My brother recently ordered a bunch of bits, promos, and expansions for a popular game. We are going to play it tomorrow. Can you guess what it is from the photo?
I think you can figure it out!
My brother recently ordered a bunch of bits, promos, and expansions for a popular game. We are going to play it tomorrow. Can you guess what it is from the photo?
I think you can figure it out!
So, I was on the other side of town today and stopped in to Old School Games. I am glad I did! What did I find?
The Cities and Leaders Anniversary packs for 7 Wonders! Each has 15 new cards. Somehow I missed these packs when they were released in 2017… but now I have them!
I am a big fan of buying games from internet sites. I can buy directly from the publisher, I can get a good price from an online retailer like Amazon, I can window shop multiple sites, etc. However, the biggest disadvantage of online shopping is that it is surprisingly easy to miss things. Amazon doesn’t have everything and search results can be more limited than it might appear.
That’s why I love going to my local game store every week to just see what might be there. For those with more inquiring minds, the closet local store to me is The Toledo Game Room. Those of you who go to GenCon might recognize the owner of the Game Room, Daryl, as “The Bits Guy” who sells all the Warhammer bits. Another good store in town is Checkmate Games. If you are in Fresno, Ca, I recommend Crazy Squirrel Game Store.
Anyway, going to the local game store turned up two games/game expansions this week.
First, I found a game that I knew nothing about: Dice Throne
I have only started reading the rules, but Dice Throne looks like a fun game where you can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or free-for-all. I can’t wait to try it out with my usual suspects.
Second, sometimes I find something new for a game that I like. This time it was King Kong for King of Tokyo/King of New York.
I loved the Cthulhu expansion and I am super-pumped to bust out King Kong in my next King of New York game.
So run, don’t walk, to your local game store to find unexpected gems. And do it like voting in Chicago–early and often!
In a few recent games of Love Letter (from AEG) my friends and I got into a little, mini debate. While I contended that getting the Princess early was very helpful, a few others disagreed. They argued that it was almost always a curse, because they ended up being forced to discard the Princess and lose the hand. Who is right?
The Princess is the best (in other words, winning) card in Love Letter. But, if you are forced to discard it, you are knocked out of the round–so you have to protect your winning card from discarding effects. I understood what my friends were saying: if any other player suspects that you have the Princess, they are going to target you with a Guard or Prince (and perhaps the King). Or if a Priest is used on you, then your opponent knows what you have, which is going to make it difficult to survive the rest of the round. I argued that in my experience that I could often avoid detection of my Princess card and make it to the end of the round, and of course I would win the round.
So who is right? Well, I think neither. Having the Princess early (or even in your initial draw) is a good thing. Why? There are two ways to win a round of Love Letter: knock out all other players or have the highest card when the deck runs out. If you have the Princess you are sure to win in the latter instance. And of course, you can still knock out your opponents and win. All the other players can ONLY potentially win by knocking you out (or trading their King for your Princess which almost never happens). To make this clearer think about all the opening hands that are sure not to be a wining start: Guard, Priest, Baron, Handmaid, and sometimes the Prince. These players must draw good cards combo cards (for example, Priest and Guard) but if you have the Princess some combos cannot happen for your opponents (for example, Baron then draw a Princess, Handmaid then Princess). Having the Princess gives you a head start or one or two times around the table. Moreover, the more other players use those two Handmaids and two Princes (but not forcing you to discard) the quicker you get to winning. Also, the more players in the game, the less likely someone will be able to knock you out by a good Guard guess or with the Prince just because there are so many other targets.
So having the Princess is a good thing–but you have to defend her. The Princess has two weaknesses. One, if you get targeted with a Prince, the Princess is the only card that forces you out of the round. Two, given that the Princess is the highest card, all the other players are trying to figure out where it is (and they are indeed looking, because they know that they don’t have it). If any player figures out that you have the Princess, expect them to try and knock you out. So how do you defend the Princess against these weaknesses?
Love Letter is like a game of poker, a strong hand is better than a weak hand, but bluffing and deception can help any hand. So, like poker, if you have the strongest possible hand (in other words, holding the Princess), you are going to want to bluff a bit of weakness. How can you accomplish this in Love Letter? If you get a guard accuse someone else of having the Princess! That should throw them off your track! If you draw the Baron, go after the opponent whom you think has the weakest card. When they discard that Guard or Priest, the other players won’t assume that you have a Princess. When someone discards a high card, pretend that you wish you were holding that card.
Nothing signals to the other players that you have the Princess or Countess more than quick play on your part. You need to deceive your opponents a bit. When you draw your card, look at it, put it in your hand, shuffle your two cards, and then look at both of them. Pretend that you are trying to figure out which to play. Good poker players do this as a matter of habit–you should too.
