OK, so this week I've written about...a video game! Oh no! Have I sold out to Gameshark.com? Have I become one of those "sheeples" or "dumb fucks" who can't possibly comprehend the sophistication and elegance of modern board gaming? Is it a BIOSHOCK review? Oh no gentle readers, it's a review of ARMAGEDDON EMPIRES, an indie PC game that is pretty much an electronic board game complete with dice and cards. I think it's pretty swell, and if it were a physical board game (with a couple of modifications to make it actually playable face-to-face) it'd be a contender to join the ranks of the AT canon. Unlike board games, you can check it out before you commit thanks to a demo- if you dig PANZER GENERAL, MASTER OF ORION, HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC, and that ilk you ought to check it out.
ARMAGEDDON EMPIRES REVIEW
Dragon Con is this weekend...any F:ATers going? I probably won't play a single game...I pretty much spend the whole time making fun of 16 year old girls dressed like 12 year old anime characters or shielding my eyes from 175lbs+ women attempting the Leeloo "bandages" costume from THE FIFTH ELEMENT.
Thursday, 30 August 2007
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Blah blah blah, due to the holiday and con season the blog has stalled, so let's put some content out there....
I joined BGG during the height of Star Wars: Episode III madness. My brother and I had been playing the hell out of Clash of the Lightsabers and of course Star Wars: Epic Duels. It was a search for more games as good as those two that led me to find out about this other incredible Star Wars game I missed (some little game called Queen's Gambit or something like that). From there, BGG.
Epic Duels was just this crazy good game that was stupidly affordable, *completely* opposite of what you'd expect to find. You've probably heard everyone say how they picked up a copy for $5, and in the same breath wonder why Hasbro didn't follow up with an Episode III version (hint: stores don't buy things that only sell when they finally go on clearance).
In today's environment I doubt this could happen--just look at Heroscape...I think if that was released before there was a real AT renaissance and awareness on the web in any significant numbers, it would've had a base game that bombed and that would've been that. I don't think the web-aware boardgaming hobbyists would let games like Epic Duels go unnoticed again.
Funny thing, though, is the aftermarket success of Epic Duels spawned the catchphrase, "The Next Epic Duels". Gamers started talking like speculators. Sure, we're all collectors, but for any of us who lived through the speculation-mad crash n' burn of the comic book industry, that sort of thinking makes you a little wary. People were looking for that cheap game that would make them a hundred bucks after dropping only $5 on it.
Battleball for a long while was considered one such game; people mentioned buying five copies or more from Kaybee Toys. Battleball actually has a lot in common with Epic Duels; it's a mass market game that had a great bits per dollar value that went largely ignored by the gaming public. Probably for very different reasons, of course...video games have bled the notion that licensed gaming properties suck (hence Epic Duels bombing out), and Battleball has probably THE worst "game in action" photo on the back of the box I've ever seen:
...just stay the hell away from me, kid
The "Next Epic Duels" came and went, didn't it? That's right, it was "Betrayal at House on the Hill". There's another game where the desingers are probably due reparations from the savaging that Betrayal received--and to be fair, some of that was likely deserved thanks to the egregious misprints and rules omissions, monsters without proper stats, underground lakes on upper levels of the house, you know the drill.
Saturday, 25 August 2007
Today I received an email from KingPut, who, as readers of this blog may remember, is the ex-second-best Caylus player in the world and my brother. He is planning on proposing TRASHFEST, a wildcard tournament to run concurrently with Eurofest 2008. (for more information on Eurofest http://euroquest.gamesclubofmd.org/).
I think for the 1st year or 2 it would be best to run it with Euroquest. If it's run as a wild card type event as part of Euroquest we would only need about 20 people participating to make it viable. If there is enough interest in later years it could be run as a stand alone conference. We'd pick 6 - 12 Ameritrash games that people can play anytime during the weekend. Scoring for Trashfest would be similar to the Wildcard events: # of players * # of hours the game takes = Trash Points. Winner takes all. There is no 2nd place in Ameritrash games.
KingPut, despite his recent psychotic break during WBC, is a pretty together person and seriously has the ability to make this happen. What he needs, however, are game suggestions and an idea if there are people who are actually interested in attending. My suggestion was that he propose games that I'm good at so that I would win and then he would have to refer to me as "your highness" for an entire year. He didn't like that suggestion, and asked me to solicit some real suggestions from you all.
Friday, 24 August 2007
This week's snapshot comes to us from "Muzza". Thanks, Muzza!
Calling all photoshoppers and imagehounds! The Weekly AT Snapshot wants YOUR images!
If you've got a great image that just screams Ameritrash, email us the image or a URL. It can be an image you created or an image you found on the web. We don't care! If it meets our strict quality standards, we'll publish it in The Weekly AT Snapshot, instantly making you an undeniable global celebrity. We'll even pimp your website if you send us the URL for that. Send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "Snapshot" in the subject line.
Thursday, 23 August 2007
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
I'm going to follow on from my previous blog post and tell you a bit about a game I played recently, and what I learned from it.
The game in question was Twilight Imperium 3. It was the first time I'd had the opportunity to play the game face to face and although it was an all day gaming event with plenty of time I was still anxious to keep playing time low so I could get to play some more games later on! Also I'd be teaching the game to new players and I didn't want it to overwhelm them with complexity. So I used my limited experience with the game to try and pick options to keep play time and learning curve to a minimum.
Well from the base game I picked the "Age of Empires" option which lays out all the objectives from the start. This helps play time by allowing players to focus on actions which allow them to get VPs every turn and helps the new players because they're not going to be at a disadvantage from never having seen the objective deck. I was using the conflict-oriented objectives from the expansion in the assumption that more conflict is a good thing but in retrospect I'm not so sure that's a good assumption. Firstly more combat means more dice and that means more randomness in the quest for VPs - you may or may not like this and I'm pretty on the fence about it myself. From a play time perspective though it actually slows things down as people keep on throwing in ships and then building more - plus combat is fairly slow to resolve. In the event the actual objectives dealt included virtually every non-conflict one from the conflict deck so it was kind of a moot point, but I might try mixing the two decks for another game.
Next choice was what strategy cards to use. I chose to use the "II" variants from the expansion for all the cards that had them and the original ones for all the rest. I did this for two reasons. Firstly to use the variant "Bureaucracy" card with Age of Empires requires a house rule, which would be further annoying things for new players to remember and contrary to the text printed on the card. Second using "Imperial II" gives the game another source of potential VPs to speed up play without having to resort to the dull original Imperial card.
What else? Well, artifacts were an obvious choice to put some more VP in the game although I declined to use the "voice of the council" option since no-one ever seems to bother with it. A pre-set board was used to speed up play, avoid having to teach the rules for laying out galaxy maps and to ensure balance since new players are notoriously bad at constructing a "sensible" galaxy when left to themselves. I also left out the Winnarian Guardians as that slows the conquest of Metacol Rex and thus the rate of VP gain. As a final shot I took three races out of the deck before we started - the Saar for complexity, the Xxcha because they clash with "Diplomacy II" and would have meant more differences in play from the text on the card and the Yssaril because the pass ability helps slow the game down.
In the event we had four players - Saardak N'orr, Letnev, Mentak and myself as the Winnu. The opening rounds went as one might expect with people expanding their empires and claiming the first couple of easy victory points, with two players getting a head start through artifact planets. One thing I didn't forsee was that with the low level of trade agreements on offer and the inability to use political cards as resources it took several rounds before people had enough resources to start building big ships and regularly claiming tech advances.
Anyway, after the initial stage I got dealt a "flank speed" card and from this I formed the basis of a plan. I took some newly-minted carriers and ground force from my home system and using the card and the XRD transporter tech I'd previously acquired, landed a bunch of troops on Metacol Rex. I saved my resources that round and built a space dock on my last move, allowing me to complete my secret objective which was to hold MR, have a space dock there and have two tech advances in three different colours. This put me up to 5VP. I was hopeful I'd get at least one from the Imperial II card next round and I'd bought red tech to put me in a position to gain another 2VP from a "five techs in one colour" objective without needing further prerequisites and for the other two I was confident I could keep the Rex for a few rounds and milk it for VPs.
Sorry for all the quotes.
