Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday Morning Blues

Well here it is Saturday morning and I'm feeling down. Under normal circumstances I's be happy as a clam with lots of interesting things to do.

Such as, play a game of Carrier, or Falcon Ace.

I could start recording the next episode of History In Their Own Words.

I could continue making up one of the two or three games I have half made.

But you know what, I dont really want to do any of those things.

What I want is to start making up my copy of Wormhole. It's an exciting looking SciFi fleet battle game with card models. Everything from fighters all the way up to Fleet Carriers. Not just a board game but a hobby as well if you enjoy model making. It's a Print and Play game. The guys producing it have done an outstanding job of creating not only superb looking models but they are very media savvie. Thier site includes exciting media that really generate interest in the game itself. I really cant wait to try this game.

So why Blue? I have run out of colour ink for my printer!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First review for Free Trader

Gosh, I'm so proud, my game Free Trader has just received it's first review at Board Game geek. Yet, even better than that it's a good review! Woopee, someone likes one of my games!

One of the inspirations for my game was a game called Zombie in my Pocket. It was the tile laying in this game that evolved into the planet-laying within mine. I've been watching ZIMP closely since I reviewed it a while back and it's been going from strength to strength. It's game-page-forun hardly seems to see a day go by without some new BGG'er dropping by to praise the game.

Best of all, ZIMP has had a recent overhall. The original cards were simple had drawn images, but a BGG'er has now uploaded a terrific new set of tiles and cards. So if you have looked at this game before, it's definitely worth revisiting the new art is "professional" quality, and will make the whole play experience better.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

First play of the Valley game.

I have just finished a game of Valley of the Four Winds. My opponent was my Son who smashed me completely yesterday at the Awful Green Things From Outer Space. Today though, I got my revenge... just.

I was playing the forces of light. In the opening I moved the Farrondil and Gondemar troops into defensive screens and galloped a Cavalry unit down from Farrondil to Gondermar to collect the Swan Bones. At the same Time I despatched three units round the North End of Lake Lume aiming to start Investigating the locations up there.

The fight along the edge of the Swamp and the line between the Gondermarians and Forest Orcs was a genuine bloodfest with the number of counters dropping fast.

Once the Swan Bones reached Farrondil the Farrondil forces started pushing against the skeletons forcing their way across the bridges aiming for the Bell.

Gondemar was seriously low on troops as the Marsh men relentlessly attacked. So much so that the forces defending their Western border against the Orcs was perilously thin.

The Farrondils in the forest were chased down and put to death by the Orcs. The Hero however managed to slip into the woods and began to dance around the Orcs looking for the Pixies.

When the Forest Monster appeared the Hero's dance became even more erratic. When the pixies did finally appear they were immediately decimated by the Orcish hordes who hit them from two directions.

In the Plain of Darkness the Bell was in danger, just as an Orc found and freed the Dragon. Suddenly I didn't know what to do with my Farrondil troops. I needed them to battle the Skeltons but I also had to fend off this Wyrm! I clustered the troops around Farrondil Castle and continued to send the reinforcements out into the Plain of Darkness.

The Dragon laid into the troops defending the castle burning them into mere used tinder. When a blinding bit of luck happened and I was able to get the Swan Bones to the Bell and destroy it. Now I could turn all of my troops westwood and aim to get to the nest of the Orcs.

I left only two troops in Gondemar just to protect the reinforcement point, also just three troops left in Farrondil, the orders were march West!

Just then, like Bard of Lake Town a Farrondil archer brought down the mighty Dragon. My joy was short lived as the Orcs released the Pterrorgulls up in the mountains. Suddenly The white city of Farrondil was in danger again...

My luck continued however and in a blinding piece of Riverdance like footwork the Hero dodged the enemy ZOC's and dived into the Orc nest for a win.

So what did I think? There is a lot going on in theis game. I like the way the forces that feel huge at the beginning are whittled down and you soon have trouble getting the troops you require.

All of the special counters and special abilities are a headache to handle but I reckon a couple of games in and I'll have them all down.

I did have a few questions about the rules but we just made up rulings on these issues as we went along.

