Monday, January 26, 2015

X-Wing -- Death Star Trench -- A Cooperative Scenario?

Hi everyone,

Today we had a chance to test out our Death Star Trench a little bit.  All in all, it was quite a bit of fun.  And, we do have some adjustments to make before the next game.

[Here is a link to our posting on building our Death Star Trench.]

But, all in all, we are wondering if this makes a good cooperative scenario for X-wing?  We can probably figure out how to balance the rules well - but since everyone knows that the Death Star blows up - making that a cooperative goal might be a fun way to play.

The other reason we're wondering about the cooperative game idea is that for those of us who are a little bit younger, playing a game of X-Wing where you charge down a trench with TIE fighters shooting at you turn after turn can become a little bit stressful.  And, if main tactic is to sacrifice your Biggs X-Wing pilot to draw fire from Luke, that can become a little bit grim.  But...  if the game were cooperative, then you'd have your teammates to commiserate and cheer with as you go....

Here's how our test went:

1)  Turbo Laser Turrets.  We didn't have these ready.  This made the game more simple - but looking forward to having them as part of the game.

2) Modified Rules.  We got from help on the Fantasy Flight forum page)....

- Start from one end - headed for the exhaust port (at the other end)

- Points.  If this was a cooperative game, you could say we played on "easy".  We had something like 150 points for the Rebels, and about 100 points for the Empire.

- Rebels:  X-Wings - Luke, Wedge, Biggs; Y-Wings - Dutch, Gold Squadron Pilot; Falcon - Han

- Empire:  Darth, Mauler, 3 Academy Pilots

- Empire places ships at the end of Turn 3, gets to move in Turn 4.  [We at first tried after Turn 2 -- that is too early given the speed of TIE fighers.]

- Millennium Falcon joins in Turn 5.  [That seems to early as well - but we were eager to have fun.]

- Proton Torpedoes - we loaded all of the snub-fighters up with these to attack the Exhaust Port.

- Turbo Lasers.  Something like 4-5 attack dice - but snub fighters get double defense dice against these clumsy attacks.

- Using the Force.  We played that Luke got 2 extra attack dice when shooting at the Exhaust Port.  Seems that Darth should also get bonus attack dice when shooting at anyone other than Luke and Wedge.

Our First Test Battle:

In the first turns it became clear that keeping X and Y wings in formation was tricky - because of the greater speed of the X-wings.

Snub fighters in the trench - making their run!

By turn 3 the X-wings were a fair bit ahead.  In fact, far enough ahead that the Biggs special rule (of you can only target Biggs) wasn't going to be helping the two trailing Y-wings at all.

In Turn 4 the empire started shooting - with lucky saves by the rebels.  However, the shields were removed from the Gold Squadron Pilot.  Otherwise, not very eventful.

In Turn 5 all 5 empire ships and the two Y-wings could exchange fire.  And, the Falcon joined the fray.
- The Falcon hit and removed shields from Darth's ship
- The Y-wing "ion" cannoned a lead TIE fighter
- The empire hit the Y-wing ships a couple of times, but spending focus tokens saved the day

Darth:  "What!!!???"

In Turn 6, Luke, Wedge, Darth and Han shot early.  Wedge hit the exhaust port.  But, we were giving it 5 defense dice.  (Not sure if that works or not....)  So, he didn't cause any damage.  Luke, though, using the force (with our force rule), did hit the exhaust port - and got through the defenses.

"You're all clear, kid!"

So - the Death Star blew up!  (We had been giving the exhaust port only 1 hit point.)

Key Take-aways for Playing as a Cooperative Game

- If we were to play this as a cooperative game, thinking about the following rules to make it more of a scenario....  Break the game into two phases.

"Phase 1:  Snub Fighters vs. Turbo Lasers."
- No empire ships, just the Turbo Laser turrets
- The rebel ships make their run -- Luke is not allowed to shoot or use the force (yet -- Ben hasn't told him to!)

