Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Phantom. Menace?

A friend and I both have a TIE Phantom in our collections, but both of us have held back from playing it. I think that there has been some concern about flying against it, but also about flying with it. It's one of the ships that has had a lot of X-Wing gamers talking about it, some saying that it's over powerful while others say that it's nothing to worry about if you know how you fly against it. The conclusion seems to be that it changes the game, for better of for worse is a point of debate.

The "big deal" with the TIE Phantom is that it can cloak, and when it's cloaked it has the highest agility of any ship in the game. That is coupled with also having the highest attack score in the game, so it is hard to hit yet hits very hard. Throw into the mix that when it uncloaks it also takes, what amounts to, an additional move action on top of its normal move and you've got something interesting. With a high pilot skill it will also be taking that additional move after many other ships have taken theirs, so it should be able to put itself somewhere where it can shoot but not be shot at. However when its uncloaked it agility drops down to beneath that of a normal TIE fighter and it's not able to take a lot of damage.

So it throws a few different things into the bucket. And last night we played it for the first time...

The Imperial Squad
  • A TIE Phantom that has the ability to move in curves when it decloaks and not just straight lines, so it can dance all over the table. It was also loaded up with extras that let it recloak immediately after it fired and a few other bonuses. It took up about 40% of the points for the squad.
  • 5 basic TIE Fighters

The Rebel Squad We had discussed the game and I knew that a Phantom was going to be tried out, so I built something that had what I hoped would be an anti-Phantom capability while also being able to hold its on in "normal" games...
  • Wedge. He has a very high pilot skill so should, in theory, be able to fire at a Phantom in between the brief time when it uncloaks in the movement phase and recloaks in its attack phase. He was also loaded up with an R2 unit that could cause stress, which denies actions, and an engine upgrade so he too could take an extra move after seeing where other ships were going to be.
  • A Y-Wing with an Ion turrent, 360 degree fire, all the better for taking down Phantoms... Plus I love the Y-Wing anyway.
  • An X-Wing
  • A Z-95
In effect I was taking two ships that I thought could deal with a Phantom, the Y-Wing and Wedge.

The game
The TIE Fighters stuck together in a swarm of five. The Phantom initially started to come down one side of the board. But when I turned my fighters into the asteroids in the middle of the table the Imperial Player changed his mind. He pulled the Phantom back up and looped it behind his swarm and down the left side of the table. It was kept cloaked pretty much all the time as the player wasn't sure that he could get it into the right position and didn't want to risk it being in the wrong one.

So it actually didn't do very much for quite a while. In the mean time it was a 100pt rebel list against a 60pt Imperial swarm. The obvious happened, the swarm took a beating. It managed to take out the X-Wing and the Z-95, but they were the secondary elements of my squadron. Wedge and the Y-Wing were my real star players and made it through.

And then the Phantom makes its appearance when the swarm is down to two ships. And, again, it doesn't do very much. It does blow the Y-Wing away but Wedge is still intact, and he's awesome. The Phantom was kept in close and uncloaked, Wedge took it down leaving him against one damaged TIE Fighter.

Game over, the Rebels win.

