Monday, January 31, 2005

Gaming 'Zine

Oooooh, this one looks good, too! Submitted for your approval: Countermoves, a gaming 'zine with all issues available on this site as downloadable PDF's. (Also under CC license). Each issue includes at least one entire game. I haven't had time to examine this closely, but looks like it's worth a look.

New Game Alert: CC Licensed Strategy Game

Dugi: As simple as Checkers, As Strategic as Chess. Well, that is the claim, anyway. Reading the rules, this one seems somewhat interesting, and I can easily imagine a 4 player version; maybe with two teams, maybe not.

Anyhow, just posting this FYI, as it was somewhat interesting.

(originally via BoingBoing)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Stupid Shempezuelans

On this very cold Wednesday night, us Wagsters ventured into the wonderful world of racing board games with the help of "Formula De" and "Formula- Motor Racing".

First up was Formula De. There are three possible tracks on two boards (one is a short training track). The boards are large, nicely illustrated bird's eye views of the race. Players each get two cars (first and last, 2nd + 2nd last, etc), and the goal is to be the first across the finish line without getting all blowed up. The main mechanic in the game is gear shifting... each gear has a special die associated with it, each with a different range of values representing how many spaces your car would move. On your turn, you can start by shifting up 1 gear (allowing you to move more spaces)or shifting down up to 4 gears (allowing you to move fewer spaces). The main challenge in the game are the bends in the track. Each bend requires the player to end his turn a certain number of times within the "bend zone" indicated on the board. If the car overshoots the area without stopping the required amount of times, they are forced to either wear out their brakes or ruin their tires (represented by boxes which are checked of as they are used). Oh yeah, and if you end your turn too close to another car you might cause some damage, and even possibly blow your car!All in all, the whole thing simulates the ups and downs of racing fairly well with a simple and fun (if somewhat random) system. You can push your car to the limit and see if it holds toghether long enough to cross the line, or you can play it safe and hope to outlast the more reckless players. If you are lucky, you can time a turn perfectly and stay in a high gear on a turn and blow past your opponents unscathed. In fact, the aspect of the game which most impresses me is that things can change pretty dramatically over the course of the race... pole position (or a lead half way through the game) is no garantee of a win.

Our first game saw me in the lead up to the first bend and then I faded pretty quickly after that. Kozure and Tili were neck and neck for most of the race, but Kozure's fortunes were better and he edged out the win.

The second was almost a smash up derby as car after car was wiped out from the race. Personally, I was doing very well in this one. I pushed my cars early (taking quite a bit of wear on my tires and break pads) giving me good positions for both cars. However, on one turn I just wasn't thinking clearly and didn't get into the proper gear for both my cars... overshooting the mark very badly on both occasions. In one case, it cost me the car, in the other, it cost me every bit of leeway I had (all gas, break pads and tire markers gone). Still, we were close to the end, with two turns left, so I held some hope. I gunned it again, knowing that unless I rolled very high, I would be safe and be in a great position for the end run. Unfortunately for me, I did roll very high and blew up the car. Others weren't having much better luck, with a collision knocking out one of Kozure's cars, and Shemp spinning out on the second last turn. Kozure DID finish first, but good ol' Luch, drawing the rear for the entire race, drove past Shemp's spun out car, his wrecked car, Kozure's wrecked car and my two crashes to finish second and third. Sadly for Kozure, the ultimate winner is calculated by the sum of the TEAM's points and 2nd+3rd added up to more than 1st. Luch won.

