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Apparently, in German, "clanking" sounds different...

Christian Heckmann
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Mainz
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...because if you're playing the German version of Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, cards tell you to add or subtract a few pieces of "Klong" from time to time.



Just in case you didn't believe me...


I first played Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure at a friend's house in September. I had been aware of the game for quite some time back then, but it never really drew my interest beforehand. But back then, I found it kind of neat, so when someone proposed to trade a copy of the game for my unplayed copy of Ora et Labora, I couldn't pass up on it.

So fastforward to yesterday. My girlfriend and I are sharing an advent calendar at the moment, as in, I put things for her in all of the odd numbered doors, she put things for me in the even numbered. Yesterday's door just held a piece of paper with the word "Klong" on it (lavishly illustrated, I might add, just lazily writing a single word or so on an advent calendar present without any effort is rather my style than hers). Well okay then.



We had played once before, one or two weeks prior, and she beat me with a score of 116 to my 115 back then. So this time, I wouldn't give in that easily. We played on the red side of the board, with the added app. I was set back a bit due to inconvenient card draws. Too many boots when I had to stop at the next crystal laybrinth anyway, too few when I could really make progress. I also accumulated quite a bit of clank (or "Klong", if you want to get serious about this) before the first dragon attack and stumbled across a dragon egg for good measure pretty soon.
Luckily, the dragon-bag-draws were more favourably disposed towards me, as very few of my cubes came out, even after a lot more had gone into the bag. A few turns in, I was even so bold as to run down two corridors with monsters in them with nothing but my flailing arms and my horrified screeches to back me up. It wasn't so bad, after all, since at the end of the tunnel, a huge health potion just sat there, waiting to stitch me back together. Even better, my trouble netted me the thirty point artifact, as well as a backpack and the 25 point one on top. My girlfriend tried what she could to impede my card engine, buying the highest valued crown to make two of my cards (Herzdame and Bergkönig, if you know what I'm talking about) less attractive. Another crown went down the drain via app event, but I managed to grab the third one.
So I could have returned above ground at that point and pretty assuredly win the game, since my girlfriend hadn't even gotten her hands on an artifact yet, but where would the fun in that be? So I rummaged around the depths some more, because I really needed one of those monkey idols. Well... I actually didn't need one, since I had already stumbled upon a chalice and a dragon egg, so I had those points for the Zwergenkrämer (German is a beautiful language, right?) in the bag. But I really really wanted one of those. It was stupid and irresponsible, since the dragon was already at five cubes per draw and there were... I dunno, about a gazillion or so of my cubes in that bag. But that wouldn't stop any true adventurer, would it?
And I pulled it off. I got stuck in some underground-cavern for two or three turns, but whenever a dragon attack came up, my cubes just stayed in the bag. So I grabbed a monkey idol, made my way back up, bumbled through the upper dungeon levels for a few turns and then managed to get out immediately after my girlfriend had done so. Final scores: I won with 181:126.

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure is a pretty neat game and one that plays very well with just two players. Yes, there is less tension that way since dragon attacks are rarer, but then again, that's not what the game is about for me (and if you're really craving for a bit more tension, there are house-rules aplenty on the geek to crank that up a notch). It's about going down into a dungeon, grabbing loot, buying cool cards and comboing them into awesome moves. It's fun. Not the most sophisticated kind of fun, not the most revolutionary boardgame design in ages, but... It's fun, what more do you want?
I'm not so sure about the app, though. The liutenant is a neat idea on paper, but in execution, it just feels rather... mechanical. I did this, I push the button, nothing happened, oh well. Or perhaps I'll lose two pieces of gold or make some "Klong" or what have you. Okay, great, whatever. It's not bad, the implementation works really well, but... I don't know, perhaps I was just expecting something a bit more... well... more.
But that's not such a big deal, since... well, it's a neatly designed and programmed app that you get for free, so if you don't like it, just skip it. Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure is a fun enough game without it. And that's what counts, isn't it?
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New to my shelf, 12/08/17

Christian Heckmann
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And another one. Wow, three posts in less than 24 hours? I'm on fire, aren't I? Yeah, that'll normalize soon enough. But I just wanted to drop this one while I have the time and material to do so, since I plan on doing this more regularly but am not really sure if something else would come in the foreseeable future. So here it is: Here's what's new on my gaming shelf.



