Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for the ‘Session reports’ Category

Game Day: More Risk Legacy

Posted by sodaklady on January 2, 2012

When Dave and Mike showed up, I had Hansa set up ready to play. This is a simple but tricky Michael Schacht game that I really enjoy. I had forgotten how nasty it can be but fell right in to old way, screwing my left-hand neighbor who just happened to be my husband. Well, you know what they say about Karma… yeah, more on that later.

Then we convinced Mike that we should play Risk Legacy next; wouldn’t want to forget it or run out of time! 😀

Risk Legacy set up 1

Here's the setup, my first bad decision.

Mike, Dave and Richard all stuck with their starting factions but I, being the adventurous type, decided to change to the one that was ignored the last time. I also liked their ability to treat their starting base as “fortified”, which gives a +1 to their dice when defending. Mike started again, and again placed his base in North America. Then it was my turn and I chose to switch things up again, moving my start territory from Africa to the northern reaches of Asia. Ohhh, I know, I know. What a bone-head move! But it’s only a game, right?  Richard started in his favorite location, Australia; Dave switched from Europe to South America.

For his turn, Mike spread across his N. American continent. On my turn, I took a couple of territories to protect my base and broke into Mike’s continent by taking Alaska. Well, I could see it from Russia! 😉 Then Richard’s turn. Remember that Karma? Yeah, here it came, marching north from Australia. And while I was getting a butt-kicking on one continent, Mike was taking a beating from Dave on his continent. I wasn’t spread as thin and managed a bit of a defense but Mike was seriously hurt. On the next turn he could only reinforce his dwindling defenses.

Butt-kicking in Asia

Karma kicking my butt.

Now came the, possibly, second dumb decision from yours truly. I trusted Richard. Dave was on the verge of winning on his next turn. I asked Richard if he could stop picking on me for one *$#@!* turn so I could take Dave’s second base from him. And I did. But the two-faced man that I married turned around and attacked me again! World domination is not a job for the faint of heart. And so I was left with few resources and no base. A perfect setting for Dave to make a final run through America’s base and into Asia winning his final point with my base.

It didn’t take much, just one word from someone, and we were setting up for a second game. Everyone kept their factions and their start locations with the exception of me starting in the southern part of Africa. I had hoped that a more defensible starting location would be the key to my first win. Oh, how foolish of me.

Risk Legacy set up 2

The second game, trying a different strategy in the initial base location.

Double butt-kicking

Africa getting a double butt-kicking.

After the initial turn where we all take our respective continents, Dave started right in attacking Mike to his north then me. As if that weren’t enough for one peoples to endure, Richard marched his army right over to Africa through southern Asia and attacked me from the other direction.

And as history repeats itself, Mike wasn’t to fare any better this game than the last either. From northern Africa, Richard then continued through Europe to attack Mike on a second front, eventually eliminating all of his men. This forced Mike to start in a new area with a lonely 4 men. They settled in Asia in order to pick off a single man left by Richard to defend on his trek through to Africa. This was a fly bite on the rump of an elephant. There was no slowing down the war machine of my evil husband.

One man short

Outside of Mary's Town, Richard ran out of men.

On Richard’s next turn, he got 22 armies, Marched through America, taking its base; then on through Dave’s South America and taking his base; and the final push into Africa where he came up juuust short. Oh, too bad. But, really, when you control all but a few pockets of resistance, there is little doubt of the outcome. On his next turn he had no trouble taking the final point he needed to win.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if there is a safe place to start for me. I think next time Africa, but using the old standard, the Australian Strategy:  just sit still and add men until I have enough to break out. Or Mike and I need to gang up on someone.

In truth, the weird thing about Legacy is that the board is totally empty except for your starting locations. No maneuvering for who will take Africa or America; no single, expendable men slowing down your progress through to your target location. But it also must be noted that I can NOT ROLL DICE!!!!

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

After two games of death and destruction, we decided to save lives. Mike had brought Flash Point: Fire Rescue, his newest game. He had played 4 or 5 times with his nieces but hadn’t managed a win so our chances seemed slim but somehow, by the skin of our teeth, with only 2 black cubes remaining between us and a collapsed building, we managed to win by saving 6 people and a dog. It’s a pretty good co-op game, very thematic but also fairly fiddly. And… dice rolling can kill you!

We ended the day as we end many of them, with Ra: The Dice Game. Mike won by a fair margin which means we each won one game this day and beat a co-op game.  I hope that is some kind of good omen for the coming year.


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Fending Off Zombies Again

Posted by sodaklady on August 27, 2010

Last week my daughter,Cori, and I got out Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game and played the “Burn It To The Ground!” scenario– I played the Heroes and she played the Zombies, as usual. She loves being the bad guy and she does it very well. This scenario calls for the Heroes to find 4 cans of gasoline, splash them around the center area of the Mansion, where the spawning pits are, then have one Hero spend a turn in there to light the fire without getting killed by whatever zombies there are hanging around their favorite stomping grounds. Uh-huh. No prob.

The board with Manor House in the center. The middle 4 spaces would be the pits that have to be eliminated. Photo by SingBlueSilver.

This scenario uses the Grave Dead rule from the Growing Hunger expansion which means you roll a d6 to see what horrible ability a few of her zombies would possess. My luck, she rolled a 1 which gives them the ability to ignore any wound they would take on a 4+ except from an explosive. Oh, hell! That’s one of the nastiest characteristics because it makes them almost impossible to kill.

To be fair, it also uses the Hero Replenish rule so that any time one of my Heroes gets killed, I immediately replace him with a new Hero. I am proud to say that I did not need that extra help but I will also admit that Cori often made moves that took it easy on the Heroes. I realized it but could only be thankful since this is a pretty nasty scenario.

