Archive for the “Board Game” Category
The other day, a friend I don’t get to see very often brought me a Christmas gift: the X-Wing Miniatures game published last year by Fantasy Flight. It’s a pretty perfect gift, because I’ve been eying that game for months now, and I’ve got a little, tiny, almost insignificant, lifelong passion for the Star Wars. Plus, as my friend noted, the game has a lot of similarities to a board game that I’ve been developing in my spare time. He thought it would be useful for me to see how another designer handled a similar concept.
Before anything else, let me say that the miniatures used for this game are beautiful. Seriously, click that picture! The rest of the pieces are are alright, with some high quality artwork for the pilot cards. But the miniatures? The miniatures for this game are of fucking stellar quality. When I first saw them I thought perhaps they re-used the old Micro Machine molds (which are some of the coolest toys ever). But! I pulled out my old micro-machines box to compare the two, and the models included with the miniatures game are even more detailed! I’m tempted to just keep these things on my desk rather than putting them back in the box. (And if the TIE fighters are as fragile as the old Micro Machine TIEs were, that may not be a bad idea).
The actual play of the game is surprisingly simple. The players agree on the number of “points” which will be used in the skirmish. They then use those points to add ships, pilots, and upgrades to their forces. Once play begins, the players use small dials to secretly choose which maneuver each of their ships will perform, then place the dial next to the relevant ship. Once everyone has selected their maneuvers, the dials are revealed, and the players use included cardboard guides to move their ships around the countertop, or table. And once everybody has finished moving, the ships with an enemy in their firing arc get a chance to attack.
Here’s some photos demonstrating the basic gameplay as I just described it:
The gameplay is fast, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
I do have one complaint about the game though, and it’s a big one. This game is designed around expansions. The basic game comes with 2 TIE Fighters and an X-Wing, which I’ve had a lot of fun with. But you’re not really getting the “full experience” until you start shelling out more money for extra ships. Which are expensive at $15 for a single fighter craft, up to ~$30 for larger ships like the Millennium Falcon or Slave I.
I’ve enjoyed the game enough that I’m okay spending some additional money to be able to have larger battles. But not everybody will be. I’d even go so far as to say it feels a bit slimy. Many board games have expansions, but those expansions are usually produced after the game is already a success and the developers believe they can produce more content for it. This game was released simultaneously with its expansions. And while the basic game can stand on its own, it also feels incomplete.
In defense of the game, the miniatures are of very high quality. The productions costs of each ship doubtless contributed to Fantasy Flight’s decision to use this expansion-based distribution model. None the less, I think it would have been better if the basic game included a few more ships. The bump in price would be worth having a more complete-feeling game. They don’t even include enough dice in the basic set! But you can bet there’s a fucking dice pack!
TL;DR: The X-Wing Miniatures Game is fun, and awesome, and I really like it. But if you don’t want to buy the expansions, it is not worth your money.
1 Comment »
Posted by LS on Monday, March 25th, 2013 at 5:45 am
Categories: Board Game, Systems of my Own Invention
Tags: Product Review, Star Wars
I recently crossed into a new age category. My Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma all now suffer from a -2 penalty. This sucks, but there are a few upsides. For one, my Wisdom and Intelligence each gained +1. They were on even numbers before, so my modifiers didn’t actually increase, but it’s still cool. I also acquired some nifty loot, pictured above. Some of it is from my very friendly ladyfriend, and the rest is just from allowing myself to be a little less thrifty than normal. Given that it is all at least tangentially related to tabletop gaming, I thought I’d take the time to share.
Pictured at the top of the image are three board games: Small World, Tsuro, and the Order of the Stick Adventure Game (Deluxe Edition). The first two of those I’ve been interested in since seeing them featured on Wil Wheaton’s “Tabletop” series of YouTube videos. He’s already done a very thorough job of explaining both games, so I would simply recommend checking out what he’s posted. Small World was the focus of episode one, while Tsuro was the first of three games in episode two.
