Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hitting the Table: Deus

Last year at GenCon, Asmodee divided their (massive) demo team into three groups.  Each group was responsible for learning the rules to a specific list of games.

I was in Group Two. We had Barony and Starfighter and Metal Adventures and a few others.  One of the other groups had this little game called Deus, and I got there early one day and had the opportunity to play. I immediately regretted that it wasn't in my group.

The games we had were all excellent games - I know I've discussed Metal Adventures at least once before - I need to do so again, because my play at GenCon highlighted some things that I'd been missing and made it a game I need to play more. And I've discussed Barony here, too. Starfighter was the best game in the booth last year. I've said that a ton of times, and I stand by that statement. I should probably spend some time and write it up here.

But Deus was fun.

Last year, we had two tableau-building games in the booth with very similar themes: Deus and Elysium.  I'd worked on Elysium, and had received my copy well in advance of GenCon, but I hadn't seen Deus until the show. Despite the similar theme and the tableau-building mechanism, they are very different games that I would play with different groups of people.

Deus is the simpler of the two. Please remember that "simple" and "bad" are by no means synonyms, and anyone who tries to tell you that they are is wrong.

In Deus, you're placing buildings on the a shared board in an attempt to earn victory points.  Every time you place a building, you also trigger a series of card actions (depending on the number of those buildings you've played in the past).

You will re-fill your hand when you run out of cards or when you make an offering to the gods rather than constructing a building.

There are six types of building that can be constructed, each of which has its own "theme." Maritime buildings, for example, let you turn resources into money or victory points. Or let you purchase resources for money.  Each building has a cost to build that is listed in goods. There are four goods in the game - clay, stone, food, and timber.

When you construct a building, there are four steps involved:

  1. Pay the cost to the bank.  If you don't have the goods necessary, you can pay four money for each missing good.
  2. Move the wooden piece representing the building from your tableau to the board. It can go to any space you already control or to any adjacent space (with a few restrictions - for example, no space can hold two identical buildings and only maritime buildings can be placed in the water). If you don't have a building in your tableau, you can't play that type of building. You start with two in each column and three off-board.
  3. Place the card representing the building in your tableau. It'll go on top of a column of the same type of building, staggered so that you can read the action of the building.
  4. Start at the bottom of that column and trigger the action of each building in that column (including the one you just played).
Here is a tableau belonging to an opponent across the table:

The column with four buildings that is second from the left?  Those are military buildings.  This is a player who has pursued a fairly militaristic strategy. She's played four military buildings and has the fifth ready to play on the board.  The second from the right, there, is production buildings. She's only built one, but has moved all four to her board.

Each building also thematically ties to a different god. Maritime buildings tie back to Neptune, production to Ceres, science to Minerva, and so on. This becomes important when you can't (or don't want to) play any of the cards in your hand - you can sacrifice your hand to one of the gods.

Each god (or goddess) will refill your hand to five cards, but they also have an additional effect. Minerva, for example, gives you an extra card for each card you sacrifice. Neptune gives you gold for each card you sacrifice.  They also allow you to move one of your buildings from the supply to your tableau for later use. In fact, there is no way to win this game without sacrificing at least a few times.

Here's the catch, though: to sacrifice to Neptune, there needs to be a Neptune card in the sacrifice. So you're giving up potentially great cards to prep for future turns.

The board features five terrain types. Swamps, mountains, forests, fields, and barbarian villages. Barbarian villages start out with victory points that you can take from them, either through military action or by surrounding them on the board.

The game ends at the end of the round when one of two things happens - the last temple is placed on the board or the last barbarian village is conquered.  And then players add the VPs taken during the game together with VPs given by their temples, and the players with the most of each resource will gain VPs for that resource as well.  Highest score wins.

As I said: It's not a complicated game. It's simple enough that you can teach it fairly quickly, but there's enough going on that it maintains a fairly high replayability. There's not a ton of direct player interaction (a few military cards allow you to steal from nearby opponents), but there is a lot of jockeying for position on the main board.

Next week, I'm going to write about Elysium, and I'll probably throw in a few points of comparison in the process.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hitting the Table: Bolide

I'm not a sports guy. Like really really not a sports guy. I follow football (the American kind), but not actively. I don't really follow any other sports. There are days I couldn't even tell you what sports are currently in season.

Because I just don't care.

But I'm a sucker for sports-themed games.

Even when that sport isn't football.

I generally assume the Game Night crowd(s) are also sports-neutral folks. And - other than football - I'm usually correct.  But not always.

Side note: What is it about geeks and football? Is it because it's the sport that has the most visible strategic elements? Baseball has strategy - beyond "When on offense, hit the ball very hard. Run very fast." Soccer and hockey both have (surprisingly similar) strategies, as well.

