Board Game Saturday on Wells 28 January 2012

The board gaming bonanza continued on the weekend, which also coincided with the prerelease events for the latest Magic: the Gathering set: Dark Ascension. I went for one flight of the prerelease in the morning and had a mediocre pool. I played White/Black with decent removal, but my creatures always felt just a tad too slow. It was probably due to my rustiness as well. Nevertheless, I still had a good time and ended with a 1-1-2 record and some new cards. The new set is another flavor home run for the Wizards team, as the cards have great concepts, matching mechanics and evocative art. It does feel like the set is overall slower than others though, which is not necessarily a bad thing. My favourite card concept from the new set is Lost in the Woods, where you reveal cards from your deck when creatures attack you and if you reveal a Forest card those creatures “got lost in the forest” and are removed from combat. It’s not a particularly strong card, but I just love the concept and flavor on this one.

After the prerelease, we headed back to the apartment for some Xbox gaming and also managed to try out the new Mage Knight board game, designed by Vlaada Chvatil and published by Wizkids.

Mage Knight Board Game

Mage Knight is a massive, massive game. In fact, it’s fair to say you are buying into a game system, rather than just a boxed game with Mage Knight. We took a long time to start the game, partly because I was being distracted by Edwin and Jin Wei’s on screen antics while attempting to read the rules. When we finally did start, it still took longer than your usual game to get everything set up. The main gist of the game is that each player controls a Mage Knight to explore the land and have some cool adventures. The main mechanic used in the game is similar to a deckbuilding game, where you have a starting deck of cards which you can improve as the game progresses. The game allows you to add new cards to your deck as part of leveling up your character. I’ve actually considered using a similar implementation of this mechanic for a game of my own, except my preference is to have more additions to the deck than what is seen in Mage Knight as you only add new cards on average twice a round.

The other interesting mechanic was the length of the round being determined by the players, as long as one player’s deck has run out. Other than that, the skill level ups and exploration mechanics are fairly standard. We did make an initial mistake with how armour works and how wounds are calculated. We also made a mistake with one of the monster tokens early in the game by missing the resistance icon on it, which gave Ian an early Fame advantage. To be fair, I think the physical resistance icon could be made clearer. Ian had a large early advantage due to the mistake, but I think we still had a good time with the game and the final scores were not even that important. However, it did take a while to finish the game and I suspect a few of the players were starting to grow weary toward the end.

Overall, I think the game was quite enjoyable at the start. However, it is a lot to take in for a first time player and probably does not need that level of complexity to start. The game system is robust enough to support multiple scenarios and playstyles and it includes plenty of advanced scenarios and variants out of the box. I do feel that even the starting scenario is slightly rules heavy, particularly with the multiple special rules for monsters and locations. It would possibly be better to have some more basic monsters and tiles included for a starter game, and leave some of the advanced monsters and tiles for an expansion. Nevertheless, I am still quite happy with the game and the huge amount that is already being provided in the box. I actually think that Mage Knight is more akin to an RPG system rather than a board game, and I can see the potential for additional modules, heroes, monsters and scenarios. I’m also considering the possibility that the Mage Knight components and high level rules system could be incorporated into an RPG session. Definitely a game that gets me thinking and one I would love to play again.

Glen More

After a scrumptious dinner from Grill’d and an introduction of Clone High to my friends, it was time for some more board gaming. I played in a 4 player game of Glen More, while another group played Penny Arcade the Game.

Glen More is an interesting gem of a worker placement/tile drafting game. It uses a novel mechanic to determine player order which is tied to the player’s choice when drafting a tile. All the player tokens and game tiles are placed on a “circular” track, with an empty space representing the start of the track. Each turn, a player moves his or her player token to a tile to collect that tile and places the player token in that tile’s space. A new tile is then added to the back of the track and the player who is next in line will go next, but any intervening tiles are removed. Thus, the current player is always the player whose token is at the head of the track. As such, depending on the locations of the player tokens and if there are intervening tiles between the tokens, players may get multiple turns in a row or every other player can have multiple turns before another player. It is kinda difficult for me to explain succinctly here, and I did explain it wrong the first time which caused us to replay the first turn, but it is a thing of beauty to watch in motion.

Aside from that, there are also rules to limit tile placement locations which requires you to move clan members to the edges of your tiles so that new tiles can be added. Another mechanic that I really love is the fact that you activate a tile and all adjacent tiles when you place it. This really gives you the feeling that you are creating a great engine and you are getting more and more effects and resources as the game progresses. It feels good to place a tile and get a cascade of up to 5 different effects. Victory points are scored through activating special tiles to sell resources for points, or gain chieftains, special locations and whiskey barrels which provide points each scoring round.

I made a fairly silly decision midway through the game and took a tile near the end of the track that was not particularly needed, which led to me waiting for my turn while the other players did crazy things and produced a gajillion points. I was heavily into whiskey production and also got a tavern to get some victory points going. Jin Wei was also producing whiskey and took a late special location that let him score more from his chieftains, while Daniel did well with getting points from his special brown tiles and converting his resources. Heng Lin took plenty of villages and got a good chunk of points from chieftain scoring, as well as the special location that scored villages, and managed to win the game at the end. I really liked Glen More, and part way through the game I was already planning what other strategies I would pursue in our next play, which is always the sign of a good game. I was hoping to get another game in, but we ended up playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 a fair bit after Glen More. All in all, another fun day of gaming with two board games that are still playing on my mind even now.

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