Thursday, July 31, 2008

Encountering S.P.I.V.s

A chap at work brought in an old game, old as in it was copyrighted in 1986, thats pretty old for a hobby game. Its' theme is a little odd. It has an overall space theme but with a "spiv" layer layed over the top. "Spiv" in case you didn't know is a dodgey dealer.

The object of the game is make money by visiting planets beaming up aliens and then selling these criters on the space stations.

There is a lot of randomness in the game and a lot of die rolling but it's certainly interesting especially for a 20 year old game. Older games tend be rather dull and pedestrian, roll and move type affairs. This one has random effects, things to be overcome and a light challenge. I'll do a review and session report sometime soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Free Trader - Session report

This is a session report on the next version of the game that I am playtesting. This new version is a simple incremental change on the original game. The changes included are : Lower profit potential, mis-jump capability, money for killing pirates, Alien Invaders ( up-gunned pirates ), greater costs for ship modules.

Starting on Earth I bought three Indu cargos and shot out along the new trade route to Baker. Unfortunately I couldn't sell Indu there, I guess their cargo handlers must have been on strike.

Moved to Tanist, dang! Couldn't sell there either, strikes everywhere.

Moved onto Azerbot into the path of a Pirate. He shot at me but missed. I flashed my lasers and wasted him getting a nice credit from the Galactic bank for my pains.

Sold my cargo bringing the balance up to 11. I brought three Wea cargo pods and jumped to Tarken, and sold the Wea for profit. Also managed to fit a new Laser and a new cargo pod.

Then I bought three cheap Indu cargo leaving me with 6 money. Paid out and jumped to Rijel. More Pirates! Same story as before, I was happy to take the credit for killing bad guys. Sold the cargo ending up with 12 money.

Taking Wea to earth looks like an option but Kailing would be even better but that is too far away. So back to Earth with three Wea.

More dang pirates bigger ones this time. They took a shot at me smashing off one of my engines, I was just thinking how expensive that would be to replace when the danging bank took the first payment on the ship, in the middle of a battle! I returned fire using my shiny new laser and blasted the pirate. Phew! Nice couple of money from the authorities for cleaning up the pirates, but not enough to replace the drive.

The prices here are doing me no favours I can only sell for price I bought them for. No better options within two jumps. :( Tarken is the best option but due to the damage taken thats beyond reach!

There is the new route to Corolis, I cant reach Azerbot and prices are depressed on Baker so it looks like I'm going to Corolis but I have no idea where I'm going after that.

I make the jump with some Agri right into a fight with more Pirates, they're getting bigger! Dodged their shot, then smacked them. Sold my goods and I'm rolling around in money (18). I upgraded the cargo capacity of the ship.

Indu to Kailing looks like the best bet. I jump, and sell the cargo getting up to 20 money! I upgraded Cargo and Defence.

I bought a hold full of Agri and jumped for Rijel. Unfortunately there is no one buying Agri. The new route to Thane has poor furture trade options so I reject that, Tarken only has one trade route, but going back to Earth will offer three trade route options. I jump to Earth and sell at a profit bringing my money up to 17.

I can only buy Agri and Indu here, Indu is cheap and the prices look good for that on Azerbot. I buy 4 Indu and make the Jump.

Huge Pirate ship! He misses me, my attack misses him and dang it the bank demand their payment in the middle of the battle ... oh no, I only have 9 money in the bank, they need 10. Fingers go loose on the controls, what's the point of fighting, I've already lost the ship...

... and the game.

Final status, 4 Indu cargo, 4 Cargo spaces, 3 Engines, 3 Weapons, 3 Defence and 9 money.

Conclusion : Certainly no easier than the previous version. Unfortunately I did not encounter any of the extra features during this first session, so I will have to definitely run some more playtests. Possible that I need to include more than 1 Invader type event in the deck, as Invaders are likely to force jumps those will incur mis-jumps.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Brothers by my Side - Session

Brothers by my Side is a wargame about a single battle in the American involvement in Vietnam. This was an odd game because I took over the hot seat of the American side after start of play, as the previous player was indisposed.

