Twilight Imperium Strategy Guide Preview

[Editor’s note: Dusty has been working on a complete strategy guide for Twilight Imperium 4. His thoughts on the game carry considerable weight since he is the winningest player of TI3 in our group. While he promises his full strategy guide is currently in development, we can get a taste of what’s coming from the following preview…]

Twilight Imperium Strategy Guide Preview

Preview 1: Should you score a public objective on round 1?

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

I believe most players agree that the best way to win Twilight Imperium is to heavily focus on scoring objectives, basically at all times.

On round 1, however, I believe you are better off focusing on military, expansion, or a race specific strategy. This is because by and large scoring a victory point on round 1 will stunt your growth in these fundamental areas.

Here are the 10 possible stage 1 objectives:

“Erect a Monument – Spend 8 resources”

This has to be the most difficult objective to justify scoring on the first turn. Scoring this objective means you wont be doing much else. Probably no technology and few, if any, additional units will be purchasd.

I’m hard-pressed to imagine a legitimate strategy that includes scoring this on round 1.

“Sway the council – Spend 8 influence”

About the only time I could see scoring this on turn 1 making sense is if you have a couple of influence heavy planets adjacent to your homeworld and you are able to use diplomacy effectively. Even then, my hunch is that you would be better off using diplomacy to access additional resources or using that influence to purchase command counters.

“Found research outposts – Control 3 planets that have technology specialties”

It probably makes sense to score this turn 1 if you can. That being said, it’s probably not practical.

First off, the chances that there are three tech specialty planets in range is extremely low.

Second, all 8 of the technology specialties are in different systems. That means that everyone but the XXcha will require 3 carriers to accomplish this on the first turn. That is a tall order.

Third, even if you could do this on turn 1, it likely would stunt your growth relative to other moves you could make. All of the technology specialty planets are low resource planets (all of them have a 0 or 1 resource value).

“Negociate Trade Routes – Spend 5 Trade Goods”

This is not too difficult for the person with the trade strategy card to score. However, it means you are spending 5 resources on turn 1 to score a victory point instead of using those resources to build your fleet or technology infrastructure.

“Intimidate the Council – Have 1 or more ships in 2 systems that are adjacent to Mexatol Rex’s system”

This is doable on turn 1 in the right circumstances. However, it probably stunts your growth to do so. I believe this requires you to have gravity drive and to spend a command counter on turn 1 that is not capturing planets or building. This means unless you have the leadership strategy card, its very unlikely you are going to expand to two systems and build in your home system (which is probably the most typical start).

Even with the potential stunt to growth, this is one of the first objectives where scoring it later could become significantly more difficult. If you can get this out of the way turn 1, it could save you the headache of having to jockey for position in later rounds.

“Expand borders – Control 6 planets in non-home systems”

If you can score this round 1, you should. The chances that you have 6 planets in range and have access to three carriers is practically zero though.

“Diversify Research – Own 2 technologies in each of 2 colors”

Scoring this turn 1 is a pain for everyone except the Jol-nar. There are 6 races that start with two technologies. Theoretically any of them score this turn 1 with the Technology strategy card. Should they? Probably not. The only way it might make sense is if those two technology purchases play into a specific strategy, otherwise spending 6 resources turn 1 is going to stunt your growth.

“Corner the Market – Control 4 planets that each have the same planet trait”

This has to be one of the best objectives to score on turn 1. Of course, most times it won’t be possible. This objective is one of the most important to pay attention to during galaxy setup. If you can make it so that this objective is scoreable on turn 1, it will be a big boost.

“Develop Weaponry – Own 2 unit upgrade technologies”

This is practically impossible for everyone but the Jol-nar to score turn 1. Frankly, most races will have difficulty scoring this on turn 2 as well.

“Lead from the front – Spend a total of 3 tokens from your tactic and or strategy pool.”

This is the easiest and worst objective to score round 1. If you do not have leadership and you choose to score this round 1 you are going to be handicapped during the entire early game. I have a hard time believing there is a coherent strategy that involves scoring this turn 1 – if you win after doing so, I think most of the time it will be despite scoring this turn 1, not because of it.

 

Arborec Early Game Strategy – Sarween Seed

Arborec (TI4)
Arborec (TI4)

Twilight Imperium early game strategies are difficult to develop because there are a lot of variables (galaxy setup, neighbor races, starting public objectives, trade metagame, strategy card, etc.). However, I believe they are useful because they can highlight how powerful a particular race can be in the right circumstances.

Here is my early game strategy for the Arborec, I call it the Sarween Seed.

Galaxy Setup

Galaxy setup is basic general strategy.

Strategy Card

Warfare.

This strategy starts with the Arborec selecting the Warfare strategy card. In my view, Warfare is the best strategy card for the Arborec generally because it allows them to expand quickly, either spreading out to take over a massive amount of territory, or amassing a huge ground force to take and hold Mecatol Rex.

It is essential for this particular strategy.

Turn 1
Move carrier, 4 infantry to adjacent system. Take control of planets. For this to work you need one of those planets to be worth 1 resource. Preferably you want high influence planets.

