Board gaming in July

I love spending time with people, and I love being decimated by them in games of strategy, humour and imagination. Hence why I’m a proud member of…

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games Group

Meeting on sporadic nights in and around Boston, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

We’ve play games like Settlers of CatanLords of War, 6nimmt!, Carcassone, Coup, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

With 50% of our regular members leaving Boston – forever – over the next 2 weeks, we decided it was important to meet and be mean to each other whilst the opportunity remained…

gameoftrainscoverGame of Trains

Game of Trains is a pretty simple card game from Brain Games. I picked it up at the UK Board Games Expo last month, where it actually won “Best General Card Game”.

It benefits from quick to learn mechanics, a streamlined gameplay style with fast rounds, and mild player interraction. Definitely not my favourite game ever, but its simplicity, and beautiful artwork gets it to the table more than I’d expect.

There’s something very satisfying in getting the carriages in ascending number order, and its light enough to be great for playing whilst chatting. And seriously, look how pretty!

gameoftrains

Jon and I played a few rounds whilst we waited for everyone else to arrive, and it fulfilled its purpose, wetting our whistles for an evening of good natured cardboard aggression…

camelupCamel Up!

Camel Up is a recent classic in the small, slightly inbred world of tabletop fun. It won the coveted 2014 Speil Des Jahres Award in Germany. In board gaming circles, that’s like winning the World Cup, Wimbledon and, I dunno, the Conservative Party Leadership Race.

In simple terms, there’s a camel race afoot. The field is represented by funky wooden stackable camels, you spend your time betting against each other, trying to a) guess who is going to win the current leg, or b) the entire race.

The reason its great fun? Because Jon will decide to make your exact guess about the red camel’s inexorable victory… 4 seconds before you do, meaning that your prize of 8 Egypt Pounds drops to a disappointing 5 Egypt Pounds. And then, in the last second, the yellow camel gaily leaps over your pathetic rouge dromedary, transforming your hoped-for earnings into a penalty charge of one pound, and gaining Robbie an unstoppable lead.

I’d never played it before, but I can tell its going to be a family favourite. It’s short, its simple, very interactive, and wonderfully silly. Just a shame that Craig broke my cardboard dice pyramid!

projecteliteProject: ELITE

We were only at the UK Board Games Expo for a day, so there wasn’t much time for playing games as much as childishly running around in excitement. One stall did catch my attention though, and we managed a quick-but-intense play through of their offering – Project:ELITE.

As it turned out, it was awesome; so awesome in fact, that Robbie bought it there and then, with both expansions. That’s a big chunk of money to throw down on a game we’d never heard of, and had only played for 15 minutes. What was it that drew us in?

The sheer pace of each round – and the degree to which fighting for useful dice rolls can delay you – lends itself to moments like this, moments of “Oh right, my plan was to go in there and then retreat…

The premise: You are space heroes, or soldiers, or whatever. Basically, you = generic good guys. You work as a team to complete a mission, generally along the lines of capture all objectives, or maybe collect things and take them to your base, or simply “survive”.

Up against you is a never ending swarm of different monsters/aliens/demons/generic bad guys. Thanks to Robbie picking up the expansions, there’s also Boss monsters, and around 20 other different types of scary things to attack you in a variety of intriguing ways.

So far, so blah. It’s fun, but futuristic combat themes are ten-a-penny. Where this little gem shines is in its the core mechanic: each scenario consists of 8 two minute long rounds, which progress in real time…

  1. You start with a quick team strategy talk, then someone presses “Start” on the two minute timer.
  2. Each of you has 4 dice. They are custom dice with symbols that let you walk, shoot, open things, use equipment, etc.
  3. You will be frantically rolling and re-rolling to get the outcomes you need.
  4. If you roll a red alien symbol, you have to immediately stop and move an alien.
DSC_1223
Craig making bedroom eyes at me

How does this work out? For two very focused minutes, each of you is obsessively picking up dice, groaning, moving aliens, rolling again, groaning *again*, moving more aliens, then finally getting the symbols you actually need, giving a yelp of joy, before grabbing the dice again at a corybantic pace, wincing as someone shouts out “Ten seconds left!”

