Portsmouth On Board - 23 April 2014 - Religious Fanatics, Egyptian Gods and Late Knights

I couldn't attend the previous session so it was good to get back to the Pompey gang - where it all started for me again in the board gaming world. To top it off, I knew that a member would be bringing Clash of Cultures along which has been high on my playlist for a while given that I enjoy a good civilization board game. No need to mention that lots of members turned up tonight (oh wait I just did, so never mind), but we are certainly getting a large following lately.

"Clash of Cultures"

I was hoping to get in some quick Netrunner fun before hand, but most people were willing to chat about their week. I think it's becoming an obsession now, I want to get more practice with that game, it's just that much fun right now. It's already worthy of a Top 20 position in my collection but at this rate it could even make the Top 10. . . . possibly a little spoiler for the inevitable Top 10 Best Games list that could be coming to a blog near you come The Broken Meeple's anniversary!

"Bruges"

Clash of Cultures eventually arrived and Ed, Stu and I got all the plastics out and it didn't take very long to explain the rules at all. A lot of the icons and reference sheets are intuitive and if you're a gamer you'll pick it up fast. We quickly got through the first few turns as it became evident what strategies everyone was going for based on their technologies. Stu was working towards efficient resource collection and engineering with the aim to build a wonder, Ed was opting for a more scientific and militant route mostly due to a large quantity of nearby barbarians and I for a laugh thought it would be cool to focus on spirituality and theocracy and create a nation of religious fanatics.

"The Village"

Across the tables, some very well known titles had got started including Shadows over Camelot, Bruges, Village and Nations. It was actually cool to witness first hand how the drop-in function of Shadows Over Camelot worked when two new members arrived late and yet were able to simply jump straight into their early game and continue on even though some turns had already elapsed. Seriously more designers need to consider this for their gateway games, obviously for a die-hard Euro this is going to be tricky.

"Shadows Over Camelot"

The first thing to notice about Clash of Cultures as you play the game (particularly the short game variant that we were doing) is there really isn't enough actions to do what you want. Every single turn you want to do lots but you only have 3 actions per turn which really limits you. It's not a bad thing as you have to think hard about being efficient and picking your battles, but my strategy turned out to be a little too "long-term" then the game was going to allow me!

"Saboteur"

The barbarians must have been in "derp" mode for the game as no matter how many events we went through, they wouldn't move. We had famine and earthquakes and food booms, but no barbarian advancement - though that was partially a good thing as I found one too close to me as well and I wasn't going for military defence (a mistake that cost me dearly late).

"Munchkin Quest"

The technology tree is great though. I'm not convinced that it's balanced as some tech routes definitely seemed better than others, but it certainly does allow you a wide variety of choices. I enjoyed splashing out on temples in the hope I could go out and convert the other players cities later. I also created a port by the river so I could sail around the board and set up trade routes. Good ideas, but sadly not enough time to make them really work and it turned out from reading the rulebook that conversions have a major flaw in that they only work against Size 2 cities (i.e. ones that have been upgraded). There was a total of 9 foreign cities on the board and only 2 had an upgrade so that plan didn't go to well, but at least I was able to steal a city from Stu with a quick boat carrying my army which was amusing!

"Battlestar Galactica"

The game ended with Ed taking what he termed a "hollow" victory as we had some confusion with some of the combat rules which had affected our civilization's development. But credit where it's due, he still won and it was a fun game, maybe not one I'd buy myself, but certainly one I'd happily play again. The expansion due at the end of 2014 might sway me the other way though, looks pretty good.

"7 Wonders"

While I got together our fighting force for a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse, other tables had whipped out some well known games such as 7 Wonders and Battlestar Galactica and Galaxy Trucker in descending order of my personal views on them. But Sentinels, awwww man, Sentinels, it's really rising the charts in my most loved games. Starting off as another good co-op, it's getting more fun every game and expansion that comes out.

