island saying it was a little deeper. Having played countless games of FI since then I can say that statement was incorrect and while both games are fantastic Island sees more time at my house due to the shorter time it takes to play.

Head on over to GameWright for the full press release.

Space Empire 4X Playbooks

GMT Games has posted a few links on their face book page to the upcoming playbook for Space Empires 4X.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Rune age Preview

I like the lack of clutter on these cards
Fantasy Flight posted another preview of the upcoming Rune age game. I have to admit as much as I am growing weary of card based games this one is sounding interesting. Here is a small bit

The Monument is designed for players who want a fully competitive game, but who also want to restrict direct player interaction, thereby keeping the focus on their own individual strategies. Mechanically, this amounts to a race to amass a necessary sum of gold, after which victory falls to the first player to spend that wealth erecting a massive tribute to his race’s god or gods. Just as each race has its own distinctive style, each race’s god contributes to its unique flavor. Which deity will you appease?
 Find out more on the FFG site.
Monday, May 23, 2011

Slow News Day

Been a rather slow news day for a Monday. Unless of course you consider FFG's news that you can take on the role of the overlord or keeper in their GenCon Descent and Mansions of Madness events exciting news.

I just received a few new games that I'm going to be looking into and reporting on. Dwarf King's Hold: Dead Rising is one of the games. Haven't done much but open the box and my initial reaction to that was less then favorable. I expect a little bit more for $60 to be honest and I certainly don't expect to be assembling miniatures and gluing them together.

The rule book dimensions remind me of the old computer game manuals from the 90's and the card board bit's aren't very thick. Here is to hoping the game play changes my initial feelings. I can live with lack luster components if the game plays well enough.

Also arriving today is a copy of Space Infantry. I haven't even cracked the seal on this one yet but I'll be diving into it this week. Other items on tap in the near future is an interview with Jim Krohn the designer on the upcoming and very popular Space Empires 4X and the Band of Brothers games both of which I plan on picking up. In fact I have SE4X on pre-order maybe Jim can pull some strings.

Finally I'm pleased to report we will be covering GenCon this year after missing last years show. I expect a lot of games to be available in limited supply this year so I'll be bringing a big shopping bag.
Friday, May 20, 2011

Hamilcar - Expansion for Hannibal

Caught this piece of news from our friends over at No High Scores and also on the Geek. Apparently there is a possibility of an expansion for Hannibal Rome vs Carthage.

Hannibal is one of my favorite games however I'm not what an expansion will add to the games. In fact over at the Valley Games site the bullet list for the expansion is not that impressive.

  • A new map board for the First Punic War,
  • A map board for the ORIGINAL Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage game on the reverse side,
  • This expansion includes a two-sided board. One side features the board for Hamilcar: First Punic War (the expansion), while the other side is the board for the original Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
  • 9 new generals who fought under Hamilcar, 9 new Roman generals AND 7 new generals for the original Hannibal game that can be played with the original
So three of the bullet points are about the map. It's certainly nice to have a new map and some new generals to play with. I would assume if you're adding 7 generals to the original game there might be some new rules but the site doesn't mention this.

I'm a completest so I've already bought in on the pre-orderbut hopefully Valley Games will give us a little more information on this expansion.
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Walking Dead the Game

I've notice over at the site comic book resources they have information on a new Z-man game on the hit TV show and comic series The Walking Dead. I haven't been able to find any information on z-man's site or BGG as of yet.

Z-man produces a lot of games and Zev is a fantastic guy. Some of their games are outstanding and some are so-so. Where this one will fall I have no idea. It says a late summer release which means it will probably be at GenCon.

Head over to CBR to see the details.

Ticket to Ride (iPad)

Everyone knew this was coming right? I think this about soaks up every avenue Days of Wonder could use for this brand.

However Ticket to Ride is still a fun game and a nice bridge game for people getting into the hobby. I've raised many a gamer by cutting their teeth on TTR over the years.