Exhaust home system to build second carrier in that system.

Diplomacy Secondary
You need the diplomacy secondary to trigger after turn 1 and before Technology. This shouldn’t be too out of the ordinary because most players with Diplomacy strategy card will take a system round 1 then use Diplomacy to refresh those planets turn 2 so they are available for them to use during a Warfare or Technology secondary.

Refresh your homeworld and a 1 resource planet.

Turn 2
Warfare Primary – pick up command counter from turn 1 unlocking your two carriers and 4 ground forces for additional expansion opportunities.

Technology Secondary
You need the technology secondary to trigger before turn 3 and after diplomacy.

During the technology secondary, purchase Sarween Tools.

Turn 3

Move one carrier and 2 ground forces to take over planets in an adjacent system. Use the one free resource from Sarween Tools to build 2 ground forces.

Turn 4

Move one carrier and 2 ground forces to take over planets in an adjacent system. Use the one free resource from Sarween Tools to build 2 ground forces.

At this point, your command counter configuration is 1/3/0 and you are ready to pass. This provides a great setup going into round 2. You will be in a good position to expand further and/or take over Mecatol Rex with a sizeable ground force (assuming you have the influence).

You could potentially increase the potency of this strategy with trade.

 

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Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017

One of our ongoing columns, Around the World of Board Gaming, is quickly becoming one of my favorites. In this month’s installment, we will be looking at the Magic: the Gathering class action suit, the upcoming Catan movie, and Toys R’ Us’ bankruptcy and how that will affect our hobby. We will wrap it up with our Closer to Home section. Enjoy!

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017

 

Judge in California throws out class action suit regarding lost wages to M:TG judges

Around the World of Board Gaming October 2017
Magic: the Gathering

 

In October 2015,  a group of judges for Magic: the Gathering filed a class action suit against Wizards of the Coast. The judges claimed they were employees of Wizards of the Coast and thus should be paid for their services. A second class action suit was filed in April 2017.

Wizards of the Coast claims the judges are more or less volunteers who take on these roles because of their love of the hobby. Because the term “volunteer” has legal meaning, WotC doesn’t actually use it. A volunteer is someone who works for civic, charitable or humanitarian endeavors, and God knows Hasbro, Wizard’s parent company, is none of those things. But still, the judges agree to the terms of service which is a pittance of compensation.

Judge Edward Davila threw the case out. He said the terms are voluntary and no mention of compensation was ever made. He sympathized with the amount of time the M:tG judges had to undergo to become certified but said the plaintiffs could not adequately show how many “hours” they had worked, among other deficiencies in their case.

The second class action suit, which is likely to have a greater impact, is still working its way through the court system. I’ll keep you posted with any developments.

 

Sony is producing a Settlers of Catan movie

Settlers of Catan is a classic board game that Muskegon still enjoys.
Settlers of Catan

The Hollywood Reporter said Sony is making a Catan movie. Sony is hoping this will be a franchise starter. With all the flops coming out of Hollywood, maybe a movie adaptation about a board game will be successful.

Sony is lining up some decent talent behind the project. Gail Katz, who produced Air Force One and Dan Lin who produced The Lego Movie, are being tapped to produce the flick. Gail Katz currently owns the rights to the film (long time followers of this blog know Asmodee owns the board game rights). Sony is aggressively pursuing the rights.

Normally, board games use movies as inspiration for their themes. It’s unusual for a movie to use a board game as its inspiration. There are two notable examples: 1985’s Clue and 2012’s Battleship. This author hopes the move is more like Clue than Battleship.

 

Toys “R” Us files for bankruptcy protection

Toys "R" Us in Muskegon
Toys “R” Us in Muskegon

The largest toy retailer in the US, Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11. To read the story in CNBC versus the New York Times would make the casual reader think two different events were occurring. CNBC said the filing was good news for Toys “R” Us since it allowed them to leverage their debt and remain prosperous. The Times said Toys “R” Us was crippled by online competition.

But our focus here isn’t on bias in journalism. It’s how will this bankruptcy affect our hobby. The answer is: not much. Toys “R” Us will not be shuttering any stores. The company has said they will be working closely with Hasbro and Mattel to ensure a smooth holiday sales. With the new Star Wars movie coming out this Christmas along with strong consumer confidence in the economy, gamers shouldn’t fear this news.

 

Closer to home

The Griffin's Rest
The Griffin’s Rest

The folks at Griffin’s Rest Games are making progress. The upcoming store has turned the hull of its 3rd Street location into a beauty. The floors are getting worked on this week.

There is still no firm date of when the store will be opening. As soon as I know something, I’ll pass it on to all three of  my readers.

Because they haven’t been able to firm up the date of their grand opening, the Extra Life event  probably can’t be held there. We’ve reached the make-or-break point so The Gaming Annex will be hosting an Extra Life event on November 4th.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

We will be having our 24 hour event starting at 8am. The event will cost $35 per person. All proceeds will go to Helen DeVos charity. Your $35 will include three meals, a goody bag and as much gaming as you can pack into that time period.