I’ve mentioned in the past (a no doubt annoying number of times) that I’m a huge fan of Rich Berlew’s Order of the Stick webcomic. It’s funny, clever, involved, and surprisingly emotionally compelling for a comic about stick figures. So when I drove into the city to have a nice dinner and visit Card Kingdom, I was delighted to find a copy of the Order of the Stick board game on display there. It even includes a thoroughly amusing comic to explain the rules. I won’t go into too much detail, since I’ll probably write a review of it once I have a chance to play it properly. Essentially, it’s a cooperative dungeon crawling game where only one of the players can actually be the ‘winner.’ If you’ve ever played Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games, think of this as Advanced Munchkin. It’s also much funnier, which is saying something, because Munchkin is pretty funny.
Moving on, in the center of the picture are three of the old Van Richten’s Guides. Ravenloft is easily my favorite campaign setting. I love the macabre style, I love undead creatures, and I all around love the land of mists. I first encountered Van Richten’s guides when I visited a local book store and picked up Van Richten’s Guide to Vampires. The books are written from an in-universe perspective. The ‘author’ is legendary undead hunter Dr. Rudolph van Richten, who writes these books to help novice undead hunters understand the dangers they’ll face. There were tons of these guides, and they’re absolutely timeless. It doesn’t matter what game or campaign setting you’re running, because they’re structured more like a work of fiction than a sourcebook. It’s only at the end of each chapter that the various elements are explained within the structure of AD&D’s rules. Pictured are the guides for Ghosts, Flesh Golems (“The Created”), and Mummies (“The Ancient Dead.”)
On the center left is “Tales of The Dying Earth” by Jack Vance. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already well aware of why this is significant. If not, all you really need to know is that when we talk about “Vancian” magic in D&D, Jack Vance is the guy it was named after. On page 40 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gygax directs anyone curious about the background for D&D’s magic system to read three books. Two of which (“The Eyes of the Overworld” and “The Dying Earth”) are both included in this volume. I’m a little curious as to why the cover looks quite so science-fiction-y, but I’m sure the meaning for that will become apparent once I get a chance to read it. Now I just need to power through the significantly less interesting book I’m currently reading.
On the center right is the sourcebook for Dungeon Crawl Classic. It’s a unique kind of retro clone which has integrated some aspects from modern gaming, and has some very interesting ideas in it. It’s also the first game I’ve encountered which will require me to find some of the more obscure Zocchi dice, such as the three, five, and seven sided dice. There are already a lot of things here I like, and a lot of things I don’t like. I’m sure this game will be getting a few of its own posts in the future, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Finally, I got an oversized D12. Each side has a body part listed on it: Right Hand, Left Hand, Right Arm, Left Arm, Right Foot, Left Foot, Right Leg, Left Leg, Stomach, Chest, Head, and Full Body. I’m not completely sure what I want to do with it yet, but I just like the idea of it. I’m thinking it might work best in a game like West End Game’s Star Wars RPG. That’s a game where combat is supposed to be extremely lethal. So, instead of using their system of “wounds,” you could instead use this die to determine whether a shot is lethal or not. I’m not completely sure what to do with “Full Body” though. Perhaps it’ll just mean you have to re-roll twice.
Now it looks like I’ve got some serious reading to do, so if you’ll excuse me, I want to see if Van Richten has any tips which will help me with my Mummy problem.
By the way, if you did enjoy this post, it’s Garage Sailing season. Which means my seasonal Garage Sailing site will have a post like this every week.
2 Comments »
Ravenloft, both the adventure, and the setting which surrounds it, have always fascinated me. Partially because of my well known love for the macabre, but also because everything about them has a kind of mystique which I find enthralling. The dangers of Ravenloft are always unseen, always shifting, and you never know where you’re going to end up. And Castle Ravenloft itself stands as a figurative edifice among dungeons. My mind’s eye imagines an endless maze of corridors, filled with every kind of danger imaginable. And at the end there is Strahd, a villain so legendary that he’s withstood almost 30 years of marketing and re-marketing without becoming boring.
At least, that’s my view, as someone whose never been so fortunate as to venture into Castle Ravenloft himself.
When I first saw that Wizards of the Coast had created an Expedition to Castle Ravenloft boardgame, it piqued my curiosity. And when my gaming group recently began experimenting with board games (we all very much enjoyed Hero Quest) I took that as an excuse to spend $60 on the game, so the group could have some variety. Last night was the first time we played the game as a group, and we ran through three adventures before calling it an evening.