It was a fun little game but as another has said in these forums, it's not one I'll be playing too often.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Goofed the Green Things

I have just completed my first game of The Awful Green Things from Outer Space in quite a while. It was a sad sad defeat for me as the crew. This is a game that you get better at with multiple plays but I just dont seem to be getting the plays that I need!

My son played with style and class, while I was bodging it from the outset.

The crew were mostly towards the front of the ship and the Green things towards the rear at the outset and we started fairly normally. I think my first mistake was in grouping the crew. Rather than staying spread out which makes your opponent spread his green forces I allowed him to concentrate and we inevitably ended up with a mass battle in the central corridor.

My second mistake was in sending Yid up to the front of the ship to get a weapon when I should have had him in the fight taking out greenies each turn. he ended up wasting three or so turns going to get a weapon that turned out useless.

I found the fire ext' to be the weapon of choice with 5 dice to stun which allowed my to keep back the horde in the corridor while picking off one or maybe two each turn. It was not enough. The other crewman started going down.

By the time I found that the pool sticks were the 5 dice to kill weapons the two crewmen who picked them up were pinned in the pool room by a few greenies. The other crew members in the fuel pod nearby managed to keep the corridor clear for a while. Unfortunately the guys with the pool sticks were rolling so badly that an Adult and Baby managed to finish them both off leaving me with no good weapons. And now the corridor fight had sucked in pretty much everyone else.

Leadfoot went down with 24 dice being rolled against him but what little luck I had in this game managed to kill the adult that ate him. The remaining crew retreated behind the electric fence and waited with trepidation the oncoming horde.

The Greenies marched into the fence and were changed from Adults to Babies but despite this I could see that the attrition and my mistakes had gone too far. The second horde of Greenies had now wiped out the last remaining crew at the aft end and started to roll forwards!

I did the math and realised I would not be able set the self destruct and so just ran for the ships boats. Off into wild black yonder, where the crew spent 5 years before getting home.

Final score was about 30 points in favour of Awful green Things.

I had a good time, but ended up kicking myself for making silly errors.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A short game of Risk!

Risk is a long game normally. So long in fact that it's hard to stay enthused through what can become drudgery of taking and retaking... and retaking the same territories. Well, this week I broke the mould.

We finshed the game of Risk - Star Wars: The Clone Wars Edition that had been taking place at work during lunchtimes ( once again big thanks to the Bosses for letting me leave games set up! ). We only had about 5 turns each.

Admittedly we didn't play the game through to it's conclusion as my opponent conceeded his position as useless.

I was playing the bad guys and had incredible luck. Every time I attacked I won, every time he attacked I won. Okay, okay, thats a bit of an exageration, but it's close to the truth. In those few short turns I had two entire and adjacent regions under my thumb and troops in every other region.

The tokens that have to get played by the bad guys that are actually the good guys only hope, were safely entrenched in the midst of by strongest region well out of his reach.

So there we were 5 turns or so in, I was in a completely dominent position and played a card that allowed me 50% more reinforcements for one of my armies and that was the straw that broke my opponents back. Frankly I cant blame him. I still had Order 66 to play and he didn't have a chance.

Did I play especially well? Did he play especially lousy? No to both of those. The only difference was that I was unable to roll badly. It's the commonly held belief that when you roll lots of dice, luck evens out. I'm not so sure thats always true, I mean, I have anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Well I got an email from the company to whom I submitted one of my game designs.


The games company were kind enough to give me some details as to why they have rejected it. They have stated that although it was one of the better designs submitted to them it suffers in that you are not drawn back to it to play again.

I find that really interesting. That means the game needs more work, specifically something needs to be added or changed, something that will draw you back to the game.

So I'm asking myself, what makes you want to go back to a game? The game itself can be replayed many times, and it uses a reasonably sized card deck which means you get lots of variety. So what's missing?

First thoughts off the top of my head thoughts are:

"Nearly winning, being very close".
"Fun in the interplay between players."
"Good meaningful decision points."
"Attractive theme."

They also said that they were a little worried that the theme might encroach on copyrights held by others.

