Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Raining Stars

Our second week at the Mash Tun brought fifty two into the pub for NoBoG, which needless to say is a new attendance record. This worked out to 12 tables of games - which is almost all the gaming table space that the Tun has. With half a dozen newcomers turning up, but a good deal more than that veterans not present. So fifty two is by no means a high water mark. Pete has jokingly suggested that newcomers are welcome to join in future, but must all bring a table with them as their one off joining deposit.

Longer games are definitely creeping into NoBoG now we have a bit more time and a bit more space, and this week we saw a double play of Forbidden Stars, the new hot game from FFG.

Forbidden Stars. And some very non grimdark happy commanders.
You're ruining the theme guys ! It's nothing but war !
Forbidden Stars is a 3X (?) game where you command a faction of military bad asses to go forth and expand your space empire, exploit resources and ultimately exterminate your foes whilst trying to grab your game winning objectives. So, collecting income from your territory, churning out armies and throwing dice at each other to eliminate those armies is the order of the day, like a lot of the more modern deeper rehashes of Risk ( or Risk itself if you insist ) have you do.

Forbidden Stars in very many ways - if not all - is simply a refinement and re-release of an earlier FFG game - Starcraft, and a lot of the mechanisms are exactly the same in both games. Something of a tidy up has occurred in the design of Forbidden Stars over Starcraft and of course aesthetically the theme has changed from Blizzards universe to that of Games Workshops Warhammer 40,000 universe of Eldar, Chaos and all the other grimdark gothicness. ( Ironically Starcraft the original video game started its life as a Games Workshop game, but Blizzard failing to come to an agreement with GW over IP dropped references to GW's 40k universe and came up with their own eye wateringly close, but not close enough to get sued variant. It's all the same. Dudes in power armour. Hungry aliens. Enigmatic other aliens in fancier power armour. Lots of space pew pew. )
More Forbidden Stars. Pete is lost in thought.

For my money, one of the fairly unique, elegant ( gasp ) and interesting mechanics that both games have is the issuing of orders to Do Stuff. A limited number of orders are placed on the board round robin style, indicating something is happening in a given area - however, the neat thing about this is that any number of orders can be stacked in an area, and the order they are stacked in is the order they are executed in - so player turn order if you like is determined by who placed what when. This means care has to be given about what order you play orders in - you'll need to do them back to front if you are chaining them - and beware others then putting on order on top of yours effectively getting the jump on whatever evil play you had in mind.

The game has some lovely production values and comes with a metric ton of plastic, bits, cards, dice and yada, enough to make any materialist board gamer very happy.

Both tables of this as the Tun said they enjoyed it, although David noted that there was some downtime for combat, and the game does run long - both tables managed to finish, but took the better part of 4 hours to do so for 3 player games. There is also some questions about its viability with four players ( the game supports 2 - 4 players ) as this would make it play very long and incur even more downtime for others. But it was a thumbs up from all involved.

I haven't played this so can't really comment wholly objectively ( I do own Starcraft however ), but to my eye despite it being overhauled from the unwieldy Starcraft, it still retains a lot of clunky inelegance evidenced in multiple decks of cards, dice, chits and the kitchen sink being brought in to realise what is in essence a fancy Risk - culminating in the sharp pointy end of combat having dice thrown, cards played against those dice, reinforcement chits thrown on top, and then working out the relative strengths of the models involved to get a result. The critical question for me remains whether any of that is really necessary to get you a deep and nuanced combat game, or whether its just a case of throwing more crap on the pile to muddy the waters ( and if you want to see an elegant but horribly deep and complex combat system, then look no further than old school heavy wargame ASL which proves far much more depth without half the crap - although it's no innocent itself ).

I would actually say something like Axis and Allies is a much better variant of this kind of game - less fiddly, more elegant and delivers the same kind of experience, resource earning, army building, territory conquering, tech upgrading, albeit you are stuck with WW2 - no fancy space pew pew.

