Monday, June 30, 2008

Film inspiration for a new game design

In the last couple of days I watched a Hollywood movie for the first time, and was totally absorbed by it from first to last.

The film is called U-571 and tells the story of a U-Boat during world war two. I was so excited by this movie that it set my mind in motion in game terms, so much so that I wasn't able to get to sleep that night without noterising all of the game thoughts that were spinning through my mind.

Strangely enough it wasn't thoughts relating to a game involving a submarine. Instead I was thinking about a card game based around the "Battle of the River Plate". Dont bother asking me how I got from U-571 to the "Admiral Graf Spee" because I have no idea. When I have one of those brain storming incidents there just is no accounting.

So here I am a day later with a set collection game ( with a twist ) theoried out. I now need to start working on the individual cards. I need to name the cards and determine their effects. Work out how the sets will be constituted and how many cards will be in the final deck.

So here's my plan. Work up the cards, plays a few hands with the family, fix any obvious problems. Then ask for playtest volunteers on Board Game Geek and go through the same playtest process. Once thats complete, submit to a few game companies, watch it become the the latest "big thing" and reture on the profits.

Good plan!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Remaking Lost Patrol

A good few months ago I made a copy of "Lost Patrol". The tiles for the game were posted on the games page at Board Game Geek.

There is always a dodgey feeling when you do this as the imagery itself is still under copyright and no explicit permission is associated with the files in question.

My feelings on this are that if a game is out of print, and the copyright owners have not complained or requested the files be removed your pretty much free to go ahead. Understand this is not legal advice, it's just how I feel about it. I suspect that any boardgame owner/designer is going to know about BoardGameGeek and surely they would have raised a rumpus if they objected right? I mean these files have been up there for years.

Anyway, where am I heading with this? I just revisited the Lost Patrol page at Board Game Geek and found THREE different and new Tile Sets usable for playing the game in the files section. WOW! Three new tile sets meaning you dont need to use copies of the original artwork. Couple that with the fact that you can use free and totally legal Paper Mini's for the Marines and your able to make the game without worry or concern.

Incidentally, all three of these sets share two similarities. 1 ) They are excellently produced. 2) They dont appear to have "Tangle Weed" or equivalent.

This second point makes quite a difference to game play as it can make the marines more prone to danger.

I'm downloading these files and storing them, because I'll be using them if I ever have to replace the set I currently have.

Check it!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wormhole - Session Report

Scenario : Both fleets are responding to a distress beacon eminating from a stella dust cloud, neither force is aware of of the others presence. A sudden solar pulse from a nearby sun temporarily washes away the dust cloud revealing the fleets to each other.

Royalist Faction : 1 Hammerhead Cruiser, 1 Missile Fighter
Separatist Faction : 1 Fleet Carrier, 1 Control Corvette, 2 Particle Bow Frigates.

Set up :
Royalists ,Line Ahead, Fighter followed by Cruiser ,heading "north".
Separatists , Line Ahead Carrier, Particle Bows, Corvette, heading "North by North West".

First Phase of Battle.

The Fighters sped North then turned South East aiming to take on the Frigates. The Cruiser Launched a missile at the Carrier and started turning towards. The Carrier started to turn towards, the Frigates simply started charging, the Corvette turned sharply west and started heading for the Cruiser.

Second Phase of Battle.

The Cruiser launched a second missile aiming for the northern most Frigate. The Fighter dodged South East passing safely South of the Frigates as they turned towards the Cruiser. The Corvette nominated the Fighters as a target as it headed further West towards the Cruiser, the Carrier continued its turn.

Third Phase of the Battle.

The ruiser launched a third missile ready to take any target of opportunity. The Fighters passed between the Frigates and Corvette turning in towards the southern Frigates rear. The Corvette closed on the Cruiser nominating it as a target and Firing causing 1 point of damage. The Frigates had an opportunity to fire at the Missiles but choose to hold fire and save it for the Cruiser.

Fourth Phase of the Battle.