I did get my VP from the imperial card the following turn but then odd things began to happen. The Mentak built a huge fleet ready to strike at Metacol while the Sardak, oddly, was obsessively building PDS units on the planet next door. The Letnev player seemed to be entirely out of it by this stage, being last in VP and not having any obvious ability to claim more. So I got my War Sun tech and built one of the big ships right there on Metacol with the aim of scaring off everyone else - it worked and I held it for another "Imperial II" VP the following round, although the Mentak had used some of their by now immense fleet to take away a couple of my planets, leaving me in something of a resources blight.
By this time I was well in the lead and the other players had started to gang up against me. My ground forces on the Rex went down to a plague card from the Letnev player and then the Mentak stormed in taking Metacol Rex and some more planets off me, leaving me 3VP short of my goal and virtually nothing to build new fleets with. I had the five tech objective pretty much in the bag - just one short and I'd got first pick of strategy cards the following round - so I needed another one. There was a 1VP objective out for "invade a planet containing at least one GF" and I had a far-flung carrier in a system with 2GF that had been there virtually since the start of the game. It was within reach of a Sardak planet with just 1GF defending - so in it went and my Winnu soldiers duly dispatched the enemy for the missing VP. Victory was within my grasp.
However, Letnev, who'd been quietly turtling away for the last few rounds, building forces and claiming virtually nothing and apparently out of the game had a plan as well. He took Imperial II as his first choice in the last round and suddenly pushed out, using the cards ability to claim multiple objectives and artifacts to gain VP at a most alarming rate. In the status phase he managed to creep up to 9VP while I just got in there with the ten, claiming the win even though I had virtually nothing by my home system left on the board to my name.
My plan worked fairly well - the 4 player game, with setup time and the inevitable learning curve for the new players - weighed in at 5 hours which isn't too bad. I can seem myself sticking with that set of speed options for future face to face games. The time passed like absolutely nothing - we'd got two hours in before anyone even bothered to look up from the board to check the time - which for me is always the sign of a really great game.
So what did I learn from this fantastic game session?
Firstly I'll chip in with the oft-repeated adage that it's better to play one brilliant five hour game than five one-hour rubbish ones. I managed to get in a game of Roborally afterward which took around 90 minutes. It was my first ever game and it wasn't bad but there's no way I'd have sacrificed that fantastic game of TI3 for three sessions of Roborally. Of course if you like short games for the mechanics and not just because they're short then good for you - but the moral is don't kid yourself that shorter games are better just because you can play more of them. Time spent having fun is time spent having fun whether the activities are varied or not. When we'd finished an onlooker asked how long the game had taken and, looking somewhat aghast at the answer, asked whether it was worth it. All four players gave him a resounding "YES"!
Secondly - and possibly controversially - I noticed a curious thing about two blokes at that game day who'd come to game with female friends or partners. Both had come with bags full of Eurogames and both had eyes popping out of their head when they saw the TI3 setup. Both asked their female acquaintances if they wouldn't mind stepping out of the Euros to spend the bulk of the day playing TI3 - one ended up joining in and the other didn't. This makes me wonder two things. Firstly it seems that AT games with their often violent themes and frequent backstabbing gameplay have a greater appeal to men than women. That in itself isn't surprising but the experience has made me wonder whether a number of guys who have game-philic partners aren't kept in the Euro fold by their women insisting that they play quick, low-conflict games and that given the chance they'd leap into the AT universe like a fish into water. I wonder also how much of the venom we get from some of the Euro crowd is caused by repressed envy from this sort of behaviour.
Thirdly it made me think long and hard about the diplomatic metagame. This is very much a feature of TI3 and can strongly influence the course of a game but I think my experience in this session showed that the TI3 design does an absolutely brilliant job of limiting it to just another set of strategic choices, thanks largely to the nature of objectives in the game. In other long, conflict orientated games this balancing mechanism isn't there and the metagame can completely dominate the play beyond and influence the dice or strategic choice can have. Paradoxically, having played a game which demonstrated how best to allow the metagame but limit it's influence I've finally decided that long games with dominant metagame themes aren't really for me. Except Diplomacy of course, but that's a special case in which the metagame basically is the game.
The fourth point is one of complexity. TI3 is supposedly a complex game yet my three neophyte players all knew what they were doing by the end of the first turn. This isn't a testament to my brilliance at explaining games but rather a testament to the fact that length and number of rules is only one aspect of complexity. TI3 has a system which is logically consistent both internally and with regard to the theme it attempts to portray - this is a hard concept to define but basically, when I read the TI3 rulebook by the time I was halfway through I was able to make good and accurate guesses about the way the remaining rules were going to work. Today I attempted to read two rulebooks - one for the wargame Paths of Glory and one for the euro Imperial - one was long and one was short but both left me utterly baffled about how to play the game. In the case of PoG this is because the rules are full of special cases and exceptions. In the case of Imperial it is - like many games slimmed to the merest essentials of rules - because the rules have little connection to the scenario they're trying to portray. So don't dismiss a game as being "too complex" just because of the length of the rules - read them first, or have someone teach you. Similarly don't go thinking you can jump right in and play a game just because it has short rules - they won't always reveal how the game plays and they may hide a dizzying depth of strategy.
So that'll do for the day. I just wanted to add a short note to the blog readers to say that I'm going to be moving jobs in a few weeks and my ability to make regular posts is going to dry up, at least for a while.
Monday, 20 August 2007
To anyone who hasn't seen the news already:
Dune and Cosmic Encounter to Be Reprinted
Interestingly enough, it appears FFG has the rights to the game's mechanics but NOT the Dune license itself.
Puts me in a bit of a funny position; I'm glad to see the reprint, even if it does have to be re-themed a bit.
I like Dune. A lot. Have the novel and both the Extended DVD and the Sci-Fi DVD, and even the original soundtrack. However, though I think it's a bummer they'll have to re-theme it, this isn't a deal-breaker to me.
I mean, it isn't like they're going to suddenly plop the players in the Middle Ages trading silk for poofy shirts or anything like that. The rumor is that we'll be seeing a Twilight Imperium setting. Let's face it; all sci-fi borrows from the greats, Dune being one of them. So even if we don't get "Dune", we'll get a knock-off version using a more generic sci-fi setting. This won't be like changing a horse-racing game into an fantasy arena combat game. The mechanics are pretty much going to demand a conflict-based game, and the expectations of the license will pretty much steer it down a sci-fi path.
But...does this go against F:AT's mantra of "Theme! Theme! Theme!" The fact that it doesn't bother me much? Does it bother you guys if they have to re-theme this? If so, why? Is this a deal-breaker for you?
Regardless, this is something a lot of AT fans have been asking for, and it finally appears that we're going to get it.
The other cool thing is that if we get Cosmic Encounter, we won't be left high and dry like the Avalon Hill version--FFG knows how to ride the expansion bone like nobody's business.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
AGE OF EMPIRES III...if you believe the hype, you might think it's the greatest board game of our generation. I think it's a pretty mediocre game that features absolutely nothing special or exemplary. With the excitement in the board gaming world over this game, I'm pretty much convinced that a status quo-driven era of satisfaction with mediocrity has all but set in. It is nice to see that Glen Drover has performed his penance by taking dice out of his designs and is now welcomed into the hobby community by Eurogamers after all those years they spent publically trashing his designs and his business.
Anyway, have at it:
Monday, 13 August 2007
After going over my list of "Games on the Radar" last week, I found myself thinking, "I wish I knew more about this new Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game."
Then, in a head-smacking moment, I realized I had something on my side--the power of the press, baby! A quick e-mail later, I was in contact with Jason Hill, co-head honcho of Flying Frog Productions. Jason graciously took the time to chat with me about his new game, despite a very hectic schedule with GenCon looming up ahead.
F:AT: Jason, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. You’re something of a new face on the game design scene—what can you tell us about your gaming background?
Jason Hill: Well, on a personal level, I’ve been a hard-core gamer for as far back as I can remember. Like many other people, I started playing D&D with my older brother when I was young (actually when I was 5) and have never looked back. In my early teens I got into miniature games and more in depth board games, Warhammer, Battletech, the Game Master Series, and the like. I was the one in my gaming group who always read the rules and would run the new games and teach people how to play. I think that’s how most gaming groups work really, one individual who gets new games, devours the rules, and then sort of champions them to their friends. That’s when I first started to really play with design. Having read/played so many games, there was always a need for rules interpretations. It was then a natural progression to start changing rules here and there to fill in holes and change games to make them more fun for my group’s play style. After that it was a short road to designing games from scratch. It was a very organic process that has grown literally over the course of my entire life. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s really true - I eat, sleep, breathe games.
