Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Buck Rogers- edit edit edit

Left with some free time and being pretty burned out on building train tracks I thought it was about time to introduce my son to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I have a compilation of much of the early strip and thought that this would be a good place to start. Ten minutes in I found I was editing the material furiously and in some cases just skipping panels entirely. What a disappointment!

I have nothing but respect for the authors of Buck Rogers but there's no escaping the fact that this is one racist and violent comic strip! Asians are big targets in the early material and once the Second World War starts things take a turn for the worse, if that could be believed. There's also rather a lot of shooting as well as some stabbing, torturing, and pushing into pools of acid. Edit, edit, edit... I left that little experiment with a few lessons learned.

One is that kids love adventure stories. The highly abridged adventures of Buddy Deering and Alura prompted hours of dressing up and imaginative play as the kids dodged patrols of Tiger Men and sword-fought across the mysterious jungles of Venus (and yes, nerds know the Tiger Men are on Mars but I was mixing it up.) So that was fun.

Secondly, the material reminds us that life in the old days was probably pretty nice as long as you were a member of a specific racial group. That group might vary depending on what country you were in but being in the "out" gang was going to be rough. Our country has problems to be sure but at least we are about a million times less racist than we were.

Finally, I left my experience wondering about how much this material affects us as children. I loved Buck Rogers as a child but I didn't develop horrifying racial stereotypes. As a pediatrician I believe more and more that consistent family values are the most powerful formative forces in a child's life. My parents were not racist and eighteen years of exposure to that handily swamped the unseemly bits from Buck Rogers, John Carter, and other terrific but dated material. It's a relief for me to know that as long as my family follows a certain pattern of behaviour our kids are likely to enjoy older films, comics, and books without picking up the worst habits of our ancestors.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries- Rocks!

My love affair with Ticket to Ride: Europe continues unabated but the game is not perfectly suited for two players. For that reason I dropped a few hints that Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (TRN) would be pretty welcome below this year's Christmas tree. My wife came through and we got to unwrap and play this new iteration of a great game system.
TRN is fairly similar to it's predecessors in terms of rules. Players trade in cards to lay down train tracks between cities. You score points based on how many lines you can create and whether you connect certain randomly determined locations. TRN has a few twists. For one, it's designed for two and three players. What's more, there are far fewer destinations and fewer tracks with which to connect them. We found this led to a more cut-throat style of play as every line you create can seriously inconvenience your opponent. In a game of Flames of War a cut-throat game leads to fights and broken friendships. In TRN a cut-throat game leads to laughter and plans for a rematch.

TRN also presents you with a landscape that may be completely novel. I'm sure I should know where Narvik and Trondheim are but I am an ugly American and barely know how to locate Salem, NH. Navigating the cities of the North is in the end a great time and feels exotic and intriguing. Narvik could be a European version of Mineola, NY but I chose to believe it's a snowy fairy wonderland and now I've built a railway to it.

Note: Thanks to wikipedia I've learned that it is indeed a fairy wonderland!

In summary TRN to a fabulous member of the amazing Ticket to Ride franchise. It's a great choice when you're looking for a smaller game and presents just a slightly different twist on a beloved game system. Highly, highly recommended for adults, families, and older kids!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Game Master's Challenge

Businesses in Massachusetts seem to give people the week after Christmas off so we're holding our first GM's Challenge game this week. Three GM's will run an all-day adventure in three chapters. Each GM will manage one chapter and play in the other two. There are two components.

The first challenge is based on something I've wanted to do for a while. The players all look through the Monster Manual and pick out the most outrageous monster we can find. Then the GMs are assigned one of the choices randomly. The challenge is to not only have the monster appear, but have it play an integral role in the adventure. It's easy to make an adventure based on marauding Hill Giants, but can you reveal the unplumbed drama of the Water Weird? Or the badger? So far our band has picked the Ixitxachitl, Purple Worm, Rakshasa, Jackalwere, Roper, Night Hag, Lamia, Succubus, and Green Slime. We shall see who gets assigned what.

The second facet of the GM's Challenge is that it's a chain story. Each GM is assigned a story element which begins their adventure and one that ends it. The elements are deliberately vague and open to lots of interpretation. Phase one opens with "Prison Break" and ends with "Boarding a Ship." Phase two begins with "Attack From the Skies" and ends with "Royalty in Disguise." The last phase begins with "A Trap!" and ends with "Crowned by a King."

One unexpected element of the Challenge is that the GMs are going to have to be ready to deal with the preceding story's setting. Phase one may end at the docks of an island, in the center of a museum, or on a mountaintop! It's going to be fun to create a dungeon or adventure that can be seamlessly linked to a variety of physical settings!

The game is set for a few days from now and we shall see how it plays out. Also apparently it's a costume game. It's lucky I seem to have collected multiple D&D costumes. Lucky or tragic I suppose!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: Best Miniatures Game

There are hundreds of miniatures games on the market and ever week I see the confusion this can create. Interested folks come into the Hobby Bunker, watch some games, and then look back with bewilderment at the shelves lined with gaming material. They listlessly pick at a few things and then wander off, unwilling to invest in a game that may never be played. To some extent that's good thinking because most addicted gamers and painters (ahem...) agree that they only play about 10% of what the own. So what should an interested miniatures-gamer-to-be invest in?

To be sure the answer is probably "whatever the local gamers are playing" but if you've just moved to Houlton, Maine and you are the First gamer there, I would recommend Disposable Heroes (DH) from Iron Ivan Games. DH is a skirmish game set in the Second World War. In order to play it you need about fifteen miniature figures per side and some nice terrain. We had a great game last week and some photos are arranged here. DH has a lot to recommend it. Briefly, the rules are simple, the game is easy to invest in, and there are a number of expansions that allow you to play modern combat, zombies, the battles for Poland and the Netherlands, etc. etc.

Beyond the game system itself the period has a lot of affordable choices for new gamers. You can purchase 1/72 scale figures from Revell, Italieri, and Caesar that are high quality and dirt cheap. Look to Plastic Soldier Review for examples. Bolt Action/Warlord and Artizan make terrific 28mm figures which are a little larger than 1/72. Finally, there are relatively affordable vehicles which will top off your army and a good sized force can be purchased for $50 total.

My gaming group had a terrific time with DH and several beginners ran off after playing to buy some minis for themselves. I think the game is a good choice for new players and certainly simple enough for ages ten and up. Of course, the game does deal with war and combat. Every family manages that issue differently. I personally make sure to explain to younger players the actual effect of real war, a lecture that I suspect bores them to tears but may sink in after multiple repeats or some aging on their part.

