Board Game Saturday on Wells 31 March 2012

The last Games Night of the month of March heralded even more new games to be played, since I was weak and procured even more new games. To be fair, there have been numerous great release in the past 2 years and I am only just catching up on them. We had about 7-8 people for games this week, which was a good number to try out the new purchases. The first game of the evening was Flash Duel:

Flash Duel: Second Edition

Flash Duel is an interesting little game that simulates a fighting game. We played the team variant with 4 players. Jon and I were on one team, using Gloria Grayson and Garus Rook, while Daniel and Steven teamed up using Lum Bam-Foo and Max Geiger. The team game is played using 50 cards made up of 10 cards each of values 1 to 5, and a divided track with 18 spaces where both teams start on opposite ends. You start with 5 cards in hand and on your turn, you can use those cards to take either one of 4 actions: Move, Attack, Push, or Dashing Strike.

  • To Move, you play a number card and move your pawn forward or back that number of spaces.You cannot move past an opposing player, an you can occupy the same space as your teammate.
  • You can Attack if you have a number card that matches the number of spaces to the target of your attack (including the target’s space) and you win the round if your opponent cannot Block by playing the exact same number card. You can play additional cards of the same number to increase the strength of the Attack, as the target can only Block by matching all the played cards.If an Attack is successful, the target is removed from play. In a one-on-one game, this means the attacker wins the round. However, in the team game the remaining teammate can still play and try to salvage the game for the team. Once both teammates are out, the other team wins the round.
  • To Push, you need to be adjacent to an opponent and play a number card to push that opponent that many number of spaces. Finally, the Dashing Strike is a combination of Move and Attack.
  • You perform a Dashing Strike by playing two cards, one which dictates your Move and another that dictates your Attack. The tradeoff for performing a Dashing Strike is that the target can Retreat by playing any numbered card, which then let’s the target move backward that many spaces and avoid the Attack. In addition, Dashing Strikes can be Blocked like a normal Attack.
  • Also, in the Team game, you can perform a Dashing Block to help Block an Attack made on your teammate, first by playing a card that let’s you move to your teammate’s space and then playing the appropriate number cards together to Block the Attack.

After taking an action, you draw back up to 5 cards in hand and pass the turn. In a team game, the turns always alternate between teams.

The really fun part of Flash Duel is the addition of Characters and Special Abilities. As mentioned before, each of us took a different character which each provide 3 special abilities. You can activate one Special Ability a turn (even if it’s not your own) and then turn it face down to show it’s been used. Special Abilities only refresh when a new round is started, and state on the card when they can be used and what effects happen. The game continues until one team is eliminated or the last number card is drawn from the deck (Time Out). If a team is eliminated, the other team naturally wins the round. I the event of a Time Out, each player left at the end reveals their hand and if they have a card that could execute a legal Attack, those Attacks are resolved simultaneously. If no one can perform a Last Hit attack, then the team that advanced the furthest from their starting end on the track wins the round. You then play best of 5 rounds, and the team that first obtains 3 round wins, wins the game.

In the first round, Daniel activated his gambling ability to make the round worth 2 wins. I tried to close in on Steven and delivered a few attacks which were blocked. Unfortunately, Jon was downed by  a ranged attack and I fell shortly after, allowing team Dan and Steve to net two wins immediately. In the second game, I managed to use my special ability to Dashing Strike and Daniel could not retreat. However, he had a 1 to Block my attack. I was then pushed back and attacked. I would have been eliminated then, but Jon came to my aid with a Dashing Block. Dan and Steve then pressed their advantage while Jon was low on cards and managed to knock him out. I stuck around for a while longer and managed to knock Steven out. Finally, the last card was drawn and since Daniel advanced further on the track, their team won the round and game. I quite liked Flash Duel. I probably should have been paying more attention to what cards had been used and tried to position myself for more advantageous attacks, but I was too enamoured with activating Garus’ special ability for the unblockable 1 Attack. There’s actually a lot of opportunity to improve at the game and just generally be more aware of what moves can be made. I also love that the game comes with so many different characters and even variants out of the box. You get 20 characters, each with 3 special abilities, and you also have the option of drafting different abilities to craft your own unique character. The base game is already pretty interesting, but the sheer number of different characters and abilities really increases the replayability and level of strategy required in the game. I’m keen to get this game on the table again and try out other combinations of characters.

