Board Game Saturday on Wells 3 March 2012

We kicked off March with a bang. A bang made up of board games. Nine people were present this week, which is a pretty good number to have as we could split into two groups of 4 and 5; most board games play well with 4 and 5 people anyways. We started things of in the afternoon with some Dungeons & Dragons:

Dungeons & Dragons

This week we started a new campaign in the same setting, with 3 warforged characters. I’m actually hoping this will act as a “side-chapter” to the previous main campaign, and we could go back to the characters in the first campaign sometime. The only problem with that would be the fact that the party is missing their healer, but I think there are ways to get around that. In any case, this week’s session was focused on the new characters and a new storyline. I tried a new method of getting the party together than how we previously handled it in the main campaign. I had Jinwei’s character start as the main focus of the story, being an existing agent of the Iron Council. I created an NPC character that would act as support for the party: an artificer/alchemist seer that could provide items and act as a guide.

For this session, I had Giskard (the aforementioned NPC) leading Adler (Jinwei’s PC) on a mission from the Iron Council to investigate a dormant Creation Forge that had recently become active. While investigating the forge, they stumble upon and activate a dormant warforged unit that inadvertently housed the soul of Sir Jalamain (Jon’s PC), who still thinks he is a paladin and thinks everything and everyone is a demon in need of furious smiting. They also encounter a strange elemental phenomena that appeared to give birth to an elementally charged warforged who is confused with his new powers and seems to have been remade from the remains of a gladiator warforged named Fides (Gerald’s PC). The elemental phenomena also activates the security drones in the Creation Forge which then try to repel the group. The four warforged band together to survive the attacks of the security drones, and Giskard extends an invitation to the two new warforged to join him and Adler as they investigate the rest of the Creation Forge and maybe find some clues to their origins.

I thought the session went pretty well, but everyone is still trying to get into the new characters. There were changes made from the previous session and basically everyone had a different class from that session, which took some time to get used to. I was struggling to play Giskard as a separate character and not just a mouthpiece for the DM, but I had some inkling that Giskard should be a highly curious and unflappably rational individual but I’m still not sure how to incorporate his capabilities as a seer. For the players, I’m trying to think of ways to let them explore their characters as we usually still don’t get into character much. However, I think part of the reason that it is difficult to do that is that I am inadequately prepared for that style and I myself am quite weak in that area. I think it’s fine as long as we’re all still having fun, but I do hope to be able to improve my DMing skills in this area.

Glory To Rome

While waiting for dinner to arrive, we broke out a quick game of Glory to Rome. Glory to Rome is an earlier design from the designer of Innovation, Carl Chudyk, and is one of my favourite card games. It’s been quite a while since we last played Glory to Rome though, and I had to give everyone a quick refresher on the rules. On each player’s turn, they can either Lead a Role card or perform a Thinker action. A Thinker action will let you either draw a Jack card (which can be used as any Role), draw cards from the deck up to your base hand size, or draw a card from the deck if you already have cards equal to or more than your base hand size which is five cards. Each card can be used as a Role, a Building or a Material. If you Lead a Role, you play a card of that Role from your hand. Each other player then gets a chance to either Follow, by playing a matching Role card from hand, or perform a Thinker action. Once everyone has decided, starting with the Leader, each player executes Role actions if they followed or have the matching Role already on their board.

The Role actions let you add Role cards to your board, play and construct Buildings, collect Materials, sell Materials or demand Materials from your neighbours. Buildings need to be built on Building Sites, which can be In Town or Out of Town (higher cost to build) and provide Influence as well as special powers, while sold Materials provide Influence as well as a bonus chip worth 3 Influence if you sold the most of a certain type of Material. The game ends when the draw deck runs out, or the In Town Building Sites run out. There are also certain Buildings that provide additional ways to end the game. The player with the most Influence at the end of the game wins. That is just a very brief summary on the main rules, and the fun of the game lies in how and when you execute the Role actions and the interactions between the various Building powers.

This game, Su Ann had a pretty quick start with a few cheap buildings while everyone else collected materials and laid foundations. Gerald got a Vomitorium up and running which let him cycle through his cards quickly and injected some much needed cards to the pool. Jin Wei had an early Senate, which let him piggy back on all the Jacks we used and also built a Gate which let him use the powers of his unfinished Purple Buildings, one of which doubled his base hand size. Steven was first in on the Merchant game, but did not have enough Materials in the later game to continue that strategy. I finished a Bridge early and another 2-cost Building to increase my Vault size and then proceeded to steal resources with Legionnaire and sell them off with Merchant. I was quite lucky, as I stole crucial Stone from Su Ann which prevented her from building Catacombs to end the game early before I sold off my ill-gotten gains. In the end, Gerald and Jinwei’s churning through the deck finally depleted it and I managed to get two bonus chips from Merchant scoring to win the game at 23 Influence.

Risk Legacy

The main event of the night was our second game of Risk Legacy. Daniel could not make it for this session, so Prateek took his place. I won the roll to pick first and started off with Khan Industries again in the minor city of Greendale, in Central America. Jin Wei took Enclave of the Bear and started in Western Africa, while Prateek took Die Mechaniker and started in Turtle Paradise (Indonesia). Next Gerald took Imperial Balkania and started in the newly renamed continent of Stevetopia, while Steven had the Saharan Republic and started in freezing Yakutsk (interestingly it is the main city of the Sakha Republic).

I felt a little sorry for Steven (Not really. I relished his suffering. It sustains me), as we all outright stated that we would work together to eliminate him first so we could open up the envelope for that (as well as retaliation for renaming Europe to Stevetopia). His pleas to let him win instead and open the envelope for two wins fell on deaf ears as we collectively turned our guns (and bears) toward Northeast Asia.

Even his troops did not seem to relish the prospect of fighting off 4 armies and decided to have a lie down.

However, Steven did not make it easy for us at all as he was miraculously able to roll multiple 6s and 5s to stave off our advances. Gerald reckoned at one point that each of Steven’s troops taken out accounted for three of our own.

However, we finally managed to wear down his forces and Steven was finally eliminated from the game. In fact, Gerald held off from cashing in his resource cards before attempting an attack on Prateek’s HQ. He managed to take the HQ and would have won the turn before Steven would be officially eliminated, but held off so we could have Steven open up the envelope. Gerald could still have won if he held on to Prateek’s HQ and no one else won before his turn, but alas that was not to be. Sorry Gerald! Thanks for taking one for the team.

You may want to skip the next paragraph and the following photos if you don’t want to be spoiled on the contents of the envelope.

***START RISK LEGACY SPOILER***

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The envelope contained new Scar cards as well as a new rule! The new rule comes with a sticker that you add to the rulebook and states that when a player is knocked out or eliminated, that player then gets to add a Comeback Power sticker to his or her faction board! We weren’t entirely sure whether Steven would get that power immediately as the rule card stated “the next time someone is eliminated or knocked out”, but we let him do it anyway since it felt fairer that way.

Steven chose to make the Saharan Republic more flexible by adding the Mobile power to it. The envelope also contained 3 new Scar cards that could add Mercenary stickers to the board, which would give the owner of that territory additional troops at the end of the turn. There was also a rules summary sticker for the Mercenary Scar that was added to the board.

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***END RISK LEGACY SPOILER***

After Steven was eliminated from the game, Jinwei was able to turn in the resources he got from Steven for his third Red Star and then proceeded to displace me from Steven’s previous HQ in Yakutsk to secure his victory. As his reward, Jinwei founded the Major City of Winning in West Africa.

I founded a Minor City in Siberia as my reward for holding on. I was trying to remember the Vault number from Fallout, but Prateek chimed in which the much better suggestion of Vault Disney.

Prateek founded the Minor City of Yakuza Inc in Japan.

Gerald founded the Minor City of South K Park in Southeast Asia.

