Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Board game Roundup - Vol IV

Lots of board games recently, including many in the 'Dudes on a Map' genre; i.e. area control style games whose roots you could trace back to risk - genetically at least.

Cthulhu Wars is not something you make a small investment in, it is a hugely expensive game, assuming you can even find it at present.  However, Matt invested in the Kickstarter and we had a game of it at an all day event recently.  As a visual experience the game is a treat, with sumptuous models - many standing over 6 inches tall - and beautiful component quality around them,  

Thematically, it's the end of the world and we know it.  The Old ones of the Chtulhu Mythos have usurped the natural order and now battle for mastery of the planet; this is done through the actions of cultists to summon their favoured gods and dominate the earth.  Sandy Petersen, the designer has had a long association with Cthulhu, having written the classic 'Call of Cthulhu' Role-playing game and many of its' supplements, so the game oozes with theme and knows its source material like few other games.

As a playing experience, well....  It is in no way that complicated a game, the basic rules are really pretty easy, but like many Games Workshop games (though it is not from that manufacturer) added complexity comes in the form of special rules for each of the factions.  Also like GW, it feels like these rules were not always play-tested against one another; and game balance is where the game struggles.  It can become a one sided affair if one faction identifies a winning tactic before the others.  Each faction has a thematic scheme to victory, and some are easier to achieve than others (The King in Yellow has won two thirds of my games) and some stymie each other very effectively giving one side a clear advantage.

As a game overall it is a easy to learn and speedy experience but one where familiar players will have a massive advantage; thus a group on an equal footing of some experience will get the most out of the game.

The same could be said of Tigris and Euphrates, which I brought to the table next, though for slightly different reasons.

 Tigris... Pre-thrashing
Tigris is a classic, potentially brutal, abstract game that's gone through many editions.  It is a creation of one of the great modern designers, Reiner Knizia, and has some advocates who play it with the devotion of chess.

That said the rules and the way some of the components are presented, for all their high quality in this Fantasy Flight edition, are a bit of a brain burner.  I've read the rules many times now and played the game three times and still don't feel I've fully got the game.  We were 'lucky' to have an experienced player to teach us the game as a group; TML Towers tip, always be wary of a player who can explain the entire rules to a game from memory!  On the positive side we all had some clue how to play.

On the negative side, we were massacred!  In an almost luck free system errors against an experienced player were punished all round, however knowing the game a little more than the other beginners I took more risks, and resultantly made grander mistakes and came dead last!

Tigris and Euphrates is definitely one for more the Chess crowd, I enjoy it, but have to be of a mind to play something punishing and challenging.

Time to relax with a little 'trading in the Mediterranean'.  Macau is a game that is also hard to find, having had only modest print runs, but it contains some clever little mechanics that make use of supplies of goods and cards with an ingenious planning mechanism for future turns.

 Let's sail off to Amsterdam!
This is a non-combative game, not even passive aggressive, unless you count someone grabbing trade goods before you.  A real pallet cleanser as you build up a little team to develop your trade network.  Highly recommended.

The following Day I got the chance to play Rivet Wars, a simple cartoony board wargame based in a wonky version of World Ward One.  Seriously, this game features Unicycle cavalry, rocket launching infantry and Robot tanks.

 Trench war in progress
Once again, the production values here are top notch, being from CoolMiniorNot, one of the major players in miniatures-led board games in the last five years or so.  Each force (broadly Germanic and American) having around sixteen models representing about eight different unit types each.  units have profile cards, and a handful of simple stats to drive the action, alongside special ability and secret mission cards.

Despite not having read the rules before, we were able to set this up as a two player game in around half an hour.  Simple moves and D6 rolls are easy to figure out.  You spawn a number of points of unit each turn dependent on the scenario and then try to achieve a mix of scenario and secret objectives.  I managed to pull a win and a draw before we ran out of time, but really a game once the rules are understood lasts only an hour or so.  I would heartily recommend this for someone looking for a light and quick wargame, or for something to introduce new gamers to the hobby whose interested may be driven by computer gaming.

Time to wrap up I think.

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