Monthly Archives: March 2015

Second Round Knock Out

Well the second hurdle just proved to be too high for this ageing old nag to clear. I think the idea is to clear the hurdle and move onto the next one, not try and barge through them head first like Juggernaut breaking through a banks wall.
Unfortunately as the final scores show I didn't give a good showing for myself. I got mauled.

The second game I spent too many turns buying bases, trying to build an impenetrable wall to hide behind, ready to then hit back as my opponents attacks floundered on the walls of my Helms Deep. In reality my plan proved as effective as the straw house was for the three little pigs.

Had the heady heights of being in the second round gotten to me? Well in my casual games I've been making progress again, winning more than I lose. So on that front it looks like I'm climbing slowly out of my slump.

I think hand on heart the only answer is I posed no challenge at all, and rightly got my butt kicked.

A Quick Question

What are the cards you like to buy on you first turn? The picture above shows my ideal starting trade row if I'm going first, 3 trade to spend, Cutter and Federation Shuttle ready to buy. Call me tactically nieve but I can't resist the Cutter, and the Federation Shuttle is good second buy I think in this situation. Plus in the other combinations of one or two trade to spend then either card depending of course on amount to spend.
If I'm going second then the amount of trade is going to be between three and five. At the lower amount ideally I'd like a situation as above. However I'm always hoping for a Cutter early on. Although if I can get a Starmarket then that is a nice alternative to have if no Cutter is available. I also like an Embassy Yacht in this situation too.
So what are your ideal cards to buy first?


An Inconvenient Customer

Today was going to be such an awesome day. The plan was pop on over to Peterborough get the Imperial Assault expansions, hopefully also get an Android:Netrunner data pack I wanted (if they had it in stock). Then pick up a power cable from a friend, followed by shooting off to another part of Peterborough to play Android:Netrunner with Jamie and possibly some Star Realms.

But hey on the drive over (I'll try not to over share here too much) I ended up getting sick on me in several spots! That kind of put a dampener on the plans, I couldn't really spend the rest of day smelling of sick. So I rearranged the gaming for tomorrow.

Smelling of sick I picked up the power cable and ended up at the LGS. I managed to find all the expansions that had been released but no sign of the extra dice you can buy. I asked the young lad looking after the shop if they had them but he had no clue. He was equally clueless when asked if there was any Netrunner data packs.
I was becoming a bit frustrated with this shop assistant. He seemed more interested in wanting to get back to his magic deck building with his friend than help the only customer in the shop. There was no “I can't see any on the shelves, let me check out back for you.” There wasn't either a “we don't have it in, but would you like us to order it for you?” Nothing you would consider good customer service.
It puzzles me why stores employ people like this. This sort of person is representing a small business that relies on regular customers, and trying to compete with online retailers. To me this is the small business equivalent of the owner shooting themselves in the foot.
I really did resent spending my money today. I don't like being made to feel like an inconvience, and when the thing that is meant to distinguish your brick and mortar business from those that operate on line is that personal touch, along with instant gratification and ability to browse. You soon think why should I bother?
Maybe I should of just walked out not buying anything. I could of got everything online and with me tomorrow.
I like to support local when I can. But this relationship is a two way street. And today it didn't feel that way.
As you can see from the pictures above I walked away with a copy of the Batman Love Letter. So counting the original Love Letter this will be my third copy of the game, and come the Summer there will be a fourth in the form of The Hobbit Love Letter. I know there are tweaks to the game for each of the IP they represent, but Love Letter has nailed the rebranding the original game to all these other franchises. Althought Munchkin is fastly catching them up on this front (and ironically they are one of the IP with Love Letter). So how many times can I buy at its heart the same game with different branding? When will enough be enough? Obviously the answer is at least once more. But seriously I think they have nearly flogged this horse to death. Mind you it's not stopped all the rebranding of Monopoly.
Just to tie me over until the gravity feed arrives I also got five packs of D&D Dicemasters. The photo below shows the cards I pulled from the five packs.


