1
Nov

Review – King of New York

   Posted by: Jim   in Board games

Lately I’ve been noticing an increase of Ukrainian hackers trying to break into my site. So after increasing security accordingly, I caught sight of the date of my last post here, and thought, “Hm, perhaps they think this blog is up for grabs.” Which is a slightly long way of saying: Here come some new game reviews…

Designer: Richard Garfield
Artists: Sébastien Lamirand, Igor Polouchine, Régis Torres, Alexey Yakovlev
Publisher: IELLO
Players: 2-6
Playing time: 40 minutes
Age range: 10+

Picture of King of New York

Back in *mumblemumble* 2013, I did a review of the original king-of-the-hill dice game, King of Tokyo. King of New York is an update of that by the same designer. Generally it’s the same game: 1 or 2 people try to hold territory against other players and score points for each round they remain there. Those on the hill can attack all the other players at once while the other players can only do damage against those the hill. The penalty for remaining on the hill is that you can’t heal damage via the dice, nor can you retreat until attacked. You can also collect energy (i.e., money) which you can use to buy action and upgrade cards. The player who reaches 20 point or outlasts everyone else wins the game.
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1
Feb

Other D&D Items of Note

   Posted by: Jim   in Role-playing games

To follow up from my previous post, a few more D&D anniversary items of note that I’ve run across in the past few days (if you haven’t seen them already):

First, Jon Peterson (author of Playing at the World) presents a video called A History of D&D in 12 Treasures, in which he lays out the game’s pre-history via 12 rare or unpublished objects.

Another video is a trailer for a documentary about D&D called The Great Kingdom, which looks like it could be interesting (warning: Zeppelin soundtrack).

Finally, a couple of great posts reminiscing about D&D: the first from Matt Forbeck, the second from Ethan Gilsdorf.

For more thorough coverage of the web’s thoughts on D&D’s 40 anniversary, you might also check out this post on Dungeons and Dreamers, in which I’m honored to be included.

D&D

When Gary Gygax died, I considered doing a podcast covering Dungeons and Dragons, but then I got busy and the moment passed.

A year or so later, when Dave Arneson died, I considered the same, but work was eating up all of my time, and again it didn’t happen.

So now, here it is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. And I am once again utterly unprepared with any sort of recording. But despite that, I can’t let this moment go by with notice.

I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in 1977. I had loved games up to that point — my family regularly played traditional (i.e. Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley) board games and card games, but nothing beyond that. My mother bought it for me (possibly due to my interest in Tolkien) and introduced me to a new world. I quickly shared it with my friends, and our regular lunchtime games of penny hockey and paper football became dungeon crawlers. We role-played at lunch for years, quickly upgrading to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, then expanding to other games such as Dragonquest, Runequest, Villains and Vigilantes, Traveller and Top Secret (some of which I’ve covered as podcasts). The friendships I built there carried me through some of the worst of middle school, and through high school.

The new world of games I discovered was broader than role-playing games. In seeking other players and shops that sold D&D modules, I discovered wargames, and some of the hobby games that were becoming more available to the broader public at that time. I slowly became hooked on games in general.

Love of video games was even driven by love of D&D. Just down the street from me, an early form of gaming cafe opened. The owner had bought a set of Apple IIs, and would let people rent floppy discs (for the save files) and come play the games he had available. I, of course, would go play Wizardry for hours on end. The cafe eventually closed, and I, in desperation to play a computer RPG, wrote my own based on the random encounter and room placement tables in the Dungeon Master’s guide (I did, however, rewrite armor class increase in number as it increased in strength, and to absorb damage).

D&D even inspired me to buy my first copy of National Lampoon (scandalous, I know). After school one day, I took a long bus trip to the west side of Buffalo, seeking a small shop which sold crystal dice and various other role-playing paraphernalia. After getting the dice — and come to think of it, my copy of Top Secret — I stopped into a convenience store and saw the Sword and Sorcery issue. Fate, I figured, so I bought it. I still have that magazine, stashed in my Basic D&D box.

