A quick short game pick

Recently a mom was asking me for a simple game to play with her boys of 6 and 7 years old. As her family is very conscious about buying Belgian products, I thought about Flatlined Games (Belgian Publisher) who published a few years back Rumble in the dungeon from the game designer Olivier Saffre.

 

Inside the small box are twelve double-sided dungeon tiles, twelve heroes and monsters wit stands, a wooden treasure chest, a score card, and colored pieces to keep score. Rumble in the Dungeon is played in three rounds. The goal, have the last hero or monster in the dungeon or have a hero or monster escape the dungeon with the treasure.

How do you do that? After the dungeon is assembled-lay tiles in any pattern you desire as long as entrance and treasure room are farthest apart, place a hero or monster in each room until all have been placed-one per room. Then deal out two character tokens face down to each player. Each token has the image of a hero or monster, those are the ones you want to have standing last or escape with the treasure. Play is simple, on your turn you can move a hero or monster that is alone in a room to an adjacent room or if there is room with multiple characters pick a character and that character is removed from the game.

Very simple. Very quick. But surprisingly has some depth. Do you move and focus only on saving your characters? Do you bluff by moving other characters around?

Since you only know which characters are yours can you figure out which characters belong to the other players and take them out. When there is only one character left or someone escapes the dungeon time to score.

Last character standing or escapes scores 10 points. Then the order that characters were eliminated determines points on down. A player only scores points for their best character, thus if your characters were eliminated 7th and 3rd you score 7 points not 10.

Rumble in the Dungeon is fun, quick game, suitable for ages 7 on up, and great for those moments when you have about 20 to 30 minutes of free time.

 

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Forbidden Desert on IOS

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Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game that puts your group of adventurers in a desert that is somewhat, dare I say, forbidden. You’re looking for four pieces of an ancient flying machine, the locations of which are hidden on sand-covered clues. Discover more on the BGG page of the game.

Good news for all players of this “almost classic” game from Matt Leacock that you should have in your collection is that the IOS release of the game is scheduled this Thursday ! You can see an app preview from Gamewright over here.

 

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Monthly Games Talks: January 2016

There are a lot of different pieces of kit available to the hobbyist. Saws, pin vices, files, there are a multitude of tools that can be used to fulfill certain roles in assembling or converting miniatures.

However there is one fundamental, one essential, tool that all hobbyists must possess. The hobby knife. Technically, there is no such thing as the hobby knife. What is commonly referred to as a hobby knife is actually part of the utility knife family. Utility knifes were originally fixed blades, used for tasks such as cutting and scraping hides or cleaning fish.

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The modern utility knife refers to fixed blade knives, as well as folding or retractable blade knives. However, for many the term ‘hobby knife’ has come to represent a certain type of utility knife which sees a lot of use throughout hobby and craft activities. Hobby knives are usually made up of four key components; the handle, the sleeve, the chuck and the blade.

The blade fits into the chuck, the chuck fits inside the sleeve, and then the remaining segment of the chuck screws into the handle. As you tighten the chuck and sleeve into the handle the chuck compresses, securing the blade in place. Because the blade is removable, it can easily be replaced when worn out, or a new blade type inserted for a particular job.

There are a multitude of blades available, from the traditional scalpel-like triangular blade, to flat chisel blades, curved blades and oddly shaped blades for performing particular cuts and techniques or for cutting certain materials. Most good quality hobby knives are manufactured from metal.

Cheaper knives often have plastic components, like the chuck. While these are also perfectly acceptable, plastic components wear out and break much easier than their metal counterparts. There are also a number of handles available, from standard metal handles to cushioned grips. It is recommended to try out some different types of handles and select one that feels most comfortable to use.

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There are a few basic universal safety rules when handling a hobby knife. Always cut away from yourself. Many people take this to mean to cut directly away from your body, but that is physically impossible when doing small or delicate work. What you should actually do is make sure that no part of your body is in the cutting path.

For instance, if cutting a piece of plasticard, hold the sheet at the top or the side, not the bottom where your knife is cutting towards. Where possible, use a cutting mat. Usually you should be able to, as parts of miniatures can be prepared separately and then assembled.

