Monthly Archives: December 2018

Undead, Worms and No Thanks!

I have admit I was a bit nervous about Wildlands and Jonathan.

We had been invited round Diego’s to play some games. Not entirely true, it was specific games we had been invited to play. Specifically Wildlands and Reykholt.

The arrangements and invite had been done at the Fenland Gamers session before Christmas. Jonathan and I had car shared over to Diego’s, and talked gaming stuff on the way.

So here we were all setup and ready to play, factions selected (I was trying the Undead faction) and the Hagmole promo ready to use as well.

But would Jonathan enjoy the game? It was a fantasy mini skirmish game after all. Not one of his favourite genres or themes.

Jonathan was the first to be hit by the Hagmole, which seemed unfair to him, because his mini on the space would just keep taking damage until he drew cards that enabled him to move away or it died. So stopped using it. Undid the damage it had inflicted, and carried on without it. It had only been included because it could be, and I was interested in what it did. It was ruining the experience for Jonathan. So no big deal to not use it.

Playing the undead was interesting. You get six figures instead of five, only two symbols to worry about for selecting a figure. Sadly only two cards that enable you to draw cards, and all the figures aren’t going to be the toughest on the map.

But I enjoyed playing them. Potentially my favourite faction out of the five.

Diego and I both agreed the game played better as three players than the two player games we had played.

Our game ended pretty close, with Jonathan grabbing the win. If Diego hadn’t been able to thwart my attempts to kill one of his figures so successfully on a couple of turns I think I could have stopped Jonathan from winning and grab the win for myself. In the end I killed Diego’s figure on Jonathan’s turn in a pre-emptive strike to try and survive Diego killing my figure on his turn. I’d spent so many cards trying to kill it previously I needed to see a return on my investment. But what I hadn’t catered for was Jonathan having enough to move and claim a crystal as well, on what was left of his turn.

Jonathan even enjoyed the experience after he had got the hang of things. The hand management mechanic was one I knew Jonathan would like. And it was in the end light and quick enough that he could enjoy it as well.

Our next game was Pickomino with the expansion. I don’t think this will be played without it again. Even with new players. But this was the first time that Diego had played the game with the expansion.

Jonathan surprisingly with his reputation of poor dice rolls in other games, won this game comfortably.

Our final game of the afternoon was No Thanks! During which some serious egg on faces occurred.

After our second game which I’d won, it dawned on me why don’t I just take every card, I’d win? The other players would have no cards and wouldn’t be able to win, so I’d win with a maximum score. This started some discussion and a turning to the rules to look for the bit that said players with no cards couldn’t win. We couldn’t find it. We did find the rule that said we deducted a point from our final score for each token we had in front of us at the end of the game. That was new, and something we weren’t aware of. But the puzzle remained where had we got this rule from?

We continued playing another couple of games but with the correct rules. The token deduction at the end made a big difference.

But how many games had we played incorrectly? Lots for sure. There was going to have to be some investigation into the source of how we ended up playing the game the way we had been.

I had an amazing afternoon of gaming with two great friends. I don’t think the year could have been ended on a better gaming high.

A big thank you to Diego and his family for sharing their home with us for the afternoon. A big thank also to Jonathan for driving.

Master Vault App Update

Noticed today that FFG have pushed out an update for their Master Vault app.

I’ve taken a couple of screen shots so you can see what the top two updates look like.

A quick play seems to show that the casual play stuff is only held locally, and doesn’t sync across devices. But it could be I didn’t leave enough time for that to happen.

The Rules link just fires up a tab in safari to the links on the vault.

I really like that they have added the casual play tracking. I just wish they had just gone that little further and implemented the syncing. I use the app on my iPhone phone and iPad.

But it’s a nice update, one I’ll make more use of than the planned organised play update. You need access to organised play first.

The Boogeyman Of Boardgames

Last night saw a Christmas holidays session of the Friday Gaming at The Luxe Cinema.

Jonathan and I met up an hour earlier than the scheduled time to get a little extra gaming in. It gives us a chance to try out new games/expansions, play 2 player games (which sadly don’t get enough love). Plus because of the holidays we are able to do it, something the majority of the time we are not able to.

Jonathan had been playing games most of the afternoon. Apparently, he was being taught how to play Poker. I don’t think he specified the actual version, but I’m sure Jonathan will leave a comment letting us know.

Don’t think I’ve actually played Poker as a physical game. I think my first brush with the game was Sam Fox’s Strip Poker on the Commodore 64. Probably not going to ever go into the annuals of any record book as a classic game, nor Poker game. But it was the eighties, I was a socially awkward teenager (yeah I know nothing has changed), Sam Fox and the Page 3 girls were probably at the pinnacle of their popularity (before their slow decline to oblivion). You soon learnt how to play the game as a sad desperate young man intent on seeing the titular Ms Fox in her near birthday suit. Hey this was a tasteful, classy game, not just a cheap, quick, smutty cash-in. The fact never occurred to me at the time, why don’t you just save your time and go buy a copy of The Sun, then play a Llamasoft game instead? Since then over more recent times (I’m defining that as anytime after the year 2000) I’ve tried the odd Poker app. Which I vaguely remember as being ok, but nothing that grabbed me so much that I was hooked/addicted to playing them.

I know my brother and two cousins play Poker. And they have had poker sessions in the past. In fact in the last week one of them shared a photo/memory on Facebook of them all playing at one of these previous sessions. It was years ago when the photo was taken. But I did think why was I never invited? Probably have to refer back to my earlier confession about my social skills.

