Category Archives: Game Review

RPG Review – How We Came to Live Here

Brennan Taylor's Anasazi-like RPG How We Came to Live Here Copyright: Galileo Games

How We Came to Live Here
Brennan Taylor
Copyright: Galileo Games

Despite once being nearly wiped off the face of the planet, the Native American culture of the early Americas has a flavor that if nothing else offers a unique experience to Gamers. Brennan Taylor’s How We Came to Live Here is a role-play heavy RPG that ‘takes its inspiration from the mythology of the people native to the American Southwest’—specifically the Anasazi.

The Anasazi, which in the Native American dialect of Navajo means “Ancient Ones” (or “Ancient Enemies”) were a groups of people who resided in present day Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. They’re known culturally for constructing cliff dwellings: rock, stone and adobe mud built homes that were carved into the vertical faces of cliffs and that were sometimes only accessible via rope or by rock climbing. (They’re also famous for having their very own X-Files episode, “Anasazi”– one that implies that their entire culture just might have come from aliens, instead of course being spectacularly indigenous)

Cliff Palace, at Mesa Verde Public Domain

Cliff Palace, at Mesa Verde
Pueblo People cliff dwellings
Public Domain

The world of How We Came to Live Here (HWCH) is therefore set in a distinctly and obviously non-Eurocentric setting that has a hugely different approach to the concept of role-playing.

Similar to Brian K Vaughn’s Saga comic which chronicles a family instead of a superhero, HWCH places its emphasis on the village, community and relationships that exist inside the shared world that players create at the table instead of simply a single party of random adventurers.

The (Game Play) Goals

The unique thing about How We Came to Live Here, like most indie games, is that there is no ultimate character leveling that players strive for.

Instead, players work to create a shared experience with one another at the table: again something no different than any other RPG out there. However the emphasis in HWCH is on creating and building a community full of relationships while at the same time balancing their characters own unique and individual Ambitions. Ambitions are positive or negative experiences within the game world that impact their character on a personal level. The game chooses to define these conflicting goals through its rather interesting Village Web (explained later).

Through relationships and Ambitions, How We Came to Live Here focuses on creating tales, and myths—memories of these shared experiences that are developed through game-play. These memories or stories all take place within the context of this pseudo-Anasazi culture the game is based upon, and overall the game does a pretty great job of facilitating this process throughout.

Player Characters

How We Came to Live Here - Character Sheet Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

How We Came to Live Here – Character Sheet
Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

How We Came to Live Here starts and ends with a village. From the outset the game stresses a communal mentality and the very first thing you do in the game is come up with this concept of a distinct and common village from which all characters come from.

The source book, available in-print and via digital download, goes into great length on how to construct a village name that fits within the unique world view of the Fifth World, the pseudo-Anasazi setting of the RPG. Nouns and verbs are the building blocks of naming conventions within the game with Sky Village, Yellow Plains Village or Raging River Village expected iterations meant to embody a village concept. Likewise, PC-names are given descriptive parameters as well.

Following the village name, players choose their clans. And this is where character differentiation first comes into play, and also where the mythology, culture and world-immersion starts.

In the Fifth World mythology of How We Came to Live Here, a make-believe fable crafted by the designer to describe a creation story, clans are given the equal of traits most gamers would identify as racial abilities from games like your standard fare of D&D. Instead of Human, Gnome and Dwarf, you have clans like the Wolf Clan, the Sweet Water Clan, the Sparrow Clan and the Red Earth Clan. Through these unique family lineages, players take on traits, for example famous warriors, spiritual leaders, warm and caring caretakers and others, all of which lay the groundwork for what a player has as a starting concept for their character.

The emphasis with these clan traits is again, the village. Players are asked how these adopted traits will come into play with others within their village. There is no emphasis on magic, ranged weapons, immunity to sleep or other crunch material. Instead there is an explicit description of how clans are viewed within the context of the communities around them: leaders, warriors, spiritual elders and the like.

Following clans, players next decide on gender. Notice gender, not sex.

Unlike traditional gaming, How We Came to Live Here places a great deal of emphasis on gender, with characters being allowed to do certain things within the context of their gender as opposed to their biological sex. While the traditional roles of gender are largely followed, with women being caretakers and cooks, tasked with raising animals and the like while men are focused on dog training, fighting and wrestling, within the game there is a nod towards the transgendered and players have the option of playing a specific sex, but then playing towards a gender that could in fact be the opposite of this, recognizing the differentiated binary of the two, clearly based on historical traits that in some respects were centuries ahead of their time in terms of equality, and unsurprisingly entirely non-Euro-centric in formation– see Two Spirits.

A Male two-spirit engaged in weaving, or as the English and Spanish settlers colloquially refered to them as 'sodomites'Source: FirstPeople.us

A Male two-spirit engaged in weaving, or as the English and Spanish settlers colloquially referred to them as ‘sodomites’
Source: FirstPeople.us

Despite this openness, gender is a pretty important character element in the game and defines specific activities that player characters are allowed to do without consequence in the game world. These activities affect how their village views them, either favorably or as Criminals. Crimes are transgressions the game defines as ranging from as small a thing as lying to outright murder and rape. Crimes themselves are one of the games core mechanics in terms of plot devices and storytelling and one of the most developed things in the overall system itself.

Once this character groundwork is done, ability scores, what the game calls Pools are chosen next. Unlike your standard Strength, Dexterity or Intelligence traits, How We Came to Live Here relies on amorphous groupings of descriptive ones like Skill, Strength (well, obviously Strength is included), Spirit and Faith being the primary ‘stats’ which are then broken down into descriptive terms within these like Household, Motherhood, Kinship and Fidelity. The Pools are shorthand for the games other core mechanic, the Dice Pool (explained later).

Names are chosen next, with nouns and verbs being the standard: so Running Leg, High Laugh and Catches Wolves are the expected variations (likewise, X-Files Cancer-man or Smoking Man plays a nice homage to the native culture, some four-hundred years after the beginnings of eradication). As interesting as the other bits about characterization are this is actually the first chance for uniqueness in the game in terms of character development simply for the fact that it is the first open-ended choice that players must make, but one that can heavily define their gaming experience.

For instance, the character in my current How We Came to Live Here campaign is called, Makes-Good-Arrows (or he was anyway—explained later). The implications in the name are obvious, but somewhat more ambiguous and thought-provoking are the other PCs: Hits the Mark, Loves the Strange and Raging River. Here for the first time the true beauty of the game begins to be felt as players look to really embody a concept for their character, rather than a way of simply playing a rote concept (i.e. the dwarf cleric). It’s a subtle difference, but one that is highly individualistic per player.

How We Came to Live Here - Medicine Kiva Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

How We Came to Live Here – Medicine Kiva
Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

Once you have a name your next step is choosing a class—or rather which Kiva Society or Societies you belong to. Kivas are specific membership groupings within a community and are the games equivalent of classes. Their closest European counterparts would probably be Guilds.