The Cruiser launched another missile. One of the missiles launched earlier reached the northernmost Frigate and caused 3 points of damage. The Carrier continued its turn and fired on the incoming missile which exploded only an inch from it causing minor damage to the Carrier itself. The Frigates opened fire together, the massive firepower of the two Fusion Cannons ripped into the Cruiser causing massive damage. The Corvette poured in its own Laser fire and this tipped the balance causing the Cruiser to distintergrate.

Fifth Phase of the Battle.

The Fighters attacked the rear of the undamaged Frigate but failed to cause any damage. One of the missiles homed in on the damaged Frigate and caused a single point of damage.

At the point the Royalists decided to withdraw from the battlefield and disapeared into the surrounding dust.

After game thoughts :

This was a fast playing game, all of the rules are simple and straightforward and I only had to look things up once or twice.

The ability of Fighters to move behind an enemy is thier strength. I suggest they should always be used in this capacity. This suggests that Frigates, Cruisers and Capital ships can easily be worn down from rear end attacks and thus require Fighter support of thier own to defend thier rear quarters.

The Frigates are tremendously powerful if left alone to do thier own thing. Once charged they need to be avoided.

Missiles are tremendously useful, cheap to buy and intelligent, I think in future games I would launch a few of these , running the early ones slowly so the later ones can catch up and then have them all hit at the same time.

Due to the poor turning ability of the Cruisers I suspect that they are really only good at taking on other Capital ships, but I never actually got to try that.

The weakness of the Carrier in aggressive capability suggests to me that like modern carriers these need to be protected and kept out of harms way. I'm thinking that each Carrier should only ever launch three of its fighters, keeping one is reserve. Then as soon as a Fighter gets damaged it returns to the Carrier and the reserve leaves.

Good game, really enjoyed it, will be playing again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cat Attack - Session Report

I have just finished a game of Cat Attack with the group at work, it turned out of be a blood fest! Cats were dying time after time.

The car managed to kill one or maybe two.

One was lost when it ended its turn in a garden after a raid.

Fireworks night came round twice and took two lives from everyone.

One was lost when a cat got trapped and had nowhere to move.

The rest of the lives went to agressive play with both "Cat Attack" cards and the normal landing on cat space, and also there were a few Cat Fights.

The game ended really quickly, I Attacked and then got took out of the game myself in a counter attack. Then the game came down to two players with one life each. One went on a raid of the others house but couldn't get out of the garden and lost its last life. We had a winner by the default of his being the only one alive!

This session took an otherwise fun family game and turned it into a strategic agressive gamers game.

I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Emerald Session Report

The session included myself, my wife and my son. We have played once before so everyone knew what to do.

My son went first and clever lead off with 2 knights. My wife and I followed with 1 each. Then he made a double leap with his knights getting 4 spaces down the path. My wife was focusing on getting her first two pawns along the path and I was trying to move all of mine. My son was focusing on his first and second knights. He got into the cave first and started collecting Gold.

I followed him in and started my policy of taking gold only if it was worth more than a 1, other wise I was taking a gem. I only made one exception to that later in the game when I was able to claim my fourth green gem letting me gain the bonus.

I got about half way into the cavern and my son was still ahead when the Dragon got his first knight.

After that my wife moved into the carverns, the dragon started getting ravenous, getting two of my knights, one of hers and another one of sons.

My wife got the bonus for four mixed gems with her second knight and my I managed to be the first player to get a knight through into the horde, it did cost me two gold that had to be given up to the Dragon, still a profit!

The game ended pretty quickly after the dragon feast and we started handing out the various gem bonus'. I got the green and the others went to my wife and son.

My sons face lit up when he discovered he had won, he'd been a bit downcast when he was the first player to lose a knight. The scores were pretty close... he only won by about 20 points!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cat Attack getting nasty

I'm playing Cat Attack with my chums at work and I'm finding it a whole new experience. I've played this game a number of time with the family and that's always been a fairly fun lighthearted hour.

Now I'm playing against two "gamers". They are coming at it in a differnt style. Instead of everyone just dodging round the board occassionally losing the odd life to getting run over, I've already lost three lives in a half hour session!