I may pick this up so I can give you the loyal readers some impressions. Yes I know, I'm just that nice of a guy.

Get more information over at the official page.

Steam Expansion

Mayfair has announced an expansion for the train game Steam. I'm not a huge player of this game like some of my friends but I do enjoy it. Press below.

The three maps in the release are: 1) Belgium & Luxembourg (an expansion for 2 players competing to build an importing empire), 2) the Brussels Metro (an expansion for 3 players developing intercity transit), and 3) Mid-Atlantic US (an expansion for 3-6 players building railroad empires in the Civil War era).  Also included will be an extra sheet of Steam™ tiles.  These boards are sure to challenge Steam™ players with their region-specific rules and challenging topography.
See the full release over at the Mayfair site.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fighting Formation Demo

Fighting Formations is one of the better war games I have had the pleasure of playing. I may have to make an adjustment to our review policy just so I can talk glowingly about this game. GMT is offering a demo tomorrow night on Vassal. I'd love to attend this but it's my daughters birthday. If you want to see why this is such a great game with a fantastic mechanic then see the below.

On Thursday, May 19 at 8:30pm Eastern Time: We will be conducting a live online demonstration of Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Infantry Division. You can get all the information on how to tune in from our Ventrilo Voice Server page.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Huge News: FFG (Finally) Unveils Gears of War

From FFG this afternoon:
"Humanity’s golden age came to a sudden and violent end on Emergence Day. Within 24 hours, a quarter of all human life on Sera was wiped out, and billions more were lost in the conflict that followed – an unending war that has reduced the planet’s surface to a smoking ruin. Now, one final desperate stand is all that remains to prevent the total annihilation of the human race. Gather your team. You are humanity’s last hope."

After having been anounced what must have been three years ago, the vile money-destroyers over at FFG have finally given us a look at their upcoming Gears of War boardgame adaptation. Meeting expectations as an adaptation of the console shooter, it's a co-op game, seems to be an all-players vs the game mechanics design.

More from the source here. I look forward to more info, this one could go either way for me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Published: 2011
Designer: Nate French
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Rules Complexity: Easy
Players: 1-2
Type: Cooperative, Living Card Game

Artwork: A
Bits: C+
Gameplay: B-
Playing Time: 45 - 90 minutes

Overall: B-

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is one really challenging game to review. The game offers some unique mechanics to the ever growing field of titles Fantasy Flight has classified as "Living Card Games". Despite the interesting mechanics there seem to be some major play balancing issues if you try to play the game right out of the box.  Before I get ahead of myself lets go on a journey through what could eventually be a solid gaming experience. While I won't cover every aspect of playing the game, you can watch the excellent video tutorials on FFG's site for that. I will delve into some of the aspects.

The Parts
LOTR:TCG comes with 226 cards, 2 threat trackers (more on that in a minute) and somewhere around 90 bits for tracking things such as damage and progress. The art work on the cards is fantastic and the symbols on the cards are also pretty easy to identify and remember. This may seem like a small detail but having played other LCG's I really like that the LOTR cards make sense.

The threat dials are no different then dials used in other FFG's product such as Battlestar Galatica but the issue is you're only given two of them. Since you are given enough cards in the starter set to play a game with four players. I really can't come up with a good reason as to why FFG didn't include 4 dials other then to try and sell more core sets. In their defense I don't recall seeing anything in the rules about playing with 4 players but the game is definitely set up for it.  This means if you want to play with 4 players you'll need two starter sets.

The Game or You Better Pick Wisely
Two things sold me on trying LOTR:TCG the first was the ability to play it solo and the second was that it was a cooperative game.  Because the solo experience is where I spent a great deal of my time I'm going to give that it's own section later on but first lets cover the game itself.

The first thing you're going to do in a game of LOTR:TCG is either pick which deck or heroes you want to play. As I said the game comes with four starter decks that suggest they can be played out of the box.

