Root – big player count guide!

Ah the chaos of six or seven players in a single game of Root, the chaos is too good to pass up if you get the chance, even if Root was not really built for this many players. Just like Blood Rage: slipping in that 7th faction into the box begging to be played with TOO MANY players, Root has seven factions with the base set and expansions…so far.

While six player Root is insane, the core issues with the game at seven, with two vagabonds, is that space runs out really fast for area control factions (Cats, Birds, Moles), the crafting items run out really fast and double-vagabonds cause tons of chaos on the board with few repercussions to themselves if the other factions are fighting like crazy. While this may seem to give the vagabonds the win every time, in my experience, they end up in second or third place instead.

Who’s absolutely not winning big games are the area control factions. Cats have a rough time in every game due to very slow scoring and the huge risk a playing a dominance card entails with this many players– it’s nearly impossible to catch everyone out of position at the same time in order to pull one off. Birds need to expand and control, and the latter is nearly impossible with seven factions, many of whom will be constantly bombing off your big armies and roosts or co-exist-blocking your control/movement so you get that extra collapse you didn’t plan for. Moles can burst up wherever at first, but then they too get into the area control game in order to score points and not have their parliament destroyed (which it will). This is a small strategy guide for the area control factions with 7 (and maybe 8 and 9 players soon…).

Communication. With an experienced group, you could pull it off with the Cats, Moles or Birds, but you must work together from turn 1 enough to stop the other factions. New and even intermediate players don’t really talk enough and make plans, and that’s a mistake in this large of a game. You need to be constantly talking about everything all the non-area control factions are doing because it’s not always obvious, and certainly not as obvious as a piles of cats in two corners of the board, the spread of the birds, or the initial Mole’splosion.

I’m still learning the strategy of Root, but compared to any normal person, after nearly 40 games and quite a few big ones, I know everything. Below are some non-faction specific tips for the area-control factions. You better know your faction’s path to scoring well going into one of these big games (or not, it will still be fun), so I won’t go into that here.

  • Agree to attack the Vagabonds every turn possible: with 2 on the board, itwill be very tricky to hammer both down so they don’t insta-win. Two Vagabonds is the striking difference in seven player vs. 6-player games.
  • Surprisingly, the Lizards are tough to deal with in this big of a game. If you attack their warriors, it really just feeds their engine, so you have to just pick off gardens here or there– or convince the vagabond to attack them constantly so you can swoop in and destroy gardens. This is tough because the Lizards usually hang towards the back of the pack in terms of points and are typically very friendly with the Vagabonds and Otters. It will be nearly impossible to control who the hated outcast is with this many players, so Lizards could be showing up everywhere.
  • Woodland Alliance can be dealt with, but just know you will be dealing with clearing-nukes constantly during the game from both the Alliance and Lizards. One tactic is to swarm into Alliance clearings with tons of warriors but not attack so they cannot move warriors out of it to place sympathy– this of course will cost you board control in other places dearly. You must talk to the other area-control factions to make this work. An empty board means LOTS of sympathy tokens so keep your clearings packed (you know, until they get nuked).
  • Rarely buy from the Otters, which will force them to feed their funds box with Lizards, who will buy everything they got. Target their trading posts if you can get to them before you have to rush during the end game to stop them from automatically winning. Most Vagabonds know not to attack the Cats until late game, so you can often convince them to go hostile with the Otters to gain points instead of Cats/Birds.
  • Craft fast (nearly impossible for the Cats, but try at least) to prevent the Alliance from depleting the items. Lizards can also craft very easily once they get rolling mid game. The Bird’s trading leader is more important to get out earlier in larger games.
  • Pay very close attention to the following:
    • outcast and hated outcast, count the cards in the Lizard discard often and announce it to everyone.
    • Watch which bases the Alliance have out on the board, and which they do not have out as that is a clearing-nuke waiting to happen.
    • Make sure the vagabonds are playing correctly: sacks for space and the rules for tea are the most missed parts of their rules. Remember that if something is damaged that isn’t in the sack, like tea, it goes in the sack and counts against item limits.
    • Make sure the Lizards are playing correctly. They lose random cards from their hands when gardens are burned, and do NOT get Acolytes when nukes go off from the Alliance or the nuke vagabond.
  • There’s nothing better than smashing the Vagabonds so hard they have to damage sacks and then discard a bunch of items. Remember sacks go into the sack when they are damaged! Try to double or triple hit them before their turns to force them to discard items back down to six. Most of the time they will never be able to recover those lost items.