It was a really fun experience playing Risk Legacy the second time, and I am really excited with what has been added to the game. More powers are always good! Also, this way you don’t feel as bad the first time you get knocked out of a game as you get something new to do. I am really excited for what else is in the other envelopes and I am looking forward eagerly to the next game of Risk Legacy, which I hope to be able to play again next week. Hopefully, I will continue blogging the games as we play them and we will be able to finish the 15 games in a timely manner and open the final envelope…

Discworld: Ankh Morpork

While we were playing Risk Legacy, Jon and Heng Lin taught Allen and Su Ann how to play Discworld: Ankh Morpork. I’m not exactly sure how the game went as I was too preoccupied with Risk Legacy but it seemed like Allen and Su Ann enjoyed it. It is certainly one of my favourite games from 2011.

What I do know is that at one point Heng Lin used Miss Rosie Palm to give Allen The Peeled Nuts card, which quite literally does nothing. At the end of the game, which lasted just slightly longer than Risk Legacy, Su Ann managed to snag victory as Lord Selachii!

Kingdom Builder

We ended the Saturday with a couple of games of Kingdom Builder, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino of Dominion fame. Kingdom Builder is a relatively quick network building style game that plays up to 4 players. I say network building “style” as the main mechanic requires you to build settlements on a board which should be adjacent to each other (forming a sort of network), but not always rewards you for building connected settlements.

At the start of the game, you choose 4 out of the provided 8 board sectors to create the playing board. One minor thing I appreciated was that the scoring track is printed on the back of each board sector, which eliminates the requirement for a separate scoring board. Each player starts with 40 settlement pieces and a Terrain card. On each turn, you must play the Terrain card and place 3 settlements on matching terrain hexes on the board. There are various areas of terrain on the board, but you must always place settlements adjacent to your own existing settlements if you can. If you build a settlement next to a Location tile, you get the tile matching that Location which provides additional powers that you can use on your following turns.Each sector only contains one type of Location, and thus you only get 4 out of the 8 different Location types in any given game. For our first game, we had Tower, Harbor, Tavern and Oracle.

Building at least one settlement next to a Castle tile also nets you 3 Gold (Victory Points) at the end of the game. The game end is triggered when a player runs out of settlements and play continues until the round is complete, at which point each player scores Gold based on adjacent Castles and the Kingdom Builder cards. The Kingdom Builder cards are what really provide the interest in the game. At the start of each game, 3 random Kingdom Builder cards are drawn from the deck and the scores at the end of the game are based on the criteria set out by the Kingdom Builder cards. For example, in our first game the Kingdom Builder cards were Farmers, Hermits and Fishermen. The Farmers provide Gold for each settlement in the sector in which you control the least settlements, if you have settlements in all 4 sectors. The Hermits provide gold for each distinct group of settlements or isolated settlements you control, while the Fishermen awards points for each settlement you control which borders at least one water tile.

In our first game, we were all struggling to get into grips with how the game is played and made some suboptimal plays as we figured it all out. You really need to know the nuances of where you place your settlements, starting with your first 3, as it will have a great effect on the rest of the game. The terrain card being random feels restrictive, but I guess it also leads to less analysis paralysis as you don’t need to evaluate every single permutation of settlement locations coupled with the special powers from the locations.

I managed to make good use of the Tower’s ability to place additional settlements on the edges of the board which let me build separate settlement groups for Hermits as well as expand into all sectors fro Farmers, which let me win the first game. A game is actually pretty quick and everyone was quite eager to play again now that we all knew how it worked.

Kingdom Builders for the second game were Farmers again, Knights and Citizens. Locations available were Tavern, Harbor, Barn and Oracle.

Jinwei made good use of the Tavern and Oracle and quickly outpaced the rest of us, placing up 5 settlements a turn. He also managed to make a long horizontal line in the middle of the board which was great for Knights and Citizens, and also let him expand into almost all the sectors for Farmers, gaining him a comfortable lead on the final scoring and victory.

In summary, a great start for gaming in the month of March. We played some old(ish) favourites, continued our campaign of conquest in Risk Legacy, and tried out a decent new game from a familiar designer which lets me tick it off my Achievements List. I think everyone had a good time with the games and I am looking forward to the upcoming long weekend for even more games and fun times. Until next Saturday, happy gaming!

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