Holiday Gift Guide: Painter's Delight

I paint a lot of miniature figures. Usually I use some historical information as my guide. For example, my beloved War of 1812 Battle of North Point troops were painted based on old documents and some modern paintings by Don Troiani. Sometimes, however, you have to branch out and just do our best based on your own color sense. I have no innate color sense (thus, no ties at work!) and so I need a bit of help.

That's where Annie Sloan's Color Schemes for Every Room comes in. This book has pages of color swatches arranged in pleasing combination and ordered vaguely by theme. You want to paint a fantasy galley? Try a suggestion from the Persian Palace section. Have some western showgirls to complete? Use the swatches from Neoclassical. I've fixed some horribly botched work by falling back on Ms. Sloan's suggestions. There's also a section on the color wheel, simple and complex colors, and other topics that I can't grasp but are probably quite useful.
Color Schemes for Every Room won't be as exciting to unwrap as a live ferret or a copy of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries. It will, however, be an unbelievably useful asset to any miniature painter. Highly recommended!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide- Budget Gaming

This year's budget delight is absolutely the world of 15mm science fiction miniatures. These have been on the market for years but recent sculpts from Khurasan, Critical Mass, and others are just superb. In order to stay on budget I got a few squads from Blue Moon Miniatures. These are priced at a discount through Warweb and are of pretty high quality. The line includes a few designs that are a bit too pulp-y for my tastes but the figures I ordered were perfect.

The results speak for themselves. The painting took minutes and now I have an army of space marines and an army of Andorians. They'll be put through the paces via the Use Me rules and we'll see where we go from there. Twenty nice figures for under ten dollars!

Soldiers need vehicles to drive around in of course. I stole this idea from some other blog, it may have been Dropship Horizon , and the results were pretty satisfying. I picked up the Matchbox "Medieval Rides" pack and with some simple repaints these medieval automobiles become much less thematically contradictory! Matchbox Cars are solid and well made, they're fun to buy, and they're perfect for 15mm science fiction gaming.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide- Best Role Playing Game

I've played a lot of games this year ranging from Star Trek to Eclipse Phase. My game of the year in terms of enjoyment gained per work expended has got to be Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, the three hardcovers 1st edition. The more I play D&D the more enchanted I am by its role playing elements. I think much of the game development in rpgs since the 1970's has been in terms or developing better simulations- in other words, games that have more "realistic" qualities. D&D gives you a vaguely defined character in a vaguely defined world. The rest of the game is dependent on the enthusiasm of the players. The 1st edition is fairly difficult to make sense of right out of the box, but that's what friends and D&D contacts are for!

I have to mention the rerelease of Villains and Vigilantes. This is a superhero role playing game in which you play yourself, but with some randomly determined superpowers. The game features a simple and robust system for playing out super battles, flying, and throwing around cars and satellite dishes. I spent many an hour enjoying V&V back in the day. It's fun to have superpowers! As an aside, the powers are chosen randomly, thus this is not a game for people obsessed with every character being equal. One character is going to have super strength, one is going to be able to control squirrels. Make the best of it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide- Best Family Game

This is the easiest recommendation I've made in a while. Ticket to Ride Europe has consistently delivered maximum fun to a huge range of gaming friends. This game is simple and appealing to look at, it's non-violent but can elicit some excitement amongst competitive players, and it appeals as much to casual gamers as to aggressive D&D Munchkin types. The game plays quickly and there's very little player downtime which is important with younger players. Ticket to Ride Europe is not new, but it is my essential family and group game of 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2010

DBA Benefit Followup

The benefit tournament to support the Boston Food Bank was a great success this weekend and left me with a few thoughts. The first is that through Steve's work we managed to raise $150. In one sense that's not going to provide food for the Eastern seaboard but in another it's $150 more than they had a minute ago! I find it nice that by doing our hobby we managed to raise some money for a good cause when otherwise we might be eating pizza and talking politics. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

The second thought is that DBA is really a pretty fun game with a lot of depth. DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) is the creation of a group of game designers led by Phil Barker, another member of the spookily smart Barker clan (see Professor M.A.R. Barker for more Barker madness). In a game of DBA you control an army of twelve units in a tabletop battle. DBA features a very abstracted game mechanic. Barker's team felt that men with spears would behave the same in 400 BC as they would in 1200 CE. Likewise, they felt that "spears" and "knights" would have certain consistent behaviors and strengths throughout history. "Knights" are always prone to charge, "bows" are always a threat to mounted troops, etc. etc. DBA summarizes all pre-gunpowder warfare into contests between certain archetypes and provides simple rules for resolving the battles. Luck plays a role but certain units will always do better or worse against certain other units.

This results in a fast and realistic battle that usually reflects historical reality. Knights charge at every opportunity, Greek hoplites shove back and forth until one side collapses from fatigue. And barbarian warbands charge in to impact legionnaires either to sweep them away or self destruct. The armies always include exactly twelve units of troops so clearly you're not simulating a historical event. Despite the abstraction, however, DBA seems surprisingly realistic.

DBA has a lot to recommend it as a beginner's game. The armies are easy to assemble and twelve units can be purchased for maybe $20. The rules are quick and straightforward. And the game plays quickly on a two by two foot area. It's a great way to begin a miniatures gaming hobby.

DBA does have a downside. Phil Barker is so very very very clever that his rulebook is almost impossible to make sense of. He has expressed that any intelligent schoolchild should be able to read it. I would make the counterclaim that an intelligent pediatrician found it dense. That being said the DBA community has produced the Unofficial Guide to DBA to help the slower schoolchildren and pediatricians struggle through. Beginners can also turn to Fanaticus for more inspiration and information. Interested folks can find the rules through eBay.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gosu- the Wife Likes It!

I try and avoid getting caught up in the buzz that precedes some games. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail (as witnessed by the unplayed copy of Dungeon Lords in the hallway). When Gosu was released I struggled to be good and failed miserably. Fortunately Gosu has turned out to be a fun little game that probably deserves the hype.

Gosu stands for "goblin supremacy". The backstory is that several clans of goblins are battling and only one army will be supreme. More on the theme later. In a game of Gosu you lay out cards in rows. Each card has an illustration of some sort of goblin on it and each card has some effect- maybe an immediate effect, maybe something that can be triggered later. Each goblin card has a points value and the winner of a battle is the person with the most points of goblins in front of them at the end of a round. If you win a battle you get a victory chip and the first person with three chips wins the game.

