Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Old & The Matte - Notre Dame

Keeping to my New Year's Resolution of buying less games in 2014 means that I have had more time to play some of my under-played older games in my collection. And what a blessing that has been !
I recently managed to get in only my 3rd game of Notre Dame since I acquired it last year, and I immediately remembered how much I love the game. It ain't new or shiny but its one heck of an awesome game.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gringo Review - Look ! Giraffe !! *heart*

Gringo Review ( Polish Version of Skull & Roses )

Designer: Herve Marly
No. of Players: 3-6 ( plays up to 7 with Polar Bear expansion )
Playing Time: 30mins

Mechanics: Bluffing / Betting

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Push Your Luck Video #18 : Robinson Crusoe Scenario 1 Castaways!

Woot! I decided to record my plays of the scenarios from Robinson Crusoe. Hopefully I will be able to get through all scenarios successfully by end of 2014! This is the first video of Scenario 1! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Push Your Luck Video Review #17: Are you MANLY enough ?

I review Dungeon of Mandom! (warning ECHO effect will be applied liberally in the video). I wish Oink games games enjoy a wider distribution. They are really great fun little games that are of the highest quality you expect coming out from Japan! Enjoy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

First Impressions - Plunder: More of an Activity than an actual Game

If you know me, I am really fond of deduction games. My first ever deduction game was Cluedo, and I still keep it in my collection till this day. When Eric mentioned that Plunder was a deduction game, I was pretty eager to give it a twirl.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Do zombies wanna have fun? First impression on Carnival Zombie

Tom has mentioned that this game is a whole lot of fun. While I don't usually agree with his views on games, Roy had gotten himself a copy of the game and since I am always open to playing any game at least once, we brought it out on the table and gave it a go.

Carnival Zombie plays 1-6 in about 2 hours and is in essence Castle Panic (or more accurately, Dead Panic) on steriods. Players, controlling unique characters, try to navigate during the day through Venice (apparently during a mascarade festival), stopping at checkpoints to fend of zombies and bosses during the night so as to reach one of 4 final objectives. If players manage to succeed in the final encounter, then players get off Venice and win the game (nevermind that you are leaving behind countless zombies and the rest of the population to fend for themselves).

After 1st night....
Depending on the difficulty level (easy, medium hard), players will have a starting point and that is where they make their first stand for the night. Each night and day section is divided into 4 hours and during the night, zombies will spawn every hour and move towards the players who are also, surprisingly, dressed up in Mascarade get up AND carrying awesome weapons to boot!

How the zombies move and attack is very similar to Castle Panic. Players are in the center of the board which has 4 quarters, each having access to 2 zones. During each hour, zombies will spawn and placed on the outer zones. Then they will move and, if they are next to baracades (do you hear the people moan?) they will attack and try to enter the players' circle. If they succeed, then they will start to damage the players. Players will then, in character order, perform an action. Usually it is to kill zombies or perform a character's special action. Players can stress themselves (taking a wound in the process) to perform a second action. Players will repeat this for 4 hours and then the night is over.

How we determine if a zombie revives...
During the day, players will start to move their merry band (and any remaining barracades) towards the end game objective location. Take note if they left behind any remaining zombies in the direction they are moving, players will take damage (they decide how to distribute the damage amongst themselves). The 4 end game possibilities are, escaping by air ship, by boat, by bridge and fighting the final boss (which looks like a shark, squid, cthulluish monster). Before you can escape by ship / boat though, you will need to signal or find the boat respectively. Thus during the day time, you can either spend the hour by moving the group OR performing day time actions which is resting or trying to signal the airship / find the boat. You can also search for weapons/equipment to improve your team's survivability for the upcoming nights.

After the 2nd night...
When you finally reach the end game location, you will conduct an end game instance of sorts to see if you succeed or fail. In our game, we first tried for the air ship but we had bad mobile signal so we gave up on that and ran to find the boat. When we boarded the boat, we had to navigate correctly by having 3 cards showing the same direction as they are placed at (i.e. 3 cards showing East that are placed on the right of the boat) before the boat goes to zero health. We manage to get lucky with some good card placements and we escaped and won the game.

