Lets sum up…UK Games Expo 2016

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2015: Escaping with my life

The first time we went to the expo in 2014, all the hustle and bustle of the trading section was crammed into 2 or 3 “mediumish” halls in the Hilton and a small room round the side for “bring & buy”, which due to its popularity and position, inadvertently resembled a Mongolian fish market. It was like hundreds of geeks and board games amalgamated into a singular entity of violent bargain hunting.

 

I remember the queues for the coffee shop serpentined out the door and into the parking, and oh God the ATM! It literally melted out of the wall after an hour of trading on the Saturday morning, so there was a constant back & forth exodus of people between the hotel and the train station a kilometre away.

The food situation, or lack thereof I should say, was also quite memorable. Somewhere in those early years of the “board gaming golden age”, the organizers had somehow forgot that people eat food to survive. The poor clerk at the kiosk of the Hilton had barricaded himself in the shop after the place was ransacked and the shelves left emptier than anti-matter. I’m pretty sure I saw him curled up in a ball, crying behind the desk. Then, at some point someone had the bright idea of ordering Dominoes to the hotel lobby….and that’s when all hell broke loose. They were so busy that no sooner had one delivery guy left, did another arrive. But as the gaming continued into the night, so did the hunger grow. It was an exquisitely disgusting sight to behold. Dominoes were sending cars and mopeds together, delivering en masse to the hordes of food deprived gamers. I think at one point they were just chucking them through the door, into the aforementioned amalgamous entity, so they didn’t have to waste time with taking its money (or risk being devoured). It was hilarious…..and by hilarious, I mean total wank. Charming wank, but wank nonetheless.

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2015: The waft. Well impressive.

This years events were WAY more polished and incredibly well-organized. All of us “Conners” had a massive section of the NEC all to ourselves for trade and demos, as well as a good section of the Hilton for  tournaments. Last years tourney situation was probably on par with 2014s culinary Sodom. I didn’t participate in any tournament then as I was only down for one day, but I remember wanting to check on my Netrunner buddies and see how they were doing. When I found the tournament “tent” the first thing that hit you as you entered was a dense waft of nerd humidity. I can still taste it on my teeth. It was fucked. Trust me. Luckily that’s all I remember from last year though. Well, that and the terrible expression on people’s faces as they emerged from said tent, whenever they could for a breath of fresh air, looking like confused new-born bats. No doubt the noxious fumes inside the tent started to rewire their brains into thinking it was some kind of cocoon of geek excretions & competition. I’m telling you, from the outside, the place heaved.

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2016: Losing so hard, I forgot where I was

Fortunately this year, we had space and were able to use our lungs while we competed. I was vying for the European Marshall badge in the Doomtown tournament. I say I was “vying for” it, but I mean I didn’t stand a nose hair of a chance of even seeing it. I would have to get a character witness to describe it to a police sketch artist to show me, is how close I was to winning anything. There were 49 of us and I think I came 41rst by scoring points from 2 games. And one of those games I didn’t even play anyone. Nonetheless, it was amazing. No seriously, it was. I love Doomtown and any chance I can play with others that enjoy the game is great. So do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s top-notch and you wont be disappointed. Anyway, I digress.

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I’m sure he loves his job

Like I said earlier, trading was designated to the event center this year, and what a difference it made. There was less walking around, endlessly scanning table after table of retailers (although they were still there – just in nicer areas apart from each other) and more browsing current & future wares from designers and publishers alike. For me the game of the Expo was “Wizards Academy” by 3D Total games. Gregory Carslaw, the designer,  was giving hands on demonstrations of the game, and he is clearly very passionate about his project.

I also managed to catch a glimpse of the new long-awaited, and now Dice Tower endorsed Stonemeier Game”Scythe“, being demoed at a retailers table. If you’ve seen any of the pictures or videos that are floating about online, you’ll probably be wondering if it really looks that good in real life? Well the answer is yes. Sweet fancy Moses yes. It’s probably the most awesome looking game ever. I can’t wait to get a hands on look at the game myself.
Queen Games always have good representation at the expo and this year was no exception. They were showing off the new Richard Garfield game, “Treasure Hunter” and a reskin of Dschunke called “London Markets“. Both look interesting and if you like drafting or auction mechanics, they might be worth a look.

AEG let me down though. As the publisher of a few of my favourite games, I can’t believe how little representation they had. Now that might not be a fault of their own and more to do with bullshit business, but seriously, the expo hosted the EUROPEAN DOOMTOWN MARSHALL and there was NOTHING for Doomtown. Not a damn lick. For me, that’s just shit management. Not to mention their new darling “Mystic Vale” was kept on the lowdown as well for some reason. Really strange.

