Thursday, December 13, 2012

Down, Down To Goblin Town...

I recently picked up Games Workshop's new The Hobbit: Escape From Goblin Town set and found myself wanting a 2'x2' board to play the scenarios on. I've actually been wanting to put together a new small skirmish board for a while. My green grass board is beginning to show its age with a few bald spots and some dents (kind of like me), and I figured this would be a great opportunity.

So, armed with four 1'x1' floor tiles and some spray paint, I managed to put this together:

I sprayed the tiles black, then found a suitable dark grey textured spray to go over that. It's a little dark, but I think it captures the deep underground feel.

I've come to like the textured sprays Rustoleum puts out. A single can can easily cover a large area and the texture is sandy without being chunky. Miniatures slide over the surface with ease. The walkways pictured are the Goblin Town terrain included in the Hobbit set (and can be bought separately for ridiculous prices). The rocks are some of Gale Force 9's terriffic pre-painted Battlefield in a Box pieces. Luckily with such a small board, you don't need much to cover it.

Of course any small skirmish game or RPG could be played on this board. I have in the past played compact games of Song of Blades and Heroes on a 2'x2' board using their 15mm scale measurements with 28mm figures (my 15mm collection is woefully small). Combats for D&D could also be played out using inches instead of squares.

Hayden the Slayer encounters some aberrant monstrosities in the Deep Dark.
It will also serve to host other Lord of The Rings SBG scenarios in Moria or maybe even the black ash wastes of Mordor.

Frodo and Sam fend off a Moria Goblin in the rocky tunnels of Moria.
All in all, the best part about this board is that it was pretty cheap. My tiles were free (extras from re-flooring a space at work), I already had a can of black spray and the texture spray was around 6 bucks. But if I had to buy it all from scratch it would be less than $20. It's a bonus that the tiles all stack and store in a 1'x1' space and can have other things stacked on top with little chance of damaging them.

Happy gaming!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Temple of the Old Ones

I've managed to get some work done on my long-forgotten dungeon project, which opens up my options for building. One of the things that I am finding the dungeon pieces great for is creating structures on the battlefield for skirmish games. The open top and grey stone aesthetic really helps create the atmosphere of ancient tombs and ruined temples.

I set about playing with making a Lovecraft Mythos themed temple and I think I did pretty well. Here is the Temple of the Old Ones:

Aerial view of the temple
Close-up of the interior
The face of evil...
Chains to hold the sacrifices...
The grey walls and floors are a wonderful contrast to the sickly green of the idols. The idols are from FFG's Bag of Cthulhu accessory for their Call of Cthulhu LCG. They are a must for any miniatures gamer who wants to add an air of Lovecraftian eeriness to their tabletop.

Now all I have to do is finish off my cultist miniatures so I will have someone to tend it and feed the will of the dark gods...

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Little Bit Of Lovecraftian Horror

I haven't been as productive of late, so I haven't been posting as much. Life has been busy and on top of it I have been sick. Hopefully I will be able to post up a couple of game reviews and some painting projects, but in the meantime, here's a blurb of Lovecraftian horror that may inspire you in some way.

All at once a sound echoed down the tunnel, something like the scrabbling of a thousand rats fleeing some disaster over the stone floor. We angled the torch behind us and stood frozen as some "thing" slid into the light, rearing up as it was confronted by the brightness.

Its snake-like, chitinous body was black, the smooth scales shining in the glow of the torch. It had no legs, but was instead propelled forward on millions of pink tendrils that writhed and skittered on the tunnel floor. It was long enough that the tail was lost in the darkness behind it, but the part that was revealed to us was at least ten feet in length. Most horrible of all, where the head would have been grew only a cluster of tongue-like projections, wiggling obscenely as it drooled a thick, viscous liquid that hissed as it dripped on the stone below it.

We stared at it as it swayed away from our light, then suddenly it surged forward with a choked gurgling sound...

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's Good To Be The King (Of War)

I missed posting last week for a very practical reason: I got a case of orcs.

I was told to take two adventurers and call in the morning.
By that, I mean that my Kickstarter order from Mantic Games finally arrived. My excitement was only slightly dampened by the fact that it was over two months late. I had originally delayed my order to the August shipping so I could get a nice shiny backer rulebook with my name in it. But then the August orders overwhelmed Mantic and they didn't go out until September. No biggie, since I had already been waiting since May or so and they had provided me with a lovely PDF copy to play with and I have no shortage of miniatures.