Lastly, we tried Reiner Knizia's Formula-Motor racing. This one is more abstract (no surprise), and simpler (actual surprise). All cars in the race form a line. On a player's turn, he/ she plays a card from their hand, and then draws. Cards affect the order of the cars ("overtake +3" allows a car to move ahead 3 spots in the line, for ex.) There are crashes which take cars out of the game, there are tailwinds which allow cars to follow others as they zip to the front, etc. Essentially, this goes on until the deck runs out and points are assigned for the best 6 showings. Three rounds are played, and the team total determines the winner. This one is pretty light, paticular for the creator of Tigris and Euphrates. There's more luck than strategy, but it's fun enough and pretty fast. It was during this game that the long simmering hatred between the Shempezuelans and the Easylanders flared up again, with both of us taking a few actions whcih were clearly aimed at screwing the other more than helping ourselves. I got to play the last card and had one which had a 2/3 chance of putting a car in first place (and a 1/3 chance of putting that same car last). I went for screwage. It would have been more entertaining, and dramatic, for the stupid Shempezuelans to have plummeted from first to last than for me to move up a space, so played the card on Shemp. Sadly, it didn't work out and he kept the lead. It also cost me the game! Luch came in third, and Kozure had cars eliminated from many of the three races... and therefore came a distant last.

Stupid Shempezuelans.

Formula De: 7.5
Formula-Motor Racing: 6.5

Friday, January 21, 2005

Secrets & Lies 1: The Mystery of the Polar Conspiracy

This week: We gave Conspiracy its' first go-round, after one round each of Mystery of the Abbey(MotA) and Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition(CPIPE).

After a brief rules refresher/introduction to the game for H, we dove right into the game. We haven’t come back to this one since our original session with it, which was quite some time ago. Easy was on the record as not being a big fan, but I thought that with a little experience we would start asking better questions, and the gameplay would be improved as a result. Things started off a little slow, and Easy displayed a knack for tricky questions – along the lines of “How many brothers in the same order as the bearded monk that you just passed to me have you eliminated?” – in an attempt to keep information from becoming public knowledge.

Things were just getting going, when it all crashed to a halt. The third round started with Kozure (playing green) and me (playing yellow) beginning from their cells, rather than from the chapel. This placed both of us close enough to the Chapter Hall to get there before other players. Kozure made it first, and revealed that the killer was a Templar. I was only planning on revealing that the killer was thin, but Kozure’s revelation made me realize that the only possible killer was Brother Harold. Kozure’s revelation backfired; I made the accusation and the game was over. The interesting thing is that I still had seven different monks as suspects prior to Kozure’s revelation, so everything was up in the air until that point.

I think that we made a better go of asking questions this time around, although I still think that we answer too many, and give up our secret information too easily. Personally, I had decided early on to refuse to answer any questions about Benedictines, just as an experiment. Unfortunately, I was not asked any questions about Benedictines, so I didn’t get to try it out. After seeing the way that this game unfolded, I think that a valid strategy in the future might be to intentionally make false revelations, or at least revelations that you are unsure about. This seems to be the only fair way to get disinformation into the minds of the other players, and the 2 point scoring penalty that it would incur may be worthwhile.

Next, we moved on to a game of CPIPE (which Easy is also not a big fan of), without the participation of H (aka the lovely Mrs. Shemp). This was fairly entertaining, but less so then last time we played, in my opinion anyway. I think as a group we were less interested in reading the stories that were created, just buzzing through the card titles in order to gain the points. Since the humour of the game is it’s real selling point, I have to say that this session suffered in comparison. As with most Cheapass games that I’ve had the opportunity to play, there’s not really much point in discussing strategy or tactics – the game is what it is, and Ogami/Hapi/Luch/????? managed to pull out the win, thanks in part to Captain Park, who ran into Kozure and Easy more than once on the streets of London.