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Throne of Games…cracks me up

Other highlights included taking part in a live game of Pandemic with Tom Vasel, which is something I would really like to see more of in the future. Podcasts and live RPGs are the rage these days so I really think that live board games can be a good next step for that sort of thing.In short, the board game industry has really grown into an “industry”. It’s far beyond its niche beginnings attracting 25000 people to the expo this year with an increase of 40% attendance. It’s always been a great weekend for us, but what really makes it worth while is the atmosphere. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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The week in Kickstarter….and one other thing….

Hello Wildcats. Today we’re gonna dish out some straight talkin’. Well, a little bit at least. We’ll still round-up what we think are some cool looking Kickstarters, but then we’re going to have some words. Don’t worry though, no ones dying! In our experience, it’s always best to get real at the end of something.That way the message sticks and it won’t pollute the overall tone of todays post. Which is of course about sweet new board games! So if you’d like to pull up a chair, sit back, relax and we’ll get started then. Alternatively you can skip to the end for an ear thrashing!!

Grimslinger

b8ab984f50ab0e4b009be0535d5a92b1_large“Well gosh darnit. Them cow-poke sure are popular these days. Ah-Shucks!” At least it would seem that way from the slew of wild west themed games that have hit the market in recent times. The next Cthulu or Zombie perhaps? We’ve just seen “Doomtown” and “Shadows Of Brimstone” (the latter we covered here) explode like cheap dynamite on tables across the world, and now we have “Grimslingers” by Stephen S. Gibson to look forward to.

Grimslingers puts you in the seat of magic wielding cyber cowboys, and you gotta be the last man (or llama!) standing in classic space western duel-to-the-death fashion. I’m sure that counts as classic right?…RIGHT?? Each player will construct a hand of cards that represents their characters grimoire of spells, which will consist of unique signature spells and elemental magic.

15cf20_e8dc271ac18d4f1195d93cbc3265effa.png_srz_p_495_648_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzOnce you’ve got your firepower in order its on with the errmm….grim….slinging? Two to four players will square up, either 1 on 1 or in teams, hurling spell after spell in a barrage of arcane madness until everyone’s dead…or until one of you isn’t at least. What’s really cool is how the game captures the flavour of a western duel. Fellow board game pundits Shut Up & Sit Down, recently reviewed “Doomtown”, the latest LCG on the block, and it does a very similar thing in that the central mechanisms of the game tries it’s best to recreate the tense posturing of a wild west gunfight. Eyeing each other up, fingers stroking the butt of the gun, walking slowly out into the dusty road and then BANG! It’s over in a heart beat. When the dust settles, someone’s left bleeding and crying from the pain.

Grimslinger attempts to capture that very same magic, in a sort of, compacted form. The game plays out over a series of stages where you have to standoff with players and line your ducks in a row. Then when the lightning strikes hot, everybody draws, reveals their hand and awaits the aftermath.  Best of all, it also utilises card suits in a black jack style face off for tie breakers. It looks really, REALLY fun. Not to mention the art is real purdy. PLUS, if you’d like to try before you buy you could always just play it online! WIN! If I was you, I’d mosey on over to their Kickstarter page and give it a swing…..

Entropy

8e5432ecf1f0327993c1bd5c341f1deb_largeOh. So we’re sticking with sci-fi? Fine by me. I’ll keep my helmet on then. Entropy by Allen Chang aims to be the latest filler game on the scene. It’s got some stiff competition with “Love Letter” and “Citadels” but it looks sufficiently different from those games, that the Kickstarter community just doesn’t give a f**k. In Entropy, each player takes the role of an inter-dimensional space roamer that has been torn from their home realm in a terrible time cataclysm. Trapped in the nexus (that’s sci-fi talk for purgatory), you need to grab at the shards that remain of your reality to find your way home. Like Alice in Wonderland on acid…I mean, even more acid….than usual. Anyway.

What you’ll be doing is playing cards simultaneously, resolving them in initiative order to have a stab at claiming a revealed card from the discard pile or a blind card from the top of the nexus pile. The game is more lathered in theme than when Neo awakens in the Matrix. Don’t worry though!The lingo may seem intimidating at first but it’ll take you all of 6 minutes to get it. That’s 4 extra minutes if you’ve never seen a playing card before. In other words, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. Just watch the gameplay video and if you havent figured it out by end of turn one, call a doctor. You may need brain surgery.

Jokes aside, Entropy is one of those games that is easy to learn but hard to master. In the aforementioned Love Letter and Citadels, you reset the cards after each round and begin your strategy anew. Entropy has a bit more of a competitive edge to it, in that each player has a set hand of cards and the mastery comes in knowing when to play.  Light but also very strategic. And if you don’t get lost in the artwork you probably don’t have a soul….or are a ghost. There’s still a few days left for the campaign so get stuck in the void here.