One other additional rule applies to this scenario: Free Search Markers. Cool. These markers are placed on all the buildings that no Hero starts in so when one of the Heroes enters the building they can immediately Search instead of using a Move action to Search. We added the other tokens to the mix,  2 Surprise Attack x 1,  1 Surprise Attack x 2, and 1 New Hero Found. Mix them face down and place on the buildings, throwing back any that don’t get placed. What were the odds I’d come across the Surprise Attack x 2, which means I stumbled upon 2 zombies I didn’t know were there? Slim? Yeah, I found ’em.

This was a tough battle for the Heroes, especially since they kept getting hurt. I had chosen Becky, the nurse (at the end of the turn, she can heal one would of another hero in her space), and Kenny, the super market bag boy (may take a wound or discard an item to kill a zombie that he beats in a fight). Nice abilities if you can use them. Then I randomly chose the other two Heroes: Johnny, the high school quarterback (wins on a tie, and also can run a blitz which lets him fight a zombie and keep moving) and Rachelle, a police detective from another town (starts with a revolver & flashlight; may ignore any wound if you roll a 6+). Again, nice abilities if you can use them.

I also managed to turn over one of the random Search tiles and find a New Hero which I randomly drew and got the crazy Jake Cartwright, a drifter who can draw 2 cards and chose which to keep and which to discard. Nice since I really needed to be searching to find all those gas cans. I love this hero because I can picture him being played by Randy Quaid. The quote under his picture is “It’s happening. They’re coming…again.” I just see Quaid in Independence Day: “Hello, boys. I’m baaaaack.”

Things looked pretty desperate for most of the game. I had found 2 of the gas cans in the first few turns but then couldn’t find the other two. I also had to keep healing my poor Heroes, using up a Move/Search action for Johnny and Kenny since they can only take 2 wounds but can heal themselves if they sit down and relax for a bit.

With only 5 hours until dawn Becky found another gas can, then crazy Jake got a set of keys that let me pick up a card from the discard pile. Decisions, decisions–what should I take….? Gas can! Pass that off to Johnny who was conveniently near. Off ran Johnny to smash zombies and keep moving, destined to throw heading into the Mansion to douse it with gas.

Kenny had been lugging around a fire extinguisher since about the 2nd turn, picturing how useful this could be while he’s inside the Mansion lighting the fire, defending himself by spraying this to push those z’s away from him. Unfortunately, he also took a wound on his way to the Mansion. Meanwhile, Becky had managed to find a lighter and was headed to the Mansion with her can of gas. So in a very well-played move, I  moved Becky to Kenny’s square,  passed Kenny the lighter, then Becky killed the zombie that had injured Kenny by using the meat cleaver and getting an Instant Kill,  and finally Becky healed Kenny at the end of the turn. Ta da. High fives.

On the next turn, Becky ran around the house and threw the gas on the last space, while Johhny  lured some of the zombies from Mansion using zombie hunger and Rachelle  used another fire extinguisher to push the zombies by the doorway further into the room. The way was clear for Kenny to be the hero of the hour.

Luckily for the Heroes, the zombie master had no impressive trick up her sleeve and she hadn’t gotten to spawn for the last two turns so the 2 spaces near the entrance to the Mansion were clear. Kenny ran into the building and easily set the cursed place on fire, saving the town.

Say what you will about the randomness and high luck factor in this game but every time I’ve played, no matter how many were playing or what scenario we played, the games gave been squeaky close, right down to the last move and once it wasn’t clear who won until the last die roll!

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Still Here!

Posted by sodaklady on August 27, 2010

And occasionally playing a game or two.

Isn't this gorgeous?

A couple of weeks ago another BGGer dropped by on her way from Washington state to Wisconsin. Lynette (meerkat) needed to get to a family reunion but funds were low so I volunteered a bed for the night. She arrived later than expected (around 9pm) because of roadwork but we still got in a lot of board game talk and a single play of Taluva. She had played it before but didn’t remember the rules which meant one of my infamous rules-teaching episodes. I did very well since it’s a fairly simple game. It was a relaxed game, hints coming easily and not too much back-stabbing. In the end, I made a bad tile play and saw that Lynette had the ability to win, which I pointed out to her. This is the type of game that, win or lose, it is just a joy to handle the pieces and the big, chunky tiles.

The next morning we spent an hour talking about other things besides board games and were having such a nice time that it was hard to call it good and send her on her way. I hope she comes back by the same route and will spend another night with us.

Last week my daughter, Cori, and I played a game of The Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game and had a great time. I will write that up in a separate post since it’s pretty long.

Yesterday my friend, Mike, came over and he brought his newest acquisition to show me, Innovation. He had called me the day before to set up our game day and I mentioned that I was in the process of pre-ordering it, it was in the cart and I was a minute away from checking out. He casually says, “I have it.” Well, hell, why didn’t you say so sooner? So I put my checkout-clicking on hold until I could sample this newest offering from the creator of Glory To Rome. Good thing, too.

Innovation photo by EndersGame

I appreciated the new mechanic of “splaying” the cards to reveal more icons, the more the merrier in this game, but I did not have a very good first experience. In the beginning when I had four cards in my play area, three of them started with “If you return a card from your hand…” Well, that doesn’t give you a lot of inventive ways to go, does it? Every turn I drew and either played a card if it was good or turned it back in for points or something. The kicker is that Mike had more of almost all icons so he’d get to do the same thing, only he could do it first!

By the midway point, I had managed to take the second achievement but only because Mike had missed the fact that he could take it. By abilities were still pretty slim and not terribly useful since Mike still out-iconed me for all but one of them. Mike kept telling me how this game could turn right around in an instant and I was waiting…. patiently…. trying not to lose what little patience I possess. Then I got a card that let me play all my point cards to my play area. Well… hmmm.. then I have no points to acquire another achievement but then again there may be something in there that would save my sorry ass. O.k., I’ll do it!