I think the goody bags alone will be worth the price of admission. But there will be a raffle too. There are five games up for grabs including Sword & Sorcery, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and Tiny Epic Quest.

Sword & Sorcery
Sword & Sorcery

I couldn’t do this alone. Brandi has been a great help. So much so I gave her the honorific “Special Event Coordinator”. She’s taken the title to heart too. She went to extravagant lengths to help make our recent “Death Wears White” game work so well. And she’s planning our Kids’ Gala V which is this coming Saturday.

In other club news, Nick Sima is now one of the official key members of The Gaming Annex. What is a key member? It is literally a member who has a key to the door. He joins Dusty, [name redacted] and yours truly. Nick Sima will be in charge of maintaining the facility–a task he won’t know he’s been charged with unless he reads this blog.

If you want to keep up with us, follow us here…

 

Hits & Flops October 2017

I’ve been able to get several new games under my belt since our last installment of Hits & Flops. Dusty has been buying lots of games in 2017. In addition, Brian has been introducing us to lots of games. And of course I buy games like they are going out of style. Let’s have some fun with another installment of Hits & Flops.

Board Game Hits & Flops October 2017

 

Quartermaster General 1914

Quartermaster General 1914
Quartermaster General 1914

About a year ago, Bruce brought over a nifty little World War II game called Quartermaster General. Each player takes on one of the belligerents: three play the Axis and three play the Allies. On your turn, you play a card such as “Build Army” or “Sea Battle”. Once you play the card, it goes in your discard pile, never to return to play. You score points by owning victory cities at the end of each of your turns. Which every team has the most points at the end of the game is winner.

Quartermaster General 1914 in action
Quartermaster General 1914 in action

There are some cards that mill cards off your opponent’s deck. These cards are called Economic Warfare cards. It’s quite possible for someone to run out of cards before the end of the game. Some card are “Status Cards” and they stay in play, giving you a permanent bonus. And some cards are “Event Cards” that have a powerful one time effect.

Bruce’s WWII game went over quite well. Its simplicity was charming. The team interaction was fun. And all our games of it were intense. So when I saw they were releasing  WWI version I was understandably intrigued.

Rules reference QMG 1914
Rules reference QMG 1914

The new version, called Quartermaster General 1914, is largely the same as the aforementioned WWII game. The major differences are: theme (this one is WWI) and complexity. This new version cranks up the complexity by a fair margin. I thought our group might like this expert take on a game we love. I took a chance and bought it.

1914 is very asymmetrical. All of the QMG games are asymmetrical. But 1914 is particularly so. There are 5 powers in the game. The Central Powers have 2 players whereas the Triple Entente has 3 players. So the Triple Entente have to use their superior numbers to hammer Germany and Austria-Hungary into submission.

The British get a toehold on the continent
The British get a toehold on the continent

Some of the powers have more than one country at their command. Austria-Hungary command Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans. The British control the US. And France controls Italy. So your deck of cards may have some cards that refer to one power but not the other.

This version also allows players to prepare a card in addition to playing a card. Prepared cards use icons on them instead of the text. This gives all cards multi uses–one of my favorite game mechanics.

With all the extra complexity, I waited until a Tuesday to spring it on our regulars. The game went over very well. I loved it. It could become my favorite game in the growing QMG series (there is also a Peloponnesian War game).

Verdict: Hit!

 

Immortals

Immortals from Queen Games
Immortals from Queen Games

Wallenstein is a great game. It’s a Euro-war game with a cube tower instead of dice. Your armies are wooden cubes. When you fight, you drop your cubes and your opponent’s cubes into the cube tower. Some cubes will fall out and others will not. Your cubes that fall out are compared to your opponent’s that fall out. The difference are placed in the territory.

The novel combat system of Wallenstein has been adopted by other games. The combat system in End of the Triumvirate is similar. And the deduction mechanic of Mord im Arosa is not dissimilar. So when designers Mike Elliot and Dirk Henn announced a fantasy version, the gaming world took note.

Components of The Immortals
Components of The Immortals

Dusty was one of the gamers who took note. He taught Nick Sima and myself how to play a couple of Sundays ago.

And it went over like a lead balloon.

Unlike the added complexity Quartermaster General 1914 affords over its predecessors, the added complexity in The Immortals is unneeded and unwanted.

There are now two resources instead of just money. There is a divided game board: one for evil races and one for good races. And everyone controls exactly one of each. You can move between the two planes of existence if you build a portal.

Board for The Immortals
Board for The Immortals

The game board is busy. And the graphic design is less than ideal. The theme also does not shine through as much as it does in Wallenstein.

The Immortals isn’t a terrible game. It’s just an unneeded game. Wallenstein (or its Japanese themed counterpart, Shogun) are good enough.

Verdict: Flop.

 

Apocrypha

Apocrypha Adventure Game
Apocrypha Adventure Game

Apocrypha Adventure Card Game was made for people who like Pathfinder the Card Game. It’s a campaign style coop where players build a deck with certain advantages and disadvantages in an effort to defeat an AI.

