Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kickstarter Status Update

Because I haven't done a full Kickstarter update since ... January. Apparently. So I'm not probably going to touch on everything - just the standouts in terms of speed and/or quality.  And it's crazy-long.

Here's where I stand on Kickstarter:

Currently Live:
Gattai Bushido: Fusion - This has about a week to go, and has hit its goal.  The project creator successfully fulfilled his previous game (and it's good), and he's someone that I have (in the meantime) gotten to know personally. And he is a fantastic human being who deserves your money.

That ... that can't be right.  That's the only project I'm currently backing.


I'm going to do this in reverse order of funding date, because that is how my spreadsheet is organized.

13th Age Coins and Tokens - Funded 5/27. Delivered 8/29.  It's by the Campaign Coins folks, so the quality was never a question. Neither was their ability to deliver. I was still surprised at the speed.

Polaris - this is a French-translated RPG that I've been excited about since I first encountered it about a decade ago. French games tend to have production values that are crazy-high, and this game is gorgeous. Well worth the money spent, and it delivered two full-size hardcover books and a smaller hardcover in three months.

7th Sea - The core book delivered in four months. Now there are about a billion stretch goal PDFs to follow - but I have faith that they'll make it.

World Wide Wrestling: International Incident - I enjoyed the core book, and couldn't resist backing this one, either. Six months from funding to delivery.

Street Kings - I'll write more about this once I've played it a bit more. But I know some of the folks behind the project, so backing was a no-brainer. As an interesting bonus, they included a link to this blog in their rulebook - not something I paid for or asked for or even mentioned.

Burning Wheel Codex - I love The Burning Wheel.  I really do. But the fact that the core book kept telling me to refer to long out-of-print books that are selling for stupid amounts of money was annoying (even though I had those books). This fixed that.  I backed this, then the crazy wizard language they used in the project annoyed me enough that I un-backed.  And then backed again.  Six months funding-to-delivery.

Mana Surge - a small, fairly light card game that a friend of mine wrote. I actually got to play a playtest version of this one a few times. A couple of playtest versions, actually.  A fun game, and I'm glad I backed it.

Epic - this game, from the Star Realms team is gathering dust on my shelf. I haven't even looked at the rulebook.  I have a hunch it'll be good, but ... I don't know.

Mare Nostrum: Empires - I have the original Mare Nostrum (and its expansion). But the new edition called to me.  And it's really good. It's a drier trading-themed game with some combat, so it won't be to everyone's liking, though.

Grimtooth's Traps - they did a collected/deluxe edition. It collects all of the originals and adds a few more. Grimtooth has always been good for a laugh.

Esteren: Occultism - I think that Shadows of Esteren is one of the more thematic games out there. It's quite good, and all of its supporting material has been equally as good. Another of those French-translated games with crazy-good production values.

Riders: A Game About Cheating Doomsday - I've written this before, and I'll say it again: Buy this game.

Demon  Hunters - I'm a fan of the films that this is based on. They're cheesy and low-budget and very funny. From the same team that did The Gamers. And I have the old Cortex-based version of this game.  This new edition threw out that rule set and created its own - and it's fantastic.

TimeWatch - this Gumshoe-system game funded in February of 2014 and delivered in August. It's ... good. There are some really neat things in here. But I don't know if it's "two-years-late" good.  Of course, I'm still reading.

A Bit Late
Blue Rose was due in August. It looks like the PDFs are due this month. So late, but not enough to worry about.

Starting To Get Annoyed
Short Order Heroes: Theme Packs - These were due in September of 2015. I have faith that I'll eventually get them, but I'd like more and more regular updates. I've REALLY loved the Short Order Heroes line of products so far.

13th Age in Glorantha - Due July 2015. Very infrequent updates. It's another where I know I'm eventually going to get it, but the constant delays are annoying.

Tales From the Floating Vagabond - Due April 2014. Lee has had some serious medical issues - and he's given refunds to several folks who have asked. So I'm gonna tough this one out, but it's getting frustrating.

Alas, Vegas - I knew when I backed this that it was going to be late. James Wallis has always been late with his delivery, even when he was Hogshead. But that was fine, because his lateness usually equated to high quality. But this is reaching the point of crazy.

Starting to Worry
Fae Nightmares - I got the PDF for this in September of 2014. And it's still not available for general sale. And the print edition still has yet to appear.  UPDATE: Between the time I wrote this entry and the time it published, Fae Nightmares went live on DTRPG. Not at its final price, yet, but still theoretically available.

