Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dungeon Twister on BoardGameArena

I haven't been able to play Dungeon Twister in a very long time, so I'm really very rusty, but, thanks to BoardGameArena, I can now play online.

Yes, the game is available on PS3, but that publisher has folded and so we will not be seeing expansions or bug fixes or anything of the like. And the number of players there was never significant and has already dwindled to almost nothing.

But now it's on BoardGameArena!

I've spent the last few days watching people play when it was slow, and I'm gratified to see that there are a ton of new players. But I've also spotted a number of familiar faces in the crowd - there are a ton of the best DT players on the planet actively playing the game on BGA right now. In fact, I've seen at least one former world champion wandering the maze.

This odd mix has led to some very lopsided games, and, I suspect, some discouraged rookies.

Rookies: Please do not grow frustrated at your losses. Please keep coming back for more. And not just because I'd like to have people around I can beat ...

Feel free to challenge me to turn-based games on BGA, by the way.  While I won't let you win, I'll probably be easier to beat than most experienced players because I'm always trying new things to see how well they work (or don't).

The following Wall of Text details the most common rookie mistakes I'm seeing on BGA (and a few tips):

Objects are not color-restricted. Blue characters can carry and use Yellow objects and vice-versa.

Characters can only carry one thing at a time. If you end an action in the same space as a thing, you are assumed to be carrying it (not sure if this part is implemented in BGA's interface, though).

If you are walking across an item as part of your movement and are not already carrying something, pick it up.  It may not be immediately useful, but if you're carrying it then your opponent can't pick it up and use it against you.

Wounded characters are treated as though they are objects (but they are color-restricted). You can carry your own Wounded.

Initial Setup
DO NOT PUT YOUR GOBLIN IN THE ROOM NEXT TO YOUR OPPONENT'S STARTING LINE. The player who reveals a room places the characters in that room. A Goblin in a room next to my starting line is going to be placed by me, and I'm going to put in him right in front of my Warrior.

While you can put your Troll on your starting line as one of your initial four characters, he's too slow for that to be effective or useful against experienced players.  It's not a bad idea to put your Troll in a room adjacent to your opponent's starting line.  It's very effective against rookies. It's still useful against more experienced players, but less-so.

Here is what the above two notes end up looking like:

I've turned the hidden pawns in that upper-left room face-up just for convenience.  It's Blue's turn, and they started the turn with three actions.

Action 1 was Reveal Room, which is where that Troll and the Treasure came from.

See that Troll placement?  The Troll is too slow to catch anyone, and moving the Troll to the Treasure will cost four actions. These are four wasted actions, by the way. because by the time the Troll gets there, more rooms will be revealed and it's entirely possible that Blue will have grabbed that treasure with another character.  There are almost certainly more efficient ways to spend those actions.

It's also worth noting that the Troll can also move himself back down to reveal a room, but - again - that's a ton of actions, most of which will be wasted.  In his current position, this Troll will never even see an enemy character. As soon as he moves forward, he escapes the maze and is worth a point for Yellow. He also stops being vulnerable to attacks.

For Blue's second action, they reveal that other room up there, giving this:

I've placed two Goblins in this room to highlight two different situations.

If Blue has done this as Action 2 of Three, then the Goblin goes where the Yellow goblin is on the image.  Then Blue spends their third (and final) action to use their Warrior to wound the Goblin. The Warrior has a Strength of three. The Goblin's Strength is one. Unless Blue does something really silly, that Goblin is Wounded and will be dead the following turn.

Had Blue only had two actions, the Goblin would have wound up where the Red Goblin is in the image. It keeps the Goblin from going anywhere (or doing anything) and sets Blue up for a future turn in which the Mechanork turns the room Clockwise and then the Warrior kills the Goblin.  The only real difference between the two situations is how long it takes Blue to deal with (and kill) that Goblin.

This situation, by the way, has come up for me a number of times when playing the game.

There are times when your opponent won't be able to effectively deal with your placement, but most of the rooms have somewhere you can place the characters to make them effectively useless. Or doom them.

This also isn't great initial placement by Blue. You rarely want to let your opponent completely take over one room like Blue did in that room with the Troll and the Treasure. You can sometimes get away with it adjacent to your starting line, but be cautious.  Chris Boelinger once beat me without ever activating one of his starting four characters or revealing those rooms.