From a professional standpoint, I’ve been working in the games industry for about fifteen years. I worked for Games Workshop as an Outrider for over thirteen years, going to conventions and stores around the country running events and introducing people to the hobby. I wrote material for some GW magazine publications. I have also worked in some form or another with Wizards, Privateer Press, and a few others. For the last seven years or so, I’ve worked in the video game industry as an artist and designer. Most recently, I worked on the design team for FASA Interactive doing Shadowrun for the Xbox 360/PC.
F:AT: Most gamers like to think of themselves as “Jr. Designers”…sort of like everyone thinks they have the “Great American Novel” in them somewhere. What made you decide to pull the trigger and make those dreams a reality?
JH: When I was in second grade, they went around the room and asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said, “Mad Scientist”. The response was, of course, “You mean a scientist… that’s great!” And I said, “No. A ‘Mad’ Scientist!”. To some extent, I think that’s what being an independent Game Designer is. You get to create all these really exciting things and you don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules.
Games have been such a focus in my life for so long that I really don’t think I could stop if I tried. When I finish a hard day at work, I go home, kick off my shoes and work on game designs – writing, refining, testing, polishing. The dream for me is being able to make a living at doing what I love (and frankly what I would be doing anyway).
To say ‘pull the trigger’ feels a little weird because it sort of is and isn’t accurate. I formed Flying Frog Productions in 1999 with my brother and long-time gaming partner Scott (Art Director for Flying Frog – Jack Scott Hill) and have been working hard for the last, what – eight years to build the company. Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game was one of the very first game designs done under the Flying Frog banner so it’s been around for a long time. That being said, this year has finally seen some of that work pay off as 2007 is our official launch year.
F:AT: Theme seems to be important to you, if early signs from “Last Night on Earth” are any indication. What are your thoughts on how theme can add to a game?
JH: To me ‘Theme’ is king. A game is most successful when the theme permeates every aspect, not just the setting and the backdrop, but the way the game itself unfolds and how it plays turn to turn. If you have game mechanics that reinforce the theme you can take that game to a whole new level. What makes a game really fun and memorable is the story that you create as you play and being immersed into the genre.
With Last Night on Earth, we have worked hard to push the immersive aspects to give a very cinematic experience. All of the artwork is photo-based and, like all of our games, it includes a CD Soundtrack of original music to have going in the background while you play the game. This mixed with the way the game plays all come together to pull players into the story and the zombie movie genre.
F:AT: Do you find yourself trying to find a balance between theme and rules complexity? It's very tempting to throw yourself off the deep end, especially as you get deeper and deeper into the theme of a game.
JH: With any game I think balance is a key aspect; whether it’s the gameplay balance itself or finding a middle ground between the theme and complexity. It would be very easy to go crazy with detail and have a hundred little rules for a hundred specific situations, and although that would push the theme into the extreme (which many players would probably love) it would wreck the flow of the game and be a nightmare for gameplay balance. I’ve found that the ideal is to streamline the thematic elements not into more complex rules but rather into creating situations that the players find themselves in and intuitive game mechanics that lead players into making decisions that make sense in the genre. In this way you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ so to speak, without sacrificing the flow of the game or driving casual players away.
F:AT: Horror themes in particular have had a tough time being realized in board game form; after all, it's difficult to be terrified of a small two-inch piece of plastic. What have you learned from other efforts in the horror gaming genre--about what works, and what doesn't?
JH: I think that horror in a game and horror in movies are slightly different things. Many times horror in movies goes for the cheap scare. A loud sound is usually all it takes to startle people and make them jump. You can’t really do that in a board game and I’m not sure you would want to. That kind of scare feels cheap and is not what makes horror movies good. What makes a horror movie good is that feeling of intensity and anticipation, the ambiance of dark brooding environments and characters, transitioning into heart-pumping action of running, fighting, and generally doing anything you can to stay alive. This translates into a game as fast-paced turns, rules that flow well without getting in the way, and always feeling like you’re barely hanging on.
Also, like any good game/movie, Last Night on Earth has a slight tongue-in-cheek element of humor to occasionally lighten the mood.
A game that came out several years ago and is a fan favorite (for good reason) is ‘Betrayal at House on the Hill’. That game did a fantastic job of nailing the brooding exploration and mood of haunted house horror. Another game that is a bit older but a classic is Space Hulk by Games Workshop. I’m not sure most people would classify it as horror, but at its heart, that is exactly what it is. Moving through a maze-like board being hunted by deadly aliens that could jump out of the shadows at any time, with a heavy time constraint – the game creates a sense of overwhelming dread that goes above and beyond what you would normally associate with a board game.
F:AT: You've mentioned "Last Night on Earth" to be the culmination of eight years of work; there are a lot of zombie-lovin' gamers who are just itching to find out more about the game. We're looking for a "Fortress: Ameritrash" exclusive here...so now's your chance to lay the goods on us. What can you tell us about "Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game?"
JH: Well, first off the game is head-to-head so some players take on the role of the small-town Heroes fighting to stay alive and other players get to play as the Zombies, sending waves of hungry dead to overwhelm them. The Heroes have to work together to survive which encourages careful thought and strong team strategy. Also, there isn’t just one objective to the game, but rather several scenarios you can play that change the victory conditions, feel, and pace of the game.
The Heroes play fairly differently from the Zombies in that they are pretty much always on the run (until you can find yourself a nice shotgun, chainsaw, or the like). Heroes have to search the town to find items, weapons, and events that can help them to win while the Zombies have a hand of cards that they play through, getting to draw back up each turn. This really keeps the pressure on the Heroes and forces them to carefully consider if it’s worth lingering in the old Barn to rummage around when Zombies are closing in and could be lurking in every shadow.
Like all good ‘Ameritrash’ games, Last Night on Earth is all about the theme and flavor of the genre and has a decent amount of randomness. The game uses dice, you draw cards from a deck, you have a randomly generated board. These elements don’t diminish the strategy, they just add to the excitement. There is always a chance of success, no matter the odds; this helps Heroes to be heroic and Zombies to be savage.
Last Night on Earth isn’t just a board game, it’s a starting point, a toolbox. It’s set up to be infinitely expandable officially and by the fan community. We already have several expansions planned for release over the next couple years as well as a plethora of new web content including new game scenarios, characters, and board arrangements.
And if you like Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game, you’ll be happy to know that it is just the beginning. There are many more Flying Frog games that are waiting in the wings for their chance to go into full production. Last Night on Earth will be debuting at GenCon this year (2007) so if you make the trek to Indy, be sure to stop by the Flying Frog Productions Booth #2540 and say hello, play the game, and maybe pick up a copy early. You can find out more about the game on our Board Game Geek site and on the official site at http://www.flyingfrog.net/ over the coming weeks.
F:AT: Hey, hey, no shameless plugs--we're already on the payroll of SFR for Dragon Dice (sorry, inside joke). I think a lot of us are really curious about the combat system. Most of us have tried Zombies!!! and while it's good mindless fun, I doubt there are many of us who haven't tried sprucing up the combat system a bit. When it gets down to brass tacks, what is combat like in your game?
JH: Combat is fast and furious and can be a very dangerous affair for the Heroes unless you have a weapon of some kind or some other trick up your sleeve (usually in the form of a Hero ‘Event’ card). Also, some Heroes are better at fighting than others and have built in combat abilities. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will tell you that combat involves dice (hello,…’Ameritrash’!) and that it’s not too hard for a Hero to ‘Fend Off’ a Zombie, leaving them in your space, but killing them can be a challenge. This of course often leads to getting swarmed and potentially overwhelmed if you stay in one place too long.
One other thing that shakes up Combat and keeps players on their toes is that there are a lot of Combat-oriented ‘fast effect’ type cards that can be played after the dice are rolled to alter the outcome. Both Heroes and Zombies have these, so you can never be sure exactly what you’re getting into. This raises the tension and adds a lot of strategy as to when to play your cards, and when to hold them. Remember, Zombies get new cards every turn, but Heroes have to work for them by searching the town.
You’ll find that at face value, combat is fast and straight-forward, but a great deal of the strategy is when to fight, when to run, and how you use your cards (both weapons and Events). I don’t think players will be disappointed.
