Diplomacy 2017

It’s about that time of year again, the weather is improving, there’s a grand stretch in the evenings, people are planning holidays, the general mood is happier.  Time to stab each other in the back.

Once again Knavecon is going to run an email game of Diplomacy for those who think they’re real gamers.   Seven souls will enter and none will ever be the same again.

Orders will be required once a week, normal terms and conditions apply.  This is open to anyone in the world with email.  your commitment is to send in orders once a week without fail.  if you’re new to the game contact me and I’ll run through it with you

So the question is… who’s game?


Dicing with DEATH

Standing out like a clown at a wake is probably not the cleverest move if you’re trying to assassinate someone. Ninjas didn’t wear black. They blended in. Ninja dice comes in a magnificent little cloth bag that looks like a cartoony ninja head. It’s black. This isn’t meant to be historically accurate 
Ninja dice is like a Zombie Dice plus or maybe Art of War. It’s a simple little Yahtzee style game with neat components and if you got the Kickstarter a number of extra optional layers. 
The theme is lovely. Players take it in turns to burgle a house. To do this another player rolls a set of house dice which provide a challenge in the shape of guards, locks and citizens. The active ninja must now roll their skill dice and get lock picks (overcome locks), shuriken (take out guards or citizens), sneak (slip by guards and citizens in a more honorable way), catch arrows ,wildcard and a multiplier. It’s simple stuff. 

At the same time the other ninjas throw their counter dice which will fire coin stealing arrows (direction is important) and possibly egg timers. 
The active ninja can reroll chosen dice or cut their loses and quit the building taking a minor reward. If the opposing ninjas roll enough egg timers it’s mission over and the ninja gets NOTHING as if he stole fizzing lifting drinks. So it’s a push your luck game. 
If the active ninja beats the house they score some bonus money and the ninja tags out to the next player. Rinse and repeat for each player. Once a full round of this happens an extra dice is added to the house roll making burglary a more daunting prospect. 

Three rounds of this and it’s count your money and richest ninja wins. 
Is it any good? Well it’s not bad. It’s pretty. It’s pure filler and kids will like it. It’s quick. It’s simple. The bag it comes in is magnificent. The extras add a little bit more complexity and diversity. It’s cheap. 
If you haven’t played a game like this it’s definitely one of the better ones. If you have then you may have seen it all before. Except for the bag it comes in which is ninja sweet 

More Conan

Hither can Conan, not very quickly it must be said, he was a right moody bugger. 
I played Conan the strategy game a long time back. I even had my own copy but it never really took with the group I gamed with. A contributor to this in fairness was not figuring out a number of rules at the time and the game dragging on and on. I wanted to like the game and it did tickle the back of my mind to play it again. 

So fresh slate a number of years later and one of the guys buys the base game plus the expansion. It was destiny. 
Conan the strategy game is a fairly complex affair. Preconceived notions of dudes on a map rules long reinforced have to be left at the door when you crank this baby up. 
The first thing to note is this is not really all about Conan it’s about the conquests of the four nations in the land he inhabits. The big guy is in there for sure but in typical Conan fashion he really doesn’t give a damn about your problems he’s off doing his own thing. More precisely stomping around the map kicking ass and taking names (and women). Players bid for “control” of Conan and can nudge him in various directions with the promise of riches, glory and women. If he winds up assisting in a battle on your side he acts like a veritable wrecking ball, massively increasing your offense. Getting control of Conan also gives you influence chits of different types that can be used for scoring later in the game. 

While Conan is off doing his thing you’re trying to gain influence on the map by sending out your emissaries and soldiers. These have the hard task of winning over and conquesting regions of various toughnesses. Every region is like Mordor , one does not simple walk in to it. Each of the 30 or so spots have to be fought for by attrition every time. It’s a slow process. The games tend to be as much a contest between the map and the player as between the players themselves. That’s ok, every conquest game doesn’t need to be Risk. Conquesting lands gives you victory points. Winning them over with emissaries gives you money at the end of the round which can be used to buy more units and cards. 
There’s a stack of cards, some one off advantages, some stay on the table effects that have to be paid for to recharge. Cards are used to kick off region specific events if Conan is nearby, gain advantages in certain region types, aid in combat, influence Conan in the bidding phase. They’re multi functional. Each of the nations has a little bit of variety which will take several games to suss out. Nothing massive it must be noted they’re all still fairly generic. This is not Forbidden Stars. 
One of the complaints of the base game was Conan only played a minor part. I’ll be honest I had no issue with that. The expansion adds a whole leveling up affair with Conan going from young Conan to the more powerful Conan the mercenary to the trouble browed King Conan. Spy’s which allow rerolls make an appearance. New Conan side adventure cards come in to play each round along with a stack of additional rules to an already rule heavy game. 

The game doesn’t need an expansion. It adds a lot of extra rituals per turn that slows down the whole affair. There’s already enough superfluous actions and rules in the base game without heaping more on it. I like Tsuro. I don’t like Tsuro of the sea. The extra effort moving sea monsters doesn’t add enough to the game to make it worth the effort. I feel the same way about the Conan expansion. 
Conan is not a bad game it’s just not a great game. It’s over engineered and the hard slog against the game itself makes it quite a solitaire affair. This is quite the sin for a conquest game. During a game you rarely feel threatened by other players. You know they’re so invested with their own treacle swims they don’t have the resources or inclination to attack you. Truth be told there’s no real advantage to attacking other players really. When a player has armies on your border you should be afraid it’s a convention universally accepted. Not so here. 
And yet. There’s something about the game I like. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s beautifully presented. It’s nicely themed and I find myself cheering for the game which never quite hits the high notes. I’m going to have to play it again. This time without the expansion. A number of games in I still don’t fully know what I think about it. It’s different it’s complex it’s galling. It needs a touch of magic sauce to make it amazing and maybe that sauce is learning the game better. 

Hence came Conan

“Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat & stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame crimson, and I am content” ….. A-Effin-men!
You HAVE to love Conan. He is everything you could aspire to. When you see motivational posts on Facebook about how few Fs you should give know that Conan gives less. He is the embodiment of Crom. The ayatollah of rock and rolla’s daddy and the one universal constant by which you can calibrate your moral compass. 

His world is brutal. Women get the short straw unless they’re warriors or warrior queens or maybe something with fight or warrior in the title. Certainly not princesses. This ain’t no Super Mario. No one cares about your shit in Conan. Either you’re strong, lucky or dead. 
The Conan Kickstarter is a thing of beauty. The minis in it are a sight to behold as long as you behold the enemies (the kraken is incredible). The hero models are a bit less detailed which is a pity but not a show stopper. I guess there’s only so much detail you can get onto scantily clad heroes. Now having said that I haven’t seen them painted so I’m still expecting great things. 

Conan is Heroquest ver 4 (or Descent v3). A group of 3-4 heroes embark on a quest each with it’s own map board and in a set amount of turns must complete it. The overlord who controls the monsters has to ruin their day. It’s a time honoured game model which is as old as Adam’s rib. Unlike the above games it’s not strictly an RPG. Your characters don’t level up (they’re pretty hardcore to start with). You pick a scenario and have at it. Each scenario takes places on a map board. The boards are set no modular adjustments. They’re a square 3×3 with everything on them. Three double sided boards come with the game along with a dozen or so scenarios. That’s it. Although more are coming and the internet is your friend. 
Each scenario lasts 60-90 minutes and has you doing daring stuff like rescuing a princess, Protecting a ship’s captain, rescuing a cat out of a tree and so on. Now the interesting thing to note is the complete lack of RPG elements. You never level up. You can play any scenario you like there’s no experience /leveled up admission fee. Take any dungeon bash game you have and chances are you gave up on it after a half dozen (if even) levels and moved onto something else. It’s hard to get the same group together around the table. Conan does away with all this and I reckon you’re much more likely to play more games of it in comparison to the Descents and Imperial Assaults of this world as a result. The lack of choice in scenarios of both equipment and characters is wholly refreshing. 

