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Everything that sucks! And some things that don't.

Nuggets of wisdom amidst incoherent ramblings. You're welcome.

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Learning to let go of good games

Christian Heckmann
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I played Cthulhu: Rise of the Cults last night. It was pretty good. I think I should try to sell it or trade it away soon. Sound paradoxical?

I own some games. Quite a lot of them, actually. BGG tells me at this very moment that there are 943 titles in my collection (although 232 of those are classified as expansions, so still over 700) and I'd say that that's probably more than anyone with a chronical lack of time or money should own. And I'm guilty on both of those accounts. So I think it'd be about time for me to learn to pull my pants up before things go out of control even more. Figuratively speaking.

But somehow that's not that easy for me. I'm 31 now, compared to the average age here on the geek still wet behind the ears, but I've experienced quite a bit of sociocultural (and especially mediacultural) change in my time. When I was young, we had a TV and you watched the movies that were on when they were on. We had a radio and you listened to the music that it was playing when it was playing. And my parents bough a Gameboy and a SNES but put a pretty strict "That's how many games you get"-rule in place, so we had a handful of games to play and if they were bad, we nevertheless played them and re-played them until we liked them. Restrictions made us appreciate the things we had more.

Then I got my first hi-fi system, my first DVD player, bought my first own video game console (strangely enough an N64 and that was in 2006 and you can say what you will but that was an incredibly bad console altogether...) and suddenly, I got the world on a half shell with lemon and hot sauce. I could buy all of the CDs, all of the movies, play all of the games that I never even knew I wanted. And I did. Not only is my boardgame collection pretty oversized, I also own quite a lot of other stuff. There's almost 900 games in my Steam account (although ever since completely switching from Windows to Ubuntu, only a third or so are still executable), my PS4-hard-drive is filled to the bursting point quite permanently, the walls of my living room are lined with DVD-racks... you get the point. And of course, over time, I've learned not having to learn to like things anymore. I don't have to watch movies, play games, listen to music until I think it's good. If something sucks, I have about drölfzig (it's a German thing...) million alternatives that I could indulge in at any given moment.

And still, I try. Nah, that might be the wrong phrase. Let's say, I want to try. See, in most other media, it's very simple. I spend a bit of time on something, if it was bad, no harm done, if it was good, cool, I'll remember that, if it was great, awesome. But with boardgames... It's not the bad games I have that much of a problem with (in contrast to D., who still holds me responsible for getting Siena and Bushido: Der Weg des Kriegers to the table). If something is bad, I won't play it again, try to trade it, try to sell it, give it away, burn it, whatever and don't care anymore. No, it's the good games that give me headaches. Not great games, but good ones. You know, the ones you play and then go "Yeah, that was pretty good, I might have to try that again some time". Be honest: You won't. At least I won't. Most of the time. Here's an abbreviated list of games I played once, liked, put on the shelf thinking "That's gonna be played again some time" and never got to that: Schatten über Kamelot, Via Nebula, Walnut Grove, Vegas Showdown, Goldene Zeitalter, Vor dem Wind, Galactic Emperor... Cthulhu: Rise of the Cults fits right onto that list. It's hard to find a definitive answer as to why such games land where they land. It's usually a mixture of little niggles and inconveniences that add up and make the game more of a hassle to get to the table than it seems worth to be.

But there seems to be that bit of nostalgic apotheosis in me, memories of those good old times where not everything could be taken for granted, where you had to work for your enjoyment. And then I look at these games, and I think to myself that yeah, they were pretty cool and I should get them to the table again... some day. Perhaps then they will finally shine more and get me to really love them. But come gamenight, they remain on the shelf while I either pack old favorites that didn't have to earn my love but managed to immediately convince me of their qualities, or the newest hotness that just came in - and will most likely land on the pile of "Yeah, that was good, I might play it again some day"-games the next day.

There are so many great games out there, games that I love and play time and time again, so perhaps I should finally learn to acknowledge that life is too short for games that are merely good. I just need to find out how to get started. Any tipps?

So here's my challenge to myself: Come year end, I will have reduced my collection to 365 games (not counting expansions), one for each day of the year. I will most likely fail at that, but hey, you never know!

Anyway, anybody interested in some of my games?
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Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:42 am
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The day Moloch stopped by for tea

Christian Heckmann
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After nearly killing myself, hauling the giant The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch-box home, it was merely a matter of time before I pushed for this thing to hit the table. But finding a fitting timeslot and even more important the right circumstances wasn't that easy. It is primarily a campaign game after all, and one that - if BGG polls are to be trusted - one that plays best with two players. I can see why. Sure, you'll have to manage four characters if the game is played that way, but the way action-planning and resoultion work would make the thing a bit cumbersome if there were more than two players at the table. So I nonchalantly pressured my girlfriend into becoming my opponent for The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch, luring her with promisses like "It's really not that long" (because every time I ask her to play "a short game that lasts 30 minutes or so", she usually asks if there isn't anything shorter we could play...) and "It's a bit like Penny Dreadful" (her favorite TV-show period). As said, yesterday we played the first scenario of the core campaign, me as the Nemesis, she controlling Major Dreadful, Abigail Sutherland, Lady Widow and Drago as her four Gentlemen.



