Monday, December 31, 2012

Ryanuary Begins

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to guest host on the All Things Good & Nerdy podcast where we discussed the upcoming "Ryanuary" extravaganza.  Throughout the course of January, I'll be acting as the 4th chair on the show and delivering hard-hitting tabletop news, reviews and commentary.

I'll probably also go into the ATGN Trademarked "Super Dick Mode" about component quality, box control and Games Workshop's specialist game support.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: X-Wing the Miniatures Game (If we're going in, we're going in full throttle)

Buckle up folks, this one's been a long time coming - it's X-Wing: The Miniatures Game by Fantasy Flight Games!  Now, before you go locking your s-foils in attack position let's hold our fire and see if there are any life readings on board.

Components: In the past, there have been some mediocre Stars Wars miniatures (I'm looking at you Star Wars: Starship Battles), but with Fantasy Flight behind the wheel we have some impressive offerings.  These are easily some of the best pre-painted miniatures I have ever seen.  The detail is very crisp for the scale (which comes in at approximately 1/270th) and the paint jobs are nice and clean.  Fantasy Flight is using a harder, lighter plastic than other pre-painted minis games (like HeroClix, Dungeons & Dragons or Monsterpocalypse).  As a result the ships feel a bit fragile (due to the light weight), but are surprisingly sturdy and don't suffer from the type of drooping/sagging/bending that plagues other minis.  Additionally, the game comes with movements templates, tokens, dice and cards - all of which live up to the Fantasy Flight standard of quality.

The rulebook for X-Wing is nice, neat and accessible.  The core box set has enough components for players to try a few scenarios (also included in the rulebook) and get a good grasp on both the basic and advanced rule sets that are presented.  The rules themselves are intuitive to a point, though the interactions between ships while moving and the timing of certain abilities may pose a problem to players on occasion.  Fantasy Flight recently released an FAQ/Errata document that clears up most of these issues.

Gameplay: X-Wing is a dogfighting game through and through.  Players will build squadrons of fighters by selecting either named pilots (like Wedge Antilles or Howlrunner) or generic ones and equipping them with upgrade and skill cards.  Pilots, equipment and skills all cost a certain number of points and currently, the standard game size is 100 points.  This allows players to customize their squadron as they see fit and could mean as few as 3 or as many as 8 ships on the table depending on what a player choose.

The basic mechanic behind ship movement consists of players simultaneously selecting which move each ship in their squadron is going to perform via a set of dials unique to that ship.  The maneuvers include things like simple moves forward, slight turns, sharp banks and the infamous Koiogran Turn (a simplified, Star Wars version of the Immelman Turn).  Once players have set a dial and secretly placed it next to each corresponding fighter, they are revealed in ascending pilot order - each pilot having a skill number that determines just how good they are.  Once a ship has moved, it can perform an action.  Actions can range from improving your ability to evade, acquiring a target lock or even activating one of your upgrade cards.

Example of how the dials & movement templates work

After all ships have moved, players will enter the combat phase and attempt to shoot each other down. This is as simple as checking to see who is in your firing arc (a 90 degrees wedge in front of every fighter), how far away they are (there are bonuses to attack for being at point blank range and bonuses to defense if you're far enough away) and building their dice pools.  Attackers take a number of attack dice equal to their primary weapon value and roll them.  After counting up how many hits they've scored, the defender will build a pool of green defense dice equal to their evasion and attempt to roll evade icons to cancel hits.  There are rules for shields, critical hits and of course character abilities that alter the core mechanics of the game, but these are the basics.

Combat in action

Overall:  If you follow me on Twitter, then it won't surprise you to know that I'm in love with this game.  Like, the scary kind of love that makes me want to tie it to a bed and break it's legs so it can't run away from me.  Squad building is an exciting challenge and there's enough variety so far to keep squadrons fresh and games interesting.  Both the Rebels and the Imperials seem to be well balanced against one another.  However, since combat is dice based, there is a fair amount of luck involved and sometimes even your best laid plans can evaporate if you keep rolling blanks.  Luckily, the game plays relatively quickly and the moments of bad-dice-temper-syndrome are likely to be few and far between.