Room Rotation 
Rotation isn't limited to the room you are currently occupying. The rooms are in pairs. So someone sitting on a grey rotation gear can turn either of the grey rooms (provided they've been revealed).

Each room has a specific direction it's capable of rotating (unless the Mechanork is the one doing the rotating). Each pair has one clockwise room and one counter-clockwise room.

Once used, Combat Cards do not come back (other than the zero).  This makes them different from the Action cards that come back once all of them have been used.

Jump Cards also don't come back after they've all been used.

The restriction on which Action Card can be played only applies to the first round. Once the cards cycle, you can play any of them.

Most experienced players will play a Combat Card that is just high enough to win the combat. Some players will "bluff" and play for the tie (that is play one short of the guaranteed win) in an attempt to burn their opponent's high-numbered Combat Cards.

Character Movement
Remember that picking up and dropping objects doesn't cost an action or part of your movement. It can be done in the middle of a movement action.

Remember that you can't move through unwounded enemies, but once they're wounded, they no longer block movement. You just can't stop on them.

If a wounded enemy is carrying something and you walk through that space, you can steal whatever item they're carrying.

Remember that you can move through friendly characters, you just can't stop on them (unless they're wounded).

The exception to a lot of movement rules is the Wizard, who is flying.  He can move through enemy characters and traps but can't stop on them.

The Wall-Walker can walk through walls, but it costs a full action to do so.

The Thief disables traps by sitting on them. Because of this, you can walk across traps that your Thief has disabled for you. If she becomes wounded while sitting on a trap, she will die immediately.

Jumping across a trap costs an action. Because of this, it can't be done as part of a movement. To jump on the BGA interface, move next to a trap, end your movement action, and then move to the space past the trap. It'll pop up a note informing you that it'll cost a jump card to do this.

General Notes
The Fireball Wand is, for experienced players, the key focus of the early game.  You want to get your Fireball Wand and deliver it to your Wizard.

If you attack with the Troll, be aware that a loss will make that Troll vulnerable to attack (and death) on your opponent's turn.

If your Cleric is wounded, he cannot heal himself or the rest of the team.  So if you're going to be doing a lot of combat, you need to protect your Cleric.

Hopefully this is useful and helpful and not just a Wall of Text.   Because - again - I want new players to keep playing, get better, and play more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sixty-One in Sixteen!

Last year in January, I saw a ton of people posting #51in15, as boardgamers rushed to play as many different games as they could.

And I get that - I do.

But it's thinking like that that has people playing Fluxx or Miskatonic School for Girls.

I know the drive to play is strong. And it's an important one for those of us who self-identify as gamers. But "play anything anyone sets in front of me to hit an arbitrary quota" is not the way to do it.

I would rather play a game that I like six times than six different mediocre games.

Last year, I played just over 70 unique games, and many of those games were ... okay.

Some of them were good games that I enjoy. Starfighter, for example.

Some of them were good games that I don't enjoy. Like Texas Zombies, which my wife (and her writer's group) loves.

Some of them were less-good games that I enjoy. I think Win, Lose, or Banana is the poster child for this one ... it's a terrible game, but it's an absolute blast and I can play it for hours at a time. The same goes for Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre,

And some of them were just terrible games. Word Whimsy, for example.

My goal for the next year is simple:

Play more games I like than games I don't like.

If that means only playing twenty games this year, then I'll only play 20 games this year.

As I'm writing this, I've played twelve unique games so far, and they are all games that I want to play more of.

Yes, I'm going to play some new games this year. And some of them will almost certainly be duds. But I'm going to be working hard at breaking out more old favorites like Alhambra. Or getting actual play out of some of the games that have been on my shelf but haven't hit the table, yet. You know - in case they're undiscovered gems.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


This will be short.

I've typed this and re-typed this and deleted and re-typed this again.

This is a tough one for me to type:

I will not be at GenCon this year.

It's not because of Asmodee or the changes they've made. It's not because we've had any sort of disagreement or falling-out (because we haven't). It's not because I don't support them (because I do).

It's because this summer is just weird for me. There has been an odd confluence of events that lead up to my just not being available for GenCon this year.

If Asmodee will have me, I'll be back next year.

Those of you who look forward to seeing us every year: I'm sorry.  I hope to see you next year.

I hope to see all of you next year.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


What? This again?

Yes.  This again.