Seriously: Where is My Stuff?
Synnibarr - I'm glad I'm not behind the scenes on this. I backed for three print books, and I have received one PDF.  Twice, because at one point they deleted it (and killed it from folks' libraries) and re-issued instead of just updating the PDF.

Far West - About a month ago, he promised to start releasing "beta" versions of the work "next week."  I had to go to my Attorney General to get a partial refund on this. But I'm still in for $10. And if you ask Gareth, it'll be out "real soon now." You know: Just like he's said for the last five years.

Powerchords - Goalposts moved. And moved. And moved. In May, we were told it was in editing. And was nearly done. But Phil does respond to e-mail. He has just stopped updating backers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Box Inserts, Redux

A few months ago, I posted about box inserts.

Since then, I've purchased (and assembled) a bunch of inserts for various games. I started with the Legendary Encounters insert (as I mentioned).  Then I put together the 7 Wonders insert. Both of which I mentioned last time.

Then I grabbed the Lords of Waterdeep insert which also holds the pieces from Scoundrels of Skullport (a fantastic game which I heartily recommend, BTW). The insert includes a center section that is - hands down - the most frustrating part of the entire thing. I spent nearly an hour on that central piece alone.

Last time, I'd ordered a kit for working with foamcore. When it arrived, I grabbed some foamcore from the craft store near my office, and proceeded to just cut it up. I wasn't working too hard on making a specific insert - just on getting the fundamentals of knives and glue.

One of my drill bits was defective. I thought it was blunt, and so I sent it back to the manufacturer for exchange (with - by the way - zero hassle).  After the replacement had the exact same issue, I looked more closely and saw that the metal part had come free of the plastic, so turning the drill wasn't actually doing any cutting. That's an easy fix - I just used some Gorilla Glue and stuck it back in place. It meant no drilling with that bit for a day or two - but that's fine. I was able to work around it. After all - I was just familiarizing myself with the tools.

Only without the glue to start with. Which - given the foam core I ended up with - is probably a good thing because I'd have needed to re-learn what I was doing.  Because I ordered some of this foamcore.  The craft store foamcore had a glossy finish. This is a matte finish - it's much more like normal paper covering the foam than the craft store stuff I'd picked up.

The first insert I put together is one I never completed.  I put together an insert for Mythic Battles, because the stock insert won't hold sleeved cards or the expansions. And I love this game.  So I roughed out a basic insert (and like what I came up with).  In a couple of weeks, I'm going to finalize what I have (using more precise measurements and glue).

But last weekend, I broke out my glue and put together a couple of inserts.

I started with Street Kings - a game I recently acquired that I need to write more about. I was dissatisfied with the stock insert because it didn't hold sleeved cards. And the cards that came with the game needed sleeves if they were going to have any hope of lasting.

I'm very satisfied with what I wound up with. There's space under those player boards for the pieces. The cards are sleeved, and there is room on top for the board and the rulebooks.

Now I just need to scan and print some things so I can stick 'em to the inside of the box so it looks nicer. And make it clearer which side holds the cars and which holds the upgrades (but that's a fairly minor thing, all things considered).

I followed that up with and insert for Nations. The game is mostly 400 small cards in a huge box. Plus player boards and a central board.  I got something functional together, but I'm not fully satisfied with what I have there. Maybe I'll revisit this one in the future when I'm more confident.

Every insert I did gave me a few ideas that I could use in future inserts. Spacers. Notches. Groove cuts. Every insert I did increased my confidence a bit, too. I'm not a master - I'm never going to be a master - but since my goal is functional, I consider my work so far to be successful.

I started work on an insert for Seasons (and its expansions), but it was getting late and I had to call it before I was done. We'll see how that turns out.  But it's good to be working on something. It's a good feeling to be producing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Hitting the Table: Scythe

Scythe is one of those games that has been very hotly anticipated. It raised 1.8 million dollars on Kickstarter, and has finally made it out to retail. And it's fantastic.

The game is a bit intimidating-looking.  Each player gets a faction board and a player board, and then a bag with wooden bits and five plastic miniatures (four identical mecha and one hero). The wooden bits are a baffling selection - there are cubes and hearts and a bug-shaped thing and stars and workers and buildings and a pawn and ...

Mid-Game Player Boards
Yeah. It's jarring.

So the goal of the game? The goal is to score points. You get points for stars placed, for territory control, and for hoarding resources (yes, really). And money. Because all of the points are really just money, so money that you've stockpiled is also points. The value of each of your scoring categories (other than money) depends on how popular you are.

