Friday, 29 March 2013

Space Hulk - PC Gameplay Demo

Some footage is up, been looking forward to this one for some online play. I might even get round to playing my physical copy at some point.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Neptunes Pride 2: Triton - is a Galaxy big enough?

It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm impatiently waiting for a game to start, I've been waiting for the last two days and potentially I could be waiting for a few more – the game is a multiplayer on-line real time strategy game for eight players and it won't start until all eight places are filled. Unfortunately this game allows players from all around the globe to join and pit wits against one another – here's the problem, if one of our American friends were to be the last person to join this game it's likely our game start time and equally our 24 hour production cycle / fund provisioning would be in the middle of the night. For a game that can last over a month, that could be a serious dis-advantage – oh, did I not mention that, each game is played in real-time and goes on for days – lots and lots of days.

Welcome to Neptunes Pride, actually Neptunes Pride 2: Triton (in Beta at this very moment) – a 4X game that has you controlling your very own empire amongst the stars - allowing you to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate! NP2 is a browser based game that uses HTML5 (as opposed to Flash for NP), it can be run from any mobile device that is able to access the internet. I personally have been playing NP2 on three different devices and platforms – using Mr Gates' Windows 7 on a laptop, Linux Ubuntu on a netbook and whilst at work Android on a smartphone.
NP2's premise is simple – you start your empire ruling six star systems... but that's not enough, hardly enough, no your empire needs to get bigger. You must therefore send out your fleets to colonise worlds, both empty and occupied, into your dynasty – the winner of this game being the first person to occupy over 50% of the known galaxy. Sound easy – easy it definitely is not because everyone else is attempting to do the same thing as you by means fair and foul. To win this game you'll need to have a plan... you do have a plan?

Each star system that you rule has three attributes (Economy, Industry & Science) that can be improved if you have the credits, however once you improve any one of these three attributes its cost to upgrade again goes up. The more economy you have, the more credits you earn at the twenty-four hour production cycle. Industry provides you with more ships to bolster your carrier fleets (with new ships being built throughout the twenty four hour period) – your carrier fleets allow you to jump between star systems, colonising worlds and laying waste to enemy fleets. Science goes towards your ability to research new technologies – in the original NP there were only four research technologies: Speed, Range, Weapon Skill and Scanning. In earlier iterations of NP2 there were up to twelve different techs – after rigorous play testing (make that ongoing rigorous play testing) there are now seven – Scanning, Range, Terraforming, General Research, WS, Banking & Manufacturing. Each tech improves your empire in quite subtle ways – from being able to see further into other player empires, the obvious weapons upgrades, to reducing the cost of upgrading E, I & S through terraforming.

At the start of the game you manage to colonise a number of uninhabited star systems but soon realise due to prohibitive costs to upgrade you need to expand further; you're going to have to either sweet talk your neighbour or use deadly force. Talking with your neighbours is an important aspect of NP2, you can trade tech and credits, create borders, talk Non-Aggression Pacts or go for a full on Alliance. Going it alone can work but if you're part of a working alliance, things can go a lot smoother – but you're just as likely to be playing against strangers as you are friends – how much do you trust them to not infringe on your borders? So... you don't trust your neighbours, you want a pre-emptive strike you say, looks like you're going to have to get your hands dirty – looks like you're going to have to start a fight – you need to go into combat.

Combat involves you sending one or more of your fleets to a neighbouring occupied star system – no small feat since it can take days for your fleets to traverse the vast interstellar distances between stars (all made possible with amazing new hyperspace technology) - this is where the RTS is pertinent - this is where you also go about your business (or go to bed) whilst you wait for your fleets to arrive at target.

Now you might think that you can simply send a bigger fleet than that occupying the target star system. You sir(s) would be mistaken – with NP2 the number of ships in your fleet is effectively how many hits you can take – Your WS level actually denotes you're hitting power and equally your opponents WS denotes how many ships they will take from your fleet. When Combat ensues the defender has first strike, with the defenders WS being deducted from the attacking players fleet number, and then vice versa – this process repeats until either the attacker or the defender has no fleet left.
If there is a significant difference between the two combating players WS then it is more than possible that the player with a higher WS could destroy a larger opposing fleet size – the combat calculations simply means every time the higher WS player hits - they're destroying more ships.
If the attacker is destroyed, then no harm no foul – if the defenders usurped - the attacker gains new real estate as well as credits for destroying the defenders economy. The defenders industry and science remain on the star and therefore also go to the victorious – not bad for being a tad aggressive.

