Category Archives: Muskegon Area Gamers

Musings from the Muskegon Misanthropes: November Edition

Fantasy Flight announced they will release a 2nd Edition of our favorite A Game of Thrones: LCG game. http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=5184

The next cycle for the 1st edition will be the final cycle. After 12 years, FFG is putting the 1st edition out to pasture.

Furthermore, the 1st edition will be mostly incompatible with this new edition, requiring new purchases in order keep up with the competitive scene. The decision by FFG to do this was in part marketing: retailers cannot justify having 12 years worth of LCG stock on their shelves; that large of a card pool would intimidate new gamers anyway.

But FFG is also looking to streamline a bunch of the troublesome aspects of the game.

House Greyjoy comes to Muskegon
The Great Kraken of Greyjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is changing?

 

  • Moribund. This causes so much frustration and confusion. I’m glad they are getting rid of it.
  • Influence was a carryover from when AGOT the LCG was AGOT the CCG. And the transition was not very good. Influence works almost the same as gold. Why have it?
  • Crests are going the way of the dodo.
  • Timing issues like save/cancels and passive effects are being retemplated so this won’t happen in the future.

 

Ned Stark, Tyrion Lannister and He-man
Ned Stark, Tyrion Lannister and He-man

The core elements that make A Game of Thrones LCG what it is are staying.

  • The plot deck.
  • The challenge phase
  • Unique characters must die!
  • Victory conditions are the same
  • Setup 

The plot deck is a nifty way to tell a narrative. The challenge phase is the core of the game. Having a setup where you get X gold to put cards into play is much better than the typical card game where you must find tricks to have a quick set up.

Plot cards will have an additional statistic: how many cards you can have in your hand during taxation. This will eliminate the draw cap. I always hated having to remember how many cards I drew. I also hated the fact that an effect might say, “Reveal a card…and add it to your hand” which isn’t the same thing as “draw a card…and add it to your hand”. These distinctions were stupid.

There will be 7 factions (maybe more) with the new edition. I wonder if Tyrell will get treatment.

I was really looking forward to the upcoming card releases, especially with the Prized keyword. But I’m also excited about this new streamline from Fantasy Flight. FFG really does make the best games.

The only problem is: what am I to do with all these extra cards now?

 

 

 

 

 

New Column Ideas for the Blog

I really like the idea of the Muskegon Area Gamers writing columns. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with new columns for the blog that would justify semi-monthly installments. Here is my work in process.

 

Muskegon doesn't play Monopoly
Monopoly?!

1. The Need for Theme

A column that deals with theme: what works, what doesn’t, what games have it, what games don’t (but need it). The Need for Theme would discuss the form and function of what themes are fun, what themes are popular along with anything that is theme related.

 

2. Strategy Corner

This column would be a monthly installment about, well, strategy. Our columnists would pick one of their favorite games and discuss strategies. Opening strategies, managing your hand of cards, resource curves, luck mitigation, deck construction, etc would make fine discussion points for the Strategy Corner.

 

3. Musings from the Misanthropes

A column that looks at the more humorous topics about our hobby, Musings from the Misanthropes would field a broad range of topics.

 

4. The Rules Lawyer

The Rules Lawyer would look at corner cases, FAQ entries and overlooked rules from our favorite games.

 

Are there any other topics that would make good  monthly columns?

The Gaming Annex’s October Wrap Up

Here is a list of the games we played this past month. If you weren’t here, then you missed out! Check out our meet up or facebook page and RSVP.

1. Mage Wars

The Muskegon Area Gamers love Mage Wars more than Magic: The Gathering
Mage Wars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Arcane Wonders’ Mage Wars, players take on the roles of powerful spell casters who seek to destroy their opponent’s spell caster. You marshal your mana in order to effectively stave off your opponent’s attacks whilst launching your own. You summon creatures to do your bidding. Sound familiar? It should. The theme is 100% the same as Magic: The Gathering. In both M:TG and MW, players can tweak their “decks”. In Mage Wars, however, your entire deck is a book that houses your spells. You have complete access to your spells.