Well, of course there wasn’t a miracle in there! Of course I’m now in worse shape than I was before. Errggghhh, I want to throw these cards on the table and say, “you win. What else have you got?” But I don’t. I grit my teeth, grumble, and proceed to lose horribly.

Which was pretty much the way the day went. I didn’t win one game the whole day. Ah, well. That’s the way it goes.

A sample of the "parade" and some cards to play.

I had recently gotten a couple of Z-man’s card games, Parade and Onirim, which I brought out as something a little lighter and hopefully, more fun!

Parade for some reason has an Alice in Wonderland theme, which is cute, and the colors and artwork are very nice. The parade starts at the deck, new additions to it stepping into line at the right side in the picture.

On your turn, you take one of the cards from your hand and add it to the parade. Then you count the cards to the left of it equal to the number on the card you played. Those cards are safe. The remainder are available for elimination from the parade. Of those available, the ones that will be eliminated (and taken into your points piles) are any cards of equal or lower value than the card you just played, and any cards of the same color as you just played. In the sample above, if you played the blue 1, you would take no cards. This is a good thing as you’re trying NOT to get points. The red three is also a safe play because the red 6 is the #1 card when you count down from the card just played. If you play the yellow 2, you will have to take the other yellow card. If you play the white 4, you will be taking the yellow 4 because it is the same number and the white 5 because it is the same color. The white 8 is not available for elimination so you don’t have to take it.

This game sounds so simple yet in reality give you quite a bit of maneuverability and lots of tough choices. It feels very much like a Michael Schacht card game:  Coloretto, Crazy Chicken (Drive), or Richelieu. Even the scoring feels familiar, you score negative the face value of the cards you took unless you have the majority in that color in which case those cards will each be worth -1.

I like this game very much for a quick, light diversion. It has interesting choices in card play and you can to some extent control the game-ending conditions. Of course if the draw pile runs out, the game ends but it also ends if one player gets all six colors. This is the part you can control a little, especially in a two-player game.

This was my closest loss all day, something like 67 to 75.

Labyrinth and Door cards, and a Nightmare card

The other Z-man game, Onirim, is a bit strange. No, it’s really strange. First off, it’s designed as a solo card game, which is an unusual creature in the game community. The second thing is that it’s a cooperative game if you play it with a friend. That’s really unusual in a simple card game.

The final point of strangeness is actually the rules. Even after playing twice I will have to check the rules on a couple of points just to make sure I get them right!

The basic idea is that you are trying to acquire all of the door cards to escape the labyrinth, there are 2 of each of the four colors. To do this you must either have a labyrinth card with a key icon in the corner in your hand when a door card is drawn or play the third labyrinth card of a color to the line of cards in your play area.

This sounds so simple. But those nightmares keep coming up, frightening you out of your sleep before you can get to the door. I guess. That’s my story anyway.

On your turn you play a card to your labyrinthine line in front of you, or discard a card from your hand. Then you draw a new card, the it’s possible you’ll have to shuffle the deck before your next turn if some cards have been place into Limbo.

The labyrinth cards each have one of three types of icon in the corner: a key, a moon or a sun. When you play a card to your line of cards, investigating the labyrinth, the card must not have the same icon as the last card played. That’s one difficulty to overcome but not too bad. But if you draw a card to refill your hand and draw a nightmare, you have several choices, none of which is appealing. You can choose to place one of your doors back in the draw pile, draw the top 5 cards from the draw pile and discard any labyrinth cards (Doors and Nightmares go into Limbo), discard your whole hand, or discard a key. None of this sounds too bad really until I tell you the final difficulty in winning this game: you lose when the draw pile is finished. Now discarding all those cards becomes a more important consideration to your plans.

This is a tough game to win, at least in my short 2-play experience. And if it’s not hard enough for you, it comes with 3 variations to make it harder! Mike and I lost by 1 door! We’ve decided that it’s important to try to save keys to overcome the nightmare cards. Next time, maybe.

The day ended with Ra: The Dice Game. I absolutely love this game and could play it again and again but I usually settle for the best 2 out of three. Well, today it was two up and two down, Mike taking them both by a loooooong way.

I spent the day losing but it was still fun, except for Innovation. I’d play it again to give it another shot but I’ve cleared my cart at the online game shop. I may put Invasion From Outer Space: The Martian Game in there instead!

Posted in Card games, Game Night, New Game, Session reports | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Game Day Where I Lost Every Game

Posted by sodaklady on September 4, 2008

Mike came over this morning and the first thing I brought out was my favorite, Magna Grecia. We hadn’t played in way too long and it was good to enter that world again. We each started in a different area of the board and met in the middle to fight over who could make the most impressive city. Mike managed to get the attention of many more Oracles than I so won handily.

The time seemed to fly and the game was over way too soon so I begged for a second. Mike, being a gentleman, agreed. This time the Oracles were all around the edges, leaving a large vacant area in the center of the board. I began on an edge with 2 Oracles in villages adjacent to my city. Then I made my first mistake; I forgot to buy a market in the next village over in anticipation of Mike building there, which he did. I built a road to cut him off from one of the Oracles and the fight was on. This game was very different from the first with a lot of nasty plays. It was great! I made a second mistake in my last move as I was going to build a city and connect it to a city where I’d already sold my market so that I could score those roads a second time, but I forgot. This cost me another 4 points and, between the 2 mistakes, the game. I don’t mind, this game is a joy for me to play no matter who wins. But I must remember: your turn doesn’t end when you place a tile. Buy or sell Markets is the final decision! 

Another game which I love and don’t play enough is Taluva, which I brought out next. As usual, this was a very close game with only 2 players. It came down to who could play a building first, completing 2 of their 3 types of buildings. On Mike’s turn he was sure he’d messed up since he only had 2 villages and all of his huts were gone. I showed him how he could place his tile where it would cut one of his villages in two and let him play his final Tower piece. So even though I lost the game, I made the winning move. That has to count for something, right?

