Saturday, July 28, 2007

More DT Posts Coming

Someone sent me an email the other day, requesting strategy tips for Fire and Water, so I'll be playing some games tomorrow as a refresher.

IMHO, it's the most difficult of the expansions available for Dungeon Twister. It's got some really good characters who will see a lot of play in tournaments, but the difficulty of the rooms combined with the uniqueness of the characters makes for an extremely difficult set.

I may also be fairly quiet here over the next few weeks - I'm gearing up for GenCon. I do this by playing games. And studying rules so I can teach people to play games without making any significant mistakes (I'm human, so I do make mistakes - the goal is to make them as small as possible).

I take it very seriously, being a member of a demo team.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mamma Mia!, No Thanks!, and Mmm... Brains! - What I've been Playing

It's been a while since I ran through what I've been playing lately and what I thought of them:

I was recently introduced to Mamma Mia! by a friend of mine at her birthday party. I very much enjoyed it, and so picked it up. Despite the English rulebook leaving out a critical rule (you should pull toppings out if you're playing with less than five players), the game is a great deal of fun.

I was able to play it two-player last week - it was pretty flat (due to the missing rule), so each of us grabbed two colors, which made the game more interesting.

Selena (one of the regulars on Wednesdays) didn't play, but she watched. She noticed the designer's signature - "Is this by the same people who did Bohnanza?" I hadn't even noticed - it's got some definite commonalities, however.

I'm thinking about tracking down a copy of Sole Mio, a standalone expansion - I'm just not sure if the card quality will be the same (I have the Rio Grande version of Mamma Mia, and RGG hasn't released Sole Mio in English).

After hearing a fair amount of discussion on the Geek about No Thanks!, I figured I'd pick it up, as well. I was expecting a light filler - and I got that, but this game has a lethal edge to it. The rules are simple: Either pick the available card (and all tokens on the card) up, or play a token on the card. If you manage to have a run, it's worth the lowest card in the run. Low total wins.

It lends itself to situations where (in four player), you wind up paying an opponent a chip in order to take a card they wanted anyhow. When we played, Sammy picked up the "31" card and three chips, and dropped her score by 32 in the process (she had 30 and 32, and none of the rest of us were willing to take the hit). Brutal. Evil. Wonderful.

I've been a fan of Reiner Knizia's games for a while. They tend to be among my favorites. At the same time, I have not liked most of the games published by Twilight Creations. Mmm... Brains sat on my FLGS shelf for several weeks before I noticed Knizia's name on it. I bought it the same day. It's another light filler, but (again) tends towards the cutthroat.

I also picked up Vexation. I like it a lot. It takes two mediocre games with not a lot of strategy to them and gives them an edge. While I occasionally enjoy playing TransAmerica or TransEuropa, they're not very strategy-intensive. Vexation allows you to slow your opponents down by a turn or two, which usually makes all the difference in the world.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I was chatting with one of our regular Wednesday Game Night attendees the other day, and it was revealed to me that she had never seen The Dark Crystal.

A quick question-and-answer period later, and I discovered that there were a significant number of films that she'd not seen. Films which I considered to be Geek Vocabulary Essentials, either because they are extremely quotable or else because one or more of their elements is repeated (or parodied) elsewhere in pop culture.

It led to a long discussion on Geek Vocabulary: We don't speak the same language as the rest of the English-speaking world. I'm not excluding non-English-speaking Geeks, here, either - they have different Pop Culture In-Jokes.

This specialized vocabulary is one of those things which makes it harder for non-Gamers to get into the hobby.

Remember All Your Base? Did you and your buddies ever have to try to explain it to a non-Gamer?

We get a fair number of people through the game store that are interested in gaming. They have read newspaper articles about these wonderful European import games, and they want to learn more. I do my best to try to tell them about the games, but it can be difficult - try explaining Mission: Red Planet, for example.

To one of you, I could easily say, "It's an Area Control game with a Simultaneous Action Selection mechanism which is very similar to that used in Citadels. There is a bit of resource management, but you can spend a turn to recycle your available resources by choosing the 'Recruiter' as your character for the turn."

I can't use that lingo with a non-Gamer. I'd lose them as soon as the words, "Area Control" left my mouth. Instead, I have to explain,"You are competing with other players to harvest resources on Mars. You have a set of specialists, and every turn you use the ability of one of these specialists, so that you can get more pieces into the various regions of Mars - only the player with the most pieces gets the points for that area." It's a longer description, and actually conveys less information. But it's more approachable to non-Gamers.

At a convention (as a Demo Team member), I need to be able to quickly feel out someone standing near the booth - I need to figure out their relative game experience, so that I'm not talking down to them. Or above their heads.

It's tricky - especially when there is an experienced 12-year-old with their non-Gamer parents asking me about a game.


And this is before I even start to discuss cultural humor (Wood for Sheep, anyone?).

In many ways, we've pulled ourselves out of the mainstream. Gaming is a Hobby Industry in part because we make it impenetrable to non-Gamers - not because we can't communicate with them, but because we don't realize they don't understand what we're saying. Because we've spoken the language for so long, we forget how different it is from standard English.