"In Her Majesty's Service - prototype"

I recruited 3 other players to the team, Jim, Graham and Stu. Ed sat this one out, he's not a fan of cooperative games! Sacrilege, but it's all down to opinion at the end of the day! The Visionary, Parse, Tachyon and The Wraith suited up to take out The Ennead at the Tomb of Anubis. See, come on, so much flavour and I'm only talking about the setup. Mainly because I forgot to take a photo of the game - my bad!

"Nations"

The Visionary kept our hands full of cards, my Parse boosted the allies damage and manipulated the Villain deck, Tachyon dealt out the big burst damage and The Wraith reduced the damage potential of the enemies. We were a well oiled machine and we managed to defeat the enemy with only the starting four enemies present to stop us - score one for Parse for keeping the Villain deck under control so that damage was mitigated and no more of the Ennead showed up to ruin the day.

"Galaxy Trucker"

It was a great fight and one of many reasons why Sentinels is one hell of a great co-operative game. I look forward to the next battle. Working my way to the Level 4 villains such as The Matriarch, Iron Legacy and eventually the 5 Man Villain team posed by Vengeance. As for the POB event as a whole, another successful night, looks like it's going to be 3 weeks until the next one.




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How 2 Play - Sentinels of the Multiverse

Hey folks! Sorry that not many How 2 Play videos have been released since the channel went up, that's now going to change! Let's kick things off with a tutorial about Sentinels of the Multiverse, a brilliant superhero Co-Op game.
 

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Even On Water You Can Be Killed By Fire - Flashpoint Fire Rescue: Dangerous Waters Review


No sooner after I had acquired Extreme Danger from a retail store, then Dangerous Waters was revealed as the newest mini-expansion to hit the series in early 2014. Kickstarters had managed to get it sooner but I'm not a big Kickstarter fan having only one game in production that I've backed and I'm still waiting to see if that venture works out for me before I back anything else.

Dangerous Waters is a mini expansion, on par with previous offerings like 2nd Story and Urban Structures (one I'll get round to reviewing separately at some point). It doesn't add much in the way of new rules, in fact it only adds one, but the emphasis is on the two new maps both represented by two double sided boards that fit together. One portrays a merchant ship in dock and the other has a submarine. . . . . . . yeah interesting choices there, but let's see how they play out!

"The cover is misleading in a way - you don't get to go diving underwater in scuba gear" 

Designer: Lutz Pietschker (2014)
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
# of Players: 1-6
Ages: 10+
Play Time: 45+ minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: n/a/7.78
Dice Tower 2013 People’s Choice Rank: 58 (Base Game)
Category: Expansion to Base Game


20,000 Leagues Over And Under The Sea

First of all we have the Merchant Ship map. The points of note are the entry/exit points in each corner and the Diesel Engine in the centre. The Engine works in the same way as explosive objects in Extreme Danger in that they accumulate damage cubes and then explode, except in this expansion, they aren't just explosive objects, they are CRITICAL objects. If the engine blows up, the firefighters lose, end of! Other than that the ship has tightly condensed rooms which are a pain when explosions start occurring and the only new rule in the expansion, Bulkheads.

"One large area and lots of little small rooms, but don't let that engine get destroyed!"

Bulkheads represent walls that can't be damaged with cubes, but the flip side is that they transfer heat to the other side when explosions occur. If an explosion occurs next to a bulkhead (the green line), you resolve the explosion as normal, but instead of placing a cube on the bulkhead, you place a smoke marker on the other side. This in turn may cause fire to erupt or separate explosions to occur depending on what already occupied the space. The idea of this is that instead of hindering the players with cubes, it hinders you by spreading the fire that little bit quicker.

The Submarine map is the most unique map in the series to date. It's an elongated (long and thin) map with several tightly packed rooms and two medic bays. It contains bulkheads as mentioned before as well as THREE critical objects; the plotting table, the control panel and the engine. If any one of these explode, it's game over! The other twist is that unlike other maps where if you rescue a victim they magically disappear, with the medic bays the victims stay there until the game ends and can still be killed by fire.

