The Cardboard Noom

SPACE-BIFF!

The plain b&w logo is so much cooler than the techno-logos of Dooms past.

First of all, the thing about id Software’s New Doom — which shall henceforth and forever be portmanteau’d as Noom, because it makes me giggle — is that it was actually, against all odds, an incredible shooter. It was frantic and controlled in equal measures. It boasted a tempo that shrieked between exploration and violence. It was good. Which was a tremendous surprise, considering how uninterested id seemed to be in making good games anymore.

Perhaps even more improbably, Fantasy Flight’s new board game rendering of Noom is also good, and largely for the same reasons.

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Shadowrun Crossfire

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We finally played Shadowrun Crossfire. First impressions are that the game feels very familiar. If you have played just about any deckbuilding game, such as DC Deckbuilding, then you will have that same familiar feeling. The one thing that stood out was where many games say they are co-operative and turn out not to be, Shadowrun Crossfire is extremely co-operative. Win or Lose as a team.

How does it work ? Players Pick ..

Players pick a race: Dwarf, Elf, Human, Ork, or Troll. The differences between the races is amount of Health, Starting Handsize and Starting Money; Troll has 7 health, 3 starting handsize, and 2 dollars (nuyen) vs Human with 5 health, 4 starting handsize, and 3 dollars.

Players pick or are randomly given one of four classes: Decker, Face, Mage, or Street Samurai. The only difference between the four classes is the amount of class card they get. A decker has 4 decker cards (green) where a street samurai had 4 street samurai cards (black). Other than that all four starting decks have the same number of cards and at least one of each color: Decker Green; Face Red; Mage Blue: and Samurai Black.

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Decks of cards representing the Black Market or shop, where players can purchase new cards at the end of their turns, Obstacles that confront the players in two decks-normal and hard, and the Crossfire deck or events that help and hinder the players throughout the game.

Turn order is: Play Cards resolving all non-damage effects; Resolve damage’; Take damage from an undefeated Obstacle; Draw & Purchase cards; and End the Turn.

Play cards is easy, play as many cards from your hand, one at a time. Set cards next to the obstacles you want to affect. Each player will start with at least one obstacle in front of them, but players can play cards on ANY obstacles. There were plenty of times when it made more sense to take out someone else’s than my own due to an effect that obstacle had, such as the obstacle that ignored all generic damage. If a card does damage wait to resolve. If a card has an effect, resolve that effect.

Resolving Damage is a matter of looking at the damage line of an Obstacle and defeating each damage icon in order. Example: 2 generic/1 red/2 black/ 4 generic. To defeat the obstacle each of those levels of damage has to be defeated. This can be done at one time or over several turns. A player has to be able to inflict enough damage to defeat a level on their turn. So I could not inflict one generic damage, end my turn, and Barb does another generic damage to complete the first level of damage. I have to do 2 generic damage on my turn. Reads more complicated than it is. In fact, damage was one of the easier parts of the game and working together to defeat obstacles was a lot of fun. Defeated obstacles give money to all players.

Take damage was easy, if there is an undefeated obstacle in front of you, you take damage (listed on each obstacle).

Draw and Purchase cards seems easy, but for whatever reason whenever this came up someone would get excited by the ability to purchase something and forget to draw. If you have 3 or less cards, draw two. THEN spend any money you have on cards in the Black Market.

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The scenario determines victory conditions and how long a game is. Crossfire, the scenario we choose, consisted of three scenes representing different waves of enemies and obstacles. Each scene was more difficult that the last. Each new scene increased the number of obstacles and because of the event deck increased the difficulty of the obstacles.

At the start of each turn a new event card is drawn, the event affects all players for the turn. At the end of the turn the event is discarded and a new card drawn. The discard pile becomes a modifier to cards. Many cards will check the number of event cards in the discard pile and if there is enough have an effect. Completing a scene fast is better for the team.

That is a good overview of Shadowrun Crossfire. As you play through a scenario you build your deck which you modify through purchasing Black Market cards, you get money by defeating Obstacles, you win by defeating all of the Obstacles or Boss (no boss in our scenario) AND after you win you get Karma (experience) points that you can spend in increments of 5 to permanently modify your character.

Each game starts with the same base deck, so the modifications allow you to be different. But expect to go through several plays before you actually get enough Karma points to put the “stickers” on your player board.

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Shadowrun Crossfire is a mid-level of difficulty to learn, I think the primary hurdle will be players learning and understanding that they can and should work together.

