Francis Drake

francis Drake is a worker placement game in a similar vein to Age of Discovery. You play the role of a sea captain who will undertake Three (not four not FIVE!) voyages to the West Indies to try and score more points than your fellow sea men. School boy humor will reign. 

You do this by sailing over and knocking the shite out of the locals and half inching all their gear. Bonus points for conquering cities and fortresses. Each player gets a number of action disks numbered one to four and has to place them face down on various objectives. Once all are revealed it kicks off and first in line at the trough (if they overwhelm the locals) gets the best pickings. There are limited spots at each of the dozen or so objectives so carful use of your action cards and careful bluffing is key. In the event of two captains attacking the same location with the same initiative on their action disk it’s decided by the captain that left port and set sail earliest. 
Overwhelming the locals is straightforward. They have a number of visible cannons and men and a turned over card with a few more. So you need to bring more men and guns to the party (which you then spend) to win the day. Additionally you need to bring supplies to reach further objectives, a bigger ship to attack galleons and trade goods if that’s your sort of thing. Where in the world can you find these useful knickknacks? Why back in port I’ll warrant ship mate. 

The Voyages are split into two phases. The Victualing and the Voyage (which we just spoke about) 
Victualing is akin to opening the doors of Willie Wonkas factory to a mob of Augustuses. Players rush to be the first to grab whatever they think they need from the dock side buildings before raising anchor. 
The dock is a one way street of cards which grant access to men, cannons, supplies, trade goods, bigger ships and various other bonuses a jack tar needs. The sizzle is that the first to jump on a particular card gets the most of that particular resource with players arriving after getting sloppy seconds, treacherous thirds and possibly ferocious fourths. If you pass a building you can’t go back so it’s a balance between stocking up and getting to the new world first while all the good stuff is still there (sloppy seconds etc.) It’s a really neat mechanic. Buildings are a spread of various goodie giving cards and these change from voyage to voyage so mind how you go. 

The game is really nicely produced. It’s big. The board is big. The pieces are big. The various chits are big. The box understandably is big. It’s a proper man sized no nonsense Tonka Toy board. I like a good board but it’s often a pain if you combine that with a big player board and sets of cards. I was delighted the player board was small and self contained bar a neat little treasure chest to store and hide your ill gotten booty. The art is good, nothing stellar but more than adequate and not overly distracting. The whole thing feels good and solid when you play it. It’s like a Volvo of a game. 
Gameplay is excellent. It’s fun and competitive with little or no dice, just decisions and opponent’s decisions to decide your destiny. Cock blockery abounds but no direct confrontation with other players and this feels right. It would have made the game very unforgiving if you could directly attack others. It supports five which is a nice round number (I know) for gaming. There’s a lovely game of two halves here with a lot of thought and strategy required but not to the point of over analysis 

I like it. It IS pricey but definitely worth trying out. One of the Thur crew has it so I should have a copy of it at Knavecon 10 and definitely it’s worth checking out
Decent game. Well worth your time


Hive is a great little holiday game, sitting out having a drink, compact, easy to teach, fun but with enough depth for a seasoned gamer.
Enter onitama. In my eyes a similar beast and a possible pick for holiday game 2017. I picked it up at the games expo in Birmingham and finally got to play it having seen it all over the interwebs last year. Haven’t seen much mention of it this year but we’re a feckless lot we gamers. 
The game is very simple. A lot of the tiny rule book is fluff or adverts. You have four pawns (or prawns if you prefer) and a bigger pawn called the master who move around on a 5×5 grid like chess pieces. The board is suitably japanesey as are the pieces. Much dishonor if you lose.  

When the game starts all five of your dudes are lined up on your side of the grid, the master in the central home space called the temple the others two left and two right of him. Now you need to either knock out the opponents master or get your master into your opponents temple square. 
So it’s a sort of checkers. Well yes and no but mostly no. In truth it’s all no. Movement is a little different and it’s what makes the game tick.  
At the start five movement cards are drawn (suitably names after martial arts lore) two for each player and one at the side as the next in line move. The rest go back in the box. Players take a turn by picking one of the movement cards in front of them and using it to move one of their dudes onto one of the permissible spots based on the picked card. You then take the next in line card and pass the card you used to the other player as their next in line cards. 
The game is quick and deadly. It’s all over very fast If you don’t watch what your opponents reach. Since movement cards swap between players thinking ahead is key. At least 3 moves. 