I actually got to play a few weeks ago.  We were originally going to have nearly a full boat (eighteen players), but there was a last-minute communications snafu and so we were down to eight. Or up to eight - I advertised on Boardgamegeek and Google Plus and Facebook for players when it looked like we were going to be short.

Eight is still a fun game, but I don't know if I'd want to play with fewer than that.

Because a few of us had played a lot "back in the day," and a few of us had played relatively recently, we used the Eastern half of the map.

We started around 10 am Sunday morning and wrapped up a bit after 8 pm.  Here's a two-minute video of the play:

We had eight players, as I said.  Andrew was Persia, Barbara was Babylon, Derek was Indus, Franc drew Parthia, James was Kushan, O. Shane was Saba, and Sean was Murya. I drew Dravidia.

Before the game got rolling, I negotiated borders with Maurya and Indus.  Those borders were nearly identical to those shown in the rulebook. Since these were the only players I bordered directly, I wanted to be sure we had stable boundaries - and I worked hard to respect these boundaries over the course of the game, too. Because I had enough room for all nine cities (and support for those nine cities).

In fact, most players spent a few minutes establishing boundaries and looking hungrily at land beyond them.

As always happens, the first few turns went by quickly - populate, expand, populate, expand. Our civilizations were too small to conflict at that point - Persia and Babylon can clash, but rarely do.

With the first wall approaching on the AST, James built his first city a few turns too early (and never fully recovered). I built one turn early, but had fewer neighbors (and suffered fewer calamities), and ... mostly recovered.  In fact, my struggles during the game were due to a lack of skill, not due to anyone else's actions.

The East map is either more forgiving than the West map, or else I was just playing with the nicest set of players on the planet.

To prep for the game, I grabbed a few things off of BoardGameGeek. The Errata. The FAQ. And this file.  In that file, there is a "Civilization Advances - Terse" document.  I printed it out (one for each player), laminated it, and had a couple of overhead (wet-erase) pens on hand.  This was a huge space-saver for me - instead of buying a ton of (oversized) tech cards, I just marked this board when I bought something.

The game ran smoothly. We made a few rules mistakes (built on zero-population spaces, for example), and it was a ton of fun.

There were a handful of notable events:

1) Franc lost four cities to calamities three turns in a row. This was especially notable, as Franc's goal that game was not to trade calamities away to other players. Had this not happened, James would have been in a lot of trouble, because Franc and James were both trying to colonize the same area of the map.

2) Franc was the beneficiary of Sean's Civil War. Sean is at the opposite end of the map. This meant that Franc was on both edges of the map, with more/greater presence on the East coast than in his homeland on the West coast.

3) Franc was the beneficiary when I got hit by Tyrrany. This again put him on both edges of the map.

4) We ended a few turns early. I suspect that another turn or two would have brought out the knives.

5) I took a bunch of photos.  They can be found here.

6) Final scores:
Barbara (Babylon) - 98
O. Shane (Saba) - 97
Derek (Indus) - 95
Sean (Maurya) - 94
Andrew (Persia) - 90
Franc (Parthia) - 81
Eric (Dravidia) - 70
James (Kushan)  - 54

Franc was low because of all of the calamities. However he had more tech than anyone else. I think he was also in a good position to start to benefit from the knives coming out, too.

We're going to try to do this again sometime in June or July. Maybe we'll get more players, and maybe we won't.  But I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

D&D Insider: Renewal

I'm one of the folks who didn't move to Fifth Edition when it dropped.  My 4e books work just fine, and I'm already in a 4e campaign, which I'm very much enjoying.

One of the centerpieces of the 4e campaign was the D&D Insider tools that Wizards of the Coast put together. They include a character builder, and a reference to all of the Feats and Skills and Powers that you could pick up as the game went on.

They've stopped updating the tools, and not too long ago announced that they would not be accepting any new subscriptions.  But they'd continue to keep the site up for paying subscribers.

Like me.

Last year, my credit card was compromised, and I had to replace it.  This is relevant.

It means that my card wasn't available to renew my Insider membership. I went to the site to update my payment method and ... error.  It wouldn't let me update my credit card number.

This was frustrating - and more than a bit concerning, as that's where I keep my characters.

