Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Blades in the Dark - 1 chef enters, no chefs leave

It's been a while since my Blades group has gotten together but we managed to finally get back up and running just recently. Diving back in with glee I checked over my prep from last session, seeing that I had actually done some, and made a few notes. I wanted to lay out the turf map more before the players and I had a few jobs on offer as well!

After their initial tussle with the Red Sashes they had a visitation by a rather jovial ghost who wanted his ex-second in command murderised. This was Roric leader of the Crows faction, or at least used to be before he had a fatal case of getting stabbed. They considered this offer and a couple of others I threw at them, including a follow up job from Baz, who once again wanted them to obtain something for him on the side.

Going through how claims and turf worked I then just laid out all their possibilities, they are a Shadows group, and let them have a think about where to go. They decided to get themselves a network of informants, which we quickly concluded where related to Scott's characters connections. Hitting them up for info. they were under the thrall of Ulf, a dangerous Skovlander who would find them and deal with them if they were even seen dealing with anyone else. Deciding that murderising him was the only way to go they set off to Tangletown where he was based for a good old fashioned assassination.

The Leech, Una, and the Hound, Hallam, strode in the front door going for the direct approach to meet Ulf and set him up for a grisly end to be perpetrated by the Lurk, Idrim, who was making his way up the back of the boat.

Focusing on Idrim for a moment he rolled to Prowl his way onto the boat only to screw it up monumentally. A chef made his way out of the kitchen on top of the boat and proceeded to piss off the side onto Idrim's head. Wondering where the noises of protestation were coming from below, the chef looks down to see a man attached to a rope climbing his way up the side of the boat. He raises the alarm!

A little earlier Una and Hallam are making themselves comfortable and keepin an eye on Ulf, figuring out a way to get him on his own. Surrounded by his men, and telling stories to some children, Ulf finally shoos away the kids and stands up to greet a new arrival. Turning to see who it is Una and Hallam recognise the leader of the Red Sashes, Mylera Klev, entering with her bodyguards (I had decided on this due to a 5 on the engagement roll). They greet each other, and make their way into a private area of the bar, which is basically a small converted shipping container.

Meanwhile, somewhere more sneaky, the Lurk is hanging from a rope whilst a Chef sets off the alarm, a bell on the prow of the boat. Weighing up his options, he plunges a grappling hook into the chest of the chef, using him as a weight to repel off the prow of the boat and into the water. The lurk's approach has been ruined!

Using the commotion caused by the chef raising the alarm the Hound gets himself on top of the shipping container and listens in to Mylera trying to recruit Ulf to help her out in Crow's Foot. Hallam is spotted and in order to get out Una fires of a smoke grenade. Cutting the ankles of the men standing above Hallam, about to kill him, one of them strikes back, narrowly missing a deep cut on her back. As she falls, Hallam scoops her up and jumps off the ship into the awaiting water, where the Lurk meets them in a boat.

Seeing Mylera leave they quickly decide to take a shot at her! The Lurk grabs a grenade from the Leech and makes off after her. Scurrying along the rooftops, tracing her path below, the Lurk briefly loses sight of her and decides to drop down nearby for a better look. Something is afoot though as there is no longer one Mylera, but 3! With bodyguards! Unsure which is which he decides the better of it and retreats with the other two to their hideout.

This mission went wrong in all sorts of ways but it was an absolute blast for everyone. We all loved how much drama the game gave us depsite the team screwing up, and they didn't come away completely emptied handed. They now know what my Red Sashes clock is all about, but who knows what Baz is actually up to. I am really enjoying the sandbox nature of the game and the players are being fantastic which really helps!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Helping Hands - Tiny Epic Western Unboxing

I recently mentioned that I was going to be getting some video shot of various things and this is my first attempt: an unboxing of the Tiny Epic Western game I just received in the post. Please feedback and let me know what you think. I'm already looking at doing the following for next time:

1) Higher camera angle so the components are easier to see and the light is better.
2) Better lighting
3) Better sound, lapel mic on the way for this kind of thing and I have some old podcasting equipment that needs dug out.

