Gen Con 2017 — Photos Part II

And now without further ado, I bring you more Gen Con photos!

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It wouldn’t be Gen Con without an Imperial Stormtrooper!

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This couple clearly put a good deal of time into their costumes!

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Director Krennic.  This costume was a bit popular, I caught a glimpse of a couple other people dressed as Krennic too.

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Piper from Fallout 4.  You don’t just tell the news…you are the news!

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Now this costume must have taken some time to put together!  Very nice!

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She looks like a Magic: The Gathering card! I can’t place the costume, but it surely displays a lot of hard work to put all of that together.

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Love it! 

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In my opinion, the only really good use for CCG cards!  Some of these structures were quite impressive.  And of course, anybody could join in and add to it.

And finally….

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… your faithful narrator sitting on the throne at the Kingdomino booth.  Heavy is the crown!

Gen Con 2017 — Photos Part I

Okay, I did my usual trek to Gen Con in Indy this year.  I bought a bunch of games, and I will post about some of them a bit later.  Today I bring you ….. drum roll please …..

GEN CON 17 PHOTOS!!!!

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Boba Fett — always a classic

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An Ood from Doctor Who

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I am not 100% sure, exactly what costume this is. Maybe one of my faithful readers will let me know.  He did strike a cool pose!

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A Roman soldier

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Again, I can’t quite place it.  Help my readers, help!

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Pretty sure he was selling the items at the booth to the right of the picture.

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Jedi.  There are a lot of Jedi Knight masks out there, not sure exactly which one this is. 

Tomorrow I will post more.  See what all of you missed going to #GenCant rather than actually getting your pass early and showing up at Gen Con?

 

Inverse Rule of Gaming: Part II – The Methodology

Welcome back!  Today in Part II of my examination of the Inverse Rule of Gaming, I outline my research methods.  Wait…you don’t remember what the inverse rule of gaming is?  Well, I am here to help!

Inverse Rule of Gaming: The more female flesh and/or salacious images used to market a board game/table-top game/RPG/war game/etc., the more likely the game is poor.

If you need more information, check out Inverse Rule of Gaming: Part I — The Theory.

Research Methods

The first thing is to operationalize my variables.

Independent variable: Salaciousness — the degree that sex as represented by female flesh, sexual poses, sexual innuendo, etc, is depicted in the cover art of the product.  This is an objective measure and your faithful narrator, me that is, is going to code box covers.

Here is the ordinal scale that I am going to use:

0 – No female representation at all

1- Female(s) depicted, but in normal/appropriate clothing

2 – Female(s) depicted with exposed flesh/nudity

3 – Female(s) depicted with/without nudity and in an alluring/suggestive pose

4 – Female(s) depicted in a pose that connotes a sexual posture or a great deal of flesh exposed

5 – Female(s) depicted in a pose that connotes pornography or sexual acts

Clockwise from top left: Indy Car Unplugged=0, One Deck Dungeon=1 (females, but all clothed appropriate for combat), Warlord: Sage of the Storm=2 (notice the breasts sticking out and unneeded skin showing), Android: Infiltration=3 (basically a nude robot), Tales of the Arabian Nights=4 (a lot of flesh and a sexual posture), Oral Sex! The Game=5 (duh!).

Sampling Method

I will employ simple random sampling for my poll.  How do I do this?  Here is the method:

1- go to http://www.boardgamegeek.com

2 – Hover the cursor over “Browse”

3 – Click on “Random game”

4 – Obtain the “average rating” and determine the “salaciousness” of the art.

I intend to sample 100 games for my “early results” just to see if any association is present.  I hope to sample 1000 games for my complete results.

Data Analysis Method

Given that the independent variable is ordinal and the dependent variable is interval and likely normally distributed (or a simple transformation can make it approximate a normal distribution), a One-Way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) would be the best associative method to use.  For those unfamiliar with the method, check out the Wikipedia entry  here.

Okay, that’s it for now until Part III – Early Results.

Make Mine Marvel!

 

4 Reasons You Should Try Dynamite Nurse

I really like deck-building games.  If you check out my Top 10 Games you will see Eminent Domain listed there.  You can also check out my review of    Tanto Cuore — A Better Game Than Expected.  And in the near future, I will post a review of El Alamein, a sequel to the card building game Barbarossa.

Anyway, this brings me to the new game by Japanime Games/Arclight Games: Dynamite Nurse!  And why I think there are 4 reasons you should give it a try!

1 – Japanime Games/Arclight Games have a great track record!

These companies have been pushing out deck-building games for years now.  They not only know how to make a solid game, but the quality of the overall product is excellent.  Cards have great art, box is solid (it’s a standard card box), rules have been play tested well, cards are balanced in terms of power, and the games generally are fun.

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The Dynamite Nurse box

2 – You really, really, really get to mess with each other in this game

Do you like games that resemble multiplayer solitaire, where each player takes a turn but you never really have to fight/mess with any other player, you know games like Race for the Galaxy?  Do you like Euro-style resource management games with rules that discourage direct conflict and give special advantages to players lagging behind?  Do you like cooperative games where everyone works together to accomplish some namby pamby  “save the world” let’s all feel good sort of goal?

Well too bad for you, Dynamite Nurse is the opposite of that!  In Dynamite Nurse each player operates a hospital and your goal is to heal patients.  But much like the real health care industry, if you see some patients that are in really bad shape or critical condition, you can assign them to your opponents’ hospitals.  You get victory points for each patient that you successfully heal and lose points if they die (you get  a Kill Mark).  So heal the patients that you can, and send the ones that might die to your opponents!  And there are plenty of cards that let you inflict pain on other players’ patients.  So if you just plain can’t heal your own patients, make life miserable for everybody else’s patients!

Disclaimer: no actual real-life patients were harmed in the making of this blog. Honest.  Only cardboard facsimiles of anime patients were harmed.

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Clockwise from top left: a Kill Mark card (you get 1 each time one of your patients dies), the backside of the Kill Mark card (listing VP penalties), Reference Letter (i.e. move those sick patients to your opponents’ hospitals), and Passing the Buck (give someone else your sick patient and take their less sick patient).

3 – There are plenty of paths to victory, because there are a lot of different strategies available from the “town” of cards

Like most of Japanime/Arclight Games deck building games, the “town” of available cards to draft is quite extensive.  Thus, there are many ways to victory.  You can concentrate on drafting cards that give you coins (used to buy more powerful cards), you can go for low-cost combo cards (like White Magic), you can concentrate on events, or you can go for cards to mess with your opponents.  There are many choices.  There is even a rule that if you don’t want to buy the top card on the event pile, you can blindly buy the next card underneath it (if you have enough gold to do so).  Also, when you cure a patient you get to draft the top card on the “Nurses” pile.  Sometimes these cards have negative VP, so there is even a sense of strategic timing involved.

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The “town” of cards to draft.  The yellow circles are costs in gold (top right corner) and benefit (bottom left corner), the red health symbols are used to heal patients.

3 – There are three timing mechanisms that add to the strategy

First, there are only 15 Kill Marks.  When the last Kill Mark is drawn the game ends immediately.  So if you better watch that pile (the Kill Marks are stacked from #15 to #1 to let players know how many are left) and plan your strategy to maximize your VP just as the pile runs out.

Second, on each player’s turn another patient is added to the line of patients being transported in ambulances to player hospitals.  On your turn, you can assign the new patient to whichever player you want (e.g. assign patients in bad shape to your opponents and assign ones with minor injuries to yourself).  However, there can only be a number of patients in ambulances equal to the number of players.  Once the ambulances fill up, patients get sicker (i.e. flip over to critical condition) as they wait to be admitted.  And patients already in critical condition will die if they wait around too long.

Third, your hospital has only two beds, and if you have more patients admitted than that, your patients get sicker.  So the proper assigning of patients to players, admitting your patients to your hospital before they die in an ambulance, healing them to open up beds, and watching that Kill Mark pile are all part of a successful strategy.

In the game we played last night, Stew and Lee were both in the lead (Bob and I were behind by a good margin), but Lee had managed to get all 3 patients in the ambulances assigned to Stew when Lee used a card to move all of them to Stew’s hospital, where he didn’t have beds for them all, they subsequently died, Stew grabbed the last 3 Kill Marks, and the game ended with Lee winning.

4 – You can be the Dynamite Nurse!

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The Dynamite Nurse card!

Whoever has the most Kill Marks has to grab the Dynamite Nurse card.  At the end of the game, it counts as two more Kill Marks, which is going to inflict more negative victory points on whoever has the card (see the photo of the Kill Mark card front and back above).  But, when you have the Dynamite Nurse card, you get an advantage: a good number of event cards and cards that mess with your opponents get put back into the town after you use them — but not if you are the Dynamite Nurse!  Instead, you can put them in your discard pile where they eventually get shuffled into your deck, get back into your hand, and you play them again!  Check out the “Reference Letter” card in the photo above.  If you are the Dynamite Nurse, that card is much like the musical Cats…you can see it over and over and over and over!

So if you like deck building games, or like anime products, or just plain like a good card game, pick up Dynamite Nurse and kill some patients…er, I mean heal your patients.  Did I mention that my wife is a registered nurse?  I didn’t?  Oh well, anyway she says that Dynamite Nurse in no way resembles actually nursing care.  I just thought that I would let you know.

 

Inverse Rule of Gaming: Part I — The Theory

This is the first in a series of blog posts on a sensitive subject: The Inverse Rule of Gaming!

What is the Inverse Rule of Gaming you ask?  Well, I am here to tell you!  Let’s start with some basics.

The Inverse Rule of Gaming: The Theory

First, game designers and publishers have some idea about how “good” their game is going to be once it is released.  They have some knowledge of the quality of the materials, the quality and clarity of the rules, the overall presentation, the complexity of the game, the enjoyment of the game, etc.  Much like any economic “good” or “product” if you prefer, be it a car, a shovel, a song, a piece of art, or a board game, the producer of that good has some estimation of the overall quality.

Second, game designers and publishers seek to have their game as profitable as possible.  This is a business, and making profits allows game designers to eat and feed their families and game publishers to survive and grow.  Thus, game designers and publishers would like to sell as many units of their game as possible.

Third, marketing is one way to both inform and entice consumers to buy your product.  You must have an enticing message in order to lure in customers in a crowded marketplace.  This message can take many forms and contain any sort of information that might lure or convince a consumer to purchase the item.

Fourth, and here is a basic tenet of the board game industry: most of the consumers are male.  Yep, still the truth.  It is changing as more females have become board game consumers, and maybe someday there will be an equal number of male and female consumers.  But right now, this is not true, and in the past it has been even more lopsided.  If you haven’t been to a convention or visited a game store, check it out.  When my wife walks into a game store with me, the place still grinds to a halt as the male gamers turn to look.

