Star Realms: Frontiers and Beyond!

When I got back from Gen Con there was a huge package waiting for me. Guess what was in it?

— Wow, that’s a lot of Star Realms

I got my shipment of the latest expansion to Star Realms–Frontiers….and more. A year or so ago I added Star Realms into our Tuesday night rotation. It’s a fairly simple deck building game that combines the easy to learn/play dynamics of a CCG/TCG like Magic: the Gathering. Basically draft ships and bases, then unleash them on your opponent. Last player standing is the winner. I have recently been teaching my oldest boy to play it. Star Realms is simple and lighthearted with only a small degree of strategy (basically buy cards that combo together) plus lots of luck. A great game when you don’t want to think too much and have a boatload of fun.

Anyway, now I have every published expansion plus a wild amount of promos…and a great big box to put all the cards in!

Yee-haw!

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My Haul at Gen Con

Gen Con was fun again this year! My bro and I walked for miles searching for both new and classic games. What did we find….inquiring minds want to know! Well my faithful friends, read on, read on for the answer!

— day one loot!

In the photo above you can see what I found on day one!

Smash Up! Oops, You Did It Again — I found this new expansion that I was looking for. Can’t wait to get in some Smash Up Games with these four new factions.

Scythe: Rise of Fenris — Is this expansion a set of alternate game rules (i.e. modules), a legacy campaign, or both!

Too Many Bones: Undertow — I kickstarted this game. It looks like a really fun dice builder. The components inside are top-quality. And many thanks to the guys at the booth who switched out the duplicate dice for the omitted dice that were missing from my box.

Horizons — A 4x space game. I love these sort of games (e.g. Eclipse, Ascending Empires, Eminent Domain)!

Unlock! — My wife loves these puzzle/escape room games, so I was happy to pick up a few more adventures.

Call of Cthulhu: Nameless Horrors — Six new adventures for CoC RPG, and it was only $15! Let the sanity checks begin!

Eminent Domain: Oblivion — Yes, yes, and more yes! Finally that Politics card gets to be a role! I am super-pumped to integrate this expansion into one of my favorite games.

King of New York: Anubis Monster Pack — A new monster and it even has a Pyramid die!

Day Two was more about taking in the convention than grabbing Games, but still we found a couple things.

— day two loot

Near and Far — This game looks cool…and I got the next to last copy at the booth too! Is it a legacy game, a worker placement game in the vein of Raiders of the North Sea, or an RPG disguised as a board game? Is it all three? Did I mention that the maps are in a spiral-ring notebook? The art is great too!

Cat Lady — Saw this at the AEG booth and I had to buy it for my wife. She loves cats.

Star Realms Promos — Yep, picked up some free promos. You want to know why? Well I’m not telling you…at least not tell my next post!

Is Star Wars Battlefront 2 Scripted Like FIFA or Madden?

I am a 25+ year veteran of playing Electronic Arts (EA) sports video games. I started with NHL in the 1990s, and then played Madden a little bit before settling into 15+ years of playing FIFA. In that time I (and many others in the EA community of players) noticed a worrying trend: the games seemed to be “scripted.” Now I play Star Wars Battlefront 2 from EA and its my belief that after the latest patch, that game is scripted too.

— photo courtesy of my TV and my iPad

Scripting in EA Sports Franchise Games

When does LeBron James miss a wide-open dunk with no pressure from any opponent? When does Harry Kane miss a tap-in a few feet from the goal while under no pressure? The answer is never. These athletes only make mistakes under pressure. Okay, how many times does Manchester United lose to Trondheim in a European match? Same answer: never.

Scripting in EA sports games creates both these absurd and unlikely events. When I played FIFA, in some games my players just couldn’t pass straight, shoot straight, or tackle. My best player would miss a tap in while under zero pressure. But….the other team could pass right around me, and in the dying minutes they somehow would score a miraculous goal.

Maybe it was bad luck? Maybe I didn’t play well that game? Okay…I would replay the game by not saving the results. Guess what happened next? I would lose the next game BY THE EXACT SAME SCORE! This my good friends is called “scripting.” EA developers have admitted that the sports games have “momentum” added to them to make some games “more competitive.” Players from all over the world have complained about the scripting.

