Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sparky the Wonder Dog

The seasons turn and Summer flees through the squelching mud with Autumn pressing behind in close pursuit. The nights have started to turn dark noticeably earlier to leave gaming at the Ribs to huddle in the wan glow of the pub lighting. And what better way to spend rainy Autumnal evenings than playing the latest in board game entertainment whilst enjoying a drink or three ?

This week we had two spanky new games turn up amongst some of the more familiar - and less familiar - offerings. Sam brought along - fresh from the Kickstarter presses - Alien Uprising, a sci-fi co-operative game that has the players ship crash land on an Alien planet and throws the crew into the mix of meeting the distinctly unfriendly be-tentacled natives. Players must beat off the unreasonably bloodthirsty aliens whilst surviving long enough to gather supplies, wait for help to come, or fix their crashed ship to save themselves.
Alien Uprising

Like many such games it falls on the familiar trope of the endless primitive based enemy, versus a limited, hard as nails gun toting player base. So. Zulu. In spaaaacccce. But with less competitive singing. And why not, it's a pretty cool and engaging trope. Zulu that is. Not the competitive singing.

Designed by the same guy that created Arkham Horror, the game definitely has some of the same leanings with its co-op play, a pressure to keep on top of the smaller threats whilst also working towards the greater goal, a very thematic light RPG style action play with equipment, unique characters and powers, and lastly a somewhat abstracted board movement design. As per Arkham Horror, dice play a huge part of this game and inform you just what actions you can take, and whether you attack or defend successfully. This time around however the designer has not teamed up with the bloated mega octopus of clunky design FFG, and so the game does not have a bazillion decks of cards, chits, wizwags, doohickeys and other crap. So. Less clutter and clunk.

The game is slated at running for 90 minutes, but from what I can see I suspect this might be a bit of a fib especially depending on who is playing - the game is definitely open to someone sitting and contemplating all the possible things they can do and arguing about just who should do what. Sam couldn't finish a game in three hours - but this was probably a lot to do with it being completely new and having to be busted out, sorted and rules pondered.

The second new game was Dead of Winter, a zombie survival semi co-op with betrayal mechanics. Players get to start with a couple of unique characters that give them a range of different capabilities and then get to coordinate with everyone else to feed the colony, see off the continually occurring crises, keep the zombie numbers under control and work towards the main game objective. Along the way you might pick up new characters to join your clique - giving you more action dice - or you might get difficult decisions to make as random events occur to challenge your sense of right and wrong. Or for our group, showcase our brutally efficient culling of the weak.
Dead of Winter - Cheerful Smiley Apocalypse edition

We played the recommended starter objective on normal mode, providing us with it has to be said a fairly easy stroll through the park. A good combination of colonists and some nice morale boosting effects meant the colony was never under threat as we racked up zombie samples to help us try and figure out the cause of the zombie apocalypse. Despite there being two outright traitors, the colony was unfailingly cheerful in its outlook of zombie killing, and morale refused to budge. Even when the survivors rather brutally decided to kick a sick colonist out into the snow to die, everyone was immediately cheered by a glut of supplies. Because. You know. It doesn't do to dwell on the poor schmucks you left to die outside in the cold because they got some stinky disease. Instead think of the positives. More food for everyone else !

In hindsight the traitors should probably have done more to mix things up and interfere with happyville - but I think we got a few things wrong which made it harder for the betrayers, we were also playing a short beginner scenario ( which makes it even harder for the betrayers ) and it was hard to judge the pace of things given we were all learning.

Sam - one of the traitors - was on the brink of bringing his enormous clique of six back to colony to then bash pots together to attract all the zombies, throwing open the doors, and letting nature take its course. Lets see you be cheerful when the undead are gnawing on your leg ! Alas the last samples were taken before Sam could enact his plan ( he was busy finding as many guns as he could lay his hands on to complete one of his objectives ), and the game ended with all the good guys achieving their particular wacky goals ( there was a good deal of hoarding going on... ).

Best mention for the game probably goes to Sparky the dog - a remarkably adept canine who in the course of events managed to find a Snow Mobile, drive it back to camp and unwilling to sit on his laurels, then proceeded to siphon out the fuel for the colonys use.
Sparky the gun toting, goggle
wearing snowmobile stunt dog.
* Note Sparky is usually just a dog.
Your Sparky may differ from the advertised Sparky.
Inconceivable ! Not content with showing off his driving and siphoning skills, Sparky then got fitted with an automatic gun harness to blow away zombies and finally was kitted out with some night vision goggles. Given that dogs already have natural night vision we can only think that by this time Sparky was just showing off. Smug git. Sparky the Wonder Dog - secretly a betrayer, but a canine that never got to enact his revenge on the hapless humans.

Other moments included a hapless jock attempting to cajole the entire colony into getting fit and putting in some co-ordinated exercise every day so that "everyone could be awesome". This was met with universal jeers - how dare anyone suggest exercise - and an empty food can thrown at his head. His fitness regime was rejected. Perversely, morale increased. No one likes exercise apparently. Especially in the post apocalypse future.

Plus there was a Punk Rich in character old warbling voice moment as some other random event kicked off and he decided to get all Shakespeare on its ass. You had to be there to appreciate it.

Also Upstairs 1775 : Rebellion was played, one of the modern breed of light wargames depicting the struggle between the noble British and the revolting Americans. The game involves players shuffling their armies of cubes around the Eastern Seaboard of North America in an attempt to control more area than their opponent at game end. Dice are used to resolve battle, and unit movement is carried out by playing cards. Cards can also depict events which can bring in reinforcements, add dice rolls and so on.
1775 - The Colonials Get Uppity. Bloody Americans.

The basic mechanics based on a similarly themed 1812 game, have been tried and tested, with 1775 simply moving theme more than anything.

The game is nice and simple but offers some interesting wargamey choices which eventually after all the cunning moves are done just comes down to a fairly active Random Number Generator in battle dice offs.

Mr Bond and Richard IV won this as the heroic Brits and changed history to keep those filthy separatist yanks in their place. Long live the King !

Lords of Vegas + Expansion
Downstairs Betrayal at House on the Hill got another play, the Dragon rearing its baleful head but for the first time ever got its ass kicked with a win for the good guys. There was some surprise that Luke for once hadn't died. Apparently he dies a lot. Lastly, Lords of Vegas with nifty expansion for six got a play, with newcomer Byron proving his pile of cash to be greater than everyone elses.

A bunch of filler type things were played, a couple of simultaneous games of One Night Werewolf, Bottle Imp and Camel Up.

No comments: