Saturday, December 22, 2012

New Game Purchases

With the holidays fast approaching, some great movies out (including a 12+ hour Lord of the Rings marathon) and having started graduated school, my gaming has dried up somewhat. However, as is tradition, I bought myself a little Christmas present -- Mr. Madison's War (GMT) and ASL Starter Expansion Pack #1.

I almost bought Crown of Roses, but with it being December 2012, I really wanted to buy an 1812 game during the war's 200th anniversary year, and Mr. Madison's War looked like the best of the bunch. The components looked good and honestly, I've never played a GMT card-driven game I didn't like, although there was one--the name escapes me now--that struck me as "more work than it's worth."

The other game I bought was the ASL Starter Expansion Kit #1. I used to really be into ASL, but when I needed to raise some cash, it was the first game that went ($300). I miss it, and when I saw this game on the shelf ("Everything thing you need to play ASL") I figured it would be a good way to get back into the game without plunking down a lot of money. ASL can be expensive.

Other than that, I've been playing Magic with my son and Pathfinder. I played DM for the first time in a long time and enjoyed it, although it is definitely more work than playing a character, that's for sure.

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season and I'll see you in 2013!

Friday, November 23, 2012

A New Game and a Reunion

Haven't posted in a while, but I am hoping to get on a regular schedule with my updates.  Been doing some work with my other blogs (mainly just shutting them down for now) and cleaning up my BBG profile. Also worked on a new microbadge for AvalonCon attendees.  I've designed about a dozen or so microbadges to date.  I enjoy it, and it provides a steady stream of geek gold income.

As for gaming, I've played two games this past month (three if you count the aborted Kingmaker game with my youngest son) -- one a new game (Conquest of Paradise), the other an update of an old favorite (Britannia). 

Conquest of Paradise 

Box Cover
This game reminded me a lot of Twilight Imperium. According to the blurb on BBG, Conquest of Paradise is "a game of empire building in the "Polynesian Triangle" of the central Pacific Ocean for two, three, or four players. Players explore the unknown ocean around them, hoping to discover the most lucrative island groups, and colonize them. They build canoes and train warriors to create a force to defend their empire, while forging lines of communication with their developing discoveries. Resources are scarce; using them wisely is a key to victory. Investing in exploration widens your empire. Building warriors strengthens your empire. Investing resources into cultural innovations can yield unexpected dividends, like tattooing, hula dancing, surfing, or even the giant moai statues of Easter Island fame."

I can't really say it better myself.  This is the first (and probably only) game I've ever played of that theme.  At first I thought it was European conquest of the Polynesia region, but soon found out it was the original conquest of the area by natives.  I thought that was an interesting take.  The components are top notch and I really enjoyed the game mechanics.

My Position at the End of the Game
Like Twilight Imperium, players have to make some tough decisions -- the old "bread or guns" question -- do you spend resources to expand, settle, and progress, or spend it to defend, or maybe even attack?  The cultural innovations, in addition to rewarding VPs, gives the player certain perks.  I can't recall the details, but the "stop an invasion" helped me win my first game.

Another reason I won is because I "discovered" New Zealand (rich and lucrative) right next to my home island, and my opponents waited until the last turn to mount an attack on me, which failed due to the defenses I had built up and my "stop an invasion" card.

Overall, it was a fun game--although I'm not sure how often I'll play it.  It's definitely not an "I have to get this game," but if someone suggests it I'll play.


Avalon Hill Edition
I played this game quite a bit in the 90s, and a few times at AvalonCon. It's like "History of the World" but with a focus on Great Britain.  Players play a particular color and different invading groups based on that color.  For example, I played green and played the Welsh, the Caledonians, the Danes and the Jutes.  Each play takes turn playing his group based on the history of the group.  The game started with my Caledonians and Welsh and the Jutes and Danes came in later -- the Danes in force.  Historically, the game begins with the Roman invasion and encompasses the time period up to the Norman invasion (and then some).  Civilizations ebb and flow and great leaders (including Arthur, Harold, William, and Cnut) live and die.  Victory points are earned in various ways (occupying, holding, being voted Bretwald or King, or killing specific enemies), again according to the player's civilization and reflected the objectives of that particular group (for example, the Welsh gain victory points by destroying Roman forts or occupying York during a specified game turn).  The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

The Welsh Resurgence (Fantasy Flight)
It's a fun game, despite the fact I came in last place.  I got pounded early and, while my Welsh enjoyed a resurgence, I couldn't do what I needed to do with the Jutes and the Danes to make a difference.