Zombicide Season 3 Arrives

Dear Future Darren,

I hope you liked the late Christmas/early Easter/early Birthday present that arrived for you yesterday. When I saw it I just couldn't help myself I knew you would love it. We've had some great solo games, and also some great group games in the past. So this seemed a no brainer.

I also got a couple of extra items for you, but this is what you got in the box (it was easier to give you the image from the kickstarter).
I know what a big fan of John Kovalic the artist behind the Munchkin art work, so I got you the Special Guest pack of characters designed by him. Plus thought you would like some extra murder of crows.
It is so nice to buy gifts for some-one with such impecible taste, enjoy playing with this new stuff next time you see Nathan.
Past Darren


Star Realms or Pixel Tactics?

Yesterday I noticed on the blog stats that some-one had come here looking to answer the age old question “Star Realms or Pixel Tactics?” Well I can't help but feel that whoever that person was that they didn't get an answer to the question that they were looking for. Heck I still haven't found what I'm looking for… Ok I'll stop with the inappropriate U2 reference.

Sure I've talked in a post very briefly about my first couple of games of playing Pixel Tactics. And rereading the post I do come to the conclusion that it won't replace Star Realms for me. However I did really enjoy the game, and two games isn't much compared to the number I've played of Star Realms to give a fair comparison between the two. But then Star Realms has an amazing app that allows me to play online against others, and Pixel Tactics doesn't have an app. So it is a lot easier for me to get a game of Star Realms.

Having said that it is possible to play Pixel Tactics online using a webcam and Google Hangouts. Which is a great bonus.

Both games are cheap. Both are two players and come with everything you need to play in the box. Both games can easily be played multiple times with games being different each time. Although both are card games, Star Realms is deck building from a common pool, while Pixel Tactics is preconstructed decks, both players have the same cards in their decks.

Both have expansions out for them Pixel Tactics has 2 and 3 out that can either be played as separate games or mixed in with the first game. Star realms has the Crisis expansions out, and the Gambit expansion about to hit stores. Also both games have further expansions coming out this year.

Accessory wise, Star Realms is better off with playmats, card sleeves, storage box, despite availability being an issue in the UK. Whilst Pixel Tactics only has a playmat only available from Level99. I'd like to see official sleeves and a storage box.

It's no secret how I feel about Star Realms, and what a cracking time I'm having playing it (win or lose). But for me Pixel Tactics is also a good game. So which to choose?

Personally I'd say get both, which is a bit of a cop out. But I don't think anyone who does will regret the decision. But if you only have money for one this month which one to get first?

If you want to play something that is more tactical go with Pixel Tactics. If you prefer deck building then go with Star Realms or want something that can be picked up very quickly and taught quickly.

Pixel Tactics has a few more rules and I think a little bit more complicated than Star Realms to learn, and to teach.

Go with Star Realms if you want to also play on your phone/tablet/PC/Mac. The app is awesome for Star Realms and great value. Plus it has a great enthusiastic online community.

You will eventually end up with both. I have and I don't regret it.


A Hot Place Is Very Cold At The Moment

Last night saw the kickoff of the fourth Star Realms Casual Tournament on the Facebook fan page. These tournaments are now fastly becoming a regular Sunday thing. Mid week the event invite goes out to the pages members, and those interested in playing throw their hat into the ring by joining the event.

Sunday evening then becomes filled with anticipation (despite my appalling track record to date) waiting for the draw to see who I have been paired with for the first round.

This week for the first round I was paired with Galaxion. A lot of people enter these casual events so it's not unreasonable that I had not played them before or recognise the name. Although slowly I am starting to recognise the odd name from playing them in tournaments and in casual play.

