Thursday, March 20, 2014

A long time ago . . .


Actually, it was last night.  Got in a big, multiplayer game of X-Wing last night at the Dueling Grounds, my first proper game with the full rules. I picked up the bits for this game a little while back, and have been toying with the basic game with the Beloved and the Cub, but last night we broke out the full rules and had at it.

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My flight, the Interceptor in the middle.  

For those of you unfamiliar, the game is by Fantasy Flight, and it's pedigree goes back to the Wings of War game.  The core mechanics have been cleaned up, streamlined, and supplemented by an additional layer of choices (you select from a range of actions) that adds some real tactical depth to the game.  Plus, as one of the club guys pointed out, Star Wars.

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The approaching Rebel scum.

One of our newer members, Stephen71, brought down a metric crap-tonne of gear, and we divvied it up into roughly 50 point increments.  In total, around 150 points of Brave Imperials (led by the redoubtable hero Darth Vader) faced off against about the same points of Rebel Scum (with that whiny squirt Luke Skywalker along for the ride).  Guess on which side I was playing?

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A different angle.  The third Rebel flight, a mixed X/Y wing, was a fair bit behind.

The core mechanics are pretty simple.  For each of your ships, you dial in a manoeuvre on a selector placed face down (more zippy ships like TIE Fighters or A-Wings have more, and better, options than, say, a clunky ship like a Y-Wing).  In ascending order of pilot skill, manoeuvres are revealed and executed (via a template), and then barring something preventing you, an action is selected.  Different ships have different action options, but generally they benefit attack, defence, a combination, or offer supplemental manoeuvres.

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The joys of secret movement.  X-wings cross over in a bid to support the B-wings, but . . .

Firing is then resolved in descending order of pilot skill.  In other words, more experienced pilots get to select their action after other ships commit to theirs, and have the opportunity to shoot before their less experienced opponents.  Elegant, and a nice way to distinguish between skill classes.  There are also a range of unique pilots with additional special abilities (Vader, for example, can take 2 actions).

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 . . . end up in my gun sights as a result.

Shooting resolves through a contested dice roll, with both attack and defence dice potentially modified by selected actions and context.  Damage is resolved via a card mechanic.  Generic damage is indicated by a face-down card, criticals by a face-up card with additional effects.

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Only one X-wing gets through the gauntlet.  Everyone wanted a piece of Luke.

In the game we played last night, the Imperials managed to break up a fairly loose Rebel deployment into even smaller pieces, and then use our superior numbers and manoeuvreability against them.

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I proceed to head off the trailing Rebel wing.

TIE fighter variants tend to be relatively fragile compared to Rebel ships, but have mobility options that allow them to rapidly capitalize on even slight miscalculations by their opponents.  I was piloting a flight of 2 regular TIEs and a TIE interceptor, and did my best to use my speed and manoeuvrability to engage selectively and focus fire on single targets.



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Meanwhile, the rest of the Imperials break up the leading Rebel formation.

Over the course of the game, I helped shoot down Luke, shot down Biggs, and put the boots in on a Y-Wing as well.  One of the other players, the G-man, brought a selection of Star Wars sound effects to the table, and much TIE-fighter screeching and laser blasting was enjoyed.

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Another angle.

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Bottom right, Lord Vader swoops in behind an X-wing.

In the end, we were able to engage the Rebels piecemeal, and thin them out before they could coordinate and do it to us.

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Furball in the backfield.  The Y-wing fired it's Ion cannon at my interceptor, stalling it's movement.

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The other TIEs compensated by splashing the X-wing escort.

The Rebels were also using, I think, a couple ships that likely had a steeper learning curve, such as the B-Wing (a bit lumbering, heavy shields), and Y-Wing (slow, heavy hull), that have a role, but I think probably take some practice to get the most of them.

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I loop around for another pass, while the Y-wing scrambles to assist the other Rebels.

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The TIE fighters move more quickly.

The miniatures that come with the game are actually pretty nice.  I've never been much of a fan of pre-paints, but the sculpts are excellent, with good detail, and the painting is more than adequate for table-top gaming.  They evidently take repainting well, so there's that option for those so inclined.

