Aaron Bostian blogging at the Fancy Wars.
Aaron shares the many ways that he gives back in his community. Jonathan discusses the 3 mile walk he is doing on May 18, 2013 to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis. You can DONATE HERE.
We also discuss:
Game Journey Photography… yet another monthly column. As you think through whether this is worth adding to your RSS feeds and bookmarks, allow us to take a moment to tell you what you’re in for.
First, this is a photo-essay. Every month we’ll feature a handful of photographs and talk about them for a bit. If you don’t like that, you won’t like this.
Secondly, we are gamer-nerds. If you don’t like reading about board games, or seeing pictures of board games, or if for some reason the notion of sitting down to play a board game makes you violently ill… this column may not be your cup of tea.
But if you look down into your teacup, and you realize that next to you at the table there is a stray chit or meeple from last night’s gaming, and you think that maybe it would be fun to take a photo of that game-piece next to your cup of tea then this column is definitely for you. For your game has just taken a journey, and you are thinking about doing some photography.
Some months we might have a theme to our photographs. (This is not one of those months.) Some months we might talk about the rule of thirds, or leading lines, or how to capture a game in different ways. (This is not one of those months either)
Some months we might just throw a few photos on the page, and call it a day. That’s exactly what kind of month we’re starting off with.
Jon: I like this photo because it highlights the components without any distracting background elements. I’m also a sucker for shadows in photos, and I love the horizontal shadows at play in this photo.
Clinton: This was one of those spur of the moment pictures for me. I saw the way the light was hitting the table and knew I wanted to take a picture that would take advantage of the strong natural light coming from one direction. I was able to arrange the artifacts from Forbidden Island so that one side would be shrouded in almost black shadow and one side would be brightly lit – causing the colors to pop. This is one of my pictures were I see the light as being the focus of the picture itself.
Clinton: I really like the intersecting lines and the shallow depth of field that draws your eyes into the composition. The subtle hint of color works well – fading from green to red and back out to green (an excellent use of contrasting colors). I really like the way the natural light highlights the shapes of the components.
Jon: This is the first part of my “Knizia in the Study” series. I wanted to capture Tigris and Euphrates in a way that highlighted the focus and concentration of the game, without capturing the brighter color tones of the game board. I set the game up on my dining room table, and shot in early morning light using only the light that came from the porch door. This let me capture the shadows and darker colors, without highlighting the actual gameplay. I lined up the monuments along the edge of the board in order to give a point of focus in the picture.
Jon: I have never played this game, but this photo reminds me of Star Trek, when a landing party explores a ship that doesn’t have any power. The black and white treatment here makes me think of the industrial waste that is typically scattered around that type of scene.
Clinton: I love the little plastic spaceships from the game Cosmic Encounter. They are very colorful and have a wonderful texture. Most of the pictures I take highlight the colors since they cover both the primary and secondary colors. In this one I wanted to highlight the shape and the texture. I felt black and white would be the best format for this. While I love how colorful some games can be I am also intrigued by the different shapes and textures in games.
Clinton: I really like the choice of black and white with this picture. It really draws your eyes to the shapes; the way the cards are set out creates an interesting set of lines which draw your eyes across the frame. I also really like the way the light creates a fantastic gradient across this photo.
Jon: This is the second part of my “Knizia in the Study” series. I shot this on a black desk, and I had drawn the blinds so that there was only some light coming from the bottom of the window. Battle Line is a game that prompts a great deal of study. Cards are played in sets and sequence in order to capture tokens that are set up across the middle of the play area. You have to play a total of three cards in order to capture a piece, and so I focused this photo on the idea of “three”.
We hope you enjoy what we have to offer – the intersection of two favorite hobbies of ours. Not only are games a fun social activity but they are little pieces of art. There are all kinds of wonderful colors, shapes, textures and patterns.
We could ramble on and on about gaming photography, but inevitably someone would tackle us and duct tape our mouth shut. There is so much more we want to share with you in the future – we hope you enjoy what we’ve shared here and hope you will continue with us on our journey of gaming photography.
I’m not entirely sure when it started happening.
I’m the game collector in our family. Board games is my hobby. I cut my teeth on chess, poker, and backgammon. I played tabletop war games in college, for days at a time.
When my wife and I decided that we should play more games, we got into Dominion, Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne. There was no going back from that point. We started getting into Reiner Knizia games, following specific designers and companies, and finding out about release dates for expansion sets.
And when I say “we”… I mean “me”. My wife was simply a willing participant in my gaming hobby, but not much more than that. She would cast a wary eye at packages arriving from UPS, or bags arriving from the local game store. It was a sort of tacit approval. She wouldn’t have suggested it, but it was okay as a hobby.
(My other hobby is roasting coffee, and by comparison board games don’t have the same chance of smoke and fire, and are stored out of sight in a downstairs bookcase — not in canvas bags with green beans spilling out of them.)
And then I looked up a few years later, and realized I wasn’t winning. Much.
And at some games, I hadn’t won at all.
The final straw was Campaign Manager 2008. I picked up this game because I saw it at a good price. I figured that the reviews were pretty favorable toward it, and it was worth a try. In this game one player manages the McCain campaign, and one player manages the Obama campaign. The game is a battle over the swing states that were in play in 2008.
I haven’t won a single game, and we have played 6 times.
My wife has started referring to herself as a “political mastermind,” because we alternate which candidates we are playing in each game, and yet she wins every time.
And here’s the main thing: I think I’m going to win. In fact, there have been some games that I am sure I am going to win, only to look up and realize that my wife beat me. Again.
In this column, I will look in detail at a game I’ve played and lost, and figure out why I lost. I will start by giving a brief summary of the game itself: why it is in our collection and why we play it. I’ll give a description of a specific play of that game. I might be highly detailed. I might not be. But I will for sure then try to figure out what happened. Why I lost.
Thanks for reading. If you love board games, but are losing at them with an alarming consistency, this column is for you. (If you are regularly winning at board games, you should write a column called “why I am the best”… and I will read it! I have much to learn.)
Phil is a guy who has a game publishing company called 5th Street Games. Ben is a guy who is a game designer, and is also not me. A little while back, Ben released a game called Baldrick’s Tomb through The Game Crafter, and it got lots of attention. Phil saw it, liked it, and contacted Ben about publishing this game.
This is their story.
Actually, this is a review of a preview edition of Baldrick’s Tomb, which is currently being Kickstarted by 5th Street Games. But ‘This is their story’ sounds a hell of a lot more dramatic.
! @ k
This game is inspired by the old school, rogue like computer games. In these games, players (often represented by the ambiguous @ symbol) wander around randomly generated dungeons, delving deeper, gaining more stuff and searching for one, prime item. These games were brutal to players. There were no saves, no extra lives, and winning one was a true achievement. Baldrick’s Tomb seeks to replicate this experience in a quick to play board game. They’ve softened things up a bit – permanent, soul crushing death has been re-branded as “knocked out” and carries a much lesser penalty. All of the other aspects are here though, and they’re wildly appealing to both adults and kids.
It should be noted that I’m reviewing a preview version of this game. Not all of the artwork is finalized and the bits and pieces of the game are not all of production quality.
The essence of this game is the game board. On this game board you will randomly place a bunch of rubble tokens, which when encountered by players are flipped over to reveal a number of different things. They could be scrolls, which give players interesting abilities. Pure, lovely treasure, which you need to win. Monsters, which can do some hefty damage to you but can also result in your character collecting more gold, or traps which are nasty affairs. If you’re really lucky, you may turn over a healing tile, which restores all of your character’s hit points. 10 of these rubble tokens are strewn about the board, with at least one board space in between each one. Also mixed in is one ladder leading down to the next level and at levels 2-4, Baldrick’s Gem – a hefty item worth 5 treasure.
