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Jan 30

Last Week in Games: 1/20/14-1/26/14

Back in the saddle!  This week’s gaming, I am happy to report, was quite a step up from last week’s game playing desert!  Things got started Friday night with a little playtesting of my latest creation, Legacy Wars, and a couple of surprising results in two games of the Life in Games favorite, Agricola.  Saturday was spent attending my first ever visit to the local game design and playtest meet-up group.  Lots to report on both counts, so let’s get down to it!

Legacy Wars

Knowing that I would be attending the game design meet-up on Saturday, winter from Hell permitting, I wanted to get in one last playtest of Legacy Wars with a friendly audience before showing it to strangers.  I had my friend Eli over for a quick play just to make sure I was happy with this iteration, as I had not tested the most recent changes.  I will soon begin posting design diary entries to help explain the process of making this game and give everyone a better idea of exactly what it is, but for now I will give a basic description.

Both players have an identical deck of 10 champions.  Each champion has a printed power ranging from 0-9.  Each champion has a battle ability which is active when it is in play, and a legacy ability that is active when it is the top champion in your discard pile.  Each turn, both players simultaneously select a champion and then they reveal at the same time.  After combining their champion’s power, resolving their battle ability, resolving their legacy ability, adding in any appropriate terrain bonus, and comparing with their opponents total the player with the highest power wins the current battle and earns victory points according to the value of the battlefield.  If there is a tie, the player currently in possession of the Stone of Fate (eight sided dice) loses the tie.  He may choose to pass the Stone of Fate to his opponent and increase its value by one.  At the end of the game the player in possession of the Stone of Fate gains victory points equal to its current face value.  There are generally eight of these battles per round with the game being played over three rounds.  The highest point total at the end of the three rounds is the winner.

Eli had played two times before, but this was both of our first game since I made changes to the Ranger’s battle ability, and streamlined some timing issues.  The game got off to a very close start, but I had a slight advantage even though I was in possession of the Stone of Fate.  The next thing I know, he starts trying to instigate ties, which are in effect wins for him unless I pass the stone.  I do, and it comes back very quickly as I also try to force ties.  By the early part of the second round I once again have the stone and it has made it to a value of five victory points.  The highest value battlefield is only four and there is only one way to earn more points than that as the result of a single battle.  However, it was so early in the game, and my fear of losing all future ties was so great, that I endeavored to set up a tie with a bonus win just so I could pass it back to him at a six!  He inadvertently thwarted my plan and I was stuck with the hot potato for the rest of the game.  Despite this handicap, I was able to hang on and win by eight victory points, with five of them being from the stone.  It was a super close game and he really enjoyed it. I felt good and ready for Saturday!  However, Friday was not over yet!

Those of you who read this column know that I have played tons of Agricola with Eli, and the most common outcome is that I beat him pretty soundly.  This is not because he is bad at the game or a noob gamer, he is neither, but I simply have a lot more experience at Agricola than he does and that counts for a great deal.  The last few times we have played I have been pursuing more and more unusual strategies to try to explore new options for my coming showdown with my true Agricola nemesis.  You know who you are…  Tonight was not to be another normal night of playing Eli in Agricola.  We played two games, both with the Farmers of the Moor expansion, and he won both!  The first game, I played very non-aggressive, and this allowed him greater freedom of action selection then normal, and by the time it was apparent that I was in trouble his lead had become insurmountable.  In the second game, I decided I was not playing around and went hardcore hate!  I had him in deep trouble, but I pushed the hate one turn too far and fatally hamstrung my own progress.  It was an ugly mudslinging affair, but when the smoke cleared, he had won again!  Inconceivable!!!  He then told me that he had gotten sick of losing, and had bought a copy of Agricola months  to practice at home.  I laughed and gave him grudging respect, but I have to admit that it makes me happy to have an even more talented training partner for when the final showdown with my mortal Agricola enemy comes.  The more I bleed in training, the less I will bleed in battle!

It was a great night of gaming fun and excellent preparation for Saturday and other future events!

Indianapolis Tabletop Game Design And Test Group

At long last, I was able to attend a meeting of this group.  It meets once a month and I have been trying to get to one for the last three!  That wait ended this past Saturday and I glad to say, “It was worth the wait!”

I showed up nearly an hour late as I thought it was scheduled for noon, but apparently it kicked off at 11:00.  Oh well, better late than never.  When I arrived, the only person that I was sure to know, and the one who invited me, Travis Chance was playing a prototype with another member.  It was an interesting game about paratroopers and the designer, Bryan Daniels, was absolutely crushing Travis.  I would describe the game further, but as I have not gotten his permission, I do not want disclose anymore until I do.  He recently liked my Facebook page, you should too, and may weigh in below within the comments, but until he does I cannot say more than it looked like a cool game.

