Category Archives: Boardgames

Space Madness

“As I lie down, I realize that… All I wish is to get rid of this Obsessive Devotion” —Epica

My obsessive nature is no secret. Most of the time, when not actually gaming, my half-track mind can be sated by poring through rule-books, running over plots and character arcs for games and stories in my head, or just reading about or talking about games. My house typically has at least one rule-book in each room, if not a game box itself. Nary a day goes by when I do not text or e-mail someone about games we have played or will hopefully play shortly. I often fall asleep thinking of games. I’ve lost sleep thinking of them, as well.

Several times a year, however, “merely” gaming and thinking of gaming is not enough, and I fall prey to the blood fervor of what the Founders of the Secret Cabal call… Acquisition Disorder.

I want more games.

This is not an urge I succumb to lightly. Gone are the days when I was working at a game store and getting my games at cost, and longer gone are the days when I have no responsibilities to think of. I don’t have the disposable income I used to. It’s increasingly more difficult to justify any seemingly whimsical expenditures; the competitors for my monies are no longer other toys and crap I don’t need, but rather clothing for my present and future children, funds to keep the heat and lights on, and, well, nice meals out with my wife. Moreover, I’ve outgrown the Cult of the New mentality of my twenties, and I’ve refined my taste in games over the years. I know what mechanics I will enjoy playing, what will be likely to hit the table with my group and its sub-groups, and what components I will be able to revel in when not playing. I know how to read reviews with a discerning eye and understand what games will truly tickle my fancy and what will eventually just sit on my shelf as I glare at it with regret as to what I should have bought instead.

But sometimes, the demon’s call is too much. Sometimes the emotional beast trumps the logical mind. Sometimes there are games out there that are simply too freakin’ cool not to have.

Recently, my tractor beam has been fixed on…

Space Hulk, 4th Edition.

I know, I know. Falling prey to Games Workshop’s siren song of: Limited Edition!!! Buy now while supplies last! NEW NEW NEW!!!

I’ll admit that Space Hulk wasn’t even a blip on my radar until a couple of weeks ago. I had played and drooled over Steve the Bald’s copy when he brought over his 3rd Edition some years ago, and it was good, quite good, though I’ll admit I didn’t quite grok the strategies necessary to survive, and therefore win, as the Space Marines the couple of times it hit the table. But I love the theme. The mechanics are clean and elegant, even as it drips with AmeriThrashy violence and randomness. But it was, of course, limited edition. I had missed my chance, and I wasn’t really that disappointed. I let it go. I forgot about it.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I heard the announcement that GW was releasing a 4th Edition (or revised 3rd Edition, depending upon who you ask), but that it would again be a limited run, and that it was already sold out at Games Workshop. So it goes. Or so I thought.

I happened to stop in at my Friendly Local Game Store, as my son and I had both been on best behaviour during a night out at a nearby restaurant. While watching him run around the store yelling “Rar!” at all the monster pictures and figures, I saw it. Plain as life. It was just sitting on the shelf. And it was heavy as hell. It wasn’t until I held all twenty pounds of its awesomeness that my obsession began, but like a wave it swept over me, and I’ve been swimming, even drowning in it since.

The marketing gremlins at GW had done their job and done it well. The limited release, combined with seeing a real live copy for sale new-in-box, made me absolutely need to have it. I immediately envisioned hours and hours of cutting figs from sprues, assembling models, priming and painting them. And, of course, setting forth a squad of the Imperium’s finest that would impress my friends and frighten and confuse my enemies. Alas, I was $125 short.

I’ve spent my time since then caught in an obsession spiral. I’ve watched and re-watched review videos, painting tutorials, and unboxings. I’ve read every review on the Geek. I’ve had my Bug Hunt playlist (yeah, I’ve got a playlist for that) on repeat for over a week, dreaming of gene stealers lurking around corners as I immersed myself in the themes to Halo, Aliens, Starship Troopers, and others. Good stuff. But I’m still broke.

Some of this obsession may be my usual escapism. Some is likely my deflected grief over the loss of my mother several months ago. I will say, it does sting in a shameful way that I won’t get a birthday check from her next week. There’s also the fact that work isn’t going well, that I’m nervous about possible problems with my wife’s pregnancy, and that I’m still worried about what the future holds for my father.

But the fact remains. I want this game. I want it bad. It was easy at the beginning. I couldn’t have it. It would sell out before I could scrape together the dough for it. I just had to ride out my obsessions until then. But then I stopped back into the FLGS on the way back from a conference on Monday. It was still there. I had my Wayne’s World moment.

I had to get one of these copies.

I’ve tried justifying this purchase to my wife. It’s limited edition. It’ll be selling for twice as much on the collector’s market soon. It’s not just a game, it’s an activity— modeling and painting. It’s a game that fills the dungeon crawl niche for people that don’t like Descent. I’m sure this will go over well with Jon-boy, Alex, Steve the Blonde, and even M. Steve the Bald… well, he has his own damned copy.

But I have a birthday coming up, so I can’t just shell out and buy it. I have a kid that needs clothes, shoes, and a toddler bed soon. I have another one on the way that is gonna need… gulp… girl stuff. My wife will be out of work for two months when the baby comes, so even my recently-acquired overtime is spoken for. I spent all my discretionary funds on a Vitamix for my wife for our anniversary, and while it can do just about anything, it somehow cannot manufacture a new copy of Space Hulk or the money I need to purchase one. (I haven’t played around enough with the time-travel settings to see if I can somehow exploit that for this purpose.) I should also mention that my wife does give amazing gifts. She also purchases them months in advance, so I certainly cannot count on her having got me this gem that I just realized I absolutely cannot live without a mere two weeks ago.

This game will not solve all of my problems. I would certainly rather have two healthy children than a copy of Space Hulk. I will likely only be able to play it ever a couple of times, at least until my kids are old enough to check it out. I can probably think of other things to spend my money on. I could use a new car, a newer iPhone. There are plenty of things to buy or fix for the house. My wife can always use something pretty. I could stand another pair of shoes.

But still… we… WANTS IT!

The rationalizations I’ve given myself are truly outstanding. My dreams of assembling and painting the models… let’s be honest… I still have several heroes left to paint from RuneWars, my latest painting project. I haven’t even started on the heroes and monsters from Descent, which was supposed to be my next project. I’m not exactly lousy with free time these days, at any rate. I get around this easily, of course. The painting will help me relax. The other projects will help me prepare, hone my skills. I’m painting these to give my son an epic play experience when he is older. Blah blah blah. Gimme gimme gimme.

An exchange..

Erin: Will you even have anyone to play it with?

Me: Sure! Jon, Alex, Steve, other Steve, M… But you know I get a ton out of just looking at the pieces, reading the rules… and there’s the painting!

Erin: Can’t you just buy some figures to pain?

—Sound of crickets chirping… In the distance, a lonely wolf howls—

Now, I get an equal amount of pleasure from poring through rule-books, fluff-text, and components as I do from actually playing the games themselves. Something about the potential fun to be had. Like a DM writing an adventure but never playing it lest his PC’s screw it up. But I also find just component ogling and rules-reading to be a very rewarding experience. Seeing how the mechanics play out with each other, immersing myself in a rich world… And jeez, the freakin’ models, man!

But it doesn’t seem bloody likely to happen this time round, so until 5th edition comes out in another five years or so, I’ll continue to read up, watch vids, and, of course…



Citadels and Crown of Destiny

Steve the Bald was stranded with car trouble, and with Alex out at his son’s soccer game, that left just Steve the Blonde, myself, and Rickster.  We opted to pull out a lighter game before we realized that Steve the Bald would be out for the count, so we grabbed Citadels.


I always underestimate this game.  Simple in mechanics, the beauty lies in the possibilities, each turn causing additional thinky-hurt, but of a different sort than, say, Ra, or another Knizia title.  Every coin counts, especially when you have the nifty butterscotch-looking ones from the small box FFG reprint.  (I gifted my large box to M a while back, after snagging this one back when I worked full time for an online game retailer.)

I started out strong, building four 5-coin buildings fairly rapidly.  What I didn’t count on was that Rick, being new to the game, would use his Warlord and a hefty amount of cash to demolish my large districts.  In my groups, it’s usually considered a waste of cash to trash larger districts, folks generally targeting the districts that are cheap or free.  I thought I was safe.  I was wrong.

I had been hoping to steal a win with valuable buildings, as Steve the Blonde looked like he was going to run away with the end-game, having 6 or maybe even 7 districts on the board early on.  He made a great maneuver early in the game, spending all of his money before my Thief could steal from his second character, leaving me flat broke.  We both also targeted one another with the Magician at least once, just looking at the other and beckoning for their cards.

Rick took pot-shots with his assassin from his side of the table at various points.  It’s nice when newcomers to the game aren’t afraid to be nasty, as that is what makes this game shine.  I think the fact that most several effects target characters rather than players fosters this, and after one player gets hosed and wants revenge, that does well to get everyone’s gloves off.

Three-player Citadels is it’s own beast, and I think it’s actually a great showcase for the game, as it allows new players to figure out the characters rather quickly, having 2 characters per turn.  It also makes for some nice internal combo’s if you can get away with not having one or both of your characters targeted.  Plus, you don’t feel like you’re out for an entire turn if one of guys gets gacked or robbed.