Each player chooses one of four characters. These characters initially share all the same abilities, which is they can move up to 4 spaces and fight things. After choosing your characters, you’re dealt three skill cards. These skills are what make your characters unique. From extra hit points to collecting treasure when other players fail – all of your skills are helpful and make each character different every time.
Then each player is dealt two scroll cards – scrolls are also helpful and can do damage to monsters, help your character or hinder other players.
The clear red token shows how many Hit Points a character has, the clear green token indicates the character’s poison level. If ever the two should meet, or if the characters hit points equal zero, that character is knocked out.
Once you’re all set up, each player rolls the blue and red d8′s included in the game and uses the resulting coordinates to place their characters on the board.
The object of Baldrick’s Tomb is to be the one to make it out with the most gold in the end. The end happens after 4 levels of the dungeon are played through.
Game play is relatively simple, and quite fast. Each player can move up to four dungeon spaces (though not diagonally). The point to doing this is to encounter rubble tokens, flip them over and then do what they indicate. Trap, monster, gold or scroll you draw on of those cards to determine what happens next.
If you encounter a monster, you can either fight it or choose to flee by paying it’s level in gold. If you choose to fight it, each monster has a chart at the base of the card, ranging from 1-8. You roll a d8 and consult the chart to see if the monster damaged or poisoned you, or if you’ve damaged it. Keep rolling until either you’re knocked out or the monster is defeated.
Once a monster is defeated you get the gold indicated in the card. Skills and scrolls can help you either avoid fights, or get them over a lot quicker.
After every player has taken their moves and if possible encountered something in the dungeon, the Impending Doom track clicks up one. When this reaches 5 (or 4 or 6 depending on how hard you want to make the game) the dungeon floor collapses and everyone is dropped to the next level.
This is bad. If that happens, you immediately lose half your gold. The alternative to this is to discover the exit and take the ladder down to the next level. If you do this, you may lose a turn or two of exploring, but you will not lose half your gold.
As each new level starts, each character’s hit points and poison levels are reset. Also, starting at level 2, Baldrick’s Gem is put into play and can be encountered just like any other rubble token. In addition to all this, you add in more powerful monsters as well. Monsters are divided into three decks, levels I through III. At the start of each new level, you add in harder monsters to the mix, shuffle the whole thing and take off playing.
Getting knocked out in this game isn’t the end of the world. There is no player elimination, which I like. Rather you lose half your gold (rounded down) and if you have Baldrick’s Gem, it goes to the person with the least gold, or the grumpiest 10 year old, depending. That last bit is a house rule. But then you reset your character and jump back into the fray!
This game is designed to play quick, and be appealing to both adults like myself who may be secretly craving that old rogue like feeling, and kids.
It certainly lives up to this design. My youngest was interested in it on the day it arrived and I pulled the game board out of the box to give it a look. We couldn’t play it for a few days due to prior commitments. When we did have time, she was right there at the table eager to get going.
It passed the real test though after our first play through. On the first level we were learning how to play. By the second level, my 7 year old had the basics down. By the 3rd level she was actively blocking me and finding all the neat stuff and by the end of the game she had won 20 to 11.
She begged me to let her stay up late and play again. When that didn’t fly, she extracted a promise from me to play the very next day, which we did. She won again much to her delight. It was a lot of fun for both of us, and a huge victory for her as she knew I wasn’t letting her win and it wasn’t random chance that led her to victory.
The game is billed as 8+ and my youngest is 7 and a half. She has a bit of difficulty reading some of the words on the cards, but once helped with this, understands the core concepts (and quite a lot of the less obvious strategies in game) without any issues. More importantly though, she loves to play this game. Winning that first game may have helped her opinion out a bit, but even after multiple plays, which she did not win every one of, she still asks to play.
From an adult, this game does several things for me. It gives me a fun game with lots of neat bits which I can play in a half hour. It allows me to play a (as my daughter says) ‘real’ board game with my kids. For me, I define this as a game I actually really enjoy playing. I’m as eager to break it out as they are.