Lastly, we busted out Conspiracy, which Easy has hung on to since, oh, about 1983, from the look of the art on the box. In this game, each player portrays a spymaster for a world power, and is given a $10,000 bribe budget. The object of the game is to move a briefcase from the centre of the board to your headquarters, using spies as couriers. On your turn, you can bribe a spy, attempt to move a spy, or attempt to eliminate another spy. One doesn’t need to bribe a spy to move them, but anyone with more money in that spy’s pocket can block your move.
With these simple, yet interesting rules in mind, Kozure Washington, Peking Luch, Shemp London, and Moscow Easy set to work. The game was tense and unpredictable, with the briefcase almost landing in Peking and Moscow (and the game nearly being derailed by a stupid error of mine), and with 5 of the 8 spies being eliminated before a slight cash advantage over Washington allowed London to bring the briefcase home. This was really fun, and I think that we were just starting to scratch the surface of possible strategies. I would heartily recommend this game to anyone, and hope that we get to play it again. And then again after that. I think I'll rate it as a Seven - it might really be a seven and a half, but those early 80's aesthetics - Ouch!

All in all, it was a great, snappily paced night. Although my jambalaya was (disappointingly) a little bland and not meaty enough. Oh well, next time.

Looking forward to your comments.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Theme Bank

Usually, I have trouble thinking up good themes for WAGS night, but this week I was struck by several ideas. I'm going to put them in the comments. Y'all should do the same with any spare themes you have kicking around. Now, or in the future, for community use.

Once a theme is placed in the bank, it can be used by any other WAG at any time. Try to include possible game matches. Themed food is optional.

Think of it as our version of "take a penny, leave a penny."

Towards A More Rigourous Slack

This entry is mostly house-keeping, and likely of little interest. I'm just going to use this post to point at comments that I've added to dormant threads. I'll also note if there are any new rankings included in these comments, primarily for the benefit of Easy.

New Game rating for Blokus.
Revised rating for Princes of Florence.

No rating for Gammarauders.
General agreement on Wreckage.
Disagreeing with Easy about Robo-rally (slightly).
Blog love.

Rating Kung Fu Samurai.
HeroClix rating upgrade.

Accepting the 2004 WAGS crown, but nothing of consequence.

A statement to the Easylanders.
A rating for Lord of the Rings Risk.
A very brief discussion of basic points for generating El Grande tactics.

Revised rating for Chrononauts.
New rating for Chez Geek.
A mild dis of Falling!

I am still planning to respond to the Perfect Game thread and the General Role Playing thread in the near future. Whether that really happens or not is another story.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

When headaches are FUN

This week, at dictator Luch's request, we played Tigris and Euphrates and Blokus. It was an odd evening, because Kozure came home to find that his computer was so infested with virii and spyware that he was forced to spend the entire evening fixing it. Luckily, Tilli stepped in and took T&E head on.

She hadn't played before, so we explained the rules and got going. Disaster tiles were put to better use than they normally are by our group. Kingdoms were effectively sliced and diced this way with some pretty interesting results (fortunes were swinging wildly). The game was very different for another reason: Since we paid much more attention to moving our leaders around to maximize our points, rather than independently building kingdoms and scrambling for the treasures, the game actually ended due to lack of tiles (with 5 treasures remaining on the board!). Highly unusual! We also stumbled across a new strategy: placing tiles adjacent to leaders specifically to prevent them from playing red temples, keeping them vulnerable to inner conflict. I'm actually the one who did it, but it's not until Shemp pointed it out that it was apparent that this was a good strategy in many circumstances.

Unfortuantely, T&E can be daunting to learn. The difference between internal and external conflict, and particularly the consequences of each, are abstract and therefore often hard to remember. I would say that Tilli did better than most (her score certainly reflected that), despite the headache it was giving her. In the end, she said she had fun but felt somewhat dazed by the experience, and was going to sit out for the rest of the evening. We immediately tried to get her back with Blokus.

At first it didn't work. Kozure joined us for one round, but then he discovered that his computer disinfecting wasn't going as well as he'd hoped, so Tilli joined us for a second game. Blokus continues to be a fast paced, light and fun abstract strategy game. Whereas the first few games seem to revolve around finding opportunities to simply place your pieces, our most recent games have seen players much more on the attack. Blocking, carving out future growth paths, making pretty patterns... all valid strategies.