The game ends as soon as a player places their sixth star. You can earn stars for winning battles (no more than two can be earned like this), for upgrading your production, for getting all of your mechs onto the board, for getting all of your workers onto the board, for maxing your popularity, for maxing your military might, and for getting all of your buildings into play. I'm leaving out one or two star-earning methods, too.

Each turn, you'll place your pawn in a space on one of your board. That space makes two actions available to you. You can take either or both. Each action has a cost (with a red background) and a benefit. To earn the benefit, you need to pay the cost.

The top row of actions are pretty straightforward. Produce resources. Trade to earn goods. Move your pieces on the board. Gain military power.

The bottom row is different on every board. The actions themselves are the same, but the costs and rewards differ, as does the top-row action to which they are paired.  In the player board picture above, the yellow player can pay two lumber to build one of their buildings and earn one money (based on where the yellow pawn is).

Each faction has its own special ability, and the mecha have different upgrades as well. Every time you build a mech, all of your mechs (and your hero) get an upgrade.

This game is a difficult one to teach, because there really is a LOT going on that you need to hit people with. Movement, combat, production. Every player needs to learn the eight available actions - and that takes time.

But in play?  It's good.  Really good.

You end up with players all over the map, each pursuing specific resources and agendas in an attempt to be the one to end the game. Because the player who places that sixth star usually wins the game. But not always.

There are a couple of caveats, though. Things about this game that are less-strong that may cause you to not like it. Because it's not a perfect game. It has flaws.

Honestly, though, outside of Dungeon Twister, is any game perfect?

Flaw #1: Limited Player Interaction
Yes, you can move around and pick fights and move the other guys around on the board. But only two of those fights can win points for you (unless you're a specific faction). So there's not really any point to fighting combat after combat after combat. And the fact that attackers lose popularity for sending workers home means that a lot of combat genuinely isn't worth the effort.

Flaw #2: Sudden Ending
In the handful of games I've played, the game's ending was almost outta nowhere. We could look at the board and see that we were only a few turns from winning, but every time it's ended even earlier than we had expected it to.

Flaw #3: Clear Best Path Forward
Each player gets a faction board and a player board. That player board makes some actions cheaper or more efficient than others, which makes it very clear what the best strategy for that player is going to be before the game even starts.

None of these are, for me, deal-breaking flaws. Flaw #3 comes close, but it turns it into an optimization game. "Can I make my strategy work better enough that I can pull ahead of the other players?"  Experienced players will have an advantage, here. And I suspect it can be an overwhelming one - but I haven't played any games with hugely disparate levels of experience, yet.

The components are fantastic. Each faction has a distinctive mech and a distinctive hero. Each faction has differently-shaped workers.

The art is insane. It's all by Jakub Rozalski, who has designed an entire world that is almost but not quite 1920's Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hitting the Table: KaosBall

I've been stalling on posting this because I don't have photos to include (because my laptop is in the shop). Unfortunately, I got an ETA update on the laptop and it's still a few weeks out.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to play a (newish) sports game that was a bunch of fun.

I'm a fan of Eric M. Lang's games. They're not always great, but they're nearly always fun.

I'm also a sucker for sports-themed games.  I own a ton of them - mostly football games, but I have a couple of soccer games and at least one baseball game. However, I especially like sports games that aren't designed to specifically emulate a real-world sport.

I own Dreadball and Elfball and Blood Bowl and now KaosBall. And they all scratch very different itches. The first three are almost gridded miniatures games, with detailed rules and a huge variety of available options for players. Kaosball is much more a board game than a minis game, despite the ton of included figures.

Like most sports-themed games, the goal of KaosBall is to score the most points before time runs out. In KaosBall, you score points by having certain players holding the ball and standing on scoring mounds at the start of your turn. There are four minor scoring mounds, which are scattered around the center of the field, which are worth small points (1-4, depending on which quarter of play you are in), and each player has one major scoring mound that is worth five points each.

If one player falls too far behind, they are eliminated.

Like most tabletop implementations of sports games, injuries (up to and including death) are a significant part of the game.

The rules are pretty simple on your turn, you can activate one player or you can play a card.

There are only two positions on each team, and each does things slightly differently.

The Runner is your ideal ball-carrier. They are the only players who can steal the ball from opponents and they are the only players who can score points for you.

The Bruiser is your team's hitter.  They can tackle or attack opponents. They can carry the ball, but they can't score you any points.

