Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nostalgia Thursday - Five Crowns (1996)

We've recently taken to playing Five Crowns (1996) incorrectly, though it makes for a faster game.  The game has been around a couple of decades and I hadn't heard of it before but that's no surprise since there are hundreds of card games from that era.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Five Crowns is rummy with a five-suited deck and a twist. The set collection aspect of rummy is basically the same, with groups of three cards in either runs or denominations making a valid meld. The twist is that in each hand the number of cards required to create a meld increases, from three cards in the first hand to thirteen in the last. The game, therefore, consists of eleven hands.
In each hand, in addition to the six Jokers, other cards are designated as wild: in the first hand 3s are wild; in the second hand 4s are wild, and so on until in the last hand the Kings go wild. (You can remember which cards are wild because it matches the number of cards in hand, i.e., in the first hand you hold three cards and 3s are wild.) A hand ends when a player can meld all cards in her hand after the discard.

What we've been doing wrong is not requiring runs to be suited, which is absurd and yet somehow lends itself to a much faster and still intriguing game, in my opinion.  Opinions from others differ but that may well be due to suitedness being so ingrained in our psyches.

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wargaming Wednesday - Surcoat (2016)

We wound down the weekend with a game of Surcoat (2016) at Lake Geneva Games in wonderful southern Wisconsin.  I grabbed some pics of the action.  We added a table and two teams of two squared off against one another.  Floyd and Keith, neither of whom we had seen since the Fall, came up from Wheeling to roll some dice.  They're regular wargamers though they tend to play mostly skirmish level games like Bolt Action, though Floyd has played more than his share of Warhammer.  We split them onto teams with Will and Norm respectively, since they had played before, and John was only able to stop in as he had a work shift this week, unfortunately.  Our friend Nancy even popped in to check out the action toward the end of the evening.

It's a pretty simple set up.

Two teams, with teammates on opposite corners.

The idea is that two converging generals have caught
an opposing general on the wrong side of a border wall.

That errant general does have allied support on the wall.

The teams have to decide the best way to deal with the other.

In this engagement, two of the armies clashed away
from the wall while two fought on it.

While attempting to breech the wall . . .

That lost catapult might have made the difference.

But the wall was being overrun.

And in the scrum on the other side . . .

The opposing catapult was lost as well.

It was a close match decided by a few points!

A closer examination of board and miniatures Wargaming.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Terrain Tuesday - Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

One of the treats to come out of Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016) is not one but two miniatures displays.   Spoilers coming for those who are concerned, so turn back now!

Early in the film when Pee-wee befriend's Joe Manginello,
Pee-wee gives Joe a tour of his hometown, Fairville,
by showing him his HO scale model of the town.

It's a small town so the full place can fit on what looks like
a 12' x 12' display in Pee-wee's backyard.

It includes Dan's Diner where Pee-wee is employed as a cook.

There's a model of the Fairville Library where
one of Pee-wee's many admirers, Emily, works.

The Tire Repair . . . of Fairville.

The Barber of Fairville.

The Fairville Fire Department.

The Garage where Pee-wee's former singing group, The Renegades,
used to rehearse before their untimely, nasty breakup.

There's Pee-wee's house with a tree house
in the backyard tree that has yet to be realized.

It's a lot to admire.

When Pee-wee eventually makes it to Joe's B-Day party in NYC,
Joe returns the favor by showing Pee-wee a scale model
of his own on the roof of his New York residence.

Joe's model is more extensive
and mostly made up from his imagination.

There's even a Dinosaur World section.

It also has a Glitter Mountain
complete with Pixies!

Joe's model includes Fairville and even Pee-wee's house
with a miniature model of Pee-wee's backyard miniature Fairville!

It's great to see a new Pee-wee Herman movie after so many years and fun to see some cool model work in it.  See it on Netflix if you get the chance!

For purposes here, the term Terrain is used broadly
to cover 3D and 2D maps, foam, felt, and such.
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Monday, March 28, 2016

Minis & Modeling Monday - Fire Giant, Landsknecht, & Waterloo

Over on, my buddy Keith showed off his "Garycon Fire Giant Miniature" here.

Also, on, a new blog post from Curt C features "Italian Wars Landsknecht Pikeblock - My Last Entry to the 6th Painting Challenge."  See more here.

