Friday, February 21, 2014

Zombicide



I’ve been into RPGs a lot more recently, but I’ve always got some time for Zombicide. Zombicide was created by Guillotine Games, who has information published about it on their website. It currently has many expansions out and a variety of playable characters. I have to say, Zombicide is one of the best zombie apocalypse board games that I have ever played. It’s full of action, critical thinking, and, of course, zombies.
So what do you need to know about Zombicide? First, it’s a cooperative game. You and your team are fighting off a zombie horde and trying to complete some objective. Sometimes this means that you have to gather food, and other times you need to kill a certain number of zombies. Most of the time, not all of your players have to survive, but occasionally they do. One particularly brilliant aspect of the cooperative game play is that no one is stuck playing mindless zombies. They are generated by drawing cards each round and follow certain rules that are well defined in the rulebook.

The second thing you should know is that you can make your own missions, or you can go on preset ones. The preset ones include goals, tile placement, and placement of other markers such as zombie spawning points or vehicles like cars. What are these tiles we speak of? Well, the board is made up of tiles that are double sided. They make up a city and include streets (which you can drive police cars and pimpmobiles on) and buildings that you can search and are possibly filled with zombies. This makes it so that each map can be very unique from the others, making the game more fun.

Okay, let’s get down to what you really want to hear about - zombies. There are four types of zombies in the basic game: walkers, runners, fatties, and the abomination. Walkers are your typical zombies - dumb and slow. They pose the least threat but are annoying when they move in hordes. Runners are my least favorite kind of zombie. They get extra actions so they can move fast or hit multiple times. You don’t want to get stuck in a spot with them, so I recommend killing them as fast as possible (preferably by running them over in your pimpmobile - yes, that’s a real thing). Fatties are exactly what they sound like, fat zombies. When they spawn, they spawn with two walkers. Aside from not being able to run them over, they aren’t too bad unless you have a lot of them. Then there’s the abomination, a superbuff zombie that’s hard to kill. My daughter thinks that an abomination is what the Hulk would look like if he turned into a zombie. Surprisingly, they aren’t as bad as runners, they’re just a pain to kill. On the plus side, you can only have one on the board at any time.

For the most part, this game only has positive sides. There are two things I should tell you about, however. The first thing is that there are a lot of little rules you are bound to forget. Some rules that we kept leaving out were the ones involving the sewers, moving through spaces with zombies, generating zombies in buildings. That’s true with many games, but I just felt like pointing it out anyway. The second thing is that it says it will take 1 hour on the box but so far we have yet to play it that fast. Make sure you’ve got time planned out for this, especially if you are new to the game.

Killing zombies is really fun. Killing zombies with a chainsaw is even more fun. Luckily, you can do these, and many other things, in Zombicide. I could probably go on for hours about all the things you can do in this game, but it’s probably best if I just leave it up to you to figure out when you start playing. Hopefully, you’re interested. If not, I recommend giving it a shot, because why not?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blue Rose


Another game that I’ve played recently is the tabletop roleplaying game “Blue Rose”. This game was fairly unique when compared to the other RPGs out there. There are some excellent qualities about the gameplay and the rules, but there are also a few things that I don’t like. Altogether, it’s an interesting game to play and I’ll definitely play it again.
This game describes itself in the rulebook as being of the “Romantic Fantasy” genre. There are several paragraphs that explains what this means, stating that it is derived from literature from the mid-1980s. One of the qualities of this genre is a universal acceptance of other beings, without any biases. The game incorporates this into the setting by making the main country, Aldis, where no one is judged on their race, sexuality, gender, etc. The makers of the game didn’t make the entire game like that though (a little hatred does good to add conflict and plot to a game) and there are other countries and a small portion of the Aldean population that have biases. Jarzon, for example, is another country set in the same would. The people there remind me of Menoth (a faction of Warmachine) – except they don’t like magic. They’re more conservative in thinking and their entire society is based upon a theocracy. There are also underground criminal organizations, such as any good civilization has, and other villains and scum.
As far as races go, Blue Rose isn’t lacking anything. You can be a human, like in most games, but there are other not-so-common options available to players. One such race is the “Sea Folk” who can hold their breath for a long time under water and have a knack for swimming. They aren’t mermaids but they do need to be immersed in water at least once a day. Another cool race is the Rhydan which are basically intelligent animals. There are dolphins, wolves, large cats, and a few other playable Rhydan. The equivalent of an elvish race is the “Vata” and there are also “Night People” which are like ogres.
There is a well thought out history located in the rule book as well as some other neat rules and topics. For one, they mention how to play the game with romance. The rulebook covers suggestions on how to do romance between heroes, NCs, and heroes and NCs.
This brings me to another cool thing about the game – you can play it without much (or any) fighting. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good brawl with a dragon, but every once in a while I find it fun to just go investigate a mysterious crime. In the introduction game, the characters go on a mission from the Crown to figure out if a town has been cursed by Roamers (like gypsies). It’s really neat, and the majority of the mission is about talking to people and seeing what is going on with them.
On the whole, this game was great, but I did have some frustrations with it. When I was creating my character, I found that it was difficult to sort out how to do different things and where to put the information on the character sheet. Eventually, I got it all sorted out, but the rules could be a little more structured in that part of the book. Another thing I noticed is that you do your ability scores first, when I think you should do it later because later choices greatly affect your decisions.
I recommend checking this game out, as it’s really cool. Aside from needing a more organized character formation section, the rulebook was really thorough and even included short stories relating to the chapters. There were some pretty unique ideas found in the book, especially regarding the society of the Aldeans. If you’re interested in a fun RPG with less fighting than normal, I’d take a look at Blue Rose.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy



Recently, I played the RPG Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy. It was a lot of fun to play and many of the mechanics were similar to the game Warmachine. The reason for this? Both games were created by Privateer Press and are even set in the same universe as each other. This means that Iron Kingdoms is in a steampunk-like setting that features magic, beasts, and (of course) machines. As a whole, game was well put together and my party of spies, alchemists, and nobility (and one BIG troll) had a blast.
To start off into the world of the Iron Kingdoms, we created some pretty unique characters. The process wasn't too complicated, but it did take a while with all the going back and forth between ideas. The process starts with choosing a race and then an archetype (of which there are four). Some races have all the archetypes available to them while others have only two or three as options. After that, you choose your two careers. Now, these careers don’t have to be what your character’s job is, it’s just a way to label what things they can (or have the potential to) do. My team ended up with several interesting mixtures including an Aristocrat/Duelist (who is amazing at using a bow), a Fell Caller/Pirate (guess who’s a Trollkin?), an Investigator/Spy (who had Photographic Memory), and a Alchemist/Thief (but none of the other characters know, so shhhhh….). Each of our characters had a different race but we made sure that everyone spoke a common language.

With our characters created, we went right to playing a game. Ten minutes in and the game was off to a great start. The investigator and the pirate had already almost lost us our job, the jack was standing around useless (he came as part of the setting), and we were really annoying some guards. As far as mechanics go, the game went really smoothly. Any questions we had were answered by a quick search in the rulebook.

Some of the unique features in the game included how combat was done and the use of only d6s. Being related to Warmachine/Hordes, the combat was more intricate than some other RPGs that I’ve played. Just like the table-top games, you can run, charge, or move and attack. Unlike the other games, you can make “quick actions” during a battle. You either make two quick actions or you can make a quick action and an attack. Quick actions include drawing your weapon, putting away a weapon, throwing something, etc. They also have what’s called “full actions”. These are things like skill checks and if you use one then you forfeit other actions that round.

Another interesting component of the game was that you can actually build steamjacks. You can buy the parts and customize it yourself so that it will fit all your needs. My son really liked this idea, but we looked at the prices for the parts and they’re pretty costly. In order to afford it, it seems like you have to slowly build it over time.

The use of only d6s was a major difference between Iron Kingdoms and other games. That mechanic was also very similar to the way Warmachine/Hordes works. Most of the time, we rolled 2d6 and added the modifiers to the outcome. Occasionally, we used “Feats” (each character starts the game with 3 feat points and regenerates them each day) to boost the die rolls for both attack and damage. Feats can also be used to boost non-attack rolls, to re-roll, and a variety of other things. The concept is like using focus or fury, except there are more options to use them for.

Overall, Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy was a great game. The rulebook was well organized and put together, complete with excellent graphics. It was well worth the buy and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves a good RPG.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

