New Years Day Cosmic Encounter

For the second time in slightly more than two years, we’ve hosted a New Years Day Cosmic Encounter party– this involves recovering from hangovers by drinking and playing Cosmic Encounter as many times as possible.  In both cases, this year was no exception.

We had 11 people this year so split into two tables of 5 and 6.  One group played with a base set and one expansion (the one with the Hazards) and the second group played with nearly everything except tech and space ports.    We had some cracking games, but my first game was the very first time I’d seen the Entropy Beast in action– it devours planets based on number of ships and a draw of a special card from the destiny deck.  Once one player is down to 2 planets, the game is over and everyone loses.   In most games that are player vs player, the fact that the board would suddenly ‘win’ the game would normally be a bit shite, but in Cosmic Encounter it’s really just par for the course.

Cosmic, again, shows it’s mettle as the best multiplayer board game in existence.  We had at least three people that had never played before and they were able to jump right in among the mimosas.

Party like it's 20015!
Party like it’s 20015!

Cosmic Encounter for the iPad/Android Kickstarter

xenophile
Yeah!

There is only one best board game in existence and it’s Cosmic Encounter.   What’s more, the Fantasy Flight version is absolutely superb and everyone should have it and play it.  That said, we can’t always get together to game in person, quite rarely actually, and while I played the current online version, it was really JUST the mechanics and is missing the biggest part– human interaction.

So I’m really quite excited about the direction the Cosmic Encounter iPad version is going.  First, they’ve stated that they won’t have a game engine powering the game– the pieces will be there but the PLAYERS figure out what to do with it.  That will free us up to handle all the crazy stuff, and they won’t have to program what amounts to an insane amount of edge cases that Cosmic Encounter would require.  In fact, Cosmic is a game of almost ALL edge cases!   Secondly the focus on Voice.  It’s going to be key for Cosmic to be fun in it’s (near to) true form that players can wheel and deal, and a little text box just isn’t going to cut it.

Anyway, I’ve gotten fucking hammered with Kickstarters lately (Feng Shui and the 13th Age Glorantha Kickstarters) and a few of the video game ones I’ve backed have been failures (Planetary Annihilation is a great example) so I was a little hesitant– but this is the king of all board games and could be a great experiment in both implementation of a social game and the evolution of Cosmic.

Here’s the link.

Gencon 2013 blatherings

Holy shit was it crowded. I’ve been there many years in a row (I think close to 20) and I have never, ever seen Gencon that crowded before.  All the parking lots were full, the entire con area was packed with people.  Normally you’ll see the same people around, the same security guards, the same cos-play nerds or larpers or insideout jelly doughnuts, but this year it was such a WAVE of humanity you’d never see the same people twice unless you went to the same type of regions in the gaming hall.

As this was Matt and Steve’s first time to the Con since it was in Milwaukee, I had some things to prove since I had been talking up Indy since it moved there– that it was and is far better than Milwaukee as a location for this large of a convention.  Milwaukee’s downtown is pretty but let’s face it, it’s got shitty hotels and it’s dangerous at night right in the area of the new convention center. What’s more, though I didn’t remember this much, Matt said that Milwaukee never welcomed Gencon as a city much, only tolerated it.

Indy is different for sure, the bars nearby all go into full fucking nerd mode when the con starts with odd menus and drinks. There seems to be a Warmachine bar and a Pathfinder bar–likely some others.  The people on the streets and in the attached mall (which is an actual mall, unlike the one in Milwaukee that is about as dead as you can get without being closed down) are confused by the gencon nerds, but not alarmed– they know there is a big ass nerd convention going on in the city and welcome it.  There are random gaming posters in shops, taxi’s hang dice from their rear view mirrors and so on.  All worshiping the nerd dollar descendant upon the town.

What’s more because the hotels are all connected (and quite nice) there is a massive and I mean massive party scene.  Remember the White Wolf parties circa 1996/97 at the Hilton with the kickboxing and tons of beers and drinks and chicks?  That’s going on every night of Gencon full on everywhere.