The game is a bit pricey for a board game generally and a bit pricey for a miniatures game if you take into consideration how many models you get for the price - BUT, I find the depth and satisfaction I get out of the game makes this initial sticker shock completely irrelevant.  X-Wing definitely delivers your money's worth and with new expansions coming out early next year, I don't think I'll be letting it collect dust any time soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The holidays are killing me...

UPDATE: As of yesterday evening, the prices for these games have gone back up.  Though these games are still cheaper on Amazon then they would be at retail, the difference is less striking and (as always) it's probably for the better to support your local game store if you can.

There are some crazy deals up on Amazon right now that I would be remiss not to tell you guys about.

Mansions of Madness, $36.79 (54% off) - A Lovecraft/Cthulhu themed dungeon crawler set in Fantasy Flight Games' Arkham Horror line of games.  This one has some quirky mechanics and takes a while to set up, but is probably my favorite in the genre due to the intricate mysteries that the Keeper player must put together for the Investigator players to solve.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, $17.84 (55% off) - This one is unique in that it's a co-operative Living Card Game.  Players create a team of heroes from Tolkien's works and support them with allies both familiar and new.  The artwork alone makes this game worth the cost of entry, but I'm happy to say that the game itself is also incredibly well done and fun to play (also great for just two players, though it supports up to 4).

Android: Netrunner the Card Game, $21.59 (46% off) - Netrunner is just plain gorgeous.  It has beautiful artwork and sleek, elegant mechanics.  I don't have enough good things to say about this game.  One player takes on the role of an giant, mega-corporation trying to bring it's plans to fruition while the other plays a Runner hellbent on hacking into the corps' assets for their own gain.  The gameplay is completely asymmetric - meaning that the Runner and Corp both have different decks with different cards that have different mechanics.  It's a little hard to explain, but imagine Shadowrun meets Bladerunner the card game.

X-Wing: The Miniatures Game (ALL THE SHIPS) - The X-Wing, Y-Wing, TIE Fighter and TIE Advanced single ship expansions are all on sale from 43-57% off.  I've got a review for this game that will be up on Sunday, but until then it's Star Wars dogfighting at its tabletop finest.  Command squadrons of your favorite pilots from the original trilogy as either the heroic (terrorist) Rebels or the dominating (peace-keeping) Imperials.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: King of Tokyo

My love for kaiju movies and the giant monster genre in general can be likened to Godzilla himself - large, menacing and when it decides to surface, it will take the combined force of several other monsters and a few potshots by the Japanese military to bring it down.  With that in mind, let's take a look at King of Tokyo by IELLO - a dice game for 2-6 players that plays in a lightning fast 20-30 minutes.

Components: Despite being a dice game, King of Tokyo has an impressive array of components.  The dice themselves are large, solid and just plain fun to roll.  They hit the table with a satisfying clatter and have easy to read symbols.  It's hard to explain with mere words just how amazing these cubes are.  Each player will also get to choose a monster standee and matching score tracker.  These are simple, sturdy cardboard and the artwork is bright and vivid.  The cards used for various monster upgrades and special abilities have got some great artwork on them and are printed on good stock with a nice satin finish.  I'd recommend sleeving them, but then they won't fit in the box insert (always a bummer).  Finally, the game has a board to denote which monster is in Tokyo (more on that later).  It's small and simple, but is on par with the other compnents as far as quality.

Seriously, those dice are amazing!

Gameplay: King of Tokyo is a filler game through and through.  It sets up, plays and breaks down very quickly.  Players take turns rolling the six base dice and matching up symbols to gain different effects.  You can attack other monsters, heal damage that's been done to you, gather energy (which is used to buy cards) or score victory points.  You get three throws of the dice in a turn and can keep whichever dice suit your needs between throws - will you try and wrack up as many victory points as possible or will you pummel the arrogant giant ape that's currently occupying Tokyo?  There is a surprising amount of depth here for so random a game.  The different combinations you can get may allow you to go for one big victory point rush in a single turn or give you the opportunity to gain a little energy, heal your monster and do a little damage.  Like any dice game, it's hard to plan your turn in advance, but I've yet to feel like I've been cheated by the dice.

