Origins of Ameritrash: Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster Series

We will conclude our look at Milton Bradley’s contribution to the Ameritrash genre. As we have discussed, Milton Bradley was at the cutting edge in the 1960 with their American Heritage games. Milton Bradley published a large repertoire of Ameritrash games in the 1970’s. All of this leads us to the 1980’s Gamemaster series. This will bookend our current study. Why? The very name “Ameritrash” can be seen to be etymologically linked to the series. Fortress Ameritrash, a movement that celebrates American board game design, took its name from one of the Gamemaster series: Fortress America. While this may conclude our current study of Milton Bradley’s contributions, we will look at Parker Brothers and Hasbro’s contributions in future blog posts.

Origins of Ameritrash: Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster Series

Axis and Allies 1984

Most Muskegon gamers have played Axis and Allies
Milton Bradley’s Axis and Allies

In 1981, game designer Larry Harris wad struck deal with Nova Game Designs. He had been working on his World War II board game for some time. He settled on the name Axis and Allies. The game would allow players to prosecute WWII from a strategic level: you must finance the war and then send forces into battle.

Axis and Allies pieces NGD
Axis and Allies pieces NGD

Nova Games published the first edition of Axis and Allies. The game was a light wargame. Had the game remained under NGD, Axis and Allies would not be considered Ameritrash. Nova Games did not publish games with awesome plastic pieces. They published traditional cardboard counters.

Larry would freelance for Nova Games for the next few years until taking employment at Milton Bradley. Milton Bradley’s marketing team was interested in adding some game design talent to their roster. They offered Harris a job. He accepted. Milton Bradley’s marketing team also was interested in publishing specialty games. They were intrigued by three recent publications from Nova Games–all the design of Larry Harris.

Harris worked on a deal to move his titles from Nova Games to Milton Bradley. In 1984, the deal was struck and Milton Bradley published the first of the Gamemaster Series: Axis and Allies.

Axis and Allies components
Axis and Allies components

Milton Bradley did what they did best: add a heavy toy factor to their specialty games. The game came with a complement of 5 armies. Each army had battleships, bombers, infantry, tanks and other units. Each unit had its own combat abilities, special abilities and a financial cost to buy. This blew Risk right out of the water.

Japanese units head towards China
Japanese units head towards China

Players take on the role of one of the main five belligerents of WWII. The game has a rigid game round structure. A player will purchase new units, research new technologies, make combat moves, the resolve combat, make non-combat moves and then collect income. Then the next player takes his turn. This rigid turn structure was old hat to wargamers but was fairly new to Milton Bradley’s typical consumers.

Axis and Allies is asymmetrical. There are three Allies fighting two Axis. But the Axis has two ways to win whereas the Allies but one. The geography of the board makes each nation fight the war a bit differently also. For example, Russia will be on the defensive all game. Japan has to take as much of Asia as possible while keeping the USA at bay.

Axis and Allies has been the most popular game of the Gamemaster Series. It has spawned several editions, a revised edition, an anniversary edition, a newbie-friendly edition, along with several other iterations. There are also CD-ROM games and miniatures games with the moniker Axis and Allies.

And it shows no sign of slowing down.

 

Broadsides and Boarding Parties 1984

Muskegon loves classics like Broadsides & Boarding Parties
Broadsides & Boarding Parties

Another design from Harris, Broadsides and Boarding Parties is as different from Axis and Allies as it is fun, a testament to Harris’ design abilities.

Broadsides and Boarding Parties was originally published by Citadel Game Systems. Their edition, much like Nova Game Designs’ edition of Axis and Allies, would constitute a light wargame. The game came with an unmounted board and cardboard counters.

Painted copy of Broadsides & Boarding Parties
Painted copy of Broadsides & Boarding Parties

Milton Bradley turned this into an Ameritrash game. It comes with two 3-D ships. You place your sailors and cannons on them along with your masts. This gives it the best visual flair of any of the Gamemaster Series.

The goal of B&B is to destroy your opponent’s ship. You will use your guns to destroy your opponent’s crew and masts. And then you will board his ship to finish him off. The game ends when a player has lost all three of his masts or his captain is dead.

Broadsides & Boarding Parties cards
Broadsides & Boarding Parties cards

This is a game of programmed movement. You place three movement cards down. Then you and your opponent flip over the first one and move your ships. Depending on the position of the ships, you can shoot none, some or all your cannons. Ideally you would like a broadside: when the long side of your ship is facing the narrow side of your opponent’s ship. This would give you more cannon shots than your opponent.

When you roll for damage, the damage could miss, hit crew and/or cannons, or damage a mast. If one or two masts are damaged, you lose one or two of your three movements. You lose if your last mast is damaged. If you are lucky enough to kill your opponent’s captain, you also win.

Boarding in B&B Parties
Boarding in B&B Parties

If your ships are in base contact, you can start boarding. Your crews will be locked in deadly hand-to-hand combat.

Broadsides & Boarding Parties got the least amount of love from the publishers. It didn’t get any additional editions or revisions from Milton Bradley or its successors. But it left an indelible mark in the history of Ameritrash games.

Conquest of the Empire 1984

Conquest of the Empire
Conquest of the Empire

The last of the Gamemaster Series to be designed by Larry Harris was 1984’s Conquest of the Empire. Conquest of the Empire takes place during a time of civil war. Each player controls a faction with a rival caesar. Your goal is to eliminate all the other caesars and become emperor.

Conquest of the Empire was much more like Risk than Axis and Allies. It was a free-for-all game, there were temporary alliances and there was player elimination. Despite this, Conquest of the Empire is considerably deeper (and better) than Risk.

Conquest of the Empire (1984) in progress
Conquest of the Empire (1984) in progress

There are several different units in Conquest. Each has its own cost and combat abilities. Players finance their war effort by deciding which units to buy. Players can also buy fortresses and roads. Fortresses give defensive bonuses while roads give movement bonuses.

Conquest had many good ideas. It had an inflation mechanic. Units would keep getting more and more expensive as the game went on, draining the coffers of all the would-be emperors. The wheelin’ and dealin’ was a nice touch that Axis and Allies could not add.

Gamemaster Series Advertisement
Gamemaster Series Advertisement

But the game did have a few flaws. The most notable was the power of the catapults. Catapults would give you a +1 to your dice rolls. And they are cumulative. And they are limited in supply. So if you bought them, you would have an unstoppable army.

The player elimination aspect is, of course, a vestige of yesteryear’s games.

This is not to say Conquest was without merit. Eagle Games picked up the game several years ago and republished it. They included the classic game along with some updated rules. The updated rules are very good and worthy of an occasional play. And the plasticky goodness along with the war/combat theme means that Conquest of the Empire is Ameritrash through and through.

Shogun 1986

Muskegon loves the Gamemaster Series
Shogun

The last Gamemaster Series games were the design work of Michael Gray. Gray, like Larry Harris, is a prolific game designer. He designed games like Dungeon and The Omega Virus. Milton Bradley added Gray to their team during the same time period they added Larry Harris.

Island fortress in Shogun
Island fortress in Shogun

Shogun was the next game in the series. Shogun takes players to feudal Japan where internecine fighting has consumed the islands. Players have a daimayo that they are trying to raise to emperor.

