Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bridges to Nowhere PnP Kickstarter edition

Some time ago, company Doomsday Robots lunched a kickstarter for their new game Bridges to Nowhere.
I pledged for PnP files, and the time finally came when they arrived.

So far, I made only components needed for two player game, in order to play it solo. I went for the more robust build, making tiles on 2mm cardboard base instead of classic cards.
I packed the game into box from Carcassonne expansion. The current components fit nicely, and there is enough space for 3 to 4 players update should I decide to build it.

The game itself uses drafting mechanism, where you draft bridge elements and then try to build them into your bridge in order to maximize points. Points can be earned from bridge segments (Each built in segment brings specified number of victory points by itself. Matching symbols on adjacent tiles  and using specific tiles like monuments and toll stations can significantly boost your point total) or by fulfilling specific contract conditions predefined before each game.

Solo game is well designed, dummy player will always take the best cards and you have to use all your wits to outsmart it. Normal difficulty gives just the right challenge for average player.

Final opinion? Bridges to Nowhere is a nice and thematic drafting and tile laying brain burner that especially plays well with the music of Talking Heads in the background. For me, it is definitely a keeper.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Siekatsu blowed me off my feet

Sometimes there are the games that blow you off your feet even before they are publish. Sometimes it is enough just to read the rules or see photo of the components.
But no game have ever made such initial impact on me like Seikatsu that will soon be published by IDW Games.
Photo from BGG entry of the game

The game should be available at retailers in September or early October, but I just could not wait that long to try it.
So, I decided to make a simple prototype of the game that could serve me until I get the real thing, especially as rulebook and low resolution image of the board are available on the internet, and playing discs are not so hard to make.
Disclaimer: following opinion is based on the home made prototype, not on the real thing made by IDW Games. 
 
Seikatsu is an abstract game meant for 2 or 3 players with solo option. It is an abstract game of laying and matching discs with the original scoring mechanics that makes it really interesting. But it is also a peace of art. This thing looks astonishingly beautiful on the table even as the prototype, and I can only imagine how good will the original look.
As two player game, it should be a hit for a couples. My non-gaming wife at the moment wants to play only Patchwork with me. Once I get my hands on the real Seikatsu,  I believe that I will have no problems to make her try this. 

And now we are coming to the most important thing. How does this game fares solo? 
In solo mode, player tries to achieve more points than combined score of 2 virtual players. Designers planed 3 difficulty levels in solo mode. Easy (no sense to play), medium (easy, no way to lose if you know what you are doing) and difficult mode that gives the real challenge feeling to the human player (after 20+ solo games in difficult mode AI usually beats me with 3 to 5 points difference, and playing makes my brain burn, which is exactly what I expect from my solo games).

Once it hits the stores, Seikatsu will be highly recommended game by me.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Ambushed by the dwarfs

Here is the report form another test game of my Lone Blade solo rules for Song of Blades and Heroes.
This time, I played using base Revisited SBH rules.

Orcs are played by human player (me). They start in the South West corner and their only goal is to get out of the table through the North East one.
Dwarfs, played by AI are preparing ambush among the ruins. They have 3 elite warriors deployed in NW corner, 4 young warriors in the SE, while exit was covered by dwarf thief and orcslayer (ouch).

To compensate for the killer, orcs took a troll with them.
Orcs made a run for NE corner, but some of them were intercepted by Elite dwarf warriors. Slow moving Troll tagged behind.
In order not to provoke orcslayer, orcs to the front turned right, south of the forest to engage young warriors. Troll managed to join the brawl and score the first kill against elite warrior.
Lone Blade solo system is not meant to simulate human opponent. It plays and feels differently, and so the tactics should be adjusted. On the picture below we see orc leader getting ready to return towards Troll and try to kill a dwarf in melee with him. In Lone Blade figures within 1 medium of the enemy will act before figures in melee, so orc soldiers to the right should take some burden, allowing leader to clean the situation to the left.... 
..unless of course leader rolls 3 failures, and that is exactly what happened. It allowed all dwarfs to activate, and what is even worst, elite dwarf warrior scored gruesome kill against the prone orc. Troll failed morale check, and being close to the edge quit the field.
This was beginning of the end. Orcslayer reached Orc Leader and killed him in fair duel. A major victory for the dwarfs and for the Lone Blade AI system.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Evil Baby (Untold: Adventures Await free preview game)

Lovecraft’s mythos always produces interesting stories, so I decided to make my next Untold game part of this world.

Location: Euclidipus hospital.

Threat: a “Blob” pursuing someone.

Hero: Johnathan Grey, patient of the daily ward of psychiatric wing of the hospital due to his believe in magic. Johnathan has knowledge of the mythos and a spell book from some other reality.

Danger
“The Blob” pursues a baby recently born in the hospital. It is a girl named Maria Rack, from mother Eleonore, father unknown. Baby exists both in this reality and in some other dimension, and Blob wants to use it to open a portal between worlds. The only thing stopping Blob from accessing a baby is Johnathan’s spell book.
So, in order to save the baby, Johnathan puts the book in the mother’s luggage. Then, our hero tries to sneak into the hospital archive in order to find baby’s home address, but he is in for surprise. Hospital archive is a room that seems to go for kilometers – it might even be endless. Using his mythos knowledge, Johnathan tries to find the data he needs, only to discover that several woman named Eleonore Rack give birth to daughter named Maria at the same time. All these women live at the different parts of the city, even in different towns and countries. Being unable to get any conclusion from his findings, Johnathan returned to his room.

Intrigue

Johnathan is now sure that Euclidipus hospital is just a secret base of the Blob and his cultists. Blob uses his cultists masked as emergency medical crews to operate in the city. Once the book left the hospital in Eleonore’s suitcase, Blob will infect hospital patients with its essence and in that way travel to try to reach the baby.

Confrontation
In the hospital, doctors are looking for Johnathan. He uses the oldest trick in the book and escapes through laundry elevator. Out of the hospital Johnathan enters the phone booth and uses address book found there to look for the Rack family. There seems to be one Eleonore Rack living nearby so he goes there. He is careful to avoid any sign of medical emergency crews, but there are none of them. Actually, the whole neighborhood seems deserted.
Johnathan sneaks into the house where baby should be, only to find out that interior of the house is really an exterior located on some strange world…

Revelation
Obeying this evil person all along – the baby is pulling strings! She is really this world reincarnation of old goddess Mariarack. She opened the portal but she is unable to bring anything from portal into our world without the Blob essence.

Showdown
In front of the portal, mother holds a baby. Baby looks very week, somehow sick. Eleonore accuses Johnathan that he is trying to kill her baby girl by planting a book into her luggage.
Johnathan tries to persuade Eleonore to give him back a book, but she gets mad and turns into monster. She than tears the book in such a way that pages fly all over. Johnathan grabs pages flying by him and starts to read spells. One attacking spell hits monster and it grins with pain. Then, Johnathan casts protective force field around him, making monster mad since it can’t hurt a mortal standing before it. Using the feelings of the monster, Johnathan draws it as far away from the baby as possible, then runs, grabs a baby and throws it through portal.
The portal starts closing, and all returns to normal. Johnathan stands inside the house now, and what was a monster is again a woman. With a satisfied smile, Eleonore steps through the portal that completely closes behind her.
Johnathan is left standing amongst the torn pages of his book, wandering if he just saved the world or doomed it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Untold: Adventures Await goes Bananaman

Creativity Hub, producer of the Rory's Story Cubes, lunched recently a kickstarter campain to produce a new game by legendary John Fiore (9Qs, World vs. Hero, Alladyn technique...) called Untold: Adventures Await.

The final game will be packed with goodies, but if you already have some Rory's Story Cubes at home, you can download the free Print and Play test files and give a game a go. That is exactly what I did, returning to the world of Bananaman.

The game uses episodic form, where each episode consists of five different scenes: Danger, Intrigue, Confrontation, Revelation and Showdown.

Picture below shows the final distribution of story cubes.
So, the story goes. 
Danger scene.
Eric was attending the Police sports day at the city stadium (cup), when the Heavy Mob (disappearance, thievery cube) stroke. They sabotaged the stadium by positioning smoke bombs around it. Every member of city police is trapped within the smoke (I found all of this by asking complex questions answered by rolling cubes not yet dedicated into the board).
It is time for Eric to eat a banana. Hero is defined by two different characteristics - in Bananaman case this will be super strength and Craw, the intelligent craw.
Time for action. Craw tries to take the policemen out of the smoke by lightning emergency exit guidelines. Imagine Craw dressed as flight attendant from your favorite airline, saying famous words: "In case of emergency light strips on the floor will guide you to the nearest exit. Please note that the nearest exit may be located behind your back...."

All actions in Untold are resolved using emoticons. Player draws emoticon and then applies it to someone in the scene, resolving it in the most appropriate way. This is a great new mechanics that I really liked. Currently, there is a discussion if emoticon cards should also have oracle (yes, yes and, yes but, no, no and, no but) added to them. If my two cents count, I am against it.

So, for the Craw's action I got terrified face. Policemen on the stadium are to afraid to follow Craw out through the smoke. It is up to Bananaman to deal with the Heavy Mob.

Intrigue scene.
Of course, Heavy Mob have a darker purpose then just trapping policemen. With nobody to keep order in the city, it was easy for Eddie the Gent and his friends to get the treasure they were after (treasure chest) - a newest model of the mobile phone.
Confrontation scene.
Heavy mob escaped to their underground hideout (Labyrinth). Bananaman followed them, but got lost in the underground tunes (man with the flashlight calling). After some unsuccessful actions, Bananaman used his banana Stethoscope to listen on the walls, trying to discover position of the Heavy Mob hideout. What he heard was flushing the water in the underground toilet (ashamed face) and following this sound our hero reached the hideout restroom, only to get himself face to face with....

Revelation scene.
..... Doctor Gloom (obeying this evil person all along - stretcher with a patient cube). Doctor Gloom was holding the phone, ordering something over internet....

Showdown scene.
Bananaman followed Doctor Gloom (cube moved from Revelation card) to the cliffs overlooking the city (lowering someone cube). There, Doctor Gloom installed super powerful audio system. His goal was to attack people of the city with the terrible music (head listening some music) he ordered on-line!
Craw reacted by pulling the connector from the loud speakers. (Ashamed face) Doctor Gloom should be ashamed that he connected the complete machinery into just one socket!
Bananaman grabbed evil doctor and took him to the police station. (Irrelevant face) Unfortunately there was no one to meet them there, as all policemen were still trapped at the stadium. So, while Bananaman was searching for a key to some cell, Doctor Gloom managed to escape.

At the end, wind blew and the smoke lifted, allowing policemen to return to the city.
Eric took super powerful audio line and installed in his room. From now on it will be used only for the power of Good Music (as credits rolls up we see city trembling from loud music from Eric's apartment....).

The end.

Final thoughts - John Fiore has done it again. One should not think of Untold: Adventures Await as a real RPG, and it will not replace your favorite solo RPG gems that do for you what games like Scarlet Heroes or High Stakes do for me. And it is clearly stated that it is not an intention of this game to do so. Untold is a fun little storytelling game that you can use to play an episode of something quick and dirty. When you only have some half an hour, and you want to play something that will end up as complete story told from beginning to the end in this short time, Untold is the title you should reach for.   

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Solo SBH playtest, game one

I started developing the new AI engine for Song of Blades and Hero rules, so the times has come to test my ideas.

For this game I decided to play ASBH and to take the side of the bad guys - namely humans. My warband had 100 points wizard, Shooter with Composite Bow, Tank with heavy armor and heavy weapon, and 3 low cost warriors, two with spears and one with just a hand weapon.

Orcs warband consisted of 10 models from ASBH rooster rolled randomly.

I played a Quest for magic item scenario, modified in such a way that warbands started in the corners, and needed to exit through the corner to win.
I started the game by sending wizard, tank and archer towards center, while the low cost models moved to take position on the bridge in order to defend access to the marker across the river.
In my Solo system AI has significant activation advantage, so orcs moved fast. They reached first marker before my models, but it turned out to be nothing.
Tank, archer and wizard moved toward the marker in the north west corner, and all the orcs followed them. In this system, AI is not too smart, but it has other advantages and means to challenge solo player.
Archer drew the first blood, sending orc spearman out of action.
But then I made tactical mistake. Instead of charging the nearest orc in order to keep enemy warband as far north as possible, at least until my slow moving infantry reach the defensive position, Tank succumbed to the wizard's cries and checked the second marker.
As it turned to be nothing, orcs rushed south towards the final objective, with my warriors still rather far away from the bridge.
Some lucky rolls allowed my wariors to reach the bridge.
Battle for the bridge was desperate, but despite the odds, warriors managed to survive for two turns,
before they were both gruesomely massacred by the orcs.
But the valiant sacrifice of two spearman was enough for the Wizard, the Tank and the Archer (who lost his composite bow with the final shot of the game, luckily without consequences) to reach the bridge and kill enough Orc models to invoke the Dead outnumber the Living rules.
The game was really tense. It ended with a victory to the human side, but only due to some lucky rolls, and due to some holes in solo mechanic design I detected.

While I made the beta rules of the Lone Blade AI engine for SBH already available in some SBH groups over the social networks, I still need to play few more test games and fix some bugs before giving you the final product.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Solo Boargames: ... and What's Not So Hot.

After mentioning some games that left really good impression on me, here is a short list of the games I had in my collection that I felt disappointment by, so I sold them as soon as possible.
This list might come as surprise, as these are the games from the top of the usual solo boardgames lists. 

No. 3. The Lord of the Rings The Card Game
This was the first game I ever sold. I had a basic set and one expansion, and I noticed that I was able to do very little with it. The game requested constant expansions, In which I was not interested to invest, since I was not thrilled with the game at the first place.

No. 2. Scythe
This game created a lots of hype on the internet, and as it had solo mechanics, I rushed to purchase. But the disappointment was huge - game mechanics is so repetitive that you quickly start yawning. The only reason this game is not on the bottom of the list is great Automata - solo mode that is real work of the genius done by Morten Pederson. Still it was not enough to stop me from selling this game at half the purchase price to the first bidder.

No. 1. Mage Knight Board Game
At the bottom of the list is a game that is too big for its own good. Cards are divided into too many decks (while still each deck is too small and gets quickly repetitive), there is to many counters and boards and everything. The game that takes forever to set up, and then forever to clean. And the playing of the game itself lasts too long. When I purchased it I expected the game where every time you play a new story would be told, a new epic adventure worth of writing a fantasy novel. With this I wouldn't mind components and time. But the game failed to deliver. The game lasts just few turns (and each turn lasts too long in real time) where you are rushing your figure on the board to do as much as possible with limited amount of cards. All mechanics, no story. For me it was an epic fail.

So here they are. My Exes. Any similar experiences?