Be warned though aggressor, sorry, player. Being aggressive could be to your detriment – you could send that defending player running with open arms into an alliance – their tech increases and suddenly you're no longer 1v1 but 1v3 and you've got multiple battlefronts – how you feeling now? Confident? Equally, the number of times I've sent a fleet on the attack only to find that I've left myself seriously undefended on my launch star system and suddenly I have **ALERT ** MULTIPLE INCOMING ** ALERT ** - I really didn't think that through enough – bugger!

I really enjoy playing this game. Now I realise that this is the second blog that we have had recently that involves virtual reality, as opposed to the physicality of a board game, but this is a game that I play in the background to my normal weekly boardgames sessions with friends.
I'm not the only boardgamer that has played this game – Quintin Smith of “Shut Up & Sit Down” Fame actually documented his play through here.  I'm not the first boardgamer to play this and I feel confident when I say that I won't be the last!

So you're thinking that you'd like to have a game of Neptunes Pride, here let me help with that – if you want to go old school then you can find the original Neptunes Pride here.
But you don't want to go old school when you can go cutting edge – you want to participate on the Beta (currently Beta 5) – you want to see how Jay Kyburz (loving what you're doing Jay) is improving on what was already a winning formula. Let's say you do, let's say you want to play NP2 - then you need to go to here.

To play either game you're going to need a gmail / googlemail account but they're free!
If you choose to play either game also have a look at the NP2 Google+ Community page  and say hi. We're not unfriendly we're just wanting to take over the majority of the galaxy.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Durance RPG - Blog Play - 02 Colonial Record

OK First things first, lets check on that revised planetary survey, place was sounding nice in the last post.

The climate of RFS 617 is hot and wet, averaging 35 °C with torrential downpours. All our crops were either washed away or trampled during seasonal migrations of native life on a massive scale. There are intelligent natives and they also bring us only trouble. We all want to be cool and dry, just once.

Plus some optional details we might use to beef things out:

1. A vine-covered fort out by the Big Kill
2. A herd of spin-tails that covers ten square kilometers
3. A marine gang called The Huntsmen provide… varied “indigenous protein sources”
4. An aggressive bacteria strain lurks in the natives
5. Deep beneath the surface of the planet there is an advanced civilization
6. Rotting uniforms falling off emaciated shoulders

O...k... Well I'm sure we can live with that, well briefly anyway. What matters is that we have a nice colony with which to hide from the elements. So lets check that colonial record.

So our colony is New Launceston

Lets see what the authorities have to say about the place:
New Launceston exists in name only. In reality the colony consists of filthy shacks scattered over a hundred square kilometers, each housing only a few lags busy with cottage industry. Authority is necessarily mobile, and the force of law is only truly in effect when Authority is in sight. When Authority is not, angry and disaffected Lags plot and scheme.
A wretched hive of scum and villainy then?

Best check what the convicts have to say about the place:
So much open space! So much freedom we have! In our shacks we rule ourselves and work according to our talents, producing all that we need. It is a beautiful freedom indeed, until Authority sends in a flying squad of marines to put their laws on us and take what we have made. It is an awful life, a life of fear, and we no longer have a taste for it in truth. We would change it if we could, and some say we can.
..and some more optional details we could use:
1. Corporal Terey Adall, who longs for peace and freedom
2. A plastic tube, long as an arm, stuffed with explosives
3. A misplaced Authority route schedule
4. A sealed off room with a human outline on the floor and a tuning fork resting nearby
5. Recreational drugs hacked into unpleasant performance-enhancers
6. Settlement Eight, silently waiting for Authority to arrive
OK any ideas as to how this society works, and just any other ideas at all can go in the comments.

But next up we have to decide what drives the society. There are two drives already, consisting of Savagery and Servility, we have to decide a third.

Choose ones to cross off from the following list.
  • Control
  • Harmony
  • Status
  • Indulgence
  • Safety
  • Freedom
Order of play is: Rebecca > Matt > David > Jay > Karl

which should leave us with one more drive.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game - Session Report 1

I recently introduced Fantasy Flights X-Wing miniatures game to our little game group. To document our growing love of the game, I will be uploading session reports to this blog regularly, with the occasional ship review thrown in too.

This is my first attempt at doing session reports, so please be patient, and they should slowly improve with time.

Game 1  -  3 Player   (06-03-13)

Rebel: David (6th play)
Fleet value: Approx. 60 points
  • X-wing (Luke Skywalker) & R2 D2
  • X-wing (Biggs Darklighter)

Empire: Karl & Jay (both 1st play)
Fleet value: Approx .75 points
  • Tie fighter (Black Sq. Pilot) 
  • Tie Interceptor (Fel’s Wrath) 
  • Tie fighter (Academy Pilot) 
  • Tie Interceptor (Soontir Fel) 

As this was my first game for a few months, and the first time at all for Karl & Jay, not much tactical play went into this game. The 2 Tie Fighters and Biggs’ X-Wing were all destroyed after only a few rounds of play. This left the two Interceptors and Luke's X-Wing to duel it out.