However, rather than a warrior guild, mage guild or thieves guild,  the Kivas in How We Came to Live Here correspond to more humanistic duties that these societies perform within their villages.

For example, good hunters can be found in the Dog Society, clerics and wizards correspond to the Ghost Kiva (if they are males) or the Bone Kiva (for females). From the outset you have these Societies full of individuals who are good hunters, metalworkers, holy members, caretakers of the dead and warriors, with rankings within individual societies serving as the traditional and ubiquitous ‘class levels’.  While most of these societies are open in terms of membership and duties, others are secretive and even nefarious in purpose, giving the game the perfect vehicle for conflict.

The next and most important part of character creation is crating the Village Web.

How We Came to Live Here - Village Web Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

How We Came to Live Here – Village Web
Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

Players take turns placing their player on a sheet the game provides called the Village Web. They each proceed to create either positive or negative personal relationships with each other character or non-player characters that are created by the players themselves and that exist in the village they created in the first step. And here is what the creation process has really been building up to.

The entire process up to this point has been largely created within a vacuum in terms of character genesis. But what the village web does is force (lightly of course) players to develop not simply their characters motivations, but also how their view of the community will ultimately affect their play style and their characters place in the world.

It is through this Village Web that the entire setting being created takes shape, one that stresses rather some nebulous disconnected hero that exists solely in the minds of the individual players, one that must incorporate the goals, aspirations and connectedness of the other players and non-players in the game itself. It is a great way of inducing shared community building and what really makes the game stand out from other indie games in that players, even before playing are equally responsible for crating the world their characters are going to inhabit and how they will ultimately interact with that world.

The last step is to assign character Ambitions. These are motivations their characters will pursue over the course of the game, things like achieving a higher rank in a Kiva Society, repairing a relationship on the Village Web or even investigating outside threats to the village.

The Mechanics

How We Came to Live Here - Scene Resolution Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

How We Came to Live Here – Scene Resolution
Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

There are three principal mechanics that the game uses to implement its system: dual Story-tellers, Dice Pool and Conflict Resolution and Corruption/Crime rankings.

The first mechanic, dual Storytellers is perhaps the best and most unique story mechanic of the game. Unlike most other games, How We Came to Live Here has two story-tellers or Game Masters running a session: an Inside and Outside Story-teller. These roles correspond to events taking place either within the village or outside it, with threats being either village elders, food shortages or other intra-community conflicts and outside threats being monsters, other villages and droughts.

While this sounds simple enough, what it really does is force players and the story-tellers to embody the concept of ‘shared’ story-telling head-on. Rather than a single individual being in charge of the main storyline and in fact the actual outcome of the game, the passing over of the story to someone who may or may not share your view of how things will happen is an immensely unique and jarring take on role-playing. It really decentralizes who is in fact in charge of the game, and does perhaps the best way of creating a truly egalitarian table-top setting. There is no single man in charge, there are two (or perhaps two women even?), who may or may not disagree on everything and the fact that your in-village story may lead in a wildly different direction once players leave the village is both, from a storytellers viewpoint terrifying and liberating at the same time and makes the game incredibly distinct.

The next mechanic, the Dice Pool and Conflict part of the game, the central point of any RPG is both incredibly frustrating and like the dual story-telling incredibly liberating. Rather than relying on numbered outcomes, How We Came to Live Here lies on interpretive results: you roll a set number of dice, special die that the game promotes called Fudge dice, d6’s with faces of ‘+’, ‘-‘ and blanks used in what the game calls Scenes. Scenes are perceived points of conflict where story-tellers describe specific attacks or challenges and must be responded to by players either in kind, defended against or escaped from. These Scenes can be as simple as a conversation to as dramatic as a fight with a Grizzly Woman.

The difficulty in this system is its open-endedness. Dice pools are composed of a limited number of dice based on the Skill pool players choose to interact with the Story-teller with who alternatively composes a Threat Pool. The pools can be influenced by either more dice or dice changing via players Traits, Failings and Corruption points. For example, if you are speaking to a village elder and wish to deny a marriage proposal from their son or daughter, the Inside Story-teller may decide a scene is justified and you must engage in an actual conversation, with dice pushes like “He’s lazy” (Presumably an attack) to which the Village Elder may respond (“So are you”—Interpreted as yet another attack perhaps).

While this sounds simple enough, the difficulty is the emphasis the game places on Victory Points or Victory Dice that players and story-tellers amass during a Scene through either stealing or exhausting them. With uncertainty in the rules over what constitutes an Attack, Defense or Flight combined with what happens to dice within the pool after each attack (is there unlimited number of Attacks/Counter-Attacks allowed; Do you steal Dice from Opponents Pool by choice, random or not at all?) and the openness of story-telling itself combine to make the system entirely circumstantial: In the previous example with the Village Elder, is their response of “So are you” an Attack or a Defense? The seeming in-consequence of this decision carries with it real and lasting mechanical outcomes within the game.

Because once a Scene is over, Victory Points establish things as minor as earning favors from other players to outright killing characters off—hence the importance of getting Victory Points and properly interpreting their results. For example in my current How We Came to Live Here campaign, our group tried climbing a cliff to get to a stone haven whereby the dice leaned so heavily in favor of the outside Story-teller they ended up winning the Scene and were subsequently able to amass 5 Victory Points- result, my character fell and died (Last words: “Smells Like Lillies”—in-game reference).
While this sounds like a harsh system, the likelihood of this outcome happening very often is small, considering that storyteller and player dice pools are so. Similarly in the same game, our characters also encountered a witch high in the Bone society, but due to bad rolls, the interaction didn’t end up in heavy conflict, which is somewhat the point of the game itself- solving conflicts creatively and progressing the story.

The Hunger People - Villains in How We Came to Live Here Copyright Galileo Games (Fair Use)

The Hunger People
Villains in How We Came to Live Here
Copyright Galileo Games (Fair Use)

How We Came to Live Here achieves these goals by focusing on fulfilling your ambitions and avoiding Corruption Points. In the setting, characters are motivated by their individual goals but affected by their communities’ values.

These values involve the consequences of characters performing things as minor as performing a task assigned to another gender to something as heinous as casting harmful magic on another person. It is through giving out Corruption Points and forcing players into situations where these points may be gifted that the Story-tellers provide more than simple conflict but also consequences. It’s an interesting system, one that doesn’t shy away from real world subject matter like Adultery, Sex with Monsters and outright Murder, so the game may not be entirely suitable for younger audiences.

However the Corruption system, with Points as low as 1 to as heavy as 5, synergizes well with the Story-teller concept and the conflict mechanic overall. The game has clear and not so clear designs towards pushing players into thought-provoking and unique, but still challenging Scenarios, short of setting up a land of purely happy beginnings, middles and endings (who would want to play a game of Happy Bunnies doing Happy Things on the Plains of Happiness? Well actually that sounds like an awesome game!)

