Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sunday Miscellanea - Handmade Butteflies and Moths by Yumi Okita

Artist Yumi Okita makes the most wonderful Handmade Textile Butteflies and Moths and they are featured in a pictorial article over on  Clearly these works of art are a bit too cost-prohibitive to use as mounts for miniatures in a tabletop game situation, but imagine taking one of these fine pieces and strapping a howdah on its back then adding a few halberd-wielding warriors.  It would certainly make for a spectacular table game!

The Sunday Miscellanea on 
Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics on
not covered elsewhere or wanting a particular focus.
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Systems Saturday - Bremerhaven (2013)

I played a game that was new to me yesterday called Bremerhaven (2013).  I guess this one caught a little flack when it came out because some folks assumed from the artwork on the box and the theme that it would be very much like Le Havre (2008) and it isn't.  Both revolve around the action of a seaport but from there the two games diverge significantly.  I'll say right now that I enjoy both.  I've played quite a bit of the latter and will certainly play Bremerhaven again as well.  As described on Board Game Geek:
Bremerhaven is a clearly structured but complex economic game about the famous harbor town in the north of Germany. Each player builds his own unique harbor and tries to reach the highest combination of money and prestige by the end of the game.
Each round, players are trying to get the most influence on the action fields they want to use. Since you place your influence cards face down, you have to watch closely what the other players might want to do. (You can even place more than one card on one spot.) The options are varied: Get a new ship with new goods into your harbor, close a new contract, change the values of the four different goods, improve your influence card-hand, expand your harbor, buy a new building, or simply rise in the nautical ranks to get more money. But you have to be careful: Every ship and every contract will stay in your harbor only for a short while. (The transporters and trains are waiting!) If you fail to coordinate the incoming and outgoing goods, you might have to pay penalty for not fulfilling a contract!
Bremerhaven ends after a defined number of rounds, and the rules include both a short version and solo rules.

Improving your influence cards as early as you can is crucial to the ongoing accumulation of influence and securing building rights each turn is a necessity.  The only question for the latter is how best to utilize those rights and strategies can seemingly be fairly diverse: expand your harbor, acquire buildings, or simply use the highest bid status to drain some funds from your opponents.  All are valid reasons to bid high for those rights.  Wealth is a huge deal in the game as it multiplies with your influence total at the end to give you your final victory points.  It's likely you can do well in this game if you can avoid getting into too many bidding wars for incoming ships/goods and for contracts.  It's also seemingly wise to try and time your contract to come to fruition at moments when you have little competition in that regard so you can attempt to adjust the prices of goods and get the lion's share for them.  The game really is all about the timing in many regards and it appears to be a game where you can increase your mastery of that timing with repeat playing, regardless of the randomness of cards: ships, contracts, buildings, and events.  Those factors are important in each game but the overarching strategies will always be predicated on your own combining of those elements in a way that is well-orchestrated.

Systems Saturday on 
A look under the hood of various Games, Rules and Systems.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Tabletopper Friday - Belfort (2011)

Belfort (2011) is a game I've seen played at a few events I've attended in the last few years.  I've wanted to play but haven't managed to get in on a game until last weekend.  I had a blast.  It certainly helps that I have a great many fun friends with which to game but I'll give some credit to the game itself.  It is a challenging board game with a number of good strategies toward victory that don't, on first blush, appear to be too dependent on the missteps of other players.  However the tactics during play can certainly lead to obstacles, but they are obstacles one can hedge against with a bit of foresight.

We used the expansion and I played with two experienced players and two others who were new like myself.  Though one had played briefly years ago with the base game, so I am counting him as a virtually new player.  It's not only a resource management and worker placement game but one where turn order management requires some subtlety and planning, particularly regarding the expansion options.

Board Game Geek describes the game thus:
Put your Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes to work in the Village and Guilds of Belfort to collect resources and build up the city!
Elves collect wood from the forest while Dwarves collect stone from the quarry. An Elf and a Dwarf together can collect Metal from the mines, and either one can collect Gold. Build buildings in the five districts of the pentagonal city and hire Gnomes to run them to gain their special abilities. 
Belfort is a worker placement game with area majority scoring in each district as well as for each type of worker. Buildings give you influence in the districts as well as income, but taxes increase based on your score so the winning players will have to pay more than those behind! Manage your resources and gold well, choose your buildings wisely, and help build the city of Belfort!

  In future games I will have to make sure I not only have my taxes covered by can roll over some funds from turn to turn to keep more options available to me.  I'll also be mindful of getting a majority in one of the three races, Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes, so as to secure some continued points.  I think I was wise to secure one of the guild buildings early but acquiring a second might have stretched me a bit too thin in the early going.  All in all, a fun game I will gladly play again.

