28th May 2019
Tuesday gaming continues at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
I had told Matt how brutal and unforgiving Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth was. But he remained pretty skeptical about it and was intent on trying the game.
We played it 3 times, 3 times... How did it go, it chewed us up and spat us out like so much cheap flavourless chewing gum.
"Well, it's your funeral." Is what I should have said to Matt. In reality it was all the players' funerals.
You can read my thoughts about it here & here.
25th May 2019*
The weekend is in full swing and it's a Saturday night. This can only mean it's game night at Matakishi's place.
Our play-test of Oubliette (As run by Matakishi continues.). You can read Matakishi's report about it here.
21st May 2019.
Tuesday has rolled around again. So it's time to go to 'The Sovereigns' in Woking for another evening of Gaming.
There's been quite a bit of buzz about Wingspan, so time to play it and see what's what.
What's in a game?
Wingspan is an 'engine-building' game about bird conservation.
One of the things that has created the buzz about the game are the components. These include:
Other components include personal boards for each player.
During set up each player receives a game board and 8 action cubes, they are dealt some 'bird cards'. Players are also dealt 2 secret objective cards (One of which they keep, the other they discard.) and bird food.
Finally random 'end of round' objectives are dealt. This is an opportunity for point scoring and changes every round, (And every game in fact!).
How's it play?
So firstly, an explanation of the game board is required. The game board has 3 rows or 'tracks'. Each track represents both a type of action the player can perform and a bird habitat. When the action associated with a particular track is chosen, then all the available actions on that track are activated. The actions that are available to a player are dependant on which bird cards have been played on that track.
Actions and building yer engine.
Wingspan has a quite unique way of engine-building. As explained above, the player has their own game board with 3 tracks. Each track has enough spaces for 5 bird cards.
When card is played onto a track, it always goes into the leftmost empty space on that track.
Thus the cards build up from left to right.
Each player is given 8 'action cubes' to use for actions. So in a turn there are 8 actions.
When a player carries out an action, a cube is placed on the relevant track on the rightmost empty space and the action on that space is triggered and completed. Spaces tend to also have bonus actions. But these generally require spending a resource to activate.
The cube is then moved left one space along the track.
Therefore if a track has no cards on it, the player will perform a single action before reaching the end of the track.
If a track has 2 bird cards on it then the cube is placed on the 3rd, rightmost space and the action that space is completed. Then the cube moves one space to the left, and the action on the bird card is performed. Then it would be moved another space to the left and the action on the last bird card would be carried out.
This is how you build your engines, with rows of cards. The longer the line of cards, the more actions can be triggered. Additionally the empty spaces further to the right have better rewards for your actions (And bonus actions.).
There are 4 types of action a player can perform:
Play continues until all action cubes have been played, this ends the turn. After this you get to score 'end of round' points.
At the game set up, 4 objectives were randomly determined. These can be something along the lines of having eggs of a certain kind, birds of a certain kind or in a certain habitat etc.
One of these is scored at the every round. The score you get for this is marked with one of each player's action cubes. Even if a player scores 0, they have to mark put their token on the 0 spot.
So, when the 2nd round begins, all the players will only have 7 action tokens. A game consists of 4 rounds and players' actions cubes will decrease each round.
When the 4th round is completed, the game ends and points are totted. Highest score wins!
There are various ways to score points. As mentioned above there are 4 opportunities to score at the end of the 4 rounds, birds score points, as do eggs. Secret objectives also score, some birds allow to hoard food and this scores points - and so on.
Wingspan is a nice engine building game with some unique rules. It's not overly complicated and you will very quickly start to see some strategies.
I like that there are 3 tracks that allow you to essentially build 3 different engines and that the 3 tracks are interrelated. Quite often the bonus actions of empty spaces must be bought with resources and will give resources useful on other tracks. Good play here can yield a lot benefits.
The curious rule that removes action cubes from play is unusual and the opposite of many games.
Finally, a mention should be made of Wingspan's outstanding game components. The eggs, the card, the dice tower, even the packaging have been carefully thought about and have been well implemented.
So overall I think Wingspan is a good game. It's made my 'to-buy' list.
18th May 2019*
It's a Saturday night, so gaming continues, but now at Matakishi's!
We are continuing to play test the Oubilette campaign. You can read Matakishi's report about it here.
18th May 2019.
It's a Saturday afternoon and we're at 'The Sovereigns'. This can only mean 50 Fathoms.
We depart Kiera upon our journey to the Coaker Mountains. As we leave the harbour we notice something strange about a galleon, it appears to be entirely unmanned. The galleon flies the flag of 'The Inquisition'.
Using my newly discovered sewing skills, I re-size out acquired uniforms for their new owners. My sewing skills impress the crew.