Sultan’s Library

2d8ff736c944618efd19f479a438018a_large“Sultan’s Library” by Photon Games is probably the underdoggest (not a real word…yet) game in the history of Kickstarter. This small game studio from South Africa is having a rough time with their first attempt at crowd funding a game, but by the looks of it, they seem to have created a game that is some kind of blend of Antoine Bauza’s Tokaido and Richard Garfield’s Netrunner.

You take on the role of one of the Sultans envoys in search of rare books for the royal library. You’ll have to travel across several sub Saharan locations to find said books, but be warned, others are on the hunt as well. If you’re not so much into killy-killy, stabby-stabby kind of games and just enjoy going on a journey, then Sultan’s Library has that in spades. Where’s the tension you ask? Well you don’t just simply drift on by, magnetically attracting sacred books. You’ve got to find them first. Then, you’ve got to bring them back. Easier said than done. You need to deposit 3 books to win, but you can only hold 2 at a time, which immediately becomes a bit of a logistical nightmare. On top of that, you’ll quite often have to pay for an extra detail of guards to fend off any spiteful book burners. It aint easy wondering the desert ya know.

f1d17babb7d80b5da31807d9c2d8d38e_largeThe way you play the cards in this game weaves such an interesting story that it seems kind of hard not to enjoy the ride. Sure that will only last the first few times you play, but the competitive interplay will keep players on their toes for the whole journey. I think that’s where this shares a lot of similarity with Netrunner for me. You’re loading these books in your satchel and trying to make you’re way back to the library before someone else grabs it from under your nose. It looks really nifty and is nowhere near as obtuse as Netrunner, which means that you don’t have to be enveloped in its own culture to get the same kind of thrills.

Overall the game has this serene tranquillity about it and seems a breeze to play. I will say though, it’s looking pretty steep for them at the moment as their funding goal is quite high, but even if it doesn’t make it, these guys came up with the idea for the game and managed to produce a working copy in the space of a few months. I’m barely awake until June most years, so I think these guys have a tremendous talent on their hands. If this doesn’t make it I hope they will relaunch with a bigger, better campaign so Sultan’s Library can indeed see the light of day.

…One last thing before I go…

I have seen a growing dislike for Kickstarter games within the board game community as of late. Nothing outright or aimed at any one in particular. Just a disturbance in the force if you will. I’ve seen numerous articles and posts that refer to Kickstarter projects with that “Oh, it’s you” kind of attitude, and for the life of me I can’t understand why. I know in one of our previous posts we criticised recent projects in that we just didn’t find them particularly up our street, but equally we also didn’t pay much attention during our hiatus and were likely to have missed out on a bunch of good ones.

Some have complained “there are too many”, others moan about project creators clogging up their social media channels, and others just don’t seem to consider Kickstarters as “real” games. All of that may be true in small doses but as a result, I feel the need to justify why we do these previews.

I’m a person that’s easily entertained. Straight up I’ll tell you. I don’t need to feel like a game is engaging with my insides to enjoy it. I like colours, I like the art, I like dice, I like cards and I really appreciate all the effort that game designers put in to make their products work. A lot of which is done in their free time. So with that in mind, I just don’t care about what will be the next big thing, or if a game will take off. I just like to be entertained. Even if it’s for a moment.

I look at each Kickstarter game and recognise what the creators are trying to accomplish and focus on those positive aspects. I know they may not always be the best game ever, but I try to look at it from the perspective that these are all designers that are trying to make it against the odds. Most don’t have money to get their dream out there and on to your table for your enjoyment. Yes there are stinkers. Yes there are ripoffs, but there have been some absolute gems in the time that I’ve known of Kickstarter. For the most part I try to give designers the benefit of the doubt because it can’t be easy producing a game for several hundreds of people who want to have their say as well.

I’m also not saying we’ll solely support Kickstarters every week or all the time, but for me, a failed journalist, it’s a nice way to get a glimpse of what is out there on the indie scene. So when there is this general distaste or negativity towards a game or designer simply because they went the Kickstarter route, I try to remember what my mother used to say. “If you got nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all”. After all, can you do better?

The return of Kickstarter?