That IS interesting. Perhaps I should approach these "others"...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rethinking Risk Clone Wars

I bought this game a few months back, broke it out for a few plays and ended up dispointed and even disgusted with a game I claimed was broken.

Today I started a session of Risk - Star Wars: The Clone Wars Edition at work and I've started to see how it might not be quite as broken as I thought!

My problem has been that the Order 66 feature that allows the bad guys to take over anywhere from 10% to 90% of the good guys troops at some point during the game, the percentage varying with how long the bad guy decides to wait before doing it.

Today I started to see the balancing mechanism in its true light. Every turn the bad guy has to place a token on the board, if these get captured by the good guys they get extra cards every turn.

Up until today I hadn't actually realised how good a balance this is. Knowing that the Order 66 is coming means that the good player has to focus on getting those tokens. Those are going to keep paying out cards every turn. With a large number of cards you can buy ships, which allow you to have much better odds in combat, or use all of these cards for thier special abilities. Thats quite powerful.

We're only 1 hour into the game but I can suddenly see the what I've missed previously.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Blast! - Review

My wife got Blast! from E-bay on the off chance it might work for the family. It's an old game and I imagine it's long out of print.

I played three games and then I'd had enough. Yet, even as I sit here typing I can hear the rest of family laughing as they continue to play!

What you get are two dice, one is a standard die the other is numbered normaly but on each face the spots are a different colour.

The rest of the game is made up two decks. The main deck is made up of cards that match the colours on the special die and are numbered from two to twelve. The second deck is smaller and each card gives you an instruction.

Basic game play is as follows. On your turn you roll the two dice. You then proclaim the total of the two dice and the colour from the special die. For example "Red 8". The player who has the Red 8 card then lays it in front of themselves face up. That player then takes their turn.

I'm sure that if you think about it for a minute you'll see the pitfall I saw, that within very short time you'll be rolling and not matching cards in anyones hands.

This eventuality has been catered for. If no one has the card you roll, or the card has been played face up already, then you take one of the instruction cards.

An instruction card tells you what to do. A sample instruction is "Pass the Dice" meaning you simply ignore your roll and pass the dice to the next player. Another example is "Take a Card", where you take a card from the face up selection on the table and put it in your hand. The last example I'll give you is the "Blast" instruction. With "Blast" you take a card from your hand and place it face down in front of another player.

The game continues until a player ends their turn with no cards in their hand. At that point you score points for each face up card in front of you and subtract points for each face down card, cards in your hand are ignored.

This game is rather dull, it does have a decision point, just one.

When you follow a "Blast" instruction you have to decide which card to play and against who. You have to weigh the points you'll be taking away from them against the odds of you being able to play the card to score points for yourself. So if your nearing the end of the game, Blast other players with high card numbers because its unlikely that high numbers will be rolled.

There is no other genuine decision to be made.

I expected this game to go on and on and on. It does not. As more and more numbers have already been played players start taking the instruction cards. As the "Blast" cards in here allow you to get rid of a card, we have a mechanism for shrinking the number of cards players have despite bad die rolls. So the game has a natural length.

The rules do suggest that if you want a longer game ( oh no, please no! ) you can play to 500 points. That would mean about 10 hands. No thanks one hand is enough for me. Yet the family are still playing in the other room, so I fear I'll be playing again.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Outpost Gamma - Review

Outpost Gamma has long been available for you to download allowing you to print and play your own copy. This review is based on my Print and Play experience of the game. The orignal boxed version from Dwarfstar games is long long out of print.

I found Printing and Playing the game a real pain in the butt. The images provided in the zip file are literal scans of the counters and board. This means they are not designed for printing and playing so the imagry, especially on the board suffers from folds and creases.

I had a bit of trouble lining up the two map segments and scaling the counters to fit the map.

The rules didn't print well either. All but four pages of the rule book are scanned into a PDF with the last four pages being included as jpeg images with two pages on each.

Fortunately the end result is worth the effort of making the game.

The game is for two players. Its set on a far future world where the indigenous low tech people are battling against the off-world miners and their imperial marine guardians.

