Garycon 2019!

Garycon was this past weekend and I was able to go Friday and Saturday to game the fuck out of it. Always a great time, it’s one of those cons that I very much hope does not get any bigger because the venue, the attention you get from the staff, and the small but cool set of events are not something that should be forced to change due to overgrowth. While I really dig Game Hole Con, that thing is going to get bigger and bigger until it’s rival to Gencon itself. Garycon, hopefully, not so much.

Most years we get in some RPG games (mostly DCC) at garycon, but this time it was all board games. Matt went Thursday and mentioned that the game library was very small (they didn’t use Milcog which is at Gencon and Gamehole con) so we had to schlep a ton of our games to around the place. Luckily, unless we have an event, we go to the same spot every year, park our sweaty asses there and don’t move for the whole fucking weekend.

FRIDAY. I’m going to call Friday exactly what it was: eurotrashday. Now I like a good euro, and I generally like to try new games, but this was a bit too much worker placement for a single day.

We started out with the excellent but messy (and poorly graphic designed) Terraforming Mars. This took a long time, but the experience of playing was quite fun, and we were fresh and not drunk. While not super easy to learn, it was easy to relate the systems and mechanics to what was going on on the board quite a bit more than the next few games. I’d play again.

Between the Euros we did get a game of ROOT in. I pretty much told everyone that I would be satisfied to play ROOT all goddamn weekend, and that I needed to play it at LEAST once per day so people were aware. Root is not a euro (it’s only called that by eurofreaks who couldn’t possibly lower themselves to play an ameritrasher) so there was a bit of a reprieve. The game that day was a Vagabond, Lizard Cult, Cats and Birds game. It was surprising win for the Lizard Cult, even more surprising when after the game we realized that Matt had not been discarding his cards whenever he scored garden clearings. It’s a wee bit more difficult to score with the Lizards than that! People are starting to get better with them though and that’s excellent because they are nasty.

The next euro we got the wooden cubes out for was Gugong : a game where you play a faction trying to get the most influence in the Forbidden City for reasons I’m not totally sure of. This is a worker-placement-point-salad-solo game with very little interaction between players but a neat looking board and peices. Gugong was really difficult for me to learn after playing Terraforming Mars (and playing Root), but was basically placing stuff on the board to generate points, either inexpensive and late, or expensive and early and hope that whatever you were doing generated more points by the end of the game that the other players doing the same thing. This game seems to have about 30% more crap on the board to do than needed with an area where you could float your cubes around on boats and ride a little horse around as well as trying to complete a wall, moving up a track through a little village… it was incomprehensible thematically to me and just seemed like a mess of linked mechanics. Gugong wasn’t terrible, but just has nothing to recommend it over tighter euros.

The last game of the day was one I really did not like, but it had some great art and graphic design: Coimbra. I’m not sure what to say about this one except I wished, based on the theme, that I was playing Princes of the Renaissance instead. I did not know what was going on in this one, and just chose the tiles with pretty girls on them most of the time. One incredibly annoying thing was the variable turn order. I wanted to switch seats with people but of course you have this big tableau of tiles in front of you. I’d likely play the others again if pressed (especially terraforming mars), except for this one.

SATURDAY! This is the day we played the good shit, but it was loooong. We got to the con pretty late in the morning and immediately started a massive game of Eclipse with likely too many expansions and new races and shit. It’s a great game, but they pumped out the expansions there for awhile and unless you play A LOT of the base game, I just don’t see the need.

This was a slog, and a very low-tech game so battles took a long time. I hope the second edition consolidates some of these expansions and just keeps the good shit. While I appreciate a game where a bad hex pull can ruin you for a couple turns, with the ‘moving ancients’ your whole game can be fucked for good. With a game this long, that’s not good.

Next up was the amazing game of the CON: DUNE. I brought my old set that I’d had since high school, that has no more player aid sheets and has pubes in the box that are older than my kids (hey, we played on the floor some times…). We had a full 6 players and lest you forgot how good this game is, or never knew, let me remind you. You see where the storm goes, you see where the spice lands, you bid on cards (the only tedious part of the game) and then each player lands stuff on the planet and moves one army. That’s the whole game! Yet in those simple phases is one of the greatest war games that also fundamentally nails the feel of the conflict from the book perfectly.