"This map feels really claustrophobic"

A Change In Dynamic

What these maps don't add in terms of new rules, they add in terms of new experiences. The way these two maps play is very different from the maps from the previous boxes. On the ship you have a lot of small rooms with doors which turn into "cube central" when explosions start going off. But on the other side of the ship you have to keep the fire away from the main engine to avoid losing outright. I found the Rescue Dog to be very useful on this map given it's huge size providing you open up the doors. 

The submarine is incredibly claustrophobic and therefore being blocked by fire is a more common occurrence. But having 3 critical objects is your biggest concern, that's 3 extra ways you can lose on this map and it doesn't take much to blow them up. On top of that you will end up with a pile of victims sitting in your medic bay just waiting for a freak fire to start up and roast them all in a condensed sardine tin. Leaving them alone is a risky business in itself but you really can't afford to just sit somewhere in preparation, you really need to rush around here, but that makes this map feel very different from the others and the highlight of the two.

The Ship is nothing groundbreaking, but having an extra fail condition and those tightly packed rooms does offer a different experience from the standard houses. There are very few places on this board where an explosion doesn't result in a large drain of cubes. Last night was one of the most tense games of Flashpoint history where I was one cube from death and had to literally rush the last victim out over 3 whole rounds while the other two firefighters frantically took care of any piece of fire they could find to avoid a game-ending explosion. Fortunately for me, we succeeded, but that was just Veteran difficulty!

"Two role switches, one cube from death, two casualties, but VICTORY!

The critical objects are the best new feature in my opinion. I have never lost this game as a result of casualties, it's always been by collapsed buildings. Now all of a sudden there are legitimate new ways of failing and I speak from experience that in the Submarine I've had issues with control panels exploding. The feel of the game is changed without making it an entirely different game altogether.

The expansion is all about the maps though, because aside from the bulkheads which are fairly minor, there's nothing new here in the rules that you haven't already seen in Extreme Danger, but if for whatever reason you avoided that expansion (and why did you, I put that as No 4 in my Top 10 Essential Expansions list) then you can buy this one and not be worried about lots of confusing new rules so in effect it's got a lower barrier to entry then Extreme Danger has (no floor damage, no ladders, no extra floors, etc)

"Yeah I underestimated the difficulty of this map on my first try!"

Verdict

This is a cheap expansion (less than £11 on most online sites) that offers a nice fresh take on the map layouts. Each map changes the feel of the game dramatically, but doesn't take away the essence that was prevalent in the base game, working as a team to save victims and put out fires. If anything the co-operative nature of this game is increased because you really need to utilise your abilities and teamwork skills in that submarine.

The submarine is easily the highlight, but that's not to say the ship is bad, it's just nothing particularly exciting in comparison. But I'm glad it's there so as to make full use of a double sided board and you can never have too many maps.

Storing the game is easy too. I own the base game, Urban Structures and Extreme Danger as well and all of the map boards fit into the base game box with ease. Not sure if 2nd Story would as well if I had it, so bare that in mind, but if you had Extreme Danger, I'm sure you could fit it in there with all of the pieces and tokens. Indie Boards are using their common sense and realising that if they already have big boxes available, they don't need to bother with boxes for mini-expansions - they get chucked half the time anyway and bump up the price of the game.

So essentially it's a cool mini-expansion. Nothing drastically new is added, but the boards feel different and will add a bit of spice to an already Co-Op if like me you believe that variety is key to a good game. It's not essential by any means, that I save for Extreme Danger, but for that cheap price, chances are you're going to be getting this anyway, it's barely a dent in your gaming budget!

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Episode 16 - 32 Hour Marathon Tabletop Day Special!

A special episode for this session, where I talk you through my 32 hour charity gaming marathon that I undertook for Tabletop Day, though I guess that makes it Tabletop Weekend really! I raised over £150 for charity and highly enjoyed the experience, despite needing some sleep afterwards!
 
Apologies in advance - I forgot to implement my makeshift pop filter before recording - won't happen again on the next one! :-(
 


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Unboxing - Empires Of The Void

Recorded in March, but now uploaded by popular request! If you haven't heard of Empires of the Void or it's print and play expansion Key To The Universe, you have now and you're better off for it!
 