The lessons
It's hard to draw any real final conclusions on the Phantom from just one game, but there are some things that could be taken away.
  • The Phantom is far from unbeatable, in a straight up fight when de-cloaked its low agility and low(ish) hull and shields mean that it can die reasonably easily.
  • Don't be distracted by a Phantom, you don't want to go chasing after it leaving its back up to tear you to pieces.
  • The Phantom isn't that powerful.
  • The Phantom, with the pilot who de-cloaks with curved not straight moves, is very hard to fly well. You have to be able to predict with reasonable precision where its targets are going to end up and where its moves will therefore end it. Those things are far from easy. Yes a fantastic player will, I think, be able to use a Phantom to utterly devastate your squadron. But, to be fair, they'll be at such a skill level that they could probably do it with nothing but Y-Wings.
  • You have to risk your Phantom, yes it's a lot of your points but if your opponent isn't going to get distracted and chase after it then it needs to be in the fight backing up the swarm.
  • I don't think you want to get into a "normal" dog fight with a Phantom like you would any other ship. For the points it costs it can't take the damage it will receive. Your paying points for this ship that can dart all over the able, so it should be darting all over the table. In the end game I was suggesting that the Imperial player should accept that his TIE was doomed, get the hell out of there and not fight again until he was Wedge blind sided.
  • Wedge seems quite capable of dealing with a Phantom once he had those upgrades. With his engine he can take an extra move to get the Phantom in his firing arc and with his droid he can cause stress to the Phantom which will stop it cloaking after shooting, then everyone else can take a shot at the thing as well.
  • The Y-Wing doesn't do an awful lot of damage. It's Ion turret might be 360 degrees but it will only do one damage. It's slow and hard to manoeuvre so it's hard to get shots off with its main guns that would do more damage.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Marvel Dice Masters - First Encounter

The other night I had the chance to play a couple of games of Marvel Dice Masters. It was described to me as Dominion with Dice, now I don't know Dominion but I have played a couple of games of Trains, and I can kind of see what my friend was getting at.

This post isn't really a review, I don't think that I got deep enough it to do that fairly, but more my initial thoughts on the game and how I saw it working, and they may not be entirely accurate...

The game is a dice building game, you start off with a pool of fairly limited dice and then you buy other dice to add to your pool. It seems to take several dice to buy another die, and the die you buy will typically be more powerful than than those that were used to buy it. The die that you have bought and the dice you used to buy it will all eventually end up in the pool you can draw from. Therefore as the game progress you ramp up in terms of the quantity and power of your dice pool.

In a bit more detail you actually have several pools of dice and the dice flow between them as you perform various actions. You have a bag full of dice to draw from, a pool of used dice (that will be used to refill the bag when it is empty), a pool of dice representing "knocked out" characters (a "prep area" is what the game calls it, so it might have uses other than I saw), a pool of dice representing characters you have fielded and a pool of dice that you have just rolled (the "reserve").

You start the game with a number of characters on your team (two in the case of our starting game) and each of those will have a number of dice that you can buy that represent them (I think that they come with two dice each). There are also some cards in the middle for generic upgrades that either player can buy.

Each turn you draw four dice from your draw pool add any that were in the "knocked out" (prep) pool and roll them into your "reserve". The dice have lots of different symbols on them that do different things. The uses that I can recall are:
  • If it represents a character then you can pay energy to bring them into play (move them into your "fielded" pool).
  • Provide energy that you can spend to buy new dice or field a character. There are a number of different energy types and also wildcards. To buy a die you need to have at least one die that provides the energy type that they require and the numbers must add up to the number printed on the card/die.
  • Provide an effect that boosts attacks.
Once you've used the dice that you have rolled you can then attack your opponent, you push forward some or all of the dice from your play area and your opponent can then react by assigning characters from their own play area to fight back. Your characters have damage and defence statistics and both attacker and defenders will attempt to damage each other. The outcomes seem to be:
  • If an attacker takes more damage than their defence they are moved to the pool.
  • If an attacker takes less damage than their defence they are moved back to the "play" area.
  • If an attacker does not have a blocker than their damage is applied to the opponent, you have a certain number of "hit points" and loose the game when you take them all.
There are a few implications to this...
  • Having a knocked out attacker or defender isn't necessarily a bad thing, they go into your "knocked out" pool and you'll add them to your roll in the next round. So you can roll a load of dice, which you can use to buy loads of things.
  • You don't seem to ever actually loose a character, their die will be somewhere in your pool, your pool is only ever going to get bigger
  • If a blocker is assigned to an attacker then none of the damage will get through to the opponent. So if you have one low level mook defending against a low level mook and the Incredible Hulk then you're better off blocking the Hulk. The Hulk would do far more damage to you than the mook will if he's not given a blocker.
The second game...
This photo shows my situation just before the game ended (the matt isn't included in the starter set, but it seems very helpful). What you can see:
  • I chose Thor and Iron Man as my two characters for the game. They come with two dice, I've managed to buy one of each.
  • I've managed to get a Thor and an Iron Man die into my field zone.
  • I've rolled more than four dice, the previous turn I had some low level mooks that I used to block some attacks. They got knocked out to my "Prep Area" and I therefore rerolled them alongside the four I drew from my dice bag.
My next step is to attack, I attack with both Thor and Iron Man (this itself is free) the two characters from my "Field Zone". My opponent had just a Hulk to oppose them... But characters have special abilities, and Thor's is that characters of Hulk's type (bashing?) can't block his attacks. So my opponent couldn't block Thor's attack, and Thor's attack was big (characters can have levels, I'd rolled the highest level Thor and paid a lot to have him ready to use). Therefore all of Thor's attack was applied to my opponents hit points and he was knocked out of the game.