The round finishes as abruptly as it began, at which point you step back and look at what actually happened to the rest of the players during your entirely introspective 120 seconds. Its a fun moment – you’d think it would be frustrating to miss the action on the rest of the board – but in fact it invites story telling: everyone gets to boast/commiserate about their own activities during the frenetic dice storm.

DSC_1231Our match left me with plenty of memorable moments. After the first round, where I had quite easily kept the right flank at bay, we debriefed, and it turned out that Craig’s sole achievement had been to open a box, and we were close to being completely overrun by aliens on our left flank. Despite a well thought out plan, the dice had defeated us, and it took concerted effort to stop us losing the next turn.

The buzzer blew on a later round, and everyone realised I had managed to leave myself wounded and stranded in the middle of the alien base. The sheer pace of each round – and the degree to which fighting for useful dice rolls can delay you – lends itself to moments like this, moments of “Oh right, my plan was to go in there and then retreat…

Our final turn involved me limping across to Craig, where he tossed me one of two jetpacks he’d somehow stolen from somewhere. I eventually equipped it with one of my two remaining dice, allowing me to boost across the board to Jon, who, thanks to my injuries, had to give me his medkit and help me use it. Meanwhile, Craig had turned back to the final objective, effortlessly completing it and, using his own jetjack, nimbly launched himself back to the safe zone. Robbie was probably doing something cool too, but he was the other side of the board from me, which might as well have been the other side of the world given my ultra-focused (read “selfish“) approach to the game.

I definitely recommend Project: ELITE. It scales well, has a solo mode, and there’s plenty of variability, even with just the base set. Setup is a little fiddly, but the rules are surprisingly simple and quick for new players to pick up.

chrononautsChrononauts

Next to the table was the time travelling card game Chrononauts. From the creator of Fluxx, its a set collection game with a very thematic twist.

Setup involves laying out a grid of cards in chronological order, representing the last 150 years of world history. You are then given a hand of cards, which give you the power to mess with your opponents, or flip over key “linchpins” in the timeline.

There are three ways to win. Be the first to:

  1. Get the timeline to match up with your ID card: this will have some real historical events, such as “Assassination of JFK”, and some alternate timelines, such as “World War 3”, or “Titanic Avoids Iceberg”.
  2. Collect the three artifacts on your Mission card: ranging from “The Mona Lisa (an obvious fake)” to “Live Triceratops”.
  3. Play 7 patch cards: these sit on top of flipped “Paradox” timeline cards, repairing worrying holes in time and space.

chrononautsThe rules take a few minutes to sink in, but once you have them it makes sense. Flipping over cards in the past affects events in the future – if Hitler is assassinated, how can he open the 1936 Olympics? – so small changes to one card can ripple down the timeline, affecting multiple events in the future.

I enjoyed myself, but you can tell that it came from the same mind as Fluxx: player progression is not respected. At one point, I accidentally played a card that took Robbie’s hand, swelled by the 5 patch cards he’d played, and gave it to Craig, putting him into the lead. Whilst its a satisfying way to mess with people, there’s something that puts me off about any rules that let you play tactically for 25 minutes only to have your entire role swapped so easily. In the end, I actually won, but only because the timeline almost randomly ended up matching my ID card. Too luck based for my blood.

coupcoverCoup

We started the evening with a lightweight game; rounding things off with Coup seemed equally appropriate.

DSC_1239An early Kickstarter success, Coup is practically a micro game, with rounds lasting perhaps 2 minutes, and being entirely based on straight-faced lying to your friends, being challenged on that bluffing, and throwing your cards to the table in frustration as they beat you. I covered it in my December round-up, so check it out there…

And there we were, five different games under our belts, and only 10:30pm, meaning I could avoid my usual played-game-until-midnight sleep deprivation hangover the next day. Good stuff!

Feel free to drop a comment below, or check out the posts from November, December and FebruaryDon’t forget to visit the facebook group!

Board Games in February!