Next, it was go time, as Bryan and another member, Yuan Gi (sp?) took the time for me to show them Legacy Wars.  With time being short, I went ahead and taught them myself as opposed to having them use the newly minted rulebook.  Many thanks for the last-minute help go out to my wife Heather, but it turned out to not be needed on this day.  As Yuan Gi, was picking up on the rules a little quicker, I opted to help Bryan so they could begin.  They played through about a half of a game and the feedback was positive.  Although Bryan was a little shaky on the rules in the beginning, by the end of the first round he was starting to explore combos and look a full turn ahead for his decision-making.  He said that he liked it and discussed ideas about how it might be expanded to allow for more than two players.  Yuan Gi, was even more positive, saying that he really liked it and that it was, “Perfectly balanced for two players!”  Pretty hard to complain about that sort of reaction.  He also offered a few minor suggestions, but felt that it was a solid two player game.  We wrapped early, because they had the gist of the game and since Travis and his partner Nick were about to demo the upcoming Kickstarter project, Heroes Wanted.  As they are launching in a week, their testing needs were a little more on the urgent side.

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As they prepared to set up for a game, I had to go get something to eat.  I wanted to play, but it was about two in the afternoon and I had not eaten anything yet, so I steeped out for a bite.  After snagging some food to go at the near by McAlister’s, I hurried back to see if I could get in the game.  Although it had filled up, and the instructions were mostly finished, one of the seated players who had played before offered me his chair.  Although you were not even aware of it, you just heard the origin story of the legendary costumed crime fighter, Hobo Titan!

Hobo Titan in all of his impoverished cosmic glory!

Hobo Titan in all of his impoverished cosmic glory!

Yes, Hobo Titan, and he would be fighting the good fight on the streets of Zeta City in pursuit of that elusive roster opening on the local superhero team, The Champions of Zeta City!  Defeating evil, and doing so in a manner that earns you more fame than your rivals is the premise behind Heroes Wanted.  In the words of the designers on their BGG page

“As soon as you saw the ad in today’s Tribune, the certainty flooded over you. At last, this is your chance, the reason for all your training! All that work waterproofing your utility belt and practicing your one-liners will finally pay off. You call into work sick, feed the cat, and turn on your police scanner, waiting nervously for the first call–or at least, the call that’s close enough for you to get there first. You’ll stop at nothing to join your heroes, The Champions of Zeta City, and woe to any wannabe crime fighters that stand in your way!

Heroes Wanted is a tactical card and board game for 1-5 superhero-hopefuls, attempting to fulfill their dreams of becoming a member of Zeta City’s exclusive crime fighting super team: The Champions of Zeta City. Each time you play, you will create a unique superhero comprised of two hero cards. You will then choose a scenario and face a different villain (or villains), but the objective remains the same: gaining as much fame as possible by KO’ing minions, completing headlines, and thwarting the villain. At the end of each game, the superhero with the most fame is the winner and joins the prestigious ranks of The Champions of Zeta City.”

Although I missed most of the rules and all of the set up, I will try to explain the game play to some degree (I will be playing Heroes Wanted again and providing a much more in-depth review.).

Once the heroes, villain, map and scenario are determined, the game begins.  It is played out over a number of rounds in which the heroes act first and are then followed by the villain.  On a hero’s turn he may either rest or play a card, which may result in moving, a special ability, or attacking the villain, minions, or even another hero.  If the player’s hand is empty he must rest, which amounts to retrieving his entire deck from the discard pile and performing no action.  On the villain’s turn he attacks, moves to the next space on his predetermined path, and based on the round may perform another dastardly deed, such as littering.  Players must defend when the villain and his minions attack by using cards from their hand to soak up damage equal to or greater than the total incoming damage.  Any player that is unable to cover the full amount of damage receives a wound which negatively impacts the hero immediately and at the end of he game with a minus to victory points.

The game continues for a preset number of rounds or until the heroes defeat the villain.  Fame is acquired through wounding the villain, knocking out minions, and earning headlines by performing noteworthy deeds.  The player with the most fame at the end of the game is the winner.

As I mentioned earlier, I had missed the rules explanation, and despite a crash course from Nick, I still struggled a bit throughout the game.  I had a decent idea of what was going on, but my uncertainty made it difficult to really implement a winning strategy.  Still, I was able to pull off a second place finish and more importantly had a blast doing it!  By the end of the game I realized not just what I could have done differently, but also how I could have implemented those plans more effectively.  The idea that I could do much better with a second play and how much fun the game was strongly contributed to my desire to play again, and soon!  To paraphrase the words of one of our fellow attendees, “Is there really any higher praise to give a game than to say that you want to play it again?”  Probably not!

More information about Heroes Wanted and a proper review will be coming in the next few weeks as Nick and Travis launch their Kickstarter February 4th.  Be sure to look for their campaign on Kickstarter.com!

 

Whew…that was a little longer than it was supposed to be, but what can I say, it was a good week!  See you next time!

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