  • We played the games in about half an hour or so each, which included me learning it from scratch and some rules look ups. I think that "proper" games involve more characters and more hit points per side so might take longer
  • It seemed pretty abstract at the time, but typing this up has helped me think about it and it does all make a kind of sense.
  • Things escalate quite quickly, one you buy more dice you can then buy even more next time around.
  • Timing your attacks is crucial. If my opponent had even one low level mook available then none of Thor's attack would have made it through to his hit points.

So, would I play it again? Yes I would. It does seem quite fiddly but once you've played through it and are able to just follow each step while also having a bit of knowledge about what you need to do for the future then it clicks together.

I'd really recommend the play mat though, not only does it look quite nice but it also really helps to understand how the game flows.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Space Hulk Game Report

A couple of weeks ago there were only two of us available for a Thursday night game, Karl and I. An evening of Space Hulk was offered...

I hope I'm not alone in admitting that I've been grumpy with Games Workshop for more than half of my life (please, come on, it's not just me, right?) 1.  However they played a pretty big part in the start of my adventures into gaming.  I was at the Games Day where they launched WH40k back in 1987 (30 Space Marines for a tenner!  Go Beaky Marines!).  More pertinently I was at the 1989 Games Day where they launched Space Hulk,  a few demo games and I was hooked 2...

Over the next couple of years I played a lot of Space Hulk, it was enjoyable and tense.  I added the Death Watch and Genestealer sets to my collections and also the missions and extra bits from White Dwarf.

But then my grumpiness with Games Workshop increased and off I went to Uni, and that was the last of my encounters with Space Hulk.

Until last Thursday...

Game One
I took on the Genestealers and Karl had the Terminators.  It was a simple mission where he had to get through the Hulk and reach a target room with a Marine carrying a flamer.  It all came flooding back...  I tried to get at his Marines through the entry points near his start position but he had it too well guarded.  So I hung back near his target room and began to flood ("flood" might be an overstatement with only two reinforcement blips a turn) the area.  A Marine raced forward and blocked my access to two entry points, but he was breaking his Marines apart.  So I raced up the gap and just as he was about to reach his target a Genestealer leapt on the back of the flamer Marine and tore him apart.

Victory to the Genestealers, but it was close.

Game Two
A simpler proposition, Karl had to kill 30 Genestealers before I killed his entire squad.  I only had two reinforcement blips a turn but I had all the time in the world.

Karl broke his Marines into two main groups, one holding the left of the board and one the right.

I saw two options.

1) Attack the left and the right together, this would make Karl split his Command Points between a number of Marines.

2) The Marines on the left were in a good position, the Genestealers could only get at them via long corridors which provided plenty of opportunities for them to be mown down.  If I could crack the right hand side then the Marines remaining on the left hand side wouldn't be numerous enough to cover all the access routes, I could then get at them, and eat them, or something.

I went for option 2.

Things started well, a quick moving Genestealer managed to bag one Marine from the right hand side very early on, this was tremendously helpful.  I built up my forces and went for it...  Awesome rolling from the Space Marines cost me a lot of Genestealers but the right side collapsed...