But then disaster struck. All of September came and went, and there was no box from Mantic. I contacted Stew on the forums (great guy) and he said it may have gotten lost in the mail. However, he had them ship out a new order immediately and it was only a couple of days before it arrived. The arrival was slightly marred by the fact that I got a regular book and not a backer book, so it had no signatures from Mantic's Ronnie Renton or designer Alessio Cavatore, and it did not have the backer name pages.

 Another round of messages to Stew and I was assured I would get the signatures on a new book(which I hope will come soon), but I would not be able to get a real backer book because they were out. The whole reason I delayed my order in the first place (and subsequently the reason it got lost in the shuffle) was for that particular book. So I'm still a little disappointed because I wanted to be able to point to my name on the page. I'm narcissistic like that. but Mantic's response was so great and fast that I can't help but still love them (thanks again, Stew!).

Besides, I still had a whole orc army to assemble. And, I had plenty of sprues. I don't know if it was a mistake or intentional awesomeness on Mantic's part, but I had a whole extra 10 orcs in my army box, enough to expand one of my Ax units to a 30 man horde, or (as I chose to do) make a whole new unit of elite Morax warriors with some creative assembly and a dash of command bits leftover from some GW beastmen.

Mo' axes, NO problems. Because you hit those problems with an AXE!

So far I have a solid block of infantry assembled into a 1000 point army and I am still working on getting the Gore Rider Cavalry assembled.

And why, do you ask, could I be so busy for two weeks and still not even be finished? Three reasons:

  • I got over 100 orcs in the box.
  • I have played a couple games in between assembly. 
  • I got over 100 orcs in the box.

103 in the final count, not including a couple extra sprues that don't add up to full units. I am also concerned as I had not calculated how I was going house these orcs among my many other armies.

Clearly I need some of these.
So, what do I think of Mantic and Kings of War?

First off, Mantic is a great company. So far my relationship with them has been rocky, but I really believe they are trying to be the company I want for mass battles gaming. They have managed to pick up where Games Workshop has left off. Their miniatures may not be as pretty as GW's but they also don't require me to take out a bank loan.

"I'm not sure what a Skaven is, but I'm sure we can get you started. Is it some sort of home addition?"
 They also provide some great board games with Dwarf King's Hold and Project Pandora. They are also friendly and listen to their fans, something a lot of companies (GW most of all) don't do these days. While I may have a ton of miniatures and could have gotten to playing Kings of War with my GW armies I already own, I like Mantic enough that I bought a whole new Orc army. So that's something.

As to Kings of War, I am already a fan. I have already converted all of my Warhammer armies over to Kings of War. That is an extremely easy task, since not only does the main rulebook come with EVERY army list for EVERY race in he game, but 95% of the units are analogous to Warhammer units and races. It's not a perfect fit (I am still trying to get my Necrosphinx into my Tomb Kings undead) but it works.

The game itself is really nice. Kings of War is written by Alessio Cavatore, in my opinion the best author of the WHFB ruleset. You can see where he took many of the ideas in WHFB and streamlined them. The result is a game that plays fast and seems tighter than its predecessor.

For example, movement is a simple "I move here" affair. There is no wheeling, just pivoting on the spot. Terrain slows you down like it should and is never mysterious. Unless you and your opponent agree beforehand, forests never eat your troops and rivers don't boil the skin off you just for daring to wade across them. Even charging is simple and thankfully non-random. 

Attacking is streamlined so that there are no charts. You simply have a melee or ranged score to hit and you always hit on that score, barring modifiers like range, cover, charging defended obstacles or cavalry attacking a block of spears. Your unit has a number of attacks, used for both ranged attacks and melee, and you simply roll that many dice to hit. Also, only the unit that charges gets to attack. Afterward the units are separated and the attacker waits for the inevitable counter-charge.

Each unit has a defense score required to hurt it, and you simply roll to beat it. You get a bonus if you have Crushing Strength or Piercing. I'ts extremely straightforward. It's as if they pre-calculated things for you so you could spend less time looking things up and more time gaming. 

Magic, too, is simplified. You can zap things, heal things, move units (mostly an undead thing) or breath fire. This sounds limiting and kind of generic, but I like that aspect. When I use Zap, I could be throwing fireballs, lightning bolts, dark energy or fluffy kittens. It's all up to what I decide happens.

Felinomancy is a lost (and adorable) art.

