As I mentioned the other day, it’s been a really long time since I actually got to play games. So it was with great elation that I walked triumphantly back into Hypermind on Tuesday evening for a solid session of gaming with my buddies. I have received a few prototypes in the intervening period of time, and I was really anxious to get them (especially Viticulture) to the table. But since we were waiting for Tom to arrive before getting started, we instead went with the spirit of the Halloweeney season and played a couple games of…
Zombie Dice [BGG]
Shawn even had the expansion, so it was pretty cool. Of course, even with just adding in three dice and one small page of rules, we actually got something wrong because we were supposed to replace dice with the new ones rather than just chucking ’em in the cup all together. But still, it was pretty cool, especially when I won both games. And interestingly enough, Keith almost pulled off the big move at the end of both games, coming up just 1 brain short in the first one and then 2 or 3 short in the second before finally getting his 3rd (or 4th) shotgun blast to the face to end his hopes of a comeback.
Time: 7 and 6 minutes
Game 1: Norton 13, Shawn 5, Keith 4
Game 2: Norton 16, Shawn 13, Keith 4
Ratings: 7’s all around
I really like Zombie Dice. It’s plenty simple but still has enough real decisions surrounding the push-yer-luck element to make it interesting. And while the expansion may be a little expensive for what you get, I do like the little changes that it offers (particularly the Santa die).
And so then, Tom eventually arrived, allowing us to finally get started with playing Viticulture. Now, Jamey Stegmaier (one of the game’s co-designers) sent me the prototype back when it was still on Kickstarter, but what with my big ole’ gaming drought, I’ve totally failed to help that cause at all with my brilliant and persuasive writing here at GamerChris.com. Thankfully (both for them and my conscience), they really didn’t need my help, since the project garnered some $65,980 and will be published as soon as they can get it all squared away. But I was still pretty excited to get it played and see the phenomenon for myself…
Viticulture’s basic idea is that it’s a worker-placement game, and the real twist is that there are two placement phases in each turn of the game (a “year”). So while you may have a total of 3-6 workers to place, you have to sort of plan on how many things you want to do in the Summer phase while still leaving enough workers to do what you need to do in the Winter phase. Obviously, your own plans have a lot to do with how this decision breaks down, but then there’s also the element of seeing what everyone else is up to and trying to get “easier” placements by limiting how much you need to compete with others.
The theme comes through in that you’re essentially trying to buy vines and plant them in the Summer phase, and then harvest and crush them (into wine, of course) in the Winter phase, which you can then sell to satisfy Wine Order cards. There are also a lot of other things you can do, of course, like constructing structures (which may be required to plant certain vines or make certain values of wine, or may just do something cool for you), getting money in a few different ways, and playing “Visitor” cards that do all sorts of special things.
The player board (prototype version, of course)
In our game, we were pretty terrible at figuring out the efficiency of this whole process, so the game seemed to take a while to develop for us. Eventually, I managed to get some semblance of a strategy together and satisfy three Wine Order cards (along with some Visitor card and structure shenanigans) to hit the 20 points I needed to win.
Time: 105 minutes
Score: Norton* 21, Keith* 13, Tom* 9, Shawn* 7
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Keith 7, Tom 7, Shawn 6.5
Okay, so what about my first-play impressions… Overall, I liked Viticulture quite a bit. I’m a pretty big fan of the whole worker-placement mechanic in general, and I thought that the 2-phase placement was a nice tweak to it. Plus, even though there is a strong thematic path that sort of leads you in one direction, there’s also enough other options that I think there may also be some alternate strategies which may be viable as well (which I like a lot, of course). And, of course, the theme is very well done, which (even though I don’t like wine at all) is really nice.
There are a couple of little conerns that I have right now, but they’re pretty minor, and I don’t even want to mention them until I’ve had at least one more play to make sure that they’re not due to my misunderstanding or something like that. And if you’re sitting there in the midst of regret and anguish over missing the Kickstarter campaign, don’t fret too bad. You can still go here to preorder Viticulture as well.
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures [BGG]
Now, my biggest regret from aforementioned gaming drought is that I missed 2 weeks of playing X-Wing minis as our Game of the Month! So I definitely jumped on getting a cool 100-point game played against Tom. We played Mission #1, which basically has the Rebel forces escorting a shuttle across the board while the Imperial forces trying to destroy it. I took the Rebels (comprised of Luke & Biggs in X-Wings and Horton Salm in his Y-Wing) and Tom played the Empire (featuring Darth Vader and 4 TIE’s of various skill).
In the first couple of turns, I kept a pretty tight formation surrounding the shuttle, while Tom’s TIE’s flew all over the place to try and flank me from both sides. The Academy Pilot, however, flew straight at us, bearing down on the shuttle itself. Thankfully, Biggs fulfilled his mission in life and interposed himself between them while Luke and Horton blew the young TIE pilot from the “sky”.
