Wow, it doesn’t take much to get behind. A busy week or two at work, along with a huge 5th birthday party for one of my girls all really sap the time and energy. So for convenience, I’m gonna combine the reports from my last two game nights. I played a good mix of brand-new and sorta-new games, a few of them for the first time…
~ March 12, 2013 ~
Star Wars: X-Wing Minis [BGG]
I’m still getting used to the new Wave 2 models in X-Wing Minis, and was thrilled to get in a game with Scott (who probably has more experience with the game than anyone else in our group) first thing that night. He wanted to run an Imperial squadron, using 2 TIE Interceptors (Soontir Fel with Stealth & Push the Limits and a Saber Squadron Pilot with Veteran Instincts) and 3 TIE Fighters (Howlrunner with Swarm Tactics and 2 Academy Pilots), so I once again went with the Millennium Falcon, this time piloted by Han Solo with Chewie and Nien Nunb as co-pilots, Push the Limits on Han, and escorted by two A-Wings (Prototype Pilots with Homing Missiles).
We set up the play area with asteroids and then deployed like this:
I had a pretty good idea of his plan just from setup, but to let him commit a little more, I just flew forward at speed 1 on the first turn. Then, I actually cut the Falcon to the right to face the Interceptors head-on. The A-Wings were going to make a fly-by on the TIE’s, hoping to take out one or two with the homing missiles before assisting with the Interceptors.
The theory behind my squadron is that Han in the Falcon is a total beast, so most of the damage will come from him getting close and re-rolling his way into lots of damage. The Push the Limit/Nien Nunb combo essentially lets me perform 2 actions a turn (usually an evade and a focus to enhance both offense and defense) as long as I choose a green or straight maneuver, and Chewie is around to basically cancel a Critical hit and buy more time to keep Han alive. The cheap A-Wings then add some agile support that can hopefully buzz around the board where they want and concentrate fire with the Falcon when needed.
So anyway, when I pivoted to face the Interceptors, I got in close and with some lucky rolls took out the Saber pilot in one shot. On the next turn, Soontir Fel clipped an asteroid, making him a little more vulnerable, and a point-blank shot from Han took him out with one shot as well. Of course, this roll on defense didn’t help him any:
Meanwhile, one of my A-Wings had gotten off a nice missile shot on one of the TIE’s, and I thought I might run the table on Scott. But then, the TIE fighters did what TIE’s do best, concentrate their fire, and took out my other A-Wing before he even got to use his missile. It was a bit of a scramble from there, and both the Falcon and the other A-Wing took some notable damage, but in the end the Rebels were victorious!
Time: 53 minutes
Score: Norton (Rebels) – Win; Scott (Empire) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 9, Scott 10
First off, I obviously got really lucky with the whole “2 shots, 2 kills” thing on the TIE/IN’s. I think that my strategy was solid, though, and hopefully would have had the same result, but the session was certainly a lot easier with the dice going my way (or more precisely, with Scott’s dice beating him about the head and neck). The Push the Limits/Nien Nunb combo worked great (especially with the Millenium Falcon giving the Evade action), but I did note that using Target Lock with Han Solo is almost always a waste (unless there’s absolutely nothing else you can do) since you can’t re-roll dice more than once per attack.
The A-Wings worked pretty well, especially since they can hold a missile (and the Homing Missile is really great, but also expensive). But to really best use their Boost ability and to make sure you get to use their missiles, they are probably best used with higher-piloting-skill pilots.
But it was, as always, a great experience, and now I just need to try out Slave I and the Inteceptors myself!
Scott had picked up Kemet recently, and since many of us had heard some nice things about it, we pulled it out next. Basically, it’s a limited-action combat game that uses a worker-placement-like mechanic. Each player has a personal board with a little pyramid in it. The pyramid is broken up into 9 or so different action spaces, and on your turn, you get to place one of your action tokens in one of the spaces to perform that action. And since you can’t use the same space twice and you must use at least one action from each of the three tiers, you have a lot of constraints to work around in getting stuff done each round of the game (for instance, there are only 2 move/attack spaces, so you can’t make more attacks than that in one round, no matter how bad you want to).