What if you are not one of the area control factions? Baby, you got it made! Just lurk and do your thing. Alliance wants an empty board to spread sympathy–just keep the other factions fighting. Lizards want to put so many Lizards in each garden clearing that no one will mess with them, and help the vagabond and buy a ton from the Otters to score, score score! Otters want to coexist with their trading posts and then foment conflict– especially among the vagabonds. Try to set up a critical turn where you can get a lot of purchases (like when you draw a bunch of bird cards to sell, or critical bunny cards for the Cats) and then save that dough to score. From my games it’s either the Otters, Alliance or Lizards that pull off wins in a big game, so just play to your strengths.

I would say a board with 2-3 more clearings and another two ‘crafted item’ spots would help with big games. but I can’t really say for sure. The more spread out the board, the harder it will be to get in those critical attacks on the vagabonds, otter trading posts, sympathy and lizard gardens.

Lastly, did I say communicate constantly? The central conflict between the cats and the birds is totally null and void in this large of a game. Those two factions especially should be allied and planning together until the very end. I can’t wait until the Corvids and Moles are out and we jump in with 9!

Hey it’s horror movie time!

October, bust out the horror films. There’s so much good stuff out there, from Hammer horror to Roger Corman films and a ton of totally crappy horror films that are just awesome to watch.

Some films I’ve enjoyed for various reasons this season.

Possession (1981)

This is a film about divorce and it’s effect on a family and children masked as a horror film. It’s completely nuts, but there’s so much going on–spies, outerworld entities (or maybe not), the Berlin wall. It’s difficult to imagine this being pulled off successfully without absolutely superb acting, and there it is. If you’re prepared for something really fucked up, but not stupidly so, this is a great choice. Note, get the FULL 2 hour film, not the butchered American release.

Drag Me To Hell

This is a masterpiece and one of my favorite horror films. It’s got jump scares, creeping dread, gross out stuff, and Evil Dead style Three Stooges style fighting as well as excellent character development throughout. It’s a pretty good one for kids too (no nudity, no sex, not a lot of swearing).

Dead Alive

Before the LotR (and Hobbit disaster), this was the work of Peter Jackson, and it’s an absolutely excellent undead goregasm. Totally gross, super cheesy, fucking hilarious and a big step up from Bad Taste. The “Annual Meeting” scene is unbelievably awesome.

Killer Queen Black is out

If you’ve been to an arcade in the last couple years, you may have noticed the GIANT arcade machines in the back with everyone yelling all the time while playing. That’s Killer Queen, the 10-player version.

Now the Switch and PC get their versions so you can play at home. Looks like it’s only 4 player vs, but that’s still pretty great.

Pax Porfirana guey!

This is a post for MOUTH because I think I found a tableau other than the most expense card game out there (Glory to Rome) that Matt actually likes to fulfill your Race for the Galaxy needs on the ski trip. I know he’d like you to leave that one at home, and here’s a very viable replacement: a strategic tableau builder, highly thematic, not overly complex with an all-vs-one win requirement at the end (like Shadowfist).

One checks Boardgamegeek a lot and one plays a bunch of games and one thinks one is on top of it and know what’s good and what one’s group should play because one knows what’s in the top 100 games and what’s out there but let me tell you– you don’t know SHIT. A lot of the hot games that run up the BGG ladder are flashes in the pan– fun for the euro crowd but ultimately shallow patchworks of regurgitated mechanics loosely tied to a theme which eventually become boring as there’s no interaction with meaning, and it’s a hollow experience (Scythe, Coimbra, on and on). The experience in most is akin to everyone playing solitaire.

I like games where the problem in the game is the other players. All CCG’s are like this, Gangland, Rising Sun, Root (oh especially Root…), Blood Rage, on and on. In many tableau games, you’re really just still playing solitaire, Race for the Galaxy, which is a great game and spawned an entire sub-genre, isn’t about crushing or even really interacting with your opponents, it’s all about engine building faster and better than the other players. Then the game ends and it’s a point salad. Pax Pofiriana is a tableau and you try to build an engine (multiple actually), but there isn’t a point salad at the end unless all players fail to win via the normal means, which is to become the leader of Mexico after Pofirio Diaz is toppled from power (or abdicates).