Rules: King of Tokyo has a simple, full-color rules insert that is mostly easy to understand.  The game has a few quirks (mostly concerning the scoring of victory points).  Once you've got a game under your belt, however, you should be good to go.  Pick up the dice, rolle them, choose which ones you want to keep, roll the rest and repeat once more.  At the end of your three rolls, you compare your dice results and score victory points, damage opponents and gain energy accordingly.  At the end of your turn, you can spend any energy you've gained on upgrade cards that will do anything from giving you an extra head (which allows you to add one of the green bonus dice to your rolls) to forcing you to fight the military and sacrifice health for points.  Possibly my favorite mechanic is the press-your-luck decision of entering Tokyo.  If the Tokyo space on the game board is empty and you roll one of the damage icons, you enter Tokyo.  While in the city, you gain extra points at the beginning of each turn and any subsequent damage rolls you make are directed against all of your opponents.  The flip side to this is that only one monster can be the King of Tokyo, so any damage rolls your opponents make are directed against you and can not be healed..  If you take damage, you can choose to leave Tokyo, but you then sacrifice the bonus victory points.  It can be risky, but so far I have seen many a game won by a lone monster taking on all comers and finishing strong atop the smoking rubble that was once a Japanese metropolis.

Overall: King of Tokyo was a game that I bought based on a brief description and a few promotional shots of the box art.  I am a huge Japanese monster movie fan, so this was a no brainer, however unlike some other games, KoT really delivers on solid gameplay and integrates the theme very well.  I wish there had been mechanics to differentiate the monsters (everyone is exactly the same for now), but the game still delivers on that feeling of giant kaiju clashing in the middle of a city filled with terrified, poorly dubbed humans.  What more could you want?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mobile Posting Action Force

Don't mind me. I'm just testing the Blogger app on my phone in preparation for Extra Life this weekend. For those of you who don't know, Extra Life is a charity supporting Children's Miracle Network hospitals. Gamers around the world will be pledging themselves to play video, board, card and roleplaying games for 24 hours straight.

To facilitate such selfless devotion to this noble cause, Extra Lifers need sponsorship from supporters like you! Head on over to the Extra Life website for more information. If you're feeling particularity generous you can visit my team's donation page and help us smash our sponsorship goal. Remember, every little bit helps!

This will be my first year participating in Extra Life, so I'm trying to prepare as best I can. My friendly local gaming store will be open for all 24 hours and that's where I'm planning to be. I'll have my X-Wing miniatures, King of Tokyo, Munchkin Cthulhu and Monsterpocalypse handy, for sure. I'm hoping to get the chance to play Netrunner, Horus Heresy, Mansions of Madness and a few  rpgs to boot.

Remember, I'm there for a whole day!

Stay tuned all weekend both here and on twitter for updates, pics and maybe even a few video posts!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vicariously attending via Twitter

GenCon is upon us and even though I'm not attending, I am eagerly devouring every scrap of information I can get.  You can see what I'm seeing by checking out my twitter feed.  I'll be retweeting all the most interesting bits all weekend long!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ATGN #16!

I'll be guest-hosting on the All Things Good & Nerdy podcast this morning!  Check it out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Preview: Kaiju City

This past weekend I was at G-Fest XIX in Rosemont, IL.  It was a fantastic con and I got the opportunity to break out some wonderful kaiju (giant monster) themed games including King of Tokyo by IELLO, Monsterpocalypse by Privateer Press and a new game currently funding on Kickstarter called Kaiju City by Bonsai Entertainment. I had backed Kaiju City a few weeks before G-Fest and was excited to learn that I would have to opportunity to not only play the game, but meet it's artist, Frank Parr.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the preview copy they had available.

A mock-up of the proposed box art and some of the components

Components:  Since this was only a prototype, I can't go into great detail about the components, but the artwork they have planned for the game is phenomenally good.  The monsters are all unique and suitably fearsome-looking while the city tiles are varied and the military tiles pay fitting tribute to the armed forces that consistently get crushed in damn near every kaiju film ever made.