Lords of Waterdeep

Jeff arrived right as we were finishing up our first game of Flash Duel, so we decided to start up a 5 player game of the new release from Wizards of the Coast: Lords of Waterdeep. Lords of Waterdeep is essentially a worker placement style game set in the world of the Forgotten Realms. Each player takes the role of a secret Lord of Waterdeep, sending out agents to further your goals and hiring adventurers to complete quests that will benefit you and the city of Waterdeep. Each player gets a number of Agents which represents the number of actions they can take in a round. On your turn, you assign one of your free Agents to a building/area in Waterdeep and carry out the action provided  there. Once each player has assigned all their Agents and passed, the round ends. The game only last for 8 rounds, after which the player with the most victory points wins. You also get an additional Agent at the start of the 5th round of the game

The building actions let you build additional Advanced Buildings, take Quest cards, take Intrigue cars, play Intrigue cards, collect Gold, or recruit Adventurers. Adventurers come in four flavours: Fighters, Rogues, Clerics and Wizards, and are used to complete Quests. Gold is also required for certain Quests and also to pay for Intrigue cards or Building powers. Quests are the main source of Victory Points in the game. You can complete one of your active Quests when you place an Agent, returning the required Adventurers or Gold stated on the Quest Card to the supply and claiming the rewards, usually in the form of Victory Points and additional resources. Some Quests (Plot Quests) also provide continuous bonuses once completed. However you can only complete 1 Quest per Round. Advanced Buildings provide new powers that can be activated by Agents, and the owner of the building gets a bonus whenever another player assigns an Agent there. Intrigue cards provide various additional abilities and usually allow you to interact directly with other players, either to help them by sharing resources or hindering them through Mandatory Quests or removing resources. Each player also receives a secret Lord of Waterdeep card, which influences your strategy by providing bonus victory points for meeting certain conditions, such as completing certain types of Quests.

Everyone started off with a couple of Quests and we went on our own merry way collecting resources to complete them. Jon built the first Advanced Building which proved to be a pretty good source of income for him. The first few Intrigue cards played were pretty “friendly” and we were just getting the hang of the game. Then, Jeff managed to screw almost all of us over by playing some devastating Intrigue cards. He played Arcane Mishap twice, returning all Wizards to the supply and making it really difficult for us to complete Arcane quests. He also played a Mandatory Quest on Steven when he was ahead, hindering him from grabbing a large point swing. We all managed some major point grabs toward the latter half of the game, but finally Daniel managed to pull ahead and claim victory!

I really enjoyed Lords of Waterdeep. The mechanics are pretty straightforward and very easily understandable. The theme is also integrated pretty well into the buildings, Quests and Intrigue cards. For example, there is a “Research Chronomancy” Arcane Quest that requires Wizards to complete, which rewards you by letting you “reverse time” and take back the Agent you just placed. I believe it also returns the Wizards that you needed to complete the quest. I also like that Waterdeep Harbour, which allows you to play Intrigue cards, also let’s you reassign the Agents there at the end of the round. It evokes the feeling that shady dealings are always happening around the harbour and the Agents hurry off to evade pursuit after setting up Intrigues at the harbour. I felt like there was always something to do and all the options available were equally valid, and the secret Lord card could help you focus your efforts better when presented with all those choices. One thing we should have been doing better was keeping track of progress on major point value quests when Intrigue cards were played and when assigning Agents as those could bring about very large point swings.