Do not play this game with anyone who over analyses games or it will be a long haul. The game is pretty quick but it takes chess like concentration while you play. It’s all about making mistakes preferably your enemies. Seeing movement cards pass by and speculating when they’ll come back or setting up movement combos to wipe out enemy pieces is key. 
Going directly for your enemy master is perilous. You need to reduce his reach by knocking out his students first. There’s subtly and sacrifice here 
For newbies the movement can be a little confusing but it settles pretty quickly. After a number of games I can see a little bit of depth here but it’s going to take quite a few plays to really get into it. It is easy to learn but I dare say difficult to master. Replay is excellent. A pick of five movement cards from a possible twenty per game will see a lot of variety and I started to recognize certain cards as really useful after a time. 

Production is magnificent. The box the game comes in has a magnetic lid, a roll up rubber play mat and lovely little pieces and cards all sitting pretty in recessed holders. It’s reminiscent to the original Tsuro in a number of ways. 
The game reminds me of Hive in a way but it’s a lot bulkier and having played a lot of Hive I can’t compare it honestly. To me it doesn’t feel quite as good, so far I prefer the former. The more I think on it the more depth I see in it 
It’s going to take a while to figure this one out. I’ll write another review of it in a few months time. For now it’s an intriguing and hopefully deep 2 player strategy game that is inexpensive and worth a look. 
Huzzah !

This War is your War

I do not hate co-op games. I do think they’re like the coaches son. They need to work that bit harder then their fellows to prove themselves. There are some very fine coops I’m persuaded.

I just can’t think of any of them at this exact moment. 
Truth be told I may not be the best person to review This War of Mine but I’m here now and so are you so let’s get on with it and we need not look each other in the eye for some time. TWOM is a single player game masquerading as a coop. It is. Seriously. The game has a little of the feel of Dead of winter with it’s events but there it ends. You don’t control your own dudes you take turns controlling ALL of the survivors and there’s no traitor mechanic. 

The game is based on the now dirt cheap and seemingly good (haven’t played it but I will) video game of the same name. It sees you controlling a group of survivors in a war torn city struggling to survive in horrific conditions. You need to scavenge for food and other resources to ward off hunger and despair along with a few other ailments. It’s grim stuff. The map is grim the colors grim. A funeral home is more upbeat than this. 

The game is played out over seven days where different tasks and decisions are made. During the day you try to improve your surroundings by digging out rubble and building simple gear from scavenged resources. This reminds me of the base building bit of video game Xcom. The amount of actions survivors can take are reduced by hunger, wounds and fatigue. Over work your survivors and they’re plum tuckered out the next day, don’t over tax them and you risk attacks or lack of food and resources from inaction. Some hard decisions need to be made. 
At night you can send survivors to scavenge for resources, rest up or guard the building. Each of these paths lead to various card driven events and some moral choices in the form of numbered events with different possible choices from a large journal of events. So you might come across a family being harassed by a group of drunken thugs. Do you intervene and risk a fight or ignore it and risk moral penalties later on? I know what I’d do  
The game is very nicely presented but to be honest it’s a single player puzzle game with random elements and a bit of push your luck. The moral dilemmas were lost on my group. We just took the most beneficial option for our team. There was no real connection with the game. All I saw was a set of generic stats and mouths do feed. The map is busy with a lot of cards laid out but it’s all logical. I suspect the designers realized a single player game wouldn’t sell so they attempted to make it a group experience but it wound up more of like students all taking drags off the one cigarette. 

Like a lot of coops the people more in tune with the game will lead It and the others will fall in line and be ultimately bored. That happens here too. 
I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t buy it but if depressing single player thematic games are your thing you’re in luck. 
I think the designers made a fine stab at this game but the source material just wasn’t right for the type of game I like. It did achieve it’s goal however and I’ve made a conscious decision now to never start a war or visit untold horrors on others. Well played 

Like a Rhino stone cowboy 

Rhino Hero is a lovely little Jenga+ game from Haba. Haba produce neat kids games and this is no exception. The concept is simple, you start with a spread of random shape cards and you need to be the first to get rid of all of them before your opponents do. 

Cards have a couple of shapes on them which you stack folded wall sections upon. You have to place these wall sections down then put one of your floor cards on top of it. It makes more sense if you look at the pics. Cards also contain a symbol which forces an opponent to draw another card, allows you to spend two or makes the titular rhino (a big meeple) appear and you have to stand him on top of the tower constructed so far. Cause the tower to fall on your watch and you lose. 

As I said. It’s Jenga with a little more. It’s good simple fun and kids will love it. It’s also cheap as chips. Around a tenner or so. While it lasts it’s fun but don’t expect much and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Simple game younger kids will love it. 