Mage Wars in Muskegon: get on it!
Mage War spell book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game is also customizable and expandable. You can swap out spells (within limitations) and you can buy extra books if you want a Necromancer or a Druid. I recently upped my rating of this game to “8”. It’s that good.

 

2. Poker

Muskegon loves itself some Poker, especially Texas Hold 'em tourneys.
Poker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gaming Annex held its first Texas Hold ’em tournament in October. I think it was successful enough to warrant a sequel. Look for one in December or January.

 

3. Advanced Civilization

Muskegon Avalon Hill Civilization
Old school gaming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing Civilization/Advanced Civilization over two non-consecutive weekends is posing some challenges for the Gaming Annex. We played about 60% of the game in October. The remainder is scheduled for a Sunday in November. If this works out okay, we are going to schedule Twilight Imperium: The Long War in December!

 

 4. Battlestar Galactica

There's a cylon afoot in Muskegon!
Battlestar Galactica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We taught Dugas how to play BSG this month. He was a cylon from the beginning too. He and Jon managed to destroy humanity a turn before the rest of us would have won.

 

5. Betrayal at House on the Hill

Muskegon Area Gamers plays Betrayal at House on the Hill ever Halloween
Betrayal at House on the Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our Halloween Gaming session, we broke out this classic. Betrayal at House on the Hill is cooperative-turned-betrayer game. Players investigate a haunted house until the 2nd phase of the game randomly starts. Then one player is typically the bad guy and he is trying to defeat the rest of the team.

 

6. Touch of Evil

Muskegon has a Touch of Evil ever Halloween
Touch of Evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touch of Evil from Flying Frog Games is a light strategy/strong narrative game. Players in colonial America (or is it Europe?) attempt to defeat the evil that is residing in this small town. The game can be competitive or cooperative. Not to be taken too seriously. As such, we usually break this game out at Halloween.

 

 7. Witch’s Brew

Witches are brewing up something fun in Muskegon.
Witch’s Brew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch’s Brew is a light trick taking game where players score points brewing potions. While this is a good game normally, it seemed only appropriate to play this during our Halloween Gaming session. Jon kicked our butts.

 

 8. Eldritch Horror

Great Old Ones stalk Muskegon in FFG's Eldritch Horror
Eldritch Horror

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dusty taught three noobs how to play Fantasy Flight’s Eldritch Horror. The game lasted most of the night with Dugas’ character kicking butt against monsters. The Great Old One they sparred against was, of course, Cthulhu. And Cthulhu, of course, won. But the noobs seemed to enjoy the game. Dugas even went so far as to say he wanted to own a copy of it.

 

9. World of Warcraft: The Board Game

Muskegon World of Warcraft
Muskegon loves World of Warcraft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We managed to get a six player game of World of Warcraft to the table in October. The reception was luke warm. All of us enjoyed the game but most of us thought it would be better as a three player co-op. In fact, this is probably how we will tweak the game if/when it gets scheduled again.

 

 10. Cyclades

Cyclades is a Muskegon favorite. And the expansions are worth owning too.
Cyclades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Matagot’s Cyclades, players take on Greek factions who bid on the powers of the Hellenic Pantheon in an effort to build or conquer two metropolises. Powerful monsters and brave classical heroes can join your side if you have enough gold. This game plays perfectly with five and is a great Euro/Ameritrash hybrid. A favorite around here!

 

Our 2014 Bucket List

Late in 2013, the Muskegon Area Gamers had a discussion about what games and/or events we wanted to accomplish in 2014. There were about fourteen or so who gave contributions. In no particular order, here is what was discussed and what we’ve accomplished.