Then as I wrote this post I start to evaluate my relationship with my brother. I don’t think by any imagination you could describe us as close. I love my brother to bits. But he’s almost as big an arse as me. Ok I don’t have to be top in everything, he’s a bigger arse than me. We’re not always on the phone talking, sharing our deepest thoughts, or talking about our emotions. Our conversations when we do see each other are very superficial, with such subjects covered as I’m currently watching such and such, or have you see seen? In a way it’s sad that we are not closer and better friends to each other. All those years wasted, lost. Then I ponder how much is down to me, how much is down to my hang ups, my “issues”? Probably a lot.

Back to Jonathan, he was really enjoying his poker sessions. But I did warn him, first Poker next he’ll be playing Magic the Gathering (MtG). Which Jonathan scoffed at the thought of. Jonathan will admit he doesn’t get the attraction of games like MtG. But a lot of the skills needed for Poker are also used in games like MtG. Maybe as he continues his journey as a Poker player, he will start to appreciate the similarities and dare I say enjoy a game or two of MtG/Keyforge if he ever tries them again.

Our first game was Pickomino aka Worms with the expansion Heckmeck Extrawurm. We actually loved what the expansion added to the game. You get two new tiles, 11 and 13. That you can only claim if you get the exact number to claim, and they can’t be stolen. Then you get the five “power ups” that go on certain tiles to be claimed. You are only allowed one at a time. So if you get a second you have to chose which to keep. These can be stolen also. You also get seven worm tokens, that can be gained via the crow power up or putting aside at least two 1 dice. Once all seven are gone from the general supply you can start stealing from other players when you need to get one.

The power ups were nice. The weasel gives you a reroll each turn, the hen stops you having a tile or worm token stolen or having to put a tile in the middle on an unsuccessful roll. The yellow/golden die gives you an extra die to roll each turn, the worm means you have a guaranteed worm each turn if needed so you can score a tile. And I’ve already spoken about the crow.

It really is a nice expansion, that adds to the game, everything fits into the one box. Component quality is really good. I’m almost boarding on saying this is a must have expansion.

Plus this initial play got the misplays out of the system ready for when we played it later. Oh and I beat Jonathan.

Pocket Sub was one of two small games Jonathan bought to get the Dice Hospital promos that came with them. And Jonathan teases me about my promo buying! I’m not going to waste time and words on this game. Which should tell you all you need to know about the game. It’s nearly a candidate for that Nantucket wing of shame Jonathan has built. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and predict that this game will not remain in Jonathan’s collection for long.

With everyone now arrived Worms and its expansion found its way back to the table. I’ve already talked a lot about this game and now it’s expansion. So I’m not going to repeat myself. But Katie just destroyed us all. The rest of us were left scraps and fighting it out not to be last, or to get a single point. It was a very competitive battle at the bottom. Despite the usual suspect getting up to a familiar pattern of targeting me. It’s like I’m some sort of Boogeyman of boardgames to this person. Even if it’s not the optimal play for The Usual Suspect, nine out of ten times I will be the target for them. But I’ve spoken about this before.

Our next game for the evening was Sagrada with the new expansion. The new expansion was a Christmas present that Jonathan had been given by his family for Christmas.

This expansion increases the player count to five or six players. Which is handy because there was five of us. It adds a personal dice pool that you roll at the start of the game, and store in the provided dice wheel. This stream lines the turn to the common dice pool is one more than the number of players each turn, and you only get to draft once each turn from the common pool, and take a die from your personal supply, plus use one of the tool cards.

You also get extra cards that get added to the game. This is probably why I’d get the expansion. That extra bit of variety. It’s a shame you can’t just buy these by themselves.

It was ok as expansions go. Not sure if like Catan I’d play it with the higher player counts again. Although if I did the streamlining is definitely needed. I like the visual of the personal dice supply. But in the cold light of day I’m a bit indifferent over it. It’s not something I’d use with the base game. Maybe it will grow on me.

As the photo below shows Jeff is posing with the social media gloating card, so you can safely assume he won the game.

Two years! Has it really been that long since I’ve played Coup? We used just the basic game rules and roles. But we played with the alt art cards that I got from various Indie Board and Cards Kickstarter’s that I’ve backed. They actually have a rather nice linen finish.

Like that infamous scene from Spartacus one game started off with four of us claiming “I’m the Duke” unchallenged. At least one of us was lying.

I did have to ask The Usual Suspect not to eat his small tube of Pringles he’d just purchased while we played with my unsleeved cards. He was being a bit rough on the cards already, and I’d had to ask him to be a bit gentler with them. I really should sleeve the cards. I have thought about it recently but never got round to ordering the correct sized sleeves. They are not your regular MtG sized cards. I have a few sleeves in that size naturally. Despite politely asking them not to eat the pringles while playing with my cards they still was going to go ahead. So I had to be a bit more forceful in my insistence about not eating.

But I’m still getting used to this lack of respect to other people’s games. That’s unfair, I think it’s more lack of common sense. The club code of conduct was introduced to help with this sort of thing. It wasn’t going to be an instant cure. There were bound to be hiccups. But sometimes considering the person involved it does feel deliberate sometimes. I’d dread to think what the No Thanks! cards would look like if they’d been left unsleeved. The abuse they receive from The Usual Suspect. I wince at the thought.

The evening was wrapped up with a game of Liars Dice. Sadly “dice counting, calculate the probabilities” Jeff won, despite taking an early hit on the dice in his pot front. It was a bit unfair in the final showdown. Both Jeff and the Usual Suspect had one die left. Sadly for the Usual Suspect he doesn’t really get bluffing. So the money was always on Jeff to win the head to head. It went as predicted.