On to the left...

More awesome rolling followed but, as hoped for, they couldn't cover all the access routes.  Queue more awesome rolling as the Marines retreated.

Then there was just one Marine and one Genestealer left, the alien (well Tyranid as I believe GW later retconned it) reached the Marine with two attacks left.  The Marine drew the fight!  One slow Space Marine vs. a sprinting intergalactic death octopus and the fleshy man thing drew!  Blimey!  I had one last attack before it would be the Marine's go, he would back away and blow the Genestealer into tiny chitinous pieces.  I rolled, I won!

Victory to the Genestealers!

Both games were very close, the last one incredibly so.  It always felt possible for either side to win even though, from my recollections, the Marine's had a generally harder time of it.  I'd be very happy to continue going through a few more missions of this.

The next day I had an email from Games Workshop saying that Space Hulk was being re-released.  I looked online and it was available, I dithered about (£75 is a lot for game and, as said above, I'm grumpy with Games Workshop) but after a bit of wifey persuation I decided to go for it.  On Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the games release, I went online but it had sold out.

*** Shakes first at Games Workshop ***

But, on the positive side, I now had another reason to be grump with them :)

[1] The grumpiness began almost immediately after my introduction to Games Workshop.  Back in the day White Dwarf covered games from other companies, they would review them and publish material for them.  That declined and then stopped from about issue 90 or so, they turned into an in house magazine that only dealt with Games Workshop products.  I also seem to remember Games Workshop stores selling products from other companies, I'm sure that my copy of Twilight 2000 came from the Beckenham store the day that it opened (my copy of Blood Bowl certainly did).

[2] I remember clutching the box on the coach back to London and feeling very excited about it, my friend was telling me how similar to the movie Aliens that it looked, but being a good boy who had a VCR under strict parental control I hadn't experienced the joys of that film.  My friend got a free set of some Games Workshop card game for some reason, but I had Space Hulk, I was winning!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

X-Wing Match Report

Rebel Mini Swarm vs. two big Imperial Ships

I've become quite keen on Fantasy Flight Games' X-Wing Game . A friend and I are gradually expanding the ships that we've tried out and this was the first to feature the TIE Defender. The Defender is the peak of Imperial Design philosophy, which appears to be "let's take the TIE Fighter and stick a few more wings on it". So was it any good? Well in a way we did find out, in a way we didn't...

The Rebel Forces
I've got a theory that the Rebels should work with each other, so I went for a Y-Wing that can pass on Target Locks ("Dutch" Vander) and an X-Wing that could pass on Focus tokens (Garven Dreis). I then bulked those ships out with an extra Rookie X-Wing and two vanilla Z-95s.

The Imperials
Just two ships, a Firespray and a Defender. But both were tricked out with a lot of expansions and with good, but expensive, pilots.

The Game
The forces lined up for their initial "joust", I had the Rebels while my friend had the Imperials. Both of his ships were piloted by better pilots than mine (and flown by a better player than me) so I had to place first. I placed my ships in the middle, he split his apart. I've fought the Firespray before and knew that it was a tough nut to crack. So I decided to focus on the Defender, I thought it was the slightly weaker link, all of my ships then went straight for it.

The result? One dead Defender... It did get to shoot first and did a lot of damage to Garven, my best X-Wing pilot, but it was hammered by the attacks from five ships who benefitted from the target lock passing. They should have benefited from the focus passing too, but I blew that part. It was enough, the Defender went down. This left the Firespray zooming in on my side with my ships facing the opposite direction, and my ships aren't very good at turning, so I lumber around.

The Firespray is packing a heavy laser cannon, it does a lot of damage and I loose Garven but I'm turning around... I chase the Firespray up the table...

Then I remember that the thing has a rear firing arc and one of my Z-95s gets a pummelling at point blank range from the thing. But the Firespray is running out of room... The Y-Wing has already landed one ion token on it, one more and it's ionised and might fly off the table...

