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.

Middle Earth Quest Review

The holidays are now more than a month in the past and I never got caught up here but I wanted to talk about one of the games my son and I (and one other for one game) played while my son was on break.  That game was Middle Earth Quest by Fantasy Flight Games.  This is an epic Lord of the Rings game that is supposed to simulate Sauron’s struggle to attain the ring early and it takes place during the 17 year period between when Bilbo leaves the Shire and when Gandalf returns to the Shire to send Frodo off on his adventure.

This is an epic game and we had a lot of fun with it.  The map board is huge (which is both a pro and a con) and one of the reasons we don’t play this game more is that it takes a while to set up and it’s a longer game (we usually play for 3-4 hours but it goes by in a blur).  What’s also interesting about this game is it’s almost two games in one because the player who’s Sauron plays a completely different game than those that take on one of the heroes.

Let’s start with the heroes.  Each good guy player takes on one of five heroes.  There’s Thalin (dwarf muscle), Argalad (elf scout), Beravor (human ranger), Eleanor (human noble) and Eometh (human horseman).  The heroes’ goal is simply to disrupt Sauron’s plans.  Throughout the game he will lay plot cards that brings him closer to victory and the players’ goals are to knock those cards out of play.  Along the way, they’re also given quests that will help them in a variety of ways, whether it’s by giving them an item, training or an increase in one of their abilities.

Sauron is given the task of trying to spread his influence through out the realm and he can also deploy creatures and his minions (advanced creatures like the Witch King) to get in the heroes way.  He can also maneuver heroes with corruption cards that inhibit the hero in a variety of different ways. They also have Shadow Cards which give Sauron a variety of different ways to strike at the heroes.  Still, his primary goal is the placement of plot cards which further his advancement in one of the three means of victory, whether it’s finding the ring, military dominance or corrupting the leaders of Middle Earth.

In a lot of ways, this games plays like a light role playing game.  The Sauron player is kind of like the Dungeon Master and he has control over a variety of things he can throw at the hero/player as they try to save the realm.  If Sauron wins, it means Frodo’s quest is essentially moot because Sauron already has control.  If the hero side wins, then it means the ring stays hidden and Sauron is kept in check so Frodo can complete his epic quest.

In short, this game is very fun but be sure to have a long evening open to play it.  Since it takes a while to set up, we played it a few times in succession and just kept it up in the meantime.  There are also a lot of different rules and I don’t think we played it 100% correct until the last time.  I suggest reading the rules once or twice, play it, then reread the rules to find out what you did wrong and adjust from there.  It’s definitely one of the funnest games we’ve played in a while.

Holiday Haul

We’re back from the holidays and with it, there’s some new games.  Here are the games either I got for Christmas or I bought for my son.  This year, I pretty much got him either 1)  Games or 2)  Legos so this is a nice list.

1) Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set as well as one each of the four expansions.

2) The Lord Of The Rings Sauron Expansion Set Board Game

3) Lord of The Rings LCG: The Hobbit Over Hill and Under Hill Expansion

4) Lord Of The Rings LCG: The Hunt For Gollum Adventure Pack

5) Wizards of The Coast Legend of Drizzt: A Dungeons and Dragons Board Game

6) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Adventure Board Game

I also got some Battlelore stuff from Santa that I picked up at Fantasy Flight’s black Friday sale and we also got in a few rare games of Middle Earth Quest.  In short, we have a lot to play and I should have a lot to report here soon.

LEGO The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Board Game Review

A couple of months ago, my son and I went to the Lego Kidsfest and they had LEGO The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set up and ready to play. It had just come out and I had bought it for my son when it came out but we kind of stumbled along and didn’t really get into it.  Our copy sat on the shelf for a couple of months but just this week I decided to put it together and we’ve had a couple of good games out of it since.

Like any LEGO board game, construction is required and this took about 45 minutes.  The point of the game is to wander from hobbit hole to hobbit hole examining the contents of the holes, finding dwarves and making matches of the other items you can find along the way (runes, hobbits and food).  The game is kind of like memory on steroids.  If you find a dwarf, your turn is done.  If you find something else, you get to look for a match and if you find a pair, then the benefits from the match happen.  If you find a pair of food, your opponent has to put a dwarf back on the board.  If you find a rune, you get one more chance and if you find a dwarf, you get to keep it.  If you find a pair of hobbits, you get to secretly look at a tile to get a leg up on your opponents.

When all ten dwarves are found, the game is over.  The winner is the person with the most dwarves and in the event of a tie, you get to count all of the tiles you found.  In both games we played, we tied dwarves and it came down to a total count.  So far, I’m 0-2 and my son is 2-0.

This is a very light game.  The age range is 7+ but this is a manageable game for someone even younger.  I’m surprised my son is really into it because it’s pretty light but at this point, there’s Hobbit fever in the house.  I jumped all over this at the time because it was the only LEGO Hobbit anything out at the time.  There’s also a couple of variant tiles where you can add Thorin and Bilbo into the game and they provide a twist in the game play.  Other then the first time you have to put it together, it’s a fun, quick game for just about anyone.

A Peak at Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

Growing up, I was a Marvel slappy.  As far as role playing games, we played mostly Dungeons and Dragons and Battletech/Mechwarrior.  Number three on the list was the Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game.  My son has followed in my footsteps and has taken to most of the Marvel universe, particularly Spider Man.

I was looking around Board Game Geek the other day (it’s easy to get lost in there) and looked at some of the hot games and saw Upper Deck Legendary Marvel Deck Building Game.  My son and I have gotten into some of the other deck building games (Pokemon and the Lord of the Rings so far) so this drew my eye and I have to say, this game looks pretty sweet.

The game comes with 15 heroes and players choose which ones they want in there deck (as well as their applicable cards).  Then they square off against a predetermined bad guy.  It looks like it’s cooperative but it looks like the ulimate goal is to accumulate points by beating the bad guy and the most points wins.

The price point is kind of high and I’d be interested to see how they do expansions, which this game looks perfectly set for.  If they do something like the Lord of the Rings Card game where the expansions are small but inexpensive, I could see this being a nice buy because you can pick and choose who to add.  Still, this game is going on the list.