Saturday, 22 April 2017

The scrumptious Previewing (part 7 of many)

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be an exhibitor.

IGDN: Something I didn't know existed until now. Seems to be a support network for independent developers. I'll check it out and get back to you on what it is all about.

Imagination Gaming: I've played Red 7 and it was excellent. They seem to do a lot of outreach programmes about gaming and have an educational bent to them. Interesting, but not a high priority for me this time out.

Inspiring Games: Another local outfit whose game Legends Untold I previewed a little while ago. A neat little box full of old school RPG flavour, the new graphical kick in the pants is exactly what the game needed and I look forward to trying it out in a more complete version.

Invincible Games: Nope, no idea. Link doesn't go anywhere and a cursory google brings up way too many hits to trawl through.

ITB Board Games: I've reviewed both Statecraft and Sub-Terra from this outfit and liked them both. ITB is a rapidly growing outfit with big ambitions. One to watch.

Ivory Graphics: British based producer of card decks. Haven't heard great things about the service but I would like to check them out for potential future projects.

James Hayball: Some nice art here.

James Smith: Another artist, probably?

Japanime Games: Games with a distinctly Anime bent. My wife is very much into Anime so I might see if there is something interesting to be picked up here.

Jonathan Green: Author of some histories of the Fighting Fantasy books. Definitely going to check that out as I loved those books. Ooh, he also writes his own adventure books, cool!

Just Crunch Games: I've heard good things about the Black Hack, an old school D&D clone, and this is the home of a Lovecraftian take on that system. I love small indie RPGs so might pick this up.

Justin Wyatt Illustration: Hey this guy illustrated Ore-Some, that's some damn fine art right there. His prices were pretty reasonable as well so check him out if you are looking for some game art.

KakapopoTCG: These guys sell some very fine cases. Very fine cases.

Kaleido Cards: Small outfit that's been doing the rounds of the smaller cons. Good to see them at a larger con and I'll give it a shot.

Konami: This outfit has a big stand and I would imagine it will mostly be Yu-Gi-Oh a game I have zero interest in. Oddly their link doesn't work straight from the expo site.

KR Multicases: Loads of cases for your mini carrying needs. A few friends have some of their stuff and its great value.

Legends of the Flame Princess: Look at that name, just look at it. Doesn't it make you want to buy whatever they are selling? You should you know. Not only do they produce excellent old school D&D content, but the quality of the books is absolutely superb.

Lander: Lander is a planetary survival game. I have no other information to profer you, though I have shot their team an email asking to pop by the stand.

Lazy Juggler: Retailer.

Legends Express: Publishers of Age of Soccer and some Burger related game. Honestly this does not grab me at all, I have no interest in football but I do like to eat Burgers. Hmm, might give that shot.

Leisure Games: Online retailer with a B&M store in London. I think they are running a facility to store your shopping with them during the con so check that out if you don't want to carry loads of stuff around all day.

Lesley's Bit Box: Online only miniatures retailer.

Librium Games: I've seen this game of plastic card balancing at a few cons, but for some reason never given it a go. Will rectify that this year.

London Board Games: Another football game. There were a few of these last year, so there must be some appeal, just not for me.

Longpack Games: A Chinese manufacturer used by loads of companies. Really good quality.

Lookout Games: Publishers of some really heavy euro style games that just don't grab me. I've tried some, but I just can't get into them.

And that is all the Ls. Definitely broken the back of it now and the end is in sight. Next one of these will go up early next week with some M,N etc. goodness. The con has grown substantially this year so I hope in some small way I can shine a light on the indie outfits and help them out.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The glittering previewing (part 6 of many)

Exhibitors. Thousands of em.

Geek Attitude Games: Website doesn't seem to be working at the moment.

Geek mod S.C.: Some tasty looking inserts and card holders, sort of thing I love. Will definitely give them a look see as it is a company I hadn't heard of and I am always on the lookout for gaming bling.

Geeknson Ltd.: If only I could afford one of their tables, or had a room big enough to hold one comfortably. A man can dream.

Geeky Clean: Not only can you find gaming based candles at expo, but soaps, bath bombs etc. as well. I suppose this is a symptom of the hobby getting bigger which is good, but the cash in feels cheap.

Gen42 Products: Always fancied picking up a copy of Hive ad Army of Frogs is good. I'll check in with them if I have time, but there are definitely one of the bigger, indie outfits.

Genki Gear: Nerdy clothing, plain and simple.

Gettown Games: A full contact take on dice based gaming? Sounds violent. I'll give it a shot and tell you if I survive.

Gibsons: Publisher of children's titles, might swing by briefly to pick up a present for friends.

Giovanni Franco: Not sure who this guy is, assuming an artist.

Green Board Games:  Games with an educational bent. Not really my cup of tea.

Grimlord Games: Publisher of two titles 'Endure the Stars' and 'Village Attacks'. Former is a sci-fi adventure board game, later is a coop game where you play the monsters. I'll add them to the list for now.

Grublin Games: The 'Perfect Crime' board game from these folks sounds right up my street and I've already been in touch to say I'll come by and get some reviewing done.

Hall or Nothing: I love me a good pun name and I also love me some fantasy adventure games, of which I am still to play a really good one. I'll see about getting to play 'Gloom of Killforth' which is an overblown title if ever I heard one. Love it.

Handycon: A twice a year con, that will no doubt be attracting exhibitors and folks at expo.

Happy Otter Games: A game about a magical college and one forthcoming about Ninja Snails? Colour me interested and slightly perplexed.

Harps Corporation Ltd: Some beautiful looking wooden accessories here. Been thinking about a dice tower style thing for a while.

Hawk Wargames: Purveyors of fine minis and wargames. I've played a bit of Dropzone Commander but nothing else from the Universe. Will drop by if I get time. You can always find their stall next to the humongous ship model.

Helion's Art: Artist and Illustrator.

Herbertz Entertainment: A german outfit with some kind of global disaster game. Small outfit so on the list it goes.

Hiphops Cards: Beer card game. Check. Collectible? Hmm. Will check it out to see if there is something to it.

Hispa: Link is a dead end.

Honeysuckle Games: Small outfit with their first game coming to Kickstarter soon. Zombie Babies? Odd theme, I like it.

Hopwood Games: Some nice looking games from an independent outfit. On to the list they go.

And that's us done with the Hs. Some interesting companies for me to visit in this list. Onwards to I and above!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Farsight - Kickstarter Preview

Disclaimer: This preview was written after a playthrough of Farsight on Tabletopia with the publisher Lewis Shaw.

I was given the opportunity to play the upcoming Farsight from Braincrack Games recently, a game of futuristic corporate armies battling over precious resources. I'm not very familiar with this particular outfit, so it was good to have a look at one of their designs and have a chat with Lewis Shaw, the head of the operation.

As you can see from the front cover, Farsight is in the giant mechs category of wargame. The battle takes place on a grid made up of 12, 3 x 3 sections. Each section has an outpost on it and the objective of the game is to maintain control of 8 of those sections for a full turn or the 3 nearest your opponent.

Each player's force is represented by 2 decks of cards: one of these has all the battlefield units in it and one has a number of specialists, we will get to those in a moment. Rather than drawing cards into hand every turn you have access to all the cards from both decks from the off, giving you a lot of tactical freedom straight away. Let's have a quick look at how a given turn plays out.

At the start of each turn the first player marker passes and a quick dice roll determines if an event occurs, a random card draw that affects the Battlefield. We only got one in our game but it slowed down all units with a Blizzard, substantially changing my plans for the turn. Stupid snow!

During the deployment phase each player can place one unit and a specialist: units are placed face down on your back line initially and specialists are placed face down in front of you. Apart from the Assassin, when you play a specialist you note it's location on your Shadow Map, a hidden Battleships style representation of the board. This will be on the underside of the game summary board, which is a nice piece of physical design.

Game in progress on Tabletopia, main board on the left, Shadow Map on the right.
After Deployment each player can activate Assassins, Spies and Saboteurs in that order. Assassins are not deployed on the Shadow Map but instead can 'Hunt' in a square for a particular Specialist. If successful that specialist is killed and removed from the game, if not the opposing player must say how close they came to a hit, giving a nice feeling of Cat and Mouse between opposing assassins, spies and saboteurs.

Spies reveal face down units on the map and Saboteurs can stop a unit moving for a turn, both straight forward but powerful abilities. However each of these specialists has a restricted range and can't move once deployed, leading to an interesting deduction game for each player to most effectively use their assassins.

Once the Specialists are taken care of, it's time for the main thrust of battle to happen with units moving around and combat met! Unrevealed units can move up to 3 spaces, whereas revealed units can only move 2, barring some special cases. This 'Fog of War' style effect is another good use of simple mechanics leading to tactical depth, making spies not only powerful in seeing what is coming, but also slowing down the advance if used at the right time.
A sample of some of the units that will appear on the Battlefield. Attack is the top number and defence is the lower. The Armour and Prototype both have the 'Armoured' trait. The Assault unit is fast and can move 3 rather than 2 once revealed.
Combat is a relatively simple affair between two units. Each player will roll a number of the special dice that come with the game depending on the attack or defence value of their unit, see image above. There are other factors that affect your dice pool i.e. did you attack the flank, are you up a hill, is either unit Armoured etc. and once both pools are formed you roll off. Each explosion symbol you roll does a damage to the opposing unit. Once a unit has take 3 damage it is removed from the game, simple. Neat little damage trackers help keep everyone clear about what is going on.

The sides meet in combat, you can see some damage trackers on the mechs in the middle of the photo.
Although the decks Lewis and I were playing with were very basic, I always felt like I had an interesting choice to make: where do I deploy the big guns, can I feint my way to a new objective, where is that blasted spy! The full game allows you to customise decks as well, building an army to your specification and tactics, something I look forward to trying. Alongside this customisation is a dice less combat alternative, ideal for those who want to get down to a game of pure strategy and tactics, with no random factors. The team has done a great job of creating an interesting design space for future expansions, and Lewis mentioned they have a few ideas in the pipeline.

The art throughout is excellent and the game presents a nice clear iconography to ease new players in and allow veterans to concentrate on tactics not rules. This philosophy shines through the whole game, presenting simple systems that interact to form tactical depth, something I really enjoyed. I am a sucker for elegance over complexity.
Lovely minis!
Farisght will be coming to Kickstarter soon, and will include some rather nice looking minis to put on the Battlefield when your units get revealed.  If you are looking for a pacey, simple to learn wargame with tactical depth that won't take 4 hours to play out to a satisfying conclusion, I urge you to check the game out when it launches.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Stupendous Previewing (part 5 of many)

They're coming out of the walls!!!!!

Eclectic Games: Bricks and Mortar/ Online Retailer.

Eldritch Essences: Errm. Yes. Ok then. Candles. Hex scented etc. Whatever that means.

Entropic Games: A relatively small outfit producing a Dystopian future style boardgame. Colour me interested.

Erdenstern: I've been wanting to use music and effects more in my games, but unfortunately find Roll20s video interface less than stable. These folks seem to produce a lot of different types of ambient music.

Ergo Sum Games: These folks had a massive stall at Expo last year so I should really try and give one or more of their games a go. Not sure anything they produce really grabs me but I will swing by and give some a shot. Always looking to be surprised.