I manage to ionise the ship once more but it doesn't quite fly off the table, it recovers in time to take a hard turn. The ionisation and the hard turn he has to do keeps him slow. This means that I can pick my range and stay out of that rear arc, I pour on the damage and it goes down.

A Rebel victory!

  • A Rebel mini-swarm can hit quite hard, you're rolling a lot of dice in your attacks.
  • The Defender is great at turning around, it can do a 180 without taking any stress, which had it survived the first pass would have been a great ability.
  • The Defender is still relatively fragile (well compared to the Firespray), and up against 5 rebel ships it will have a tough time. It's questionable whether loading it up with so many points worth of upgrades was a good decision. A few more cheaper Defenders might have been a better bet.
  • The Defender was unlucky to take so much damage in that first joust, it rolled appallingly on its evades. I still think that the Rebels would have taken it out not much after the point when it died. But this does highlight that when you have a smaller number of ships the extremes of bad luck will hurt you more than when you've got a greater number of ships to help spread it out between.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

We're not dead... ok, ok I died but it was just a game!

Ok, it has been a while… but the Finely Diced Gamers are still here and attempting to get a few additional blogs written. As primarily a games group, it’s been pretty great to see a few new faces join our gaming evenings, perhaps we’ll see a few new writers and articles presented for reading on here too.

As well as being pretty open to new gamers, we’re also pretty open to all types of board games, war games, digital games and even the occasional miniatures game. I’ll be honest I’ve had a huge push to miniature game again and I’m using the momentum to paint some of my old 40K miniatures. The reason for this re-interest in modelling is because, well I recently turned 40 and as a present from my fabulous wife (Becca), I’ve been provided with a permanent space where I can model, paint and even play (solitaire) games if I so choose…

Now, primarily the miniatures that I’ve collected have been Games Workshop (a long time ago), and as such are pretty much all Out of Production (OOP) now. In fact, further back on the blog you can find an after action report (AAR) from when a few of us played Necromunda – my Van Saars are still unpainted but the plan is to get them ready for action and possibly get a rematch against Matt’s house Cawdor and Rebecca’s house Goliath gang.

However, I no longer feel obliged to purchase and collect GW, perhaps it’s the prices or perhaps I just want to try something else. Regardless, I now have two modelling projects that I’ve undertaken and neither of them are GW, but they look super cool and I’ve actually started painting some of them. Allow me to explain.

So… literally just arrived, opened but yet to be readied for use is Super Dungeon Explore (SDE).

SDE is a dungeon crawler inspired by old Japanese console RPGs. The 52 included miniatures are done in a cute / chibi / super-deformed style, which means the head is roughly the same size as the rest of the body. I’ve had my eye on these miniatures (and specifically this game) for a while – they just look super detailed and the game being a dungeon crawl sounds pretty good too. I shall not go into too much detail since my plan is to update with a blog following my attempts to get this game modelled, painted and brought out to the table – watch this space.

Now the other project is a fairly new war game called Dropzone Commander.

Now this is a joint project between Jay and myself. Both of us wanted to get into a miniatures war game system but wanted to actively avoid GW – a few systems looked interesting but this was ultimately the game that we both wanted to play. Part of the appeal is that the game comes as a starter set, which means that there’s enough in the box to get an idea of the game and then allow you to make a decision whether to indulge and buy more… sorry, increase the size of your chosen army, or not.

Jay has taken the part of the alien scourge (skimmers), whereas I have got the fabulous UCM (lots of tanks). Now this is also a work in progress since Jay has still to complete painting his arm. At the last look I’ve got about 50% of my starter army ready (all my tanks and APC’s are painted awaiting fine details) although my ground soldiers and drop-ships still need further prep work. I’ve not painted anything in a very long time but what I’ve done so far I’ve enjoyed – it’s certainly a challenge painting models that are at a 10mm scale. Once we get this to the table there will most certainly be another AAR.

Talking of getting Games to the Table, we have still been having the occasional game too. The most recent game played has been Tales of the Arabian Nights.

