Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Board Game Corner: Tsuro, The Game of the Path

This is a classic and very quick simple fun game I have owned for some time. It is a great appetiser game. You may not spend an entire evening playing it, but you'll bash through a few sessions while waiting for the final member of the party to show up for the evenings main event.

It's very simple. Everyone gets a counter, that they put on a spot on the board. They are then dealt three path cards from the deck, all of which are unique.

Gameplay is simplicity itself. Taking turns, you place a path card so that it moves your piece. You then move your piece along the path. Move anyone else's piece that got "accidentally" caught with your path card along their path. Turn over.

Rules are simple. If you have an option to survive, you must. So no deliberately kamikazing someone you don't like just so they don't win. That isn't to say it can't be done, you can certainly shadow someone and make it highly likely you will clash, but it has to be a last resort.

Last one alive, wins.

It feels very much like Tron light-cycles, although I imagine it pre-dates it quite a bit...

So, as an example game, I have Blue, Green, Brown, Red.

One turn in...

Three turns each... Green has now put themselves in a rather precarious position. Blue is next to play, and their tile will interact with greens piece.

Blue plays this, which will safely see him through, while sending Green on a merry trail...

Everyone plays on, green included, as he hasn't been eliminated yet...

Here we see Green has managed to loop back out of the corner he was sent to, and back into the game...

Until Red plays this card... now, no matter what card green plays, it will loop him back to his demise.

A fait accompli, one down.


The rest play on. In my example game, Brown trapped himself a corner to his doom, leaving Blue and Red playing chicken in ever decreasing space... until Blue was left to play the decisive card between them, playing the card above...

I moved Red first as he was clearly a goner, but would Blue pull off a miraculous escape?


He does! He finds a path through the chaos to emerge victorious!

Right, now bear in mind, this game can be played by 8. You will swiftly understand the carnage and hilarity that will ensue.

Of course, as I said, after half an hour to an hour of this, people will be looking for something else. It won't sustain you for an entire evening, but I don't think it's meant to. It's as I said, an appetiser game. And there's nothing wrong with an evening entirely of appetiser games, but if that's the plan, it's like a meal. If you don't have a steak or proper meal to serve up, then offer a variety of appetisers. I don't just want cocktail sausages, I want cheese on sticks, chicken pieces, mini pizzas. It's like catering for a gathering, whether you do the party buffet or the come dine with me experience, that will very much depend on your guests. The same applies to a Games Evening. 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Shelling out on Scenery

Actually that's not a very accurate title... I "shelled out" months back, and even then it was reasonably priced. I have however how finally built and painted it as part of my recent efforts to make an awesome looking wargames table to host games on.

Of course, with the paintjob on this fuel tank my title makes more sense.

The scenery I have is a collection of refinery and ruins. So my basic battlefield in my head is that there is a refinery, an obvious key strategic location, and a nearby settlement cos people need to work at the refinery. The settlement is in ruins because, well hab-blocks aren't important. You can fight through their to your hearts content. Just try not to damage the pipelines, nodding donkeys, or storage tanks.

I came up with the idea of an ork occupied refinery world, and I did for a while start a skitarii garrison, but the rules changed and the army didn't really look like it was gonna work how I wanted it to, from a background point of view, so I sold it on to a friend. But I had a third faction to share this battleships -  grots, rising in rebellion against their ork overlords.

Thus most of the scenery I am doing is littered with graffiti, supporting either the Orktober Revolution, the Grot uprising... or supporting the status quo, with Orks in charge. I decided that orks being orks, they might need a place to execute uppity grots and other troublemakers, and orks not being the most accurate marksmen for a firing squad they'd want to line the victims up in front of a solid structure... hence the rear side of this tank is looking a little more... weathered...

It'll all end in tears I'm sure...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

It's O'Neel... with 3 L's... wait, 2... uh... Lotsa Ls...

Done a bit of work on some scenery for my table, picked this one up a while ago, it's an orky Stargate in effect...

