Thursday, 12 January 2017

100k!!!

So, it's 4 years and 2 months since I started this blog and 206 posts on my counter has hit the 100k mark!




I'd like to thank everyone who stops by and has a read (and the Russian bots that pushed up the number of hits last year!).  It's always a pleasant surprise to find that people read this stuff...the blog has introduced me to some good friends and fellow bloggers...here's to the next 100k!!!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Finally...a game of Conan!


Waaaay back in October last year I received the Conan game from Monolith games which was part of a Kickstarter that was funded in Feb 15, was due to arrive in October 15 and eventually arrived on the back of a lorry a year overdue.  To be fair the delay was mainly due to the huge amount of extra bits and pieces that the producers introduced during the Kickstarter campaign which netted them a staggering $3,327,757.

The 2 boxes which came with the basic pledge

I blogged about the game itself here, back in October.

Since then I've painted a few of the figures...the game came with a huge amount of miniatures including a number of major  heroes and villains from the books as well as assorted Picts, pirates, guards and monsters to fight against (including an impressive giant snake and a hideous tentacled thing...with extra tentacles thrown in for free!).  I think it's safe to say I won't be needing any fantasy figures for a while!  I hadn't actually managed to play a game though (I'd hoped to have a go over xmas but we got distracted by Twilight Struggle)


Some of the heroes
 
 
...and a giant snake
 

Last night I finally managed to actually play the game and tried out the 2 player scenario provided in the main box.  The games have up to 4 heroes pitted against all the baddies who are controlled by the Overlord.  In this scenario Conan is on his own racing around an inn trying to find the correct priest (out of a group of 5) who will lift a curse, while fending off a growing number of Bossonian Guards and Thak,  a giant man-ape, all of whom have decided to stop off at the pub while on a lunch break.

The game mechanics are nicely managed...each player has a character sheet on which he/she places a number of gems.  These are then allocated to actions such as movement, attacks, re-rolls etc.  A sensible player also hangs on to a few gems to aid defence when it's the Overlord's turn to attack.  The drawback is that you only get a limited number of gems back each turn and they are lost permanently when a hero is wounded so careful planning is necessary.

The Overlord has a similar set up using an arrangement called 'The Book of Skelos'...I can't help thinking that should be written in capitals and accompanied by a roll of thunder...


The Book of Skelos is a plastic tray that is set up for each scenario.  Units are shown in the bottom row: the cost to activate a unit increases from left to right but once a unit has acted it is moved to the right hand side and everything slides along to the left.  This means you can, in theory, keep reactivating a unit but the costs will be very high and you'll run out of gems.  The tile with the Raven on it is an event tile which is scenario dependent.  In our first game the result of activating it varied depending how many priests Conan had interrogated (or killed...it amounted to much the same thing!)...either bringing in more guards, giving some a bonus move or unleashing Thak!

The mechanics worked well and were all pretty straightforward.  There has been some criticism of the 2 rulebooks  and I'd agree they could be better laid out but a good read-through and watching some of the helpful playthroughs on YouTube made it all pretty clear.

 
In our game Mike, playing as Conan quickly checked out one of the priests and killed a guard before getting a bit bogged down in slugging it out with a growing number of Bossonian Guards.  It seemed quite difficult to kill the guards and I need to check that I haven't missed something but they had a knack of fending off Conan's attacks.  This did come at a price though as I had few gems left after defending to actually do much but nevertheless Conan was slowly whittled down, losing gems/health as the game progressed.  Mike tried raiding a couple of chests in the hope of finding a handy health potion but only came across Explosive Orbs which, while they were entertaining, weren't what he needed.



The guards have clip on coloured bases to distinguish groups

Damn...another Magic Hand Grenade!!
With hindsight Mike should have concentrated on working through the Priests as killing guards didn't gain him anything and the Priests held the only way of winning.  Towards the end of the scenario Thak was activated and headed off Conan who had finally identified the correct Priest, lifted the curse and was about to make his escape...sadly a massive punch from Thak did 8 hits which Conan wasn't able to stop and he died on the steps of the Inn.

The gem allocation system is pretty neat and forces the player to carefully look after their dwindling supply of gems.  As this was a single-hero scenario we didn't get a feel for how it would play with multiple players but I suspect this would add a lot as players don't take individual turns to act but can coordinate and switch between actions.  It would be good to try this next time.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Twilight Struggle

My xmas present from my wife this year was a copy of Twilight Struggle, the strategic Cold War game from GMT Games.  To be fair it wasn't a surprise as I'd emailed her assorted links to Amazon etc but I still looked surprised on Xmas day.