Good day fellow dicers! Like every week, we’ve been scouring the four corners of Kickstarter in search of new games that cut the mustard. Unfortunately, we havent seen that many exciting Kickstarters for a good long while. Aside from the magnificent campaigns of Storyception Games‘ space opera Beat ’em Up “Galactic Arena“, and Van Ryder Games froth inducing “Hostage Negotiator“, there just hasn’t been much else to wet our whistles. That is, until now….
Between Two Cities

near-final-with-rough-graphic-designCue dramatic cavalry music and a blazing emblem across the sky with Stonemaier Games logo. We should have expected Sirs Stegmaier and Stone to fix things with their bullet proof reputation for genuinely innovative games. This time Stonemaier present us with “Between Two Cities”, a semi co-operative game by Ben Rossett and Matthew O’Malley, which if you’ve paid attention to board gaming over the past 2 years, you’ll be more familiar with those names than with your Nans. Basically this project is the board game equivalent of a 70’s prog rock super group with 6 bassists. Massive is a understatment to say the least.

Why is the game cool? Well, it can accommodate 2 – 7 players, with the possibility for a solo variant later on, and regardless of the amount of players it’s a fast paced game set to take no more than about 30 minutes, but most of all, it looks primed to be THE Carcassonne killer. Now don’t get me wrong, we love Carcassonne, but let’s be honest, it needs to be buried….in the middle of the woods…in a far, far away place…so no one can ever find its charred, dismembered remains. Much like the aforementioned dearly departed, BTC will have players laying tiles down like their lives depended on it, BUT the main difference lies in the central theme of BTC, which puts you literally between two cities. Literally. You’ll be building cities on your left and right with whoever is sitting next to you at the table, and together you need to cooperate in order to eventually come out on top alone. This already fixes a lot of the problems with Carcassonne. I enjoy playing a light, peaceful game on occasion, but for some reason Carcassonne brings the out absolute worst, most despicable traits of human beings. Greed, spitefulness, treachery, you name it. Behind the seemingly innocuous guise of an innocent, anonymous, little wooden person, lies the darkest intentions, that have been scraped off the bottom of Freddy Kruger’s mothers bricked up cell.

Full of Hate

                          Full of Hate

We usually have to play something “LIGHT” after a game of Carcassonne just to cool down from some extremely tense situations. Either that or we lock ourselves away and avoid eye contact for 3 days at least. Like I said, BTC seems to have this fixed, by working with others and never churning up the malice too much but still trying to win out by the end. Almost like a compact Stefan Feld game. In short, I’m excited by BTC. It looks like it’s a fast playing, tile laying, easy access, thinker. “Between Two Cities” has exterminated its funding goal by several fold already and is set to be a welcome addition to the Stonemaier Games roster. This company looks unstoppable at the moment. You can throw your money onto the mounting pile here.
Dragoon

4e34f9b5dbf19c2e5f0100ddc4a4264b_originalSpeaking of gateway tile games. “Dragoon” by Lay Waste Games is another Kickstarter that has us intrigued. No doubt its borrowed a heavy dose of indie video game aesthetic design for its general look and feel, but that is a GREAT thing. If playing board games has taught me anything, it’s how to appreciate video games again. I can approach most video games with fresh board game soaked eyes, which enables me to see the set pieces and mechanics that are lying underneath all the cinematics, and actually be able to tell if there is a game there or not. So when I see a little reverse cross-pollination occur, I start to get very excited, because this tells me that the chasm that once existed between the two media is slowly being bridged.

Ok, sure. Maybe I’m mad, and reading a little too much into it, but the first thing I took note of Dragoon is that it instantly reminded me of old school video games like Battle Tank or Zelda, only polished with a modern sheen that so many indie games have these days. I guess it’s just kinda cool to see old school values delivered in a beautiful package. And when I say beautiful, I mean “DAMN THAT ASS IS PHAT!” Solid metal game pieces and dice? Roll out fabric game mat? Two tone graphic designed art? I mean….come on, this thing looks the business. And I was even more surprised when I found out from the gameplay video that this Dragoon is not solely about the eye candy. There is a legitimate game here.

0e88c594c555283ce9968eeb294d468e_originalBasically each player takes the role of a dragon (already cool) and you need to fend off oncoming attacks from thieves, raiders and your fellow dragon brethren, all in the aid of accumulating the most gold, the fastest. We LOVE games that have you chasing a target score. Like Netrunner or Mars Attacks, when the challenge is to reach a certain goal before your opponents, it gives the game a sense of urgency. So you’ll sit there desperately planning how to one up your opponent while ravenously clawing towards your goal, one gold coin at a time. Furthermore, the game is set on a modular playing field, combined with limited actions and intricate card play, I just can’t imagine a world where this doesn’t at the very least get your pulse racing a bit. I mean, let’s be serious for a second, you get to play as a dragon. Let that sink in for a minute.

