A periodic blog about Games, Books, Movies, Pop culture, Technology and whatever else I happen to feel like writing about...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Meuterer: Mutiny on The High Seas

Many gamers have heard of the game Verrater (Traitor), the board game masquerading as a card game. Verrater is a very interesting, devious and affordable game that I can recommend to gamers who like a bit of thought to go along with their treachery. The author, Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, produced a thematically similar, yet more accessible game in the nautically themed Meuterer (Mutineer).

While Meuterer is only produced in German, there is little text used on the cards themselves, and there are many excellent player aids available on Boardgamegeek to make learning, and playing the game possible. There are quite a few rules translations available, and I can assert that the game is easy enough to teach to new players. In fact, it is most certainly harder to learn the game from the rules as written than it is to learn to play from an experienced Meuterer.

At its core, Meuterer is a game about trying to maximize the number of points you can earn, while minimizing the points earned by the competition. There are only a few ways to earn points. Goods cards can be sold at the appropriate islands, and the player or players who sell or tie for the most sold earn points. The Captain, or Mutineer, earns points for sailing the ship to the destination island of their choice, and the Ship's Boy, or First Mate earns points by supporting the Mutineer or Captain in successfully taking or keeping control of the ship.

There are some very neat systems at play. The Captain, after looking at his hand of five goods cards, must decide how many of his points he is willing to offer for the support of a First Mate. He must then indicate, using the captain cards, if he is willing to offer 0,1,2 or 3 points. The Captain is also the only player who does not get to take advantage of the role cards, as his role is already decided, he is the captain, at least until there is a successful mutiny.

Each player, starting with the captain, is able to either play one goods card, or to drop out of playing goods cards and to select one of the available role cards. The roles are:

The First Mate, who supports the Captain in a mutiny with one sword, and who earns 1 point plus the Captain's offered bonus if there is no Mutiny or if it is put down.

The Ship's Boy, who supports the Mutiny, and who earns two points in a successful Mutiny.

The Mutineer, who earns points for sailing to the island if the mutiny is successful.

The Merchant, who takes no part in either side of the Mutiny, but who always scores the most points for sales if they are at least tied for most sales.

The Loading Master, who also takes no part in the mutiny, but who gets an extra three cards to be able to construct a better hand for the next sale.

The neat thing with these roles is that they are all available to any player except the Captain, but to choose a role early, you have to drop out of the goods offering process. If you really want the Mutineer, you have to offer few Goods cards, which means that you might not score many points for sales. If you take the Merchant and someone plays an extra Goods card over your total, you have just lost the benefit. If you are holding two sword cards and you see that the Mutineer is available when you pick up the roles, do you Mutiny or support the Captain?

After a round of Goods card play, rounds continue until all players have dropped out by selecting a role. When the Captain drops out, the number of cards remaining in his hand indicate how far the ship will sail. Once the Mutineer is revealed, the same condition applies to him.

And this is what makes an interesting game, in my opinion. You always have a choice of how to proceed, and you never quite know what is going to happen until all the roles are revealed and the swords are played.

If you know someone who has a copy of Meuterer, you owe it to yourself to find a few friends and to give it a try.

Monday, January 17, 2005

DOOM: The Dungeon Crawl

I had a chance to play DOOM: The Boardgame this weekend. The full game with me playing Invader/DM and two marine players took 3 hours, and the marines survived until the objective room where they died for the 5th and 6th frags. Part of the reason that the game took 3 hours is due to the newness of the game, and there were some occasions where the marines were avidly discussing their options, which slowed things down.

Everyone enjoyed the game, and during play, most of the rules seemed clear enough. The game is very reminiscent of HeroQuest and Space Hulk, though the focus for the marines is really to get out alive as quickly as possible, while the Invader needs to frag the marines early and often.

You need a fair sized table and/or some side tables for components to play comfortably, and it is a good idea to sort out some piles of equipment, ammo and health tokens before the game to make setting up revealed rooms as easy as possible.