I imagine the ork would do... well... the above.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Board Game Corner: Colt Express

Hot on the heels of my last boardgame review about a train based game, comes another one. mainly because I thought that as they shared a theme I would write them both into one blogpost, but then realised that it would be a hell of a long post, so decided to give each a post of it's own after all...

It must be borne in mind that, while I have linked these two games by the fact they both involve trains, that is about as close to a link as these two get. From that tentative link onwards, they are entirely different games.

Colt Express includes a twee little cardboard train to act as your "board" and this did have me sceptical at first, but trust me it's worth getting past your reservations. If you're introducing new people to the game, it's up to your discretion if you think the little cardboard scenery may be going too far... it's a neat use of otherwise useless corners of the cardboard punch sheet, but utterly irrelevant to the game.

You also get a little wooden meeple to represent your character. Each character has a card and a deck of cards. Your cards are 6 bullet cards (to give to other people) and 10 action cards (that determine what you do each turn)

Every character has an identical deck, the only difference is in the character special ability declared on the card (in brief symbols, the rulesheet explains all) For example, the lady in purple cannot be targeted for attacks (shooting or punching) if the player doing the attack has anyone else they could possibly target.

The action cards are two each for change level up/down change carriage side/side pick up loot and fire your six shooter. There is also one card to punch, and one to move the marshal.

At the start of the game you deal a hand of six cards, and that is what yu have to choose from on each step of that turn.

So, the running order for this example game will be Red, White, Purple, Black... they all have character names but I'm trying to keep things simple here, and don't want you to have to constantly be referring back to which name is what colour. Each game consists of four journey cards and a final station card, an example of a journey card is shown above.

Each square represents an action card that a player can place. The tunnel square means that the card is played face down, so the other players don't know what you are up to. The reverse arrow means the final round is played in reverse order. And the final symbol means that anyone on the roof of the marshals carriage at the end of the round will get shot by the marshal.

To keep things tidy, I haven't put the loot tokens down, but suffice to say there are bags of money and gems around each carriage that the players are all trying to get... it's just they might get in each others way, in fact, in my experience, the winner of the game is usually the one who quietly got on with grabbing loot while everyone else tried to beat each other up, but still, up to you what tactics you use...

The meeples are in their starting positions in the rear two carriages of the train. So, starting with red, each player contributes a card into the action stack. These will be played out in the order they are submitted, but all actions happen at the end, meaning you can lose track of where things are and end up taking the wrong action... especially if someone did something during the face down phase that completely screws you over.

In this example, red opens by climbing up - fairly unequivocal about what is happening here. But then White uses his ability to always play his first card facedown to leave everyone else guessing about what's going on. In their unease and panic, purple shoots someone, and black throws a punch.

All hell has now broken loose... following on from Black throwing a punch, Red then White draw guns and shoot, Purple throws a punch, and Black shoots too...

As this is the stage where we are going through a tunnel, any vague grasp you may have had on where the meeples probably are, is almost certainly lost...

Finally, in the strange reverse order round, Red (still first player) moves along, Black then Purple fire their guns once more, and White moves along.

So, with all the carnage prepared, we then start from the bottom of the stack pulling out the action cards and resolving them. Note that you MUST resolve an action, even if it is no longer favourable for you to do so...

So, we recall most of step one. Red climbed up on the roof. White, as it turns out, saw the rare opportunity of Purple being isolated to shoot her (normally you can't if you have a choice... you can't shoot someone on a different level to you and you can't shoot someone in the same carriage, Purple is Whites ONLY target) White gives one of his six bullet cards to Purple. Purple, as we may recall, also shoots. She can choose White or Black, but is probably feeling a little bit vindictive towards White right now, and gets her revenge. Then Black swings and punches White. A punch has two effects... one, it makes you drop an item in the place you are punched (all bandits start with one money bag) and two, it knocks you along a carriage... in this case, Black knocks White into the rear carriage with Purple.

Bullet tracker thus far...

Red then pulls his gun. His special rule is he CAN fire between levels. In the carriage below, are White and Purple. Owing to Purples special rule that if you could target someone else, you must, Red must shoot white...

