Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Labyrinth: Blogs? Yersh! Brogz!

So another week, another few days in the life...
It's Sept. Now...crazyness how the time flies.
Gaming is a lifestyle that some of us eat drink breath and sleep with clutched near to our hearts.
It doesn't matter where our lives take us or what's going on in them as we will always find a way to game wherever we are!
That statement rings true with me over the last month more so than ever!

These past few weeks I've been gaming a fair bit both on the computer and with a handful of boardgames / card games.
I've been really eager to try a newish title that came out a month or 2 ago called dominant species. I'll admit and after seeing it get played once or twice at the last few games nights it has only served to increase my desire to try it out but it's tough to sneak in a night at the store that I'm not working when the temptation of the inter web beckons from the comfort of home.

(It's come to my attention from a concerned reader that in my blogs of late there has been a SEVERE lack of cats, kitten, or fluffy critters of any kind. Therefore to remedy the situation several extra kittens will be making appearances this week!)

So instead of trying out Dominant Species I did manage to try a game that I had never played called Carson City last week with several of the games night regulars.
It was a fun light strategy game that pitted players against one another in a wild wild west styled shoot out for the burgeoning Carson City.
So my first thought was... "solid name choice..."
The next thing I noted was the familiar colored meeples very akin to many Rio titles.
It made me smile and nod and think about it more as a old favorite rather than a daunting new game to learn.
Finally we played it through.

It was short enough with only 5? ...
I want to say 5rounds of total play and while there are plenty of guns to sling around or hire it was a fun little tricky thing to sit and analyze when it was all done. Three of the 4 players were all within 4 points of one another with any number of ever so slight differences making or breaking the game for them. One of those..."I would have won if he hadn't of beaten me there but because he didn't here so and so is just one point behind here which ties them for points before the points we get from cash" Definitely one that I will explore again in the near future and while it's not one of our games that we keep in the store as model inventory I STRONGLY suggest folks reading this that love westerns to special order it. That or you could always settle for Blackgold which is a similar game but more about the oil rush. OR alternatively yet again you can get your name on a waiting list for Deadwood which outa be another solid shoot em up western.

So that's really it for board gaming for me of late...sad I know but I did watch most of an El Grande game in the store and sit in on a game of Ikusa. Neither thirst is fully sated but dulled while I sit now scratching my head with what to finish the blog about...

But not really...
There's plenty to talk about in store even if it isn't directly gaming related.
The under the sea art show was a smash.
I'm including some photos that were sent to me of some of the folks in attendance for the opening night reveal of all the art pieces.
(Pictures are still on their way but I'm posting this as is. Ill upload pics as they become available)
And while I'm at it I'll mention that the next art show has already been decided!
It is going to be flight.

That's all just the word flight.
So it can be anything in the realm of aviation as most will take the word for that meaning but we can see literal flights of stairs or flights of fancy!
Comon it's artsy fartsy after all we can make things as creative as we like with the topic.
The opening night for that exhibition is going to be October 19th from 6pm to 9pm at the store.
All submissions should be in by the 15th though to ensure yourself a spot!
Same as last time, one entry per artist with any form of medium that tickles your interest.

Hmmm what next...
The promenade I mentioned in a blog right before it happened but someone brought up that we never showed any pictures of the day to show what a success it was again this year.
(Pics will follow soon yet again :P)
Despite torrential rain that put the rain forest deluges to shame and with dozens of stores being flooded or without power just the day before the promenade weekend we downtown businesses still managed to connect and enjoy the sight of thousands of Kingtonians travelling up and down princess / the downtown core to see the street festival.
Included are some pixs for your enjoyment.

Next up D&D!!!
What I haven't talked about it for at least's only fair to get back 'on topic'
Paizo is putting out a new line of plastic gaming minis soon.
And by soon i mean December...but still for us plastic model addicts Christmas time can't come fast enough with this tantalizing tidbit being announced.
Sadly they ARE going to be randomized instead of in conveniant battlegroup format as many of us hoped they would be.
Still with the mini market running on empty beggars cant be choosers I say.
They are going to retail for $4 for a standard mini or two smalls and $6 for the large minis.
Here are a few samples of what they will look like!

Plasticky for sure...
Monster minis we have already? True enough.
Color jobs on some that look like a colorblind amputee goblin could do better?
Hmmm well I still am reserving judgment for when they arrive because I heard in the rumor mill that these pictures arw computer tailored and NOT the actual paint jobs.
Here's hoping!