I don't follow it, but I do enjoy watching Formula One racing. And there are a handful of excellent F1-themed games, too. Like Formula D, for example. Or Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix.

Or Bolide.

Bolide came out in 2005, and I ordered it from Phoenix pretty much as soon as I saw it existed. I struggled through the (awful) rulebook, and I did what I do: I brought it to game night.

We played it a few times, liked it okay, and put it away. Because the rule book was (and is) so bad that there were game elements we couldn't figure out. Like how to make a pit stop.

In a game about racing, rules for pit stops are critical to the strategy of the game. Since we couldn't figure the rules out, we missed out on a chunk of the available strategy, which made the game less-good.

A few weeks ago, I was in the garage, and I spotted my copy of the game.  I wonder if anyone ever fixed the rules, I thought to myself. Because I'll bet it has potential. I also wonder if I could figure the rules out. After all, I've spent the last decade, now, figuring out how to interpret translated rules text. A huge advantage over the 2005 me.

I still couldn't figure the rules for pit stops out, but someone on Boardgamegeek re-wrote the rules and made them available for download. And they are a huge improvement.

It got me itching to play again, so I packed it into the car, and we brought it to Game Night.

I'd expected to get two or three people interested.  I hadn't expected to have a seven-player race on my hands. We decided to play a simple game - one lap, so no pitting, no fuel concerns, and no tires. Just a simple "learn to play" lap.

And it was a ton of fun.

Bolide is an inertia-driven game.  Each player has two pieces - a car-shaped piece and an inertia marker pawn.  Each turn, your car must be placed within two spaces of the inertia pawn.  Then your pawn is moved based on how your car moved.  So if your car moved three spaces forward from its start space, then the pawn is placed three spaces ahead of the car.  If your car moved two forward and one to the left, then the pawn is placed two forward and one to the left.

It leads to a field that looks like this:


In this photo, you can see that the yellow car is moving straight ahead, as is the green car. All of the other cars are starting to pull to the inside to make the curve. And most everyone is moving too fast.  In fact, if I remember correctly, Red and Yellow both had to use one of their (limited) sharp braking maneuvers to survive the turn.  Because it's possible shoot off the edge of the track.

It's not a fantastic game, but it's a fun game. And it's challenging. And it's a bit of a competitive math problem, because you're trying to find your ideal position for each turn on the track. There is a best line for every starting position, and some of these best line cross over or intercept one another.

When we played a few weeks ago, Green won. Green had started in seventh place, but planned his turns well. How far back was Green?


You can see Green's pawn to the far left of this image from the curve before the Grande Bagarre pictured in the first image.  Green's car is even further back.

Something that's worth noting, here: the game is played not in the spaces on the board, but on the intersections. You can see that clearly in the second photo.  Blue and White are both very limited in where they can go from their current spots (and, if I remember correctly, one or both of them had to brake sharply a turn or two after this shot was taken).

I'm giving serious thought to trying to start a league.  I own six tracks for the game, and one game every two months with a prize at the end could be a ton of fun. And it's let me break out all the rules - four kinds of tires, built for speed vs better brakes, a full tank of gas vs half a tank (with a required pit) ...

But a one-lap race with inexperienced players took about two hours.  So time is a definite factor.

Hrm.  I need to think on this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Last Week

I missed posting last week. I'm not sure if you noticed - I sure did.

My update schedule going to be a bit spotty this summer.

I'm embroiled in a couple of major projects that are taking far more time than I want to give to them. But it's time that takes me away from writing and photography. And gaming.

I had to look at my priorities and figure out what was important - it's not the first time I've done this, and it won't be the last.

But this blog - much as I love writing it - is lower than some of the things that I need to get done. Especially as many of these things are temporary.

I'm going to try to build up a backlog of posts in my spare time, but I can't promise a post every week this summer.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the FLGS to which I give most of my gaming dollar may be closing. I don't know if I was clear enough that it may not be closing, too. There is a possible buyer in the picture, and I think he'd do a good job of it. But it'd still be a change.

I have a lot of thoughts about the FLGS and its role in the gaming community. Too many to throw down in a short post, and when I do get them down and organized, it's likely to ramble quite a bit off-topic and then back on as I tend to do.

Either way, my lovely and talented wife saw how hard I was taking even the potential loss of my local store, and took steps to help.

Last weekend, we went to Fantasium's Beer & Board Games. To check it out.

Fantasium is the closest game store to us geographically. We currently drive for about an hour to get to Phoenix (and it's well worth the drive and we won't be stopping as long as there is a Phoenix to support, thankyouverymuch). Fantasium is about ten minutes from the house. If that.