The one part of the game I am still on the fence about is how damage is applied. Models are never removed from units. Instead, they are treated like one big model and take a number of wounds that must be marked by the unit. This is good for a couple of reasons. One, you can model your whole unit on a single base, allowing you to make it into a beautiful diorama piece and never having to worry about models falling off. Two, you always get to see your units in their full glory until they are completely destroyed. 

This approach also has its negatives. It requires that you have some sort of wound counters to mark the unit. Most people will use dice, as it is not uncommon to see wounds in the double digits. This is a bit fiddly, since you have to make sure you don't accidentally pick them up and roll them when you attack, or accidentally bump them and turn the die. You could also use counters/tokens but they pile up fast and have to move with the unit. The opportunity exists for some really cool diorama type counters though, and I am intrigued with what I could come up with if I get ambitious. Finally, you could just write it down on a sheet of paper. That's really the most elegant solution as long as you have some way of keeping track of who is who.

I also very much like the visceral feeling of knocking over "dead" miniatures. Hopefully my inner 6-year-old will get over not being able to do that.

He probably won't.
The only aspect of the game I dislike is Nerve. Nerve is both the unit's health and morale. After doing damage, the player who attacked rolls two dice and adds the number of wounds on the unit. If it hits the unit's Wavering score, the unit is disrupted and can only really retreat in the next turn. If it hits the Rout score, the unit is destroyed. Anything less and the unit keeps fighting.

Maybe I'm too used to Leadership tests, but I find the Nerve test counter-intuitive, in that as the attacker I am rolling it. If this represents the damaged unit taking the action (i.e. holding or fleeing), shouldn't the unit's controller be making the roll? There has been so much focus on keeping only the active player performing actions that this seems a little forced. This could have been the one place in which your opponent could have participated in combat during an otherwise one-sided affair. Player interaction is important, and it can mean the difference between combat feeling like a tense battle of sides or a total ass-kicking while you lie helpless on the floor in a puddle of warm urine. Functionally it makes no difference, but emotion is where we live when combat ensues.

Ultimately, I love Kings of War so far. I was actually going to include a battle report. I was invested enough to take pictures. But none of the pictures came out well, and my new orcs got beaten to a bloody pulp by weedy elves, and nobody enjoys watching a blurry ass-kicking.

I don't think Kings of War will ever fully supplant Warhammer for me. I am too excited by GW's fluff and style, and occasionally a massive, detailed, crazy 4-6 hour game is exactly what you need. However, Kings of War plays so quickly that I know I will be playing it more often than WHFB. The last game I played was about 1000 points (equal to about a 1500 point Warhammer game) and took only an hour and a half. And that's without uber-total-unit-destruction spells to eat half an army. Plus, I am finding that including things like large monsters are less of a liability (they act more like regular units), so I am getting to use my lovely High Elf dragon rider that has been collecting dust for a couple years.

So I suggest you try it out. You really have nothing to lose. The basic rules are FREE.

Didn't I tell you Mantic was awesome?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Favored Enemy: DungeonQuest (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the swinging blade trap)

I am a gamer, and therefore love games of all types. The games I own run the gamut from sci-fi to fantasy, ameritrash to euro, from wargames to RPGs. But, more than anything, I enjoy dungeon crawls. The very idea of exploring a dark, dank, underground dungeon filled with monsters, traps and loot sets my pulse racing. It can be a heroic quest or a selfish gold grab, either way I'm ready to delve.

As long as there are handrails. Safety first.
So, it may surprise you that, until recently, I had never played DungeonQuest. Weird, right? It has everything I described above and it has existed for over 30 years. Copies of the original still pop up on eBay, still complete or even unopened. Fantasy Flight Games even reprinted it about 2 years ago with all their lavish style. And I am only now playing it.

And I honestly don't know why. Possibly because I had an aversion to eBay for many years. Possibly because I had originally balked at a $65 price tag on what was originally designed as a beer and pretzels death-fest for the FFG version. I really have no idea.

But late one night, amidst one of my regular insomnia bouts and through a haze of exhaustion I found myself on Amazon and, without any provocation I can remember, had typed "DungeonQuest" into the search bar. What came up was an entry for the FFG version at under $40 and with free shipping. Apparently it had been decreed, after such a long time pondering its merits, that I would own this game.

Not being one to deny divine providence, I ordered it and 4 days later it was in my possession. I have owned this game for 4 and a half days and I have played it about 20 times now. I simply cannot get enough of this beautiful game.