Now I know I had a go at Carcassonne earlier for being kind of “over competitive” for what it is, but Dragoon has those same qualities, but in a good way. It’s those very things that lead to shout out loud bursts of elation or the foulest of curses breathed in some forgotten language. Basically it’s got all the ingredients forge great gaming moments that you’ll laugh about for years to come….as you stare past the bars of the maximum security prison they put you in for first degree murder…..Dragoon is nullifying its funding goal as we speak and you can feel free to pledge here.

Android: The Universe – Pt 1.

introAs usual it’s taken us a long time to write anything for the blog. For once it’s not down to sheer laziness though….well maybe a little. It was summer! Can you blame me??? Mostly however, we’ve been focusing a lot of our game time hacking the Android universe. Now I’m sure our twitter followers are sick to death of hearing us harp on about Android, which by the way, is the single most useless game to tweet about since your “#Android” tweets just get lost in a sea of OS spam. Nonetheless, I get the feeling that there is some hesitation from gamers about getting into this series. It might be the mixed reviews floating around the net about both Android and Infiltration (both of which were made by acclaimed designers), or maybe board gamers are a little reluctant to get sucked into yet another “collectible” card game like Netrunner. Whatever the cause of this trepidation, I thought it was high time to write why we enjoy these games and why it has become our favourite tabletop franchise. So coming up in the next few weeks we’ll have a look at the all the games in the franchise. Today however, we start with the big boss. The one that started it all….

Android

Why are streets always wet in detective movies?

Why are streets always wet in detective movies?

Android is a murder/mystery story building game set in the dystopian future city of New-Angeles. Mega corporations run the sprawling network of the city, which your investigator needs to navigate, gather information from and try to solve the murder. In my humble opinion, Android is probably the most underrated game in the history of documenting things & calling it “history”. Alas, I am but one man though. Where ever you look on the net that reviews things made out of cardboard, it gets tagged with that dreaded “so-so” review score. Fans love it because of the setting and story, but those that hate it scream from the rafters about the mechanics. Mostly I think it’s a big misunderstanding about the point of the game. I can’t blame them though. Before its release Fantasy Flight really pushed the role play and mystery solving angles on this game. Which I’ll admit, sounds like an intriguing prospect and is indeed what caught my attention (Who wouldn’t want to see a Sci-Fi Noir, D&D and Clue hybrid?) but that’s not really how the game pans out. You’re never actually trying to find out who the murderer is as you already know this from the start of the game. Well, that’s not quite right either. Actually you have possible SUSPECTS that you’re trying to pin the murder on. This is probably the biggest point where people start to jump off the Android ship. People were expecting a “whodunnit” story game that plays out as you go gumshoeing along, somewhat along the lines of Arabian Nights or Agents of SMERSH; instead they got a highly strategic puzzler. I for one love that! And here are a few reasons

image(3)The game possesses such varied mechanics that interleave with one another. Each layer adds different strategies you can employ to win the game. Firstly you can attempt to pin the murder on a suspect by mounting evidence against them, or as. While your detective chases up leads around New-Angeles, you have the option to uncover evidence. Don’t worry; you won’t be shouting obscenities at each other just yet. That’ll come later. You’ll take a token from the evidence pool and place it on a particular suspect involved in the murder case. Depending on the value of the token, it’ll determine if the suspect is innocent or guilty. Usually, the point of the game where derogatory utterances begin is when a player places evidence on a suspect, and you refer to the 2 “hunch cards” you were dealt in the beginning of the game, one showing you a guilty suspect the other an innocent citizen, and of course, said player is building a case against your innocent hunch. Or at least who you believe to be. After all, you’re only going by your ‘dick’ instincts.

image(6)However you need to keep hunches secret for as long as possible. If your opponents find out who you’re building a case against/in favour of, they might employ “Humanity Labor” to put hits out on your suspects. Once there are 3 hits on a suspect, he/she is dead, removed from the game and potentially lost a player a ton of precious victory points. That’s not the only cuss inducing method in your quest for evidence though. There are also these nasty little tokens called “alibis”, which as we all know from day time soap operas, seriously derail the plot line. Alibis have the power to “reverse” evidence, as well as synapse with your brain, forcing you to shout out random portmanteau expletives. Subsequently, the word “funt” now adds colour to many more situations in our daily lives. Thanks Android! Surprisingly though, building a case against a suspect isn’t the most important thing on the board, although it is a really fun part of the game. Back and forth bluffing will potentially have you offload evidence on one suspect as each player battles for their hunch card, only to have him eventually assassinated! Meanwhile, the unsuspecting mining clone ‘Mark Henry’, sits with +1 point in his case file, making him the guilty party and netting another player 15 valuable victory points.