"I also sew." I inform the crew.
The journey to the mountains will take on average 20 days, we have been joined by some crew from 'The Revenge'.
Pushing on we spy stormy weather ahead and avoid it. We also spy some fishing boats.
On the 3rd day we realise that we are being followed. It is the Inquisition galleon and it appears to be bearing down on us at a unnaturally fast speed.
As they draw close, their speed drops so dramatically that the ship creates a bow wave.
We are forced to stop. 'The Inquisition' wants to search The Delilah for spell casters.
After some discussion they are allowed to board The Delilah.
Soldiers from the inquisition begin to search all of 'The Delilah'. Captain Shia takes the lead inquisitor in the captain's room to distract him during the search.
Little do they know that we have hidden Win in the captain's room. Since we have bought the lead inquisitor here, he will not think to have here searched along with the rest of the boat.
It's a strategy that works, the soldiers finish exploring the boat without discovering Win, (Who's not there anyway.). After this, they make their exit and return to their ship.
We watch their ship leave, but before it does so. We spot a body being thrown overboard, (I guess they weren't' happy with someone?). Win sense's 'dying magic' coming from the corpse.
We continue on with our journey.
After some time we see a frigate coming out from Montarno and we arrive there at approximately 1800 hrs.
On first impressions Montarno seems like quite a martial settlement and we the largest building we see here is 'The Emperor's Respite'.
We dock and disembark.
Looking around we see a camp outside the settlement and we see a part of it that looks very 'run down, possibly this is where the slaves are kept.
We estimate that there are 150 guards here.
A little later we see the slaves, they are thin and malnourished.
Captain Shia meets up with Captain Domingo.
Then we depart for Coaker Island.
Once we arrive Shia finds and convinces the authorities to custody of Domingo's brother. The relevant paperwork is signed and possession of him.
As Shia is preparing to to return to The Delilah, Shia is asked to take more prisoners. Shia refuses and explains that she is only here for one prisoner and has no room for more.
We make a hasty exit before any suspicion can be raised.
We head out to see. It's at this point that Baxter goes a little crazy, perhaps he's been in the sun too much or perhaps he's drunk the seawater?
Anyway Attacks Aquius.
The fight goes on for a while, Baxter punches Aquius repeatedly and Aquius tries to 'pinch' Baxter. As the fight degenerates, Baxter tries to push Aquius overboard and then hits him with a plank.
At this point Win has had enough, intercedes and proceeds to lecture the both of them whilst pushing them apart.
Captain Shia comes in at this point, hoping to bet on the fight, but she's too late.
Anyway, we plan to sail on until reach the tallest mountain on Coaker Island - this is 2 days sailing away.
Our pace is good and it takes a little under 2 days to reach the mountain.
It is the highest thing we've ever seen.
Captain Shia convinces Aquius to come with us and The Delilah drops us on and will return for us. We will need to avoid Kieran patrols on our climb to the peak.
14th May 2019.
Gaming night at 'The Sovereigns' continues.
Next up is: Love Letter.
A few years ago, I was in a game shop when I saw this for the first time. I saw the price was £7.99 and thought that was cheap!
So looked at the game and saw that it had only 15 cards. "That's 50p a card!" I thought, there's no way I'm paying that for a game and didn't buy it.
That's what is called a 'boneheaded mistake'. Because it turns out that Love Letter is an excellent game and is without any doubt worth the £8 asking price.
Thematically, this is a game about delivering a love letter to the princess.
It's actually a game about memory, deduction and a little bit of luck.
What's in a game?
There are several variants of the game and also versions with different themes. My version comes in a small faux-velvet drawstring bag.
The game's components consist of 15 cards, some scoring blocks and a faux-velvet drawstring bag!
That's it, really it is!
How's it play?
So that's it. A minimalist game deserves a minimalist review.
Except that an entirely minimalist review does not do this game justice.
Love Letter is elegant in it's simplicity. Because the deck only has 15 cards, it's a game about card counting for people who don't card count. All the players can always see all the cards that have been played or discarded - and each player is given a cheat sheet that tells them how many there are of each particular card in the game.
Skilled players will use this information to try a deduct what cards the other player's have in their hands. This is very useful as there are cards that can be used to eliminate opponents (provided you know what card they have in their hand.
But here's the twist, because a card is removed from the deck at the start of the game, it's impossible to know exactly what card a player holds (unless you play a card that lets you see their hand).
Another thing I like is how some cards are worthless at the start of the game, but game-winners at the end of the game. 'The Princess' being the prime example here. If discard or play the princess for any reason then you are eliminated from the round - a total liability. But the princess is the only card in the game with a value of 8 - the top value. If you have the princess in your hand when the deck is exhausted, then the princess scores the highest and is a guaranteed game winner.