One other neat thing is that you also have these three “pyramids” of different colors (red, blue, and white) that are in your starting city, which are actually 3 big ‘n chunky 4-sided dice. They start at either 0,1, or 2 value, which sort of relates to how far you’ve advanced in that type of knowledge. These colors are also linked to a big set of tiles that can give you various special powers and abilities, which you can buy as one of your actions. You can also spend an action to advance one of your pyramids to a higher level (along with spending “prayer points”, which is the currency in the game), thus giving you access to more powerful tiles of that color.
Ultimately, Kemet is won through accumulating 10 or more victory points, which you can get in a few ways. Occupying temples gives you one VP as long as you hold them (and you get an additional permanent one if you hold 2 or more at the end of a round), advancing your pyriamids to level 4 gives a VP each, certain tiles give a VP, and successfully attacking an opponent also gives a VP (along with a few other specific abilities in the game that I won’t mention here). But since the “easiest” way to get a permanent VP is to win an attack, players are pretty heavily incentivized to be very aggressive.
In our game, we all started off pretty slow, picking up a tile or two early and spreading out into the temple that was closest to us. Eventually, Scott and Chip (and later on, me too) started mixing it up to fight for the central temples. Scott focused more on defense, though, and occupied a temple that let him sacrifice 2 soldiers to gain a permanent VP for a lot of the game. So while we were picking up tiles that gave us cool creatures to use in combat, he just kept trying to hold what he had and score more points.
Eventually, Scott and Chip went after him more directly, even occupying his city for a little while. But as at least three of us were closing in on getting 10 points, things were still really close. I had a shot at it, but some of the things that Chip and Scott did foiled me. And in the end, Chip’s aggression won him the game because when he and Scott tied at 11 points, the tie-breaker is the number of VP’s that they got from winning battles.
Time: 137 minutes
Score: Chip* 11 (+4), Stacy* 11 (+3), Norton* 9, Scott* 7
Ratings: Chip 7, Stacy 8, Norton 7, Scott 8
So, I liked Kemet pretty well, but it didn’t blow me away. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Wallenstein/Shogun, in that your choices on any one round/season were very constrained (especially in the number of attacks you can make). The main difference between the two games, however, is that there didn’t seem to be as much depth in Kemet. It’s a lot more one-dimensional (i.e. just developing advances to make you fight better) than Shogun (where you have to balance combat with constructing buildings and feeding your people).
The game box promised a 60-minute playtime, though, and if that had come true, then I would have been very happy with the level of depth that it gave. But unfortunately, since so much of the game depends on choosing the tiles you want to get, and until you’ve memorized them, that means almost continually looking in the one reference book that they gave you. I mean, literally, the reference book probably didn’t spend more than 10 minutes of our 137-minute game sitting still on the table. It was continually passed from person to person as everyone tried to plan our their next action. Obviously, some of this could be alleviated by having some sort of player aid that everyone could have a copy of, or once players all knew the tiles by heart and didn’t have to look them up, but it played a huge part in our game.
And I also didn’t really like the combat system very much. Every player has this identical little deck of cards that you choose from each time you have a fight. The card adds some value (between 1 and 4, maybe?) to your strength (the number of soldiers you have), which determines who “wins” the battle, but then also either causes casualties or protects your solders from being killed. And in general, I think that a slightly less deterministic method of resolving combat would have been a little more exciting.
But still, I did enjoy Kemet overall, and I’d love to play it again (soon, hopefully) to see how much shorter and potentially more interesting it can be with more experienced players.
~ March 19, 2013 ~
The next week, I came in just at the right time to jump into a game of the newly-released…
The Great Heartland Hauling Co. [BGG]
I and a number of others around my FLGS Kickstarted this (and I wrote a review of it back during the campaign, even), but it was nice to finally play the production copy (which is really gorgeous, by the way). I still had my mad skillz, though, and managed to be all sorts of efficient and edge Keith out (by just a turn or two) for the win.
Time: 28 minutes
Score: Norton $30, Keith $27, Stacy* $24, Chip $24
Ratings: Norton 8, Keith 7, Stacy 8, Chip 8
There is so much gameplay packed into this itty-bitty, short little game. I love the base game, but am also really excited to try out some of the many variations that came in the final version, so I’ll be back in touch as I explore them more.
