Monthly Archives: February 2013

Advanced Squad Leader – Initial Thoughts

I’ve been into boardgaming for 30 years and I’ve never seen a game with depth of Advanced Squad Leader.  This was originally published by Avalon Hill and is now handled by Multi-Man Publishing, although there are several third party companies that also support the game.

One of my goals over the years is to learn this game but the rule book is pretty intimidating.  On a good note, there are plenty of resources out there to help me along way and there’s even a podcast, the 2 Half Squads, that’s great to listen to.  In a couple of months, I’m going to start with Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1, which is a scaled down version of the game that teaches you things in bite size chunks.  Along the way I’ll document my journey so if you have any tips or comments, feel free to leave comments along the way.

Top of the List

If you’re into board games, you know about Board Game Geek.  This one stop spot for everything board games is a fantastic resource and the only reason I don’t go there more is because I simply get lost and end up spending way too much time just poking around.  One of the cool things about the site is their “Hotness” list and the last time I went there, the top game was Chainmail by Worthington Games.  I’m a big fan of the designer, Richard Berg, and I love card driven games and while this game wasn’t quite on my radar, the price has come down quite a bit and it looks like a fun game for a great price.

Housekeeping

We’re a few months into this “project” and I hope you like the content so far.  I know things got a little light around the holidays but now we’re back up and going.  I know I promised you some Memoir ’44 content but my blogger has had to deal with some personal stuff and he hasn’t been able to kick things off like he thought.  For now, unless I get more feedback, I’ll be doing more of the same and I have few things planned (namely some reviews of older games).

A few people have asked me how they can help out and there’s a few ways.  The most important is to give feedback.  I’d love more comments and a discussion or two would really be fun.  The other way to help me is, if you buy stuff from Amazon.com, you’ll see links scattered throughout my blog posts.  If you click through one of those and make your purchase, I get a small commission.

Also, if you have a game you want advertised, just let me know.  Or if you’re doing a kickstarter campaign for a game, I’d love to give you some free publicity for your upcoming title.

On Deck – Axis & Allies WWI 1914

In a lot of ways, I did board game backwards.  I did cut my teeth on Risk and had some fun with that but from there, our next best options were the more complicated Avalon Hill games.  Not the Avalon Hill that’s part of the Wizards of the Coast now, but the “old” Avalon Hill with their detailed war simulations.  A lot of this was in the mid to late 1980s so we went from playing Risk to games like The Rise and Decline of the Third Reich.  Since then I’ve reread some of the rules of those games and needless to say, we were definitely cutting some corners.

Then one summer (I want to say either 1985 or 1986), I got Axis & Allies for my birthday and for the rest of the summer, that’s all we played.  If we weren’t playing ball, we were out back on the picnic table or in someone’s basement playing this game.  We eventually bought some of the other games Milton Bradley put out like Fortress America (one of my favorites) but Axis & Allies stuck.  Since then I’ve kept up and bought most of the recent incarnations (except the most very recent 1941 and 1942 editions) and have even bought most of the theater games.

Now for a little segue.  While World War II has gotten a ton of love, I always thought World War I was underrepresented in the gaming world. We played The Guns of August but I don’t think we ever made it out of 1915 before calling it quits because it was slow and just too a lot of time.  Since then I’ve picked up Paths of Glory: The First World War but haven’t had a chance to play it yet because that has it’s own time committment.

Back to Axis and Allies, that’s why I was happy when I saw this.  They’re making a World War I incarnation of Axis and Allies and I’m really interested in seeing how they pull this off.  Infantry was a huge part of the war but eventually tanks came into play.  I’m also interested in seeing how they pull off the trench warfare on the Western Front.  The good thing is, we only have a month until this game is out so we can check it out for ourselves.

Star Wars Card Game Deluxe Expansion Announced

I haven’t picked up Star Wars: The Card Game and if I’m not careful, they’re going leave me in the dust.  They’ve already announced four expansions in their Hoth Cycle and now they’re putting out their first Deluxe Expansion, Edge of Darkness.  The base game looks really cool and this addition looks like it’s going to make things even better and it adds some of the cooler bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe as well as Jabba the Hutt.  It also lets you reenact some of the cool moments from the original trilogy which makes this set most desirable for me.

Looks cool and I can’t wait to get it.

Dungeons and Dragons Castle Ravenloft Board Game Review

First off some background.  When I was a kid, I was a big into role playing games.  The game we played the most, naturally, was Dungeons and Dragons.  I haven’t played in close to 20 years but I’ve bought some of the books (I quit at 3.5) and I still have my old 1E hard cover books on a book shelf.  The game has changed a lot since then, but a lot of the underlying themes are the same.  I liken it more to what Battletech is, more of a board game with role playing elements.  That’s why I was curious when I saw Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game at a local store.

This one is a tough one to review because there is no comparison to the D&D role playing game.  If you’re a hard core role player, you might not like this scaled down version.  It’s about as light as you can get short of playing Dungeon but if you take it for what it is, you can have a lot of fun with it.  The game comes with around 20 interconnecting tiles that are shuffled into a deck.  You also choose one of several scenarios which require you to sometime set the deck of tiles up a certain way and the scenario might also call for a specific bad guy to fight at the end.