However, due to R2 D2's ability to recharge Luke’s shields, the Interceptors just couldn't get any serious damage onto him and both were destroyed only having done 1 damage to Luke’s hull.

Result: X-Wing (Luke) sole survivor


Game 2 - 3 Player (06-03-13)

Rebel: Karl & Jay (both 2nd play)
Fleet value: Approx. 85 points
  • Millennium Falcon (Outer Rim Smuggler)
  • X-wing (Luke Skywalker) & R2 D2
  • X-wing (Biggs Darklighter)

Empire: David (7th play)
Fleet value: Approx. 85 points
  • Tie Interceptor (Soontir Fel)
  • Tie Interceptor (Turr Phennir)
  • Tie Advanced (Darth Vader) 

Our first game with the Millennium Falcon (it was bought only a few hours before). To avoid the game taking too long, and to make our first game using it easier, we went for the Outer Rim Smuggler pilot card. Giving the Falcon only 3 shields and 5 hull, a fair amount less than if you use Han, Chewbacca or Lando.

More tactics were in play during this game, with the Falcon attempting to draw fire, while also trying to ram Vader as much as possible. The empire sent its interceptors into a head-on fight with the X-wings, while Vader whittled away at the Falcons shields. After a few turns both interceptors pealed away from the X-wings and joined Vader in bombarding the Falcon, until after a few turns it was destroyed.

The X-wings swung round to follow the Interceptor’s and concentrated their fire on taking them out one at a time. The Interceptor succumbed to a critical hit inflicted by Luke, and the second only moments after the Falcons destruction. Next turn Vader swooped in through growing debris field and destroyed Biggs’ X-wing; leaving the game as a showdown between father and son, Luke's X-wing vs. Vader's Tie Advance.

After Vader narrowly avoided flying off the side of the board (and into the oblivion of space) they squared off for one last fight. Both with 2 hull points left, and no shields.

Vader with the higher piloting skill shoot first, but only managed to deal 1 damage, bringing Luke down to 1 hit point left. Luke however managed to score 3 hits, one a critical. Vader didn't have the skill to evade all 3 hits and was destroyed after drawing a double damage critical card.

Result: X-wing (Luke) sole survivor…again!

Analysis: Both of these games went well, and were very close; only Luke’s X-Wing survived each game. We decided to keep it fairly simple, so kept upgrade cards out of it for the most part. The combo of Luke & R2 D2 is very strong, and I think in future if I’m going up against it I will make sure to target him first and try and take him out quickly, before R2 can recharge his shields.

Everyone had a blast playing this, I’m enjoying it more and more each time I play, and both Karl and Jay said they were dying to play again soon.

They didn’t have to wait long, 5 days after this we played a mammoth 5 player game, introducing the other two member of our group to the game and using pretty much every ship I own and a large amount of upgrade cards. Stay tuned for a detailed session report in the coming soon.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Durance RPG - Blog Play - 01 Planetary Survey

OK lets get this thing rolling...
On a remote planet far from civilization, the worst criminal scum from a dozen star systems have been dumped, charged with building new lives under the watchful eye of Authority. Within a brutal hierarchy of savagery and servility, convicts and guards alike must make hard choices. Every colonist has their own code of conduct and their own aspirations—aspirations that invariably come at the expense of others. This dangerous new world is too small for everyone to succeed. In fact, it may well be too small for anyone to succeed. Only the shrewdest, the toughest and the luckiest will get a chance to find out. Will you be among them?
OK first up is the planetary survey. In this part of the game, a list of six favourable survey assessments about the state of the planet is passed to the left of the host (me!), and each player in turn highlights one, and crosses one out. Each of the statements has a letter associated, and the three letters of the favourable survey assessments form the planet's Universal Terrestrial Survey which can the be looked up in the rules book.

We've already done this part via email, I used a randomiser to pick the order and the results are:

The Actual comments were...

Karl (Yellow Smudge)
A. Atmosphere is excellent (I want to breathe)
E. Biology is benign (we're gonna have triffids)

Rebecca (Terminator)
C. Geology is stable (not sure I want to battle against falling rocks as well as various monsters!)
F. Intelligent life is absent (There's gonna be a ton of strange indigenous beasties)

Matt (Medical Marvel)
B. Climate is mild (Why would I want the weather to be mild? Let there be storms!)
D. Hydrology is favorable (Killer plants? No thanks!)