Take another cue from poker here: when you draw that Princess stay calm and don’t make it obvious how happy you are. Don’t smile, make some positive noise, don’t look happy, etc. Also, don’t sell it too much the other way. We all know when a player starts moaning loudly about his bad luck that he probably drew a good card. Also, if someone else forces you into a Baron fight, don’t make it obvious that you are going to win. If someone hits you with a Guard and guesses wrong, don’t be so eager to triumphantly say how wrong they are. And as the deck gets low, try to look as concerned as the other players who are holding weaker cards.
When you get that Princess early and make it all the way to the end and win, tell them that you drew it on your last draw! They will think that you have Lady Luck on your side and that they just can’t win. Again, deception is your friend here. Also, if you used the Guard trick where you accused an opponent of having the Princess, after you win let others know about your deception. This will get in their heads. The next time you are sitting on the Countess, use a Guard, and then accuse someone of having the Princess, everyone will think that you have it! After a short bit of time no one will have any idea when you have the Princess in your hand or not.
So next time you play Love Letter, remember that having the Princess is always better than not having her. Use the tips above to better protect your winning card and maybe you will collect those little wooden cubes instead of watching others collect them.
I took a break from the soccer match I was watching and went to go get my daily mail. What did I find? Was it a horse’s head? A bunch of junk mail from political candidates? Utility bills?
The deck has plenty of minions: Flock, Ram, Little Bo Peep….and some nice action cards, including the sure-to-be infamous Wood for Sheep!
Aren’t ewe jealous that you didn’t get one too? I just couldn’t resist the shear hilarity of that last pun! Look, I made another! Hahaha!
Lee gifted me Forbidden Island from Gamewright for Christmas.
The game is cooperative in which 2-4 players race across a sinking island to secure four treasures and get to the helicopter before everything descends into the murky, watery abyss. It plays similar to Pandemic in that players get to take actions, collect sets of cards, and slowly reveal what sections of the island sink each turn. As the water rises, the pace increases, and the players must try to stay one step ahead.
As a veteran of Pandemic (and Pandemic Legacy) as well as Ghost Stories and similar games, I felt I had a good handle on these sort of cooperative race games. Boy was I pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was! After two games, here is what I learned:
Compared to Pandemic, the pace in Forbidden Island is much quicker. The game plays in under 30 minutes….easily. I found that what I thought were reasonable actions (like shoring up some tiles–in other words, flipping a tile from flooded to unflooded) were completely wrong. I realized after two defeats that I would have to optimize my turn much more than I originally thought.
To get a treasure, a player needs a set of 4 matching cards. There are two big issues: 1) there are only 5 of each treasure card available in the Treasure Deck and 2) a player’s hand limit is 5 cards. Unlike the higher hand limit and excess matching-color cards in Pandemic, the scarcity of cards in Forbidden Island and small hand size mean that players must trade cards more strategically.
Fools’ Landing is the tile with a helicopter for the players to escape the sinking island after grabbing the treasures. If it sinks beneath the waves, game over Man! We lost a game because we chose to leave Fools’ Landing flooded while taking care of other tasks. We paid the ultimate price when a Waters Rise! card was drawn and the first Flood Card drawn was Fools’ Landing, sinking the tile.
Despite two losses (on Novice level, egads!) I am ready to try again. The gameplay is quick and enjoyable. I have a lot to learn, but the fun will be in the trying.
Today was my lucky day! Two new games that I can’t wait to play showed up in either my email inbox or on my front door.
I really like the new deck building game Heart of Crown from Japanime Games. And just in the time for the holidays the second expansion, Northern Enchantress, has arrived (along with my setup playmat)! Heart of Crown is quicker and simpler to play than Tanto Cuore. The new expansion adds magic and non-humans. I can’t wait to give it a try.
A while back I picked up the Fragged Empire RPG. The game has some really cool ideas in it, like attribute damage, an innovative combat system, a nice “Spare Time” character development system, and streamlined rules for dealing with items and resources. Fragged Empire is Sci-Fi while Fragged Kingdom is fantasy. It promises to have rules for PCs to have “Holdings” and rule over territory, plus simplified mass combat rules. One gripe I have always had about traditional fantasy RPGs is that they typically deal with holdings and mass combat quite poorly. From my quick perusal of the rules, I have a feeling that Fragged Empire is going to get it right. I gotta get a campaign started right away!
Photo courtesy of my flatscreen TV
By now you either are playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 by Electronic Arts (EA) or you are not. Either way you probably have heard about the controversial start of the game…and how mad Star Wars fans were. Basically, EA had locked some key heroes/villains like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker behind a wall of credits. Players could acquire credits by playing for about a year…or they could purchase crystals via micro transactions…which means via spending real money….and unlock them now. Fans revolted at this injustice and the credit cost of the heroes was slashed.