And talking of exhausting the deck. Love Letter has 15 cards in the deck, 1 is removed before play begins, we're now at 14 cards. In a 4-player game, each player is dealt a card.
So when play begins for the rounds there's only 10 cards in the deck. That's 10 plays in total. 2 players will get to play 3 cards each and 2 players will get to play 2 cards each. That's a quick game by any measure.
I know I'm not a reviewer, my opinion counts for next to nothing and this will sound a little big-headed. But I really do recommend Love Letter, it's a game everyone should try.
14th May 2019.
Tuesday has rolled around again and that can only mean gaming night at 'The Sovereigns'
First game of the night is Mysterium'. Mysterium is like a ghostly version of Cluedo.
It's quite unusual in that it is both an asymmetrical and co-operative game.
One player takes on the role of the ghost of a murder victim.
All the remaining players assume the roles of psychics or mediums.
The game takes place during a 'seance' in which the ghost will feed all the other characters with confusing and strange imagery, hoping they will figure out the murder
The ghost player knows who their murderer is and is trying to communicate this to the other players.
What's in a game?
The ghost player sits behind a screen which contains information pertinent to them. The ghost player also keeps a deck of cards behind the screen.
Each of the other players is given a character to play in the form of a character portrait printed on what can only be described as sort of 'pocket'. The art for the characters is good and makes them look suitability exotic for people that can communicate with the dead. Each player is also given a meeple.
Markers are set out for the 3 different clue types. These represent the classic Cluedo cards for person, location and weapon.
The game also has a vintage looking clock which serves as a turn counter.
Before the game starts the ghost player determines who the murderer and suspects are.
The in line with each respective clue marker they layout a number of cards (dependant upon difficulty). Thus next to the person marker, they would lay the murderer, suspects and innocent people. Next to the location marker, they would lay the murder site, suspected sites and unrelated sites - and the same for the murder weapon.
And now you're pretty much ready to go.
How does it Play?
The ghost player is trying to provide the other players with the information on who the killer is, where the murder occurred and what was used to do it. But cannot talk to the other players at all.
Every turn, the ghost player draws a number of cards from their deck. The ghost play can give them to the other players. These cards contains all manner of strange and weird imagery.
When the ghost player gives other players these cards, they are trying to get them to pick the correct clue card.
For example; if the killer was a fisherman, you might give them a card with picture of a boat or a fish or even the colour blue.
So once the psychic players have received cards from the ghost player, they have to use them to try choose the right card. When they have selected what they feel is the right card, then they put their meeple on the card.
Once all the players have done this. The ghost player will indicate if they are correct.
If a psychic player is correct, then they take the clue card, put it into their pocket and move their meeple on to the next set of clues.
If the player's guess was incorrect then they stay on the current set of clues.
Play proceeds until all psychic players have 3 cards in their pockets, or time runs out, (In which they all lose.).
If all the players manage to get their 3 clues in time, the play proceeds to the epilogue.
During the epilogue, all the clues for all the characters are revealed. The psychic players now have one attempt to guess who the killer is from all the available clues.
If they guess incorrectly, everybody loses.
If they guess correctly, everybody wins.
I've glossed over the rules somewhat, but the gist of it is there.
Apparently, the game can involve using a secret voting mechanic when making choices. But all the players I spoke to prefer the idea of open discussion when making choices and I have to agree. The group discussions add a lot to the game in my opinion. This makes the game a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
The art on the cards is a mixture of weird and wonderful imagery, highly detailed and allowing the ghost player a lot opportunities to use them as hints and clues. In fact the whole look of the game and it's art direction is moody and evocative. I like the clock as the game timer.
I also like how the game manages to be both asymmetrical and co-operative. Quite often asymmetrical games can be a lonely experience, (As anybody who has played the prison guard in 'Escape from Colditz can attest.), but Mysterium changes that dynamic.
I think this is an entertaining game and one to be played socially. It's also straightforward enough that anyone can join in a contribute.
Finally, now everyone is on the same side and you can watch the ghost player try to keep a neutral expression when you are about to make a stupid choice!
7th May 2019.
Gaming night at 'The Wheatsheaf' continues with the second game of the night 'Sleeping Queens'. You can read my thoughts about it here.
When we played it (with 4 players) we increased the winning total from 40 points/4 queens to 50 points/5 queens. Normally I am very wary of changing game rules. But this seemed to work a treat. It made the games a little bit longer and harder for a player to runaway with a quick win.
And when I say 'made the games a little longer': We still managed to play it 6 times in a hour!
I play, I paint.