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Game Buzz – Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Boards and Bees

Today, I wanted to take a look at the newest LCG from Fantasy Flight:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Arkham Horror: The Card Game was designed by Nate French and Matthew Newman.  It’s a 1-2 player game in their Living Card Game (LCG) line (you can play with up to four players with 2 copies of the game).  If you’re unfamiliar with LCGs, they were created as an alternative to collectible card games (CCGs).  CCGs frequently come under fire for the amount of investment required to be successful.  Players often shell out a lot of money buying booster packs that may or may not have decent cards in them.  As a result, the best players are often the ones who can afford to buy the most cards and build the best decks.  LCGs buck that trend by having no random draws, having everything you need and can get…

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The Wil Wheaton Influence ..

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Love him or hate him (or just kind of… ignore him), Wil Wheaton has been a massive influence in the increased popularity of tabletop games. Stacy Conradt on Mental Floss explores the effect this hirsute individual has had on sales throughout the USA.

 

He told Fortune:

“We started getting emails and phone calls from game shop owners and publishers because they were not prepared for the explosion of sales that they had. They wanted to know if we could let them know a little bit in advance when an episode was going to air, so that they could stock up. . . . We have looked at sales figures from the big game distributors, and it’s pretty cool. People see our show and then you just watch the spike in the sales. And for a lot of games the only reason that spike trails off is because the game sells out and they have to take time to make another printing.”

 

Interesting reading at mentalfloss.com .

How to be a better Dungeon Master

Since a few months (year?) we have now Roleplay Sessions going on within our boardgaming group. They organize themselves and live their lives aside of our regular boardgaming sessions …

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From time to time, I have a new member (recently joined our Meetup Group) who is asking if he/she can host a RPG campaign. I’m always open for this type of initiatives, which keeps our group alive, but admittedly, often it “can go South” without a good preparation. While there Internet is overflowing with advice on how to be a good DM, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But it never hurts to learn more, so if you’re after some great places to start, here are some of Tim Colwill (one of the co-founders of Ten Copper – a website about roleplaying games, boardgames, tabletop etc.) favourites readings:

  • Roleplaying Tips: This is a weekly newsletter, partially crowdsourced and partially curated, where DMs ask each other questions and exchange tips. There’s loads of randomly generated tables being thrown about, new and wacky ideas for handling basic mechanics, and advice on world building, table setups, and more. You can look at it here and browse the back issues here.
  • The Dungeon Bastard: Bill “The Dungeon Bastard” Cavalier is a great read if you’re into the “I attack the darkness” school of DMing, with a real focus on old-school flavour, monsters that spray gold out of them when they die, and, of course, dungeon crawling.
  • Gnome Stew: This blog is written by a team of Game Masters and it’s all about Game Mastering (unsurprisingly). Look through this blog for really solid advice on a range of topics — not all of which may be relevant to you, but it’s a great resource nevertheless.
  • D&D With Porn Stars: This is exactly what it says on the tin, so don’t browse it at work. Run by Zak S (a porn star), he shares his anecdotes and DMing advice about games that he plays with his group (who are, you guessed it, porn stars). It’s not actually about porn (in any way), but what it is about is great advice for dungeon masters who enjoy randomly-generated tables, completely insane storylines and who don’t care about the rules at all. I find Zak and the team a very refreshing read after watching people arguing about rule interpretations on Reddit for 600 pages.
  • Play Dirty: This book, written by John Wick, is one of my favourite resources on DMing. I wouldn’t recommend that first-time Dungeon Masters jump into this book and apply all the advice straight away, but once you’ve found your feet, this book will show you how to kick your players’ out from under them. It’s a brutal read.

 

Source: Full article available here.

GenCon 2016 News

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I’ve been reading and listening to various updates in the last couple of days about GenCon 2016. Reports, reviews and latest news (sometimes exclusive!) has been shared now around the web from which I’ve picked up a few interesting points. Hereby a summary:

Games such as Cry Havoc (big release for Portal Games), Beyond Backers Street, Oceanos, Junk Art, Lotus, SeaFall, London Dread and Covert are “hot” or sold-out during the show. Others that were not new releases, such as Scythe had also huge lines of players trying to get their hands on gameboxes.

Thunderstone 3.0 is announced by AEG. Special format: Kickstarter campaign planned for October 2016 (same time as Spiel 2016 ??). They will have a “kick it here” type of program for retailers; so the idea is to run via brick & mortar stores (copies to be picked up at the store + stores participating gets a special event kit while players can follow-up the usual KS page). You will be able also to pledge on this project like a regular Kickstarter.

SeaFall was available with a limited number of boxes. Rob Daviau was on the BGG booth to explain briefly how the game works. He told us that in about 6 weeks the game will hit the stores (in the USA). We should be able to get some boxes for Spiel 2016 or you go on the Plaid Hat Games pre-order webpage.

Munchkin Oz and Munchkin Legend is out … yeah oki it is limited editions via Target and Amazon,  but the secret big news is that a Munchkin CCG is in the works designed by Erik Lang and Kevin Wilson ! There is no plans to print them again once the print-run is sold-out. A new edition of Car Wars is coming out in 2017, more will be announced at BGG.CON 2016.

