September Geekiness

September, always a strange month -the summer holidays draw to an end and the kids head off back to school. It’s a downer kind of month – the autumn colours are not quite with us, but the days are drawing in and temperatures dropping.

So, I thought I’d end it with a competition to brighten things up! Many thanks to Dan Hallagan and Kayenta Publishing for providing a copy of Obsession and its Wessex expansion, I just hope the response makes it worth while. Unfortunately I had to restrict it to UK only, post & packaging costs as well as a difference in competition laws; I had to carry out a bit of research to put together some terms and conditions – who would have thought running a giveaway could be so difficult! You’ll find the competition Here. Have a go; even if you only answer one question correctly you’ll still be in with a chance of winning.

Blog

Things are progressing, but I still lack a little confidence about what I’m producing, especially where my reviews are concerned. I feel they’re just too long, but I do have a reason for that – I often read reviews about games, especially in the magazines, and am often left wondering what you actually do in the game. Some reviews go on about how great the theme is, or the experiences that can be had playing in a group, etc. But, they often fail to tell people how you play the game or what it actually involves – to me, this is vital, at least to a degree.

I like to give a brief (okay, not always brief!) overview of the game play, so that you can get an idea of how the designer intended the game to play, rather than relying on how I say it should be played. Video reviews are excellent for this, and will always top a written one for getting across gameplay. So, my dilemma is this – should I keep with my current format, and maybe that isn’t for everyone, or should I cut the overview, maybe reference a good play through video, and go against what I feel makes a good review?

That aside, I’m trying to mix it up little, introducing a few new things – like the interviews, some solo play-throughs (the Pandemic one I’m working on at the moment is proving to be rather lengthy, but it takes as long as the game lasts!). I also want to introduce a few analytical things, such as looking at luck in games. So, we shall see how things go over the next month or so.

Anyway, let’s move onto what geeky things I’ve been unto in September…

Games

Obsession – I’m not going to go into any detail, as you can read my recent review Here. What I will say is that I’ve been playing a lot of this game solo. There has been a recent rule amendment concerning solo play – it should be closed courtship, which I play all the time now anyway. Playing against the expert opponents results in a really close game, win or lose, and it does give that addictiveness to the game because of this. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey give this a look, it should be available retail pretty soon.

Another game I’ve been playing solo is Scythe, and the more I play, the more I want to play. It really is a great game. To look at, with it’s great miniatures and board covered in hexagonal spaces, you’d think it was a war-game, but you can go an entire game without entering into a conflict. Instead, it’s all about jockeying for position, getting your engine working so that each turn leads nicely into the next – fascinating gameplay. The artwork is stunning, and the game makes exceptional use of it, building the atmosphere, especially with some of the card art. I play with a variation on the solo rules – using one Automa deck to control two factions – and it works pretty much as well as using two decks. The game only comes with one Automa card deck, but others can be purchased separately, and rules can be found online Here for playing with multiple Automa.

Scythe
It’s easy to glance at Scythe and think ‘War-Game’ – Wrong!

As a family we have played a few games of Forbidden Island this month. It’s a ‘nice’ game, in fact everything about it could be described as ‘nice’ – nice and simple to play, nice to look at, nice tin it comes in, and so on. When I first played it I though it would be a good family game, and to be honest, it is, and my only criticism is that it can be a little too easy. Once you’ve played it a few times, you get to figure out the best way to play against the game, and since we figured it out, we haven’t lost – though we have come close on a few occasions. It has been put away for now, after a ‘nice’ experience!