Planning board
Planning board

Shogun is really a revamped version of Conquest of the Empire. Gray seemed to take the ideas of Harris’ game that worked well and then fixed the ideas that didn’t. Shogun has a secret bidding round. Players will plan their allocations to in one of several different areas. Then players simultaneously reveal their plans. The player who bids most in “swords” gets to pick his turn order. The player who bids highest on the ninja gets the use of the ninja for the round.

Experience track for Shogun
Experience track for Shogun

There are several different units, all with different combat abilities. (Just like Axis and Allies and Conquest of the Empire). However, Shogun had an experience track for your generals. Each time your general won a battle, he went up in experience. This allowed him to make more moves and/or attacks. But watch out! The ninja could be used to assassinate him, reducing him back to his starting stats.

Shogun is a solid game, even by today’s standards. It was rereleased as Samurai Swords and then as Ikusa. With its wonderful complement of miniatures and light wargame theme, how else could we categorize this other than Ameritrash?

Fortress America 1987

Fortress America box
Fortress America box

And this brings us to the last game in the Gamemaster Series. And it’s the game that gave birth to the moniker “Ameritrash”. We are talking about Fortress America, of course. This was also a Michael Gray design.

Gamemaster Series ad (II)
Gamemaster Series ad (II)

In the near future, the US has perfected its star wars weaponry. The USA is now impervious to any nuclear attack. The rest of the world has decided it does not want to be held ransom by American weapons and has decided to attack. Three invaders, all on one team, move into and sack American cities. US troops desperately try to oust them long enough for attrition and partisan activity to be felt. The game ends when all the invaders are destroyed or when 18 US cities are captured by the invaders.

The Southern Invader arrives at San Antonio
The Southern Invader arrives at San Antonio

The invaders outnumber the US by 3 to 1. But they have only their starting complement of units. Once they run out, they don’t get any more. The US, however, draws two reinforcement cards each round and gets one laser tower each round. Plus the US gets lots of defensive bonuses. If they can hold out, they can defeat the invaders.

Milton Bradley's Gamemaster Series
Desperate fighting in New England

Fortress America is truly asymmetrical. This is a departure from Shogun, Broadsides and Boarding Parties and Conquest of the Empire which were all very symmetrical. It’s also a one versus many game, the only one in the Gamemaster Series.

Despite this, Fortress America is fatally flawed. The game, if played right, should end with an American victory every time. The invaders must take 18 cities. But American cities are not uniformly found throughout the country. The Eastern Invader has many more than the other invaders. If the US concentrates all of its laser fire and reinforcements here, the invaders will never get to 18.

The game did get a reprint. Fantasy Flight redid this game, fixing these issues. Buffalo was removed and Colorado Springs was added. A few other tweaks were added as well. Now the game is at least balanced.

The game comes with plenty of different units, lots of plastic cities and laser towers. All of this wrapped in a light wargame. And that means we are dealing with Ameritrash.

Epilogue

Milton Bradley Logo (1980's)
Milton Bradley Logo (1980’s)

This concludes our look at Milton Bradley and its impact on the origins of Ameritrash games. I will spend some time soon looking at Parker Brothers’ contributions to this genre as well. I will wrap up the topic with Hasbro’s contributions.

And as always, drop by The Gaming Annex to play any of these or any other Ameritrash game.

Links

Larry Harris’s site

Information about Michael Gray

Gamemaster Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight Imperum 4th Edition is real

Twilight Imperium isn’t just my favorite game. It’s the game that really launched the Muskegon Area Gamers. The 3rd edition was published in 2005. In 2007 we got the first expansion, Shattered Empire. In 2011 we got the second expansion, Shards of the Throne. It’s been so long we thought Fantasy Flight would simply keep the 3rd Edition in print into perpetuity. Then last Friday they officially announced the upcoming release of Twilight Imperium 4th Edition. This is slated for release in Q4 of 2017. I’d like to take this time to go over the press release and pictures from FFG.

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition is real

The initial news hits the tabletop community

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

On Friday, August 11th, Fantasy Flight Games confirmed the rumors that they are indeed publishing a new edition of their flagship game. This caused a ripple throughout boardgamegeek and the tabletop community at large. The 3rd Edition has been out of print for several months. FFG has been promising to republish the expansions. Normally they sell for $60; when out of print they sell for $200+. To the chagrin of some players, this news meant their 3rd Edition purchases were no longer going to be supported.

But to the delight of almost everyone else this news was very welcome.

 

What you get for your money

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition is real
Twilight Imperium 4th edition components

The 4th Edition will come with a staggering $150 MSRP price tag. This is almost double the original cost of TI3 which was $80. Obviously things are more expensive than they were in 2005. But the game comes with largely the same amount of components as the base edition. It comes with player sheets, the same allotment of plastic pieces, tons of cards and cardboard counters.

The Brotherhood of Yin (4th edition)
The Brotherhood of Yin (4th edition)

Much of the expense is in the artwork. FFG did not skimp on the graphic design. This may not be FFG’s best selling game but it will be their prettiest game. The artwork on the race sheets is great. The graphics on the system hexes is immaculate.

But what about the material changes?

 

What else comes in the box?

Plastic components for TI4
Plastic components for TI4

TI4 will have the same plastic components as the base game of TI3. You will get, for example, 8 destroyers, 3 space docks, 4 carriers, etc. The game will also come with flagships, an item previously available only in Shards of the Throne. The warsuns will also have two halves. Gone are the days of the space boob!

The new edition does NOT include mech units. Perhaps this will be an expansion item? It’s difficult to tell but it appears that there will be no shock troops or space mines either. Again, this could be expansion material.

Some faction sheets for TI4
Some faction sheets for TI4

The game will come with a full set of 17 races. All the races including the races from Shattered Empire and Shards of the Throne are included. The artwork that has been previewed makes some of the details clear. The Sardakk N’orr will still get their single race advantage of +1 to all combat. The Mentak Coalition’s race sheet has been reworded. They still have their two racial abilities (pre-combat with cruisers and stealing trade goods), but the rules have been reworded to meet the new mechanical changes to TI4.

But what about the mechanical differences?

 

Differences from Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

Strategy cards from TI4
Strategy cards from TI4

The 4th Edition is actually a lot like the 3rd Edition. This is a departure from the previous revamps of Twilight Imperium where 2nd Edition was considerably different than 3rd. The 4th Edition is so much like 3rd Edition that if you despised the 3rd Edition there is little chance you like the newest iteration.

The 4th Edition is played largely like the 3rd. There is a strategy phase where you select a Strategy Card. This gives you a primary ability and gives everyone else a secondary ability. This also gives your turn order.

There is command counters for fleet supply, strategy allocation and command pool. There are action cards, ships, combat and diplomacy. The ships are identical in combat abilities (with the exception of the flagships).

So what’s different?

Imperial Strategy card is new. It is an amalgam of Bureaucracy and Imperial II. It allows you to score an objective mid-turn. It allows you to score 1VP if you control Mecatol Rex. But it has another ability. It allows you to draw another secret objectives.

