I’ve not really had much time lately to be checking out the new offerings in the board game world, having been trying to find a house. Having now bought a house, I’ve probably not got the money to go investigating some of these new offerings as much as I’d like, either! But I thought I’d just take a brief look at some of the things that are being advertised and see what’s going on.
First up, there’s a new expansion for Ascension out, Gift of the Elements. Featuring all manner of weird and wonderful new (and returning) mechanics, it looks like this one changes up the game in a few interesting ways. Back when I wrote up my game day blog on this game, I mentioned that I played this one primarily on the app; currently a lot of the new expansions haven’t been made available for Android, but hopefully this will change soon enough!
Blimey, Carcassonne is really branching out now! It’s been ages since I last had a game with the classic tile-laying game, and it seems like all manner of things have been happening since then! Under the Big Top seems like it could be one of those fun expansions that infuriates the hard-liners, those who used to denigrate things like the Catapult and Wheel of Fortune. Personally, I think people should be allowed to have their own fun, and nobody is going to force you to play with this, though I won’t be rushing to add it to my collection. I think, for me, Carcassonne has become something of a nostalgia game, where I’m happy to remain at the point where I last enjoyed playing it, when Abbey & Mayor was a new thing.
This new Genesys RPG system is being pushed kinda hard by Fantasy Flight, don’t you think? It certainly seems like an interesting idea, though I’m getting tired of seeing it popping up on social media as a sponsored ad every so often!
Coming out towards the end of the year, the core rulebook features essentially a blank canvas for you to paint your games on. It’s built around the narrative dice system that is used by RPGs like Warhammer Fantasy and Star Wars, where you roll dice that don’t just tell you if you pass or fail a check, but rather how well you pass/badly you fail, and if there are complications. It’s a really great system, as it happens, so porting that over to a more de-restricted game like this is a great idea. The book comes with frameworks for five different setting types, from sci-fi to steampunk, so sounds like it could be a great way to start something new!
While we’re on the subject of RPGs, though…
The Call of Cthulhu RPG is something that I’ve quite liked the idea of getting into for a while now, but have never quite managed to pull the trigger. However, seeing this pop up as a new release has got me wanting to investigate more of what it has to offer! I enjoy a wide variety of Cthulhu games, primarily from Fantasy Flight, and this Two-Headed Serpent adventure sounds like a lot of fun akin to the globe-trotting Eldritch Horror! Though, I must admit, my first thoughts on seeing the artwork on the cover were of Fortune & Glory.
I don’t have a playgroup that could support RPGs anymore, though, so it’s probably something that will languish. I’m a bit gutted that I missed Free RPG Day a couple of weeks ago, as I could perhaps have sampled the waters at my local store! Ah well!
It’s been a bit of a frosty one here today, hence the header photo up there. I’m currently slap-bang in the middle of a week off work, though so far little of this time off has gone to plan! I was intending to go to London yesterday, for a little pre-Christmas shopping, but was laid low with illness, tragically, so, uh, haven’t gone. While sad for me, at least you get to enjoy my blog a little more – yes, you’re very lucky like that…
Something that’s caught my attention is the news on the next addition to the DC Deck Building Game, Rivals. Cryptozoic seem to be billing it almost an an intro-game, as if the main game is too difficult or something, not sure about that. DC is, of course, a game I’ve talked about plenty of times since I started doing this blog, but haven’t taken a look at yet in one of my game-day blogs – rest assured, it’s on the to-do list! The idea behind this one seems nice enough, and it looks like it should be a good addition to the line, anyway.
On the subject of deck-builder expansions, Flying Frog have now got the Forbidden Island supplement to Dark Gothic available on their webstore. Mentioned way back when, it seems that this is indeed based off the location from the Something Wicked expansion, with a little sub-theme of collecting Journal Pages for bonus victory points at the end. Nice enough, anyway! (They also have another mini expansion for Conquest of Planet Earth…)
Speaking of Flying Frog Games, on Monday, I managed to get in my first game with Shadows of Brimstone, which was something of the event, I have to say! In the end, it was a really interesting experience – slightly overwhelming, I will freely admit, due to the various elements that make up the hero turn this time. Definitely more involved than previous FFP games, I must say!
I played the Lawman, who I decided to call Owen Barnabas for absolutely no reason. At first, I’d thought I’d set off on an adventure, but I probably got far too many rules wrong for this to sit right, so I think instead I’ll have a load of solitary games as I get the feel for it, before launching into a campaign!
I had quite a lot of bad luck early on in the game, unfortunately – such as when this happened:
Apparently, the rushing sound of an underground waterfall masked the sound of this little lot creeping up on me! Crikey! I managed to escape with a broken collar bone, anyway, so not the most auspicious of starts. Ahem!
First impressions, though, are largely favourable. If you’ve played Fortune & Glory (one of my favourites), you’ll have a good general idea of what this game is all about, as that is probably the closest to how this one works. There is a lot more going on, however, such as every enemy having its own stat sheet rather than the minions with their basic combat rating and hit points. That side of it does feel a bit like the RPG thing. But yeah, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, but think it could be a really, really fun game – once I get my head around it!
I’ve only built up the miniatures from Swamps of Death at the moment, and have now moved back to building up Necron vehicles! I find it quite relaxing to do this, so was glad of the distraction from feeling like death! I’ve currently got two primed and ready to receive paint: the Catacomb Command Barge, and the Triarch Stalker!
I particularly like the Command Barge, and have had it on the shelf for what feels like ages waiting for this moment! Together, these are the biggest “miniatures” I’ve yet built, but have enjoyed doing so, all the same! For a more work-in-progress report, check out my tumblr posts! Not really sure when I’m going to get round to painting the little blighters up, but at least they’re done and ready for me, I suppose!