Immersion and Setting

Fifth World Creation StoryHow We Came to Live HereGalileo Games

Fifth World Creation Story
How We Came to Live Here
Copyright: Galileo Games (Fair Use)

In no small part thanks to its mechanics, How We Came to Live Here is incredibly immersive. From the moment characters are created, it subtly and bluntly forces players to rethink the boundaries and what it is they are seeking to get out of the gaming table.

The book itself is lavish on mythologies, with each chapter started off with a ‘Story of My people’—a quick fable meant to get you thinking in terms of the game and what it is and how it is to be played. There are no clear-cut solutions in any of these myths; rather the emphasis is on communication and courage in solving disputes and conflicts, some that invariably must be dealt with by force, but many that display the folly of such decisions. And this is really how the game should be played.

The monsters, mostly simply other People in the Fifth World who have gone astray and who have become wild, cannibalistic or simply bad ‘magic’ users, all have an indication that they can be reasoned with first instead of being dealt with harshly. More importantly, they all have the subtle implication that they themselves represent how player characters just might end up if enough Corruption Points are amassed. As Harvey Dent famously said “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”, How We Came to Live Here really embodies this concept, and does so within the context of an unfamiliar but deeply relatable universe.

The Verdict

Apart from its difficult at first to grapple with dice pool mechanic, How We Came to Live Here is an excellent indie story-telling game. It has enough character uniqueness to give the framework of traditional concepts like class, leveling and maximizing to cater to your hard-core gamer but really pushes you to rethink the concept of why we game as a hobby in the first place.

So if your looking for something highly different, highly immersive and highly engaging, why not order a copy of how we came to live here and,

Game Forth!

How We Came to Live Here official website

And for something entirely political:

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Game Review : Hunter’s Guild

Hunter's Guild by Robb De Nicola

Hunter’s Guild by Robb De Nicola

A card-game modeled after your typical Vampire-slayer mindset, Robb De Nicola’s successfully funded KickStarter Hunter’s Guild pits players against one-another in a race to compete and be the first to take down one of those pesky sun-deprived, eternally manic, blood-drinking fiends that stalk your neighborhood mischievously throughout the night. You know– your in-laws.

Mildly competitive and a heckuva lot of fun the game takes course over several turns with players equipping themselves with the best weapons, armor and various other types of Special items to go on the most holy of missions known to man- Vampire slaying.

The Goal

Hunter’s Guild is a turn-based card game where Players win by collecting a set of Vampire repellant cards, things like Holy Water & Stakes and mill through one of two separate Decks, Day and Night, until they reach a Vampire Lord. Vampire Lords are found in the Night Deck. The first player who encounters a Vamp Lord and has the requisite set of Vampire-killing tools wins the game.

Components

Vampire Lord's - The Goal of the Game Epic Scale Games

Vampire Lord’s – The Goal of the Game
Image Copyright: Epic Scale Games

  • 7 Hunter Cards
  • 100 Day Cards
    • – 24 Repel Cards
    • – 10 Armor Cards
    • – 12 Shield Cards
    • – 14 Weapon Cards
    • – 40 Special Cards
  • 100 Night Cards
    • – 12 Vampire Lord Cards
    • – 44 Event Cards
    • – 44 Creature Cards
  • 1 instruction set
  • 1 Backer Sheet
  • 1 twenty-sided die

Set-up

Players separate the two decks into the Night and Day decks. Players then either randomly pick their Hunter class cards or choose which ones they wish to play. Classes include the Knight, Ranger, Thief and Warrior and each player has one card corresponding to their Player Character which also lists their total number of hit points (4 Max). Following this, players are dealt four cards from the Day deck to their hand and play begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

    Hunter's Guild Ranger     Image Copyright: Epic Scale Games

Hunter’s Guild Ranger
Epic Scale Games

Game-Play

Game play is divided into turns, with each player getting a ‘turn’ and the entire group going through a Day Turn and a Night turn. These Day Turns or Night Turns correspond to which deck players draw from, either the Day Deck or the Night Deck.

So for example in a three-player game, each player gets 1-Day turn going around the table: player A draws a card from the Day deck, equips, uses items then play passes to the left, where player B draws a card from the Day deck, equips, uses items then play passes to the left and so on. Then each player gets one Night turn, again going around the table with each player drawing, this time face-up, one card from the Night deck. This cycle repeats throughout the game although Day/Night can change based on Event cards. The mechanic is basically Munchkins kicking down the door and looting, except separating it into two phases and with a bonus card draw before you go marching to your doom.

Hunter's Guild Weapons & Armor Cards

Hunter’s Guild Weapons & Armor Cards
Epic Scale Games

As explained, on a Day Turn, players draw 1 card from the Day deck. These cards consist of Weapons & Armor cards, Event cards or Vampire Repels cards. Players can equip Weapons & Armor cards at any time during their Day turn, but not during a battle– again closely following Munchkin‘s mechanic. Players can also play any special Event and Special cards anytime they are able; like Holy Water etc.

Its the Night phase however, when things get interesting.

Night Deck Event Cards Epic Scale Games

Night Deck Event Cards
Epic Scale Games

The Night Deck consists of Event cards, creature Cards and Vampire lord cards. Event cards are one time instantaneous events like loose armor, Swap a card from your hand with another player (blindly) or miraculously turn day into night (think Blade with his awesome tech gear).

creatures-HG

Night Deck Creature Cards
Epic Scale Games

Creature cards are the main focus of the game and are drawn from the Night deck and are what the entire game is designed around. They come in two varieties: Solo and Team.

When a player draws a Creature card form the Night deck they must fight it. Depending on a small icon, (A/S) the player must either face the monster alone or the entire party must face it.

Card Rotation MechanicEpic Scale Games

Card Rotation Mechanic
Epic Scale Games

Each monster has a number of Hit points denoted by Red Blood diamonds symbols or gems. Hit points come in maximum of 4 and proceed down to zero, the same as for players. To designate damage, monster cards are rotated to face the current player with the corresponding number of Blood Gems, or health points it currently has. So a monster or creature with 3 starting health would have the side of the card with 3 Gems facing the player who drew it from the Night Deck.

Monsters also come with a Level. This is the attack roll score needed to damage a monster. So a level 13 monster needs to have a 14 or higher to do damage to it. A roll equal to the monster level on the die face itself completely kills the monster: so in this case a d20 roll of exactly 13 destroys the monster outright (i.e. a Critical Hit).

Attacking a monster consists of rolling a die and adding any weapons you have equipped to the roll, but you may also play event cards during or after a roll to affect the die.