So that is Carnival zombie rules in a nutshell. I tried to streamline the rules but as you can see, even though the main gist is similar to Castle panic, there are quite a few more rules added to the mix. What are my thoughts? Well lest see...
After the 3rd night ...
The Good
1) With 4 end game missions, 3 difficulty levels and a number of bosses that will appear at random, there should be enough replayability in the game.

2) Not very difficult to pick up and play. Though I hear the rules are not easy to go through, once you get the gist of it, its not too difficult to play.

3) The Doctor seems quite powerful and gets more so with each survivor (blue cube) that you save. They increase the Doctor's firepower and the Doctor can even use the survivors to fend off 1 zombie attack, negating any damage done. Hmm maybe this should be in the "Bad" category for sacrificing a survivor....

4) Each character has an individual set of items that they can search that's unique to them.

Final round ! Will we escape ?

The Bad
1) The artwork is too gaudy for my tastes. The box art could have been better. Dead Panic's art, while showing a zombie right in your face, doesn't create such a turn off as this box art did to me.

2) The theme is quite odd to me. Why are the zombies and players dressed up in costume? Perhaps I did not read the fluff in the rulebook but it seems very odd. Granted the bosses have special powers somewhat attributed to the costume they are wearing and how they look, but I felt that a simple theme would have been better and less distracting. It has a novelty factor but that is all.

3) A lot of luck based elements when placing zombies and drawing of cards. Drawing of the nightmare cards is worst because if you have a lot of bad draws, you could potentially spend way too much time trying to get a signal to the airship or look for the boat that you will end up losing.

4) The end game instance seems abit weak to me. After all that frantic fighting of zombies, it all boiled down to us arranging cards and seeing if we are screwed by pulling out cubes which reduce our boat's health at the end? Quite anti climatic. Its as if we have no more control at the end and can only hope that we had enough survivors with us to even the odds. For the bridge, I think you are supposed to fight off a final horde of zombies. That may have been more fun.

5) I think it plays way too long. We took almost 2hours+ to finish our first game and we were moving relatively fast with minimal dispute of the actions to take.

6) Characters cannot share items so that can limit how useful a character can be especially if firepower is needed to fend off the zombies most of the time.

7) whenever you kill zombies, you plunk them into a headstone shaped cardboard piece. If any of the zombies fall off and touches the table, they will revive and come back as a nusiance again. This is gimmcky though unless you challenge yourself and place your hand maybe a foot above. That could make it exciting.

So in summary, at the heart of it all, it is a puzzle to be solved depending on what cubes appear and how threatening the zombies are to the barracades protecting the characters. Melee fighting is not what they want because they can only kill one zombie per action. With guns, they can use blast damage which helps to clear off groups of zombies from 1 section at a time. Keeping the health up, making good use of their skills (i.e. sniper can be used to take out the heavy health ones or bosses from far away) and having a little luck is crucial to allow you to win the game. While I am still very much open to trying zombie games, this unfortunately was not a whole lot of fun for me. I'll give it a miss.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Arghhh Shiver me deductions! A review about PLUNDER

Won my 1st game.. Wheee!
I have begun to like deduction games. Deduction does appear in numerous games that I play but often they are not the main mechanisms. Recently I have been playing more games where deduction is the main draw of the game and I must say its beginning to grow on me. Roy brought over his game of Plunder and it has been a blast! Its easy to pick up, teach and play but for a light filler game, trying to win it by guessing your opponents' cards is not a straight forward process and does require quite a bit of thinking to get it right.

At the start of the game, each player will receive 1 green, 1 blue and 1 red card, which each range from 1 to 6. This will indicate the combination that each of your opponent is trying to guess. No other opponent will have the exact same combination as you. Now the game begins. There are 15 rounds to the game and at each round, 1 player will flip over 1 card from each deck of the same color. This will randomly show 3 numbers. The player then decides if he wants to flip over 1 more card of any of the 3 colors. Once he has decided, each player in turn order after him will say "AYE" if at least 1 of the cards correspond in both color and number to the initial 3 he has received, or "NAY" if all cards do not correspond. Players will then indicate the answers onto a player board with the provided marker pens. This will constitute 1 round.