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Like herding sheep.  Filthy, Rebel, sheep.

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Imperials close in.

So far, I've picked up the core set, Vader's advanced TIE fighter, and a second X-wing, enough for 50-60 points a side with options.  I will be picking up more.  The game is easy to get into, but has enough depth in play (and in list design) to hold attention.

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Remaining X-wing and Y-wing are down, just the B-wing left.

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It's about to get messy ;)

FMB


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Been a long time coming . . .

Hi,

No, I'm not dead, just resting ;)

Things in Monkeyland have been a tad hectic of late, with a number of factors combining to radically reduce both my opportunities to game, and the energy and enthusiasm I've had to blog about what little gaming I've done.  To make matters worse, I've not picked up a brush since December, partly as a product of the aforementioned zaniness, and partly out of sheer doldrums.

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That said, I did manage to get myself down to the Dueling Grounds the other night for my first ever game of Heroquest!  This is something I've been hearing about for decades, have never had the opportunity to play, have always wanted to try, and had to back out of in my first opportunity a month or so ago (the game conflicted with a friend's birthday celebration).

This week, however, a few of the people from that game had to back out in turn, and I was able to take up the reins.  Behold the glory of Reginald Slimbottom, Wizard of the Blue Rung, and Treasure-hunter extraordinaire!

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The set is the product of ernieR's labour and love, and he's taken the time to paint not only the character figures, but the monsters as well.  Not sure if he's planning on painting the scenery, but it wouldn't surprise me.    With mostly new / replacement players at the table, we rebooted the campaign, and played out the first scenario in the series.  Drawn by rumors of a dreaded gargoyle guarding a magnificent treasure, the story begins with our heroes kicking in the dungeon door, and setting out to explore what was what.

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As it turns out, some of us were more enthusiastic about opening doors than others.  Skyjack, who played the barbarian, who played the elf, decided to whisk along the corridors, popping doors along the way.  The problem with this approach is that when you crack a door, there's a high likelihood that there will be monsters inside.  Crack one alone, and you might not be able to handle what you find.  Run away from what you find (cracking other doors along the way), and goes from being a "YP" to a "MP" ;)

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In this case, the MP in question involved a couple of rather disgruntled Chaos Warriors, and thanks to some profoundly crappy movement rolls, I got to play "Tank".  On the plus side, I had a rather tasty sleep spell handy, and thanks to the rather constricting corridors, was able to delay the warriors long enough for help to arrive.

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Once the Chaos Warriors were out of the way, I adopted a rather effective strategy of watching the others fight, giving helpful advice, and then finding all the gold while other players encountered random monsters and traps ;)

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Our next big battle was against the undead.  Several skeletons and a mummy, as it happened.  I told them not to go in the room with the torture device and creepy-looking altar.

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And, once my fellow team members dispatched the odious dead, I found more gold!

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We cleared out the last few "side rooms", before proceeding to the grand finale.

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By this point, we'd learned to work as a team.  While I've been joking a bit about running around finding treasure while my team-mates did the heavy lifting, the truth is that the wizard isn't much good in a fight.  His base melee abilities are feeble, he's not tough at all, and he only gets two attack spells.  What I did have going for me was a ton of support spells; mobility enhancers, heal spells, monster control spells, etc.  By the time we got to the last room, we'd started fighting smart, and working together.  We pooled our resources, including combat buffs from me, on the best fighter we had (the barbarian), made sure he had plenty of healing potions, and popped the door so that only one monster at a time could come out.

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It worked terrifically well.  The barbarian was busily chewing through the orks and Chaos Warrior minions the Gargoyle sent forth.  And that's when we got cocky.  The elf used my "pass through monsters" spell to do just that, and the Dwarf used my "pass through walls" spell to do just that, and then they died.  horribly.

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On the plus side, a still tooled-up barbarian remained as lethal as ever, and he made quick work of the Gargoyle.

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At which point, I searched the room, and found, you guessed it, more treasure ;)

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The punchline to all of this, is that there's only one item a wizard can buy in the game that's worth buying (a staff), so most of the money got donated to the communal fund.  The barbarian, and the elf and dwarf we strangely found waiting to join our group outside, got nice new shiny helmets.