Look at it. Look, and weep at its beauty.

Now, I don't call it beautiful because FFG has lavished it with great artwork and top-quality components. I really want to pick up a copy of the Games Workshop version from the mid-80s at some point as well, with all of its gritty, simplistic glory. I admire it so because the game is an elegant portrayal of a classic dungeon deathtrap. At its core, it has no airs. Your goal is to grab as much gold as your greedy hands can carry while dodging traps and fighting monsters, then legging it as quickly as possible out of the dungeon before you are trapped forever at sundown.

This is what the origin of woe looks like.
Gameplay is quick and simple: draw a dungeon tile, move there and draw a card and it tells you what you encounter. Some rooms are empty, but most have some horrible effect. It is actually rare that you win a game. Between the sun going down (fast) and ending the game, and all of the nastiness that goes on, there is maybe a 10% survival rate. I have only won 2 games so far and of those, one was due to sheer cowardice (I left after only a few rooms with a tiny bag of gold without ever reaching the dragon's lair). However, it is the times that I died, and their awful manner, that I have loved the most. 

Since I have acquired the game I have:

  • Been cut in two by a swinging blade trap in the very first room
  • Fell down a bottomless pit
  • Crushed by a golem
  • Murdered by poisonous gas
  • Eaten by rats in the catacombs
  • Trapped at sundown countless times

Every minute was glorious. There are so many ways to die and so little chance of surviving, that you spend the entire game wondering how it will happen. 

Dead end with no chance of escape? Boring...
And when you win it is that much more satisfying. You don't care about the end result because it is the journey that makes the game. You never know if you will make it to the dragon's lair only to be burnt to a crisp, get lost or killed on the way, or trapped before you get out. It is always tense and exciting.

The best thing about the game, for me, is the ability to play solo. It doesn't lose a whole lot (except player and monster powers) and has the same range of possible death and dismemberment. I have played all of my games solo at this point and can't wait to share it with others, but I would be happy playing by myself forever.

A lot people complain about FFG's take on combat and I can sort of see their point. It uses a deck of combat cards and is way more complicated than the rest of the game. Seeing as the original had a sort of rock-paper-scissors, chart-based system, the playing of whole hands of cards with counter-attacks and powers seems needlessly slow and confusing. An otherwise fast paced game grinds to a halt when combat occurs.

Personally, I like the card system. I find it more tense and a little deeper than matching card types to a chart or rolling a couple dice. You have to decide if you will pay the highest number card you can or a slightly less powerful attack with a chance to counter. Do you play a huge swing card or try to nab extra damage with a deathblow? It all depends on the risk you wanna take. And for those that like the original system, FFG has included those too in the rulebook, along with several other variant rules to make things more interesting (or for cowards) less deadly.

This should be you at the end of the game, nancy-boy.
So if you enjoy dungeon crawls and high death rates, pick up this game. I can't recommend it enough.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Star Wars X-Wing Episode II: Bring me solo (and a cookie)!

I feel somewhat remiss that I have not yet posted a battle report for X-Wing. I am really beginning to love the way it plays, but I haven't yet gotten to play a REAL game of it, since I haven't gotten to play a game against a live human being yet.

You see, I play a fair majority of my games solo. This is because I have a small pool of friends who enjoy gaming, a schedule that runs counter to theirs most of the time, or a location issue (i.e. they are now living many states away). I also have some pretty strong social anxiety issues that make it difficult to just grab a "pick-up" game here and there.

With most games, this isn't really a problem. Either it is built for solo, or I can easily play both sides in the game. Even in card games, I can usually "forget" what is in Player 2's hand and make decisions objectively (usually). And normally I don't worry too much about it because when I game, I am really in it for the story of what happens. So, yeah, I guess I've gained a sort of secondary personality of sorts.

I am Jack's complete lack of social interaction. 
The problem with X-Wing is that it has a hidden movement mechanic that, for some reason, my brain can't forget about. When I try to pick movement and I know about it, the game always ends up the same because I know exactly where I'm gonna be. And its weird because I can do open movement with other wargames I own, but this one is either too quick (and goes even quicker when movement is predictable) or the pilot skill mechanic is way more powerful when you can see what others are doing. Knowing where the other person is gonna be just breaks the game.