Finally, on the VOA News YouTube channel, from a couple of years ago but resurfacing lately, check out how "One Man Creates [an] Army of Tiny Soldiers to Replicate Battle of Waterloo."  I hope his work got into a Waterloo display for the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo somewhere!

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, March 27, 2016

The Sunday Miscellanea - Tiny Epic Galaxies (2015)

In the past year I may have played and taught Tiny Epic Galaxies (2015) more than any other.  Even though I don't personally own the game, so many of the local gamers got in on the Kickstarter for it and it is so easy to bring along that there is almost always a copy at any gameday or event.  I still have yet to play it with the expansion and still have fun with it simply as is.  At a recent Burlington Gameday, I was asked to teach two new players who picked it up quickly as an experienced player and I joined in as well.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
A thirty-minute game of galactic conquest, Tiny Epic Galaxies is driven by an exciting dice-rolling mechanism that rewards thoughtful programming of the results. Players control a home galaxy and a fleet of space ships. As players upgrade their galaxies, they gain access to more ships and more dice.
Each turn, a player rolls a set of dice; how many dice are rolled is determined by the level of that player's galaxy. Each side of the six-sided die represents a different type of action: Movement, Colony Action, Harvest from Culture Planets, Harvest from Energy Planets, Improve an Economic Influence, and Improve a Diplomatic Influence.
After the roll, the player sorts the results of the roll (one selective re-roll is allowed) and organizes the dice in a desired activation order. Each die, in order, is then resolved and the results are immediate, which allows the player to pull-off unseen combos and surprise other players. Other players have the option to copy other player's a cost!
As players expand their galaxy by colonizing other planets through economic and diplomatic influence, they gain victory points AND the special powers brought in by those planets! In addition to galaxy upgrades, effective resource management provides luck-mitigating options that can sway the game in a calculated player's favor.
Whoever achieves the most points from acquiring planets and upgrading their personal galaxy wins!

Another close game though one player fell behind a bit early in the empire building.  Those three points and not getting a mission complete can make a huge difference in the end unless your strategy compensates for it by gathering lots of planets quickly and using colony actions when others can't or don't have any worth using.  Culture and Following are still points to stress while teaching and even when a player doesn't take it immediately to heart, it quickly becomes apparent during gameplay and that reinforces the concept.

Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics on
not covered elsewhere or wanting a particular focus.
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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Systems Saturday - Praetor (2014)

Often when a game resurfaces locally it winds up being played a handful of times before it gets re-shelved for a while.  This allows for some building on recent strategies while they are still fresh in the mind.  This has been true lately of Praetor (2014).

The description on Board Game Geek is as follows:
It's the year 122 CE and the Roman Empire is at the peak of its glory. Caesar Hadrian is no longer waging war against the barbarians, but building cities and fortifications to ensure a lengthy domination of the Roman culture and wealth.
The southern part of Britain is under Roman domination, and Caesar has already begun the construction of Hadrian's Wall to protect the empire from invasions from the North. Together with the wall Caesar has ordered the founding of a new city which will remind the locals of the glory of Rome. He has appointed five of his most trusted men to take resources and workers from Rome and to build the city together – but in the end only one of them will be appointed Praetor and rule the Province in the name of Caesar.
In Praetor you will take the role of a Roman engineer and you will work together with the other players to build a magnificent city. You will manage your limited resources wisely and look for new ones, you will recruit new Workers while your old experienced ones will retire, you will build settlements to keep the population happy and you will praise the Gods to earn their favor. Caesar will reward you if you give away precious resources to build Hadrian’s Wall thus increasing your chances of becoming Praetor.
Every turn you will place your Workers on previously built City Tiles to gain resources, Morale, new Workers or Favor points. You may also assign Workers to build new City Tiles or spend resources to meet Caesar’s demands to gain Favor Points. At the end of each turn, you will have to pay your Workers. Otherwise, the mood in the city will deteriorate.
Most of the actions your Workers will perform will help them gain experience. They will become increasingly skilled in collecting resources. Your most experienced Workers will eventually retire and bring you additional Favor Points but you will still have to show solidarity and pay them until the end of the game.

First, I didn't completely abandon my thinking regarding wall sections.  I'm getting close though.  Building a wall section might be too obvious a choice and too easily predictable, and thus too easily thwarted.  Too that end, piling up resources rather than playing things close to the bone also has merit.  The ability to do almost anything available any given turn outweighs the possibility of being stuck with one-tenth of a victory point at the end of the game.  In fact, some of the best scores I have seen have gone to players with piles of resources at the end.  So, too, owning the city tile which allows retirees to work seems to be useful.  I need some more time with this one but I feel I can be competiative with it now whereas I often got my hat handed to me in the past.