Objectives from TI4
Objectives from TI4

Which brings us to another difference: players will have several secret objectives. You can still only score one per round. But you over the course of the game you could score many.

Trade works differently. The Trade Strategy Card gives you three trade goods. Then you refresh all commodities. Then you have the ability to allow anyone to use the secondary for free. Then everyone has the ability to pay to use the secondary. The secondary refreshes all commodities.

Commodities are like the total of a race’s trade agreements. The Hacan, for example, had a pair of 3 trade agreements. Now the Hacan would have 6 commodities instead of two 3 agreements. These commodities can be traded to any player who has ships adjacent to your ships. You can wheel and deal!

Political has been changed. There is no political step when the Political Strategy Card is played. Instead, there is a political step during the Status Phase when Mecatol Rex is conquered. From then on, there is a political step. Players refresh their planets. The top agenda is flipped over (for real!). Then players vote on it by spending planets. Then the next agenda is flipped over (also for real!). Then players spend planets to vote on that agenda. Then all planets are refreshed.

Tech example in TI4
Tech example in TI4

Technology has been overhauled. There is no more tech tree with specific technologies. Players can use any technology as a prerequisite so long as it’s the right color. Light/wave deflectors requires 3 blue techs. It doesn’t matter which three.

The technologies that upgrade ships are now called, “Dreadnaught II” or “Dreadnaught III” for example. These techs are overlays for your player sheet so you can see at a glance the new abilities. All ship upgrades require diversity in your technology colors while going deep in a single field requires you to focus on one color.

Promissory notes from TI4
Promissory notes from TI4

They kept promissory notes (an addition from Shards of the Throne). However, they are not related to Political Strategy Card, unlike Shards of the Throne’s rules. It is unclear how players will be able to dole out these.

They modified how PDS’s and space docks are produced. There is a separate Strategy Card, Construction, that builds them. Thus, there is no more Production Strategy Card. Instead Warfare Strategy Card’s secondary seems to do what Production’s secondary did.

There are no more leaders, no more distant suns and no more mercenaries. They seem to be eliminating some of the components that were either unbalanced or were patches to the game. They must have fixed these problems so they don’t need these components.

 

Final Thoughts

Bound rule book and prints
Bound rule book and prints

I love the new tech tree. I love the new Imperial Strategy Card. I’m intrigued by the new Trade system. I think it might adjust for some of the issues with Trade in TI3.

I’m not sure if they fixed the political system, though. The new political step is intriguing. But the real problem with the political game in TI was the arbitrary agendas. Did Fantasy Flight fix the stupid weak and stupid powerful agendas?

I really like the fact that there are numerous Secret Objectives. And you can score several during a game. And they have various VP values. This will make the game very lively.

The artwork is immaculate. The plastic components look amazing. And the other components will undoubtedly be as good as any FFG game.

I’m looking forward to playing this as soon as it’s available! It will be bittersweet if it fires Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition.

 

Until then, you can play Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition here:

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
188 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Dictator Joe

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

 

 

SeaFall Session 3

SeaFall - Game 03

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! ANOTHER BOX

We got our 3rd game of SeaFall in the other night, and what a game it was!

First, it took longer to play than it probably should have, just over 3 hours, but the score!

SeaFall - Game 03In Game 3 you play till someone gets 13 points, last game it was 12. In our last game, Tasha got 12, Brandi got 9, I got 6, and Chris got 3. This game? Brandi got 13, everyone else got 12! It was a super close game! Not for all of it. Tasha and I were the last out of the gate, I moved out before her with a ship upgrade, then lost it when I sunk, then she moved out, and I was the last out of the gate and trailing most of the game, but it really comes down to the last few rounds. If it would have lasted 1 more round, I probably would have won.

Now in the game, we have a tie for overall points, it should make the next game very interesting.


Outcome

Brian – 25

  • Buildings
    • Heavy Guns
  • Upgrades
    • Deadly (lost)
    • Deadly
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 0
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 3
  • Treasures = 2
  • Research = 0
  • Milestones

Tasha – 33

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
    • Enduring
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 4
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 2
  • Treasures = 3
  • Research = 1
  • Milestones
    • The Seas Embrace
Chris – 19

  • Buildings
    • Gun Tower
    • Market
  • Upgrades
    • Bold
    • Nimble
    • Deadly
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 4
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 1
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 1
  • Milestones
Brandi – 33

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
    • Terrible
  • Raids = 5
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 10
  • Island Search = 2
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 2
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 1
  • Milestones
    • Trade Flurishes

Game Notes

SeaFall - Game 03We had a lot of pirate attacks this game, well, 3 actually and they seemed to like Brandi the most. They attacked her vault at one point, getting 1/2 of her gold rounded up for 19 gold total.

Brandi and Tasha also had a bit of a falling out in the game. At the start of the game we had to give out enmity tokens to some of the other people in the game, and on of the milestones was to sink another players ships. Brandi struck first, attacking Tasha in her home port, then Tasha struck, sinking one of Brandi’s ships in Tasha’s home port getting her the milestone. It didn’t end there, Tasha raided Brandi’s port again later on, but failed in her attempt. Chris and I didn’t attack the other players, just saying.

SeaFall - Game 03We added two new islands to the map, thanks to Brandi, and had a few issues with some of the new rules. The ‘Dangerous Waters’ vs ‘Uncharted Waters’ messed up a bit, but Brandi figured it out, and the ‘Research’ in the game gave us issues too. Nothing we had said research cards! It would really have been helpful if things had labels on them as to what cards were what, it would have solved all the problems. Just for your reference, the cards on the right are the research cards.

SeaFall - Game 03 SeaFall - Game 03 SeaFall - Game 03

New Box

SeaFall - Game 03Thanks to Brandi, we were able to open a new box this game.

The box was nice and heavy, and contained a lot of new goodies! Everything from new and more upgrades and buildings, to new player reference cards, advisors, retired advisor cards, treasures, and more! Some of the new treasure cards are worth 4 pts each but are very expensive to pick up.

The next game should be a good one, looking forward to playing it.

SeaFall - Game 03 SeaFall - Game 03

 


Be sure to visit Iggy’s Games where you can see this and many other gaming articles.


 

Thrift Store Finds July 2017

It’s been some time since I posted my thrift store finds. Don’t let this hiatus lull you into thinking I’ve abandoned my post at every Goodwill in the tri-county area. There have been several good finds along with a couple of amazing finds. And, as always, these games are available for our members or readers of this blog at The Gaming Annex.

Thrift Store Finds July 2017

Bermuda Triangle

Bermuda Triangle (1976)
Bermuda Triangle (1976)

I first learned about the Bermuda Triangle in 1977. Charles Berlitz, a renowned writer of the paranormal, authored a popular book about the infamous area of the Atlantic. His work spawned a creepy episode of  In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy.

In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy
In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy

Berlitz’s book did more than spawn a TV episode though. Milton Bradley released a pick-up and deliver game called Bermuda Triangle the year after Berlitz’s book. I’ve blogged about the game in my essay about the origins of Ameritrash. It’s been a game that I’ve wanted since my childhood.

And the Goodwill in Grandville delivered! (Figuratively. I mean, they didn’t drive the game to my house).