Creature Card with LootEpic Scale Games

Creature Card with Loot
Epic Scale Games

The player who lands the killing blow on a creature, that is drops its hp down to zero or below, can win the loot, if any, associated with that monster. Monsters have loot represented by icons and are either non-existent, i.e. no loot, solo loot, that is only the killing blow lands it (in a solo that’s only 1 player) or full party loot, where the killing blow gets extra loot and the rest of the party gets some loot for their assistance (yay back of the party help!).

Infected players (see below) also have the option of feeding from some Creatures, which entails gaining health back.

Each time a creature card is drawn from the deck either the current player or the entire party will fight until it is destroyed.

Fighting is a d20 roll with Equipment and Special card modifiers added.

A hit reduces the monsters Blood gems by a damage equal to the Players Weapon damage, while a miss hits the Player for 1 Point which they can, if they are wearing armor or have a shield, choose to reduce that item before taking 1 point of damage themselves. Like Monsters and Players, Armor and Shields come with Gems, these denoting durability instead of Health. They can be repaired and swapped but only one of each is equip-able, just like weapons.

If a Vampire card is drawn, a player is either Infected, or can use Repel cards to repel the vampire, thus staving off infection. An Infected player turns over their Class card to the Infected side. Infected players get a bonus to attacks (+3) but take damage during the Day phase if they choose to draw from the Day deck or can remain ‘slumbering’ and not receive a card. If an infected player draws a Vampire card while being infected and is unable to destroy them or to Repel them, their Hero is killed. If a player has a complete set of vampire Repel gear in their hand when they draw a Vamp Lord, they win the game.

Vampire Itchy-ouchy ItemsEpic Scale Games

Vampire Itchy-ouchy Items
Epic Scale Games

Verdict

The game is really enjoyable. It’s a light, semi-cooperative game that has all the hallmarks of a dungeon-crawl without the dungeon.

The Gem mechanic, which is used for all creatures, Hunter’s, Armor and Shields is very well thought out and easy to implement. It’s got a great visual and tactile sense of feedback during game-play with everyone at the table acknowledging your level and your current abilities. It has that immediate input as to where you are, resource-wise but is very simple to manage.

There is enough variety in the types of weapons and monsters and with bonus and special items so that choices don’t feel limited and you don’t feel you are milling through the deck.

Over the course of play the game definitely ramps up in favor of the players, with early rounds feeling particularly brutal unless players are fortunate enough to get the best weapons and armor due to the fact that creature cards are random and a 17+ monster can be especially hard versus an ill-equipped party. As the game goes on though, and more cards are drawn players have more resources to throw at the threats they face, however card hand-size management then becomes a key issue, with Repel cards competing for slots in your 8-max hand size with Buff cards and other helpful plays.

There are definitely investment trade-offs with the save-ups being geared towards finding a Vampire-lord and positioning yourself to land the killing blow against a creature that the entire party must face, which is where the competitiveness of the gameplay comes in.

The game, at first seems deceptively cooperative, until draw after draw of All-party creatures comes in, and players start factoring weapon damage and Loot mechanics to position themselves to land the killing blow on a creature. Here is one of the minor chinks in the game-play as it can become slightly frustrating when you draw a creature with great loot and realize that your pull is not going to help you in anyway because you won’t be able to land the killing blow simply by not being the last person to roll, or because your weapon is too underpowered. In this respect, the game tilts towards those with better gear easily racking up the booty off of All-party monsters, and thereby getting more and better gear, etc.

Random Item Drops from the Day DeckEpic Scale Games

Random Item Drops from the Day Deck
Epic Scale Games

The tipping balance is the randomness of the draws which also can be somewhat of a disheartening experience as some cards allow your best management to randomly cause you to loose items and gear. This is inherent in a card game and adds to the flavor, but the major drawback is that the winning condition of the game, drawing a Vampire Lord from the Night Deck, is completely random. Which makes winning, when everyone at the table has a full set of Repel cards, completely random, taking it down a notch for strategy. But, considering this is a light game that seems inherent to the design. Play can also drag once players are over-equipped and creatures are no longer a challenge making the game turn to a random, who-draws-a-vampire-Lord-first fest.

Lastly, the game has some minor issues with how card effects happen, and the order by which they happen, which is a typical Stack effect problem for light-games and is really more of an advanced Gamers take-away than anything else.

The artwork is good, with the three-dimensional-like visual giving you a CGI-like flavor. The card stock is glossy and appears durable enough and the box itself its well designed, slick and definitely market-ready.

It’s a solid, light-hearted card game that comes with great art.

Tweaks

Considering its light-hearted feel, the game functions as its meant to. It’s not a strategy heavy game, other than drawing and keeping Repel cards and there is not a lot you can do to invest in tactics.

Given its nature, the only adds would be ways in which to preempt Killing blow steals, other than the Rogue abilities and cards, and some way to ‘peek’ ahead into the Night deck so that you could control the win condition a little more and make it less random.

Otherwise the game functions great as is.

So when you get a chance, feel like staking some night-bumping vampers, pick up a copy of Hunters Guild and

Game forth!

Hunter's GuildEpic Scale Games

Hunter’s Guild
Epic Scale Games

 

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Game Review: Assault 19XX

Paul Roman Martinez’s beautifully illustrated Assault 19XX
Image Source: Adventurers 19XX WebStore

A while back I had the good fortune to interview a Kickstarter Zen master and Eisner nominated fellow by the name of Paul Roman Martinez. With over 100K in successful projects, Martinez publishes an online web-comic called Adventurers 19XX.

The plot follows a paranormally blessed group of heroes in the early part of the twentieth century called Adventurers 19XX as they battle equally gifted but nefariously inclined villains part of an organization called the Black Faun.

The comic is a fantastic mash-up of pulpish, steam-powered eclectic characters and influences. In its electronic pages, Aztec villains fight alongside the likes of Aleister Crowley and chemically vat-grown homunculi against talking bunnies and All-American southerners wielding Lucky Baseball Bats. Since I stumbled across it I have been devouring the chapters whenever I get the chance. It’s a comic that is right up my alley and I greatly suggest giving it a read.

One spawn of the comic is Martinez’s self-developed and crowd-funded 2-6 player game called Assault 19XX.

The Goal

Victory Progression Chart Image Source: Forever Geek

Victory Progression Chart
Image Source: Forever Geek

Assault 19XX is a turn-based card game where Players win by proceeding along a jumbo-sized Victory card track that has 13 Victory point slots with different effects as players reach each Victory level. First to 13 Victory points wins and players receive Victory points by damaging opponents during combat or through special card effects.

Set-up

Components (Basic game and included expansion)

24 Character Cards
122 Luck and Character Cards
48 Chapter Cards
2 scorecards
2 faction markers
6 colored health markers
1 six-sided die

Players are given one of the more than 20 jumbo-sized character cards representing characters from the Adventurers 19XX comic-verse. One player randomly determines whose faction each player is on, the good guys who are the Adventurers 19XX or the bad guys, the magically addicted Black Faun.