Something, I guess, that I need to keep my eyes on.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dungeon Twister Character Uses: Part IV: Mercenaries

Notice I didn't say "Multiple Uses" this time?

There are multiple uses for some of these characters, but I'm going to talk more about how to effectively use them.

I've played Mercenaries a lot the last few weeks, so that I could get a good handle on the characters and how they work.

This is a tough set.

Base Set Average Movement: 3.62
Base Set Average Strength: 2.00

Mercenaries Average Movement: 3.375
Mercenaries Average Strength: 3.123

Looking at the average, you can already see the point of this set. Please note that the Average Strength listed for Mercenaries is not adjusted for the special ability of the General.

This set contains one Runner, one Specialist and six Hitters.

The objects which are new to this set all enhance Strength - mostly when attacking. In fact, this set is balanced to give the attacker the edge over the defender.

Here's the character overview with a couple of tips for each character:

Angel of Darkness: As the fastest character in this set, she is your best retriever. Her flying ability only functions in half of the rooms in this set, but she can work very well as a runner in Free Choice play. My most regular opponent suggests giving her a Two-Handed Sword - it allows you to have a Flying attacker with a surprising amount of punch that your opponent may not be expecting.

Crossbowman: Ranged combat. Yum. It doesn't change the game hugely, but it does entertain me greatly. My preferred trick with the Crossbowman is to try to trap an enemy character in his line of sight and then force my opponent to waste combat cards while I take potshots at him. I spent four actions shooting at my opponent's Samurai, once. Since the Samurai and the Crossbowman have the same Strength, my opponent had to figure out if I was bluffing with my +0 or burning a card to wound the Samurai. It was a very good way to burn him out of cards.

Assassin: This is a character I use a lot in Free Choice. Any time you are assembling a Hit Squad, include an Assassin. The ability to kill rather than wounding is huge. She's at her best in Group Combat while adjacent to multiple foes. She pairs extremely well with the Weapon Master from Paladins and Dragons.

Berserker: I don't use her very well, but she's rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters. Her ability to throw two Combat Cards when she's attacking alone makes her an extremely good Dragonslayer. Especially when given a weapon to use. She can also be used to burn down your opponent's Combat Card stack - just attack alone and throw a +1 and a +0. This is risky, of course, as your opponent may throw something high enough to wound her. Even this, of course, burns one of your opponent's combat cards.

Gold Dragon: Too many people force their Gold Dragon to lug around its treasure, rather than giving it a weapon. A Gold Dragon with a Two-Handed sword has a base Strength (when attacking) of NINE! If you can get your General into the room, that becomes a TEN. A Ten will wound most characters at a +0, even if they throw their +6. If you're worried about losing your Dragon in combat, use him as a vulture and kill enemy wounded characters rather than attacking healthy characters.

General: The General is the most straightforward character in this (extremely straightforward) set. His allied characters gain +1 in Close Combat in the same room. It doesn't require Line of Sight, Adjacency, or any of the other limits which can be set. I tend to Phonebooth my OWN general when I find him in a room. True, he won't escape, but my opponent won't be killing him very easily, either. In Free Choice, he can either buff up your Runners (making them a credible threat in combat), or he can make your Hitters and Blockers even more effective.

Dwarf Troll-Slayer: His primary ability, it is worth mentioning, doesn't function in this set. It only works in Free Choice and Equal Forces play. The Troll Slayer is the counter to the Troll. It's that simple. Otherwise, he's a decent hitter.

Samurai: Before doing something risky, I count out my opponent's characters and movements: "If I run my Assassin forward, he can still reach me with his Dragon, but he won't have a spare AP to attack." The Samurai makes this more difficult, because I have to remember that he doesn't spend that AP to attack me. Give the Samurai a Two-Handed Sword, and I'll sometimes forget that he can choose not to use it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Forces of Darkness Errata and Clarifications

Last Update to this Page: 10/20/08

Forces of Darkness turned out pretty well, actually. One small errata, however, that will become more important later (when the Assassin enters play):

The Vampire only gets his Blood Counter when he eliminates a wounded character from play.

Cursed Objects: If an unwounded character moves through a space containing a wounded character and a Cursed Object, the unwounded character must pick up the cursed object and drop anything else they were carrying.

This set adds Token characters to the game for the first time - check the General Rules Clarifications page for information on Token characters.

When adding tiles over Darkness squares, you may look at the tile before placing it, but not before drawing it. You may also align the tile however you choose, provided it doesn't cover any non-Darkness squares. Once a tile is laid over a Darkness square, it's not considered a Darkness square anymore.

Undead characters may not suicide in the Sacred Tomb. The description of the Sacred Tomb specifically prevents their entering under their own power (they may be pushed in via the Ring of Repulsion or carried in by a friendly while wounded, however).

The Vampire, while in Bat form does not gain an additional Blood Token for eliminating a wounded character (I had to ask Chris about this one ... ).

A clarification on the Spectre: He may escape the maze without reincarnating, but he's worth 0 VP if he does so.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Weekly Updates

As I've said before: my goal is to update weekly. Lately, it's been twice weekly.

I'll not get my usual mid-week post up tomorrow - I'm on my way out the door right now to 24 hours straight of gaming.

I will, however, have some Mercenaries feedback this weekend.