Fifth, let’s combine a number of facts to arrive at this point: one way to market to males is to use female flesh.  Yep, throw a picture of a female, especially an attractive or undressed female, near your product advertising and bam! the male brain goes haywire.  Studies have shown that the male ability to do long-term planning drops and the need to satisfy a short-term interest goes up when men are exposed to such marketing.  Thus, should I spend $60 on that game when I need that money to pay bills quickly turns into “I got to buy it!” when a salacious picture appears next to or on the product.  There are many variations of this marketing trick: have actual women promote the product, using female voice-overs on radio, etc.

Sixth, the use of female flesh marketing often is utilized to cover up a lack of quality in a product.  Think of this tactic as a last resort.  If the producer cannot sell you on any particular quality of the product, there is still the possibility that they can get you to buy it by short-circuiting your brain with women.

If you do not believe me, surely you have seen the Game of War: Fire Age commercials with Kate Upton, right?!?

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Does that “armor” really look like it would protect Miss Upton in this battle?  And how many women engaged in Middle Ages combat anyway?  And even if they did, were they dressed like Miss Upton?  I don’t think so!

Now, mind you, I have never played Game of War: Fire Age even once.  But why would I?!?  Clearly they are trying to lure me in with a buxom blonde babe.  How good could the game actually be?

The Inverse Rule of Gaming: Definition

And this gets us to the point of this blog: the Inverse Rule of Gaming.  We can now clearly define it:

  • Definition: The more female flesh and/or salacious images used to market a board game/table-top game/RPG/war game/etc, the more likely the game is poor.

In other words, if a game gets marketed to the public using the “female flesh” marketing technique, there is a greater chance that the game is below average and that the marketing is intended to cover it up.

In my alter ego, in other words my non-gamer blog persona, I am a social scientist.  So…I will now turn to Science for answers!!!!!

Now I formulate a clear research hypothesis and null hypothesis:

  • H1 (my research hypothesis): The more salacious the advertising, the more likely the game is below average
  • H0 (the null hypothesis): The level of salacious advertising is not related to the quality of the game

This is indeed an important object of study.  In short, does the game industry follow the basic trend of other industries aimed at male consumption?  Does the Inverse rule hold or is the gaming industry different?

Next: Part II — The Research Design

In a forthcoming blog (Part II), I outline my research method to operationalize my variables (salaciousness and quality) and my sampling method to collect my data.  In Part III, I present some initial findings.  In Part IV, I complete the entire analysis and present my final conclusions.

Be there or be square!

5 Video Games / Xbox One games that I am playing right now

While I really love board games, RPGs, card games, etc, I also like to play video games on my Xbox One.  So what games am I playing right now, you ask?  Well here is the run down!

1 – Elite Dangerous

I really love space games.  I also love sandbox games.  Elite Dangerous is both!  You have the entire galaxy to fly around in, over 4 billion solar systems.  You can outfit a ship for exploring (I own an Asp Explorer for that purpose) and fly out into unknown space, discovering whatever you find there.

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View from back of my Asp Explorer.  A Type F star as seen from a planet with rings.

You can also build ships for trading (I have a Python for that), piracy, bounty hunting, mining, etc.  Absolute freedom.  You can play for 5 minutes or 5 hours and not run into another real human.  Or, you can stay inside the populated “bubble” (about 300 or so light years in diameter around Sol) and then you will run into plenty of other players.  Hint: someone of them are going to attack you just for fun–that’s the “Dangerous” part of the game.

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My SRV on a rocky moon, looking towards a gas giant with its rings almost parallel to the milky way.  I was something like 1,000 lightyears out, so the milky way pointed my way back to civilization.  Most of the game is in first-person, but there is a camera suite that you use to “zoom” out of your vehicles and take pictures.

And super fun is dropping your Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV) onto a planet or moon and jamming around looking for stuff to mine.  If you want, you can spend the entire game roaming around just a few planets–or you can travel the 27,000 lightyears to the center of the galaxy.  It’s your choice.  Make the game whatever you want of it.  There is a subtle story in the background (which I think is about to get even better with an alien invasion of the galaxy) and players can take part in community missions to further the story.

Elite Dangerous is also a spaceship sim.  You can use a landing computer, but really the game is much more fun without it.  The first time I tried to land on a space station (think of a giant rotating 12-sided die with a small slit on side that ships fly in and out of) I smashed against the outside of the station.  The next few times I tried to land I wiped out everything in sight.  But once you get the hang of flying (and landing!) your ship, the things that you can do with the flight simulator part of the game is quite awesome (e.g. flying through rings of asteroids).

Last hint: watch out for the white dwarf stars–they will trap you in their gravity well and not let go.  I hate those White Dwarfs!

2 – Minecraft

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One of my recent underground discoveries–an abandoned mineshaft that I am excavating.

Okay, everybody plays this game so I really don’t need to say much about it.  Gigantic, open sandbox where you can play in survival mode or creative mode.  You can dig up ore, build gigantic structures, or just walk around and fall into lava.  Whatever you want to do, Minecraft lets you do it.  Playing Minecraft is also like putting together Legos or doing a jigsaw puzzle–its strangely meditative.  And again, a game that you can play for 5 minutes or 5 hours based on how much free time you have.  I have a wife and two kids, so I think you are getting the gist that I like games that don’t have long, complicated missions or lack “save” points, because I am never sure how much time I have got to play games. Minecraft can be played by all ages–so if for some reason you have been living under a rock and haven’t yet tried Minecraft, you really need to run, not walk, to your console and download it today. Tell Mojang/Microsoft that Neal sent you.