Players can either compete on teams, the preferred and implied method, or in a free for all style. Players are then given three random cards from their faction and allowed to select one to play for the game.

Once a player chooses a Character, unique Item and Luck cards specific to that character get handed out. A single Luck card and 4 Item cards are next dealt randomly to each player to form their hand and a health token is given out with starting health being Green on a five-panel geared health track at the base of the Character card. Play then proceeds clockwise starting with the player who originally determined the factions. Players are meant to sit in a staggered setup where team-mates are separated from each other by sitting next to enemies.

Game-Play

Assault 19XX Beautifully rendered cardsImage Source: Forever Geek

Assault 19XX Beautifully rendered cards
Image Source: Forever Geek

Each round players draw 1 Item card to their hand and may play any number of certain ‘instant’ yellow cards, or equip any number of equipment or ‘Luck’ cards to their character, provided they have available slots. Slots include a Group slot, a Head slot, Left and Right arm slots and two small Weapon slots

Item and Luck cards form two separate decks. Items cards are drawn once per turn but events like damaging an opponent, rolling a natural 1 or other cards allow players to draw more cards from either deck.

Players obtain Victory points either by attacking and successfully damaging an opponent or by special cards that give free Victory points or the like.

Attacking and defending is resolved by adding up values assigned to characters, including their stated Luck value, Attack value a random d6 roll and any instant cast or equipped Luck or equipment cards. This attack score is compared to a players defensive total, which is calculated the same way, but minus the d6 and includes their Defensive value instead of their Attack value.

Any time an opponent takes damage from an attack a Victory point is scored, and that player takes 1 point of damage and 1 point only. Special weapons can increase this damage, and other Item cards do direct damage but don’t award Victory points.

Based on the Victory cards, other cards are drawn depending on the slot level, with chapter cards giving other benefits as the game progresses.

Verdict

The Formidable Baron Jumbo-sized Character CardImage Source: Forever Geek

The Formidable Baron Jumbo-sized Character Card
Image Source: Forever Geek

The game play is at first enjoyable, as you play cards from your hand and immediately equip or use the best weapons or abilities you can.

The problem for the game is that there are no opportunity costs to not attacking or not using your best weapons or Items. There are no ‘save-up-for’ investments required and therefore no incentive to do anything other than attack or throw everything you have at an opponent, who will throw everything back. And with only 1 card draw per turn, you can easily exhaust your resources by round three.

The Luck based draw of Items also lends to one-sided outcomes, as a team who is better equipped will invariably become virtually impervious to attack, as I found in game-play; my team mate and I could not damage our opponents even with a perfect roll, so we ended up attacking simply for the chance to get a roll of 1 which is a clover and gives you an extra Luck card.

So once your opponents ramp up, there is little you can do to stop them.

The character abilities themselves also are vastly imbalanced, with some clearly overpowered while others barely effective.

However the artwork is excellent and the theme is top notch. The era accuracy with cards like the Browning Automatic Rifle and MG08 Machine gun and Wheel Tank are just generally cool cards both in terms of design and artwork. There are some odd choices however with a stop-light (Kibosh) that removes cards or the electric torch (flashlight) which adds to defense. But it was a great kick to play the characters from the comic and at the same time admire the art.

Tweaks

The Adventurers 19XXImage Copyright: PrM

The Adventurers 19XX
Image Copyright: PrM

Suggestions would be just an increase per turn of card draws and more ally-helping cards to make the game more cooperative. Static attack and defense values usually suffer from an over abundance of power in one player or team, like in Munchkin where players with better card draws can simply win by Luck alone. The overall mechanic is decent, there just needs some slight tweaking to make the game chug along more smoothly.

I would suggest the game simply for the artwork alone, and if you want to house-rule it to make it a bit more balanced, take out some of the cards from the Item and Luck decks along with some of the character cards to make the game a bit more even handed. Also just add maybe 1 or 2 to the per turn card draws and maybe even make Item equipments single or multiple use only, i.e. ammo, or even add a cost to equip them, such as discarding cards equal to their attack values before you can equip them.

With or without these minor tweaking you can definitely try Assault 19XX, enjoy it and

Game forth!

 

 

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X-Wing Miniatures – Tourney Play

X-Wing Miniatures Game
Image Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

This past weekend I got a chance to enter my first ever Miniatures tournament, which also entailed playing the first miniatures game I’ve ever played.

One of the genres of gaming that has always appealed to me but has consistently seemed beyond my financial grasp is that of war-games, or miniatures.

With the likes of Warhammer, Shock troops, Malifaux, Dark Age and others, the cost of fielding, equipping and painting an army of fantasy units that makes up your typical war-game presents a huge investment in not only cold hard cash but also time and energy. The ability to not only purchase a workable army but also have it arrive on the scene in pleasing colors and with enough firepower to stand a chance is something that can be incredibly daunting to the budding war-gamer.

Enter: Fantasy Flight X-Wing Miniatures.

Premiering at GenCon back in 2012, X-Wing miniatures is a light 2-player dog-fighting game where opponents build squads of ships from either Rebel or Imperial forces hailing from the legendary galaxy of Star Wars. Cheaper and already painted unlike most war-games, they offer a nice beginners step financially and rules-wise into the world of minis.

As this was my first tournament play of a miniatures game, and my first miniatures game at all, I thought I’d give a recap of the event for folks looking for a brief introductory peek into the world of tourney play.

Setup

Source: Fantasy Flight Games X-Wing Miniatures Tournament Rules

Source: Fantasy Flight Games
X-Wing Miniatures Tournament Contestant Sheet

I dove into the tournament at the suggestion a friend of mine. A local gaming store in my town was participating in the global preview event put forth by Fantasy Flight Games.

Looking to premier their newest expansion to the miniatures game, Wave 4, the winners of these pre-release tournaments would get their pick of one the 4 new classes of Rebel and Imperial ships in an Event called the Assault on Imdaar Alpha.

The rules of X-wing tournaments are the same as the standard rules of the game, with differences mainly in how win/loss affects scoring.

But to begin with, each competitor chooses a 100-point buy for their squad, standard for advanced play as well as a 3 x 3 play area. These 100 points include ships and upgrades. Each player is given a score and squad sheet so Officiators can tally points and track game outcomes.

Luke Skywalker Pilot Card Image Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Luke Skywalker Pilot Card
A 28-point pilot buy
Image Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

For my squad, I had the following, coming in at exactly 100 points:

1 – A-Wing : Pilot (Green Squad)
1 – B-Wing : Pilot (Blue Squad)
1 – B-Wing : Pilot (Ten Numb)
1 – X-Wing : Pilot (Luke Skywalker)

I participated in three matches, with the first being against a fellow who played a Fire-spray and a two TIE Interceptors, all upgraded. The second match was against a swarm of TIE Fighters with one Howl Runner, while the last was against a fellow sporting a Lambda and two TIE Interceptors.