To finish things off, we had another game of T&E. For whatever reason, this three player game led to very high scores. Luch seemed in command for most of the game, with a stranglehold on two monuments and an on-again off-again relationship with a third giving him an enormous stream of points in three of four colours. his strategy was interesting: he frequently dumped tiles in order to have the ones he needed to win battles. This is how he succeeded in securing so many temples for so long. Amazingly, he actually finished last... All the tile changing and fortifying didn't leave him enough opportunity to beef up his one weak sphere. Still, it was a tight race, 3 points separating the first and last place.

Footnote: Every game, I build temples, and every game, they are quickly stolen from me. Note to self: Gretzky!!!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Games are Like Jolly Ranchers

They're hard, sometimes sweet but sometimes sour, and they hurt your teeth. Wait. No. Santa head candies taste like Jolly Ranchers.


Blokus pieces are like Jolly Ranchers.

*record scratch noise*

Well, we kicked off the 2005 season of WAGS with two classics and one newcomer, Princes of Florence, Pirate’s Cove and Blokus.

Princes of Florence is becoming more strategic as people begin to understand better the more subtle aspects of bidding, and the more coarse aspects like remembering to leave an action to actually play a work on the last round. This time I was very satisfied with my timing and my bidding, but it wasn’t quite enough to prevent Easy from snatching first place. We are achieving higher scores than ever in Princes of Florence, with familiarity being the obvious cause.

Pirate’s Cove held up well on its third appearance, with some shrewd strategy and sneaky moves making appearances. All the other players managed to build up their ships quite quickly, while I limped off to Pirate’s Cove to nurse my wounds after two early round trouncings. Fortunately, I was able to claw my way back up, and despite Shemp’s apparently commanding lead on rounds 8-10 the final scores were fairly close. Shemp did win, but Easy and I had to fight it out for second.

The introduction of Blokus, a simple geometric strategy game with a lot of depth, was a success. Blokus is played on a raised grid of squares, onto which each player plays an assortment of differently shaped pieces ranging in size from five squares to a single square, 21 shapes in all. The pieces must be placed so that each newly placed piece only touches corners (not flat sides) of your own colour pieces, and no pieces may overlap in any way. The play proceeds with each player placing a piece until he or she is “out of the game” when unable to place a new piece. The player with the fewest total squares in their pieces remaining once no one can play a piece is the winner. Bonus points are given to players who play all of their pieces, as well as those who use the tiny one-square piece last.

Blokus is one of those games which you cotton to immediately. It has an attractive look, the pieces interlock easily and are removed easily, and the game play is simple but strategic. There is no theme to speak of, but in the case of this game, none is needed. It is a refined a game as you could expect, up there with Go, Chess, Backgammon and Chinese Checkers as shining examples of simplicity in design.

I kept on having fragmented flashbacks of the light cycles from Tron while playing this game initially, but more apt comparisons are to Qix, Domaine or fractal geometry – the successful strategy is a combination of defensive play to maximize your own future moves, while offensively blocking opponent options.

A very good game, destined to become a classic with many enthusiasts, I think.

For the records (being kept by me, but open for your inspection), scores and rankings:

Princes of Florence

1st Place = Easy – 63 prestige
2nd Place = Kozure – 59 prestige
3rd Place = Hapi – 50 prestige
4th Place = Shemp – 49 prestige

Pirate’s Cove

1st Place = Shemp – 37 fame
2nd Place = Kozure – 36 fame
3rd Place = Easy – 35 fame
4th Place = Hapi – 26 fame

Blokus, Session 1

1st Place = Easy – 7 squares
2nd Place = Kozure – 14 squares
3rd Place = Hapi – 17 squares
4th Place = Shemp – 19 squares

Blokus, Session 2

1st Place = Tie, Kozure/Easy – 7 squares
2nd Place = Hapi – 8 squares3rd Place = Shemp – 12 squares

Rules Question: Pirate's Cove

Can one person play a Royal Navy card, then another person play a Royal Navy card to send the RN somewhere else?