Gameplay: Kaiju City has players choose whether to play as the monsters or the city itself.  I know what you're thinking - who would ever want to play as the city and why can't the monsters fight each other?  Well, simmer down because even though I had the same thought going in, I was pleasantly surprised with the stalwart human defenders.  The city player will draw tiles, build up resources and bring military might to bear in a desperate effort to kill 4 of the rampaging monsters.  However, the monsters only need to carve a path of destruction through the city in such a way that no new tiles can be placed in order to achieve victory.  There ends up being a solid amount of depth in placing city tiles as the defender and moving your monsters around to destroy them as the attacker.

Rules: The rules for Kaiju City are nice and simple.  The city player draws tiles each turn to add to the city which starts as a 4x4 grid of unique tiles.  Resources generated by these tiles are used to build new areas of the city each turn.  Meanwhile the monster player will have control of 4 monsters, each with unique abilities that they must leverage in order to destroy the city and prevent the defenders from building new areas.  The iconography on both the tiles and monster record sheets conveniently displays all the necessary information without cluttering up the amazing artwork, so players will always know at a glance what their options are and which monsters are the most threatening or which city tiles look tastiest.

I couldn't resist including the art for Lukar - my favorite monster!

Overall: Unfortunately, I didn't get nearly enough opportunities to play the demo of Kaiju City while I was at G-Fest, but based on watching a handful of games in addition to my own I have to say that this is a refreshing, beautiful and just plain fun game.  The human player will have some tense moments where they'll have to decide which city tiles will be most advantageous to play that turn and the monster player will have to carefully coordinate where they move their kaiju in order to inflict the most mayhem.  Hopefully Bonsai Entertainment will be able to deliver on some amazing components if and when they get funded because everything else in this game is as solid as Gamera's shell.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Small World

Whenever the opportunity has come up lately, I've been playing Small World by Days of Wonder.  Small World takes roughly 40-80 minutes to play depending on how many players you have.  The game supports 2-5 players and is a wonderful blend of simple rules and strategic depth.

Components:  Small World starts off with incredible artwork from Miguel Coimbra and soars from there.  The game doesn't have any plastic figures, but the plethora of thick card stock tokens is both functional and pleasing on a tactile level.  The game comes with 2 double sided boards that are used for different numbers of players.  Each of these boards is colorful and easy to read with a layout that divides the world into various regions - forests, mines, plains, etc.

Gameplay:  In Small World, you'll be competing for victory points over a set number of turns.  Players take control of a variety of fantasy races that are combined with a random special power.  Often hilarious and sometimes scary, much of the strategy and replay value of the game is nested under the different race and power combinations that come up. These races conquer regions by either claiming empty lands or giving a swift boot to whoever happens to be there at the time.  As play progresses, players will reach a point where their current race can't spread much farther and they must go into decline.  From there, the player will choose a new race and power combo and start all over again!  Deciding when to go into decline is a very compelling aspect of the game.  Generally, you'll get less points on a turn when you put a race into decline, but it's worth it for the opportunity to start fresh conquests!

Rules: Small World is sheer elegance in its simplicity.  The basic rule for conquest is to place 2 of your tokens on the territory of your choosing plus 1 additional token for each piece that is already there.  For example, if you're conquering an empty territory, you'd just place 2 of your race's tokens down.  However, if an opponent has 2 of their race tokens in said territory it will cost you 4 of yours to take it (2 as the base + 2 for the two enemy tokens present).  This rule is further modified by the a player's race ability and their special power.

Overall:  Simply put, Small World is a masterpiece.  The game is gorgeous to look at and fun to play on a tactile and strategic level.  It works as a gateway game, plays casually and yet has enough meat on its bones to keep even the most curmudgeonly gamer satisfied.  The only downsides (if they can even be called that) are that there are a vast amount of cardboard pieces to keep track of (which can make cleaning up after a game a lengthy process) and the random distribution of race/power combinations (which can lead to some very opportune turns for someone lucky enough to get the right combo) - but those are nitpicky negatives at best.  Small World should be in your collection, hands down.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Back at the table

It's been a rough couple of months between school and work, but with the spring semester behind me, I can finally get back to slathering the internet in my opinions.  And it's a good thing, too!  This summer is shaping up to be a game-filled fiesta and I have more than a dozen reviews under construction as of this writing.

In addition, I happened to land a guest spot on the All Things Nerdy Podcast (also available on iTunes) today and I'll need as much material as I can get to keep my geek cred up to date.  Stay tuned!