 


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Southampton On Board - 14 April 2014 - Belgians, Zombies and Cowboys

 
Right now we're on the streamlined format for me doing session reports. I was doing a report every time I went to a club and that frankly was too much for me with all of the other stuff I do on my blog as well as work, my non-board gaming life (which is pretty much gym, cooking and movies to be honest), and of course, playing games! Now I'm alternating the reports. Portsmouth will get a report on the week the club is on and Southampton will get a report on alternating weeks - that way I never have to write more than one report a week. As for Chichester which I'm testing soon . . . . no reports, sorry but even though I can play games for 32 hours straight, even I have limits.  
 
Games had already got under way by the time I'd arrived (stupid roadworks) with our newest couple to the club testing each other's bluffing abilities in Android Netrunner. A cool game, one which I desperately need to play more, but one tip, never try to be deceptive against your other half, THEY KNOW YOU!
 
Across the table was a maxed out 7 Wonders game, only the third time I've seen one in action, though a personal viewpoint is that I wouldn't ever play with that many players unless they all knew what they were doing. Here there were a lot of new players for Jacob to teach. Brave man, but then he's used to teaching Race for the Galaxy at BoardGameExtra demo days so this is easy in comparison!
 
"7 Wonders"
 
So that left 5 of us to try a new game by Z-Man that has got a lot of buzz among Euro gamers in the US so that alone means I have to at least try it, although I'm always a little wary about games that are simply just a date with a place name from some random point in history. This was Bruxelles 1897, which I'm sure is famous for something but being a person who gave up History after Year 8 with extreme delight and relief, hell if I know!
 
In this game you are doing about a dozen different things. You place out workers on a weird coloured board for taking actions and area control, you're buying and selling works of art, you're bidding on action cards (not in a typical auction style though) you're building houses - essentially you get the impression that any time the designer had an idea, it went in the game. That's not to say it's convoluted though, the mechanics work fairly smoothly even if the art sale mechanic is clunky and practically ignored by everyone. 

"Bruxelles 1897"
 
The theme doesn't grab me though. This is a typical Euro game where it's mechanics over theme and I tend to prefer the opposite in my games. I do love some really theme-less Euros (hello Terra Mystica), but I like to immerse myself in the game and escape from reality. It's called Bruxelles 1897 but it might as well have been called Rome 20 BC for all it mattered to the game. You're playing the mechanics, not the theme here. And Euro's can have theme too - take Agricola/Caverna and to a lesser extent Le Havre and even Robinson Crusoe for example.
 
For the most part the game appears balanced although a clear giant point lead by the winner who focused solely on constructing buildings quickly seems to suggest there might be an issue here. More games would need to be played to validate this, but they're unlikely to be with me. It's fine, works smoothly, but it doesn't stand out from the crowd as anything unique - it's another "meh" Euro.

"Android Netrunner"
 
By this point the 7 Wonders gang had split off into two groups. One to test out some expansions to Last Night On Earth and the other to introduce newbies to Race for the Galaxy (have a guess who was teaching that one if you've been paying attention). Thankfully the Orb expansion was NOT included. . .
 
Now Last Night On Earth I don't mind, but I did put it on my Overrated Games list recently as I felt I preferred an all-out carnage zombie fest like Zombicide provides and some rules in this game don't make thematic sense. But the expansions look like they make a difference here in improving the game - providing you get the rules right! I heard there was one or two misinterpretations that made life difficult for the zombie players, but hey they pulled out a win in the end, om nom nom!
 
"Last Night On Earth"
 
Once the Race for the Galaxy tutorial was over, they went for something a damn sight lighter in Smash Up! I really enjoy this game as something different to the whole King of Tokyo craze, even though I like and own that one as well. Just mix two factions together and go nuts. Can't wait for the Geek Box to come out so I can get the newest expansion and have a ton of Smash Up cards easily stored.