Starred words 

Do you own Caracassone already? Yes? Ok you don’t need Caracassone Star Wars. Do you Not own Caracassone or do you speak fluent Bocce? Ok go ahead and buy Caracassone Star Wars 
CSW is a rethemed version of the venerable Caracassone a nice little gateway game. There’s a little bit of skill and luck mixed equally together here. It’s purely reactionary with a little bit of “card” counting. For all that it’s fun and nice and gentle. Children and non gamers will like it. Hardened gamers will still get something out of it. 

The game consists of around 50 tiles which are drawn one at a time randomly and placed beside the growing map on the table. Tiles contain space lanes (roads), planets (monasteries), asteroid fields (castles) all of which have to be positioned to match up with ones already on the table. When you place a tile you also have the option to place one from your small pool of meeples and claim a spot (planet, space lane or asteroid field) if no one is already there. There’s a little bit of tactically play in denying players the tiles they want, throwing a tile shaped spanner in their carefully planned space scape, deciding when to use and when to hold back your meeples (like Kenny Rogers) and when to fight. Key to play is to not overcommit as meeples don’t come back to your hand unless they’ve completed a full space lane, asteroid or completely surrounded a planet. 
A new addition to this version is dice based combat when opposing meeples merge or more interestingly when you place a tile next to a planet and have the option of meepling (c) onto the adjoining planet. Opponents roll 1-3 decide depending on their faction and possibly the tiles faction or if you use your single Big meeple to do your action. Highest dice wins and losing meeple goes home. Both parties more importantly score points for scrapping. 
The farming which was always a bit confusing for new players is now gone. If you don’t understand ignore that last sense and this one too. 

Two things strike me about this version. The combat is fun the game is locked in to the Star Wars theme so you can’t add any of the myriad of Caracassone proper expansions. That’s ok though. You get enough of the game in the base game. It was never meant to be a lifelong commitment.  
Build quality is good. Artwork is good too. It’s Star Wars. It’s hard to get the artwork wrong in that. It’s also cheap as chips. You’ll pick it up for less than €20. All in all a neat little game with a new skin. Good fun and worth a look if you haven’t played it before
Huzzah !

The clacks appearing

There are some games that click (or clack) easily for me. Games like Robo Rally where there’s a programming mechanic, I tend to do well at. It doesn’t necessarily mean I LIKE that sort of game but at least I don’t lose as much as I do in other games. Enter Clacks, the Terry Prachett one not the other one. It’s based on the clacks communication system from the Diskworld novels. A set of semaphore towers manned by golem operators that repeat messages over long distances. Early telegram if you will. So how do you turn that into a game? If you were to ask a few of the players who tried the game Thur night we cracked it out, they’d tell you you don’t and the designers didn’t. 

Theme wise it’s fairly strong. You’re racing to spell out all the letters of a randomly chosen word in Tetris like patterns of on and off lights. You accomplish this by moving your dude around the tower and playing cards with shapes on them which flip the light pattern. Obviously it’s a bit unwieldily getting the pattern you require easily and it needs a bit of planning, luck and ingenuity. If you pardon the pun it felt all a bit mechanical to me. While not actually solo it sort of feels like it is or maybe that was just my Borg like aloofness when I played. 
Bolted onto this mechanic are cards to throw a spanner in other player’s works and a couple of additional rules for teams we didn’t bother playing. 

In fairness it was late when we played so we didn’t see the game at it’s best. I’m kind of assuming the game has a best. It’s not a long game. The version we played was done and dusted in twenty mins. So filler material. Terry Prachett super fans will already have this and tell you it’s great. It’s only ok and there’s a lot more games more worthy of your attention. 
Graphically it’s fine. There’s only so many ways you can represent 16 lights. After a game of it we Did feel like Picard with the Cardassians. There’s a set of mechanics in here. It’s debatable if there’s a game. 

Comic Vault Cork

I spoke with Cathal Travers a few weeks back and we shot the breeze about all things gaming, Cathal is an avid gamer and a regular at Knavecon. In case you didn’t know his online business the mighty Comic Vault is going bricks and mortar in Cork. This Wednesday see’s them opening their first shop in Cork at 15a Oliver Plunkett Street Lower.

Cathal took a few minutes out of preparations to talk to me about his plans

To start with the hours of business will be as follows with a grand opening planned in a few weeks

Sunday: closed
Monday: closed
Tuesday: 10:30 – 7
Wednesday: 10:30-8
Thursday: 10:30-8
Friday: 10:30-8
Saturday: 9-6

Comic Vault has been going strong for a number of years with it’s online business supplying Graphics Novels, T-shirts, the odd board game and all types of Merch. Now they’re going all out and plan to rev up the gaming scene in Cork with more of everything, more games, more merch, more something else that’s good. They’re going to set aside a dedicated gaming area and organise regular game evenings amongst other things and in the words of Cathal, “watch this space we’re only getting warmed up”*

I reckon this could be a trip for Knavecon on Tour in the very near future. From all the Knaves from all around, we wish you the very best in your new endeavour and having seen Comic Vault over the years we reckon you’ll make a splendid success of the whole affair.