Each team has three stats and one special ability.  The stats are "Steal" "Tackle" and "Attack."  And the special abilities are widely varied between the dozen or so teams that are available.

Each team's position players also have different numbers of life points.

The goal is to get the ball to your runner and then protect that runner until the start of your next turn. If you start your turn with a runner holding the ball in a scoring space, you score points. As long as your runner can stay there, you continue to score points.  At the end of the quarter, runners don't even need the ball to be able to score points.

When you activate a player, you can take one of three actions:

  1. Sprint - move up to five spaces. If your sprinter is a Runner, you can attempt to steal the ball from an enemy at the end of your movement.
  2. Tackle - attempt to knock an opponent's figure down. Since you only have five pieces on the board at a time and your players can't stand up again until the end of the quarter, this is potentially huge.
  3. Attack - attempt to harm an opponent's player. Do enough damage to them, and they are killed.

The cards that you can play have a variety of effects. You can throw fire down on the field, set up additional scoring spaces, drop walls on the field, or move more figures (among other things). Most of these cards also allow you to activate a figure in addition to the card's effect.

There are actually three kinds of cards that you will play during the game. There are the cards I mentioned above (which are called tactics cards), there are cheat cards, and there are energy cards.

Energy cards are how you resolve contests. They are numbered from +1 to +5. If I decide to tackle you, we each play a card and add our team's stat to that card. High number wins. The same system works for steals and attacks. If you play a card that matches a card you've already played, its value is zero instead of its printed value.

In general, the game favors the active player. But not overwhelmingly so.

At the end of each quarter, bonus points are scored, figures which were knocked down are able to stand back up, board effects are cleared, the ball is returned to the center space, and play continues. Players can also suffer penalties for playing too many cheat cards (the player with the most actually loses points from their score). And you can get bonuses for having killed your opponent's players.

It's not a difficult game.

There are a few other wrinkles in there for advanced players - Upgrades and Ringers.

Upgrades are "always on" effects for your team. Some of them let you move faster or score points for successful attacks. Some of them are less-useful unless you're in league play. Like starting with more money, for example (don't get me wrong - it's good in one-off plays, too, but it's MUCH more useful in Leagues).

Ringers are star players. They all have different special abilities. You can only field one ringer at a time (unless you have the Upgrade that lets you field more). They count as both Runners and Bruisers, so they can tackle and steal and attack.

A random assortment of Upgrades and Ringers are available at the start of each game, and they are auctioned off at the start of play. So you can't build your strategy around having The Warrior on your team, because The Warrior might not even be there.

And you don't want to spend all of your money on those, either, because you can buy off your cheat cards in play so that you don't get stuck with the penalty for being the biggest cheater at the table.

The game plays two, three, or four players. It's best with two or four, however. I wouldn't recommend it with three. And the base game includes four teams, so you won't be instantly bored with the same matchup over and over and over and over.

It being a Cool Mini or Not game, each team has a set of sculpted figures to go with it. And some of them are quite awesome. But they're also the source of the only real problem I have with the game: Cheesecake. There are no female figures who are not overly sexualized in the game.

For some teams, it makes sense - the demon team, for example. But the Ninjas, for example, don't need to be cheesecake.  The Amazons (who are included in the base game) are the least cheesecake team that includes female players. Honestly, the cheesecake is so bad on some of the teams (like the Felinia Hellcats) that I considered not getting the game.

Sadly, this is not uncommon with CMoN games, either. I know there are people there who are working on it, but they've still got a ways to go.

But if the cheesecake doesn't bug you, then this is very much a game worth looking into.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Good Night of Games: Four Thumbnail Reviews

As I write this, we still haven't had the first official Wednesday Game Night at the house, but we had a small impromptu Game Night.

We kicked off with KaosBall, which is an Eric Lang design. Eric is one of those really nice guys that you hate because he's so talented.  The only thing that all of his games seem to have in common is that they are Good, Fun, or Both (and they're usually Both).  I need to write more about KaosBall at some future time, but it is Both. I just wish there wasn't so much cheesecake in the game. I'll be writing more about this game sometime soon.

We followed that with a three-player game of Scythe.  If you haven't played this one, it's another one that I need to spill some digital ink on.  Fantastic game. The only real complaint I have with it is the minimal amount of player interaction - especially with fewer players. It also seems to end pretty abruptly. But neither of those is even close to being a deal-breaker for me.