Verdict?  Heroquest is fun!  It's, as far as I know, the prototype for a whole genre of games (like Descent), and I can see why it's had such enduring popularity.  Here's hoping I get a chance to play again.

FMB






Thursday, January 23, 2014

Missed opportunities, new finds.

Hi,

I was looking forward to today's post, as one of the club regulars, ernieR, was planning on hosting a game of Heroquest, one of those old GW games I've been hearing about for years, but never got the chance to play.



As it turns out, however, plans went awry.  I received an email Tuesday from an old friend, who pointed out that an even older friend (my oldest, in point of fact) was turning 40, and an impromptu get-together ensued; pints, burgers, and pub trivia.  The first two were delicious, and we won the last, so a successful night in all.



On the other hand, it leaves me a bit short of content for today's post.  Foxlington did a report on the game (my favorite part is where the elf dies) so that's something, at least.

One new discovery, via the GingerKid, is www.tappedout.net, an on-line deck-building tool.  Now, instead of having to manually type out a deck list every time I want to discuss it, I can engage the power of the inter-tubes, and simply link to my decks, like the current iteration of the Sek'Kuar deck I'm using for commander, or the Necro / Zombie deck I'm planning to use with Lim-Dul.  Sweet!

I'm hoping / looking forward to getting some painting done this weekend, maybe some Bloodbowl or Muskets and Tomahawks, so if all goes well we'll have a painting post for Sunday night.

FMB







Saturday, January 18, 2014

Command of the Situation

Hi,

As I mentioned the other day, Wednesday night also saw my first games of Magic in the Commander format.  Basic rules are the same, but for the following exceptions:

1. Starting life is 40
2. Decks are 100 cards
3. You can only have one copy of each card, other than basic lands
4. One of your cards is your commander; it must be a legendary creature, and you can only use colours in your deck that correspond to those of your commander.  When not in your hand, the battlefield, or exile, the commander resides in the command zone, and can always be cast from there; each casting beyond the first adds 2 to the mana cost.
5. In addition to the usual win conditions, if your commander does 21 points of combat damage to an opponent, they lose.

Also known as Elder Dragon Highlander, the format started as a casual thing among long-time Magic players, and the rules are maintained by a cabal of "senior" players, rather than Wizards of the Coast.

The format is insanely fun.  Games are longer, more lands and mana are played, and as a result, you get to play fun, ridiculously mana-costly cards that from what I gather, simply don't see play in "normal" formats.  Basically, you get to do all the cool stuff that attracts some people (like me) to the game in the first place, and that I was disappointed to find out I didn't generally get to do.

My kind of fattie.
To put this into perspective, I played two games Wednesday night, lost both, and had a terrific time playing both games.  The second game looked like I had it in the bag, then Otherdave played a creature that made it impossible for me to block, and while I had responses in my deck, they weren't in my hand.  One massive swing later, and OD had the game.  That kind of "out of the blue" swing seems pretty common in the format, is a guaranteed recipe for gits and shiggles.

Otherdave was running a Sliver deck, which basically means he had ridiculous synergy (every card in his deck, pretty much, does something to buff every other card in his deck).  I was running a deck commanded by this guy:



He's pretty straightforward, rewards aggressive play, and I've tried to build a deck that capitalizes on that; lots of recursion, sacrifice, and creature enter / leaves mechanics in the deck.  I'm doing this on a budget (another fun thing, you can build a reasonable deck without having to pay for premium, high-demand standard / modern cards), so I'm sure there's more expensive and effective cards I could play, but most of the cards fall into the $.10 to $.50 range.  

Both Otherdave and I have been nosing around ideas for other decks as well.  I can't see myself actually buying one for a while, but I've had a few ideas, (leaning towards R/W or R/W/U.  There's some Theros cards that are intriguing me, and I've got a pile of penny cards in those colours from the stuff the Beloved got me at Christmas.  Building / designing these decks is almost as much fun as playing with them.

I'll close out with my current list.  There's a pile of cards I could add here, starting with lands, to improve the deck, and over the long term, no doubt I'll be making some additions.  I'm really looking forward to playing more of this.