So what were we up to?  I got in late Thursday night and headed into the con messing around the crowded ass retailer hall until the 4PM Shadowfist tournament, which had a great turnout with 20 people.  I didn’t make the finals this year– but I played a REALLY crap deck and still pulled out a very lucky win in a game.   My other two Swiss games did not go well, but were fun.  I got to see what seems to be the trend after the endless big bruisers returning from the smoked pile of years hence:  endless big bruisers unturning and attacking over and over again.   Otherwise there was a TON of Ascended on the table this year compared to last. I counted four decks including mine.  After a poor showing in the last couple years for the transformed animals, that was great to see.  Mouth got to the final with his Bonechill deck but came in second.  We need to tune that fucker to win next year.  Matt’s deck was just not up to par and Steve’s relied on Infernal Army– while a big scary site-taker, is still basically a thug and got targeted for events or taken over more often than not.  Matt cornered some of the design team for Fist for awhile and gave them a probably undeserved earful about some of the issues with the game.  I guess I’d be happy if the Architects were back in the game and they didn’t have so many fucking NERD cards!!  Just slapping a nerd head on a previously created painting to fulfill a Kickstarter reward is not anyone’s idea of a card they want to look at.  Fuckn’ A.  What’s more, we encountered TWO decks where the player had centered their deck around a card with their picture on it.  This was terrible.  Otherwise, time will tell whether the new cards make a good effect on the game or if they are overpowered.  It certainly LOOKS like the dragons got a big boost.

Other than Shadowfist, we got in a few games of Seasons– which is excellent!  It’s in the Glory to Rome/Race  for the Galaxy vein, but the dice/action mechanic put it into the fun zone. While I wouldn’t say it’s better than Glory to Rome, I would play it over Race for the Galaxy and 7 Wonders any day (though both of those are excellent games as well).  Also we got in a horrible game of Eclipse where no one was attacking until the very end.  While I love the game, we’ve played so much I need a break from that one for awhile.

Shit that I saw.  My Little Ponies was fucking everywhere at the con.  For good reason, it’s a good show, but I think next year it will fucking EXPLODE even more.  There’s a CCG coming out that will likely be a Pokemon rip off (which is fine) that I’ll have to buy for my kids and I saw some odd mission based game. It’s certainly a franchise worth gaming up and while we look very much down upon the bronies from a high level and urinate– it IS a really good show for kids (and adults forced to watch it).  Even though it’s about female multihued ponies, the plotlines are excellent and much better than sitting through a five episode fight in Naruto…

A line at Fantasy Flight.  Yeah.. was this necessary?  They have some popular games for sure but a line? I think they are doing good work with the Star Wars license but… I am so fucking sick of the Star Wars license….let it go away again for a few years so we can like it again– it’s just been beaten to death.

King of Tokyo– I think the game is finally getting it’s due after a cult release as I saw it everywhere in the con and there was both a massive playset (with child sized monster stand ups) and a massive tournament going on.  This is a great game for beer and pretzels in the BANG vein and really good with the kids– even if they cannot read.

D&D Next? Where was it? Matt got the new book (which is chock full of art from the old sets) but I didn’t see anything special– especially compared to something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess–which is awful special (module called Fuck for Satan for instance).  I don’t know where WOTC are going to go with this next– but it’s nice to see all the Basic D&D and AD&D books reprinted beautifully after all these years.  Too bad AD&D fucking sucked.

Bolt Action.  I tried this out last year and I think it’s starting to get some traction.  There were five table setups this year for demos and the game looks great.  I splurged and filled out my 1000 point brits with a Cromwell and another infantry unit. I feel it’s a mash up of EPIC 40K and AT-43 and that’s a good thing.  So many tanks….

Here is my hoard of loots from the con.

genconscore13

New Cosmic Encounter expansion was probably the biggest score.  I picked up another box of On the Edge (10$) and the On the Edge survival book which from what I’ve heard is EXCELLENT shitter-reading materials.  Fist was cheap at the con this year.  I scored a box of Empire of Evil and a box of Critical shift for 60$ total.  If we are going to go Zman only for playing going forward, I needed these— and I still needed them.   I was looking for some Blood Wars but it was nowhere to be found.  Also, Dreamblade was in just a few nooks and crannies…if you were ever thinking of picking that shit up at all, the end is nigh and I bet in the next 4-5 years the prices for stuff starts climbing and climbing…

I did pick up some random stuff for Epic 40K– Razorbacks and Ork dreadnoughts.  I’m itching to get that played again.

It was a great con, much better than last year when I had that coughing crud people had for a couple months at a stretch and hadn’t slept for weeks.  It was all still a blur but that was due to self-imposed sleep deprivation and the demon drink.  I hope Matt, Steve and mouth can come along next year as we could all get into some Roleplaying games in addition to the other crap, which was sorely missed.  Even with 3 days at the con– it was not enough gaming!