OK so this leads us to the planet named RFS 617 with the following survey...
Recommended. The surface’s water is clean and plentiful, atmosphere is perfect gas mix and pressure, and the planet is geologically stable. Excellent colony candidate.
That sounds dandy! We'll not worry about the revised survey just now, I'm sure those surveyors have done their job thoroughly. :)

So next up is the colony, and it's much the same again with the Colonial Survey. So choose one and lose one in the comments from the following, and I'll update in the next post. The order will be David, then myself, and then back to Karl.

U. Planning is meticulous
V. Density is low
W. Workforce is motivated
X. Prosperity is high
Y. Order is well-established
Z. Justice is universal

Cheers all, looking forward to settling our lovely clean, geologically stable planet!


I'm pretty sure we all play some sort of video or computer gaming, so I'm probably going to chuck the odd post up. This is just a very early trailer for a survival horror game called Darkwood. It's already looking great though.

I'm intrigued by procedurally generated environments, and games like this that use roguelike elements. I'm similarly drawn to roleplaying games with random dungeon generation, and huge tables to roll on to generate all sorts of things. Something in that open-ended story idea that really works for me.

Anyway, check the trailer, and keep an eye out here.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Durance RPG - Blog Play - Introduction

So the group has thrown round the idea of trying out some roleplaying games, and since it's an area we have less experience with I thought a fairly straightforward storytelling game might work, this led me to finding Durance from Bully Pulpit Games. It instantly grabbed my interest because of the prison planet setting, and on reading I really liked the simple mechanics to draw a story out of the players. The big plus though was the lack of GM and preparation, which takes the pressure off any one person in our group.

From the publisher...

On a remote planet far from civilization, the worst criminal scum from a dozen star systems have been dumped, charged with building new lives under the watchful eye of Authority. Within a brutal hierarchy of savagery and servility, convicts and guards alike must make hard choices. Every colonist has their own code of conduct and their own aspirations—aspirations that invariably come at the expense of others. This dangerous new world is too small for everyone to succeed. In fact, it may well be too small for anyone to succeed. Only the shrewdest, the toughest and the luckiest will get a chance to find out. Will you be among them?
Durance is the latest game from designer Jason Morningstar, author of the award-winning game Fiasco. It is a fast-paced, low-prep, highly collaborative game designed for 3-5 players and one or more sessions of play and includes a detailed, engaging science fiction setting.
Unfortunately we haven't managed to work it into one of our regular gaming sessions, partly due to the number of boardgames we have been trying, though also due to a certain amount of trepidation as to how it would actually work. On further reflection and discussion, it might be that something with heavier rules and lots of tactical combat might actually work better for our group, as it would be an easier leap from some of the boardgames we already play.

Anyway we decided to play out some of it by email, and since the blog is rolling I thought I'd move it here and play the whole thing out in a number of posts. It'll give us a good idea of how the game works, and take the pressure off giving plenty of time to discuss, and create a world that interests us. I'm not going to write in depth about the mechanics, there are some reviews out there, though I may put a some brief notes at the beginning of any new section of play.

It's probably best I leave this as a simple introduction, I'll start the gaming proper in the next post in the series. Started this late, so I'll put the next post up tomorrow.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Solo Gaming Review - Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach

So it's weird, and will make you go blind...but as every young boy discovers, playing by yourself can be fun. No I was talking about solitaire or solo gaming you depraved people you. Anyway, I have plans for a series of reviews, and views on solo gaming, so I though I'd start by reposting this old review I wrote. It involves yet another fascination of mine...gamebooks....but more on those later.

Was in the mood so I snagged myself a copy of Party of 1: Kalgor Bloodhammer and the Ghouls Through the Breach, and I've just given it a quick play so I thought I'd post a little review.

So what do you get for you hard earned Flainian Pobble Beads?.....well you get a nicely formatted 14 page, numbered paragraph adventure. It's essentially a small gamebook in the tradition of Fighting Fantasy using the OGL for the rules, of which there are few. In fact the rules are introduced as you play the game so there isn't a rules section to refer to, and it's largely simple choices and basic combat of 1d20+modifiers against Armor Class, plus the odd strength check. At least that is mostly what I encountered during my initial play, along with some objects which can be used, and a 'secrets' system for tracking your progress and discoveries.

In short, it's short, much like this review.

Is it bad? No, I enjoyed it, and I'll play it through again and hopefully win it, and possibly again to try some different paths. It will have limited replayability beyond that though, much like any gamebook, and it is short at only 73 paragraphs. It does include character sheets, which I believe you could carry over to Pathfinder proper, so I guess they may be of use for people looking for pre-generated characters.