The next player will start the next round by flipping 3 more cards and performing the same action. This will repeated until 15 rounds have been done. During the game at any time, players can mark their final guesses of his opponents' loot onto his own Guess cards and deposit them into the treasure chest box in the middle to lock in their guesses. When the game is over, take the cards in the box and flip them over so the first guesses are revealed and evaluated.

Players open their loot cards and each Guess card is evaluated. If a player guesses an opponent correctly, that opponent will mark a cross in the row marked as his treasure. The treasure numbers from 6, 3, 1 and 0. So you cross them out from 6 to 0. That means if 3 other opponents managed to guess your loot correctly, you will score 0 points. If you are the first to guess your opponent correctly amongst the other players, then you will score 3 points. Second correct guess will score you 2 points and Third correct guess will score you 1 point. After all Guess cards have been resolved, players add up their points to get the final score and the winner is the player with the most points.

Lousy 2nd game

How was the game? As mentioned it was surprisingly a whole lot of fun. You could play it 2 ways. One could be slow and steady where each round is played at a moderate pace. You could play it in such a way where the clues are all obtained first and then lets see who can process all the information quickly though this may not really be the proper way to play. There is even strategy involved. When you see the flipped over cards and 2 of the cards are identical to your loot, do you want to continue with it so you can confidently pinpoint who has the 3rd card? Or do you want all 3 different numbers? If you have already guessed one of the numbers, do you want to flip 1 more card over to give you even more clues? You should also pay attention to what other players are choosing to do during their turn (flip over an extra card or not) as it may give you clues as to what their own loot cards are. It is certainly impressive how such a little game can give you so much replayability and a whole lot of fun while wrecking your brains at the same time.

Do take note though that perhaps you may want to give players a clue as to how to mark the answers on their player boards because apparently how to do it actually stumped SOME people *wink at my cohost*.

Plunder, a surprisingly fun deductive game that plays 2-6 and takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how long players take to make their final guesses. Recommended!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Struggle of Empires: War, HOo Haa, What is it good for?

I am green.. SIGH

I have heard about this game, seen it for sale on various online sites and been pondering if it makes sense to get this game to give it a go [insert Jon yelling NO here]. So when Dion mentioned he had a copy and brought it over, I was itching to give it a go.

Struggle of Empires is a war game by famed designer Martin Wallace. It plays 2 to 7 and about 3 hours and was released in 2004. It has since had 2 newer editions but seems there isn't much difference between the editions. A war game by Martin Wallace? Really ? Yes its true and, as far as I have played, this is the first war game of his. I does look like an attempt into the war game arena and not a bad attempt at it. The fact that it plays 2-7 should raise some eyebrows but shouldn't be that surprising since games like Axis and Allies often can reach that number. However the fact that it supposedly plays better with larger numbers should be surprisingly because most games often bog down or get too unwieldy when there so many players. The time frame of 3 hours may scare away some and this can be a big problem especially if you are dead last. There is no catch up mechanism, but like a lot of war games, this is expected.

So how does the game play like? The game lasts over 3 WARs (or 3 rounds) and each WAR consists of 6 turns. Each player will perform 2 action per turn (in a predetermined order) and at the end of each WAR, a scoring will occur. Before players start taking their turns though, a number of tokens will be randomly drawn from a bag and place onto the map. These represent either native units which can be defeated or Population tokens which can be converted without a fight. After which, there is a bidding which will determine turn order. In addition, it will also determine which alliance you belong to and thus whom you can and cannot attack. Each player will belong in one of two alliances. This, to me, is one of the more interesting portions of the game. A player will propose a pairing of any 2 players. That player will choose between the 2, who will go first and then have an opening bid. If anyone wants to outbid, then they have a choice to reconfigure the arrangement in any order with the remaining players' tokens. Once no one opposes the highest bid, that player pays in coins and the arrangement is locked in. Once all players' tokens are decided, then the round can begin. It is interesting because you can pay more so as to side with a potential enemy and focus his energies on destroying your competitors. You can also pay more to set previous allies upon each other by ensuring they are on different alliances. So as you can see, a lot of interesting dynamics can be created for the rest of that round, making this auction very important!