Errant Sword Gaming: No link, nothing on the Googles. No idea.

Esdevium Games Ltd: THE distributor in the UK that many game shops do not seem to get on with at all. I would love to talk to someone from there about release dates for games and why they are always so fuzzy, but I can't see that happening for a small fry like myself. I'll take a shot all the same.

Extraordinary Art: Artist by the looks of it, but no link.

F-Side Games: A retailer of many games.

Fabryka Kart TREFL: I met these folks at Conpulsion and they were really nice with some awesome little sample packs to give away. Polish printer of games, but a bit more limited than some of the Chinese options. 

Fantasy Flight Games: A company that should need absolutely no introduction. I would imagine they are being represented by Esdevium at the con. Arkham Horror LCG is my current game of choice, it's amazing, but I would love to try out their new minis game Runewars.

Fire Hazard Games: Alternate Reality based outfit, not of interest to me.

Firestorm Cards: Online retailer of minis and CCG style games.

Flip the Script: Small outfit with what looks like a Apples to Apples style game about making up film scripts on the fly.

Formal Ferret Games: I'm quite interested in the Networks, TV has always felt like a natural fit for an interesting boardgame. Will see if I can get a demo and report back, though I believe the game is relatively hard to pick up just now.

Format 15: Nope, no idea. No link and nothing from a google.

Gale Force Nine: A big company that produces a lot of TV tie in games, of actually pretty good quality. Firefly game is ok and I really want to try Star Trek: Ascendancy which looks like a lot of fun.

Game On: A crowdfunding platform I had never heard of. I think they produce french translations mostly.

Games Knight: Game cafe in Derby, I think. Hard to search for this.

Games Lore: Big Online retailer.

Games Workshop Ltd: Despite being one of the biggest mini games companies in the world, GW just don't attend cons. That seems to have changed in the last year or so and that is a good thing. They seem to be going back to their roots with a lot of product and it will be interesting to see how their split with FFG will play out.

Games2mT: No idea, software company with no apparent gaming connection.

Gametee: Clothing company that produces nerd flavoured goods.

Gaming Books: Online retailer.

Gangly Games: A small outfit on the cusp of releasing their first game 'Gangs of Brit. Sound right up my street.

GCT Studios: Not particularly interested in Bushido but their card game 'Pioneers Program' has some fantastic art which I like. I'll see about getting in on that if they have it on display.

That's quite enough for now, I'll be doing about 3 of these a week from now on, which should see me done in about a month, couple of weeks before Expo. I'll be doing a summary at the end with those I really want to go and visit and I have secured some review time with a few exhibitors already.

Really looking forward to expo!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

UK Games Expo - The fantastic Previewing (part 4 of many)

My's full of exhibitors

D101 Games: purveyors of many RPG delights, I know the guys who run this a little. Not something I'll be reviewing this time round.

Danish Brain Games: Noughts and Crosses turned all the way up to 11? On to the list you go.

Dark Ops: Some pretty sexy scenery, but not really in my interests for this time out.

Daruma Productions: Miniatures for the SLA tabletop game and some nice bags and clothing.

Days of Wonder: Huge publisher of some beautiful games, big fan of Smallworld myself. I'll probably end up playing some of their games over the course of the con but they are a bit large for the blog.

Deep Cut Studios: These guys produce some luxurious gaming mats. Give them a try if you are after something for battling on.

Devil Pig Games: A reasonable sized outfit behind the Heroes of Normandie game. I'll probably swing by and check them out.

Devir Iberiea: The link doesn't go anywhere, so not sure what this is about.

Dice Sports: I clocked these guys last year and the idea of a comic tied into a wargame is kind of interesting. I'll try and swing by for a demo this year but since it is a miniature kind of thing it will be far down the list.

Dicing on the Cake: Online retailer looking to fund a bricks and mortar.

District 31: I previewed Ember before it's Kickstarter and thought it was ok. I'll swing by the stand and see if there are anything new coming out from them.

Dized: The idea of a universal platform for rulebooks and instructional video is interesting, but I have suspicion that the logisitics of getting loads of companies on board, or even doing it yourself, but make this project impossible.

DMB Games: A small outfit producing accessories for roleplaying games.

DNDice: Shiny metal dice and accessories.

Dog Eared Games: I've heard bits and pieces about Stakbots but never had a chance to play it. Think I'll add this one to the list and see if I can get a demo or two.

Dongguan BaYaYa Ltd: Another board game manufacturer. Lot more of these this year.

DungeonCraft: A small oufit releasing their own system. RPG related so not a priority for me.

Dust 1947: These are the guys who picked up the Dust Tactics system after FFG dropped it. Was always interested in giving it a go but I doubt I will have time.

That's us at the end of the D's. A quick update on Cardboard and Coffee games. This is a local outfit who has a neat tile placement game I've playtested and written about a few times. Check them out.

Phew, this is a long list of exhibitors, and I sort of wish I hadn't started. It is proving useful to narrow down the folks I want to go and see, so let's continue. Next time on the Previewing E and onwards!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Cults in the Dark - The Beginning

To my great delight I have managed to start up a second Blades game this time for some folks online, a couple of whom I have played with before and a couple who are totally new to me.

We've had 2 sessions so far, a proper session of play and session 0 where we did all the character and world burning. This group wanted to play a Cult and I had no idea what that was going to look like, but they came through with some fantastic ideas. Let's meet the team!

Volette ' Silhouette' De Ganis played by Gary Bowerbank. Whisper.

Dalmore 'Wicker' Krantz played by Steven Hanlon, Spider.

Crimson Tascha, the Bloody Handed played by Baz Stevens. Cutter.