"Race For The Galaxy - sorry for poor pictures the lighting was HORRIFIC tonight"
 
"Smash Up"
 
For us though we'd spent so long on the Euro game, that we could only manage a quick filler game for the last part for 5 players. Instantly I reach for my bag to pull out Bang: The Dice Game. This has got a lot of plays since I bought it so it's more than made up it's cost in spades. Everyone else was new and some die-hard Euro players at that so I wasn't expecting great feedback, but I thought the games played out well and there was definitely some good laughter back and forth as we all pleaded to not get shot and gang up on others, etc. Yes the game is far better with 6+ or even the max of 8 players, but even at 5 it's still a good laugh. Managed to crank two games out and score two wins, one as the Deputy and one as an Outlaw, though only just, it was down to the wire hoping to avoid any more Indian attacks!
 
"Bang! The Dice Game - Psst, I'm an Outlaw!"
 
So not my best night ever, but glad to try something new for a change and I always like to at least experience games that are talked about a lot to see what they're like. But I'm known online as a gamer that goes against the hype, so don't think that hype alone can buy me into a game! Hopefully lots of games will get played on Bank Holiday Monday when we will be playing for most of the day however don't expect a report for that, Portsmouth is getting next week's slot! Photos and Twitter updates however, that's another story!
 
Games Played
 
Bruxelles 1897
Race for the Galaxy
7 Wonders
Last Night On Earth
Android Netrunner
Smash Up
Bang: The Dice Game




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Video Review - Bang! The Dice Game

Most gamers will have heard of the original card game BANG! But now we have a dice game version that is played in a fraction of the time. Should you stick with cards or has dice replaced it?
 
 
 


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Through The Ages 2.0? - Nations Review

Portsmouth On Board - my local haven of games. Always a place where I'm guaranteed to get one of my new games to the table. Especially when it's the new hotness in the Cult of the New.
This is good news for myself, who has been on a bit of a binge-buying rampage lately trying to catch up on the gaming hobby while filling up my new EXPEDIT shelf. A good Civilization game was missing from my collection so I grabbed Nations based on BGG recommendations.

"A relatively unknown publisher and the box is a bit over-sized"


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Southampton On Board - 31 March 2014 - Space Merchants, Deadly Deserts and Budget Musical Chairs

Wow, where did everyone go during the last couple of months? Haven't seen this many people turn up for a while, but I'm not going to knock it - we need more of this, so no excuses people, keep turning up, put Monday in your diaries, tell your significant others to quit nagging (or bring them with you, some people have succeeded on that front!) and join the party!

Got there stupidly early thanks to my last laser eye surgery aftercare appointment, but thankfully so did a couple of other members. Normally I would have whipped out a game but we got distracted by Marvel and DC discussions. We got started eventually on setting up our main game of the night, Merchant of Venus. Now I've heard Eric Summerer on The Dice Tower bang on about this game for ages so it was about time I tried it out. As we sorted everything out, the rest of the gang turned up and settled into their games, starting with Eco Fluxx, Among the Stars (really want to try that!) and Keyflower.

"Merchant of Venus"

Now I know that Fantasy Flight Games like to pull out all the stops to make their games look good, but my god, how many tokens are in this game? It took longer to set the game up then it did to explain all the rules as you have to set everything up in piles. It looks fantastic and the board is colourful and busy, but like with Arkham Horror, you have to work for it! There are tokens for just about everything and because they're all different goods and bonuses, you can't just shove them into a ramekin for tidiness so you have to painfully sort them out into piles beforehand. Talk about making you suffer for your enjoyment!

"Eco-Fluxx"

Throughout the game you are exploring new races and then picking up their trade goods and delivering them to other races who might want them. Occasionally you will have missions to do and passengers to pick up as well, unfortunately nothing illegal like you get with Firefly. The goods themselves are amusing with obscure weird names like Impossible Furniture, Designer Genes and Immortal Grease and I believe when it came to Grease and a special liquor I was effectively cornering the market on those.

"Among The Stars"

Graham was just a space taxi, not sure what goods he sold in the game apart from obscure dust, but he kept shuttling passengers for big bucks including the tax collector which was deemed to be me for game purposes given my profession. But as a taxi service goes, Graham is rubbish. He forgot he was even in his cargo hold for several rounds so by the time he opens the steel door to check up on me, I'm just a skeleton in the corner with my tax books next to me. . . . I'd have been better off with Easyjet.

