#FamilyGameNight – First play of #Scythe (@stonemaiergames)

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Courtesy BGG

After several weeks of rules review and study, finally got Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) to the table for Family Game Night. To summarize the night, it was a great hit!

IMG_1901We played a three-player setup. After random draws of Factions and Player mats, Little I was Polania-Patriotic, T was Saxony-Engineering, and I was Khanate-Agricultural. Play started off a bit slow as  I was teaching the boys how to play. I was actually getting worried when one hour into the game only one Achievement Star had been placed. Up to this point the boys and myself had been learning more than playing.

I need not have worried; Little I quickly understood the special faction power for Polania (“Meander”) and took advantage of it to the greatest degree possible. T also started understanding the in-and-outs of the engine-building game mechanics and started optimizing his actions. Both T and myself got a fire lit under out collective a$$es when Little I completed an Objective Card at the same time he placed two other Achievement Stars for a clear 4-star to 1-star/0-star advantage. The last 90 minutes of the game (we took about 150 minutes  total – longer than advertised but we were -slowly – learning) turned a bit frantic as the action passed around the table rather quickly. A misplay on my part handed the final star to Little I who was able to complete his achievements. Final Score – Little I- 74, T- 38, Dad- 37.

I was a bit worried that Scythe would be too complex and challenging for the RMN Boys to quickly learn. After all, there are four Top-Row Actions, four Botton-Row Actions, and four Mech Abilities as well as a special faction ability for a total of 13 Actions/Abilites that need to be understood to play. And that’s before one could add a Factory Card (two more Actions), and the Structure Bonus (a scoring consideration).

I need not have worried for the outstanding graphical design of the player tableaus made all that easy. It took the first hour for all of us to become comfortable interpreting the symbology on the boards, but once it all (and I mean ALL) clicked then the real game was on. For such a heavy, thinky, complex game it was amazingly easy to teach – and learn – the game mechanics and get over the “learning curve” and start playing (i.e. strategizing) the game.

Little I has especially taken to Scythe. He has always liked puzzles and the multiple combinations of Faction-Player mats intrigues him. The two boys generated enough buzz about the game that even the oldest RMN Boy, a bit of a none-boardgamer (hey, I keep trying) who sat out the night is interested.

Our plan for Family Game Night (Saturday nights in our house) was to play a rotation of games. Maybe a wargame one week, a family tabletop game the next, and throw in a RPG campaign session too. Little I loves Scythe so much right now he has asked to preempt the kick-off of the next RPG campaign and repeat Scythe. We will have to see; Compass Games’ Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution is supposedly enroute.* I also want to play around with the Automa (solo variant) to see how it works as well as the experimental rules for playing a mix of Automa and different player-counts.

Scythe has won many awards, but most importantly it has won the RockyMountainNavy family’s admiration and respect for the enjoyment we all have playing the game. Even Mrs. RMN appreciates how Scythe has captured the intense interest of Little I. The RMNBoys are already pooling their money to purchase expansions though, to be honest, Dad will probably spring for it because, well, he wants to!


* </RANT ON> I am a bit disappointed with Compass Games. I backed C&C Tricorne on Kickstarter and now hear that it was on sale at WBC in late-July. It is being sold on-line at Compass Games since August 17, but I have not seen any shipping notice that my copy is on the way (nor have I received my game). There are some customers indicating they received their order already but is is unclear if they were KS-backers or just ordered from the site once it went on sale. Perception is reality, and my perception is that the KS-backers are being ignored. Overall, not a very positive experience. </RANT OFF>

#Scythe Unboxing

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Courtesy BoardGameGeek

The RockyMountainNavy boys and I were in the FLGS a few weeks back and saw Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) sitting on the shelf. This game had come to my attention recently (hattip to the Heavy Cardboard podcast) and it looked interesting. As much as I want to support my FLGS I had a hard time pulling the trigger on what I saw as an expensive game and instead ordered it online. This weekend I got around to unboxing the game.

OMG!

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Courtesy BoardGameGeek

Components – Stunning is too weak a description. The box is huge and all the components are of top quality. Love the plastic leaders and mechs, the wooden bits, the cards, the indents for tokens on the player tableau, and so much more.

Learning – In this Age of the Internet there are not only many reviews but also an abundance of How-to-Play and Actual Play videos available. With a game like Scythe it only makes sense to take advantage of them. It certainly has helped me grok the core mechanic of the game faster and will assist in me teaching others.

Gameplay – I really like the thought of mixing factions with production cards in numerous different ways. Adding in the factory card makes even more combinations possible and is sure to repeatedly challenge those who try to maximize every combination. After setting up the game and pushing pieces around I can’t wait to get this onto the table for a full play.

Scythe has certainly raised the bar of production standards across the board gaming community. For this price – which even at full retail is still a bargain for all that one gets – the game components exceed reasonable expectations. Layer on top of that outstanding gameplay and the value skyrockets. Can someone say “expansions?”