The two side are not equally balanced. The Miners and Marines are high tech with long range powerful weapons and the locals have only a few weapons but do have hordes of melee troops. I like the counters they are clear and show the attributes you would expect in a wargame, attack,defence, move and range.

The board, printing troubles aside, is a very nice hex map. The terrain plays a major part in the game play. There is a major canal that allows one side to move around very quickly and a lot of indivual features that block LOS , slow down and otherwise effect general game play.

Another neat feature of the game, are the "Storms". These are randomly moving storms that block LOS and allow both sides to use them as cover for movement, vital to winning the scenarios included.

The first scenario is simply, one side has to occupy three mountain tops at the end of the game, and the other is for the Marines to help the miners escape. Simple but challenging for both sides.

All in all it's a good little game. The original published version would be well worth picking up if you see it, and if you want to go to the trouble of printing and playing give it a go.

Summary : Fun little wargame

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New game day

Today has had two gaming events for me.

Firstly I finished updating the rules in the game I've been working on for a while. The final thing was naming the game. I put out a request at BoardGameGeek and had a lot of very good responses and suggestions. I finally rested on one of the suggestions which was put forward by BGG user nyhotep which was "Free Trader". I dropped nyhotep a GeekGold tip by way of thanks.

The game "Free Trader" is now available for you to download from the BookRanger game page. I've also submitted the game to the BoardGameGeek game database, so hopefully within a couple of days it will have a reference page there where I can field any questions.

Secondly I finally got a chance to break out my new copy of Carrier. I started working my way through the rules and got to Scenario 1. This scenario includes only a Japanese and US air strike with no counters on the map. I only managed to get through the US attack before time ran out. I had this game set up for at least an hour and half.

The majority of the time was spent reading rules. There is a lot of text and a lot of cross references. It seems to be missing a simple step by step guide to get you going which is fairly typical of these older war games. There is nothing for it but to plow on through and put the time in. I've played these sort of games before and its always a lot of hard effort to get going but is usually well worth the effort once your able to zip through the process without constant references to the rules.

I hope to have another stab at this tomorrow but my time might end up being dedicated to my copy of Outpost Gamma.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Charity shop hunt strikes Gold!

Not being a car owner I find it quite hard to go out and just browse shops, so when the opportunity comes round I go for it!

Today was the one day a month when we hire a car to do the "big shop", and my wife wanted to trawl a couple of charity shops for books. I was rubbing my hands with glee delighted with the opportunity to simply browse a couple of shops.

In the first shop, nothing. In the second shop I hit non-gamer gold, a book by Harold Coyle ( who wrote the excellent Team Yankee ) called Dead Hand.

In the third shop, pure gamer gold! Buried under the numerous puzzels and copies of Buckaroo I found two old style boxed games... Firstly Valley of the Four Winds and even better Carrier.

Carrier is a solitaire wargame where you control the american carrier forces hunting down the japanese forces during world war 2. Its a hex and counter game and with a huge map and what look like good rules for controling the enemy. I'm looking forward to getting this on the table.

The absolutely best bit of this is that these games only cost 99p each.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Lucky Escape for Mordor

I just had a quick game of Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation with my son. I won, of which I'm rightly proud, however it was a close run thing. Only by blind luck did I manage to catch Frodo and Sam in the Mountains with the Cave Troll. At that point, I was down by 3 more pieces than my son.

My son is a little autistic and although he's no RainMan he has a memory that many computers would envy. For example he knows what every card in Killer Bunnies says and means, he remembers rules for games he played once over a year ago, that sort of thing.

So as you can imagine when it comes to a game like this he is able to remember each and every character that's been revealed and where it was. He knows which characters defeat which, he knows what cards you've already played...

This is why I like to play games with some degree of luck or "the unknown", otherwise I wouldn't stand a chance. I'm not a fan of chess, if I were, I'm sure he would destroy me at that.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Battletech Heat Track

I was playing around with my old (1980's) copy of Battletech today and looking at the Mech record sheet. This old sheet has a tiny little track in the bottom right for recording your heat level.

In the past I've used a pencil and eraser on this track. But after about twenty turns your pencil goes blunt and the track startes dispearing as you keep rubbing at it.