It is the holidays, it’s a time of excess, luxurious food, food that’s definitely not good for the waistline. So what harm would a little bit of dodgy meat, smothered in chilli sauce and hidden under a layer of salad do? The greasy meat and chilli sauce is like a pallet cleanser for the soul. So Jeff, Jonathan and myself made our way to our regular cut my own throat dibbler establishment and purchased our indeterminate meat.

I’m running out of platitudes to express just how great our hosts The Luxe are and how grateful we are for being allowed to play there.

A great evening of gaming, and repeated next Friday.


I came across. Well that’s not entirely true, I was reading my Facebook feed when there was a post by a (non-attending) member of Fenland Gamers on one of the board gaming groups I belong to. The post had photos from a first ever RPG session that their gaming group had been playing. The system they had been using was zombie apocalypse themed, which got my attention. But even more so when I read the brief post that accompanied the photos, and noticed on one of the photos they were using a street map of Wisbech.

What RPG used maps of Wisbech? I was very curious.

So it was off to our spying masters Google to find the answer.

It turned out FFG had published a series of source books themed around the end of the world. Each book was self contained, and dealt with a specific theme. Obviously one was zombie apocalypse themed, another was alien invasion themed (think War of the Worlds), then there was a machines taking over the world as a theme (think Terminator) and finally one called wrath of the gods (think Cthulhu, Four Horsemen).

You could play these books by themselves, or as some weird over arching campaign.

Naturally I got a digital copy of the Zombie Apocalypse rule book.

It’s made interesting reading so far. So what you are getting in the rest of this post are my impressions/thoughts on the rules having not played it yet.

If you are familiar with the Genesys/Star Wars system then a lot of the rules for The End of the World series will be strangely similar to what you are used to. In fact I’d go as far to say it’s a stream lined version of that system.

Like the Genesys system the emphasis is on narrative. But thanks to the stream lining, it’s also a game system that is designed to be picked up quickly. Which fits in with the premise that it’s been designed to be run as a one shot or mini campaign (using the five provided scenarios or just two or three). This isn’t meant to be one of those RPG campaigns that runs for months or years. Although there is nothing stopping it from being so. But if that was your aim I’d probably move over to the full Genesys system, so you have access to such stuff as vehicles.

Character creation is very simple, and quick, compared to other systems. And this is where it differs greatly from other RPGs. You are playing yourself in this game. Or a version of yourself. So when it comes to assigning values to one of the three categories, each with two characteristics (one offensive and one defensive) you are meant to do it realistically. After everyone has done that the group votes secretly on each players assessment, and they are possibly adjusted based on the result of the vote. You also get a chance to add specific features that are personal strengths and weaknesses. Plus there are traumas! You can see this can get deeply personal. And they recommend people only use stuff they are comfortable talking about in public. Your starting equipment is what’s in your pocket and in your immediate surroundings.

The only equipment you need are d6 dice. They recommend having two different coloured dice. This system resolved around a dice pool. You get positive dice and negative dice, hence the need for two colours. Based on the task/activity and the appropriate skills being used you get a certain number of positive dice. The DM will then based on several factors like difficulty of task, conditions, etc add a number of negative dice. These get rolled. Dice with the same number of both types cancel each other out. So a positive two will be cancelled out by a negative two. Then as long as you have a positive die that is lower or equal to the characteristic being tested means you succeeded. The more that did the better you did achieving the task. The number of negative dice left irrespective of value determine just how much stress your character takes because of that task.

That brings me into it is possible to die in the game. Mainly by gaining stress, which can be turned into trauma! But that too can kill you. There is a healing ability to get over the traumas you have. I like how they have implemented this system. It’s not too complicated and can be explained quickly.

This game has the potential to go into areas of a persons life that they will find difficult. The whole setting is your locale. People you know will die. Locations you know will become dark, scary places. That may be too much for some people. It’s here that I feel that a good dialog between players and DM is super important. Players should be communicating where their red lines are, areas that the DM should avoid. After all it’s meant to be a fun experience for everyone.

I definitely want to run this as a one shot. Thanks to my getting stuff ready for Last Days I have some painted zombies to use. I still have other stuff to paint, such as the cars, character figures. But I have bits that will hopefully help add to the experience. I’m so glad I stumbled across this system. It does look fun.

If you too are interested in The End of the World, it’s easier to get the pdf of the rules from the likes of DriveThruRPG. Naturally the physical version is “between printings” and although copies can be found online to purchase, they are tending to fall into the £40 plus bracket. Which is a bit of a mark up reflecting its out of printness.

Diablo III Eternal Collection

An early Christmas present from Mum (she had some Argos vouchers) meant I was getting Diablo III Eternal Collection for the Switch about 6 – 8 months early. If it wasn’t a present I’d have waited until Nintendo (eventually) put it on sale.

For me Diablo has always been Blizzards take on a roguelike. Whether it is an actual roguelike I’ll leave to all those online forums to discuss in great detail, and go round in every decreasing circles arguing over the most irrelevant points.

I’m pretty sure they use procedural generation in the code used in its design. As Darren Grey in his chapter of the book Procedural Generation in Game Design wrote:

“…quilted-content PCG using premade blocks of content, meshed together on the fly for a varied experience. This is how the Diablo games make their levels. But it often produces the least varied experience, as the player gets to recognize the content blocks and the patterns produced by the generator. Over repeated plays, it can produce repetitive and stale gameplay.” (Darren Grey, 2017)

I think Darren might be referring to the original Diablo. But I’d be real surprised if this quote isn’t true to some extent in Diablo III also. Why change a winning formula?

Now some will say this is unforgivable but my Switch has never been connected to a tv. I’m using it like a glorified handheld. It means I can game and have something on the tv at the same time, like Cheers on Netflix acting as background noise!