The version I played was the updated Fantasy Flight version.  The rules and game played just about the same, but the components were given the "Fantasy Flight" treatment (better graphics, more color, etc).

Unlike Conquest of Paradise, this is a game I will likely buy in the near future.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Walk Off Single Wins 1933 All-Star Game for the NL

I've long been a fan of APBA Baseball.  I started playing in a league during college (where my California Medflys beat the Newark Neanderthals one year for the title) and after graduating, played a few replays.  I wouldn't replay the entire season, but would replay the playoffs using a system similar to today's playoffs.

APBA Game box as it appeared when I started playing in the 1980s
After a while the game took a back shelf to raising kids but was renewed last year after my son and I traveled through Lancaster, PA and I paid homage to the home of APBA -- a few months before it relocated to Atlanta.  There, I bought the basic game and the 2010 season and my son and I had fun during the rest of our trip playing Red Sox vs. Cardinals.  When I returned home to St Louis I ordered a few past seasons, but my writing business spiraled downward after that and I spent most of my time job hunting.

Me in front of APBA office (Lancaster, PA)
 Then, I received the 1933 All-Star team via email and decided to replay that game.  Well, two months later, I finally got around to playing the game and what a nail biter it was!  Here is my summary of the game:

Philadelphia, PA (AP) - September 5, 1933 - After months of delay and change in location due to striking workers in Chicago, the inaugural all-star game was finally played at Shribe Park in Philadelphia and the all-star game tradition could not have gotten off to a better start, with the NL team beating out the AL team with a bottom-of-the-ninth walk off single by the Red's Chick Hafey.

Yankee teammates Ruth and Gehrig pose before the 1933 All-Star Game. 
They would disappoint fans by going a combined 1-for-6, though
Lou Gehrig would record the first-ever all star game hit.
The AL struck early in the second after NL starter "Wild Bill" Hallahan earned his nickname by loading the bases with a single, a walk, and a hit batsman.  Joe Cronin hit in Al Simmons with a fielder's choice, but Hallahan settled down and the AL was not able to score any more runs that inning.

The NL tied the game in the bottom of the second with an RBI double by Giant's first-baseman Bill Terry.   An RBI double by Philadelphia shortstop Dick Bartell scored Pepper Martin to give the NL the lead.  An RBI single by Al Simmons, who lead the AL All-Stars by going 4-for-5, tied the game in the top of the ninth, setting up and exciting showdown between Lefty Gomez and the best the NL had to offer.

Wally Berger led off the bottom-of-the-ninth with a fly out to right field.  Bill Terry then doubled to right and Gomez walked Jimmie Wilson to set up the double play.  Dick Bartell spoiled that plan with a sacrifice bunt that sent the runners to second and third.  With two outs, all-star game MVP "Chick" Hafey stepped up to the plate.  Hafey had already singled off Gomez and with Terry on third and Wilson on second, Hafey smacked the ball hard to right, scoring Terry and winning the game for the Nationals.

Al Simmons definitely had the best game, going 4-for-5 with an RBI and run scored, but played for the losing team.  While Bill Terry had a great game, I decided to award Chick Hafey the MVP for his walk-off single.

The St Louis Cardinal's contingent to the inaugural All-Star Game posing with former teammate Chick Hafey. 
The Cardinals accounted for four starters in all, including winning pitcher Bill Hallahan.
One of the great things about APBA is that it's more than playing a game - it's like your actually watching the game.  The flavor of the game (especially the master game) lends itself to a lot of enjoyable replay moments, like this 1933 All-Star Game.  Kudos to the new owners of APBA for sending out these free sample sets on occasion, it really helps to build and create loyal customers.

PS.  I know the actually game was played in Cominsky Park,  but I didn't think about looking up the exact location until midway through the game.  Oops.  I promise to do better research ahead of time :).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Twilight Imperium

Like most people who've played TI3, I loved the game, but wasn't happy with how the ISC card is used. It just seemed like it was a "cheap" 2 VPs and that whoever ended up with the card the most ended up winning the game.

