5 Things I Learned from My First Game of Zulus on the Ramparts: The Battle of Rorke’s Drift

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!

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Inverse Rule of Gaming: Part III–Early Results

Okay, the initial results are in!  I sampled 100 games at random on Boardgamegeek, recording the average rating (of all games that I found with at least 5 ratings) and assigned a salicousness score from 0 (no females depicted) to 5 (practically softcore pornography) based on the cover art/photo (nb: if there was no cover art/photo, I omitted that game).

I found games from 2017, games from pretty much all decades since the 1940s, some classic games (like monopoly), and even some games from my childhood that I had forgotten about (I’m talking about you, Chopper Strike!).

Here are the results:

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Is there a correlation between game rating and salacious rating?

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Variables:

Game rating: score on BGG 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest)

Salacious rating: score from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest)

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Hypothesis: the higher the Salacious rating, the lower the Game rating.  

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RESULTS (from n=100, simple random sampling)



BGG=6.42-0.153*Salacious

Analysis:

The trend line is clearly a negative relationship: then greater the Salcious rating, the lower the BGG rating.  However, there are a number of issues.

  1. There are not many cases where Salcious > 0.
  2. There is not a single case where Salacious > 2.
  3. There is a single case with both a low BGG and Salacious = 1 that might be driving the estimate.

What to do?  Well, for my next analysis I am going to use cluster sampling.  I already have enough cases where Salacious = 0.  I will need to look at batches of possible cases and sample only those with Salacious > 0.  This will give me enough cases in the sub-groups to run a more robust analysis.

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Early Verdict:

The small sample (n=100) seems to imply that the hypothesis has some credibility.  However, a larger sample with more cases of salacious marketing on covers needs to be done.

Next Time: The Inver Rile of Gaming: Part IV–The Final Results

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…