Now we’re looking DIRECTLY down the barrels of Saints Row 4 and

Our year in board gaming 2012

This year I didn’t get a ton of gaming in compared to previous years.  That said, the games I want to play have narrowed quite a bit as what we don’t have is TIME, so faster games are getting played more.  Gone are the weekends where we could conceivably play something for two days in a row or for even 8 hours straight.  Anything over 4 hours is really never going to hit the table again unless it’s either really good or there is some exceptional circumstances.

End of the summer and Fall was slower for gaming as usual, but there was some fervor for a few games that made people really want to get out and push some wood on cardboard.   Mostly, that fervor was around Eclipse, which is the clear winner for best game (and most played)  over the course of this year. I got in 18 games of it, and seeing as most Risk-like strategy games I own have been played maybe 3-5 times ever, that’s saying something.   The game is almost perfect for the 4X space genre and really, my complaints about it are the mediocre alien art rather than anything to do with the game itself.  The first expansion is also excellent.  While Eclipse games can sometimes be a bit boring if all the players turtle up or get a bad draw (or are eliminated)–it’s due to lack of experience on how to rack up the points.  While totally dominating the 4X space genre (bye bye Twilight Imperium), Eclipse by no means takes the place of Cosmic Encounter as both the best sci-fi board game and best board game ever made but shit– it’s close.

Other than Eclipse, Glory to Rome is my second favorite for the year.  While an older game, it had a reprint this year and it kicks ALL sorts of ass.  It’s what we all wanted Race for the Galaxy to be and just didn’t know it at the time.  There are just so many paths to victory, and while you are trying to set up your own stuff, like Race for the Galaxy, there’s much more interaction with other players.  I think this will get played an absolute TON in 2013.  Easy set up, easy to play, difficult to win and a Knizia level of nastiness makes for a total winner.

Second tier games that I liked but got pushed out by the two above:  King of Tokyo is the first of the equals here.  I love this game and will play it any time but it’s really light, doesn’t have  much strategy and I can see some people not liking the randomness of it.  There are some tough decisions to make in the game, but at it’s surface, it seems all about just rolling dice.   The dice are a factor however, so this is why I like to play 3-4 games in a sitting to even all that random out.  Secondly is the Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre.  This is a fun little game but with too many players, say 5+, the turns take forever and because you have to win 2 rounds the game can take 3-4 HOURS to get through.  Sitting down to just play a single round is well worth it.  While light and not very strategic, the art and getting to yell out the spells makes it a solid game to play when you don’t have a ton of time.

The last two are games I wanted to like, but am not sure about.  First is Blood Bowl Team Manager.  While a solid concept, I became frustrated in two four-player games where I was the last player to go on the first season of each game, limiting my play options.  It seemed impossible to catch up in either game and made me think that this is a serious design flaw.  While I love Blood Bowl, and Team Manager is a cool concept, I can’t see this hitting the table due to this balance issue.  In contrast,  In Nexus Ops, the players after the first get a bonus to their cash to balance out the power of the first turn.   Team Manager has no such fix and from my few plays at the wrong end of the table, it needs it.  Secondly: Feudality by Tom Wham.  This is also a fairly light game with a lot of randomness to it.  I’d describe it as Catan with fighting.    While enjoyable to play, the same dice issues that I have with Catan creep up in Feudality and it doesn’t seem like you can knee-cap the player closest to winning easy.  I don’t expect it to hit the table all that much.

Games that fell by the wayside this year a bit.   First off is Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I hate to say it but I only got in a few games this year while painting a lot more than I usually do.  I assume I’ll get in another game before the end of year, but this SHOULD have been played a lot more than it was.   Sure I could have packed up my shit and gone to the GW store any given Sunday for a game, but it’s tough when you have a basement set up with a table.

Secondly, I only got to play Cosmic Encounter FOUR times this year.  That’s a crying shame and has to be rectified in 2013.

I did get in some old stuff this year that proved to be pretty awesome.   The first was Epic 40K, the third iteration of the Space Marine rules– yes the ones that TANKED after 6 months of support from GW. I was surprisingly pleased with the rules and wish now that I had played it a lot more in the heyday (if there was one) for this ruleset.  Bolt Action uses these rules (essentially), so if you are looking at a modern iteration, that’s where to go.  Following the old GW vein, I was coerced into playing 40K, a game I rather loathe since the new ‘mass close combat’ style rules came out, but in it’s 2nd edition which still has some tactical depth for the scale with individual models rather than moving globs of models en masse (which is ok for EPIC scale, but 28 mm skirmish? No).

