Wednesday, October 27, 2010


NOTE:  This was written last weekend on my wife's laptop. Please ignore references to "If I get my computer back," and the like. I think I edited all of them out, but I probably missed one or two.

So what's coming in November for this blog?

I don't know. But here's what I'm working on in general:

I have some new games to discuss over the next few weeks, both those that were free from Asmodee and Open Design, and those that I actually spent money on.

I ended up buying a second copy of Victoriana, because my original copy turned into a gift for a friend who is a huge steampunk buff.  I loaned it to her, and then didn't have the heart to take it back.  It's also available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG, and it's worth the money in both cases. I'll be discussing that later in the month.

I'll also be posting more Dungeon Twister strategy - blocking up your opponent's runners and why it's important (although if you can't figure out why it's important, you have bigger problems than I can probably help you with).

And I have a November Project that I'm setting out on - my wife does NaNoWriMo every November, you see.  And, to stay out of her hair, I do a personal project.  This year's project has to do with RuneQuest II and some novels I've been reading. It's a "Just to see if I can" project.

Of course, if my laptop isn't back from the shop, then I'll spend my month playing Final Fantasy XIIIand MAG for a few days, first.

Also worth mentioning: Gamethyme's Game of the Year will now be something I'm actively working on.  It'll just be the one category, with no short list of nominees.  The announcement post of the winner will go up at GenCon. Gamethyme's Game of the Year will recognize the new-to-me game that, over the last year, most left me wanting to play it more. It may be a new game, it may be an old gem recently uncovered. But I'll be paying closer attention to what I've been playing.  I figure that even The Dice Tower was once a small blog - they had to start somewhere, right?

... and that's about all I have time for right now.  Stay tuned! I promise that, even if I have to blog from my phone, I'll keep this blog going.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kill The ________ First!

I get a lot of e-mail that (basically) consists of, "I'm playing Dungeon Twister, and my opponent as [CHARACTER] and [CHARACTER]. Which one should I wound/kill first?"

Believe it or not, it's not always that easy.

But here are my thoughts on Characters You Need To Kill.

First of all, my standard disclaimer: These are my opinions. There are many many players who are better at the game than I who will disagree with me. Take my advice with a grain or two of salt.

The first question you need to answer is this: What is your opponent's play style?

When I'm playing my friend Gahan, I know that he likes to get points by killing my characters. This means that his Hitters need to be the first characters I have to deal with. Geoff, on the other hand, finds more prestige in points scored through escape, so I need to deal with his Runners first. Or block him up so his runners can't escape.

If you don't know your opponent's play style, then look at the characters they have chosen and extrapolate as best you can.

This week, I'm going to talk about dealing with opposing Hitters.

So who are the most dangerous hitters in the game?

1) The Berserker, from Mercenaries. She gets less powerful as the game goes on, but the ability to throw two combat cards is huge. I recently played a game in which I was able to wound three opposing characters by using the two-handed sword and burning two high combat cards.

For all that she's a great Hitter, she's not great when defending which makes her an excellent high-priority target.

2) The Dragons. There are Dragons in four sets (and there is a fifth promo dragon, as well). Most of them have a base Strength of 6. The Undead and Gold Dragons are more dangerous than the Red one most of the time (because the Red one needs Line of Sight in order to kill you). Of the two, the Gold Dragon is faster, but the Undead Dragon is harder to kill due to its special. The Ice Dragon is tricky to use effectively, but its Strength of 5 is still pretty terrifying. And its special ability will frustrate you to no end if you are its target.

To deal with Dragons, you really need a DragonSlayer. You can do it without one, but it means either waiting until your opponent is out of good combat cards (by which time the Dragon has already torn through your forces), using another Dragon, using a Berserker, or attacking in Group Combat. The DragonSlayer is by far the best way to deal with an Undead Dragon (unless your Group Combat includes an Assassin).

3) The General. Mercenaries added a bunch of marginal hitters to the game - with the General in the room, however, even marginal hitters become a threat. If your opponent is fielding a General, he should be a priority. Maybe even a higher priority than the Dragons, now that I think about it. The General is equivalent to giving a sword to every character in the room.

4) The Mummy. Strength 4 and Speed 3 is a decent Hitter with a good Speed. He's Undead, and there aren't enough Undead characters to justify bringing a Holy Cross most of the time. Torches are easy enough to get that you can usually drop him to 0 Strength in a pinch.

Try to keep the marginal hitters (Strength 3) from getting any weapons, if you can.

Honestly, those are the biggest threats - the other Strength 4 characters (Troll, Golem, Dwarven Troll-Slayer, and Mammoth) are scary, but they're slow enough that you should be able to run away from them most of the time.

Keep in mind that standalone play makes some characters more effective - in Fire & Water, for example, the Barbarian is an extremely effective Hitter.

The Assassin is scary, but only in group combat. Her Strength is just too low to make her an effective Hitter. More on her later.

So how do you deal with these Hitters, once you catch them?

1) Group Combat, Group Combat, Group Combat. If you can include an Assassin in your group, so much the better. If you have a force of Runners, it shouldn't be too difficult to get into a good position for Group Combat.

2) Standing a Cleric behind someone can keep that someone alive. It also allows you to throw low Combat cards in hopes of burning off your opponent's better combat cards. Similarly, if you can stand next to a Fountain of Youth, you can heal yourself if you lose, no Cleric required.