I’ve been pottering about with Star Wars: X-Wing, trying to decide whether or not to invest in the 2nd Edition. It really is a great game, having that ‘dogfight’ feeling you get from watching the films. But it tends not to come out too often, and I usually end up playing solo – there are various methods to determine opposition moves and actions when playing solo, and there are some clever ‘Bots’ on BGG. I’m still undecided – do I just buy up old 1st Edition ships as they become reduced in price, or make the jump to 2nd now, as I haven’t too many ships that will need conversion kits. The conversion kits, in my mind, are little too expensive, but I haven’t fully explored all the options yet. I have however got a fair amount os Star Trek: Attack Wing, which is pretty much the same game using ships from the Trekkie universe. I prefer Star Trek, always have, and I do enjoy playing this. It has a few differences to X-Wing, in the way that most ships have multiple firing arcs and there is a lot of scope to add crew members to the ships. But, the game play isn’t quite as fast and ferocious as X-Wing, partly because there are a lot more cards attached to each ship, and partly because it doesn’t have the same feel. Star Wars is all about small ships zipping around like 1940’s fighter aircraft, and this is how X-Wing is designed to be played. But bolting on the Start Trek universe, which is more about larger, highly destructive, ships – more like a 1940’s Naval battle – it needed the movement and ranges refining, and that hasn’t;t happened. In the end though, it is still an entertaining game, and I enjoy playing both versions. (There is also a D7D version of Attack Wing, not as readily available as the others, and the pre-painted figures are a bit of a let down. The game-play also suffers somewhat!)

Star Wars: X-Wing 1 vs 2!
“Tally-Oh!”

I’ve been refreshing my memory of Pandemic, playing several solo games in preparation for writing a solo play-through. I appear to have lost my touch! In the 5 games I last played I’ve yet to win, though it is starting to come back to me. This is by the same designer, Matt Leacock, as Forbidden Island, and you can immediately spot the main mechanism of the game cropping up in the two – The unique way the infection deck works in Pandemic is the same game mechanism used for the waters rising in Forbidden Island. Pandemic, though more difficult than Forbidden, is also a game in which you can formulate a strategy to increase your win ratio.

I’ve restarted Legacy of Dragonholt, this time playing Solo; Yasmin seems to have lost interest, and I can understand why – but more of that when I do my review. Needless to say I’ve rattled through the initial part as I already knew some of what was going to happen, and have pretty much caught up to where we originally got to. The more I play this game the more disheartened I get. It had the potential to be so much more, but then, if you take note of what it is actually trying to be – A ‘co-operative narrative adventure’ – then I suppose I shouldn’t be too critical, as that’s pretty much what it is!

Painting

I’ve been working on a few things all at once – yes, me, multi-tasking!

I’ve painted the horns and underside red of my Black Dragon, followed by a heavy dry brush of ‘Earth’, over this I drybrushed with Bonewhite – this worked well for the horns, but I’m not happy with the scales on its underside – I’ll have to rethink how I’m going to do that. I may re-paint it solid Bonewhite, and the wash it and add highlights, we shall see!

The Dopplegangers have had a really simple paint scheme – Wash followed by a couple of drybrushes, and that’s it. It’s actually quite an effective way of painting figures like these, and after I’ve based them I’ll use them to highlight the techniques on my next painting post.

Doppleganger
Doppleganger – Wash and drybrush!

The Troglodytes have been done with a similar technique as used above, but they need their armour and equipment finishing off.

My Bugbears bases are nearly finished. I’ve been trying something different and it’s taken awhile to do, but I’m really happy with how the small rocks have turned out. I had to mix up some paint to get the colour I wanted, then added a few highlights – I just need to add a little vegetation now.

I’m having a few issues with the EXPO Dragon I’ve been painting; it’s called Orange – not the Dragon, the issue! I had base coated the Dragons head black, with the hope of using it as shading. Unfortunately I should have heralded my own advice – orange does not cover black very well at all! So I ended up using another base coat, this time of Heavy Orange, which is on of Vallejo’s opaque range, designed for base coating. This has sorted it, and I’m now applying the topcoat orange, finally!

I only usually get to paint once a week, Friday evenings, so this amounts to a fair gain compared to what I usually manage! I have found painting several things at once a lot more progressive; it keeps me from getting distracted by researching things on the net – like what colour should a Dragons claws be!

Other Stuff

My daughter had got it into her head that she must see Ghostbusters, the original 1984 version. So we managed to get a copy on DVD and settled down for a movie night. She loved it, and is now nagging us to get the second one. For me, it really shows its age, and I always remember it being better than it actually was. That’s the problem when you go back and watch some of the films from your youth; you spoil the memories of them!