Shockingly, Advanced Space Crusade got raised out of the dust and played.  This is one of Games Workshops pinnacles of design with both a campaign game and tactical game wrapped in one.  While not something I could play a lot of, it’s a solid experience and one of GW’s best 40K offshoots.

So that was 2012– what is there to look forward to in 2013?  First off is Talisman City.  Fantasy Flight is tackling one of the more difficult to design expansions to Talisman.  If the success of Dungeon is any indication, I have a lot of confidence that City will be excellent.  Talisman has a ton of expansions at this point and I’ve played with all of them but Dragons, which looks like a lot more work than integrating the rest of the expansions.   Moongha Invaders is the next on my list for 2013– and a kickstarted I’ve supported.  Other than that, there’s not too much that’s coming out next year for board games that I know of now.  I’m sure there will be something to grab at my hard earned cash and if not, there is always Eclipse…

2012!

We made it.   Great to see everyone that was in town for the week between Xmas and New Years and we had a bit of a gaming deluge, though it cost a shocking amount of sleep to pull off.   I’m hoping someday in the future the fruit of my loins learn how nice it is for them to sleep in.  When you’re thanking your lucky stars that you don’t have to get up until 6:30AM on a day you have off, that’s pretty sad.

There's a hand size difference here.

Yesterday was our first annual Cosmic Encounter tournament on New Year’s day.  We had 9 players and split into two tables, the winners of which moved on to a final at the champions table.   The first two games had two shared wins so the final was a four person instead of five.

The final was Tripler, Fungus, Bully, and the Mercenary.  The Fungus won the day with an attack on the Bully with four huge stacks of fungaloided ships.  Appropriately, Fungus was played by the notorious JP Duvall.  He shared a win in the preliminary and then convinced everyone in the final that they should only try to win it alone and only he was able to pull it off.  Hopefully everyone had fun and had good eats and got to talk a lot of trash.  I thought we should have a best of the worst game for the losers, but we ended up playing Dragon Lairds instead.

Today was Warhammer madness.   I got in a 3 man game with my beastmen vs the Vampire Counts and Lizardmen at 3000 points per side which meant I had to put every model I owned on the table (so many still sadly unpainted).  We rolled ‘Battle for the Pass’ so the board was cramped like craze with no real flanks to speak of.  My beastmen ambush was useless, but I managed to pull out a win due to a very very stubborn and extremely pissed off Gor unit that started 50 in number and ended the game with a mere nine after trashing a  unit of Blood Knights, a Skink/Kroxigor mixed unit and some grave guard that were ineffective on the flank.   The highlights of the game include both of my ‘flanks’ evaporating as beastmen ran away at the sight of Chaos Hounds being spanked in combat, the Stegadon getting sucked down into a Pit of Shades (after the dispell dice came up one short!) and Skinks taking out a razorgor and my Giant in the same turn (gahhh!).  Lord Lobo may post a battle report so I don’t want to go into too much detail but it was quite a butchers bill.  After 10 games or so with the Beasts, my tactical advice is to–no matter what–get stuck in as fast as possible– don’t mill about at all, and don’t let a few units of zombies get in the way– if you hit tarpits– HIT them and move on.  The beasts insane close combat prowess will likely carry the day if you can get them into touch.  If your opponent feels like they were randomly punched in the face on the bus when playing your beastmen, you’re doing it right.

3000 points of beasts playing short sides is a dangerous affair if you table edges aren't blocked off...

More more more COSMIC ENCOUNTER!

Animal: doesn't like not getting invited

FF just released a smidgen of details for the up coming Cosmic Alliance expansion.

Races for sure in:  Gorgon, Schizoid, Animal (new), Cyborg (I think new too).  I’m going to dig out my Mayfair version tonight to review the aliens I think will be in this new expansion. I’m hoping for SILENCER above all as that is a doozy of a power.   While it has pieces for another player, what’s best about this expansion is what it does not have in it:  LUCRE.  Lucre is essentially Cosmic Encounters version of money/trade goods and it made playing with ‘everything’ in the Mayfair expansion a tower of suck.  By this time with the FF version we have tech, we have hazards– so the designers were probably reaching for new stuff to put in (obviously they have tons of aliens to choose from) and lucre was undoubtedly on the list of considerations.  Here’s to the designers for not putting that in the game!

What’s sad is we have only played four times this year…