Now whether these decks can be played as is depends on who you ask. Certain scenarios play better with different deck combinations and I would say some are near impossible to be won with certain deck combinations.  While you can customize your own decks most players are going to start with a starter deck and there lies the problem. This game is hard, but with a bad deck combination you could instantly be turned off by the game.

Perhaps FFG wanted people to be challenged with learning the different decks or customizing their own decks. Perhaps this additional learning curve is in place to make up for the lack of quests included in the base game. I'm not sure of the answer I just know that play balancing this off the mark is hard to be missed during testing.

Lets move on to Heroes because they are important. Each Hero has a sphere he is proficient in. The heroes collect a resource token every turn and in order to play cards from your hand you need to pay for them with resources. The catch is you can only pay for card with resources that match their sphere. For example Aragorn is a Leadership hero so if you're playing a card from the leadership deck the resources must come from Aragorn or any other hero with the leadership trait. So if I elect to play the leadership deck then I should pick only the leadership heroes. Playing the leadership deck and then having Legolas be one of your heroes is a waste because his resources won't be useful for playing cards.

Again you can customize your decks thus allowing you to mix and match heroes and cards from all the spheres but this is something you won't be doing the first time out. In fact you may never do it unless you play this game a lot. That got a little long but I think it is important to someone looking to buy this game. In short the game penalizes the player who just wants to pick it up and play once in a while which is a shame.

Once you have determined which heroes you will play and which deck or custom deck you then tally up the threat level of the heroes you control to set your initial threat level on the dial. Threat is important because if your dial ever reaches 50 you're out of the game.

As previously noted the game comes with 3 quests that you can play. A quest is a combination of cards in a sequence and the object is to add progress to the quest to continue on to the next step. In the picture above in order to move to the next Step in the quest the players would need to add 4 progress tokens to this card.

A turn of LOTR:TCG goes along these lines. First players collect a resource token for each hero and add it to that heroes resource pool. Then the player enters the planning phase this is where he/she can play cards for their resource costs. While some cards can be played at other times this is the only stage where an Ally card can be played and these are invaluable cards in the game.

Next is the quest phase which is essentially how players progress to win the game.  Starting with the first player each player determines who he will commit to questing this turn.  A player doesn't have to send anyone but they will still suffer the effects of failing to quest. If you do send someone then a card is added to the staging area for each player who sent some of his characters on the quest.  

The object here is to have the willpower of the committed characters be greater then the threat of the cards in the staging area. If you beat it you add progress tokens to the quest, if not your threat goes up. Recall I said some deck combinations make some quests challenging? Well welcome to play balance issue #2. location cards.

A monster coming into the staging area is far easier to deal with then location cards. Monsters can be attacked or will engage you if your threat level is high enough. This gets them out of the staging area onto your characters which removes their threat level from the quest calculation. 

Locations aren't as easy because when a location comes up you can elect to travel to it which makes it an active location but you can only travel to one location at a time. A location acts as a buffer to the quest, meaning if a location is active any progress you make that would normally go to the quest needs to go to the location until it is explored. 

Locations can pile up, especially in the starter quest and only two decks handle locations very well. So if you should choose the 2 decks not equipped to handle locations and your encounter deck hands you a lot of locations in a row you've essentially lost. In fact after playing several games you'll often be able to see a losing deck well before the game would end.

Going it Alone
LOTR:TCG sets up and scales well whether playing it alone or with 2,3 or 4 players. However the solo game is more challenging to play and suffers from the same issues mentioned above. I would love to see someone take the starter quest Passage through Mirkwood and play it with the leadership deck 20 times and get more then one win without cheating at all. However the same scenario can be beaten  with the Spirit deck with far more success assuming you can avoid the monsters.

The game plays very quick, especially solo and it's an easy setup and tear down game. I've played most of my games during a lunch break.  From a solo standpoint the game is one of the few that really works for the single player.