I stopped role-playing for the most part after high school, taking it up again briefly with my co-workers when I entered the game industry (Shadowrun and Mage) and continuing up to the point when D&D 3rd Edition came out. But our group petered out and so I returned my dice back to their bags, with only occasional one-off adventures. But as you can see from the above, despite my leaving role-playing, D&D has never really left me.

So what would have that podcast included? Well, the plan was to do a revised history of D&D, covering David Wesely as the originator of proto-roleplaying games, and speculating on the actual contributions of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax to what eventually got published as D&D. However, since my itch to do that, the book Playing at the World by Jon Peterson has come out. It discusses the early days of miniature wargaming and reportedly has excellent coverage of the history of D&D, with much better documentation than I could have dug up (if you’re not already aware of it, Peterson is also the one pushing January 26th as the publication date of D&D, based on his research). You can also check out his blog, with treatment beyond the book. Fred Hicks, of Evil Hat fame, also has a good history of D&D as well — you can read a portion of it here. So read those books, and whenever you throw the dice, think of Arneson and Gygax, the ones who started it all.

(Oh, and before I go, let me tell you about my character. His name is Manthridor, and he’s a half-elven fighter-mage… wait, come back… I haven’t told you the best part…)

Designer: Daniel Clark, Tim Uren
Artists: Anders Finér, Héctor Ortiz
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 1-8
Playing time: 240 minutes
Age range: 12+

We’ve played a lot of Arkham Horror in our day. At one point, we were playing it at least once a month, or perhaps more. So it’s only natural that eventually we got sick of it. It’s since been relegated to special occasions, and only then with a handful of players to keep it from bogging down too much. Hence when a friend gave us a copy of The Lurker at the Threshold Expansion when it first came out, we just never got around to playing it. Until this past game night, when we brought up Arkham Horror to celebrate Halloween, and tossed this in to see how it plays. The theme of this expansion is that there is a mysterious eldrich being that is opening gates to other worlds, and offering power with a terrible price.
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27
Oct

Review – Smash Up

   Posted by: Jim   in Card games, Reviews

Designer: Paul Peterson
Artists: Dave Allsop, Bruno Balixa, Conceptopolis, Francisco Rico Torres
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 45 minutes
Age range: 12+ (can be played by 10+)


(Image courtesy of thatmadgirl@BoardGameGeek)

There are two kinds of classic geek debates: the first is who would win within a single subgenre (e.g. could the Death Star beat the Enterprise); the second is which subgenres could beat the other (e.g. zombies vs. ninjas). Smash Up provides you with a testing group for the second, with an additional twist: you can combine two subgenres together and battle them head to head by trying to take over bases and score victory points.
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24
Oct

Review – PitchCar

   Posted by: Jim   in Board games, Reviews

Designer: Jean du Poël
Artists: Jean du Poël
Publisher: Ferti
Players: 2-8
Playing time: 30 minutes
Age range: 6+


(Image courtesy of Firepigeon@BoardGameGeek)

Finger flicking games have been around for a while, with the best example being Crokinole, but the most thematic is probably PitchCar (previously released as Carabande). Here the discs you flick represent cars, racing each other along a masonite track.

The rules are as simple as you’d expect. Players start by placing their discs at the start line of the track, and in turn flick the discs forward with one finger. The first trip around the track is a qualifying heat to determine the start order for the finals, then players send their discs around the track three times to determine the winner.
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22
Oct

Review – Quarriors! Rise of the Demons

   Posted by: Jim   in Board games, Reviews

Designer: Mike Elliot and Eric Lang
Artists: J. Lonnee
Publisher: WizKids Games
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 30 minutes
Age range: 14+ (10+ could probably handle it)


(Image courtesy of blueknight7@BoardGameGeek)

The first released expansion to Quarriors! (beyond just promos) was Quarriors! Rise of the Demons. This is a small box expansion with a new basic die, a new spell die and a new creature die. There are also cards for all these dice, and some new cards for the creature dice in the main set. How you add all of these into the game is up to the players — you could shuffle them into the main decks, or deal them out separately first and then fill in the rest with the original cards, or do something in between.
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20
Oct

Review – Quarriors!