You can go an marvel at the video here:

Tiny Epic Western Unboxing Video



Saturday, 8 October 2016

Star Trek Panic! - Review

Hot off the presses at Gencon Star Trek Panic was grabbed for me by a mate heading over there. I'm not usually one for seeking down games in this manner but in this case the game may never be easily available over here due to some weird licensing issues. Anyway on with the review!

Look at that thing! Ain't it cool!
Star Trek Panic sees you and up to 5 buddies crewing the original series Enterprise through 5 different missions whilst fending off attacks from Romulans, Klingons and pesky Tholians. Do this before the Enterprise explodes and you win! Each mission has a different requirement for completion: maybe you'll have to survive a Klingon attack or do some research into a strange ageing disease. Either way the core of the game comes down to the cards you play.

On a players turn they do draw up to their hand size, maybe trade a card with someone else then get down to the nitty gritty of flying the Enterprise around and dealing with the Mission and Threats that are on the board. Cards allow you to phaser or torpedo threats, commit resources to missions, repair your ship (it's going to need that a lot!) and do other special things depending on the card. Once you have played cards, as many as you want, you see if the missions is complete, move the threats about and draw some new ones.

Threats constantly encroach upon your ship, mostly starting at long range and then flying towards you, gradually phasering you to death. The threats are a bit varied as well, but I won't spoil the surprises! Once they take down your shields they can shoot at the ship directly and even board if they get too close. As you take damage you put awesome tokens on the shields and the ship that just makes everything feel really dynamic, I mean just look at this!

It's not looking good!
It's a pretty simple co-op game but that doesn't mean it's not fun. The game feels great with the awesome model of the Enterprise in the middle taking damage with the fantastic cardboard explosion markers making it feel really threatening and that you are in a lot of trouble. I love the plastic shield barriers that protect you initially as well, could have just gone for cardboard but the slight transparent plastic just feels right.

The missions are nicely varied and the constant build of the threats round your ship make you feel under pressure. We were pretty beaten up by the end of our first playthrough but we made it, just, which is exactly what I want from a coop game. There is a good amount of replayability in the game and I can see this one staying in my collection for a while as a good light coop game.

If you can get your hands on this one I thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Playtest meetups, Video, Arkham and other things

It's been a little while but I am still beavering away at various game projects and events.

First up I've had two playtest sessions since the last one I posted about and both went well. The Edinburgh Playtest group now exists on Facebook and we are growing with every meeting, managing 3 games at once last time we got together a couple of weeks ago. Games shown included Robot Factory, Wreck and Ruin, our second post apocalyptic car game in as many playtests, a Fringe based game I didn't get a look at, one based on Porterhouse Blue and my own design Conspiracy which is really starting to shape up.

A game based on the Fringe which looked fun

Wreck and Ruin

Robot Factory 
A zombie game I forget the name of 

Intense playtesting faces!

I am taking the dive into doing some videos as well, the first of which will be a short unboxing video of 'Tiny Epic Western' a game I recently received from Kickstarter. I'm going very basic equipment wise for now, but if I enjoy it I am planning to invest and maybe take some of the stuff with me to Expo next year and try and do the press thing. We shall see!

Arkham Horror LCG comes out soon and I am very interested in this blend of LCG and coop mechanics. I should be shooting some video of that at Tabletop Cafe when it releases, and we will be doing a launch event as well, more details on that soon.

Other than that I should have a review up soon of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Star Trek Panic, Mafia de Cuba and Arkham Horror LCG when it comes along. All of these will hopefully be accompanied by some video content as one of the things I really want to emphasise with my reviews is the physical artifact of the game. 

Hope you are all enjoying the games spilling out of Gencon, and Essen is just round the corner and I hope to get back to more regular posting soon!

Have fun gaming!