Gosu turns out to be very exciting and challenging in play, even as it sounds deadly dull in text. Each goblin card has some effect on the game. One challenge is to play a card when it is most useful and to save it when it's not. Card abilities can be activated but you have limited activations in each round so you have to be careful to not waste them. Finally, some cards are useful right away and then waste space. You can exchange a goblin in a row with one from your hand at a price. Thus, a final challenge is modifying your rows of goblins to suit how the game is developing.

Gosu is a very lively game. Players can destroy or exchange goblin cards. Some goblin powers benefit a player with fewer victory chips thus keeping every player within reach of victory. I imagined my rows of goblins as being fairly static once placed but in play you're constantly adjusting or remodeling to suit circumstances. Goblin powers can also create sequences of effects and triggering off some elaborate chain of events is pretty satisfying.

If there's one criticism to Gosu it's that it has little to do with goblins. The cards could just as easily have illustrations of French nobility, factories, or DNA components. I enjoyed Race for the Galaxy because it seemed less abstract (to me, others feel otherwise). It would be a mistake to see Gosu as a fighting or war game, it's really a management game with goblin illustrations.

I was very happy with Gosu and so was my poor, tolerant wife! She enjoys systematic, logical games and liked the idea of managing a big hoard of goblins. I'm sure that's no commentary on our children but it does suggest that this game has decent crossover potential for teens and younger players. I think it certainly has good replay value and I believe there are a flood of expansions planned. I would recommend it and advise beginners that a real sense of the game play may only come after a test game.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Use Me- Science Fiction Skirmish Gaming

There are times when a player wants to set up ten to twenty miniature soldiers on a table and have them blaze away at each other in a quick game. Using small numbers of figures is called skirmish gaming, as opposed to using hundreds of miniatures over a six hour span. Owing to the explosion of great 15mm minis available I thought it might be fun to find a simple skirmish rule system and have some games.

As it's going to be "cheap gaming month" for a while here at Game Night I looked for something affordable and easy to learn. I was happy to discover Use Me for sale at and a week later received a package from another continent with my game rules in it. For three and a half pounds (anywhere from fifty cents to forty dollars depending on the mysterious world of currency) I had already had my money's worth in terms of excitement- a package from across the ocean!

The British do have a lively sense of humor and "Use Me" is an acronym for Ultra Simple something something etc etc so it's quite a family appropriate game. The book itself is the size of your hand and is simple engaging and readable. The summary for miniature gaming beginners is that this booklet gives you simple but realistic rules for playing out small battles on the tabletop between science fiction forces. Those Star Wars plastic miniatures sitting in the sandbox? Playmobil figures? Plastic astronauts and martians? All fair game. There are rules for vehicles and artillery as well. You need ten or more figures, some plastic trees or houses, and maybe some tanks or saucers and you're ready to go.

For the folks interested in the specifics Use Me borrows some nice elements from AT-43 and Iron Ivan's Disposable Heroes line. Troops are rated by training and better trained units will act first. Firing between squads is slightly abstracted to speed up play and there is a simple d6 roll to hit and to penetrate armor, both with a few modifiers. Use Me has no defensive fire or morale rules. I miss those aspects but then again, this is intended as simple and fast. The booklet includes points values for various troop and vehicle types allowing you to brew up your own forces and balance them.

I'm very happy with Use Me. It's simple but not overly so, it's very inviting in that after you read the game you're enthused to play, something that I didn't experience with, say, Warhammer 40K. There are a wealth of 15mm science fiction figures available now and this is a great way to put them to use. Of course, the system is appropriate for bigger minis as well. In summary this is a very affordable set of rules that delivers a lot of fun for the buck. Plus, it's a great way to get younger beginners involved in a fun hobby.

Coming up- my Blue Moon 15mm miniatures arrive, I swallow my pride and paint up some 1/72 scale plastic figures, and then we mix them together with some Hot Wheels I picked up in the bargain bin!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Battle Against Hunger DBA Event

The fellows at Hobby Bunker (but actually mainly one very nice guy named Steve) are hosting a benefit tournament to support the Boston Food Bank. It's called Bellum Obviam Ieiunium, which I am told means War Against Hunger but could just as easily mean War Against Lemurs, so if it does my apologies in advance to lemur advocates. The BAI event will feature several rounds of a medieval miniatures game called De Bellis Antiquitatis, or DBA.

DBA is a classic and extremely successful miniatures game. It lets you play out tabletop battles with miniature lead soldiers quickly and fairly realistically. I think it's one of the few miniatures games that's played across the globe fairly consistently. Whether you go to Athens or Albuquerque you can probably get a DBA game going.

I would certainly recommend that readers in the area with DBA armies stop by and join in. Interested folks who would like to see a simple and elegant (and inexpensive!) miniatures game in action should consider popping by as well.

Crazy or No?

This weekend a group of friends are going to a luxury villa on Martha's Vineyard to play non-stop Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not going largely because their style of play drives me batty.

For some time now I've tried to convince myself that a weekend in Yankee heaven playing D&D is a lot more fun that doing dishes and looking for work. That being quite true I still can't get excited about playing if it's in a way I don't like. Gamers chime in- will you turn down a game or event on grounds of style?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pandemonium Iron GM Contest

Pandemonium Books in Central Square is having a contest next month that sounds just amazing. Game masters are being challenged to run a game with the system of their choice that includes one of several key elements:
“Future Legend” by David Bowie
A chest or steamer trunk
Leonardo da Vinci

GMs will be judged on how fun their game is, how original it is, and whether the element was really crucial to the story or just window dressing.

I like playing rpgs simply for the fun of it but there is something to be said for a challenge. A few weeks ago I suggested to my group that we do the "lame monster challenge," in which you have to run a game which features as its central foundation one of the Monster Manual's worst monsters. I was planning a gripping yarn featuring the nation of the piercers.

Anyway, the Iron GM contest sounds like great fun. Local gamers should consider it and folks outside of Boston- take inspiration!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cheap Game Month Continues- Fairy Tale

My copy of Fairy Tale arrived yesterday and happily it has been a big hit. Fairy Tale is a small card game that has won high marks online for its speed and ease of play. After hitting my friends and family with Eclipse Phase and Malifaux I thought it was about time to step it down a notch. Happily the result has been many quick, fun games.