Masika 'The Brush' Rassul played by Rich Stokes. Leech.

The group decided on a Cult and we started there to get a handle on exactly what they were going to be rewarded for when it came to xp.

An early idea from Baz took hold that they were devotees of Engimata, though that is only one of her names. She was the first Secret from the dawn of time and few now remember her. Those who do subvert the artifacts and places of worship of other deities in order to deify her name. They decided that their hunting grounds were going to be in Six Towers, using the front of essentially cleaning out the houses of the dead to gain access to art and artifacts that can be 'altered' to praise her.

I decided to drop the group into the same version of Doskvol that my Edinburgh group was in, and have the events of one affect the other. This would be my first time doing this kind of play and I am eager to see how each group informs the world of the other.

We kicked off in the offices of the Red Sashes where Myleera offered them artifacts and paintings from Iruvia in return for getting back some precious stones that were recently stolen form her by the Lampblacks. Being new to the situation they decided to play it cautious and look into the Lampblacks , Dalmore reaching out amongst his web to find out what was going on (rolling a triple 1!). It wasn't long before Bazso's men got wind of what they were doing and decided to bring them in for questioning, but a bit of judicious lying and punching got most of the crew out of trouble. Masika was not so lucky and ended up face to face with the man himself.

Bazso had a job for them to, infiltrating a cache of the Circle of Flame and stealing a very specific artifact. Deciding that Bazso was the man in charge the group decided to take on his job.

Infiltrating through the sewers, via a map supplied by Bazso, they found themselves in the bottom of an old hotel in Six Towers. No problems getting in, with a 6 on the engagement roll, found them in the basement of the old hotel the Circle were using. Sneaking around the basement they quickly found a vault door with no obvious means of infiltration. Whilst Crimson and Masika investigated the noises coming from the other direction, Silhoeutte reached out into the ghost field to find a massive spider hovering above the place, it's web covering the entrance to the vault and strings going into other parts of the hotel above.

Figuring that the spider might be distracted by some chaos elsewhere Crimson and Masika went to cause the request trouble, pulling it away from the door long enough for Dalmore and Silhouette to get through the door. A quick rifle through the valuables led to them finding the box Bazso wanted. Making a fast exit as the screaming from above began the crew made good their escape in short order.

Examining the box in the quiet of their hideout, Masika realises, rolling a crit, that it is marked with the icons of the mage Kotar. Who knows what Bazso wants with that? They decide to give the box over to Baz, sealing their reputation with him, pissing of the Circle and ignoring, for now, the offer from the Sashes.

It was a good first session, and I deliberately made it a gentle introduction to the game system. I'm getting really good feedback from the folks I am playing with which is helping me improve as a GM and I find Blades is just making me better at running games regardless. I still have trouble zooming to the action as quickly as I should, but as we play more I am going to get better no doubt.

UK Games Expo - The Great Previewing (part 3 of many)

Hold your breath folks, we are diving back in!

Burley Games Limited: A UK company I haven't heard of and it sounds like they do tours of Universities talking about game design and showing off their ideas. Interesting, adding to the list.

Burning Games SCP: Creators of the Faith RPG which I believe uses cards to resolve actions. I'm a big fan of Deadlands so may see if I can check this out, probably won't have time for much in the way of RPG sessions at the con though.

Bushiroad: Shop for anime style card games.

Cardboard and Coffee Games: No idea what this is

Cards on the Table Games: I'm not really one for quiz games especially ones claiming to be the Ultimate Quiz game. Consider my sceptical eyebrow firmly raised.

Carmik Games: I'm always up for a bit of piratical action so I'll see about reviewing this outfit's game 'High Seas Pirates'.

Cartesian Creations: Making shiny accessories for your board and card games. I'll certainly give them a look to see if there is anything that tickles the fancy.

Catan Studio: Do you like Catan, they have Catan. A lot of it.

CCG and Boardgame Social: Retailer

CGE: Czech Games Edition are one of the smaller companies out there but they produce some fine games. I am itching to try out Adrenaline so I'll maybe see about getting a bit of a sit down with them. Love me some Galaxy Trucker!

Chaos Cards: Big online retailer on the cusp of opening a bricks and mortar store.

Chaosium Inc: I've not been covering much in the way of RPGs on this blog, but I do have some thoughts on my Shadowrun game and you'll have noticed the occasional Blades post, it's great. CoC is one of those games I have rarely played, and never run but would like to given it's place in the history of the hobby.

Cloud Island: Not entirely sure what this is all about as the link goes to a different game. I'll come back to this one closer to the time I hope.

Code Orange Games: A quite cool looking post apocalyptic minis game, but I just don't have the time to play such things.

Cog 'o' Two: I do love me some gaming bling so I should give this a wide berth. Hmm, wonder if they have anything Arkham LCG appropriate. My poor wallet.

Coiled Spring Games:  A kid and family friendly gaming outfit. Might check out Happy Salmon and maybe a present for friends who have kids.

Colour Guards: Nope, no idea. Nothing on a google search, will jot down to come back to later.

Cosy Dice: Dice bags for all ages and occasions.

Creativity Hub: Rory's story cubes folks and I believe they are working on a game using those as well. Might be worth a wee nosey around.

Crooked Dice Games: A miniatures outfit with a lot of retro TV and film themes. Pretty cool.

Cthulhu Bowls: Because even the Great Old Ones enjoy breakfast? Nope, no idea.

Cube: A polish outfit with a whole passel of games I've never heard of. Good opportunity to check them out.

Cubicle 7: A couple of friends work for this fine RPG outfit and I am interested in their upcoming Mythos RPG 'The Unspeakable Sigil and Sign'. I'll be swinging by to catch up with folk for sure.