However, occasionally a piece cannot be easily accessible on a cutting mat. In these cases it is best to either proceed with extreme caution, or attempt the cut with a more appropriate tool. Use an appropriate sharpness blade for the job you are doing. When cutting through something, like plastic or card, a sharp knife is recommended.

The blade should glide though the material, rathobbyknife03her than saw or rip its way. You should also make guide cuts, lightly running the blade along where the cut will be made. This allows the surface to break, and your knife to gain purchase in the material.

Once the guide cuts are made you can make two or three more forceful cuts to complete the job. You shouldn’t have to press to hard. The harder you press, the less control over the blade you have, and the more disastrous any mistakes you make. Dull blades have their uses, too. These can be used to lightly scrape away mould lines and unwanted detail. Always put your hobby knife away, or in the very least, attach a protective cap when finished using it.

Many single knives come with a protective cap. Knife kits do not usually have a cap, instead offering moulded indentations to insert handles into and magnetic strips to attach blades too. Lastly, if you are a younger hobbyist, it is best to perform any cutting with a hobby knife under the supervision of an adult

Monthly Games Talks: December 2015

It is quite possible 3D printing will completely change how miniatures are created and used by hobbyists and gamers. But what exactly is 3D printing and what can it do?

Imagine you are product designer creating a new product and instead of dealing with manufacturing, logistics of transport, storing stock in warehouses and dealing with retailers, you simply sell the 3D model to people who print your product in their own home. The thing is you do not have to imagine.

This can be realized today through 3D printing, and is being touted as the next Industrial Revolution. It will transform object manufacturing in the same way the desktop printer has to publishing. The industry is growing fast and already there are many entrepreneurs utilizing the freedom and flexibility that bespoke manufacturing provides.

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But what is a 3D printer ?

Well it is a device that uses a process known as Additive Manufacturing to build an object (usually from ABS plastic, the same as used in LEGO) layer-by-layer. While the technology has been around for a few decades, it is only now starting to become affordable for the average household. The process starts by creating or obtaining a 3D digital model of an object you wish to print.

This can be done with traditional 3D modelling packages, by searching the internet on websites such as Thingiverse or by using some of the easier to use tools coming out such as Tinkercad. Once a 3D model is obtained, it must go through a mostly automatic process in order to convert it to a set of instructions for the 3D printer. The file is then sent to the printer and usually between 20 minutes to an hour later you have a real life version of your 3D object.

There are a wide range of devices out there, with a huge price range, but the current entry point 3D printers is either with a Makerbot or a RepRap. Both are open source, though the Makerbot is a bit slicker. The draw of the RepRap is that it is built almost entirely of parts you can find at a local hardware store or parts that another RepRap can print.

This means you can print the parts your friends need to build one! These machines are very nifty and cost around $1500 so are reasonably affordable when compared to the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to outlay for the big industrial machines. The results are striking but still have plenty of room for improvement, their resolution is low so they don’t create a polished finish and can take a lot of calibration in order to correctly setup.

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An alternative to these entry point printers is to use a service like Ponoko or Shapeways. You can send your 3D model files to them over the internet and they will quote a price to print them in a given material. If the price is reasonable, you can order a print and they will ship it to you. They have some high end machinery and can deliver very nice results, including printing in exotic materials such as metal and sandstone. What will this mean? Consider a future where designers don’t create a single object. Instead they will create a parametric system which defines a possible infinite set of objects that encapsulate a desired function.

Think of a chair that can be adjusted to any dimensions, or a set of shelves built exactly to your wall space. This technology has the possibility to bring back the personalization that craftsmen once provided before the industrial revolution, while offering the economic savings that mass production has brought us. It is an exciting prospect, however the current entry level is around the sophistication of personal computing during the 70s and 80s, thus there is a long way to go before the mainstream will get on board. So for now personal 3D printing is mostly the domain of geeks – but I think that in the next 5 to 10 years you might just have a 3D printer in your home or office.

Imperial Assault: Handling Missions

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This month I will have a closer look at the different Missions you will face in Imperial Assault.