War Room Review


Well after many months of delays, Privateer Press's War Room app was finally released yesterday. I had high hopes for this app, given the high quality of everything else Privateer Press releases. However, I was extremely disappointed in the end result. First off, it's extremely buggy. If I found 5 bugs in the first two minutes I used the app, some of them major ones, then this app was simply not tested properly. Not even close. There are some glaring bugs that prevent use in a majority of situations:
  • jack marshals don't work
  • it only works over Wi-Fi, not 3G/4G
  • purchases made on one device are not showing up others
  • many devices simply won't run the app (the most popular Android devices)
  • cards can't even be purchased on the Kindle Fire
  • some cards (warlocks) simply don't show up in the list, intermittently
  • a lot of the card data is outright incorrect, especially Field Allowances
  • some cards are missing (the Lightning Pods for the Stormwall, for example)
  • many of the buttons do not work the first time you tap them, and instead require you to keep trying several times before they work
  • if you create a new account, and your chosen password doesn't match the verification, it displays your password in plain text
  • there are rumors, though I can't confirm, that your password is transmitted in plain text without encryption each time you login.
  • on many devices, the entire "W" section of the rules reference is not working
  • there is no way to change your account password, except for clicking the "Forgot Password" link. Unfortunately, that link does not work either, as it never sends the reset password email.
In addition to the numerous bugs, which may eventually be fixed, there are design decisions that likely will not be fixed that are problematic:
  • the app requires you to log in each time you run it
  • the faction logos do not display the name of the faction - this is a problem for newbies
  • some card scroll, which not only makes them seem less like real cards, but there is also no indication that there is more text available that you can scroll to see
  • native UI elements are missing, for example you can't simply swipe right/left to delete something on iOS. You can't use the physical back button on Android. The entire UI looks like it was optimized for keyboard/mouse rather than a touch screen. This is because rather than develop a native app for each device, Tinkerhouse Games opted to use the Unity Framework, which was designed for gaming and not this type of app in the first place.
  • This choice of Unity also impacts the quality of fonts, as they are blurry (scaled) in several places.
  • Mercenary contracts and Minion pacts are not supported
  • Theme forces are not validated
  • Lists are not validated for point cost or for valid models
  • UA's can be chosen without the unit, or can be attached to other units
  • Lists are not filtered based on available points left
  • Mercenaries and Minions can be added to factions that they can't work with
  • the device limit is only TWO devices. In order to authorize/deauthorize devices, you have to deauthorize all of them. You can't do it to just one device. Their website shows which devices are currently authorized by a random unique number, so you can't tell which is which.
  • you can't track status in a real game against someone else using the same account. So if I want to play a game against my son, I would have to buy the decks twice. This is ridiculous, as we are using different factions and are not duplicating any cards between us.
And this list is just what I've noticed during a brief use of less than 30 minutes. In the Privateer Press forums, there are many more reported issues. I emailed Tinkerhouse Games asking for a refund, but only received a form email stating they were working on getting the Android version fixed and that they hoped my issues would be fixed soon. I'm not happy with this app, especially given that it costs $60 to get the full deck. Overall, it was developed in a very amateurish fashion. Steer clear.

UPDATE: Thank you to Apple Support, for giving me a full refund less than 30 minutes after I emailed them. My two emails to Tinkerhouse Games, plus several posts on the forums, had no effect.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Force Wars Teaser

Just a quick teaser...we are working on a complete ruleset for a Star Wars tabletop miniatures wargame, called "Force Wars". Obviously, due to Star Wars being a licensed property, these rules will be available completely for free. The rules are heavily based on Warmachine and Hordes mechanics, with some tweaks here and there to accommodate Star Wars. They are intended to be played with the Star Wars Miniatures figures from Wizards of the Coast (now out of print, unfortunately). I'll keep you posted with details as it progresses, and post the final rules for download on this site.

Warmachine/Hordes Journeyman League

For the past few weekends, my son and I have been participating in the Warmachine/Hordes Journeyman League, over at Tenth Planet Comics & Games. We figured it would be a good way for us to learn the game and to ease into building up an army.

My son is playing a Warmachine faction, Cygnar. They are classic steampunk combined with arcane magic. I chose a Hordes faction, Legion of Everblight. Think of them as undead mutations of a dragon. So far we've been having a blast learning a lot about the game. Currently we've grown each of our armies from the base Battle Box, to 15 points, to 25, and finally to 35. Now it's time to catch up painting them all. My goal is to buy no more models until all of the ones we have are painted.

But as a preview, here are the first two paint jobs, all completed. The one on the left is a Carnivean, from the Legion of Everblight, while the one on the right is the Ironclad, from Cygnar.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Intro to the World of Warmachine and Hordes

Yesterday, I played my first miniature war game. I was introduced to Hordes by a friend of mine (thanks Brian, and thanks to Tenth Planet Games and Comics for hosting us, you guys are awesome!)

For those that aren't familiar with it, the world of Warmachine has sort of a steampunk/fantasy theme. Hordes takes place in the same world, but focuses more on the fantasy aspect. The two games are compatible, and you can mix factions from each in the same game, though the rules are slightly different for each. We played a small, purely Hordes game as an introduction to the basic rules. Judging by the size of the rule book, there were quite a few rules that we left out in our first play.

I liked the idea behind wargaming. It's liberating from the strict confines of traditional board games. I understand how some people could be turned off by having to use measuring tape to measure movement and range, but it also opens up all sorts of possibilities that are simply not possible in other types of games. Of course, with this newfound freedom also comes responsibility. The game is more difficult to master, and thus requires more careful planning of strategies and a greater level of understanding of the rules, each unit, and how they synergize.

To me, it seemed like a nice waypoint between a tactical miniatures game (like Dust Tactics or Earth Reborn) and an RPG. I do find it interesting that most RPGs have miniature skirmish rules more akin to a tactical miniatures game than a full-fledged wargame. For a class of games that defines itself on the ability to allow players to do anything they want, I would think wargaming mechanics would've been the way to go.

For Hordes in particular, I felt it was a solid game. The rules are detailed enough to allow a lot of flexibility, but not so overly complicated that one can't learn them with a reasonable amount of effort. After a couple of hours of play, even my 9 year old son grasped most of rules (at least the subset we were using). There are also enough unique elements so that it doesn't just feel like a thematically re-skinned version of another game. I particularly liked the three aspects to a unit's health - body, mind, and spirit. It adds a fun and variable element to the game.

The only thing left to do now is to decide which faction I want to buy. And, of course, which faction to buy for my son, too!