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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

BG, Mall of Horror, Last Chance, Elasund

We had a full house on Saturday night, for Battlestar Galactica and some games. Now that the conflict between Admiral Caine and Adama has been resolved (Caine was killed by Number 6 and Adama has been promoted to Admiral by the President), the writers took an episode to explore the real day to day workings of the fleet. It turns out that there is a thriving black market, and that the humans might not be quite as heroic as we might ahve thought. Another interesting episode, and I am anxious to see what direction the writers will take us next.

Mike, Julia, Yannick, Wanda and Cim and me decided to make Mall of Horror our first game of the evening, as it could accommodate 6 players. Mall of Horror is set in a shopping mall infested with flesh eating zombies, and seems to share some mechanics of Rette Sich wer Kahn, otherwise known as the Lifeboat Game. Each player has three characters, worth different numbers of points that they are trying to keep alive in 6 locations in the mall. Each location can only hold a limited number of people, and each player must try to move one of his characters each turn.

The game comes with voting wheels indicating either destination rooms or player teams, and they work well. All in all, the game is full of decisions, guesses, votes and betrayal,. and with the right crowd, it can lead to a lot of fun.

In the end, Wanda was able to claim victory for having two of her characters left alive. Yannick had had some confusion as to how certain cards were played, as well as the value of each character. I am sure that the next game will be even more hard fought.

After Mall of Horror, we settled down to a raucous game of Last Chance, the game that blends Texas Hold'Em and Yahtzee. When all was said and done, Wanda again was the winner, though a few other players were close. Mike was the only one of us to have gone totally bust.

Yannick and Wanda had to call it a night, and we were able to convince Cim to stay up, so we played Elasund for the first time. The latest of the Catan Adventures games, Elasund has some familiar elements, as well as a totally unfamiliar level of potential nastiness. Elasund is primarily a tile placement game, where tiles can produce either gold or prestige based on a resource production roll.

There are elements of Settlers, Anno 1503 and Carcassone, and I am impressed with the way that the game works. After only one play I find myself eagerly looking forward to the next, and I would like to try the game out with different numbers of players to see how well it scales. I believe that, unlike Settlers, Elasund will play very well with 2, 3 or 4 players, and that, if anything, the 2 player game might be more tactical than the 4, but no less enjoyable.

Julia was able to place all her victory cubes first, earning a well-deserved victory.

And so, another evening of BG and Games came to a close. The challenge now will be in bringing good 6 player games to the table to complement the BG. I am thinking of trying Citadels, Bohnanza and maybe even Illuminati at upcoming sessions... Fnord!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

BG 2.11 - Resurrection Ship Part 1, Last Chance, Batalhas Medievais, Terra

Now that Battlestar Galactica has resumed Season 2, we can all let out a collective sigh of relief and find out how the standoff between the Galactica and the Pegasus will unfold. As was our custom, Yannick and Wanda would surely be over on Saturday evening, and Mike and Julia, recent converts to BG, also wanted to be included, so our weekly BG fest is getting bigger!

Yannick was unfortunately out of town on Saturday, but Wanda wanted to see the episode, and she joined me, Cim, Mike and Julia. I will keep my comments short and to the point: even though very little actually happened, the stage is set in this episode for a great confrontation. The scene at the end of the episode, where Adama and Caine were separately planning each other's assassination was very effective. I really have to wonder if the Colonials even deserve to survive...

Once we reached the end of the episode, it was time for some games. I had recently acquired Last Chance, a Poker-Yahtzee hybrid, and we played two rounds to much cheering and groaning. The addition of betting, side bets and the chance to risk it all by going all-in makes this a winner, in the same vein as Can't Stop, but with more involvement by all players in each of the seven rounds. The fact that no two games will have the same combinations makes it very interesting, and the fact that you have to win at least one auction for a card, and complete it successfully, make this a much better game, IMHO, than Yahtzee. I am having a hard time remembering who won, and can be corrected in the comments, but I think that Wanda won the first round and Mike the second.

After Last Chance, we played a game of Batalhas Medievais. Like the last time, it went rather quickly, with many battles fought to the last man. In the end, Cim managed to claim the throne again (coincidentally, both games that he has won, he has had a strong presence in Ireland... )

Finally, we managed to convince Cim to stay up for a 5 player game of Terra. Mike had been wanting to try this for some time, and I had only played once, with three players the game ended with no one winning. This time, players were fairly cooperative, and we actually managed to get all the way through the deck, fending off enough crises to keep the game from ending prematurely. Most players managed to bank at least one set of cards for the end game, though few high cards were taken out. I managed to eke out a win, though I suspect that if this gets to the table again, there will likely be less cooperation...