Cubiko: Sounds like a very small outfit handmaking games. Interesting.

CYW Printing and Packaging: Production side of the industry.

Phew, that is us at the end of the Cs and my list of companies to visit grows ever onwards. Will probably have to prune some names off it by the end of all this but I'll do my best to get round as many as possible.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Uk Games Expo - The Previewing (part 2 of many)

You didn't think we were finished did you. We haven't even gotten through the As yet. Without further ado let's dive back in to the Great PREVIEWING!!!!!!

Artipia Games: I don't really recognise the name but I've been interested in Dice City for a while and they have a bunch of other interesting looking titles.  I won't be prioritising them over the smaller folks, but I will hopefully get round to them.

Asmodee: I can't help you if you need introduction to this company. They own, well not everyone, but it's going that way. I would be very interested in speaking to someone from them with regards to release dates and distribution as I find the subject kind of fascinating. I'll see if I can get an interview, but making no promises.

Backspindle Games: Finally we are put of the As and into other letters. I have just realised that I have never reviewed Codinca, which I picked up at Expo last year. Great little abstract with a beautiful presentation. Luchador Dice is good as well.

Badcat Games: The first of the local outfits, but I haven't played their game Elemenz, kept missing them at the local playtest groups. They are back on Kickstarter come May and should be showing off their dice battling game at the show! Also had a really cool looking Gladitorial game at a recent playtest I would be keen to get a shot of. Hopefully swing by them and play some games, funny to go all that way to finally meet them properly!

Basically Wooden: This outfit makes some seriously attractive storage solutions that I would love to be able to afford all of. Really quite fond of the dice towers. Maybe I'll stretch to one this time.

Battle Systems: I love this stuff, but just don't have anywhere to put it all. Hopefully swing by for some piccies at the least.

Battlefield Hobbies: Retailer

Battlefoam: Great stuff but I just don't play mini games much anymore.

Bazaar Broz: Very interested in hand crafted, small run games as it is a route I am thinking of going myself for some games.

Beanie Games: Retailer

Beyond Tabletop Games: That is a very odd looking product. Awesome, will definitely check it out.

Big Imagination Games: A small outfit with their first game out at Expo. Right up my street and an animal themed game to boot.

Big Potato: I saw these guys at last year's expo and for some reason dismissed them as not very interesting, my mistake. They were lovely enough to give some games to my local games cafe and I've only played one so far, but I was impressed. They have a real sense of fun about their presentation and I hope to play a few more of their games either here or at the con itself.

Board and Dice: A polish outfit that recently kickstarted the Superhot card game, a computer game I am really keen to check out, Exoplanets also looks cute

Boardgame Extras and Boardgame Guru: both excellent retailers that I have used from time to time.

Bomber: Not entirely sure what this game is 'Four Elements'. Looks to be manual dexterity? I'll check it out and report back. Looks like a small outfit so definitely on the list.

Brain Games: Ice Cool had a massive stand at last year's expo but I just never got round to getting a game in. I quite like a good dexterity game so will see about getting a play in this year alongside any of their new product.

Braincrack Games: A small outfit that just finished off a Kickstarter for mined out. I haven't played any of their games but I've had some back and forth with Lewis via various facebook groups. Adding them to the list to visit.

Bug-Off: I'll update if something goes live before Expo.

Almost at the end of the Bs and we will get through a few more lines next time on the great PREVIEWING!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Uk Games Expo - The Previewing (part 1 of many)

I am going to Uk Games Expo this year, aren't you? It's awesome, you should go and fill yourself with delicious food, beverages and maybe even sneak in a game or two.

This year I am going along as a member of the press. I know. Fancy. Anyway, I thought I should start looking at who I want to go and speak to whilst I am there and so I am going to have a look, line by line, at the exhibitor list and pick out the things that really catch my eye. I'll probably linger over a couple of local designers who come along to my playtest group, but I'll highlight those folks as I go. I'll be doing this over the next few weeks as there are quite a lot to get through.

You can find the full list of exhibitors here, but I am just going to start at the top left of that page and work my way down. Let's go! games: An Estonian publisher, and definitely one I will be checking out as how often am I going to get meet folks from that neck of the woods? Ok the games don't seem entirely up my street, but I will at least pop by and give one or two a shot. Always looking to be surprised. Roundhouse Kick looks most likely to charm me, but they do have a game about puppies!

3D Total Games: These folks seem to have been around since about 2014 and I recognise a couple of the titles. Quite intrigued by Wizard's Academy and they have a good amount of articles on their site about the design process, which I always like. SATW sounds interesting as well, and the art for both these projects is really good.

4Ground Ltd: Some nice scenery guys, but not the sort of thing that I review on the blog. Might swing buy and snap some pics all the same. I have a few friends into their mini gaming more than I am.

A-Muse-Ment: Your guess is as good as mine folks. No link from the Expo site and nothing thrown up by a brief google. I'll come back and update this entry if anything more appears between now and then.

A1 Comics: A retailer of toys and comics, not something for the blog.

Absolute Dice: Not too sure what the games are about but they sure do feature a lot of dice.

Adversity Games: A cyperpunk competitive board game you say? Colour me interested. Sounds like an outfit that are previewing at Expo before going to Kickstarter.

Agent November: A real world puzzle game style thing, not really my cup of tea.

Airecon: I've heard good things about this Harrogate based con, but not something I need to look at for the blog unless I can get there next year.

Alphetar Games: Publishes d100 rpg supplements. Not the kind of RPG I am into anymore.

All Rolled Up: I should maybe review this at some point, as I've had one for a couple of years. Fantastic accessory and you can really pimp yours out with all sorts of bits and pieces. I would urge you to check them out!