I drew the Bene Gesserit and immediately wanted to get retribution on the game of Dune and all players after a loss years ago to them in a game when I destroyed everyone as the Harkonnen’s on turn 2 AS PREDICTED and lost.

For the prediction, looking at the board and players: newer Harkonnen player, totally new Emperor and Guild player, strong Atreides player and experienced Fremen player. I chose the Fremen on turn 4, which is a bit of risk since the game can be over (with a worm appearance) on turn 2/3 after alliances are made. The Harkonnen and Atreides were hammered off the board by the Fremen, Guild and Emperor in the first couple turns and based on the board positioning, I got lucky and a worm wasn’t drawn until turn 4. The Fremen made an alliance with the Guild, both of whom had strong board presence and it was all over but the yelling and crying as the Bene Geserit again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat (I think I had 2 pieces on the board at the end).

right on the cusp of mid-game.

The last game of the day was another game of ROOT, this time with 6 players! This was an awesome game and took place during the Goodman Game’s free beer and chocolate bar party in the same area, so people kept coming round to see how things were progressing. We were intensely into the game and even with that, it went until 12:30 or so AM where I was able to squeeze out a win with the Riverfolk with the Vag and Lizard Cult nipping at my heels! I was able to put away the win because of a single, unprotected garden that had been ignored in a mouse clearing far away from the action (remember Lizards control any clearing where they have a garden no matter what) allowing me to place a trading post and hit 30 points. Great game, lots of shit talk and yelling of the word fuck.

There’s also a ton of radical pictures I took of the miniatures area I’ll throw into another post.

Baiken

You know when you see the birthdate of some fighting game character and you are like oh that’s fucking lame… why even put that? Then after decades of playing with that character via many different games you start to remember the month and then generally the day and then you look on the internet and people post happy birthday and you feel.

So yeah, Baiken. Her tits have gotten huge and she seems to drink more as well, but overall Guilty Gear XRD has done great work with the update from back in the GG X2 days. She’s got one arm, some sort of cannon, a chain thing and always busting out with the tatami mats to the face. What’s not to love?

I haven’t played GG for awhile– been doing the Blazblue Central Fiction since last Summer since my kids gravitated to it more than GG XRD. I feel like I’m better at Blazblue by far even though I think it’s a more difficult game to master.

Mythras Early Modern

We started Lamentations of the Flame Princess up about 8 months ago as a break from 13th Age (which had been going on for a couple years there). I didn’t mean it to go that long, but Remy Pardue wasn’t as quick to be manhandled and burned and what happened after led to a bunch of…complications. This in addition to the normal adult scheduling problems that don’t allow any room for RPG’s at all without a ton of effort and planning made for something that should have taken a month or so take many months.

That said, I had a good time running LotFP, and we are going to continue the campaign with the same characters (the ones that survived that is) but with Mythras rather than LotFP.

The players (including myself) wanted something still low fantasy, with more meat to the characters and a better system for skills/ combat, experience etc. So why not go with the absolute best solution to all of those things: Mythras.

As I convert characters, I noticed that there is now a Roll20 characters sheet for Mythras games! This makes it a lot easier to play and even has a ton of fancy rolling mechanisms that will make my (easy) job of running the game easier.

One of the things I love about Mythras is that despite it’s apparent complexity, except for the magic systems and a few edge cases, I can run the game without the book at all. My only complaint about the complexity is that it’s difficult to change the GRADE of tasks because of the maths, and by difficult it’s really about combating an important tool for all GM’s to have: laziness. Post running Exalted 2E, I’ve pushed myself hard to re-acquire the trait that I had as a childe and teenage GM: laazzzzzziness. Don’t stress over the fucking super details, it’s just not worth it as long as you can cobble it all together in the session and then take good notes afterwards.

So Mythras here we come. In addition to Loz and Pete (the RQ6 /Mythras guys), I want to give a shout out to this guy: hkokko, who is responsible for a ton of content and templates on the Mythras encounter generator, which has and will make my life so much easier.