In Fairy Tale each player is trying to play a set of cards which win her the most points. Each card has a points value on it. Some cards give you a bonus if you have played certain Other cards. The "bard" gives you a bonus for each "Elven Warrior" you have also played. Finally, some cards give a big bonus if you have fulfilled some requirement- playing three dragons And three fairies for example.

A game Fairy Tale has two steps. In the first the players get a hand of five cards. They choose one that they want and pass the rest to the person on their right. Then they choose again from the four just passed from the person on their left, pass the rest to their right, and so on. In this way you end up with a hand of five cards which you have had some role in picking. This is called "drafting."

In the second step of Fairy Tale each player picks a card from their hand and flips it up simultaneously. That card now lays in front of you and is worth points. Over the course of the game you'll run through four drafts and have a total of twelve cards in front of you. You add the points from your twelve and come up with a grand total.

The fun of Fairy Tale comes from several factors. For one, drafting is fun. You have some control over your hand and can try and accumulate certain cards that suit your plans. Your control isn't perfect but chances are you'll have a hand that you're at least content with. Secondly, some cards allow you to affect your opponent's cards. You can sabotage their hands and wreak some mild havok with their plans. Players may also find themselves competing to collect the same sorts of cards and then one or both may have to think quick and change their plans.

Mainly, we enjoyed Fairy Tale because it was a very speedy and simple card collecting game. There is enough card interaction to create a variety of scoring strategies but not enough to cause competitive spouses to freeze and spend the next ten minutes trying to assemble the ultimate killer hand. Fairy Tale really strikes the perfect balance between ease of play and strategy. Anyone who can perform simple math can play this game so it's a good choice for older kids and families as well. Players can influence each other to a slight degree but I don't think there is potential to really demolish anyone- another positive quality for family play.

I was personally very happy with Fairy Tale. It's a good filler, a bit deeper than Court of the Medici but still quick and simple.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons

I was recently reading a discussion on the Victoria, BC gaming forums regarding Dungeons and Dragons. A person had posted and asked the group if there was an interest in an old school D&D game. The response from Malcolm McCallum included the following:

"As much as I found myself personally dissatisfied with the miniatures focus of D&D from 3 on, a number of us disgruntled grognards tried to go back to 'old school'. It was unasatisfying. :/

DM: Six Orcs round the corner. They appear violent and bloodthirsty. What do you do?
Elf: I fire my bow.
DM: Roll to hit
Elf: 17!
DM: Roll damage
Elf: 4!
DM: The Orc falls. Fighter, what do you do?
Fighter: I swing my sword.
DM: Roll to hit:
Fighter: 5
DM: you miss. Wizard?
Wizard: I throw a dart. I roll a 12.
DM: You miss. The orcs swing. Three points of damage to the wizard. You're dead.
Thief: I loot his body. His next character will want the gear.

What a great commentary on D&D! As they say, it's funny because it's true. Malcolm very accurately points out that combat in D&D can be insanely dull. That's fine. D&D is a role playing game.

This seems obvious but adult players sometime describe some frustration with D&D and when you ask for details they almost always involve the very mediocre combat system. It's both simplistic and time consuming if you can imagine that. But there's a message there- keep your combats limited and infrequent. If you want to play skirmish fantasy combat then play Mordheim or Warlord or Warhammer.

The beauty of first edition D&D is it's simplicity of character generation and lack of skills and abilities. Does your character need to sail a ship? Come up with a compelling reason why she should be able to. Does your character need to identify poison ivy in the woods? Explain to the DM why he can. That's what role playing is all about- creating that character through story rather than relying on a "sailing" skill. The lack of defined skills, abilities, and feats makes combat a bore but is a huge role playing bonus.

Anyway, thanks to Malcolm in Victoria for putting into words what our group has been experiencing recently. They don't call it a role playing game for nothing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cheap Gaming Month! Court of the Medici

Recent events being what they are we'll be concentrating on cheap games for a while. Specifically let's look at some inexpensive and fast games, which are not a bad thing when playing with kids or when foisting another set of rules on the long suffering spouse.

Court of the Medici (CoM) got good reviews at Boardgamegeek and for less than $20 it seemed well worth a look. The product itself is very attractive. CoM is a card game and each card features a painting of a noble or personality from renaissance Italy. The paintings are really superb, something I suspect the artists are well aware of as they sign only their first names a la' "Brad" and "Angelina." So if "Raphael" and "Titian" feel entitled to first name celebrity then more power to them.

Each player in CoM has a deck of cards featuring a noble on each card. Each card also has a number value ranging from one to ten. In a given turn you place a card from your hand upon the table. If you place it on top of another card you have made an "alliance." When you make an alliance you may then eliminate a different pile of cards which have the same total number value. For example, stack a Painter (value 3) on top of a Poet (value 4) and you can eliminate any card or cards whose value adds up to 7. The goal of the game is to eliminate your opponents core group of cards and be left with the higher total of survivors on the board. The twist is that you can stack your cards on your opponent's cards and you may eliminate any stack on the table.

Our playtests revealed a number of positive things about CoM. For one, this is a fast game. Fast as in ten minutes of play. I reminisce about games of Civilization lasting eight hours but that was back in the age of dinosaurs and now a ten minute game sounds pretty fine. We also discovered that there is quite a lot of strategy occurring in those ten minutes. A player must create a cache of survivors as well as knock off the opponent to win. You can stack one of your cards on your opponent's and see if they'll eliminate both. We tried a game in which one player simply tried to eliminate the other as quickly as possible- that was a failure. A winning strategy has some bluffing, some sacrifice, and some luck as well. This was certainly a game that declared it's good qualities only with play.

Finally, the play of the game suits the theme. When you stack your card on an opponent's card you Have made an "alliance" of sorts. And in the next turn you may have to ruthlessly eliminate a stack that includes some of your own cards. Just like life in the courts of the Medici! The whole thing has a pleasingly sneaky and conspiratorial quality to it.

CoM doesn't have the level of awesomeness that Ticket to Ride does, but it also costs one fifth as much and can be played in one fifth the time. There's some basic math skills that are required but it's simple enough for young children. The game looks fabulous and has a certain cut throat quality that does evoke the era of the Medici. As our first cheap game of the month, this was a great success.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft

Here at Gamenight events have occurred which have occupied about 90% of my free time and thus the posting has been slow. If by slow one means non existent. Nevertheless the tireless author at Grognardia reminded me that today is H.P. Lovecraft's birthday and that really needs to be observed.