As it worked out, my rebel forces always squared off against Imperials, but in tourneys, they have the Mirror system, whereby Rebels can face Rebels or Imps can fight Imps, with the exact same squad, including pilots.

Players then place asteroid tokens and ships based on ship point total, lowest goes first (i.e. 99 before 100) with ties rolling off.

The Matches (Squadrons & Tactics)

“For a great game of X-Wing Miniatures, check out the 2013 Championship Finals video above.”
Fire-spray-31 Ship for the Imperials Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

One of the Fire-spray-31 Pilot
cards for the Empire
Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

 

As this was my first real outing, not only with miniatures tourney, but with miniatures in general, my experience was incremental. The first match, against a Fire-spray (Bounty Hunter Pilot) and two beefed up Interceptors was basically a turkey shoot—for the other guy.

I entered the match still shaky on the rules, but my opponent was generous with my rookie mistakes. I followed his bounty hunter around, realizing too late I should have been targeting a weaker Hit-point and shielded prey, and due to some bone-headed misunderstandings of the rules, I was flanked and outmaneuvered easily. His squad was overall thoroughly well built and ultimately made it to the final four.

The second match, against a swarm of TIE’s ended almost in my favor, I decimated my opponents seven squad force down to one versus three of mine, but lost one in the final round to an asteroid, and another to good rolls. Forgetting that the win condition was based on points, I flew into an asteroid carelessly thinking the match already over.

The final match was another turkey shoot—this time in my favor. I took out three Imp ships with zero casualties on my part.

Below: One of the upgrades to the first round turkey-shoot that demolished my poor Rebels. Their crime: just out to make the galaxy a better place–
Good Guys: 0 | Forces of Evil:1
One of the upgrades to the first round turkey-shot that demolished my poor Rebels who were just trying to make the galaxy a better place-- Good Guys: 0 | Forces of Evil:1 Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

The first take-away was the concept of the Buy. That is, after two rounds, or matches, the lowest scoring player (myself for an indeterminate reason) receives 5 points automatically, but sits out for the round. Winners of matches can win by Match Win or Modified Match win and scoring is as follows:

•    Match Win = 5 Points
•    Modified Match Win = 3 Points (Win by less than 12 )
•    Draw = 1 Point
•    Loss = 0 Point

The points are determined by remaining ships on the battle-mat at the end of the round which is scheduled to last 75 minutes unless modified by the Tournament Organizer (TO).

Final match mid-round at the tourney where my 'rebel-scum' faced off against a Lambda and two TIE interceptors.

Final match mid-round at the tourney where my ‘rebel-scum’ faced off against a Lambda and two TIE interceptors. The Officiator provided the players with nifty and awesome galaxy battle-maps.

From what I could see of the tactics employed, the basic strategy in squad building coalesced into either ship swarms (4+ ships), notably TIE fighters and X-Wings, or upgrades (3 or less ships with plenty of upgrades). This matches with games design, rewarding less with better equipment, rewarding more with more shots.

In the matches I played, the deciding factor seemed tipped in favor of the better ships, as in the match I won, almost won and lost all seemed determined by ships that had either higher shields, or higher health.

In terms of tactics, outmaneuvering your opponent or trying to flank them, was also important and could negate the other overwhelming determinate of the game: good die rolls.

Grouping up ships also seems the classic play style as it provides greater shots and more dice rolls against opponents ships. This is also a determining factor as it relates to squad building. Ships with better attack dice (3+) have greater chances of hitting, and ships like the Fire-spray with upgrades that re-roll are even more likely to win, as that combo made it into the final four.

So in terms of game play, from my first tourney, it would seem that squad choice, upgraded ships notably with the ability to modify and re-roll, have an edge over pure number of ships and unmodified die rolls (a theory also evidenced by the championship video embedded above).

My Rebels surrounding a soon-to-be destroyed Imperial Lambda on an escort mission to the other-side.

My Rebels surrounding a soon-to-be destroyed Imperial Lambda on an escort mission straight to their Doom– Good Guys 1 | Evil-pants 2.

The Prize

The goal of the tournament was for players to win one of the new TIE Defender, TIE Phantom, Z-95 Headhunter or E-Wing expansion packs part of the Wave 4 release.

Wave-4 TIE Phantom With CloakingCopyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Wave-4 TIE Phantom
With Cloaking
Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Wave-4 E-Wing The Rebel's answer to the Phantoms Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Wave-4 E-Wing
The Rebel’s answer to the Phantoms
Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A look at these new cards shows some nice new pilots and awesome ships. Definitely the most powerful ‘small’ ships to date it would seem with the TIE Phantom and E-Wing looking to be upcoming staples in most squadrons.

The TIE Phantom, with its Cloaking ability that gives it +2 Defensive die and a base +4 Attack roll is an epic addition to the some would say already beefed up Imperials. As the game is sold as being a dog-fight, ships like these, with 4 Health and high maneuverability thanks to Barrel Roll Actions, are going to make opening rounds in a match probably very one sided.

As a counter to the Phantom though the Rebels are right behind them with the E-Wings, one of which can attack twice per round, losing an attack the following round and another that turns any ally Attacks from hits to Crits against range 1-3 enemies. With Cloaking and Barrel-Rolling TIEs out there, the ability to attack twice, while an enemy is in your sights is a huge advantage, possibly finishing them off in a single round instead of two, a great advantage in any dog-fight where numbers matter.

But aside from these niffy toys that were only available to the top four, the rest of us bottom eight in the 12 player competition received Bandit Rebel pilots; 12-point buy 2-point stat across the board preview Headhunter ships. Designed to be similar to TIE’s I tried out the Headhunter in a match following the competition and while cheap, their pilot score is too low for end-game play.

Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

Copyright: Fantasy Flight Games

***

The tournament was a great experience and I learned quickly how to use the ships I choose accordingly but also how to maneuver and anticipate my opponent’s moves. And that’s the great thing about the game, its relatively easy to learn, easy to get good at and relatively cheap (compared to other miniature games) to invest in. Add to the fact that the minis are pre-painted and you have a recipe for a very addictive game with a price point low enough to encourage newbie’s into the world of war-gaming. Even better, there is an entire network of retailers, locals and tourneys out there that Fantasy Flight has set up to give the aspiring galaxy Ace the chance to play.

So when you get a chance why not suit up, ship out and pilot your own X-Wing and

Game Forth!

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Game Review – Boss Monster

Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games, LLC

Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games, LLC

Like most things in the table-top world these days, Boss Monster, the card game put out by Brotherwise Games made its grand entrance to the world via Kickstarter.

Packaged in a slick box adorned with digitized artwork of a giant green-skinned bloated king, the games mascot known as King Croak, Boss Monster is a competitive four-player bash I had the good fortune to experience not long after its first edition got shipped out to primary Kickstarter backers.