So to help rectify that, I finally "got my finger out" and have made up a heat track that has space to use a glass nugget as a marker. So instead of rub-rub-rub I can just slide-slide-slide my nuggest around. I've printed out 6 of these as a start, 1 per Mech.

Of course I've also uploaded it to the Battletech page at Board Game Geek, but you'll have to wait for the Mods to "OK" the file before you can get your hands on it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A couple of game designs

Over the bank holiday weekend I made up a roll and move game. My son is nuts for anything with dinosaurs, so I taped a bunch of A4 paper together to make one big sheet I could draw on.

He has a bag full of mini dinosaurs and these were my inspiration. I made a track with boxed spaces running around three sides of the paper and then snaked through the centre.

I drew a volcano on the board and had the smoke blowing upwards across the track and causing a turn to be missed. Also Lava was running down aross another part of the track which made you go backwards.

The track had spaces with dino poo, dino wee, dino sick, Jurassic Crabs and even Killer Bunnies!

I also decorated the board with dinosaurs in the water , and running away from the lava ( hot lava death hurts! ).

All of the beasties has speech bubbles saying silly things but the the biggest feature, the one that got the biggest laugh and had my son going on and on about it was... a Big T-Rex farting across the track ( for a miss a go )!

Will this game ever make it onto Board Game Geek? Nope. It was a one shot, that got a bunch of laughs but I'd be ashamed for any "real" people to see it.

On another tack, I've had a real game design of my own in alpha testing with a bunch of great volunteers from Board Game Geek. I've had a lot of questions, but thats good in this alpha stage as it points out problems in the design and failings in the rules as written.

I hope to start pulling all of the feedback together this weekend ( time allowing ). Once I know what needs to be corrected I'll put a few hours into fixing the bugs and then get the game released to the public. It'll be released for free to the public and get a page Board Game Geek. Once that happens, I'll feel like I have really earny my Board Game designer badge.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Scooby Doo - Cyber Chase, a Review

Brought and played this game today. I got the game second hand from a car-boot sale. I'm so glad I spent only 1 pound on this, rather than the MRRP.

You get a colourful box featuring the Scooby Doo characters, but its made of thin card and wont take much general usage.

The rules cover two sides of an A4 sheet, in big text ( in blue ). The rules are explained perfectly well, and we had no questions.

The board is a good heavy card, but the playing surface is disapointing in every way. It is colourful. There is a start space in one corner. Each of the other corners contains a challenge space. Running around the board are four spaces in between each corner, and players will move along these.

Each space along the edges contains text written in colourful jazzy text. This text says things like "Go back three spaces" or "Miss a turn", nothing more original than that.

The center of the board is just a splodge of colour.

Cards : There are a small number of cards. The cards show, Apple, Steak and Bone, one of each for each player. There is also a special card showing a magnet... the rules say it's a magnet, but it doesn't look like one. Finally for the cards we have two Samurai cards, one showing a broken sword one showing a normal sword.

We also get a spinner, that shows numbers 1 to 4 and a magnet space where you would expect to see 5. A coloured bar runs around the numbers in two tone.

The last components are some very nice plastic minis of the Scooby Gang. They are unpainted in vivid colours.

Game play is sadly boring and dull, even the kids thought so. Flick the spinner, move the number of spaces shown do what it says on the space you land on.

However if you reach a Challenge space in the corner, it stops movement until you pass the challenge and collect one of the snack cards ( bone,apple,steak) as a prize.

Challenges are dull. Have a spin off against the next player. Pick a colour on the spinner and spin to match the colour. Pick one of the two Samurai cards if its the unbroken sword you win.

The last space on the board is called the Stop space. Once you reach there, if you have the magnet card you have won.

As for the magnet card, if when you use the spinner, is comes up on the magnet segment you get the magnet card. There is also one space on the board that if you land on it, you get the magnet card. So this card moves around a bit.

If you get to the "Stop" space without the magnet, you spin each turn until you do get the magnet.

