This past weekend was a long one due to the Labor Day public holiday. We took great advantage of the extra time to get a whole heap of gaming on, starting with Friday night:
LAN Gaming: Counter Strike and DotA
For the first time in what seemed like a hundred millennia, I stepped foot into a cyber-cafe. While deliberating what to do after dinner, someone suggested video games. Rather than game on the Xbox which could only take max 4 at a time, we decided to relive our youth by going to a cyber-cafe in Chinatown to play some DotA. While waiting for everyone to arrive and sign in, we also engaged in a couple of rounds of Counter Strike. It was such a strange experience to be in a cyber-cafe again after so long. It also brought back many memories playing TF2 online with the gang. To be honest, I had never played much DotA previously and did fairly poorly but it was still a lot of fun. Jason provided a lot of entertainment, being the token complete newb, by pushing ahead to the enemy tower and getting killed before the minions spawned. Fastest death in a DotA game I’ve seen.
Dungeons & Dragons
We continued where the party left off last week, treading deeper into the complex of the Creation Forge. This week’s game was mostly just combat as I was not very prepared for much else. The party entered a room with a beat-up mechanical arm hanging down from the ceiling and clutter on the floor. The arm was probably used to pick and sort mechanical parts back when the forge was functional, but appeared to have fallen to disrepair. There were also two strange (and familiar) rifts in the air, and several orbs of lightning floating around the room. As the group rummaged around the debris to find anything useful, Giskard managed to unearth the control orb for the arm. He decided to toss the orb to Fides as it would require his arcane energies to activate, but somehow completely missed him (failed check!) and landed the orb right next to the portal. A powerful surge of energy rippled through the portals and lightning elemental creatures issued forth from the rift and started to attack the party. The party managed to subdue the first group of elementals, but one of them managed to activate the other portal as it tried to escape the overwhelming odds, starting another battle as more elementals appeared. Resources dwindling, Fides channeled his arcane might to bend the lightning orbs to his will and used them to bolster his spells and neutralise the elementals’ attacks. The party also managed to snatch the control orb and bring the manipulator arm under their control to take on the elementals. After the 2 combat encounters, it looks like the party is pretty spent, so they decide to set up a defensive perimeter with the mechanical arm and take an extended rest.
Although I did not have any major plot points prepared this week, I think we still managed to have an exciting and entertaining session. I needed to introduce the rifts (a familiar sight to the group by now, and ties in to the original campaign storyline) and the lightning elementals to the forge, and added some lightning orbs that would zap the party if they got too near to add some obstacles in the room to overcome. Originally, they would just be disabled with a check, but as Gerald rolled well on his Arcana I thought it would be nice to reward them for the effort and cooked up a quick little buff as a reward. My initial idea was just a +2 on his next attack roll, but I remembered the lightning scale and lightning orb from the previous encounter and decided to make a standard buff (Resist 5 lightning for a turn or add 1d6 lightning damage to an attack). Now I’m thinking of peppering these lightning orbs all around the complex that the party can collect if they want. The party also seemed quite amused with the mechanical arm, and I’m now trying to think of a good way to incorporate that as a magical item or other sort of reward.
Right after Dungeons and Dragons, we decided to try 51st State, another game off my Achievements List. 51st State is a development card game in the vein of Race for the Galaxy or Glory to Rome, where you play out cards from your hand to your tableau using some form of resources (cards in hand or cards already played), and they are worth victory points. You accomplish this in 51st State by gaining resources (Fuel, Guns, Scrap, Building Material) which can then be used to turn the cards in your hand into even more resources, cards, or victory points. There are 3 ways to play cards in 51st State: Conquer, Negotiate or Incorporate. Conquering a card turns it into Spoils which can be exchanged for a payout only once. Negotiating a card turns it into a Deal, which provides an effect (usually in the form of resources) during every production phase. Incorporating a card turns it into a Location, which provides a static power or bonus.The three uses for a card (Spoils, Deals, Locations) strongly reminded me of Glory to Rome, where every card has multiple functions depending on how it’s played, which I find really interesting as this usually means that no card is useless.