London Dread is a real-time 12 min games with an app that has a cool clock design in a murder-mystery setting.

Although I was really expecting a lot of news and hype around Bloodborne: The Card Game, the overview done by CMON at the BGG booth was not really convincing to present this new 3-5 players card game from Eric Lang. Let’s keep an eye out for upcoming reviews though.

Let’s close on the cardhalla tradition (learn more) with a picture of the 2016 version:

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How to be a better game reviewer – 20 tips

Since it’s full of good advises and common sense, I share back this article published back in March 2016 written by Dave Banks from Geekdad who has published on Stonemaier an excellent Guest Post about tips & tricks on top 20 ways to be a better reviewer, whether your platform is a blog, podcast, or video:

  1. Play lots of games. It’s important to have knowledge of different mechanics so you can compare other games with shared mechanics to the game you’re currently reviewing.
  2. Organize your reviews so they are easy to consume. At GeekDad, we have a number of people writing reviews, but we try to maintain the same format among writers. Readers value consistency and including elements like subheads that are easy to scan to find relevant information really help readability.
  3. Write for your readers, not for the game publisher. Know your audience and write for them. You might feel an obligation to the publisher because they sent you this neat, new, shiny thing for free, but if you’re not honest with your readers, you’re not doing anyone any favors. What do your readers really want to know? GeekDad’s readership includes a lot of serious gamers, but also new and family gamers. I try to anticipate the questions they’ll have about a game and address them.
  4. Find your voice. This takes time and practice. Write like you’re talking to a friend you want to entertain–tell stories and give specific examples and don’t be afraid to go into detail. Write the review, then let it sit for a while. Go back and read it again and then edit, edit, edit. It’s amazing how often you leave something out because you’re too close to the review.
  5. Read other people’s reviews. (But save reviews of the game you’re reviewing until after you’ve published yours.) Reading other reviews will help you look at games in different ways and help you become a better reviewer.
  6. Proofread, proofread, proofread. There is nothing that will make me stop reading a review faster than typos, bad grammar, and other preventable mistakes.
  7. It’s OK to turn down a request for review. If it’s not your thing, you don’t have to say yes. And just because someone is offering, doesn’t mean you have to take it.
  8. If you request or accept a review copy, you should review it. It costs publishers money to make and ship these games to you. If you take it and don’t write it up, that could hurt other people genuinely interested in reviewing that game, not to mention damaging your relationship with the publisher.
  9. Be aware that gaming is some people’s livelihood. I’ve played some pretty horrible games. But GeekDad has a pretty big audience; we reach a lot of people and there’s some responsibility that comes with that. So when a game (or other product) comes along that’s so bad that there is no way for me to honestly tell my readers they should possibly buy or play it, I contact the publisher tell them my thoughts. Sometimes they ask me to go ahead and run it with my honest thoughts. Other times, they thank me and ask me to just let it go. It’s a bit “inside baseball,” but I’d rather tell my readers about awesome, fun games they should play, rather than bad ones they should stay away from.
  10. Love reading rulebooks. This is a labor of love–if you don’t enjoy reading rules and teaching, don’t be a reviewer. Yes, many rulebooks are written (or translated) poorly, but you have to understand them to not only play the game, but explain it to your audience.
  11. Ask questions!If you don’t understand a rule, look it up or ask the designer/publisher. It’s OK to rip on the rulebook if it’s not clear, but don’t write off a game because you didn’t understand how to play it. Your questions may lead to an official errata (list of corrections) update and endear you with the publisher!
  12. Play a game a lot more than once before reviewing. Maybe you misunderstood a rule, had a bad (or good) night, or another player was having a really good (or bad) night that influenced the outcome. One playthrough is rarely ever enough to form a complete opinion. Also, I try to mix up the groups I play a game with. It’s good to hear many other people’s opinions.
  13. Network with designers and publishers online and at conventions. Most people are friendly and want to share. Plus, you likely have a common love: board games! Find common ground and find out what makes them tick. These bonds might even lead to early access and inside information!
  14. Share your review when it goes live. Promoting your review on social media helps your site’s stats. Make sure to tell the publisher that the review is live, but don’t be pushy about them sharing it. They should share it, but it’s not your place to tell them to.
  15. Don’t be afraid to dumb it down. Our hobby is in a great state of growth. However, not everyone knows what 4X (genre of game that includes elements of exploring, expanding, exploiting, and exterminating) or even a d6 (a six-sided die or dice) means. Spell it out the first time in every review, as each review might be the first review someone reads.
  16. Try to be timely. It’s tough because there’s a learning curve to a game and you want to play a few times before taking the time to write it up or create your review. Ask the publisher if there’s a deadline (Kickstarter launching or ending or a pending release date). You’re writing for your readers, but in the publisher’s eyes you are part of their marketing plan.
  17. Be quotable. If I really like a game, I try to include at least a sentence or phrase or two that could be used as a pull quote.
  18. If you reviewed a pre-production copy, don’t be afraid to ask publisher for a finished product. Your reputation is out there and it’s nice to do a follow up to make sure that what you preview turns out to be a good, real thing. You can also do a follow-up post, which the publisher will appreciate too!
  19. Don’t be snarky. Board gaming is a small industry. Being mean or snarky for the fun of it may very well make you enemies you don’t want to have in this small industry. Plus, is that the type of person you want to be?
  20. Stay positive! While I can usually find a thing or two about most games that I wish had been done differently (and I almost always point those out), I try to keep the overall tone positive. If a reviewer’s tone starts out negative, you can bet it’s not going to improve anytime soon and how boring is that? Games are awesome! Focus on the things that keep us coming back: what makes games fun and the joys they bring all of us!
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Censorship also for boardgames

