Farewell Fritz

Fritz Buchholtz passed away last week at the age of 73. He had the best game store in the city for a very long time in Napoleon’s. We had fantastic times there in the basement including many Blood Bowl tournaments, Mordheim, and one fateful Friday Night where we played Mega Supremacy…

While I did get down to the Dungeon in Lake Geneva once, Napoleon’s THE magical hobby shop to go to, even as an adult when it was right up the street from where I lived. A lot of people moved to that part of town just because Napoleon’s was there if you can believe that. I would tell stories of it to my FLA friends as we existed in the no-game-store wasteland of southern Florida.

I bought my first Warhammer book there (40K) and, it being summer, the pages promptly fell out of the binding and I tried to take it back. My dad even came with me and they said it had to go back to the manufacturer which was not the best answer. I still have the book on the shelf of course since what was I going to do at age 14? Mail it to England? I think I got all my Warhammer stuff there. My beaky marines, my WFRP books until I moved to Florida and the nearest game store was over 2 hours away….

I remember Fritz had the best smelling pipe smoke ever and he would come from the back office and talk to his friends about God knows what while we babbled about 40K or Blood Bowl. He would talk to us from time to time and give us advice on some subject none of which I remember.

One time when I was working at a local florist, they had me make a delivery to the North West side. I pretended to get lost on the way back and ended up at Napoleon’s (way East side) for a bit of a browsing session. I worked two jobs, so was never able to get down there except a rare weekend. Unfortunately for all involved, the delivery van wouldn’t start and I was obviously WAY the fuck off course. They had to drive all the way to the East side to get me and try to fix the van. I never did deliveries again.

So many gaming denizens I met and interacted with or simply observed in that place, including the very old school Advanced Squad Leader players who would sit in the back and read the source books as well as the real old school Napoleonics guys who played massive battles on the gigantic sand table in the basement.

There was the MTG guy that lived at home would talk to the clerk while buying boxes of MTG and probably to this day has 100K worth of MTG in his mom’s place. I don’t even know if he played, but he certainly loved collecting.

There was the social studies teacher that wandered in to play a game and got sucked in to what was probably the most disturbing game of Mega Supremacy imaginable, both from an olfactory perspective and how foul and backstabbish everyone was. We stunk up that basement with rump-gasps hours before it was opened up for a 40K tournament!

And of course the goddamn 40K crowd who’s competitive and tournament driven style of play shot the fucking magic out of that game for me forever.

Anyway, fond memories of an inspirational man.

Blizzard is Awesome

Warcraft 3 is awesome and the best game of the 2001-2010 decade. Blizzard was known for highly polished, extremely refined games, even if highly derivative.

that said, you’d think Blizzard would easily be able to pull off an upgraded version of Warcraft 3 with the graphics (they wouldn’t even need to redo any of the gameplay since it’s been refined for almost two decades) UI and performance.

But they didn’t and the game has a 0.7 user Metacritic rating to show for it. That’s right, 0.7! I had a feeling it wouldn’t be all that great, but it turns out it’s REALLY BAD. I think it would be moderately OK if it didn’t fuck the old game– but if you go to Bnet with the old client it downloads 30gigs of shit to your HD that’s now behind a 30$ paywall and you can’t play using any of the old features.

And of course, someone had to go and make one of these:

It’s a forgone conclusion: Diablo 4 will suck. Blizzard will exit the video game business in the next few years.

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