I discovered H.P. Lovecraft (HPL) in high school and still find his work exciting today. His work is technically superb and manages to be both influential and unique. People can produce material which is inspired by HPL, but I have yet to read or view anything which surpasses him. I think the best you can say is that "yes, Dagon was a film almost as good as one HPL would have made." Not to knock Dagon, btw.

Beyond HPL's artistry is the appeal of his personal life. This was a man with a generous list of foibles, challenges, and flaws. He brought some tough issues with him and life added a fair number to the mix. Despite this you get the feeling from his letters that he never stopped trying- whether that was trying to write a better story, trying to support his family, or trying to make connections with the people around him. What an inspiration!

Today there are role playing games, films, books, comics and television shows which are derived from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It's safe to say that he has touched millions of people and I suspect that his legacy has a ways to go before it disappears into history. A nice tribute to the genius of a struggling writer from Rhode Island. Happy birthday H.P. Lovecraft!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ticket to Ride Update

I've been studying for an exam lately and that's left less time for board gaming. Ironically it's remained easy to whip off sessions of Dungeons and Dragons which may say something about the ease of running D&D after some thirty years of play. Last night I did my study session early and dragged Steve over so we could do a quick boardgaming session and have something to write about other than old school role playing.

Ticket to Ride is a new classic boardgame which has sold millions of copies and spawned a good number of expansions and sequels. I picked up Ticket to Ride: Europe (TRE) recently and last night we unwrapped it and gave it a try. TRE is now my favorite family boardgame and I'm looking forward to my next chance to play.

The rules of TRE are simple enough. You have a board with a map of Europe on it and several cities marked. Between the cities are train routes marked in a color- blue, white, green, etc. The players also have cards in their hand. Each card has a train car of a certain color- blue, white, green, etc. In your turn you can claim a train route by placing a number of cards down of the right color. If a route has three red spaces you need to place three red cards. You win points based on how long the route is.

In a player's turn you may claim a route, draw more train cards in the hopes of accumulating more red cards or blue cards or so on, or draw a bonus card which will give you extra points for connecting certain cities. The bonus card is a mystery, you hope the bonus is for cities you can easily connect but it may not be. There are a few more rules specifics but that's the main of it.

Our trial game moved quickly and we had very few rules issues. On our turn we would usually agonize about whether to grab some cards and hope to complete a long route Next turn, or just complete a short route this turn for some quick points. One thing we noticed is that there was very little down time between turns. This is not a game where four players will sit in boredom waiting for the fifth to complete some lengthy activity. As board games go it was really pretty dynamic and exciting.

We also realized that the short and concise rules still allowed a great deal of strategy. You may wish to accumulate huge numbers of cards before building routes, or to just build often. You may try and get bonus points for building specific routes. There seemed to be many ways to approach the game and people who want to play a "deeper" game will not be bored.

TRE was a very pleasant surprise. I think it's a terrific game for younger players and has huge potential for older ones. I liked the speed of play, the colorful board, and the simple rules. This game really does deserve the reputation it's acquired.

I got my copy at Henry Bear's Park but TRE is widely available.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Villains and Vigilantes - Back in Print!

My most successful and long lasting role playing campaign was played using the Villain and Vigilantes (V&V) rule system. V&V is intimately associated with old friends, favorite characters, and special times in my life. High school afternoons in a friend's basement, rolling up characters with a girl I had a crush on, late nights in college and convoluted storylines and plots which actually tied up at the end. In addition I think it's a terrific game system and ideal for old pro's as well as families and younger players. I am happy to say that Villains and Vigilantes is back in print and ready to entertain a whole new generation of players.

In a game of V&V the players take on the roles of - themselves! With superpowers. Play begins with everyone deciding just how strong, smart, good looking and intelligent they are on a scale on one to eighteen. This requires a bit of give and take as one can imagine. We were able to accept that we were all about average and left things at that. You then allocate super powers by rolling for them randomly on tables. Finally you fill in details regarding each character's powers and you're ready to fight menaces in your own neighborhood, college, or what-not.

V&V is a very old school game in that some people are going to get fewer powers and some powers are just lame. Players who expect to be smashing icebergs and deflecting bullets may be dismayed to get the power of "Enhanced Vision." Players can get several powers but there will absolutely be some with better or more than others. Prospective game masters and parents introducing the game will need to be aware of this factor and plan ahead. I might recommend DC Comics Legion of Superheroes Archives Volume 1 as a great source of adventure featuring characters with less that godlike powers.

V&V offers several terrific features. It has a very simple system for deciding how far you can throw a given object and what sort of damage it does when it strikes home. Everything from satellite dishes to mailboxes is a potential weapon or tool. Fans of superhero comics and movies will recognize the fun to be had in a shopping mall, construction site, or Rose Bowl Parade. This does require a game master to occasionally think in terms of set pieces- areas that are ideal for action packed battles and that are littered with appropriate props. For example, "the street" is a poor set piece. The local airport, with several small planes, a fuel tanker, several towers and piles of luggage, is a great set piece.

The trick of using the real world as the game setting and having players act out themselves is also a great source of fun. It doesn't rule out hidden fortresses below the middle school or alien invaders landing at the local Dunkin' Donuts, but it does ground the game nicely. It also helps the game master who has trouble describing things, since local landmarks are easy to envision.

Finally, the rule system is robust and simple. It is an old school system and will not cover every possible detail your players raise. It may not simulate every superhero encounter perfectly. On the other hand, the rule systems I have encountered that do those things also seem dreary and unreadable. Villains and Vigilantes is neither- it's accessible and fun. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in superhero role playing. Check it out at it's Lulu storefront.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Al Qadim - Arabian Role Playing Part 2

I spent some time last night trying to reconcile my affection for the Al Qadim setting with my mixed review of Arabian Adventures. In part I feel like AA delivered just the right amount of background to get me launched and just the right number of special rules required to simulate the region. I also recalled one of the first exposures I had had with Al Qadim, the free sourcebooks available from Wizards of the Coast.

Some time ago I downloaded these books and flipped through them. There's a lot of material to get through, one of the hallmarks of Al Qadim seems to be profuse background material. I stumbled across a mini adventure set at the Burning Pool of Natifa. The pool is an oasis inhabited by a ghost named Natifa.

