What I Learned in only 2 Games of Forbidden Island

Lee gifted me Forbidden Island from Gamewright for Christmas.

The game is cooperative in which 2-4 players race across a sinking island to secure four treasures and get to the helicopter before everything descends into the murky, watery abyss. It plays similar to Pandemic in that players get to take actions, collect sets of cards, and slowly reveal what sections of the island sink each turn. As the water rises, the pace increases, and the players must try to stay one step ahead.

As a veteran of Pandemic (and Pandemic Legacy) as well as Ghost Stories and similar games, I felt I had a good handle on these sort of cooperative race games. Boy was I pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was! After two games, here is what I learned:

1 – The Island Sinks Fast

Compared to Pandemic, the pace in Forbidden Island is much quicker. The game plays in under 30 minutes….easily. I found that what I thought were reasonable actions (like shoring up some tiles–in other words, flipping a tile from flooded to unflooded) were completely wrong. I realized after two defeats that I would have to optimize my turn much more than I originally thought.

2 – Hand Management is Tough

To get a treasure, a player needs a set of 4 matching cards. There are two big issues: 1) there are only 5 of each treasure card available in the Treasure Deck and 2) a player’s hand limit is 5 cards. Unlike the higher hand limit and excess matching-color cards in Pandemic, the scarcity of cards in Forbidden Island and small hand size mean that players must trade cards more strategically.

3 – Protect Fools’ Landing

Fools’ Landing is the tile with a helicopter for the players to escape the sinking island after grabbing the treasures. If it sinks beneath the waves, game over Man! We lost a game because we chose to leave Fools’ Landing flooded while taking care of other tasks. We paid the ultimate price when a Waters Rise! card was drawn and the first Flood Card drawn was Fools’ Landing, sinking the tile.

4 – This Game is Fun!

Despite two losses (on Novice level, egads!) I am ready to try again. The gameplay is quick and enjoyable. I have a lot to learn, but the fun will be in the trying.

Advertisements

New Games that I am Pumped About: Northern Enchantress and Fragged Kingdom

Today was my lucky day! Two new games that I can’t wait to play showed up in either my email inbox or on my front door.

Northern Enchantress — Expansion for Heart of Crown

I really like the new deck building game Heart of Crown from Japanime Games. And just in the time for the holidays the second expansion, Northern Enchantress, has arrived (along with my setup playmat)! Heart of Crown is quicker and simpler to play than Tanto Cuore. The new expansion adds magic and non-humans. I can’t wait to give it a try.

Fragged Kingdom

A while back I picked up the Fragged Empire RPG. The game has some really cool ideas in it, like attribute damage, an innovative combat system, a nice “Spare Time” character development system, and streamlined rules for dealing with items and resources. Fragged Empire is Sci-Fi while Fragged Kingdom is fantasy. It promises to have rules for PCs to have “Holdings” and rule over territory, plus simplified mass combat rules. One gripe I have always had about traditional fantasy RPGs is that they typically deal with holdings and mass combat quite poorly. From my quick perusal of the rules, I have a feeling that Fragged Empire is going to get it right. I gotta get a campaign started right away!

How EA got Star Wars Battlefront 2 So Horribly Wrong…and Then So Right

Photo courtesy of my flatscreen TV

The Initial Controversy — Locked Jedi

By now you either are playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 by Electronic Arts (EA) or you are not. Either way you probably have heard about the controversial start of the game…and how mad Star Wars fans were. Basically, EA had locked some key heroes/villains like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker behind a wall of credits. Players could acquire credits by playing for about a year…or they could purchase crystals via micro transactions…which means via spending real money….and unlock them now. Fans revolted at this injustice and the credit cost of the heroes was slashed.

The Real Problem–Vastly Imbalanced Game Play

But I am here today to tell you the #truth! The real problem was not locked heroes…it was that the game play was vastly imbalanced by the micro transactions! Here is my story. I bought the pre-order of Battlefront 2, which allowed me 1) early access to the game three days prior to the general release, 2) to start with some good Star Cards (power ups basically) especially for Rey and Kylo Ren, and 3) the unlocking of the Death Trooper class. Thus when I started playing on November 14th I was excited to try out my new Star Cards and Death Trooper. But guess what happened? Players who used micro transactions to buy 1000s of Star Cards were wiping the battle fields with their immense advantage.

This was grim, as I was unable to get many kills and was getting slaughtered. Now you might ask, why didn’t I just use my Death Trooper to fight back? Well it’s because as you fight, you earn Battle Points. The good classes of warriors (like the Death Trooper) and the Heroes (like Rey and Kylo Ren) are locked during a battle until you earn enough Battle Points to play them. So the rich kids who bought Star Cards were racking up Battle Points and grabbing all the heroes, slaughtering everyone else, getting more Battle Points, lather, rinse, and repeat! Now I had played Battlefront 1, so I was no slouch at the game. In fact, I was one of the best Starfighters in the world, so the sort of slaughter that was being inflicted on me was mainly a product of the vast imbalance in access to Star Cards.