 

1. Twilight Imperium

Twilight Imperium box
Muskegon Area Gamers: we love Twilight Imperium

We resolved to play Twilight Imperium. Lots of TI3. We have accomplished this. But we also resolved to play The Long War–a 14 victory point saga of Twilight Imperium. As of this posting, we are still trying to get this scheduled. The constraint? We need eight players who will commit to coming to two consecutive Sundays to finish this beast. Due to various gamer/recruitment snags, we have not yet accomplished our goal of playing Twilight Imperium the Long War.

 

2. Avalon Hill’s Civilization

Civilization game box
Avalon Hill’s Civilization in Muskegon, MI

I used to play Civilization back in the day. Then we moved on to other gaming areas. But some of our group had never played and wanted to try it really badly. We managed to play this twice in 2014. We also have it slated again for a Sunday in October (see our meetup if you want in). The game was a success, as you can imagine.

 

3. Pax Britannica

Pax Britanica
Old time board game: Pax Britannica

I’ve read the rules to Pax Britannica three times now. And we still haven’t managed to get it to the table yet. This game has everything that our group would find interesting: negotiation, tactics, economics, historical theme. If we can set aside 7 hours on a Sunday to get it played, we will have an uproariously good time.

 

4. Formula D: with the advanced rules

Formula D
The Muskegon Area Gamers love Formula D. Or they at least tolerate it.

I’ve always enjoyed the base game of Formula D. But some members of the Muskegon Area Gamers didn’t like it so much. The desire to try the advanced rules has been mentioned many times. Well, we’ve finally tried it (twice!) in 2014. The advanced rules modify how you take damage, requiring players to manage several systems on their race card. These include brakes, body damage, tires and gear box. The advanced rules were a success and we will never look back.

 

5. Titan

Titan
Titan from Valley Games. Titan is good; Valley Games is bad.

 

Matt bought the newer Valley Games’ edition of Titan, an old Avalon Hill game from back in the day. Matt had fond memories of this game and thought he would enjoy it with his new group in Muskegon. Valley Games, unfortunately, is a horrible game company and Matt’s copy of Titan (which cost him a small fortune) suffered from water damage from the boat trip from Asia. Boooooo Valley Games!

We did try this nonetheless. It was an intro with three of us. The game is kinda cool but might take a long time considering the object is player elimination. A full game of this may be scheduled in December. Check or comment on the meetup if you want to try it sooner.

 

6. Mage Knight

Mage Knight
Mage Knight is a favorite in the 49441

 

A few of our gamers are very fond of Vlaada Chvatil’s Mage Knight from Wizkids Games. So much are they enamored that they want it to get played once a month. It’s on the docket for tomorrow. If our showing is strong, it will be put on the docket again in November.

This game is a very heavy strategy game with lots of moving parts. To fully appreciate it, one would have to play it about five times in order to really be competitive.

 

7. Cabin Con in Gun Lake, Michigan

Map of Gun Lake
Gun Lake: where the gamers in Muskegon go to camp + game

 

We go to GenCon every year. Since GrandCon is so close to Muskegon, we usually go there as well. But what we liked most about all these conventions is just playing games. So why don’t we have our own convention? Dusty put together a trip for six of us. We spent the weekend in a cabin. We cooked our meals outside. We played games non-stop for three days. It was by far, the biggest success we’ve had this year.

 

8. A foray into Roleplaying games

Cthulhu
Cthulhu calls Muskegon. Will you answer?

Many of us board gamers were one time RPG’ers. We simply moved onto better rules, better games, better everything. But the RPG’er in us wouldn’t die. We have discussed the possibility of doing a one-off RPG session. Kevin, one of our regulars, is very theatrical and loves doing storytelling/RPG stuff. He has a Cthulhu session that he wants us to try. The session is slated for October, just in time for Halloween.