Pathfinder was not my cup of tea. The idea of a campaign or legacy card game is interesting enough. But the mechanics in Pathfinder are not interesting. They are a convoluted version of Battle of Greyport–a game that is quite fun once in a while but not enough to play an entire campaign.

Dice and standees for Apocrypha
Dice and standees for Apocrypha

Our first play of Apocrypha was marred by our utter ignorance of the rules. The publisher has a how-to video. We thought we could slog our way through the game. We were wrong. After almost 2 hours, we decided to abandon our game.

Even if I knew the rules well and could play a complete game, Apocrypha just isn’t my type of game. The trick to Apocrypha isn’t trying to play  your whole hand of cards. It’s trying to use your one time use cards to maximum ability. So if you were thinking this was Dominion, you would be disappointed. But if you like Mage Knight, you might like this.

Verdict: Flop.

 

Magic Maze

Magic Maze from Gyom
Magic Maze from Gyom

Dusty introduce Jon and myself to Magic Maze a few weeks ago. Jon, who’s a theme junkie, was warned by Dusty this game would probably not be his cup of tea.

In Magic Maze, players do not control one of the adventurers. Instead, they control a certain movement direction. So anyone can move the barbarian but only one person can move him north. Players work together to move the elf, dwarf, wizard and barbarian through a shopping mall to get all the adventuring equipment they need. The game has an hourglass so players have only so long to do so.

Play through of Magic Maze
Play through of Magic Maze

Despite its weak theme, Jon liked the game. And so do I. Magic Maze could become my favorite filler. This little rascal plays in 15 minutes and offers 17 increasingly difficult scenarios.

We introduced this game to our Thursday night group as well. And it was roundly appreciated. Magic Maze is so good, it’s difficult to imagine a game collection without it. It’s good for hardcore gamers. It’s good for non-gamers. It’s fun with kids. Designer Kasper Lapp really struck gold with this one.

Verdict: HIT!

 

Century Road Spice

Century: Golem Edition
Century: Golem Edition

Steve and his wife had us over for games a few weeks ago. They taught us Century: Golem Edition. This is a reimplementation of Century: Spice Road. It’s not yet available for retail. Steve was able to get a copy at GenCon.

Players are competing to build golems in this fantasy card game. You first must acquire all the gems needed to build a golem. This is done by playing cards from your hand that either give you gems or that let you exchange gems for different gems.

Gems and cards from Century Golem
Gems and cards from Century Golem

Players have a hand of cards. They can either play a card from their hand, refresh their hand of cards, draft a card from the board or spend gems to buy a golem. You win the game by scoring points, mostly from building golems.

My wife adored the game. She said the game was very relaxing. Probably because we just played Magic Maze, a frenzied timed game. But she is right that Century is a good game. It is light enough to teach non-gamers. It could also be a good cool down game for hardcore gamers.

Verdict: HIT!

 

Stop Thief!

Stop Thief! from Restoration Games
Stop Thief! from Restoration Games

I’ve found a copy of the classic Parker Brother’s game, Stop Thief! recently. It was the second such copy that I’ve found at thrift stores in 2017. This is a nifty old game where you have an electronic device that makes sounds, giving you clues where the thief is at.

Rob Daviau has launched a company who’s goal is to make modern versions of these old games. This is one of the first games he’s restored. The electronic device is now your smartphone’s app. The artwork is updated. But the feel of the game is the same.

Game board and pawns in Stop Thief!
Game board and pawns in Stop Thief!

Because of the smartphone app, the sound quality is way better than it was in the 1979 version. When the thief moves to a door, you hear a creaky old door open. When the thief moves outside, you hear the hustle and bustle of a busy street.

The roll-and-move has been replaced with a hand of cards. This is a huge improvement. One of the cards gives you a private tip but it usually moves you only a few spaces. When you play a card, you do not get it back until you play your refresh hand card.

The dragnet tightens
The dragnet tightens

Despite its obvious improvements, Stop Thief! hasn’t been a hit. We’ve been playing it on “difficult” or “intermediate” settings. The difficult setting makes the private tip feature all but useless. And the intermediate game makes the private tip weak. We also played with the no cash option. This was objectively bad. In fact, the only good way to play Stop Thief! is to play the easy game, the way the game was originally design. It’s a simple deduction game with some press-your-luck. It doesn’t need dozens of add-ons.

Verdict: Undetermined.

 

Where every game night is a hit

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
196 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 Ben

Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017, 6:00 PM
2 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

September 2017 thrift store

It’s that time again. It’s time for our most followed column: my recent thrift store finds. I cast a wide net and rescue many endangered games. Below are the highlights from my recent endeavors. And as always, these games are available to any of our members.

 

Thrift Store Finds September 2017

 

Axis & Allies

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal
Axis & Allies Guadalcanal

Long time followers know about what Axis & Allies has meant to my gaming history. Axis & Allies is always an auto-buy when I find it at thrift stores. I can usually cobble together a full game from any thrift store find. And Axis & Allies is a great game to give to a local gamer who doesn’t know about our existence.