Setup was a bit time-consuming, but nothing that couldn't be managed. Rules aren't that hard to grasp, maybe a bit extensive to frontload, but then again, this is a game that's suited quite well to just jump into and learn it while going along. Despite reading some negatives about the rulebook on the boards, I think it's one of CMON's better efforts. There are quite a few oversights but they aren't as critical as in other games. And the rulebook itself is organized way better than most others of its ilk.



So the scenario began. The Nemesis player has to either incapacitate some of the Gentlemen a total of three times (Gentlemen don't permanently stay down, so neutralizing one thrice would suffice, but I think that that's physically impossible) or neutralize a damsel in distress that is holed up at the local police precinct, together with a few bobbies and surrounded by fire and zombies. The Gentlemen win if said damsel leaves the board via one of two exits or if the two Agents Tobis and Emmerson, two pretty powerful characters that enter the scene during the second turn, are killed.
I tried to get my zombies into the building as fast as possible, taking out a few bobbies within two activations and I felt pretty confident after witnessing how easy London's finest went down. Sadly, that confidence waned pretty quickly once I got into direct contact with the Gentlemen. Seriously, those guys (and gals) are beasts. They hit hard, are hard to hit themselves, can take one hell of a beating and even if they go down, they are back up in no time. Seriously, the closest I came to downing one of them was when Emmerson sniped at Lady Widow through a door and caused her enough damage that she'd receive a torment card. What did that torment card do? Permit her to immediately take a movement action and afterwards attack. She ran up to Emmerson and whopped him over the head with her magic gramophone without problems.



With a combination of lucky rolls and strategically spread fire, I did finally manage to dispatch all of the bobbies, but my zombie army and poor Tobias had been ripped to shreds by Drago and Major Dreadful likewise. Emmerson was surrounded soon afterwards and would have been beaten to a pulp in no time, but he managed to elude his opponents and took a series of daring shots at the damsel through a window, finally hitting her with the fourth and last one (he got a third action because Tobias was dead and was awarded two more actions via a chaos card that I played, immediately retrieved through another chaos card and played again). Victory for the Moloch forces, albeit at what cost? We postponed the intermediate level-up-phase until the next time.

The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch seems to be a pretty cool game. It flows very well there's a myriad of awesome actions and bonusses flooding the table, yet the scenario felt pretty balanced. I'm not exactly sure about the whole programming-aspect, it's interesting and unobtrusive, yet just... I don't know, there. There's also not that much choice involved. Yeah, I can activate those units in this order or in that order, and there might be a smidgeon of strategy involved, but... at the end of the day, you choose your first unit to act, because you have a pretty strong handle on how the situation will look like when it's their turn, but everything afterwards will just happen. At least that's how I feel now, perhaps there are some really cool comboing-possibilities that I will discover over time, we'll see.

The components are also cool. Except for the map tiles. I mean, they aren't bad at all, very pretty, decently sized, but since you don't puzzle the map together but have the room tiles sit on top of the general landscape tiles, they tend to slide around a bit. Nothing too bad, but noticeable. The player aids are good but are lacking exlanations for the three special abilities (Charge, Stealth and Counterattack) that most Gentlemen and Agents possess. Apart from that and the few rules-oversights that I mentioned, not bad, really not bad. No, it's a cool game. I'm not so sure about the campaign- and scenario-format, because I usually dislike both of those things for casual play, but that doesn't seem to be to bad either. What I felt the game was lacking was a bit of narration during a scenario. There's a giant wall of text telling you what had happened and why, but once the scenario starts, it's all purely mechanical. I would have liked some embedded narrative particles à la Villen des Wahnsinns or Star Wars: Imperial Assault, but that's not the end of the world, is it? No, I like The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch and I look forward to continuing it soon. Hopefully I can get my girlfriend to playing it again in the foreseeable future...
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Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:40 pm
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New to my shelf, 02/17/18

Christian Heckmann
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I'm usually not one to insist on delivering Kickstarter-rewards on time. It's a nice thing if a company can do so, but if there are delays in the process, no big deal, I have enough games to enjoy in the meantime. If however a company emphasizes in each and every of the (sparse) updates they publish during fulfillment-time and beyond that basically all of the games are in transit and no really, you should get them any minute now and then nothing happens for three months... well, that does strain my goodwill a little. Why am I writing this? Impulse finally arrived. And some other games. Eyes front:



So, yeah. Second edition of Impulse, including the expansions Impulse: All Your Base and Impulse: Brake for Launch. I don't really remember why I wanted the game in the first place, my points of contact with Carl Chudyk were... amicable but fleeting. Red7 might be incredibly clever and clean and streamlined and stuff but I just don't see myself playing games that are so utterly themeless. And Ruhm für Rom, while certainly a very well designed game, just didn't grab me. Sure, it's a big game in a small box, but I didn't feel really engaged while playing it and for my tastes, it took too long for what it was (but that might have been on the players I've been playing it with). I think Impulse caught my eye because it promised to be a very portable 4X-game that played in a rather manageable timeframe. If that's what it is, cool, I couldn't tell from reading the rulebook, because that in itself seems a bit confused about a lot of things. It's not bad per se, it's just... I don't know, scatterbrained might be the right description. It keeps talking about stuff that will be clarified in the next paragraph but then something entirely different comes along and then afterwards, the rules go like "So... where was I? Oh, right..." and continues with the former topic. Still, looking forward to it.

But not as much as I'm looking forward to Cthulhu: Rise of the Cults. Perhaps I shouldn't be that enthusiastic about the game. Yeah, okay, Der Herr des Eisgartens is one of my favorite games, period. But Martians: A Story of Civilization turned out to be pretty much a train wreck of a game, so chances are rather mixed. But I'm a sucker for the theme and it looks good and the rules make it out to be some kind of mixture between Der Herr des Eisgartens, Verbotene Welten and Blood Rage of all things. It could be good. I really hope that it's good. Fingers crossed.

The other three I acquired pretty cheap via a Facebook-sale. I got Century: Die Gewürzstraße, Sea of Clouds and Holmes: Sherlock gegen Moriarty (what's wrong with Kosmos? Are they afraid that German players won't know who Mycroft Holmes is? Coincidentally, I learned of Sherlocks brother for the first time while reading Kim Newman's Anno Dracula a few years ago, so perhaps Kosmos are right in assuming that...) together for 40€ including shipping, so that's pretty cool. All of them aren't that high on my priorities list, but it's nice having them, I guess. Especially Century: Die Gewürzstraße looks like it could kick Splendor off my shelf for good...
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Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:00 pm
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I really shouldn't like this stupid game that much...

Christian Heckmann
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I remember when I bought my first PS2. I was young and impressionable back then (at the age of 23...) and I scoured the internet, looking for great games that had eluded me all this years and could now finally be played by me. My first few purchases were Resident Evil 4 (to this day, probably my favorite game ever), God of War (2005) and God of War II (both pretty great) and Spartan: Total Warrior (which I never finished). All well and good, but I needed some RPGs and people always lauded the PS2 as their generation's go-to console for RPGs. I discovered Wild Arms and Kingdom Hearts and was finally able to get my hands on Summoner 2 after playing its predecessor on PC years before and all was good. But then I heard of Dark Cloud 2 (that's Dark Chronicle in Europe) and it sounded fantastic. Like one of them 3D Zelda games (which I'm incidentally not that big a fan of) with more RPG elements and city building on top. The meta-score was pretty good, too, so I acquired it. I mean, what could go wrong?

As it turns out, I should have listened to that one guy on Gamespot, who wrote a mildly positive review to Dark Cloud 2, saying "Well, Dark Cloud might not have had a story, but at least it didn't have a story as bad as Dark Cloud 2". While mechanically sound (and graphically still pretty impressive for a game that is 16 years old), Dark Cloud 2 might be one of the most inane games I have ever had the displeasure to play. Yes, it plays well, it's pretty rewarding and there's always something to do. And if that's enough for you, then go for it. But if you're like me and want all of those things you do over the course of a game to amount to something, then stay the hell away from this game. Protagonists Max and Monica might very well be the worst non-characters I have ever witnessed in a game and the fact that they are personally embroiled in all of the "storythread" (and I use that term very lightly) makes it all the more disheartening, seeing them react to great tragedies and unforeseeable twists as if they had just walked out of their own frontal lobotomy. Developer Level-5 are pretty good at overblown melodrama, but they somehow waste it all on side-characters that appear in and disappear from the story within ten minutes. There are a lot of possibly touching and even halfway well-written arcs on the sideline of the game, but they squander all of the potential on the grand, central arc of the game and that just shouldn't be. Seriously, when looking back at the game, looking at characters like Gaspard or Griffon (incidentally the two main badguys of the game) and going "Hey, they were interesting and well written and stuff, why couldn't I have played them instead of those two losers", then something went really, really wrong. So there you have it, a drive-by-review of Dark Cloud 2 on the side. Oh, and while we're at it, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch seems to be equally as bad. I can't say for sure, because I only played it for like eight to ten hours and then I was so incredibly annoyed by Oliver's constant brainless "Well jeepers, Mr. Drippy", that I turned it off and never turned it back on again. I have a theory... no, really two theories. Either the complete writing staff of Level-5 is too stupid to tie their own shoelaces, or they know that I exist, they know what I like and they dedicated their lives to completely frustrating the hell out of me.

Well, joke's on you, dear writing staff, because I really, really like Rogue Galaxy.



But I'm not exactly sure why I do. See, on a superficial level, it shares quite a lot of problems with Dark Cloud 2. The main story is a glowing example in absolute ineptitude while most of the sidestories think themselve to be at least on a shakespearean niveau. High drama comes and goes as it pleases, the whole tone of the game is a hot mess and on top of that, it's mostly an unashamed Star Wars ripoff (seriously, it's like playing an anime-mod to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). The giant war that is supposed to go on in this galaxy happens mostly offscreen and whenever it tries to peek into the mainplot, it does so in an incredibly shoddy fashion. And the companion storylines... oh God, the companion storylines... It's not like in Dragon Age: Origins or so, where you have to become acquainted with your companions and have them like you enough to open up to you, because there's no such mechanism in Rogue Galaxy. No, Level-5 operate under the assumption that if it's good enough to be written, it's good enough to be shoved down your throat. Especially Simon's storyline is pulled off in such a balls to the wall insane fashion that I can't help but kind of admire it.

But what makes this tolerable while Dark Cloud 2 crashed and burned so badly? Interestingly enough, the main character, Jaster Rogue. It's not that he's especially deep or interesting or some such. Quite the contrary. He's just a guy with a stupid haircut and a thirst for adventure, who happens to be pretty good with a sword (at first, at least). And that's cool. If you're writing shallow characters anyway, not personally involving them in the main story is a pretty neat move, because then you don't fail as bad when it becomes apparent how very bad you are at this. No, Jaster isn't in this for any personal reasons, he just wants to have adventures and help people and do the right thing and even though that's not that much to go on, his enthusiasm (and coolest dude in the universe Zegram's constant mocking of that enthusiasm) are incredibly infectious. If I'm playing a videogame, I want to have fun. And Jaster Rogue having barrels of fun on his grand adventure across space is a perfect parallel to that. Yes, the main plot (and most of the sideplots) of the game is incredibly stupid and not that well written while we're at it, but Jaster Rogue's attitude helps me to get on board with it quite immensly.

On the other hand, it's a bit sad to say that Rogue Galaxy doesn't fare as well as Dark Cloud 2 from a gameplay perspective. The high level of random encounters, the dubious game balance and the incredibly stupid companion AI can't hold a candle to Dark Cloud 2's slick combat, with revelation charts (a level up system that is kind of comparable to that of Final Fantasy XII) for each character, weapon fusion, hunter ranks, insectron- and factory-minigames, etc. there's quite a bit of stuff to do, but it doesn't feel as fully realized as the comparable systems in Dark Cloud 2. Strangely enough, the world also feels smaller. And did I mention that Jaster Rogue has a pretty stupid haircut? But that's beside the point. Yeah, it'd be cooler if there was as much stuff in this as there was in Dark Cloud 2, but there is enough fun to be had here and as said, I'll take a smaller game that gets me on board with the story over a bloated mess that trips over its own shoestrings at the first hurdle any day of the week.

So even though Rogue Galaxy is a stupid, stupid game and given my other experiences with Level-5's oeuvre, I really shouldn't like that thing that much, I think it's one of the best RPGs of the PS2-era and if you haven't played it yet, you really should. It's out for PS4 now and I recently re-bought it for like 4€ or so. And that's a price where you can deffinitely do no wrong (even though the conversion is a bit dodgy).
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Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:16 pm
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Three things you should know... 02/13/18

Christian Heckmann
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Aaaaand here we go with another round of random recommendations based on a random word. Today, Merriam Webster gave us:

nuts


1 : enthusiastic, keen
2 : insane, crazy

I'm gonna go with the second one again. Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? This could turn a bit dark...