I'm cheating a bit, since a few of those games have come in a week or so ago, but I feel they're still "recent enough" to include them.



Bloodborne: The Card Game still feels a bit strange to finally being able to classify it as "In my collection". Yeah, theoretically, it's a 2016-release. And I've also had it ordered in September 2016, alongside a few Doomtown-expansions to save on shipping. Those were delivered around October or November of that year. But no trace of Bloodborne: The Card Game back then. Who could have thought that it'd take until November 2017 for it to arrive? Well, I won't be too harsh on the shop, it's not like I've been bored in the meantime.
Played it once already. It is a lot of fun, but I'm really looking forward to the expansion for a bit more carnage and variability. As it was, all of us were stocking up on cannons and repeating pistols and stuff and no player felt really different from the others. I'm pretty sure, the expansion will fix that. But until then, I'm pretty happy with what this little package has to offer.



Another one that came in as a bit of a surprise. As in, I had already forgotten that I had immediately jumped the gun a while back when Nate Hayden et al. had taken preorders for their next game magazine project. So when the shipping notice for FREAKFACE!!! came in, I was like "Oh yeah, right, there was such a thing". And I feel like it arrived at my doorstep way sooner than it had any right to. Now I just need to cut out the cards and get the thing to the table. It looks like it'll be a hell of a lot of fun, but then again, that was to be expected, wasn't it?



I had been on the lookout for Factory Fun for quite some time. I was a huge fan of that factory-minigame in Rogue Galaxy and thought that this might feel similar (although reading the rules reveals that it seems to be quite different). So I was pleasantly surprised when a trade proposal came in that didn't sound that interesting at first, but then, answering to my first message of "Oh, um, I'm not that interested in those games, you see", my trade partner was like "Well fine, how about Factory Fun then?". And the rest is history.



Favor of the Pharaoh is another one of those games that is a lot harder to acquire over here than it reasonably should be. I managed to grab a copy from eBay UK for a price that wouldn't ruin me. Looking forward a lot to trying it out.



Here in Germany, there's a great boardgame shop by the name of Spielgilde, whose head Marcel seems like a really nice guy, judging by the mails we exchanged from time to time. Every second Sunday, additionally to stocking new games altogether, they create about a hundred eBay-auctions of new games with a starting price of 1€. If you're a bit lucky and adept at bidding on stuff on eBay, you can acquire current games for quite a discount. I'm neither of those two things. So at the end of the week, I usually get one or two of the games I bid on, the shipping costs making the whole thing rather uneconomic. Case in point: Traders of Osaka. I got that one and then decided to go all in on a bit of other stuff just so that I can save on shipping costs. Classic story, right?
I don't really remember why I wanted the game in the first place, it sat on my want list from about the time the new Z-Man-edition had been published, but I can't recall how it ended up there. But reading the rules, it seems like a really neat little game. Sounds like something that could be enjoyable to play with my girlfriend.



This was the big one I added to the bulk-order to save on shipping. I was made aware of Richard the Lionheart via Tom Vasel's review and despite Tom's lukewarm reception, it looked kind of neat. I'm a big fan of A Study in Emerald from which Richard the Lionheart seems to take a few hints, but I feel that Richard the Lionheart will be easier to get to the table. I'm pretty sure it won't even come close to replacing Wallace's masterpiece, but I'm nevertheless looking forward to it.



Another one from the bulk-order. I really liked my first game of Cry Havoc, despite seeing a few of the problems that are heavily discussed in the gaming boards. My second game intensified those, so I'm pretty interested in seeing whether the Cry Havoc: Aftermath manages to properly balance (or let's rather say "de-railroad") the whole affair.



And the last one that was necessary in order to save a few meager bucks in shipping. I'm such a financial genius... Yeah, seems like I've fallen into the money swallowing trap that is Star Wars: Imperial Assault, despite being neither a fan of Star Wars, nor Descent. Well played, FFG, well played. In all seriousness, the skirmish mode provides pretty much everything I have ever wanted from a head-to-head-combat game (that is once I stumble upon a good variant to use equipment in this mode). It really is that good. And what could be more fun than clobbering the Emperor himself to death with a band of Wookies? Nothing could be more fun, let me tell you that.