But I am here today to tell you the #truth! The real problem was not locked heroes…it was that the game play was vastly imbalanced by the micro transactions! Here is my story. I bought the pre-order of Battlefront 2, which allowed me 1) early access to the game three days prior to the general release, 2) to start with some good Star Cards (power ups basically) especially for Rey and Kylo Ren, and 3) the unlocking of the Death Trooper class. Thus when I started playing on November 14th I was excited to try out my new Star Cards and Death Trooper. But guess what happened? Players who used micro transactions to buy 1000s of Star Cards were wiping the battle fields with their immense advantage.
This was grim, as I was unable to get many kills and was getting slaughtered. Now you might ask, why didn’t I just use my Death Trooper to fight back? Well it’s because as you fight, you earn Battle Points. The good classes of warriors (like the Death Trooper) and the Heroes (like Rey and Kylo Ren) are locked during a battle until you earn enough Battle Points to play them. So the rich kids who bought Star Cards were racking up Battle Points and grabbing all the heroes, slaughtering everyone else, getting more Battle Points, lather, rinse, and repeat! Now I had played Battlefront 1, so I was no slouch at the game. In fact, I was one of the best Starfighters in the world, so the sort of slaughter that was being inflicted on me was mainly a product of the vast imbalance in access to Star Cards.
So all my pre-order access and good Rey and Kylo Ren Cards were useless…because I could never get enough Battle Points to play them! In short, from November 14-16 micro transactions ruined Battlefront 2. The $70 I had spent was futile in the face of the rich kids spending $100s or $1000s to basically buy victory like they were the New York Yankees or Manchester United!
Literally hours before the general launch on November 17, EA removed micro transactions. So now nobody can spend real money to buy an advantage, everyone has to earn credits through their game play. Since then, the game play has been normal. I now can kill and be killed based on my skill and the skill of my opponents. I can earn Battle Points and get enough to play the Death Trooper, Rey, and Kylo Ren. The game is what it was suppose to be all along.EA actually listened to player feedback and made changes that fixed the problem. Now this is not my usual experience with EA, as I ditched playing the FIFA series of games because of the lack of response from EA to the communities’ complaints. But this time, they actually listened. I guess the Force is strong in the Battlefront 2 community!
May the Force Be With You
Update: edited to get rid of the darn auto-correct that keeps messing with Star Wars names
A place where I dissect rules, themes, game components, and strategies and give my thoughts about them.
Every now and then there is a game that you like…but you don’t love it. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t really fit the style or needs of your gaming group. You’ve played it with the guys a couple times, and it was fun, but you think it could be even more fun…if it was tweaked a bit. What is there to do?
Well, the obvious answer is to use House Rules! Make up the Rules you need to get the game to where you want it. And today I am going to give an example of a game that I recently acquired on Kickstarter: Tavern Masters by Dann Kriss Games.
It is a fun, quick game for 1-4 players. It can be played competitively, co-operatively, and solo. Games last about 25-30 minutes. In short, you build a Tavern in a fictional fantasy world and try to accommodate as many patrons as possible, earning gold in the process.
We played it a few times and it was fun and fast. But it was too fast and really, didn’t have the strategic depth that we were looking for. In fact, with the exception of the first round Tavern card passing, the players never interact. Now, Tavern Masters is a light game with evocative art, so nothing I will write in this blog takes away from the excellent work put into this game. Yet, our group wanted a longer game with more tough decisions….so we introduced some house rules.
The competitive game normally ends on any round that a player gets 20 or more gold. Our new house rule is that games go a minimum of 6 rounds and end at a pre-determined round from 6 to 10. This lengthens the game by 20-60 minutes.
The first round of the game can be frustrating if your Tavern cards do not match your Patron cards. Because the Tavern cards are dealt and played before ever seeing the Patron cards, this makes mismatches purely random. Our house rule is that on the first round the Patron cards are dealt first. Each player can look at his/her Patrons and only after that, the Tavern cards are dealt and passed normally. This allows each player to try and avoid mismatches and also pass the Tavern cards with more sense of strategy.
Tavern cards only get passed in the first round normally, on the subsequent rounds they are directly drawn from the deck. Our house rule is to pass cards every round, with odd rounds clockwise and even rounds counter-clockwise. This continues to provide more player interaction and more strategic choices (you know, like in 7 Wonders–do I block or grab what I want?
Normally any number of Patrons can take advantage of a single icon (for example, if you have 3 Patrons in your hand who want Ale, if you have a single Ale card in your Tavern, you can play all 3 Patrons). Our house rule is that EACH Patron needs its own separate icon, both when it is played and also when you keep Patrons during the Counting the Till phase. If you have 3 Patrons who need Ale but only one Ale card in your Tavern, you can only play one of them.
