Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Close Call

I recently picked up an iPad to use as a email and banking tool. Suffice it to say that the iPad is terrible for those things, as well as pretty much every other task but one. It's a nice gaming platform. Since it was free and full of buzz I threw down zero dollars and picked up Hearthstone.

Hearthstone is an online card game similar to Magic. You have a deck of cards and play against an opponent. Each player has some hit points and the person who can reduce their opponent to zero hit points first wins. Some cards attack your opponent, some protect you, some deploy minions who can attack or defend or both and some cards alter your minion's abilities. You can play as one of several classes, Rogue or Cleric or Warrior for example. Each class has special cards and abilities. The game has huge replay value based on the number of cards available and the various classes.

So here's the rub. The cards are available for purchase in virtual packs of five. You don't know which cards you'll get and some are more rare and powerful than others. The more packs you purchase, the greater the chances of getting some awesome and useful card. You can also earn virtual currency by playing the game enough times. In theory if you played all the time you could earn a lot of currency and then buy more packs without spending actual money. Keep in mind these "cards" and "packs" only exist on your computer.

In its favor Hearthstone is a fun game. It's fast and entertaining. That being said:

Sheer Craziness
After a Lot of playing I suddenly recoiled and grabbed my head. God d@#m, I just spent ten hours perfecting my skills of doing Nothing, wasted time earning Points so that I could waste more time doing Nothing, and lost a lot of games because I wasn't up for spending real money on cards that Don't Even Exist.  It's insane!

I like board games because they're fun, they're social, and I feel like you do tune your brain while playing. You lean to manage resources, cooperate, take chances, and focus on goals. In Hearthstone you're alone, losing a ton unless you throw down some serious time or money, and perfecting your skills at playing Hearthstone. "Hey honey, I'm going to ignore you and the kids and after three hours I'll be marginally better at a completely abstract and otherwise useless task."

So Hearthstone is gone and the next day I built a new door for the chicken coop. Whew.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Final Charlie Don't Surf Playtest

I had one more chance to test the game last weekend with trained wargamers this time. The good news is that after a few minutes of play the game flowed pretty well without my constant direction. One thing you look for in a convention game is to have the GM disappear into the background and let the players concentrate on having fun. So that was good.

I continue to be very happy with the 6mm figures. The main drawback to them is that NVA and American uniforms are pretty identical at that scale. I'm going to have to give them all banners of some sort.

The battle of Hoa Tan was a huge success for the Americans, with high NVA losses and (relatively) few US casualties. We found that Charlie Don't Surf is accurate enough in that this scenario is terribly hard for the NVA players. They are outnumbered and outgunned from the start and ambushes and snipers just don't slow down the American steamroller enough to make a difference. I hate to meddle with the historical order of battle but to make the game fun for all the players I'll be cutting down on the American troops.

The consensus in the end is that the rules are decent, the game flows quickly enough once you have played a turn or two, and that the terrain is almost con-ready. Compared to my usual games which appear at Huzzah with the paint still drying that's not too shabby at all.