This game was played at our last evening of gaming, there were five of us playing. Simply put, each person decides what their own win condition is, which is done by choosing a score that can be split between story and destiny points – adding up to a total of 20. You then have to take your character around the map completing quests, scoring (story & destiny) points and ultimately experiencing a story as you would an old Steve Jackson “choose your own adventure” book. For those not old enough to remember, these books all started in a similar way, but as you read you would be asked to make decisions… decide to try and kill the monster, goto p75, slip past the monster, goto p99. 

This took the entirety of the evening with some very peculiar story’s being told, some of us got married, some were being pursued by ner’do wells and I died… no-one told me that death was even a possibility (fortunately my brother? Was able to take up my quest), unfortunately I didn’t win. A good game and it made for a very enjoyable evening… but you do need to play with individuals who don‘t mind making a fool of themselves or reading a lot (there’s a lot of reading).

Finally, The Resistance – I got given this for my birthday and managed to play this with 7 people soon after.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, although we all got called a spy at one point or another. Essentially this is a game spread over 5 missions, with a team selected from everyone playing by a team leader (which is continuously moving from one person to the next) being tasked to complete at least three of five missions successfully… but you don’t know who are the spies or if they have been selected for the mission –and it only takes one spy for a mission to fail.

As each mission completes, successfully or not, you start to deduce who the spies may be and those loyal to the Resistance (the spies know the other spies). To add further pressure – everybody gets to vote on who goes on each mission – it is possible to fail a mission if you’re not satisfied with the team leader or their team choice – just decide quickly whose going – five no votes and it becomes an automatic fail and the spies win the game.

Note to self – it’s not a good thing when everyone agrees with a team being sent on a mission, it typically means there is a spy on the mission.

Right, I’m off to take photos of the unboxing of Super Dungeon Explore for the next piece which will hopefully be up shortly.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Video Games Player... Geek, Boardgamer... Geeky, Wargamer...

So... Apparently I've entered a niche that even the broad spectrum of general boardgamers don't approach for fear of being labelled "too geeky"! In this niche we don't use card decks, we don't use meeple, we certainly don't use miniatures, although there is an awful lot of cardboard, sorry... counters, a whole load of counters - don't forget the hexagonal map grids either!

It all started at the last UK Games Expo in 2013 when I was invited to try a game on the Saturday night.  I'd had a couple of beers - a couple of whisky shots too, so when my good friend Jay told me that we were playing a "wargame" - Conflict of Heroes - well I was more than happy to try.  I'll be honest, I was a little taken aback by the jigsaw puzzle size box - where were the miniatures, the scenery, the hundreds of dice?

Jay got things going with the starting scenario and then we just kept going - from explaining the coding of the counters, attack values, defense values, facing, cover, hard cover.  We just kept going through scenarios, adding more complexity but with each level of complexity a greater respect for what the game provided... immersion! I've played it since and again, thoroughly enjoyed it, although we still haven't got to the tanks... yet!

Now Jay was happy that he had someone who was willing to play one of his beloved wargames, but he went on - iterating that there are so many different wargames out there, perhaps I'd consider trying another of the titles in his collection, something perhaps a little closer to my heart, something a little more futuristic.  I think, he says, I've got a game that would be perfect for you - I think you need to try Space Empires 4x!

So... I've played Space Empires three times now, the most recent was last weekend (yeah I realise this isn't date specific).  Now I like 4x games, I own Eclipse which is one of my most favorite games in my collection,  it's a very good 4x game but so is Space Empires (I can't deny I've hunted and found a copy on the dreaded eBay).  They're both very different beasts though, different enough that I'm happy to have both in my collection and I would be torn now in having to choose between them!

So back to the games we've played... Game One involved a small two player map with not much space between us - the intention being that it was a learning game and hopefully not too long - we didn't finish the game but that was a timing issue!