I love spending time with people, and I love being decimated by them in games of strategy, humour and imagination. Hence why I’m a proud member of…

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games Group

Meeting on sporadic nights in and around Boston, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

We’ve play games like Settlers of CatanLords of War, 6nimmt!, Carcassone, Coup, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

After missing a month revising for my big scary GP exam final, I was keen to make up for it with an evening of calculated victory…

Pairs

pairsPairs is a great little card game, perfect to pick up in about 2 minutes, and immediately leads to countless moments of groaning, and fraught decisions.

It has a simple premise: avoid getting a pair. The deck is made of numbered cards – there is one card labelled 1, two cards labelled 2, three labelled 3… all the way up to ten cards labelled 10.

You are both dealt one card to start, and then take it in turns next, either deciding to take another card, or wimping out and folding. If you draw a pair, the number of that pair is added to your score. If you fold, your lowest number card is added to your score. First person to a certain number, depending on player numbers, loses.

As an example, let’s watch some Hobbits playing…

Bilbo gets a 3 to start. He takes another card, he now has 3 and 8.

Frodo gets a 10 to start. He takes another card, he now has 6 and 10.

Bilbo feels fairly confident – another 3 isn’t likely to come up, although 8 is fairly common. He takes another card, he now has 3, 7 and 8.

Frodo is a little more concerned, as 6 is moderately common, and 10 is very much so. However, folding would give him a score of 6, so he takes another card. He now has 6, 9 and 10.

Bilbo takes another card, after deliberating whether or not to fold and keep the 3 for his score. He now has 3, 7, 7 and 8. He got a pair of 7s, so the round is over, and his score is now 7.

Frodo is relieved, since he would have probably chosen to fold next turn. As he didn’t fold, his score remains 0, and he is in the lead. The next round begins…

Nick and myself played a few rounds of Pairs whilst we waited for the more temporally retarded members of the group. It became immediately clear that Nick secretly moonlights as a Vegas card shark, since he started counting cards on our very first run through. However, there’s enough luck that you can never be sure of any decision, and it certainly passed 20 minutes quite happily…

Fleet Wharfside

FleetWharfside

Fleet Wharfside is a game of trading seafood, and gaining victory points. Sounds dull, right?

You are a fish trader with two options: visit the wharf (docks) and pick up some fish/crustacean cards, or visit the market and pick up contracts to sell the fish.

Three nice mechanics:

  • You buy new contracts with fish. The cost of those contracts steadily increases, and you can trade down nice fish for cheaper fish, but not the other way.
  • Many of the contracts have bonuses, such as letting you pick up extra fish each turn. This is great, but has the effect that you also don’t want to finish the contract, because then the bonus ends. This is a problem because…
  • there are victory point awards for being the first to finish each size of contract. The quicker you finish, more points you get. You can also win points for having the most King Crabs (think longest road award in Settlers of Catan).
Nick mulling over a particularly tasty looking contract in the market...
Nick mulling over a particularly tasty looking contract in the market…

There are no negative scores for unfinished contracts or fish in your hand – its a simple thing, but it definitely takes the pressure off a bit.

A recent Kickstarter purchase by Craig, it was a nice moderate intensity game to kick off the evening. They played it last week, and felt the King Crabs didn’t add much. However, my royal shellfish earned me around 10 points on their own. When the final scores were tallied up, I won with 55 points, closely followed by Craig at 50, then Nick and Simon trailing somewhat behind. KC For The Win! (tshirts pending…)

Not a game I’ll rush out to buy, and a little light on player interaction, but I’d be happy to play it a few more times, for sure.

Agricola

agricolaPlaying Coup last month was a moment where I finally got my hands on a game I’ve heard loads about but never played. That crown has been thoroughly stolen with the legendary “King of Eurogames“: Agricola.