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Polish board game Queue was taken out of Russian stores, with Russian authorities alleging the game disseminates anti-Soviet content. In Queue players experience shopping in communist-era Poland, where they attempt to track down the items on their shopping list from understocked shops or the black market. Russians had allegedly been filing complaints to the Russian State Office for the Protection of Consumer Rights “Rospotrebnadzor“.

The that the game contained a negative description of the communist system as  well as implied that the Soviet Union had forcibly installed a communist regime into another country.  Queue was released in Poland in 2011, with the Russian version hitting shops in November of  2015.

Some months after going on sale in Russia, Rospotrebnadzor contacted Queue’s publisher TREFL with a requirement to change the historical content or the game would be removed from shelves. The Polish historical institute responsible for the game, IPN, refused to make the required changes and Queue was removed from Russian stores.

 

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The Queue Board Game: How It Works

Excerpt from the TREFL Website :

We say NO to the machinations of the speculators!

The Queue is a board game that tells a story of everyday life in Poland at the tail-end of the communist era. At first glance, the task of the 2 to 5 players appears quite simple: they have to send out their family, which consists of 5 pawns, to various stores on the game board to buy all the items on their randomly drawn shopping list. The problem is, however, that the shelves in the five neighborhood shops are empty…

The players line up their pawns in front of the stores without knowing which store will have a delivery. Tension mounts as the product delivery cards are uncovered and it turns out that there will only be enough product cards for the lucky few standing closest to the door. Since everyone wants to be first, the queue starts to push up against the door. To get ahead, the people in the queue use a range of queuing cards, such as: “Mother carrying small child,” “This is not your place, sir,” or “Under-the-counter goods.” But they have to watch out for “Closed for stocktaking” and “Delivery error” cards, and for the speculators – black pawns standing in the queue. Only those players will come home with full shopping bags who make the best use of the queuing cards in their hand.

 

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On the product cards there are photos of sixty original objects from the communist era. The merchandise includes Relaks shoes, Przemysławka eau de cologne, Popularna tea, as well as other commodities that were once in short supply.
Though the neighborhood also has an outdoor market which sells everything, the prices there are steep – unless, of course, you manage to strike a deal with the market woman. In this historical board game you really have to be savvy to get the goods. Are you brave enough to confront the everyday life of the 1980s?

 

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Lesson about protecting your game mechanic …

pic1599343_mdAt the start of May a federal court in Texas, USA ruled that the structure and game play of a card  game is not protected by copyright law. You will find the judge decision over here. This was as a result of the copyright case between DaVinci Editrice S.r.l (DV Giochi) vs. Ziko Games LLC.  DaVinci had sued Ziko Games alleging  copyright infringement.

The assertion was that the Ziko Games title Legend of the Three Kingdoms copied protected features of Davinci’s Bang! USA copyright law protects original expression, but not ideas, procedures, processes, systems or methods of operation.

The court ruled that Ziko’s game did not infringe on any of the copyright protected elements of Bang! The game play and character interactions in Bang! were not detailed or developed enough  to be considered protectable content.

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Here’s the Publisher blurb (Ziko Games English Edition) about the game:

Throughout the rich history of ancient China, the Three Kingdoms has always been a chaotic and awe-inspiring time period. Larger than life characters such as the fierce SHU general ZHANG Fei, the cunning WEI warlord CAO Cao, and the legendary SHU strategist ZHUGE Liang have inspired generations of people with their stories of valor, deceit, and strategy.

Legends of the Three Kingdoms replicate this historic age and allows players to assume the identities of these fabled heroes. Combining these heroes with role play, battle, deception, and other elements, we created a fun and exciting game that can be shared with many. We hope you will have as much fun playing as we had bringing this game to you.