Our house rules effectively make the game more strategic and make choices more demanding. The house rules make the game longer and more tense, and also add more player interaction. House rules to the rescue!
The Dirty Deeds Expansion is also a must. It adds a phase where players directly mess with other players’ taverns. Pick it up if your gaming group wants more player interaction and backstabbing fun!
Today I was able to get in my first game of Zulus on the Ramparts from Victory Point Games. It is one of their solitaire States of Siege games, this time modified by Joseph Miranda. In this game you play the British defenders who must hold off the approaching Zulu warriors.
After one play of the game, here are the 5 things that I learned:
1 – Don’t Fire until the Zulus Get Real Close
All of your volley cards, and the free volleys from you leaders, cannot reach beyond space #3. You are going to want to maximize the effects of your volleys (1-4=miss, 5=Zulus retreat 1 space, 6=one hit) by not forcing the Zulus to retreat out of range. The best thing to do is to only fire when they get to spaces #1 or #2, get some hits and retreats, and then maybe finish them off at space #3.
In the photo above, I was able to destroy the Zulus near the North Wall by firing two volleys in a row. Firing instead at the Zulus only half-way to the hospital will most likely only allow a single volley to be shot at them.
Moral of the story: Let those Zulus get close…and then blast them. Completely eliminating a stack of Zulu is much preferable to just forcing them to retreat.
2 – Use an Action to Make Leaders Available
You have a lot of things to do (resupply the ammo, build a barricade, fire volleys, form a reserve, play a leader) and you get only 1 action per turn. Later in the turn you will get to draw a card and play one leader for free. Thus, you might be tempted to use your single action on anything other than playing a leader. This is a bad idea. Most of the other actions require leaders, sometimes two of them. Moreover, leaders can use their free action each turn, and a bunch of them fire a free volley. The sooner you get those leaders into play, the sooner you will be building barricades, supplying ammo, etc.
In the photo above, I have 4 leaders “available” (in other words, played from my hand and now each can use their abilities). My ammo is already supplied (the low ammo marker is missing from its box) and I have already built one barricade.
Moral of the story: playing leaders with your one action should be like voting in Chicago—do it early and often!
3 – Nighttime is the Right Time for a Fire
Once you draw the Night Fighting Begins card, none of your volleys can kill anymore Zulus, you can only drive them off.
The -1 DRM (die roll modifier) is going to sting. How can you deal with it? You need a burning building to provide light! If a building is already burning, do not try to extinguish it. If nothing is burning, pray that you draw a building on fire chit! The disadvantage is that you can’t fire at Zulus on the other side of the building (and any heroic defender in the building is removed back to your hand) but this is a small price to pay to lose the -1 DRM as that glorious fire lights up those approaching Zulus all over the battlefield.
Moral of the story: Burn baby burn!
4 – Being Rescued is a Bummer
If the game goes on long enough, you will draw Lord Chelmsford’s Relief Column which ends the game.
Why is this a bummer? Because maybe you had the Zulus almost completely destroyed! In the photo above only one Zulu stack was still on the board, albeit with a chit beneath it (each chit is worth one hit, as is the standee). Those silly Zulus stayed just out of range (at space #4) for about 10 turns. Zulu movement is by random chit draw, and there are a lot of chits in the cup so movement is quite random. So those Zulus stayed away from me—It’s like they knew that I was sitting on volley cards to blast them! Anyway, the game was very, very dull during those turns as I literally had nothing to do on my turn other than draw a card and play any leaders. My only hope was that those Zulus might eventually move into range—but then I got rescued instead.
Moral of the story: See note #1. Don’t accidentally retreat those Zulus before they move within close range, you might not get another chance to blast them.
5 – Be Lucky and Roll a lot of Sixes
With only the roll of a 6 eliminating Zulu units, you gotta get lucky. A couple times I rolled a pair of sixes with only 3 dice. I eliminated 9 of the 10 Zulu chits plus 3 of the 4 standees. This really helped when scoring your game on the Victory Point Schedule.
The points for eliminated Zulus counts quite heavily toward the result. I got 9 points with leaders/groups, 27 for Zulu hit chits, 4 for one non-burning building, 18 for the Zulu standees, and 10 for the relief column for a total of 68 — Epic Victory/Zulu Debacle!
Moral of the story: It can be better to be lucky than to be good!
Verdict: It’s a Fun Game
Zulus on the Ramparts is not as deep nor as challenging as Hapsburg Eclipse, but it has a very fun sense of danger as the Zulus rush the gates. There are optional rules that add more cards, so I think that might add more variety and replay ability. Overall, it’s entertaining and if you read the flavor text, you might learn a thing or two. If you like solitaire games that resemble a “tower defense” game, give it a try!