Axis & Allies D-Day
Axis & Allies D-Day

So you can imagine my excitement when I found not one, not two, not three but four copies of Axis & Allies! I was perusing the flea market and found Axis & Allies Guadalcanal and Axis & Allies D-Day. I found a copy of the revised edition at a local Goodwill. And I found Axis & Allies Pacific at another Goodwill.

Axis & Allies (revised)
Axis & Allies (revised)

Axis & Allies is the next step up from Risk. It’s a good gateway game to bring people into hobby. I would recommend it until your group graduates to 1754: Conquest or such.

 

Risk

Risk Legacy
Risk Legacy

Speaking of Risk, I find copies often at thrift stores. I usually just give them away to local gamers so they know about The Gaming Annex. But this past month was a marque month for finding Risk. I found not one but two copies of Risk: Legacy.

Risk Legacy city
Risk Legacy city

Risk: Legacy is the brainchild of Rob Daviau, the founder of Restoration Games. He is the architect of several legacy games with Risk: Legacy being the first.

The two copies I found had been played through, unfortunately. So I have lots of plastic army dudes!

Risk: Captain America Civil War
Risk: Captain America Civil War

Two different Risk games were available at Meijer: Star Wars and Captain America Civil War. Meijer struggled to sell these so they were put on clearance. Now the games are a bit harder to find.

I did manage to do just that. There was a $3 copy at a thrift store. It was opened but unplayed. I suppose someone was gifted this game and didn’t want it. I’m confident I can find a local person who wants this 🙂

Risk: Plants vs. Zombies
Risk: Plants vs. Zombies

Last but not least I found Risk: Plants vs. Zombies. Indeed I found two copies this month. One game was short on pieces. I thought since I found two copies I could cobble together a full game. I was able to. But there is an anomaly in publication. Some copies have gray zombies and others have purple zombies. I’m not sure why this happened. But if you need pieces to complete a copy, be warned about this!

Codenames

Codenames from Czech Games
Codenames from Czech Games

Codenames is a very popular game from a very esteemed designer. Codenames is ranked #1 on BGG for party games and #36 overall. It was designed by Vlaada Chvátil. He has four games on the Top 100 of BGG. No other designer is even close with the possible caveat of Uwe Rosenberg.

I found a neglected copy of Codenames at the Goodwill on Norton and Henry recently. The game was complete and appeared to be unplayed.

I found a home for this game recently so this game is no longer available. But don’t fret. You can get new copies for very cheap at Out of the Box or online.

 

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin's Creed
Assassin’s Creed

Board games that use video game IP’s, movie IP’s or TV show IP’s  usually are not good. This has not stopped Cryptozoic Games from trying, though. They have published Adventure Time, Archer, Attack on Titan and Batman: Arkham City.

Due to the IP’s draw, I usually pick up Cryptozoic Games from thrift stores. Their low BGG’s rating are often ignored by new gamers. And newer gamers are the ones I’m trying to reach. Even Assassin’s Creed holds a modest 5.7 on BGG.

 

Stop Thief!

Stop Thief! from MB
Stop Thief! from MB

I was flabbergasted when I found a copy of Parker Brother’s Stop Thief back in March/April. This game has been on my Holy Grail list for, well, all my life. The game is a detective/deduction game that is far superior to Clue.

Thrift Store Finds: March 2017
Stop Thief! board and detectives

This cute game comes with an electronic device that makes sounds. Based upon the sound, you can deduce where the thief is. If you figure out where he is at, you get paid. Collect enough money and you win.

I was flabbergasted for the second time this year when I found Stop Thief! again! So if you need a copy, hit me up!

 

Other Notable Games

Lionheart from Parker Brothers
Lionheart from Parker Brothers
Guillotine from Wizards of the Coast
Guillotine from Wizards of the Coast
Bandu from Milton Bradley
Bandu from Milton Bradley
Simpon's Chess Set
Simpon’s Chess Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where thrift store games are loved…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
195 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 Make Up Day

Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017, 6:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

Who owns the rights to Twixt?

A fascinating conversation on boardgamegeek has inspired me to write this post. Most of what I’m writing here is covered in the 6+ pages on BGG. However, I would like the story to be read more generally than on the Twixt “news” forum on BGG.

Who owns the rights to Twixt?

 

What is Twixt?

The fences and posts of Twixt
The fences and posts of Twixt

Twixt is an abstract game where players place posts and fences in an effort to connect their pieces from one side of the board to the other. The board is a 24×24 grid of peg holes. You place one post in the grid on your turn. If you have posts on the opposite ends of a 6 peg rectangle (a 2×3 rectangle) then you may connect your posts with a fence. Fences may not cross over other fences–they must go around,. You are free to rearrange your fences on your turn so long as you follow the rules above. If you connect your pieces across the game board, you are the winner.

Twixt holds a solid 6.6 game rating on BGG. Considering it’s an abstract from the 1960’s, this is high praise. I find copies at thrift stores and I always pick them up. I haven’t played Twixt yet but by all accounts I am doing myself a disservice by not giving it a whirl.

 

Background with 3M

3M logo
3M logo

In 1961, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) added a board game division to their line of consumer products. In addition to making Scotch™ tape, 3M would make Mr. President, Stocks & Bonds and Acquire. The decision to add a board game division to their company required them to find game design talent. They added Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph to their line up.

