Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Show me your war face !

Here's what the iconic Timber Wolf Clan Mech thinks of your neatly optimised Caverna farm. 11.6m tall and 75 tons of bad assery conflict resolution management. I see your Room for a sixth dwarf, and raise you double Long Range Missile 20's and a searing blast of lasery death. Eat it dwarf !

*cue stirring sci-fi movie music and ubiquitous deep gravelly voice narration man*

It is the year 3050 and mankinds brightly burning golden age of technology and mass colonisation of the stars has faded into distant memory. The stars of the Inner Sphere of human colonisation now burn with a different fire, that of constant punishing internecine warfare, giant death dealing machines dropped from the sky to burn rival factions to the ground, the spiralling chaos and destruction eroding knowledge and progress and threatening to plunge humanity into a new dark age of ignorance.

Enter into this cauldron of conflict, interlopers, the Clans, genetically engineered super men, children of a long forgotten exodus past the boundaries of known space, returning from the depths of the void to bring with them technology and an art of war, kept, maintained and pushed far beyond that of the Inner Sphere. Like a searing knife through an underbelly of fat, the Clans and their awe inspiring battlemechs push into the worlds of the Inner Sphere, planet after planet falling to their ferocity and their militaristic culture of the single minded dedication to the honour of combat.

Nothing it seems can stop the advance of the Clans onslaught, and on a world which suddenly finds itself on a new and unexpected frontline of a clash of cultures, a double lance of desperate Inner Sphere mechs prepares to hold the line at any cost against the initial probes of the invaders. . . . . . . .

Woo ! So with that said, this week I dusted off some serious old school clunkery in the form of Battletech - which god help me is now some 30 years old - and brought it along to NoBoG to grind some people into the dust and make them appreciate all those new and funky elegant game mechanics and not having to perform constant to hit math in your head. Ah yes. 80's game design.

It's been forever and an age since I took Battletech out for a run, and wasn't entirely sure how a five six player game of it would fare. For sure Battletech can take in its stride almost any number of players ( the box boasts 2 - 20 players, but tbh, there's no reason to stop at 20, I think they just picked that as some random arbitrary number to print ) and scale up to the ridiculous, but the question comes down to how much of your life do you want to dedicate to this particular play session. Old school games, particularly old school war type games do not care for your suggestions of keeping play times under 12 hours.

Given all that, I decided to pre-cook a scenario, pre print out all the sheets required, only leaving the players to decide which side they wanted to be on and which of the mechs they were personally going to pilot. 7 IS mechs would take on the might of four clan mechs in a breakthrough scenario - the clans looking to bloody the nose of the IS and then dismissively push on through into enemy lines and off the opposing table edge.

Old school Battletech. Very shortly that Warhammer
is going to lose it's head.
And so to the game. Clunky. Chewy. Laden with math. But somehow... compelling... and interesting... and narrative. The two hour mark sailed past, and finally the mechs were beginning to properly kick each other. A hapless Inner Sphere Warhammer rolled into view, fired off it's two impressive Particle Projection Cannons only to then suffer a withering round of return fire as most of the Clan Mechs targeted it and proceeded to melt its armour off. In a final coup de grace as the firing round finished, my Timber Wolf after unleashing a barrage of missiles, levelled it's ER Large Laser at the IS Warhammer and in a single shot blew its head clean off - leaving the pilot nothing more than a dissipating red mist. First blood - mech down !

Over on the left flank, the impressively heavy and weapon laden IS Battlemaster in command of the IS forces failed in successive rounds to get a lock on the fast light Clan Mech circling it and was left out manoeuvred and out classed by a mech a third its weight. An apt lesson in the dangers of leaving your big heavy weights isolated and at the mercy of agile foes. One of it's few successes was in shooting the light mech in the face with its "ass gun" which in the words of the IS team was not so much an actual hurt as a hurt to ones pride - no one likes taking a shot in the face from an ass gun.