The game uses a very elegant mechanic of allocating a limited amount of crystals to various actions for your character. You start a round with a number of plastic crystals in the action zone of your character sheet. During your turn you can stick them in a number of spots to power certain actions. 
For every crystal you allocate you can roll that many dice (of the appropriate color) and try and get as many successes on the rolls as possible. The amount you can use per action in a turn is limited by your characters ehhhhhh limitations and boosted by weapons and objects in hand. Soo. For example. Conan himself might have ten crystals and uses a few to run up to an enemy then his operator sticks a few in his attack he rolls those and scores a number of hits. The enemy who hopefully has some crystals available to them burns a few up to defend and try’s to cancel the attacks with his defenses and so on.  
At the end of the turn crystals that are used get put in the fatigue box on your characters sheet and when the next turn starts you recover a few back to your action zone. More if you rest for that turn. It’s genius.  
Overexerting yourself in a round will leave you open to attacks from enemies in their turn and more importantly since you only recover a few crystals unless you rest reduce your possible actions next turn. Knowing when to pull out the stops and when to be economic with your actions is key. 
When you get wounded you loose crystals from your fatigue box and these can’t be recovered unless you use a healing potion. Which are few and far between and what’s more only recover a small amount of crystals. So just like real life avoid getting wounded. You can picture a wounded hero still in the fight but not running on all cylinders. 

The overlord has a similar crystal juggling challenge. They start with several crystals (more the more adventurers playing) and allocates these to activate the bad guys. These bad guys appear on cards on a “river” on the overload board which acts like a sushi conveyor the dudes on the left being cheap to activate the ones on the right way more expensive to. Once a unit is activated it’s pulled off the conga line and stuck on the far right of it. The effect of this is clever. If you activate a unit/monster/villain the cost to activate the same dude the following turn is going to be high. Since you can only activate two groups per turn it means you don’t wind up spamming the same guy over and over again. It’s possible but too expensive and it will lose you the game. 
Did I mention the minis? One thing I’m impressed with mightily are the models. We were lucky enough to snag the full Kickstarter and it comes with nearly 200 very nicely sculpted models. Some of the monsters are incredible. The kracken and the giant snake are exceptional. Even without these minis the mechanics are so good in this game it could be played with just cardboard and it would still be amazing. With the models in place it goes from exceptional to legendary. 
I’ve played a lot of dungeon crawlers. Truth be told I’m bored with them. It’s the same old same old every time no matter how well presented but Conan is beyond all of these. It’s credit to the designers for coming up with something both simple and playable that rewards skillful play. I’m eager to play again both as heroes and villains and to be honest it’s a blurred line who’s who in Conan’s world. 

This is an exceptional game. Definitely the best dungeon game I’ve played to date (none of it actually set in a dungeon). It captures the spirit of Conan perfectly. Not the movie one the original 1950s, nasty, gritty no holds barred version. It’s not meant for kids. It’s meant for real men (and women) who like a challenge. Great game. Great presentation. Hear me Crom!

Outta my way! 

You know Through the Ages? There’s another game, lesser known called ROLL through the ages that I’m a big fan. It shares the name of the mighty Through the Ages and is a Civ game without a map but the similarities stop there. It’s a sort of Yahtzee style game but a very good one with a race element and a reasonable amount of cock blockery to make it more than a solo experience. I have a copy of it. I recommend you try it. There’s a few versions of it now, Bronze Age, Iron Age. It a Goody. Which brings me on to Chariot Race. 

Chariot race is SIMILAR to Roll Through the Ages insofar as it’s a Yahtzee style game. The only reason I mention it really is RTTA is a cracker of a game and very overlooked. Anyhoe. Chariot Race does exactly what it says on the tin. Up to six players duke it out in a race to the finish (if you even get that far) of two laps around a Ben Hur style track. Along the way you can knock the shite out of your opponents whilst doing a fair impression of knocking the shite out of yourself by running over caltrops, driving the horses too hard and Corning like a Rally driver. 

The map board is made up of a circular track three spaces wide and around twenty long all you need to do is make if around twice to the finish line to win. First obviously. To facilitate this (great word) you roll a fist of five dice with various symbols for changing speed, gaining favor, changing lanes, flogging the horses and “offensively inconveniencing” your fellow players.  
Each player starts with either a generic chariot or one a bit skewed in one direction. The chariots come with three different stats which are recorded on the side with little plastic paper clips things. They are favor (used to repair the chariot and adjust dice rolls), hit points and current speed which dictates how many dice you can roll. The faster your chariot is thundering along the less dice and therefore less control you have of it. It’s a simple and neat mechanic. The question is how much will you push your luck or more importantly how much will your opponent. In the games I played way too much is the answer. 
The game is an all cardboard affair. It screams out for a deluxe or pimped out copy but for the cost it’s worth the entry fee. 
Games are fast and brutal (or just brutal depending on your viewpoint). It’s pure filler and ten or fifteen mins will see you home and hosed possibly wanting more. The game is cheap and cheerful but it more than fit for purpose. I like it. I’m not aware of a whole lot of filler race games and I like a race game. 