The game is quite clearly based on 4th edition rules, which I personally found a little off putting, as I have a strong aversion to that ruleset. But even though it uses the terminology of 4th edition (daily/utility/at-will powers, dragonborn, elradin, etc.)the board game is none the less a fully self-contained product. And while my personal feelings made me a little uncomfortable talking about “healing surges” at the table, they function perfectly well as a mechanic for the board game. Even if I do not approve of their use in a tabletop RPG.
The basic premise of the game is very simple. Each player selects a character from the five which are included with the game. The characters all have a race and class, which determine which stack of ability cards they recieve. The players then take four abilities which they’d like to have access to during the game, plus one ability which is fixed and must be taken every time. The environment is created using a stack of dungon tiles with interlocking edges, which are shuffled and placed face down on the table. Whenever a player explores the “edge” of a tile currently in play, they take a new tile off the stack and connect it to the game board. When a monster is encountered, the player who encounters it draws a monster card, and at the end of their turn each round they must play the monster according to the tactics listed on the card. Each game session consists of braving the dangers of Castle Ravenloft to complete a specific objective, which you select from the adventure booklet before play begins.
The game is actually quite difficult. Groups who wander into the dungeon without understanding their own abilities probably will not walk out again. It also helps to have a thorough understanding of the game’s rules; during my playtesting session prior to getting the whole group together I nearly flipped the table because I didn’t realize I was supposed to be picking up treasure cards every time I killed a monster.
Most of the game’s difficulty comes from its manic pace. If a player does not explore any new dungeon tiles during their turn, they must draw an encounter card. Some cards summon traps or monsters, while other cards are spell effects which can damage or immobilize you. The worse encounter cards, however, are those with environment effects which remain in play until replaced by a new environment effect. Most of these effects are a severe hinderance to the party. Some cause damage when a player uses an item, or a once-daily ability. Perhaps the worst environment effect is the one which damages a player if they end their turn on the same tile as any other players, essentially forcing the party to split up.
The only way to avoid drawing an encounter card is to explore a new part of the dungeon, and when you do that you must place a new monster on the newly explored tile. So no matter what, each character’s turn creates a new complication for the party. Plus, some tiles have black triangles on them, indicating that you must draw an encounter card anyway! I must acknowledge the elegance of the design. Since the number of dangers encountered rises with the number of players, the game automatically scales up and down for whatever number of players you have at the table.
Not everything about the game’s design is quite so elegant, unfortunately. My group quickly implemented a number of house rules to combat some of the game’s ridiculousness. For example, we combined the “Hero” and “Exploration” phases of each player’s turn. In the basic rules, players must first do all of their moving and attacking, and only then can they choose whether or not they will add a new tile to the board. That means that if you begin your turn by moving to a tile’s edge, and exploring, then you cannot attack the monster which appears there until your next turn. Apparently every monster in the dungeon has the element of surprise.
We also changed the rules for leveling up. According to the manual, once a player has collected 5xp worth of monsters, then the next time they roll a 20, they may discard those experience points, and flip their character sheet over to the “level 2″ side. This is a nuisance kind of rule. In both session of the game where we followed that rule, it ends up with every player sitting on 10 or 15 experience points, waiting for a fucking twenty to come up. Instead, we allow each player to level up immediately upon reaching 5xp.
We’ve changed a few other minor rules here and there, but those are the two largest changes I think.
I am intrigued by the possibilities for expanding this game. It only comes with a handful of adventures, but there’s no reason that we couldn’t come up with our own adventures for the game ad-infinitum. And that’s not even to mention its sister games. Expedition to Castle Ravenloft uses the exact same system for play as two other D&D Board Games: Legends of Drizzt, and Caverns of Ashardalon. The games could easily be mixed together to add a larger variety of monsters, treasure, encounters, and adventurers.
As a final point, I have to mention the miniatures. As a GM, I refuse to use miniatures for anything but PCs. But, for those who do like to have more ornate monster representations on the battlefield, the minis included with this game will be a significant bonus. They’re very nicely creafted plastic, and come from the same molds that official D&D miniatures have come from in the past. And there’s so many of them! Enough, I think, for every monster card in the game to be in-play simultaneously.
Without question, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft is worth the remarkably cheap $65 price tag. Any criticism I have for the game is minor, and the amount of fun I’ve already gotten out of it in just a few weeks is impressive. Plus, even if you don’t like the game, your purchase won’t be a total loss, because you’ll have miniatures to play with.
4 Comments »