In the game you play as a hacendado near the turn of the century (1880’s -1920 is the period) and are trying to build out your businesses, banks, ranches, mines, transportation systems and personal military in anticipation of either a coup, revolution or abdication of the long-time president of Mexico- Pofirio Diaz. If it was a straight copy of RftG, you’d just win at some appointed time with the most money– but the victory conditions are extremely different.

Basically, there are four separate”I’m going for the win” cards in the game and each allows for a different victory condition: Military, Loyalty to the current government, US Annexation and leading a successful revolution. Each of these cards are tied to a type of victory points in the game that you try to collect. They come up semi-randomly during the game into an area where they can be ‘purchased’ by a player and played for the win. When someone goes for the win, all the other players try to stop them by increasing the current government’s strength or their own. The whole thing is a sub-layer over the top of a solid engine builder.

So the game is a good replacement for Race for the Galaxy AND it’s a non-CCG game that gives some of the same feels as Shadowfist.

It’s also very, very nasty with extortion, assassination, bribes, enslaving the indians, but with the caveat that an enemy one turn may be the only thing preventing another player from winning in another. So if you wanted an update of a game like GANGLAND (from 1996) this is what you’ve been waiting for, though without Lump Loafman and Clubber Clovis and those guys.

Lastly, the history you learn from this game is amazing. I had a class on Latin American history in college and the end of it was all about the Mexican Revolution, so I had to read 3-4 books on the subject and write a paper on it. I remembered just enough so when I saw this, I knew just enough to be able to grok what it was about. This game is PACKED with insane historical detail about the period in question and it’s really fun to read the flavor text on the cards while waiting for someone to finish their turn. The game just begs you to study the period further and even lists resources to do so at the back of the rulebook.

So do check out the game, MOUTH, since this whole post is for you and also Matt.

actual quote from President Diaz

Great SHMUP for the Iphone!?

All iphone games suck. This is a rule, it’s nearly 100% true with the amount of iphone games that are worth playing probably far less than .1%. Even ones that are great can get ruined by UI updates (Ascension) or simply aren’t updated and disappear from the phone due to Apple’s incessant software and hardware updates in order to plan obsolescence for all devices.

Every once in awhile there’s a great game and it’s nearly always pay once and play all you want with possibly some minor purchases for aesthetics, free to play games ALWAYS suck.

And yet, BULLET HELL MONDAY breaks BOTH rules listed above and is a game in a genre that I never thought possible to satisfactorily implement on a touch screen: SHMUP/bullet hell!

I got this on a whim a week before Gencon and I was instantly fucking addicted. The controls are awesome, the music is top notch and the visuals are just perfect. It seems easy, you play, then there’s a difficulty spike and you have to get gud, rinse, repeat.

While the game has level ups for your ships, and I thought this was pretty lame at first, you get quickly to the point where everything is leveled up and you don’t need to mess around with that mechanic unless you buy a new ship, which costs actual cash money. I’ve purchased one (the missile ship as it reminded me most of Crimzon Clover: World Ignition) and it was well worth the $ price tag.

Here’s a couple vids. If you like this genre you will likely fall in love with this game immediately (and there’s a sequel pending soon too). If you just want a pick up and play shooter, this is also a must buy.

Feng Shui 2 and stuff not to do while camping

We have our summer outing out in the woods and there’s a lake and we drink some and swim and go out on various watercraft. At night, we try to do some RPG action but this year it was tough, because the weather was just about perfect. 60’s at night, 80’s during the day. No fucking rain of any significance and not a lot of bugs.

A lady in the town nearby made the mistake of asking Maat: “You goin’ fishin’?” to which he replied, “No, drinking and then probably fighting after.”

Stuff not to do:

  • Fight in a bramble or briar patch
  • Try to learn paddleboarding 4-8 beers in. Continue to try to learn under similar conditions later
  • Say “JESUS CHRIST!” in front of a church group that just sold you a brat.
  • Drink 4-6 beers while treading water in the middle of a lake that has walleye in it.
  • Stay sober enough so you’re the one that has to drive to town whenever someone has to take a shit.