Image result for twilight struggle

My present to her also wasn't a surprise...she wanted a hat and although I'd considered trying to measure her head surreptitiously to ensure the surprise,  I decided that trying to sneak up on her wielding a  tape measure when she was asleep would end up in a trip to casualty so the safer option was to let her pick the hat!

Back to Twilight Struggle...

I'm guessing quite a few people are already familiar with it...it's been around for a few years now and won a shed load of prizes over the years.  It's also constantly rated as the number 1 game on BoardGameGeek.

Image result for twilight struggle

It's a 2 player game, pitting the US against the USSR over the course of the Cold War and has a suggested playing time of 3 hours.  The players take turns playing cards which either give them a number of points to gain influence in other countries or to trigger an specific event.  Rather neatly if you play a card to gain influence points but the event on the card would benefit the opposing player then it is triggered aiding your opponent.  This causes much frustration throughout the game and you spend a lot of time trying to balance the benefit of gaining influence with the pain of providing your opponent with a nice bonus

The cards are divided into early, mid and late war and match historical events from the period.  In the Early war period the focus is on Europe, the Middle East and Asia but as the game progresses South & Central America and Africa also become battlegrounds.  Players can also us cards to take part in the Space Race which is time consuming but provides some handy victory points and bonuses if you are successful.

Image result for twilight struggle

Image result for twilight struggle
Players also have to commit to a certain amount of military activity...no one wins the war by being peaceful I guess.  This takes the form of attempting coups in certain countries or playing War cards (eg the Arab-Israeli war etc) but this also causes the Defcon level to rise and the player who moves it to Defcon 1 loses the game!

Image result for twilight struggle


It's a deceptively simple game but one that benefits replaying as you need to understand the scoring system...scoring occurs when either player plays a specific regional scoring card (eg Scoring in Europe) and the impact of various cards.  My son and I have had a couple of attempts at it.  In the first game neither of us really understood what we were doing and it showed...I spent a lot of time and effort building influence in South America before noticing that this doesn't have an impact till the Mid and Late game.  My son meanwhile was rampaging through Asia picking up Victory Points!

For the first run through we only played about 3 turns but we then managed  a complete game.  This stayed finely poised till around turn 6 (of 10) when I took my eye off the ball and allowed him to shoot ahead in Victory Points...I think I got distracted by S America and Africa again!  We also spent a whole turn battling over SE Asia; I'd made it pretty obvious I was going to play a Scoring card for this region and since Poker was never my strong point so he saw through my attempts at deception straight away!)   In the end I only managed to gain 1VP out of a whole  turn of furious coups and building influence but we both wasted a lot of time and cards...I guess that pretty much sums up Foreign Policy in SE Asia in the 60s though!  By turn 9 he'd  won the space race and achieved the VP target and the game was over.

The game is a lot of fun...think Risk but with the option to deploy Lone Gunmen, Death Squads and Fidel Castro.  There's  a huge amount of depth to it which would certainly reward repeated playing but it was actually pretty simple to pick up the basics.  Highly recommended!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago



And here we have it...the first bit of temptation for 2017.  Over on Joe McCullough's blog there is an announcement about the latest development in the Frostgrave world.
 
I've played a couple of games of Frostgrave and enjoyed it although I haven't played it more recently, but now it looks like the next logical development is....Pirates! 
 
http://therenaissancetroll.blogspot.co.uk
 
 
According to the post the game is set in "A dense maze of shifting islands, the Ghost Archipelago is covered in the ruins of lost civilizations that are hidden deep in the jungles and rocky mountains. More than one intelligent race calls these islands home, and scores of deadly animals hunt in the swamps and forests".
 
The same team behind Frostgrave are involved so we can expect to see figures from Northstar again (and a Nickstarter perhaps?).  At least it isn't due until the 2nd half of the year so I can start saving my pennies....

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2017 and all that.....



Image result for hogmanay cartoon
TheGlasgowStory: A Regular Row...Coloured cartoon from the Northern Looking Glass
 9 January 1826, the fifth in a series of cartoons depicting events in Glasgow at Hogmanay


So Happy Hogmanay and a Guid New Year to ane and aw, etc, etc.  That's it done for another year.  This year we had xmas in Glasgow but came back down south before Hogmanay and had a quiet evening with just the 2 of us.  To be honest I've never been a fan of New Year so I was quite happy to see it in with a glass of Laphroaig (or 2) and then to bed.

This is the obligatory look back at last year and thoughts about 2017 post.

Looking at my posts over 2016 I found that I'd made 40 posts which surprised me as I thought I'd been much more lazy about posting.  My gaming was mainly split between the club at Guildford and the more local attractions of Eric the Shed' s gaming emporium.  Games played have, as usual been really varied ranging from a bit of Frostgrave at the beginning of the year, quite a bit of Bolt Action (usually with a VBCW theme), sadly only a single game of Congo, a variety of Star Wars themed games including Rebellion, Imperial Assault and skirmish tabletop games (still trying to find the ideal set of rules for this), Black Powder (mainly involving Eric the Shed's fantastic Zulu collection) and other odds and sods.


