|Heroscape has been available in the U.S. for a while now but only landed in the UK just before Christmas. As Chris had a birthday in early January, I took advantage of the New Year Sale at The Place For Games to order a copy. When he opened the wrapping paper on his birthday, he didn’t seem overly thrilled but once we dug into the box and saw the marvellous components, his eyes widened and he was pretty keen to play.
I really like the way you build up the landscape prior to the game, allowing you to use your imagination to come up with interesting battlefields. There are a number of scenarios in the rulebook to try out first but that won’t stop you designing your own once you get used to the game. The playing pieces are first class and represent a very diverse range of characters (you can have standard army elite forces facing robots or meninblack type characters or even a huge dragon). Oh and it’s worth mentioning the large box and the amount of fresh air inside it: there is none! The components only just squeeze inside and this makes a refreshing change. As to the game itself, we’ve only tried the basic version so far and this is pretty straightforward. The scenario will dictate a goal (such as eliminating all your opponent’s pieces or capturing a particular object). Player turns involve selecting a character or group of characters, moving them and attacking an opponent’s character if it’s within range of yours. Each character has an attack and defence strength, which determines the number of dice rolled during combat, and a character on higher terrain gets an extra die. If the attacker rolls more ‘hits’ than the defender, the loser’s character is removed from play. All very simple and doesn’t make for too much in the way of strategy. The advanced rules add extra aspects but I can’t report on these until I’ve tried them out. However, the basic game plays ok as long as you’re only expecting a dice-fest. The fun comes from the experience rather than the game mechanics themselves.
Chris and I tried one of the standard scenarios. My commander, Sergeant Drake, proved to be totally inept in attacking Chris’s pieces. Chris sent his dragon to attack me on one side while his robots came at me from the other. Finally, Drake moved out of hiding, let rip on the robots with a savage burst of gunfire – totally missed – allowing them to sneak past and capture my glyph for an easy victory.
|Patrick Korner is one among others who has been raving about this card game from Japanese company, Yuhodo. Well, I hate to admit I missed this one at Essen but spurred on by the comments, I took a look at the Yuhodo website and decided that it was worth the Â£13 to order a copy direct. And, lo and behold, 10 days later the game has arrived. First time I’ve ordered from Japan but everything seems to have worked very smoothly – well done Yuhodo. The cards are very nicely illustrated and the rules don’t seem too tricky. Iain has coincidentally mentioned the game on his site today here and suggests the icons take some getting used to. I’ll reserve judgment and let you know once I’ve tried the game.|
|Struggle of Empires
Players: Mark K, Mark G, Nige, John, Garry
We’ve all been looking forward to getting the new Warfrog game to the table ever since I got back from Essen but we’ve not had a decent opportunity when we’ve all been at the Club until tonight. Struggle of Empires is definitely a gamer’s game. It is complex in its rules and the multitude of options available to players on each turn. And it is pretty long. Knowing this, we agreed to play through just two wars rather than three as we knew this was going to be very much a learning game. The game is set in the 18th century and is about the battle for dominance by the European powers both within Europe and the colonies. Players represent one of the European powers and command a number of forces (armies, navies and forts) with the aim of establishing control tokens in the eleven areas being fought over. Victory points are awarded according to the balance of control tokens between the players in each area. The game is played over three wars (rounds) and each war consists of a number of phases. First, counters are placed on the board, mainly representing neutral country forces (although some allow colonisation or enslavement to take place later in the round). Next comes one of the most interesting aspects of the game: alliances. Each player has to join one of two alliances and allied countries are obliged not to attack one another during the current war. However, players must bid gold to influence which countries join which alliance and this can be extremely important in keeping threatening countries at bay. Once the alliances have been formed, players have five rounds of actions, in which to develop their position on the map. This can be through introducing new armies navies or forts to the map; moving forces around; taking one of the multitude of action tiles (giving various advantages to the holder); colonising or enslaving in a country where permitted; or attacking opposing forces / neutral forces. Once these action rounds have taken place, players receive income and pay maintenance costs, following which VPs are awarded and marked on the scoring track. The game then moves onto the next war and after three wars the game is over. However, at the end, a deduction to the VP totals is made to those players whose countries have generated the most unrest at home (this having been collected by losing battles or taking certain action tiles). Most VPs after this adjustment wins.