 

3 – Fallout Shelter

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It’s a sim based on the popular Fallout series of games.  You have to manage food, water, and power for your vault dwellers while avoiding numerous dangers: fires, radroaches, deathclaws, etc.  You can even re-name all your dwellers (here is a hint: I have renamed all 200 of mine and their names are not fit for prime time, I won’t put any examples here, you never know if a kid might be reading this blog!).  Anyway, you can send your dwellers on missions outside the vault to collect valuable weapons, armor and crafting junk.  Again, another game that you can save at any point and play at your own pace.  Oh, and the dwellers say the most hilarious things, so be sure to zoom in on them and eavesdrop their conversations.

 

4 – Star Wars Battlefront

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Okay, everybody likes Star Wars.  So what could be more cool than running around in a MMoG fighting battles on Endor, Hoth, the Death Star, etc?  I personally like the Battle Squadron multiplayer–it’s space ship battle in X-wings, Tie Fighters, etc.  Literally, I have not run across another player better than me in the sky–I am a killer, particularly in a Tie Interceptor (i.e. Darth’s Vader vehicle).  Anyway, back on the ground you can fight battles from the movies and even find “Hero Pick Ups” to become Luke, Darth, Chewy, Han, Leia, Greedo, Boba Fett, Jyn, etc.  It’s not an overly detailed or exact shooter simulation, but then again it’s not suppose to be.  It’s Star Wars–and that’s where the fun is.  If you ever wanted to operate a gigantic AT-AT and blast those pesky rebels into oblivion or go stomping around in a Chicken Walker (AT-ST) and crushing the rebellion under your metallic feet, this game is for you.  Trust me–nothing more fun than squishing rebels!

5 – Dead or Alive 5 Last Round

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When I feel like some simple one-on-one combat, it’s DOA5LR that I turn to.  Quick battles, tons of outfits for the guys and gals of DOA, and the difficulty can be customized from absurdly easy (i.e. the AI characters rarely attack and defend) to ridiculously hard (i.e. good luck even getting in a single hit) and everything in between.  It’s fun and mindless.

Till next time, Make Mine Marvel!

5 Reasons You Should be Playing King of New York (with the monster evolution rules)

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If you haven’t yet given King of New York by Iello games a try, here are 5 reasons why you should:

1 – You Are a Mega Monster that Stomps on New York

Okay, this is a really big (pun intended) plus for this game!  Each player is a gigantic monster (e.g. a giant robot, a giant ape, a giant dinosaur, etc.) and you get to smash buildings and destroy military units in the boroughs of New York!  What could be more fun?  Nothing!  You get a cardboard standee that emphasizes how massive you are and how small and puny the poor earthlings are!

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Cthulhu in Queens, The Sheriff (the dinosaur) in Lower Manhattan, and Kong in Staten Island rampage through the boroughs of New York!  By the way, note the Cthulhu cultist temples in a number of boroughs.  Whaaaat….did I say Cthulhu?  More on that later.

2 – If you know how to play Yahtzee, you basically can play King of New York

To control what your monster does, you roll 6 dice.  Maybe you want to destroy buildings; maybe you want to regain health; maybe you want to slap the monster currently in Manhattan; whatever it is you are looking to do…all you got to do is roll the right symbols!

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The dice.  Each symbol does something different.  From top left clockwise: gain fame, slap another monster, gain energy, gain health, make units attack the monsters, and destroy buildings/units.

If you don’t get what you want on the first roll, you can re-roll any number of dice while holding the others.  Still don’t have what you want?  You get a second re-roll!  Sound like Yahtzee?  Yep, it is.  A good number of games these days have taken this basic idea and added other mechanics to it to make a quality board game.  While King of New York has power cards, energy cubes, and other rules, if you know the basic math needed in Yahtzee to decide when to re-roll versus when to keep a die’s result, you can play King of New York.

3 – It’s King of the Hill — and everyone knows how to play that game

And of course, King of New York is really “King of the Hill” where Manhattan is the “hill.”  If you can get your monster to Manhattan, you’ll get some bonus fame and energy each turn.  Stay there long enough and you are well on your way to winning.  Whoever is on the mountain can be slapped by all the other monsters…but from Manhattan you can slap your opponents all at the same time!  Yee-hah!  The strategy is simple: get to the Hill…er, Manhattan…and hold it!  If you aren’t in Manhattan, slap the monster that is until it falls off the hill!  C’mon, everybody knows how to do this!

4 – With the Power Up! expansion, each monster evolves with different powers

One problem that the original King of New York suffered from was that all the monsters were the same.  They had different standees and different cards to record fame and health…but aside from chrome they were the same thing.  It didn’t really matter which monster you were–all of them played the same.

Thus, everyone basically pursued the same set of strategies regardless of which standee they were playing.  It seemed to be silly to be Kong or the Sheriff or Captain Fish or whatever when really you were all the same generic monster.

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The Power Up! expansion that introduces monster evolution cards

The Power Up! expansion changed all that!  Each monster now has a unique set of 8 evolution cards.  Each monster starts the game with 1 evolution card and over the course of the game they can try to get more (by rolling triple hearts).  Some evolution cards are one-shot (called “temporary” in the game) and have an immediate effect and then are discarded.  The other evolution cards stay in play (called “permanent” in the game.”  This mechanic is similar to the basic power cards that say “keep” or “discard”.

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The Sheriff with two of his permanent evolution cards: Long Star Lizard and The Short Arm of the Law

Because each monster has a unique set of cards, each monster is now UNIQUE.  If you play Mega-shark you are likely to get an evolution that makes winning the game via fame impossible–but helps you slap down the other monsters to win by being the last monster standing.  Captain Fish has an annoying way of moving monsters around.  The Sheriff tends to inflict damage on monsters near him.  Now your choice of monster makes a big difference as to what strategy you will play…and what you might have to do to stop another player’s strategy.