For the final game we played Metro. This is a game I’d got in trade a while ago and never played but Mike had played a computer version before. I was consistently behind by 15-20 points through the first half of the game drawing tiles that would only turn me around and head right off the board with only 5-6 points. My best moves were ones where I messed up one of Mike’s lines, giving him 2-4 points rather than the 8-16 points he seemed to get so often (he got double points for reaching the center 2 or 3 times). I finally got a tile that let me make a very good move (20 points) and caught me up. Unfortunately, the last half of the game went much like the first with me trying to find a tile that would let me keep my lines going. The last plays gave me only a handful of points while Mike managed to get to the center again for another 20 points or so. We agreed that following the lines on this game is tough on the eyes as well as the brain and would rather play Tsuro which is faster, easier on the eyes, and (with 2 players) more tense and fun.

I lost all four games today. As my psychiatrist friend, Dr. Meepolous, would say, “How do you feel about that?” I feel great. I played 2 of my favorite games and had a great time doing it. I gave it my best and enjoyed the company. What else does a real gamer need?

Posted in Game-related Thoughts, Session reports | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Game Day-Featuring Druidenwalzer

Posted by sodaklady on August 2, 2008

Mike and I had a great day of gaming this Saturday even though I had forgotten it was Saturday so wasn’t ready when Mike showed up at 8:00 in the morning.  Due to my not-quite-ready-for-thinking brain, we started out with a simple game of Roma.  This is a game that we both still enjoy as it’s fast and doesn’t require that all of your brain cells be in attendance.  This time the Forums came out in the first and second rounds, no “gotcha” cards were played, and the game ended in about 10 minutes with Mike winning by a few points.

My brain awakened, we next played Jambo.  I enjoy the play of this game very much but never seem to manage the right balance of Utility cards to allow drawing lots of cards and also manipulating what goods I have.  In the last 2 times we played, I also have had a hard time getting a small market, which isn’t necessary to win but it sure doesn’t hurt!  As usual, Mike won.  I think he had about 20 points more than I did but after 10-12, who’s counting?

We played DVONN, which I think Mike has never played or it was so long ago that it makes no difference.  Mike is an excellent game player, much sharper than I am in almost every way, but this game just did not click with him.  I ended up owning every stack.

Mike requested Glory to Rome. We’ve played twice before, once vanilla and once with the buildings, and we’re both very impressed with the depth and variety in this game.  This time we also found that it’s possible to overuse the Jacks, especially early in the game. Play drug almost to a halt because the draw pool was either empty or had only 1 card. This makes the Laborer and Patron roles useless, and the Legionary less useful.  It didn’t help that for two or three turns I chose roles that I knew Mike wouldn’t want to follow.  This didn’t add anything to the draw pool but may have helped me win the game.

Now I get to the game that I really want to talk about: Druidenwalzer. This is one of the first games I bought which means I’ve had it for about four years and have played it maybe three times.  See, the thing is that the game in this small box, part of the Kosmos 2-player line, can turn your brain into a liquid that pours from your ears and leaves you with a strong desire to take a long walk in a quiet garden. Every time I’ve played it before, it left me impressed with the strange workings of it but too worn out to do more than put it back in the box.  Many months would go by before playing again and, of course, it was like playing it the first time. “Oh, wow..that was..brain”  This time I made Mike promise that we’d play it twice.  And we did, but with a break in between to play Boom Blox on the Wii and let our brains cool off.

The set up is simple; each player has a set of 4 trees, numbered 1-4, and a Cult tile (also called a discard tile), a set of 30 cards, and 3 Druids.  The Tree tiles are laid out with the 1’s opposite each other, 2’s opposite each other, etc.  The players deal 5 cards to each of their trees, 4 face down and the top one face up, draw 3 cards for their hand and set the rest aside to draw another 3 cards when their hand is empty.  The moon player then places his three Druids on three of his trees, the sun player then places his Druids.  The game is ready to begin, moon player playing first.

BGG image by Propose

BGG image by Propose.

On your turn you can do one of three things.  The first two are easy: 1)discard a card either from your hand or from beneath one of your trees; 2)move one of your Druids to a different tree.  The third option is the heart of the game and the part that is tricky to wrap your head around.

A quick word about the cards before I tell you about option 3.  Each card has a number between 1 and 5, and arrows showing either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.  The third option is to play one of the cards from your hand on the pile beneath one of your trees.  This begins the Druid’s Dance.  First you will mark the tree where the card was played with the wooden ring. Then each card with the same number as the card you played (including on your opponent’s side) will “dance” in the direction shown on the card.  But they don’t move the number, which is what your brain wants to do; they move the number that is on the tree tile. This card now covers whatever card was on the top of the pile, or can end up being discarded if it ends up on the Cult tile.  Finally the Druids have a show of strength, which is just what it sounds like: the highest number wins, ties do nothing.  The winner places a chit on the loser’s tree, six such chits will kill the tree.  The winner of the show of strength discards the winning card to his Cult tile and turns over the next card on that pile.  Killing two of your opponent’s trees makes you the John Travolta of dancing druids.

The first game, for me, has always been spent talking to myself, becoming comfortable with the card play and the dance that results from it. I’ve never had the chance to explore any tactical abilities other than to move a druid from a nearly dead tree to a fresh one. This time, with back-to-back playing, I thought of moving my druid in order to have it on a tree with a higher strength for the next dance. You could also move it to a lower strength tree, provided it doesn’t have too many hit chits on it, in order to run the other player out of cards under his tree when he wins the dance.  Having no cards beneath your tree is a good way to lose it no matter the number of opponent’s chits on it. Another tactic is to move your opponent’s high cards to your Cult tile so they’ll be in your deck when you reshuffle, and conversely, move low numbers to your opponent’s discard tile.