The problem with scripting is that you are not really playing the game. The results and gameplay are not influenced at all by whatever you are doing with the controller. If you don’t believe me just google EA and scripting. Check out the discussions and decide for yourself. Many of us gamers turned away and are turning away from the EA sports games because of scripting.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Scripting

Let me preface this discussion by saying that I have played all the Star Wars Battlefront games. In Battlefront 1 I was one of the best star pilots in the world. In Battlefront 2, my brother and I play routinely. We usually score in the top 5 on our side and quite often we appear in the MVP standings at the end (you can find mine as screenshots on Xbox One–look for njesse99).

Since the last update in late spring, we have noticed some changes. One change is the major imbalance in teams. EA changed the scoring of battle points to allow players to gain them much quicker. This has led to the first team to get a hero overwhelming the other team. It works this way: we get a hero 1st, that hero starts slaying opponents, guys on our side get assist points and easier kills, we get more heroes, the other side can’t get points, the other side can’t get heroes (or gets them one at a time), we win easily. Almost all games now are blow outs: either you win quick and easy, or you get stomped.

But there is another problem: the appearance of scripting. Lately it goes like this: I set a trap that I have set a thousand times BUT now it doesn’t work. For example, I wait around a corner with my assault shotgun ready, a guy walks into my sights, I blast him, BUT he doesn’t die (like he normally would). That guy turns and shoots me once with a pistol and even though I shoot him a second time with my shotgun, I die and he doesn’t? Say what?!? Yeah, something that works every time suddenly doesn’t. LeBron missed the dunk; Kane missed the tap-in.

And it is more than that. My shots suddenly do less damage, every shot that hits me seems to kill me instantly, my ion torpedo doesn’t blow up the turret this time, etc. Maybe it was just my bad luck and/or bad game play? Nope! When the game ends and I check my stats, my meager six kills put me in the top 3 on my side. EVERYONE on my side had bad luck and/or bad game play! Hardly possible.

The problem with scripting is that you usually don’t notice it when every shot you take kills an opponent. You only notice it when you are on the receiving end. But it is real and clearly Star Wars Battlefront 2 now has it. I noticed it because of my experience with the EA sports games. The frustration of nothing going right and the impossible happening again and again is what gives it away. If Lebrun missed dunk after dunk he would guess that the rim was smaller than normal. Well in an EA franchise, the game decides when the rim is smaller or even closed.

Another Franchise Ruined by EA

EA has done it again. They have ruined another franchise by adding scripting to the game. It made some sense in Games with micro transactions: scripting makes good players lose, giving them the artificial need to buy more packs to strengthen their team. It is fake, they don’t really need to strengthen their team, but they don’t know that and EA makes more money when players buy packs.

But why put scripting in Battlefront 2? EA got rid of micro transactions early after releasing the game. Do they think the “run over” gameplay will attract new players? I doubt it. Is EA planning to reintroduce micro transactions? That’s my bet. So fellow Battlefront 2 players, if crates and micro transactions come back, you will know why. EA has been setting you up.

State of Decay 2 – Best Tips and Tricks

— all photos courtesy of my TV and IPad. ’nuff said.

I’ve logged my hours playing the new State of Decay 2 on my Xbox One. And I’ve learned a few things. What follows are some of my sneakiest tricks to keep my community alive and jack my influence through the roof! And these aren’t the run-of-the-mill tricks that you can find all over the internet. Those tips are from reviewers who probably barely played the game. Typically they say things like, “use guns on freaks” or “use guns on plague hearts” or “be nice to enclaves, they can help you.” Yeah duh! Those aren’t tips or tricks, they are things any competent player learns in the first few minutes.

No, my tricks come from wasted days and wasted nights with my controller in my hands. So, if you listen carefully grasshopper, you too can become a SoD2 master like me!

Recruit Everybody…and then kick them out!

This trick is so obvious that you would have to be a no-brainer to not figure it out. Get it? No-brainer. Like a zombie! Hahaha! Okay, it wasn’t that good of a joke. Anyway, on those missions where some lost and lonely survivor wants you to run down some rucksack for them, it totally is a bummer when you do all the work and then hand them the loot! Well, I say do the work, get the loot, and more! After you give them the rucksack, recruit them to your community. Once you get home to your base, switch to the new character and bogart that rucksack and everything else that he/she is carrying (most likely a melee weapon, gun, and at least 1 other item), and then boot them! You don’t know what to Bogart something means? Have you been living under a rock? Anyway, this trick works with enclaves too. Recruit one of them, bring them home, loot them, then boot. Rinse, lather and repeat as necessary to fill up your supply locker.