In the rest of this turn, White shoots his only eligible target, Black. Purple then punches White back where he came from... which has the unfortunate effect of clearing her "bodyguard" just as Black draws his gun, so Purple get's shot again for her trouble...

This is the round everyone was secretive... Red once again shoots down into Purple, giving her another bullet... White and Purple both played the Marshal card... clearly he has heard all the commotion and is coming to investigate. Meanwhile Black finally does what the game is all about, and grabs some loot.

The marshal is a tricky proposition. He will shoot you, giving you a bullet. You then scramble onto the roof. There is NOTHING you can do about the Marshal, apart from avoid him, or use one card to move him. I have seen entire gameplans go wrong, after someone moved the marshal. Suddenly, you aren't on the level you thought you were. Your plan to climb up out of the way, suddenly becomes a suicidal attempt to re-enter the carriage the Marshal JUST chased you out of. Your plot to climb down and grab the loot suddenly becomes a search along the rooftops of the train for, what, your contact lens?

In this final step, red makes a run for the front of the train, where the extra value strongbox is normally guarded by the currently wandering marshal. The advantage of being on the roof is it's a lot quicker than pushing through crowded carriages.

Black shoots once again, he has no choice but to shoot Purple...incidentally Blacks special ability is his shots knock you back like a punch does, but if you're already in the final carriage it gives you nowhere to go.

Purple shoots, she can choose Black or White, and finally White runs along... not wanting to put himself into the carriage with the marshal, where he would get shot, then find himself on the roof of the carriage for the end of round result of getting shot again, he decides to rejoin Purple in the rear carriage.

Now so far this has been something of a bloodbath, apart from the Red player, who has left everyone else to it. But what effect those bullets you ask? Well all those bullets you've been shot with are added to your discard pile, and your unused cards, and shuffled together to make your deal for your next hand of cards...

In this case, Purples next hand of cards has a couple of bullets in it, severely reducing her options. You can skip an action step to draw three more cards, but of course that gives you less actions on the board.

Oh, and in case you're wondering if I faked this deal, you're right I did... when I shuffled and dealt naturally I got all four bullets in her deck in the hand of six. Go me. Figured that was too unbelievable so toned down the draw a bit...

And that's how the game plays. Five rounds of carnage where you the more you get shot the less you can do as you effectively drag your bullet riddled body along the roof of the train as your lifeblood trickles down from you, marvelling as your fellow gang members walk on by, perhaps pick your pocket, or even put a shot into you while you're down, just in case...

Seriously though, it is a hilarious game with a great capacity for carnage, and is again, a simple game to pick up. Everyone has the same deck, there is a tiny bit of variation from character to character to keep things interesting, but there are very few rules to learn. This is another game I picked up to be family friendly, as opposed to serious tactical depth. I am most pleased by this purchase, as it has provided some great laughs, even amongst those who get a look of dread in their eyes when someone suggests playing a board game. In their defence, they probably grew up with monopoly...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Board Game Corner: Ticket To Ride

I picked up Ticket to Ride after a friend described it as a good game for the uninitiated... a good game to play with people whose idea of a game is Monopoly (which isn't a game, it's a social experiment gone wrong, but I digress) and who aren't yet ready to take the plunge into the depths of Madness that can come from tabletop wargaming, or even something as tactically challenging as Star Wars: Rebellion.

Having now played the game several times, it is exactly what was described - quick, easy, fun. It has fantastic replayability and if you do tire of your copy, there are multiple expansions and versions that alter the game significantly. This has apparently lead to it being one of the biggest selling games in the world, more so than Monopoly (shudder) as while my Star Wars monopoly and your Harry Potter monopoly have different street names and playing pieces, they are in essence the same game. I may pay droid maintenance while you pay sorting hat fees, but we're both paying the same sum to that Chance card. Different ticket to Ride versions give different maps, which fundamentally change how this map based game plays. Therefore it is entirely feasible for one person to own several Tickets, whereas anyone who owns more than one copy of Monopoly is probably a sadist and their company should be avoided at all costs.