STORY MISSIONS

The mission results will tell you what story mission to make active. Usually there is only one story mission active so they will have to pick it the next time a story mission “choice” comes up.

  • After the 1st “Aftermath” mission, perform the clean up steps. That will make two side missions active. The rebels will have two side missions to choose from when it comes up (maybe more if the Imperial player bought any).
  • You do not start with any Agenda cards. You’ll earn Influence to buy them at upgrade stages. Some are ongoing, some you play immediately, and some you can play when you want.

When you play a story mission you will get a story mission card to put on the table. Leave it there and play it the next time a story mission comes up. Rebels cannot choose it as a side mission. They choose from one of the two side missions if they are playing a side mission. Then they add a side mission as active. Then they play the story mission that’s on the table and so on …

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SIDE MISSIONS

Oops, you are playing with several groups at Imperial Assault but get confused how to handle the Side-Missions draft ?  Still, it is possible to play with multiple groups properly with some house-made tracking. Here’s how:

• For the first session, construct the Side Mission deck as normal.
• At the end of a session, record active Side Missions and discarded Side Missions. Don’t include the card/s you set aside during the construction of the deck.
• When starting the next session, reconstruct the sets of Active and discarded Side Missions while also counting the number of grey cards in these sets. Call this number X.
• From the remaining grey cards, add 4-X grey cards randomly to the new Side Mission deck (along with any remaining green and red cards that were in it earlier).

This maintains the fact that there are a total of 4 random Side Missions in the deck at all times. Each session might have different possible Side Missions, but that’s totally fine as they are meant to be random anyway. You retain the random nature of the deck without screwing the ratio of Grey to Green to Red Side Mission cards (which would happen if you include them all, seeing far more grey missions than you should).

It also means you will never see a played mission again and you don’t need to worry about swapping it for an unplayed one.

The only thing that would make the above method faulty is if there was a mechanic that could shuffle seen Side Missions back into the deck. It’s easy to even handle that situation by recording ‘seen’ Side Missions that you played with.

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AGENDA MISSIONS

To purchase Agenda cards, the Imperial player shuffles the Agenda deck and secretly draws four of them. He may purchase any of these cards by spending influence equal to the cards’ costs.

  • The Imperial player does not show his drawn Agenda cards to the heroes. Any cards he does not purchase are shuffled back into the deck without being revealed.
  • Most Agenda cards are immediately read aloud and resolved when purchased. The only exception is if the card instructs the player to “keep this card secret.” The Imperial player keeps the card and resolves the effect when he plays it.

There are two different kinds of Agenda cards that provide missions:
1. Agenda Side Missions. The cards say “Play this card as a side mission.” An example is “Breaking Point.”
2. Forced Missions. The cards say “Play [Title] as a forced mission.” An example is “Wanted.”

Agenda Side Missions instructions are: “After purchasing one of these cards, place it face-up on the table; it is now an active side mission. This Agenda card is kept with the active missions between sessions. Discard the card after the mission is resolved.” (RR, page 4)

Forced Missions instructions are: “Some Agenda cards force players to resolve a specific mission. After purchasing one of these cards, players immediately resolve the listed mission and then discard the Agenda card.” (RR, page 4)

After resolving a forced mission, players should perform the “post mission cleanup” step of a Mission Stage. Then they resolve the next available stage of the campaign.” (RR, page 17)

So after the Forced Mission, post mission cleanup is done, the upgrade stages are SKIPPED and the next stage of the campaign (next mission) is played.

So a Forced missions causes the Rebels to immediately play a mission that they’re not gonna like (they are hard and potentially give the Imperials a nice reward), don’t give them XP or credits, and don’t let them upgrade afterwards.