There’s too much detail to cover here, but I’m going to try to do it in 10 steps:

  1. You are all farmers. Presumably in Europe. Somewhere
  2. You have to develop your farms. To do this, you can plough fields, build up your house, or fence pastures.
  3. Each thing you build can make more stuff. Fields = crops, house = family members, pastures = animals.
  4. You only get to do one action per turn, per family member. So, for most of the game, that’s two actions per turn.
  5. Everyone else is fighting you for the same actions. By the time 4 people have taken half their actions, everything really good on the board will be taken, and you’ll have to wait until the next round.
  6. When harvest comes, you have to feed your family. Food is a challenge, and the more family members you have, the worse that challenge is. Fail to feed your family and suffer a heavy penalty…
  7. As the game progresses, more action cards will be revealed. This allows you to do more exciting actions. Unfortunately, harvest gets more frequent too, so you are constantly trying to rustle up enough food.
  8. Each player has a stack of possible occupations and minor improvements. You can activate these, sometimes for a cost, for specific advantages – say you collect more stone, or you get some fences later in the game.
  9. There is a central pool of major improvements anyone can build. They give you bonus victory points, and allow some more powerful specific actions.
  10. Its simple enough to grasp quickly, and complex enough to be really masterful. None of your plans will quite work, and you will have a half empty farm with no crops, hardly any sheep, and then run out of food and get punished with a begging card. It’s perfectly possible to end a game in negative points.
Craig: fundamentally a bad person.
Craig: fundamentally a bad person. And possibly a secret farmer.

I can see why gamers love this game. Chance plays just enough of a part to keep things fresh, but not enough to hold back great strategy. Interaction isn’t very direct, but when you only have two actions, and the player to your right takes ALL THE WOOD JUST BEFORE YOU WERE ABOUT TO… its fair to say there is a reasonable amount of competition present throughout gameplay.

Who won our game? Obviously Craig did. Craig with his vegetables, and 6 stone houses, and his pigs and his cow and his army of little Craigs somehow feeding themselves despite the sheer impossibility of that task.

really enjoyed Agricola. I spent quite a lot of today thinking about how I’d play differently, if it would be possible just to focus on one task, on having thousands of fences, and hundreds of sheep, or having a huge field brimming over with corn.

So, in conclusion: Craig got more points than everyone else added together, but it probably doesn’t count because he smells faintly of cabbages. Agricola is awesome. Spending time with friends and playing board games is, as ever, brilliant. And that, at nearly midnight, was that.

Feel free to drop a comment below, or check out the posts from November and DecemberDon’t forget to visit the facebook group!

Board Gaming in November!

A month or so ago, I finally got involved in something I’ve dreamt of for years: a local board gaming group! Introducing:

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games group

Meeting on sporadic Monday nights, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

In the last month we’ve played Lords of War, 6nimmt!, Vineta, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

I enjoy waffling, so I may occasionally do little write ups. Last night, as I mentioned above, we played three games…

Android: Netrunner

androidnetrunnerAndroid: Netrunner is a collectible card game, with an assymetric design. Most games in the world are those that you play against people as equals: everyone has the same number of pieces, amount of starting money, etc.

In Netrunner that equality is gone: one of you plays as a massive corporation, the other as a hacker. As a result, the corp player has tons of resources and money, and is building an empire, whilst the hacker runs a much leaner setup, with just a few cards for his computer hardware and software.

The game revolves around “agenda” points. The corporation is trying to complete projects which score them, whilst the hacker is making runs against those servers to steal the agenda cards, and thus the points.

Most games in the world are those that you play against people as equals: in Netrunner, that equality is gone.

Its a game I bought a year ago, but struggled to find anyone to play it with. Reading the rules made it seem a little complex, but it actually fit together rather nicely. Two of us played, and the core challenge of being a hacker became clear pretty fast.

Jon bluffed me into a trap by installing a server, and putting some weak protection on it. I assumed it hid an agenda card, ran against the server, and accessed it… to discover he’d put a malicious program in there that trashed my best Icebreaker. Painful.

Despite the initial setback, I won the game, and I’m raring for more. May even enter one of the London day competitions for a laugh…

betweentwocitiesBetween Two Cities

Craig turned up halfway through the Netrunner game, and gleefully unveiled his shiny new kickstarter: Between Two Cities.

On the theme of balance as a mechanic, BTC manages to be unique by going in totally the opposite direction – everything you do is shared. You build a city with each of your neighbours, aiming to score the most points with them that you can. The catch? Your final score is defined by the points of your least good city.

