I first saw the movie Star Wars in 1977 when I was 10 years old. I instantly fell in love with it and one of my obsessions from then into my early teens was collecting and playing with Star Wars action figures. I still have my action figures in a box in a cupboard and now my daughter Maddie is of an age where she is starting to play with them (under my watchful eye of course!).
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
As I'll most likely be playing Heroscape with kids who'll be munching on snacks (and are notoriously messy) or adults who will be drinking (probably beers which can be knocked over) I thought I'd better do something about the potential vulnerability of the army cards. This is where my trusty laminator came in handy!
My Heroscape: Rise of the Valkyrie army cards are protected!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I've mainly used it to laminate cards for home-made games and also for downloaded game information sheets. It's handy for laminating kid's drawings and craft items and I've also used it on photos. It's quick and easy to use and it will seal and protect your paper or card sheets. If you're a gamer or a parent I'd certainly recommend picking up a laminator.
My GBC Creative Laminator A4
Saturday, October 27, 2007
In this card game players are dealt potion cards with values of 1, 2, 4, 5 & 7 and poison cards with values of 4. Each turn a player must play a card from their hand into a cauldron. No cauldron may contain potions of another colour. Poison cards can be played on any cauldron. If a player plays a card which makes the total value of cards played on that cauldron exceed 13 then the player takes the previously played cards. The aim of the game is to have the fewest points at the end of a number of rounds equivalent to the number of players. After a round you score 1 point for every potion card and 2 points for every poison card you have. The scoring is cleverly adjusted by the designer Reiner Knizia because if you have more of a potion colour than any of the other players you get to discard those cards and they are not scored against you.
The cauldrons bubble away...Round 1: Me 5, Grandma 2, Maddie 4
Round 2: Me 2, Grandma 11, Maddie 7
Round 3: Me 2, Grandma 6, Maddie 4
So, I came 1st with 9 points, Maddie came 2nd with 15 points and Grandma came 3rd with 19 points.
After that Deb and Maddie went to see a play at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre over at Southbank. That gave Grandma and I a chance to play a 2-player game. I looked for a game we hadn't played for a while.
Battle Line is another Reiner Knizia design. In this game players are fighting over 9 flags represented by red wooden pawns. These flags represent points along a line of battle. The artwork on the cards represent Alexander the Great with his Macedonians vs Darius III and his Persians. To win, a player must claim 3 flags in a row for a breakthrough or 5 flags in total for an envelopment. You can also play strategy cards but we chose not to do so for this game. Flags are claimed by laying a 3-card combination that beats the opposing 3-card combination. Combinations are equivalent to poker hands (flush, straight, 3-of-a-kind, etc).
I always find the choices in this game agonising and tense. It's a great game and I was able to achieve a breakthrough in the center with some good planning and lucky card draws.
Friday, October 26, 2007
So tonight was the first of our official family game nights. Both girls were bathed and in their pyjamas and we'd had an early dinner. In attendance were my wife, Deb, our 6 year old daughter, Maddie, our 21 month old daughter, Georgia, and myself. By popular demand (well by Maddie demand) we chose Der Schwarze Pirat as our first game. Maddie chose red (closest to pink), Deb chose yellow and I chose green.
Deb took an early lead with some great moves considering this was her first play of the game. I capsized my ship a couple of times much to Maddie's glee. It was interesting to watch Maddie. On her turn she was so excited to move her ship that she often forgot to roll the dice. Her over-enthusiasm did cause her to capsize her boat a couple of times (like Daddy).
The pirate was rolled quite a bit during our game. For some reason my ship always seemed to be close by when there was pillaging to do. I was pillaged by both Deb and Maddie and I lost at least 6 gold coins due to this.
Final scores were Deb 1st with 24 gold, Maddie 2nd with 11 gold and me 3rd (last!) with 1 gold. We all had fun and look forward to our next family game night.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Looking at the scenarios in the Eastern Front expansion I noticed Scenario 41 - [Stalingrad] Red Barricades Factory Complex - October 22, 1942. The thing that immediately jumped out at me were a line of lush green hill hexes along the top of the map. The rest of the board was snow-covered with snow-covered factories and ruins. Huh? Why hadn't Days of Wonder produced some snow-covered hills for this expansion?
The Eastern Front expansion did come with snow-covered city ruins, snow-covered trenches, snow-covered villages, snow-covered forests, snow-covered ravines, snow-covered marshes, snow-covered factory complexes, snow-covered forested hills and snow-covered hills with villages. Unfortunately, there were no plain snow-covered hills. As a result of this players had to use their green hills from the master set which were really meant to represent summer green hills from western Europe. These green hills on a winter map board look just plain odd.
The lush green hills of Stalingrad!?!So I decided to do something about it. At first I thought about attempting to create my own snow-covered hill tiles. Then I had the bright idea to check if anyone else had already done it. A quick search on the Internet revealed someone already had - someone by the name of DirkGent had created sheets of custom terrain tiles, one of which was entirely of snowy hills.
I downloaded the tiles and printed them out on to a sheet of A4 paper. Next, I glued this sheet on to an old game board I'd picked up at a garage sale. After the glue had dried I carefully cut around the hexes with a craft knife. Voila! - Instant snowy hills.