Sid Sackson has a plethora of games under his belt. The aforementioned Acquire but also Sleuth and Can’t Stop. When you think of Sackson you should think of him as the 1960’s version of Reiner Knizia.

Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger
Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger

Czech born Alex Randolph was also a notable game designer. While not as prolific as Sackson, Randolph has some nice credits under his belt. Enchanted Forest comes to mind.

And so does Twixt.

Copyright entry
Copyright entry

Randolph created a pencil and paper version of his posts and fences game and brought it to Minnesota. 3M bought the rights to it and made it into a mass market game in 1962. 3M made a few changes to the rules but overall the game was what Randolph had intended. The 1962 Copyright Catalog shows 3M as the copyright owner. This would cover all the printed material such as the wording of the rules and the artwork. This would  not cover the mechanics or the name.

 

Avalon Hill

Avalon Hill logo
Avalon Hill logo

Avalon Hill was a publisher of high-end strategy games. In 1976 AH acquired the rights to 3M’s board game division. Avalon Hill got the rights to Twixt along with a host of other classics.

It’s long been believed that Randolph made a deal with Avalon Hill buy his designs back. Randolph’s estate has always believed the rights to his games were passed on to his heirs after his death.

No such record in the U.S. record has been found however. A failure to reapply for a copyright is quite common. It’s also a bit unfortunate in this case for the estate of Alex Randolph.

 

Hasbro

Hasbro
Hasbro

Hasbro bought Avalon Hill lock, stock and barrel in the 1990’s. I remember this dark day because I knew I would never see a reprint of any AH games. I was mostly right.

Hasbro had a trademark on Twixt, part of their agreement with Avalon Hill. This mark was cancelled in 2003 because Hasbro did not renew. The trademark only allowed Hasbro to the name Twixt, not necessarily the wording or the artwork (which would be protected by copyright law) or the game mechanics (which would be protected by patent law).

 

So where are we at now?

3M's Twixt version
3M’s Twixt version

The copyright has expired on Twixt. This hardly matters since if anyone who wants to publish the game would rewrite the rules in their own words and modify the artwork along with it.

Any patentable mechanics are long expired. The game was published by 3M in 1962 and designed in large part in 1957. Patent protection does not extend that far back.

Trademarks, however, can offer protection. Trademarks are for commercial names like “Coca-Cola” or “Vaseline”. You can make a soda pop. But you cannot call it “Coca-Cola” because there would be public confusion with your product and Coca-Cola’s flagship product. You can make a petroleum jelly but Vaseline is a name brand.

The name “Twixt” does not have anyone who owns it. At least not until this past summer. One Wayne Dolezal bought the trademark. After studious researching the game, Dolezal found that Randolph and his estate had made the common mistake of not renewing their trademark. Dolezal filed an application in July to secure the rights to the name.

What does this mean?

The mechanics of Twixt are more or less in the public domain. So anyone could publish a game of “fences and posts” just like anyone could publish a chutes and ladders aka snakes and ladders et. al. But the eponymous name of Twixt would only be allowed to be published under the authorization of Dolezal.

Twixt and Schlitz
Twixt and Schlitz

Mr. Dolezal mentioned this long winded but fascinating history recently on BGG. Many in the BGG community were not pleased with him or his tactics. I do not share the community’s contempt–mostly because Dolezal has been very congenial in his discussions. The link I provided shows an outstanding example of an internet argument that is actually constructive.

Dolezal says he plans to republish the game. He will put Randolph’s name on the cover. But he is reluctant to share royalties with the Randolph estate at this point.

The story is ongoing. I will blog again about this as new developments break.

 

Until then, follow us here…

 

 

RPG or Board Game? Who’s to decide?

[Editor’s note: long time contributor Nick Sima has become rather enamored by the world of Terrinoth. With Fantasy Flight’s recent announcements about Runewars Miniatures Game and the new Legacy of Dragonholt, Nick’s become inspired to write about it. This will be the first in an ongoing column about Terrinoth…]

 

RPG or Board Game? Who’s to decide?

Legacy of Dragonholt
Legacy of Dragonholt

Just before Gen Con (yes, that Gen Con) there were a few announcements made by Fantasy Flight. I was all excited for what they’d drop on us and checked a couple days prior to find a little game called Legacy of Dragonholt. It’s set in the ever expanding Runebound universe and features the brand new Oracle system.

Oracle System
Oracle System

The Oracle system appears to be very much like a choose your adventure book. I’m thinking it’s akin to Tales of the Arabian Nights, but who knows? Fantasy Flight has given it no press since the initial release. As of this posting, it still reads as ‘At the Printer’ on FFG’s site. Maybe they don’t want to reveal too much of their Oracle system before the product launches.

Muskegon loves Runewars
Runewars Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games

I am still quite excited at the prospect of this new game. I find the Runebound universe extremely exciting and want to see more things created in that space. My plan is to write a series of blog posts about the history of Runebound and how we got to this new and exciting game, and I’ve been doing a bit of research to get that off the ground.