My oldest at 10 years of age was slightly less enchanted with it at first glance, but got into it once her younger sister started pulling ahead towards the end of the second dungeon level.
Initially it looks a bit intimidated with four decks of cards and lots of tokens and skill cards. After the first set up though, I’d say each additional set up took perhaps 5 minutes of shuffling and sorting and was not intimidated to me or the kids.
Even without the final artwork in place for many of the cards and the bits not being finalized yet either, the game art that was present was excellently done. It’s got a slightly cartoon-like look which is appealing to kids but isn’t a turn off for adults. And it features a cultured, pipe smoking, monocled wearing werewolf which I find amazing.
The game play is fairly simple, as you’d expect from a game that runs 30-45 minutes in length with four players. Combat isn’t complicated and the game is not going to be as tactical as any of the ‘big box’ dungeon crawl games. For the price and aim of this game though, I wouldn’t expect it. If you go into this game looking for a quick, enjoyable dungeon crawl you’ll leave happy, even if your 7 year old beats the snot out of you.
I do like that there’s a fair bit of tension as the Impending Doom counter ticks closer to the collapse of the dungeon floor. You don’t want to lose half your gold! Are you going to go the extra distance to find out what’s under that unresolved dungeon tile? Will you make it back, or get hit by a trap that slows you down?
Baldrick’s Tomb is a lot of fun for the whole family. It plays fast and furious, captures a lot of that dungeon crawl feel while still being highly accessible to young players. It straddles that line between fun for kids and engaging for adults quite well, as do many of the games from 5th Street Games. This is another title I wouldn’t hesitate to break out for my gaming group as game to start off the night, or wind it down.
I would absolutely recommend getting into the Kickstarter if you’re looking for this kind of game. You can grab the instructions as well to get a closer look at the game play. At $25 shipped to the US for a copy, this is a no-brainer for me. I get another fun game that I can play with my whole family in a half hour, and a game I can easily bring to conventions, game nights or play solo if the mood strikes me.
I always enjoy playing games that I can get the whole family involved in. Since my family ranges in age from 7 through to older than some of us would like, it can sometimes be a challenge to find a game that we can all enjoy equally. In fact, the only game we’ve found that all four members of my family all readily agree to play is King of Tokyo. At least, that was the case until we discovered My Happy Farm!
5th Street Games’ My Happy Farm is one that was immediately attractive to my kids. You feed your farm animals and make them grow longer, and longer, and longer! It’s also got a surprising bit of strategy involved, enough so that I feel comfortable giving it the label “Euro-game like”.
All of the players are farmers. They not only have livestock that they must keep fed and happy, but they also grow crops. In fact, growing crops is the basis of keeping your farm up and running and your animals stretchy and smiling. Each turn, you’ll have the opportunity to perform several actions; key to your success are buying, planting and harvesting various crops (clover, carrots, beats, and wheat) which you can then store in your barn to purchase the stretchy bits of your animals, or sell for cash money to buy more crops.
As you feed your animals, they streeeeeeeeetch longer and longer. Each animal that you manage to stretch is worth more points. But you’ve got to be careful and not concentrate on one or two of your four animals. Neglect to feed an animal and it will cost you points at the end of the game.
The game can accommodate up to four players, and lasts around 45 minutes. Each player starts with two coins, a clover, and a wheat to plant, and a farm yard. Also, you start the game with four unfed animals, cow, pig, rabbit, and sheep.
During your turn you can take two actions. Actions include take 1 coin from the pot, plant seeds, harvest crops, buy feeding cards to stretch your animals, or spend up to 3 coins to purchase up to three new crops to plant.
In addition to your farms and animals, two decks are used in the game. The first, comprised of smaller sized cards, are your crops. At any time there will be six face-up crop cards, randomly shuffled to represent clover, carrots, beats, and wheat. As soon as one of these is purchased, it’s replaced with another card from the deck. There’s also the animal feeding cards, which consists of stretched-out animal mid-sections and icons to let you know how many harvested crops you’ll need to purchase that card. Each card has a point value as well, with the higher point cards costing more crops to purchase.