Alley Cat Games: My science background definitely compels me to check out Lab Wars from this outfit.

Altitude Managent Ltd: No idea what is going on here, website may be updated soon.

Andree Schneider: Artist

Arcane Wonders: Decent sized publisher of the Dice Tower Essentials line and Mage Wars. I'll swing by if I have time as I've never actually played Mage Wars and it seems intriguing. Bigger outfit, so not high up on the list.

Right that is the first 3 lines out of the way. There are a lot of publishers this year and hopefully I'll be able to highlight some that you may miss if you aren't going to the con.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Beyond the Veil - House Always Wins

This is a series of articles looking at the individual scenarios of Arkham Horror, starting with the Dunwich Legacy expansion. These will be my impressions after playing through the scenario at least once and will be focusing on the mechanics and how those reinforce the story elements of a given scenario. These articles will contain extensive spoilers and assume a familiarity with the terms and mechanics of the game. Please do not read on if you have not played the scenario in the title yet.

Still here? Excellent let's go.

The Setup
The Dunwich legacy kicks off with your old friend Professor Armitage asking you to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. Professor Warren Rice was last seen in the humanities department of Miskatonic University and Dr. Francis Morgan is a gambler last seen at the Clover Club speakeasy downtown.

As I covered in this previous article, you can start the Dunwich Legacy off by tackling either of the scenarios first and which one you take on will affect how the other plays out.  Very nice touch right from the off.

In this case, let’s go gambling!

So it begins
Turning up at 'La Bella Luna' you are told from the off that Dr. Morgan is probably in the VIP areas of the club. As you set off you are immediately presented with some interesting information. Agenda 1 tells you that all enemies with the 'Criminal' keyword are Aloof meaning they won't engage with you. The initial setup which includes the entrance to the club and three locations inside also spawns the Pit Boss, who is probably the most beautifully thematic enemy yet.

You see the Pit Boss hunts the person with the highest lore i.e. the player probably doing the most Investigating. Since he is aloof at Act 1 he won't actually engage, unless you go looking for clues. So basically this guy follows you around looking suspiciously at you whilst you poke around the club and will jump on you the moment you actually find something. Beautifully designed with a minimum number of mechanics, that's elegance.

Act 1 requires 4 clues per investigator to advance and frankly there are not a lot lying around to grab. This means you have to go and hob nob around the club at either the Lounge, Bar or Cardroom. Of course since this is a gambling establishment a lot of these involve taking a chance: do you have a 'drink' in the hope that nothing bad happens, do you place a bet and hope it comes off well, wasting an action if it doesn't or cheat off the Act card hoping that a shortcut now will not come back to bite you. I absolutely love the theme of these locations, draining your resources away as any good gambling establishment should.

It's worth mentioning the scenario card here as I am not sure whether this is deliberate or not. The variance in the modifiers you can get from the special tokens is less than on some others meaning it is a little easier to hedge your bets i.e. you can easily make sure you pass a test, barring the ever present tentacle, by putting at least 3 points over the difficulty you are aiming for. Alternatively you can pay off the failures with resources meaning there is a lovely choice of whether or not to go in heavy, or suck up the potential failure with your resources.

Looking at Agenda 1 again, we can see that it doesn't take long for it tick over. When it does there might be mobsters everywhere and they all suddenly leap into action as Agenda 2 comes around and they all lose the Aloof keyword. When it does tick over there are a couple of possibilities. If you have been spending you time on Campus you leap to 2b, whereas if the Club is the first place you have ventured to then you just suddenly have a mob problem, proceeding to Agenda 2 as normal.

Once you have wandered round, socialised, got blind drunk or however you have chosen to get your information you find your way into the Darkened Hall at the back of the club. You might be able to get there before the Criminal enemies lose Aloof but you know they are about to jump you, especially since one of them spawns in the Hall! Off the Hall lie 3 doors, maybe the good Doctor is behind one of them?

Searching through all the doors you find the VIP room, a back door to the Casino and an Art Gallery. Depending on what order you have done things in Act 2, you will move to one of 2 different acts. If you have been bumming around Campus then the Doctor is nowhere to be found but the Owner of the club looks like he could do with a hand. If the Casino is the first port of call then the Doctor is found in a bad way and you need to rouse him and get him the hell out of dodge.

As the doom ticks on and you hit Agenda 3, the horrible gribblies from beyond turn up and make their presence known. In another beautiful mechanic the gribblies are not only after you, they are after the gangsters as well so that if there are Criminals in the same location as an Abomination those creatures have themselves a tasty Mob sized snack, discarding all Criminals at the same location. Not only is this a lovely thematic mechanic, but it is something the players can use to get themselves out of some sticky situations.

During the the advancing of the Agendas, the front door to the club has disappeared and you need another way out. Thankfully behind one of the doors is an exit that you can escape through, hopefully with the Doctor or the owner of the club in tow!

Once the dust settles you look to your resolution only to find that anyone who cheated off the first act has made things harder in the long run. You add a new token to the chaos bag, something that is bound to hurt you down the line. Hopefully you found the Doctor or at least made a friend in the Owner, but it is equally likely that the place was destroyed by beings from Beyond Space and Time. The multiple possible outcomes once again make this a very replayable scenario and I was delighted when I found that the order I did the scenarios in made such a large difference, even more so than in Extracurricular Activity.

Strange Encounters
So let's have a look at how the Encounter deck works in this particular scenario.

The encounter deck you start out with in this location consists of some scenario specific cards, a heavily randomised encounter set called Bad Luck as well as some Mobsters and the ever present Rats.