And so, the first episode of the winter sessions of BG at Foster Street Studios came to a close, and we all anxiously await next weeks' resolution to the cliffhanger. Stay tuned next week, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Angus: Batlahas Medievais (Medieval Battles)

When Karen came back this Christmas from Recife, Brazil, she had brought me a present, the Brazilian-made game Medieval Battles. I have to thank Flavio for his suggestion, as the game was very much enjoyed by my friends the other night! It is a light game of territory and resource control played over 8 rounds with some interesting mechanics.

As an aside, I managed to struggle through the Portuguese rule book, asking Karen the meaning of occasional words, and was quite happy to figure the game out. Then, looking it up on the Geek, I saw a full English translation of the rules.. Doh!

The production values are good, especially the very well-designed storage tray which keeps all the game components separated and accessible. The game pieces are plastic troop and ship markers, cardboard points tokens, cities and temples and cardboard stand-up king and Viking markers with plastic bases. There are also some cards, which could be made from better cardstock and some D6`s, with one specially-printed temple die.

Players represent various groups, such as the Irish, Saxons, etc. in medieval Europe, and each group has a set starting territory. The rules suggest which groups should be used with various numbers of players, from 2-5. Our first playing was with 4 players, and that worked quite well.

Each player sets up his king, 4 troops, and a city in the starting territory, with the ship in the sea space adjacent to that territory. Each player takes their turn in order, in three phases, starting with the build phase. Players get one build for each territory they control with a city, and one half build for each territory that contains a temple or troops. Each build allows the contruction of 1 troop, city or temple, with the provision that troops may be built in any territory that contains friendly troops, cities may be built in territories contaning friendly trrops but no other builds, and temples may only be built in territories with friendly troops and the temple symbol.
Territories may only contain 1 city or temple, but not both. Ships can never be built, and there is no combat between ships.

Once the build phase is done, any or all troops may be moved to an adjacent territory, and up to three troops adjacent to the ship may be loaded from one territory, moved up to 2 sea spaces, and disembarked in up to three adjacent land spaces.

Each territory that now contains more than one colour of troops will have combat until only one colour remains, and since combat takes place after movement, there is no way to reinforce after combat.

Combat is resolved by each affected player rolling 2 D6, with the higher total causing the loss of 1 troop to the lower total. Ties are won by the player with the most troops in the battle, and if the number of troops is equal, the dice are re-rolled.

After combat, play proceeds to the next player, and once each player has completed all three phases, a Viking card is turned up. Each Viking card will show 2 sea spaces that the Vikings can attack from, and a condition, such as least cities, least troops, etc. The player having the least of what is listed is allowed to use the Viking to attack one territory that is adjacent to one of the sea spaces shown. The Viking, being a fierce raider, only rolls one D6, the other always being a 6, and fights the defender until he either defeats all enemy troops, in which case he sacks and removes any city or temple, or until he loses or ties a battle, in which case the marker is moved to the Isle of Man.

The players' king tokens act much like the Viking, by raising the morale of any troops in their territory so that one die is automatically a five. If the last troop is lost in the king`s space, he dies and the player loses 3 VP.

After the Viking raid, each player counts their VP and takes tokens in that amount from the bank, keeping them face down. For VP purposes, controlled territories with a city are worth 1 VP, and territories with a temple are worth 2 VPs. Territories which only have troops are worth nothing. The game plays for 8 rounds, and ends after the points are tallied in round 8.

There is one special case, when a player succesfully invades a territory that contains a temple, they must roll a special die to see if the gods have blessed or cursed the invasion. 3 faces are blank, which means that nothing happens. 2 faces are skulls, which means that the player keeps the territory but the temple is destroyed, and one face is a D6, which means that the player must roll one D6 and lose that many points from his supply.

The game plays very quickly, and it is fairly lightweight. That being said, it is always fun to fight battles that come down to the last roll of the dice, and as we all know from Settlers, you can`t be lucky or unlucky all the time. The inverse value of cities and temples for building and VP`s is an interesting mechanic, as well as the use of the Viking to allow weaker players to try and take some points away from the leader. There are some advanced rules that allow the use of some combat cards, an extra ship and a movable king, but the game plays well enough as is. I would consider using some form of rotating start player, or perhaps a VP auction for turn order, but, on the whole, Angus: Medieval Battles is a fine light territory control game. If you see a copy on sale, I would suggest buying it if this all sounds to be to your taste.