Players must move about the eastern Caribbean, picking up goods an delivering them. Players get paid for making deliveries (total cash determines the winner). However, there are clouds forming. The area bound by Miami, San Juan and Nassau is haunted by an amorphous black fog. It’s magnetic properties screw up your navigation and cause your ships to be lost.

There's a storm abrewin'
There’s a storm abrewin’

Each player has a complement of ships. These plastic ships have a magnet on them. When the storm passes near them, the ship can be picked up. This means the ship is lost and you will have to buy a new one.

The game is beautiful for a 1970’s game. And the components are fun. I like the idea that the magnetic storm simulates the magnetic anomalies that sailors have noted in the real Bermuda Triangle. Ultimately, the roll-and-move aspect sinks this game by today’s standards. Still, I’m glad I found a copy!

A Cache of Dungeons & Dragons Books

Someone's collection of D&D books
Someone’s collection of D&D books

Several weeks ago, a follower of ours on Facebook was looking to sell some D&D books. She asked if I would post her wares on our page. I obliged. The post drew a tremendous amount of interest from the Muskegon area. Seems everyone and their brother wants some D&D books.

Joann, one of our members, really wanted those books. Unfortunately, the books sold before she could make arrangements.

I was perusing the Goodwill on Harvey Street about two weeks later. I hadn’t found any noteworthy games in some time. The shelves were filled with dreck. I walked past one of the new merchandise bins. I found six, count ’em six, D&D books! And by some serendipity, the six books matched the titles I was asked to post on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier.

The clerk rang up the books at 80 cents a pop. $5.09 later, I had a budding collection of 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons books. I was only too happy to give them to Joann who missed out on the ones being sold on our Facebook page (which were $20 each).

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger
Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger

I keep finding copies of Enchanted Forest. I’m not complaining. People in our group who have kids clamor over it.

I believe I’ve found 4 copies in 2017. Two members, Holly and Jonathan, got copies to play with their families. I now have an additional copy available.

Snorta!

Snorta! from Out of the Box Games
Snorta! from Out of the Box Games

Snorta! is another great family game. The components are cute plastic animals and barns. The game play revolves around being the first to make an animal sound when a card is flipped.

I’ve found a couple copies of this in 2017 that were incomplete. To my dismay, I was not able to cobble together a complete copy with them either.

But I did recently find a bona fide complete copy. Keeping with tradition, I gave it to Holly. Her kids are going to be inundated with games if this pattern keeps up.

You’re Bluffing

You're Bluffing from Ravensburger
You’re Bluffing from Ravensburger

IfSnorta! is a good farm animal game for children then You’re Bluffing is the same for adults. You’re bluffing is farm animal auction game. You either auction off an animal and collect money or you make a blind bid against an opponent’s animal. The goal is to collect entire sets of animal so they are worth points.

I was first introduced to this game by long time member Bruce. I found a copy for myself at a thrift store copy several years ago. I loaned it to former member Charles who ended up moving to Maryland–taking You’re Bluffing with him.

Some of the cards
Some of the cards

I made a local trade to get another copy for my library. But a recent trip to one of the thrift stores on 29th Street yield some thrift store gold: a complete copy of this prized game!

Now I have an extra copy available. I believe it’s earmarked for Tasha. But if she passes on it, I’ll make it available to the general public.

Arab Israeli War

Arab-Israeli Wars from Avalon Hill
Arab-Israeli Wars from Avalon Hill

Finding Avalon Hill games at thrift stores is like grabbing the brass ring. There are two reasons for this. The first is AH games are generally good games that stand the test of time. The second is owners of AH games take care of their games so most thrift store finds will be complete.

I found a copy of Avalon Hill’s The Arab-Israeli Wars, complete and mostly unplayed. Some of the counters were unpunched. Some gamer must have bought a copy of this game hoping to find a game group with which to play it only to have it sit idle for years on his shelf. If this is the case, I have a local game group that you will want to join!

Dinosaurs of the Lost World

Dinosaurs of the Lost World from Avalon Hill
Dinosaurs of the Lost World from Avalon Hill

I’ve been wanting a copy of Dinosaurs of the Lost World from Avalon Hill for a while now. The game has two modes: family and strategy. The game has better components than most Avalon Hill games (AH was known for the quality of game play, not quality of components). And I’m a huge fan of Jurassic Park so the theme works for me.

But the price doesn’t.

Modular board of Dinosaurs of the Lost World
Modular board of Dinosaurs of the Lost World

The game goes for $70+ when you can even find a copy. I put it low on my priority list.

While making my rounds one afternoon, I saw a game with this familiar title on it. I thought, “No way! This is some similarly named game.”

But to my pleasant surprise, it was a complete copy of the Avalon Hill classic. The game is now a permanent edition to our library.

Other thrift store finds

Elude the dungeon keepers of Muskegon!
Parker Brothers’ Dungeon Dice

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimate Werewolf
Ultimate Werewolf

 

 

 

 

 

Stratego 4
Stratego 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the thrifting never stops…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
188 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Epic Games: Dune

Sunday, Aug 6, 2017, 11:00 AM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Around the world of board gaming July 2017

Lots of news to cover around the world of board gaming. We will talk about GenCon, game theory, the market outlook for Hasbro and, of course, The (New) Gaming Annex. Hope you enjoy it!

Around the World of Board Gaming July 2017

GenCon 4 day badges are sold out

GenCon logo
GenCon logo

What happens when 60,000 of your closest gaming buddies all sign up for GenCon? If you said, “GenCon sells out for the first time in its history”, you’d be correct. There are no more 4 day passes for 2017. The badges, which sell for $90, sold out this month.

This is the 50th anniversary of GenCon. To commemorate this, the officials at GenCon wanted to top all their previous attendance goals. They pulled out all the stops.

They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants

They even have a concert.

They Might Be Giants is playing at the stadium adjacent to GenCon. And GenCon goers have access to ticketing.

We should conclude that 4 day passes for next year’s GenCon will sell quickly; everyone who missed out this year will want to buy their badge early in 2018.

 

Hasbro is not a good buy

Hasbro
Hasbro

I rough up Hasbro a lot on this blog. But there is no denying that they make lots of money publishing toys and games. This is due to Hasbro’s strong performance in the market place and Mattel’s missteps.

But Hasbro reported their smallest sales in 1.5 years. This past quarter was not kind to the publisher-we-love-to-hate. Hasbro had to rely on Transformers: The Last Knight toys and Spider-Man: Homecoming action figures. And these two franchises were not up to the task. Hasbro gets 50% of its revenue from overseas. Sales in Brazil and the UK were lower than expected this quarter.

But there is no cause for long term concern. Hasbro has the rights to the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. Hasbro is the publisher of choice for many Disney IP toys. Hasbro is also launching a board game delivery service this fall. So don’t panic. We will be able to use Hasbro as a punching bag for many years to come.

Game Theory in Geopolitics

North Korean military prowess
North Korean military prowess

The situation in the Korean peninsula is heating up. It’s not bad enough that the Korean War ended in 1953 with a stalemate. But 64 years later the situation is deteriorating.

The regime is run by the grandson of the dictator who precipitated the first conflict there. This new dictator, Kim Jong Un, seems insistent on demonstrating his ability to launch rockets against the US.