F:AT: Lots of games have a Zombie theme but fall short of actually realizing it well--take Mall of Horror, an excellent game but one that is easily re-themed (and in fact *was* rethemed from "Lifeboats"). Sounds like you're really trying to nail the zombie movie vibe. Are you a big horror buff?
JH: Oh yeah! When it comes to TV, movies, and comics, I’m a huge geek. Horror is no small part of that. I saw Friday the 13th part 2 on TV when I was like 4 or 5 and it scared the bejesus out of me. I’ve been hooked ever since. Really, all of the game designs I work on are based pretty heavily on strong pop-culture themes that most people know and can relate to. The games have as much theme and flavor as I can pack into them and are really a celebration of their genre. Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game is no exception!
F:AT: The cheesy photo artwork seems to capture the spirit of b-level horror flicks perfectly. What can we expect from the music CD?
JH: For years we would always put music on in the background while we played games, usually movie soundtracks that fit the type of game we were playing (I think a lot of people do). It helps set the tone and get everyone into the mood of the game. Shipping with an official soundtrack takes this idea to the next step and not only encourages this notion, but also gives players music that was specifically designed for the theme of the game.
Because of the cinematic quality we were striving for, the music for Last Night on Earth is really like the soundtrack ‘movie score’ to the game. It ranges from haunting dramatic to heroic action music with somewhat of a techno sensibility. We have a really talented composer who’s part of the company (Music Lead - Mary Beth Magallanes) and heads up the music for each of the games.
Rather than try to describe the sound, you can check out some streaming samples of the music on our LNOE MySpace page at - http://www.myspace.com/thezombiegame.
F:AT: You mentioned the game being a "toolbox"--how do you envision that expansions will be implemented in the game? Web-published scenarios? Expansions with more characters, cards, weapons, that sort of thing?
JH: We already have several expansions set for retail release over the next few years that are currently in testing (everything stays in testing until the moment it’s handed off to the printers). These range from full boxed expansions with new game boards, Heroes, cards etc, to card only or miniature expansions, and even a Scenario Book is in the works. We also have lots of Web Content planned in the form of new scenarios, strategy articles, and the like.
The intent is to really support the game’s community and create an ongoing sort of ‘living game’.
F:AT: Now as I understand it, you'll get a chance to show off the game at Gencon. Any chance gamers will get to meet "Jenny, the Farmer's Daughter?"
Actually, the actress who plays Jenny is going to be at the Flying Frog Productions booth (in costume), signing copies of the game and meeting fans.
F:AT: If that doesn’t draw them in, nothing will! Any more tidbits you'd like to throw our way? What's next for Flying Frog?
JH: Well, the first retail release expansion for Last Night on Earth is scheduled for this coming spring. Also, our second full game hasn’t been announced yet, but it has already gone into art production and is slated for a Summer ’08 release. All I can tell you right now is that it’s not Zombie related. You can look for more info to start hitting the official website (http://www.flyingfrog.net/) over the coming months.
F:AT: Jason, I appreciate your taking the time out to chat with us. I know things must be pretty hectic with Gencon coming up. I wish you guys the best of luck, and I'm really looking forward to "Last Night on Earth."
JH: It’s no problem. Thanks.
(Note: All images provided for this article were provided exclusively for Fortress: Ameritrash. I will publish them myself to Boardgamegeek.com at the end of the week.)
Friday, 10 August 2007
I know I don't really use my blog space for what blog space is usually used for - rather than telling everyone about the games I've been playing and spewing forth amusing anecdotes from my game evenings I tend to prefer to get on my high horse and preach at everyone. I make no apologies for this - I thoroughly enjoy doing it, and if I sometimes come across like a lecturing professor then so what? But today I'm going to something different - I'm going to do the usual blog thing and tell you about a game I played.
And then I'm going to preach at you.
The game in question was Twilight Struggle, one of my absolute favourite games. It was played over the fantastic free facilities over at WarGameRoom. I, a moderately experienced player was playing the USSR against a considerably more experienced US player.
One of the reasons I wanted to flag up this particular session for public consumption is that is showcased everything that's brilliant about Twilight Struggle. Every hand was loaded with tense, agonising decisions about best plays and risk management. There was luck in the game that helped it swing one way and the other to groans and cheers from the players involved. It's possible that luck, in the end, decided the game and although I don't think it did, the bottom line is that TS is just so much fun to play that really, who gives a damn if it does?
The opening few rounds went pretty smoothly, with no great changes in either direction. Europe and the Middle East were balanced but I'd managed to get into a strong position in Asia, having gathered North Korea, Pakistan and India and when Asia scoring came out I took a small lead. I also absolutely raced up the space race track leaving my opponent standing in the dust.
Things started to get a bit wobbly for me in the mid-game. I made a textbook mistake in Europe, being suckered into participating in a race to get control of France and then being hit by the dreaded "Truman Doctrine". However, my opponents' play of "De-Stalinisation" gave me the chance to grab battlegrounds in South America and Africa - since I already had Cuba thanks to "Fidel" I was in a strong position in those countries. Having gained control of these important areas I made a decision to use the points from "Decolonisation" to usurp the US in SE Asia, gathering Thailand, Indonesia and Laos for my troubles. However I then got hit with "Voice of America" or whatever it is that cleared out my influence in Africa and South America, which put me in a real bind having only Asia and Central America to score from.
The real disaster came in turn seven. I had a hand full of scoring cards and I got hit with Pope John Paul, Ussuri River Skirmish and the China card all in one turn - I lost Poland, North Korea and Pakistan and there was nothing I could do about it. I spent the next two turns desperately fire fighting - the scores were pretty much equal and I managed to claw my way back into parity in South America and gain a slim domination of Africa. So now I had Africa and Central America ranged against Europe and Asia for my opponent - the big scores at the end of the game were his.
However, in turn nine I also managed to loose control of East Germany (I don't now recall how this happened) and I thought my number was up as my opposite number had complete control of Europe. My last few cards on turn nine were to hit the enemy with "Quagmire" which basically made him miss one turn and then in sequence cram in "Soviet Governments" to make him loose control of West Germany and "Willy Brandt" ( the first time I've ever played that card as an event) to give me a foothold.
Then the game crashed.
So we hooked up again in the WarGameRoom chat facility and I basically offered him the game but he talked me into playing out the last round. My headline was the dreaded "Red Scare" which reduced the points he could pour into Germany this turn. The first few cards we were just battling for control of West Germany. Then my opponent played "tear down this wall" to give him a free realignment attempt at West Germany. Muscles were tensed, breaths were held and ... it backfired spectacularly as he actually lost influence, giving me control of the country. He'd burned all his best cards and I used my last few cards to minimise US scoring opportunities in other regions and make sure he couldn't get his military ops for the turn. I thought I'd lost it.
When the final scores came in, I winged it by a measly two points, and rejoiced.
So, a great game. But it occurred to me afterwards that there were a few lessons that I ought to take away from the game.
First and foremost, never give up. Watching people in games whose world has collapsed around then get all sulky and throw in the towel has to be one of the most pathetic sights in the world. I've long since learned not to sulk when it happens to me, but to appreciate the fine play of my opponents and enjoy my spectacular demise for the fine gaming spectacle it often is - but I still frequently resort to giving up when it happens, as illustrated by the game above. But I played the last round and snatched victory from the iron jaws of defeat thanks to a combination of luck and poor play by my opponents. Keep going to the bitter end - you never know what might happen.
The second lesson is that this is a fantastic illustration of why random mechanics and thematic games have the ability to create more exciting and memorable gaming moments than more tightly scripted games. A level-headed analysis of the situation would run something like "we played a game for two hours, and a last minute dice roll was a significant factor in determining the final winner". But that's to miss so much - I only pulled out the last minute win because I'd played well enough over the preceding rounds to stay in touch, and in the end, random win or not, we'd both had a fantastic time and come away with a great gaming anecdote to bore our friends with.
And the third lesson is probably the most important lesson in gaming - however viciously, desperately, achingly you want and play for that all-important win what matters at the end of the day is that you had a laugh doing it. A big part of how I learned not to sulk when the players gang up on me or the dice go against me is to remember that my gaming experience is just part of a wider narrative, so if you're going to go down, don't go quietly no matter how pointless your situation is. It might just be that you swing the game in one direction or the other, even if it's not toward you, and it might just be that you pull off the mother of all spectacular collapses or even comebacks that everyone will be talking about for months to come.