This month I’ve finished a book called Cyber-Killers; a collection of short stories by different authors, all put together by Ric Alexander. It has stories by the late, great, Terry Pratchett; Arthur C. Clarke; Frank Herbert; Dean Koontz; and many more. It’s all about future crime – involving robotics, Internet, Biological advances, and a whole range of other Sci-Fi paraphernalia. It’s a damn good read – The stories are relatively short, which keeps things varied and fast paced. Some are very good indeed, and to be honest, there really isn’t a dud amongst them.

After finishing that I down loaded Gametek: The Math and Science of Gaming by Geoff Engelstein. Anyone who listens to The Dice Tower podcast, or indeed Geoff’s own podcast – Ludology – will have heard of Gametek. On the podcasts it’s a short section talking about the use of Maths and Science in games design. For a Geek like me it proves to be highly entertaining and informative. The book is pretty much the transcription of these, and is only lightly edited. The good thing about having it written form though, is that you can re-read the bits you don’t at first understand, and there’s a fair amount of it! On the whole he does a very good job of putting a lot of the technical stuff into layman’s terms, so it is fairly accessible. Since I started reading this, I looked up Ludology on my phone and added it to my podcasts; so far I’ve only listened to a few early ones, as I like to start from the beginning, and have to say they are quite ‘dry’. Interesting, but ‘dry’! I would recommend both the book and the podcast, to anyone who has an interest in game design or understanding the mechanisms that make games work, or not, as the case maybe!

Music has made its way back into my life this month. As I’ve played a fair amount of solo stuff I’ve cranked up the old stereo system (Pioneer Amp I brought in 1984; A Pioneer multi-play CD from 1990, and an Ariston Record deck I had in 2004ish) and started to plough through my extensive music collection. I’ve never been a fan of downloading music, I like to have a CD, or better still vinyl. I used to collect vinyl when I was a teenager, and though my collection was once pristine and worth a bob or two – all the constant moving from house to house to house, has seen it become battered and worn. There are still the odd delights, which have remained under lock and key, and it’s a joy to put some of the rare stuff on and sit back and chill. It’s even better to put something on and game to it though!

Finally, I’m still on the lookout for a nice piece of oak to make the legs for my game table. I’ve made up a player board, which works nicely and is just the right size, but I really need to get some legs on the table. I can then move on to customizing it further – I just don’t understand why some wood hasn’t appeared overnight in my garage!

Coming Up

So, over the month of October what have I got up my sleeve:

  • Legacy of Dragonholt review – Probably a little later in the month as I’ve still got a fair amount to play through.
  • Solo Playthrough – I’m doing my first solo playthrough of a game, where I record what and why I’m doing what I’m doing. How will it come over? I’m not sure yet, and depending upon the response, I may do some more.
  • I want to do another ‘Remember When…’ post, as I haven’t done one for a while and I always enjoy researching and writing them. I have a few things lined up I could do, just got to decide which to pick.
  • I’ve got two game designs I’m working on at the moment (slowly), one is a ‘choose your own adventure’ type game, and the other is a story based RPG, designed for 1-to-1 play over e-mail. The latter has really piqued my interest, and I’ve got loads of things all scribbled down on sheets of paper that I really need to put in a coherent order. I’m hoping to prioritize this, and maybe get a playtest in progress, which can become a monthly post.
  • I’m working on my next part of ‘Picking up The Brush’, but it’s doubtful that it will make October, definitely November though.
  • I’m hoping to take delivery of 1066: Tears to many Mothers in the next few weeks. It has been sometime since I placed my late pledge through Kickstarter. I’m planning to do an ‘unboxing’ post, and then quickly play it enough to do a review.
  • Talking of Kickstarter, I have a post planned about crowd-funding, especially aimed at the newbie.
  • Finally, if I can fit it all in – I have in the pipeline a few posts, inspired by GameTek, about luck and randomness in games!

That’s it for this months roundup; thank you to all those who take the time to follow my blog, as well as to those who join me from BGG.

Keep Gaming

Justin – The Solo Meeple

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