Commander
Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper
Creatures
Corpse Blockade
Corpse Hauler
Dawntreader Elk
Death Cultist
Garruk’s Horde
Garruk's Packleader
Gatecreeper Vine
Golgari Guildmage
Harvester of Souls
Hythonia the Cruel
Korozda Guildmage
Liliana’s Reaver
Lobber Crew
Manaweft Sliver
Molten Primordial
Nearheath Stalker
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Sepulchral Primordial
Smolder Initiate
Sporemound
Sylvan Primordial
Terrus Wurm
Trestle Troll
Tymaret, the Murder King
Vastwood Hydra
Voyaging Satyr
Woodborn Behemoth
Artifacts
Ratchet Bomb
Gruul Keyrune
Other Spells
Act of Treason
Alpha Authority
Breath of Malfegor
Burst of Strength
Dark Prophecy
Devour Flesh
Diabolic Tutor
Doomblade
Grim Return
Ground Assault
Harrowing Journey
Horncaller’s Chant
Howl of the Night Pack
Into the Wilds
Life and Limb
March of the Returned
Mind Rot
Natural End
Pit Fight
Plummet
Portent of Betrayal
Prey Upon
Primal Visitation
Ranger’s Guile
Rescue from the Underworld
Rise from the Grave
Spider Umbra
Tin Street Market
Vandalblast
Verdant Haven
Land
13 Forest
7 Mountain
14 Swamp
Encroaching Wastes
Ghost Quarter
Golgari Guildgate
Gruul Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate
Opal Palace


Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's alive!

Hi all,



Well, okay, perhaps things weren't that extreme, but it's been a while since I've posted.  Christmas, the whirlwind of the Cub's stay, plus the usual start-of-semester madness has pretty much put the kibosh on both painting and playing.  Add in the sense of doldrums I was dealing with a few weeks back, and frankly, not much went on in Monkeyland over the last three weeks or so.

That said, I did get down to the Dueling Grounds last night for a fun night of gaming and catching up.  I got in two games of Magic in the Commander format against Otherdave (the format, fyi, is insanely fun), and a 400 point game of Muskets and Tomahawks against Vonplutz.  I think I'll save commander for a separate post (maybe this weekend), but I thought I'd post a batrep from the game with VP to get things going again at the blog.

First off, one thing I did do over the holidays was rebase the figures I'd already painted using steel washers.  I'd been using pennies, and while they're cheap and serviceable, transportation had been giving me problems.

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I used some double sided tape to line the bottom of an old toolbox with some magnetic sheeting, and now the figures stick to the box no problem.  No shifting, no need to pad, just stick them in the box and go.  In a pinch, I can remove the sheeting to bare the steel, and still use the box for magnetized bases (like my Impetus armies).  Easy peasy.

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I'll probably do the same for my Bolt Action stuff as well.  Watts at the THMG did something similar with his (although, with a much nicer box), and it seemed like a solid idea.  Huzzah for hobby networking ;)

With my dandy new box in tow, I set out to give Vonplutz's British a thrashing.  We determined objectives (he had Raid, I had Engagement), set up terrain, I deployed, he deployed, and away we went.

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There's a lot of nice subtlety in the game mechanics for M&T, little things like how determining deployment order works.  Each player has a force type, determined by the dominant class of troops in their force.  Mine, composed of Compagnie Franche de la Marine with some Native allies, is Irregular.  VP's composed of mostly British Line with some provincial rangers and militia, is Regular.  While objectives are determined randomly, different force types are predisposed more to some missions / objectives than others.  Objectives are also ordered by number, with the more aggressive missions having a higher number.  Lower number deploys first.  I had to play a few times before I got it, but the net effect is that forces more likely to assume a defensive role, or be involved in set-piece fighting, are more likely to get objectives of that kind, and deploy as defenders before the aggressive / mobile / raider forces.  It's a nice touch, and the game is full of them.

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As is happens, however, the usual roles were reversed.  VP's regulars with their provincial escort had set out to burn a French settlement, and my flying column of marines and Hurons were racing to head them off before they could.  It would prove to be a tense and bloody confrontation.

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I deployed one of my marine squads behind the little village.  Their job would be to move up, take shelter in the houses, and hold off the British raiders as long as they could.