Next, Stacy pulled out this gorgeous new game that most of us had never seen (in person, anyway) before. Mechanically, it’s sort of a worker-placement game where you have to always move forward along a path. And to make it even more constrained, turn order is determined by position along the path, where the player furthest back always gets to take their turn next. You then choose how far along the path you want to move, always moving forward to an empty spot, and then taking the action that goes with that location. And at a few spots along the path, there are Inns where everyone has to stop and eat, to sort of prepare for the next leg of the journey.
You also start off the game by being dealt two character cards, which each have some special power and also give you a certain amount of starting money. The one I chose only gave me 2 yuan (I think, anyway), but let me pick up an extra “Panorama” card each time I stopped at an Inn. Now, I’m not going to get into all the different types of locations and mechanisms for scoring right now, but they all seem more or less balanced, and in a lot of cases, the power that your character gives you will help determine which actions you want to take and how you’ll score a lot of your points.
I didn’t do so well in the game. Obviously, my power helped me get points by colleting sets of these three different Panorama cards, which escalate in points as get more of a type, and also make a pretty little picture to look at. I totally ignored a few types of actions (the villages and temple), though, which seemed to be pretty big points-makers for others, so I finished in dead last.
Time: 42 minutes
Score: Stacy 71, Chip* 70, Keith* 70, Chris* 62, Norton* 57
Ratings: Stacy 7.5, Chip 7, Keith 6, Chris 7.5, Norton 5.5
Maybe there’s a little bit of sour grapes going on here, but I really didn’t like Tokaido much at all. It looks great and is a pretty interesting idea, but in practice, I just never felt like I had enough control to really make decisions that I wanted to make. I’d say that for each leg of the journey (between Inns), I probably felt like I made one real decision. But then after that, the strict turn order and the fact that you have to jump over people in front of you meant that you’re basically just moving to the next empty spot (or maybe the one after that), leapfrogging your way until you hit the next Inn.
I can see that the game has some potential for interesting bits here and there (with timing and making choices about what to skip and what to jump right on), but in actual play, I just never felt like I could do anything interesting with them.
Now, I totally admit, however, that part of my frustration may have come from playing with 5 people in the game. At that point, you’re going to have the maximum chance of blocking (purposefully or not) each other, and since the spots are mostly static (even though you do have a few extra ones with 4 & 5 players), your options will be more limited. But for all the little bells and whistles of complexity thrown into the game, and how long it took, I certainly didn’t feel like the game had enough depth of choice to be interesting to me. Maybe I’ll be able to try it again with 2 or 3 players, though, and I’ll have a different opinion, but for now, I don’t think too highly of it.
After Tokaido, we were looking for another 5-player game, but everything I brought capped out at 4… except my Acute Care prototype. So, always needing to get in more playtesting, that’s what we pulled out next.
Now, if you’re interested, I’ve got some prototype rules for Acute Care that are in pretty good shape. But the main rules question I have right now is how the challenge cards should be distributed. From some earlier playtests, I had received feedback pushing me in the direction that players should have more control over which patients were targeted by the cards. But while this did add a little more player choice into the game, it seems to me to be quite athematic, since real nurses don’t exactly get to choose which patients get worse or develop complications. So my main purpose of this particular play was to go back to my “original” idea that when a player draws a challenge card, it must (usually) apply to one of their patients.
We also played on the “hardest” version, which included all of the variant rules. And even though it was really close (and strongly assisted by a fortunate Environmental Services backup on the last turn), we managed to pull out the win by a slim 3-2 margin.
Time: 67 minutes
Score: Nurses (Chip, Norton, Keith, Kenny, & Stacy*) – 3, Acute Care – 2
Ratings: Playtest (but I swear it was freaking awesome!)
But how did the rules change work? Very well, I think. Again, from a thematic standpoint, it feels a lot more real. But if a card could target more than one of their patients, players still have a little choice about which one will be affected by a card, so that level of player agency and “gaminess” is still present. And now that I’ve clarified the timing rules about when challenge cards resolve, some of the earlier issues I had with challenge cards casuing Failure to Rescue with a patient are at least mostly alleviated. I also played the game (albeit without the Assessment variant) with two groups of nurses over the last few weeks, and this method of assigning challenge cards worked well with them also.