A look under the hood of various Games, Rules and Systems.
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Friday, March 25, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Firefly: Out to the Black (2013)

I'm a fan of Firefly and Serentity, the shows, and have played a lot of the Firefly Board Game with all of the expansions but I hadn't played Firefly: Out to the Black (2013) until last weekend.  I'm not sure we got all of it right, and I know we corrected some things during play that we figured out we were definitely doing wrong, but we had a good deal of fun with this one.  Well, those of us who know the show and movie did though I think one person at the table who wasn't familiar warmed up to the game more slowly than the rest of us.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Firefly: Out to the Black is a quick card game that plays from three to five players. It’s unusual in that the players do not compete against each other, but compete against the game. This is a fairly new style of game called a co-op game or cooperative game. Players take on roles of the crew of Serenity and play through a series of Events. Using their Fightin’, Flyin’, and Thinkin’ skills they attempt to successfully complete these Events to earn Credits and Honor. If the players run out of Credits or Honor before the end of the game, they all lose and the game wins! If the players manage to complete the predetermined amount of Events without running out of Credits or Honor, they win the game, and live to fly another day! 
Double sized Character Cards – Contains the Character’s Skill numbers and special abilities
Event Cards – These are the Events the players must overcome to win the game.
Serenity Cards – These are dual use cards. The main use is to help the players overcome Events. It’s secondary use is to determine random numbers.
Alliance Cards – These are penalty cards that are drawn if the players do not do well at certain Events. Draw too many of these and the players lose the game even if they still have Credits and Honor.
Gorramit Cards – These cards modify the Events, generally making them harder.
A Set of Rules – The rules to the game. 
Honor Tokens – These are used to track the player’s Honor. 
Credit Tokens – These are used to track the player’s Credits.
The Character Cards each represent one of the main Characters in Firefly. In addition to having their skills values listed, Each Character has special abilities, which cost a variable amount of Credits or Honor. On a players turn he can choose to spend Credits or Honor on one of these abilities, but it brings them closer to losing, so they need to think about whether they really need to or not.
A typical turn of the game consists of the active player turning over the top Event card. Each Event card has three challenges, one Fightin’, one Flyin’, and one Thinkin’. Each of these has a number, which the players must equal or exceed to be successful in the challenge. Characters gain skill two different ways, they may play Serenity cards to gain skill, and, after playing their Serenity cards, they add a random number to determine their final skill. This is added to the Character’s base skill number listed on their Character cards. Depending on how many challenges they successfully complete they either gain or lose Credits and/or Honor. The more successful the more they gain.
Once the event is resolved, the next player starts a new turn, and turns over the next Event card. The game is over once all the Event cards have been drawn and resolved.
The Firefly TV show is about surviving with honor. Mal and his crew are continually trying to scrounge up enough credits to keep flying, while maintaining their own personal sense of honor. The game reflects this grand theme with the victory conditions, survive the Event deck without running out of Honor or Credits. Each Event in the deck is tied to an episode in the show, and is easily recognizable by fans of the show. The Skills needed for each Event are tied to action of the episode featured on the card. A sub theme of the show is escaping notice of the Alliance, and again, with the inclusion of the Alliance deck, Firefly: Out to the Black delivers. The Alliance deck is an ever-present threat looming over the players as they desperately seek to finish the Events in the game.

We had a little trouble figuring out the combat system and made some adjustments along the way.  When the game was over, and we had managed to not use any of the alliance deck, plus still had one honor and one credit left, we assumed we had played some other things wrong or had won only because of the things we played wrong early but fixed.  Seriously, we glanced over the rules and tried to get a quick start but had to stop and go through it all one word at a time to really understand the game.  Some of the rules are written in the vernacular of the Verse, and even those of us who know the show/movie well had to re-read some sections because of that.  All in all, though, it seems like it is probably a pretty good game but I'd have to come at it a couple more time to be sure.

Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Nostalgia Thursday - Can't Stop (1980)

Lately, Can't Stop (1980) has been getting some extra playing time.  No particular reason of which I am aware but it's fun and plays with up to eight with simple modification (adding some markers and allowing two row captures to constitute a win).  Sometimes it just gets trotted out when we have someone at the table who hasn't played it before, even with just three players like last week,  This acclimates the local players to the game so that when we do wind up with a larger than usual number of players, they can all be versed in those games.  So, like Liar's Dice (1987), this one is always at the ready.