"Phase 2:  Enemy Fighters."
- As soon as the rebel ships take their shots at the Exhaust Port, they fly off the board and a second run starts
- Empire enters the board on turn 3
- Falcon enters the board on turn 5
- Use the Force rules for Luke and Darth apply

- Harder = closer to a point balance
- Easer = farther from a point balance

Team play:
- With more than one player, divide ships into squadrons or pilot+wingman....

Empire run rules:
- Flying the Empire TIE fighters gets pretty easy - very few decisions to make unless you select more advanced ones.  But, clearly to play a cooperative game you need to define what they'll do....  "Empire ships fly forward at full speed, and fire upon the nearest ship.  Empire ships always take Focus and spend Focus at the earliest opportunity."

We'll post again after we've tried this a few more times....


Monday, January 19, 2015

Forbidden Desert - A Cooperative PVE Game

Hi everyone,

This past week we got thinking that it would be fun to play some cooperative games -- ones which are strictly Player-Vs-Environment (PVE) games.

So, we asked around and heard that there were some really great ones - and that Forbidden Desert was a quick game to learn and lots of fun.

Forbidden Desert comes in a very nice metal box.  Desert tiles, sand tiles and pieces of the flying machine are all ready to go inside.

Here's what we learned:

1) We couldn't figure out the directions.  (It was really that we couldn't understand the basics of how to start!)

2) So, we watched this excellent Youtube instruction video:  Forbidden Desert Gameplay Runthrough

3) Then, we were off and playing!

Here are the basics of the game:
  • You need to search the sifting sands for the pieces of the very cool flying machine
    • Every player turn more sand hits you!
  • Once you have them all, you trek to the launching pad and take off
  • Do this without running out of water (in the sun scorched desert) and you win
The shifting sands are lots of fun.  Just when you think the game is going to go one way, the arrangement of the tiles and sand change and you have to think again.

Here's a case which can be very good.  The storm is *locked* into the center.  So, storm card draws which move sand down or which move sand left can be ignored - since sand can't shift that way with the sand storm lodged in the upper right!!  Random elements like this will ensure that each game play will be unique....

We really enjoyed the concept of building up your flying machine to fly away and win the game.  We didn't need to get out glue or paints (although we have thought about customizing the flying machine already)....

Here we are having discovered and unearthed all of the pieces of the flying machine.  We have each lugged our share to the launch pad - and are ready to win the game!

Here's a close-up of us on the launch pad with the fully assembled flying machine :)

The difficulty scale (which determines how fast and furious the sand comes at you) is nice.  We started at the lowest.  And, what was nice about this was that the degree of cooperation required wasn't too high.  But, can imagine that to win the game at a high difficulty, you really have to help each other out A LOT!

This game has us thinking about how much fun it would be to make similar games.

We are pondering a Mars version.  (Well - there is so much sand there!)
  • We were thinking that players could be robot probes searching for [we're not sure what]
  • Instead of water, maybe you need to get more hydrogen fuel from fueling stations ??
  • One player could be a solar powered robot -- doesn't need hydrogen -- but moves really slowly when it's night-time
We also thought about an undersea version and a moon version.  (Seems like a fair amount of dust in either place!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Warhammer 40K - Natural Scenery @ Yellowstone

Hi everyone,

During the holiday break we had the chance to take some photos with our favorite Warhammer 40K Space Marine and Space Ork using real-life scenery once again. 

(If you'd like to check out our earlier posting with the Ork and Space Marine in Germany and Denmark -- here's a quick link.)

This time we did it using Yellowstone as the backdrop.

It was a lot of fun catching the steam and gases rising from the Yellowstone geological features - and trying to make them look like battlefield smoke.

Ork:  "Jus' you an' me now!  Waaagh!!!"

Also cool that on some of the colder days the snow/ice took on some very cool (and alien looking) textures.