Legacy of Dragonholt box
Legacy of Dragonholt box

In that research, I found that BGG put Legacy of Dragonholt in the RPGGeek side. There’s currently a back and forth (as BGG users are so wont to do) about the precedent of it being a Board game or RPG. As you’d expect there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and conjecture, so if you’re interested in that sort of thing, check it out.

Legacy of Dragonholt is on the pending approval page for board game listings a few times now, so hopefully BGG gets its act together and puts it where it (probably) belongs.

 

If you’d like to play Battlelore or Runewars with Nick Sima or any other member of the Muskegon Area Gamers, visit us here…

 

 

Around the World of Board Gaming

Welcome to the another installment of Around the World of Board Gaming. This is a quasi-monthly column where we look not at board game news but rather board games in the news. We will look at a horrible story of a stabbing that took place over a Magic: The Gathering game, the advent of 3D printer technology and how it affects our hobby and we will wrap up with some news that is close to home. But we will lead off with a story about the publisher-we-love-to-hate: Games Workshop.

Around the World of Board Gaming August 2017

 

Game Store Sues Games Workshop

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

Long time readers know my proclivity to denounce Games Workshop. It hasn’t been all negative press for the UK based game company. I did mention in a previous iteration of this column how GW was making tons money on a weak GB pound. But the news today is not favorable for beleaguered Games Workshop.

A store owner named David Moore is suing GW for $62.5 million. Moore, who also is a lawyer, is representing himself in an anti-trust suit. Moore alleges that Games Workshop’s practices are destroying the retailer and amount to theft.

H.R. Giger's alien concept
H.R. Giger’s alien concept

But Moore dredges up some of the other anti-GW talking points people have historically made. Moore alleges that the idea for the tyranids in general and the genestealers specifically were lifted by Games Workshop from the artwork of Swiss painter H. R. Giger.

Genestealer from Space Hulk 3rd Edition
Genestealer from Space Hulk 3rd Edition

I admit there is more than a passing similarity between the bug in Ridley Scott’s classic and the vanguard of the tyranid army.

Mr. Moore goes on to allege that GW also took the name “space marine” from Robert Heinlein. The term first appeared in Heinlein’s 1939 work, “The Misfits”. Games Workshop has worked tirelessly to claim the trademark of the term for over a decade now.

Imperial Space Marine 2016
Imperial Space Marine 2016

Moore also found some records about the manufacturing cost of some of Games Workshop’s merchandise. The Imperial Space Marine 2016 retailed for $30 USD. But according to Moore’s sources, the figure cost $.06 to make. This comes to a mere 50,000% mark up.

Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli
(photo credit: New York Times)

Recall in September 2015 when one Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of the HIV/AIDS medicine Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill. This was all over the news. And it was only a 5,000% mark up.

The lawsuit is still underway. It’s too soon to tell how it will pan out. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on this story. And I’ll keep you updated with any news.

 

Man gets stabbed seven times over a Magic: the Gathering Game

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

There are people who take their Magic: the Gathering very seriously. And then there is Elija Creech of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Creech was playing Magic on Friday, July 28th in the early morning when he got into a rules argument with his opponent.

According to reports, the argument escalated to the point where Creech smacked his opponent with a mallet and then stabbed the victim seven times for good measure. Creech made the 911 call and turned himself in. He is in Benton County Jail as of this writing.

This is the second time in this column that I’ve blogged about violence breaking out in a tabletop game. The vast majority of our hobby enthusiasts are able to find a peaceful way to settle rules disputes*. It is unfortunate when incidents like this happen and cast shade on our hobby.

*Dusty has gotten a lot better.

 

Game Theory and Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey and Houston
Hurricane Harvey and Houston
(photo credit NY Mag)

The amount of damage Hurricane Harvey has inflicted has not yet been tallied. There have been a few dozens deaths and billions of dollars lost. The final figures will not be firmed up for some time.

The relief efforts will be continuing for several weeks if not the rest of 2017. There are numerous logistical issues in performing a relief effort. And game theory has been underused in improving this. Several recent articles have discussed this.

One of the key takeaways from these articles is that 60% of all donations to relief efforts are non-priority items. A deluge of non-priority items congests the ports. Using game theory can predict the “players'” motives and help optimize relief efforts.

This article on The Conversation is fount of information on game theory as it relates to natural disasters.

 

The Impact of 3D Printers on Tabletop Gaming

Port for Merchants & Marauders
Port for Merchants & Marauders
(photo credit: Shapeways)

The use of 3D printers has greatly enhanced the ability of industry to create prototypes and meet short term demands. But 3D printers are also being used in board game piece crafting as well. And it’s having a impact.

According to Machine Design, making game pieces is $135 million industry yearly. And low-cost machines coupled with high detailed miniatures are natural fit for gamers. Coupled with the fact that many gamers have a penchant for engineering or CAD, 3D printers will continue to rise in game piece manufacturing.

3D printing typically gives a cost advantage over buying replacement pieces (or worse: buying an entire game!) 3D printing has also been used to pimp out games. Shapeways is a notable manufacturer that exists only to make game pieces for tabletop gamers.