What first catches your eye about the game is how its box is a tribute to classic Nintendo styled games from the eighties.

With the simplicity of a black background and a single crude display of gaming goodness along with the ubiquitous golden standard of approval, the box ported me back to my many hours spent jumping over mushrooms, slashing through dungeons and firing off blasts of energy trying to rescue princesses, save the world or simply get to the top of a very very tall ladder.

The 155 cards of the game continue with the motif of an eighties time warp, with pretty much blatant lampooning of traditional characters from games like Zelda, Metroid and Super Mario Brothers. But rather than limiting themselves solely to the world of console gaming, the creators of Boss Monster, Chris and Johnny O’Neal, also spruced up the look with elements from Dungeons and Dragons to create cards with table-top affections as well.

Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Notice the Dungeon Master Room on the left…
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

The thing that really separates Boss Monster from other games however is its play mechanic.

Continuing with the console theme the goal is to build the ultimate side-scrolling dungeon. Players do this by placing Dungeon room cards each round in the play area in front of them, constructing lairs from left to right filled with either monsters or traps.

These monster or trap room cards contain damage points that adventurer cards are dealt when they are lured to a player’s lair.

Sample Monster RoomImage Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Sample Monster Room
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

A common pool of these adventurer cards are placed face up each round, and when a players combined rewards listed across all their dungeon cards are totaled at the end of a round, denoted by icons for loot, magical power or holy relics, the player with the most of each type becomes a huge beacon for adventurers seeking specific fortunes and glory. Adventurer cards are then placed outside a players constructed lair at the end of the round.

Sample Hero card. Notice that he is drawn to lairs with magic (denoted by the book in the upper right corner) Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Sample Hero card.
Notice that he is drawn to lairs with magic (denoted by the book
in the upper right corner)
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

These pesky little hapless interloping adventurers then proceed to ‘wander’ through a player or Boss’ dungeon cards and are flayed, burned, beaten or booby-trapped to death. Their deaths however add to the total score a player needs to win the game.

A Boss Monster Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

A Boss Monster
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

It’s quite a different theme, one that reverses the concept of the hero and villain most games are designed around.

It reminded me of mechanical elements of James Ernest’s Totally Renamed Spy Game (1996) where players again take on the role of arch-villains hoping to defeat (kill) as many heroes (spies) as possible to win. From a literary perspective it also reminded me of the opening scene in Joann Sfar’s Dungeon Volume 2, where Herbert the Duck’s father is opining about the loss of adventurers “dressed in their best armor, carrying all sorts of precious weapons and magical tailsmen” who are no longer visiting their dungeon and subsequently meeting their demises; i.e. revenues are dropping.

Image Copyright: NBM Publishing

Dungeon Volume 2
Image Copyright: NBM Publishing

So in this respect, Boss Monster follows a proud tradition of allowing players to compete as nefarious overlords turning on its head the traditional concept of saving the world, and prompts players to loot the bodies of those they are more than likely accustomed to portraying.

Overall the gameplay is great; it allows players the tactical satisfaction of designing different types of dungeons that maximize outright damage but that also ‘stack’ with spells and ‘dungeon upgrades’ that must be planned for over the course of several rounds.

What makes it really stand out mechanically to me though is that after all the low level heroes are defeated, the game suddenly goes into ‘epic’ mode and the wandering adventurers are suddenly beefed up in terms of attacks and life points. The game thus shifts from wanting to grab as much attention of these would-be adventurers to diverting them towards one of your opponents in the hopes that they destroy one of your competing Boss Monsters before they destroy you: Grow too fat and you start to attract the best heroes around.

Epic HeroNotice the higher hit points. You DO NOT want to take on these heroes. Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

Epic Hero
Notice the higher hit points. You DO NOT want to take on these heroes.
Image Copyright: Brotherwise Games LLC

So overall the game is a strategic ‘dungeon-building’ blast. The artwork, along with the entire concept holds your attention from start to finish and it offers unique and intriguing gameplay that combines elements in a perfect balance of pace and strategy. The only drawbacks I saw were not getting in on the original Kickstarter roll-out and thereby gaining some of the promo cards

So when you get a chance, feel like having an eighties flash back (who wouldn’t?) why not head out, or on-line and grab a copy of Boss Monster and,

Game Forth!

Another hip-retro icon of the Eighties- The Cosby's! Image Copyright: NBC

Another hip-retro icon of the Eighties-
The Cosby’s!
Image Copyright: NBC

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Game Review : Story War

Copyright: Cantrip Games

Copyright: Cantrip Games

My Gremlin fires off his laser at you and you die!

No wait, my goblin is way too dexterous to get hit, and he fires off his laser at you and you die!

Please-my Gremlin’s way faster than your goblin and your laser, he dodges, fires again, and you die!

[Repeat, ad infinitum]

That about sums up the final round that my gaming group completed over the weekend for the Kickstarter funded, Story Wars. Its a tense, no-holds barred ostensible card-game that allows players the chance to use their creative talents towards nefarious and ultimately lethal ends in destroying their opponents at the table.

Put out by Cantrip Games which consists of the duo Brad O’ Farrell and Tom “Frezned” McLean and who are in theory based in my own backyard neighborhood of Astoria, New York, Story War is a game of geek story-telling. In it, players work off of three decks of cards composed of locations, creatures and equipment in the basic Kickstarter set. The equipment and creature cards form a players hand that replenishes each ’round’, and is overseen by another, non-competing player for the round who is a ‘judge’ for the current match-up who draws and places a location card.

This location card determines where the ‘battle’ between players, and their creatures and items, happen. Players play their creature(s) and item(s) and create stories how their creature(s) and item(s) kill/maim and ultimately destroy their opponents. These descriptions must match the mythological and fairy-tale oriented cards like the Philosopher Stone, a Gremlin, a Wishing Star or a Kraken that a player plays during the round. It’s a completely open-ended battle with the player who convinces the ‘judge’ with the best plausible and ‘coolest’ way they kill their opponent and also most believable way, winning the round. The game admittedly has its roots in Apples-to-Apples and other third-player decider mechanisms.

Image Copyright: Cantrip Games

Image Copyright: Cantrip Games

The crux of the game comes down to the levels of competitive testosterone imbued at the table that it is played at. As my group is generally rules aware but also incredibly great at role-play, the game quickly degenerated into mechanical lawyering the minutiae of what was displayed on the cards as applicable to the outcome of a fight, along with obvious traits of creatures and items that clearly could and couldn’t be applicable in the game; obviously for instance an invisibility ring is metal and is drawn to a magnet, even if a ghost is wearing it. Duh!