Monthly Games Talks: November 2015

 This month Games Talk will be about Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack is a squad-level wargame. It puts players in command of a group of mech vehicles, called Frames, which are fast and hard-hitting, but physically vulnerable and reliant on skillful manoeuvring. The game is designed to be nail bitingly tense. Battles are asymmetrical and inherently fought over objectives during the course of an unknown number of turns. Scores, which are inversely proportionate to the mechanical effectiveness of your company, go down when you lose a Frame or station and go up when you capture another player’s station.
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Frames only take damage to their systems, with the target player choosing which systems are lost. This means careful system management from the players, as well as tactical skills, as even dumb luck pot-shots can change a team’s fortune.
The game also integrates the military principle of ‘friction’ in its spotting system. A Frame fighting by itself is unlikely to do any serious damage. But if they stay in communication, as well as moving and firing their weapons at the enemy, with either their own company or their temporarily allied opponents their effectiveness jumps dramatically !
Beginning of Mobile Frame Zero

Mobile Frame Zero began life back in 2002. Rather than being developed from a core concept, the game grew organically from a need for a rule set. “It actually came out of Vincent and his brother wishing there was a way to represent giant robot fights.” Joshua Newman explained, “They spontaneously adapted Vincent’s Otherkind dice to the purpose.

One of Vincent’s kids called the town that the robots were fighting in ‘Mechaton’ — the town of mecha — and it carried that name for years.” This basic game, Mechaton, was gradually built on.

Vincent introduced the game to Joshua Newman, who was working on another game system at the time. Many of the mechanics of this game were absorbed into Mechaton, and introduced elements such as the Doomsday Clock, objectives and the point system. Mechaton was made available to the public and in short time had gained a small but dedicated following.

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By 2010 Vincent and Joshua had started to consider a new edition of the game that integrated some rule refinements. It was all systems go, but then, a spanner in the works.

Out of the blue, Vincent got a politely but forcefully worded request from R. Talsorian Games asking him to stop selling under the Mechaton name, since it was close to the name of one of their older products.” Said Joshua “When that happened, we were kind of miffed. There were several dozen fans from around the world who had been playing for years, and we liked the game a lot. We didn’t want to lose those guys. Some of them had contributed hugely, like Sydney Freedberg, who writes for the Pentagon about military theory.” As Joshua saw it, this was an opportunity to take the game to another level. He told Vincent “If we’re going to change this, we’ll have to go big. We don’t want to abandon these folks who have helped us make this good.”

Vincent was working on his role play game Apocalypse World by this point, so Joshua was given the publishing rights to the Mechaton game rules. Soren Roberts was brought in to design the mobile frames, and also contributed to writing the new setting with Joshua.

mobile-frame-zero3The updated rules and new game world, now under the name Mobile Frame Zero, were trailed at the Metatopia Game Design Convention in Morristown, New Jersey USA. This helped to reintroduce the game, as well as build confidence in Joshua and Soren that the changes and additions they had made worked. Joshua elaborated on this process “we’d tried out our newer rules a bunch of times, so we were confident with our changes — both those of the last 10 years and of the six months since taking over from Vincent.

Mobile Frame Zero hit Kickstarter shortly after. Initially the goal was to raise US$9000, with a projected 500 backers. When the Kickstarter closed, the project had netted nine times the initial requirement, as well as five times the number of backers expected. This meant that 3000 rule books would be produced, with much of the additional money going into printing more copies.

How to start playing ?

There are a number of ways to start playing Mobile Frame Zero. A PDF that contains the rules, background, instructions for six frames and a whole lot more is available on the Mobile Frame Zero website. Joshua provided some more details: “I’m asking players to give me ten bucks to get the full book, but as it is Creative Commons, you can download a new copy, copy your rules for your friends, or even make your own houseruled edition to share with your gaming club.” Everything that is available for download can also be bought in hard copy as a printed book.

“As a book designer, this is how I design first,” explained Joshua “it’s what will be the most beautiful way to play with it.” These two options are perfect if you already have a collection of LEGO pieces, or intent to utilize something else as your play pieces. What if you are starting from scratch, though? “Some players might need to get LEGO bricks to play, too.” Said Joshua “To help players, Soren’s carefully designed the Mobile Frame Garage: a list of 120 of LEGO’s tiniest pieces that work really well for building a mobile frame. Paul Janssen’s Bricklink shop,

The Missing Brick, is setting up to sell 5-Frame company kits based on the Mobile Frame Garage and is already fulfilling many of Kickstarter’s 600- piece Garages.” However, creating a kit from another company’s product has proven to be quite a challenge. “I can’t even express in words how hard it’s been.” explained Joshua “Without Paul’s help, it just wouldn’t be possible.