So at the start of turn two what did I find. Fortunately the VC hadn't activated so were still on the start line. Unfortunately the chit pull event was that the reinforcements would be delayed for two turns meaning that I was stuck on my lonesome until the last but 1 turn. Futher more I found one platoon down on H7, the Gunships pulling out and the remaining troops clustered around K5.

I thought to move the troops forwards into the ditch by way of protection and moved that way. Then the hordes of VC started moving. They surged forwards, some sweeping east doing an end around the rough terrain. Others went north doing the same and there were still plenty coming straight through the rough.

I pulled the lonesome company back as they would have been surrounded out on thier own.

The VC came into sight from all directions at once. The US leader called in artillery on the lead elements that had hooked North and then East but sadly it didn't do any good.

The lonesome platoon who had pulled back to the ant hills got into a fire fight, but stood thier ground. Unfortunately the American CO and the platoon he was with was then taken out by strikes from three directions.

The VC swarming continued and they even took possesion of K5. One US platoon was knocked down a step.

The VC reinforcements poured onto the board making a bad situation frankly untenable, when (phew!) the US reinforcements arrived. They dropped the choppers into the remaining few holes in the VC Swarms. Unfortunately they jumped into melee, and were repulsed forcing one unit to retreat and another unable to retreat was destroyed, which included the only Leader meaning there were no more artillery or air-support to be had.

At this stage there were only two american units left in play with no real hope.

The final VC turn had the units surrounded on all sides, one unit was blown away, the second unit survived "by accident". This happy event occurred because the VC units had become mixed, thus although surrounded it could only be hit by a number of small attacks rather than 1 big one.

A sad day for me, not really a hope. Foobar from the start. With the leaders out of position or dead, a bad initial deployment and seriously delayed reinforcements.

Still very enjoyable and I'm looking forward to playing the other scenarios.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wormhole TOS

Wormhole is a big Wargame. That is, it takes up a lot of space. Some of the models for the game are a foot long! Each ship in your fleet also requires a TOS which is a control panel. This panel has a bunch of switches for giving orders to the ship, also a slider for recording damage.

My problem with this is that you play with a fleet, that's a lot of ships and therefore a lot of TOS Control Panels. So the game that already takes up a lot of space due to the models, also takes up a lot of space for fleet management. I kind of resent the extra space, so this week I've started putting together a piece of software to take care of this.

I'm about two and a half hours into the development cycle and it's coming together quite nicely. I've got half of a TOS for one type of ship on screen with working switches. I reckon in another ten hours or so I should have a nice bit of kit here that will allow any number of fleets to be controlled from a single laptop. I plan on releasing this into the community when done. Of course I'll have to get permission from the game owners first, but I suspect they'll be up for it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Game Ideas flowing again.

Well, I've posted up the first version of my Battle of the River Plate card game onto my web site and am still waiting for the Admins over at BoardGameGeek to authorise the games entry there ( it's been days and days).

So I've cleared that out of my mind and the game designer space in my head went calm for a day or two but it's starting to build again.

I've sketched out my design for the "Sink the Bismarck" dice game, and played through a couple of games. So thats back burner for a while.

But now I have two seperate ideas for 1-shot RPG's (story telling) that are stirring the waters. On top of that I've been mulling over another card/board game using the Powerpuff Girls cartoon as a theme. As of two nights ago a formular has been coming together for a game based on Hamsters!

Ahhhhhh Creative Juices are drowning me!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pickett's Charge - Session Report

Here's my session report for a session of Pickett's Charge : Day three of Gettysburg which is a free print and play game that you can download and make up yourself.

The board was set up as per usual with the rebs from board left to right Brkh, Davs, A, Lane, Pett, Scls, Arch, B, C, Grnt, Armd, Kemp, Prry, D Wilx,

Likewise for the Yankies once again board left to right 8 HO, Osbn, 3-3-II, 2-3-II, 1-1-I, 2-2-II, Hzrd, 3-2-II, 3-1-I, McGv

In the following account I've only listed hits, not unsuccessful attacks.