Get down there on Wednesday if you’re anyway near!




*he didn’t actually use those words but it was something like that



Indulge me. I don’t talk about video games all that often but when I do they tend to be good. So living on the edge as I do let’s begin…

Down to the last 20 I can hear shots close by. All four of our team are alive, mostly uninjured and tooled up with assault rifles and a mix of shotguns, Smgs and pistols. Ammo isn’t a problem I don’t expect to live too much longer. Windows above me break and the room is raked with fire, the teammate next to me makes a run crouching up the stairs and after a lull in shooting I follow him. I get out on the balcony and see him snapping off shots and ducking behind the stairwell wall. We huddle down when grenades explode where he was firing from seconds ago. Smoke grenades are arcing in now obscuring the attackers. Down to the last 12 

Windows are breaking and louder and more sustained fire is happening all around. I jump down onto a lower roof and through a crack in the parapet spot a shooter in a window across the street. He sees me. We exchange fire for a bit then his buddy wings me. I’m taking damage. I keep their heads down with fire but I get hit again and go down. No one is near to revive me. I’m shot and killed. It’s game over man. 

This is Player Unknown Battlegrounds and it’s battle royale with 100 participants either all solo, in groups of 2 or groups of 4. Its glorious This is the best shooter I’ve played in years.

When the game starts after a countdown you all appear together in a transport plane all 100 of you flying in from a random edge of the map. The map is a mixture of towns, hills, farms, various installations, sparcely populated areas and everything in between. You decide when to jump. Your team needs to stick together because every other team does. You freefall then pop your chute and glide in. Spotting a pile of other chutes nearby is a recipe for trouble and certain areas are more popular to get to as they’re more likely to contain better loot. 

The landscape is brutal soviet, abandoned like a zombie game.  Houses, apartments and various installations yield up a variety of weapons and supplies. Gear comes in the shape of melee weapons, handguns, shotguns, SMGs and assault rifles. You’ll also find bandages and medipacs, backpacks to carry more gear and ammo which is key to survival. You’ll also find bits and bobs like scopes and grips to enhance weapons. Silencers are like gold. 

When you touch down the very first thing you need to do is get a weapon and fast. More so if someone has landed near you. I’ve been in fights where someone came after me with a machete and I just got to and loaded a handgun in time to stop him. 
After the a few minutes things get interesting. A white circle appears on the map and you have a few minutes to get inside it’s radius or you start losing health. Then a few minutes later it shrinks, then again and again. The whole mechanic herds the survivors in towards each other. Desperate fights break out between people and a counter on the top shows how many people are still alive. The goal is to be the last person standing. I’ve never done it BTW. 
To aid you occasionally a transport plane will fly over and drop additional weapons. All of which are cool like gillie suits and silenced sniper rifles. The dropped crate has a smoke canister which guides you in but also other survivors and it’s a real conflict area. 
Dotted around too are vehicles like bikes, cars and buggies which offer fast travel but are noisy. There’s nothing like cruising along in a jeep with three passengers hanging out the windows weapons drawn just itching for a drive by shooting 
As the game continues the circle contracts and the fighting becomes more desperate as the best and better equipped players survive and make it to the end (you can scavenge equipment from bodies) The tension is stupendous. Holding a building with your team is amazing. Assaulting one more so and pulling off a sneaky kill is a fist pumping hooting event. Until that is someone one does it to you and it’s back to another match. 

The replay value is magnificent. This is an addictive game and for an early access it’s really polished. I understand the player base went to over a million the first weekend of launch.  I can see why. I’ve played a lot of shooters but this is the one that’s blown me away in the last few years. At €30 it’s worth checking out. 

You’ll find me out there playing or maybe I’ll find you….


U.K. Games expo

The few who returned

What an amazing weekend. Knavecon on tour was a massive success. We gamed, we ate, we drank we gamed some more. We laughed from start to finish. We met some cool people, bought some brilliant stuff and grinned like Cheshire cats. Knavecon on tour is now a thing and we’re going to do more of them. 
I had the very great pleasure of sharing the trip with a magnificent bunch of Knaves who flew the flag for what they love. Gaming. 
Roll on Knavecon 10. 

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