Fantasium, BTW, is where we get our graphic novel fix. They get that chunk of our comic book dollar not eaten by Comixology (and, if there were a way to give them a share of our Comixology dollar, we'd love to do that, too - shelf space is tight and gets a bit tighter with every book we buy).

Fantasium has open board gaming most of the afternoon on Saturdays, but at 7pm, they close down briefly and start charging a $5 cover. And it's 21+. That $5 cover gets you one serving of alcoholic beverage (they have a selection of ciders and hard root beers, not just beer). They have popcorn available for a small charge, too.

I'm a sucker for freshly-popped popcorn.

There were about a dozen folks there, and I watched people move from one table to another and introduce themselves between games. That's a good sign. I heard people at other tables teaching the rest of their table how to play some of the games, too.  That's another good sign.

They run until midnight - we left well before that point, but we had a good time (aided in no small part by the presence of friends who we brought with us).  The store has a small library of available games (including some good ones like Deus and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullzfyre), and some folks brought in their own games that they were hoping to play.

Even if Phoenix stays open, I plan to attend Fantasium's gathering as often as possible. Because more community interaction is not a bad thing. More engagement with my people (gamers) is not a bad thing.

And, if the worst happens and Phoenix closes, it's nice to have another quality option available.

Next time, I'm going to talk about a couple of games that have hit the table lately. Or just one of them. I'm not sure, yet. I guess we'll find out together.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Hero Forge

A few years ago, I saw a Kickstarter project that I didn't back. It was an attempt at creating 28mm miniatures that could be customized to be your character, and then 3D printing them.

I thought it was a cool idea, but I just didn't believe it would be workable. And I was wrong.

Not too long after the Kickstarter ended, they launched their website - You use their site to design your mini from their menu of parts. Then you tell them which material you want it printed in, and they generate an .stl file and send it to Shapeways for printing and fulfillment.

In September, I ordered a couple of figures to check it out.  More accurately, I ordered the same figure in two different materials. And I liked what I got.  Then, in April, they made another material available (briefly).

The strong plastic is about $15, the high-detail is around $25, and the gray is around $27. Before shipping.

Here is what the figure looks like on their website:

So now I have the same figure in three different materials from the five available. Note: Orders for Gray Plastic are currently suspended due to the crazy delays they are experiencing. I haven't ordered steel or bronze (and - honestly - am unlikely to do so).

It looks like this:

IMGP0598 (2)
High-Detail Plastic, Strong Plastic, Gray Plastic - in that order.

And I rather like it.

Notice, for example, that my figure is left-handed? Try to find a left-handed figure from Ral Partha or Games Workshop or Iron Wind or anyone, really.  It's crazy-hard to do because it's something that just does not occur to them.

I was impressed enough with the high-detail at the time to order figures for the players in the three games I'm currently involved with. That's a total, now, of 22 figures that we've ordered.  20 of them were high-detail plastic.

... and then the dropsies started.

See, that high-detail plastic?  It's brittle.  Like crazy-brittle. As in "drop it from two inches above the table and watch it break." Almost half of the high-detail figures we have ordered have broken. Once they re-release the gray plastic, we're going to be replacing the high-detail figures we bought, one and two at a time.  Breaking and then re-gluing does make them stronger. But when your Ranger is dropped on the floor and you can't find his bow to re-glue it ...

Their materials page lists three stats for each material. Durability, Detail, and Paintability. And I'm not 100% sure I agree with their listed numbers.

Durability, they give the high-detail plastic a one (out of five).  That is not inaccurate. Not even a little.

The strong plastic and the gray plastic have the same durability rating, and I can vouch for the surprising durability of the strong plastic - I accidentally set my (full) Risk Legacy box on top of the strong plastic figure a few weeks ago with zero damage.

Detail, they give the strong plastic a one. And - again - I can't disagree with this number.


Look how coarse that figure is.  It'd be good for mooks, but it's not a good look for PCs.

But go back to that pic with the three figures.  They rate the gray plastic as being higher-detail than the high-detail plastic.  And it might be, but I suspect that it's a trick of visibility, because the high-detail plastic is translucent. Light shines through it.


But the black plastic?  This pic is a hair over-exposed, and the figure hasn't been washed, yet. Much less primed. But wow.


All in all, though, I'm very satisfied.

It's worth noting that 3D printing minis is suddenly A Thing. Hero Forge has some competition.

For example, DriveThruRPG has a selection of 3D printer files now, for example. But they're not custom. And I lack the skills to customize them (but there are people who don't lack those skills).  Just download the file and send that to Shapeways for printing ... it's a bit cheaper than Hero Forge's setup (but, again, isn't nearly as easy to customize).

If you're thinking about ordering from Hero Forge, I will strongly recommend that you wait until the gray plastic becomes available again, though. Totally worth the extra $2. They currently estimate several weeks before they can re-launch.