My group experimented with different variants. We played that it was worth only one point and we tried it worth 2 points until the stage II objectives were revealed, at which point it was worth only 1. My group disagreed on how to use this and the game was eventually shelved.
The infamous Imperial Strategy Card
Recently, my son (23) and his group wanted to play and we played with the original rules and his group's reaction was pretty much the same, so we took to the task of doing additional research. Of all the variants we came across, we decided to use the one put out by FFG and the how the card (I think) is used with the expansion.

Basically, a player gets one point for Mecatol Rex (making that even more important) and can qualify for any number of public objectives that turn (using the optional rule that the game is played with the objectives exposed, which we've liked the last several times we've played). Or, the player can chose to conduct a "free" build while not allowing others to do so.

I must admit that I really enjoyed the game. It seemed to me there was much more strategy and that we got to do more toward achieving the objectives. In fact, one time I picked the ISC card I chose the rapid mobilization option instead of the objectives option, although I realized after that turn I could have won the game had I been able to qualify for several objectives. But then again, if I hadn't of built, I could have been invaded and lost a few of those objectives, so who the heck knows.

Toward the end of the game.  I played blue and had the "Universities of Jol-Nar."
Having said that, the player who invaded Mecatol Rex (MR) early and garrisoned it with troops (it was the Federation Sol player) ended up winning the game. Yes, we failed to retake MR (no one had the army to do that) and we could have tried to take his homeworld (it was wide open) but, we were all busy with our own objectives, none of which involved MR (out of five players only one had a MR secret objective).  I actually tried this strategy the last game we played, but someone had a "knock out the population of a planet" card and I was unable to hold on to MR.

Federation of Sol (red) garrisoning Mecatol Rex
Federation of Sol "Race Card," giving them what we call the special "breeding" ability
Overall I liked the variant card and will probably use it from now on. In fact, it does motivate me more to purchase the expansion, but I have several other games on my wishlist ahead of the Shattered Empires expansion.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Federation Commander

I played Federation Commander the other day for the first time and really liked it -- for the most part. My journey to Federation Commander began many, many, many years ago with the original Star Fleet Battles.  Not sure if I had the first edition pocket game or the boxed game.  All I remember is that plasma torpedoes were handled using a paper cone.  They were deadly, but slow moving and not very effective.  I played a few times through high school (1980s) and early college, then the complexity of the rules became too much and I dropped the game.  It was a fun game, and I liked the impulse movement mechanic, but when the game became a matter of ECM vs. ECCM, it became more work than it's worth.  I kind of feel the same way about Advanced Squad Leader, although I still enjoy that game on a smaller scale.

Original Star Fleet Battles Game
Since then, I've been waiting for a simpler, more streamlined version of the game. They came out with a few easier games over the years, although I can't recall their names. Then I came across Federation Commander.  Eager, I bought the game (Romulan Border -- I'm a Gorn fan -- and Klingon Attack) back in 2008 and after that, let it gather dust on my shelf.  Just didn't have anyone to play with.  Then, I found out someone in my game group is a big Federation Commander (FC) enthusiast and after that it was just a matter of finding the time.  That day came last weekend.

I played the Klingons and was teamed up with Stephen Brasseur (, who played the Lyrans.  Two others played the Federation (Jim D, affectionately known as "Big D") and the Hydrans (Brian).  We played with 2-3 ships of 270-300 points each.  I selected an F5 Frigate and a C7 Battle Cruiser.  My plan was to send the F5 ahead to take out drones and draw some fire as my C7 moved into position around the three Federation frigates. Yeah, that didn't work out so well.

First, the Hydrans came barreling in from their corner to join in the fray while my ally, the Lyrans, pulled a Russia and diddled their way to the front.  As a result, my two ships came under very heavy fire.  While my strategy worked to some extent, I failed to adhere my adversaries pre-game warning about overloaded photon torpedoes.

Federation Commander SSD (Ship System Display), which allows tracking of ship's power, weaponry, damage, and other functions.

I decided to take out the Federation fleet one ship at a time and did some damage to one of the three frigates, which subsequently disengaged.  However, I left both ships vulnerable to a barrage of overloaded photon torpedoes that effectively ended the game.

It was fun and I am looking forward to playing again, although I wonder if I'll ever be able to pick up on all the tips and tricks others have picked up over the years.  I do plan to explore the game more, play some solo games, and many sign up for a three month online subscription.