5 – Games are relatively quick and full of fun

King of New York is lighthearted!  Games last about 30-60 minutes and generally are silly and fun.  You smash buildings, slap other monsters, and fight to get and stay in Manhattan.  Even if you lose, you will have a good time in this free-for-all.

6 – (yes, there is a #6 in the 5 reasons why!) Cthulhu!

And now Iello Games has introduced individual monster packs that you can purchase.  And which monster was first?  Of course, it is the obligatory Cthulhu expansion!  Now you can play the antediluvian Cthulhu and smash your way through New York!

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Cthulhu and a few of his evolution cards…in all their terrible, monstrous, insane, glory!  Note the rather insane combo of cards above to gain fame quickly as Cthulhu.  This is a real picture of one person’s hand in a game a few days ago…and yes, he won with it.

The Cthulhu pack introduces cultist temples that shuffle in with the buildings.  Cthulhu can even use “Shrieking Madness” to give Madness tokens to other players.  What do they do you ask?  Well, for each Madness token you have, you roll a die and place it on the token.  That die cannot be re-rolled!  Yikes!  That truly is madness!  Oh, and Cthulhu can use Sunken R’Lyeh to gain fame each turn in any borough with a cultist temple.  If you are one of the other monsters, you better smash these temples as soon as you see them before Cthulhu racks up the fame!

For all these reasons you should be playing King of New York!

Til’ next time, Make Mine Marvel!  Wait…that kind of didn’t fit..oh well, who cares, it just sounds cool!

 

Merchant of Venus Memorial Day Spectacular

Memorial Day is a perfect time to get everyone together and play those games that you can’t get to normally.  You know what I am talking about, those games that take like 4+ hours and you just can’t fit them in to a normal work night gaming session.

So, we managed to bust out Merchant of Venus from Fantasy Flight games, a re-imagining of the classic Avalon Hill game.

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Merchant of Venus as redone by Fantasy Flight Games

Basically if you haven’t played it, each player flies around space exploring 14 systems.  You look for goods to trade, passengers to ferry, new civilizations, etc.  You improve your ship and piloting abilities as you go.  Whoever has the most credits at the end of the game wins.

Merchant of Venus is a typically Fantasy Flight game…in other words, it has a lot of counters, cards, etc.  It also is kind of an “Ameritrash” game in that you roll lots of dice, there is a lot of randomness, and in the end the random behavior usually makes a bigger difference in the outcome than any true strategic and/or tactical decisions.  In short, it plays a bit like Talisman–move around and hope for good luck.  But it is quite fun if no one takes it too seriously.

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A typical start to Merchant of Venus.  My ship card is on the bottom with lasers set to 1 and shields set to 2.

Anyway, Bob, Stew and I got in a pretty fun game.  Stew started by heading toward the Nebula which slowed him down.  I took advantage of some favorable placement of passengers and Bob started trading everywhere he could.

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My ship after I increased my pilot level to 2.  I am transporting the Diva and have added the Zen Paint Job and Throttle Boost.  I also have discovered two civilizations, upgraded my lasers, added cargo space, and sourced a Yellow Drive.

Through about 20 or so turns, Bob and I were raking in the credits while Stew slowly caught up to us.  The game lasts about 2-4 hours on average, and since we hadn’t played it in forever, it took some time to set up.  So after 3 hours and 21 turns, we decided to go eat and call it quits.  We didn’t figure out who won because it was just fun to play.

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The game board when we decided to quit.  Stew (with the Green ship) is trying to find the undiscovered civilization of the Humans.  His pilot was Human and we never found them so Stew couldn’t use his racial discount.  Bob (the Red ship) was in that system so Stew was hoping that the Humans were not there but in the system with his Green ship. 

Merchant of Venus is a fun game but you need time to play it.  If we had played to the 30 turn limit, we would’ve easily taken another hour.  So maybe on the next holiday we might finish a game…

One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon

Year Issued: 2016, v1.5 2017

Publisher: Asmadi Games

Cost: $25.00 from www.onedeckdungeon.com

Playing Time: 30 minutes

Players: 1-2, 4

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One Deck Dungeon.  One should notice that all the heroes are female!  And none of them are half-dressed.  Clearly this is a good sign as this game does not invoke the Inverse Rule of Gaming (i.e. the more female flesh used to sell/promote a game, the worse that game must be)

One Deck Dungeon is a “co-operative dungeon delve for one or two players,” (and if you combine 2 sets, 4 players).  In short, it’s a game in a small box that promises a D&D like quest in a short period of time, for a small amount of money.  Does it deliver?  Read on and find out!

One Deck Dungeon: Descend through the Dungeon Floors and Defeat the Boss

The basic idea of ODD is that the hero or heroes fight their way through 3 dungeon floors, each harder than the one before it, and then encounter the boss monster at the end.  Along the way, you grab items, skills, and experience to make the heroes tougher so that they can defeat stronger and stronger monsters.  The random element in the game comes in two forms: random selection of cards and dice rolling for combat and peril encounters.  If the heroes make it all the way to the boss and defeat it, they win; otherwise they lose.