These "gamers" are nastily aggressive. By both of them picking on me they are going to quickly eliminate a competitor. A fair enough tactic, but I suddenly have to play a completely differntly way. All cats are my enemies and my stash of food at home is not safe.

I'm seeing this game in a new light. I've always felt that this game was a bit wishy washy but now I'm not so sure. I was a little reluctant at first to try this game with "gamers" thinking that it was a little childish. The theme certainly looks like it's for kids. I'm happy to know that this is a meaty , nay, nasty gamers game. :)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Emerald - Review

Emerald is a light game, a gateway game. The theme is based on knights leaving the castle to raid the dragons lair for its gold.

The board is simple and colourful, actually a joy to play with. It depicts the castle, a short path that leads into the cave of the dragon and eventually into the lair of the dragon.

The players will be using loverly wooden pawns ( knights ) in the usual array of colours.

There are also number of cards that get laid onto the board. These are Gem and Gold cards.

There is also a large wooden piece for the dragon and a wooden dowel. The dowel is used to mark the patrol area of the dragon within the cave spaces, and will move during the game.

All of the pawns (knights) start out in the castle. On your turn you may move either one or two of your pawns. The way pawns move is quite clever and forms part of the stratergy of the game. A pawn moves forwards a number of spaces equal to the number of pawns in its starting space. So a pawn in a space on its own only moves one space. With two pawns in the start space the pawn moves two spaces.

The first six spaces on the board are safe and your only concern here is keeping ahead of the competition. The next nine spaces are where the fun begins, these are the caves and are patroled by the dragon.

When you land in a cave space you check the card spaces to either side. If there is a gold card or a gem card you have to take one. When you take that card that ends your turn. The Gold cards are valued from 1 to 5 the gem cards are only worth 1, so the choice seems obvious. Except that at the end of the game there are points to be won for sets of gems that can make a seeming loser into the winner.

When a player ends a turn in the cave he has to move the dragon. You roll the die ( marked 1-3 twice ) and the dragon moves backwards and forwards along its patrol area ( the stick! ). If the dragon ends its move on a space with a pawn ( knight ) the player owning that pawn has a choice. Either pay a gold card to the dragon ( discard ) or lose the knight to feed the baby dragon!

Each space in the cave has a limited number number of gold and gem cards so as the game progresses the cards nearer the entrance to the cave get used up and this forces you further into the cave. The dragons patrol area moves during the game towards the back of the cave thus your never really safe.

Any knights that pass the dragon can move up to the dragons horde where some bonus cards appear and each knight that gets that far earns an additional five gold.

The game usually ends when one player is left with only one knight in play.

You then distribute the bonus cards and count up points to see who has won.

I think this is a great gateway game. I really enjoy the decisions you have to make every turn as to how to move. As well as making optimal moves for yourself your also able to manipulate your opponents pieces by clever play. For instance you can stack your pieces to make an opponent jump in front of the dragon. You can take a card to deliberately stop an opponent from gaining a bonus. Or you can choose to feed your own piece to the dragon in order to end the game quickly.

Good game!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Proved it now

As you may know I've proclaimed that Star Wars Clone Wars risk is a broken game. Two recent plays of my copy have proven it.

In the first game I played the Bad guys. Some good play and nice die rolls had me on the back foot and in that "Risk Way" his reinforcements were more numerous than mine and I lost planet after planet until pushed into a single system.. Then I called Order 66 and BLAM I come through to win two or three turns later.

Then the second game that I watched, showed how the good guys have NO ADVANTAGE in game before order 66 is called. As I watched a series or bad rolls which threw the bad guys into retreat and the attrition did its thing wearing them down until in an untenable position.

So without the Order 66, the game plays like ordinary risk with neither side having an advantage, with 66 it's almost a pointless game.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Baseball - Review


This is a Piecepack game, meaning you need to have a Piecepack in order to play. For this particular game you'll also need a standard deck of cards ( remove the jokers ). Then of course you'll need the game itself which comes as a pdf.

Print the PDF once and repeat page 6 you'll need a page 6 for each player.