P.S. To Jamey Stegmaier – a part of me feels SOOO sorry that I bought this at a discount price online and saved my money instead of rewarding you fully. Scythe is an incredibly beautiful game and well worth the money. You should be rewarded properly.

* OK…sorry but not sorry – a family guy has gotta save money somewhere….

#4thofJulyWeekend #Wargame – Liberty of Death: The American Insurrection (GMT Games, 2016)

It seemed fitting that on this Fourth of July weekend I pull out my absolutely favorite game on the American Revolution, Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection. This is Volume V of the COIN-series from GMT Games. I choose the short duration scenario, The  Southern Campaign, using the Optional Sprint Scenario rules.

As I have stated before, LoD is not really a wargame. Each faction must simultaneously cooperate with their allies and fight their enemies while trying to win. Thus, although the Patriots and French are allied, they both have independent victory conditions.

The Southern Campaign covers from 1778 to 1780, although in the Sprint Scenario only the first two years are played.

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Midway thru 1778

Unlike my previous games where I was really just learning the rules, this game I was able to actually try a bit more strategy. I still messed up the rules in a few places, but it didn’t prevent me from having a great time!

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Philadelphia Before the Attack (End of 1778)

Play was not perfect by any measure. The Patriots played a more northern strategy while the Royalists tried to turn the south. As 1779 neared an end, Washington and Rochambeau both took on Clinton in New York City.

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Winter Quarters Ends 1779 – Indecisive in New York City

Alas, the Patriots and French blew their timing, and at the end of 1779 and the Sprint Scenario, Clinton held in New York City. Meanwhile, Tories had been busy in the South. The final score was a Royalist Victory.

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End of The Southern Campaign – Sprint Scenario

The gameplay mechanics of LoD are actually quite simple and I think I have pretty much got them down. The much harder part is taking those “simple” mechanics and executing a “complex” strategy. Unlike many games which get played a few times then collect dust until that far-off next scenario, Liberty or Death will definitely land on the table more often.

 

#FamilyGameFriday – Patchwork (Mayfair Games, 2014)

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Courtesy BGG.com

Earlier this year I picked up Patchwork from Mayfair Games. I think this was after I listened to the Heavy Cardboard podcast As I write this post, the game is the #1 Abstract, the #2 Family Game, and the #44 overall on BoardGameGeek. For a game that is so popular, I am a bit late to the party. However, I have joined the party and the family is glad I have.

At first glance, Patchwork does not look like a game this old grognard or a house full of boys would like. I mean, it’s quilting for gosh sakes! Ah, hidden under that theme is a Tetris-like puzzler with resource management ( time and money) that makes for a quick and interesting game.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and I played the game several times over the Memorial Day weekend. The youngest RMN Boy even went so far as to declare Patchwork his newest “most favorite” boardgame. Even Mrs. RMN was surprised by how much the boys took to the game. Not that I should be surprised; the RMN Boys have demonstrated an ability to look past theme and enjoy good gameplay like they have for Love Letter[As as aside, the boys pulled out Love Letter at a multi-family dinner over the weekend. Fun was had by all.]

Patchwork has rightly earned itself a prominent spot on our family gaming shelf. The game demonstrates that if one is willing to look past theme there is often a good game to be played – and enjoyed – by many.

Reawakening X-Wing (Star Wars: X-Wing Minis – Force Awakens Core Set)

“Outnumbered and outgunned, a cunning star fighter pilot leads his enemies into a minefield. Will it be enough to turn the tide of battle, or will superior numbers prevail?” From Mission F1: Ambush, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – The Force Awakens Core Set, Mission Guide

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Initial Setup
Mission F1 pits a Resistance T-70 X-Wing flown by Blue Squadron Novice (24 pts) against a pair of TIE/FO fighters (Epsilon Sqdn Pilot – 15 pts/Zeta Sqdn Pilot – 16 pts). The squadron point build imbalance is offset by the presence of three mine tokens in the battle space controlled by the Resistance player.

 

 

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Sweeping In
Swinging to the left, he tried to draw the TIEs across the minefield but they didn’t take the bait, instead sweeping to their left while keeping out of the lethal radius of the mines. Reversing hard into a tight turn, he raced through the minefield to get into position. His first shot was lucky and hit the trailing TIE which accelerated to get out of range while the second one turned to attack.

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Death of Epsilon
Ignoring a TIE that executed a Segnor’s Loop almost in front of him, he blasted one TIE away. Dangerously, he cut in front of the other TIE, just avoiding blasts of lethal energy. Boosting away, he extended the range as the other TIE followed. Dashing around the asteroid field, the TIE came just close enough to a mine to detonate it. His sensors told him the shields on the TIE were down. “That’s one chink in the armor,” he thought.

 

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Stressed Out and Still Too Close
As he continued around an asteroid, the TIE tried to cut the corner. Unfortunately, it came a bit too close to another mine and set it off. Sensors said it was damaged!