(We all feel like that some days...damn will saves)

While we are on the D&D topic / creative writing I figured I'd mention my writer's corner.
I already have the next installment more or less done...just trying to decide whether or not to post it up?
Not sure if those particular posts are getting any reading time but I'll wait to hear back from anyone if they would like to hear more about the adventures of Cale, Feris, Ariel, and Framfrit.
Their ongoing saga can continue as interest reveals itself!! :P

I suspect that's all for now but here's hoping you hear a lot about some new games in the upcoming weeks, I'll promise to do my best to try a few I've been meaning to sink my teeth into.

This has been the Labyrinth and I'm Henry McCulloch. Game On!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Labyrinth: Feudal Japan VS Medieval Spain!!

The Time: The 15th - 16th century
The Place: Feudal Japan!

During this time period the island nation of Japan underwent a bloody era known now as the Sengoku period or 'warring states' period. For over 100 years political and military powers vied for control over the island nation. Large Samurai armies led by Daimyos shed their neighbours blood in a deadly conflict to decide who would be the next ruling Shogunate to maintain control over all of Japan. Contact with Europeans had only recently been made and while the sword and the bow were still the mainstay of any Samurai army, gun power in the form of basic arquebuses had begun to take their place amongst the rank and file soldiers.

The Time: The 15th Century! ? ! ?
('s probably sometime towards the fall of the Kings of Spain...lets call it around
the death of Henry IV in 1474 since there was a lot of political upheaval.)
The Place: Spain!

During the early 1400's the Muslim forces that held the south of Spain known as the Almohads had almost been entirely forced from the peninsula. The only foothold they retained was the territory of Granada. Each unique territory and region that loosely made up what would over the next century become a more unified Spain held their own political and judicial structures
During the following 100 years known as the Reconquista period one of the most influential Kings Henry IV the ruler of Castile passed away. This highly sought after throne became the aim of several influential rulers of neighbouring regions.

<(O.o)> - huh? wha'bout games?

So, now that the history lesson is done for the day...what do these two time periods have in common?

Yes. You are correct oh savvy reader, they certainly ARE both about countries at the peak of military and political infighting. If you had already guessed that both time periods have been made into games well then you are crafty beyond compare!!

With great pleasure here is an in depth look at both,

(Formerly known as Avalon Hill's 'Samurai Swords) [Formerly Formerly known as Shogun!]

--------------------------- -VS ---------------------------------

El Grande
(Currently known by this guy as omgbbqsauce i wonzzzz!)

Dahhh Winning!

Both are games from my childhood and both are titles worth adding to any gaming collection.
While neither are cheap to come by both easily deliver in terms of game play, artwork/style, re playability and gorgeous manufacturing bitz.


Starting with Ikusa lets give it a thorough once over shall we?

Style of Play: As mentioned above it's an old Avalon Hill title but it plays very much like the classics Risk or Axis and Allies.

Alright that right off the bat might turn some folks off but I should reiterate.
It is what Risk and Axis and Allies SHOULD have been if only they had been combined by a loving game designer who thought everything was better once you throw in Samurai and deadly ninjas and giant Japanese castles from which you can bombard your opponents with wave after wave of angry hired Ronin!!! isn't exactly like either but has some similarities.

The combat uses D12's (cool I know) and the combat is streamlined with easy to follow melee and ranged rounds of fighting that make WAY more sense than the frequent dice fests that are Risk.
Plus they have &#%*ing swords!

Ikusa has dealt with the conundrum of how to display large forces of armies while still retaining the coolness factor of having lots of meeples to fling to their untimely demises. In Risk you need to 'upgrade' single soldiers to horses and those pony riders in turn into field artillery. These pieces have no real importance as they are all just numerical representations that you need to push around in a big clump. In Ikusa each unit is unique with its own strengths and abilities. In Risk you can attack ad nauseam in a mass clutter of units from southern Australia to Eastern America when you go on an attacking binge which makes little to no sense logistically but in Ikusa you can normally only attack a single time against a neighbouring region.