As time wore on and everyone decided to call it a day, a final effort by the IS team to nail down the annoying mech chewing on the ass of the Battlemaster failed, and Joe wading hip deep through a lake decided to unleash hell, fire off every weapon on his Blackhawk, and proceeded to sear through arms, legs, and torso of a nearby IS mech, literally melting one side of it down to scrap in a single turn. Second Blood - mech down !

The game ended, the clan mechs with an array of damage, but nothing too alarming, and the IS mechs, two down, and others battered. A victory for the Clans. Good stuff. Richard IV came over to watch the last part of the session - just as the Warhammer lost its head -  and declared it a great spectator game.

Enough of stupid robots. What else was going on in the more traditional modern board gaming haven of the Mash Tun ?

The charming kickstarter Cauldron.
Elliot had just received a kickstarter goodie in the form of Cauldron, and set about giving the game it's inaugural playthrough in a group of five. It looks like a cool game, one I entirely missed seeing on Kickstarter, although Elliot implied that it seemed to be a little slow to get going as there was much effort, but little scoring. The game is certainly very nicely presented, and it's theme seems strong. Looks like a fairly simple gather resources and spend affair, but sometimes simplicity makes for a great game. I definitely want to give this one a go.

Downstairs on the long tables we had not one, but two groups of Dead of Winter, with at least one group ending in a win for the survivors as American James failed to sink the colony as a traitor, and could only stand back and somehow unwittingly aid the camp in surviving the zombie apocalypse.
Dead of Winter. No Sparky ? Pfft. For shame !
You can't trust James in a game of One Night Werewolf - he's usually a play acting Tanner - but it seems regardless of role you can actually trust him in Dead of Winter. I was nice and kept helping them along he confessed in a confused tone.

Hal brought along the rather fetching Inkognito once again - it's been quite a while, and got a returned Mr Bond to join in and ponder whether he was in fact Lord Fiddlebottom.
A ponder about whether he was a general Lord Fiddlebottom, or whether he was Lord Fiddlebottom in the context of the game remains unclear. It seems wise then given such lack of clarity that it is best to avoid having Mr Bond stand behind you whilst for instance waiting in a queue - better safe than sorry. We'll have no Lord Fiddlebottoming here !

The visually intriguing and mentally deductive Inkognito
After that, in an alarming sign of game breeding, TWO games of the fox game that is actually a cat game were played simultaneously, no doubt the nefarious work of having Tom and Stu split onto different tables to spread their foxy catty card game ways to the masses. And yet still I can't remember the name of it. Lukando. Lukado. Or something. FOXCAT game. Whatever. We once again agreed to disagree whether the game was about foxes or cats, but could entirely agree that it was a game about something that liked lurking around your garden at night. Reassuring ? Not really. Putting it that way it now seems like a game about stalkers....

A very full Machi Koro setup
Mark and Maya also returned to the Tun for some gaming, with the ever delightful Machi Koro, the game of simple sim city-esque synergy building. If you haven't played Machi Koro then you should - it's a great little Euro game with bundles of character and a nice laid back no hassles no high stress optimisations required kind of game. A bit like if Agricola was actually fun to play instead of being some stressy angst filled journey of feeding your family and deciding when and how to expand. I love Agric. But then again I also love dark miserable things. And Agric, if you squint, could be some bleak Ingmar Bergman film about the pointlessness of existence and the struggles of life on a - swedish - farm. Machi Koro is the opposite of that. Like if Disney remade the Seventh Seal. You just know that Death would end up breaking into a cute song and dance routine - probably revolving around how much he liked Chess*. But I digress. Machi Koro. Play it. It's cool.

Lewis and Clark go exploring.
What else. Lewis and Clark was in the house. Monika wanted a go of this, and David obliged, always happy to get his Lewis and Clark exploring on the go. No idea how that panned out. We also had some Suburbia, some Avalon Resistancing and some Divinaring plus Kingsburg and Ticket to Ride !