Most notable was that people saw an eagle take a duck out of the water right in front of them. One feels bad for the duck, but then you think about that the ecological damage being done by mankind on a yearly basis being beyond human comprehension and it’s great to see a large raptor make such a rebound after almost going extinct a few years back. I saw one driving home as far south as Cascade, which is awesome.

Anyway, the Feng Shui. I’ve run the new version now maybe 4-5 times and I think the main thing to watch for is the # of players. I’ve run games with larger groups and it’s just not as fun, I believe because it takes too long to get back around and momentum for your specific character (who are all total badasses) gets lost a bit. I would say 3 is great and 4 should be the max number of players.

We had a lot of gun characters this time with a Maverick Cop and Full Metal Nutball, both of which are great archtypes, but gunplay can get a bit boring without shotguns, so try to have protagonists close the range down as the fight goes on so those go into action, and watch the Killer or Hard Boiled before EVERY session with many guns for ideas and stunts. There are enough of what I would describe as fluff or boring archtypes out of the 36 available, so be careful. One thing of note is when you’re picking characters, if there aren’t a lot of blocks of text in the abilities section, it’s probably fairly boring to play (looking at you Spy and Private Eye…).

I’ve been in three sessions with the scrappy kid, and that archtype has got to be the bane of every Feng Shui GM. Super high defense with very little offense (without doing crazy shit like dropping a cargo container on someone or running people down with a bus) makes for a difficult character to deal with, but hey, it’s fun. While the Everyday Hero can max out offense vs bosses, he can still take a fucking beating.

I’m not going to go through the session because I will end up saying spoilers for what’s next, but stuff I used that helped a lot GM’ing:

  • Read-reading the driving chapter in the main book. It’s great fun, but a bit tricky to learn at first. Think of how many chase scenes both on foot and in any types of vehicles happen in action films and you will realize how important this section is to GMs.
  • Pre-rolled mook numbers. I thought I would hate this, but it was excellent. You just pick a direction on the sheet and go across, looking for a hit, Easy and focuses on the narration rather than rolling tons of dice for mooks. I would consider this for 13th Age as well.
  • Dry Erase Character Sheets. These are fucking great and stood up to gaming while camping very well. Yes, a few of them got big dents and shit, and one was totally rubbed off with info, but overall, good investment for the money. Watch it though, there are TYPOS.
  • More schicks from the conversion codex. ALL of the stats and powers and stuff from every single supplement for the original Feng Shui has been published for Feng Shui 2. Want to know how badass Ting Ting is in the new version? You can look it up. Golden Gunman? HOMO OMEGA? Yep. The conversion codex de facto has tons of new villain schticks compared to the core book, so it’s a great resource beyond that for creating enemies and allies.
  • This guy’s cheat sheets. These were great to use during the game, and more helpful than the published GM screen.

While it looks like the Feng Shui 2 line has stopped publishing stuff (the last adventure was a free RPG day one, and not too bad), there’s a ton of grist for the mill from first edition that you can cobble together. One thing of note though, most published Feng Shui adventures are not that great, either too shadowfisty (where your characters really know a lot about the secret war) or too off the range (like an African Safari style adventure) to be easily usable. You just have to dig a bit to find the good ones, and I also just recommend watching a bunch of wuxia, gun-fu and Chinese period films and coming up with your own stuff instead.

Kickstarter: Acid Vomit! The Art of Sean Aaberg

Aaberg is the man responsible for the art for the excellent and whimsical Dungeon Degenerates board game. I think 35$ for a 200 page book of his art is a pretty good deal. It’s a bit like Russ Nickolson, Rockin’ Jellybean and Big Daddy Roth had a baby and then forced them to read 80’s White Dwarf magazines and GROO! all day long. Here is the link.

Here’s some of his stuff including my favorite: the cover of the DD expansion, which is just amazing.

Gearbox’s 1v1 is back!

We got to play this a while back and have been wondering where it was at, because it was a super fun arena shooter with TONS of potential. It’s now in another closed beta but you can go to the FAQ and follow instructions.

We can’t post any videos or screenshots from the last time we got to play, but trust that as hardcore Quake 3, UT2K4 and Quake players— we’re sayin’ IT’S GOOD.