You could also try your hand at resolving your characters “plot cards” as a means to gain VP. When the game begins, each player is given a plot card that instructs them what to do in order to progress onto the next stage of the plot. This could be anything from discarding player cards to choosing how you are going to fight. Basically, as you journey around New-Angeles you will do things. Doing things will get you “baggage”. Which is sometimes good…

image(2)Raymond enters a seedy club on the south side of town. He feels the eyes of every patron scanning him up and down. They’re wondering if Raymond is going to kick up a stink and nose around in things that should maybe be left well alone, or is he going to just be the predictable jaded alcoholic cop that he is and take a seat at the bar. You play one of your “light” cards. “Hey, didn’t you fly in the 21rst division?” Ray cuts through the tectonic beat of the clubs sound system and turns to the sound of the voice. He sees someone vaguely familiar to him. It’s an old war buddy he used to fly with. Rather than make a fuss or drown his sorrows at the bottom of a bourbon alone, Ray pulls up a seat, places his order with the waitress and begins to reminisce about the good ‘ol days. The guy gives Ray a free “dropship pass” and Raymond gains 1 GOOD baggage for entering a “nightlife” location during this plot line. Sweet. – (This was actual gameplay by the way)

On the other hand though, sometimes baggage can be bad….

image(9)The bioroid Floyd overrides one of his prime directives in the hopes of getting a deceitful lead on the case. You play one of Raymonds “Haunted by the Past” cards. By now Ray has had a few too many drinks anyway. He barely manages to stand himself up with some semblance of dignity and stumbles into the clubs bathroom where the music is less deafening. After splashing some water on his face he takes a long deep gaze at his reflection in the mirror. The voice in his head starts to murmur as it normally does. The memories come flooding back and all of a sudden Raymond can’t breathe. A hand reaches out to help, “Hey buddy, you okay?” In a panic Raymond lashes out and starts throwing punches. Flailing in a drunken stupor like an unbalanced spinning top, and then darkness. The next thing Raymond sees is his own two feet staring back at him, as he slowly realises he’s waking up in a dumpster in the alley out back. He gains 2 “bad baggage” for fighting like a chimp. Bollocks.

Fantasy Flight made no secret of Android being a story driven game, which comes to much woe for players who just aren’t into roleplaying (or a bit rubbish at it), but that’s fine. No problem. You can delve into the cards text as much as you like or just go straight into what the cards actions are instead. In the end, you’re trying to score your plot cards with a positive amount of baggage to get the maximum amount of victory points.
image(7)Even if you’re not a storyteller kind of group, there is a THIRD way to play (and possibly the highest scoring yet most understated in the rules). In the top corner of the board is a puzzle board, and instead of placing evidence on a suspect after following a lead, you have the option to uncover a piece of the conspiracy. What this means is that you are trying to build links between some of the corporations in the game with the current murder case. “There’s more to this case. I just know it. Someone else was involved.” You place a puzzle piece down and try to connect a continuous line between the corporation spaces on the outside of the puzzle. Unlocking these can fundamentally change who will win the game. Sometimes a space grants that a certain currency token count towards your victory points or maybe it affects the results of plots, or maybe you get to place a hit for free, or maybe…There’s a lot of options here and having a good look at the puzzle will greatly improve your chances at winning. Not merely because of the links you’re trying to uncover, but also because there is a second dimension to the puzzle…yup, you guessed. That’s right, bingo…No, really. It’s bingo! This can net you a whole mess of points, but if you focus too much of your time on trying to uncover the conspiracy, you’ll have no time to chase any real leads on the case and your left holding a crumpled, sweaty bunch of newspaper clippings, with indecipherable hieroglyphics hastily scribbled on them, trying to convince the commissioner that it’s all connected to lizard men, screaming “Can’t you see?!?! There! It’s in the numbers! It’s so obvious!”

Whoever is the best at managing these three criteria and scores the maximum amount of score wins the game. I cannot stress though how interwoven these areas are. Things you do in one area might affect another. Each action you spend completing one area leaves your guard down on another, opening the door for another player to take advantage. There is still a bunch of details I could still go into, like each characters special abilities that you need to manage, the process of paying for card play, the movement system, just trust me, this shit is deep. It’s massively competitive, extremely strategic, complex in its subtleties and is as heavy as a cake eating convention.