Summing it up

I've played this game with other people a half dozen times and each time the feelings were about the same. The game is cool but very challenging and most would play it again but weren't exactly banging down the doors.

I've played 22 games of LOTR:TCG solo and I have won twice. These were games 21 and 22 so what you can take from that is a few things. I could suck at this game and this could be my issue alone although searching forums on various sites would say you were mistaken.

The game has a steep learning curve which means that it is going to take an investment of time to become good. Again I would partially disagree as the rules are simple and it is one of the better card games mechanically I've seen.

It's all a crap shoot and their is so much randomness to the encounter deck that unless you know the scenarios and know which decks work with them you're going to be handicapped. To me this is the crux of the problem with LOTR:TCG and that it's a really good game mechanically but it is impossible to play balance.

The game sets up for someone wanting to customize their deck and really come up with great hero / deck combinations for beating scenarios. This is in stark contrast to every other LCG I've played which I've been able to have fun with right out of the box.

Bottom line is this is a good game, it is very challenging and the way it stand right now for you to get maximum enjoyment out of it you're going to need to either learn which decks work with which quests or craf your own combinations.

Dungeon Run Rules

The rules for the upcoming game Dungeon Run are now online. You can also pre-order the game over at the plaid hat games site.

Dungeon Run from my understanding was a print and play game that plaid hat picked up, expanded the rules and added nice bits too. I never played the print and play but as our readers know I love Summoner Wars so I will be giving this one a look come late summer.
Friday, May 13, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Well seems like the blogger crash did cause us some issues. Some posts I had scheduled for today are no longer around. Fortunately I back those up offline but I am not at a spot where I can get to them. This means I will probably hold my LOTR review until Monday.

We had planned to roll this site out of Blogger into a more traditional website in the future but these last two days have made me think I may have to do that ahead of schedule.

On tap this weekend I plan to play Earth Reborn, The Back to the Future Card game and also the Resident Evil deck building game as well. What's on your play list for the weekend.

GMT Release Schedule

For those of you not on the GMT update mailing list (you should be) here is a short snippet from it with their release schedule for this year. To see the full update visit GMT Games website or click here.

September, 2011: (Tentative)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Hills of Emyn Muil adventure pack announced

The 4th Adventure pack
FFG has announced the now fourth adventure pack for the Lord of the Rings Card game.

If you're asking yourself shouldn't the first pack be in stores before they announce the fourth? Or shouldn't they have planned in advanced and had all of these things published at once so they could actually maintain a monthly schedule? I say welcome to the world of FFG logic.

My review of this game will be posted this week, I'm going to give it one more play this time with 3 people. I had to buy another base set to do this by the way. That will bring my total plays up to 21 and for those keeping score my current record is 0 - 20, take from that what you will.

Don't forget about our contest above, right now your chances of winning are pretty good as our twitter following is small, maybe I need to post links to naked celebrity photos.

Gaming with the Wife Volume 1 - Summoner Wars

Gaming with the Wife is an ongoing column where I talk about the games my wife, a non-gamer, likes and dislikes. If you're married to a non-gamer hopefully this column will present a little information and humor.

Summoner Wars
Volume 1 - Summoner Wars

Welcome to the first entry in Gaming with the Wife. As a married gamer with two girls ages 6 and 8 my gaming time is reduced to once a week with my friends. This means for me to get games I prefer to the table it takes a very long time at our regular Thursday meetings.

Since I also review and discuss games daily I need to find other ways to get those games in. Living in a household of women presents a challenge as to which games are going to be hits and which games are going to end after 4 turns. Playing solo is a good way to learn a game but I seldom prefer to review a game without playing it many times with another living opponent.

My wife is a non-gamer in the sense that before I started easing her into our hobby a night of gaming might of consisted of Scattegories or Balderdash. However she is wonderful in that she is willing to give any game a try with me. I find it amazing what she likes and doesn't like, in fact I am proud to say one of her favorite games is Twilight Struggle.