Ork:  "This ice-stuff pokin' through yer suit?"

Ork:  "Yeah?  Well, maybe I'ze not genetik-ally engineered like you - so what!  I ignores the cold!"

During our prior attempts had learned the trick of having a "low spot" in the middle ground.  Tried to go for this as often as possible so that the scale of the miniatures would seem as realistic as possible.

One thing which was really lucky was that we had so much snow.  It was pretty easy to take photos with the 40K miniatures on the "boardwalk" without having to catch the that surface in the photos.  Made things look much more realistic.  (The paths near almost all of the Yellowstone geological features have dedicated areas for walking - generally with railings.  Prevented us from getting the miniatures very close - but also kept the geology safe from us - and kept us away from super hot and super acidic pH geology.)

Ork:  "Bet you can't walk through that steamy stuff!"

Ork:  "Yer on!  Letz see yuze drink dat whole pool!"

One serious challenge for us (who are already amateurs at Battle Games - and now also confess to being amateurs at photography) is commanding the focal point.  We took these with a phone camera.  That was good because it was really cold out - and very fast.  So, human fingers didn't get as numb.  But, the problem was that when backgrounds had lots of cool texture it was very hard to have them in focus *and* the miniatures in focus.  Example of that challenge below.  That mud pot geological feature has all kinds of cool cracks on it - looks very much like part of an alien planet surface.  But, with the miniatures in focus some of that detail is lost.

Confession - we created the photo by jamming icicle ends into the snow (didn't come across this naturally).  Idea was to create something like Superman's Fortress of Solitude (from the first Superman movie).  Kind of worked.  In hind-sight we should have used quite a few more icicles.

Ork:  "OK - don' stick yer tongue to dose!"
Lastly, we took a ride one day - out very early - and could see all the way to the Tetons to the south.  Apologies for shifting into Hobbit thinking for a second - have to wonder if this might have been what we'd see if we were walking all the way to the Lonely Mountain!
Ork proposal for Lonely Mountain:  "My share 100%.  Yer share 10%."
Overall lots of fun.  Will try for more (less snowy) scenery for our next mission.  Also - next time, thinking of trying to have full compliments of units to stage battles!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Warhammer 40K - Orks + Aquila Stronghold - a bit of a comeback....

Hi everyone,

We have an update to share from two battles over the New Year's weekend.  We played Mr. L Friday in an 1850 point 40K battle.  And, we played Mr. M on Sunday in a 1500 point battle.

The theme of our list?

"The Orks have taken the Aquila Stronghold!  And, with grots manning the huge cannon take on all challengers!"

Quick net:  We lost to Mr. L and his Tyranids -- but it was close!  And, thanks to an early game-ending dice-roll, we squeaked out a win over Mr. M's Space Marines!

Our list....
- Lot more boyz; lot fewer toyz.
- And, we added the Aquila Stronghold
- Against Mr. L we used the Morkanaut; against Mr. M, we trimmed down (to hit 1500 points) and pulled the Morkanaut out.

Here was our thinking:
- We needed more boyz so that point for point we could absorb damage better than we could with large, expensive vehicles
- We needed higher weapon strength weapons -- so rokkit launchas and kustom mega blastas instead of big shootas
- And, we needed some serious firepower to force our opponent to come to us so that we didn't have to charge across the landscape to try to close into close contact

Mr. L's Army -- Tyranids!
- This was our first battle against Tyranids - and man-oh-man did we learn a lot!
- Mr. L is always nice with suggestions - and pointed out that we needed lots of small arms fire to take out his psychic models.  The number of psychic dice Mr. L got to through at us was tough!

The Battle:

- We arranged 5 objectives -- then Mr. L deployed, followed by us.
- Mr. L explained that he wanted a Tyranid army which created the image of alien Tyranids attacking from all sides at once -- a true alien swarm.  So, he had some in reserve which would out-flank from different sides.
- We placed the big cannon in one corner - and probably should have placed more things right by it.  (Units which weren't near the cover-fire of the gun didn't last very long.)

