Archive | January, 2012

Innistrad Draft #2

31 Jan

I like playing Magic: The Gathering online. I’m not very good at it though. In a perfect world I’d be constantly making finals, but it happens to me far too often. Still, I get a lot of enjoyment out of Magic, and Innistrad has been particularly good fun.

So anyhoo, I decided to jump into a 4/3/2/2, as I find swiss drafts to be a complete lack of challenge. My very first pick was Gavony Township, a land which puts +1/+1 counters on all your creatures. Now this is a pretty good card, so I decided to go for the green/white archtype which is extremely popular.

It was going pretty well too, and I eventually managed to amass 3 doomed travellers, a couple of pilgrims (for mana) a midnight haunting (token generator) and a few over tasty cards. Most surprising of all was a second Gavony Township. I had a fast deck with low, but decent removal. The deck itself looked like this.

The top curve is admittedly a little high, but it had a lot of low mana creatures, which I was hoping would at least stall the early game until I could get some of my bigger hitters out. That was the plan anyway…

My first opponent was a blue-green player with a splash of black. He had some great cards including Mirror Mad Phantasm, tribute to hungers and a few other bits and bobs. He played well, and quickly took the first game. Fortunately, I was able to claw back the second 2 games due to a small smidgen of luck on my part and a couple of silly players by my opponent (he managed to effectively deck himself game 2).

Eventually this happened.

My second game was against a red black player and his deck was mental. He had lots and lots of removal including geistflame, tribute to hunger, victim of night and devil’s play. He also had an insane amount of fast creatures, including 9 crossway vampires. This card is particularly nasty as it can stop a creature from blocking when it comes into play. I ended up never being able to get more than 2 creatures out at a time and I crashed out after 2 quick games. Fortunately, I one enough cards to break even, so I’ll probably have another game tomorrow night 🙂

Thunderstone – An 11-year old’s viewpoint

26 Jan

I’ll be covering the awesome Thunderstone soon because it’s brilliant. In the meantime, here’s my daughter Emily explaining why she enjoys playing this excellent deck builder from AEG.

Play The Game Of Thrones (without dying)

23 Jan

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

I’ve heard this quote countless times over the last year, despite having little knowledge of the book it came from. HBO’s adaptation of A Game Of Thrones changed all that, and I’m now a fervent fan of George R.R. Martin’s work, even if I’ve not read all the books yet.

But don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about the novels and excellent TV adaptation. No I’m here to reveal the numerous board games that are available, and have been available for quite some time now. Please note that these are only basic overviews, I will go into more detail in later reviews. I just felt that if you’re new to the series like me, you might want to know what sort of stuff to start looking for.

A Game Of Thrones (The Living Card Game)

The most interesting aspect of this game is that it’s actually an adaptation of an older collectible card game that Fantasy Flight Games first released in 2002. Fantasy Flight converted it over to the LCG format in 2008 and it has stayed this way ever since. It’s been a big success for Fantasy Flight, and while it’s perfectly possible to play the game straight out of the box via a very balanced base set, many like to buy the monthly expansions that enable them to constantly upgrade and improve their decks.

In the core set, it’s played between 2-4 players, but it’s definitely built for a full group of players. Players take on the role of 4 of the major house: Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryen and must attempt to seize 15 power points. What’s interesting here is that there are 3 distinct types of challenges: Military, Intrigue and Power, which can be played to give you an edge over your opponents and earn different rewards. It’s a slick, beautifully presented game, rich in theme and dripping with flavour.

A Game Of Thrones (The Board Game)

I’ve literally just got my hands on a copy of this, so can’t really tell you to much about it at the moment. What I do know is that it’s a 2nd Edition of the game that was first released in 2003. It’s infamous for taking an extremely long time to play (typically around the 4 hour mark) and for being an incredibly back-stabby game. As I like games like this, I’m quite looking forward to getting stuck into it. It featured two expansions: A Clash Of Kings and A Storm Of Swords, and elements from both expansions are included in the new revision. The game takes place over 10 turns and sees players amassing armies and trying to seize control of Westeros. From what I’ve seen of the instructions it’s a fairly complicated game, but it does appear to have a lot of potential for intrigue and political might. One thing I like about the card game is that it’s very swingy, with games often going several ways before a winner is determined, and from what a friend has told me, the board game is very similar. Expect a review very soon.