Another day, another game of ROOT

First off, the second expansion was just announced:

Looks like the mole people (which was hinted at last summer) and another bird faction (Corvid conspiracy) which looks like Rooks, Crows, Jackdaws and magpies. Also a new board and what the heck would a second game deck be? Maybe different types of clearings/animals on the board?

March 14th and then possibly in our hands this Summer or into the Fall.

Getting tired of playing Root yet? Not me! Tonight I played my 20th game with Maaat and the childrens. While I’ve only had a couple five player games, I’ve had a great time with 4, 3 and some good 2 player games (some bad ones too) as well as playing 2 players vs the mechanical Marquise de Cat, which is pretty brutal.

I want to say straight off that this is a VERY addicting game. Much like Blood Rage, Study in Emerald and Talisman– you just don’t know what’s going to happen and how things will play out. Sometimes you get your ass kicked, other times you get lucky and other times you find some strategy or tactic that really pays dividends BUT you try that same thing in the next game and it doesn’t go anywhere! Take that you euros!

Why is this game addicting? It’s the play of the game which is a combination of very easy mechanics (while varied) and tons of tough decisions along with a surprising amount of freedom of action on the board. Root has both excellent Flow as the game’s pace is fairly quick (until it gets to the Eyrie player who has a puzzle every turn to figure out) as well as constantly creating these interesting moments of narrative and conflict.

Let me talk about a game last week. The VAGabond won handily with the Woodland Alliance nipping at it’s heels and all others dragging behind. I was the Cats again and I did not fair well– I think with 5 players it’s very difficult for the Cats to win since the board is so crowded with enemies but that’s a topic for another post.

So this vagabond had a tactic I hadn’t seen before, they were the Scoundrel which is a VAGabond that starts with no sword, but a crossbow, boots and can blow up an entire clearing once per game by permanently expending his Torch. The fact that he has no sword to start seems like it would totally suck and that would be the first thing you would go for in the ruins. However not having a sword as the Vag means that unless they intentionally use their crossbow to kill a warrior or fires off the Scoundrel’s pyro bomb in a clearing, he cannot become hostile to the other factions, even if they attack him and damage his items since he cannot “remove a warrior,” which is a prerequisite for him becoming hostile. Instead of attacking and scoring via killing the other player’s warriors, he kept a sword he eventually got in the damaged box which allowed him to go the alliance route. This allows the Vag to score 2 points for every card they give to allies. This can wrack up 4-6 points per turn still only using one boot per clearing move. What’s more, he could drag his allies armies around the board, exposing their buildings to other enemies.

While other players tried in frustration to hammer the vagabond down, it was very difficult because of his mobility (due to not being hostile and having to spend 2 boots) and no one could shut him down before he won.

This is very different than the typical Ranger vagabond that starts slow but then goes on a kill crazy rampage until the board is a warrior free wasteland. It’s this type of play, things you definitely won’t see in every game of Root, that makes the game so amazingly varied and addictive.

Advice to new players– be mean and smash the vagabond (or vagabonds) as early as possible. This can be very difficult as the Cats because each action is so precious at all times and nearly impossible for the Lizards who are stuck messing around only in the outcast clearings.

The Root of the matter

2018 turned out to be a even better a year for board games than I originally thought (and the year was pretty awesome to begin with) and that’s on account of this little wargame called ROOT. I had the game on order at my local game store for quite some time, but it was sold out after the kickstarter arrived last summer. It finally came in and I’ve played four times, twice with adults, and twice with kids. Like Rising Sun, Eclipse, Blood Rage and Lords of Hellas, ROOT is one badass fucking game.

A lot of people know and have played this since it’s release last summer and for good reason. The the game has a lot of elements from many great games (GMT COIN games, Dune, Magic Realm, Fief, Armello, and a bunch more to boot) and all that got poured into a mixer and through massive amounts of playtesting, it came out quite good.