We both enjoyed our second play and felt more in control.  It gave us a chance to look beyond the brain melting aspect and see some of the possibilities in the play.  I’ve always been impressed with the game but now I actually can’t wait to play again.

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Descent: The Road to Ruin

Posted by sodaklady on June 16, 2008

I’m new to the Descent game having played only once before when Mike brought it over and taught it to my family and me. (You can read about our first experience here.) Four weeks ago Mike brought Descent again and we played one dungeon with Cori, Tage and Jack.

The boys were impressed with the game so when Mike showed them the newest expansion, a campaign mode called The Road to Legend, they wanted to give it a try. We agreed to meet on Saturday mornings when Mike got off of work.

The first two weeks went pretty well but we were falling behind in Experience points because we kept dying. In the campaign version of the game, dying doesn’t hurt our character as he pops right back up in perfect health and with all of his items, but it hurts the heroes as a whole since it gives the player who is handling the monsters Experience points to use towards upgrading his monsters. After the second week, I was finally beginning to see the sense in using caution when you first enter a dungeon level. I also realized the importance of using your special action tokens to Aim, Dodge, Heal, and Guard. These were the thoughts I took with me into our third week of play. Unfortunately, my heroic companions had not yet grasped this.

On the third Saturday the heroes headed to a special dungeon where we could pick up a lot of money which we needed to buy the boat and map in order to reach more areas. The first two levels didn’t give us much trouble since Mike was hording his evilness until the next level. On the third level he kept spawning new creatures at a steady pace, many of them the upgraded ones, and dropping heroes in pits, etc. The heroes suffered several deaths before moving to the final level of the dungeon where all of the gold was hidden.

This floor has three long hallways leading into three different areas, each with a horde of gold and a token representing the dragon who is guarding it. I didn’t realize it was a dragon until the token was flipped but I figured it would be bad and suggested we stick together. This suggestion was vetoed by everyone else and off we went in two groups.

Jack and Tage were the first to encounter their dragon which is when I first learned that Tage had known it would be a dragon from his experience in playing other RPGs. So why did we split up!?! Tage’s character was strong enough to defeat the dragon after Jack had softened it up, but as a consequence of his magic, he’d killed off Jack. Even this wouldn’t have been too bad if Tage could have come to the rescue of Cori and I but in order to do that, he would have to cross a room stuffed with monsters or take two turns to head to town and back to our section of the dungeon.

In the meantime, Cori and I had awaken our dragon. My range-specific character was so weak that I could only do one or two damage after getting through the armor of the dragon, who could take 30 hits or more. Cori’s character was split almost evenly between magic and melee, and while he was more powerful than mine, could not come close to killing the dragon in one turn. We were in serious trouble and I suggested we head back to town and call it a day before we both died. We’d made enough money to buy the boat and the map and had money left over. Would they listen? No, of course not.

Tage became disgusted, although he didn’t say anything; his mouth got tight and he said only that he wanted to come back from town and fight the dragon. I decided to head for town but since I had to wait one turn at the portal before I could transport, I moved onto it and fought, giving the dragon a paper cut. Cori fought, doing a small amount of damage to the dragon. Then the dragon had his turn, killing me and leaving Cori with one health. Tage returned to the dungeon and killed the dragon but in the process, his magic also killed himself and Cori. Thus ended our journey on the campaign trail.

I had butted heads with my fellow heroes several times during that third day because I had seen beyond the single dungeon we were exploring; I had seen the need to balance risk and reward. When I was told to run up there and grab the gold token or activate the transport portal, I often refused since it would put me in a position to die on the monster’s turn. That doesn’t mean that one of the other characters didn’t do it and die. I suggested that Cori not move so close to the monsters but I got a dirty look as she moved back one step. Of course, on the monster’s turn, she was surrounded and died.

When we all agreed we didn’t want to play this any more, they still hadn’t realized that they were wrong; that giving Mike 13 Experience points from all the deaths didn’t make sense compared to the 2 we would receive from killing the second dragon. I thought I did very well when I didn’t respond to Tage’s comment, “I don’t want to insult anyone but I’ve played other RPG’s and I see, like, five moves ahead.” Yes, I thought, but you don’t see Mike’s monster moves or the big picture.

Maybe this story will help other players who are new to Descent, or at least the ones who are trying The Road to Legend expansion for the first time.  In the normal game, you give your all to defeat the dungeon but in the campaign mode, you have to look beyond that one dungeon and to the fact that you’re trying to gain experience while keeping the bad guy from getting too strong too fast.

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Baby Steps

Posted by sodaklady on May 19, 2008

Jack, Tage and his girlfriend, Alicia, came over again on Sunday but not to play Last Night on Earth this time; the boys and Cori wanted to play a CCG called Legend of the Five Rings. It takes a while to play and they rarely get the time to finish a game so they’d decided to make the time. Alicia and I weren’t interested in learning to play so I thought…yeah, you know what I thought!

It was a lovely evening so we all went outside, the CCGers taking the larger patio table, and Alica and I on the porch at the smaller, cafe-style table. I brought out Fjords since it’s very easy to teach and grasp, and it doesn’t take a lot of space to play. About 5 minutes later, I said, “it feels like it’s going to rain.” I turned in my chair to look up the valley and sure enough, dark clouds were moving our way. Not two minutes later, the wind hit us and sent everyone scurrying like ants from a kicked anthill, picking up games, glasses, chair cushions, shutting car and house windows, and generally battening down the hatches.

Back in the kitchen, the card players set up on the ends and one side of the table; Alicia and I on the other side starting Fjords again in the middle of the table. She did very well, showing patience in her farm placement and thought in her tile placement, with an occasional word of help from Tage on her left–ah, he were watching in his spare moments. In the end, I won by 3 points. Not bad for a beginner but I had the feeling it didn’t really grab her so put it away to try something else.

“Something else” was Ingenious. This is a great abstract since it doesn’t make your brain hurt to play; it just feels like fun. Through the first half of the game, I did the score counting, showing how it’s done but after that Alicia did her own scoring. Again, the boys on either end of the table would make a comment once in a while, showing that they were watching what we were doing. I think I only blocked her once, mainly to show that it could be done. I won by 3 points. Now, I had told her how the end scoring was calculated (Your lowest number is your score) and continued during the game to say things like, “you need to find some orange,” so she was aware of her position. The boys, watching from the sidelines, must have missed this and Cori’s summation in the middle of the game when one of them asked was not helpful: “The highest low score wins.” So when they saw the end game score result, they finally got it. “Oh, I see now. That’s actually very clever,” Jack said, sounding impressed.

Alicia wanted to play again. What better assurance that she liked it could you ask for? The second game was very close. We tied for lowest score so had to compare our second lowest, and Alicia won by 2 points. She was ready to start a third game but, unfortunately, I was tired and my eyes hurt so begged off. But it was a pleasant experience to see someone discover a new game and enjoy it. Maybe the next time they come over, they’ll allwant to give it a try–before attacking zombies, anyway.

How long before I can get these CCG players to try Glory to Rome? It can’t be that big of a sidestep, can it?

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Return of the Zombies

Posted by sodaklady on May 4, 2008

Yesterday Cori’s friends, Taje (sp?) and Jack, visited again to play Last Night on Earth. Jack arrived first so we set up a 3-player game using one of the two scenarios I got from the Flying Frog website, “All Hallows Eve.”

In this scenario, you are trying to find the Zombie Master who is one of the 6 Townsfolk tokens that are spread out around the board. When you enter a building with a Townsfolk, you enter the same square with them, roll a die to see if you can interrogate them, and turn over the numbered chit underneath the Townsfolk token. If he’s the Zombie Master, you have to defeat him to recover the Book of the Dead and then set it on fire with any item marked with a Fire symbol.

We spread out and started searching buildings and interrogating Townsfolk. One of them gave me a lot of trouble since the die rolls wouldn’t let me talk to him and I was finally run out of the building by zombies. A bit of luck got Taje a Fire item early in the game when he was allowed to search the deck of cards for any Search Item. We narrowed the field down to 2 suspects, each in a corner of the board, each with zombies hanging out in their buildings, and the sun was going down. With a 50/50 chance, we concentrated on the building with the least zombie interference which happened to be the one that I had trouble with earlier. Luck was with us and he did, in fact, turn out to be the Zombie Master. I knew he would be since I had such trouble with him earlier—fate is like that. Taje managed to kill him and recover the book. His character was also the one who had the Fire item and we managed to win with one move left on the sun track. It was a good, tight fight and we all thought it was a fun scenario.

Jack had arrived in mid-game and was more than ready to join in the next zombie hunt. We chose the second scenario that I’d downloaded, “We’ve Got to Go Back!” In this scenario, you’re once again searching the buildings but this time for 2 canisters of the 6 tokens scattered around the board. The canisters contain bio-chemicals that a scientist thinks can be developed into a way to stop the zombie infestation. The board is set up differently, using all 6 of the L-shaped boards paired up and in a line while the Town Center board set off one of the long sides. The truck is set in the middle of the Town Center and is the Heroes starting position and their ultimate destination once they find the 2 canisters.

Two things struck us about this scenario even before we began. One: Cori still had only 14 zombies but a much larger area to cover with them. Two: the canisters were much easier to find compared to the Townsfolk since we had only to enter a building and use our Search action to turn over the secret chit. This did turn out to be too easy since even when Cori put a Lights Out on a building, the Hero didn’t have to stumble around the building one space a turn to find the canister but could stand just inside the doorway. We beat the zombies easily and decided to spruce up the scenario to make it tougher for the Heroes. We all like a good, close fight and this didn’t give it to us. The one move that left all the Heroes with their mouths agape was Cori’s first card played: Bickering. All the Heroes in one space are too busy fighting amongst themselves to take a turn. Well, that was a lucky draw! Cori laughed through her whole two turns.

In the second try of this scenario, we decided that you had to move into the same space as the canister chit before you could Search and turn it over. We also decided that the Zombie player (Jack this time) would get an extra 6 zombies to help cover the huge board. A few brave soldiers from Memoir ’44 volunteered to be zombies. Didn’t anyone ever tell them never to volunteer for anything?! Now when Jack had 12 zombies on the board, he could roll one more die to see if he could spawn this turn. We were all set for our new and improved scenario.

The first card Jack played was, believe it or not, Bickering! What are the chances of that? The Heroes spent considerable time grumbling about that but sucked it up and moved on. It took more time now to search each building, fighting off zombies rather than avoiding them, before being able to find a chit to examine. About half way through the game, we finally found the first one. By now the extra zombies started to make a difference since it was much harder to run around the town without bumping into them.

With three turns left, we finally found the second canister; of course it was on the edge furthest from the truck! A mad dash to the cornfield situated next to the Town Center and we were ready for the final showdown since the zombies had found something interesting about the truck and had congregated there. Cori drew her shotgun and took out 4 of the 6 hanging around the truck. I grabbed my canister and the fire extinguisher and ran for the truck. A squirt of the fire extinguisher and the zombies were pushed back, allowing me to get in the truck. The second canister-bearer ran to catch me up and off we went to save the world with no time left on the clock.

We all agreed that this was a much better game than the first time. It was tense and tough, giving us the feeling that we might not be able to make it, especially since Jack had managed to kill off 3 Heroes and added them to his zombie horde.

