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Monday, 1 May 2017

Buried Alive - An Update

Monday, May 01, 2017

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Neanderthal solo play is awesome!
Well, that's a bit melodramatic, but fact is that while I've been able to play some games and squeeze in some time for hobby stuff I haven't had much time or energy over for blogging. My planned Jovian Chronicles month that would have coincided with the kickstarter was the first casualty, but I can happily say it wasn't needed as it still hit every stretchgoal Dream Pod 9 could come up with, including updating the old sculpts! Who would've thunk! Of course, those articles will still show up, the rpg session report is a priority, but at a later date.

So what have I been up do gaming-wise during the last couple of months? Let's take a look at roleplaying and miniature gaming first since those are quick subjects.

No actual roleplaying sessions. I've been reading Blades in the Dark and getting eager to try it, and a friend of mine just got his Tales from the Loop rulebook (the Simon Stålenhag rpg!) and is all fired up about trying that - something we might do online, just to see if it works for us or not. I also aqcuired a copy of Burning Empires, a game I don't really ever expect to run but that I want to own and read. And as always my mind keep coming back to Torchbearer and The One Ring... you know the drill by now.


No miniature gaming either, but I did paint a piece of terrain I've had lying around for a while - a Japanese torii (shinto gate) from Warsenal. I originally got it for Infinity, but what actually motivated me this time was the recent release of Test of Honour from Warlord Games. While there are plenty of cheap and well designed rule sets for skirmish gaming in feudal Japan it seems like the market really had a pent up craving for a quick and simple rule set bundled with a bunch of decent looking plastic minis in a really cheap box! The first two waves of the starter box sold out through pre-orders and it is now listed as sold out on their online store as they're scrambling to get more copies produced. Of course some can still be found in local game stores. It's really cool to see such enthusiasm for a subject matter close to my heart - the facebook group is almost 3000 members strong at this point!

All this for £35?! Yepp!
However, I havn't bought the starter myself yet. Partly because it was sold out at Warlord and I wanted to get it together with some terrain. But mostly because I'm thinking that I want to build the table first. A large part of my motivation for wanting to play games set in Japan is to make nice looking scenery. So I've ordered a number of model trees and bamboo from China for use with Test of Honour and Infinity and I'm currently considering what to do about buildings. There are some great and fairly cheap options out there, although building myself would be the cheapest of all. Having it be usable for several games is also another major reason that I felt I could allow myself to get into it. I don't have the space or budget to fuel several different terrain tables, but since I want a futuristic Japanese feel on my Infinity table too the trees and even some old style buildings will work.

Fabled Realms Eightfold Path (think Dragon Age's Grey Wardens) starter set, courtesy of @fistyglueman.
No miniature painting I'm afraid, although the CEGA ships I started earlier are almost done, and my Yu Jing starter force is staring med down as I write this. Speaking of skirmish games I have to mention upcoming The Legend of Fabled Realms from 4Ground (yes, the terrain makers!). It's a fantasy skirmish game that will launch on kickstarter in June that features 8-30 minis per side and a dynamic action/reaction system like Infinity. In fact, it seems to put a number of things I really like on collission course with each other and I just hope something awesome comes out the other end - how does Mordheim campaign + Dragon Age setting + Infinity rules sound like to you? Yeah.... not to shabby! The info so far is somewhat limited, but two of the designers had a long discussion with one of the guys at Beasts of War, mainly talking about the (gorgeous!) miniatures and background setting, but also how the rules work. Check it out here.

Damnit! I just wanted to write a quick update and it's already longer than I intended and I haven't even got to the board games yet!

Andean Abyss. I think this might have been the last turn we played. 
So... board games. When there's a lack of times board gaming is what saves the day. In early March four of us COIN enthusiasts got together to play Andean Abyss. I had told them that it's the longest game in the series and that it was dubious if we would have time to finish it, but at least one of us was adamant to start at the beginning to get a sense of how COIN games have evolved. As suspected we had to call it after five hours when we drew the third propaganda card. We still had a great time though and it finally feels like the others are as comfortable with the COIN system as I am, which bodes well for the future. We've decided to skip ahead for our next game and go for Falling Sky. I'm really looking forward to seeing COIN taking on the ancients!

A couple of weeks later we finished our Imperial Assault campaing, however as that will get it's own post I won't talk about it here besides saying we had a blast and are glad that it's over. :)

Pax Renaissance - I think I'm in love.
All of April has been Phil Eklund month for me! First I played through Pax Renaissance solo, just to grok it, and was blown away by the sheer scale of it - it's such a beautiful monster that I can't wait to get it to the table with fellow Eklund enthusiasts Jacob and Claes. It's of course similar to Porfiriana, but with even more things going on while still managing to be easier to oversee, perhaps thanks to the board.

Pax Pamir - Yes, I am trying to win through a pyramid scheme!
The Pax theme continued as me and Claes and Jacob sat down to play Pax Pamir for the first time. Again, it's Pax but quite different from both Porfiriana and Renaissance, very likely since it's done by a different designer. That is not to say it's not a great game though, because it is! Claes won by a landslide in the first game, which might have come down to us playing taxation completely wrong. We had time for another game which abruptly ended on the first topple with me winning as Russian loyalist as the other two hadn't realized how easy it can be to win in the beginning if no one tries to balance out aqcuired prestige.

Neanderthal - for when you really feel the need to get eaten by Tyrant Sea Bears!
A couple of weeks later I got to play Neanderthal for the first time and for some reason I felt if flowed much better than Greenland. Perhaps it's just the awesome graphical design by Karim Chakroun or perhaps I never really grokked Greenland, but I immediately felt Neanderthal was more appealing. In our inaugural game Claes as the promiscuous Archaic man got stuck early on and got hit by setback after setback, resulting in him feeling really frustrated during the first half of the game. He came back during the second half (when I was getting decimated!) but by then it was too late and Fredriks harem holding Neanderthal won handily. We talked about the experience afterwards and how Phil's game can be punishing and feel very random at first, but how you learn to mitigate that randomness and value tactics over strategy for day to day survival and in the end Claes said that he would be up for another game now that we've learned how it works.

I had so much fun so I played it solo a couple of times at home as well, losing once and just barely pulling off a win the second time thanks to domesticated bees and horses!

My claim to Bios: Genesis fame - mosses and insects!
Inspired by Neanderthal and the kickstarter for the new edition of Bios: Genesis I pulled out that title as well and played three solo games in quick succession. The first two ended in marine victories through endosymbionts (which always feels like cheating to me) so in the third game I limited myself to not counting endosymbionts for victory conditions. Even with this harsher penalty I just barely managed to get moss and insects earning me my first terrestrial victory! Woo! There will be more Neanderthal and Bios: Genesis in the near future.

Oh, through BGG I recently discovered the excellent new podcast Between Turns. It's very bare bones with just the two hosts talking, but they have great insights and are nicely grounded without becoming boring. Their latest episode (9) is all about Phil Eklund's games, mostly about the Pax games but also about how Phil designs in general. There will be a part two focusing on the science games, and I'm eagerly looking forward to it! So check it out for the Eklund stuff, but stay once you've listened to a few of the other episodes and realized it's good stuff!

I think that's about it for now... yeah...

Don't worry though, there will be more updates in May. Until then!

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