Battles Of Westeros

Many battles take place in the novels, so it should come as no surprise to learn that there is a war game that takes place in George R.R. Martin’s fantastical world. Unlike the other games, it’s designed from the off for just 2 players, and sees them pitting rival houses against each other on the battlefield. The game comes with a huge amount of playing figures and is far quicker to play than the other A Game Of Thrones titles, with a game typically lasting around 45 minutes. I admittedly know very little about this last game, but it does look very interesting. Needless to say I’ll be hopefully picking up a copy very, very soon.

I appreciate that these are only brief intros (and in the case of Battles Of Westeros, rather flimsy) but hopefully they’ll inspire you to at least check the games out.

 

Cyclades Video Review

22 Jan

Here’s a vide review of Cyclades to complement the written review on the blog. Enjoy.

Why I love board games Part 2 The Rules

18 Jan

This sounds nutty I know, but I love getting stuck into a good rule book. I’m terrible when it comes to actually remembering the rules when I prepare to play a game, but I love learning about game mechanics. I love looking at the gorgeous art. I love discovering new types of games that I’ve never experienced before. Most of all though I love the promise that a rule book offers.

When I’m reading a rule book I imagine how those scenarios will actually play out in an actual game. I love thinking about how my friends are going to enjoy certain situations, and I love thinking how we will react to those situations. I love the anticipation, the thought that very soon I’ll be sitting around a table with people I enjoy, and that these simple words, phrases and sentences will become something more. Something tangible.

Some games like Fortune And Glory have a starter rule set and a more complicated rule book. I obviously love reading both, but will still make mistakes.

Yes I get frustrated with ambiguous rules (who doesn’t) but I love the satisfaction I get when I finally work something out and finally get it when it all clicks into place. Granted, I’ll often have the points pointed out to me by my virtual friends at Rllmuk, but it’s a lovely Eureka moment. The kind you get when you finally work out how to take down a boss in a video game, or finish a particularly difficult crossword.

Some rules are harder to understand, but that's also part of the fun.

I love how the vast majority of rule books I own are like precious little tomes, full of gorgeous artwork, and beautiful presentation. I’m sure there are clunkers out there, but the many ones I have are dripping with theme, and make you even more excited about playing.

Perhaps most of all though I love that I can get excited by simply reading a rule book. I guess that’s part of the magic of this hobby that we all enjoy.

Cyclades Review

16 Jan

I’ve not played many board games that intentionally blend genres, but if they all do it as well as Cyclades does then I’m going to start tracking them down. Cyclades is a board game designed for 2-5 players, but it’s definitely suited for larger play groups, and is even more enjoyable if you’ve a love for Greek mythology.

How Long To Set It Up?

You can get all the pieces together and ready in about 5 minutes. It’s relatively straightforward to do, but does require a decent amount of space.

The Win Condition

Build or secure 2 metropolises before your opponents. You do this by either building four of the different structures that are available, collecting 4 philosphers, or simply taking a metropolis from another player by force.

What Makes It Special?

Cyclades big draw is that you must make offerings to 4 gods in order to get their help. Ares, the god of war grants you the ability to buy and move soldiers, and build fortresses, while Athena allows you to gain and buy philosophers and build universities. Poseidon lets you build fleets and move them and also allows you to build ports, while Zeus lets you buy priests and exchange monsters for new ones at a cost of one gold.

Only one player can earn the favour of a god, so everyone has a turn to place the highest bid (providing they have the gold) to earn a god’s favour. The starting play group determines how many gods are in play at any one time, so whoever fails to earn a gods favour (or simply wants to save money) can visit Apollo. Apollo gives you one gold and a horn of plenty piece that can be placed on one of the player’s island. Players get one gold piece for each horn of plenty icon they have, meaning sometimes it pays to purposely visit Apollo.