We are all still enthralled with this game. We have a lot of fun even when we’re grumbling about our bad luck. It helps that we’re all getting along extremely well and have talked through any fuzzy edges regarding the rules. Three 20-somethings have seen a LOT of zombie movies so we use common sense and theme-driven logic to come to an agreement. In one instance it turned into more of a debate, each side with logic on his side. The Junkyard allows a player to Pick Up: a random card from the discard pile. Random to me means that you can’t search for what you want but rather a card is chosen blindly. But it could mean any card in the pile rather than a specific item like a weapon. Since it says you have to have at leave 5 cards in the discard pile to pull from, we agreed in the end that it was meant to be a blind draw.

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Game Day With Mike

Posted by sodaklady on April 24, 2008

It’s been quite a while since Mike was able to find time to drop over for a few games so I was very happy to get an email on Monday letting me know that he could come over on Wednesday.

The Memoir ’44 Air Pack has been sitting on my shelf for three months, burning a whole into my brain whenever I’d think of playing a game. Unfortunately, my husband had been working himself to exhaustion for that same amount of time. Finally, I could get a chance to try it! I had just finished setting up the Sainte-Mere-Eglise scenario (I’ve played this one several times so am comfortable with it, and who doesn’t love dropping the paratroopers at the beginning?) and was just going through the rules for the Air Pack again when Mike showed up about 11:30.

Mike took the Germans and I the Americans. My initial air drop was a success with all four men landing on a clear hex. This turned out to be an omen of my good fortune throughout the rest of the game. Mike brought his plane into the action on his second turn and two or three turns later I managed to shoot it down during his air check. That’ll teach him to leave it too close to my men! My plane entered the battle a little later than Mike’s and through good hand management (or is that lucky card draws?) and also lucky air checks, managed to keep it in the air the whole game. It strafed Mike’s left flank repeatedly and with the help of my infantry took out two units. I finally won the battle 4-1. We both liked this addition to Memoir and I would have happily played again but other games were calling to us.

Mike had brought over Red Dragon Inn, one of his newest acquisitions, and even though there were just 2 of us, I wanted to see how it played. Truthfully, this is not my kind of game. I hate having to continually read all my cards, trying to remember what I have and when it’s useful, and to make matters worse, having Mike always have a counter to whichever card I finally am able to play. I know it would get better with more plays and familiarity with the cards but it really doesn’t do it for me and I don’t think I’d voluntarily play it again. But I’m glad to have played it and can put it out of my mind in the future when I see it mentioned somewhere.

Next up was one of my games that Mike had wanted to try, Mr. Jack. I’ve played this a couple of times online and once with my husband, Richard, but we still needed to read the rules to make sure I didn’t miss any little thing. We played twice, switching sides, and I managed to lose both games. As the Inspector, I had narrowed the suspects down a little but Mike managed to maneuver two of them to spaces from which they could both escape. I could only block one of them and I chose…poorly. Mr. Jack escaped. As Mr. Jack (Miss Stealthy), I think I tried too hard not to be obvious with my movement into darkness and a quick slinking out of the district and in the end made errors. In other words, she was caught! Hey, I never claimed to be a brilliant gamer, just one who enjoys the ride.

Return of the Heroes returned to my house. This is one I had traded to Mike who enjoys it much more than I or my family. The first time we had played, we got the rules wrong and pretty much broke the game but this time Mike had all the rules down and it was much better. Somehow in these rpg-style games, I always feel like I’m playing catch up. The bad guys I find to fight usually have more strength than I or fight in my least powerful area, while Mike is hacking and slashing his way to super powers. This time was no different although I did finish my quest and could have headed towards the big boss with a fair amount of confidence. Unfortunately, Mike got there first. He killed a guard with an amazingly lucky roll, needing snake eyes and getting it. He then moved to the big boss and had absolutely no trouble smiting the evil one; five strikes, five hits. I sat on the sidelines, again, and cheered on my comrade. As I said, the fun is in the ride and I always enjoy my games with Mike.

Mike suggested Glory to Rome next since he’d heard a lot about it and I had told him it was very good. A few minutes of explanation and the decision to play the beginner’s game (without the building privileges) and we were ready. We’d played for about 10 minutes when I started to feel that this wasn’t going well. The basic game with 2 players is a bit dull and I was worried that Mike would wonder what the hell I was talking about, liking this game. But Mike is an experienced gamer and could see through the basic game to the clever concepts and the many possibilities in the building powers. He “got” it and was very enthused by the game play, especially being able to draw cards and still use the abilities of his clients. The game ended with me building on the last foundation a turn before Mike could complete another building. Mike had the most prestige points from buildings but I had been sneaking materials into my vault and came away with 3 bonus chips to Mike’s one, giving me the win by about 3 points.

Cori came home from her long day of work and school and we talked her into joining us for a game of Thebes. This also had been sitting on my shelf, unplayed, for a month or more. Mike read the rules aloud as we set up the board. We all took a couple of turns, grabbing cards and paying with the time it took to travel to the specified city. Then came the turn when Cori was last on the score track and sitting in Berlin. There were 2 cards for Berlin and she started to pick them up for free. “This is what seems wrong,” Mike said. The fact that she could sit there taking multiple cards for free if they continued to come up in the city she was in. So he checked and re-checked the rules and could find nothing that mentioned the little number in the corner of the cards, sure they had to be an additional price for taking the card. Maybe it’s in fine print or buried in the rules in some unlikely spot. I mean, this is a basic, need-to-know rule not some off-the-wall, this-hardly-ever-comes-up rule. And we were all a little tired and a bit antsy since we told Cori this would only take 45 minutes or so and then she could go do the homework she needed to do. In any case, we headed for the Geek to see if we could find an answer. The wonderful, all-knowing Geek once again came to the rescue. Yes, it seems that that number in the corner is added to the number of city movements you have to make. Ahhh, well that makes a big difference! And we started over.