The nice thing about the Switch is I can take photos easily in game to show you how beautiful Diablo III looks, not only prerendered cut scenes, but the in game stuff as well. Sadly it’s not able to stream, so you are spared that.

The cut scene stuff has a couple of interesting styles, and differ completely. There is the hand drawn on parchment brown/tea hue style that is used to progress the story between Acts. Which is effective, and has a charm to it. But the prerendered stuff that is used during the Acts is stunning, well rendered, and I love it.

I love the isometric view of the world you get when playing. It really works well with this style of game. The mini map is a god send for navigating round the dungeons. And so far there is a nice mixture of above and below ground level design.

I love dungeon crawls, roguelikes, and on this front Diablo III doesn’t disappoint. Naturally I go to type and play a wizard. So my character is wondering around casting lightning bolts, or rays of pure energy. And yes casting spells has an energy cost. The more powerful the spell, the more energy it uses up, limiting its use. Which early on his a hinderance. Currently at level 34 it is much less so.

There is the opportunity to do a lot of personalisation within the game. As you can see above my character has wings, and a banner at the moment. Not very practical, but looks awesome (well to me). And it’s nice to see however you kit your character out that this is reflected within not only the screen you see above, but the character on screen as you play.

You also get to personalise, weapons used, spells using, armour etc. There is also a fair bit I haven’t explored yet on this side, like crafting.

The story so far is all about stopping a couple of remaining lords of hell (I’ve stopped one, and currently on way to stopping the second). But I’m expecting one or two plot twists and an even bigger big bad to emerge.

For me the story is almost secondary, and it’s about running around killing everything in sight, and collecting treasure.

The story naturally influences the objectives/quests that you go on, and give you a reason for having to go into a dungeon.

So far the variety in objectives/quests isn’t amazing. But then that is a limitation of this style of game.

I’ve still to try out the multiplayer aspect of the game. Which will be interesting to see how that goes.

But so far the game is really living up to my expectations, and delivering big time on what I am looking for in this style of game.

Right I’m off to hack and slay, well fire some fireballs at the poor minions of whoever I’m trying to defeat at the moment. Oh and get loot.

Merry Christmas Everyone 2018

Recycling some old Christmas themed Lego scenes I made so at least this post looks remotely seasonal as I wish everyone a Merry Christmas from myself, Nathan and the mini wolf pack, the attack chihuahuas Nico and Loki.

We hope you are all having a stress free day (unlikely I know as you prepare that Christmas bird for consumption), getting to play games and enjoying the company of friends and loved ones.

Have a good one…

Fenland Gamers Christmas Meet Up 2018 – A Whole Lotta Gaming

Yesterday was the Christmas meet up for The Fenland Gamers, the first of our holiday season sessions, at the wonderful The Luxe Cinema. Whilst we played games the regular patrons of the cinema were enjoying showings of Mary Poppins Returns.

Jonathan and I had arrived a couple of hours earlier than the scheduled time to play some games together.

Our first game of this pre-meet up session was Pick-omino or as my German copy of the game calls it Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck (has English rules). My Dutch friend Janne calls it by a much simpler name Worms.

Janne is how I found out about the game. Friday Janne posted a photo on Facebook looking sad, having just lost a game by a large margin against her partner. Something she apparently never does. So being the naturally curious person I am, I asked what the game was. Janne told me. So after a quick google, I saw that it was a Reiner Knizia game. Which peaked my interest, he is after all a designer I like. My quick research gave the impression it was a press your luck style game. I was curious. Janne really enjoyed the game, Amazon had the German edition (which I knew had English rules inside) for less than £20, I had prime. The only question left was would it arrive in time for Saturdays game session?

There was some real doubt yesterday that it would arrive in time. When it is Amazon using their own delivery services instead of a third party, for some reason I’m usually the last house on the drivers route. Which means my orders usually arrive late in the evening. Imagine my surprise, and relief when the game arrived at 3:15pm. Just in time for the evenings gaming.

So after all that I suppose you would like to know about the game.

Worms (I’ll call it that from now on in this post for brevity reasons) is really fun. Knizia certainly knows how to use the push your luck element to make fun games. The production on this version is pretty good. It came with some pretty solid, nice weight to them, domino tiles and 8 wooden dice. For my tastes I’m not a big wooden dice fan, they feel too light in the hands for me. But after a roll or two I soon forgot about that.

The rules are so simple, and easy to teach. That’s such a big bonus for a game like this.

I like the fact when you reroll the remaining dice you can’t select a dice value you have already selected previously. So as you keep going the chances of you rolling values that will end your turn without scoring increases.

There is a nice take that element in the game where you can steal the top tile of a players stack of tiles if you roll the exact value of the tile.

The repercussions of pushing your luck too far or not scoring high enough to get a tile are “fun” too. End up with a failed turn, and you lose the top tile of your stack. Which returns back to the middle, and the highest valued tile (if it is not the tile you just placed back) gets flipped over, and is out of the game.

This game played really well at two players. Next more players to see how it holds up.

Jonathan and I played two games and shared the honours. This bit is for Janne if she ever reads the post. Games with a similar push your luck mechanic and dice worth looking at Zombie Dice, and Age of War. Both small games, easy to carry around to play on the go. Bigger games that use it King of Tokyo/New York, Run,Fight or Die! and Elder Sign. There is a bit more game to these, but the core mechanic is still that push your luck element.

Our second game was Kamisado Max. This was one of Jonathan’s grail games which he managed to pick up at a real bargain price.

Despite Jonathan kicking my butt on this game (twice) I really liked this abstract game. Once again like all good abstract games, it has a simple rule set that is quick to teach and learn. But that simplicity hides a deeper depth to the game than first appears.