"Near the southern edge of the pool stands a stone oven, along with a collection of gleaming copper pots, pans, kettles, forks, knives, and plates.

A ghost named Natifa, who appears as an elderly woman with rich brown skin and shoulder-length hair as white as a chicken egg, lives on the bottom of the pool. Natifa occasionally surfaces to perch atop the fountain. When a stranger approaches, Natifa may ask him to prepare her a meal. If the stranger declines, Natifa politely but firmly asks him to leave. If she is in a playful mood, she may toss a handful of flaming arafaj in his direction.

If the stranger agrees, Natifa asks him to name the dish he intends to prepare (the more exotic the dish, the more intrigued she will be). If the dish requires special ingredients, she will fetch them. The dish must be prepared on her stone oven, using her cookware and utensils.

When the stranger completes the dish, Natifa descends from the fountain to sample it. If the food displeases her, she casts it into the pool, throwing the stranger in after it, then disappears. The stranger will have to navigate the flaming arafaj to return to shore. If Natifa enjoys the dish, she shows her appreciation by aiding the stranger, usually by offering information..."

What an awesome encounter! There's drama, a reward, supernatural mystery, and humor. This spirit seems to permeate Al Qadim and make it a very entertaining setting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Al Qadim - Arabian Role Playing Part 1

There are now four different Dungeons and Dragons campaigns going on amongst my circle of friend, one being run by someone who only started playing this year. I don't think I ever would have believed that I would someday complain about there being too many D&D games to play and yet that is now the case. Further, they're all different and all pretty exciting. I felt like it was time to try a new setting just so that my campaign could seem a little different. My wife also suggested that a game with more exploring and role playing and less hacking might be a good idea. With that in mind I picked up some copies of the main books for the Al Qadim campaign.

Al Qadim was the dungeons and dragons middle eastern setting. It was released in 1992 and saw some success before being discontinued as per the publisher's original plan. I picked up the main rulebook Arabian Adventures as well as a boxed set called Al Qadim: Land of Fate. For today's entry let's talk about Arabian Adventures.

Arabian Adventures (AA) is a well designed book. It's softcover with a fabulous illustration on the cover of a man on horseback being menaced by a djinn of some sort. This is only one of a dozen or so evocative colour illustrations the book provides. Some art in D&D is fair, some is ghastly, and the material in AA is just perfect- each one suggesting some interesting adventure that you might want to be a part of and each one really true to the original source material. Except with some dragons added. To be sure there are some black and white illustration in AA that are fair but the overall work is terrific.

Once you get past the pictures the AA book has a lot to offer. You get brief background material on the lifestyles of the people of Zakhara (the D&D middle east). This section is scanty and deliberately so but it introduces concepts such as social standing, how the citizens interact, and the roles of family and honor. I enjoyed this section and it did help to establish the game's setting.

The book follows with character generation rules based on second edition D&D. I was pretty disappointed with this section. While the rules introduce twenty character classes the majority seem either boring or potentially exciting but with boring special abilities. I think this is why I don't play second edition at all and probably my dismissal of this section is less a critique of the book and more a critique of second edition itself.

Happily the rest of the material is interesting and useful. There are lists of equipment and Arabian themed weapons. There are new rules that apply to adventures in the setting, rules regarding armour use in the heat, the "evil eye," social standing and so on. I personally love the idea of making armour too hot to wear routinely. In this setting fighters are still best for melee but they're less likely to stomp around encased in enchanted mithril plate mail. A thief with a ring of protection might be equally safe as a fighter in chain mail, although certainly less able to shrug off multiple blows. I suspect games of Al Qadim will include far more thieves, monks, and illusionists than I'm used to seeing.

The AA book winds up with new spells for an Arabian setting. Some of these are pretty weak or specialized for survival in the sands. I suspect that first level players are still going to memorize color spray or magic missile but as a magic user's spells expand they may wish to choose "wind compass" or "fire truth" (detect lies by means of the motion of a nearby flame).

I plan on using the AA material and ignoring the new classes. The cultural notes are interesting, the campaign setting is exciting, and the colour illustrations just terrific. I think we'll be doing more chats with djinn, more lock picking and swinging from ropes, and more planning before combat. I would absolutely recommend this book as a great campaign setting for D&D, and perhaps a better one than most for the kids.

Next, lets talk about the Land of Fate boxed set!

Fantasy Rules! Rules May Indeed Rule

In the wake of the Splintered Light sale I went off and ordered a generous number of undead and forest animals and then spent some time wondering just what on earth I was going to do with them. Other than paint them of course. It's strange that despite the fact that there are thousands of fantasy miniatures on the market there is really only one well known game for their use, Warhammer Fantasy, and that game has some flaws. As in a lot of flaws. This is not to say that there are dozens of sets of rules for fantasy battles. It's just that each set of rules is beloved by a fairly small number of players who will complain bitterly that other players lack the sense to recognize the awesomeness of their favorite game. I set out to find a set of rules that I could champion in the same lonely fashion.

The Splintered Light sale gave me the option to build a decent sized army so I started looking for rules involving battles between larger groups of figures. After some searching through The Miniatures Page's archives I settled on the Fantasy Rules! (FR) line. The company that publishes them has several versions for sale, the Tournament and Campaign Edition (FR/TCE) seemed like the best place to start.

So far I'm pretty optimistic with FR/TCE. Each player needs an army of figures mounted on 40x40mm stands. You can build from scratch and attach about six figures to a stand. A medium sized army is twenty units or one hundred and twenty minis. For this level of play that's not excessively many although it's more than some may like. Experienced players may note that they can double up existing Warmaster or Field of Glory stands to create their fantasy army.

This brings us to the next feature of FR/TCE, which may be a perk or a flaw depending on your perspective. The rules are designed to accommodate virtually any fantasy army. Dwarves, elves, garden gnomes, flying carpets, werewolves, you name it. In one sense this is terrific news. I can paint up twelve vampires and use them to lead my already painted medieval Italian army. Note on the right, for example, that the "Greek army" has both monsters and ordinary troops. Players who already own miniatures may be halfway done with their fantasy armies and not realize it! In another sense this could lead to people playing progressively more silly armies like the pebble army or the invisible army featuring unpainted bases with nothing attached to them. I suppose every player will just have to decide how they feel about silly armies.

My preliminary readthrough of FR/TCE looks otherwise promising. The thrust of the rules seems to be that certain types of units do better against certain other types and I enjoy that style of play. There is a basic rule mechanism dealing with overall army morale and a force that takes many casualties seems like it will start to fracture and become unresponsive. I'm not finding the rulebook to be terrifically organized, better than many but not at the standards of Warhammer or Warmaster for example.