I enjoyed DMing the game, though I took pity on the marines in the last room, and did not throw all the nasty cards I was holding at them. They had run dry on ammo, though they were making good use of the chain saw and the berserker drug from the previous room. I was tempted to swap the plasma rifle out of the room, but I decided to let them try and reach it. I did seal the chainsaw-less marine in the room with all the invaders, and that pretty much sealed his fate at the same time. When the door was opened, there were enough zombies and trites to take the last few wounds off the would-be Ash, and he was the last frag.

DOOM is not a deep game, but it is very atmospheric, with nice miniatures and a rule set that seems to be a good balance between ease of use and play. I particularly enjoy the battle dice mechanic, and the Invader player has some neat cards that they can use to really make the marines lives interesting.

I am thinking of a system for designing single player scenarios on the fly, either for solitaire or two player use, and as soon as I get something together I will be sure to post it.

All in all, DOOM: The Boardgame is an enjoyable dungeon crawl. It brings back fond memories of late night D&D sessions with a lot less time and commitment, and the rules strike a decent balance between breadth and ease of use.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

DOOM - The Boardgame and 5 Gmail Invites

I hit my FNGS (Friendly Neighbourhood Game Store) Fandom II on the way home last night, and there, on the shelf, was DOOM, the Boardgame. As I picked up the box to see what the fuss was about, I immediately realized that this box was not FOA (Full of Air). I mean, you could cause serious injury if you ever threw this box at anyone. If they didn't have a DODGE order in place, they would take 2 wounds, easy..

As loyal readers know (are there any of you, BTW?), I have a weakness for Dungeon Crawls and games with lots of toys. Games like HeroQuest, Queen's Gambit, Battle Cry and the new War of the Ring all call out to my inner child. So, when I saw DOOM, I knew that I had to give it a new home.

After unpacking the game, and sorting through the components, punching the tiles, etc., I found that DOOM reminds me a lot of HeroQuest and Space Hulk. One player takes control of the monsters, and acts as DM for the other players that take control of the brave monster bait, I mean Marines...

The tiles are good heavy stock, although a few pieces seems to have delaminated a bit. The miniatures (or maxiatures, as the Cyberdemons are frickin' huge!) are decent, but need to have some burrs removed and some bases straightened. The cards are decent, but the stock is a bit thin. The dice are well designed, but I have read comments that suggest that the paint is likely to wear off, possibly necessitating a use of clear coat.

Two systems in the game stand out as being well thought out. The Marines come in three colours, Red, Blue and Green, and the creatures are cast in the same colours. As a game balancing device, the DM is only allowed to use the demons in the colours of the marines that are playing, so if one marine plays, only 1/3 of the monsters are available for placement and spawns, which is neat.

The other system is the combat dice, which exist in different colours. Each die has faces that show a number, representing range, a number of hits, as well as the possibility of an ammo symbol or a miss. Each monster or weapon is rated for melee or ranged combat, and has a number of coloured dice associated to it. One roll of the appropriate dice lets you know if you have hit, how much damage you caused and whether or not ammo was used up. Neat! Attacks that miss may inadvertently hit a totally different space, and some weapons, like the almighty BFG, have a blast radius that inflicts full damage on any figure caught in the wrong place at the right time.

I have not had a chance to play yet, but I hope to get this out on the weekend. I will probably have to play the Demons/GM, but this should be fun.

And now, faithful readers, a chance at something free. I have 5 Gmail invites that I would like to give out. To get them, all you have to do is leave a comment on this Blog. First 5 comments that indicate they would like an invite get them. Just indicate in your comment what email address you would like the invite sent to. And if you already have a Gmail account, why not leave a comment anyway?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Settlers of Catan Card Game

Sunday evening, Cim and I sat down to play the Settlers of Catan Card Game, using only the original set. I rarely get to play this game, as it is only for two players, and if we have three or more, regular Settlers will certainly come out.