This particular night it was my wife who wanted to play a game and try something new. However time was short and I didn't want to hit her with a game that had complex rules so I looked over my collection and Summoner Wars jumped out at me.

After a quick setup I went over the rules which is something I always dread. My wife like a lot of players gets that glazed look in her eyes when rules are being explained. She prefers to learn as we go but surprisingly with Summoner Wars she had no problem staying with my 5 minute explanation of the turn sequence and how the game worked.

Soon we were off and quickly I had the advantage. Having played the game before I knew what cards to summon and how to work the battlefield. As she played actions I gave her advice, "If you move that guy there his special ability will kick in if this guy attacks".

It didn't take her long to catch on and before I knew if the battle had gone from one sided to pretty balanced. Unfortunately for her she had some cards she had trouble getting out due to the summoning cost and I pressed the advantage once again. My victory was not as easy as I expected it to be from the first few turns but it was definitely my experience playing the game that paid dividends.

After the game we went through the various faction decks, talked some strategy and even set up some examples. I was pretty surprised by this, usually a gaming session ends in me cleaning up and her going to bed. However with Summoner Wars I could see the wheels turning. She was thinking of ways to better play the game and more importantly what faction she wanted to try next.

A few days later I asked her about the game, she said she absolutely loved it. She, like many equated it as a similar experience to playing chess a game she loves. It easily made it into her top five games and here where her reasons.

1. Easy to learn rules
2. Card were well written and explained what they did.
3. Turn sequence made sense and not a lot of "stuff" going on.
4. Felt like she had a chance to win even in her first game against an experienced opponent
5. Liked the variety of the different "teams"

Verdict: Play it again anytime.

Next time I'll be covering Defenders of the Realm a co-operative game which is a genre my wfie really enjoys.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gamewright launches Port-a-Party line

As a parent I'm always looking for ways to keep my two girls busy on trips. I don't mind the occasional DVD or video game being played but whether it is a long car ride or some downtime in the hotel room at the amusement park I'm looking for something to keep them busy. Luckily both of my girls love to play games, unfortunately as a gamer you know most of the games today take up a lot of space to move around.

That's why I was very interested in the press release that I just received. Gamewright is releasing a line of games that can be played on the go and in a short amount of time. You can find out more about them on their blog and they are coming out with two games to start the line up.

The games sounds perfect for families but also for parties as well. At a price tag of $9.99 it will be interesting to see if this line up takes off.

I love me some dice rolling.

Conquest of Nerath promises lots of die rolling.
Today as a gamer we have a very large assortment of games to choose from not only in theme but also in mechanics. Growing up things were simple, you lined guys up and you rolled some dice. Eventually that turned into role playing games and more sophisticated ways of rolling dice and checking tables but the bottom line is you were always rolling dice.

Somewhere along the line rolling dice became a "bad thing" we needed better ways to solve conflicts. While there is no question we have gotten many different ways of resolving conflict over the years as the hobby has grown not all of them are better. Perhaps some people like resolving combat with cards in the new version of Dungeon Quest but I'm not one of them.

I don't hate dice rolling games, in fact I very much enjoy them from time to time. Axis & Allies remains one of my favorite games to this day. I'm also very big on fantasy themed games, my collection contains just about every dungeon crawler you can find and an assortment of fantasy themed die rolling strategy games.

So when my love of fantasy and die rolling are combined I'm pretty much in from the jump on a game. That's why June can't get her fast enough so I can find a copy of  Wizard's of the Coast Conquest of Nerath. 

There is not a lot of information out on this game as of yet so I'm not sure if the targeted June 21st date is going to hold but it looks like my type of game. From the publishers site:

Conquest of Nerath is a fantasy conquest game. 2-4 players muster armies of foot soldiers, siege engines, monsters, warships, elementals, and dragons to attack their opponents. Players employ heroes such as knights and wizards to lead their troops and explore dungeons in the search of magical artifacts and treasures to increase their power in combat.