While this is a topic of importance, what we focus on here is gaming. And the strategists working for the defense of the USA are using game theory to flesh out a course of action. Game theory is about playing the player along with playing the game. The game here is geopolitics in the Korean peninsula. The players are North Korea, South Korea, China and the USA. And game theory assumes rational actors.

Along with NPR’s article on the subject, Project Syndicate has a good background on the subject here. The use of game theory in geopolitics is not new. The Kennedy’s used it to game out a scenario to “win” the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our current administration is doing the same with North Korea.

 

Close to Home

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

So we moved.

Our new location is at 851 W. Laketon Avenue Suite A. This is near Henry Street in the city of Muskegon. The building is an office/retail site along with some industrial warehousing in the rear.

We moved from 1976 W. Sherman Boulevard due to a change in ownership in the strip mall we were renting. We were there just under five years. After a tearful goodbye, we have moved to some new digs. We had over 10 people in our group helping out moving, loading and even renting trucks to aid the move. I was overwhelmed. I’m very grateful for this gaming community.

Our new place is about 50% bigger than the old place. We now have 1,300 square feet, compared to about 800 before. We have three separate rooms which helps keep noise and distractions down. There are a two annoying things about the new place. The first is the air conditioning. The A/C is a work in process. I’m hoping that the climate will be under more control this Tuesday. The second is parking. Just ask Brandi.

Muskegon Watch Us Go
Muskegon Watch Us Go

I’m confident we can work out these bugs. I’m hopeful this new location will work out long term. The location should be conducive to recruiting too. Lots of foot traffic. And Rick Jima, one of our misanthropes, is working on getting a new $20 awning. Expect big things!

 

Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon
Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon

Speaking of new locations, our former partners, Byte Club Gaming, moved. Abruptly. Like, no fanfare or anything.

Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon is now Byte Club Gaming of Pentwater. Per their facebook and website, they are offering the same services as before, just in northern Oceana County.

We wish them the best of luck in their new location. Their new location will put them outside the scope of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But with little luck and a lot of hard work, they turn that resort town into a thriving gaming community.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

I guess that makes more room for Griffin’s Rest. Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kiel and his partner, Dan, this month. We discussed our plans for this November’s Extra Life event. Griffin’s Rest will be having an event at their two story retail outlet on 3rd Street.

Kiel said final preparations for his store are under way. He should be open in August.

And we will be there to support!

 

To follow local news, check us out here:

 

Runewars Minis versus A Song of Ice and Fire Minis

When Fantasy Flight announced their intentions to publish a fantasy miniatures game supported by ongoing expansions, I was a bit skeptical. The hobby already has Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Can the hobby seriously support a second such game? Then Cool Minis or Not got the rights to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. They too announced they would be mining this fantasy setting in order to publish an ongoing, expandable game. Can the hobby support three such games? Let’s take a closer look and see…

 

Runewars Minis versus A Song of Ice and Fire Minis

 

In this corner: Runewars Miniatures Game

Fantasy Flight announced the release of Runewars Miniatures Game about a year ago. I hypothesized that it was one of the reasons for Games Workshop’s decision to split with its former North American partner. Runewars Miniatures Game represents a direct competition between the Minnesota based Fantasy Flight and the Nottingham, UK based Games Workshop. Very specifically, direct competition against Games Workshop’s primary IP: the Warhammer universe.

Muskegon loves Runewars
Runewars Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games

The base game for Runewars is now available along with several expansion packs. We can take a critical look at the game.

The base set of Runewars comes with 48 unpainted miniatures. The miniatures, unlike Games Workshop’s Citadel minis, are preassembled. The miniatures are molded plastic in light to dark greys.

The game also comes with the several tokens, dials and other necessary accoutrements. As is standard operating procedure at Fantasy Flight, the game comes with two rule books: a learning to play book and a rules reference.

Runewars Miniatures
Runewars Miniatures

Runewars takes place in a setting created and owned entirely by Fantasy Flight. The universe is called Terrinoth. It is the setting for several FFG games including Runewars the board game, Battlelore 2nd Edition, Descent and Runebound. It is your standard issue fantasy setting with elves, undead and humans struggling for supremacy. The base set comes with a smattering of humans (called the Daquan Lords) and undead (called Waiqar).

Runewars contents
Runewars contents

The game comes with a staggering price tag: $100 MSRP. This price point is comparable to other lifestyle games from FFG like Star Wars Armada and Twilight Imperium. And Runewars Miniatures Game does bear several similarities to the former. Both Armada and Runewars are miniatures games and not board games. Both use custom 8 sided dice. And both use a very similar measuring system instead of a tape measure.

Custom dice are awesome. Muskegon Area Gamers
Custom dice from Runewars

I love custom dice. I prefer them to normal dice which normally require a spreadsheet to add/subtract all your modifiers. Custom dice such as Runewars let you intuitively add or subtract your modifiers. Also, I prefer 8 sided dice to 6 sided dice. You get more results and can more easily tweak your modifiers with 8 siders than 6. Don’t believe me? Play X-wing or Star Wars Armada; then play any miniatures war game from the 80’s or 90’s; then report back to me which you prefer.

A game of Runewars is based around building a 200 point army. Each figure or unit has a point value. The stronger the figure or unit, the more points it costs. Your opponent will do the same with a different army. Each unit (a unit is a group of figures), sits in a tray. These trays are made to be easy to move. You can move an entire unit quickly. Gone are the days where you had to move individual 15mm Grande Army figures.

Unit dial from Runewars Miniatures Game
Unit dial from Runewars Miniatures Game

The game comes with dials for each unit. This is the true innovation of Runewars. These dials are free-standing so you can place them facing you and not your opponent. You select an action from the left side and a bonus modifier from the right side. The actions are all icons so you will need to familiarize yourself with the rules reference. When you select an action, you can select a bonus modifier. The modifier must match the color of the action. White is a wild modifier so it can be used with any action.

See the white number above the action icons? That is the initiative number. When selecting an action you also must select your initiative. The red crossed swords icon is a melee attack. It is slower (initiative 7) than the orange crossed swords (3). But the slower attack has a damage modifier on the right dial–the orange attack does not. Pretty innovative. But you would expect nothing less from Fantasy Flight.

And in this corner: A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game

Muskegon loves A Game of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game from CMON

Cool Minis or Not uses Kickstarter to fund all its games. They announced recently the launch of a new project: a miniatures game in the Game of Thrones universe. The project is already full funded with a couple of weeks to spare. It’s now just a matter of the game going to the printers.

Cool Minis or Not has made many cool games with awesome minis. Blood Rage is a perennial favorite. Its sequel, Rising Sun, broke Kickstarter with the amount of internet traffic clamoring to back it.

The Hand of the King pledge is the highest backing level for this project. Its cost is an exorbitant $150. It comes with 103 assembled but unpainted miniatures, several tokens and decks of cards and special rulers for measuring.

A tray of Umbar berzerkers
A tray of Umbar berzerkers

Like Runewars, ASOIAF also has trays that the minis sit in. Again, this is a nice improvement over the games of yesteryear. Figures can be placed into a slot to make your armies. Casualties can easily be removed.