Cheating in Act 1, affects the Chaos Bag for subsequent adventures, but if you have been at the Saloon buying drinks to gather information it won't be long before 'Something in the Drinks' comes to ruin your day. The fact this card can be drawn up to 4 times in the scenario, as the discard gets shuffled back in, can really hurt you and it is absolutely possible to draw 2 in a turn, leaving you with 1 action as you stumble around.

The Bad Luck cards play on the theme of the casino forcing you to pull a token to decide your fate or reducing the probability of you succeeding on a test until you clear the effect.

The encounter deck starts out pretty small, but when the gribblies turn up it gets the Striking Fear set from the core and the Hideous Abominations that are intent on tearing the place apart. The Conglomeration of Spheres are an interesting monster, in that they have a lot of health but are really easy to hit, the downside being that it will literally consume any Melee weapon you hit it with. Sure you can punch it slowly, but shooting it is probably the best way to go. I have sacrificed a Fire Axe or two in a desperate moment.

The Encounter deck for this one isn't quite as focused on one particular mechanic, milling in the case of Extra-Curricular activity, but that is fine. It actually works quite well that early on the encounters are all to do with Mobsters and chance and then once the gribblies turn up the deck gets diluted with more supernatural threats. Subtle, but neat.

The Team behind Arkham continue to demonstrate a real understanding of their own design space and a willingness to play within it. Will they keep up this incredible pace throughout the Dunwich cycle? I don't know, but for now I am impressed and I can tell you at the very least that I enjoyed Miskatonic Museum, a Behind the Veil look at that is coming soon!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Beyond the Veil - Extracurricular Activity

This is the first of a series of articles looking at the individual scenarios of Arkham Horror, starting with the Dunwich Legacy expansion. These will be my impressions after playing through the scenario at least once and will be focusing on the mechanics and how those reinforce the story elements of a given scenario. These articles will contain extensive spoilers and assume a familiarity with the terms and mechanics of the game. Please do not read on if you have not played the scenario in the title yet.

Still here? Excellent let's go.

The Setup
The Dunwich legacy kicks off with your old friend Professor Armitage asking you to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. Professor Warren Rice was last seen in the humanities department of Miskatonic University and Dr. Francis Morgan is a gambler last seen at the Clover Club speakeasy downtown.
The first clever bit begins before you even start your game with these scenarios. You can do these scenarios in either order and the order will change how each scenario plays out. In the case of doing Extra- Curricular activity first you use the 'Faculty office -The Night is Still Young’ card. That can't be good. I’ll cover the difference that makes later but for now let's go to school!

So it begins
Starting at the Quad you have a choice of places to head to: Library, Humanities Building, Science building, Administration building and the Student Union. Your Agenda will tick over at 7 doom and your act at 3 clues per Investigator. Both push you towards finding the professor and remind you that he was last seen at the Humanities Building. There are lots of nice little touches to the locations as you move around: the Library is harder to investigate, the Science Building is full of dangerous things that can hurt you. Subtle mechanics that reinforce the flavour of the location, excellent work.

Once you've nosed about a bit, it becomes clear that there are more buildings to search: the Science Building, Student Union and Humanities Building revealing an Alchemy Lab, Dormitory and Faculty Office attached to each respectively. However, you can't get into these secondary locations, as each one tells you you cannot enter it: “The door leading into the (location name) is locked. You cannot move into the (location name). The resolution of the first act has the students telling you to seek out Jazz, the Janitor, who has keys. You shuffle this gentleman into the encounter deck along with all the encounter cards discarded so far.

Act 2 gives you the ability to spend a clue and discard encounter cards and Jazz has a revelation ability that fires if he gets discarded, popping into play to be brought into your team. This is a fantastic little mechanic and really feels like you are frantically searching for the guy as the Agenda ticks up! (Hint: he is always at the bottom of the deck!) Once you have him alongside you 'Ignore the text on each unrevealed Miskatonic location' meaning that those locations that were locked earlier, are now accessible! Lovely flavour from a very simple idea.

By the time you have found Jazz it's likely that there has been a commotion from the Science buildings and 'something' is on the loose terrorising the campus. This big hulking monster called 'The Experiment' is on the loose and you have limited time as it makes it's way towards where all the delicious students are hiding.

The order you have done the scenarios in also affects the way the Agenda deck advances. If you are doing Extra-Curricular Activity first, then you advance to Agenda 2 as normal. However if you have visited the Clover Club first then you go straight to Agenda 2b which is the back of Agenda 2, something I hadn’t realised at first. This means that you shoot through 2 Agendas at once and move straight to Agenda 3! This gives a great feeling of time passing for the world you are in, making it feel like a living, breathing story.

Once you have Jazz, act 2 advances and the Alchemy labs reveals itself if it had not done so already and the Experiment makes himself known if not already out and about thinking about tasty student kibble. As for Agenda 2, the order you have done things in matters here, with an extra piece of assistance in the form of an ‘Alchemical Concoction’ appearing in the labs if you have been to the Clover Club first. This can be used to hurt 'The Experiment' if you can sneak past it and grab it!

The movement of 'The Experiment' is nicely represented by the mechanics on the Agenda 3 card, shambling it's way one location towards the Dormitories whenever the doom on the Agenda hits 2 and then advancing the Agenda if it ever enters the Dormitories. A nicely represented, lumbering horror!

The final Act instructs you to achieve an objective on one of the other cards in play, but what could this mean? Heading to the locked buildings you find two objectives: one on the Faculty offices, if the Night is Young, and one on the Dormitories both of which will give you a resolution. You could try and tackle the beast as well and all three give a different outcome. However the important thing here is, and I am so glad they are doing this sort of storytelling, is you can't do it all. You have to make a choice and there will be consequences. Great stuff.