Contents of the Game

  • 5 Hero cards
  • 30 small 6-sided dice (8 yellow, 8 blue, 8 pink, 6 black)
  • 1 Turn Reference Card
  • 44 Encounter cards
  • 4 Level cards
  • 5 Dungeon/Boss cards
  • 2 Basic Skill cards
  • 1 Stairs card
  • 15 red damage token cubes
  • 6 white potion cubes
  • 1 Campaign sheet pad
  • Rules booklet (39 pages)

The quality of the components is quite high.  The rules booklet is clear and edited well.  It explains the rules twice, once with helping pictures, and then in the back of the book it re-lists the rules in a text-only format.  The front section helps you learn the rules while the back section performs as a “quick reference” to look up rules questions.

The cards are printed well and have good art on them.  The reproduction of the colors on the cards match the dice (more on this later) very well.  The cards can be shuffled easily and do not appear to wear quickly.  Also, the cubes and dice are of high quality and will stand up to a lifetime of playing.  The game box is sturdy and has a handy divider to separate different sets of cards when storing the game. Overall, I am fairly impressed by the quality of the components.


The Rules

One Deck Dungeon is a quite easy game to learn and play.  A play picks a Hero and places the Hero card in front of herself/himself.

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A Hero Card.  The Warrior will roll 4 Strength dice, 2 Agility dice, and only a single Magic die.  She also has 6 health.

The Hero card shows how much Strength (yellow swords), Agility (pink winged shoes), Magic (blue diamonds) and Health (red hearts) each hero has.  It also lists their Heroic Feat (in a blue scroll) and beginning skill (tan scroll).  The player/s choose a Dungeon/Boss card.  One side of this card provides information on the 3 floors of the dungeon while the back side has the Boss encounter.

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The Dungeon side of the Dragon card

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The Boss side of the Dragon card

The Dungeon card is slid under the Turn Reference Card, displaying the 1st floor of the dungeon.  The Turn Reference Card lists the components of a turn in order and also shows the available potion recipe (healing) that is available to the heroes from the start of the game.  A potion token is placed on the Turn Reference card at the start of the game and each time the hero/-ies level up.

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The Turn Reference Card.  Note the Dragon’s Cave dungeon card at the top with its challenge boxes for the 1st floor exposed.

The player then stacks the Level cards and places the Level One card on top.  This card explains how many items and skills each player can possess, plus any bonus black (heroic) dice.  The player shuffles the encounter cards and stacks them on top of the Stairs card (thus, the Stairs card is on the bottom of the encounter deck). Once the Stairs card is exposed, the heroes may descend to the next level of the dungeon.

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Stairs card (on 4-player side) with stack of encounter cards

At the start of each turn the player burns 2 encounter cards (reveals and discards them) to represent time (depicted as hourglass icons) spent wandering the dungeon.  Then, the heroes may either 1) open 1 of the closed doors and fight or flee from it,  2) encounter an already opened door, or 3) “Explore” which adds cards off the top of encounter deck as closed doors up to a maximum of 4 total doors (open and closed combined).

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4 Doors, with 3 closed and 1 open

Encounters are either “combat” or “perils”.  And this is where the fun in ODD truly exists!  Each encounter card has a set of challenge boxes.  Each box is color-coded toward one of the player attributes (strength, agility, magic, or “any”).  The player must use rolled dice to defeat the challenge boxes by placing rolled dice into each box equal to or greater than the listed number.  Moreover, the hero must also defeat the challenge boxes listed on the Dungeon card for the current floor and each floor already completed (e.g. if the heroes are on floor 2, they must complete all challenge boxes for floors 1 and 2.

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The two different types of encounters: Combat on top and Peril on bottom.  Note that the Peril encounter allows a player to choose which challenge box to face.  The left column of the card is its loot as an “item”, the bottom scroll is its loot as a “skill” or “potion recipe” (the top card has a skill, the bottom a potion recipe), and the lamps on each card are the loot as “experience.”

If the encounter is combat, the hero/es roll all possible dice (i.e. all strength, agility, magic, and heroic) while if the encounter is a peril, the hero/es roll only dice matching the challenge attribute plus any heroic dice.  At this point the hero/es may also use skills to increase the likelihood of defeating the challenges (e.g. turning a die from a 1 to a 6, rolling more dice, etc.).  Note that the players may transform any two dice into a single heroic (i.e. black) die of value equal to the lower consumed die (e.g. a blue 3 and pink 5 transform into a single black 3).  The value of this is that heroic (i.e. black) dice can be placed on any challenge.

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Fighting a Shadow.  Because the blue 5 challenge box is not covered, the hero will take 1 point of damage (the heart) plus 1 time goes by (i.e. 1 card from the encounter deck is discarded).  Notice also how the player’s dice had to cover the challenge box on the Dungeon card too (the right side column has peril boxes and the left side column has combat boxes).

The hero/es place dice until they either defeat all challenge boxes or cannot place any more dice.  Any challenge boxes not defeated list a penalty in either damage or time, and each undefeated box inflicts its penalty on the heroes.

Once the encounter is over, the heroes take the encounter card (whether completely defeated or not) as “loot”.  Each card can be taken as an “item,” which adds to a hero’s attributes and thus allows more dice to be rolled, as a “skill,” or as “experience,” which contributes to leveling up.

Should the hero/es survive past the 3rd floor they face the boss!  This is a multi-round combat similar to encounters.  It lasts until either the boss suffers damage equal to its health or the hero/es all die.


Game Play

The rules are easy to understand, so players can get started right away after reading the booklet.  However, I found that I made some mistakes in my first couple of games that made me start over.  The most common mistake is that once you reach the maximum number of items and skills, you can replace any of them with any new encounter card.  The old item/skill gets transformed into its experience.  It is easy to forget this rule, but once you remember it, it really comes in handy.

