Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nostalgia Thursday - Agricola (2007)

Agricola (2007) is the first game in Uwe Rosenberg's Harvest series.  It's not as old as some games I've blogged about on Nostalgia Thursday but since it is first in a storied series, I feel it qualifies, if just barely.  The base mechanics in it went on to inspire and evolve into many innovative games.  Some of those games are among my favorites but I found it hard to enjoy Agricola after having played so many others in the series prior to finally playing this original.  I'll get back to that after the description.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
In Agricola, you're a farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse and little else. On a turn, you get to take only two actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the possibilities you'll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood, or stone; building fences; and so on. You might think about having kids in order to get more work accomplished, but first you need to expand your house. And what are you going to feed all the little rugrats?
The game supports many levels of complexity, mainly through the use (or non-use) of two of its main types of cards, Minor Improvements and Occupations. In the beginner's version (called the Family Variant in the U.S. release), these cards are not used at all. For advanced play, the U.S. release includes three levels of both types of cards; Basic (E-deck), Interactive (I-deck), and Complex (K-deck), and the rulebook encourages players to experiment with the various decks and mixtures thereof. Aftermarket decks such as the Z-Deck and the L-Deck also exist.
Agricola is a turn-based game. There are 14 game rounds occurring in 6 stages, with a Harvest at the end of each stage (after Rounds 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 14).
Each player starts with two playing tokens (farmer and spouse) and thus can take two turns, or actions, per round. There are multiple options, and while the game progresses, you'll have more and more: first thing in a round, a new action card is flipped over.
Problem: Each action can be taken by only one player each round, so it's important to do some things with high preference.
Each player also starts with a hand of 7 Occupation cards (of more than 160 total) and 7 Minor Improvement cards (of more than 140 total) that he/she may use during the game if they fit in his/her strategy. Speaking of which, there are countless strategies, some depending on your card hand.  Sometimes it's a good choice to stay on course, and sometimes it is better to react to your opponents' actions.

I found it difficult to get rolling in this one as the cards I had were good midgame cards but little was available to me for early use.  I had to get a few out in play just to use others that would be of some benefit to me.  I also found it tough to present obstacles to other players without wasting turns of my own, given what I needed in resources based on where my cards had led me.  Maybe it was just first-timer flailing but it felt more like driving in a school zone after have participated at Indy.  I'll give it another go but I hate to waste too much precious game time on a lesser game in a series when I know I love several others.

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wargaming Wednesday - Warhammer 40,000 (1993)

Warhammer 40,000 (1993) has a long tradition in wargaming for nearly a quarter century.  Many game stores have regular leagues, tournaments, and time set aside for casual competition and Lake Geneva Games is no exception, though space considerations have always been a challenge.

LGG is getting a short Summer 2016 league together for eight or more participants right now.  With the additional game space opening up, LGG will be hosting and encouraging more 40K play going forward into the second half of 2016.

If you are interested, please post to the Lake Geneva Games Facebook Page here and join the LGG40K Facebook Group here or stop on into the store!

A closer examination of board and miniatures Wargaming.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Terrain Tuesday - Terrain Tips 2013

Sometimes it helps to look back a few years at earlier terrain videos from the folks who put out the great videos who have helped us over the years.  Dream Spirit Wargaming drops a handful of videos on us from time to time and back in 2013 they shared "Tools of the Trade: How to texture a gaming surface."  Enjoy!

Also, Tinker Terrain has been quiet lately but they got some great videos to watch including this "Pink Foam Tutorial for Wargaming Terrain and Scratch Build Models."  Check it out!

Finally, few folks produce as many tutorials as Mike from TerranScapes, and they are all excellent and well worth the time for all the detail included.  Have a look at this gem from 2013 titled "TerranScapes - Q&A #7 - Wargame Terrain Tips."

For purposes here, the term Terrain is used broadly
to cover 3D and 2D maps, foam, felt, and such.
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Monday, May 23, 2016

Minis & Modeling Monday - Green Stuff Tutorials

Thought I would scrounge up some tutorials on Green Stuff usage though you should check out Banana King's basic introduction here if you've never touched the stuff before.   To go a bit beyond the basics, even though it claims to be fairly basic, I think the posting from Tutorials of Tomorrow is very good here.

For those who have worked with it a bit but become frustrated or are just looking to brush up a bit, over on's forums, there's a fine pictorial tutorial here.

Finally, on the GirlPainting YouTube channel, check out the video on "How to work with liquid Green Stuff."  Enjoy!

A look at prepping and painting Miniatures,
crafting buildings and paper Models,
and other non-terrain stuff for the tabletop.
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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Sunday Miscellanea - Bloktown

Late last week, I blogged about Tom Wham and his wonderful game The Awful Green Things From Outer Space (1979) but I also got a chance to play a game he has in the playtesting phase called "Bloktown" over at Lake Geneva Games.

I won't say too much about this game except that it is an auction style game with victory points dependent on clearing properties to ready them for constructing various building.

For four and a half decades, Tom has had games published through many companies in the US and abroad.  This is one of a dozen I have been lucky enough to play during pre-release and I look forward to playing more.

Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics on
not covered elsewhere or wanting a particular focus.
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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Systems Saturday - Conquest of Planet Earth (2010)

I had a chance to play Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game (2010) with the Conquest of Planet Earth: Apocalypse (2012) expansion the other day.  We played a game with four people and then a couple more with three.  It's a good looking game with a nifty theme and fun artwork and components.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
A fast paced game of terrifying alien invaders, futile human resistance, and 50's SciFi Movie Action. Players each take on the role of a different alien Race, all part of invading armada, but each with their own unique abilities and ambitions. Unleash waves of flying saucers to blast human resistance into submission with death rays and terrifying weapons of war as you unleash powerful alien technologies on earth (and other alien races if they get in your way). But beware these pitiful humans are not defenseless. They will fight to the last to defend their planet, aided by countless platoons of army soldiers, powerful human heroes, and their most deadly weapon, the dreaded atomic bomb.
Featuring a modular game board, 10 different alien races to play (such as the Orzax, master of technology, or the Venezian Matriarchy, beautiful but deadly space amazons) a host of Human resistance to battle, and four game types - competitive, cooperative, team game, and Solo Play. Conquest of Planet Earth is a strategic game of maneuvering, backstabbing, and fantastic battles for alien conquest.
Main Features :
Features a collection of beautifully illustrated artwork including over 100 unique images. 
Over 25 detailed plastic miniatures of alien saucers to conquer the world
Games come with an original CD soundtrack to set the mood for alien conquest
Four game types - race against friend in competitive or team play, and be the first to conquer earth to impress your alien overseers, or cooperate as complete alien armada to sweep over the world and defeat human resistance. Also this game may be played Solo. 
No two games are ever the same! There are many alien races to play and large decks of game cards, giving a great variety of gameplay. By rearranging the different boards each game along with the amount of human resistance to battle the aliens, there is a high level of re-playability. 
Fast Paced games with easy to learn rules allow players to jump right into the action while strategic depth and strong cooperative/competitive play keep player coming back for more. 
Excellent bridge between simple family games and deeper, more advanced board games. Easy enough for casual gamers/non gamers to enjoy, while exciting and strategic enough for hardcore gamers to love. 
Expandable Design allows for many expansions and strong web support to create a loyal fan base/community. 
Source: product summary
Note: The summary is a little out of date, the game contains 16 alien saucers and 4 allied models. They are however all detailed and of a high quality.

And the description for the Apocalypse expansion is as follows:
Conquest of Planet Earth: Apocalypse, an expansion for ''Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game'', includes new alien races (one of them being the Martian Confederation from FFP's ''Invasion from Outer Space''), new allies to help those invaders, and new cards for all other decks in the base game. The expansion includes a new "Coastal Resistance Deck" that boosts Earth's defense forces with naval ships, submarines, and jet fighters.
Additional components allow for two additional players to join in, raising the maximum player count to six.

I'm of two minds on this game but could go either way: one being to write it off as not worth playing and the other to adjusting it with a few house rules to remove huge "swinginess" due to luck.  It has a few flaws that I think are hugely problematic.  It is meant to be a fast paced game but throws a lot of math at the players at the beginning of combat while simultaneous requiring all players to be aware of the cards they have available too them during every combat.  For some players, this isn't a problem.  For players that have analysis paralysis, this will bog down every single combat which can happen one or more time during each player's turn.  The randomized locations deck means some player might draw very little they can utilize to gain victory points close to their landing zone while it is possible to draw as few as two location right next to the landing zone that allows victory on turn one, possibly before anyone else has even had a turn to play.  If opponents have no applicable cards to stop that player, which is a very real possibility, they simply move their aliens on turn one, roll a few combat dice (and play a card or two), and the game is over.

Furthermore, mitigating this luck is incredibly difficult due to the short nature of the game.  With only 8 victory points needed to win, which can be done on one or two turns, there is little time to implement a strategy that offsets the luck of drawing certain cards or rolling a few well-timed sixes. Since a six always wins a combat, regardless of the strength of the alien force or resistance, a combat could be 1d6 plus zero versus 1d6 plus 20 and still go either way when a six is rolled by one side or the other and considered an overwhelming victory.

If I were to get talked into playing this again I would want several house rules in play.  I would want the required victory point total for a win to be 20 rather than 8 to ensure some direct player interaction and a chance to mitigate the rampant luck inherent in this game.  I would want no more than half a player's victory points to be able to come from their landing area board.  I would also want for combat to not require a roll if one side or the other had six more pluses than their opponent.  I might also like to see the auto-win on a six be removed but with the previous house rule this might not be as much of a problem.  I have no idea if the problems baked into this game were by design or despite it but they make for a game that is heavily based on luck.  I suspect the latter since I cannot imagine a game design that is aware that a game can end before one or more players have even had a turn.  That definitely seems like an oversight which in turn suggests some of the other problems slipped through unnoticed as well.

A look under the hood of various Games, Rules and Systems.
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Friday, May 20, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Boardgame List-a-palooza

Over on, Alan Boyle shares his "10 Most Important Board Games In History" here.

Also, on, Andrew Ziegler "26 Board Games You Have To Play Before You Die" here.

Finally, on the pl YouTube channel, Nick Meenachan expounds on his "Top Ten Eurogames."  Enjoy!

Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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