Having said that, I never try to end a game session without some "lessons learned":

1) When playing against the Federation, stay more than 8 hexes away; use speed and acceleration to do this.
2) Launch drones during impulse 8 of one turn then impulse 1 of the next turn.
3) Always save a few direct fire weapons for opportunistic fire later in the same turn.

I'm sure there were more lessons I should have learned, but that's all I recall.

I liked the game for the most part, but the record keeping was still a bit much.  The game does offer an even easier "fleet" scale that might be easier for new players.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

July Gaming Recap

I've been playing a lot of games lately.  Which, given my income deficient status (my writing work has dried up and I've devoted most of my work time to finding a regular full-time job), is probably a good idea.  Yeah, it's been a slow summer, but gaming is a great hobby for those on a tight budget -- as long as you have the games (Al's collection) and enjoy the games you have (and don't forget your friends' game collections).  It helps that my sons enjoy playing some of the same games I enjoy.

My youngest (12) and I have been participating in a well-run Pathfinder campaign with three others.  It's been great and we've leveled up twice already -- he is playing a roque/fighter and I'm playing a fighter.  We've been playing for a few months now and play every-other-weekend. It's a fun time and I actually think it helps him with his Asperger's.

I've also hooked up with a Wednesday night gaming group. We played two games of Sword of Rome (I played the Gauls both times) and had a lot of fun.  We spent one night playing Mustangs, which I really enjoyed, and the group is now playing another air game, although out-of-town interviews and a back-to-school night have kept me away from those games. You can read my Mustangs AAR here.

Closer to home, my son and I have been playing Magic the Gathering. It's funny, but our decks couldn't be more black and white.  LOL.  That's an insider joke.  He has a black magic (swamp) deck and I have a white magic (plains) deck.  He whips out the evil creatures and I pacify them. I also love, love, love my griffins and griffin riders.  When I amass a few of those it's hard to stop me.

We also played a game of Axis and Allies and a few rounds of Stratego.  On July 4 (or thereabouts) my older son brought over Dominion.  I didn't think I would like it at first, but I really enjoyed it (he kicked out butts, though) and I like the idea of a game that changes every time you play it.

Coming up, I plan to replay the 1933 All-Star game using APBA Baseball game, and my Wednesday night group is beginning Clash of Monarchs on 8/22.
That's it for now.  Roll well, and live.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Final Sorting of the Games

Well, I finally sorted my games and updated my collection on boardgamegeek.  I decided to categorize the games by historical period and/or type and I'm very happy with the final outcome. There's very little, if any, overlap between the games. I also created a number of boardgamegeek lists sorting my games.

There are a few gaps in my gaming list, as indicated by a few entries in my wish list.  The main games I'm looking for now are ASL Starter Kit Expansion 1 (seems like a nice general introduction to the game), Brittania, and Guildford.  The latter represents the only battlefield I've visited for which I do not have a game.  That and maybe Wilson's Creek, but I don't know many games that cover that battle. There's an old SPI edition.  Maybe I should put that on my wish list.

Anyway, here are my eight categories of games:

Family Games
"Grand" Wargames
World History
American History
American Civil War
World War II
Sports Games
Roleplaying Games

I won't sort the games out here, but you can see my collection at Al's Boardgame Collection and from there, you can find my geeklists and how I've sorted the games.  It's not a perfect sorting, but it works for me.

It was fun sorting my board games and wargames and very fulfilling getting the entire list into I've been wanting to get that done for a long time now.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cleaning up the Game Collection: The Struggle Continues

Okay, I think I've finally decided how to organize my game collection. The struggle I have is that I have so many games that I feel like I'm a jack-of-all games, master of none. So, I have decided to categorize and prioritize my game collection.

For each of the below categories I will declare one primary game, three secondary games, and six tertiary games, giving me 10 games in each category for a total of no more than 40 games. Yeah, I'm gaming light.

Role-Playing Games (Pathfinder will be my primary game in this category)
Group Games (Twilight Imperium and Napoleonics Wars will be my top games)
One-on-One Games (Magic and War of the Ring will be in this category)
Topical Games (APBA will be my primary game in this category)

I realize there will be overlap but I'll work that to the game's advantage. I also realize I probably need a "Misc" category for card games and such.

So, with a move and moving sale just around the corner I think I'll pack up and go from there.