Is it worth $2.99? Well using my balanced system of food based comparisons, it cost me about the same as a prawn mayonnaise sandwich at the local supermarket, and whilst it isn't filled with juicy crustacean goodness, it did keep me happily entertained for longer than my hypothetical lunchtime treat would. For me yes, but I love gamebooks, you could pick up some old ones on ebay for very little though, many of which will last longer than this, so maybe not for everyone.

Oh it's about dwarves.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Saturday, 2 March 2013

SereneJ's Review of Keyflower

Keyflower - as game names go it doesn't sound very threatening - equally, it doesn't really give anything away about what the game actually involves - but it should have a warning on the box - this game pulls you in!
So what is it? What it is - is a game of 2-6 players and is probably best described as a worker placement game that is all about you building something - actually not just something - a village.  A village that you come to care about and in the three games I've played so far I've found it utterly delightful, enticing me into making the best damn village I can - my meeple deserve it. Keyflower, as I've discovered (with the help of the Finely Diced Gamers), is a game that looks friendly (it uses meeples for goodness sake) and invites you to play (the game artwork is lovely to look at), it has some interesting game dynamics but ultimately allows for some potentially bitter power struggles as you try to improve your village in medieval Keyland.

When you start keyflower your village is one building – your house - ironically you are given an actual starting house which is needed to conceal the different meeples and tokens that you collect throughout the course of the game.  The aim of Keyflower is simple, take your newly founded village and improve it - adding different buildings such as mines, quarries and other equally useful structures. Some of these new buildings benefit you immediately, providing necessary resources (to further improve your village) or more meeples (used during your turn to activate village buildings or bid on unclaimed buildings). There are other buildings that you'll want to claim that provide either the option to select the next player to go first, the first choice of meeple coming to colonise your village or victory points at games end.
The game itself occurs over one year, OK - it doesn't take a year to play (I definately wouldn't have time to play the game otherwise) but it is played over four seasons - Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter – with each season being one turn. From the first season, each player takes it in turn activating or bidding on unclaimed buildings laid out in the centre of the table.  The first person to activate a building only needs to spend one meeple, the next would have to spend two meeples (of the same colour), the third person three meeples (yes, same colour).  Ultimately it comes down to how many meeple you have stashed that can allow or prevent you from activating a building.

So... you see a perfect addition to your village and you decide to bid on it (hoping that no-one has the same idea as you).  Bidding on a building again involves your meeples, with them being used to stake your claim - but watch out - as long as another player has enough of the same colour meeple - you can be outbid.  Can you remember who placed which colour meeple or how many - two, three, four...?
Each season ends once everyone has finished placing their meeples - the dust settles and village founders (you the player) look at what is to be added to your village - all the meeple used in the bidding process are lost - gone forever.  However - any building that was activated (by yourself or others) that you now own - those meeple now belong to you to help your village grow in the coming season.

Now you would be forgiven for thinking that all was lost, if a building that you wanted and bid on was taken by another player.  With Keyflower, regardless of where a building is - whether unclaimed, your village or another's village.  If a building can be activated you can place a meeple there - with those meeple going into the building owners's hidden stash at the end of the season.  With some strategic placement of your meeple, you can use another's building to improve your standing - in the process making it more expensive for the actual owner to use.  However, remember that the building's owner gets to keep the meeple used and don't forget - they could easily choose to use your buildings!

So the activation and bidding of buildings is present in every season but once you reach Winter you're essentially looking at how to maximise on the buildings you own to score the most victory points.  Throughout the first three seasons player will be bidding and outbidding each other to have buildings in their village - winter (I think) is slightly different - it's all or nothing.  I've managed to win this game by managing to get a building that another player's strategy required, preventing them from attaining their full potential - admittedly a risky strategy but I won by one point. 

The thing is Keyflower offers lots of strategies, one person may choose to hoard meeples, another may choose to build the longest river, yet another hoards gold - these are just three such strategies that I've seen - however, each strategy can be countered if another player manages to get the meeples in at the right time.  Keyflower could just be the right strategy at the right time but there are more building cards than can be played for each season which means that each game will be unique, there will be variety and you - the player - will have to choose  how you want to see your village expand - what direction will you want to take?

I don't currently own this game but I intend to - it's already on my BGG wishlist! If someone offers you the opportunity to play this game I would suggest you say yes - it's entertaining and its subtly aggressive -  This is a game that our group has played three times in two weeks and I would happily play again - it's a great game!  Who knew colonising Keyland could be so much fun?

I still think there should be a warning on the box!