 

9. Memoir ’44: Overlord Campaign

memoir-44-sword-beach-800
Memoir ’44

I love Memoir ’44. It’s so much fun playing with toy tanks and infantry. And managing your hand to maximum the effectiveness of your units is very fun. The Overlord rules for Memoir ’44 look intriguing. Four players to a side with one of them acting as the general. He manages the hand of cards for his side. And then issues the cards to them. The cooperative/competitive nature sounds like it will be a coup-de-grace with our game group. Dusty has the rules. The game will probably take place in October or November. Check the schedule on meetup.

 

10. Blood Royale from Games Workshop

 

 

Blood Royale

 

GW’s Blood Royale was recommended to our group. On paper, this game appears to have everything we would like: negotiation, trade, warfare, conflict, deal making and deal breaking. In practice, it went over like a lead balloon. We tried it twice. We failed it twice. Jon’s copy and my copy went the way of the Dodo. Too bad. We really thought this game would rival Republic of Rome and Civilization.

 

-Chris

On behalf of the Gaming Annex in Muskegon

Board Game Thrifting in Muskegon

I frequent thrift stores quite a bit. I am always on the look out for inexpensive board games to add to my already bloated collection. The work of driving to several stores and looking through shelves of Candyland and Monopoly can often yield a diamond. Below is a list of my most recent thrifting excursion.

1. Atmosfear: The DVD Board Game

Atmosfear
Atmosfear: The DVD Game

 

This game has a decent resale value. For my $2 investment, I got a complete copy of this 90’s classic. I put it on eBay. It sold right away!

 

2. Can’t Stop

Can't stop
Can’t Stop

This Sid Sackson classic still sees some table time with my group. A member of my group has dibs on it so I am going to give it to him.

 

3. Clue: Museum Caper

Museum
Clue: The Great Museum Caper

This version of Clue uses a secret movement mechanic and pits the group against one player (the Thief). I think this game may see some table time soon.

 

4. Dungeon Dice

Dungeon Dice
Dungeon Dice

I always wanted this game when I was a kid. Indeed the game was released when I was 5. I was first exposed to it a my older cousin’s house. I lost but I knew that I wanted this game. Thirty five years and two dollars later and I own it!

 

5. Battleship Command: Pirates of the Caribbean

pic382362
Battleship Command: Pirates of the Caribbean

I picked up Battleship Command: Pirates of the Caribbean at the Goodwill in North Muskegon. This game appears to solve some of the issues that Milton Bradley’s classic Battleship game. You get special powers. Each ship has a sweet spot where it is auto-sunk. You score points.

 

6. Risk: Battlefield Rogue

Risk
Risk: Battlefield Rogue

The Goodwill Stores in our area have a surplus of unused Risk: Battlefield Rogue games. I got two copies for $2.99 each. Still sealed. Color me happy.

 

7. Risk: 2210 AD

2210
Risk 2210 A.D.

Risk: 2210 AD holds its value quite well for a Risk iteration. In fact it’s decently rated on boardgamegeek.com. For $4.99 I picked it up.

 

Twilight Imperium: Bureaucracy versus Imperial II

I know this discussion has been started several times before, but not recently, and I feel like I have some new insights to the eternal question: Imperial II or Bureaucracy?

Note: I’m not going to discuss Initiative/Political/Logistics vs. Leadership/Assembly/Production. They are pretty comparable, really, with just a few nuances that matter. The decision between Imperial II and Bureaucracy has much larger ramifications for how the game is played at its core, so I will limit my comments accordingly.

First, some background. Feel free to skip ahead to the relevant stuff if my personal history with TI3 bores you. I owned TI3 before Shattered Empire came out, but I never got a chance to play it until after. So, my first game of TI3 used the base set of Strategy Cards, with Imperial thrown out in favor of his younger brother, Imperial II. I cut my TI3eth on about a dozen games of Imperial II before my game group mustered up the courage to try Bureaucracy. Part of this trend was the nature of our group; it was fluid, with people coming and going, so it seemed that there was always a rookie or two to teach, so Bureaucracy’s grand entrance into our lives kept getting delayed.