Then the heroes explore.  It’s a dungeon crawl to the max.  You start out with a start tile and the first hero to “explore” an edge puts down a new tile which almost always contains a new creature (there’s a creature deck that you draw from).  There are also encounter cards that can come into play and these range from environment cards, traps or other random attacks or effects that can throw the heroes off.  As you explore more edges, more tiles are placed down and that’s essentially your dungeon.

Each hero (there are five different classes to choose from) gets ability cards.  A couple of these are his basic attacks and usually give the hero the ability to do more damage if they take a less chance to hit.  They also have one time abilities they can use throughout the game.  Each hero or monster has an armor class and they also have a +?? to hit and that’s what you need to role on a d20 for a successful hit.

One of the drawbacks is when a tile is placed and a creature is put down, that creature almost always gets to attack the hero before the hero has a chance to do his attack.  What the creature/monster does is pretty mechanical and it’s spelled out on it’s creature card.  So you want to keep your wizard away from the exploring and leave it up to the muscle.

The first time my son and I played, we got beat up mostly because he was more interested in wandering around, putting down tiles and at one time we had too many creatures down that overwhelmed us.  When we took a more measured approach, we’ve now been able to get past the first two scenarios with some room.  He’s used the Dragonborn Fighter and I’ve used the Dwarf Cleric (this one is necessary if you want to go far with his healing ability).  I’m still trying to figure out how to do the trap cards.

All in all, we’ve had a lot of fun with it.  It also let’s you play with five people so it can make for a fun evening if you have a bigger group.  We also have Wizards of The Coast Legend of Drizzt: A Dungeons and Dragons Board Game which is both a stand alone game and can be used with the Ravenloft game to give even more playing options. Wrath of Ashardalon: A D&D Boardgame is the final game in the series and is on our list.  And if it proves to be a gateway to getting into D&D, then I’ll have to start brushing up on my Dungeon Master skills.

Star Wars Card Game – Hoth Cycle Force Pack #4 is Assault on Echo Base

I still haven’t picked Star Wars: The Card Game but it’s near the top of my list of games to get.  In the meantime, Fantasy Flight just announced the fourth Force Pack in their Hoth Cycle and it’s going to be Assault on Echo Base.  One reason alone to pick this one up is the Imperial side gets Walkers.  If you want to check out the other titles in the Hoth Cycle, you can check them out at this page.

I’m curious if they’ll follow the same kind of pattern they did for Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game where you have a set of six common theme packs followed by a deluxe expansion which then leads into another six theme packs that utilizes the deluxe expansion.  With that, I’m really curious what that deluxe expansion is going to be like.  Either way, I’m sure it’s going to be fun.

Middle Earth Quest – Sauron Strategies

My son and I have now played seven games of Middle Earth Quest and all seven times I played the Sauron side.  He’s 5-2 but all but one of his wins was pretty close and had I done a thing or two differently, I might have gotten a better outcome.  Still, here are some of the things I learned.

Know your opponents – Since the hero side has a choice between five different heroes, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each is important.  The dwarf has a low wisdom so you can throw a quick road block for him just by throwing down influence.  With the female noble who has a wisdom of three, influence isn’t going to do it unless you use a big investment so using monsters is the way to go.

Get a nice influence base down – One of the mistakes I made in earlier games was concentrating my influence.  This made it easier for the heroes to knock out stacks at a time.  What I started doing is going for a wide base, putting one influence down on as many spots as I could.  Then if I knew a hero was going to make a play at a particular spot later in the game, I could throw down an obstacle or two to make things more difficult for him.

Keep the plot cards going – you can’t win if you don’t move on the story track so getting as many plot cards down as early as you can is important.  Make sure you’re one step ahead of the heroes here. Don’t get caught without a plot card on a turn where the heroes can take an existing one out because then it’s basically a two turn replacement (you use your actions to get a new plot card (turn one) and move the story marker (turn two) before you get to place your plot cards) so always keep one or two in reserve.  And when you choose your beginning plot cards, pick the ones you can play as quickly as possible.  I made the mistake one time of holding on to some stage 2 plot cards thinking I can come back late in the game but I ended up losing one to an encounter card and the other one wasn’t as effective because the heroes took it out quick.

The shadow pool helps but not as much as you’d think – In the one game where I won handily, I only ended up with six influence in the shadow pool.  Yes, those higher cost shadow cards can be wicked but they’re usually one shot things and they don’t come into play until later in the game.  In the game I won, I took advantage of some lower cost shadow cards early and that helped slow the heroes down enough for meto pull in front in the second stage.  In addition, while the higher shadow cost plot cards can give you a huge bump, they’re usually not played until later in the game when they make less of a difference.

Keep the heat on – Whenever you can, attack the heroes.  The ambush stage is your friend and unless you’re fighting the dwarf, if the hero can’t beat the creature or minion, then he loses his turn.  And the more times a hero fights, the quicker they have to rest or heal and the more times the story marker moves up.

Divide and conquer – while you don’t always have control over this, try to spread out your plot cards as much as possible.  When there are two or three heroes, it forces the heroes to split up and makes them less effective.  Nothing is tougher to defend than a group of heroes going after a common cause so having them on different sides of the map can be big.

Hopefully this helps.  Feel free to post your own Sauron strategies in the comments section.