I double dare you

The Cuban missile crisis was an extraordinary chapter in history. The two world super powers stood on the brink of turning Earth into Alderan. Spoiler alert : they didn’t. Could it happen again? I couldn’t tell you but I certainly want to get a few more games of 13 days in before it does. 
13 Days is a cut down version of Twilight Struggle one of the greatest 2 player games of all time. It’s fast. Half an hour (unless you get hammered in ten minutes like me) will see you done and dusted. The game has you and your opponent trying to out macho each other without triggering nuclear war (in which case you lose). You do this over three turns in which you escalate the Defcon levels, pick a secret agenda from three possibles and try to achieve yours whilst cock blocking your opponent’s. If you can figure out what they are  up to 

When you pick your three agendas you stick your flag on their corresponding spots on the map giving your opponent some idea what you’re about. You then secretly discard two of them and try and mislead your opposite in a dance of bluffing and subterfuge 
The threat of nuclear oblivion is ever present. Twice I lost games where I was ahead on points but played a little too close to the fire and my opponent rose the Defcon tide for everyone at the end of the turn and pushed me over the line. It’s a neat mechanic and captures the whole playing chicken vibe of the event. 

Turns are fast. You get a hand of five action cards which come in USSR, USA or UN(neutral) flavor. Cards have historical events as well as influence values. You can kick off the event and carry out the appropriate instructions on the card or use the influence value instead to place or remove influence cubes on the map. Placing your influence cubes on a location increases the Defcon level of the appropriate location type. Unlike TS there are now three separate Defcon tracks (military, world opinion, political) and having any of them in Defcon 1 at the end of the turn or all three in Defcon 2 loses the game for you. The end of turn part of this is important. It’s quite possible to slip into Defcon 1 but as long as you slide back out before the turn is finished you’re good. 
If you play a card with your opponent’s flag on it they get the option to carry out the event so once again it’s all about making the best worst choice available to you. Your fifth and final card is put aside face down in the aftermath pile and at the very end of the game resources with your flag on them are counted up and the highest gets two additional victory points. Since the scoring track only goes up to five for each player, two points is nothing to sniff at. 
The game is quick to learn, particularly if you’ve played Twilight Struggle (which you should). The game is compact with a small table foot print. This would be an excellent game for holidays. Production values are good, not exceptional. The cards are a little flimsey but more than serviceable. A set of card covers wouldn’t go amiss. Having said that it’s a great game well worth getting and nicely priced, so if you’re a TS fan or you want to dip your toe in the water with this sort of game you don’t go wrong with this 

Stack of shame pt 2

I spoke about this a few months back and have been slowly chewing through rules and getting games to the table from my stack of Unplayee played stuff. Did I do the clever thing and not buy more games when I already had a stack to play? Of course not, what a suggestion!  

So first world problem. I still have the following to learn and play so what do YOU recommend I learn and play next ?

  • Race to the Rhine
  • Merchants and marauders
  • Marco Polo
  • Tournay
  • Way out west
  • London
  • Risk godstorm
  • Theseus the dark orbit
  • Last night on earth
  • War of the roses
  • Last will
  • Vasca de gama
  • Twilight Emperium 
  • TE Shattered empire
  • Spyrium
  • Orleans
  • A distant plain

Land of the blind

A strange thing happened the first time I read the rules for Evolution…. I understood them. This was novel. It’s usually takes a good half dozen (or dozen) Reads to get me in that zone. 
Evolution has got a really elegant set of rules. When you read them they all solidly clack into place. You would really need to go out of your way to get them wrong. 
The theme of the game is lovely. You and up to five opponents create all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures and try to secure the most food and thereby score before the others do.  

Everyone starts with one tiddler of a creature and a hand of attribute cards. Your creatures have two attributes, size and population. Your creature starts size one and population one and by burning cards you can increase either of these stats or bring in more creatures to play. 
Your cards have a second way cooler ability adding up to a max of three attributes to your little creations. There’s around twenty attributes a key one being carnivore. 

Creatures start as plant eaters and have to share or more accurately try and grab before everyone else, food from the central pile that you secretly contributed to at the start of the round. Certain attributes like foraging and long neck allow you to grab some of it before the others. If there isn’t enough food to feed your creatures it will cause their population to drop. If you don’t get to feed them at all in a round they go extinct. Sad face. 
Now for the good bit. One of the possible attributes is carnivore and if you make one of your lads a meat eater it can attack other people’s creatures gaining you food/points and reducing your opponents population. Win win. Other attributes like hard shell, horns, climbing and so on make it harder to be eaten. Yet other attributes allow your creatures to work together as a group and provide various offensive, food and defensive bonuses. 
There’s a nice line in bluffing and out thinking your opponents here. When it’s a larger group of players it becomes a bit more chaotic. I love that there’s no one route to victory and plans have to be revised on the fly. A big carnivore can be brought low by lack of food. Likewise a big population of small long necked foragers can Hoover up all the plant food before anyone else gets a look in and thrive. At least for a while. 