The first thing you should know: Something to play



When it comes to insanity, Cthulhu is always a pretty safe bet. Here's one you might not have heard of: Fram R'lyeh. Yes, it's spelled that way. Fram R'lyeh is a pretty neat simultaneous action selection/blind bidding/almost trick taking game where you try to acquire treasures without knowing how much they are worth. Here's how it works: Everyone has the same set of cards numbered from one to twelve (plus one unique power card), the first player takes a look at the treasure that is up for grabs that turn, then openly plays one of their cards. Everyone else chooses one, puts it on the table face down and everybody reveals at the same time. Highest power card gets the treasure, ties are broken in favor of player order. There's a twist however. Whoever wins a treasure gets his power card as negative points. So if you won a ten point treasure with your twelve, you just made -2 points. Here's where the insanity aspect comes into play: Once the game is over, all players with a negative score go insane and become cultists. If everybody has a negative score, the player with the most negative points wins. All in all, there isn't that much to the game, but it's a neat little diversion with pretty cool artwork and clever gameplay. Plus it's super portable, scales from three to five players and plays all of those reasonably well. If you can find it, give it a try.


The second thing you should know: Something more to play (but digitally)



Insanity isn't the main focus of The Cat Lady's story, but it is an aspect that is adressed over the course of this grim and bleak indie adventure game. The game mostly deals with depression and it goes to pretty dark places. It also wraps all of this into a horror narrative that threatens to get silly now and then, but thankfully never truly crosses the line. Gameplaywise, it's nothing to write home about. You explore locations, find hotspots, combine items, have conversations and follow the usual adventure game formula. No, it's the story and especially the writing that set The Cat Lady apart from its peers. It's a game that has something to say and it does so incredibly well. It is most certainly not for everybody, because it delves into pretty somber themes and contains graphic violence to boot. But people who are into storydriven videogames and can stomach that should check it out.


The third thing you should know: Something to read



Cabal was my ticket into the literary world of Clive Barker. I found a copy of the novella in a Danish antiquarian bookshop eleven years ago, read it in one day, watched the (inferior) movie later that night and have been a fan of Barker's writing ever since. It's a story about a mentally unstable young man who, after getting framed for a string of murders, finds his place in life by joining a community of mythical monsters. It's incredibly well written, like everything Barker has done, lending purpose to the seemingly most mundane things. It's also stupidly violent, but that's to be expected. Most people seem to agree that it's a metaphor for sexual self-discovery and knowing about Barker's personal life (especially at the time he was writing Cabal) makes this a rather obvious interpretation. As said, there's a movie and a few comic books, rumours have been floating around considering a TV show, but nothing tangible has emerged about that yet. But the novella itself is great and a pretty quick read. If you're interested in a starting point considering Barker, that's a good one.


There you go, three things you should know. Let's hope that MW will have a more uplifting word of the day the next time I decide that I should unleash my wisdom upon you. Have a good one until then.
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Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:05 pm
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Kneecapping your friends in order to outrun the zombie horde... IN SPAAAAAACE!

Christian Heckmann
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I might have jumbled a few things there...

On Friday, S. and F. dropped by to order some strange pizzas (that might have been circumstantial, it's hard to remember) and play games. And strange pizza we got. Well, at least I did. I present you with:



...the wholesome "Pizza Kartoffel" (that's pizza potato for some of the both of you), covered with spinach, potatos, eggs and onions. It was... interesting. I'm not sure that it's gonna become a favorite of mine, but... I've eaten worse.

Oh, yeah, we also played some games.



As previously implied, I had had high hopes for Rayguns and Rocketships. Were they misplaced? Can't say yes. Sadly, also can't say no... yet. There were some very fun moments in our three way brawl acrosse the galaxy, sure. Like when my captain entered S.'s spaceship and unbureaucratically shot half of the crew. Or when he flushed the remaining survivors out of the airlocks (I'm still not sure whether that was a legal move). Entering an opposing spacecraft and wreacking havoc upon it is incredibly satisfying, but the rulebook is horrible, making the game a real chore to play (I'm positively certain that half of the rules that Scott has clarified on the forums afterwards can not be found in those few pages) and in addition to that, the game is so incredibly random.



Which could be fine, I guess, if you're okay with not bothering making a stab at winning the game. When I finished with 16 points, S. had like four or so. And I got half of my VPs by entering his ship, re-energizing my captain half a dozen times and rolling so incredibly well that I killed one of his crewmembers with each and every attack. The combat system works, I guess. I was afraid that close combat would be incredibly pointless beforehand, because two people roll a D8 against each other, higher roll wins, but the fact that losing that roll isn't really dangerous for the attacker makes it kind of worthwhile, especially if your opponent saved up on action tokens, in order to dodge your ranged attacks. Nah, it's okay, it's hardly my favorite style of combat resolution or anything, but it's not broken either. It feels quite outdated, though. A lot of things do, like someone designed half a game and afterwards plugged the holes with "And then you roll a die and see what happens". Which would be okay in a shorter game, I guess, but our game of Rayguns and Rocketships ran quite a bit long (150 minutes or so). But that might have been on us.
What it was definitely lacking was a bit of extra pizzaz. You program your moves for a round (but dodn't expect any RoboRally-esque wackiness there, your movement-options are rather limited and very controlable) and then you go through the motions of conducting your turn. There are no surprises, no cool "Ah-ha!"-moments, where you whip out an awesome card that gives you this or that or turns the tide of battle in your favor. Nah, you move your units, re-energize them, roll a few dice and get lucky or don't. I feel like the game would really benefit from a bit more unpredictability.
But as said, I don't think it's bad. If I can finally get all of the rules down pat and can pull the whole thing of in a reasonable timeframe, then I guess Rayguns and Rocketships could be pretty enjoyable. Its concept alone would deserve that. Oh well.

Afterwards, F. failed horribly at getting a train home, so we were like "Well, we can play another game then". And so we did.



It was my second game of Bullets and Teeth and both of those games were with three players. Which isn't bad, I guess, because it kept the game relatively short. On the other hand, I don't think the game would outstay its welcome even with more people gathered around the table, because once someone can't keep the horde at bay anymore, it'll most likely have swollen to the point that the other players don't have that much of a chance as well.



Bullets and Teeth is a pretty neat game. Quick to set up, quick to explain, quick to play. Yes, at its core, it's a pretty vapid hand management/take that game, but... It doesn't feel as mean as others of its ilk, because it has structure. You look at your cards, you puzzle out a way in order to survive your turn, perhaps you pull off a neat combo or push your luck a bit and then you either live or you die, easy as that. And none of the other twerps around the table are gonna meddle in your affairs while you do it. They might pull a fast one on you once it's their turn, but when it's yours, it's yours. The game also plays in fifteen minutes or less, so that's cool too. All in all, I didn't expect much from this game when backing it, but I was pleasantly surprised that it's a pretty enjoyable experience in a rather compact box. No high art, but pleasant. As pleasant as the cat-poo-induced zombie apocalypse can be, at least.
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Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:36 am
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CMON hates cyclists (or just me) - A very special "New to my shelf"

Christian Heckmann
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Yesterday, I got a DPD shipping notice, but since I have some obligations and lounged around my office while the package deliverer (maybe) knocked on my door (I can't be too sure, there wasn't a slip in my mailbox and a few days earlier, another DPD-guy just decided willy-nilly that he didn't have to deliver a package to me after all and just dropped it off at the nearest pickup-station), so today, I had to go get whatever had been shipped to me. I was like "Surely that has to be that hinge I had ordered, because our kitchen cabinet had decided to unbureaucratically commit sepukku on the spot, that can't be that big, I'll just ride my bike over there and put it in my luggage rack". Alas, when I arrived at the "Gonsbachlädchen" (a local organic grocery store and a DPD-pickup-shop at the same time), I was greeted by this beauty:



So I gritted my teeth, tried to keep a stiff upper lip and then swung on my bike, riding home one-handed while carrying that sizable (and a bit heavy) box under my right arm (I'm a southpaw, by the way). This ranks pretty highly on the list of things I never want to do again now.
But for what? What could be found in this mystery box? This.



My Ambassador-pledge-reward for The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch (including The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch – The Embassy and a huge box of stretch goals). Cool, right? Yeah, I guess. I mean, sure, cool minis abound and I do like one-vs-many-games in general and also I can get behind the World of Smog-theme in general (not necessarily steampunk, but I'm kind of a sucker for most old-timey themes that do feature rather modern handguns... you know, prohibition-era, American west, victorian England and all that jazz), but what I completely missed over the course of the kickstarter campaign is that this is predominantly a campaign style game and I'm not the biggest fan of those. I mean, I like them, conceptually. But I don't know how to fit them into my gaming schedule, because they come with quite a few strings attached and there's just so many games out there vying for my attention that it's hard for me to make such a commitment.



On the other hand, if a scenario really only takes 45 to 90 minutes, that'd be pretty cool, I guess. Also, reading the rules seems to reveal a pretty neat game to me. I wasn't that impressed with The Others, which - for all its theme and chrome and cool upgrades and stuff - to me seemed like a rather frustrating experience in getting punched in the face whenever you weren't busy punching yourself in the face (but perhaps that was just that one scenario I played), but The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch could be a cool, easy-going romp with neat abilities and awesome ways to feel powerful while blasting zombies and killer clowns and the odd minotaur-demon left and right. Reading the rules, this doesn't seem too mindblowing, but it should be rather fun, I guess. I do hope so, at least.