But I did notice that Freddy wasn't on the list of players. Freddy has had a better track record than me in these tournaments, and he loves playing the game too. So it struck me as most odd and surprising. So I messaged him on Facebook. Freddy replied with a tale of woe that basically equated to he accidently deleted the Star Realms app over the weekend while out on a bender with friends. (FOR THE RECORD I'm joking about the bender reference and I'm saying it here for comedic value. It's funny though as I had to explain to Freddy what a bender is, because apparently it's not used like this in the US. Which I did kind of. I gave Freddy the meaning that matched with the context I had used it. I omitted the other meaning. Well it would of just muddied the water and wasn't relevant. Now I know Freddy will read this post and I have this image of him getting very curious about the other use of the word now, and quickly opening up a browser window and googling the word bender. Note to Freddy rewatch an episode of Futurama now knowing the use of the word in England.)

As soon as I saw my pairing I sent a challenge via the app to Galaxion. So now it was just a wait for the challenge to be accepted. I sent a message via Facebook (I hate typing that, I hate using it even more and feel soooo dirty) to let Galaxion I had sent the challenge and why, and then promptly went to sleep.

Then this morning just after 5am with the challenge accepted Galaxion and I went to toe to toe for our first round match up.

Then in a very hot place the temperature started to drop rapidly, it was close but I took the first game. Wait what just happened? I won a tournament match! It wasn't a comfortable victory, or a big knock out punch. The game could of gone the other way very easily. It was more like a scramble across the finish line.

The challenge for game two went and was accepted. Seconds out round two. We traded blows, I was in a reasonable position authority wise and had my opponent where I wanted them, under twenty authority. Then back on script that healthy position crumbled while I struggled to get the attack together to do that final damage needed to win. Luckily sometimes I can ad lib and deviate from the script. That's the colourful way of saying I won again! Yep I scraped together enough damage to grab the win while barely clinging on to my own authority.

OMG I had WON!! My duck had ended, hell had frozen over completely. I was in shock and elated. Somehow I'd cleared the first hurdle at last. After three failed attempts it was fourth time lucky!

Two close games, which could easily of gone the other way and been loses.

I'm now into undiscovered country round two!


A Rant About Official Playmats

For some games like Android:Netrunner, Machi Koro, Splendor, Star Realms and Pixel Tactics to name a few the playing experience of the games is improved by using a playmat. The playmat isn't needed to enjoy the game. However especially when they have play areas marked out they help the noob to the game, and aid the experience player who is returning to the game.

I love a good playmat. The combination of rubber and material give a great playing surface, usually have colourful art work based on the theme of the game. Which as I have said enhances the playing experience.

Magic the Gathering has a ready supply of easily available playmats with some great art work in keeping with the fantasy theme of the game. Dicemasters too has a couple of playmats that are currently easy to obtain.

Which brings me to my main gripe. Why aren't playmats easily available to purchase for the games I listed?

I know they have special playmats as prizes in the Android:Netrunner organised play, but that shouldn't stop them selling playmats to the public.

Star Realms has an official playmat, but getting hold of one is a challenge in the UK. Pixel Tactics also has an official playmat to replace the paper one that comes with the game. But guess what? only place I found selling it was Level 99 in the US. Machi Koro the distributor GTS did a limited edition US only mat that is rarer than a Tory with a social conscience. While there will be an ultra rare playmat for Splendor only available to stores for organised play. That's not going to make it expensive at all on eBay!

The game Marvel Legendary comes with a game board but the paper joints are weak and prone to breaking. They did do an official playmat as a replacement but no longer available. But at least they corrected things in the Legendary Encounters:Alien game by providing a playmat with it.

I know why playmats are easily available for Magic. It's a very large market to sell into. But the games I've mentioned above have sold well and it's not as if they haven't got the designs done. Or if they have them to sell, why they are not doing a better job getting them out into stores for people to buy. Why does getting an official playmat have to be such an ordeal?