The Board Game Geek description runs as follows:
In this Sid Sackson classic, players must press their luck with dice and choose combinations tactically to close out three columns. The board has one column for each possible total of two six-sided dice, but the number of spaces in each column varies: the more probable a total, the more spaces in that column and the more rolls it takes to complete. 
On their turn, a player rolls four dice and arranges them in duos: 1 4 5 6 can become 1+4 and 5+6 for 5 & 11, 1+5 and 4+6 for 6 & 10, or 1+6 and 4+5 for 7 & 9. The player places or advances progress markers in the open column(s) associated with their chosen totals, then chooses whether to roll again or end their turn and replace the progress markers with markers of their color.
A player can only advance three different columns in a turn and cannot advance a column which any player has closed out by reaching the end space; if a roll doesn't result in any legal plays, the turn ends with that turn’s progress lost.

In our recent game, I tried playing a bit more conservatively than in past attempts (most of which ended in losses).  I understand that is a relative term but I think it is also true that a player in a regular group can become predictable to a certain degree and that's the dynamic I have been examining lately.

Not so much with this particular game session but lately I've even made sure predictability and play styles were a part of the table talk, the conversation around the local game tables, to make sure I hear some fresh views on these concepts (though not necessarily in so many words).  At some point, if you're designing games or running them regularly, you have to make the leap beyond the math and the production values and understand what happens when the rubber meets the road.  And this isn't just true about how a specific game plays and how folks interact with it but how people in general approach any game at all.  I've observed this over forty plus years of playing and running and creating games but rarely have I actively pursued open discussion on it, mostly just listening to the tidbits and storing them away.  I admit now that, like a spy in the house of games, I have been seeding the discussions and introducing certain ideas casually to gain more knowledge about what goes on in the minds of gamers as they play this game or that.  I generally don't divulge this information in the form of quotes here in this blog but I hope those who read this blog and play with me regularly understand that it is a part of the process.  They should wind up with better games to play for it.

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wargaming Wednesday - Surcoat (2016)

In a recent post on the Surcoat (2016) Medieval Fantasy Wargame System here, I outlined some of the many influences on me while wargaming for more than forty years and working on these rules over the last decade and a half.  As said then, "My goal is to produce a rather simple, straightforward set of unit-to-unit Medieval Fantasy wargaming rules that can scale nicely to handle combat for very large armies utilizing a d20 as the primary resolution method and which players can buy in for almost nothing more than their time and imagination."

Additionally, the intention is for someone to be able to use these rules seamlessly alongside an RPG to handle conflict beyond the one-figure-equals-one-individual level.  To my way of thinking, most skirmish level combat rules aren't much different from the combat rules embedded within many RPGs.  With little to no modification, an RPG combat system should be able to handle skirmish level battles.  However, once one scales up to army level combats where a unit represents ten, fifty, or even one hundred individuals, it takes a different type of rule set to do this effectively.

From what I have seen over the forty-five years I have been a avid tabletop gamer (first of wargames then RPGs when they were invented in the mid-1970s), when an army level wargame rule set is designed to work in tandem with an RPG, it seems awkward.  In some areas, abstractions are made or assumed while in other areas, skirmish level rules are substituted so that individual characters can be shoehorned into the action.  This tends to be where such systems breakdown.  They fail to recognize that in the grand scheme of things, individuals cannot make a huge difference on army level combats except as generals and leaders of units.  I'm hoping that Surcoat is seen as a way of smoothing out that awkwardness and manifests as a system that can be integrated into RPGs of many stripes.  We will see.

A closer examination of board and miniatures Wargaming.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Terrain Tuesday - Flames of War

Over on the terrainproject YouTube channel, check out the "Flames of War Windmill" (no sound).  Enjoy!

Also, on the terrainproject YouTube channel, in a follow up, check out "scratch built windmill destroyed."  Enjoy more!

Finally, on TheTerrainGuy YouTube channel, have a look at the "Flames of War - TheTerrainStudio - Foy Project (1)."  Follow it for more.

For purposes here, the term Terrain is used broadlyto cover
3D tabletop pieces made from foam, felt, and other materials.
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