I have heard that some people on BoardGameGeek have had some success with random movement, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Lo and behold, that was the answer. I now no longer knew where my opponent was going to be. Suddenly the game was lasting a little longer and the battles were a little closer. With that in mind, I knew I couldn't help but make it into a scenario for the game and share it!

Mission: Training Sim [Solo]

Cam Vior strapped into the egg-shaped cockpit with shaking hands. First time out, never even sat in a seat before. It was dark. No light except what came in around the door. Suddenly bright light washed around him and he could see again, the interior of a TIE fighter now his surroundings. In the distance, a squadron of X-Wings floated against the star field ahead. A voice came through the comm.

"Pilot Vior, simulation is about to begin. Stand by for combat training."

Mission Setup

Although this mission is for one player, there are still 2 sides in the game. You will get one force that you will completely control. The opposing force will have its movement determined randomly and you will make its decisions for it beyond that.

Rebel: Rookie Pilot [Proton Torpedoes].

Imperial: Two Academy Pilots.

Special note: This mission requires a single regular six-sided die that is not included in the base game. This die can be scrounged from a number of other board games or bought in stores cheap.

Do not choose which force you will be playing. Instead, roll the six-sided die once for each force, re-rolling ties. Whichever side rolls highest is the force you will control. If you are using the squad building rules, build each squad separately before determining which force you will control.

Each force deploys as per the rules for a non-mission game of X-Wing.

Special Rules

Movement AI: During the planning phase, the player sets his maneuver dials for his force normally and they will act as normal during the Activation Phase. Do not set dials for the opposing force. During the Activation Phase, using the chart below, determine the speed and maneuver for each opposing ship as its turn comes up:

This image is not my work but belongs to a wonderful fellow on BGG  whose name I cannot find now.
First, find the ship on the chart. Next roll the six-sided die and compare it to the numbers on the left side. That is the ship's speed. If you roll a number that is not on the chart, roll again until you have a number that is. Then, roll the die a second time, counting that many spaces to the right to see what maneuver is performed at that speed. Once again, if you roll a blank space, roll again. If only one maneuver exists at that speed (besides Koiogran Turns; see below), the ship automatically performs that maneuver.

Koiogran Turns: An opposing ship will not normally make a Koiogran Turn. However, if it rolls a speed a which a Koiogran Turn can be made, after any straight maneuver at that speed where it would end up with no enemy ships in its fire arc, treat that straight as a Koiogran Turn instead (i.e. turn the ship around at the end of the movement). Stress is gained as normal if this is a red maneuver for the ship.

Leaving the play area: AI controlled ships will not normally leave the play area. They have been programmed to keep fighting at all costs. If a maneuver would take an AI ship off the play area, it will instead perform the shortest turn possible to avoid leaving the field. If this would still result in the ship leaving the field, remove it from play, but mark the spot where it left the field. During the next Activation Phase, the ship will return from that point on its turn, performing the fastest straight maneuver it is capable of. Ships controlled by a player are still subject to "fleeing" of they leave the play area, so choose your maneuvers wisely!

Other Phases: The rest of the game is played by choosing what each enemy ship would do as if you were playing that force to the best of your ability. No cheating! If you can't trust yourself use the following AI:

Actions: Actions are given the following priority: Barrel Roll (if necessary to improve or avoid attack arc, otherwise ignore), Target Lock, Focus, Evade. If a ship cannot perform an action, it skips it and performs the next in the order. A ship with only one hull point left ALWAYS Evades.

Combat: The AI ship will always attack the closest enemy ship. If there is a tie, choose the one that has taken the most damage. If there is still a tie, choose the one that has the highest Pilot Skill. Otherwise randomly determine the target. If the AI possesses a secondary attack, it will use that attack if able. 


Play continues until all ships on one side are destroyed, leaving one side the victor!

So, that's my scenario. It's nothing new or fancy, compared to what's been mentioned already in various forums, but its at least in mission format. Hope somebody gets some use out of it.

Happy gaming!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip."

For those who are in the know, tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the first printing of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit". Obviously this is a big deal for us Hobbit-folk (or those of us who would like to be) and a bunch of clever Hobbitses have started a movement to celebrate Hobbit Second Breakfast.

For those who don't know, second breakfast is the second of the six Hobbit meals (the others being breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, dinner and supper). Being a food lover myself, I am totally in on snarfing down a few pastries with some tea, but as I am a gamer, I figure I need to do something on such an auspicious day concerning the hobby.

My plan is to get up early and assemble a deck for FFG's Lord of the Rings LCG using cards from the recent The Hobbit: Over The Hill And Under The Hill expansion.