3) Push him around. The Ring of Repulsion is great for pushing opposing characters into traps and other hazards. You can also push them away from the Fountain of Youth so that you can get the coveted Fountain spot. The Banshee is less efficient, but has a longer range.

4) Control him. The Charm Scroll is excellent for putting characters in inconvenient positions (even if you can't run him into one of the legal suicide spaces), and any Magic-User can use it. If your opponent has a lot of Hitters, he's not likely to have many Magic Users who can take advantage of this item.

5) Fireball. Yes, it's a one-shot, but you can take out that pesky ... um ... anything with that one shot. Provided you can get your Wizard in position to use it.

Hopefully this is enough to get you started. At some point in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future, I'll talk about blocking your opponent's Runners up (and killing them as well).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fantasy Flight Swings And ... Um ... I'm Not Sure

So did you all see this thing? Several sites I read tagged it immediately as a Good Thing and have been listing it as a sign that Fantasy Flight Games "Gets it," and that it's "Forward-Looking" and "Represents the future of the publisher/retailer relationship."

Yeah. I've seen all of these on various sites out there.

The Fantasy Flight Media Center - a locked-down iPad in a special case that store owners can use to help sell FFG product.
Running under the hood of the FFMC is a custom software solution, coded from scratch by FFG’s Interactive Department.
FFG has an Interactive Department? No wonder their games are so expensive! I wonder if the software will be available in the iPad App Store anytime in the near future, or if their iPad(s) were jailbroken to get the software to work (which could void their warranty with Apple - but that's okay. If there's a problem with the system, they can blame it on the retailer and force them to pay for a replacement, right?).

I'm all in favor of FFG selling product. Don't get me wrong. But if you go to their info page, and read their contract (PDF Link), it stops looking as good.

I sent the link to several local game stores, and received a lukewarm response.  Here's what one owner had to say:
So- let me get this straight...

I have to invest $1000 in FFG product and provide a WiFi connection at my own expense, just to be considered to receive one of these nifty devices- but it's not mine; it still belongs to FFG. Ok, fine. However, if it breaks or gets stolen, I additionally have to pay $649 as a replacement cost? And if I decide to return it, my $1000 investment is completely non-returnable and non-refundable, including unsold inventory?

Additionally, the device may or may not be equipped with the ability to record audio/ video of users and the surrounding area.

PLUS, according to the contract, if I don't have the volume up to a level that FFG deems appropriate for my store, the device could report me to FFG?

I see the potential downsides to me and my business, but where's the downside for FFG and their business? I can't find one.
It's all in the contract. And that assumes you get the Media Center in a reasonable amount of time:
8.0 No Guarantee of Delivery Time
APPLICANT understands that, even if FFG has qualified it for loan of one or more FFMC devices, and even if APPLICANT has purchased the required $999 restock order(s), that FFG cannot guarantee any firm delivery date for the delivery of the FFMC device to APPLICANT.
That's right - the store can spend $1k on FFG product (which may or may not sell), and then FFG can take as long as it wants to ship the iPad Media Center to the store.

Does this device have potential? Yes, it absolutely does. Is this device going to work for all stores? No.

I think this is one of those things that will help the bigger stores out, without doing much for the little guys. It's that $999 barrier to entry that causes the problem. Small stores can't necessarily fit $999 worth of product on the shelves (and in their storeroom). Just glancing at it, that's close to a full pallet's worth of product. Your typical pallet is 40"x48". The amount of product to reach their target dollar amount would be at least two layers of boxes tall. In the neighborhood of 3-4 feet tall, if we're talking about the "Big Box" games (Games the size of Twilight Imperium, for example).

Maybe if I had multiple locations for my theoretical game store, it'd be worth it - I could spread the storage across more than one location.

But I don't expect a huge rush for this thing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


As you may not remember, I really like Dice Town. I learned recently that an expansion is due in December.

THIS December!

And next year there are TWO MORE expansions due for Amodee-distributed games.

Cyclades (Gamethyme's Game of the Year for last year) will be expanded at some point next year, as will Claustrophobia. As I like both of these games, I'm excited.

Still no word on an official new expansion for Dungeon Twister, but the League is working on a new set of minis for more of the promo pieces. And - according to Chris - the video game is due on the PS3 in January and the XBox 360 "shortly thereafter."

Given my earlier discussion of expansions, what do I think of this timing?

Remember: I'm not the expert. I don't run any game companies. I don't know what all is discussed and what goes into their decision-making process.

Dice Town - at a year and a half or so, it feels a little late. The lateness of this expansion could spark sales of the basic game, however. My group still digs this one out for play (the game has held their interest much better than a lot of games have).

Cyclades - feels about right, at a year (or just shy of one). The game isn't played out, yet, but at the same time, players are starting to move to the new hotness, whatever that may be. I still get requests for this one all the time - and I'm more than willing to grant these requests.

Claustrophobia - it's on the same cycle as Cyclades to me. Claustrophobia has a small advantage, too - there have been a long series of web-released scenarios to keep the game fresh and active. And (if it's not up yet), there's ALSO a web-published campaign for the game due out soon. And this game is in the Top 100 at BoardGameGeek, which is never a bad thing (but there is debate on what your BGG rating actually does for sales).

Time will tell on these, of course.