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Splash Two!
Stressing his T-70, he reversed hard into the TIE. He quickly lined up his shot. With a sharp intake of breath he watched his energy bolts hit the TIE. He exhaled slowly as it exploded. He muttered to himself, “The Force was with me.”

 

It has been a long time since I played X-Wing. I had picked up Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – The Force Awakens Core Set a while back and it has sat on my shelf – unopened – for several months. The RockyMountainNavy boys seem to have passed their initial fascination with X-Wing and in many ways it was replaced with Wings of Glory.  I pulled it out for a somewhat rare weeknight gaming session.

Having not played in a while I didn’t use many optional rules. The fighters were all stock with no modifications. Relearning gameplay was quick (X-Wing is not complicated). Although the gameplay is not complex, there were more than a few “tactical errors” committed since the ships were new to us and their capabilities and limitations unexplored. Most significantly, near the end the Zeta TIE could have used their Action to Barrel Roll away from the mine and stay out of the lethal radius instead of looking ahead to  the T-70 threat and placing an Evade token to try to avoid any hits.

Playing X-Wing reminded me that this is one of the games in my collection that I classify as a “Manual Videogame.” The concept of Squadron Builds, Modifications, and Actions (special abilities) all are common with video games. That is not to say I dislike X-Wing; rather, I see it for what it is. The RockyMountainNavy boys, especially Little I, love the Manual Videogame-style of gaming. Pulling out X-Wing reminded us all that this is a lite, fun game that is highly thematic and “pulls you into” the story. It deserves to be on the table more.

Christmas Gaming 2016

Here is my gaming haul for the 2016 Christmas season:

pic3236903_mdWing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 (GMT Games)Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s innovative “side-scroll” air combat game for the later half of World War II. Like its predecessor Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 this again made air combat games fun and interesting for me. The box is HUGE and very heavy – a welcome change from so many “light” games with a “heavy” price.

pic2999397_mdPacific Fury: Guadalcanal, 1942 by Revolution Games. Originally published in Japanese and now translated into English. Emphasizes planning by using a very different system of assigning units to Task Forces and then resolving combat in sequence. Suffers from some production issues (very DTP-publishing feel) but nonetheless an interesting exploration of naval combat in and around Iron Bottom Sound.

pic3238660_mdThe Space Patrol (by Richard Hazelwood, published by Stellagama Publishing). A 2D6 OGL Sci-Fi/Cepheus Engine RPG book for playing Space Patrol characters. Includes a very detailed discussion of legal terms and interstellar law. An interesting look at yet another career option. I try to support the Cepheus Engine system as much as possible since I disapprove of the direction Mongoose Publishing has taken the Traveller RPG rules.

pic3293444_mdShips of the Clement Sector 16: Rucker Class Merchant from Gypsy Knights Games. Another in a great line of outstanding ship sourcebooks. Includes multiple variants highlighting the “odd job” characteristics of the ship. Topped off by evocative fiction this book will be very useful in the Clement Sector setting or any 2D6 Sci-Fi/Cepheus Engine setting.

We wouldn’t be the RockyMountainNavy family without the kids getting games for Christmas too:

pic132447_mdRMN A got Command & Colors: Ancients (GMT Games). This is technically A’s first wargame that he “owns.” He is studying history and very interested in the period. Looking forward to facing off across the battlefield from him (but first he needs to put all those stickers on)!

pic3239100_mdRMN T got Endless Vigil: A Sourcebook for Sentinels for the Force & Destiny segment of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG line. Looking forward to exploring the Star Wars RPG universe of urban settings and encounters for the Force.

pic2933710_mdRMN Little I got Tanks: Panther vs Sherman (Gale Force 9). This starter-set game plays to two of his interests; WW2 armor and models. The price entry point is very low ($19.99) but he will surely be spending a good deal of his earnings over the next year on the expansions (i.e. models). He already has several 1/100th scale Zvezda armor – look for him to make his own stat cards soon!

pic3105185_mdAlmost forgot – RMN T also got King of New York: Power Up! (iello). This is an expansion for King of New York OR King of Tokyo (which we own). Beware Mega Shark!

pic691901_mdRMN Little I also got Memoir ’44: Breakthrough (Days of Wonder). Just remember, the battle always takes place at the junction of two maps! Between Memoir ’44 and C&C looks like the younger gamers are fully-involved in Richard Borg war games.

(All images courtesy BoardGameGeek/RPGGeek)

Merry Christmas and Happy Gaming to all!

#Codenames – Why the Hype?

I PICKED up Codenames while on a trip recently. In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues (with a number) that can point to words in the array. Their teammates (the Operative) tries to guess the words while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team and especially avoiding the assassin!

This a very celebrated game, with many awards and nominations such as:

But I don’t get it.

I mean, its an OK game that I rate a 6.0…far below the 8.0 it carries on BoardGameGeek. I have played it with my kids and I think they agree with me; the game is more “meh” than “wow!”