Rick and I had a nice combo on Steve the Blonde at one point, as well, one of us targeting the Bishop with the Assassin, the other wrecking what would have been a “safe” building due to the Bishop’s immunity to the Warlord’s ability.

Slight Mispronunciation:  Dang.  I forgot that when calling role as the King, it is IMPERATIVE to announce “WARLORD” in a death metal growl.

Steve did eventually pull off a nice win, beating me by both going out first and having all colours represented in his Citadel.  I believe it was S: 41, K: 37, R: 21.  Well-played.

Now knowing (or at least strongly suspecting) that Steve the Bald was not going to show, rather than play three and a half hours of our Tyranny of Dragons D&D campaign, leaving behind two players and leaving Steve the Blonde and myself to play two characters each and possibly complete the first chapter of the module, we decided to break out Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2nd Ed.) instead.  (Steve had been baiting us for Talisman, but that was a little too random for my mood.  I had also suggested Android, but Rick didn’t seem to warm up to that after our last try with the game, years ago.)  As I didn’t see us having another chance too soon of trying one of the Hero and Monster Collection quests, I suggested we play the Crown of Destiny quest… on Epic Level.

Unfortunately, my gamestuffs were packed away anticipating our next campaign session with M as our OL.  Quickly we decided to just not use any of the characters from the campaign.  That still left us with a LOT to choose from, and Steve had even more trouble deciding upon monsters from all of the items I have acquired both on my own and as a very generous gift from Steve the Bald of all his old Descent stuff.  My wife’s gift of the Conversion Kit now leaves me with a conundrom of how to store and organize all of the different pieces.  Ugh.

Setup was a bitch, and cleanup is sure to be more of one as I now need to figure out how to bag and box things in a way that is easy to set up for both campaign and one-shot play.  I also need to facilitate further painting endeavors.  Once I finish the rest of my RuneWars heroes.  So much to do, so little time.

Eventually, Rick settled on Leoric of the Book as a Necromancer.

Slight Mispronounciation: Dammit.  I forgot to use the neCROHmancer pronunciation.  What is with me?!

I took Logan Lashley as the Treasure Hunter, as I was sad to not use him in our campaign.  (I opted for Jain as the Wildlander, instead.)

We took one look at the scenario and realized we were screwed.  No tanks, no healers, just two skinny dudes against a potential horde of creatures.  We did a bad bad thing and opened the door early, and I missed a potential extra attack with Logan by grabbing the initial treasure with no plan to use my bonus attack power.  Rick’s reanimate walked into the first room and corpse blasted the Master Chaos Beast into oblivion… or rather, into two minion Chaos Beasts.  This scenario sounded cool at first, but it seemed ever cooler the more we realized that the more big baddies we killed, the harder it was going to be to win, as Steve had chosen kobolds and ferrox’s as his open groups.  So not only did we have all of the little bastards running around trying to steal our destinies (mmmm… Gelfling!), but the freakin’ master kobolds split into two when they die!

We started our strong, but soon found ourselves surrounded, and Leoric fell first.  Logan ran to his aid, helping him up so he could re-summon his little skellington friend, then fell himself.  It got to be quite a drag, each of us falling once every turn or two at that point, but we did have a moment when it looked like we might turn things around.  Logan dropped two foes in a turn using his Heroic Feat, and Rick had the great idea to use his own feat to drop all of the kobolds and ferroxxeseses surrounding him.  Then he rolled an X.  We scanned his cards looking for anything that would allow a re-roll, but there was nothing.

We did hold on for some time, as it was very difficult for Steve the Blonde to roll the 2-shields or fewer to steal our destinies, but once he was able to actually drink one of the destinies with one of his master kobolds, it seemed more futile.  We would now have to kill a Chaos Beast which would then spawn into four more of the little bastards, one of which would split again when we killed him.

We played it out for a while, but once Steve had 3 destinies, and us having no game-changing plays at hand, it didn’t seem worth fighting out.  Mind you, I’m not saying we couldn’t have one, I’m saying that trying didn’t really seem so fun at that point, and after a long day of waiting and gaming, I was content to call Steve the victor.

Rick dug the game, and Steve always loves Descent.  If presented for what it is: a tactical mini’s game with a dungeon crawl theme; and not as what it looks like or we may want it to be: an rpg lite, it hits all marks.  The combat actually seemed more complex and engaging than our 5e experiences so far, but, grant you, our characters were only 2nd level in the D&D game.  I definitely think this scenario is a cool one and would be vastly different with four heroes, especially a tank or two.  I find myself wondering how our dream team of Syndrael-Knight, Avric-Disciple, Jain-Wildlander, and Widow Tarha- RuneMaster would have fared in this quest.  Maybe one day we’ll have a chance to try it.