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Meanwhile, the other marine unit, and both units of allies, would work their way around the flank, and try to harry the British as they closed on their own objective.  I encountered the effect of regular musketry in firing line the last time I played M&T, and while it's been a while, I have a healthy respect for it's destructive potential. I wasn't going to get into a head-on fight if I could avoid it.

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VP, for his part, set his regulars to march straight for the French settlement, with his irregulars thrown out as flankers.

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In the first turn it seemed like the French cards were all top deck (M&T works on a card activation system; each card indicates a unit type, and the number of actions it can take).  My flanking forces quickly advanced, and I pushed my Huron allies (Allies is a unit trait that can be purchased; it means that the native unit can benefit from the proximity of a French officer) toward the cover of a small copse of woods covering the approach to the village.  In retrospect, given that I'd paid for rifles, and my Hurons would have been almost as effective from back on my edge, this may have been a mistake.

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When VP finally started drawing some British cards, withering fire from his irregulars drove my Huron allies out of the woods in full flight (it would take a full turn before they'd recover and rejoin the battle).  In the meantime, his regulars stolidly marched towards the village, peppering the buildings with musket fire.

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At this point in the game, I was actually quite concerned.  VP had seized a key piece of covering terrain, had two units closing on the objective, and stood an excellent chance of holding me off long enough to fire the buildings.

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While I tried to organize something on my left, VP continued to pour fire into the building with a unit of regulars and a unit of his provincials, and brought up the second unit of regulars to help block my flanking attack.  Thankfully, the stout walls of the French buildings gave my marines good cover, and they weathered the worst of the British fire with aplomb.

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Thins went from bad to worse when VP drew some early cards on his next turn, fired into my already shaken Hurons, and convinced them to keep running.  My marines had managed to shake out a decent line by this point, however, and while the British provincials occupied themselves with the Hurons, my marines got in the chump shot on the advancing regulars, killing several.

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While the British held, I'd done enough damage to get an edge on the attrition game, and had moved up my second unit of natives to within charging distance of the provincials in the woods.  These were Sauk and Fox, from the hinterland, and while they're not as handy with a musket, they're pure murder in close combat.

Meanwhile, back at the village, VP decided to send his men in.  With a roar and fixed bayonets, the British regulars charged the foremost building, and a bloody skirmish broke out, cut and thrust through windows and the burst doors of the house.  Combat in M&T is bloody and can be decisive.  You keep fighting until someone's reaction test causes them to flee, and fleeing generally results in more casualties.  By the time the fighting was done, I'd lost about half my marines, but the British regulars were broken; only one man limped away from the fight.

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The victorious marines then sent a volley into the American militia that had been creeping up in the shadow of the British.  They killed one, and the rest took to their heels.

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On the left, things were swinging my way as well.  My marines were winning the battle of attrition against the regulars.  VP got a volley off against the natives moving up, but only managed to kill one, and the rest closed in.  With their blood up, they chased the provincials down, and killed them to the last man.  A second card activation then sent them into the already reduced unit of regulars, who decided that all the drill in the world hadn't prepared them for a knife fight in the woods.  The remnants of the regulars took to their heels, and all of a sudden, VP's flank was open.

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Although he still had a unit of provincials in play, VP had yet to set fire to any of the buildings, and I only needed to cause three more casualties to win.  With time getting short in the evening, we decided to call the game.

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This was a terrific game.  The activation mechanics in the game create a real sense of tension.  There was a point where VP had dominated activation in the bottom half of one turn, and the top of the next.  He was putting real pressure on me, and I was definitely on the back foot.  But then, of course, the tempo swung my way, and with mostly French cards left to draw, was able to hit him again and again with only a limited opportunity for him to react.  Despite the advantages my men in the buildings had, the fight there was touch and go, so the timing of winning the battle for the house, and then sweeping in on the flank, made this feel like a terrific come-from-behind win.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed this game.  400 points took us 2 1/2 hours from set up to clean up, and that was with plenty of rule-perusing and "how do we do that again?" thrown into the mix.  Painting up a second 200 points of this is going to be a priority, I think, and I'm sure VP will be up for a rematch.

FMB