I’ll continue to look at the general rules, but I think that most of my development now is going to be about continuing to tweak and refine and (in some cases) overhaul card effects. And if anyone out there is interested in helping me do some of this work as a playtester, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salmon Run [BGG]
And then to finish off the evening, we fired up an epic 5-player game of Salmon Run. With 5, it ran a little long, but I still had a good time with it (even though Kenny won, dadgummit!). Unfortunately, though, something happened that gave our new players (Chip and Stacy) a much worse opinion of the game than I have.
Basically, both of them moved to the right of the river to make use of a Reed space that was positioned there (which is good because hitting a Reed lets you remove Fatigue from your deck). And then, because you had to swim left to get around a little outcropping of rock in the front of the space, they both sort of got trapped, especially when Kenny (or maybe me… I can’t remember) played a Current card that made them slip back one more space to the right. Essentially, they then had to play two Swim Left cards on their turn to get back out into the open water, and for an inordinate portion of the game, they didn’t seem to be able to do that.
Now, while I haven’t seen anything quite this bad happen before in my previous games of Salmon Run, having this sort of thing happen to two different people in the same game does sort of cause a little alarm. As much as I love the game, I think that it does need to be said that this sort of random screwage is a possibility when you’re drawing cards from your deck to determine your movement options. There are some control elements to help with it (since you can hold cards in your hand from turn to turn), but it can still happen. And while they didn’t have to move there in the first place (had they recognized that getting caught was a real possibility, anyway), I know that I and maybe even both Keith and Kenny had done the same thing and gotten away with no trouble, so it wasn’t exactly an obviously risky move to make.
Time: 51 minutes
Score: Kenny – Win; Norton, Keith, Chip*, & Stacy* – Lose
Ratings: Kenny 7.5, Norton 8, Keith 7, Chip 6, Stacy 6.5
But wow, that’s certainly enough. I’m over 3500 words right now and risking no one wanting to read this behemoth of a report as it is, so let’s stop while I’m only 2 weeks behind. Especially considering tonight is game night and I’ll have new stuff to talk about soon!
Other Games Played
Orion: Combat Near the Speed of Light, Scenario 1 (on 3/9)
Time: 100 minutes
Game 1: Keith* – Win; Kenny* – Lose
Game 2: Keith – Win; Kenny – Lose
Ratings: Keith 6, Kenny 7
Dos de Mayo
Time: 45 minutes
Score: Keith – Win, James E* – Lose
Ratings: Keith 8, James ?
Time: 20 minutes
Score: Darren – Win; Mayci*, Kenny, & Shayne* – Lose
Ratings: Mayci 100, Kenny 7, Shayne 6.5
Ra: The Dice Game
Time: 22 and 26 minutes
Game 1: Kenny 58, Keith 46
Game 2: Kenny 56, Keith 46
Ratings: Kenny 8, Keith 8
Time: 7 minutes
Score: Darren* – Win; Chris – Lose
Ratings: Chris 8
Sentinels of the Multiverse (with Shattered Timelines)
Time: 57, 55, 30, 51, and 50 minutes
Game 1: Heroes (Chris – Chrono Ranger, James E – Omnitron X, James K – The Scholar, & Darren – Team Leader Tachyon) – Win; The Dreamer at the TIme Cataclysm – Lose
Game 2: Heroes (Chris – Sacrifice Tempest, James E – Argent Adept, & James K – Omnitron X) Win; La Capitan in SIlver Gulch – Lose
Game 3: Heroes (Chris – Bunker, Engine of War, James E – Elemental Wrath Absolute Zero, Keith – Expatriette, & Ken – Chrono Ranger) Win; Iron Legacy at The Block – Lose
Game 4: Heroes (Chris – Argent Adept, Darren – Omnitron X, James K – Chrono Ranger, & Matt – The Scholar) – Win; Iron Legacy at the Time Cataclysm – Lose
Game 5: Heroes (Chris – TL Tachyon, Darren – Fanatic, James K – Scholar, Ken – Eternal Haka, Matt – Nightmist) – Win; Miss Information at the Final Wasteland – Lose
Ratings: Chris 10, James K 10
Time: 33 minutes
Score: Chip $6400, Keith $5700, Kenny $5100, Darren ?, Stacy ?
Ratings: Chip 6, Keith 6, Kenny 6.5, Darren 7, Stacy 6
Score: Shayne 64; Mayci & Kenny – Insane
Ratings: Shayne 7.5, Mayci 7.5, Kenny 7
* First play for that Person