The three methods of playing cards are accomplished using Contact actions/cards and each player plays a different Faction which have different basic Contact cards. You need to at least match the Range of the Contact with the Distance of the card you want to play. For example, the Mutants faction is better at Conquest as their permanent Contact card provides a better Conquest Range. There are also additional ways to take Contact actions in the game, through Contact tokens or Locations. There is also a final fourth way to play a card, which is to Redevelop an existing Location into a new Location card as long as one of the Redevelopment Icons match. There are also Leader cards which provide static bonuses much like Locations, but you can only have one Leader in play. The cards are gained at the beginning of each turn through an interesting draft mechanism. The first round of the draft involves picking from 5 cards for the first person, and 4 for the rest. The second round of the draft has each player pick from a refilling spread of 3 cards, while the last player only picks from 2. Finally each player also draws a card from the top of the deck. I found the draft to be unnecessarily convoluted for not much discernible improvement to the game experience. However, I still think it’s fine once you get used to it.
Leader and Location cards are worth a point each, and there are also ways to produce more Victory Points in the game. Redeveloping a Location or replacing a Leader will nett a victory point, as does activating certain Locations. Locations have symbols that tell you how they can be activated, and are usually activated by sending workers. Location cards and Leaders that produce victory points must store them on that card, and each card aside from the Base card can only hold up to 3 chips. Spoils and Deals are also attached to your Base, and only 3 cards can be attached at one time unless you have a power from a Location or Deal. As soon as one player reaches 30 victory points, the last round begins and the person with the most points at the end of the round is the winner.
Unfortunately, we misplayed our first game by not realising that the base could hold unlimited point chips, misplaying the building powers activations, and neglecting to account for points from replaced Leaders and Redeveloped Locations. We decided to abandon the game in favour of getting some dinner, and then played another game with the proper rules after dinner. I had a fairly slow start as I needed to discard a card each time I wanted to Incorporate a Location and in the later game I was scrambling to find a way to increase the number of cards I could hold and get a Location that would let me convert my plentiful resources into points. However, I was too slow and could not catch up to Gerald who had a great engine that let him have lots of workers and multiple conversions of victory points.
I think it is a very interesting game, and I generally like these sorts of board development card games. The art is decent and evocative, and I think that the setting itself is pretty good (It’s set in the post nuclear fallout wasteland of Neuroshima Hex). I did rush through the rules explanation a bit, but I think the rules could have also been laid out more clearly so I wouldn’t miss important information that easily. I think it could be fairly quick once all players are familiar with the concepts and symbols, and I like the feeling of developing your own little wasteland refuge. I’ve always liked the multiple-uses-for-cards mechanic and I feel the way it is used here presents many interesting choices and gameplay. However, nothing really wows me and I think there isn’t a lot of direct interaction which can lead to that feeling of multiplayer solitaire. Supposedly, there is a standalone expansion (The New Era) out that explores that style of gameplay, and I am interested in checking it out. A solid game, and I look forward to trying it out more and play as the other factions.
While we were playing 51st state, the other group played a couple of games of 7 Wonders. It looked like some very high scoring games as I believe Su Ann won the first at 90 points and Heng Lin won the second in the high 70s.
I also heard that at one point Jeff amassed such a great fortune that he had more coins than was left in the bank!
Seems like they had a good time with it in any case. I’m looking forward to the new Cities expansion and hope it will be similar to Leaders expansion which managed to add interesting new layers to the game while not adding a lot of complexity or increasing the play time.
League of Legends
At the end of the night, I was informed that Allen was keen on starting League of Legends after that trip down memory lane with DotA on Friday. It turns out Jinwei has been playing a lot of it all this while too. As a result, we are now firmly back into online gaming and I have played League of Legends with these guys every night the past 3 nights. Oh no. This could get bad…
Join me next time as I continue to talk about the games we played over the Labor Day long weekend. I’m going to be away this weekend, so I will be breaking the weekend gaming streak and there will not be a corresponding game session report :( However, there are many more Saturdays and many more games to look forward to! Until next time, happy gaming!