The production on this edition of the game is stunning. Although in the less than perfect lighting of our venue it was a little hard to tell the difference between similar colours on a couple of the castles.

I liked the fact that the colour square your piece ends on determines the coloured piece your opponent must move on their turn.

Oh and the games were nice and quick.

Below can you spot the photo of Jonathan below where he knows he’s won, and my delaying tactics of taking photos isn’t working?

I could like Worms, suggest similar abstract games that folks might enjoy. But I’m going to talk about one of them in a second. If you would like me to do this on a regular basis when I talk about games in similar posts, let me know in the comments.

We finished off our early gaming session with Onitama and the newly released Way of the Wind expansion.

The expansion was a welcomed excuse to get this great abstract game back to the table. It had shockingly been over a year since I’d last played the game. Naturally we were a bit rusty on one or two of the basic rules.

With the expansion a new piece is added to the board that can be controlled by both players, along with new cards, and a modified set up.

I’m going to cut to the chase and say although I like the expansion. It brings new tactical elements and decisions to make to the game. This is not one of those must have expansions that you would say the base game has to be played with. It’s a take it or leave it expansion, that can be used to add a bit of variety to the game if you are playing the game so often you need to shake things up a little.

Jonathan and I played three games in the end before the others arrived for the official start of the evenings gaming. I edged the honours winning two games to one.

I had just finished showing Jonathan how little difference there was between Grifters: Nexus and the original version. Component wise it’s identical. When Diego arrived. As we started explaining Worms to him, others turned up. Which meant we ended up playing a 6 player game of Worms.

It surprisingly held up at that player count. The game supports upto 7 players. There was a lot more of the stealing tiles in the game we had. The down time wasn’t too bad either, with a bit of politics going on trying to encourage the current player to steal some-one else’s top tile.

Thanks to Janne I think we have another group staple here.

During Worms we had two more turn up. So we split into two groups of four to play games after the game was finished. Suffice to say Jonathan and I didn’t win the game of Worms.

In Jonathan’s group they played Dice Hospital. While the group I was in played the press your luck game Deep Sea Adventure. I’d not played the game for a long time, so I was a little rusty again on the rules. Unsurprisingly after 3 rounds I scored absolutely zero points. Which won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I didn’t win.

Our group followed up with a couple of games of Kingdomino. I actually managed to win one of these games.

The other group were nearly finished playing Dice Hospital, so we squeezed in a quick game of Love Letter: Batman (my favourite version of the game). Amazingly I managed to have the most points when it came time to end because the other group had finished with Diego getting the victory. So that goes down as a win for me too.

The evening was finished off with an eight player game of Perudo. To accommodate this number of players Jonathan had to get his copy of the game too. My copy of Liars Dice only plays six tops. Eight players all shaking plastic cups full of dice is apparently noisy. Who would have guessed? But with such a high player count the game still held up to the stress test. After the noise had died down, the bluffing called, Diego once again ended up top of the heap.

After packing away there was a bit of chatting, and stuffing faces full of popcorn by one or two.

After such a great evenings gaming there was only one way for it to be topped off. Yep dodgy meat smothered in chilli sauce, some salad thrown over it, all in the middle of a warmed up wrap.

The Luxe Cinema were once again their usual amazing selfs (despite the curve ball or two thrown by one of our members during the evening), and a big thank you for allowing us to use them as our venue for playing games. Without them we would have struggled to have a free venue to play our games. And it was very generous of them to step up and fill the void left when our previous venue closed.

Thanks to Jonathan you get a Christmas treat of some photos of me, or with me in from the evening of gaming.

The only two things in life you can guarantee

I thought in this first part of the post I’d talk about playing Dram.

It wouldn’t surprise some of you to know that I’m a fan of the Dragonlance books, in particularly the Chronicles trilogy that tell the story of the War of the Lance. The actual story itself is told through the eyes of a bunch of adventurers led by Tanis Half-Elven. One of his companions is a Kender named Tasslehoff Burrfoot. Tasslehoff or Tass embodies his race, he’s curious, out on a wanderlust, light fingered or borrowing/looking after the object until it’s rightful owner turns up.

Kenders are the halflings of the Dragonlance universe. Which as we know are the D&D name for Hobbits. From when I first read The Hobbit back in the early Eighties, followed by Lord of the Rings, I’ve been a hobbit fan over other races. So it will come as no surprise that when I read the Chronicles trilogy books that Tass was my favourite character. I loved the childlike innocence of the character, the humour and his affection for his close friends like Flint the dwarf and Tanis.

So when it came to Dram how was I going to play him?

A major influence has to be hobbits and kender from the books and movies I’ve read and seen.

The whole second breakfast, and making sure he eats well comes from hobbits. When they make camp Dram is the first with his cook set out, fire started and cooking his meal.

I wanted to capture a bit of Tass in Dram as well. I didn’t want that “looking after it” side of things. After all Dram was a wizard. So I decided on that curiousness, bored easily, gets into trouble but always somehow lands on his feet element of Tass. He knows no fear. Although Tass unusually did know fear, fear for what would happen to his close friends.

So you see that in how I play Dram. He gets bored easily, goes wondering off by himself. Gets into trouble.

Naturally the character of Dram will grow, especially as I introduce new elements to his character. But having this basic template will make it easier to add them, and make sure that they are consistent.

After this weeks session I did have to research what the beliefs of halflings were. And I’ve fed that into the appropriate spot of this posts dramatic retelling of Dram’s adventures. Maybe I’ll go into all that and other halfling stuff in a future post.