As the TIE’s came around on one side and Vader approached from the other, Biggs held tight to the shuttle while Luke hunted some TIE’s and Horton tried to scramble Vader’s systems with his Ion Cannon. Biggs’ special ability (that forces enemy ships to fire at him instead of other friendly ships within 1 range increment) proved truely invaluable to the mission, but just as the shuttle approached the edge of the board, Vader came up in a position where Biggs was out of range but the shuttle was not. He got off a clean shot with his Cluster Missiles that took out its last shields and even did some hull damage. It was going to be really close.
So then on Tom’s last turn, three TIE’s and Vader were going to be in range to attack the shuttle. Biggs was still in the way with his ability, but Vader took care of that with one final shot to destroy the X-Wing and its valiant pilot. Tom used the abilities of his TIE pilots really well to get off a couple more shots before I had the chance to eliminate them as threats, getting one huge hit that left the Shuttle with just two remaining hull points.
Thankfully for me, Tom’s attack dice went cold and rolled way more evade results than a wounded shuttle had any business doing, and I was able to hold on to get the victory on the next turn.
Time: 81 minutes
Score: Norton (Rebels) – Win; Tom (Empire) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 8.5, Tom 8.5
This was just my second play of X-Wing Minis, but I’m already pretty much in love with it. It’s definitely a “miniatures game” with most of what that implies during gameplay, but it’s also so totally approachable both in rules complexity and because you don’t need to construct or paint the minis or anything like that. And while the rules are really simple, it still feels like there’s a lot of choice and depth in how you put together your strategy for any one play.
As of right now, building a squadron list is still a little limited given how few models are available, but having the different pilots and add-on weapons/options still leave a lot of room for customization. This was my first game with full 100-point lists, and I really like that level of play. And while I could see that a pure “last man standing” battle could drag on for a while and get a little repetitive, playing out a mission like this was really cool and exciting.
But dadgummit, here I find myself, not too long after freeing myself from the clutches of the LotR LCG, wanting to jump headfirst into another semi-collectible game. I’m going to still be pretty cautious at this point, though, mostly to see how often I actually get to play the game going forward before making any too-large commitment that will prove fruitless later on.
I also got this prototype not too long ago, and was glad when Tom and I had a few extra minutes to play it after finishing up X-Wing. Psight is a quick little “take that” sort of card game about psychic combat. The most interesting thing about it is that your “life” is the number of cards in your hand, but obviously, you can only win the game by playing cards to do bad things to other people. So there is certainly an element of hand-management in how you play out your cards (especially since you only draw one card per turn).
The biggest “issue” I have with it right now, though, is that it’s really random. There are a lot of neat combinations and “shenanigans” that you can pull off through card play, but in our 2 games anyway, I never really felt like I was setting up anything, so any chains of effect that happened were due just to the blind draw of cards each round.
Of course, some of my feelings may just be due to playing with only 2 players, since I think you’d have to be a little more cautious in a larger game since more than one player could be attacking you between your turns. But with just 1 other person, there’s almost no reason not to play a card on them as long as it hurt them more than the card it cost you. So maybe the true hand-management elements of the game will shine a little more with a larger player count.
And regardless of randomness or whatever else, it’s also pretty hard to argue with a game that plays in 10-15 minutes. As long as I could feel that I had a few interesting choices each game, I’d still be willing to play it.
Time: 22 minutes (for 2 games)
Score: Norton – 2 wins; Tom – 0 wins
Ratings: Norton 6, Tom 6.5
So if anything interests you about Psight or you want to know more about it, head over and check out its Kickstarter project!
Other Games Played
Time: 28 minutes
Score: Todd 74, Chris 71, Shawn 58
Commands & Colors: Napoleonics
Time: 44 and 55 minutes
Mission #1: Scott (Anglo-Portugese) 5, Ken (French) 4
Mission #2: Ken (French) 6, Scott (Anglo-Portugese) 1
Ratings: Scott 9, Ken 9
Time: 46 minutes
Score: Chris* 29, Shawn* 19, James K* 9, Darren* 8
Ratings: Chris 8.5, Shawn 8.5, James K 8
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 84 minutes
Score: Heroes (Chris A – Wraith, Chris – Expatriette, Darren – Young Legacy, Duy – Mr. Fixer, & James K – NightMist) – Win; Cosmic Omnitron in the Tomb of Anubis – Lose
Ratings: Chris & James – 10’s
Small World Underground
Time: 78 minutes
Score: Chris 114, Chris A* 100, Duy* 73
Ratings: Chris 7.5
Star Wars: X-Wing Minis
Time: 97 minutes
Score: Keith & Kenny – Win; Scott – Lose
Ratings: All 9’s
* First play for that Person