So where might this leave a reader with the same interest, or a reader who might want to introduce their child into the fun of giant battles between elves and orcs, or say between vampire "newborns" and allied werewolves and vampires? I think the rules system looks like it could be fun. I think the book could use some editing and formatting but its not impossible to decipher. I'm going to try and play a game in the next few weeks and we shall see whether Fantasy Rules! rules or not.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Splintered Light Miniatures on Sale

As my vacation from blogging ends let's launch in with some exciting news. Splintered Light Miniatures (SLM) is one of my favorite companies. They're a (relatively) small operation that produces some of the most beautiful miniature figures I have seen. SLM has two lines of product. They make a 15mm line of fantasy figures which are nicely detailed and good quality. In addition they manufacture a line of 18mm forest animal figures that are just stupendous. The forest animal line is called Splintered Lands. The miniatures are beautifully proportioned, high quality, they paint up nicely and they're insanely cute.

The number of uses these little figures have are really limitless. They look great next to "Christmas village" houses, so regardless of your religion you can make pretty winter dioramas populated by well armed forest animals. The minis can be used in skirmish games such as the Song of... line from Ganesha Games. You could use them in role playing games and play Dungeons and Dragons with forest creatures instead of elves and dwarves. The sky is the limit. These minis are metal so obviously they are for the older kids. Give the younger children your plastic Perry Hussars or Walkerloo figures.

SLM will be missing Historicon this year (and that leaves my friend Kurt off the hook in terms of grabbing me some packs) and so they're putting their lines on sale. Send them an email describing which minis you want and they'll send you a PayPal invoice with 20% marked off. This is a terrific offer on some of the best miniatures in the country. Take a look and see if any grab you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Huzzah Followup- a Rockin' Good Time

Well it's a little late but I want to write a bit about my experience at Huzzah, a gaming convention in Portland, Maine that took place the weekend of April 30th.

In brief the event was just terrific. But let's hit some of the high points. Last year I drove down to Historicon in Pennsylvania for the country's largest historical gaming convention. I enjoyed about seven hours of traffic through New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. To be sure the Pennsylvania area is just breathtaking but so is Concord, MA and you don't need six hours to reach it. At the event I played in about six games and had a fair time. One game was really superb and the rest were not much better than what my club plays every week. In the end I paid for hotel and gas and food and while food in Pennsylvania is cheap and yummy it was still a bit of an expense. So stage set for Huzzah.

Portland is of course not very far from Boston. We made it in a few hours and even being stuck on the Maine Turnpike because of a burning semi is not too terrible. I walked in the main hall and was immediately struck by the incredible quality of the games being run. There were armies with hundreds of figures, huge castles and mockups of European towns. There was a fabulous depiction of Pacific islands and a model Alamo. Each game was of top quality in terms of presentation and preparation.

Two days later I left on a high note. I don't think I've ever met such a friendly group of gamers. I played a skirmish game depicting the Battle of Hampden (see photo on right) and Eric the game master regaled us with stories of this historical action that took place in Maine during the War of 1812. Not only was the action pretty exciting (ill-trained Americans try and slow down the British) but the story included the typical cast of crazy characters that makes the War of 1812 so interesting in the first place. I also got to play in a battle between Ethiopians and Italians set in 1935 and a skirmish between Germans and retreating British occurring late in the Second World War. Each game was just terrific in terms of presentation and playability. Finally, I got to run my own game, the Battle of North Point, which took place outside of Baltimore during the War of 1812 (see photos on left). I think my game was fair but the players were so good natured that a good time was had by all. Definitely another example of how fun players can make any game a success.

I'd get reservations for next year's Huzzah now if they were offered. I enjoyed a national level of gaming a few hours from home, my wife enjoyed Portland, and I met a great bunch of people. Huzzah! indeed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Settlers of Catan- Maybe Better Never than Late

The expensive and cleverly designed Eurogame has only been in existence a short while. Until recently gamers could enjoy popular games like bridge or chess or delve into the underground with miniatures games or wargames but that was it. Settlers of Catan could be considered one of the first major successes in the world of new games. It's sold over fifteen million copies and has achieved great notoriety. I picked up a copy recently and gave it a trial run.

As with many classic games the rules to Catan are simple. The board is pieced together from tiles selected randomly and arranged into an island. Each tile represents forest, fields, meadows, or some other type of terrain. Each tile is assigned a number from two to twelve. Players get two starting settlements to place on the board and the game begins.

Each player takes a turn rolling two dice. The terrain tiles corresponding to that number "produce" some commodity. Woods, for example, produce wood. Anyone with a settlement bordering that tile gets a "wood" card. After distributing cards the players can then trade cards amongst themselves and then the player whose turn it is can trade cards for some product or upgrade to their civilization. You could buy another settlement, some roads, or a some component of a civilization like a university. The player who accumulates a certain number of upgrades first is the winner.

Catan has many nice touches. Players know that they are more likely to roll an eight than a two so some territories are more likely to produce than others. A player may receive goods during any turn so there is less down time waiting for other people to finish their turns. Finally, players must trade commodities in order to win the game. As a result each turn is really a chance to interact and further your game.

That being said I hated my game experience. I have to say I was in a bad mood when we started and had no desire to cajole people into trading with me. Further, my setup left me with no chance to acquiring a vital resource and that left the other players with exactly zero incentive to ever trade it to me. I found that once I had fallen behind there was no way to catch up and the remaining time was really just dull. So in one sense this is not a game for ill tempered children who hate to lose.

Joking aside my experience does demonstrate some issues with Catan. If you don't want to trade then do not play this game. If you just want to win because of luck or great tactics then this is not your game. This is a game that demands cheery trading and interaction. Further, while I'm sure experienced players will feel otherwise, I think beginners really can fall behind and get left in the dust in Catan. Granted the game is over quickly but even so this may be an issue to consider if you have cranky children who hate losing.

On the positive side Catan is fast and simple and insanely clever in its design. I think the trading mechanic is great for people who want a trading game and probably would work very well for four players. The board has a variable setup which ensure each game will be different and the quickness of play ensures that if a player is unhappy with a given game they will be playing a different one soon enough.

In the end I'm glad I have finally tried Settlers of Catan. I think it's terrific for the right players but not for cranky folks.