During a player's turn, they can do a variety of things from creating units (soldiers or ships), moving them, to purchasing improvement cards which lend a variety of benefits. One of the key actions will be to fight, as expected in a war game. As long as you have a soldier in an area, you can designate it to fight. If there are supporting naval units, then those get to fight first. After which, surviving naval units can support the player in the land battle. The battle determination is a very interesting one. Each player will roll 2 D6s and then see the difference between the 2 dice. That will be the initial attack value. This will be added to the number of soldiers as well as improvement card benefits. Players then compare their total attack value and see which player has won. The player who lost, will lose a soldier unit and gets an Unrest token (if any). If the attacker won, then he gets to replace 1 of the defender's country token with his own. if you happen to roll a natural 7 from the 2 dice, then you also will lose a soldier unit and get an Unrest token. This rolling of dice is about the only irritating random thing I dislike about the game. If your rolling luck sucks, then its going to be a long long game as you get frustrated over your poor rolls.

What are the Unrest tokens for? You get them when you lose a soldier in a fight and when you have to borrow money to use when you run out. Esssentially, this is the Loan marker that is present in so many of Martin Wallace's games. There is also the same penalty at the end of the game for the number of Unrest tokens that you receive. Luckily there is a number of improvement cards that can help you to remove Unreset tokens but these are limited so its wise to choose your battles carefully and when to borrow money to spend. Nothing too unexpected from his games by now.

At the end of each WAR/Round, there is a scoring. Each location on gameboard has points written on them for scoring. The first two players with the most number of their Country tokens in each region will score points, with ties allowing both players to score the points in full. At the end of 3 WARs/rounds, after deducting the points for Unrest tokens, the player with the most points will win the game.

As expected by now, Jillian started hammering at me in the first round and causing me to be far behind the pack (we played with 4 people) at the end of the first war. Sigh, I am so reminded of my Dominant Species devastation again. I must remember to strike back at her next time we play such area control games. I never really quite recovered from that and together with some awesomely bad dice rolls, I was effectively out of the game. But this caused whomever to ally with me to suffer as well because i was doing so badly I could not contribute much. I did however became a sort of king maker at the end when I was allied with her and she was forced to send troops to support me, losing some in the process so this is an interesting aspect of the game. It is quite an interesting game with a lot of in your face and direct confrontations and I can see why Dion mentioned an odd number of players means that the last player will be the swing vote when deciding which alliance to support. If playing with 7, then I feel that the battles will be coming in fast and furious. Also some of the improvement cards that give you +1 to your dice roll will be snatched up pretty fast. Alliances will also be fairly important then. I am not too sure though if I can get 7 players to sit there and play for 3-4 hours though especially one of two will be dead last and wil probably not enjoy it.

So all in all, I feel that it is an interesting war game with a few quirky rules to add in randomness for replayability as well as the awesome feeling when you roll 6 and 2 to get 4 points to defeat your opponents 3-3 roll. But it will not be for everyone as it can get draggy and is essentially a lengthy game. I would love to try it again with 7 though but I don't think I need to own it. Give this a try!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Robinson Crusoe - Adventure on Predator Island ( Sweet Taste of Success ! )

Fi-  Fi-  Fi-  Finally got my first victory in Robinson Crusoe !
It was on the easiest scenario in the game though - Scenario 2, The Cursed Island
The scenario goal was to build 5 crosses on the island before the 10 rounds were over. I managed to do it in 8 rounds. There are other effects that happen around the island but I won't go into the details.
Since the goal was focused on building, I decided to use the Carpenter to ensure a much needed success.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Through the Crystal Ball - Bruges Expansion Details & Stonemaier Games Treasure Chest

We don't normally post news items on our blog but seeing that I'm having a disappointing morning, what better way to help take things off my mind than writing about game stuff !

There are a lot of stuff happening in the gaming world everyday it seems, so I'm only going to write about what excites me. Haha. Other stuff will just have to scream louder and look prettier. :P

Monday, February 3, 2014

First Impressions - Gravwell: Card Drafting & Hand Management in the 9th Dimension

Over the weekend, I managed to get in a play of Cryptozoic's new release - Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension. Its very much a filler game where players are racing to escape from the 9th dimension by cleverly drafting cards and using them in the right sequence to power yourself ahead of the other players. It is a race type game where the player who reaches the end space first is the winner.