So, how does the game play? Well, there is a map (of the US in the original game that I have) with lots of raillines drawn on it. These are coloured, and while the player colours share some of the line colours, this is completely academic... there is no advantage on red lines for the red player, it is just a colour, forget the coincidence. Everyone starts with a bunch of carriages that are used to claim lines, and they have pictures of colour code train cars that they use to claim said lines.

You also have tickets, that are kept secret. If you complete a route between the destinations before the end of the game, you will score bonus points in the final scoring. So, in the example above, I, the Red player, am trying to get from Duluth to El Paso. I have marked the two locations on the map with yellow dice (not included or necessary, just wanted something the camera would pick up easily)

On each players turn, he can do one of three things. He can draw more cards to his hand, he can draw more tickets, or he can spend cards in hand to claim a line.

To claim a line, you need to have the requisite number of the correct colour to complete said line. A line 5 yellow tabs long would need 5 yellow train car cards to claim.

There are some lines for each colour, but there are also many light grey lines... these can be claimed by any colour. It still must be a complete set, not a rainbow of spare cards. But for a 3 grey line, 3 yellows will work just as well as 3 reds or 3 blues.

There are also locomotives, that are effectively jokers and can be used as any colour. You can claim a line using nothing but locomotives, but it is an expensive way to do this, as will be explained in a moment.

There is no upper hand limit, so you can horde cards to your hearts content. To draw more cards, you go to the draw pile. The draw pile has 5 faceup cards, and the deck. You can make two draws for your action. However, drawing a faceup locomotive will count as both - therefore gaining locomotives is twice as action intensive and therefore more expensive. If you draw from the top of the deck and get a loco, lucky you, keep it secret and draw another card.

The final thing you can do is draw tickets. You draw three, and must keep at least one. Why wouldn't you keep them all, these lovely bonus points? Well there is a downside - an uncompleted ticket is not a bonus, it is a penalty... so drawing tickets is a gamble. If you draw three locations and feel you cannot feasibly complete any, you have just cost yourself some points. On the other hand, if you draw three locations and you already have connecting lines for two of them, well it's easy points! So a definite gamble there.

Sounds simple enough right? One slight problem... the other players.

If I start building my lovely line from Duluth to El Paso, they may notice this...

And interfere...

Forcing me to detour around their section to reach my destination. Of course someone else may decide that looks like fun too...

Increasing the difficulty for me constantly.

Of course, all the time they are thwarting my ambitions, they are presumably not fulfilling their own, so swings and roundabouts I guess.

Of course sometimes a fairly reasonable route of theirs may overlap with yours, leading to accusations that you are out to "get them" which you don't really want to deny, as saying "no I'm not, I'm just trying to get to Oklahoma" is almost certainly a sure fire way to make sure you never, EVER, see Oklahoma. In the example above, Green are busy doing their own thing and just happened to overlap with you. Black on the other hand, with his East Coast plans, seems to have claimed a couple of key central locations just to fuck with us. What a...

Finally, once someone has placed their final carriage, everyone else gets one more turn, and then you are done. Scores are finalised (it's common to keep a running score tally, but always worth double checking at the end) Short routes score less than longer routes, so a 1 or 2 carriage route is worth that many points, while a 6 carriage route is worth 15 points. There are also ticket bonuses/penalties, and finally a ten point bonus for the longest contiguous route. And that's it. All there is to the game.

It is incredibly easy to explain to the uninitiated... "here are your cards, match the colours, these are joker cards, those are joker routes. Go" The keen eyed may notice there are some dual routes, this is for the four/five player game, to avoid things getting too congested. In a three player game, the moment one is claimed the other cannot be used. But it still gives you options at least.

All in all, this is a great game to introduce people to the fact that there is more to gaming life than monopoly (curse it's filthy vile cursed form) while still having enough to hold the interest of the veteran gamer. A fantastic compromise for family gatherings.