image(8)Therein lays its main points of criticism though. Yes it’s a big ‘ol fat ass of a game, but just like Jabba-the-Hut, it has an endearing quality. The people, who enjoy this game, will almost always say it is a masterpiece. I understand where the criticism comes from though. Android is like a pink elephant in the board game world. Not in the sense that it sticks out (Because that’s impossible when your hash-tag is #Android) but rather it’s both a fascinating & unique creature, as well as clumsy & frustrating. As much as I didn’t want to talk about the theme since it’s the most obvious draw of the game, I will say that I think it’s not the theme in itself that people love, nor is it the mechanical elements that give the game colour, it’s the fact that the game needs to be played or approached as if it were a giant dystopian rubix cube. For us it’s HOW the mechanics are played out in relation to each other that makes it fit so well with the theme. The world of Android feels rich and therefore should be interacted with in a complex manner. If there was a stripped down version with streamlined rules, the glue that holds it all together would start to disintegrate and the experience would just fall apart. Despite its caveats you can net yourself a copy on Amazon for nearly NOTHING!! It would be foolish not to give it a go….and X-mas is around the corner.

5 games to look out for

– Ahoy there matey! Yo-Ho-Ho and a bottle of rum as they say. We have sailed the seven seas of the internet so you don’t have to. Yaaarrgh!

Cornish SmugglerBOX_72dpi_600px

No no no. This has nothing to do with someone sneaking pasties into your local Odeon. Instead Cornish Smuggler is a game of strategy and seven seas high jinx set in 18th century Cornwall. Players will use every dirty trick in the book, and more than a fair share of craftiness to secure the best smuggling routes around the Cornish coast. You see, waaaaay back in the 18th century, err-body was into smuggling. The port authorities, the local officials, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, even the bloody vicar! Needless to say, you’re going to need their help to become the best smuggler of illicit goods. The designer has gone to painstaking lengths to keep the theme as historically accurate as possible, while promising a game that is solid as a rock and have very little to do with chance. However, you need to keep a close eye on customs though, cos if they catch you…well, lets just say, loose lips, sink ships. Say no more, say no more. Nudge nudge. Wink, wink. The bottom line? This looks set to have more under handedness than a reshuffling of cabinet come election time. Cornish Smuggler has secured its funding well ahead of schedule, but you’ve still got time to support a great piece of British game design in the making. Tax that Mr. Cameron.

Scalawag

– “Yaargh! What say ye? Not enough broad swords? Too little swashbuckling? No canons? Aye aye Captain, have it your way. First mate! Hard to port. Set the sails at full mast and aim for their bow…Ramming spead! We’ll take ’em head on.”

scalawagboxmockuplargeScalawag is a cheap and cheerful card game of high seas adventure for 3-8 players. Players take control of their own warship as captain and need to amass compass points in order to issue the captains orders to their crew members.

– “Hold your fire…..wait till you see the whites of their eyes.”

It’s not just he who has the biggest cannon wins. Please. We’re not fishermen. We’re PIRATES! You need to be a cunning sea dog to win the fight. You have to bluff and scheme, get inside the mind of your opponent and know just when to pull the trigger.

– “Captain! Their loading the silver ware into their canons!”

– “What!?! SCALAWAG! FIRE!!”…..Its only got a week left on Kickstarter and needs a little more help, so lets get to it! This should be a hoot. Next!

Relic Expedition

– “We’ve run aground Captain”.

– “Aye. Tis a brave new world before us matey. Take stock and gather the men. We’re going treasure hunting.”

e0dd30c749901add9c81affb41c829e7_largeIf I were to try to put my finger on it, Relic Expedition is what you would get if you left Carcasonne and Forbidden Island alone in a bar with a bottle of red wine, on a hot summers night in Brazil. All that erotic tension in the air, loose-fitting clothes, a glaze of moisture permeating the skin….Sexy things would happen. In Relic Expedition, players will have to navigate their pawns along a modular board by placing hex tiles along their path, in search of four matching relic types. And of course, just like a real jungle, everything in Relic Expedition will kill you. So not only do you have to traverse perilous jungle terrain like pools of quick sand and dense brushes of poison Ivy, but you also need to watch out for bloody panthers! (cos they kill you)…and monkeys ( cos they steal your things)…boars too (they kill you & someone else steals your things)…and..snakes (they kill you double)….It wouldn’t be the jungle without any snakes now would it? So on the other hand actually, you might say that Relic Expedition is the lurid love child of Carcasonne, Forbidden Island AND DungeonQuest. I’m not sure who was on top, or who was in the middle?….The thought sends icy cold shivers down to my very soul. I’m gonna like this one. Speaking of on top…

Alien Frontiers

– “YAAARRRGGHHhhhh*Cough*…*Cough*…*cough*. Alright, alright! I’ll stop with the pirate shit…geez.