Axis and Allies steps things up a great deal from Risk because the units each are unique with separate battle statistics. Its combat system is much more akin to Ikusa but the en masse feeling of battle can often be lost visually under an ugly stack of white and black combat chips. In Ikusa the battles can still be awesomely epic while keeping the board relatively clutter free without losing the mass battle feel. Each player gets an army card with slots on it for x3 Daimyo's each with it's own unique flag. A single playing piece with the matching flag symbol represents this large force on the game board while still letting you still count out and arrange a massive force just off the edge of the board. You can draft troops turn by turn and swell your armies up or drop off units alternatively as you pass through areas but unlike Risk or Axis and Allies each army caps out at 15 units. This encourages players sitting with full armies of samurai to engage in combat that keeps each turn active! As the game progresses each victory your Daimyo's obtains will in turn increase thier skills in combat as they learn from past experiences. In subsequant turns they begin to be able to attack or move multiple squares on both offense and defense, covering great distances in the span of a single turn.

Truly this is a military classic without compare.
It has few drawbacks but those that it does suffer from may deter certain types of gamers from trying it out.
It's running time is very long easily approaching 4hours or more and like many conflict-based games it does have the drawback of potential player elimination. All in all it's worth it to see one of these Japanese death matches through to the end.
Just have any friends who get eliminated perform an elaborate Sebuku for your amusement as the game carries on without them :D


El Grande

What a drastic change from Ikusa.
This game is everything that a military game isn't and is one of the best Euro-games currently out there. Here at Minotaur it had a very brief stint where it saw some play but the regulars either overlooked its elegant game mechanics or didn't get a chance to have this unique strategy grow on them.
So that's why I'm bringing it back!!!

El Grande is just too good of a game not to have on the two ways about it.
The game is like a precursor to Agricola, Peurto Rico, Tikal and Alhambra all bundled into one. It has very familiar scoring rounds like many Rio Grande games that take place at the end of the 3rd 6th and 9th(final) turn.
The game has very verrrry limited luck in it and most of the events that will shape the outcome of the game are based off the choices players make and the strategies they chose to employ. Certain methods of play that might work well in one game or in a particular situation wont against other strategies or styles of players.

In many ways it is like Puerto Rico.
Often I've heard gamers exclaim that the players are what make or break the game but that seating position is crucial. If you are seated next to a very strong player on your left often you'll find yourself struggling when an inexperienced gamer in the same seat will spell out a drastically different outcome. El Grande also has a selection mechanic where 5 choices will be available each turn to players to chose from but unlike Puerto Rico the order of play changes round by round to keep the competition fierce.

The basics of El Grande is that each player will have small tokens representing caballeros that they will draft each turn into their court that are worth a single point of influence. They shall also have a large cube which represents themselves as a Lord or Lady of future Spain which is worth additional influence (Similar to the worker and head worker from Tikal) Through intruige subterfuge and diplomacy players must use these tokens to vy for control over different territories to eventually become the next King. The tricky part however is the King's Pawn piece which travels about the board. Players may only effect areas adjacent to where the King is and by that same rule can never add or remove units in the location the King is standing in for that particular turn.

To make things a bit trickier again the way with which you acquire more caballeros and pick your turn order is one of the best parts of the game. Each player starts with a deck of numerical cards ranging from 1 to 13 and players will pick one at the start of each round. Similar to the card game 'stupide vulture' when you spend a card it's gone for good so players need to balance saving powerful cards for turns where they'll want to go early in a round, with playing low cards that, while meaning you probably will go last and have an unfavorable action card during that turn, will allow the player a larger # of caballeros to influence regions.

Four of the action cards that crop up each turn will be unique but one that remains from round to round is the option to move the king. Often players will want to play high cards to be the 1st pick because doing so will mean you can strategically place the King's Pawn piece in a way that will limit your opponents from being able to place caballeros in the region that the King's sitting in in addition to any sections of the board that aren't adjacent as well. There are many layers to the strategy beyond this but these few basic elements are what keeps El Grande in the top 15 games on boardgamegeek. It's currently ranked 12th and whenever i reminisce about the imes I played with my Dad and Uncles back when we were all around Ottawa it always makes me grin a lot. Each one of us was pretty particular about what kind of games we enjoyed but El Grande was always our go-to game when we couldn't all agree on what to play because each one of us loved it through and through.

I personally have a copy of Ikusa now and will be searching high and low QUESTING if you will for people who want to sit down on a Sunday games night perhaps or on a different night at my place to slog through it. I also just ordered a El Grande for the store and here's hoping that one of our games night regulars decides to pick it up and bring it in a few times so that the gaming folks can see just how strong a title it is. If no one picks it up within the first week or two I'm thinking I'll buy it and bring it in and make everyone play it!

Don't make me come in and force you all to play under swordpoint!
I'll be dual wielding a rapier and a katana! ;D

This has been the labyrinth and I'm Henry McCulloch. Game On!