Sunday, May 19, 2013

Meet Luten: Halfling Bard

Pretty much my whole DnD/Pathfinder career has been spent playing a fighter. And why not? fighters are the first in, last out, which really reflects my overall gaming strategy (hit quick and hit hard)--although that strategy has not really worked out well in the past and thanks to B.H. Liddell Hart's book "Strategy," I am slowly learning why. But we'll save Hart for another posting.

Earlier this year, I wrote of the death of my 4th level fighter at the hands of a mounted orc and a hot d20. I then tried a cleric, who I do not believe even made it out of that session. After some thought I decided to have some fun and play a bard. Luten, the harmonica playing halfling bard, was born, as detailed in the past post.

I am having fun with the bard. As mentioned in the earlier post, he led an Orc patrol around a rock outcropping like the pied piper, allowing my companions to pick them off one at a time. Luten has not been without his issues, though, and this player quickly learned (the hard way) that bards do not play their music in silence, as I awoke a camp of sleeping orcs, who proceeded to slaughter all but myself and one other of our party. That other lone survivor (as soon as I saw the slaughter I headed out of camp and toward safety) was a wizard who easily slew a score of orcs. In fact, so impressed was Luten, that he wrote a song about "Diesil the Orc Slayer" giving my companions a +1 bonus against orcs.

It's been fun. I bought a Pathfinder Character Portfolio to flush him out, a miniature, and a book on playing halfings. I should be able to pick them up from the local online game store this week.

Happy gaming! Roll well and live!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Warehouse Sale!

No two words excite a gamer more than "Warehouse Sale!" One of our local online game dealers, Miniature Market, had such a sale to commemorate the annual "Geekway to the West," held just down the road. The warehouse was open to the public to buy games at discounted prices and other games were dramatically marked down. I put myself on a budget ($100) because I will be moving soon and wanted to make sure I had a good stock of games before my money went into living expenses and stuff for the new house.

I've been looking for a good tactical level game pre-1800. Men of Iron (GMT) is out of stock so that was one of my shopping goals--to secure a game along those lines...something different for me. I had also been wanting to buy Crown of Roses, but have been reluctant to pay $80 for the game.

I ended up buying four games. I did get Crown of Roses for $50 and bought Chariots of Fire as my "something different" game.

I also bought a game called Rugby World. Talk about "something different." It looks fun though and I can't wait to play. The final game I picked up, for four dollars, was Barons, a card game that seems to have been well-received on boardgamegeek.

If you aren't familiar with Miniature Market, I encourage you to check out their website. They have quite a wide selection and some incredible prices.

Well, that's it for now. I will write more later...including a posting about playing Liberty with my older son and an update on my Stan Musial / Ted Williams career replays. Here's a preview: I haven't gotten far. Oh, and sorry for the lack of pictures this time out...just wanted to get something out there.

And just as I finish up I get an email about GMT games having a week-long 50% off sale. Eh...maybe the spending freeze can wait another week.

Roll well and live!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Liberty (aka Oedipus's Dice)

I've been boardgaming for a while now (since grade school) and the first game I remember playing was 1776: Birth of a Nation with my father. He played the Americans and I played the British. I won the game and he wasn't pleased. "It's not right to beat the Americans, even in a game." Those words, I think, stuck with me and have cursed not only me, but my children, with poor dice rolling. I really didn't make the connection between this incident and my poor dice rolling until I read Oedipus for a class and wrote a paper on curses. At that point it became clear: me and my descendants were cursed because I beat the Americans as the British in a Revolutionary War game. Interestingly, when I mentioned this to a friend of mine and gaming buddy, he pointed out that every time we played an American Revolution game, I played the Americans. Huh, I thought, maybe there was something to the curse hypothesis after all.

But how does one break a curse? The obvious solution would have been to challenge my dad in a game, but he's been deceased for 20+ years so that wasn't possible. I saw several alternative options: I could play a Revolutionary War game against one of my two sons as the British and throw the game and let the Americans win, or I could play as the Americans, let the British win, and then forgive my son for beating me in an alternate reality curse breaking game. Unfortunately, my youngest son doesn't care much for wargames and my oldest son keeps rather busy, so I opted for a third alternative: I would play a solo game, but seriously try to win as the British while the Americans would hold on for dear life. Either way, if the British won, I'd break the curse by telling myself it was okay. If the Americans won, I'd break the curse by declaring "vengeance" upon the prior loss.