This is a good game, one you can play with your family and have lots of fun…if you can work your way through the rules. I had tried to read them several times before I got the game and gave up, thinking it must be easier once you have the game in front of you. It is but not by much. The game itself is not hard or complicated once you know how to play but the rules…

We had a great time visiting dig sites and watching as others pulled tokens from the bag, or trying to intuit one of the three remaining artifacts in a bag full of “dirt”. We paid a little attention to the weeks we used up but didn’t obsess over it, and none of us were diversified in our dig tokens, each missing a color in our collection towards the end of the game. This made things difficult since you have to have three different colors to show at a big exhibition,thus the need to take a chance on finding one or two artifacts remaining in a bag full of rubble. It really is a fun game and I don’t think Cori minded giving up her homework time because she won, beating me by 3 points and Mike by 5. She jumped out of her chair, arms in the air like Rocky Balboa and yelled, “Yes! I won!” (She’s so quiet and shy, I just don’t know what to do with her. J )

It was a great game day and I hope that my husband and I can find time to play more Memoir with the air pack now that I’ve dipped my toes in it. It makes it even more fun than it was originally. And more Glory to Rome—with the building powers!

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Game Night With Three Newbies

Posted by sodaklady on January 26, 2008

Well, “newbies” might be stretching the truth just a bit. Patrick and Jana (from our New Year’s Eve Rockin’ Party) came over for board games and brought a friend, Dave. Patrick’s father has a large game collection so Patrick has played Axis and Allies, Age of Empires and Civilization; not exactly a game newbie. Dave also has always liked board games, even Sorry and Clue—but NOT Monopoly! I’m not sure what Jana’s gaming background is but she’s smart and enthusiastic. Richard rounded out the table so we were five.

After going through my collection of 5-player games, I had set out Coloretto, Ticket to Ride, Around the World in 80 Days, Ra, and Through the Desert. I thought they made a nice diverse selection of easy-to-teach, easy-to-grasp games since I wasn’t sure about Dave and Jana’s background in games.

I picked Coloretto to start the night on a light note and put Dave at ease with us two strangers. The rules explanation is so simple that it never really sounds like much of a game until you start playing and realize the tricky choices you have to make. Luckily, everyone playing enjoys a game with a “take that” aspect and they got into it very quickly. Dave, who sat with only a few cards in front of him and 3 or 4 “+2” cards came away the winner by one point, Jana and I tied right behind him. Everyone liked the game and Dave later asked me the name of it because he thought he’d like to pick it up.

Richard wanted to play with camels so Through the Desert was next. As we were setting up our beginning camel riders, I noted that you could effectively block someone by placing a like-colored camel a space away from someone else’s. This met with excited, gleaming eyes and before I knew it, the newcomers were blocking each other left and right. I was quick to point out that if you weren’t careful, you could also block yourself in quite nicely which is precisely what happened to Patrick. A group of three yellows in one corner kept him from needing to ask for a yellow camel all through the game. I was lucky not to get in the middle of all that blocking and came away the winner by a pretty large margin. Again, everyone enjoyed the game but no “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” although that might be partly from the mess they’d put themselves into. I hope they’ll try it again another day.

Next was Ra because Patrick had picked up the box to pull Through the Desert out of the stack and was, I think, immediately taken with the heft of it so had taken off the lid and was thrilled with all the tiles. The explanation of Ra always seems a little muddled no matter how I go about it but we pressed on, Richard and I offering tips and suggestions. Patrick had an amazing first round that lasted a looong time and set him up for the win. About half way through the game, I noticed that they had become more quiet than in the other two games and I began to think it was a total flop. The truth was that they were just thinking and digesting the concept, and were so taken with it that they asked to play again. I was thrilled. I’d hoped that at least one of the games would be a hit and asked for again, but I was surprised that it was Ra. Well, I guess I can stand to play Ra whenever it’s requested! *wink*

In the second game, everyone felt a little more confidence in what they were doing and Dave, who had done poorly in the first game, spent his first 4 turns calling Ra in hopes of collecting some tiles on the cheap. Unfortunately, that was not to happen. He did just as poorly in the second game, coming in a distant last compared to Jana’s win with a kick-butt collection of Monuments. He said it was strange but even when he knew he was losing, he was still enjoying the game. Now you can’t ask for more than that from a game, can you? Ra was the hit of the night.

Around the World in 80 Days was next on the list. What can I say about this game? It’s a great family game, not terribly deep but with a nice twist—the race isn’t necessarily won by the first to cross the finish line, but by the one who crosses in the least amount of days. I don’t think that truly sunk in until we were nearing the end of the game. I had hung back all through the game, lagging behind by a city, then two cities and towards the end, three cities. But I had made some good choices and managed to catch up and finish in time to qualify. I won with 70 days compared Jana’s first-to-reach-London’s 78 days. Again, they all enjoyed the game and could see the cleverness of it but it wasn’t the Wow that Ra was, although Jana said it was her favorite game we’d played.

We were all a little tired by now (11:30 or so) but they wanted one more game so I pulled out Tsuro. Light, quick, and a different style from the other games we’d played. The game starts out so boring, really, that I don’t think they realized there was any point to it until the end. Jana, whether by accident or because she was forced to play a sub-optimal tile, managed to eliminate herself and Richard with one fell swoop, and place David in a precarious position that eliminated him on his next move. This left Patrick and me, facing off near the edge of the board. I took a daring route, headed straight for him in hopes that he’d have to force himself off the board, but unfortunately, he had the perfect tile and turned my little man around and marched him into oblivion while saving his own hide. It was a good game to end the night with, light enough for tired minds but with a kind of a “huh, look at that” nature to it.

The “newbie” game night was a success; everyone had a great time and want to do it again when Patrick’s busy schedule permits. Finally! After 4 years of being a board game geek, it looks like I might have found a regular group of people to play with.

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