I love this particular expansion because, more than any other book detailing the adventures of Middle Earth, I love "The Hobbit" most of all. The dwarfs are my barometer for all things dwarfy; Gandalf is a crazy old wizard but obviously wise and powerful; and Gollum was creepy and tricky, but not an anti-hero. But moreover, the true hero of the tale isn't some human kid being thrust into danger due to some prophecy. I honestly hate stories like that because they are lazy. This isn't a coming of age tale. The hero is a middle-aged  Hobbit, set in his ways and living a life of comfort, practically forced into becoming a burglar-for-hire by a crazy old wizard, for reasons known only to a crazy old wizard.

This is the face of heroism.
But once the opportunity arises, Bilbo musters his courage and makes the decision to leave his comfy world and taste adventure. The moral of the story isn't that some of us are destined for greatness. What I took away from it, even as a child, was that it's never too late to be adventurous and even the most timid person has a hero inside them. We can all be the hero if we just choose to go on the adventure. And I think that is a much better lesson than most fantasy stories teach these days.

So I can't wait to build a deck filled with Thorin, Bilbo, Gandalf and the rest of the dwarves. I can't wait to sip a cup of tea while munching on a few biscuits and scones, all the while attempting daring quests in card format and wistfully remembering my first readings of "The Hobbit." I can't wait to do these things because for a short time, I get to have some small sense of what it is to be a Hobbit.

And that is a very brave thing to be, after all.

By the way if anyone happens to live nearby, my family's videostore, MGM Video, is celebrating Hobbit Second Breakfast with free coffee, tea and pastries. We will also be playing the animated version of "The Hobbit," as well as the Lord of the Rings movies throughout the day in honor of Mr. Tolkien's accomplishment. Come in and have a bite, if you like.

What are you doing to celebrate Hobbit Second Breakfast? Will you be baking? Gaming? Maybe painting a few Lord of the Rings miniatures? Or maybe just a movie marathon? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Star Wars X-Wing Episode I: The Unboxing Menace

Originally I had planned to post a battle report this week. That changed yesterday morning as I sat down to my computer for my morning ritual: coffee, Facebook, check e-mail, and (since its release at GenCon) check  Target's website to see if any store remotely close to me has the Star Wars X-Wing miniatures game by Fantasy Flight Games.

As with most geeks, I am a fan of all things Star Wars. I may have opinions on how the prequels were made and vociferously boycott new editions on blu-ray (while secretly coveting them and hoping someone buys me a "misguided" present), but I consume it all. Movies, Legos, action figures, collectibles and, most importantly, games!

However, most Star Wars games have left me flat over the years. They have run the gamut of too kiddy (Epic Duels) to too complicated (WEG miniatures system) or have been too commercial. Even Wizards of the Coast's miniatures games didn't quite "feel" Star Wars. So when I saw X-Wing announced by a company whose games I love for their production value and decent rules, I was ecstatic. This, I told myself, would be my "new hope".

You should probably prepare yourself for a lot of bad Star Wars puns like that.

And there I was, staring at the words "in stock" on my screen. Now, it's not as if I hadn't already pre-ordered  one of everything X-Wing already from Coolstuffinc. But I had saved aside enough money to purchase one extra core set if I found it in a physical store before my loot arrived. I had been waiting about a year for this game and I wanted it NOW.

Fortunately, my wife was not there to here the squeal of girlish glee that echoed through the house, nor witness the ritualistic celebration dance of my people that followed.

It was something similar to this. But not as pretty.
The store was a little less than an hour away. The quest must be undertaken! Overcoming my intense hatred of the phone through the power of Star Wars, I called and had them set one aside, just in case some pack of rabid neckbeards managed to scour the place clean before I got there. I immediately hopped into my car, turned on a Star Wars soundtrack and rocketed down the interstate. I may have pretended my car was a starfighter as I drove. Possibly an A-Wing, the most car-like of the starfighters.

Just look at it. You know I'm right.
Two and a half hours later I had returned with my purchase, and already I could tell that the force was strong with this one (see, I told you. Didn't I tell you?). Now, on to the unboxing!

The box is typical FFG quality, sturdy and linen printed. It was slimmer than I expected, similar to their Silver Line boxes such as Elder Sign or Rune Age. It also has a cut-out window in the front, which allows the plastic pack of ships to show through. It also means that unless you leave that pack in the box, you have a hole in the cover.