We followed Scythe with a game of Machi Koro.  I won't play this game unless the expansions are in play, because the base game is ... not great.  Boring and Predictable, for one. And there are a handful of broken strategies that can almost guarantee a win. The expansions fix these problems, and keep the game fresh. If you can track down the Deluxe Edition, it's worth it.

And then we wrapped up with Quadropolis.  It was only my second play, and the first time using the "expert" rules. I like this game, but it's not a ten for me.  Probably a six-and-a-half or a seven. I'll play it, and occasionally I'll seek it out. But I don't think it's going to become a favorite any time soon.  Although I've been wrong about that before. It's another game without a ton of player interaction, and the strategies are not readily apparent. Give me another three or four plays in the near future, and the strategy will almost certainly be clearer - but I expect I'll have trouble getting this to the table regularly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Requiem for a Game Store

Two weeks ago, we had the Game Night Anniversary Potluck. It was the last Game Night held at Phoenix.

This is a post that has been very hard for me to write. I've started and re-started several times, now. I've given up on editing it, so this is going to be a poorly-edited splat, and it'll probably run long.  You Have Been Warned.

The first experience I had with Phoenix was when I was stepping into a Waldenbooks.  Across the way, there was this bright yellow store - but it contained games.

I went in, bought some D&D stuff, chatted with the staff for a few, and headed out.

I had no idea at the time that Phoenix was going to be my game store of choice for more than a decade.

No idea at all.

Brian was a fantastic store owner. He didn't ignore the business end, but he clearly had a passion for games. And, further, he worked hard to make sure that the store was clean and organized - down to pushing the chairs back in and straightening tables at the end of the night.

Brian worked hard to make sure the store was a safe place - and that no-one was excluded. When it looked like cliques were starting to form at Game Night, he (subtly) broke them up and mixed the folk up again.

The shop was both kid-friendly and kid-safe, and Brian was not shy about asking troublemakers to leave. Usually just for the night, but sometimes for longer.

We weren't customers at Phoenix - we were family.  All of us.

Brian closed the store to move to California to be with his wife. None of us blame him (or her) for this. We all knew it was eventually coming.

I'm pretty sure everyone who was a regular at the store has at least a few Brian Stories.  Here are a few of mine:

Within the first year or so of his being open, I was briefly unemployed. Brian hired me to run the shop for a few weekends here and there so he could go to weddings and the like.

That Christmas, he handed me four sealed envelopes. "Choose two," he told me. And he shredded the other two right in front of me. "You are not allowed to open these until you're going to use them," he said.  I don't know what was in the two destroyed envelopes, but one of them was a 30% discount. The other was a 100% discount.

He hosted my bachelor party. As bachelor parties go, it was ridiculously tame - but he didn't know that going into it (although given how tame I am, he probably suspected as much).

The last game I bought at Phoenix was Quadropolis. The last game I played at Phoenix was Black Fleet.

I met Stephan Brissaud (now with Iello, then with both Days of Wonder and Asmodee) through Brian, and that led to my Demo Team work with Asmodee that lasted for a decade.

So some of the best memories (and best friends) that I have either happened at Phoenix or because of Phoenix.

Thank you, Brian, for a dozen of the best years of my life.

I hope your future endeavors are as successful. You've set a high bar for yourself (and for the other local game stores) to meet.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Game Night: A Return To Roots

So Phoenix is gone.

That's ... that's hard for me to deal with.  The place had been a second home for me for more than a decade.

Thank you, Brian, for making it such. Your store was always welcoming and safe.  I hope all of your future endeavors achieve as much success as Phoenix did.

Some folks at the last Game Night Anniversary Potluck were a bit confused, however.

"Eric," I was asked, "How can this be the 14th Anniversary of Game Night when the store hasn't even been open 13 years, yet?"

And the answer is simple:  Game Night started in my apartment, before Phoenix Games existed. Back when Brian was still the regional manager for the Wizards of the Coast stores.

And now that Phoenix is gone, Game Night is moving to my house. Well, other than those folks up North who have found other Game Nights ('Round the Table in Lynnwood and Zulu in Bothell are both about to experience an influx of really great people).

I don't expect it to be huge. I'll honestly be surprised if we have more than just Steph and I for the first few weeks (at least), but I'm going to do exactly what I did 14 years ago:

Wednesday Evenings, my home is open to people I know who want to come play some board games. And people that my friends trust enough to invite.

I have games. I have tables. I have chairs.

I'm home by 7:30 - which, I realize, is a late start time on a weeknight. But Game Night has always been a late thing.

Need an address?  Let me know.  I hope to see you here.