I can see why some people love/hate this game. While it is certainly Settlers-like, it is not Settlers. It is very recognizable as a Teuber design, and fans of Anno 1503 will see many similarities with SCCG.

One of the things that strikes me about the game is the elegance of the design. The land cards are also the resources, and you add or remove resources by tapping the land card in a certain direction. Lands can only hold up to three of a resource, and the only way to get more is to get another land of that type.

The action cards, like the Spy, the Arsonist, etc. give the game a certain amount of SYB, and the competition for the Commerce and Knight tokens replaces the longest road and largest army races. Players are also racing to build the limited common roads, settlements and cities, which adds a nice bit of urgency to the game.

Even though the game can last 2 hours, when I was playing with Cim the time seemed to fly by, as he caught on to the mechanics quickly. SCCG is certainly not a fast game by any means, but with two thoughtful, and relatively quick thinking players, it can be a great way to play something Settlers like.

Because I have played so rarely, I do not think that I have begun to really grok the strategies of the game to any real degree. I can see the utility of paying 2 resources to draw the card of your choice from an expansion stack, but this was done very few times during our game. Next time, I should probably do this earlier in the game, to get the lay of each expansion stack early.

All in all, it was a good, and a very close game. Cim won 12-10, and are both looking forward to playing again.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Holiday Gaming

I hope that you all had very healthy and happy holidays, and that you played many games with friends and family. Cim and I managed to get in two sessions, and we have discovered a new gamer, our neighbour Yannick.

On Christmas Eve, after some spring rolls and Vietnamese soup, Cim and I were ready to thin out the cracker population when we heard a knock at the door. It was our neighbour, Yannick, who wanted to know if we wanted to go see a film with him and his partner Wanda. We didn't really feel like hitting the movies, and suggested boardgames as an alternative. Yannick thought that was a good idea, so we ended up going over to Yannick and Wanda's with a few games.

We brought over Settlers and Geshenkt to see how they would go over. As we were setting up the board for Settlers, I could see the looks of fear in Yannick and Wanda's eyes, but we quickly convinced them that the game was easier than it looked. After the first few rounds, they seemed to get into the game, and it was almost like watching a light come on as they were introduced to the world of Eurogames.

After Settlers, we played some 4 player Geshenkt, and that went over very well indeed. Cim really enjoyed the push your luck/SYB nature of the game, and it was a big hit with Yannick and Wanda as well. After that, we ended the evening with what proved to be the longest game of 4 player Uno ever. Once Uno was done, so were we, and it was off to sleep for us.

We had another opportunity to play on January 2nd. As Cim and I were finishing our brunch, he suggested that maybe we could play some board games. I called Colin, who was able to score a 4 hour pass, and when Mike was unable to play, we called Yannick to see if he would be our fourth. Luckily, he was able to play, and so we started off with a game of Settlers. This was a very close match, and after all the smoke had settled, Cim was the victor. We wanted to play a game of Puerto Rico after that, and Yannick asked if we could play with five people. When we said we could, Yannick called Wanda and she came over to play.

This was our first ever 5 player game of Puerto Rico, and the competition in the 5 player game is fierce. I would have to say that I would prefer not to play 5 player, much preferring the 4 or even the three player game. Nonetheless, 5 player Puerto Rico is better than many other games, and a good time was had by all. I managed to secure the victory with a corn shipper strategy.

After Puerto Rico, Colin had to leave, but Yannick and Wanda were up for more games, so we played a round of Can't Stop. Wanda had played the game as a child, and we all had a good time, with Cim managing to secure the win. We played some Liar's Dice, and I believe that Cim managed a few wins there as well. We ended the evening with Modern Art, and I managed to scrape by the other dealers for the victory. Cim and I should learn to let our guests win more games!

And so we managed to get in a few games over the holidays with some good friends, and isn't that the point of it all? I am sure that we will be able to coax Yannick out the next time that we are looking for a player, and that is perhaps an even better present, finding another willing victim, I mean gamer...