Of course a solution is to use one of the sites that allow the printing of custom playmats. Then it comes down to designing a playmat, uploading the file to the site and paying. Or if your artistic/design skills are limited like mine, then finding a high quality design by some-one else online is the route to go. Luckily on BBG the community has some very talented folks out there who put up playmat designs for people to use.

I currently have an Android:Netrunner custom playmat on order from a place in the US. But I have a Splendor playmat design downloaded that I will get printed, which will be me trying a UK based company. At the same time I'm going to get them to print out a playmat for Marvel Legendary too.

I'd love to buy official products but if the companies insist on making that harder than climbing K2, then they have only themselves to blame when fans of their games end up having to find alternative avenues.

A Saturday Morning Realisation

This morning I spent a bit of time organising my growing Android:Netrunner cards. Adding in the new Order and Chaos cards into their respective sections, then finally adding in the second core set. But as I sat there at my “gaming” table it suddenly hit me how much pleasure I get out of just organising my games. It was fun organising the storage/filing of the Marvel Legendary base set and its expansions. I also enjoyed the organising of the Legendary Encounters:Alien game also. Why does this activity bring me so much joy? I know I have certain tendencies that would place me on the autistic spectrum. But does this explain why I like the organising? Those that know me would scoff at the organising as something I enjoy. My desk at work looks like a landfill, and my filing system can best be described as the pile method. Yet it works for me. I know what stuff is in which pile. But does that not seem at odds with the organising of the contents of my games? In a way I don't think so. It's just a different form of organising. Less chaotic than my pile system that annoys people. Maybe it's while I'm organising the components of a game I'm focused and in a zone, I won't go as far as saying its flow, but not far off. Could it be a distraction for my mind, helping to process other thoughts? Maybe I'm over thinking this and just accept that this is something I enjoy and leave it at that.


Introducing Loki

I've just realised I've not introduced readers of this blog to the newest member of the Wolf Pack, and taking it back up to full strength, Loki “Attack Chihuahua in training”. Loki has joined as part of the Wolf Pack Youth Academy. He is 7 months old, very playful, extremely cuddly, and more deadly than a grizzly bear.

Loki has been with the pack for about a month now, but it seems much longer. He's fitted in really well with Nico and Strider. Not surprisingly he has become a bit of a nannies boy as well.
I have told mum any new tops for him have to be in green and gold (yellow) the colours of Loki in the comic book.
And yes it is nice having puppy snuggles again!


More food for thought

More options arrived today for my first runner deck in the shape of the Order and Chaos expansion.

This is one of the “large” expansions. 165 cards of awesome covering Anarch runners and Weyland corporate scum (I did say I'm squarely on the side of the runners).
I'm busy looking through the Anarch cards at the moment, and the neutral runner cards. I can see one or two that will be in my deck for sure. My first deck has a target of being 45 cards the bare minimum I can have. I don't want to go more than that. The thinking behind this is it means I'm more likely to get to the cards I want in the deck. But it also means I need to be ruthless in my choices, and to make sure that the cards I select work together, and support each other.
I love the size of this expansion, the box itself has a nice rich feel of quality. As usual there is a leaflet that has background info/flavour text on the three new Anarch runners and a corporate identity. I love that FFG do that. It helps bring the characters to life. The flavour text on the cards themselves is good and gets to the heart of the what the card represents. But these longer bits are a much welcomed addition.
I've read the Android book Free Fall which I loved reading. The Anarch runner Noise is mentioned in it. But sadly we don't get to meet the character, or to find out more about him. Free Fall is at its heart a cop story, a who dunnit? Only its set in some dsytopian future that resonates a little with our current times. Like all good sci-fi does.
I'm hoping in the other books written we get a look at the runners. In the meantime these bits of longer flavour text are teasing scraps that FFG throw at us. A sneak peak behind the curtains that I want to get to see more of.
Right I'm off to do my homework for my deck.