Bricklink is an amazing power to have, but it requires a level of mastery I lack. I bought a couple of Garage Kits myself just so I didn’t have to go hunting for a lot of the pieces. “Paul, however, has a mastery of the international LEGO market that borders on the supernatural. He knows who has what for how much and is doing all players a great service by collecting them in one place.

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The Builders: Middle-Ages

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Whenever I need to fill up a gaming slot of 30-45 minutes, I try to play The Builders: Middle Ages, a city building game where players collect workers and build buildings for money and victory points. It won a well-deserved “As d’Or” in the 2014 Festival de Cannes.

Players each receive an Apprentice builder and 10 coins. The Builders deck and Buildings deck are shuffled and placed out onto the table. Five of each type of card are dealt out to the table and the game begins.

On their turn, a player is able to take three actions. These can consist of several different types of actions.

1. Pick up a building. When a building is picked up, it is replaced by the top card on the building deck
2. Pick up a worker. When a worker is picked up, it is replaced by the top card on the worker deck.
3. Assign a worker. Players can pay the cost of a worker and then put him to work on a selected building.
4. Take gold. Using up one action, a player collects one gold. Two actions for three and three actions for six.

Players can take the same action twice, however when doing so, it counts as multiple actions. For instance, a player can assign a worker as their first action and then assign another worker on the same building, this is two additional actions. If they assign a third worker, it would take three additional actions. Players may purchase additional actions (beyond their starting three) at 5 gold a piece to extend their turn.

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Players are attempting to build buildings. To do this, they must match workers up to the building using the materials on the worker. When a building is completed (by using all the materials needed), it is flipped onto its completed side and the player takes the total coins shown (if any) as well as victory points. Some buildings act as tools and can be used as materials for the rest of the game.

The game will end once a player has reached at least 17 victory points. Players receive one last turn if each player has not received equal turns. Once the game ends, players count up their total scores (players get 1 point for every 10 coins they have), and the player with the most points wins.

The Builders: Middle Ages is a great card game that lasts just long enough and has enough strategy in it to stay interesting. I like that players are able to purchase multiple actions in order to continue their turn. I also like how the game always seems just out of reach for those who lost it. It makes me want to start right over and keep playing to try and win the next one.

If you want to go further, you can also acquire The Builders: Antiquity — a standalone card game based on The Builders: Middle Ages — offers a whole range of challenges to its builders. To face these challenges, you must put on your foreman clothes. Between hiring workers, managing their organization, purchasing slaves or tools, and taking out loans, you’ll have to make the right decisions to fulfill your dream: Becoming the greatest builder the age has ever known.

Scenery Workshop: Bring boardgames to the next level

cropped-SceneryWorkshop_logo_transparantPainting your miniatures is a fun activity and greatly enhance your board games visuals. I have “invested” (if we can call it an investment) into some modular workshop system found on the website of Scenery Workshop. This Dutch webshop has really all what you can dream about to establish the perfect your work-area.

I bought the Hobbyzone Benchtop Organizer (WM1) for under 50 euros. It’s big enough to hold all my material (cutters, scissors, holders, glue, pencils, …) together in the handy drawers.

IMG_6877In addition to store all my paints (I have a mixed collection of both Citadel paints and The Army Painter, Vallejo, Rackham, etc..); I bought 3 extra elements to have a good visibility on all my paint colors :

You can see them on the picture over here:

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To be complete, I also have the now indispensible LightCraft Triple Tube Pro Task Lamp – LC8015 – that allows me finally to paint also when it’s dark outside. The usage of this lamp is just amazing. I could not do without it anymore.

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Last but not least, I had a little problem with one of the neon lights in my lamp who broke down after a few hours of usage and Patrick from the Scenery Workshop went to extreme length to get me a replacement (free of charge) that he sent over to me.

The after-sales services is just great with a practical ticketing system you get answer to your questions in no-time.

I highly recommend this webshop because good prices, selection of goods and service is just excellent !

They push the hobby to the next level !