   Posted by: Jim   in Board games, Reviews

Designer: Mike Elliot and Eric Lang
Artists: J. Lonnee and Chris Raimo
Publisher: WizKids Games
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 30 minutes
Age range: 14+ (10+ could probably handle it)


(Image courtesy of ZoRDoK@BoardGameGeek)

Where Dominion created the idea of the deck-building game, Quarriors! cheerfully took that and applied it almost directly to dice. You start with a basic set of custom 6-sided dice, and draw a “hand” out of a bag every turn and roll them. Depending on what you roll, you can put out creatures to attack your opponents, cast spells to enhance them, and/or buy a new creature or spell from the wilds (much like the supply piles in Dominion). All of these are represented by dice. If you can keep your creatures out for an entire round, you score points; the first player to a certain point value — based on the number of players — wins.
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20
Oct

Review – Dominion and Dominion: Intrigue

   Posted by: Jim   in Card games, Reviews

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Artists: Various
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Players: 2-4
Playing time: 30 minutes
Age range: 10+


(Image courtesy of endou_kenji@BoardGameGeek)

I first got a chance to play Dominion as a prototype at Origins and even then knew it was going to be something big. I have to say, though, I didn’t realize that it would start off an entirely new genre of games: the deck-building game. Since I’m going to be covering other deck-building games soon, I thought it would be best to start from the very beginning.

For those not familiar with them, deck-building games are related to collectible card games and “living” card games: each player has their own deck of cards with abilities that are reasonably simple, but can be combined together to create much more powerful effects. However, with those other games you pre-build your deck up front, and play from and add to your hand incrementally. The new mechanic that deck-building games bring is that you start with a very simple and small (usually around 10 cards) deck, draw an entire hand each turn, play what you can, and discard the rest. As the game progresses, you buy new cards which are added to your deck, making it progressively more powerful. These cards are limited, so you’d best buy them while you can…
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17
Oct

Review: Zombie Dice

   Posted by: Jim   in Board games, Computer games, Reviews

Designer: Steve Jackson
Artists: Alex Fernandez
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Players: 2-99
Playing time: 10 minutes
Age range: 10+


(Image courtesy of mbrna@BoardGameGeek)

I’d first heard of Zombie Dice around the time it came out, but avoided the game because it has two marks against it: a) it’s a zombie game and b) it’s a recent Steve Jackson game. However, I got roped into had a chance to play it at Balticon 2012, and at gaming events since then, and I have to admit I was wrong about it.

The rules are very simple. There are 13 green, red and yellow dice, each with varying amounts of brains, running feet and shotgun symbols on their faces. The green dice have more brains, the red more shotgun blasts, and the yellow are neutral. Your goal is to roll as many brains as possible. First person to collect 13 brains (and survive the shotgun blasts), wins the game.

The turn begins by drawing three dice at random and rolling them. Brains and shotguns are set aside. If you have 3 shotgun blasts, then your turn is over, and you lose any brains you’ve rolled. Assuming you’ve survived, you can choose to re-roll, or you can score the brains you have. If you choose to re-roll, you take any dice with running feet, draw new dice at random to bring your total up to 3, and roll again. You can continue doing this until you get 3 shotgun blasts, or you choose to stop.

Zombie Dice is a nice little push-your-luck game, another one of those good fillers to have around. Admittedly the decisions aren’t all that difficult: prefer to re-roll green dice over red dice; stop if you have two shotgun blasts unless you’re behind. But it scales well to many players and it’s a good filler or beer-and-pretzel game. And if you prefer to drink alone, there’s also an iOS app for Zombie Dice, which is initially free for a 1-on-1 single player version, but only $.99 to upgrade to 10-player multiplayer. It’s fairly low frills but it gets the job done.

Verdict: Buy