MOLES, BITCH!

I couldn’t help myself and printed out the PnP of the The Great Dutchy of the Moles from the new Root kickstarter and we got in a couple games with them plus the base four factions (Cats, Alliance, Vag, Eyrie). Here’s my view of the Moles so people can see if they fit their play style.

The Moles start with a single tunnel on the board that connects to their off-board ‘cave’ where the moles swarm from. The mole cave connects to ALL the mole tunnels, so the more tunnels you have out on the board, the easier you can move your guys around. Moles have a terrible action economy at the beginning of the game with only two actions to take (cats have three in contrast). Their actions are similar to the Cats: Move, battle, recruit, build (factories or citadels), dig (add a tunnel) so if you are familiar with the Marquise, you will easily pick up how to play the Moles.

Despite their weak and slow start, the Moles can elect members of their underground species to parliament by revealing matching sets of cards (2, 3 and 4 depending how far you are up the parliamentary track), which begins to increase their action economy. This is a bit like the bird’s decrees… and is also fairly unstable. Once officers are placed in parliament, you can take their action every single turn. Most are Move or Recruit, draw cards, etc., but three of them score points off the buildings on the board, which is the main mechanism for scoring for the moles. Other than crafting and destroying stuff, the Moles get points for electing officers and using officer actions to score points. Unfortunately if you lose buildings due to battle, you also lose officers permanently (much like the Riverfolk’s trading posts).

The Moles need to control areas to build buildings, keep lots of cards in their hands (and not use them!) in order to get parliament filled up as well as watching their scoring to not alarm the other players…

Like the Cats and the Birds, the Moles are useful to police the forest against the non-area control factions (Vag, Lizards, Riverfolk and Alliance), so you need to stake your claims on the board and then kick the crap out of those little bastards if they come around. You will need to likely make an alliance with one of the other police factions or you’ll both end up losing badly.

The Moles are an interesting design, basically a new take on the Marquise de Cat but with a little of the Alliance and Eyrie mixed in. I’ve played twice with them so far, and in one the Cats pulled out the win in the end, with the Dutchy in second place, the second place (5 player game) the moles ended up lagging mid game and in 3rd place. They are very much about take-and-hold with them being pretty useless scattered around the board since they really really need to protect their buildings once they start scoring points.

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.

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.

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.

Long Gamehole con 2018 post

Got to Gamehole con Friday and Saturday to good effect.   Yet, again I think it’s the best con in Wisconsin aside from Gary Con, which is great on account of it’s location in Lake Geneva and it’s focus on old school RPG’s (which includes the current incarnation of D&D).

The dealer hall was small, but had a good selection. There was one vendor that had superlative deals on board games (like you’d see on Amazon) and that was a feeding frenzy. I had to get out of there without spending anything, but my friend’s certainly did.

Friday was all board games, all damn day and it was great. I like to try stuff either from my collection or from other people’s that I haven’t tried before so that’s what we did.  Saturday we played Numenera for half the day and then got back into the board games.  ALL of my events were apparently cancelled so I wasted some money on those.  Michael Curtis’s DCC events were all gone, so that sucked.

First up was a co-op called Batman the Animated Series.  Most of the time I despise the co-op games and avoid them as much as possible on account of the quarterbacking issue and most of them are pretty boring after more than one or two plays.  This was a decent game.  Moved fast, was not super quarterbacky and we were playing with the designer (Mike) who did give suggestions on what to do, but he wasn’t like I would be if I knew the game (i.e.: terrible).    Actions are definitive and you can really do a lot of crazy stuff in order to meet the Act’s goals.  The buildings are neat but they block line of sight to the other parts of the city a bit if you are sitting down.  I could see this ‘engine’ being great for a game of alien invasion (say the Invid from Robotech) BUT where each player has a secret goal as well as the goal of saving the world to shut down any possibility of quarterbacking.

Matt caught Eric Lang walking around and talked to him about Rising Sun (a great game) and other stuff.

Saga of the Norsemen.  This is an area control point salad game.  I remember them playtesting this up at Game Universe a few years back.  This is not a bad game at all, but has some typos that caused MASS confusion when we first started (Chieftains are heroes or?? what).   Overall though I think this plays solid with enough people.  You try to influence the Viking countries (by having the most influence in each which is handled by card draws) and direct where they go viking so you can get the spoils.  I’m not sure who YOU are supposed to be in the game (an arms dealer? a viking god?).   Matt did not like this one all that much, but better than the next one.

Bunny Kingdom.  This is a drafting area control point salad.  In fact it is probably the ultimate in this type of game. I liked it at first but as the game wore on there was a lot of maths and then more maths.  There are people that will love this game– trying to squeeze out point here and there and set up comboes, but near the end of the game it was obvious the winner had been determined during the third turn and there was no catching up.  Neither of the other players dug this much.  Very EASY to play though.  This made me simply want to play Feudality by Tom Wham.

Next up was Victory Or Death (a Quartermaster General game).  I have a thing for the long, terrible war between Sparta and Athens which ended up completely pointless and could have destroyed Western civilization as we know it.  This game pits Corinth and Sparta vs the Delian League and Athens in the typical ‘card deck is your economy and war powers’ quartermaster game.  Needless to say, if you like 1914, you will dig this game.  I enjoy the theme a lot more despite the fact that I got my ass kicked as the Delian League/Athens vs Justin and Matt.  I do take consolation that the Spartans were terribly frustrated during the game with all of their attempts to do anything shut the fuck down, and it was Corinth that eventually took Athens.  The supply rules in this game are a bit difficult to grok, but the rest is very easy.  Excellent game.

Colt Express.  This is a Robo Rally type of game where you play as bandits trying to rob a train and shoot each other.  Theme is excellent and the components are very interesting.  It’s not a deep game, and I can’t see repeatedly playing this, but it was fun.  There’s a mcguffin that you pretty much need to get in order to win the game and that can be difficult to figure out at first.  I knocked the shit out of the holder of it multiple times, but couldn’t pop it out of his possession.  I’d play this again with the kids.

Fairy Tile.  I had my daughter with on Saturday and so we busted out some lighter fair.  This is a game where you try to move three pieces on a board in order for you to play cards from your hand. You have 10 cards and you win if you are able to play them all.  It’s a tricky little game that plays fairly fast.  I like the tri-hex board (I use that in my upcoming game as well) and the components, art and the miniatures are top drawer.  I can’t see playing this with adults much, but with kids– great.

Keyforge-this is our the game of the con.  They should have had a lot more decks/stuff available for people to buy instead of this pre-release BS!  This was at a game con for fucksakes four days away from the game’s release– just sell the stuff.  Anyway, we got some decks after the demo and were pleasantly surprised at how good it is. While the TYPE of game that it is is nothing really crazy, the fact that you collect DECKS instead of cards is something really special and frankly, sort of insane.  My kid said: “out of five stars the game is a six.”

I will be doing a post just about keyforge shortly after playing 10-20 times for the two readers of this blog that may think they want to buy it.

Shadowfist Updates

The new Shadowfist owners were at Essen and did a short interview with OneTableTop on the plan for the game.   Watch it here.

Don’t feel like watching? Here is the core info:

  1. Architects will have a preconstruct deck along with 3 other factions (not sure which but you can probably guess)
  2. There will be a kickstarter relatively soon.

So yep, until that kickstarter launches, Shadowfist is still dead, but the moment it does hit, let’s see what happens.  I backed the last kickstarter on account of the archies being back in the game so the new one will be no different.

We will be watching this closely!