Turn 1, Reb's advance, Yankies stay put.
Hzrd hits Grnt 1 pt. McGv hits Armd 1pt + retreat. A hits HO 8 2pts destroyed! D hits 3-1-I 1 pt.

Turn 2, general Reb advance again, to just shy of the midway mark. 3-1-I and McGv close up on the main Yankie line.
Osbn hits Brkh 2 pts + retreat. Mcgv hits Prry 2pts. A hits 3-3-II 1pt + retreat. D hits Mcgv 2 pts + retreat.

Turn 3, once again a general reb advance with the artillery holding back out of infantry charge range. Yankies who retreated pull back into the line.
Osbn hits Brkh 1pt. Hzrd hits Grnt 2pts + retreat. Mcgv hits Wilx 2 pts. The infantry opening fire on the Union left totally ineffective. A hits 3-3-II 2 pts + retreat. B 2 hits on 1-1-I. C gets 2 hits on 2-2-II + retreat. D hits Mcgv 1 pt. Wilx hits 3-1-I 1pt.

Turn 4, Rebs advance, D and A move towards thier left flank, while the rght wing slam into contact along Cemetary ridge. Blisswoods are causing a slow up and log jame on the reb left.
Osbn gets 1pt hit on Brkh. Hzrd hits Kemp 2pts. Mcgv hits D for 2pts + retreat. 3-3-II hits Pett for 1pt. 2-3-II also hits Pett for 1pt. 1-1-I hits Kemp 1pt. 1-2-II hits Prry for 1pt. 3-1-I gets 2pts on Wilx. A hits Osbn. Brkh hits 3-3-II for 1pt. Prry hits back at 1-2-II for 1pt. Wilx gets 2pts on 3-1-I + retreat + rout ( destroyed ).

Turn 5, Rebs are now able to move into contact along entire ridge, the full length of the line. A,B and C have stayed back out of melee.
Hzrd smacks Grnt for 5pts and destroys them. Mcgv hits D for 3pts destroyed!. 3-1-I 1pt on Pett. 2-3-II 3pts on Davs. 2-2-II 1pt on Kemp + retreat + rout (destroyed). 3-2-II 2pts versus Armd. 1-2-II 1pt on Prry. A score 2pts on Osbn. A hole appears in the reb centre! C scores 1pt on 1-1-I destroyed! Brkh gets 1pt on 3-3-II. Pett scores a 2pt hit on 3-3-II as well. Davs 1pt against 2-3-II + retreat. Armd lucks out with 3pt on 3-2-II opening a hole in the centre of the stone wall.

Turn 6, The Rebs "Arch" unit makes it onto the stone wall. The artillery Batteries A and B move to blast Osbn. The only yankie move is 2-3-II back up to the wall.
Osbn 1pt on Brkh. Hzrd 1 hit on Armd. Mcgv 1 hit on Wilx. 3-3-II 1 hit on Brkh. 2-3-II 2 hits on Arch. 2-2-II double hit on Scls + 2 retreats. 1-2-II 3pt hit on Prry destroyed!. A hits Osbn 1pt. C hits 2-2-II 1pt. Pett hits 3-3-II destroyed, the yankies right wing is dissolved! Arch hits 2-3-II 1pt. Armd hits Hzrd for 1pt.

Turn 7, The rebs envelop the Union centre, reb artillery a,B and C can now all fire at Osbn. Mcgv closes on the union left.
Mcgv makes a 4pt hit on Wilx destroyed!. 2-3-II hits Davs 1pt. A gets 2 hits on Osbn, destroyed! Pett 1 pt on 2-3-II. Lane 2 hits of 2-3-II. Finally Arch 3 hits on 2-3-II, destroyed. The Union conceed defeat.

All in all a very enjoyable game. A post game re-read of the rules we noticed that artillery can not fire into a hex adjacent to a friendly, but this only happened once or twice and then only on the losing side anyway.