If you choose to plant some crops, they start off next to the Spring section of your farm. Here you can’t harvest anything. At the beginning of your turn, you automatically move any crops planted up to the next section (first Summer, and then Fall). In Summer you can harvest clover or carrots. In the Fall you can harvest all of your available crops. If you don’t harvest them, they go bad and are discarded.
Your barn also has just enough room to hold up to six harvested cards. Anything more than that spoils!
That’s really all there is to it. At its core, it’s a simple game which is something I really enjoy. My kids love this game, they understand every aspect of it and can even at seven years old form longer-term strategies and play well. For me and the other adults who’ve played there’s an honest to gosh depth of strategy that I was not expecting. I’d have no problem bringing this game out on a game night with no kids around; it’s fun, quick, and has that Euro-style feel to it without being too mathy for some folks’ tastes.
The components, as I’m finding with all 5th Street Games’ products, are very good quality. The cards are a good, thick stock. The boards are just that, thick cardboard boards, not play mats (a direction 5th Street could have easily taken). Even the boxes are well-constructed. As evidenced by the pictures above; this is my copy of the game and has seen much play at the hands of several kids aged 10 or under.
Here’s another game I can easily recommend, if you have a family with kids in it or are looking for a fun, light game to bring to your table. Absolutely grab this little gem. At $20 it’s a steal.
I’ve gotten a number of games from 5th Street Games and I’ve played a bunch of those and am very pleased with them all. If you’re the type that likes Kickstarter, and supporting a smaller game company with a proven Kickstarter track record, check out Baldrick’s Tomb, a game currently on Kickstarter from 5th Street Games. It looks amazing and I hope to have more on this game (such as an actual review of the preview edition) before the Kickstarter ends.
In this episode, it’s all about the card games. Hull Breach is a “fast, brutal, sci-fi card game that blends the randomness of dice and cards with individual skill and tactical might.”
I had a chance to take a quick look at this game at Total Confusion XVII and it looks fantastic! It’s a fast paced, sci-fi game that has a bunch of combat and a bunch of actual active duty and veteran military people involved in its creation. The artwork is great and getting better, game play was fast and fun and it looks like a really tight, well play tested product.
Check out the video below and then head directly to the Hull Breach Kickstarter campaign.
I finally got in several plays of the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game with my buddy Dan. A few people have already asked me how it went.
Get this game.
It’s a wonderful game, horribly addicting and plays out just like I wanted it to. The rules are complicated enough to keep the game interesting, but simple and easy enough to keep it moving at a fast pace! Our 2nd battle, which consisted of 3 TIE fighters and 2 X-wings at a 60 point buy ran us almost an hour. That’s fast!
The minis are really good (although one of my X-wings suffers from droopy laser cannon syndrome) on the whole they’re well crafted and look amazing. I thought the little plastic stands and poles would be precarious but really they do a fine job of holding these things upright and facing forward. The details on these minis are very, very good. No painting needed, no assembly needed. Just grab the base, grab to plastic poles and you’re ready to fly.
Tactically the game is fairly simple, with everything you need to play right out of the box. Simple though doesn’t mean unfulfilling or easy. Playing this game feels like watching a battle scene out of Star Wars, with more in common with a WWII dogfight than space combat. That’s right where I want this game to be. Fighter craft whoosh by each other, execute amazing maneuvers and come up shooting.
I love the fact that you can play this game on any surface. I was quite surprised at the size of the box when I purchased this and the reason it’s so small is that there’s no board needed for this board game. We played on my buddy Dan’s kitchen counter, which was just a bit over 3′x3′ and it was a great size for the ships we fielded.
The hardest thing about this game was reading through the directions and really getting a sense of play. I read through them once, then broke out and assembled the three minis that come with the base game and actually played out a short combat by myself. Once I had done that, it all made sense.