And finally, my backer-reward for my Crossroads of Heroes-pledge was delivered a few days ago. I backed the game on a whim back then because it wasn't that expensive, promised a neat theme, had pretty artwork and seemed like it'd fill a niche in my collection I didn't even know existed. Reading the rules, it seems it'll be a fine little game. There are some uncertainties here and there that I'll have to wrap my head around sooner or later, I'm not exactly sure with how many players I should try it out first, because it seems to walk a pretty fine line between doing your own thing and messing up your opponents, and I'll have to see how intruding the Take That-cards will be, but for now, I'm pretty anxious to try it out.

So that's it for now. If you have any questions about any of those games that aren't really gameplay related (as said, I've only played Bloodborne: The Card Game yet), I'd be happy to answer those for you. Apart from that, have a good one.
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Fri Dec 8, 2017 10:00 am
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"You want some Strudel with that whoop ass?"

Christian Heckmann
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Oh ho, look at me, creating a second post, just a mere few hours after my introduction. Seems like I'm really taking this whole blog-thing seriously, right? Oh just you wait...

As said, a friend of mine, let's call him D. (he's also a member of the Geek, but I'm not gonna disclose anything further unless he aproves that I do), joined me for an evening of gaming tonight. We talked shop about this and that for a while, he told me that he had played a game of Rajas of the Ganges quite recently and had found the whole experience... pleasant but unremarkable. His remark that when in doubt, he'd rather pick something like The Voyages of Marco Polo as his game of choice. Which turned out to be quite the point of attack for me to propose a game. "Have you tried Grand Austria Hotel yet? It's by the same guys and it's really good and I haven't played it in a while", I cunningly segued into a game-recommendation that was immediately accepted.



I really like Grand Austria Hotel. It isn't necessarily "my style of game" (whatever that may be), but I get really absorbed in the whole comboing-business the game has on display. In theory, you've got exactly fourteen actions to reach such lofty heights as around 200 points, while a single action might theoretically net you something in the ballpark of three or four VPs. But then there are bonus actions and secondary actions and combo-stuff and what have you and suddenly, fourteen main actions turn into something that can entertain you for 90+ minutes. There's hardly any direct interaction and if played with more than two players, the downtime may become excruciating, but if only facing a single opponent, that whole efficiency-puzzle that you are presented with each and every turn of the game turns out to be quite absorbing. The theme is also quite something. Not really something I'd usually be that keen on, but it's... pleasant. Serving cake and wine and coffee and strudel to a diverse cast of characters is something almost anyone should be able to get behind.
Despite the friendly exterior, the game really is one that doesn't condone misconducts. My first game was an unmitigated desaster, following games taught me to be more careful and prescient. I thought, I'd have gotten quite a bit more adept at the game.
Tonight, I crashed and burned again quite gloriously. D. finished the game with a fashionable score of exactly 200 VPs. Meanwhile, I wasted actions left and right, took incredibly stupid decissions and pushed my luck one too many times. My final score were 112 points. The dice-gods spared me the disgrace of scoring less than half of the points a newbie could reach, but it was a close call. The fact that I enjoyed every second of a game in which I was completely destroyed speaks of the quality of the game in general. I've not been the biggest fan of Luciani et al. previously, but... Grand Austria Hotel really is something.

After finishing that game, we conversed a bit about different topics, finally reaching that one topic that constantly seems to crop up in our gaming circles: Scythe.



Think about Jamey Stegmaier's magnum opus what you will, but the simple fact that despite me having not played the big S for almost three months, as well as D. not indulging in it for a comparable timeframe, we were talking about it as clearly as if we were intently staring at the game components speaks volumes of the game's fascination. As said, I haven't played Scythe in quite a while, but discussing strategies, tactics, possibilities and stuff in such vivid detail as we did speaks volumes of how that game can dominate your thoughts with such ease, not only while you're playing it, but in the meantime as well.

But as said, we didn't play Scythe, although I'd have been up for it. No, instead, we settled with Puzzle Strike (Third Edition), just because we needed something simple and easy and short to play one to twelve dozen times, until we'd get tired of it, because Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) is that kind of game.