ASOIAF comes with standard 6 sided dice. Players will be doing mental arithmetic all game long as they add or subtract various modifiers. The lack of innovation here will have to be compensated for in other areas of game play.

Political board in ASOIAF
Political board in ASOIAF

There are three innovations in ASOIAF worthy of discussion. The first is: the game is ready to be played immediately after opening. Each army is uniquely colored. Lannister is red and Stark is light grey. This allows you to play the game weeks or months before your army is painted.

The next innovation is the political board. The combat in the fields are often subject to intrigues in the backrooms. And ASOIAF takes care of this with a political action system. You will have a non-combat related character (Tyrion, Cersei, or Catelyn for example). Your action can be to activate these characters instead of activating a military unit. In so doing, you will get some advantage such as drawing tactics cards or healing units. Each space on the political track will hold only one figure so if you choose a political action first, you will get to pick whichever one you want.

Tactics cards from ASOIAF
Tactics cards from ASOIAF

The last innovation is the tactics cards. Players have a hand of three. Each round you will fill your hand back up. These are surprises you can keep from your opponent. This allows for some fog of war since you don’t know what your opponent is packing. You develop your deck along with your army ahead of time so you will tweak your army and strategy to match the cards in your deck.

A Song of Ice of Fire the Miniatures Game is really a streamlining of Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th edition with some gotcha cards.

 

Outcome

Runewars Miniatures
Runewars Miniatures (courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games)

ASOIAF hasn’t been released yet. Also, I have not played either game. I’ve watched some play videos and studied some reviews about these games. So we will have to do some conjecture here.

As far as cost goes, Runewars gets a slight advantage. However, ASOIAF gets the advantage for value. You get much more with your $150 spent on ASOIAF than you do for $100 on Runewars.

The quality of the components will probably be comparable. Runewars looks awesome. And CMON has a good track record for quality.

The real question will come down to two aspects: game play and theme. And here is where the two games diverge completely.

As far as game play goes, Runewars looks like the winner hands down. The unit dials offers enough fog of war so you can outplay your opponent. The dice are innovative so you don’t get brain burn from all the modifier computations. Fantasy Flight has already made two similar games (X-Wing and Armada) so we should expect Runewars to be mechanically as sound as its two predecessors. The tactics cards in ASOIAF look like they add zaniness to the game instead of tactical surprise. For all the tactical maneuvering you do on the field can be undone by your opponents hand of cards. This would make me feel very unsatisfied.

As far as theme goes, A Song of Ice and Fire is the winner all day long. Who in the heck hasn’t heard of A Game of Thrones? Who in the heck has heard of Terrinoth? For fans of the books or the show, this game is a no-brainer. The game will attract collectors as well since the components will be beautiful.

 

Epilogue

ASOIAF Lannister unit
ASOIAF Lannister unit

So can the hobby support both of these games and Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy Battles? Probably not. WHFB isn’t going anywhere, despite me loathing  it. So these two games will be competing for customers who don’t want to play WHFB. It’s possibly that some game groups or communities will play both games of these games; my prediction below is based upon this being highly unlikely.

My prediction: Runewars will last longer than ASOIAF. I believe the superior mechanics along with a massive parent company (Asmodee) will help Runewars Miniatures Game survive longer. I do reserve the right to revisit this topic after ASOIAF is released. I’ll post another blog about this if I’m proven right or wrong. Stay tuned.

 

In the meantime, you can go here to argue with me…

 

The Adventurers: Temple of Chac a game review

Ever since my dad took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’ve wanted to be an archeologist. Turns out engineers make more money so I followed my brain not my heart. Surely I can’t be alone in wanting to delve into a forgotten Maya temple, avoid its traps and plunder its wealth? What if I told you that a board game allows you to do this? Right down to the gigantic boulder that chases you out the door? That game is The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac. Here’s an overview of this gem.

The Adventurers: Temple of Chac a Game Review

 

Muskegon loves to adventure
The Adventurers: Temple of Chac by AEG

Players take on the role of, well, adventurers in The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac. You will compete for the most points. Points are gained by plundering the treasures inside a long abandoned Maya temple. But beware, the more you plunder, the more weighted down you will become. And if you dilly-dally, you could end up being stuck in the temple forever!

Temple of Chac comes to Muskegon
Back of adventurer’s card

The starting player rolls the dice. The game comes with five standard six-sided dice. You will get actions based upon the dice roll and the amount of treasures you are carrying. If you are carrying 0 to 3 treasures, for example, you will get 1 action for every die roll that is 2+. If you have 4 to 6 treasures, you will get actions for every die roll that is 3+. The information is on the back of your adventurer card.

The most actions you will have is five since there are five dice. You have a few options available to you for your action selection. You can move, look at glyphs, pick up treasure or unlock a compartment. Some actions are only available at certain positions of the board but moving is always an option.

The shifting walls of the Temple of Chac
The shifting walls of The Adventureres

Players start in the room with the shifting walls. There’s plenty of treasure in this room. Players can plunder this room like crazy. There is a danger, though. The walls may move inward. Any player who is in this room when the walls finally meet is killed.

There are also glyphs in this room. Players may spend an action to secretly flip it (for real) and look at the back side. On the secret side is a strange Maya hieroglyph.  You will have 30 seconds to commit it to memory. You will use this information in the next room: the Lava Room.

The boulder is headin' towards the Lava Room!
The boulder is headin’ towards the Lava Room!

You can safely walk along the main path after you leave the shifting walls room. But you can save precious time if you traipse across the lava tiles. Each time you walk onto one you will flip it (for real). If the icon matches one of the glyphs in the shifting walls room, it’s a trap and your adventurer dies. Otherwise, you safely move there and collect a treasure. The lava tiles allow you to cut across the room and save a few paces too.

That's not the Muskegon River in the Temple of Chac
Underground river in the Temple of Chac

The last room in the Temple of Chac is the underground river and waterfall. The river is laden with treasure. But can you escape the before being carried off the waterfall? You must chuck a bunch of dice, hoping to avoid a “1” to escape. You can jettison some treasure to make a reroll but if you roll another “1”, the river carries you away.

Rickety old bridge in the Temple of Chac
Rickety old bridge in the Temple of Chac

Players may opt to move across the bridge instead. The bridge comes with five removable planks. If you are too laden with treasure, the planks might break. You will fall to your doom if the last plank breaks.

The boulder in The Adventurers
The boulder in The Adventurers

After each player has taken a turn, the first player rolls the dice. On 3+, a boulder is moved from its starting point towards the exit. The boulder is deadly. Stand in its way and you will get squished.

 

The boulder is also a game clock. When the boulder reaches the exit, the game is over. Any hapless adventurers who did not make it out will be trapped forever.

Players who escaped reveal their treasure cards. While each card has the same weight for determining actions, the treasures have various victory point values. Players count their totals. The high score is the winner.

The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac has a lot going for it. It’s got cool minis. The 3D game board elements are also nice. The cards and cardboard are all good quality.

The game play is very good too. There are plenty of decisions to be made. The game is more or less one of press-your-luck. And that mechanic fits the theme here. Each time you narrowly avoid danger the excitement level goes up a notch.