After going through the rules and having taken medication for the headaches we had all acquired, we set off through the first war. For some reason, nobody wanted to be allied with me (Britain) but eventually John drew the short straw. The German States saw a heavy infiltration of forces from Nige and Mark K while Mark G consolidated an impenetrable position in the Baltic. John looked abroad to the Caribbean for his rewards, while I flitted around the globe trying to get a presence in lots of places. At the end of the first round, Nige had a slight VP lead with me in second. The second war saw lots of German native forces appear (not surprising with both Nige and Mark K on their doorstep. I paid to be allied with Nige and to have Nige and Mark K in opposing alliances. This made it more difficult for them to battle the German natives and Nige picked up some critical unrest through a couple of badly fought battles. Towards the end of the round, four of us chose to take tiles to reduce unrest, leaving Nige with the most unstable economy at home and losing him 7VPs. This proved critical in pushing him back into second place behind me. We all enjoyed this and were only really starting to delve into the options by the end. I think a third war would have added more to the game by allowing for more longer-term planning and we didn’t concentrate overly on the action tiles. The game took just over two hours after the lengthy rules summary so it should just fit into a normal evening session now we’ve played it once. One thing we felt was a little strange (I hope we didn’t miss a rule) was that, once you had a control token in an area, if you then moved your forces out, the CT would stay there without fear of attack and continue to generate VPs at the end of each war. This was particularly obvious in the Ottoman Empire where I drew a CT in my initial set up (the only player to do so) and the native force was very strong. This meant nobody moved any forces in there and I was the only one to score in that area each round. Others would have liked to attack me in that area but as I had no units there, they couldn’t. Anyway, overall a very involving and interesting game with lots to try. I liked it a lot and hope we will play again soon.
Result: Garry 53, Nige 48, Mark G 42, Mark K 39, John 29
Ratings: Garry 8, Nige 7, Mark G 7, Mark K 7, John 8
|Jan is a big Scrabble fan, whereas I am not. However, this Sid Sackson game recently published by Face To Face Games is a game about making money from forming words, so I thought it might work out well for both of us. We got to try it out this weekend.
The basic idea is that you buy letter tiles and try to form words from those letters to sell for a profit. A die is rolled and everybody draws a number of tiles indicated by the die. If you decide to keep the tiles, you pay for them by sqaring the number of dots showing on all the tiles you drew. You then add these to any other letters you already have and can choose to sell any word you can form from the letters. These are discarded and you receive payment equal to the square of the dots contained in the word you make. Longer words with more dots will, therefore, generate more profit but you can only retain 8 tiles at the end of your turn. Now it’s worth pointing out that there are a number of variants to the game but we went for the main game described by the rules, which involves drawing tiles at random. This works ok but you are at the mercy of lady luck as to whether you draw helpful or unhelpful tiles. The decisions are obvious: gather the maximum letters you can and then form the longest word you can. Much better in my view is the variant where you draft tiles one at a time from a display of face up letters. This gives some control and adds a little bit of interaction that is most definitely lacking in the basic game.
Buyword is ok but didn’t strike me as a game I’d choose to play very often. I won’t play the basic game again but it might be worth trying multi-player with the drafting rules.