This week Matt has been:
Drinking: Oyster Bay 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
Reading: D-Day by Stephen Ambrose
Watching: Black Books
Playing: Twilight Struggle (well duh!)
Thursday, 9 August 2007
I got Bill Abner to hire an artist to illustrate what I do to Eurogames and Eurogamers in this week's Cracked LCD column and this is what he came up with. That's Robert Martin doing the choppin'.
Why hasn't anyone done a Eurogame where the players are trying to impress Vlad Tepes?
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
We were somewhere around Bucharest when the Romanian liquor began to take hold. I remember an aftertaste of gasoline and saying something like "He's either in Varna or Dublin . . ." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around me and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?" My brother was pouring beer down his throat. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered. "Never mind," I said. "It's Dracula's turn."
It was Wednesday, almost midnight, and we were about 40 miles south of Lancaster, at the home of my brother, KingPut, the second best Caylus player in the world. Registration for the fabulous World Boardgaming Championship was already underway, and we had to be there by 4 tomorrow to claim our hotel room. We were on our way to Lancaster to find the Ameritrash dream. I was, after all, a contributer to Fortress: Ameritrash; so I had an obligation to cover the story, for good or ill. But what was the story? Nobody had bothered to say. So we would have to drum up our own. Do it now: pure Gonzo journalism. It was a very ominous assignment - with overtones of extreme personal danger. 24 hours earlier I had received an urgent e-mail from KingPut's wife containing an excerpt from his blog.
Getting ready for WBC. To me July 31, 2007 felt like December 25, 1977. I was eagerly awaiting the start of WBC. I would get to play all the “hot” new Euros at Jays Café. But my biggest excitement was to play in the Caylus tournament. In 2006 I had come in 2nd place in Caylus at WBC but I was denied wood even though I played 9 hours of Caylus and had beat out 71 other players because Caylus was a trail event. Leading up to July 31st I felt like Michael Jackson riding the Dumbo ride in Disneyland. A had given up gaming for 9 whole days (to win brownie points with my wife) leading up to WBC. I thought I had lucked out on Friday July 27th when I walked into a Good Will shop and found Wizard Quest for $0.97. Let’s look that up on BGG. From 1979, did they make good designer games in 1979? Settlers didn’t even come out until 1995. Oh, a rating of 5.94 that’s not good. Even Apples to Apples Jr. beats that. But T&T is selling it for $40 and I can always give it to Ubarose.
WBC Day 1. I left work at 3:30 on Tuesday, July 31st and made it up to Lancaster by 5:00 PM. The first heat of Caylus didn’t start until 9:00 so I had a few hours to kill. As I was sitting there alone at Jay’s Café looking at the WBC booklet thinking what I’d do from 5:00 to 9:00. Jay called over and asked me if I wanted to learn how to play Arkadia.
The beverage I drank was definitely, Bottled Sam’s Club (BSCW) water. I think this is a very appropriate beverage for playing my first game at WBC and for playing Arkadia. First of all, water is the most natural, refreshing, thirst quenching drink on the planet. There was one other reason I drank bottled Bottled Sam’s Club Water (BSCW) while playing Arkadia. That was the fact that one of the other guys I was playing the game with was wearing a collar. No, not a Polo Ralph Lauren collar but a priest collar. The thing is this priest guy was the slowest player I had ever played any game with in my life. By the end of the game I wanted to stand up and yell God damn it, for Christ sakes will you put your fucking workers on the board and get your stupid victory points. But being brought up a good Catholic I pulled out my BSCW and said “Okay, I think its still your turn” I realized that he was playing the game with his daughter which means he wasn’t a Catholic priest so maybe I actually could stand up and say for Christ sakes build your building Europriest, guy but since his daughter was there that would be in bad taste.
I took one of my turns around 6:00 then got up and went over bought an Italian sausage sub. I took a couple of bites of the sub but then I had a heart attack. I reached down to drink some of my beer to help prevent the heart attack but all I had was BSCW. So I was rushed over to some Amish hospital where I was brought back to life by some hot looking Amish nurse. I came back to Jay’s Café to apologizes and to explain to other players for taking so long to buy and eat my sub and to have a heart attack and stuff when I realized it was still the Europriest guy’s turn. My rating of Arkadia is a very bland 5.5.
O Christ, I thought, he's gone around the bend. Look what Caylus has done to that poor bastard. I showed the e-mail to my husband. "Hell!" he exclaimed. "This one sounds like real trouble!" "You're going to need plenty of psychological advice before this thing is over," he said. "And my first advice is to load up the CRV with Ameritrash and beer and drive like hell to PA." We spent the rest of the night rounding up materials and packing the car. Somewhere around noon we had lunch at a Terrytown deli, then drove carefully across the bridge and plunged into the heat of the NJ turnpike, heading west.
We finally got to KingPut's house around dusk. We pulled out FURY OF DRACULA. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in Ameritrash.
"Your Van Helsing," I said shoving the mini into KingPut's hand. "Can you grasp that?"
He nodded but his eyes were nervous.
"Hell, I forgot all about the Romanian liquor."
My husband handed KingPut the bottle. "As your psychologist, I advise you to drink this."
KingPut swallowed. His eyes cleared. And we were into it. Tearing across Europe on Dracula's trail. No point mentioning the bats I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
Now, two hours later, Dracula had triumphed, and there was still time for another game, but those terrible Cthulhu creatures in the blue cage kept screaming like my college roommate having sex. "What are those goddamn animals?" "They're just the 3rd grade's guinea pigs," said KingPut, "How about DOWNFALL OF POMPEII?" It was a Euro. Right. We had to go slowly. Challenge them on their own turf. And then everyone was running. There was lava. People screamed like little girls as they were thrown into the volcano.
Thursday, almost noon, and we still had more than three miles to go. They would be tough miles. Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted. But there was no going back, and no time to rest. We would have to ride it out.
We pulled into the hotel parking lot around noon. The back of our car looked like a mobil FLGS. We had two baggies of baggies, seventy-five glass pellets, five sheets of errata, a bottle half full of Basil Hayden, a case of Magic Hat, two quarts of peaches, two cases of Red Bull, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored plastic bits . . . and also three boxes of Fantasy Flight, four boxes of Avalon Hill, two boxes of Z-man, two Knizia's, one Hasbo and a Euro. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious game collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the Euro. There is nothing more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of cube confusion. And I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.
We ran the gauntlet - check-in, badges, WBC mug shots. "Your room's not ready yet," the desk clerk had told us, so we went downstairs to find Dan and KingPut. Dan was playing a war game. A good looking guy walked up to say hello and Dan introduced us to him. I didn't catch his name because I was sitting and was distracted by the universe of colorful buttons, baubles and badges that were decorating his eye level crotch like a Christmas tree. I tried to make out the name on his badge, but the Romanian gasoline was leaving my system. I felt lightheaded and my eyesight blurred. "I think I need something to eat," I said. "Time spent eating is time not spent gaming," said Dan. My husband pressed a cold can into my right hand, and a cold bottle into my left. "As your psychologist, I advise you to drink Red Bull with a beer chaser."
Upstairs, my head began to clear as the Red Bull kicked in. KingPut took a seat and I pulled out COSMIC ENCOUNTER. My husband saw the young man wandering around the open gaming area long before I did and motioned him over. His name was Daniel and was familiar with the Eon version of COSMIC ENCOUNTER and would be happy to be our fourth. We passed around the bits and the beers. I glanced at Daniel. The nice young man's face was changing: swelling. pulsing . . . horrible green jowls, the face of a Zombie. I lunged backwards into my husband. There was nothing there but a Virus. I suddenly felt empathetic and peaceful. I didn't want to fight anyone. We could negotiate and work this all out. But that loathsome Virus just kept spreading, and that fool Zombie whore was willing to ally with anyone. The fear set in. We were all doomed.
The Virus claimed his fifth colony about the same time I noticed the man with the crotch jewelry wandering around the open gaming room. Holy shit. Now that I could see clearly I recognized him. It was Malloc. Weirdness, Malloc and Dan, my daughter's godfather, know each other. Malloc was off to play GANGSTERS or something.