Production values are excellent. The pieces are solid and the artwork excellent. It’s very shiny and polished. I particularly liked the loot bags and player cheat sheets. 
Kids are going to love this as much as adults. The theme is so strong. All in all I’m delighted with it and want to play more. Not sure I’ll race out and buy the expansion for it. There’s a lot of play in the base game and I like that

Long live old whatshisname

I love a clever game app. I like quick, cheap and innovative (oh err missus). I recently bought Reigns which has for a few days has been hoping around in front of me like an excited child on various gaming portals. I dipped in

Reigns is stupendously simple single player ruler game. You play on your phone/device/computer and take the role of a king who exercises their power by making one of two choices from those offered each round by your various cast of minions. 
So for example your general might appear and say there’s Vikings attacking from the North and your options might be to Attack them or Defend against them. Every choice has an effect on your four resources. The church, the people, your army and your gold. There’s a fifth resource as such, your life, which can end very quickly indeed if you make bad choices. 
When the game starts you have a limited amount of event “cards” in your deck and these get turned over each turn and present you with choices. I say limited but there’s actually quite a few in there. Cards are probably a bad description too. They’re more like short pages from a fighting fantasy novel.  
Once you kick the bucket and you will sooner than you think you get go start a new reign as a fresh King and hopefully learn from your earlier mistakes. As the game progresses you might encounter new characters that add additional cards to your deck. These characters are permanent in a legacy fashion. So once you meet the doctor all future Kings will have access to the cards he brings. There’s a good number of these characters so it will take some time for the experience to feel stale. 
The four resources are a clever mechanic. You really need to balance all four. You get an option to build up your army for example and approving this increases your army but reduces your gold. On the flip side not building up your army decreases your population (from attacks I presume). Likewise building a hospital helps the people but decreases the church who don’t hold with new fangled ideas. Choices have other knock on effects too that lead to other cards. So a peasant revolt not quelled might lead to an arson attack on your castle and so on. It’s usually the best worse choice you’re hoping for and every action has a cost.  

A resource dropping to zero spells the end for your reign as does pushing any resource too high. Too much church power and they rise up and take over and so on. I’m not saying it’s turn based flappy birds…. But It’s sort of turn based flappy birds. 
On top of this there’s a couple of mini games that can kick off like fencing, gambling, walking the dog, navigating a labyrinth and so on. These are fun little distractions and have of course knock on effects. Various events and choices can cause continuous effects (also bad) like famine where your people are reducing each turn so your other choices require you to above all else increase the population. 

Games are always over too quick. You slip up and BOOM! you’re dead. Death is always just around the corner and it’s a tough game to survive in for long but there’s such a “one more go” vibe you don’t get too upset by the loss. 
There’s a great sense of humor in there too. Some interesting references to other games and movies. Weird stuff happens every so often like your alchemist finding mushrooms and suggesting you try them out. A witch cursing you with old age so you can’t read what people are saying. After dozens of plays it’s still not got repetitive although the same themes pop up again and again. I’ve no doubt I’ll bore with it at some stage but for now it’s proving go be a great little mindless distraction. 
It’s not a serious game. Sometimes it’s impossible to continue no matter what choice you take and that’s ok although I would prefer everything based on my decisions rather than luck based. Maybe it is and I’m just a terrible King. 

The meta game across all the reigns is clever too offering challenges of achieving certain things on each reign. Recruit the doctor. Fight the dragon and so on. Building certain things like barns and city walls carry on in the next reign and offer help in different situations 
It’s a slick little app. The graphics are minimal but very effective. It has a lovely style to it. A sort of 2D vector graphic look. I really like it. The theme is very tongue in cheek throughout 
It’s really simple to play and I see the developers are working on updates to it which is great. I can see this style of gaming appearing more in the future and lots of clones popping up 
All in all for the price of a coffee this is great fun and I highly recommend it
Vic (the wise)

Ben Drover tip your toes 

Den Drover’s Age of Empires Three: Age of Discovery was re released as Empires: Age of Discovery with a new coat of paint and the empires expansion built in. It’s a lovely game. It’s also a pricey game but you can see where your money is spent. It’s also got next to nothing to do with age of Empires 3 the video game. Which is probably good 

It’s been a number of years since I played it and taking it back out again at a recent games night made me remember what I really liked about it. The player interaction or in our case name calling, cursing and triumphalism. 

E:AOD sees up to five players (six with the expansion) setting out to discover and exploit the new world in the 1800s. (North and south America). You start with a number of eager colonists and take turns placing them, one at a time on various spots on the mustering board. So it’s worker placement but there’s also a little (or in our case a lot) of skirmishes thrown in there as well.

Key to your strategy is grabbing those key spots before anyone else does. These grant you access to initiative (player order), trade goods (having sets of these generates gold), the docks (allow you to send colonists off to already discovered locations in the new world), civics (allows you to buy age specific bonus yielding events and amenities), specialities (allow you to recruit special colonists like soldiers, captains, missionaries and traders) and finally conflict where you can issue orders for your in place soldiers to fire their weapons at another player’s colonists. 