Here's the basic layout.  Aquila Stronghold with Cannon on our rear left corner....

It looks very scenic - but putting our Smasha Gun and set of Ork Boyz in the back right corner didn't work out very well....

- One early thing which didn't go so well was that squad in the back right getting the "horror" psychic thing put on them - failing their morale and Mob Rule - and running backward off the board *bummer*!!
- In fact that "horror" thing pinned a number of our units and slowed us down quite a bit early on....

Here comes the Pink Ork's Morkanaut!

- We tried the Pink Ork's Morkanaut up the middle.  The long range weapons did do some damage - softened things up - but would you believe that the Morkanaut lost in combat to the Tyranids Warlord "Old One Eye!"

Lots of dice rolled by Mr. L's Tyranids!!!

- Mr. L rolled a number of dice against us several times.  He mentioned that he hit a personal record against us - rolling something like 82 or 84 shots at us.  (This was how the Trukk blew up....)

Ghazghkull Thraka and his unit finally enjoy close combat!

- Toward the end of the battle, good old GT and his unit of Ork Boyz got into close combat and were effective.  The meganobs unit also did a good job at slowing down Mr. L.

The ultimate showdown - Ghazghkull Thraka against Old One Eye!

- The battle wound up with Ghazghkull Thraka against Old One Eye.  And, holy smokes - did we meet our match there.  It wasn't really even close.  Old One Eye really worked over GT.  (Next time we'll have to soften up Old One Eye first!)
- So, we ended up losing the battle - we didn't have any units to hold on to points.  There was a brief moment where we had shot Mr. L off of objectives and could have tied - but the game didn't end there - instead continued to that point where GT lost giving Mr. L warlord points against us as well as objectives....

Questions after the battle....

- Is it OK (or fair) to place a fortification on top of an objective?  Seems like this shouldn't be allowed by the rules (unless both players use the tactic equally)....  Well, chatting with Mr. M, he was quite sure that the answer to this one is "no, not OK to do this per the rules."

Mr. M's Army -- Space Marines!
- We knew from experience that one of Mr. M's favorite lists includes drop-pods - which often get right into our rear-guard and cause lots of trouble.  So, we were hoping that the AQ with Cannon would help us with that.
- The battle was the one with only a single objective ("the relic")....
- In this case, Mr. M dropped in right by the cannon so as to quickly try to take it out.

Mr. M drops his Dreadnought and Veterans in right next to the Cannon!

- We got lucky in the early rounds - and kept the cannon in operation.

First GT's unit attacked the Veterans (while taking lots of fire!!!)

Then we focused on that Dreadnought!

- Ghazghkull and his unit munched through troops and then the dreadnought dropped in close by the drop-pod.
- Soon, though ,long range attacks by Mr. M had damaged the cannon (though the building stood).
- Mr. M and his units captured the relic - and things were looking grim.
- But, we were just barely able to get Ghazghkull's unit into close-combat with the units holding the relic - and drive them off - defeating his warlord in the process

The final scene - Ghazghkull Thraka's unit (center) worked through Mr. M's unit holding "the Relic" and then defeated his biker Warlord

- Pretty sure that if the game had continued another turn we were smoked - but a lucky role for us - it ended with GT and his unit right on top of the relic.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Skylander Trap Team (Miniatures meet video games)

Hi everyone,
We haven't been posting about any video games - but we have been playing one the last couple of days which seems like an interesting hybrid of video game and miniature battle game -- Skylanders....