An adorable woman named Ruth stopped at our table and said, "That's my most favorite game ever," pointing at BETRAYAL AT HOUSE ON THE HILL. What the hell! We had nothing but time and games and half a case of cold Magic Hats. We pulled it out and were joined by another man who made me laugh, but whose name I have forgotten. Was it Dave? I quickly reviewed the rules for KingPut, who had never played before. "You move. You flip tiles. You pick cards. Shit happens."
I was in the basement. I could see my unconscious body lying below me as I floated above it. My stinking traitor brother was kicking it over and over again. The bright light appeared and I moved towards it, into the light. It was over for me. It was peaceful. But then I had to reincarnate as a rules lawyer since I was the only one who was dead and therefore could read KingPut's traitor sheet.
I found myself alone at that the table. I don't remember where everyone went. Tournaments? The bar? the bathroom? Then Dan was sitting beside me and we were talking to Zev about Z-man's plans to publish TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. Dan and Zev were talking about the artist contacted to do the box art, and I was thinking about the last time I played TALES, and the smell of the incense, and how shiny and black Zev's curls looked right now. Did he have new glasses? They looked really nice on him. Jesus! Did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me? Zev smiled at me and said, "Thank you." Then disappeared.
It was 2 a.m. Friday morning. I had explained the Arkham Horror rules to KingPut hours ago. "You move. You pick cards. Shit happens." Somehow, all the shit that had happened had gone horribly wrong. We were four, exhausted investigators on the edge of madness with nothing more than a shotgun, a rifle, two pistols and a knife between us, facing a loathsome, twisted Ancient One. A small group of the morbidly curious had gathered to watch the final battle. "Run you fools! There is no way I can hold off this beast with nothing but a pistol and a knife." But somehow we did. The strange vibrations ceased, and the gates closed with a deafening sucking sound.
A loud crash. I came awake fast - thinking, what does that mean. I glanced at the clock. 7:30 a.m. Maniacal laughter, then shouting. KingPut was outside his room, the door ajar, a baggy of cubes in one hand, dice gripped in the other.
" The gates have begun to open," he screamed, waving the handful of dice above his head. "Ancient Ones lurk in the emptiness beyond space and time, writhing at the gates between other worlds and my bathroom. The portal must be closed." He hurled the dice into his room.
Shit. Four Ameritrash games in 36 hours had been too much for his anemic Euro system. He was totally twisted. I looked into his room. There was a gaping 2'x 2' hole above his sink where the mirror had been. A gurgling noise issued from its darkness.
KingPut screamed like a little girl. "A Gug!"
"The bailiff!" he laughed uncontrollably, ripping the lid off the Caylus box and plunging his hand inside. "The bailiff will deactivate this glug." He pointed the bailiff menacingly towards the hole.
"Goddamit!" I said. "You've done too much. The first rush is the worst. Just ride the bastard out."
He turned toward me, bleary eyed, waving the bailiff around in quick circles in front of his teeth.
"Look," I said, "you'd better put that goddamn bailiff away and get your head straight. Get back in bed, I'll be back in twenty minutes."
I went to my room and called the front desk about the mirror and the gaping hole in the wall.
My brother was in bed when I returned. Submerged in green sheets.
"Caylus," he snarled.
"You're doomed," I said.
"Don't make me use this." His arm lashed out of the sheets, the baggy of cubes gripped in his fist.
"Jesus," I muttered. At this point I figured he was beyond help - lying in the bed with the biggest baggy of cubes I had ever seen, totally incapable of reason, demanding Caylus.
"Help! You bastard! I need help!" He was reaching across the night stand toward the Caylus box. "I want that fucking game," he snarled.
I grabbed it away from his hand. "You fool!" I said. "Get away from that goddamn game!"
"I want you to throw that fuckin game in the bed with me."
"Not me," I said.
"Bullshit!" he screamed crazily, thrashing around in the bed. He ripped off the sheets and lunged at me, waving the baggy of cubes out in front of him like a man who meant to optimize something.
"MUNCHKIN!" I shouted. "You want this?" I waved a MUNCHKIN box in front of his eyes."
"You bastard!" he hissed. "You'd do that, wouldn't you."
I laughed, still waving the box in front of him. "You'll like it. Shit, there's nothing in the world like MUNCHKIN - forty-five minutes on your knees rolling dice. It'll calm you right down."
I menaced him again with the MUNCHKIN box. "Get back in that bed," I said. "Try to calm down. Fondle some cubes - shit, do what ever you have to do, but let me get some rest."
He shrugged and smiled distractedly. "Hell yes," he said very earnestly, and shuffled back to bed. He had shifted gears; the next phase would probably be one of those hellishly intense introspection nightmares; but nothing physical. I watched the door close behind him, and quietly slipped back to my own room for a couple more hours sleep.
Friday afternoon . . . the game library . . . LEONARDO DA VINCI . . . methadone for my poor bastard CAYLUS junkie brother. Malloc stopped by to abuse me for playing the horrible, piece of crap. I flashed the back of a card at him. "The full monty," I explained. Malloc flashed a picture of Opie on his cell phone at me. "Barnes," he said.
Malloc invited us to play STRUGGLE OF EMPIRES. I was Queen Victoria, and we were not amused. How did I get mixed up with this gang of psychotics? Those scumbags were trying to kill us. Then there were accusations. The game had been set up wrong. While people argued and sulked, we escaped with Malloc leading us through the maze of hotel corridors, through his room to the pool bar.
"I advise you to drink many margaritas in the sun," said my husband.
"Twilight Imperium tonight," said Malloc.
"Shit. I have a date tonight to play WARRIOR KNIGHTS with KingPut's friend Cody." I said.
Malloc, laughed, "Cody is one of the eight guys sleeping in my hotel room. I'll work it out." And he did. And we agreed to meet in an hour.
The tequila buzz was wearing off as we attempted to pull out of the hotel parking lot. I had a strong need for Basil Hayden, and the bottle was empty. Twenty minutes of cruising and no liquor store. Finally pulled into a WaWa to ask for directions.
"The clerk said there are no liquor stores," my husband announced, as he got back into the car and slammed the door.
Shit. How can that be possible. I rolled down my window and shouted to a large man in black with tattoos covering his arms, "Where's the liquor store?"
"Jesus Christ!" said Dan, ducking.
"A liquor store." I yelled again, hanging out the window. "I need bourbon. Point me to bourbon."
The man pointed and shouted back.
"What are you doing?" said Dan, pulling me back into the car, his eyes nervous.
I laughed. "He said the liquor store was eight miles that way, in the next town."
"Fuck that." My husband said taking the corner at full speed and heading back to the hotel. "I advise you to drink over priced Makers Mark at the bar."
Twilight Imperium; the black tar heroin of Ameritrash. Holy shit! What can I say. Eight hours of screaming, table pounding, in your face depravity. I tell you, this is the Ameritrash dream in action! We'd be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way out to the end.
Sunday morning 11 a.m. . . . Memories of Saturday are extremely hazy. All I have, for guide pegs, is an ear full of balaclava lint and handful of crumpled cocktail napkins, all covered with scribbled notes.
Here is one: "WARRIOR KNIGHTS. . . two player possibilities . . . cool knights . . . almost great . . . needs dice"
Another says: "COWBOYS . . . corridor battle . . . best new game . . . $50. No fucking way."
My husband packed up our car. KingPut packed up his. As we pulled out of the parking lot, KingPut rolled down his window and shouted, "MONSTERS MENACE AMERICA. Tomorrow. Your place."
"See you in eight hours." I shouted back. My heart was full of joy. This trip had been different. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of gaming in this country - but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
I am back from the WBC and the title about sums it up. I am sorry that I did not get a post up form the con but there were not internet connections in the rooms and well I never stopped playing games long enough write one up anyway.
So here it is, Malloc's week of gaming in Lancaster, PA.
I roll out of the house a little late, about noon and after swinging through the local Beer warehouse managed to get the the hotel at about 1:30pm. This meant I missed the game auction, probably good for may wallet, but I was a little bummed about that. I was the first of of the group of guys we were packing into our hotel room to arrive, so I checked in and started lugging my supplies for the week into the room. I tried this year to brig games that I had not had the chance to play yet and that were, on average, too long to pull off on a weeknight. I also had about 3 cases of beer too last me the week, an air mattress, sleeping bag, toothbrush and deodorant (I try to buck the trend and actually shower at these things) etc etc.