I decided to break the curse using Liberty, an easy to play block game by Columbia Games.

1775 - Not much happened the first year. Both sides built up forces. The British did try to attack Baltimore, but were repulsed by General Arnold and his forces.

The War Begins

An Early Attack on Baltimore

1776 - Both sides built up and reinforced.

1777 -  The war begins to heat up as the British take Philadelphia in a decisive battle. Meanwhile, Gates attacks Carleton at Ticonderoga and takes a beating, leaving the fort in British hands. Arnold tries to retake Philly but fails. Essential the British were taking a two prong approach: attack from the North and take the Middle Colonies. I really did not bother much with New England or the Northeast. My goal was to divide the American forces between north and south and then start cutting supply.

The British Push for the Middle Colonies
At this point, the Americans were still not able to bring in the French.

1778 - The British were real close to winning and gave a grand push to try to wrap things up before the French entered the war. As it was, with the French out of the war, the British were able to leave the West Indies open. In the opening move, the British attacked Baltimore, Yorktown, and New Brunswick while the Americans attacked Ticonderoga. All four attacks succeeded, leaving Britain in control of the middle colonies, and the Americans in control of Ticonderoga and the North. At this point, the British had enough points to win, but the Americans countered by retaking New Brunswick and then taking St. John's. In an interesting twist, Washington ended up in the North while Gates ended up in New Jersey. The turn ended with the British having 26 VPs and no French entry.

Washington Moves North
1779 - The British and Americans work out a prison exchange (pretty much even up). Not much really happened this turn. Washington moved north to attack Montreal and the British took Charleston, bringing them to within 2 VPs of victory. The Americans once again failed their French entry roll.

1780 - This was definitely an exciting year. The Americans took Quebec and shored up the south in an effort to prevent the British from winning. They then attacked NYC and Boston, taking Boston, but losing to the British at the battle of NYC. The British took Springfield, setting them up for a gaming winning push against Hartford and Boston. They managed to retake Boston, but lost at Hartford. The war would continue another year, and without the French. (Really? Six rolls and I can't get an 8 or higher?)

1781-83 - With only three years left in the war, both sides shifted gears. Previously, the British had been attacked high-value targets while the Americans were doing the opposite. At this point in the war, the British started picking up a number of smaller VP targets, effectively using their heretofore unused Indian allies. The Americans, on the other hand, in an attempt to concentrate their forces and prevent the British from winning, started attacking higher-value targets like NYC. They also made a move in the South to prevent the British from winning a southern strategy. The French never would enter the war and the British flirted with 30 VPs the entire last three turns. At the end of 1782 I realized they could have won had they taken Ft. Pitt with the Shawnee. The British managed to get just 30 VPs at the end of 1783 to win the game.

The British Closing in on the Americans for the Win
A few notes about this game:

1) I played the cards randomly.
2) I often forgot to roll for weather effects. I'm sure that would have impacted the game.
3) French intervention is CRITICAL. While it's possible for the Americans to win without the French (as they almost did this game), it is very difficult. Same with the British, I don't see how they can win if the French intercede. The British have to hit hard and hit early. I would actually like to see some modified French roll based on the year...the longer the game goes, the easier it would be to bring them in and vice-versa. It would reflect real-life where the French waiting for a while...or maybe base it on British/American VPs?
4) I think too often I would fight until the end--all three rounds or until one side was eliminated. In hindsight, knowing now how hard it is to replace units, I would have fought more limited engagements.
5) The British need to make use of their Indian forces. I kept them in stasis most of the game, but they made a difference in the end.

Was the curse broken? Only time will tell. I have won two games of Power Grid since then, but that game doesn't involve dice.

It's a fun game and I'm looking forward to playing this again--maybe even with a real person.

Happy Gaming! Roll well and live!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Power Grid: Double Win!

I have been doing much more gaming than blogging lately, but I do have a lot going on in my life right now (new job, school, daughter getting married). Still, I'd like to bring everyone up-to-date with a series of posts, starting with a summary of two games I played of Power Grid, a fun and easy game in which players compete to build the most effective electrical power network. I say "effective" and not "biggest" because while someone might have a larger network, if they can't power it, they may end up losing.