Last but not least, Pete brought along the wildly extravagant, debatably unnecessary and visually unbelievable Cthulu Wars. Cthulu Wars is something of a famous, or perhaps infamous game for many reasons. One is its cost. It costs a fortune. Relatively speaking. There are some small countries in the world that have gone to war, sued for peace, and made war reparation payments and still haven't gone to the expense of the cost of Cthulu Wars. Secondly, and no doubt related, is the nature of some of the miniatures in the game. To say that they are large is like saying that the universe is "quite big". Indeed if you didn't know better and happened to walk past the game, you might be forgiven for thinking it was not some miniature game, but instead some bizarre childs play set, albeit one that had far too many tentacles, gnashing teeth and questionable orifices. Fisher Price My First Cthulu Playset. The third thing Cthulu Wars is famous for is its ridiculous premise. Cthulu. Wars. It's like some mad marketing group think session where they slam some popular things together in the hope that it will be randomly popular and sell like hotcakes based on some ridiculous search engine zeitgeist. Like. Ferrari doughnuts. Or possibly. Steampunk Dogs ( actually, that's kind of good... goddammit, maybe they have something after all ).

The mighty Cthulu Wars !!
But is the game any good ? That's the question. Or indeed, does it even have to try to be any good having transcended such silly things as game mechanics and entered in a Plan 9 From Outer Space zone where it could be so bad, it's actually good. You can hide a lot of problems in a game by giving it 9 inch high Cthulu "miniatures". I use the word miniature tentatively there. They are anything but miniature.

Well the good news is that the game is pretty good. At least that's the feedback that Rich IV gave, and Pete was also pleased with the evenings game session. Richard explained it as somewhere between Risk and Chaos in the Old World. With some weird ass power shenanigans going on. Such as. Having to decide in one minute what power penalties everyone would take, otherwise Pete got to take all the power. So. Some weird ass kitchen sink mechanics thrown into the game. And it has a mild case of slippery slope runaway mechanisms. But we can probably forgive it that. A lot of classics do that too.

The mind boggles all in all. But this game, Cthulu Wars, demands to be played. It cannot be ignored. It is the superlative of over produced miniature games. A touchstone, an icon, an event all in its own right. At the very least, when someone starts talking about, have you seen that ridiculous game with the enormous miniatures you can say, seen it, I've played it ! And bask in the awe of your gaming peers.

With a bit of luck I'll get to have a go of Cthulu Wars next week. I'm pretty sure my painting nervous tick will start to twitch, and I'll surreptitiously look at how you could lovingly paint the wee beasties up.

Right. Enough of my blathering. Off with you. Go do something productive. Or look at the very short gallery first, then go do something productive.

Ticket to Ride. Samantha was very pleased with herself and her green train domination.

Kingsburg !

Suburbia, and some pretty hefty water development. A good few water goals on offer.

* Apologies if you a) don't know who Ingmar Bergman is or b) know what the hell the Seventh Seal is. The imagery in that case made no sense whatsoever. Suffice to say then that Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish film director that made lots of films about being miserable. Or more precisely, being miserable in Sweden. And ended up being quite famous for being a miserable bastard**. And the iconic bit of Death playing a game of chess originally comes from the Seventh Seal. You can imagine Disney completely dropping the misery and gloom of that film and replacing it with some snappy Tim Rice song and dance number. Chess, chess, ooh, I love it *jazz hands*, I can't wait, to make the final move, the killing blow, ooh ooh, *flourishing dance kick*. Uh huh. Hopefully never coming to a cinema near you. Unless you subscribe to the infinite realities quantum tosh, in which case, somewhere out there, in the infinite reaches of the multiverse, someone is eating popcorn and watching death do a song and dance number about chess. Gah !

** Don't get me wrong. I highly rate Ingmar Bergman. And Seventh Seal is one of my top ten favourite films.

1 comment:

Elliot Symonds said...

We shall have to ensure a game of Cauldron then and thank you for such a swift and epic day with two NoBlogs.