Finally, though, the moment arrived. Bureaucracy came in, all sparkly and new, looking very modern compared to his provincial cousins, the Imperials. Plus, he brought his friends along: Leadership, Assembly, and Production. Man, this was the TI3 we’d been missing. Still, something was off for me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it… Bureaucracy didn’t quite sit right in my mind, and the games seemed less satisfying. Was I just stubborn and unwilling to embrace change? Or was there really something amiss?

Now, I’ve played many games with Bureaucracy. I understand him better, and I understand TI3 better. I’ve come to some Conclusions.

Conclusion 1: Bureaucracy makes for a Tactical game. Imperial II makes for a Strategic game.

Explanation: Imperial II forces Age of Empires on you, whereby the Public Objectives are known by all players from the very start. On turn 1, you can (and must) begin planning your strategy for claiming Objectives, balanced by the viability of scoring your Secret Objective and/or claiming points for controlling Mecatol Rex. There are very likely some Objectives that you can score on Turns 1 or 2, and some that you will have to work towards. So, you develop a plan for pursuing the short term goals and the long term goals. It’s cerebral and exhausting, but it’s also difficult to get totally boned by the Public Objectives. You have options, and you can even purposefully fall behind in the race, make a plan to claim Imperial II to score several Objectives, and catch up (although, as I discuss below, this is risky). In any case, it’s strategy all the way.

Bureaucracy, on the other hand, rewards tactical play. You don’t know what the Public Objectives are, beyond the first one, so claiming Bureaucracy early to gather information is important. In the meantime, if you are lucky, the first Objective or two are nice to you, and you can score them quickly. If they aren’t… well, frankly you are a bit fucked, and you need to get your hands on Bureaucracy ASAP for damage control. In the meanwhile, you try to expand, to research, to collect Trade Goods, to build ships… all the usual stuff, but geared towards what Public Objectives your gut tells you will come out later. It’s guesswork, but doing a bit of everything will keep you flexible for when the flop finally favors you. You are playing a tactical game where you need to seize opportunities as they are presented, roll with the punches, and change your plans as new shit comes to light. If you fall behind, Bureaucracy will help you catch up a bit, but it’s less forgiving than Imperial II, which brings me nicely to my next Conclusion.

Conclusion 2: Bureaucracy as a catchup mechanic is too weak for a game where you need it more. Imperial II as a catchup mechanic is too powerful for a game where you need it less.

Explanation: In the Strategic Imperial II game, players should have a plan if they wish to be competitive. That plan could include a late-game Imperial II grab to score a bunch of points for the win, but that really only works if the other players are asleep at the wheel. Imperial II has less need for savvy players to make that big comeback. They knew what the Objectives were all along, and they knew how long they had to score them, so they either made a bad plan or didn’t provide enough disincentives to keep the others from wrecking their plan. A really efficient player can sometimes use Imperial II to jump out to a lead by scoring an extra Objective in addition to scoring one every round. That’s a tough lead to catch up to, so Imperial II rewards good play. And even if you don’t hold Mecatol Rex and don’t have any extra Objectives to score, then Imperial II’s Secondary-as-a-Primary is a decent booby prize. Not terrible, but not great, and at least it doesn’t benefit your opponents.

In the tactical Bureaucracy game, usually a few people are going to be behind the pack. Some players will find that the Public Objectives score themselves based on starting resources or galaxy layout. Others will have to wait for their big moment, as the initial few Objectives are risky, expensive, or flat-out impossible to score early. However, Bureaucracy only lets the holder score one extra Objective. Sure, it’s outside the normal procedure, so in the late game it can create a bubble victory, but as a catchup mechanic, it will only make up for one bad turn. And since Bureaucracy is so powerful at every phase of the game, it’s unlikely one player will get it more than once. In the early game, you use it to tweak the Objectives, and in the mid- to late-game, you use it to win via out-of-Status Phase scoring or Imperium Rex. Bureaucracy just doesn’t reward solid play as much as Imperial II does; a player’s success depends a bit more on the whims of Fortune. Again, segway.