He hadn't played it yet, I hadn't played it since April (funny thin, after acquiring, I played it five times in less than 30 days and not a single time since then). The first match was pretty lopsided. I failed to acquire any chips that helped me to manage my jewel pile, so after twenty minutes or so of harmlessly flailing about, I had to concede after he hit me with a pretty harmless attack, that nevertheless turned out to be enough to push me over the edge. 1:0 for him.

The second match turned out a lot better for me. I struggled again for quite a while, but managed to grab some superior jewels over the course of the first half of the game. About midway through the game, I almost lost my footing once more when I was faced with a 12 point jewel pile at the start of my turn. Luckily I drew three combiners, managed to crash a four-point-gem and then managed to acquire a Master Puzzler chip. D. couldn't do anythin about that one once I drew it. 1:1.



Over the course of the third round, I completely botched each and every attempt of utilizing Lum's inbred powers. I also kind of forgot to buy crash jewels and combiners yet again. It didn't take long until D. crashed a four point gem my way, then another one. And after the second one, I peacefully resigned, because there simply was nothing I could do at that point. 2:1.

Sadly, the fourth game was cut short, because D. had to catch his ride home. Just at the moment when my tactic was picking up speed. In his parting words, he admitted that he wouldn't have lasted much longer. So... point for me? What do you say? 2:2 after all?



I really like Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) quite a bit. It gives a sense of purpose to Dominion-style deckbuilding, which I've always found rather self-serving. Clever, of course. But... hardly exciting to play. Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) gets in quick, gets it's hands dirty and gets out before you know it. And all the while, it doesn't feel vicious at all. I'm not actively trying to harm you. Well, actually, I am, but it doesn't feel like it. I'm managing my jewel pile, you're managing yours, if those two should intersect at some point, then so be it. And if I'm crashing one or two four-point-gems your way, then that's pure conicidence and not because I hate your guts and your nose on top. I swear.

It sucks that my player-boards are starting to warp pretty badly. On top of that, I'm not exactly sure the chip-aesthetic was necessary. Rummaing around in your chip-bag is a lot of fun, but it doesn't warrant the huge boxsize with loads of empty air inside. Which makes it a hard sell to take along to game night. But then again, it is a game that's best played head to head. There are some nifty twists in the three or more player rules, but that way, it might overstay its welcome. But apart from those nitpicks, great game.

So here comes the third act twist in this story full of action and intrigue, please have a seat, because I'm gonna Pulp Fiction the heck out of this report by telling you that D. and I played something else right at the beginning of the evening, even before we started strudeling each other in Grand Austria Hotel (scratch that, our pre-meetup-WhatsApp-messages were strange and ambiguous enough...). Yes, before any of the action that I have just described took place, we sat down for a game of Unpublished Prototype. Didn't see that one coming, did you?



Some context to boot: A week or so ago, my girlfriend spontaneously asked me to visit a local thermal bath, because she was pretty stressed out by her university-obligations. I agreed and she suggested to bring along a game that wouldn't require a lot of space so that it could be played while lounging on some cots. I was like "Hell yeah, great idea". Then I paused. Then I looked at my collection. And then I had to shamefully admit that amonst more than 600 games, I couldn't find any that would fit that criteria.

So I started thinking and in my head, I devised a concept for a game that would be playable with minimal space required. I worked on a rudimentary design for a few days and managed to get somethin ready to try out tonight. And I'm quite pleased with the first test run. It may be far from a polished experience, but it seems to work pretty well for something that I threw together in less than twelve hours tops and I think there might be a future for this.

Basically, it's a hand-management/set-collection card game. There's a pile of 52 cards in the middle of the table, each player gets dealt five cards and then the game begins. Each card has a suit and a value (standard card suits and values), as well as an action, a ressource and a "mission" or somethin like that. When it's your turn, you draw a card, then play a card, either for its action, or to score its points and its special ability by discarding the ressources that are required for that. I've been thinking about a few clever ways how the game might end, but they aren't part of the design yet, because first of all, I have to gather some data about possible scores over the course of the game. The first data I have gathered is a mixed bag. Positive, because it seems pretty balanced, because D. only managed to beat me via a last moment card play. Negative because he beat me. Bad evening for me. Oh well, story of my life.
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Fri Dec 8, 2017 1:44 am
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First.