Now my only problem is I want more! More ships, more pilots, more add ons!
The game is set up quite nicely into several phases. If you’re interested, Fantasy Flight has the rule book up as a PDF here. First, each player enters the planning phase. Both players take their maneuver dials (handy little round dials that show what each ship is capable of) and plan their next move. They then place these face down next to each ship so the other player cannot read them. In reverse pilot skill order (each pilot has a skill number, from 1-9, higher being better) each dial is revealed and that maneuver is executed. The game comes with every template you’ll need to do these maneuvers, which is amazingly handy. Just place the template at the base of the mini, hold it down, and move the mini to the other side of the movement template.
After each ship has moved, they can choose to perform an action. Many ships have standard actions (such as save up a dodge, or gain a target lock) and higher scored pilots also have additional things they may do during the action phase.
Now that everyone’s moved, from poorest pilot to best, it’s time to shoot some stuff. In the combat phase, things go in reverse order. The best pilot gets to shoot first (if there’s a tie, the Empire has initiative, causing Imperial ships to move first, and shoot first). Dice are rolled for both offense (that red number on the TIE fighter card above) and defense (the green number). Hits and critical hits are totalled, while the defender gets to remove them. Whatever damage is left over is applied to the ships in a neat mechanic. Standard damage has the player take 1 damage card and put it next to the ship card. With a hull of say 3, it takes 3 damage cards to destroy that ship. If a critical hit is scored that same damage card is taken, but flipped over. It then has text and conditions that are applied to the damaged ship, limiting it in some way or causing even more damage.
Lastly we hit the end phase, where tokens are cleaned up and everyone still flying breathes a sigh of relief.
This game has gotten the mix of simple mechanics, interesting abilities and tense situations exactly right. It’s can get a bit tense (in a good way) as each player is waiting for the others to reveal their maneuvers and move these ships around. Will you end up in someone’s firing arc? Will they be yours?
I really like the movement and firing mechanics, with simple range finders and movement templates provided in the base game. It makes for a really fast game. From introducing Dan to the game through the completion of our second battle took an hour and forty five minutes. That’s great! Our first battle was one X-Wing vs two TIE Fighters. Our second battle was 2 X-Wings vs 2 TIE Fighters and a TIE advance. You’re fielding fairly small ‘armies’ in the game which makes it entirely manageable. This game reminds me just a bit of the old Car Wars game by Steve Jackson Games. A few templates for moving and range and you’re good to go!
The biggest downside I’ve found to this game so far is my almost physical need to acquire more ships! I haven’t yet had a chance to use my Y-Wing (a problem I’ll remedy real soon now). The wave 2 ships have just come out, introducing the A-Wing, TIE Interceptor, the Millenium Falcon and the Slave 1. Wow! The last two ships are a bit more pricey with an MSRP of $29.99 – but they’re also nearly 4 times the size of the other minis available for the game, and introduce new rules for larger ships.
It’s been a long time since I fell for a game so quickly and fully. I think the last title that grabbed me this hard was Dominion and the various expansions that are available for it. The base set of X-Wing retails for $39.99 (you can often find it at amazon for $30) and comes with three models (2 TIE Fighters and 1 X-Wing). 1st wave expansions include the TIE Advance, X-Wing, Y-Wing and TIE Fighter.
With the base game you can certainly play it and have fun but I think you’ll find yourself craving more. Some folks have suggested grabbing two base sets to get six ships total. I’m on the fence with this. By purchasing a TIE Advance, the X-Wing, Y-Wing and TIE Fighter expansions I was able to add 4 new ships to the mix and you get some unique pilots and add-ons such as astromechs.
Either way, if you’re the type to like this kind of game, you are going to want to acquire some more ships. If you’re really into it, you can even go so far as to download this fan made, scale Corellian Corvette and add it into your game.
TotalCon is New England’s largest game convention. 2013 marks Jonathan’s 3rd year in attendance. He recounts his top 5 highlights from the con.