There are no dice involved in the game (something I enjoy) and the mechanics are easy and balanced. Players take turns bidding for power plants, buying fuel (coal, oil, nuclear, and garbage), expanding their network, and powering their cities. The game puts the leader at a disadvantage and those trailing at an advantage, making the game pretty even throughout.

The first game I played was with my two sons, 23 and 13. The game was pretty close but I had made a critical mistake--I invested heavily in fossil fuel plants on the last turn, we were nearly out of oil and coal. My 13 year old bought his fuel first and could have bought the rest of the coal (there are limits to what one can buy to ensure someone doesn't monopolize any of the fuels) but didn't, allowing me to power my 17+ city network and win the game.

My Winning Position in the First Game (I am blue)
The second game was during the First Annual International Table Top Game Day. Again, I won, but barely. The game was pretty close throughout, but toward the end I went on an expansion frenzy and pulled ahead.

International Table Top Game Day
On the last turn, my closest opponent decided not to expand, but to save up for a better power plant the next turn. I was able to take advantage of his decision to win the game that turn.

My Winning Position in the Second Game (I am once again playing blue)
The game is fun and is becoming one of those "really don't have to think about the rules a whole lot" games that our group enjoys playing. The basic game comes with two maps: Germany and the United States, and expansion maps and power plants are available.

Roll well and live!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mid February Update, Part 2

As mentioned in my previous post, I've been a busy little gamer this past month and have been having a lot of fun. In addition to the annual MLK Day gaming, I was able to play a session of Pathfinder and several other "lite" games this past weekend, mostly with my son and others.

I actually made it through a gaming session this year with my character in tact, a Bard. I've had a lot of fun playing my halfing and have been pretty potent with my sling staff which, with my high dexterity, makes me a deadly shot. I've also been able to sing my companions to victory over an assortment of beasts.

This last session was rather uneventful as we had to meet our new companions and explore a simple dungeon. It was a nice break from the massacres we've faced recently.

I may write a different post on my Bard, Luten, later.

Gaming Weekend
This past weekend, a holiday weekend, I was able to play three games in three days.

First, Star Trek Catan. As you can imagine, Star Trek Catan is Settlers of Catan in space, with the addition of some specialist cards that we opted not to use the first time we played--especially since those we played with were new to the Catan world. I found Star Trek Catan a refreshing take on a game that, frankly, really never gets old. The components were nice--little starships were roads, outposts settlements, and starbases cities. Outposts were converted to starbases by the addition of what they call a "habitation ring." A nice mechanic.

Star Trek Catan (toward the end of the game)
Instead of the usually supply of wheat, bricks, etc, players went after resources such as dilithium, tritanium, water, oxygen, and food. Surprisingly though, food didn't correspond to wheat, but instead corresponded to sheep. Still, it was an easy game to pick up on and easily transition from standard Catan. Maybe next time we'll play with the specialist cards.

I liked it,except that the starships were too high and bulky for the game and it was hard to see what was going on with the game and the map. Also, the dark hexes made it difficult to see the entirety of the game. Still, it was fun and a nice variant on this now-classic game.

Next up was a game of War of the Ring with my youngest son. We had been wanting to play this for a while, but never found the time (due to the rules and set up) until this weekend. We had fun. We played the introductory game.

Frodo and Sam are forced to take the long way
He played the Shadow Forces and I played the Free Peoples. I immediately attacked north for a quick victory, but he was able to shore up his defenses and whittle down my forces. I could only take one Shadow city. He quickly moved in on Gondor and rolled them up rather quickly. I was hoping to hold in Rohan but he activated Isengard and pressed the attack there and in Lorien. it was a quick victory for the Shadow Forces. In hindsight, my inattention to the ringbearers and to Gondor/Rohan cost me the game. Had I pressed the ringbearers more, he would have devoted more dice to the hunt pool (as it was, by the end of the game he was only putting up one die in the hunt box and when he did role, he rolled well.

He also blocked my middle path, forcing Frodo and Sam to take the long way around Middle Earth) and worked to activate my nations more. I was counting on him to attack and push my political track toward war, but by the time he did (and I did spend a few musters to move them down) it was too late to mount an effective defense.