Now for your reading delight I bring you the further adventures of the little wizard himself Dram…

“Typical that tree hugging Ace walks off to look at the building him and Grull saw before the fight. Doesn’t he know we have an important decision to make about where to eat? Ok the others seem to think it might be about something else. But come on casting spells makes me hungry.” Muttered Dram to himself as he started to wander off from the rest of the group.

But before Dram could get too far away from the group Ace returned talking them all into following him back to the building he’d explored.

They all arrive at the building. It looks in pretty good nick considering the surrounding derelict buildings. Obviously this has been looked after by some-one.

Inside it was getting a bit crowded with everyone there. But there was a strange old man in the room also. Funny everyone seemed quite happy to talk with him, and stuff without being introduced! Who was this old white haired guy?

During the boring conversation Drams attention started to wander. Suddenly the decor of the room seemed interesting and worth investigating. Then Drams ears pricked up when the stranger started talking about a green dragon being in Thundertree. There was also mention of some other strangers in the village, but Dram ignored that part of the conversation. There was a green dragon. Here. Dram had never seen a dragon before. He really wanted to see the dragon.

The conversation once again started to get boring. Grull seems to have developed a fixation for tea. And was pestering the old guy about whether he had any? Sarmyar was looking healthier after the old guy had looked over her. Ace had disappeared from the room. “Had he gone to see the dragon without me?” Thought Dram to himself. “That’s not fair, I want to see the dragon too”

So Dram left the room too.

Dram made his way towards the tower. It was easy to spot, it was on a small hill, and taller than anything else in the village.

Ahead of Dram between the wall of a building and some trees were some big cobwebs blocking his way. This was an interesting problem, obviously a big spider made these, and it would be cool to see one. But Dram wanted to see the dragon first. There would be time for spiders afterwards.

As Dram was contemplating the dilemma, and deciding if he should Misty Step pass the cobwebs, the gnome turned up with a possible solution. Apparently Ace knew a way round them. Dram decided to follow the gnome, maybe his problem would look differently from the other side.
As the group made there way round the village Dram saw more of the moving bush/tree things that they had killed earlier. This time they didn’t attack, they just stood there rustling like a light breeze had moved them. For some reason their very presence was sending the gnome into a “sap” rage. He wanted to turn them into kindling. For a fellow vertically challenged person he sure had a big chip on his shoulder about something.

The group eventually get to the other side of the path that was blocked by the cobwebs. It did indeed look a little different to Dram. Ace looked like he too was interested in the cobwebs.

Unusual for Dram he was more focused on seeing the dragon, and continued up the hill to the tower with the rest of the group, leaving Ace behind.

The path led to a small cottage on the side of the base of the tower. Which had the corpses of two large spiders decaying away next to it. Obviously something bigger had eaten them. Like a dragon.

As they stand at the closed door of the cottage Ace appears and pushes his way to the front. The group argues a little about Ace going in first. Dram wants to be the first to see the dragon. But eventually Ace wins, and enters the cottage first. The time between Ace entering and hearing back from him was too long for Drams liking. So he entered the cottage. The gnome joined him. Ace was standing by the door that connected to the tower. Grull shoved past both of the small folk.

Ace disappears into the tower, followed by Grull. “Hey not fair. I want to see the dragon.” said Dram. And followed them in.

Inside the tower stood Ace, Grull, the gnome and Dram. Above them was a young green dragon.

“Wow! You are amazing, so beautiful.” a gobsmacked and amazed Dram said. He was finally seeing a dragon.

The dragon told them to leave. But the gnome in what was now becoming a recent bloodlust shouted words of defiance and what was like a challenge to the dragon.

Suddenly a green poisonous gas filled the room.

All of a sudden Dram was standing in bright sunshine, in the middle of a field full of ripe corn, with a small farmhouse in the distance, smoke drifting out of it’s chimney. He started to walk towards the farmhouse, he could make out an old halfling sitting on it’s porch with a dog sleeping by his feet. As Dram got nearer the old halfling looked strangely familiar. The sun was shining in Drams eyes, he had to squint to see.

Dram opened his eyes. He was back in the old mans room. Dram was not feeling good. He felt like he was going to be sick any moment.

Dram overheard the old man tell the others in the group that Dram had actually been dead for a while, and he had exhausted all of his powers to bring him back.

The dragon was on the move. Something in the South of the village had disturbed it. It was now heading towards the old mans room.

It was time for everyone to make a quick escape and hide in the woods.

As the dragon got closer the majority of the group managed to hide successfully under the cover of the foliage of the trees. A couple were less successful in their attempts to be stealthy, and their clumsiness attracted the attention of the dragon. It was then a game of cat and mouse as the dragon tried to locate the “mice”. Luckily for them the dragon got bored and flew back to his tower.

Dram and he could only assume the others were also doing the same, worked his way through the forest.

The defeated group made their way back to their previous nights camp spot after cleaning themselves up as best they could in the Neverwinter river.

At the camp Dram started to make supper. As folks started to process the events of the day, Grull suggested that Dram May have been dropped on his head, and talked about returning to Phandalin to become an innkeeper. Did he not appreciate how cool it had been to see a dragon, die, and live to tell the tale? This had been an amazing day for Dram.

And that’s where we leave our adventurers for the Christmas break, licking their wounds and getting a good nights sleep.

Emergency on ward The Luxe

Jonathan and I met up for a quiet Sunday afternoon of gaming at the super duper The Luxe Cinema.

Our first game was an opportunity for me to try Jonathan’s latest addition to his collection, the recently delivered Kickstarter copy of Dice Hospital.

I have to be honest the prototype that was shown at the UKGE 2017 didn’t grab me. Then as you read on last weeks write up for the December monthly meet up I got to look at the components (more on that later in the post.)

I’ll make this brief (phew after yesterday’s post I bet you need a break), I really liked this game.