The Adventurers: the Temple of Chac is a fantastic game. It plays quickly. The box says 45 minutes but you can get it in under 30 if you are assertive. The decisions are all meaningful. The theme is fun–who doesn’t like Indiana Jones? The artwork and theme are wholesome enough to make this a family game. The quickness of the game make it a good game for serious gamers. Not the night’s main course but this game makes a nice nightcap.

The Adventurers got a reprint from Fantasy Flight. The FFG edition is the same as the AEG edition with the exception of the insert (which is disposable in either case). The game also has a promo you can get: another character. A hard-to-find set of prepainted characters was also released by AEG. No other support for this game is forthcoming.

Pick up a copy and give it a try. Or come by here and play my copy…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
186 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Twilight Imperium in July

Sunday, Jul 23, 2017, 9:00 AM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Hits & Flops: July Edition

It’s time for everyone’s favorite column: Hits & Flops. For those new to this website, about once a month I do a drive by of the games we’ve played at The Gaming Annex. With a single play under my belt, I make sweeping judgments about said games. This month we will look at a few new releases that we got to the table like Gloom of Kilforth and Sidereal Confluence. Let’s dig in!

Hits & Flops July Edition

1. Unfair

Unfair from CMON Hits & Flops Muskegon Area Gamers
Unfair from CMON

The reviews on Kickstarter for Unfair were overwhelmingly positive. So much so that Cool Minis or Not picked up the rights to it and published it.

In a game of Unfair, players are competing with each other to make the best amusement park. Players draft attraction cards, hire crew and get paid. Players attempt to fulfill the requirements on blueprint cards in order to get additional points. Random events are pulled each round which may benefit or harm players. The game ends after a prescribed amount of rounds. Whoever has the most points is the winner.

The Groundskeeper and Security Guard
The Groundskeeper and Security Guard

The game has a very strong “take that” element. This might have been obvious given the name. The take that element was added because this would be a four player solitaire game otherwise. Maybe not solitaire, but there would be minimal interaction. The take that element is actually too strong. You can wipeout an opponent’s progress in the game with a single card. Think 7 Wonders. Imagine if there was a card that let you remove several of his cards. That’s how powerful the take that element in Unfair is.

You can play with little or now take that. The game has options that allow this. But then you are only playing 7 Wonders for 90 minutes. Unfair would then be a tableau builder with some weak drafting mechanics.

Unfair did not hit the mark with me. I have to give it a FLOP rating.

 

2. Sidereal Confluence

Sidereal Confluence from Wizkids
Sidereal Confluence from Wizkids

Sidereal Confluence is a no-holds-barred trading game…in space. It takes the best part of Advanced Civilization, the trading phase, and turns that into a game unto itself. Players must trade wisely to end up with the most points at the end of the game.

Players are dealt a faction at the beginning of the game. Each faction has unique strengths. Players start with some resources. Resources are wooden bits of various colors. Players also have some a starting assortment of converters. Converters are cards that allow you to turn your resources into more and different resources. Once set up, players can begin play.

Components of Sidereal Confluence
Components of Sidereal Confluence

There are several phases in each game round. But the most important is the trade phase. Here players will trade their resources for other resources so they have the right ingredients to run their converters. You can also trade planets. Planets are simply converters that do not bear the name “converter”.

Once the trade phase is concluded, players run their converters. They turn their colored cubes into more and/or different colored cubes. This builds their engine which in turn will allow them to run more converters on the next game round.

Trade for colored cubes. Then turn these cubes into more/different cubes. I’m getting bored just blogging about this. Sidereal Confluence was a surprising flop. Our group loves Advanced Civilization. And Sidereal Confluence is not in the same vein. It’s a 3 hour catastrophe. The designer somehow made a boring trade game. A typical trade phase might go something like this, “I have green. Does anyone need a green cube? I could use a red cube”.

It’s a shame too. Because the designer tried to make Advanced Civ in space but the game lasted way too long. So he paired it down to just a trading game. And a debacle at that.

Verdict: Unbelievable flop

 

Werewords

Werewords from Bezier Games
Werewords from Bezier Games

I’m not a fan of the Werewolf games. I don’t like Werewolf, One Night Werewolf, Ultimate Werewolf or One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

And I don’t like Ted Alspach, the designer either. I had a big disappointment with his game Perpetual Motion Machine which I felt defrauded by. So when Dusty brough out Werewords you can guess that my expectations were pretty low.

The roles in Werewords
The roles in Werewords

Werewords is like One Night Ultimate Werewolf meets 20 questions. Roles are dealt out like they are in Werewolf. One player is the werewolf and another is the seer. The rest are villagers. These roles are all secret. One player is the mayor who is both the mayor and one of the previously mentioned secret roles

The game requires an app. All players close their eyes. Then the mayor launches the app and picks a secret word from the few that app offers. Then seer opens his eyes and sees the secret word. And finally the werewolf does the same. Then the game begins.

The mayor's tokens
The mayor’s tokens

Over the next four minutes the mayor says nothing. He only doles out “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe” tokens to the players. The players ask yes or no questions in order to figure out the secret word. If they figure it out, the werewolf will get to guess who the seer is; if he is correct, the werewolf is the winner. If not, the villagers are the winner. If the players do not solve it, the villagers will get to try to figure out who the werewolf is.

The game is very much like One Night Werewolf. But it’s got none of the zany role switching. It’s all about finding a McGuffin but also trying to root out who the seer or werewolf is.

And it’s great.

It’s a fantastic game. It’s almost as good as Avalon. It’s about as perfect as a social deduction game there is. It plays quickly, it’s easy to learn and it’s not samey after several plays. Ted Alspach has fully redeemed himself in my eyes.

Verdict: it’s wonderful! A HIT!

 

Gloom of Kilforth

Gloom of Kilforth from Hall or Nothing Productions
Gloom of Kilforth from Hall or Nothing Productions

Gloom of Kilforth has the most beautiful components to any game. That’s no exaggeration. Each card is a unique panting. And the paintings are gorgeous. The game took years to produce because of the artwork.

Samples of Gloom of Kilforth's art
Samples of Gloom of Kilforth’s art

Gloom is a co-op in a fantasy world. Each player has a character they use to further the group’s goal, usually defeating a boss monster. Players use their resources and actions to move about the board. Monsters must be killed, new alliances are bonded and items are unearthed.

Gloom of Kilforth treads where many other games have already gone. It’s only redeeming quality is its artwork. And that quality wears thin after 6 hours, the amount of time of our debut game. Gloom was an amazingly bad experience. It was our first epic game of CabinCon IV and it was a dubious.

All of us thought the game was beautiful in components, pedestrian in mechanics and bloated in game length. I’m forced to give it a devastating a FLOP verdict.

 

Our new and improved location…where even flops are hilariously fun

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
186 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Thursday night games

Thursday, Jul 20, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Gloom of Kilforth
  2. Viticulture

8. Merchants & Marauders: Broadsides

5. Keyflower

Bring out your DM’s!

[Editor’s note: it’s time for another installment of Just in Tima with Nick Sima]

Bring out your DM’s!