My brother "Bobby Tweaks" and our friend Phil 'The Steak" White rolled in next and I helped lug their pile of shit and more beer into the room, fetched ice and finally we were ready to play a game. Expecting others to arrive rather soon, we grabbed Nexus Ops for a little simple, quick dice tossing action. I like this game, it plays in about 1 hour, can be explained in about 5 min to a newbie and other than some crappy components plays just great. I thank Ubarose for the suggestion to replace the monolith with a shot glass, now you get 2 energize cards and a drink for controlling the center. If I recall, "The Steak" kicked ass in this game, sending me and "Tweaks" packing in a hurry.
After that I jumped in to the Collector/Auction tournament. This old School game is popular with the game group. I actually won a copy of it during the annual Joie-Boardgame Marathon last year, but had never played it. Anyway the game again plays fast and can be explained even faster and I had some time to kill. I rather enjoyed this one for a auction game, it has just enough going on to be a good little filler of a game.
After this G-bub's and the Joie showed up so we lugged in even more shit and beer fromt he parking lot. The only other game that night was the 1st heat of Gangsters. I don;t remember much about this game other than I didn't win and spent most of the game making sure the very manipulative player across from me went down with me.
Wednesday was going to be my busy day. There were lots of events I wanted to play in, Crusader Rex and Titan to start. CR was at 9 am and I was expecting to get eliminated quickly and head up to have my ass handed to me in Titan that afternoon. As it turns out I won my first 2 games and made the semi's in Crusader Rex. That took 8 hours out of my day. In the semi's there were 3 of us left and one was going to get a bye, I didn't want to spend another 8 hours going for 1st place (I am there not to win but to play games I can not play elsewhere) so I dropped out and took 3rd place. After the Crusader Rex Marathon I needed a break so what did I do? I played Republic of Rome! I had not played this one before but it was high on my want to try list. I was able to get into a game and picked up the mechanics rather quickly. As for actually understanding what I needed to do to win well, that that took more time. The game ended quickly in about 4.5 hours and I think I was 3rd out of 5. It was fun but certainly something that I can only do at a con. On a side note, my buddy Joie played in the other RoR game, his game lasted about 9 hours and in the end Rome Fell and they all lost!
After those two games my brain was more fired than normal so I went and played can't stop, one of the best press your luck games out there and just some good old fashioned dice rolling fun. After hours on Wednesday was another game of Nexus Ops, this time a 4 player game and I think "the Steak" won again, but I can not remember as it is all a big blur (I really was fried that night.)
I got up early again on Thursday and hit the breakfast Buffet, with nothing better to do I sat down for some Power Grid. Now my luck at any game tourney goes like this. I always play in games where I am paired with a bunch of good players and one total newbie, or just a fool. This probably has to do with my not sticking in there until the later rounds, but PG was exactly this way. Anyway I was the one who had to bit the bullet and bid on a 6 Plant that I didn't want in order to keep another player from being able to power 15 plants before Phase 2. This action pretty much guaranteed that I would not win on any tie brake. In the end I ended up 3rd on the Tie Break with the winner having like 100k 2nd having like 60k and me at about 7k. Power Grid is a good game but I find that too often it comes down to the flip of the Plants at the end. For example in this game the leader was forced to pick up a shitty 4 plant and could only power 14 (same as me and one of the steam brothers) This put the woman I outbid for the 6 plant in a good spot since she should have been able to get a good plant, except she top decked a bigger piece of shit plant and was only able to power 13, she was done! This seems to be how most games of this end and that doesn't seem right to me.
After PG I goofed off for a bit wasting time until me Team Event, Stock Car Championship Racing card Game. (I like taking bullshit mindless games for my team event, don't ask why) I missed the 1st heat in this one, but you only needed to finish in the top 3 in any heat to make the finals. I had brought along my own car for this and was able to dive the Ricky Bobby Laughing Clown Malt Liquor number 26 to a 3rd place finish. Good enough to get in the finals and so I managed to free up my Friday schedule a lot.
Now that I was qualified, I wanted to go and play some open games. I found my buddy Tom in the open Game room where he camps out for the entire event. (something I am doing more of each year) I had my un-played copy of War of the Ring in my room and Tom agreed to play with me and teach me the game. How much of a dickwad am I for not playing this thing. It was great and will certainly get more playtime this year now that I know how the thing works. Also sometime during the WotR game is when Ubarose finally figured out who I was and came up and said hello. She and her gang of friends began breaking out Arkham Horror on the neighboring table and so I was able to watch that as well while playing WotR.
After Frodo dunked the ring on my ass (next time I will know what I am doing Tom!) I had to go play in another round of Gangsters. This was a great game, with 2 guys who were already in the semi's being placed at my table and a 3rd very good player filling out the group. I was beat up pretty bad by these guys and coupled with some amazingly bad rolls (all 1's until i needed to buy game members then all 6's) I came in a solid 4th. Anyway it was probably the best played game of the whole WBC for me, as everyone knew what to do and it was good fun even if i took it on the chin. I also should take time out to give props to John Pack, the GM for Gangsters who always makes it a great game. This year he had shirts with the different cop playing pieces on them that you could win if you were able to bribe that cop during play. In addition to the shirts he had counters for his new variant game that includes rules for 5 players (the one in the original sucks) and some new advanced rules to make the game a bit more crazy.
Afte gangsters it was pretty late so I went to find some more open gaming. Tom was about to play winners circle, I sarcastically told him it was good (I didn't want to offend the people who were breaking it out and pimping it) and so he played it. Ubarose and clan were still playing Arkham Horror and so I headed back to the room for a bit to get more beer. By the tie I got back (with G-Bubs in tow) Tom had split, after one round of winner's circle he couldn't take it anymore and said he had to goto bed. Uba and clan were still playing Arkham and so I watched them fight the big bad monster (they won). I finally ran into my friend Rolinda and she, rob, and guy named Dan and myself played catchphrase. It is one of those electronic games that works a bit like the old game show $25,000 pyramid. Normally not my 1st choice but at 2am with werewolf as my only other option it was just about right. The game ended up being rather fun and I am glad I played it.
Friday was a pretty free day for me. I got up a little late and ate breakfast with the intention of heading down to the vendor area to see what was there. Due to this delay I missed out on the $50 copies of Tide of Iron (Damn!), I did pick up Galactic Destiny (its Republic of Rome in Space) and Formula Motor Racing (back in print and $15). After realizing that I blew the cheap copy of ToI, I headed up to the open Gaming area. I found Ubarose again playing through some horrible euro (Leonardo DaVinci I think, can't remember, but it was crap.) After looking over my new game we decided to play Struggle of Empires. Tom was back and wanted to try it, as did Uba and crew. I had not played in at least a year and was up to try it again. We played but we totally fucked up the setup (thank you Martin Wallace for the well written, easy to reference rules!) so I won't go into it and leave it at that.
The SoE debacle caused me to miss the final round of Gangsters, so I had some more free time, and busted out A&A:War at sea with some guys I met there who were itching to play. I had been buying mini's like a crack addict because I am a sucker for anything involving WWII naval combat. It is also a game I can play (with extremely simplified rules) with my 4 year old boy. I remembered to toss my mid sized collection into the car so we were able to play a pretty good game of Jap's VS Brits. This game is super simple, but lots of fun. I could stand some house rules to add some less gamey tactics but out of the box it is playable and the mini's rock. We managed to take out the Hood with the Fatal Flaw rule. (roll 4 6's to hit and that fucker goes up in flames) This pretty much made my day, so I give the game a thumbs up.
That evening I was able to get a 6 player game of Twilight Imperium III going. Ubarose and her gang filled out 3 of the races while G-Bub's, "The Deuber", and myself from my own crew made for 6 players. I was the Space Chick Pirates, Uba's Bro was Sol, G-Bub's was Mindnet, Ubarose and her man were playing Yin as a team, The Deuber was Muaat and Dan was the evil Hacan player. The game ran a bit slow at the start with only 3 of us having played and 2 of us knowing the rules. In the end (8hrs later) the evil Hacan pulled a come from behind Victory by getting his secret objective and taking the planet with the intergalactic porn collection on it. It turned out to be a close game, with 3 of us about 1 point away. Great fun and again all that played enjoyed the game, even the Sol player who took 2nd in the Gaylus tourny last year.
