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.