Steve expressed some slight disappointment at playing the OL, as you don’t get to share your evil plan with anyone or strategize openly.  I find myself intrigued by this, as Steve was my primary DM growing up.  I think there’s a lot to be said for the role-playing we did back then and for rpg’s in general.  A 2-player rpg still necessitates some social interaction, while 2-player Descent is essentially, again, a tactical endeavor and can lead to some of this loneliness.  Maybe Steve isn’t such a heartless engineering tactical mercenary after all… Nah!

Kill count:

Keith/Logan: 4

Rickster/Leoric: 8

StevetheBlonde/OL: 7

Good win by Steve the Blonde.  And a not-to-be-overlooked highlight for me: watching my son eagerly grab after every Descent monster he could get his little toddler hands on, yelling, “Raaarrr!”  We let him bring a couple of the unused monsters upstairs with him, as he was reticent to let them go.. until he found a broom or cardboard box two minutes later.

For those counting, that’s 0-4 for me within 24-hours this weekend.  Not looking good for our fair hero.

But there’s always next time.

Me: Man, I lost all four games this weekend!

Wife: How can you rephrase that as a positive?

Me:  Um… my friends kicked my ass four times this weekend?

Wife: No… you got to play four games with your friends this weekend.

Me: Uh.  Oh.  Yeah.

Game on, y’all.



Ra and Rampage

Jon-boy and M. in attendance last night.  Due to time constraints, we opted for some shorter, if not lighter fare, though I had been holding out hope for another crack at commanding the Waiqar in RuneWars.  E opted out of game night, so we settled on Ra, which M. had played once before and Jon had never played.

I love this game, and am always happy at the thinky-hurt it causes each turn.  Truly a Knizia masterpiece.  Jon was having a bit of trouble keeping the rules straight, but I think he was just having an off night.

Slight Misplay: We got just about all the rules right EXCEPT that I incorrectly stated that the person who voluntarily invokes RA must bid.  While this is true in the case of ties, it is not necessary for the RA player to bid if there is a prior bid on the table.  We only messed this up once, and it was with Jon.  I think he was leaning towards bidding anyways.

Great game overall, though Jon seemed a bit overwhelmed near the end, and made the conscious choice to bid himself out early in the third epoch.

Slight Mispronunciation:  Okay, when I was first taught this game, the other gamers at the table pronounced the word “epoch” thusly: eh-pic  I had a strong feeling that this was incorrect, but not wanting to seem like a complete English nerd/douchebag, I let it go, and since that was the group I primarily played Ra with, I picked up this pronunciation habit.  It was driving me crazy.  So last night, Jon-boy and M. were consistently chiding me, insisting that the word is pronounced in this way (the one marked in blue), which prompted me to do a quick online search.  It turns out that both are correct, one being the British pronunciation, the other American.  As an anglophile when it comes to words, I’ll be doing my best to adjust this.

The game ended with me using my 11 sun on a small row of tiles with one Ra tile space left to go, as I didn’t want to chance losing out to the last Ra tile.

Jon ended up with 5 total points having lost quite a bit in the Pharaoh war and having few monuments and no civ’s at the end (iirc).  M middled out on Pharaohs, but had a ton of monuments, just shy of the 7 needed for the bigger bonuses.  I had misread this on my own board, somehow thinking I’d get a bonus for 5 different monument types, so I ended up losing to M by 5 points, even despite my 3-civ bonus in the third epoch.  Well-played game.

We then opted for another light-ish game.  Rampage came up.  Jon-boy has played a bunch with his kids (though without the special cards), and M. has never played.  It’s a nice mix of wacky dexterity with some very light strategy thrown in.  I do think the cards are a bit annoying, as they can be very situational/unbalanced, and the iconography is not very clear.

Oh, and you will notice I am calling this game by it’s original name, as I was lucky enough to get a copy before the cease-and-desist order came out, forcing the publisher to rename it “Terror in Meeple City.”  So there.

Not really much to report on this one.  There were a few rules quibbles over whether one could munch on a meeple atop a fallen roof/floor tile, and also whether one could then subsequently eat the floor as well.  Overall, a fun game for sure, but it does suffer from some rules holes that just add confusion and annoyance to what should be a very fun dexterity romp with amazing theme and components.

Jon’s practice with his kids paid off, and he beat me soundly by 10 points.  M was out of the running, as she had the misfortune to lose more teeth than she had, having to take meeples out of her belly.  She and Jon also were picking on each other with special cards, stealing meeples back and forth, so that hurt her, as well, as she ended up on the losing end of that battle.

I really need to find more monster-themed music for this game.  The Mummy and Raiders of the Lost Ark worked great for Ra, but with Rampage, I was stuck with just a couple Wolfmother and Blue Oyster Cult songs to evoke the mood.

At any rate, an enjoyable session sponsored by the letters “R” and “A.”