The second game was the same small map and same basic rules but we picked up the rules and the admin pretty quick again once we got going - this game had an end and a winner but we didn't play until the other was totally annihilated, just until the homeworld was taken.  Now normally, certainly with other boardgames, once you've got an opposing player on the rails you go in for the kill.  Apparently with a wargame if you've got your adversary against the wall it's actually acceptable to call the game, especially if it means you get a second game in the evening. We didn't get a second game but we knew the next game would allow us to use the full complement of rules.

The third game used a larger map, meaning more exploration and all the rules were available - this meant we had access not only to all ship types and technology but also warp gates and alien races - however the game has been designed so the additional rules are in fact modular so you can pick and choose to make the game more complicated, or less so...

As the game started Jay had access to a lot of minerals whereas I had explored and found a lot of my starting worlds, what this meant was that Jay was initially wealthy although I had more opportunity to make wealth in the long game.  What I chose to do however was to use merchant ships to link all my newly colonised worlds together which provided two benefits 1) for every connected world I got an additional CP & 2) as my merchant ship network expanded it meant any ship travelling along it got an additional move (very useful as I later found out).

For the first handful of turns both us simply explored and made plans, it later transpired that Jay's plan was to learn terraforming so that he could colonise barren worlds, it was a sound plan (and an expensive one) unfortunately after finding one barren world he lost pretty much the entirety of his scout fleet and then was unable to locate any more barren worlds; a slight hiccup.

My plan was to build some big ships so whilst I was colonising worlds and increasing the size of my MS pipeline, I was also researching the necessary technology to build my big, big ships. I had also researched a technology that would allow me to explore a little easier - it essentially meant i could look at what a system contained without revealing it and then move to a different hex and explore again; quite useful! Especially since I was able to locate a number of black holes and some equally dangerous hexes.

As the turns progressed the inevitable happened and we both met in mortal combat, admittedly I was the aggressor but on this occasion I wasn't the victor - my attacking fleet was all but destroyed.  This wasn't the first fleet I lost either, the second fleet I sent on the attack although liberating a barren world was then lost to mines - they didn't even get a shot off - this was both a costly affair and also such a waste.

To counter this new threat of mines my scientists developed mine sweeping technology, my third fleet  was supported with my newly designed minesweepers - this fleets's mission to finally take Jay's homeworld.  Here was the problem for Jay, because of my MS pipeline I was able to get all newly created fleets onto Jay's doorstep by the end of my movement phase - meaning that he was having to go on the defensive as opposed to taking the fight to me. It was a close fight but the minesweepers did their job, unfortunately one mine survived destroying my designed & created flagship Dreadnought - one of the largest ships that could be created in my shipyard.  Fortunately, the Battleships that survived the dreadnought's destruction rained down righteous fire on Jay's remaining ships and homeworld - nothing survived!

Jay's economy was understandably rocked but he was not down for the count,  Jay did however concede a victory to me (we were after midnight on the clock) since his homeworld was lost and it was unlikely to end well for him.  Jay wasn't defenseless though and he had in fact sent a fleet towards my MS pipeline.  His fleet may not have got too far since I had another fleet of Battleships lurking  two hexes away but he certainly could have slowed me down.

Our third game finished we both looked at the board and just talked about how things went - we both agreed, mines are nasty - they don't take hulls off, no they just take whole ships. A mine, if the other doesn't have minesweepers, takes out a ship that is in the hex with it - the mine owner gets to choose the target and it can take out a dreadnought just as easily as a scout.  With no shots fired and my first dreadnought removed from the board, it's very annoying, however I also had mines researched and built so they were fair kills - it could have so easily gone the other way.

The other thing we both agreed upon, we definitely want another game of Space Empires 4x soon, but our next game will now probably include additional rules from Close Encounters, the first expansion. SE4x:CE brings a lot of new rules in the form of ships even bigger than dreadnoughts, nebula mining and ground combat on colonised worlds to name but a few.  Space Empires is a fabulous game, allowing you to build an entire civilisation and then send it to war - it is most definitely a 4x game - explore, expand, exploit and exterminate - definitely exterminate ;-)

What can I say other than I believe I'm a wargamer convert... I quite like chits / counters!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Gaming Highlights - January 2014

I’m not sure where January went, I’m pretty sure I was present for most of it but I’m not sure how it disappeared so quickly. Anyway, I did mean to post again, so I thought a quick wrap-up of my gaming highlights for January were in a good idea.