Victory for the Shadow Forces
The last game of the weekend was a quick Settlers game with my mom, youngest, and old son. It was fun and close, but my youngest was able to score four quick points (largest army, VP, and city upgrade) to win his third game of the weekend. After that, I took him to buy some lottery tickets. Not really, since he's only 13, but it was a good thought.

That's it for now. Next blog entry will be a "meet Luten" post about my new Halfling Bard and the joys of playing that race and class.

Roll well and live!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mid Feburary Update, Part 1

Been a while since I've updated this blog and I have been playing quite a bit of games (for me at least).

First, I've not been able to start my 1944 APBA replay of the Cardinals, but hope to start soon.

Other than that, I've played several games during the past 30 days or so since my last update.

Martin Luther King Day

My group has a tradition of gaming on MLK Day. It started a few years back when we realized we were all off on that day, and with it being a holiday, our schedules were rather flexible. We've had some great game days over the years and usually have a pretty good turnout. Usually, we play one of those "if only we had the time" type of games (for example, Sword of Rome or Napoleonic Wars, or Twilight Imperium). This year we decided to do something different--two things actually. First, we decided on a "light" game--Formula De--and decided to play at the local game shop. It was fun.

Formula De
MLK Formula De Race Near End of First Lap
There were five of us there (AW, DMW, PS, TS and SE) and it was a good race. We raced Monte Carlo since it was the track we were most familiar with and only raced two laps. We've done three laps before but honestly, most of us get bored after two laps. The only plus side to three laps is the need to pit (for almost all of us) which really factors into the strategies employed. We never play with weather or tires (or should I say "tyres"?).

Well, two of us, AW (me) and PS got off to a good start, while DMW struggled. Toward the end of the first lap we were split into two groups: AW and PS out in front, TS, DMW and SE taking up the rear. And that was it for pretty much the rest of the way, although TS managed to close the gap a bit and finish in a solid 3rd.

Castle Panic
After that we grabbed Castle Panic off the shelf and played that. It's a fun coop game we've played before. Basically, players work together to fend off creatures and protect the castle. Sometimes it's an easy go, and at other times the creatures/monsters can overwhelm the castle. The game is always close, but this time we had a good handle on affairs throughout the game.

Victory is Ours!
The next posting I will update you on the life of my Bard (yes, I did say life--he is still alive), my first play of Star Trek Catan, and my first game of War of the Ring in many years.

Thanks for reading. Roll well and live!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New APBA Quest

I'm a big fan of APBA Baseball. By printing sets of cards for every baseball season since 1901, the possibilities are endless. But where does one start? I know some who have started a replay of the entire history of baseball since 1901. Others replay seasons here and there, in no particular order, or will replay the season for one particular team. I knew I wanted to do something, but couldn't decide what.

Then Stan Musial died.

Stan "The Man" Musial was indeed one of the greatest players of all-time and the best player to ever don the redbirds uniform. What does this have to do with APBA? Well, while I've never met Musial, I did send him an APBA box score to autograph for me back in the early 1990s, which he did and at no cost. I can't remember the details of the game, only that it was between the Cardinals "Original Franchise All-Stars" team and some other team. I believe he went 3-4 with 2 HRs and several RBIs. I figured it fitting that he sign it, which he did. It was my prized autograph until I was forced to sell it for financial reasons. Think Curt Schilling's "Bloody Sock." Still, it is one of my fondest memories and my "Stan Musial" story.
While reflecting on this man's career, his contributions to baseball, and his connection to APBA in my mind and in my heart, it dawned on me -- why not replay his entire career? I'm a Cardinals fan, so it's not like I'd be replaying a team I didn't like and frankly, they had some good years in the 40s. The 50s were a dark time in Cardinal history but maybe with me at the helm things will turn out differently?

Then I got to thinking...who else was a great player of that same time? Ted Williams of course! And since the Red Sox are another of my favorite teams I figured it I was going to replay Musial's career, I might as replay Williams's too! So that's what I decided to do: replay the careers of two baseball greats: Ted Williams and Stan Musial. Here are my guidelines:

1) I will start with 1939 (Ted Williams's rookie year) and replay the Red Sox. All 162 games. From there I'll play 1940 (Sox) again, and for 1941 I'll pick up both teams. However, since I currently have a few years in their careers, I probably won't necessarily play them in chronological order. I know. Bad, huh? And I think I'll start with 1944. Williams was off to war, but Musial was home and that was the year the Cardinals played the Browns in the World Series.

