What Did We Play? Near and Far

This week we all got together to try out Near and Far from Red Raven Games. I picked up the game at Gen Con (actually, I got the next to last copy from the Red Raven Booth) this year. It is a sequel to Above and Below, a game that I have never played but have heard good things about. Fortunately, you do not need to own Above and Below to play Near and Far.

Near and Far advertises itself as a storytelling game, an atlas game, and a campaign game! That sounds like a lot…and it had me intrigued when I saw the game at the Red Raven booth. Then I noticed the artwork! I was hooked!

— Clockwise from top left: Storybook, Atlas, Town Board (dusk side shown)

The Basics

The overall goal of Near and Far is to accumulate Journey Points. You do this by preparing your character in the town and then adventuring on one of the maps contained in the Atlas.

The game is essentially an action-taking game where each turn a player places their character standee on a town location and performs the action(s) listed there. Generally, you are trying to load up on food, coins, friendly adventures, etc so that you are ready to travel out of the town on the map.

On the map, you move around looking for quests and establish camps. The camps allow you to collect coins or gems, and also allow for less exhaustive movement across the map (ie it costs fewer “hearts” to move).

— The map for the first game, as contained in the Atlas.

The game ends once one player has placed all 14 of their camps (on the map, in the mines, and/or on Threat Cards). Journey points are awarded for camps played, trade routes covered, artifacts found, threats defeated, coins, gems, faction tokens, Chiefs obtained, Reputation, and any other card/board bonuses.

Gameplay

Everyone in my group expressed that the basic standee placement and action-taking mechanism closely resembled games like Raiders of the North Sea. Turns are completely fairly quickly and each player has a chance to get something accomplished on their turn.

Exploring on the map takes a bit longer. Once a player travels to the map, they move in a point-to-point system more similar to strategic war games than typical abstract board games. If a player stops on a quest, another player reads the corresponding lettered quest from the Storybook. Each quest has two alternative acts available for the player to choose from among (e.g. help the old lady or ignore her plight) similar to games like Scythe. Usually a skill or combat roll resolves the chosen action.

Players alternate their time from loading up in town and exploring on the map, much like a pen and pencil RPG. This adds a storytelling/role playing element that adds to the fun (it also allows even players falling behind in Journey points to have a good time questing).

— my player board early in the game. I had placed two camps, recruited two adventurers to my party (next to my faithful cat companion), and added a pack bird.

In the game that we played, it seemed like each player tried a different strategy. I was trying to collect as many artifacts as possible, Lee was placing camps on the map for resources, Stew was going after quests, and Bob was mining a lot.

— The game a few more turns after the last photo but still in the early part. Note that camps have started appearing on the map as we began exploring outside the town.

The game lasted about two hours. It was our first play and it took a while to figure out what the best options were each turn. Eventually my artifact grabbing rewarded me with a very narrow victory over Lee.

— My board close to the end of the game. I was well-prepared to explore and my loot of faction tokens and gems would allow me to buy plenty of artifacts from the Mystic.

The Verdict

From one play of the game, all of us agreed that Near and Far was quite fun. Everyone felt that they were “in” the game and that no one got left behind early. Also, the exploration on the map added a nice touch that broke up the monotony of standee placement in the town.

In short, we are looking forward to trying the Campaign game and adventuring on new maps. The gameplay is solid and fun, the rules clear, and the art gorgeous. If you haven’t tried Near and Far, I recommended that you give it a shot.

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris — Episode One

— the new expansion/campaign for Scythe is out. Let’s get ready to rumble!

I picked up my order of Scythe: Rise of Fenris from Meeplesource at Gen Con 2018. My gang of friends was ready to get started right away, so we got a game in yesterday. I might give away a few spoilers, so you are forewarned! And remember to be forewarned is to have four arms! Wait…that’s not right. Oh well, you understand what I am trying to say.

The Premise: The Search for Tesla

The basic idea of the campaign is that the disastrous and inconclusive Great War is over. The city-sized Factory run by Nikola Tesla that supplied all the designs for the Mechs has gone silent. It’s 1921 and the Europa powers are back on their feet. They also are trying to get into Tesla’s Factory to see what is in the sealed inner vault. (As an aside, I hope Gerardo Rivera is not involved and that there is going to be more in Tesla’s vault than Al Capone’s Vault.)