Yeah that's right. I went there. I rained on the parade of the new game. But seriously, Starcraft itself was a cool game - if you could handle the endless fiddly crap of it - and Forbidden Stars has improved on this, and is no doubt a good game itself. Just some patience with fiddliness required I suspect, so it's probably much more down to the preferences of the players as to whether it's a great game than the actual design of it itself.

Betrayal at house on the hill !
Elsewhere in the Tun we had two simultaneous games of Betrayal at House on the Hill. You thought Betrayal was popular before. Oh boy. With fifty people it gets played with MORE THAN ONE COPY. It's a pity there wasn't a third copy to play really. Luke related his epic 3.5 hour game of Betrayal in which he narrowly pipped a win securing his victory where I think everyone else had failed. He was very chuffed ( they were playing against the doppleganger ).

Lewis played Smash Up and utilised some overpowered robot malarkeys to thrash his way to a win - helped by top decking a card at the last moment to secure the win. Ah. Top decking. The 'skillful' art
Lewis and Davey head up International NoBoG with Smash Up
of pulling the exact card you need from a deck of cards at the exact moment you need it - a great phenomenon in things like Magic and *cough* Netrunner. Yeah that's right. I'm raining on your parade too Netrunners. Lewis also had the honour of playing with our most far flung newcomers - a couple all the way from Australia. This seems rather a long way to commute for a weekly board game session, but clearly NoBoG is the place to be. Lewis thinks we should start pitching some International version of NoBoG. Well. We did have International Tuesday Tabletop Day.

Marvel Legendary. Heroic failure is nothing to smile about.
Ewan brought along Marvel Legendary, the deck building super hero capering co-operative game. Apparently it was on Tabletop this week, always a good move to bring a game along that's recently done the rounds on Tabletop as there is usually interest from some in playing what they see Wheaton playing. I think they had a quick success game of this, followed by an abject defeat.

I got to play the relatively new Bring Out Yer Dead, which is a lightweight euro that sees players competing to be the best buried family in the city. Uh huh. The game revolves around a very simple simultaneous hidden action selection which allows you to bury coffins into scored plots. Along the way you'll get to utilise special actions that mix the play up, get up to various shenanigans by bribing gravediggers to shift coffins, switch places, and also gain point riffing cards to get you in game scoring or end game bonuses. This is no brain burner by any means, but there is high player
Bring out yer dead. The finger pointing was not staged !
interaction, just about perfect information, and therefore a some planning and backstabbing that can be done. An easy inoffensive game, some think it could be garnering some awards attention, but I don't think it's quite at that level.

Other games - lots of them, too many to go into detail, but Dean brought along Myrmes, a much award nominated game from a few years ago all about leading your colony of ants to better... ant-ing than all the other ant colonies. Looked cool, missed playing it by a hair. Stu played the excellent Machi Koro followed by Camel Up, Hal got Spectre Ops to table ( which rather bizarrely had James seemingly doing a crossword whilst everyone else actually played the board game ) and before that Hal played his prototype, Luke got China to table, but
Ant action with Myrmes
lamented people didn't seem to be into its old school charm and vanilla Resistance had a couple of super noisy big sessions. I also caught a glimpse of Le Petit Prince - which I assume is based on the very cool book of the same name, the game of which seemed to revolve around building a planet ? There's a few other games in there I know I missed too.

Despite our high numbers everyone fit in nicely with room to spare, it didn't feel cramped at all, and everyone seemed content with the space, although Tom was ambivalent and noted it wasn't as cosy as the Ribs. Very true. But then fifty is hard to consolidate with cosy. Whatchagonnado. Although I think a few areas of the Tun are very cosy - it depends where you sit.

I will leave you with the gallery.
Roll Call - what games ya got ?

Hal's prototype, Unfeeling Creatures

Ankh Morpork


Machi Koro

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