2017?  Well I've learned not to make any definite plans as I know I'm far too easily distracted.  I'm due to play at least a couple of games of Conan in January and I suspect that will prompt me to paint some more of the figures.  Painting-wise I really want to do more on a couple of things I'd started last year but which didn't progress very far.  These are the 54mm Afghan Wars figures and the 20mm Aztecs and Conquistadors.  Having played a couple of games of The Men Who Would be Kings I think these could be worth looking at for the Afghan project.

I'd also quite like to revisit a trio  of languishing periods, all in 6mm... I have Franco-Prussian, Zulu and Cold War armies which have been unplayed for a few years and it would be good to get these out and take stock of where they're all at and maybe even manage a game or 2 with them.

Oh...and Congo...must do more with this...

Finally there are a couple of Kickstarters due soon which will no doubt divert me.  One is a bundle of scenarios and storage options for the excellent Heroes of Normandie board game.  The 2nd is the Battle of Britain boardgame from the Plastic Soldier Company...this is due in Feb theoretically but there has been a distinct lack of info on progress.  I'm pretty sure it will be delivered but I'm not convinced about them meeting their target date.

I have one more Kickstarter in the pipeline which is a paint storage system from War Mage games in Germany which should at least help me organise my paints a bit better...currently they're jumbled in a storage box and need a decent sort out

So a vague plan which I'm pretty sure will fall apart at the first sign of something new....

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Seasons Greetings!!!




Well, just a few hours to go till the annual festive blow-out begins.  As usual we've made our regards trip up to Glasgow to visit my family.  Normally we'd stay till after Hogmanay but this year we'll heading back early...my son has exams at uni next month that and needs access to WiFi to help with the revision which he wont get at my parents.  The fact that he gets to see his girlfriend and go to parties is probably just a coincidence...

So I hope everyone has a  great Xmas and gets the toys they've asked for.  I'm hopeful I will considering I sent Elaine a series of Amazon links...

Best wishes to you all!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Elephants aren't magic...


Blog posts seem to be getting further and further apart these days...sigh...

Work has been particularly manic over the last few weeks and as part of my job involves sitting at the laptop I'm less inclined to sit at another laptop in the evening posting on my blog, and then feeling guilty that I haven't!  Hopefully the New Year will see things easing up a little although I probably shouldn't have said that.

We've been shivering for the last 5 weeks as out boiler died a slow and painful death.  Although various engineers had managed to coax it briefly back to life ultimately it was terminal and we've had to treat ourselves to a new boiler for xmas.   The lack of heating wasn't too bad but having to boil pots for a wash on a freezing cold morning was a bit miserable.  We now have a lovely boiler and hot water on tap again...bliss!

There's been no action on the painting front but I did manage another game of Star Trek Ascendancy.   This time round I had a better idea of what I was doing and although the brave Federation lost to the Romulans it was a more close result.

Down at Guildford there's a tradition of a big multiplayer game before Xmas,  often featuring Steve's extensive Cowboy collection.  This year was no exception and I even managed to coax my son along since he was back home from Uni.  As usual the game quickly degenerated into chaos with a lot of confusion about who was often which side and much inappropriate use of dynamite.  I did manage to successfully run over the towns 2 Sheriffs with a wagon before careering off down the high street and at one stage I was mistaken for a prostitute...no sarky comments please!

I caught up with the first episode of Time Commanders this evening...this is the relaunch of the BBC series that was on TV in 2005.  If you haven't seen it, the programme basically pits 2 teams against each other in a  large Total War computer game.  In this case the teams consisted of some London based boardgames vs 3 Glaswegians wrestlers...obviously my loyalties lay with the Weegies!  The programmes is presented somewhat bafflingly by Greg Wallace, the shouty greengrocer from Masterchef (although I am given to understand he is a fan of strategy computer games).  The players also have advice (and and bit of basic history teaching) from Dr Lynette Nusbacher and Mike Loades (another very shouty man).  The fun of the game is watching the players fail to communicate and work together and see their plans unravel.

This episode featured the Battle of Zama and without giving any spoilers it becomes a very scrappy affair with a  close result.  Perhaps the best line from the programme was Dr Nusbacher advice that 'Elephants aren't magic...'.   To put this in context they Carthaginians had launched their Nellies on a headlong rampage without support and they died to a man..erm..elephant.

  I enjoyed it more than I expected to and of course it gives us a chance to shout at the telly and know that we'd never have made the mistakes the players make...