Tabletopper Friday on 
Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nostalgia Thursday - Warriors Of The Red Planet RPG

Eric Fabiaschi gives his impressions on his newly acquired copy of the Warriors Of The Red Planet a retroclone RPG system here.  I'm seeing a lot of good buzz on this one round the `net and am hoping to play in a game of it sometime in the next few months.  Let me know if you have a copy and, if you are in the area, have a seat open for me, please.

Nostalgia Thursday on 
Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wargaming Wednesday - History of the World (1991/2001)

History of the World is a wargame originally published by Ragnar Brothers in 1991 then Avalon Hill in 1993.  The version I have played most is the 2001 Hasbro edition, reprinted and updated after they acquired Avalon Hill from Monarch Services/Monarch Avalon Printing in 1998.  The components of the Hasbro/AH version are wonderful but do give it more of a boardgame look which doesn't bother me in the least.  The Hasbro version still feels like a wargame to me.

A "Color Level Corrected History of the World Box Front"
is available on Board Game Geek here.

The game is mechanically rather simple but strategically complex.  Game Play is described on a wiki page as:
The game is played in seven rounds known as epochs. In each epoch, each player plays a different empire; at the end of the epoch, the empires stop expansion and players score points. New empires then rise for the next epoch, although the remains of the previous empires stay on the board and score points for as long as they remain unconquered. The majority of points come from presence and/or dominance of various regions (generically called "areas") of the world, which fluctuate in worth throughout the game. For example, the area of Northern Europe is worth more in modern times than in ancient times, while the area of the Middle East is worth more in ancient times, based on historical importance. Other points come from capitols of empires, cities in general, monuments, and fleets or navigation.  Inevitably, a limited selection of historical empires had to be chosen for inclusion in the game. In the newest version of the game, there are seven empires in each of the seven epochs.

Floyd, Keith, Wayne, and I got together in Wheeling, IL

In the several games I have played in the last year, I have found that a new approach needs to be taken in each epoch, almost completely based on which empire for that epoch becomes your own.  Due to the drafting element in empire acquisition, there is a mechanism in place for players to keep whoever is in the lead in check if they work together well.

But a front-runner can sometimes use the inclination to quell him to his advantage by capitalizing on the success of a previous epoch with quick scoring if opponents leave that door open to him.  I've had this opening in two games I have played and managed to turn my purposeful over-extension of forces in both cases into a double payoff in victory points in successive epochs.  Managing just one or two other decent victory point levels in less successful epochs can make the running point total very difficult to overcome, provided some good choke points are established and the damage dealt to opponents is spread around judiciously, more or less evenly.

Playing events at the right time is crucial.  With three Greater Event Cards and seven Lesser Event Cards in the arsenal of each player, and the ability to play any two each epoch, there are four out of fourteen opportunities that need to go wanting.  You really have to trust your gut on whether to hang on to a particular leader card until later or jump on the chance to take an advantage in battle early.  Playing a Minor Empire card in a turn where you feel you'll get to score twice in a quick turnaround can really pile on the VPs.  Playing a different Minor Empire at a time when you think it will be allowed to remain for a few epochs, while achieving little else that epoch, is sometimes the subtle but best play.

Slipping a few troops into areas that aren't valuable early in the game is a worthwhile notion.  On more than one occasion, I have had some troops from the first turn wind up helping me gain Dominance or even Control of a late-blooming area, thus getting the lion's share of points on a late scoring round even when given weak empire cards.  As with any game that has dice, there is some degree of luck involved.  But, as the saying goes, Fortune Favors the Bold, so expand, expand, expand, knowing full well that the empires will rise and fall and grabbing the victory points that can be had in the moment often sets up a potential victory with even average dice rolling.

Wargaming Wednesday on 
A closer examination of board and miniatures Wargaming.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Terrain Tuesday - Polystyrene/Styrofoam Terrain with the Terrain Tutor

Over on the Terrain Tutor YouTube channel, from last October, there is a fairly complete beginners video tutorial on "A guide to using Polystyrene (Styrofoam) to make wargaming scenery."  Mel's been at making terrain videos about a year and this is an early one but quite useful.  He's got a couple dozen at this point and it's a good channel to add to your terrain making subscription list.  Enjoy!

Terrain Tuesday on 
For purposes here, the term Terrain is used broadly
to cover 3D and 2D maps, foam, felt, and such.
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Minis & Modeling Monday - Painting an Attack on Titan Warhammer Giant

What a wonderful painting tutorial put together by Doctor Faust of The Painting Clinic YouTube channel as he is "Painting an Attack on Titan Warhammer Giant."  Enjoy!

Minis & Modeling Monday on 
A look at prepping and painting Miniatures,
crafting buildings and paper Models,
and other non-terrain stuff for the tabletop..
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