Root is definitely the hotness now on BGG and the second printing is likely going to sell out. I’m amazed that people on BGG like this one as it is a brutal wargame for most factions, and totally in your face (much like Dune) right from the outset. What’s more, it has PHASES of turns rather than the typical 2-actions and then play passes to the next player that’s very popular right now (for good reason). Maybe the era of thousands of shitty co-op games, or games with little to no interaction while you build your own little economic engines is starting to be over. One thing I felt while playing is if you like this, I think you could like Advanced Squad Leader quite a bit…

The core element to Root is that the factions are so very different it seems at first that you are playing a different game on the same map, however, your goals will conflict with nearly everyone else’s goals almost all of the time. As the factions are very different, you may not like playing as some of them, which could interfere with your enjoyment of the game. Here are the factions (that I’ve experienced) and which to pick based on what type of person you are. The conflict between the Marquese de Cat and the Eyrie is the central conflict in Root so I would pretty much always have one or both of those in a game, but it’s OK not to like nor play either of them ever, as long as some of your friends like them.

Marquies de Cat: This is the Atreides of the game, or the human Imperium in Warhammer 40k– they have taken a savage fucking beating from all the other factions in the games I’ve played, and it seems like they can get nullified completely mid-game with no chance to win. However, they have a lot of options for how to proceed and have very strong area control early game. Play them if you like building stuff or being in the thick of the fighting all the time. I’ve played them three times and find that they are easy to play, but VERY difficult to do well with.

Eyrie: This is the super-aggressive faction, (think Tyranid swarm) but glass jawed. The other players can see what you are planning and act accordingly. Play them if you like to just wreck shit (mostly the Cats) and play an all-out-war faction. While they can be hamstrung and they are the only faction that can loose victory points, If they get rolling, they are very difficult to stop.

Woodland Alliance (i.e: the ‘loafs’): These guys remind me of the elves in a bunch of other games. Few warriors on the board at one time, none at the start of the game in fact, but can hit all over the place and are costly to attack. They can score a lot of points, yet are very fragile to disruption and interdiction. Play if you like to play the quiet game until such time it’s no longer time to be quiet and if you like to punish people that attack you and gain from it.

Vagabonds: Rather than an army or faction, this is a single dude wandering around the forest. There are a bunch of different vagabonds you can play with as well. I’ve been in games with the Tinker, Wolf and the insane Pumkincat-thing. Some of them have crazy effects (the Possum…wow.). Some vagabonds are helpers, some are basically serial killers. Playing the Vagabond is ‘adventure’ mode with quests for the win OR Fist Full of Dollars/Yojimbo style where you can work with or hurt various factions in the game to score points, then go hide. Frankly, with newer players, the Vagabond has the best chance to win since they are left alone FAR too long and too often. In a few of the games, the vagabond was very peaceful, but in one, it destroyed a third of the shit on the board by the end. Play this if you like to sneak around, don’t want to bother with area control and possibly get really good at destroying the other faction’s armies. Root would just be a war game without the Vagabond, and I think it REALLY shows how cool the design of the game is to have a faction that is so incredibly different from the others like this.

I haven’t had a chance to play as the Riverfolk Company or Lizard Cult yet.
Out of the factions, I like de Cats the best so far personally, likely because everyone attacks me in every game anyway and playing them is a big ass come at me bro with bells on.

While I recommend the game, one thing to note is that Root is a wargame, like the excellent Lords of Hellas, it rewards aggression and is highly interactive, the opposite of something like Brass or Ticket to Ride.

Frostgrave Again!

Here are some shots from our day of Frostgrave this weekend. Fun stuff! A great, very cheap to get into game of wizard warfare in the frozen city. This was only my second (and third) time playing, so I can’t make a ton of comments having only 8-10 hours of play in, but there are some things I really dig about it. It’s easy to build a warband, the most difficult thing being selecting spells/school of wizardry. The rules, while a bit sloppy on the edges, are very clear with the entire game being run off of two D20’s per player (of different colors). The dice in the game matter, especially since it’s a D20 rather than a smaller die size. If your dice are hot, you are going to do really well, if they are in the shits, you are going to be eating snow and frozen mud. While some players have found this abhorrent, I believe this is a feature of Frostgrave.

Stuff I don’t like all that much is archery being very powerful. I can’t attest to this over many games played, but you can do a ton of damage to a warband via archery. This was a common problem in the early days of Mordheim as well though…. make sure your tables are chock full of cover (it is a ruined city after all).