So all my pre-order access and good Rey and Kylo Ren Cards were useless…because I could never get enough Battle Points to play them! In short, from November 14-16 micro transactions ruined Battlefront 2. The $70 I had spent was futile in the face of the rich kids spending $100s or $1000s to basically buy victory like they were the New York Yankees or Manchester United!

EA Gets It Right

Literally hours before the general launch on November 17, EA removed micro transactions. So now nobody can spend real money to buy an advantage, everyone has to earn credits through their game play. Since then, the game play has been normal. I now can kill and be killed based on my skill and the skill of my opponents. I can earn Battle Points and get enough to play the Death Trooper, Rey, and Kylo Ren. The game is what it was suppose to be all along.EA actually listened to player feedback and made changes that fixed the problem. Now this is not my usual experience with EA, as I ditched playing the FIFA series of games because of the lack of response from EA to the communities’ complaints. But this time, they actually listened. I guess the Force is strong in the Battlefront 2 community!

May the Force Be With You

Update: edited to get rid of the darn auto-correct that keeps messing with Star Wars names

House Rules — Making a Game Fit Your Needs: Tavern Masters

DECONSTRUCTION JUNCTION

A place where I dissect rules, themes, game components, and strategies and give my thoughts about them.

——————————————-

Every now and then there is a game that you like…but you don’t love it. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t really fit the style or needs of your gaming group. You’ve played it with the guys a couple times, and it was fun, but you think it could be even more fun…if it was tweaked a bit. What is there to do?

House Rules

Well, the obvious answer is to use House Rules! Make up the Rules you need to get the game to where you want it. And today I am going to give an example of a game that I recently acquired on Kickstarter: Tavern Masters by Dann Kriss Games.

It is a fun, quick game for 1-4 players. It can be played competitively, co-operatively, and solo. Games last about 25-30 minutes. In short, you build a Tavern in a fictional fantasy world and try to accommodate as many patrons as possible, earning gold in the process.

We played it a few times and it was fun and fast. But it was too fast and really, didn’t have the strategic depth that we were looking for. In fact, with the exception of the first round Tavern card passing, the players never interact. Now, Tavern Masters is a light game with evocative art, so nothing I will write in this blog takes away from the excellent work put into this game. Yet, our group wanted a longer game with more tough decisions….so we introduced some house rules.

House Rule #1: Length of Game

The competitive game normally ends on any round that a player gets 20 or more gold. Our new house rule is that games go a minimum of 6 rounds and end at a pre-determined round from 6 to 10. This lengthens the game by 20-60 minutes.

House Rules #2: First Round Changes

The first round of the game can be frustrating if your Tavern cards do not match your Patron cards. Because the Tavern cards are dealt and played before ever seeing the Patron cards, this makes mismatches purely random. Our house rule is that on the first round the Patron cards are dealt first. Each player can look at his/her Patrons and only after that, the Tavern cards are dealt and passed normally. This allows each player to try and avoid mismatches and also pass the Tavern cards with more sense of strategy.

House Rule #3: Pass the Tavern Cards Every Round

Tavern cards only get passed in the first round normally, on the subsequent rounds they are directly drawn from the deck. Our house rule is to pass cards every round, with odd rounds clockwise and even rounds counter-clockwise. This continues to provide more player interaction and more strategic choices (you know, like in 7 Wonders–do I block or grab what I want?

House Rules #4: Icon Limits

Normally any number of Patrons can take advantage of a single icon (for example, if you have 3 Patrons in your hand who want Ale, if you have a single Ale card in your Tavern, you can play all 3 Patrons). Our house rule is that EACH Patron needs its own separate icon, both when it is played and also when you keep Patrons during the Counting the Till phase. If you have 3 Patrons who need Ale but only one Ale card in your Tavern, you can only play one of them.

Conclusion

Our house rules effectively make the game more strategic and make choices more demanding. The house rules make the game longer and more tense, and also add more player interaction. House rules to the rescue!

P.S.

The Dirty Deeds Expansion is also a must. It adds a phase where players directly mess with other players’ taverns. Pick it up if your gaming group wants more player interaction and backstabbing fun!

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!

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.

Dynamite Nurse 01

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.

Dynamite Nurse 04

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.

Dynamite Nurse 02

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!

Dynamite Nurse 03

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.

 

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.

video gams 03

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.

video games 02

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

video games 01

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

video games 04

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

video games 05

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

video games 06

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)

KoNY 5 reasons 06

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!

KoNY 5 reasons 01

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!

KoNY 5 reasons 02

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.

KoNY 5 reasons 07

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”.

KoNY 5 reasons 03

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!

KoNY 5 reasons 04

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.

Merchant of Venus 01

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.

Merchant of Venus 02

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.

Merchant of Venus 03

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.

Merchant of Venus 04

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…

Recent Games: Big Book of Madness, Monarch,7 Wonders Duel, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards, King of New York, Tiny Epic Galaxies

Recently, the Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club has had time for some serious gaming!  Here is a selection of some of the most recent sessions.