af_setupAlien Frontiers. 4th edition. Need I say more? With all the laudation this game has received in the last three years, I don’t think I have to, but I shall. Why? Well for starters this new edition will have a double-sided board that is rocket dice compatible…let that sink in for a minute…Rocket…Dice…Oh hell, but f**k yeah. Yes, its only aesthetic and doesn’t change the gameplay one iota, but if you were going to play Alien Frontiers and you had the option to play with dice shaped like rocket ships, how could you not? Not even a Vulcan would find it illogical. For the uninitiated Alien Frontiers is a superb sci-fi resource management and exploration affair with a crap load of dice. The dice represent your workers and you start out small from a space station, slowly expanding your inter-galactic presence onto the nearby planet and outer systems. Of course this gets pretty competitive when space and resources become thin on the ground. Not only does the new edition come with the aforementioned dual board and rocket dice, it also has loads of updated components to make your game experience even better. It precisely what you would want from an upgrade. Just trust me, this one is a winner. If you missed it the first few times around, it’ll be in stores soon.

Euphoria: Build a better Dystopia

layout5There’s just over one day left to back this one, but don’t fret, it totally smashed its funding goal long ago. So this one is getting made and that makes us all happy little dice rollers. Euphoria is also a worker placement game that shares many elements from several of our favourite games here at ‘We Die a Lot’, including the previously mentioned Alien Frontiers. But before you dismiss anything for being “more of the same”, just take a look at this one. There are enough aspects in the game that make it completely different amongst its peers, while managing to not burden the player with too many rules or vast amounts of upkeep. There’s just enough action going on and the different mechanical elements roll into one another like cog wheels in a futuristic clock, making the game seem organic and immersive in equal measure. However it’s not just the mechanics that ensure you have a game to play. Order is the central theme here and it lends itself expertly to the premise of the story and art. Hell! The whole thing looks like it should be hanging in the Tate Modern rather than on your living room table. Plus it’s made by Jamie Stegmaier & Alan Stone who conjured up Viticulture, (a wonderful game about wine making)and they are offering some sick deals if you back it on Kickstarter. The game with stretch goals plus shipping for a mere $49. Bargain of the month!

Why everyone should play Onirim

IMG_1361Besides sounding like a Japanese sexual favour, it’s also quite a nifty little card game that’ll have you drawing and shuffling cards more than a dealer at the Bellagio. You are trapped in dreaming slumber, searching for eight doors that will set you on your way to waking freedom. However opening the doors is not as easy as all that. You need to play sets of three cards of the same colour but with differing symbols, either a sun, moon or key, in a run, to claim the corresponding coloured door, while balancing your hand limit and drawing new cards. Try saying that 10 times fast. However, if that sounds like a walk in the clouds then lets factor in that every now and then you end up drawing a nightmare as well, and believe me, by the end of the
game you will be more afraid of these cards than real nightmares. Even the one where you were back in high school, naked and Kelsey Grammer was your teacher. In a nut shell what the nightmares actually do is destroy cards that facilitate your path to freedom. But that’s still not the worst part about them. Every time you draw a nightmare you have to make a choice how to handle them, in the worst case scenario you’ll be discarding your entire hand of five cards, which is great for the nightmares since you lose if there are no more cards left to draw and you’ll be forever lost between time and space, which is of course bad for you…..very bad indeed. Unless of course you’re into class A narcotics, in which case you’ll have a blast losing. In the end if you fail, your incarceration in purgatory was your own design, and you’ll fall to your knees, curl your fists up to the sky and scream “why Lord, WHYYYYYEEEEEE!!!?”.

The three expansions ‘the book of steps lost and found’, ‘the towers’ & ‘dark premonitions and happy dreams’ each add a new layer onto the basic game and help to keep the spice of Onirim as sharp as it is dynamic. But none of this speaks of Onirims beauty. The serenity of the cards dreamscape imagery is juxtaposed with an element of eerie disturbance, which just like actual dreams, creates an atmosphere of wide-eyed wonder and trepidation of what lurks around the corner. So you might think that turning the next card will leave you a nervous train wreck then, but thankfully the theme works so closely with the mechanics that by the time you draw a nightmare you’re instilled with a sense of
soothing comfort. Playing Onirim makes you feel like you’re sinking into a goose feathered
cushion while a heavy summer deluge thunders outside your window….or like bathing in chocolate for seven years…..actually, Onirim is like hypnosis!

Not to mention you get 100% bang for your buck (the standard package available in stores now contains the base game and all the expansions for under 12 quid!!), beautifully crafted by Z-Man Games, and it all comes in a portable size box that you can take everywhere, as you should. In short, a shot of bliss in a tiny box.

The Card Players 1892-95 Oil on canvas, 60 x 7...

The Card Players 1892-95 Oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm Courtauld Institute of Art, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)