And while we're at it, this one came in a few days ago as well:



An Infamous Traffic seems like the polar opposite of The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch. It's not that attractive, has very few components coming in a flat, light, economical box and from reading the rulebook and watching a rules-video (both of which made bugger all sense to me), this seems like it's a rather mindblowing than fun experience. Not that it seems unfun (but then again, what does, except for endodontic treatment or the burbonic plague), but I dread the moment that I have to introduce someone else to the rules quite a bit. Not that I expect the game in general to crash and burn. Cole Wehrle can do no wrong in my book.
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Fri Feb 9, 2018 12:05 pm
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Top Five Thursday: Most badass warriors in boardgaming

Christian Heckmann
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Fighting is a pretty integral part of modern boardgaming in general. For every game where you're building a town, producing goods, harvesting beans or what have you there seem to be a few dozen titles where pounding your enemies into the ground is your principal modus operandi. Which isn't that surprising when you think about it. As a species that has more or less transcended their more savage instincts, we need an outlett for our primitive cravings. That's why we watch movies, read books, play games about violent confrontations on a rather regular basis. At least that's what I like to think.
In boardgaming, such conflicts come in many different forms. You can bash your friends' heads in in any given scale or scope or via the most diverse collection of methods. And that's all well and good. But this leads to a more pressing question: Who would win in a fight between the robber from Catan and one of those murderous Pachisi-meeples? Lacking any expertise that would qualify me to answer that question, I instead present you with...

Top Five Thursday: Most badass warriors in boardgaming


This time, we'll take a look at the five most gnarly martial dudes and dudettes to be found in modern boardgaming. They're not necessarily the most powerful units out there, nor do their abilities have to be beneficial towards winning you the game they appear in. They are rather a colorfull collection of murderous psychopaths who make you go "Wow, that's pretty badass" once they wade into combat.



Who would have thought that one of world literature's most beloved protagonists could be so badass? In Die drei Musketiere: Für die Ehre der Königin, D'Artagnan has a pretty neat ability. See, usually, one of the musketeers brings two combat dice to the table once he encounters some of Richelieu's henchmen, defeating one of those for each four or higher that he rolls. D'Artagnan on the other hand always has at least as many dice as he has opponents, being able to take on superior forces with ease.
Why only number five then? Well, on the one hand, the map for the game is pretty spacious and the player embodying the cardinal has to cover quite a bit of ground with his meager fourteen guards, so there most likely won't be that crowds so big that you can take full advantage from D'Artagnans ability. On the other hand, all combat happens simultaneously, so even if D'Artagnan attacks a squad of ten guards or so with his ten dice, he's also gonna be assaulted with ten dice likewise. And yeah, sure, the guards are worse at hitting the musketeers than vice versa, but ten dice is still a lot if your unit only has three hitpoints. Still, the possibility of wiping out quite a huge chunk of Richelieu's lackeys with a single flurry of blows is... intriguing.

#4: Sister Mary Gideon from Doomtown: Reloaded



Conceptually, Mary Gideon shares quite a few traits with D'Artagnan. If she's alone in combat, she gains an additional bullet for every one of her opponents. So the more guys she faces off with, the more likely it is that good ol' Mary will kill them all. In theory at least.
The problem here is that combat in Doomtown: Reloaded is dangerous and should be avoided if possible, because repercussions from a subpar round of battle can be quite harsh. In addition to that, there are quite a few abilities and actions that can kill or otherwise remove a single combatant from a brawl, so while Mary operates at peek efficiency while on her own, she also is rather vulnerable that way. So yeah, given the general structure and flow of a game of Doomtown: Reloaded, Sister Mary Gideon isn't the most useful dudette in the game, but if her ability fires, man is it glorious. Also the fact that she's a nun makes her automatically cooler.

#3: The insanity demon and the insanity demoness from Cave Evil



She can dodge a bit better, he's more bloodthirsty, apart from that, they are identical. And their statistics aren't that great, considering they are large units and therefore have to be alone in a squad (except trinket creatures). No, it's their abilities that make them really badass. Granted, those abilities are totally ineffective against other large creatures (and therefore those are usually gonna wipe the floor with one of the insanity-siblings), but faced with a squad composed of small units, man, what fun. See, before any squad may attack the insanity demon or his female counterpart, all of the creatures in that squad have to fight among themselves until only one is left alive, who in turn has to fight the demon or demoness respectively. As said, no good against squads composed of single units, but apart from that, very very cool. The demoness even moreso than the demon, because necro-girl power!