Anyway, the game plays pretty fast.  Basically, you burn 2 cards, encounter a card, roll dice, choose how to distribute them to defeat the challenges, get the loot, rinse, lather, and repeat.  Once you reach the stairs, you shuffle and do it again.

The game play is nicely calibrated.  Some encounters are fairly easy but do not reward you with much loot, while others are best avoided until the hero/es get stronger.  Moreover, sometimes it is best to try an encounter, even if you cannot cover all the challenge boxes, just to get the loot.  You may take some damage, but it can be worth it for a great skill or an item that you need to boost an attribute.

Moreover, as you descend the number of challenge boxes on the Dungeon card multiplies and get harder.  Thus, a goblin on the 3rd floor is going to be much tougher than a goblin on the 1st floor.

There is also a bit of depth and strategy. Do I try to get xp and level up, or should I beef up skills and items first?  Should I loot that encounter for the Magic item that I need, or take it for that sweet skill?  Do I want to cover a challenge box that causes me damage or that burns time?  Do I use that potion to heal now, or save it in case I find a better potion recipe later?  There are plenty of choices to make that do not have a dominant strategy in each and every instance.  Sometimes a choice looks good but later you wish you had done something different.  The mechanic of replacing chosen skills/items with new items does allow the player to make up for poor choices, but only after consequences of undefeated challenges are inflicted.


Assessment

I use a rating of 1-10 “Dice” for each category.  For reference, a 1 is the poorest possible rating and a 10 the best possible.

Components: 9 Dice

The quality of the cards, dice, rules booklet, cubes, is top notch.  My only gripe, and it is a minor one, is that some of the challenge boxes are too small for multiple dice.  For example, the Dragon boss has boxes of 16 or 17.  The player must use multiple dice to defeat the box, but the box only accommodates 2-3 dice.  Well, that just isn’t big enough.

Fun/Enjoyable: 9 Dice

This is a solid solitaire and 2-player game (I did not play the 4-player variant as I do not have 2 decks).  The pace is quick, it doesn’t have complicated rules to distract the player, it feels like a dungeon crawl, and the rolling/distributing of dice is easy.  Moreover, you really get a sense of fighting monsters and dodging traps.

Tactics, Strategy, and Depth: 8 Dice

As mentioned that are choices to be made, and they do matter.  Also, each boss has a different set of challenges in its dungeon plus different challenges in the boss encounter, making each game different in the strategy that must be pursued.  However, there are not enough encounter cards to truly vary the play enough to my liking.  Note that there is a Kickstarter campaign for a new set of cards, which might take care of this issue.

Balance: 8 Dice

You can lose early with a really tragic roll (for example, more than half 1s and 2s on your dice before you get enough skills to change the die rolls) but generally you will be “in” the game and have a chance to win.  If you don’t prepare for the boss, you will lose, but if you prepare you have a good shot at winning.  The 1.5 version of the game has made leveling up slightly easier which has alleviated the imbalance favoring the dungeon in the original version of the game. (Note: all product at Asmadi Games is now v1.5).

Theme: 8 Dice

The game delivers on its promise: it feels like a dungeon crawl simulated through only 1 deck of cards.  However, because of the minimalist nature of the game, there is a natural limit to how much the theme can actually come through.  I think future expansions can probably expand on the theme through more mechanics, flavor text, campaign adventures, campaign settings, etc.

Overall Rating: 8 Dice

This is a solid, solid game.  Unlike small box die rollers put out by Gamelyn Games that lend themselves to analysis paralysis, ODD does not.  The number of skills that change the die rolls/add dice/etc are minimal, allowing the player to determine the best course of action quite quickly.  Yet, picking which encounter to face, which skill to use, how to take loot, etc., is not always straight-forward, bringing a strategic element into the game.  The pace is good, the theme is spot-on, and there is even a campaign format for those who want more depth.

Top 5 Multiplayer Strategy Tips

As everyone knows, a multiplayer game is a completely different animal from a two-player or solitaire game.  In a two-player game everything is zero-sum: a gain for me is a loss for my opponent and vice versa. Strategy typically revolves around finding (in Game Theory terms) dominant strategies that will lead to victory.  In other words, each time you are presented with a choice, finding the alternative that maximizes your utility.  In layman’s terms, finding the choice that strictly is better than all the other choices.

Typically, in multiplayer everyone is your adversary, but they also can be your friends.  This dynamic makes strategy in a multiplayer game more of a mixed strategy.  In others words, there may not be a single dominant strategy, rather strategies are also a gamble based on the choices made by the other players.  No strategy is inherently always going to be maximal.  As such, in a multiplayer game you must “read and play” your opponents more than just analyzing the board situation.

What follows are my Top 5 Multiplayer Strategy Tips that are applicable to any and all competitive multiplayer games.  Please note that I am not talking about cooperative games (e.g. Pandemic, Ghost Stories, T.I.M.E Stories, Grizzled, etc.) or multi-person solitaire (e.g. Race for the Galaxy) but rather truly multiplayer games where one player’s actions directly impact another player.  It can be a typical strategy game where you take something directly from an opponent (e.g. Risk) or a game where you fight for resources and territory (e.g. Settlers of Cataan) or even where the only interaction might be drafting a card from a shared hand (e.g. Among the Stars).

#1 Hide in Second Place

Okay, this one should be obvious to most casual and serious gamers.  Basically, you can read this tip as “Do not race into first place too early.”  If you sprint out to a clear lead, everyone else starts gunning for you.  If you put up the first City in Settlers of Cataan, expect that Bandit/Baron/or whatever you call it to be placed on your most productive hex.  Capture the North American continent in Risk?  Watch the attacks on Fortress America commence.  And don’t even think about building that biggest fleet in Enemy in Sight!  Your masts are going to get blown apart by every other player in the game!  Have tons of health in Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards?  You won’t for much longer as every spell gets thrown your way!