Building My Runner Deck Part 1

In a previous post about Android:Netrunner I shared my early thoughts on the game and why I was drawn towards the runners.
In Netrunner there are three types of runner, anarchs, criminals and shapers.
Anarchs are described in the rule book as having a “strong contempt for the corporate oligarchs, the whole corrupt system, and often for society in general”. Anarchs like to watch the world burn, but also stand up for the downtrodden and oppressed.
Criminals on the other hand are “make self-interest an art form and don't care who gets hurt so long as they get ahead.” They embrace the criminal side and partake in other forms of criminal activity.
Lastly Shapers “are motivated by curiosity and a certain amount of pride.” “Because I can” would be the moto of a shaper. Raging against the machine or criminal activities are of little interest to the them.
Out of the three types of runner I'm drawn more to the anarchs and shapers than the criminals. But the type I'd opt to play more than the rest would be anarchs. The whole rage against the machine, standing up for the downtrodden appeals to me. It's me politically! The distrust of corporations, corrupt politicians, not having respect for authority all make up part of my paranoid delusional view point of the world.
In a world where mass government survaliance of the people goes on everyday, yet pass laws that hide their activities from exposure to the public. Corporations avoid paying taxes, and have a cosy relationship with those that are meant to be making sure they pay the correct taxes, where they buy politicians like a person buys hotels on a monopoly board to shape laws that favour them over the rights of the people. Where our elected officials spend more time and money hunting down petty looters at a riot and setting up kangaroo courts to send them to jail, and yet spend nothing bringing to justice and jail bankers that fixed global markets, laundered money for criminals and terrorists, or bought about a world wide economic recession due to shadey practices. At a time where a nations armies are more like corporate enforcers, invading other nations to further economic interests of corporations under false pretenses that they are a threat. With a complicit mainstream media gladly pushing the agenda of the politicians and corporations.
You would think I was describing the dystopian world of Android:Netrunner but in reality it's the world we live in today. I think that is one of the reasons I like cyberpunk. In the cyberpunk world a lone individual can make a difference, hit back at the oppressive regimes against the odds. It's Robin Hood, The Lone Ranger or any other character who stands up to be counted and takes a stand against corruption and injustice in the world.
I grew up watching the black and white Lone Ranger tv series. As a little boy one of the few childhood memories I haven't had erased is of my dad reading the story of Robin Hood to me and my brother at bedtime. There is this strong vein of social justice, standing up for the little guy in my DNA. Which I can trace back to these stories and my early days of reading Marvel comics.
So as you can see with my paranoid delusions of the current ill state of our society, its injustices and biases towards the rich and powerful, why I would be drawn strongly towards playing anarch. It's as if anarchs were modelled on me! Anarchs are like the Heath Ledger Joker but with a social conscious.
At the moment not having all the expansions for Netrunner I have a limited choice of runners, and an even more limited choice of anarch runners of just Whizzard and Noise.
So which anarch runner will I go with? Noise has been in Netrunner since the beginning being in the core set. And after listening to episode 28 of Run Last Click, Noise at the moment seems a popular choice in some of the local meta the hosts take part in. There is a nice piece of “flavour” text in the rule book about Noise. Noise also gets mentioned in the book Android:Free Fall. The image that comes across is that he is an elite runner, if not THE elite runner, who leaves no evidence behind that he was involved in breaking into corporate ice.
As for Whizzard I know very little about him. Well nothing! So if he were to go up against Noise who would win? It's hard to say but my gut says Noise.
Both runners have an ability that trashes corp cards. Noise everytime you install a virus program the corp player has to trash the top card of R&D. While Whizzard gets 3 recurring credits to trash cards with each round.
Each ability has its attractions. Indescriminate trashing or targeted trashing? That's the choice really. I'm going to choose the runner I know a bit about, or at least have an idea what he is about and that's Noise for my first deck.
I hope my political leanings haven't put you off. And that you have a better understanding why for totally non gaming reasons I have gone with Noise the anarch runner.