As the game progresses over eight turns new ages arrive offering new and more powerful (and expensive) civic cards and between age shifts see points scored for having the most and second most settlers in regions. This is where conflict comes in where you want to whittle down the enemy or out settle them to claim control of an area. 

Early on the game is all about building your economy and discovering new regions later it’s about dominating and messing up everyone else’s plans. Well let’s be honest from the get go it’s all about messing everyone else’s plans and what’s great about this game is messing someone else’s plans up doesn’t necessarily detract or retard you from achieving yours. 

Production values for this game are high. It’s full of models none of them particularly good or high detail but more than adequate for the job just like the ones in War of the Ring. I particularly like the nice plastic gold dabloons which are definitely the best coins in any game I’ve seen. I haven’t seen in person the newly released version but from the pics it looks even better it’s also as pricey as all get out. 

The game is fast with little downtime. There’s no dice in here so it’s all down to decisions and there’s just the right level of vindictiveness available to you. Theme is good. It feels right for the era and gameplay is solid and slick. The whole thing reeks of quality and well thought-out-ness. 

I’d have no qualms at all recommending this game. It’s pricey but it’s a game you’ll come back to again and again. Top marks


Star Glider

My Recent games of Epic have made me revisit Ascension and more importantly Star Realms having not played either in a long time. The apps for both of these are really slick. Really slick and very accessible 
Star realms is an excellent game and although some argue Ascension is superior I reiterate the important point that Star Realms has space ships in it. Lots and lots of space ships which I think you’ll agree is a fairly unassailable argument

Since I left it another couple of mini expansions have been added bringing it up to a total of Five. The ones I haven’t seen so far are Heroes and Events. 
Events are just that. When a card is drawn for the trade row and it’s an event,it kicks off. Typical events would be both players draw two cards, both players lose 5 authority. Some of the events offer choices like lose x life or lose a space station and so on. There’s only eight of them btw and it costs €2 for the expansion so make your own mind up on wether it’s worth it

Heroes are a rum bunch of cheap cards that give you one off abilities, a lot like gambits. These selfless dudes and dudettes once sacrificed give you extra cards , a bit of attack some life and so on but more importantly they come in different colours so are a handy way of triggering aligned abilities

There’s an extra few campaigns in there too (that nobody plays) for your buck

At the end of the day Star Realms is still a cracking game. Multiplayer is as popular if not more popular than it was a year back. Games are fast and it’s a hell of a lot more balanced then Epic. That said I’m still really really bad at multiplayer so if anyone wants to up their win percentage I’m your huckleberry 

Suitably Epic

I’m slowly working my way through the games I picked up at Knavecon 7 (and 6 and 5) no doubt almost in time for more impulse purchases at Knavecon 8 in September. 
Next on my hit list was EPIC a game by the good people who brought us the excellent Star Realms.  
Epic reminds me of a cut down version of Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone Dialed up to 11. It sees you and any number of other players (but probably one) dealing up a random deck of thirty cards each for a game from around one hundred and attempting to knock the stuffing out of your opponent before they do onto you. There’s nothing particularly new or innovative here. Which is fine. It’s good fun while it lasts and it’s not expensive. 

Players start with thirty health and a hand of five and each turn they draw one more and can either kick off an event or two or summon champions (creatures) to do your bidding. The limiting mechanic is one gold per turn and most of the events and creatures cost one to kick off (unused gold doesn’t carry over at the end of a turn). Lesser creatures and events cost zero so you’ll be playing one or two cards at most per turn
Everything you’d expect From a Magic type card game is here. Instants, Interrupts, enchantments and a dozen effects and abilities. If you’ve ever wanted to dip a toe in the water of ccgs this is a great taster. 
Creatures and events are suitably epic. The story is about gods using earthly champions to do their bidding whilst assisting with the odd godly event. Cards come in one of four colours and various events or champions affect “allied” cards in positive or negative ways. 

The game is very intuitive if you have played any collectable card game ever. Raise a nasty army. Attack your opponent and avoid getting hammered by your opponent. It’s absolutely not collectable and everything you need is included in the stout little box of cards. Some bonus cards came with the kick starter but there’s more than enough in the base game. 
All the cards as suitably epic. Creatures are big and Nasty. Events are apocalyptic. Even the weeny creatures sorry champions come with some Nasty sting in their tail. Economy management is simple,there isn’t one. You have one gold and off to the one gold shoppe you go at the start of your turn and choose one epic card over another. 
Cards are a little unbalanced and luck plays a decent part in your game. Some of the champions are ridiculously overpowered. 18 point attack and defense sand worm for example. Equally some of the events are epic. Remove all champions from the game and so on. It’s good fun but definitely not a competitive or balanced game. If you want that there’s plenty of them out there. 
Art work and production values are excellent. The game will well outlast your desire to play it. I’m sure someone out there has put deck protectors on their copy but not me. 
If you want something generic, fun and cheap that you’ll tire of pretty quickly but not feel cheated by the entry cost, look no further, Epic is one of the better also ran card games out there.