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!

State of Decay 2 – Best Tips and Tricks

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

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

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

Recruit Everybody…and then kick them out!

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

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

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

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

Load Up Items on Characters Before Completing the Last Legacy Mission

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

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

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

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

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

Blood Plague is Your Friend

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

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

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

Love Letter: To Have or Have Not the Princess Early

Deconstruction Junction: Finding Strategies to Protect a Winning Hand

In a few recent games of Love Letter (from AEG) my friends and I got into a little, mini debate. While I contended that getting the Princess early was very helpful, a few others disagreed. They argued that it was almost always a curse, because they ended up being forced to discard the Princess and lose the hand. Who is right?

The Princess is the best (in other words, winning) card in Love Letter. But, if you are forced to discard it, you are knocked out of the round–so you have to protect your winning card from discarding effects. I understood what my friends were saying: if any other player suspects that you have the Princess, they are going to target you with a Guard or Prince (and perhaps the King). Or if a Priest is used on you, then your opponent knows what you have, which is going to make it difficult to survive the rest of the round. I argued that in my experience that I could often avoid detection of my Princess card and make it to the end of the round, and of course I would win the round.

So who is right? Well, I think neither. Having the Princess early (or even in your initial draw) is a good thing. Why? There are two ways to win a round of Love Letter: knock out all other players or have the highest card when the deck runs out. If you have the Princess you are sure to win in the latter instance. And of course, you can still knock out your opponents and win. All the other players can ONLY potentially win by knocking you out (or trading their King for your Princess which almost never happens). To make this clearer think about all the opening hands that are sure not to be a wining start: Guard, Priest, Baron, Handmaid, and sometimes the Prince. These players must draw good cards combo cards (for example, Priest and Guard) but if you have the Princess some combos cannot happen for your opponents (for example, Baron then draw a Princess, Handmaid then Princess). Having the Princess gives you a head start or one or two times around the table. Moreover, the more other players use those two Handmaids and two Princes (but not forcing you to discard) the quicker you get to winning. Also, the more players in the game, the less likely someone will be able to knock you out by a good Guard guess or with the Prince just because there are so many other targets.

So having the Princess is a good thing–but you have to defend her. The Princess has two weaknesses. One, if you get targeted with a Prince, the Princess is the only card that forces you out of the round. Two, given that the Princess is the highest card, all the other players are trying to figure out where it is (and they are indeed looking, because they know that they don’t have it). If any player figures out that you have the Princess, expect them to try and knock you out. So how do you defend the Princess against these weaknesses?

Feign Weakness

Love Letter is like a game of poker, a strong hand is better than a weak hand, but bluffing and deception can help any hand. So, like poker, if you have the strongest possible hand (in other words, holding the Princess), you are going to want to bluff a bit of weakness. How can you accomplish this in Love Letter? If you get a guard accuse someone else of having the Princess! That should throw them off your track! If you draw the Baron, go after the opponent whom you think has the weakest card. When they discard that Guard or Priest, the other players won’t assume that you have a Princess. When someone discards a high card, pretend that you wish you were holding that card.

Take Your Time When Playing Your Cards

Nothing signals to the other players that you have the Princess or Countess more than quick play on your part. You need to deceive your opponents a bit. When you draw your card, look at it, put it in your hand, shuffle your two cards, and then look at both of them. Pretend that you are trying to figure out which to play. Good poker players do this as a matter of habit–you should too.

Don’t “Tell” Your Opponents That You Have the Princess

Take another cue from poker here: when you draw that Princess stay calm and don’t make it obvious how happy you are. Don’t smile, make some positive noise, don’t look happy, etc. Also, don’t sell it too much the other way. We all know when a player starts moaning loudly about his bad luck that he probably drew a good card. Also, if someone else forces you into a Baron fight, don’t make it obvious that you are going to win. If someone hits you with a Guard and guesses wrong, don’t be so eager to triumphantly say how wrong they are. And as the deck gets low, try to look as concerned as the other players who are holding weaker cards.

Confuse Your Opponents

When you get that Princess early and make it all the way to the end and win, tell them that you drew it on your last draw! They will think that you have Lady Luck on your side and that they just can’t win. Again, deception is your friend here. Also, if you used the Guard trick where you accused an opponent of having the Princess, after you win let others know about your deception. This will get in their heads. The next time you are sitting on the Countess, use a Guard, and then accuse someone of having the Princess, everyone will think that you have it! After a short bit of time no one will have any idea when you have the Princess in your hand or not.

Learn to Love the Princess

So next time you play Love Letter, remember that having the Princess is always better than not having her. Use the tips above to better protect your winning card and maybe you will collect those little wooden cubes instead of watching others collect them.

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.

Spooks: Escape the Haunted House

image

Spooks

 

Ever felt the need to play a simple card game with friends/family?  You know, a fairly quick and fun game that anyone can learn in a few minutes?  But you are bored of Uno, poker, rummy, Tripoly, etc.  I know a game that you can try: Spooks!  It’s a Steve Jackson Games product from the early 2000s.

Bones, Bats, Goblins, Spooks, Spiders….and a Black Cat

The rules are fairly straightforward.  There are 56 cards.  5 suits from 1 to 10 plus a Master card (which is basically an 11).  Two suits are blue (Spiders and Spooks), 2 suits are red (Bones and Bats) and 1 suit is green (Goblins) plus a single Black Cat card.

image

The red and blue suits

image

Master of Bones, Master of Goblins, and the Black Cat

The cards are shuffled and dealt out.  The player with the 1 of Spiders leads.  Play proceeds clockwise.  If the last card is blue, the next player must play a card with the next highest number in any suit (any 2 on the 1 of Spiders for example).   If the last card is red, the next player must play a card of the same suit (bat on bat for example) or play the same card number of any suit  (a 2 of Spooks on a 2 of Bones).  If the last card is green (Goblins) a special round occurs in which each player selects one card.  The cards are revealed and the highest Goblin wins the trick and can lead the next card.

If a player cannot play a card special rules now apply.  If the last card is blue the player is skipped.  If all skip, the player who played the blue card can now lead any card.  If the last card was a Bat, the player who cannot play must receive cards from the other players’ hands!  If the last card was a Bone, the player who played it can lay down a mixed-suit straight with the highest card being the new lead.

The Black Cat is a wild card and can be used to substitute as a legal play or to win a Goblin trick.  The first player to get rid of all their cards wins.

Once everyone knows the rules, the game moves fast!  As you might guess, switching the lead suit back and forth from blue to red to green and hand management are the fundamental strategies.

When one player goes out, the other players add up the point value of the cards in their hand.  If a player gets to 200 or more points, the player with the least number of points wins!

There are variations (such as giving the Master cards special powers) that add further complexity for serious gamers.  There is also the common card game variant of a “silent hand” of discarded cards to keep everyone guessing as to which cards are still in players’ hands.

So give Spooks a try and you will find a nice little game that you can keep on your game shelf for those nights when more social gaming is required.  Oh…and you get to say “Bone” all the time too!