Friday, 12 August 2016

Gencon - I see more games in my future

Not being present at Gencon this year I have to live vicariously through the multitude of updates from BGG and various other sites. Here are the things that caught my eye through the telescope of the internet:

I've been intrigued by the Lord of the Rings game that FFG have had out and now they are planning another coop LCG I can actually get in on at the start. I'm a massive fan of Netrunner and the video that Team Covenant put out of the demo only served to peak my interest further. Definitely one for the christmas list as it releases in quarter 4, probably.

Mansions of Madness 2
Despite coming with a hefty price tag the app integration in this looks really neat. One of the issues with the first game was the unwieldy setup and it sounds like the app eliminates a lot of that straight off the bat. It's really gratifying to see a company like FFG experimenting in this way and really pushing at the boundaries of what a Tabletop game can be.

Runewars: Miniatures Game
FFG breaking into the last big arena they don't really have a share of, yet. This could be really interesting and I have seen plenty of rumours floating around that it may also signal the end of their relationship with GW. Not totally convinced by that as I think it does GW a lot of good to have their IP reach a wider market, but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Dragon and Flagon
Don't know much about this other than it seems to be about a pub brawl in a fantasy tavern with robo rally like mechanics. The components look gorgeous though and if it can replicate the fun and chaos of Robo Rally that would be ace.

My excellent friend Gregor Hutton has snaffled one of these for me as you can't get it in Europe at the moment due to some strange licensing shenanigans. Never played one of the panic games but this just looked a bit too awesome to resist. Might be one of those games my wife will play with me as well as she is a massive star trek fan! First impressions when I get it to the table.

I love the idea of the legacy games but my group were less than enthused by the Risk and Pandemic reskin. A game built from the ground up sounds ideal and I'll be eagerly absorbing reviews of this until it hits these shores.

New Angeles
Yes back to FFG, but you have to admit they are on fire at the moment. A massive sprawling board game specifically designed with a high player count in mind rather than adding expansions to accommodate those players! Count me in! That and the fact that it is set in the Netrunner universe.

Not heard much about this at Gencon but is from the same designer as Suburbia which is a personal favourite of mine. I really love games that involve building something up from the ground and Suburbia has always been fun for the little stories that emerge as you play, Looking forward to it releasing soon and giving it a shot.

There are loads of games on their way now that Gencon has been and gone and Essen is just round the corner. It's hard to see the smaller games from this distanceI'll do another on of these after that show and I'll be sure to write up a review of these as I get to play them.


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

July Playtest Meetup

The local playtest group met up once more recently bringing 3 games to the table and a lot of design discussion. 

First up was a bit of a first for us which was a group sending us their game to be playtested. Lantern: Lost in the Dark, won the Moray Game Jam boardgame track this year and they have been very busy promoting the game at Expo and the like. 
Game Setup, sleeved cards.
We had 6 players and since the game advertised itself for 8 players max we got stuck in straight away. The game revolves around a bunch of investigators looking into goings on at a mysterious location and trying to find out about the evil that lurks within. As you venture through the various rooms you pick up Stress and spend Oil, running out of Oil meaning you all lose and getting 10 or more stress turning you into a monster. 

We dove straight in, reading over the setup and getting stuck into our first rooms. We found quite a few rules clashes as we made our way through the rules and found some of the items our characters had to be immensely powerful. For instance one character has a book that could give all other present investigators -1 stress. We saw very little reason not use this pretty much every turn. We had to make quite a few rules calls based on what we thought should happen but that is to be expected in a game in early playtest. 
A bit further down the Rabbit Hole
However one of our biggest issues with the game was at the moment we aren't sure what feel it is supposed to evoke. A lot of the investigator names are puns, like Earl Grey, evoking a pulp feel but the game drips with a more creeping horror vibe from a lot of the cards and current layout. We really felt the team needs to pick one direction to go in and it would be really interesting to see a good, creepy horror game on the market.