The theme is about as thin as you can get. Its a movie ( straight to DVD ) tie in, and suffers from the very worst elements of poor film tie ins. Nothing about the imagery or tasks make any sense or stand on their own. You will ask yourself, why is there a Samurai, why is there a dinosaur on the board, what is this virus thingy down here all about?

Dire. Dull. Dispiriting. Dismal.

The only good thing about this game are the Scooby gang in plastic. I'll be dumping the game and keeping the Scooby Gang who I'll be using in my Scooby Doo Cluedo variant ( which is posted in the files section on the "Clue" page ).

Dont buy it, unless you want the minis and then only second hand, and then only if its very very cheap.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hohenfriedeberg - Review

This is just a short review of Hohenfriedeberg which is a very small Print and Play game.

This is a 1 page wargame. Rules, counters and map are all printed on a single side of paper ( or card ).

The map is hex based and I'm glad to say very nicely presented. Hex borders are used to denote movement restrictions. A thick black line means impassable and a thick gray line denotes movement stops after crossing. A very simple and nice mechanic. The images/drawings on the map are hand drawn and quite appealing.

The counters have a simple silhouette and a number in each corner. The numbers are Attack, Defence, Movement and Range, pretty standard wargame fare. The two sides have different background colours.

The Rules are short and to the point, well written and I didn't have any problems following them.

Set up is straight forward, starting spaces on the map are indicated by circles. A nice feature is that players take turns placing one of thier counters onto the start places. This means that despite the rigid start locations you can vary how the troops are distributed, meaning you can try many initial set ups.

On a turn, you can move two of your counters and attack with two counters. The attack counters dont have to be the ones you moved.

Counters that lose a combat are flipped and have to retreat. A flipped counter that loses a combat is destroyed. Very simple, very straight forward.

Winning comes about by causing all of your opponents counters to be destroyed or to end a turn with all of your opponents counters flipped.

I felt that the fight to destruction led to a slightly overlong game. It felt to me that it could have been improved by a set end game or scenario objective.

In summary, this game is worth printing. Its simple and quick to make and will fill 40 minutes of gaming time.

I've posted an audio review of this game on the Print and Play podcast.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

DIY Boardgame Expansion

Being an ardent Print and Play gamer I often look at the games I have and think about how I can expand them or make them better. I'm trying to add to the experience and the fun.

I was looking over my Hour of Glory game and looking at the boards thinking what I might add to it. The boards are very nicely made and designed to fit together in a certain pattern. However the rules do state that you can mix them up if you want to.

Well, I shuffeled them about a bit and ended up with 1 door facing out off of the board into "non-game-space". That was it, I knew I had to make up a new board. Looking at the existing rooms, they are all rather big so I started thinkning that the stronghold was missing something a little smaller, a closet sized room!

I got this game as a PDF so I opened the PDF, went to a page that contained a printable tile, took a screen shot and got to work in Paint Shop Pro. Half an hour later I had a small 3x3 room with a doorway. I'd done a hacking cut and paste job to turn an original tile into a tiny itsy bitsy room.

I now have a room that I can line up with the door I had disapearing into nowhere. Not only that but I now have a utility room with many uses. I can arrange the tiles in the usual order and append this the side. It could be the Commanders starting room, a Guard room, a mission objective or just a place to hide.

I've made up the room and posted it to the files section of the games page at BoardGameGeek.

If you have the game, please take a look at the file and see if you can use it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A challenge for the arty fan of Lord of the Rings

If like me you have a copy of Lord of the Rings, the excellent cooperative game, you may think that although the boards are loverly the game bits are rather bland.

Of course you can upgrade hobbit minis with some nice metal figures and likewise for that Sauron paperweight. You can even upgrade the ring itself with one of the many cheap film tie-ins that are drifting around secondhand stores.

Yet what about the event tiles, the shields and the Life tokens. They are just boring, very little effort design wise has gone into those.

The Shields for a start could have much richer graphics. The White Tree shields from the film even the shields of the Uruk-Hai and those of the Rohirrim could be used.

Well heres the challenge, if your the arty type why dont you come up with some alternate parts that the rest of us can Print and Play with, and post the file onto the games page at Board Game Geek