 Here we have the pile of stuff that comes inside, all packaged up...

For once FFG has included an insert that will actually store the contents after opening. However, don't expect it to store any more than that. And you have to put the ships back in the way you found them or things will fall out of the hole in the box top. If you buy expansions, expect to have to find another option for storage unless you enjoy picking up a million counters off the floor.

The damage cards and upgrade cards are the mini size, but judge them by their size you should not. They are covered with beautiful artwork and are high quality. The upgrade cards probably could have been full size, but the damage cards benefit from being small, since they are used somewhat like counters to mark damage on individual ships.

 The ship card are American CCG size and are similarly beautiful. All of the artwork really "feels" Star Wars, and captures the ships without making them look like cartoons. There are multiple pilots for each ship, though each faction has unique pilots that can only be used one per squad. There are enough cards to outfit multiple ships beyond what is in the pack, but the ship tokens provided are printed with a different ship on each side, so it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to "cheat" and not buy extra expansions.

The rule book is surprisingly well laid out for an FFG book. The rules are laid out clearly and concisely, with lots of sidebars and examples. They include quick start rules, but the game is honestly so easy to pick up they are hardly needed. The book describes the basic game using the box components, squad building rules for when you have added a few more ships and a 3 different scenarios in case just blowing each other up gets boring.

 The counters come in sturdy, well laid out sheets. However this:

Quickly turns into this:

A little organization and you have several piles of counters that all mean different things:

You have your various status tokens, such as shields, target locks, stress and action tokens. These are all used to make ships on the table so you know what you are doing. There are also number tokens so you can mark out which ships are which if multiples of the same ship/pilot are being fielded.

 Next are your mission tokens, all of which mark out special things on the mission maps. Of particular not are the asteroids, which act as obstacles. Even if you are not playing a mission, these can be a fun way to shake up the basic dogfights.

Finally we have all the measuring devices. These are clever as hell. Not only does this mean that you don't even need to own a tape measure to play, it speeds up game play incredibly. You can't move part way along a template. You just plop down the template and move your ship from one end to the other. No fuss, no muss. Just don't get cocky, kid. While it seems simple, until you get used to using the templates, it can be easy to pick the wrong maneuver and overshoot your target. But more on that when I do a battle report review.

Finally we have the stars of the show, the ships and the dice! The dice are pretty simple: attack dice have attack stuff and defend dice have defend stuff. Both have focus results that can be turned into or attack or defend stuff. The dice probably could have been a little more high quality, but they aren't bad and get the job done. Bonus for the choice to use D8s, since D6s are so prevalent in games.

The ships themselves are amazing. They are totally in scale to each other, universe-wise, and are painted to a pretty high standard. They are at least as good as I could do, which is rare among pre-painted minis and they show no signs of warping. They are also pretty big for starfighters, sitting on 40mm bases and are held up by flight stands. On the one hand flight stands always look amazing, but on the other hand, they are fragile. I expect to snap at least a couple. Luckily you get a few extra, originally intended to add extra height if you want but they will soon be pressed into service as replacements, I'm sure.  The ships themselves are also pretty delicate as well. They are made of a plastic resin instead of the rubbery plastic most pre-paints are made of. I can see them easily snapping if too much pressure is applied, especially the attack foils on the X-wing. Be warned if you are a wookie or just have especially meaty hands.

 Of course I had to do a size comparison with their closest analogues from WOTC's starship battles game. As you can see, the FFG ships are quite a bit bigger and not melting. They are really done right. Trying to mix and match to get extra ships would look awful, but I suppose it could be done.

That's it for now. Hopefully I will be able to do a battle report/rules review soon. To whet your appetite, here's a shot of the minis on the table, ready for battle.

Happy gaming and may the Force be with you!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Best. Gift. Ever.

My birthday was actually about a week ago, but I have been meaning to share this:

Do I have the best wife in the world or what? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go kick Mordor's ass...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Into The Deep Dark...

Recently I have been fiddling around with using Song of Blades and Heroes to create a good solo dungeon crawl system that fits my needs. I own a copy of Song of Gold and Darkness, but have found it too focused on two players. There are a lot of great ideas in it though, so with that along with Song of Deeds and Glory (for campaign/experience rules) and a generous helping of homebrew, I started my first real playtest dungeon:

The layout above is a testament to both the awesomeness of Dungeonstone's advanced set and my monumental laziness. I've had the set since March and it only has 3 colors. You'd think I'd be done by now.