Pros: simple, fast, clever design, strategic, fun

Cons: not for the cranky, irascible, or people not in the mood to trade

Beyond the Basics: a subtle game with lots of replay value

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Family Pastimes Treasure Trove Discovered

Family Pastimes is a notorious publisher of cheery cooperative games for children. I've reviewed their Secret Door and Max previously. Their games are characterized by simple rules and cooperative play, in addition to a very homegrown design aesthetic that takes me back to my days playing old old old school role playing games and wargames. Their games are also enjoyed by legions of fans and are nicely priced.

The main drawback to Family Pastimes games has always been finding them in the first place. I was very excited last week to discover that the Waldorf School in Lexington has a huge supply in their basement store. Now the basement store is actually pretty well hidden but the search is fun as you'll pass by workshops and kitchens and various appealing elements of the school. But once your search is over you can indulge in affordable, nurturing, cooperative games!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Perry French Dragoons - Initial Impressions

Some time ago I reviewed Victrix Miniature's line of French Napoleonic foot soldiers. Recently I picked up a box of Perry Miniatures French Dragoons. Both are significant in that they are plastic miniatures as opposed to lead. Plastic miniatures are generally cheaper, easier to tote around, and most significantly, contain no lead. I was interested to see how the Perry brother's work stacked up against the nice figures from Victrix.

The box of dragoons included several sprues of pieces, some bases for the completed figures, and a painting guide. The guide was helpful without being incredibly detailed, more than sufficient for a casual hobbiest. The bases were an assortment of sizes but didn't include any for the dismounted figures. I use thicker bases anyway so that was hardly a deal breaker.

Once I started assembling the figures I was struck by how much simpler they were to construct compared to the Victrix infantry. There is some variety in how the figures can be completed, mainly in how you pose the sword-holding left hand. The horses come in two parts and their stance can vary depending on which two parts you glue together. In comparison the Victrix box included a multitude of poorly identified arm variations that really slowed down construction. The bottom line was that assembling the Perry dragoons was fast and easy.

I did have some worry that the lack of variety would lead to a homogeneous looking group. I was happy to see that once lined up the figures all had some individual character. To be sure they had less than the Victrix infantry but on a tabletop I don't think the difference would be striking. I did notice that the Perry figures seem to be modeled after healthy, slender fashion models while Victrix based their figures on thugs, roughnecks and hillbillies (see redcoats on left). Historically this seems about right and I'll probably continue to use Victrix for foot soldiers.

The Perry Dragoons story had an unexpected happy ending. After assembling the troops I left them out on the kitchen table. My three year old son found them and started examining them. In a minute the troops were lined up in neat rows and we spent the next half hour having horse races across the table. I think it was probably a welcome relief for the dragoons to take a break from harassing Richard Sharpe across the length of Spain and just race around for a bit. Mainly it was heartwarming as h#&% to play with toy soldiers together. As an addendum the figures held up to play just fine and worst case scenario was that I would have to reglue something.

I was very happy with the Perry Dragoons. They assembled easily and the box is a great value. I like the absence of lead which allows me to clutter up the house with the figures, much to the wife's delight. For gaming purposes they look terrific and for playing purposes they are a hit with three year olds. I got my box at the Hobby Bunker in Malden.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Uncharted Seas After Action Report

This weekend we ran through another game of Uncharted Seas and I like this game more with each play. In summary it's quick, exciting, "realistic" enough for me and pretty affordable. I wrote a review of the game some months ago. Let's get down to the details.

I commanded a fleet of humans against Tony's "Iron Dwarves." I had painted up his fleet in a Greek inspired color scheme of white with blue accents while mine was a crazy North African melange of reds, blues, purples and yellows (thanks to Color Schemes for Every Room, Annie Sloan). I'm not awestruck by Uncharted Seas designs but the ships are big and they look terrific on the table.

I want first and sent my light frigates ahead of my main body to screen. At that moment my plans fell apart. My ships zipped across the table and within seconds were being blasted into splinters by the Dwarves. First lesson- this game moves quickly, with long ranged weapons and fast movement rates. The surviving frigates took aim at the Dwarven battleship and unleashed a great volley which bounced harmlessly. Second lesson- appropriately enough smaller ships are pretty ineffectual against giant ones.

My fleet was pretty much crippled early on but Tony moved some of his ships ahead just to see what might happen. We exchanged some gunfire and cast some spells at each other which were fairly entertaining without being completely unbalancing. Then I found some Dwarven frigates in the path of my battleships and rammed them to see how that would go. It went satisfyingly poorly for the Dwarves and we then learned that ramming and boarding actions are fast, simple, and "feel" right.

The action ended with my colorful fleet at the bottom of the ocean and my battleship and one frigate sailing away in terror while the Dwarves popped open some retsina and celebrated. Through the entire action we managed a variety of situations smoothly. We had to check rules a few times but were always able to find the answer written in a straightforward and concise fashion. We didn't find any gaping rules holes and the playtesting seems to have been effective.

Our group enjoyed Uncharted Seas. It's certainly simple but not silly or arbitrary. A functional fleet is less than $50 and the ships are fun to paint. I don't see it as a classic game for the ages but we'll be playing again and I'd certainly recommend it as a good game for beginners and experienced gamers alike.

Pros: simple, fast, fun

Cons: fair ship design, ships are made of resin and can shatter if dropped.

Beyond the Basics: expansions are planned, plus there are only a hundred other naval battle rulesets out there.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Huzzah- Wargaming in Maine

Next weekend is Huzzah, a new wargaming convention being held in Portland, Maine. The schedule has a pretty good assortment of games, most aimed at older teens and adults. Many local conventions are a mix of board games, role playing, and miniatures gaming. Huzzah really concentrates on miniatures.

There are a number of reasons to consider the trip. The game selection is good and includes several that could be fun for beginners. My suggestions would include Aerodrome, Smoke on the Water, and Gangland. You'll also get to see more complex but very popular games like Flames of War being played and perhaps try them as well.

Huzzah is also fairly close by and there aren't many events like this in the area, Havoc and Northeast Wars (not Winter Wars, my bad) being the only two that come to mind. And Northeast Wars was canceled this year, which I think leads us to the next reason to attend.

This is Huzzah's first year. The group running the event has put a Lot of work into it and I think it would be great to respond. Huzzah looks very professionally organized but it is absolutely a labor of love by people with a passion for gaming. I'd encourage interested parties to get up there and show support.