Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 33

My wife Deb recently picked me up the PC game Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy for $5 from a garage sale. Maddie wanted to watch me play so I let her design the character with which we would play. She chose a Twi'lek female and had fun designing the character's skin colour, face, and clothes. I control the character but she tells me what to do. We normally play for about half an hour each session and I've been surprised at Maddie's problem-solving abilities during game play. She's also good at reminding me to hit the quick-save button before we do anything too risky. So we've been sharing some Daddy/daughter time together and Maddie's been learning a lot about the Star Wars universe. Over the last week I've been calling her 'my young Jedi apprentice' and 'my little padawan' which she gets a kick out of. That sort of sets the scene for our choice of game when my mother (Grandma) popped around this morning for her weekly visit.

I brought out Epic Duels, a game from Milton Bradley/Hasbro which was released in 2002 as a tie-in with the 2nd of the Star Wars prequels Attack of the Clones. Epic Duels allows players to fight individual battles between famous Star Wars characters using a set of 31 miniatures on 4 different board locations. Players choose a major character that has one or two minor characters with it. Each set of characters has its own deck of cards which are used for attack, defence, or special abilities. Each deck is unique with certain special powers relevant to the major character. There are different modes of play; one on one battles, up to three teams can play against each other, or up to six players can play a free-for-all, last-man-standing battle.

In our first game Maddie chose Anakin Skywalker/Padme Amidala, Grandma was Obi-Wan Kenobi/2 Clone Troopers and I was Darth Maul/2 Battle Droids. We chose the Kamino Platform battleground.

Darth Maul AKA Darth Dad

The starting positions

We agreed at the outset that Grandma and Maddie would team up against me. I sent one of my Battle Droids to the left to try and get in a position to shoot the enemy as they advanced up the landing platform. Obi-Wan raced straight for me while Anakin and Padme followed. While Anakin and Obi-Wan engaged me in a lightsaber duel Padme and the Clone Troopers attacked my Battle Droids. Unfortunately, Battle Droids are as crap in Epic Duels as they were in The Phantom Menace and they quickly fell under the blaster fire of Padme and the Clone Troopers.

Lousy Battle Droids!

Meanwhile, wounded, I realised I was quickly running out of cards so I tried to buy myself some more time by moving behind the starship. Anakin and Obi-Wan closed in on either side of me. I dealt some major damage to Obi-Wan and he retreated but not before inflicting some cruel blows on me.

Darth Maul fights on alone with 1 hit point remaining

My double-bladed lightsaber flashed wildy but Anakin managed to land a blow that reduced me to 1 hit point. I counter-attacked but the next turn he cut me down. The light side of the force had triumphed.

I found it's very difficult for one player to win when being ganged up on by two players. This game is all about hand-management and as you only have two actions a turn you must decide whether to play a card or draw a card. The problem is that to attack or defend you must play a card so when being attacked and defending you quickly run out of cards. In hindsight I should have positioned myself behind my two Battle Droids and then tried to keep out of combat for as long as possible while just drawing 2 cards each turn.

Maddie immediately wanted to play again. I agreed but on the condition that I took two characters to even up the game balance. Once again it would be Grandma and Maddie versus me. For our second game Maddie chose Darth Vader/2 Storm Troopers, Grandma was Emperor Palpatine/2 Royal Guards and I chose Luke Skywalker/Princess Leia and Han Solo/Chewbacca. Our battle would take place in the Emperor's throne room.

Darth Vader makes straight for Princess Leia

Our 2nd game was much more balanced. Darth Vader moved quickly to attack Leia and Luke from behind while Han and Chewie blasted away at a Storm Trooper and Royal Guard. The Emperor hung back menacingly.

Chewie and Luke take out a Storm Trooper and Royal Guard

I sent Luke Skywalker towards the Emperor but he had to cut down a Royal Guard who tried to block him. Luke then realised Leia was in danger so he moved back to help her. Too late! Darth Vader cut her down. The Emperor decided this was an opportune time to attack and he and Vader trapped Luke in a hallway.

"Turn to the dark side Luke!"

Luke's Jedi skills were strong enough to do damage to both Vader and the Emperor and they retreated. Han and Chewie then fired away at Darth Vader while Luke chased down the Emperor.

"The Force is strong in this one..."

Luke managed to kill the Emperor but took a lot of damage in the process. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie were also almost dead but still fighting Vader heroically. A lucky shot from Han's blaster finally put an end to the Sith Lord.

"He's not so tough now is he Chewie?"

It was a surprisingly close game with all remaining characters being left with only a few hit points each. The game was very tense and it could easily have gone the either way. I liked the different powers of the characters and look forward to exploring the card combinations of the individual decks in future games. Epic Duels played fast and was heaps of fun. Maddie needed Grandma to read some of her special power cards but apart from that she held her own and really enjoyed herself. I can see us playing this game again.


Friendless said...

When I played Epic Duels I thought it was all about avoiding being hurt. With only two sides that's not going to happen, but with 3 or more sides the best strategy is to run away. Fun yes, interesting no. Go Maddie!

Ozvortex said...

I certainly think waiting to draw reasonable attack cards is vital and running away/staying out of trouble until you are in a more powerful position is a valid tactic. Then again I haven't played any 'last man standing' games with more than three players. I've read that the best way to play this game for two players is for both players to run two characters each. This allows more strategy and the ability to use different individual card decks in combination in clever ways.