2) Unlike some fans (or fanatics), I am not going to look up the details of every game. Instead, I'll just use the lineups provided by APBA. I will, however, limit Williams and Musial to the number of games they played during the regular year--or at least come close. As for the war years, if they did not play during that season, I won't do a replay. Also, I'll probably play all the games against each team at the same time, instead of trying to follow the regular season schedule.

3) As for the playoffs and World Series, I plan to implement a playoff system. The 2nd place team will play the 3rd place team in a best-of-three series and the winner of that will play the pennant winner in a best-of-five series. World Series will be a best-of-seven affair. I will use the regular season records for all teams other than those I am replaying. For those I'm replaying (and I will replay even the non-Williams and non-Musial games) I will substitute my record for their actual season record and see where they would place.

So, that's it. We'll see how far I get :).

Happy gaming! Roll well and live!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy New Year!

Well, Happy New Year! Albeit a few weeks late. I've had quite a busy year so far this year, mostly related to work and the job hunt, so I haven't been gaming very much. I do hope to turn that around in the coming weeks.

I have been playing quite a bit of Pathfinder -- at least two sessions this year. Both of which were fun, but neither of which went well for my characters. Yes, that's right, characters plural.

For the past year I have been playing a fighter. Not a very good one I should add, but I did enjoy mixing it up during combat and wielding my two-handed magic sword with only one hand. I was building up quite a bit of wealth as well and had already reached third level, on the verge of leveling up to fourth level. I was even studying to be a cleric. Life was good. Then we were attacked by some creatures and one of them scored a double 20 against me. Yeah, my head came off. That was early in the session so I rolled up a new character, a cleric of Desna.

I was ready to go with Varion. I had my spells, my figure, and my backstory--I was the step brother of my fighter who was killed. I quickly proved my worth by dispensing luck and healing the injured. But during our second session of the year, I tried to hide myself in some rock outcroppings, tripped, and was killed and eaten by an orc's lizard mount. Not a pleasant way to go. So, figuring I was doomed to death, I decided to roll up a bard.

I had never played a bard before, but it always seemed like a lot of fun. My instrument of choice would be a crude self-invented harmonica, in honor of the Stan "The Man" Musial, who had died just the day before. Once again I had my spells ready and my figure in place. My first chance to prove myself came when we encountered an orc patrol. My group was hidden in a rock outcropping (a different one from where my cleric was killed) and I mesmerized the patrol with my harmonic and brought them past the rock outcropping where my group laid in wait to pick them off one at a time.

Things went downhill after that. We tried to infiltrate an orc camp to liberate some ant-people who had been taken as slaves but we were discovered and a mass of orcs pretty much slew our party. Our rogue had a magic deck which helped to some extent, but ended up drawing the "magic sword of death" card and was killed and turned into an evil sword, but not before he could liberal the ant-people slaves to help us fight. Yeah, they were pretty much slaughtered by did serve as speed bumps.

Our one fighter was killed and replaced by a barbarian, who was also killed. Our wizard and druid fought bravely, but the druid tried to escape by casting a disguise spell to hide as an orc, but one orc wasn't fooled and he slew the druid. The wizard, who killed a total of--get this--16 orcs, managed to cast a spell that helped him escape while my halfing bard was able to sneak past the battle and make his own escape.

It was a bloodbath, but it was a fun bloodbath.

On another note, I ended up buying Britannia for myself for Christmas and have only one game left on my wish list -- Guildford -- which I may soon buy from a friend. After that, I'm done for a while.

I write this on Martin Luther King Day, a day where I and many of my fellow gamers have the day off. As is tradition, we are getting together to play games. We usually play an all-day wargame (yeah, I know, ironic since the day is to celebrate the life of a man of peace) but with the inauguration today and busy schedules, we are getting together for a quick game of Formula De. It's a fun game and we will have about 1/2 dozen or so--maybe more.

Happy gaming! Roll well and live!