Anyway, the set up for the first game is pretty much like a normal game of Scythe, except for three differences. First, an extra Objective Card is flipped over and placed near the objective track. Each player can try to complete this Objective in addition to their normal Objective requirements. Second, each player can pick a “perk” and add its bonus to their starting position. For example, there are +2 resources, +1 starting worker, +3 Power, etc. Third, an Influence Marker is placed on each of the 10 possible Achievements plus one marker on the revealed common Objective Card.

— a couple of the Influence markers

It wasn’t explained in the rules what the Influence tokens would be used for, but whomever was first to the achievement could grab the token.

The Game

There were four of us. Stew played the Rusviet Union and got to go first. Lee was next with the Togawa Shogunate, I was third with Saxony, and Bob last with Clan Albion. Lee got off to a quick start by upgrading his board to reduce the cost of more upgrades to a single resource. Stew was first to the Factory and looked to be catching up. I developed my mechs quicker than the others, allowing my Character to move quickly around the map looking for Exploration card bonuses. Bob focused on slow expansion and placing his flags.

As the game moved along, I slowly gained the most Influence tokens, mainly from being the first to complete an Objective, Build all my mechs, and place all my workers. I got to the Factory second but the cards there were not all that good. I retreated in the face of Lee and his Shogunate mechs, and he eventually got into the Factory.

As the end game approached, Stew, Lee and myself were getting close to the sixth Achievement, but each didn’t want to end the game from a losing position. Lee had a lot of hexes controlled, Stew had a lot of coins, Bob had top tier Popularity, and I was arguably in last. When it looked like my situation couldn’t get better, I stormed the Factory with two Mechs and knocked Lee’s Character out of it–but at a high cost! The Shogunate Trap was a -2 Popularity which sunk me down out of the second-tier and back to the first-tier, costing me roughly 15 coins!

Lee and his Shogunate ended up victorious with 81 coins, Stew’s Rusviet were second with 73, while Bob’s Clan Albion and my Saxons we’re tied at 53.

Each player now could mark on their Campaign Log the Achievements that they completed. For each Achievement, a player marks a spot on their Triumph Log. At the end of the campaign, completed rows and columns will give a coin bonus.

— Lee’s Campaign Log. Note that he got to mark his Episode One victory.

The Influence Vote: Peace or War?

After calculating victory, we learned what those Influence tokens were for. Each player was given 1 extra Influence token on top of what they earned. Each player then secretly allocated their Influence tokens into two hidden piles: any in the closed left hand was a vote for war, and any in the closed right hand was a vote for peace. We made our choices and then revealed simultaneously. Saxony and Rusviet had 7 votes for war and zero for peace, while Clan Albion and Togawa had 0 votes for war and 5 for peace. 7 to 5 for War!!!

The campaign has two separate sets of rules for the second episode: one for peace and one for war. This is pretty cool as different groups and/or second attempts at the campaign can have different episodes. Sweet!

Anyway, the first episode didn’t differ much from the base game, but given this war vs peace vote, we are expecting it to lead to some sort of big changes in the next episode. See you there!

My Haul at Gen Con

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

— day one loot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— day two loot

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

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

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

Why Visiting Your Local Game Store is Good — Dice Throne and King of New York/King of Tokyo: King Kong

I am a big fan of buying games from internet sites. I can buy directly from the publisher, I can get a good price from an online retailer like Amazon, I can window shop multiple sites, etc. However, the biggest disadvantage of online shopping is that it is surprisingly easy to miss things. Amazon doesn’t have everything and search results can be more limited than it might appear.

That’s why I love going to my local game store every week to just see what might be there. For those with more inquiring minds, the closet local store to me is The Toledo Game Room. Those of you who go to GenCon might recognize the owner of the Game Room, Daryl, as “The Bits Guy” who sells all the Warhammer bits. Another good store in town is Checkmate Games. If you are in Fresno, Ca, I recommend Crazy Squirrel Game Store.

Anyway, going to the local game store turned up two games/game expansions this week.

First, I found a game that I knew nothing about: Dice Throne

I have only started reading the rules, but Dice Throne looks like a fun game where you can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or free-for-all. I can’t wait to try it out with my usual suspects.

Second, sometimes I find something new for a game that I like. This time it was King Kong for King of Tokyo/King of New York.

I loved the Cthulhu expansion and I am super-pumped to bust out King Kong in my next King of New York game.

The moral of the story

So run, don’t walk, to your local game store to find unexpected gems. And do it like voting in Chicago–early and often!

Excelsior!

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!