On top of this difficult choice, that you don’t really realise is difficult until the Resolution is reached, you will find yourself with only one real choice if you headed to find the degenerate gambler professor first. If ‘The Hour is Late’ version of the Faculty Offices is in play then you are simply too late to help Professor Rice and you will have to see if you can help out those poor students instead (you could just run away and leave them to their fate!).

I find these ‘point of no return’ design choices really interesting as in a lot of computer games I find them kind of annoying, if inevitable if the designer is trying to tell a story. However I rarely play computer games like that more than once whereas here it won’t take long to play through the scenario again to try a different path. Baked in replayability like this is one of the reasons I have come to really admire this design!

Strange Encounters
I thought with each of these breakdowns I would look at the Encounter deck separately. There is a lot of room to play with the possible encounters in a scenario and Dunwich shows straight out of the gate how much they are willing to change things up.

Throughout the core set the designers didn't really play with the encounter deck very much, with the horrors inside being the sort of thing you might expect from dabbling in strange cults and things that go bump in the night. With Dunwich they have really rolled out the red carpet and shown how clever they can be.
When I first started playing this scenario we got hit but a couple of cards that 'milled', or discarded, cards from our player decks. Not so bad I thought. When we turned over the first Agenda we found we took some horror depending on the number of cards we had discarded, but we could take it!
However, as the scenario progressed we saw the 'Beyond the Veil' card and suddenly it dawned on us just how devastating this could get. Sure there were some monsters to deal with but the real harm came from losing all our useful cards and having the threat of exploding when we ran out of cards. Most characters will not be in a situation to be able to suck up 10 damage at once, so this puts a real feeling of a timer on the game, on top of the already ticking Doom counter. Nicely done gents.

On top of the new encounter sets used in this scenario I was heartened to see them reusing the core sets as well, showing a willingness to mix and match different sets to create a unique encounter. I look forward to them really playing with this as the game expands, thought it might mean an individual scenario becomes a little hard to setup as you have to search through for the various sets that make it up.

There we have it, my first behind the scenes look at the scenarios of Arkham Horror. I remain incredibly impressed by the design team on this one, they are showing a real elegance in their choices that I don't often see from FFG. Long may it continue.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Blades in the Dark - Breaks on a Train

It's been a little while since I gave you an update as to what is going on with my scoundrels in Doksvol, the city at the heart of Blades in the Dark.

Since that last adventure they have gotten themselves in deeper with Bazso of the Lamblacks and gotten themselves into a situation where they are coming into conflict with the Red Sashes and Ulf, who you might remember they totally failed to assassinate last time. Since that failed assassination attempt they have been on jobs in high society to poison a Magister, eyed up an opportunity to move their headquarters somewhere a bit plusher and crossed into the Ghost Field to disrupt a very high stakes poker game and meet a rather odd individual.

This session was going to see the group finally rack up enough reputation, I hoped, to get a strong hold on their territory. I have been retrofitting the newer version of the rules as well and it is great to see Blades in it's final form! They had now touched on the occult side of the game and had a 'job' from a stranger they had met in the Ghost Field. Baz wants to double down on the hurt the Red Sashes are feeling by getting them to hit a shipment coming in that he believes is important to them. The courier is coming in from Whitehollow so it's time to get on a train and head out into the wastes.

Arriving at Whitehollow the day before the courier was due to leave they quickly spotted him, surrounded by 4 large bodyguards. Noticing that the package is cuffed to his wrists they went about taking up Baz on his offer to sneak one of them onto the train as staff. The engagement roll didn't look good for them, and I kept my plans for disruption quiet for now! Reprising their posh people role from an earlier session, Hallam and Una got onto the train and had a cabin just a little down from the target.

A couple of hours into the trip their target heads to the restaurant car for some food, sans package, which they assumed was now locked to one of the lackies. A plan to poison the target with sleeping powder goes a bit wrong when the Lurk, who is undercover in the kitchen, screws it up spreading it over several people's food. He is powerless to  stop the affected food entering the restaurant car and it doesn't take long for the target to succumb. A call for a Doctor sees Una trying to bluff it out as more bodies fall around them. Hallam, faking being blind, gets himself led out by the Lurk to his cabin in order to infiltrate whilst Una's bluff is called and a commotion ensues in the cabin. Luckily Una has a small explosive on her, nothing could possibly go wrong?

In the corridor the team of the Idrim and Hallam take on the guard outside the cabin, only to be interrupted by an explosion behind them and another team entering the carriage apparently after the same thing. Hallam uses the interruption to whip out his sniper rifle, a compact pre-cataclysm artifact recently stolen, and shoots the guard outside the carriage clean between the eyes. Idrim tackles the approaching gang whilst Una joins Hallam in getting into the compartment holding their target. A broken nose and a some stress taken, they burst in to find the last two guards and swiftly take them out. Left with an unconscious meat lock, Hallam whips out a saw 
whilst his dog takes care of the other arm.

The chaos on the train causes it to stop at a small fishing village where the crew makes it off the train and onto a boat. Baz is delighted with their find and they also fess up to being asked by an enemy of Idrim, a high society lady called Kellis, to spy on what Baz is up to. In return for this info. Baz agrees to help them get their new HQ off the Fog Hounds who where the other crew on the train. This started a new clock that I added two segments to of 'Establish new HQ'. The Fog Hounds are bound to take exception to that!

Still loving the open world nature of the game, but it still feels focused despite being open ended. I think the nature of the crew helps a lot with that, front loading the GM with the expectations the players have of the kind of jobs they are going to be doing. In exciting news I am going to be starting another monthly game with an online group, this time focused on a Cult. Really looking forward to seeing what that brings to the setting as both crews are going to be operating in the same version of Doskvol!