So in no particular order my favourite bits of gaming were….

This one continues to just be a huge amount of fun for the five of us who invested in the game. We’ve managed to avoid any spoilers, and have slowly opened the various packs as required, and the whole thing has been huge buckets of dicey, warmongering silliness. I’m still uncertain as to how much replayability there will be now we’ve pretty much unlocked all the secrets, but even if we only play the fifteen games on the board I would be more than happy with what it has cost us.

Can’t say too much more about it without spoiling it, it’s Risk, it definitely rewards aggressive play, the dice hate me, grrrr bears.

Have been wanting to try this one for ages, and thanks to our friendly local game pimp we had the chance to try this one out recently.

 It has a lot of the things I like in games…worker placement, trying to read other players, being able to mess with other players plans, ways to build little scoring engines. The theme is a bit pointless, though I do like the art and the shiny gems. The placing workers between cards is genius, leading to a lot of thought over where to place and what possible options are available if you don’t get the card you want. There are a lot of tactical placement options if you keep an eye on what the other players are trying to achieve, which works pretty well with our group’s often aggressive yet friendly style of playing.

Overall, loved this one, just a huge amount of game in a small, cheap box.

Had the opportunity for a two player game when a gaming night fell apart so Karl and I got this one onto the table for a second time after our first learning game. I think Karl has pretty much come around to the idea of pushing small counters around so we’ll definitely be getting some more wargames on the table, but at the moment this one strikes a good balance of complex gameplay without too much rules overhead. The rules came back to us surprisingly quickly and at its heart it really is quite a simple system, with the only real fiddly part being the paperwork required to track income and technology.

It plays very much like your traditional 4X game, you spend the first few turns exploring and building your economy, a few more building bigger ships and things and then it’s all out war whilst trying to do all the other things at the same time. It’s yet another game that really rewards aggressive play and says so much in the rules…though I’m sensing a theme here with my friends. The paperwork really isn't too bad, but it does slow things down a little and that combined with the hidden units makes for quite a long playing time as it’s easy to lose track of exactly what ships you have where. The combat is simple and effective, with a variety of options to use technology and terrain to your advantage, you can sway the battles but there is room for crazy die rolls to make heroes of tiny little ships.

We've still only scratched the surface of this one, still haven’t moved beyond the basic rules, but it’s clear that it’s a game that requires a long session to make it work so it probably won’t hit the table all that often. Still I’d like to get some of the other rules in place, and possibly get a third or forth player involved for a really huge game.

There were a few more but I’ll stick with those three as highlights for me…now on to February and some more gaming, and hopefully some more posting.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Kickstarter - Ares Magazine

Got to give a very quick pimp for the new Ares Magazine Kickstarter. There's nothing much like this being published any more, outside of the historical wargaming magazines which come with a game like Strategy & Tactics. If they can make it work in that niche market, I think there may be a way to make it work for science fiction, though I imagine it'll be the game that sells the magazine rather than the short fiction.

I'm still a huge fan of short fiction magazines, buy some of the few that are still published and I collect some of the old ones when I find them. I know I'm in the minority though, so many of the short fiction magazines have gone out of business and the remaining ones don't have enormous subscription numbers from what I have read.

I  hope it succeeds because I'd like to see lots of issues.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone has had a fun and game filled 2013, I've played a load of interesting stuff and I'm looking forward to lots more gaming in the year to come.

Sadly the blog didn't quite recover from it's quiet period earlier in the year, but it's a New Year and I have some new enthusiasm so I'm going to try and make an effort to start updating the poor thing again. I've no idea what yet, probably some more solo gaming stuff, hopefully some more gaming from the group, might have to open it out into some more computer/video gaming as that has been eating into my time again.

Whatever it is, it'll be something. :)