Additionally we played without Hazletts guns as we could not decide on any kind of LOS for it becuase it is only described as being "off-map", but once again the chances of it making any difference to the Unions loss was minimal.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Treasures and Traps - Session Report

On Wednesday night I dropped into a game of Treasures and Traps. I picked T&T because it doesn't run too long, and after the 10 mile cycle ride home I'm often too tired to play. But on Wednesday the little lad looked so doleful I had to play something with him.

I broke out the game shuffeled the deck dealt out the cards and then remembered the house rule. I have a little rule for T&T when playing with two. I remove the "Stink-Eye" card. This card prevents you from entering treasures, and as you need treasures this is a real bind. Additionally when this card is exited it is not discarded but rather moves to another player. So with only two players you get into a feed back loop of passing the card from one to another. Boring and ruins the fun, so I pull this card out.

So with Stink-Eye out of the game, I re shuffled the cards and dealt again. Unfortunately I dealt myself a bunch of poo cards.

My son won the die roll so went first. The first card he brought out was "The Castle" which prevents you from sending Creatures into his realm, and of course my hand was mostly made of Creatures!

I dropped a Bronze treasure into my realm.

On his second turn he drooped a Silver treasure and promptly stole my bronze. So that left him with two thirds of a winning position, I was really in trouble by turn two.

I forgot his Castle, tried sending a Creature to steal his Silver, but of course he remembered the Castle and pointed out my mistake. I looked through my cards again and realised I had the "Edict". When this card is played it changes the winning requirements from 1 of each treasure to 3 of one type. I played it which should set him back. I then successfully exited his Castle.

So we start turn three. He plays another Bronze treasure, meaning he is once again close to winning. Then... he gave me that look. Half smile, half in-your-face-old-man! He laid down a card that allows you to change a treasure of one type into any other type of treasure. He then deliberately and slowly lifted the die and made a show of rolling it.

So I chalk this game up as another loss to the near unbeatable son. Not only a loss but a quick and solid trouncing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Talisman - Session Report

My son was crawling around under my bed the other day when he came across my 1983 copy of Talisman. He then proceeded to mention it about every other hour for the next few days, until I finally agreed to play a game with him yesterday.

I always play this game with a number of house rules, the important ones are...

1) Start with 4 gold.
2) You can use as many weapons as you can carry.
3) You can wear as many armours and helmets and use as many shields as you can carry.
3) You can have as many spells as you have Craft.

These three rules allow you to get started quicker, you have enough money to buy an axe and you can build up some strength quickly by carrying a couple of swords and whatnots.

My son started off with the Woodsman and I had the bad luck to get the Ninja. I dislike the Ninja because he cant take followers.

Almost immediately I ran into trouble losing gold to a couple of adventure cards, a life to a dragon and another to the depredations of my sons Woodsman. While I was sailing downhill into deathsville he was collecting tons of gold and followers.

He switftly used his woodsman abilities to capture a Lion to fight with him. He also got a Unicorn, and a female whos title I can't remember, the Champion, horse and cart,warhorse and the Gnome. Then to rub salt in my wounds he used the other woodsman ability to cross the river to the middle region without an axe.

I then made the mistake of telling him that I'd be coming up the stairs to follow him. So... he toaded me with a spell. My next three turns moving only one space and losing what few goodies I'd managed to gain.

While I was toadying around he made a few circuits of the middle region losing a life in the desert but also picking up plenty of Craft from a pool.

When the toading had worn off I ended up having to do a lap of the outer region to get back to where my stuff had been left. Every roll made me either go the wrong way because the alternative would be a big baddie, including at least two dragons by this time.

He visited the wizard, got a mission and was returning to get his Talisman by the time I'd managed to pick up my lost goodies and cross the river.

The alarm went off, we had five minutes left. I was expecting to have to use the other scoring house rule which we apply when no one has won and time runs out. ( The rule is that you score 1 point for each point of your statistics, and 1 point for each gold ).

In two twift turns I lost a life in the desert and the last to a monster.

I resurected as the Druid back in the outer region and my son managed to get to the entrance to the inner region when time ran out. I told him that he was easily going to win on points, but the sad look in his eye told me he wanted to try for the finish.