The analysis of Machine Design concluded that the rise of 3D printers will not eclipse the board game market; it will augment it. People who use 3D printers would not have bought the game pieces otherwise. Thus, the publishers are not losing money.

 

Close to Home

Nerd Chapel is interviewed by Contact 29.18

Eric, a local gamer, has founded an organization called Nerd Chapel. He mixes his fandom with his Christian fellowship. He was interviewed by Contact 29.18 last month. He gave an impassioned case for what he does.

The Gaming Annex

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

Brandi has agreed to be our Special Events Coordinator. Brandi has been with the group for over a year. She has grown to be a valuable gamer in that time. She also is passionate about our hobby and making it better. Brandi will be the point person for all our Saturday events and any non-standard game event. She was honored to take on this new role. And we are honored to have her as a member of our group.

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

Kudos to Dr. Steve. He stood in line at GenCon to buy Twilight Imperium for us. Not just one copy but two! And we played both copies simultaneous when Ben was AWOL last weekend. The differences between TI4 and TI3 are still too fresh to explain here. But you can be sure the Muskegon Area Gamers will be publishing tons of blogs about this game.

 

Until next month, follow us here…

 

 

SeaFall Session 4

SeaFall - Game 04

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! BOX 3 REVILED

We got another game played yesterday (1/19/2017). Took us around 2:40 to get the game fully played, a few mistakes were made (mainly on my behalf but were caught and fixed), and I lost big time. The game wasn’t nearly as close as it was on Game #3, this one had a clear winner, and a clear loser (me).

I tried to get two milestones, and a colony, due to a mistake I wasn’t able to get the first and Chris in that very same round snagged it from me, and that made it so I wouldn’t be able to get the second (Chris took it the next round), so I tried to go for a colony to set myself up for the next game, only to have Chris once again screw up my plans by ‘accidentally’ finding the Tomb of the Ancients (still a Cthulhu theme!) and ending the game. He deserves it, being last in most of the games, and overall, until that point.


Outcome

Brian – 26

  • Buildings
    • Trading Port
  • Upgrades
    • Stalwart
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 0
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 0
  • Island Searches = 0
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 0
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 0
  • Advisors = 0
  • Colonies = 0
  • Milestones

Tasha – 46

  • Buildings
    • Gun Tower
  • Upgrades
    • Hale
    • Nimble
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 1
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 5
  • Island Searches = 0
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 3
  • Treasures = 6
  • Research = 0
  • Advisors = 3
  • Colonies – 0
  • Milestones
Chris – 35

  • Buildings
    • Gun Tower
  • Upgrades
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 3
  • Island Searches = 0
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 0
  • Treasures = 1
  • Research = 0
  • Research = 0
  • Advisors = 3
  • Colonies = 0
  • Milestones
    • The Markets Tremble
    • Gold Beyond Measure
    • Ancient Secrets Unearthed
Brandi – 38

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
    • Intrepid
    • Enduring
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 2
  • Island Searches = 1
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 3
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 3
  • Advisors = 2
  • Colonies = 0
  • Milestones

Game Notes

SeaFall - Game 04This was an interesting game. I picked up the Trading Port allowing you to sell goods at +4, so 10 each, and had two people take me up on the offer to use it for one of their reputation tokens. Selling goods at 10 each is very handy, and helped Chris take ‘The Markets Tremble’ milestone (sell goods worth 30+ in one turn), then take the ‘Gold Beyond Measure’ milestone (Have 60+ gold in your vault).

That, however, made Tasha raid Chris’ vault later on and getting 19 of his gold.

Pirates attacked twice this time, attacking Tasha (person with the most gold), then attacking Chris (person with the most in their warehouse).

SeaFall - Game 04I was attacked by the ‘Sunken Ship’. In Game 3 (I think) Tasha sunk Brandi’s ship after Brandi attacked Tasha’s port. That put an X on the map where her ship sank, and with it being right at the port, it causes some issues.

I was the closest to the X (by 1 space, but farthest away by a ruler). They all incorrectly ruled that it was by space, (it was by distance, not space), so it attacked me (secretly I do agree that it should be by space, but don’t tell them). Thankfully I didn’t take any damage.

Brandi discovered another island, I think that makes 3 for her now, and 0 for everyone else.

SeaFall - Game 04 SeaFall - Game 04 SeaFall - Game 04
SeaFall - Game 04 SeaFall - Game 04

New Box

SeaFall - Game 04Look at all the goodies in the new box! We have a nice thick deck of new cards (including curses), new event cards, new rules, upgrades, buildings, and tombs!

The only things we didn’t get in this box are more treasures and advisors (thankfully not more advisors). I could have done without more rules.

The next game should be interesting with tombs and curse cards (with both of those, I am leaning more and more to thinking that Chis is correct and it is going to be a Cthulhu game).

Till next time!

 

Originally published at Iggy Games. You can follow Iggy on facebook here. Iggy is a partner of the Muskegon Area Gamers. We are glad to have his enthusiasm and his commentary.

 


 

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
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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…

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