 

Gloomhaven, Descent, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Zombicide… What do all of these games have in common? They’re board game versions of a tabletop RPG that miss the mark slightly. I recently received a copy of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Starter set so that I could run a small campaign with some friends. While I was reading up on how to run the first dungeon they scope out, I noticed a couple of tips for Dungeon Masters that linked up perfectly with a discussion Chris and I had months ago.

Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games
Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games

The thing that Tabletop RPG board games like Gloomhaven and Zombicide is missing is a Dungeon Master. The thing that Star Wars: Imperial Assault and Descent is missing, oddly enough, is a Dungeon Master. Sure, you’ll say that Descent has a player acting as the bad guys, but that’s not what a Dungeon Master does entirely.

The missed point in Gloomhaven is so egregious that one of our intrepid members fired the game from just one room. A really simple AI works in theory, but sooner or later a room will be encountered where it’s a logistical nightmare just to figure out what enemy does what. Balancing the checkbook has never been fun, doing it for which zombie decides to punt you over the mountains is unbearable. Zombicide masks this by just choosing yes in all columns for where zombies go. It’s ridiculous, but it’s still more tedious than is ‘good’

Star Wars Imperial Assault will hit the gaming table a lot in Muskegon
Star Wars Imperial Assault

Let’s go back to Descent and Star Wars: Imperial Assault, they both have a player operating the bad dudes. That’s good, right? Well, not really. The player running the bad guys and the players playing their hero have diametrically opposed goals. I played as the overlord in Descent for a while. I won some long odds fights from good card play and luck. This made me stronger which made it easier for me to win against my friends more and more. I got stronger and stronger and they had less and less fun. Talking with our resident GM/DM Kevin, he shared a similar experience in Star Wars: Imperial Assault. The GM having an opposite goal and benefitting from winning leads to 3-4 players having a bad time more often than not.

Muskegon loves Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

So, what do these games need to be better? I think we need a GM that wins when the players win. Chris and I discussed some viable options where the two victory conditions could be met independently such as the GM needing only to save one bad guy from a fight while the heroes running around need to loot all the treasure. It could also just as easily be set up where every time the heroes level up, the GM also gets a couple new toys. Is it more a simulation or activity than a board game at that point? Yeah, probably. Would it be more fun? Hard telling, I’ll need a big named board game developer to make it so I can find out.

 

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Around the World of Board Gaming June 2017

Here’s this month’s installment of Around the World of Board Games. For those that are new to the website, this is a monthly column where we look at news coverage of our hobby. Note: this is different than board game news where you learn about upcoming releases and such. Feel free to send me a link of your favorite news sites that cover topics related to board gaming.

Around the World of Board Gaming June 2017

 

A Weak British Pound Means Strong Profits for GW

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

I’ve blogged about Games Workshop several times here. Maybe not most recently but definitely most importantly was when I covered GW’s divorce with Fantasy Flight Games. The decision to do so was underpinned by Games Workshop’s long term desire to stay profitable. So how’s that workin’ out?

Turns out: pretty dog gone good. The UK pound is dropping in value compared to other currencies. This making Games Workshop’s exorbitantly priced games and accessories semi-affordable in the US and Canada. The publicly traded company is reporting revenue of £158 million. This is a massive amount of revenue for a company that only makes designer games. Maybe Hasbro can take note.

 

Hasbro launches a monthly game crate subscription service

Hasbro
Hasbro

Speaking of Hasbro. Hasbro wants to cash in on the board game craze. And their idea is to compete with Game Bento and Game Box Monthly, i.e., ship games to you for a $50 per month subscription.

The subscription service is slated for a fall 2017 release. Hasbro is offering two options: family games or party games.

The debut offering for the family subscription will be Mask of the Pharaoh, a release of the Mask of Anubis. This is going to be an app driven VR game fused with a board game. The party games will include some offerings in the vein of Cards Against Humanity.

While this author will not be partaking of Hasbro’s subscription (nor most of Hasbro’s game releases for that matter), I will stipulate that Hasbro is gaining on Mattel. Hasbro’s game division is growing, fueling Hasbro’s stock value increase over by 30% over the past 12 months. Over the same period, Mattel has dropped 35%. At this rate, Hasbro will surpass Mattel as the world’s largest toy manufacturer in a few years.

 

NPR does a write up about Cthulhu board games

Cthulhu Wars will fit in perfectly at The Gaming Annex.
Close up of Cthulhu Wars

Way back in February 2015, I wrote about the upcoming release of Cthulhu Wars from Green Eye Games. Well someone at NPR, probably Peter Sagal, was most certainly reading this blog for material for their recent article: H.P. Lovecraft’s Monster Is Wrapping Family Game Night Up In Tentacles.

The article is a decent background as to why Cthulhu games are so popular recently. Since all of HP Lovecraft’s works are now in the public domain, publishers and gamers are mining the mythos for inspiration. The article does make an insightful remark: the rise of Cthulhu games is due in part to the rise of cooperative games. This is probably true since fighting Cthulhu requires a team effort.

The article includes art from the game Cthulhu Wars, a game with the most obnoxious flair in modern board games.

Board game session ends with two players arrested and one hospitalized

Muskegon supports family board game groups.
Family Game Group

An dispute took place during a board game in Washington Parish, LA, about 70 miles north of New Orleans. The dispute was between a Venus Vanessa Camacho and her boyfriend’s mother. The boyfriend, one Kurtis Strong, intervened on behalf of his girlfriend, allegedly striking his mother with a frying pan and then choking her. The couple were arrested. The mother was hospitalized.

The local ABC affiliate in New Orleans didn’t say what game the family was playing.

 

Close to Home

The Burrow in Grand Haven
The Burrow in Grand Haven

The Burrow in Grand Haven has closed down. I’m not sure when they closed down (last week or  6 months ago…) I only recently found out about their closing. This is the second straight month I’ve had the unfortunate duty of reporting on a local establishment closing their doors.

The Muskegon Area Gamers had a crossover event with The Burrow. This was in February 2016 when we did A Game of Thrones demo for their regulars. This also marks another unfortunate pattern: another local establishment closed down after the Muskegon Area Gamers had an event there. The first two times were with the Brew House and Shoreline Minis.

Certainly the cause for these closures is not related to our beloved group (at least I hope not). Still, I’d like to hear from The Burrow’s owner, David, about what the reasons were for his closing and what his plans are for the future.

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

The Gaming Annex might be moving. I know, I know. You’ve heard this before. But the circumstances are again such that we may move. The owner of the building 1976-1996 W. Sherman Blvd has evicted everyone but us. He wants The Gaming Annex to stay because we are a long term tenant (going on 5 years) and thinks that will help him sell the building to a prospective buyer.

The uncertainty of the situation has caused me to look again at commercial property. Ideally I’d like to stay in the lakeside area of Muskegon. We will remain at our current location into July if not through July.

Muskegon Area Gamers love Into the Woods Retreat
Into the Woods Retreat

We had our fourth gaming retreat. Called CabinCon IV, this event was biggest yet. It was also our first coed CabinCon. The shindig was an unmitigated success. A shout out to Dusty for putting it together. And another shout out to all the Muskegon Area Gamers who attended. It’s been a great year!

The Gaming Annex in Muskegon