The gods have different abilities. You can only bid on one a turn, so be sure you get a god's favour when you actually need it.

How Does A Turn Work?

Quite simply really. First the order of the players (for bidding purposes) is randomly determined and the gods are shuffled and placed in vertical order on the left hand side of the board. Then gold is given out based on what a player owns. Once everyone have made a successful bid, the player who made the highest bid on the lead god goes first. He can perform any actions, or special actions that the god offers and also has the option to summon monsters, which can hinder the other players. Play then continues until every player has had a turn. It’s worth noting that priests allow you to bid less gold (one less for each priest you had) which makes Zeus very powerful early on in the game.

What are the components like?

Generally of a very high quality. The board is a little small for the box (it comes in two pieces with a flap that bends down) but it seems sturdy. A nice touch is that the board can also be flipped, so if you are playing with more people you have a larger playing area. There’s a large number of men and boats for each player, 8 in fact, while the game also comes with 5 large monster models. These monsters are very well detailed, but a little prone to bending (my centaur was in terrible shape and must be bent back at the start of each game). Monsters, philosophers and priest cards are nicely illustrated and sturdy, meaning they should soon plenty of use before they start getting dog-eared. The presentation throughout is of a very high standard, and I was extremely pleased with the amount of stuff you get for your money.

The monster cards are beautifully illustrated. In fact the overall quality of Cyclades is very good indeed.

What Are The Rules Like?

Pretty good. There’s a little disambiguation to be found, mainly with regards to the offerings, but there are plenty of illustrated pictures throughout the six pages that make many of the rules far easier to follow. The back page of the manuel also reveals how the set-ups for various players should be completed.

How long does a game take?

This obviously depends on the amount of players, but we’ve been managing 3 player games in about an hour and a half. The turns are relatively fast-paced as well, meaning that there’s very little downtime for each player, as they’re waiting between turns.

Should I buy it?

Definitely. I’ve been very impressed with Cyclades. It looks the business with excellent visuals and sturdy, well designed models. The game plays very quickly and it’s just as fun with 2 players as it is with 5. The theme is incredibly strong, and it does a great job of blending different genres. It’s worth noting that Cyclades doesn’t do anything new, but it’s very, very polished and highly enjoyable. Pick it up if you’re looking for something a little different.

Why I love Board Games Part 1

12 Jan

Man updating this blog regularly is hard work, goodness knows how people like Tom Vasel manage it all the time. All my spare time gets eaten up so quickly that before you know it, the time has just disappeared, and a new day has begun.

Still that’s not the point of this latest update. The point is that my busy days reminded me how much I actually look forward to getting home and playing board games, so I thought I’d start putting those points together as I remembered them.

By far the most important aspect it that I can play them with my family. Being a modern family, it means that we don’t do a lot of things together. We might be in the same room, but I’ll be browsing my iPad, Alice will be playing on her DS or reading a book, Emily, my eldest will be browsing clothes shops online (she’s obsessed with shopping) while the wife will be reading one of her many novels. We’re all in the same room, but aside from the odd snatch of conversation, or a quick break to make a cup of tea (which always seems to be my turn). That’s as far as the interaction goes. We’re with each other, but we’re not with each other, if that makes sense.

Board games changed all that. There’s something truly satisfying about sitting around a table with your friends or loved ones, and enjoying a game. Any game. Yes, the wide age difference between my two daughters (Alice is 6, Emily is 11) means we can’t play every game together, but experimentation has revealed plenty of titles that we can all play. Carcassonne, Zooloretto, Wildlife Adventure and It’s Alive are the most popular ones, and I’m sure we’ll add many others as time goes by.and my youngest gets older.

You can’t be passive when playing board games, you have to participate, you have to join in, you have to query rules, you have to challenge people when they’re trying to do something on the sly, you have to touch and caress the lovingly created pieces. Most importantly though you have fun and you’ve had that fun with people that matter.