Move Your Parked Vehicles to Your New Base Using Teleportation Pads–With all the Rucksacks That They Can Hold

Don’t you just hate switching bases and leaving all your vehicles behind? It totally blows chunks! And if you are like me, half those vehicles are crammed with surplus rucksacks. How do you get those vehicles and rucksacks to your new base all the way across town? You COULD enlist a platoon of dudes in co-op to join you and then drive that fleet to your new base. They get nothing out of it and lose 5 minutes of their lives that they can never get back. Ba-ba-ba-ba-boring! Instead, make sure your vehicles crammed with rucksacks are parked in your parking slots, drive a different vehicle (full of items and/or rucksacks of course) to your new location. Here is the important part: do NOT park in a designated parking spot. Go inside, claim the home base, and viola your parked vehicles teleport to the new base like its Star Trek and are sitting in parking spots!

— those yellow lines and that square, blue sign designate your parking spots, aka Teleportation Pads!

Load Up Items on Characters Before Completing the Last Legacy Mission

Once you start the last legacy mission the game will end when it completes. When you start the next game you can grab up to 3 characters from any previous communities. And when you start a new game, you do NOT start with all the items in your supply locker that you had before (a great, big bummer). Wouldn’t it be nice if those 3 surviving characters were loaded with .50 cal weapons, first aid kits, grenades, etc? Well they can be! Before you start that last legacy mission, figure out what 3 characters you want to use in the next game. Then switch to them one-by-one and fill up their inventory with weapons, items, etc. And don’t forget to give each a rucksack too! As an extra tip, you will need a gas can when you start the next game, so be sure to pack at least one.

— look at that packed inventory! This character has an AK-47, a shotgun, some pipe bombs, meds, a gas can, and an auto repair kit. Once I grab a rucksack, Lulu is ready for the next game!

Remember What Mr. T. Said, “I Pity the Fool Who Finishes that Fast Car/Action Movie Mission”

If you have played SoD2 at all, you know all about the fast car/action movie mission. One of your survivors will say something like “killing zombies is exciting, but not action movie exciting. I’ve got an idea to fix that.” What you might not know is that the game generates a fast car on the map so that you can complete the mission. And what you might “double not know” is that in the trunk of each of these cars are 2 to 4 slots of explosives and other cool items! And what you might “triple not know” is that as long as you don’t complete this mission, it will spawn over and over and over and over. Let it do so, go find the cars, look in the trunk, and grab the goodies!

— this fast car has a fuel bomb and fireworks. Use them to light up some zeds like the Fourth of July!

Blood Plague is Your Friend

Say what?!? I bet you think the blood plague is a scourge. Au contraire mein freund! Did you know that for a measly 3 blood plague samples you can get 15+ influence? I bet you didn’t! Let a survivor get hit by a plague zombie and then head over to your infirmary. Select “Infection Therapy.” For 3 plague samples (I am serious here, it doesn’t even cost you any meds, only the samples–which by the way you should be collecting off the pavement like discarded pennies) you not only get rid of the blood plague, you also get 15 influence (or more if you have jacked on your command center to boost your gained influence). What a bargain!

— 17 influence for only 3 plague samples?!? Yes! Don’t listen to those other tips online that say to sell them to traders for 1 influence a piece (and the occasional glitch where you get 2 influence). Why grind away like that…and get a lower return. Just go to your base and collect 5+ influence per plague sample…and cure your survivors at the same time. Oh…why you ask are my survivors “cheerful”? Because they are happy that I have been using my tricks!

See, I told you I was the #realdeal! Now you know it! So get out there and slap around those zeds with my tips and tricks! Tell them I sent you!

Stew’s Rant Corner: Daimyo’s Fall

It’s time for another edition of Stew’s Rant Corner in which my brother Stew explains how and why a game disappointed him.

——————————–

— Daimyo’s Fall. Treasure Hunting Deck Building Card Game. Yep, that’s how it’s labeled on the box.

A Lot of Good Ideas….