Overall we didn't really enjoy the game in it's current form. We never felt we were in any trouble at any point and the most stress we ever had was 5. The team has a lot of levers they can pull to change the feel of the game and I hope they will continue working on it as the core mechanic of oil and stress is interesting and could be really honed into something great. We wish them all the best with the future development of the game and will be happy to give it another try. I would also like to try it with a smaller player number as we guessed that might change the feel of the game a lot. 

Next up was a game I had missed out on playing last time about being a celebrity called Scandal which Steven had brought along. This was a tableau building game and as you probably know I am a great fan of any game where I get to build things and have stories emerge from what I build. So it was with this game which shows a lot of promise despite still being in early stages of playtesting. The designer had changed the scoring from the previous version of the game and it certainly didn't feel that cumbersome to me. 
Scandal in play
I really like the building of the tableau and there are some interesting decisions to be made about what suits you play out of your hand and how you score at the end. There are Scandal cards that you could buy as a kind of Gotcha element in the game and there was much discussion about different ways to use those. They were originally meant as a catch up mechanic which I can totally understand but I felt I was spending so much time figuring out how to get my tableau sorted that I forgot they existed and when I was hit by one it almost slowed me down too much. Plenty of ways to do it and the core of the game is good enough that the designer can now start playing around with those mechanics. 

Last but not least was one of my own creations currently titled 'Minions'. This is a game that has been simmering under for a while now and I was really glad to get it back to the table for another swing at it. The idea is that you are all minions in a James Bond style world really looking forward to taking on the henchman position that has been recently....vacated. You do this by working together on projects that the Mastermind demands, whilst try not to help out others projects too much, after all when review time comes round you want to advance the most up the ladder. The core of the game revolves around the idea of as you climb the ladder, you become more powerful but have less resources thus forcing you to order other people about as best you can. 
Minions in play
It worked pretty well, much better than an earlier version that had you hiding dice behind your hand for your bidding. This version has the dice value on cards that you also play to make yourself more interesting, worked ok. The ladder climb and fall is still not quite right as I really want you to feel under pressure at every review, that you could fall down the ranks as easily as you climb. At the moment the catch up in the game seems good so I will need to be careful playing with that mechanic. You also play way too many cards to make up your guy so I need to turn that lever down a bit so you are more interesting.

We had 6 people which was good turnout but I would really like to grow the meetup to handling a couple of tables at once. I am going to try and throw the message out further for next time round as we only need a couple more to allow us to test a couple of games at once, which would be perfect. I'm really happy to see new faces every time and I hope the fruits of our labours will eventually reach a wider audience!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Can't Stop - First Impressions

Late night in the bar saw myself, Gaz and Rich breaking out Rich's copy of Can't Stop, something of a classic game that I had never had the opportunity to play.

Can't Stop is a game that sees each player with a number of coloured tokens and 3 white tokens to place each round. Each round you roll 4 six sided dice and form them into two pairs leaving you with two seperate totals. You then put one of your white meeples on each of the numbers you've rolled. If you have rolled the same number twice then you can place a meeple and move it one forward up the ladder.
Before it begins
You then have a choice. You can pick the dice up and roll again, placing white meeples if you still have any and moving those you already have on the table in the matching columns. Or, you can stop and place your coloured meeples on the spots for the white meeple. This choice continues until you choose to stop or you fail to roll any numbers that would allow you to place a white meeple or move one of them. If you do fail then all your progress is lost!
I turned out to be pretty good at this!
This game is the Push your Luck mechanic absolutely boiled down to it's simplest possible interpretation, much as Skull is the Bluff mechanic at it's most pure. Harder to get numbers have smaller ladders than easier to get so their is a lot to think about with the numbers you choose to make. Their is a lot of pleasure in watching others roll, the look on their faces as they pick up the dice and consider just one more go! 

Playable in minutes, taught in seconds and loads of fun you can see why this is on so many classic list of games.