Skylanders Trap Team is a video game which uses very complex models.
What is cool about the game is that the bases of the models have memory which records that model's gaming data (levels, money, upgrades, villains defeated, etc....)
The game is pretty fun to play - we played it on our Xbox 360.
So far, we have 5 Skylanders.  Here's our list:
  • Food Fight (came in the basic set, shoots tomatoes - a bit Orkish for 40K fans)
  • Snapshot (came in the basic set, shoots traptanium arrows, can also strike enemies with arrows for a big attack)
  • Jawbreaker (got him as an expansion, has huge fist punch attacks - very good at attacking - also very Orkish)
  • Wildfire (got him as an expansion, has shield attacks and flame attacks - also can use his shield as a defense)
  • Krypt King (got him as an expansion, uses a huge sword attack - also can attack with bee thingies which come out of his face)
Here are our five Skylander models.  The portal which hooks up to the Xbox 360 is in the background.

Each of these Skylander models has an elemental type.  At times in the game, there are advantages to different types and elements.  What's cool is that you can snatch up one model from the portal and put down another (which might have stronger advantages) and keep on playing.
  • Food fight - Life type
  • Snapshot - Water type
  • Jawbreaker - Tech type
  • Wildfire - Fire type
  • Krypt King - Undead type (we think it is awesome that he is an undead type)
Another feature of the game is that villains can be trapped in electronic traps.  There is one type of trap for each elemental type (tech, water, life, chaos, undead, earth, air, fire, magic, and "?" type).  You can only trap a villain with a trap matching that villain's element type.  Then, once you have the villain trapped -- you can play as the villain as well.
 It seems that there will be more and more chances for games like this.  In Seattle we got a good look at the game Golem Arcana.  Very cool miniatures.  We haven't tried it yet - but the explanation we got is that you have a stylus in this game - and upload miniature positions and map data - and then have a computer playing as game master during your miniature battle.  Very cool - and somewhat like Skylanders.

A photo of the Golem Arcana base game set box


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Battle gaming in the woods.... (Yellowstone in the winter)

 Hi everyone,
The Battle Gaming One team made a winter trip to Yellowstone National Park this year.  We thought we'd write a quick blog from the Battle Gaming perspective -- our big take-aways....
1) You can certainly find game stores between Silicon Valley, California and Yellowstone Park in Wyoming.  We didn't have much time to stop - but did see that there were some good ones in Nevada and Idaho.  And, there must have been some in Montana as well.
2) Lots of chances for taking photos in real scenery.  We're going to create a blog posting with more of the photos we took.  BUT, it's cold in the winter in Yellowstone.  Got down to -17F.  Setting up your miniatures in the snow isn't quite as fun as setting them up in the sand -- in the summer -- on the beach.  Here's one photo....

Pink Ork and Space Marine in Yellowstone, Warhammer 40K with Geyser
Our Pink Ork and Space Marine in Yellowstone.  Cool how the geological activity (venting steam) looks like smoke from a battle in the background....

3) Table top games are great for winter camping.  It gets dark early.  Fun things to do *indoors* are a must (because it's too cold outside!!)....  At the Yellowstone lodge we watched people playing games every night.  The coolest we saw was Dead of Winter.  We saw one group of people playing this in the lodge lobby for hours.  (Here's a Dead of Winter link.)
4) We were trying to figure out how to create some kind of Yellowstone appropriate games.  One idea we had was to set up miniature wildlife (bison, coyotes, wolves, bobcats) and have them battle against a human empire (snowmobilers, hunters, skiers).  We were thinking we could use Fantasy Flight Games type rules.

We didn't find an easy way to do this (didn't find any easy miniatures to use).  But, we did find Yellowstone dice!  Here is a photo of us using the Yellowstone dice (which game with a Yahtzee set)....

National Parks Dice, Alternate Dice, Camping Dice
Here's a photo of our special Yellowstone - National Parks Dice!

5) We lugged our D&D books along (thinking they would be the most rugged and survive the 4-hour tracked vehicle trip in to park) but didn't get to play much.  Idea was to play in the evenings - but we were a bit too tired.  We should have brought something more simple like X-wing :)

All-in-all a fun trip - looking forward to the next one.