When your done printing you have the Piecepack, 5 pages of clear and easy to follow rules. A sheet depicting the Baseball diamond and the innings trackers. Each player will have a play mat in front of them showing the outfield and spaces for catcher and the pitchers.

Setting Up : Each player gets two sets of tiles, coins and pawns from the Piecepack. They also get one suit of the Red and Black cards from the deck of cards. Each player stacks three cards in his pitcher pile places one tile on the catcher space and the rest get placed in the various spots in the outfield.

Placement in the outfield is important as some spots receive more balls than others and so you'll want your better catchers there.

The Batting player works his way through the team tiles placed on his outfield map, using one of his pawn to indicate which tile is batting at any one time.

Playing a pitch is straight forward. The player Pitching places down a black card from hand of standard cards. The Batter does likewise from the Red cards. The Batter rolls three of the dice, removes any that match his currently batting tile. The remain dice are totaled. Then the cards are turned over. If the Batters card is higher then 2 is added to the die total, if the Pitchers card is higher then 2 is subtracted.

This final score references a small chart which indocates, outs, homers or where in the outfield the ball has gone. If the balls is in the air then the receiving tile has an opportunity to catch the ball. The Pitching player rolls a die, if it scores less than the number on the tile then the ball is caught and the Batter is OUT!

There are a number of variations to this basic system. Some allow extra plays for stealing bases and that sort of thing. You can also optionally play through your pitchers if they start getting into trouble.

The game plays for a basic 5 innings, and I suppose you could play more if you end up with a draw.

What did I think of this game? I thought it was OK, a simple and very quick to play game that an enthusiast is going to find fun and a hardened gamer mildly interesting.

I liked it, and am very glad I had a Piecepack so I could try it out very quickly. If your into Print and Play I suggest you get yourself a Piecepack and check out the hundreds of games available for free.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Robot Warfare

I have just published a little set of wargame rules for miniatures. Not published in the "going to a publisher" sense of the word but rather in the "posting the details on my web site" sense.

I've had a hankering to play Battletech with my son for a long while, but have been afraid that the rules would proove a little too slow for him. Also the cardboard stand ups I have for the game are a little uninspiring.

So I spent a few weeks keeping my eyes open for some minis to use in a game I would devise that would give me my Battling Robots fix.

EBay came up trumps. A seller specialising in all of the cheap tat, that passes for toys at the cheap end of the market was selling a set of plastic robots. These are not Battletech minis which I had found to be too expensive even second hand. These are unbranded low quality plastic. Just what I needed.

They are about the right size and just fit into a Battletech hex. However following suggestion from a BGG user I broke out my Heroscape : Rise of the Valkyrie set and built up some interesting terrain. The robot minis actually fit better onto these hexes.

Then I had to come up with some rules.

I wanted only D6's. I like games that use simple dice, A throwback to my Traveller RPG days I guess. So 2D6 was going to be my "To Hit" mechanism. That decided I built a quick table giving to-hit numbers based on range. Then I threw in modifiers for a couple of circumstance.

Looking at the collection of Robots I realised that many had no ranged weapons at all, and relied upon a simple sword. So I needed close combat rules as well. 2D6 opposed rolls came to the rescue!

I specifically wanted to use these rules with my son and I remembered the crestfallen look on his face once when we played risk. I went first in the first turn and launched a whole bunch of attacks. He was totally depressed by the wave of success I had. I didnt want that effect to happen in this game.

So I started having a game where players took turns to activate one robot to move or fight. Incidentally, I was using action points, 3 action points for the robot to use when activated.

I test played these rules myself and realised that there was a problem. With only being able to activate one robot at a time there would be a tendancy to only use one robot until it died and then move onto the next robot. That would give me no tactics to mention.

I revised the rules to allow a player to activate two robots on a turn and I also gave the robots an additional action point because the test play had revealed that turns were very very limited.

So then I was ready. I called my son in he got excited at the look-of-the-thing and we set to.

Or rather he set to. I limped slowly into the general region of "to". With six robots each he hammered me 6-1

Take a look at the rules