Big Book of Madness

bbom-dec01

The start of the game.  It was all downhill after this point!

We got in a game of Big Book of Madness (You can find my review of it here).  It’s a cooperative game where each player is a novice spellcaster and together they must defeat the monsters that spill out of an opened book of madness.  We have played it a few times, and we know that it is a hard game to win.  But this time we really got on the receiving end of the hard knocks and couldn’t recover.

bbom-dec02

By the second turn we were already suffering from our inability to get rid of the curses before they inflicted their pain on us.

In short, we seemed incapable of getting 4 of any element together to banish a curse.  Thus, the curses kept hitting us, and most seemed to drop Madness cards into our decks (see the picture above).

bbom-dec03

My hand just before the end of the game: full of madness and weak element cards.

By about Turn 3, Bob and Neal were drawing loads of Madness cards.  Without many playable cards, it became tougher and tougher to banish curses.

bbom-dec04

The end of the game…it came quick!

By turn 4, we had already run through the entire Madness deck and lost the game.  Particularly nasty were the multi-element curses (as seen above under the #2 spot) that kept adding additional elements to the other curses.

I highly recommend Big Book of Madness, because if you want a tough game to win, try it out!

Monarch

We tried out a new game that Stewart got for Christmas: Monarch.

monarch-dec01

The box cover of Monarch

In Monarch, each player tries to earn the most victory points by acquiring different titles and objects (represented on cards) related to the monarchy.

monarch-dec02

The basic layout of Monarch.  The 9 fields/villages, apples (red tokens), gold, and titles/objects.  I have a Pomeranian in the foreground.  Note that I am getting spanked!  I have 1 object while my brother (in the background) already has 5.

Each player must harvest apples from fields and use them to upgrade fields and villages.  Apples also are used to force villages to pay taxes (the gold coins) which are used to acquire cards–and it those objects that have varying victory points.  The game also has a faction mechanic and a few other subtleties.

It was the first time that we played it and Stew beat the rest of us down pretty good.  Bob and I competed for resources and also seemed to waste time upgrading villages only to have Stew upgrade them last and switch them to his faction.  The game was fun and with some more plays I am sure we will figure out exactly how to maximize our strategies.

7 Wonders Duel

Stew and I got in a couple games of 7 Wonders Duel.

7wondersduel-dec01

7 Wonders Duel with the new Pantheon expansion!

We played a couple games with the new Pantheon expansion.  For those who haven’t tried Pantheon yet, it adds 5 different Mythologies to the game (Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian).  You can recruit Gods to lend their special powers to your side.  Most interestingly, when you recruit a God you do not have to burn one of the discovery cards.  This can change the turn order so it adds a new tactical wrinkle to 7 Wonders Duel.

Stew won both times, typically by pursuing a strategy of collecting Civilian buildings.  I got really close to a Scientific instant win in our second game, but came up just short.

Stew really loves this game, as it is on his Top 10 list (Stew’s Top 10 Games click here), so anyone looking for a two-player game should check it out.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill

I got the new Rumble at Castle Tentakill expansion to Epic Spell Wars and was burning up to try it out.

eswotbw-dec01

Lee dealing out the cards.  Castle Tentakill standing ominously in the middle of the table

Rumble at Castle Tentakill introduces two new mechanics.  First, now some delivery spells are Creatures. Creatures have a chance of staying in play from turn to turn.  They also can jump in front of damage, sacrificing themselves so that you don’t get hurt.  Second, the standee now has a purpose!  Certain spells move the standee to a player (or take it from another player).  Other spells give you bonuses if you have the Standee while some spells inflict more pain on the player who has the Standee.

We got in a few turns but unfortunately we had to end the game before the finish.

King of New York: Power Up!

I also received the new expansion Power Up! for King of New York.

kony-dec01

King of New York with the new Power Up! evolution cards

We played a three-player game.  I was the Sheriff (in the foreground above).  The new Power Up! evolution cards added a twist.  Now when you roll 3 hearts you can draw 2 evolution cards and choose 1 to add to your hand.  Each monster has its own set, so in this expansion choosing which monster to play actually can make a difference.

Anyway, I played the Sheriff and I quickly got into Manhattan.  I slapped both Stew and Bob mercilessly turn after turn.  I eventually got driven off, but by this time everyone was quite banged up and when I left Manhattan Stew had to enter it.  This set of a cycle whereby Bob eliminated Stew, and then I eliminated Bob to win the game!

I can’t emphasize how fun King of New York is.  If you haven’t played it, run out and get a copy and give it a try as soon as possible.  You won’t regret it.

Tiny Epic Galaxies

Stew and I got in a game of Tiny Epic Galaxies.

teg-dec01

The situation early in the game.  I am in the foreground with the red units and Stew is on the left with the green units.

Well, this game turned out to be a nightmare.  You can check out my review (click here for TEG review) of TEG to see why.  In short, probably a game to be avoided unless you want to play it solitaire, in which case it is fun enough.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  See you next time!