So what is a keen player to do?  Stay in second place and keep your quest for victory hidden.  Grab a Special Card in Settlers and try for a Victory Point, or maybe keep your long road just one segment less than the guy with the Longest Road.  In games with a lot of victory points awarded at the end (e.g. Among the Stars), do not build space station blocks that have immediate points, rather build the ones with points counted at the end–such a sneaky way to grab victory from 2nd or even 3rd place.

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Keep these beauties hidden so your opponents can only guess at how many victory points you have.

#2 John the Weaker Opponents

When my brother and I were kids, during holidays we always got in a long game of Risk with our uncles.  Uncle Bruce was clever and tough to beat, but uncle John always used a particular and quite powerful strategy.  He would convince one of our younger cousins that either my brother or I were winning the game.  He would argue that if the weaker player didn’t do something about me or my brother, no one else could.  So after a bit of logic, intimidation, and persuasion, my younger cousin Bruce Jr. would launch suicidal attacks against my troops.  Bruce Jr. couldn’t beat me, but he did weaken me enough for Uncle John to win.

Johning your opponent means to convince a weaker opponent to attack another opponent–thus weakening the stronger one and making your “emerge from second place to win the game” strategy pay off.  It is a very effective strategy that you can use in most multiplayer games where opponents can either pick their targets (e.g. Epic Spell Wars, Enemy in Sight, Dune, Seasons) or in games where geography allows for players to attack a multiple number of “near” opponents (e.g. El Grande, Risk, Eclipse, Kemet, Smallworld), to interfere with “near” opponents by denying them resources (e.g. Settlers, The Golden City), or by making resources more expensive (e.g. Power Grid).  Note that Johning can also be used in card “drafting” games by trying to get other players to deny cards to the “leader” or true target of your Johning strategy.  Try to John players in 7 Wonders so that you can draft a useful card while they draft a card that your key opponent needs.

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Who should those Amazons attack?  If you are the Skeletons, John that Amazon player and make him go after the Humans–convince him that clearly the Humans need some paring back!

Johning is a strategy that you should use much like voting in Chicago: do it early and often.

#3 Do Not Leave the Table for a Slice of Salami

When we were playing those childhood games of Risk, I learned a very hard lesson: never, ever leave the table to get something to eat.  I come from an Italian family and we always had multiple sticks of salami around at each holiday. The temptation of grabbing a few slices would pull me away from the Risk board often.  And what awaited me when I returned…a new alliance among two or more players hellbent on destroying my empire!  Of course, some members of this new alliance appear to have been victims of Johning, but that wouldn’t make their troops fight any less effectively.

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What the?!?  I left the table to get a slice of salami and now my Fortress Europa is under attack from all sides!  I fear an alliance has been made against me!

The moral of the story is that if you leave the table, other players can plot against you.  I recommend stacking up the food and drink within easy reach of wherever you are seated.  Oh, and develop a strong bladder.

#4 Run with the Pack/Dodge the Pack

Some games are set up to reward players who follow the same strategy and punish the lone wolves.  For example, in Eminent Domain if you try a Produce/Trade strategy by yourself, you will not win.  If no one else is leading Produce/Trade, you cannot follow.  Thus, you will have to do all the work yourself by consistently leading Produce/Trade.  Meanwhile, the other players who are all leading AND following a Warfare strategy are smoking you like a cheap cigar!   Running with the Pack will not insure that you win, but you certainly will not come in last.

Drafting games follow the opposite rule: Dodge the Pack.  Because drafting forces players to focus on accumulating one or two types of resources, each player has to ignore/pass along the resources that they do not want.  For example, how many times have I played 7 Wonders and seen the Scientific structures keep circulating?  If no one wants them, you can be sure that you can grab them all!

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So many scientific cards getting passed to me.  What to do, what to do?  I think its time for some scientific discoveries!

#5 Limit the Strongest Opponent

I know that when I sit down to play a strategic game that my brother Stew, the West Point Graduate, is going to play to win.  He likes strategy games, he is good at strategy, and he is ruthless.  Thus, I look for ways to keep him in check.  This can be overt, such as not trading cards with him in Settlers or drafting cards that he wants in games like 7 Wonders or Among the Stars.  Or it can be covert, like when I try to John the other players into hemming in Stew in Smallworld or Eclipse.  The point is to not let Stew run amok over the weaker players. Stew already would consider me to be his strongest opponent, so I can’t expect help from him.  Thus, returning the favor is the best strategy to pursue.  Sure, sometimes we end up negating each other and somebody else wins, but better the occasional loss than the beat down that an unchecked Stew can unleash.

As an example, when I play Dune (or the Fantasy Flight copy, Rex) and I have to pick a traitor at the start of the game, I always pick one from Stew’s leaders.  Why?  Because I know that if I have to battle Stew, he is going to be prepared with a weapon, defense, good leader, etc.  I will need the traitor to turn the battle my way.  Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that he has taken a traitor from among my leaders too!

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Hmmm, 4 possible traitors.  Stew playing the Bene Gesserit?  My only choice is to make Princess Irulan my traitor.

Conclusion

I hope these tips help you win more of your multiplayer games.  Remember, the main difference between multiplayer and 2-player games is that in the former you must remember to also consider the other players and their strategies.  John them, focus on the top player, run/dodge the pack, hide in 2nd place, and never ever leave the table for a slice of salami.