#2: The Operative from Clockwork Wars



Now we're finally getting somewhere, crossing over from "Badass but useless half of the time"-territory into "Badass and also pretty useful on top"-terrain. I was a bit torn when it came to Clockwork Wars, because it'd either have to be the Operative or the Hunter ('cause teleporting werewolves are kind of cool if you asked me). In the end, the Operative came out on top just because of her unpredictability. See, Clockwork Wars is all about strategic positioning, robust supply lines and outthinking your opponent. But most of the moves can be anticipated. All of the Operative's possible moves can be anticipated as well, but it's a bit harder, because the Operative can take all of them at any given moment. She can move as far as she wants to, doesn't need a supply line and on top of that, should she be alone with a solitary hostile soldier during the reinforcement step, she can simply dispatch him before combat ensues. She's basically the spy from BBC's Extreme Amazing Super-Chess. She might not be as strong as the Hunter (or the Crashers for that matter, who are little more than glorified bombs) and should she get caught up in a situation where she's unexpectedly outnumbered, she's pretty much done for. But there's hardly anything more satisfying than sneaking behind enemy lines, popping a lone soldier in the head and disrupting an opponent's supply lines so that he loses quite a few units to attrition.

And #1: Bruder Zael from Space Hulk: Todesengel



There are quite a few pretty powerful Space Marines to be found in Space Hulk's little cardgame brother, like that guy who can keep on killing genestealers until he misses one, the guy who can just outright kill three enemies and afterwards has to check whether he himself survived or that guy with the immense range who just shoots three times with each attack. But nobody can beat the sheer awesomeness of Brother (or Bruder, if you want to get serious about this) Zael. Yes, his range is rather limited, so he has to wade in the midst of combat to be most effective, but that just makes him all the more badass. See, usually, if a Space Marine wants to attack a swarm of genestealers, he rolls a die. That die goes from zero to five and has little skull symbols on three of those sides. Should said Marine roll one of the skulls, he kills one genestealer, so there's a fifty percent chance to kill one of those things with a single attack and a fifty percent chance to completely fail. Brother Zael comes armed with a flamethrower and... He works a bit differently. If he attacks a swarm, you still roll that die, but you disregard the skull symbols, you just kill as many genestealers in that swarm as the die shows. So there's a one in six chance to fail an attack, a one in six chance to perform as good as another Marine half of the time and everything else is just off-the-chart awesome. There are very few things better than coming face to face with a huge swarm of genestealers, rolling the die and roasting five of the suckers then and there.


So there you have it, five (or six) badass boardgame warriors. Which are your favorites? The strongest, the baddest, the outright most awesomest (yes, this isn't a word, yet it should be) fencers, gunners or brawlers out there? Discuss. And see you again next time on Top Five Thursday.
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Thu Feb 8, 2018 11:00 am
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New to my shelf, 02/07/18

Christian Heckmann
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Since my previous post kind of already spoiled that there were new games on my shelf, I thought to myself that that's as good a justification as any to bring all of my fans (both of you) up to speed concerning new additions to my gaming shelf:



New miniatures for BattleLore (Second Edition) are always a welcome addition. The BattleLore (Zweite Edition): Großer Drache Verstärkungspack looks pretty cool (despite the fact that he's already expired). Expensive but quite possibly worthwhile, especially for Uthuk who don't have a native flying unit. In a way, it's a good thing that BattleLore (Second Edition) has been discontinued, otherwise it'd burn an even bigger hole into my finances.

Kaiju Incorporated looks like a pretty neat and portable three player game. I kind of liked Machi Koro in theory but a few less than stellar gaming experiences kind of spoiled it for me. Perhaps Kaiju Incorporated will be more up my alley.

Savage Worlds Gentleman's Edition Revised: Taschenausgabe is - believe it or not - the first physical RPG-product I have ever bought (not counting dice and stuff). All of my other purchases have been in PDF-format. But a colleague of mine recently notified me that this issue of the Savage Worlds core-rules was pretty affordable and since I've been interested in running some Deadlands: Reloaded sessions some time, I thought that that might be a pretty good starting point.

And finally, Rayguns and Rocketships and Stay Out of My Dungeon! both were Kickstarter-rewards that just recently arrived. I have kind of high hopes for both of those. Judging by the rulebooks (which are in dire need of improvement in both cases...), each of those could be pretty good. Could be a hot mess as well, but we'll see. The simultaneous ship-combant/hand-to-hand-combat-system of Rayguns and Rocketships really struck a chord in me, I had always been interested in playing Battlestations (and also had owned it for a while), but could never find the right crowd to play it with. Perhaps Rayguns and Rocketships will be an easier sell. And concerning Stay Out of My Dungeon!... I have always been interested in hidden traitor games which clock in on the shorter end of the playing time spectrum, so I really hope that it's good, because it promises quite a bit...
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Wed Feb 7, 2018 12:52 pm
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Rotten-meat scandal shakes the boardgaming community!

Christian Heckmann
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I should have known better than ordering a great dragon (or "Großer Drache" if you want to get serious about this...) for BattleLore (Second Edition) on the internet. Because when it arrived, I noticed that it was beyond its expiration date for quite some time...



Oh well, I guess it'll still work with the undead faction
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Wed Feb 7, 2018 10:30 am
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