The other part that I really liked about the game is just the quality of the art and components. The artwork on the cards and throughout the game is really good and is evocative of iconic Dungeons and Dragons tropes. The map may seem a little bland in comparison, but is very functional and does not introduce any visual clutter which is good when you are playing. The production design on this game is just top notch. I like how the building tiles have a notch in the corner which fits the player faction symbol to denote ownership. The cards are laid out well and have all the relevant information you need presented in the right places. However, the best part of it all is the box insert. Many games have terrible box inserts. Some games can’t even fit all the components into the box and insert once all the counters are punched. The insert for Lords of Waterdeep trumps all of them, and could be the best box insert I have ever seen (so far). All the components fit into specific slots and everything has its place. Even better, the recesses for most of the components are curved or have specially designed “wiggle room” so that it is really easy to grab components out of their slots. The wooden cubes sit in curved bowls, so there’s no more fishing around a square hole for that last piece. The spaces for the cards have additional space below them so that you can just press one end of the cards to access the whole deck. The insert for this game is just a great work of product design and engineering, and I would just love to find the person(s) who did it and give them a hug. All games should have inserts like this. Overall, I think this is one of the better releases of the year and I’m really happy with Wizards’ recent forays into board games.

Forbidden Island, Zombies!, Taboo

A few more people arrived while I was explaining Lords of Waterdeep, so they started a game of Forbidden Island. Forbidden Island is a quick cooperative game where you work together to rescue 4 Relics from a slowly sinking island before it disappears under the waves forever. As I was focused on a game, I wasn’t too aware of what was going on at the other table, but I do know that they made it off the island with all the treasures and it seemed like they had a fun time. They also managed to start (and finish?) a game of Zombies! and some Taboo while we finished our game.

Flash Point Fire Rescue

The last game of the night was the Family Version of Flash Point: Fire Rescue. We only played the Family Version as we were all new to the game and it was getting late so we didn’t want to spend too long on it. Flash Point is another cooperative game, where you play firefighters and have to work together to rescue victims from a burning building. You win when you manage to rescue 7 victims from the building and lose if you lose 4 or more victims to the fire. You get a number of Action Points (TITLE DROP! DRINK!) a turn, which you can use to move around the building, extinguish fires, chop through walls, carry victims to safety or save some for a later turn. Each turn, you also advance the fire by rolling a d6 and a d8 which determines where the fire erupts next. Depending on  where it appears, it could just  be some smoke, or it could cause an explosion that spreads fire quickly and could potentially destroy the building. You also roll the d6 and d8 again to determine where new Points of Interest appear, which could be more victims or just false alarms.

We did very well in our first game, as we were really lucky with our die rolls. We had a lot of smoke, and even when explosions started happening they were pretty self-contained and did not do much harm. Also, our rolls for placing new Points of Interest were always very lucky and placed them very near to where we already were. It was pretty strange to see victims turn up right behind you, in the space where you had just been. We were joking about the victims hanging around the ceiling and dropping down sporadically. Due to our incredible luck, we didn’t feel too much pressure and managed to comfortably rescue 7 victims fairly quickly. Amusingly, our last victim rescued was the cat.

I think we really need to play the full game. The Family Version seems to be too easy, although that could just be due to how lucky we were. However, it was a good introduction to the game and the rules and it whet my appetite for more in the future. I’m looking forward to special firefighter roles and abilities and even more dangers in the building to ramp up the tension. Tentatively, I’m giving Flash Point a thumbs up, as what I see so far has potential but I would really like to play the full game before passing judgment.

Another Saturday, another games night. This time we managed to get 3 of my brand new purchases on the table, and things are already looking good for getting all my remaining games played. The best part is that I really enjoyed all of the new games, and I hope the others felt the same way. It really has been and looks like it will continue to be a great time for board games. The releases from the past few years have been of exceptional quality and it looks like we are in a board gaming boom. It really is an exciting time to be a gamer (with disposable income). Next week, it’s another long weekend (WOOOHOOOOOO!) so I foresee much more gaming ahead. Until next time, happy gaming!

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