I know I like quite a broad range of game types. But I do really enjoy worker placement games. Dice Hospital is a nice worker placement game.

First up hats off for including a player aid. Sometimes, more often than you’d like, games don’t include them, or more rare they do but are practically useless. These are fine and do the job.

I like the method for selecting first player each round. The lowest numbered ambulance chosen by a player is first player. Simple. But is it? There is a decision to make. Choosing the lowest numbered ambulance means your dice (they represent patients that need healing) are also low numbers. Which means it takes longer to heal them. Where the opposite is true for the higher numbered ambulances. Plus when you become the first player you get a blood bag token that is a point at the end of the game (if you haven’t used it). Or they can be used to heal a patient one step or change the colour of a die temporarily. So very useful to have. On top of all this, that low numbered ambulance may not have the coloured dice that you need.

Although the first player rolls the dice, and starts allocating them to ambulances based on the simple rule of placing lowest value dice first (starting at ambulance number one). And here is the bit I like “Where there are multiple dice of the same value but different colours to place, the player to the right of the First Player decides in which ambulance they are placed and in what order.” (Taken from rulebook) This involves the other players, and means that the other player gets to throw a spanner in the works potentially by putting inconvenient coloured dice together.

Each round you get to choose a specialist card or department tile from the face up display. I like this you get to chose between upgrading the actions you can choose each turn with the department tile, or recruit an extra worker in the form of a specialist that will also have an ability. So you have that tough choice to you get that department tile that has an action you really want? Or do you get that specialist and their really powerful ability that combos with one of your department tiles, and allows you to do more on a turn?

And that last bit touches on another nice mechanic of the game, combos between the specialists and the department tiles.

Let’s revisit the whole production component thing. Oh before I do, a little troll of my friend Gavin from Jonathan. Gavin did you like Jonathan’s exclusive art from the artist of the game that he has?

In my previous post where I commented on the card thickness, and the nice linen finish. I checked the Kickstarter stretch goals (relevant ones below).

They had goals to improve the quality of the cards in the game. I don’t think they upgraded the card stock enough. They are too thin for my liking. And that has been the opinion of the two people that handed hard cash over for the game also. Jonathan has sleeved his cards.

Which brings me to my next point of the custom insert in the main box. It’s not up to the job. It doesn’t cater for the cards being sleeved, nor does it provide enough space (only just) to store all the department tiles properly. Jonathan is using both boxes to store the game, but Gavin was unable to store everything in the box when using the ambulance miniatures. With a bit of thought the insert could accommodate sleeved cards, and not just the department tiles of the base game but the Kickstarter exclusive ones also. The space is there. In the deluxe add-ons there is also a dice tray that can’t be stored if built. This is just bad planning.

Jonathan has replaced his player score tokens with wooden cubes. They look and work better than the near useless cardboard ones included. Which maybe thematic but very impractical.

Why Alley Cat Games didn’t allow the round tracker to be attached to the score board I don’t know. It makes more sense. And another upgrade Jonathan has also now done himself. Otherwise this can easily be knocked.

There are also stickers included, that I don’t even know why they are there.

Jonathan’s ambulances seemed to have come out better than Gavin’s. But they are still just eye candy, and table theatrics. I heard rumours an expansion might make more use of them mechanically. It’s a shame that wasn’t included in the game already.

On the production side it’s the minor details that got forgotten, or not executed to the same standard as the rest of the components. But despite these little niggles, Dice Hospital is a fun worker placement game.

Oh Jonathan won the game by 4 points.

Our second game for this little gaming session was Reykholt. We played with a promo that gave each player a random one off bonus. They were a nice addition that speeded up the start of the game. It’s a shame these weren’t included in the base game as an additional thing to add to each game. I think they are that good, that maybe once the base game has been learnt players should include these all the time.

Completing the double for the afternoon, Jonathan stomped to victory with this game also.

Afterwards we briefly talked politics, and the current chaos in the country.

I had a great afternoon despite losing. The Luxe were great hosts.

Beaten by the formula

I got lucky Saturday morning. The post arrived with copies of the core 2 cards for the mono blue mill I needed. Which meant I was able to put together an initial build of my take on the whole mono blue mill deck thing.

I’d found it easier to get the 60 cards to make the main deck, than I did getting down to the 15 to make the sideboard. So I decided I’d throw a sideboard together at The Hobbit Hole.

At The Hobbit Hole I bought some sleeves for the new deck, and a couple of extra copies of Surge Mare and Howling Golem. There was a Pokemon tournament going on when I arrived. Kar-Fai was participating in that instead of the Standard Showdown today. Don’t blame him, there was a booster box of Pokemon cards up for grabs as the first prize.

After sleeving my new deck an opportunity to take it out for a test drive presented itself. A young lad keen to play some magic before Standard Showdown wanted a game. I was curious to how the deck would do, so we shuffled our decks.

Friendly Game 1 – William

I was unsure how my deck was going to work. Obviously I knew my game plan. But would it actually get time to do it’s thing? Williams deck seemed to present no real danger. My pieces fell into place, and then it was just a matter of executing the plan. I milled William out.

The deck had worked. But to be fair, and I’m not being mean on William but his deck wasn’t a real test. William is learning, his deck building skills are still in their infancy. Mine aren’t much further along the path. But I knew I’d be facing tougher, more powerful decks in the Standard Showdown. However there was enough here to make the decision for me that I’d give the deck an outing in the Standard Showdown.

Result: Win

I decided to play William again but this time with my Golgari deck. I thought it was important he got an idea of the sort of decks he’d be up against power wise.

Friendly Game 2 – William

This was a by the numbers game for the deck. I didn’t hit any of my removal spells. But with two Steel Leaf Champions and a Vicious Conquistador out I didn’t really need to. The only “removal” I did hit was a Ravenous Chupacabra.

Result: Win

I left William and Michael (re)building William a deck.

Dean arrived and had a couple of cards for me that were going into the ninja/assassin commander deck. I’d traded an Assassin’s Trophy with him the previous week. I was pretty happy with the trade. The deck I’m building is a slow build, just ticking away in the background.

Andy had joined in the deck building effort for William. I hope William was listening and learning from the advice he was being given. But he did have a better deck to play with.

Right it was showtime, the first round pairings were called out.

Round 1 – Rebecca

I’d never played Rebecca before, I believe this was the first time she’d been to the store with her partner. She wasn’t a standard player either and like me thrown a deck together for today.

Our first game although I started milling Rebecca, I had no real answer for her 1/1 flyer that was getting pumped every now and again. And that was the one doing all the damage. I eventually bled out to that damn flyer.

Game two was a different story. I milled Rebecca out. She had cards in hand that it turned out afterwards she didn’t have the mana to cast. A little mana screwed.

The deciding game went to time. We didn’t need the five turns. When time was called, we had reached a point in the game that either of us could win it on our next turn. Rebecca needed to do five points of damage to me to win with that cursed flier, and I only had three cards to mill, that would happen when I started my next turn. Luckily for me, but sadly for Rebecca on her turn she could only get to dealing four points of damage to me. I was alive to start my turn and win.

I had won by the skin of my teeth.

Result: Win 2-1

Round 2 – Alfie

I’d played Alfie before but with the Golgari deck. After a little banter to lighten the mood and make it a bit more fun for Alfie, we started duelling.

Our first game went the same way as my first round first game. I was killing but not fast enough, and just got my butt kicked by creatures.

Game two went my way with the mill getting me a win. Alfie didn’t enjoy that experience much seeing his good cards going into the graveyard.

Game three the decider went my way also. It could easily have been a mill win or a creature smash win. I went for the creature smash for a change! It had to be done, because although that’s an option with the 16 creatures in the deck, it’s not the main win condition for the deck. They are mainly there to keep me alive long enough to get the win condition. So I don’t imagine with this deck that it will get many wins this way.

Result: Win 2-1

Friendly Game 3 – Kar-Fai

The Pokemon tournament had ended with Kar-Fai coming in second place, just missing out on the big prize again.

So to fill time between my next and final round we played our blue decks against each other. Kar-Fai had thrown some of his blue cards together to make a deck (his words).

There was some back and forth between the two decks. Kar-Fai had that unblockable 1/1 merfolk out. Which was annoying. But in the end mill ruled the day.

Result: Win

Round 3 – Dean

Time to face Alfie’s uncle.

I knew this deck, it’s a fast Golgari aggro deck. My Golgari deck has beaten it. But would this new deck?

The simple answer is no. My meagre collection of creatures thrown out as a defensive shield did little to stop the onslaught. I did mill away some of his big nasty creatures like both of his Ghaltas. But in the end it was little consolation to being wiped out.

So the uncle had avenged the nephew.

Result: Loss 2-0

I think there was only one player who went 3-0 and won. Three ended up 1-2, with the rest having a 2-1 record. So that meant the WotC software would once again be applying the rules and deciding positions based on how well opponents had done. Which meant my position wouldn’t be too high. The two people I’d beaten had finished 9th and 8th.

Final position: 6th out of 10 with a 2-1 record.

I only got a participation pack this week, missing out on a Showdown booster.

Afterwards we had a five player game of Commander with the Planeschase cards. I was playing my Death and Taxes deck. There was a nice combo between one planes that forced a player to discard their hand and draw a new hand equal in size to the one they just discarded in their end step, and a creature of mine. My creature had an ability that said an opponent lost a life each time they drew a card. Which was funny. I think over twenty points of damage was done before my creature was removed.

In the end we ran out of time because once again apparently John wanted to eat, and spend time with his family! So there was no winner.

For those interested, or can’t remember what I wrote but for some inexplicable reason want to read more of my words, you can read my thoughts on putting the deck together in my post earlier in the week HERE.

For those that did go off and read my previous post on this deck I’ll apologise for repeating this disclaimer for those that didn’t.

I’m not claiming these are the best decks in the world, they certainly are not top competitive decks. They are hopefully fun, affordable (subjective I know) decks. I don’t try and keep to a target price point. I try and use as many cards in my collection as possible to keep my costs down. I’m certainly not a master deck builder claiming this deck will win tournaments, if it is fun to play and does it thing then I’ll be happy.

So I suppose you want to know what cards make up the deck and sideboard I used yesterday.

2 Diamond Mare
4 Surge Mare
4 Vodalian Arcanist
2 Howling Golem
3 Homarid Explorer
1 Fleet Swallower

4 Opt
4 Blink of an Eye
4 Drowned Secrets
4 Psychic Corrosion
4 Secrets of the Golden City
2 Kumena’s Awakening

20 Island
2 Memorial to Genius

1 Windreader Sphinx
2 Fountain of Renewal
4 Essence Scatter
1 Millstone
4 Cancel
2 Patient Rebuilding
1 River’s Rebuke

In a change from tradition I’m presenting the deck’d apps graphs and pricing now instead of before.

Wow that’s a lot of 2 drops. I like the AMC, that means I can be casting at least a couple of spells a turn from turn 5 onwards. Which is what I want to be doing once Drowned Secrets is out.

I’m gobsmacked by how cheap the deck is to put together if I ever needed to build it again from scratch.

The deck was fun to play, well for me. So I’m glad I built it and played it.