Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Jaws: the boardgame

So last week I posted about the boardgame Pendragon and how ridiculously complicated it is (or at least it seems that way after a very limited attempt at playing it)

By total contrast, this week we played Eric the Shed's  copy of Jaws: the boardgame.  This really couldn't be more different... the rulebook stretches to a whole 12 pages (including illustrations), there are a handful of wooden counters including a couple of cute little boats for your meeples to sit on, and the whole game is designed to be played in about 1 hour.

Jaws made a big impression on me when I was young, not least because my sister and I watched it the day before we went on a family holiday to Florida.  When we got there one of the 1st things we saw at the beach were warnings about shark attacks and we confined ourselves to the motel pool for the rest of the holiday!!

The game is designed for up to 4 players...3 take the part of the key characters from the film Brody, Quint and Hooper and of course player number 4 gets to be the shark.  The game is played in 2 Acts: the first one takes place around Amity Island with the shark attempting to avoid detection while gobbling up swimmers at the various beaches.  The characters have to try and clear the beeches while locating Bruce and tagging him with 2 barrels

The map with Hooper and Quint in their little boats

We actually played the game twice in one evening so I had a chance to play both sides.  Trying to locate the shark is very frustrating: just when you think you've tracked him down he pops up on the other side of the island and snatches a swimmer or 2!  The humans have some tricks to help them...they have a shark detector, barrels which will show if the shark is in the same zone and Chief Brody can temporarily close beaches to swimmers, but it's a hard job pinning it down.

Playing as the shark is great fun, especially when your human opponents are looking in all the wrong places.  The shark also has a few one-off tricks including a feeding frenzy card which allows you to snatch all the swimmers on a beach in one go!

Hooper in his little boat
Once this phase of the game is over we move to Act 2.  The number of swimmers eaten in Act 1 determines how many bonus cards each side get in this phase.   This part of the game moves to the end of the film and the attack on Quint's boat the Orca.  The boat is made up of tiles which are flipped when the shark damages them and then removed when it has completely wrecked that section.  The shark player has a limited choice of where to pop up so the crew have to try and second guess where he will target and focus their attacks there.  If the humans did well in Act 1 they will have more weapons and tools, while if the shark was successful he will have more powerful attacks

Each crew member gets a range of equipment

The Orca before the shark attacks...

...and after a section has been bitten out of it!
The shark in the photo above isn't from the game... he is a much more dramatic model than the little wooden shark meeple that comes in the box!

I have to say this was one of the best games I have played this year...really simple yet challenging and most of all really great fun.  I've quickly bought a copy as a xmas pressie for a friend.  If you get a chance to play it grab it with both, erm, fins...

Friday, 15 November 2019

Defeated by a boardgame

A while ago I picked up a heavily discounted copy of GMT Games' Pendragon which is a game I've been interested in for some time.  It's one of GMT's COIN games where each faction has very different mechanics and victory conditions and is set at the end of the Roman period in Britain.  It's a period I've always found really interesting and I'd been keen to give this a go.

The game is really nicely produced with a lovely board and lots (...and I mean lots!!) of wooden blocks and counters.  There are 4 factions...the Dux (the remnants of the Roman cavalry, so effectively Arthur), the Civitates (Romanised Britons) and the raiding parties of the Saxons and Scotti.  Each side has a different range of actions that they can complete each turn and the 2 British factions can cooperate until the split from Rome is complete but effectively the Britons are concentrating on building up resources and towns while the raiders want to steal their gold and ultimately settle on the mainland.

On first inspection the rules looked  pretty daunting with a 44 page rulebook and a 72 page Playbook to explain how the rules work in be fair the Playbook also includes a lot of design notes, history, explanations of the events that drive the game and even a pronunciation guide!  As an example of the complexity here is a flowchart for the solo version of the game...

My son and I tried a play-through at the weekend when he was home for a few days.  Set up took ages...there is a box for just about everything on the board but we had to read both books carefully to make sure we had everything in the right place. It does look very nice once it's all out though...

Each turn a card is drawn which indicates the order each faction acts in and you can also see the next card that is coming up so a decision can be made about whether to play this turn or pass for a better position in the next round.  Turns allow each faction to either play the event on the card or carry out a a number of actions.

In the 1st turn my son's Scotti raiders attacked the Western coast attempting to loot and pillage. My Civitates militia sensibly retreated into their forts where some survived although I did lose one fort completley.  In one region the Dux cavalry were present and I tried fighting the raiders in the open...combat is pretty brutal if you are a raider and you can expect heavy losses  but even so my precious cavalry were wiped out and their fort overrun.  Combat follows a lengthy process which is outlined on another prompt sheet although by the end of the turn we'd sped up a bit in working through this
The Scotti (green) attack the Dux cavalry (red).  The Civitates are in blue

There used to be a Hillfort here...
We drew a halt here for the evening and were planning to resume the next day but when we sat down to start neither of us could summon up the energy or enthusiasm to give it a go and we ended up packing it all away again!  It does feel like there is a good game in here somewhere but it is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that is going on and that you need to keep track of.  My initial thought was to stick it on eBay but my son has convinced me to hold off and we may give it another go when he's next back home.  To be fair, I've since read a number of reviews saying this really isn't the best place to start the GMT COIN series as it is pretty complex

This was one of a 3 GMT board games I picked up cheaply recently, the others being Blackbeard (Pirates obvously)  and Iron and Oak (ACW Ironclads) and I'm hoping they'll be a bit more lightweight!