Conquest, monsters, siege weapons, heroes and dungeons whats not to like? Check back later in the summer as I'll most definitely be covering this one.
Monday, May 09, 2011

Rune Age Preview

FFG has posted their latest preview of yet another deck building game. Remember when FFG used to make giant coffin boxed games with lots of meat to them...yeah me too.  Personally I am a big fan of Runewars but I'm pretty sure I have hit my limit on deck building card games.
Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday "Sad" Thoughts--What ever happened to Star Wars Miniatures?

As a Star Wars fan and a gamer, one of my most exciting days was when I found and purchased my first few packs of Star Wars Minis.

Rebel Storm--Released by Wizards of the Coast in Summer of 2004. An instant hit.

It was the start of something big. . .

These figures were cool as all get out--a real throwback to my Kenner Figure collection of my youth with stars like Vader, Solo, cool looking Stormtroopers and Boba Fett (of course!). On top of that, this was a great opportunity to have a solid playable table top Star Wars experience. The only two Star Wars games of real note are Queen's Gambit and Star Wars Epic Battles. . .the problem though is that Queen's Gambit is limited in replayability (and takes forever to set up and play) and Epic Duels is kind of simplistic and unbalanced (Darth Maul is the resident bad ass). This game was built on the D20 system and was easy to learn but had enough meat, rules and special abilities to keep it interesting.

Rebel Storm was only the beginning. . .soon after came the Clone Wars set, which was a nice addition adding characters from the prequel, but soon after that the wheels started to come off.

A few short months later a Revenge of the Sith set hit, which made sense because it was tied to the movie but it also had a ton of repeat characters from the Clone Wars set. It was an odd move in retrospect, but something that would become an unfortunate trend throughout the series.

The Next set, Universe, broadened the scope and introduced figures from the Expanded Universe (essentially characters from the books/comics). It also introduced "Large" minis--basically vehicles and creatures larger than the traditional mini.

Yet, in this set and in other sets they started doubling up on figures. . .soon you had 3, then 4, then 5 different Darth Vaders. 4 or 5 Lukes. . .7 different Hans. . .what was a solid gaming experience suddenly turned into a collector vs. gamer crap storm.

Around this time, the collector in me started to outbid the gamer at this point. . .I got caught up and started down the dark path of trying to collect all of the minis and in hindsight this is the one thing that I hated about this game. . .and now really hate about all collectible games. You have to hunt and peck and mine eBay and elsewhere to finish sets.

It was crazy and expensive and really a horrible model in the 21st Century mindset. I think they would have been much better off selling the sets vs. trying to push random booster after random booster. So many more people would have plunked down $150-$250 to get a Star Wars Minis set than the way this game was marketed.

. . .~14 sets later it ended with a whimper

Basically, I was able to come close to completing a few sets, but Wizards and the folks at Star Wars kept pushing out set after set and duplicate guy after duplicate guy and started expanding to the obscure and I simply lost all interest. 60 guys per set did eventually go down to 40, but alas, my interest had waned. I sold the bulk of my sets on BGG late last year.

And ultimately, Wizards lost interest as well as they didn't renew the contract as I have to imagine that the fans of this game were as obscure as the minis they were forced to publish. The game--that should have had a much longer shelf life--died after six very busy years.

Ultimately, I think that was the problem here: Over saturation of their marketplace.

I mean Star Wars is a great property and I think that if they had slow played this--i.e. released one set and a small expansion each year--they would have had more fans but when you rely on a collectible model, in a down economy, it's hard to sustain the kind of momentum they needed.

Hopefully, in the future, maybe FF or some other production house picks up the license and thinks more about putting out a great mini/war game with Star Wars Characters. . .Wizard's Miniature Lines had great potential but couldn't shake the artificial need to get the newest and best set of minis out there. . .if only they had let it breathe.

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