Some of you will love it some not. It’s a real marmite affair. Doesn’t matter it’s short and it’s sweet. Try it out at Knavecon and see what you think


Knavecon 9 late night 

My problem with Knavecon as an organizer has always been getting time to play games. What with all the walking around, talking shite, drinking coffee and eating donuts it leaves very little quality gaming time. As the con has matured I’ve found I can get in a good long game late at night/early in the morning along with a few quick ones during the day. The last two Knaves it’s been one of my favorites. Twilight Struggle. This one it’s been the magnificent (and new) New Angeles. 
I spoke recently about New Angeles. It’s a new one from Fantasy Flight and if you were really pushed for time you COULD call it Battlestar 2017. You’d be wrong of course because it’s nothing like it but some people seem to think it is. It’s not. It’s got a traitor mechanism in there. So has Battlestar. So has werewolf. So has life. 
The reason I’m back banging on about this game is it was the late night game I got to play with the full compliment of six at Knavecon. This is my favorite game so far this year without a doubt
Some games you know you’re going to love before you open the box. New Angeles for me was that game and coupled with the rum selection of gamers that took part on that faithful night, it truly knocked it out of the park. 
A typical game of New Angeles should take you no more than two hours to complete. Three if you’re learning it. This was no typical game of anything. The sheer level and quality of BS meted out during the course of the game was incredible. Not a single person could keep a straight face when players tried to justified they’re blatantly obvious opportunistic proposals. Our game rattled on for over five hours. Five hours that flew by. At the end we were exhausted, talked out and relieved but it was time well spent. We laughed our collective asses off from start to finish of that game and that’s what it’s all about. It just happened we had a really really good game as a host 

Less of the old

Cthulhu, Neil Gaimen, Martin Wallace, Sherlock Holmes. The blessed trilogy in four parts. When I heard about a study in Emerald some years back I did something I rarely do. I pre ordered it. Shock! It was well worth it. I still have it, it’s a great game and it appears on the table every so often. So why you might ask did I go and buy second ed which from all reports is a cut down not as good version? I was curious. 

I’m here to tell you that second ed of a Study in Emerald is as good if not better than the original. Well not better. Maybe different but a really good game all the same. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper. Best of luck getting a first ed copy (yes yes I know I was selling my copy at once stage but that was a long time back and Quick look over there!)
ASiE was ahead of its time. A map based conquest game with a card drafting driving mechanism. All it was short of was sculpted minis. Actually… there’s an idea! Maybe the ones from mansions of madness! Being ahead of it’s time does not make it old btw. It’s a damn fine game. Anyhoe
Briefly the game is set in the nineteen hundreds. The great old ones (the plucky rascals) have appeared and taken over the Victorian world. In fact they’ve been in Situ for a number of decades and apart from the enslavement and endless misery it’s worked out pretty well for everyone and by everyone I mean the great old ones. The players take the hidden roles of either loyalists who think everything’s grand, lets not rock the boat or restorationists who want to bump off all the old ones and return the earth to the earthlings. The game plays out on a board with a dozen cities like London, Paris and Madrid as well as more exotic (and potentially dangerous) spots like Constantinople. Each city has a stack of face down one face up card which you want to take to add to your deck. (This is the drafting part). You do this by putting influence cubes and agents (more than your opponent’s) on a city and then grabbing the card in the following round. It’s a kind of bidding mechanism with ample opportunity for cock blockery. Cards in turn grant resources and powers, assignation being a key one for bumping off old ones and enemy agents. 
Certain actions such as killing old ones are SOO restorationist. Likewise killing agents is so the kind of thing a loyalist would do. Of course this could be a ruse to trick people into thinking you’re something you’re not. Easy how you go though. At the end of the game you lose any score that wasn’t specific to your alignment. 

The game has a number of mechanics running at once all of which meld together nicely. The hidden alignment is key. Really you want to Identify who’s who and either aid or hinder them. Now even though you want your team to win (go local sports team!) you just want to use them to be number one and losing five points at the end because one of your team mates came last is not part of the plan. 
The real question here is how does it compare to 

to the first edition. I have to say before I’d gotten it I had heard a lot of negatives about the new edition and I’m glad to say they’re not true. First the negatives. The map is not as nice as the original it’s now a fairly compact map with cities lined up on a grid. The cards aren’t as pretty as the original. The art work has changed for them. I preferred the old illustrations… that’s about it. Everything else checks out. 
In first ed the game had a touch of unfinished about it. Now don’t get me wrong first ed is one of my favorites games. Second ed is much tighter. Gone are some of the superfluous bits like double agent tokens (which rarely ever happened). Insanity is simpler. Everyone starts with three Wooden disks on their alignment cards and roll on the insanity dice when required. There aren’t as many wooden pieces knocking about. Setting up is quicker. It take a bit less table space this time around. 
City ownership no longer changes hands. Once you claim a city card it’s yours. The scrabble for ownership late in the game that slowed down first ed. is gone. Old ones are mixed in with the drawn cards (as are the city cards) and are only attackable when their cards appear. Now certain cities become more important for a period rather than all of them being important all of the time. It makes for a much more focused contest. Most of the mechanics that made first edition special are still in place albeit in a simplified way. It only improves the game. 
From a lot of the negative reviews I’d read I’d expected a very weak game indeed. I was very pleasantly surprised. The game is improved. People who loved the first one (I loved it) may feel like a step down. It doesn’t have the same rich deluxe feel as first ed. That’s ok. I can live with that, it’s the game play I’m interested in. 
Second ed is definitely worth having a look at. First ed was amazing and this is a fine revision
Highly recommended 

Time to time

I reckon I was single digit aged when I got my last and maybe only nose bleed. Recently I played Time and Space and I felt myself drifting back to that day. You think Dobble or Cock a Roche salad is a brain melter? Wait’ly you get a load of this. It’s cheap. Too cheap maybe for what you get in the box. €15 the two times I’ve seen it for sale. But I digress. 

The game is played with …. two egg timers each. Around 40 seconds per timer and every action you take requires you to kick off a timer. The theme is you and up to two other players (yes it’s one of those weird three player games) are trying to complete contracts by delivering different types of resources to players that are requesting them. 

Each player starts with a handful of contracts. They simply show 1-3 of a particular resource. They stick those out in front of their player card and players scramble to be the one to zoom in with their ship and deliver these goods. Goods themselves have to be harvested, moved to the teleport station and finally delivered to the player via the ship which acts as the end point for the teleport. Each of these actions requires one of your timers to run its course before the action is completed. Add to this the ability to upgrade your factory (again requires timer to complete) and moving your ship around (again timer powered) and it quickly becomes like a circus act with three players on unicycles throwing juggling clubs to each other while the sabre dance plays. 
It’s a different game. I’ve never played anything quite like it. It’s unusual too in that you have to know all the rules (relatively simple) before the game starts because you can’t really pause the game once it begins. 

It’s fairly lite. There’s no grand strategy, it’s all reactionary and whilst not as frenetic as dobble or it’s ilk it’s a tiring game. This is not one you would want to play a few hours straight. 
I’m not 100% sure what I think of it. I’m not rushing out to buy it but I’d happily jump onboard if it pulled into view. I suspect this will remain a unique oddity definitely worth a look but not essential for your collection. That said. It IS really cheap….

Knavecon Raffle pt 7


Thanks to the Mighty BLACK KAT GAMES who will be front and centre at Knavecon tomorrow we have a rather nice copy of

for the raffle….

If you’re not familiar with the guys, Black Kat is one of the best games shops in the country. Situated centrally in Image result for bloody knifeImage result

, the guys are passionate about their hobby and their love for all things gaming spills over into the business.  I recommend you go to their page and follow it, there’s always something awesome gamewise brewing or about to kick off with these dudes.  Better still make a daytrip to them, you won’t regret it



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