It’s a tricky game because it is so open-ended but boils down to being a basically competitive, argumentative procedural affair. Creature does X; Creature 2 does Y; repeat. It has appealing traits in that players combine stories into a unified whole similar to Once Upon A Time, but without the mechanical foundation of a game like Gloom that gives a fixed goal-post towards a win. With the right people its a great game. For Gamers? It’s an exercise in rules-lawyering.

Overall it’s a great concept, something that appeals to the story-teller in me, as well as the role-player– the chance to don a new character every round with new items. The cards themselves are illustrated in a campy anime-crossed style by Vondell Swain. Their appeal is surely a means to lean players towards a light-hearted feel, however, the combative nature of the game itself somewhat undercuts the approach.

Still, if you’re able to get a few folks together who like a competitive game, without being competitive about it, I suggest picking up a copy of Story War, and sitting down so you can,

Game Forth!

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Independent Game Designer Spotlight & Interview: Clance M. Morring – BATTLE THIS!

Image Copyright: Clance M. Morring

Image Copyright: Clance M. Morring

With the rise of Kickstarter, strategy, card and board game designers have been given access to a pool of potential customers and funding that spans the entire  globe.

This shift in public awareness has fundamentally changed the way independent companies can bring their ideas to the market, allowing everyone from sole operators to experienced creators the chance to showcase their ideas at game design.  But even with tools like Kickstarter at their fingertips, there are still some creators out there who are doing things the old-fashioned way- with boots on the ground, personal demos and play-testing.

This is the case for Clance M. Morring, whose board game is a unique take on Chess. His design fuses figurines and tactics from the  world of war-gaming with one of the oldest games around to create a particularly engaging product he calls BATTLE THIS!

Promoted as a military version of Chess, the game pits two players against one-another on a traditional Chess board with three differing types of pieces: an infantry-man, a tank and an airplane. Set-up in the classic two column starting formation of Chess pieces, BATTLE THIS! proceeds in the same turn-based order with the modified pieces of this variation each having their own methods of defeating other pieces; planes fly diagonally, infantry ‘run’ forward and creep back and sideways, and tanks target diagonal squares while moving forward at a slow pace.

At first sight, the hand-painted miniatures, which are surplus plastic army-men, tank miniatures and planes mounted on clear-colored bases along with the sparsely designed board itself carries with it a  rugged workshop feel that lacks the polish of a professionally made product typical of your average Kickstarter fare. However, what was surprising about the BATTLE THIS! was that after the about the fifth move the Gaming zone in my brain seemed to switch on and the tactical aspects of the Game jumped out at me.

The unique moves of the pieces, essentially a variation on Chess, infused the game with what I felt was a distinctive feel for the chaotic aspects of military campaigns; the fact that infantry and planes could move back and forth across the battle-field and conquer squares with lighting speed or through slow marches really gave the game individualistic flavor.

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Mr. Morring demonstrated the game itself to me recently and during the session I had the chance to ask him a few questions and get some insights into its history, and the challenges he faced as an independent designer with his first game:

Mr. Morring, when did you begin production on your game?

“I start producing my games in the months of February through May of 2012 and then I released them to the public for sale in June of 2012. So far I have made 500 games, sold 434 and is now left with 66 games to sell.”

What’s the process for getting your game, BATTLE THIS! to your customers, do you use outside manufacturers or do you do everything by hand?

“I self-publish. The entire BATTLE THIS! Board Game is hand-made and I manufacture, package, shrink warp, box and ship them from my home. My buyers are receiving the original Inventor’s copy, that may one day become a classic collector’s edition. This is one of the many reason why I am able to market and sell my BATTLE THIS! Board Game so well.

Production time: It takes me at least two days to make one set, that’s because I have to hand paint all the Brown playing pieces brown and then touch them up the next day after it dries and I have to glue all the Soldiers and Airplanes onto their bases. So instead of just hand producing one game at a time, I try to average about 50 games a week; it’s much easier and quicker.”

Where did you get the idea for BATTLE THIS!?

“My BATTLE THIS! Board Game came to me in a dream I had 20 something years ago. It was a dream about two creature like entities pitting us humans against one another; to them it was just a game but to us it was real life war. The entire rules and concept and unique strategy was given to me in this dream, thus “BATTLE THIS!” was born. Till this very day there’s no other game like it on the market and I own all exclusive rights.”

What markets have you sold your game in, what type of web presence do you have?

“The market that my board game is selling in are: Toys and Games, Board Games and Strategy Abstract Board Games. Since I had 20 something years of researching the Toy Industries and savings, it was not difficult for me at all to get into the market, it became a matter of when to get into the market, not how. After gathering all my resources for the supplies I needed to produce my BATTLE THIS! Board Game, myself, the 1st thing I did was design my BATTLE THIS! Website and BATTLE THIS! Blog Site in 2012, then I started selling my board game on my job, in my neighborhood, on the streets, in the parks, at board games meet ups, on Amazon and now on eBay. Form June of 2012 till now, I have hand produced 500 games.”

What were some of the challenges you faced as an independent game designer?

“I didn’t experience any difficulties getting my board game to market because they are originals, the problem I did encounter was how to hand produce the games. After a few trials & errors and wasted materials at a costly expense, I did manage to work it all out. Nobody was willing to help me financially and physically take on this project; I had to do everything all by myself. I received no support what so ever from my family, certain neighbors and close friends that I use to hang out with. The woman I loved made me choose between her and my game, so she ended up leaving me as well in 2011. She made it very clear, she never wanted me to start this project. Those around me said that I am 24 years late and that no one plays board games anymore. They told me that I’ll be just wasting my time, money and effort, that I’m living in a fantasy world, selling people a dream. Those who I gave so much of myself to and thought was for me, were honestly, spiritually against me. A year later, my BATTLE THIS! Board Game sales and the contacts I have made, have proven them wrong.

This has been a very lonely journey for me, I was surrounded by negative thinking people who had been praying for me to fail. What keeps me going, is my love for my board game, my belief in myself and the BIG picture I’m chasing after. I’m a very focused and  disciplined person who has learned to use the negative vibes as the match to light my fire and push me into my blessing.

The feedback I received, once my BATTLE THIS! Board Game has been released, are very positive. People are so impressed with the product, how it’s put together and packaged. They love the fact that the rule book is only two pages, the game is easy to learn and not complicated but challenging. For a home-made game, my customers are getting a really good quality, package fun play board game.”

What do you see as the next steps in promoting and distributing BATTLE THIS!?

 “My goal for 2014 is to have BATTLE THIS!  made as an app and into software, also to have the board game itself professionally manufactured by a Toy company. For more information about me, my journey and the Battle This Board Game, please visit my website http://battlethisboardgame.com “

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Given the hobby’s humble beginnings, its great to see that independent, self-made creators are still out there in the Gaming world, so when you get a chance, why not head over to the BATTLE THIS! website, support an indie designer by purchasing a copy of BATTLE THIS! and

Game Forth!

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