I caved in and told him we would speed through his run on the Crown of Command. Smiles all round.

He entered the mines, using his Gnome follower, easily passed. Met a single vampire, losing two followers. Met a single lizard, wasted it and entered into the Crown of Command sauron

Once again I was totally beaten by "Him".

Game time, 1 hour.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Busy Game Design day

I'm feeling a little pressured today. No ones leaning on me for anything. It's just that when I get too many ideas at once I start getting stressed. I have a deep creative streak that drives a lot of my inner workings. I find it hard to ignore and just have to do the creative thing, whatever it is, as soon as possible.

At the moment I'm in a real creative gaming tizzy.
Creative urges can be a real bind!!!!!

Incidentally, for the secret project we are using the Google Docs web application as a collaboration tool. Anyone with a google mail account can also use Google Docs. I just created a new document and sent an invite to Jim, and now we can both read and update the document. It's and excellent web based feature that's allowing Jim and I to work together while in different countries. Check it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Aint Creative Commons Great?

My game design Free Trader was released under a Creative Commons license which allows people to make thier own deriviatives.

They have. Two seperate people have redone the artwork!. My art was very minimalist, focusing on the saving of precious printer ink, and so these people have gone and up-inked the game by creating their own full colour art.

Whats especially great is that they have both taken totally differnt approaches. One chap's made a serious SciFi set, and the other a light hearted cartoony set. This means that the game is now totally approachable from three differn't viewpoints, depending on what appeals most to the individual. So this can only make the game more popular which frankly makes me very happy.

I enjoyed making the game, and gave it that license so that it could spread, and these two chaps are helping.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Cat's Mansion - Review

My wife bought this game becuase she saw the cat "bits" on its eBay listing. She made no bones about it, she liked the cats.

When the game arrived I had to admit she had a point.

Cat's Mansion is a 1984 game and is one of the nicest looking old games you never heard of.

The box is the same size as the classic red Monopoly box. Inside we have a large single fold board. The play area is a drawing of the inside of a large mansion in some respects rather like a Cluedo board. However the squares are a lot larger and the rooms a little more disorganised. The rooms like Cluedo have multiple doorways and many of the rooms are actually broken up by internal squares.

You also get three decks of cards. These are the "Cat Call" cards which is the biggest. This is a mix of two types of cards, "Miow" and "Purr" cards, all of the cards depict one of the individual Cat pieces and one of the rooms.

The "Cat" deck contains one card for each of the cat pieces.

The "Object" deck contains one card per silver object, which I'll get to next.

The next set of bits are the "Objects". These are silver covered plastic objects. A cushion, a mouse, a bowl of food and a wrapped package.

Finally we get to the Cats. We have 5 plastic cat miniatures all in different colours and different poses. They are very nice bits they look like proper cats.

The rules do not come on any sort of paper! Rather they have printed then onto the cardboard insert. They amount to about an A4 side of text.

So onto play.

The objective is move your cat onto the same square as your "Object".

Setting Up.

Deal each player a Cat Card. This is secret and depicts which of the cats is "your Cat". Deal each player an "Object" card, this depicts which of the objects is "your object". Deal each player 5 Cat Call cards.


On your turn you can make four moves, two of which must be cats. Obviously you want to move your cat and your object towards each other, however if you dont get there immediately and win , you'll have given yourself away. If you do that then every other player is going to make sure you dont get where you need to. So what you need to do is camoflage your moves by also moving cats and objects that are not your concern. A single move means you can move the cat or object a single square on the board. Cats can not move through other cats so you can play clever and try to block other players if you think you know where they are going.

If you move a cat next to another cat you have the option to "Hiss" and move the other cat one space away. This "hiss" does not count towards your move.

Once you have finished moving the bits, the other players have the chance to play Miaow cards. A Miaow card depicts one of the cats and one of the rooms. If one of the other players has a Miaow card that matches one of the cats you moved they can play it. This means that cat is moved directly into the specified room. However if you have a "Purr" card for that cat, you can play that and prevent the move.