After the late night the day before I got a somewhat late start again. Finding myself in the OG room again with nothing planned and a Stock Car Final to attend in a few hours, I was looking for something quick. Uba's Bro. the Deuber and I played the End of the Triumvirate, its a euro but I had heard it was ok for 3 and has combat. After playing the combat wrong due to the ules sucking, I had Bobby Tweaks explain our mistake. We started over and Uba's Bro won via the military victory. I guess for a euro this one was ok. At least you could fight but it was still rather dry, didn't evoke any excitement and well.... you know... euroish. Luckily the game ended quick so I could go and Race.
Ricky Bobby was ready to roll, running in the race along with me was Bobby Tweaks. The final for this game is odd, in that they start using a different set of rules than for the qualifying rounds. This year they used the advanced rules for tire wear (something I like a lot) and the pit window rules. This was all good but no one really understood them. I have read the rules to this game and they are still not very clear. so we all ran a good race, whit nothing much happening for the 1st pit (around lap 80 or so) the second pit (lap 130) was different. 3 player chose not to pit. (I was not one of them) this put them one lap ahead, but they could not draw cards again until the end of the race. this meant that if we passed them we would be on the lead lap but we could never catch them, unless they ran out of cards. Also if a yellow flag came out before you got onto the lead lap you were screwed (except for the lucky dog) since they would all be able to pit. I managed to pass one of the cars and get on the lead lap with 10 laps to go, (read one more turn) when we top decked a yellow flag. One of the cars that didn't pit had un out of gas. Another (and about 6 other players) was knocked out of the race when he couldn't play a pass card to avoid the wreck. This left one of the non-pit players, another driver who managed to pass them (ironically him mother) and myself on the lead lap. Joining us was the Lucky dog (the leader of the 2nd lap) who is allowed to join the back of the pack on the restart (NASCAR rules)
So on the restart I was in 3rd with 4th being the worst I could finish. I played it safe, and went early and dropped a 2 wide card holding a hand full of blocks. (really I forgot that we could still switch lanes and race inside, but I think this works to my advantage anyway) The guy in 4th, now fuming that he couldn't use any of his pass cards dropped hi own 2 wide and the race was basically over. The kids mom ended up passing him to take away 1st. i was a fun race and I will play this one again next year. I will however suggest to the GM that the rules for the final be the same as the rules for the qualifying races. A lot of good players who never saw that kind of pit rules were screwed because they didn't understand the implications of pitting on a green flag while others stayed out. Anyway goo stuff and I got a 3rd place finish for my team event!
After SCC, I ended up back in the OG room. We busted out a copy of Worthington Games new Cowboys game. This game and also some silly looking Yahzee golf thing were the darlings of hte con. Everyone want to get them and play them. Cowboy's is a really simple move your guy around and shoot thing game. It has just enough flavor to be cool, but is really beer and pretzels. For example on your turn you can either move, or shoot. Thats how simple it is. In addition, you get a hand full of 5 screw cards to pay, one on your turn one on everyone else's turn. I have just explained 90% of the rules. For the flavor there are some nice little game maps that can be arraigned to for towns, etc etc. In our game I started in a bedroom in the brothel, and Joie started on the crapper in the outhouse. Good fun stuff.
After shooting up all our friends we played a game of War on Terror, you know that game that the fuckers at Essen thought was too naughty. I picked this up from my FLGS before the con just to play a late night game of this crazy assed game. I was not expecting much, but this thing turned out to be an ok little risk variant. There is enough in there to make sure we play this every year at the WBC. It is fun take that world domination action with a hilarious tongue in cheek theme. Why people made a big deal over this thing on BGG is beyond me.
Slap Shot was up next, as it was 11pm on Saturday. I went down and play this having a great time. For some reason the rules were dumbed down this year, I was not fond of that but anyway you play this one it is great fun. A kid at my table was the 1st to get caught whining and have to goto the penalty box. There is a guy dressed as a ref who will blow the whistle and come over and drag the player to the front of the room where he has to stand for 2 min. Good stuff... I lost as my team got taken apart ad I ran out of time to rebuild it.
Headed back to the OG room for our final Gangsters game. A traditional game with Bobby Tweaks, Joie, G-Bubs and myself. I found Joie still playing C&C:A and so I jumped into a game of Villa Paletti with Uba, Her man and some poor unsuspecting chick we roped into playing with us. This is one of those simple dexterity games, but late night at a con these are good fun.
Joie was finally ready and so we got our Gangsters game going. As usual it was a bloody affair with lots of screaming and cussing. This year we had competition in the form of a group of guys playing lifeboats, but in the end we were louder. The game took a long time I thin we finished it at 5:30 am. At one point G-Bubs looked at his watch and said" Gentlemen, in 24 hours I will be getting up to goto work" Bobby Tweaks played a great game and had us all on the ropes trying to stop him. In the end we all ran out of steam and he took a 10 joint victory.
That was about it for Malloc at the WBC. I did see some interesting things. Jerry Taylor was there with 2 copies of Wars of the Roses. This game looks great, the artwork is fantastic on both the board but especially on the units. I did not get to play but watched a game while playing Crusader Rex. Comments were mixed, most liked it but a few said it was very chaotic. I have it pre-ordered and don't plan on canceling it. Jerry was optimistic for a Christmas release. I also say a pretty cool SciFi based CDG game. Something that is needed, and a prototype of a game where you play repair crews running around a WWII battleship putting out fires and stopping floods.
Well thats about all I got for a trip report, I will have some more comments later about gaming and things I noticed at the con later.
And now for something completely different....let's talk about games, shall we?
Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game
When horror games are successful, they're often derivative (Horrorclix just being an extension of Wizkids' existing 'Clix lines) or at their heart, very thinly themed (Mall of Horror is a great game, but only a few steps removed from Lifeboats, the game that inspired it).
Maybe they'll get it right this time. One thing I really like is the fact that the game ships with scenarios--it's not just a zombie blast-a-thon, but your heroes are actually trying to accomplish something. Take the somewhat involved scenario that has been published--finding some gasoline for an old truck and getting it started so you can make your getaway. Top that off with characters with differing special abilities--not to mention fitting in to all the established character cliches from horror films--and hopefully we're looking at a zombie game that not only looks great but plays great, too.
Starcraft: The Board Game
There was plenty of speculation about expansions for the game, as fans hoped to end their battles between Hulk and a horde of kung-fu monks and get on with the real comic book battles they were hoping to see. And on-cue, the expansion announcement has arrive, and it looks *sweet*. Filled with heroes and villains such as The Punisher, the Fantastic Four, Beast, Sandman, and others, a few packs of these will increase the number of team builds exponentially. No word yet on distribution, and I'm still wondering if we'll get the Common Army packs eventually (S.H.I.E.L.D., The Hand, Morlocks, the list goes on and on).
Wars of the Roses
Yeah, yeah, bitching about this game being collectible rather than a true successor to Siege of the Citadel is pretty much old hat and truth be told a bit out of vogue, so to speak. While we don't have a ruleset yet, bits and pieces of information on the game have trickled out since it was announced seemingly an eternity ago. Mostly, I think you can expect your typical CMG skirmish game here with enough touches of the Mutant Chronicles world to give it plenty of flavor.
The minis on this do take special notice...if they turn out as nice as their preview pics, then I doubt there are many AT gamers who will be able to resist picking up a few of these. I do wish they were the same scale as the Siege of the Citadel figs, as I had entertained thoughts of collecting a pre-painted set just for that use, but no luck.
Star Wars Miniatures
Anyone else here still surprised that this one's being made? WotC's attention for the line really waned once the final prequel hit theaters and the TCG died a quiet death not long after that, but a surprising thing happened--a year later the game kicked back into high gear and hasn't looked back since.
I'm a bit of a strange gamer in terms of "historical accuracy". For some reason, the only SWM gaming that appeals to me is scenario play. Sure, I'll play a wargame that has myriad historical inaccuracies, but if I see Darth Maul versus Boba Fett on Geonosis, I'm done.
Descent: The Road to Legend
That's all I can think of for now, though I'm sure I've forgotten a few. Now is the part where I get to be lazy and let you guys do some work for me--what are YOU looking forward to the most for '07-'08?
(All images courtesty Boardgamegeek.com, with the exception of the Star Wars Miniatures photo, which is courtesy of Rebelscum.com.)