Reviews and Ramblings
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Board Games in the Hizzle, Yo
03:03am EST - 11/06/2008
So hey, board games. Most /tg/ folk love them, I mean, I'm pretty sure you could recruit most of us for a game of chess, checkers, Ludo or whatever. Still, there are less traditional games out there which nonetheless manage to be fucking fun. Let's have a look at some, shall we?
First off: Settlers of Catan
. Most of us have played this, it's probably the most widely known of the "new" generation of board games. Easy to set up, simple to play, highly engaging and permits for a considerable amount of dickery through trade.
For those who have not played it, you basically have a map made out of hexagonal squares(randomly laid down, for the most part). You build roads along the edges, and towns where the edges intersect. Roads expand where you can build towns, and towns either permit trading resources(if bordering certain sea hexes) or bring in resources(if bordering most land hexes). All hexes have a resource(depending on their type) and a number(random) assigned to them, and at the start of every player's turn, two D6's are rolled. If the result is, say, a 6 and a 3, a total of 9, all squares with a 9 on them produce resources for the towns bordering them.
So the basic concept is simple, build towns, get resources, expand. First to get a certain number of points wins. Points are accumulated through having the longest roads, towns, cities(upgraded towns that also produce more resources) or special cards. You can also expend resources on cards, which then either give you points, free resources or the ability to move the Thief. The Thief is a solid black game piece that starts out on the Desert(only one of these, produces naff). Any hex he stands on produces nothing, no matter how many time its number is rolled, until he is moved away unto another hex.
It's nice and simple, and there are expansions which give you more hexes to throw around, providing for larger maps and slightly more interesting games.
My opinion is that it's a fun game, though it's easily possible for someone to get dicked into a hole by random rolls that no amount of cleverness will get them out of, or for games to end up rather stalemated because, say, one person has all the bricks, another has all the wood, and they don't want to trade because they know that the other person only needs their resource to get a lead. Still, the expansions help remove some of the repetitiveness, by making the gameboard larger and more varied. It's worth having in your cupboard.
Second game: Robo Rally
This one is less widely known. Basically, you have six game boards(with the basic game, I think there's an expansion), which you can either play on alone, or expand by putting them next to each other(all are made up of squares, so you can roll from one border square to another). Then you drop down some checkpoints and you roll your little robot to victory by either getting all the way around the "track" first or by wrecking all the other bots.
This is, of course, complicated by, first, the other bots, secondly by the boards(which have crushers, shovers, lasers and conveyor belts) and finally by random chance. Cards, to be precise. See, RR has no dice, instead it has cards. Each player, if undamaged, draws nine cards at the start of their turn, then program their bot with five of those(not showing the others). So, say, first they roll ahead three, then they turn right, back up one, turn left, move ahead two. Of course, if some OTHER bot rambles into them between step 2 and 3, that backing up might knock them into a crusher about to come down, or a hole, or unto a high-speed conveyor belt.
Furthermore, damaged bots get A) less cards and B) have cards locked. Each bot can take 10 points of damage(and all bots have a basic laser to damage other bots even if they don't stumble into the affixed guns on the board), and each point of damage lost('cept for the first) gets you one less card a turn. Once you take your sixth point of damage, you only get 4 cards, and your fifth card that turn is locked. So your fifth action every turn until you get repaired(or die and respawn) will be, say, a U-turn. Definitely an easy spanner in the works.
Bots can shut down for repairs(making them easy targets for shoving and shooting while they forfeit a turn), roll into repair pits or roll into super repair pits(where they can get repaired more in one turn OR pick up handy gadgets that, say, manipulate how they get cards, what their cards can do or what their lasers can do, by turning them into shovers, attractors, scramblers, double-guns, turrets, backwards lasers, so forth. All kinds of fun!).
The board's functions are simpler than they sound. Crushers and shovers are labelled with a number from 1 to 5, or more than one. Anyone standing next to Shover 1,3,5 gets shoved by it if it's after their first, third or fifth card has moved them there. Or crushed. Conveyor belts just trigger for everyone standing on them at the end of a card being executed, and lasers for anyone in their path at the same times.
It's a game that seems simple, but rapidly gets surprisingly tactical as you need to choose between repairs, speed and offense, and whether you are foresightful enough to understand exactly where a conveyor belt will end you up if you trust your fortunes to it. I used to play with a guy who always screwed up his mental calculations and shoved himself off the edge of the board(losing himself a respawn) at least two or three times every game.
My review would be that it has extremely little set-up time(not counting people picking their favourite robot and any arguments ensuing from two people preferring the same, each of which has a little write-up in the back of the rulebook detailing their personal psychosis, like the bot that has delusions of being hundreds of feet tall, everyone inferior to him and prey for his stompy antics), pretty simple rules(the sort of rules that always sound more complex explained than they actually are) and just about infinite replayability. Two games rarely turn out exactly the same, and while someone DOES occasionally get fucked over by random chance, it's rare. Even if all you get are Turn cards, you can usually use those to pivot around and take a chunk out of someone's ass. A good investment, but it tends to be hard to find people willing to give it a try, a game that desperately needs an online adaptation.
Third Game: Doom, The Boardgame
Now, you may be going: "Purple, you maniac, how can this shit be any good?" and I'll tell you that fuck you, it's amazing. It's based off Doom 3, weapons, enemies and locations. The players are Marines and there's a Doom Master(I don't think he's ever really named, but that's a good one) who controls the various critters as they stumble through corridors and shoot at things.
The short version is that it's basically Hero Quest with shotguns and chainsaws. But instead of being Elf, Dwarf, Wizard and Barbarian, you're all Generic Marines(though at the start of the game, each marine gets one, two or three randomly assigned special abilities. Like being able to throw grenades better, moving faster, etc.).
The game has a set of custom dice, and each weapon uses certain of these. Some symbols are a miss, others a hit, some EXTRA DAMAGE and if you get enough failures, you lose ammo for a weapon. See, instead of tracking EVERY SINGLE BULLET, you just get, say, Pile of Bullets(1) and it lasts until you crit fail. Players can also trade weapons, ammo, etc. so one guy can grab the chainsaw, another the shotgun and the third the rocket launcher. Of course there are coloured keys, medkits and BERSERKER PACKS to acquire as well.
The DM sits around with randomly drawn cards, which he can use to cause ammo to run out, shots to fail or enemies to spawn. A few associated things are a bit poorly planned or do not entirely make sense, but having imps leap out of closets and such is still the hilarity it always was in the game.
The board consists of chunks you attach together, though they are less generic than stuff like Catan's hexes, and less pre-made than RR's entire boards. Instead you have corridors, rooms, intersections, etc. Maybe I was just unlucky, but I found that half of my board pieces were extremely unwilling to fit together well. Nothing that could not be rectified, but still a bit annoying. The models themselves are made of plastic and pretty good. You could honestly paint them up and shit and make them look pretty fucking cool.
Gameplay proceeds pretty fast, as the rules are really simple to understand and there are numerous handy "reference pads" that go along with it so everyone can keep track of monster and weapon stats. The DM can build up his own "dungeon" from scratch, make it up as he goes along by slapping down pieces of corridor and creatures/loot, or he can use one of the five pre-made scenarios to get a decently balanced experience(as a handy addition, each pre-made scenario also has colour-coded spawns. If there are only two marines, say, red and blue, only use red and blue spawns, if yellow marine is there, add yellow spawns, etc., keeps it balanced for ANY number of players.).
A definite recommendation, like Robo Rally, but probably even harder to get players for.