Thats it for playing. Quite simple.

What did I think? I thought it was "Not quite there". The map is so small that unless your cat is "Miaowed" across the board your going to reach your objective in two or three turns, unless of course you've given yourself away and the other players are able to keep you away from your objective.

So it's a quick game, about 10 minutes, quite often less. Young kids may have trouble with the keeping their cat and object secret and adults will find the play very simplistic. I have no doubt that some very serious thought could be put into playing the game if a bunch of gamers came at it, but frankly the game is too simple and short to appeal to them.

From my "gamer" view point I would give this a low 3/10 but as a family game to play with your kids this is definitely avaerage and therfore a 5/10.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A "Wormhole" Scenario

Here is my first stab at a two battle Scenario.

Scenario : Royalists Vs Separatists, played across two boards (1 at a time) connected by Wormholes.

Background : A remote Royalist research station has been developing a Hyper-Charge technique for doubling the charge speed of Particle Bows.

Unfortunately for the Royalists a Separatist spy in military headquaters has
been found. Although the spy has been terminated this was only done after he
had made an encrypted data transmission.

Royalist authorities have to assume that the Research Stations location is no
longer secure and must be evacuated. The research team have boarded a shuttle and are waiting to be picked up.

First Table Overview :

The first table will be played lengthwise. A Wormhole is placed at either
end of the table.

The Royalists will enter the table through one of the wormholes and thier
objective is to exit the table through the far wormhole.

The Royalists may enter 2 ships per turn through thier wormhole.

The Separatists start with all of thier ships on the board within 10 inches of their end of the table.

Forces for Table 1 :

Royalists : 4 Skirmish Fighters, 2 Missile Fighters, 1 Fleet Carrier, 2

Control Corvettes, 3 Particle Bow Frigates, 2 Hammerhead Cruisers. The
Royalist player decides which ships enter the table on each turn.

Separatists : 1 Fleet Carrier, 4 Skirmish Fighters, 1 Control Corvette, 1 Particle Bow Frigate. Special ; starting on turn 7 a new Seraratist Particle Bow Frigate will enter through the Wormhole at the Royalist end of the table.

The battle ends when all remaining Royalist forces exit through the Separatist wormhole or are destroyed.

Second Table Overview :

The second table will be played lengthwise. Three wormholes are placed on the table. Two are placed in the corners at the "South" end. The remaining Wormhole is placed in the middle of the "North" end. A Royalist Shuttle is placed 10 inches from the "Northern" Wormhole.

Forces for Table 2 :

Royalists : The Royalist ships that survived the First Battle will enter through the "South East" wormhole at a rate of 3 per turn.

Separatists : The Separatist ships will enter through the "South West" wormhole at a rate of 3 per turn. 3 Missile Fighters, 1 Hammerhead Cruiser, 1 Control Corvette, 2 Particle Bow Frigate.

The battle ends when the Separatists destroy the shuttle, or the shuttle joins a Royalist ship and exits through the "Northern" wormhole.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Games out of the time machine

My wife likes cats. It was this that drew her to an ebay auction for a game called Cats' Mansion.

I've been schooling her in how to check out games at Board Game Geek. You know the usual stuff. Look for pictures of the game, ask yourself, does it look naff? Read a couple of reviews check out the games rating, look for personal comments.

She's great, and now knows what she's doing and how to avoid trash games.

However, when it came to Cats' Mansion she saw the bits in the ebay posting and fell for the cat miniatures that come with the game. Imagine my horror when she tells me she's bidding on an old game that has no reviews.

I panicked until I saw the ebay pics. She's right ( as usual ) the game would be worth it, just for the gorgeous "cat" pieces. They each have a different pose and are coloured differently. It's an old Spears Games production from 1984 ( I was at school ) and is surprisingly well produced. Game play looks interesting but I haven't played it yet so I'm not in a position to review the game.

The final price was £3.99, which is fine, but its quite a large box, old style Monopoly size, so the postage was more than the game! Oh well, but the cats are lovely and the game does look hopeful!