Nevertheless, my heroes set off into the dungeon, paladin and rogue in the lead and the dwarf fighter taking up rearguard. Opening the door to the first room, the party is surprised to find a giant wolf guarding a fountain! It leaps forward to attack!

Turns out that fountain has magical properties that sustain the wolf, leading to a tough fight. The rogue is taken out of action almost immediately. Here's hoping there aren't any traps ahead. Eventually the wolf is put down, but there is no treasure to be had here. After the first casualty, the dwarf and elf take the lead to deal with tough fights ahead.

Is this place a kennel? The next room yielded more wolves (hooray for random tables!) tucked behind a patch of poisonous fungus. Also no treasure here either (boo, random tables!).

Luckily, wolves are dumb and charged across the fungus themselves. One is unaffected, but the other ends up with a face full of spores and a coughing fit for its efforts. The wolves go down quicker than the first and everyone makes it through the fungus unharmed, although the paladin had to stop briefly to sneeze a bit.

The door to the next room was locked, but teamwork quickly bashed it open in the absence of the rogue. Behind the door waited a crystal golem commanded by a wizard who was ready for trouble. The heroes could feel that fell magics had been cast here and the ground itself felt cursed.

The golem surged forward, but the elf quickly reduced it to sparkly rubble. An opening found, the dwarf charged in and hacked the now defenseless wizard to pieces. The heroes once again found no treasure to reward their efforts.

Pressing ever onward, the heroes move down the opposite corridor. Suddenly, dark shapes move out of the shadows of the intersection. An ambush! A couple of dark elf warriors led by a witch rush the unsuspecting heroes!

 In a flash of blades, the wizard is laid low! Now with no magical support and a flank attack, things look grim...

 But the paladin has no tolerance for such evil creatures. He quickly smites a warrior, then the witch, letting his comrades mop up the survivor.

The heroes almost make it to the next room before lumbering footsteps and scraping scales echo down the hall. A small (-ish) dragon has heard the battle and come to chow down!

 Dodging a gout of flame, the paladin and dwarf rush in. The paladin stuns the beast, letting the dwarf make short work of it. Who said dragons were dangerous?

 Finally, treasure! One bashed down door later and the group was staring at a huge treasure chest. It was quickly opened to find...10 gold coins. They fought a dragon for this?

 Obviously drawn by the scent of dragon meat (or looking for his now-dead pet), a giant lumbers down the hall. He hurls a couple rocks before getting hacked up and left in the pile that has accumulated in this intersection.

 The final room! The door swings open to reveal a tomb that will surely contain treasures of old. However, first the heroes will have to fight off a Chaos Mage and his bodyguard who have come to loot the tomb as well!

 With blinding speed, the elf ranger leaps forward and cuts down a Chaos warrior while the other villains stare in stunned silence...

 Giving the elf the opportunity to engage the mage himself, though not before the paladin finds himself ensorcelled. As the mage utters the final few words of the spell, the elf gruesomely disembowels him with his blades. The sight causes one bodyguard to panic, letting the dwarf hack him to bits as he tries to flee.

The final bodyguard foolishly holds his ground and is gutted by the elf. The tomb is opened and reveals 100 gold pieces! Finally, some reward! There is also a potion tucked beneath the old bones.

In the aftermath of the quest, the rogue recovers from his wounds, albeit having been looted for his gear while healing. Five gold pieces later he is re-equipped. The wizard is not as lucky and succumbs to his injuries. A new wizard is hired and reveals the potion found in the tomb to be a potion of speed. Healing potions are purchased and distributed to prevent future casualties.

I have learned a couple things from this adventure:

1) Tailor your encounter lists. While it is fun to have randomness, it makes a better story if you have a theme. It also means that you can use more of the figures you want. I ended up using a lot of unpainted figures because I rolled things I haven't gotten to yet. Granted, my dungeon isn't done either, but at least if I had made lists to suit my collection, I could have had more color.

2) The scenic features in  SGD are not necessarily the ones I want to use. I will probably come up with custom rules more suited to what I have on hand and more what I envision in a dungeon setting.

3) I may add at least a little treasure to each non-wandering encounter. Not getting paid for getting stabbed in the face sucks. Not a lot though. Like 1d6 coins or something to represent pocket change.

That's all for now. Maybe on my next trip into the dungeon I'll bring you with me again. *winks*