BetweenTwoCitiesWinnerIts a confusing concept, best explained with a little diagram…

You want the two most valuable cities in the game next to you. And they should be as close to each other as possible in points. The bottom player has helped build an awesome 50 point city, but that doesn’t matter, because his other city isn’t good enough.

We played two games. It was ridiculously close each time, with the six cities all scoring between 50-55, but its worth noting that I won both games. Only by one point, but that’s a victory nonetheless.

I really enjoyed BTC: there’s something very satisfying about building a perfect little city, playingBTCoptimising for maximum points, but also keeping one eye cautiously out to try to make sure you aren’t helping to make one city too good at the expense of your other. The whole time you know everyone else is being just as co-operative, whilst also just being a tiny bit nasty at the back of their mind…

Discworld: Ankh Morpork

If you are reading this, you will have realised two things:

  • I’m writing on my personal, hand coded blog.
  • I’m nearly 30, yet talking about board games.

Obviously, I’m a terrific nerd, and as a result, a huge fan of Terry Pratchett books. As such, any game based on the world they’re set in is halfway to capturing my heart.

Discworld Ankh MorporkDiscworld: Ankh Morpork is an area control game where you all have hidden objectives. The hidden objectives mean that you don’t know if somebody needs to collect all the money to win, control a certain number of territories, have pieces in multiple territories, or simply wait out the end of the game to win.

We all persuaded ourselves that Craig was playing as Chrysoprase the troll, and thus needed loads of cash. He wasn’t.

This rolls out as a game where you are constantly on the lookout for anybody doing anything that might win. Appropriately, the role of Commander Vimes (head of the police in the Discworld books) is the one that wins if no body else manages to achieve their objective. It reminded me of monitoring field ownership in Carcassonne, coupled with the role uncertainty in Dead of Winter.

Our game of DW:AM (terrible acronym, sorry) didn’t last very long. We all persuaded ourselves that Craig was playing as Chrysoprase the troll, and thus needed loads of cash. He wasn’t, and so we totally missed him controlling 5 territories for a whole turn and winning.

I’m definitely keen to play it again, although I’m not completely sure how much fun it would be. I worry that there would be a lot of intently watching people’s turns, whilst your own moments of action are not hugely interesting. That said, all the cards are dripping with theme, covered in official artwork, and crammed with Discworld trivia, so I’d be pretty happy anyway…

Bunny Bunny Moose Moose

Bunny bunny moose moose boxBunny Bunny Moose Moose is a party game from the team at Czech Games Edition. It involves the basic premise of sitting round a table putting your hands to your head, pretending to be a moose or a rabbit. By doing this you achieve two things: scoring points, and looking ridiculous.

Theme

It’s fairly light on storyline, like most party games. You and your friends are animals in the woods, trying to escape from the hunter. There’s a silly poem that the narrator reads out over and over again as they place cards on the table. That’s pretty much it, storyline wise.

Gameplay

The mechanics are a) simple and b) ridiculous. You use your hands on the side (or back) of your head to pretend to be a Moose, or a Bunny. Cards in front of the players steadily change, and you need to get the optimum arrangement of ears/antlers in order to get the most points at the moment the Hunter appears.

There are a range of cards, each with different values. In the picture below, you can see examples of these.Bunny Bunny Moose Moose cards

 

  • Top left – you get an extra point if you are a moose with left antler open and up.
  • Top right – you lose two points if you have any type of upwards antler on the right.
  • Bottom right – you get two points for a left bent ear at the back of your head.
  • Bottom middle – lose a point for each bent ear on the side of your head.
  • Bottom left – everything above is reversed – so you gain points for the negative things, and lose them for the positive things.
  • Top middle – the Hunter! When this appears, the round ends.

Sound complex? Its not too tricky, but the problem is that the cards change every few seconds, and its very easy to get confused: the rabbit ears especially look very similar, and, with the cards above, the difference between a Bunny ear on the side and back is worth either -1 or +2 points: a big change!

This is what people look like during a game.

Bunny bunny moose moose gameplay

I think its immediately obvious why this game is a great way to spend half an hour. There are even some additional optional rules to make things even harder/funnier – for example one involves sticking your tongue out alongside everything else: added stupid-looking complexity coupled with an already riotous dynamic is a recipe for success..

Sometimes, in a game, there are specific mechanics that jump out at you and say “Look at me, I’m a creative solution to a well known problem!” BBMM was designed by Vlaada Chvátil, creator of legendary games Space Alert and Galaxy Trucker: both great games, with totally unique mechanics, so I hoped for similar creative flourishes here.

I was not disappointed. In BBMM, the scoring track has a real splash of genius to it. Each player has two pieces – a Bunny and a Moose – and their piece is only advanced when you score points as the respective animal. The winner, at the end of the game, is the player who has both animals least behind.

For example, if I’ve won loads of points as the Bunny, but none as the Moose, even though I’m very far ahead with one animal, I’ll still lose to anyone who has played a more evenly spread game. This means that throughout the game, alongside frantically making stupid hand signals, you are also worrying about which animal you need points with, and how much everyone else is scoring with each type of beast themselves. It makes for a fun, tangled game, in which it is very difficult for any one player to jump unassailably into the lead.

Ease of Learning

BBMM is easy to learn. Maybe 3 minutes of explanation, and a new player can jump into their first round, picking up the rest as they go along.

The game is rated for ages 9+, which seems about right. That said, its possible to simplify the rules for the younger players, and have them compete happily with adults playing the full rules: with my four year old, we let him pretend to be whichever animal has the most cards on the table – he generally manages to beat me.

The rule book itself is not the simplest read. Given that I am able to explain the whole game to a newbie in a few minutes, we definitely struggled to pick the game up so rapidly in our first play. I can’t point to usual problems – a game this simple needs no index, for example – but the rules could definitely manage to explain the gameplay in a more intuitive way.

Conclusion

Bunny bunny moose moose gameplayFrankly, even saying the name “Bunny Bunny Moose Moose” gets everyone in the mood for an enjoyable, silly game. Its a party game: quick to pick up, quick to play, and it doesn’t matter too much who wins.

If you are super competitive person, you might initially get frustrated about what seems like a large random element – but this actually remains a game where skill can play more of a role than luck – if you wanted to put that much time into it.

That said, most people will not play this game in order to hone their animal impersonation skills, or to prove their mastery of strategic hand eye co-ordination – and rightly so. This is a fun, quick game to pull out at a party, or maybe to break the ice at the beginning of an evening before starting something a little more intense. And its great at that.

Lords Of War Review

I love Kickstarter. I can spend hours a day browsing through the various ideas, dreams and practical suggestions on there. There’s something incredible about the range of possibility, the idea that a great idea will exist or not based on my decision to support it…

The KS section I find myself continually coming back to is UK Tabletop Games. UK, because then the postage isn’t the same cost as the game itself, and board games, because board games are awesome.

Not always a great success

I’ve kickstarted a few games now, and, for the most part, they’ve been a mild disappointment. Cheap printing, uninspiring artwork, or, worst of all, uninspiring gameplay. That said, there’s a lot to be said for the thrill of the anticipation.

Never-the-less, last November, I decided to jump on the Lords of War: Templars versus Undead project. Its an extension to the first two award winning games, and it looked fun. The question was, would I be disappointed again?

Not what I ordered

Before I tell you how satisfied I’ve been with this game, let me tell you a little story of generosity. You see, I paid for the £25 Hell is Full pledge level. That includes the new add on, and a pack of the cards from the original game, Lords of War: Orcs versus Dwarves.

That should give me the stuff in the picture below:

What I ordered from Blackbox games

However, instead, when I received my parcel in the mail, it contained everything below:

What I recieved from Blackbox games

The reason? Insanely generous game developers.

Last week, when the game was posted, mine seemed to go missing. I dropped them an email, and Nick apologised for the delay, and kindly offered to send out an extra pack for free – all three for the price of two.

I was having a very bad day, and this was about the nicest thing that had happened to me all week, so I send an effusive email back. Nick’s response blew my mind:

Shit me Chris – sounds like you’re “livin’ the dream”!!!!

If that makes you smile – I’m going to send you on the house – the battlemat, 6 limited addition metallic cards and the Terrain & Weather deck.  Hell – and a card Tin and Teeshirt – what size are you?  Medium, Large or XL – being a junior Doctor you don’t have enough time to eat (or sleep) enough to be XXL!!!!!!!!

I have a natural human urge to give you advice or quote some shitty saying of wisdom – but no.  You know what you’re doing – I will just post the stuff out tomorrow.

All the best
Nick

Suffice to say, I’m still grinning ear to ear. Anyway, my review…

Concept

A 2 player collectible card game where you play as one of (currently) 6 races, playing cards onto a playing mat on the table. The mat is 7 cards wide and 6 cards high, and allows for a strategic placement element to the game, not found in standard card games.

Its available in boxes containing two decks: Orcs vs Dwarves, Elves vs Lizardmen, Templars vs Undead (plus the recently released Orcs vs Dwarves 2: Magic and Monsters, but I’ll review that when I get my greasy hands on it). Each box is completely standalone: it even comes with a paper game mat, so you are ready to rock and roll. Extra packs just allow you to play with more variations of armies, you don’t have to buy anything more than one set.

Crocodilian_BraveTheme

Lords of War treads a perfect middle line for theme. If you want setting, there’s tons of it: the cards are showered with fantastic artwork (the Lizardmen look especially great – see right), and there’s a whole section of their website dedicated to “The Lore of Lords of War” – with stories, maps, videos, audiobooks. On the other hand, if context is not your cup of tea, you can jump straight into the game and ignore it all: the mechanics hold up on their own.

The Weather and Terrain add on is a perfect example of this: for one camp they present a vision of an epic battle steeped in mist, as hail soaked archers struggle to visualise their targets… or to the more pragmatic players, your tactics need to adjust this round since ranged troops are ineffectual.

Gameplay

There’s nothing revolutionary about the basics: you take it in turns to plonk a card down on the table. You then work out if any card has been overwhelmed by attacks, and take them off the table. Your turn completes by bringing your hand back up to 6, either by taking a new card from your deck, or pulling a card off the table, if its not involved in the action.

playinglordsofwarIts a simple system, and it lets you focus on the important stuff, namely taking as many of your opponents cards as possible (you need 20 to win) or just trying to destroy their leadership (take 4 “command” cards to win).

Some cards can do ranged attacks (think catapults, archers), some are very strong in attack, but very weak in defence (beserkers, or “suicide cards”). Everyone gets an identical range of ranks in their deck, from Recruits (weak, rubbish, cannon fodder) to your General (think John McClane).

Again, I feel Lords of War manages to hit the difficult middle ground here: tactics and strategy matter, but luck evens out the playing field too. There are real chess-like moments, when you put a card down, check the table closely, and move your hand away… seeing, just a moment too late, the Trebuchet you forgot about, with you directly in its line of fire.

Ease of learning

This game is quick to teach, and allows new players to start getting tactical within the first game. I regularly “go easy” on new players, only to get halfway through the first game and find myself fighting for my life.

There are actually Core, Intermediate and Advanced rules, which allows you to slowly build on the complexity of the game with the more experienced gamers (read “Nerds”). That said, you can have a ton of fun keeping it simple – and that’s great for teaching it to people.

All the rules are on a single, double-sided A4 sheet. I have a few little criticisms: I find the rule sheet a little difficult for instantly grabbing rules from, and I’m not sure we play with the “extra” rules very often, but overall, this game is simple to learn, and great for introducing people to the hobby.

Overall

Whilst I enjoy reading rule books, visiting game shops and listening to hour long podcasts on topics like “Games with interesting mechanics”; my wife is much harder to tempt into playing board games than me. Yet, as we packed for our move to South Africa, it was she that insisted we bring absolutely everything with us, all 6 decks, the optional shiny cards, the full size felt backed gaming mat.

More than anything else, that shows how this game is a winner. I love it, my wife loves it, and everyone I’ve introduced it to has had a great time. Go buy it!