"Keyflower"

It's a cool game and the theme works well. There's a bit of luck involved with movement and what special items you might collect and that can screw you over at times (poor Graham and that asteroid belt. . . ), but not as bad as other games (I'm talking to you Stone Age). The only main issue that the game has is the insane length. It's 30 rounds long and you've effectively finished everything that you can do with four players by the time you hit 20 rounds. We couldn't even finish the game, we only got to Round 24 and that's rivalling the likes of Firefly, except the last time I played that game, I finished it in one game night so in effect this is LONGER than Firefly.

It's a good game though and worth giving a try, but be prepared to maybe cap the game length by time rather than rounds - I think that works better.
Elsewhere during this time (bear in mind we didn't finish!) many other games were coming out. A large group next to us stuck to small games starting with Forbidden Desert, a very nice gateway Co-Op game, but also one of the hardest Co-Op's I've played. Seriously I've beaten Ghost Stories and I'm currently undefeated in Eldritch Horror, but I've never won Forbidden Desert in over 6-7 plays so far. If anyone in the group beats it I want video evidence!

"Forbidden Desert"

Once they'd inevitably lost, I handed them my Liar's Dice bag to use. Liar's Dice is a great filler of bluffing and bidding which is the same game the cursed pirates play in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. It does generate a lot of noise though from all of the dice!

Ticket to Ride made a welcome return to the club, a game which needs to be played more often. I own Europe and 3 other map expansions, it's a great gateway game and as commented by the new players to the game, it flows very quickly and smoothly, which is true, this is not a game that is daunted by AP!

"Ticket To Ride"

A couple of extra fillers made the cut including Masques, which sadly I know sod all about and Splendor, an interesting set collection filler game which I play-tested at Board Game Extra's demo day recently - catch my podcast for Episode 15 coming this week where I give my first impressions and no I'm not apologising for plugging my show! My session report, my rules!

"Splendor"

Finally I'll mention one very confusing game "Two Rooms And A Boom!" This wins the award for giving me the most confused expression on a board game night as all I can see when I look up from my game is two groups of gamers talking to each other in secret and then swapping players to and fro. I couldn't tell if this was Musical Chairs on a budget or a very badly arranged wife swap party, but eventually I got the explanation as to what was going on.

Effectively players were on different colour sides and two players had special roles: a Bomber and a President. They had to negotiate and bluff their way into the different rooms, but one team had to avoid getting the President and the Bomber in the same room, otherwise they lost. It looks mad as hell, but I like a good party game, so this will be an interesting one to try out - it would certainly suit a convention setting.

"Masques"

Despite only playing one game, it was a good game and I was pleased to see a lot of returning faces including some recent newly joined members. One of the biggest numbers we've had on a gaming night and so many good games hitting the table. And for possibly the first time in weeks, no sign of Resistance: Avalon or Saboteur!!

But there's more to look forward to this week! Tabletop Day at Portsmouth On Board on Saturday and on the same weekend, a 48 hour Mini-Stab games convention in Southampton. Expect many pictures! And on a lesser, more painful note, I turn 30 on Friday. . . . OLD! But it's nice to have Tabletop Day straight after! Will I be conducting my charity 24 hour marathon that weekend? Well the donations so far have been almost non-existent. . . . . . but maybe I should anyway on principle! "Selfie" photographs are so boring!

Games Played

Merchant of Venus
Eco-Fluxx
Among The Stars
Liar's Dice (Perudo)
Masques
Keyflower
Forbidden Desert
Two Rooms & A Boom
Splendor
Ticket To Ride





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Episode 15 - Grumpy Old Gamer

Episode 15 is here! On today's episode I give my first impressions of games that I played at a recent Demo day, discuss the merits of LCG's vs CCG's and finally the Top 10 I've wanted to do for some time and also by popular vote from the BGG community . . . . . Top 10 Over-Rated Games



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