Conclusion 3: Bureaucracy introduces more luck into TI3 than Imperial II does.

Explanation : As discussed above, when playing with Bureaucracy, the Objectives in the early game can set a player ahead or back based solely on luck of the draw. One player per turn can possibly mitigate this by claiming Bureaucracy and deciding which new Objective comes out. But even this is a gamble. It sometimes happens that the choice comes down to the lesser of two evils, if that. If both Objectives are bad for the phasing player, then he can try to pick one that helps the fewest number of his opponents, or maybe just the one(s) in the lead.

Granted, with Imperial II, the Objectives are rarely balanced for all players; some are going to have inherent advantages based on race and board positioning. Still, the underdogs know this from the outset, and there is always holding Mecatol Rex for a VP a turn to make up for any shortcomings in the spread. The poor bastards behind the 8 ball at least know their situation, and they can craft a daring plan to reverse it. Pulling off a win this way is extremely satisfying, and even just staying competitive is rewarding.

With Bureaucracy, you may not know just how screwed you are until it is too late to do anything about it. In the meantime, you drift rudderless, posturing with your opponents and going through the motions, hoping that at some point, a game shows up.

Final thoughts: Which card is better for you and your group? That depends on what you like. Do you prefer drier strategic games with limited luck factor and more of an emphasis on planning and efficiency? Or do you prefer a dynamic game that throws you a few haymakers along the way, forcing you to adapt to a changing situation where victory can often hinge on a card draw?

Jon (on behalf of The Muskegon Area Gamers and the Gaming Annex)

Our Twilight Imperium Leaderboard

We play Fantasy Flight’s Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition regularly, say once every 4 to 6 weeks. It’s gotten to the point where we want to compile data about how players and races fare. We have collected some data to this end.

We dole out races semi-randomly. Each player is given a choice of two races. A player may not choose (nor will they be offered) a race they have played previously. Once a player has played all 17 races, they can start fresh.

We typically play with 6 to 8 players. I really love the larger games because they make for more politicking and it feels more epic.

Below is a simple chart showing which races have seen the most play.

amount of plays
Races: Amount of Plays

Any TI3 gamer worth his salt will recognize the power of the Universities of Jol Nar. And they have been played 7 times. Our group really likes the Naalu Collective. As such, they’ve been played the second most.

It must be due to our group think or our particular play style (or perhaps random chance…) but the Federation of Sol has won more games than any other race. Some of the typical powerhouses like the Emirates of Hacan and the Yssaril Tribes have only one win between them. We’ll keep you posted as to any changes in these figures.

amount of wins
Races: Amount of Wins

As it stands, Ben and myself have the most wins. But there are several who are nipping at our heels.

New Picture
Players: Amount of Plays

To be fair, I’ve played more games of TI3 since we’ve begun this leaderboard. Also, we’ve played the scenario “Fall of the Empire” twice–neither of those games have been tallied in the charts above. Once we get some more scenario plays under our belt, I’ll be sure to create a separate chart for that.

Our next game of Twilight Imperium will be at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon on 8/10/2014. We are still deciding upon the rule set to use. Once the game is in the books, the charts above will be updated.

-Chris on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon Area Gamers

Our gaming group has been meeting steadily once a week since 2008-ish. We’ve been meeting regularly twice a week since 2012. We’ve been meeting regularly thrice a week since 2013. When will we start meeting regularly four times a week, you ask? When our wives divorce us or we retire.

Indeed, my overall game plays have been increasing each year. As seen below, I’ve been steadily ticking upward in the amount game plays I’ve mustered. Since 2012, there has been a strong 10% increase (known in Muskegon as the “Burkholder/Spencer Effect’)

New Picture (1)

With a solid showing in the last five months of 2014, I’ll surpass 900 game plays this year. On an unrelated note, my wife is very supportive of my addiction hobby.

-Chris from the Gaming Annex in Muskegon