I contacted Wizards' customer service team on Twitter, and they told me to e-mail them. And I got back a "Oops, sorry. We know it's an issue, and we don't know when it'll be fixed" message:
Hello Eric,
Thank you for contacting Wizards of the Coast Game Support. In regards to recent D&D Insider changes, Wizards of the Coast recently made an announcement mentioning that the tools are not available to new subscribers at this time here:

While the DDI service is not ending, and subscription renewals with valid billing information will still occur, there is a separate issue where subscribers are currently unable to update their billing information. This does mean if the original credit card information is no longer valid at the time of renewal, there may be an interruption of service. Unfortunately, we have not yet made any public announcements about when billing information updates or new subscriptions may be available, and we do not have a timeline for when such announcements might be made.
As a note, you should know that any characters or monsters you had created on your account will be held for one year on our servers. If subscriptions become available during that time, you will be able to access that information again.
I apologize if this causes any inconvenience for you and your fellow players. However, I have forwarded your comments up to the appropriate teams for review. They are definitely looking into the matter and are taking customer feedback seriously. While I cannot guarantee any direct contact from those teams concerning your concerns, I can assure you that we place great value on the feedback of our customers. We in Game Support meet with teams around the company on a regular basis to keep them up to date with that feedback, and we make it a priority that your voice is heard.
Take care, and may all your rolls critical!
We would appreciate your feedback on the service we are providing you. Please click here to fill out a short questionnaire. To login to your account or update your question, please click here.

Noah M.
Online Response Crew
Wizards of the Coast
1-800-324-6496 (US and Canada)
425-204-8069 (From all other countries)
Monday-Friday 9am-5pm PST / 12pm-8pm ESTSaturday-Sunday 9am-5pm PST / 12pm-8pm EST

So I figured that was the end of it and the ability to update my characters would be lost forever when my Insider expired on the second of March.

So I printed copies of the characters as PDFs and save them away so I wouldn't have to start from scratch.

A few days later, I got an e-mail from WotC that was completely unexpected.  They have a workaround.  I passed the info onto my DM (whose Insider had long since lapsed), and the workaround worked for him, too.

So if you ever were a D&D Insider, this should work for you. Of course, if it's been more than a year since your membership lapsed, they probably haven't saved your characters.

Thank you for contacting Wizards of the Coast Game Support!
We're more than happy to help with this! At this time there is a known issue preventing the renewal of D&D Insider accounts, and we are working to resolve that. In the meantime, we have a workaround. However please bear in mind this workaround will only function in the event that you would like to renew your subscription for a renewal period you have already previously purchased. If you are interested, please follow the steps listed below to renew your account:
1) Navigate to
2) Click the "My Order History" link (any link will work, however this is the most direct one to reach the information we're seeking).
3) A login page will appear. Enter your account's Login ID and password to proceed.
If you do not know your Login ID and/or your password, please reply with the following information and we can assist:
Email Address:Date of Birth:Login ID: (please bear in mind DCI numbers and email addresses are not able to be used as Login IDs during account creation)4) Once you have logged in you will be redirected back to the main page. Click the "My Order History" link again to access your account's order details.
5) Select a "Completed" order that fits your preferred renewal timeframe. Please bear in mind that you will be limited to selecting a renewal timeframe that matches the timeframe of a previously completed order, and we do not have the ability to adjust this at this time.
6) Once you have arrived at that order's page, select "Manage Subscription" from the right-hand side of the page.
7) On this account subscription page you will find a "Renew Now" link. Click that, then click the "Check Out" link.
8) Simply enter/update your information as necessary and process the order as normal!
If you experience any difficulty following these steps or have any questions or concerns about this process please do not hesitate to reply to this email and we will do everything in our power to assist you.
Please let us know if you ever have any further questions or concerns. We’ll be happy to help as best we can. Thank you very much for your patience in this matter.Happy gaming and have a wonderful day!We would appreciate your feedback on the service we are providing you. Please click here to fill out a short questionnaire. To login to your account or update your question, please click here. Joshua M.Online Response CrewWizards of the Coast1-800-324-6496 (US and Canada)425-204-8069 (From all other countries)Monday-Friday 9am-5pm PST / 12pm-8pm ESTSaturday-Sunday 9am-5pm PST / 12pm-8pm EST
The small font and the like that are in there are in the original. I did remove the survey links from both messages.  Either way, save this information somewhere if you're one of the folks who is still playing 4e. It could save your character.