Christian Heckmann
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A while ago, a friend of mine suggested that he'd be interested (or let's rather say "not completely disinclined") in reading the incoherent ramblings I unleash upon the oblivious boards from time to time in a more structured blog-form. I thought about it back then and it seemed a bit much for me to manage in my spare time, since I wasn't so hot on putting another project on my resumé that'd die a silent death within two weeks or so.
But then, a few days ago, I spent about four hours compiling my thoughts and experiences about a single boardgame into a review and afterwards I felt like "Yeah, that was something, I think I could do that again" (by the way, feel free to read said review, it is... something, I guess). So here goes nothing, yours truly in blog-form for the next two-and-a-half weeks or so, until I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility once again and neglect the whole thing until nobody even remembers it existed in the first place. Yey.

First things first, who exactly am I and why do I think that anybody could be interested in what pops into my mind from time to time? Well, hi, I'm Chris, born in '87, still studying (computer science at the moment, but in the past, that changed from time to time), working as a sysadmin at the university clinic here in Mainz, Germany, and a gamer and general geek since my early childhood (that is if I wanted to identify by some arbitrary subculture-tag, which I usually don't).

I grew up with board- and videogames, TV and movies, comics and literature as well (since learning to read and write at the age of four or so), discovered tabletop RPGs during my later school years, lost sight of general boardgaming somewhere along the way and rediscovered the hobby around 2009/2010 or so and have been going strong in it ever since. I run a bi-weekly open boardgame-meetup here in Mainz (feel free to drop by if you're around here), host private sessions at my own home on a semi-regular basis and am pretty much always interested in discovering new opportunities to play some games, should they not collide with the rest of my illustrious personal life.

But the main reason I am writing now is because all throughout my life, I've been quite interested in finding ways to express myself in creative ways. I've started numerous initiatives to write a novel or something like that, played the guitar and sang in different bands (one of which I was also the main songwriter), ran a short-lived movie project group back at the end of high school (you can find one of our short films here, happy guessing which one of these gentlemen is me, about twelve years younger than today) and all throughout this, I always tried to find ventures to get my humble opinion out there for people to read or hear or what have you, first in the form of a string of movie reviews for a few internet forums, afterwards as a freelance-journalist for different web- and printzines, writing movie- and music-reviews as well as the occasional piece about comicbooks (although that's far from my field of expertise, but then again, what is?). And if there's one thing I learned all throughout my many endeavors, it is the fact that I really can... well, do things, if I put my mind to it.

Well, sucks that I'm so incredibly lazy.

But enough about me, what am I trying to accomplish with this blog here? I'm not exactly sure about the full extent yet, perhaps I'll use it as an outlet for my day-to-day-thoughts, perhaps as a means to bring structure into my perception of the boardgame-world, perhaps just as something to kill time with and entertain people. Who knows? As said, perhaps this thing will be dead in the water a week or two from now. We'll see.
What I'm definitely planning on is chronicling new arrivals to (and perhaps also departures from) my game collection, snappy, short session reports (less geared toward "What happened?" and more like "How did I like it?"), perhaps interspersed with thoughts about RPGs and RPG sessions (since I've reactivated a few members of my old groups to delve into one-shot-gaming a while back), video games (since I'm pretty close to finishing my second playthrough of Persona 4 Golden and afterwards, I think I'm gonna seize the moment to gush about that marvel of a game for a few hourse or so) and - since I like to consider myself something like a Renaissance man of popular culture (but then again, who doesn't?) - perhaps the odd movie, series, book, comic or CD. We'll see.



What can you expect? Well, there's a certain thread that runs through all of my media-preferences: I love a good story. Be it movie, video game, book or boardgame, if I can afterwards talk at length about what something was about, that's a good sign. I also like it when things blow up real good, if you know what I mean. And I'm a sucker for offbeat-stuff in general. Movies like "Six String Samurai" or "John Dies At The End", "Twin Peaks" (the first two seasons, the third was pretty bad if you asked me), the whole "Shin Megami Tensei"-canon or the boardgames of the great Nate Hayden, just to name a few. Also, the writing of Clive Barker. And... to go a bit more mainstream... yeah, the MCU in general.

So... yeah, that's what you can expect from me in the near future. I hope. A friend of mine's coming over in an hour and a half or so for an evening of boardgaming. So perhaps 24 hours from now, you'll see how long I could hold the spirits high for this new venture. Cheers.
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Thu Dec 7, 2017 4:03 pm
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