Returning to the theme of the Old West, another Carcassonne variant is poised for release later this month, Gold Rush. I’ve had a soft spot for this era since junior school, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Klaus has implemented the theme for the game!
To end, it looks like there’ll be a small avalanche of games coming at us from Fantasy Flight soon, as not only Imperial Assault, but also expansions big and small, for Eldritch Horror, Android Netrunner, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars LCGs among others, are all on the boat – hopefully ready for Christmas… Looks like I won’t have much money this month, either, then…
Yay, it’s another post! If you read my tagline above, you’ll see that one of the things I love is board games, but before I start talking about that in any great depth, I thought you’d all love to know a bit about my very first experience with this world. See, the board game world that I enjoy so much isn’t the standard fayre of monopolys, clue(do)s, and whatnot. It’s more what I jokingly call “serious board games”, the sort that require a massive amount of capital to support, not to mention whole rooms given over to store them. That’s not to insinuate there’s any sort of snobbery going on – I enjoy a good murder mystery, or race to buy up London, as much as anyone – but rather I just enjoy games that have more immersion involved.
So anyway. The game that got me started in all this was, as it most likely was for a lot of other folks, Carcassonne. It’s a simple and elegantly beautiful game from the German designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, where you place tiles to essentially build the game board, scoring points as you complete features in the landscape that you have claimed using your meeple. When the last tile has been placed, the game ends, and the person with the most points wins. That’s pretty much all there is to it – no snobbery involved here! Rather than go through any complex rule explanations with pictures or whatnot, I thought I’d let Wil Wheaton show you, in his awesome TableTop webshow:
Pretty awesome, I know!
Carcassonne got me insta-hooked on tabletop gaming, and since then I’ve been sinking untold thousands of pounds into the hobby. It’s something I enjoy, so what the hell, right? But why Carcassonne? What was so special about that game that tipped me over the edge? Well, I don’t know. Highly unsatisfactory answer, I know, but still – I don’t! It’s a really elegant game, with perhaps the perfect balance of strategy for me to enjoy it right out of the box. If you watched the whole video (and if you didn’t, shame on you!), you may have picked up on how easy it is to either play confrontationally, messing up other peoples’ plans and muscling in on their farms or cities, or equally you can just have your own little corner that you can make your own, and hope you have more features at the end. I’m sometimes a lazy gamer, and I don’t want to have to sit through half an hour of strife and torment while I try to continually adapt my plans for victory, sometimes I just want to put some tiles down and score some points, y’know?
There are a lot of expansions for Carcassonne, which adds greatly to the depth of the game without really being all that complex (I think). I think we’re currently looking at the ninth “big box” expansion coming out this year, but there are also a whole host of smaller boxes, right down to single-tile expansions. Unfortunately, I don’t have all of them (to my lasting shame!), but I have a damn good selection, let me tell you!
If I had to pick my absolute favourite, I’d probably say it was Inns and Cathedrals. It was the first large expansion for the game, and basically added more tiles, including tiles with inns and with cathedrals on. Genius, right?! To add to the main game shown above, the inns appear on road tiles, and their presence on said road makes it worth two points per tile when completed (though still one point at the end of the game). Cathedrals are full-tile city tiles, and when said city is completed it makes each tile worth three points – however, at game end, if the city was incomplete, it scores you nothing! The potential for adding cathedrals to an opponent’s incomplete city near the endgame is always sooooooooo tempting! Muwahahahaha! (I’m not actually a jerk like that – I like to think I’m a really considerate gamer, anyway!).
The smaller expansions all add something, well, small to the game – my favourite is the Cult, six tiles which work similarly to the monasteries, though if you get a cult piece and a monastery together it becomes a fight to see who completes the feature first! Whoever loses gets no points for their own feature.
A lot of the Carcassonne mini expansions have been made available through Spielbox magazine, which is a German game magazine that does a lot to promote tabletop gaming. Published in German, with an English-language version also available, it’s definitely worth checking out!
As well as expansions, there are ‘re-imaginings’ of the game released, the first being Hunters & Gatherers, a Stone Age version; Discovery; Winter Edition, and most recently, South Seas. All of these use the basic mechanics but with subtle twists. I’ve only played Discovery and Winter Edition, which are both as much fun as the regular game, though without the same level of expansion (all except Discovery have had some form of expansion to them).
Carcassonne Winter Edition
Which leads me on to another point. I’ve played Carcassonne a whole load of times, in large groups and one-on-one. It’s an experience that is always changing, and always fun, and the level of expansion incorporation can make things as easy or as complex as you like. Personally, I enjoy at least a couple of expansions being involved. There are two small expansions of River tiles (River and River II) which have become practically ubiquitous to the main game, but in addition to these I would usually involve at least Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, the Cult pieces and the King expansion. There’s just enough going on with these that I feel the game is in a constant flux until the end. (I also have the ‘mini expansion’ of twelve tiles published in Games Quarterly magazine mixed in with the base game tiles, and while usually expansion tiles have a watermark telling you which set they came from, this one doesn’t, so I can’t split it off. Just thought you ought to know). Playing with all the expansions can be a bad idea, as there is so much going on – not to mention, so many tiles – that it can slow the game down. I’ve done it once, and covered the dining table with the game.
In case you’re interested, the Guinness World Record for the longest boardgame play was for a game of Carcassonne in Germany in 2006, which lasted nearly 43 hours and used nearly 4200 tiles. The winning score was 4703 points! Sheesh!
Carcassonne was the game that got me into this delightful mess, and it’s always fun to get it out every once in a while.
As always, I’d love to hear what other people think of Carcassonne – including favourite expansions! Drop me a comment!