Garry’s rating: 5 (basic version)
|The first session of 2005 saw my son, Chris, join us for the first time. To ease him in gently, I chose a couple of reasonably straightforward games, the first of which he has already played before.Knights
Players: Chris, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry
Knights is a little card and dice game by Michael Schacht that came out quite a few years ago. The cards represent prizes that you obtain through rolling certain combinations of dice: the prizes can be castles, tournament wins or special abilities. You have six dice which can be rolled up to three times, banking any that you want to keep between rolls. However, you lose any die showing a 6. On your turn you can either try for one of two neutral cards that are available or a card that an opponent holds (except tournament cards). If you choose the latter and succeed in getting the right combination, the card owner has a chance to defend by rolling a higher combination than yours. The game ends once somebody claims their fourth castle or has two castles and three tournament wins or has three castles and gains the favour of the King by rolling at least four 5s. In our game, Mark K and Nige quickly built up their holdings of special ability cards. Chris and I spent a couple of turns trading castles, while Mark G kept failing to roll the combinations he was trying for. Eventually, I claimed a third castle which meant I immmediately became a target. One by one, the others came and tried to wrest a castle from me and each time they were valliantly repelled. My turn came around again and, urged on by my faithful followers, I succeeded in grabbing a fourth castle for the win. This is a very light fun game, with some tactics but the outcome mainly being subject to the roll of the dice. Mark K had a pretty strong position and should have been able to stop me at the end but the dice weren’t as kind to him as they were to me. However, it was very fitting that the first win of the year went to last year’s champion.
Ratings: Garry 6, Nige 5, Chris 6, Mark K 5, Mark G 6
Players: Chris, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry
Our second game of the evening was this 1999 release by Zoch. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big fan of Zoch’s production quality and this game has a fantastic gadget included, totally in keeping with the theme. Schrille Stille is all about the music charts and players act as promoters for the record labels, trying to push their acts to the top of the charts. On a turn, each player has a number of influence markers to use to affect the fortunes of the acts currently in the charts. The markers are placed within a cardboard holder, which has a ring of spaces (like a telephone dial) corresponding with the chart positions. All the cardboard holders are placed onto the gadget and the influence markers fall into holes in the gadget for each chart position. Each position is then dialled in turn and the influence markers for that position fall from the gadget onto the table and the act moves up or down depending on the markers revealed. Once all the acts have been resolved, VPs are awarded to those record labels whose acts are in positions 1 to 6, tip markers laid by the players are paid out as appropriate and those acts falling off the bottom of the chart are replaced by new entries. The whole process is very clever and players are involved all the while. Once someone passes 70 points, whoever has the most points at that point is the winner. This game was good fun but, for me, just went on a little too long. Part of this was because the result was extremely close with four players ending the penultimate turn on between 67 and 69 points. I was lagging well behind and the others were all hopeful that I would be overtaken by the dummy record label. Thankfully, that didn’t happen but the final round left Chris and Mark G tied and both claimed a joint win.
Result: Chris=Mark G 79, Nige 76, Mark K 75, Garry 51
Ratings: Chris 6, Mark G 7, Nige 7, Mark K 7, Garry 6
|The latest issue of The Games Journal is out and there is a fascinating review of Gang of Four included. Dave Shapiro is extremely enthusiastic in his praise for the game. I have to admit that I have been intrigued when reading about the game previously and the publisher, Days of Wonder, is one of my favourite companies at the moment, but the price has up to now put me off. Maybe now is the time to take the plunge and give it a go.. The direct link to the article is here.|
|A new auction and building game called Palazzo by Reiner Knizia is going to be released by Alea sometime in 2005, but not before April. Reiner already has numerous auction games to his name (Ra, Modern Art and Amun Re to name a few) and it will be interesting to see what new twist he has come up with this time. The fact that Alea are publishing it suggests to me it is going to worth waiting for. Also, it is supposed to be for 2-4 players and there aren’t too many auction games that I can name that work with two players.|
|Welcome to 2005. Start of a new year and I’ve decided to try an experiment with blogging. Not sure yet how it’s going to tie up with my Trickylight site but here I expect to put more in the way of boardgaming news, especially that relevant to the UK, as well as games played at the Shrewsbury Games Club and with the family. One of my new year resolutions is to get more gaming played at home – whether this will work or not, I don’t know but we’ll do our best. The site is starting off pretty modest. I’ve got to get a links list sorted fairly soon and hopefully a bit of publicity to get things off the ground. Keep watching this space…|