Hi again, everyone.  It is nice again for me to rant about a game that I want to love, but just cannot possibly do so.  That game is Daimyo’s Fall.  Ok, you may or may not have heard about it.  But Daimyo’s Fall was Kickstarted quickly and is a deck-building card game.  It has everything that would make me fall in love with it: samurai, ninjas, leaders with cool powers, incredible card art, random cards to buy to build your deck, cards with multiple uses, deck-building, random treasurers to be had, cards with value that can be exchanged for other cards, the ability to exhaust cards, ways to duel other player’s leaders…….ok wait a minute.  How much does this game include in it?

— Some of the card art on Hero cards, some samurai and some ninja. Numbers in top left are attack and defense. Bottom left are petals (ie the timer that leads to the game ending). Victory points are top right.

…But Too Many Jammed into a Single Game…

This is the trouble with Daimyo’s Fall.  It has everything that I would want in a game, but everything sometimes means it has too much.  Every card in the game has multiple uses, which leads to stagnant delays while each player goes through the multitude of permutations of possible actions.  Every card can be used to buy other cards, or be used for its power, leading to many cost/benefit analysis decisions going on with each and every card.  It begins to become overwhelming.

….And an Objective that Doesn’t Really Work…

Another problem with Daimyo’s Fall is the objective gets lost. Ok, the objective is to supposedly replace the Daimyo who has fallen (hence Daimyo’s Fall).  In order to do that you need to get more victory points than your opponents. One of the ways to do this is to gather treasures (either Samurai or Ninja).  Oh, by the way, the ending to the game is determined by how quickly the petals fall off of a lotus plant, which happens when certain cards are played.  Unfortunately, this mechanic is there to stop the game at a certain point, since, as I will detail, there is no actual replacement of the Daimyo going to happen here.  But, as I was saying, you attempt to gather treasures to help gain victory points and make your deck more powerful.

Here is the problem with this strategy.  I played the game with two other individuals, Neal and Bob.  I got on a roll early, was gathering treasurers like bees gather honey.  Neal was doing OK with gathering treasures and Bob barely had any.  Once the last lotus petal dropped we counted victory points, expecting that I had overwhelmingly destroyed my opponents in the game, Neal had done well, and Bob had done very poorly.  You can imagine our shock when Bob’s victory point total was almost Neal’s and Neal’s was barely a point behind mine.  What?!  All of my work to gather treasures to garner victory points was for naught?  (Editor’s note here: I agree with Stew in that Bob and I did NOT have any superior strategy or gameplay than Stew’s. Yet, we were close to him on victory points. It didn’t make sense to us either.)

— Clockwise from top left: ninja reinforcement (ie the cards that you buy and sell, in top left corner is buy price=4 and sell price=2), samurai reinforcement, samurai treasure (now top left is attack and defense, not buy/sale prices; victory points at top right of card), and ninja treasure. Are you keeping up? At bottom of cards are Tanto Cuore-like bonuses for drawing cards, mon (=currency), deployments, and trades. Still keeping up? Trade points allow you to send treasures back to their piles and draw new ones. Did I mention that you shuffle traded treasures in the pile before you draw new ones? That means you can trade in a treasure and draw back the same treasure.

…Leads to Counter-Productive Game Play…

Unfortunately, this is the “everything turns into nothing” problem of Daimyo’s Fall.  The treasures are given to me randomly; and some of them hurt my victory point total.  Say again?  I was working hard to hurt my victory point total?  Yep, that’s exactly what happened.  The mechanic of random treasures meant that I got treasures that hurt my deck-building, dropped lotus leaves, and took away from my victory points.  So one must ask, why was I trying to get treasures in the first place?  I was trying to win the game by doing so.  Counter-productive isn’t it?

…Combined with too Much Randomness…

The next problem arose as several pools are set up to allow players to buy cards, either samurai, ninja, or leader.  These often contained multiple cards of the same type which led us to constantly be wasting time with actions just shuffling cards out of the pools in the hopes that the next random card would be better.  While I can enjoy a little randomness in a game, if each of the three card pools is random, each of the 3 treasure decks is random, ok what actual strategy is left in the game if everything is random?  See the problem.  Daimyo’s Fall makes winning truly random (see the paragraph above as to the hard work I did just to fall behind).

 …That Adds up to Less than the Sum of the Parts

Daimyo’s Fall is truly a case where everything leads to nothing.  The game becomes unmanageable quickly, turns stagnate as we watch each other working hard to figure out all of the combinations, randomness makes any real strategy meaningless, and working towards the goal can be counter-productive.  All of this makes me sad to say that another game that I would love to love, I will never play again.