You need to remember as a player that your non-wizard/apprentice figures are FODDER. They don’t level up and they can be replaced pretty easily. My initial warband was a couple of dogs, two templars, a thief, an archer and (usually) a summoned bear. Templars are slow but horrifying to face in combat. Like two handed guys in Lord of the Rings SBG, you pair them with a normal dude and have the two-hander attack for a +6 fight score with +2 to the damage– which is enough to break armor with a roll of 6 on a D20 for most troops. I may have gone with a barbarian but I couldn’t find any painted miniatures.

One of my games took FOREVER on account of the fact that there isn’t a ‘bottle out’ rule like in Necromunda/Mordhiem and the fact that there was fog and mud EVERYWHERE. You can get your little maings to fight to the death no matter how outnumbered or outclassed. Matt complained about his luck, but the fact is, that shit happens when you play with unpainted miniatures. He should know this by now.

Otherwise, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

I’m proud to say that both my witch and his/her apprentice are rockin g-strings!
The first battle revolved around this magnificent Inn
My Witch trapping a summoned imp on the balcony with treasure…

Lords of HellASS!

We’ve gotten a couple games of Lords of Hellass and I have some initial thoughts. This is one of those hero/RPG/PVP/Conquest war game type of games and one that comes off at first as a total mess of subsystems, but is an enjoyable whole.

This game gets some love initially from me as I had a summer where my buddy Dan and I played through this old Apple game called “Return of Heracles” where you take on the role of various Greek heroes and heroines and try to complete quests. We would run until our hero got killed and then the next guy would take up the mantle and try to make a run. I had some attraction to this game since it was announced, but didn’t get in on the kickstarter and stuff (way too many kickstarters….).

Subsystems is the name of the game when you sit down to learn and play Hellass. Your hero has their own powers, you can fight with your armies, you can fight monsters with your hero, you can complete quests with your hero, you can build monuments with your priests, and so on. It’s a lot to learn, and not all of it is easy. Take your first game and call it a learning game right from the outset. I know a lot of people are heavily competitive and want to win all games, even to the point of withholding information from other players the first time they play in order to win. See below* for how to win your first game of Hellas without having to learn many of the rules.

Despite the game’s subsystem madness, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and if two of my friends didn’t own it already, I would definitely pick it up. It is very very ameritrash, in your face and not coop at all, which is refreshing. Nor is the game a false-Ameritrash game like Scythe (a Keyflower-like Euro that looks like an ameritrashery war game). You must compete against the other heroes and their armies, often directly. There is a lot of shit all over the table, cards, miniatures, tokens but it’s nothing like say Warrior Knights (from fantasy flight, not the GW version). Yet the game is not super long, which is a massive plus.

The Gods are well worth mentioning. They are these awesome multi-part monument miniatures that you slowly build over the course of the game to give your hero level-ups when your priests go pray. You MUST build these and get priests to level up. Priests are tied to the number of temples each player controls on the board. This set of mechanics allows people that are into the war/area control part of the game as a strategy to stop others who are trying to level up their heroes in order to take on monsters and quests for the win.

On the flip side, Quests, when completed, allow the heroes to take over parts of the board for free! There is some nice interplay between the sub-systems, and you cannot just go all-war in the game (unless it’s your first time playing).

All in all, Lords of Hellas is pretty crazy to learn not due to the overall complexity or individual complexity of the systems, but due to the amount of subsystems there are. The game won’t be super easy for new players to get into vs experienced players, but it gets a big fuck yes from me because of the theme, the miniatures, and the gameplay. I have a soft spot for games that feel like a mess like this (ie Dungeon Degenerates) where players have TONS of options and nothing seems optimal, but are actually pretty tight when you learn the game. We’ll see how Hellass stands the test of gaming time.

*to win your first game. Take Laconia (Sparta) as fast as possible, grow a ton of hoplites and go for the area-control win. Other players will be goofing around with the other parts of the game (hunting monsters and doing quests, making statues) that you should be able to pull out a win in turn 3 or 4.