In writing this entry I wanted to provide a link to DirkGent's site where he had many more custom terrain tiles for Memoir '44. Unfortunately, his site is no longer available. If you are looking for snowy hills there is a single snowy hill in the files section of the Memoir '44 - Eastern Front page at BoardGameGeek.
Monday, October 22, 2007
"You've got a lot of mosquito bites," I commented.
Maddie rubbed her leg. "Yes, I have 10 of them, Daddy."
"The mosquitoes must like your blood," observed Mum from the kitchen.
"Just like vampires," I teased. "I bet a vampire would like your blood."
Maddie just glared at me.
Out of interest, to see what her knowledge of popular fantasy culture was like, I asked her "And do you know how you kill a vampire?"
Maddie thought for a moment.
My wife and I burst out laughing.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I've given my wife a standing order to look out for items that may interest me, things like miniatures, games or books. Nine times out of ten she'll come home empty-handed. Every now and then she'll come home with a surprise for me. Like yesterday morning for instance.
Garage sale goodies!
Shogun (AKA Samurai Swords) - $1
Field Marshall - $1
The Russian Campaign - $1
Axis & Allies - $1
Wow! Four games at only $1 each! I thought she was pulling my leg when she told me but that's what she paid. After I got over my shock I sat down and went through each game and they appeared to be complete.
Well, onto eBay they go to fund some future game purchases.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
On the fourth round guess who again won initiative? Yep - Maddie! Deathwalker 9000 opened up with his machine gun on my remaining Krav Maga Agent riddling him with bullets (much to the disappointment of Ne-Gok-Sa who was waiting to attack him as well).
You go girl! My female Krav Maga Agent takes down one of the advancing Marro Warriors
I then moved Agent Carr to attack Grandma's Ne-Gok-Sa. Although I rolled 3 hits on him he was able to block two of them. He then counter-attacked and rolled mostly skulls. It was enough to kill my already wounded Agent Carr. That left me with the one sole remaining female Krav Maga Agent.
A triumphant Ne-Gok-Sa stands over the lifeless Agent Carr
There were Marro Warriors on either side of my female Krav Maga Agent. She soon fell under a hail of fire from their alien guns.
The last stand by my female Krav Maga Agent ends in defeat
And so the Jandar army was defeated by the foul Utgar army. We all enjoyed the game and even though I lost I had a ball. I look forward to experimenting with the special abilities of some of the other characters in our next game. Maddie has already insisted we break out the terrain from the second Heroscape master set we own to create an even bigger battlefield next time we play.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
It's 1268km (788 miles) by road from where I live in Brisbane to Canberra which would take approximately 16 hours to drive. Thankfully it's only a 90 minute flight. I've only been to Canberra once before and that was in 1987 to attend a gaming convention called CanCon.
So I was up at 4.00am after a total of only 4 hours sleep due to a sick little Georgia coughing for most of the night. My plane was scheduled to depart at 6.10am and I arrived at the airport at around 5.30am. As I passed through security I dropped my hand luggage on the x-ray conveyor belt and passed through the metal detector without any alarms going off. As I was picking up my bag I was approached by a female security person who advised me I'd been randomly selected for an explosives check. She waved what appeared to be some electronic sensor (an explosives 'sniffer' I assume) over my body. She then pressed a sticky tape on the end of a tool on to several areas of my bag. After that she peeled off the sticky tape and ran it through a machine. After an all clear I was on my way.
I would have loved to catch up on some sleep as we flew south along the east coast of Australia but unfortunately I find it difficult to sleep on planes. Instead I read a book - Prisoner 1167 - The Madman Who Was Jack the Ripper by J.C.H. Tully which I'd picked up 2nd hand at a school fete a year or so ago but had never read. It's an interesting read in which the author tries to link James Kelly, a paranoid schizophrenic who escaped from Broadmoor asylum, to the Jack the Ripper murders in the latter half of 1888. I was so engrossed in the gruesome details of the murders that the 90 minute flight flew by and before I knew it we were commencing our descent into Canberra. After landing I caught a taxi to my destination and managed to take some quick photos along the way.
If you look in the distance past Lake Burley Griffin you'll see Australia's Parliament House. See the white building in the center foreground on the other side of the lake? That's not it. Parliament house is the white building behind that with the 81 metre flag pole. Incidentally, the Australian flag flown atop that flag pole measures 12.8m by 6.4m which is about the size of half a tennis court.
We (meaning the taxi driver and myself) passed the Telstra Tower (AKA the Black Mountain Tower) on the way to Belconnen where our office is situated. The Tower, rising 195 metres above the mountain summit, is not only a landmark in Canberra but also offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding countryside from a viewing platform or from the Towers revolving restaurant.
Belconnen is situated to the north-west of Canberra's city centre and surrounds Lake Ginninderra. As I had a little time to kill before the training session I decided to stop at Westfield Belconnen which is a large shopping centre only a couple of blocks from our national office.
Any game stores I wonder?
The first thing I did was check out the game stores in the shopping centre. Unfortunately all they had was a Toys R Us.
But do they have any Heroscape expansions?
I've recently bought the game Heroscape and frustratingly I can't find any of its expansions anywhere locally. Apparently Hasbro, the makers of Heroscape, are no longer distributing to Australia. I was hoping that this particular store would still have some expansions left. Alas, for after some searching, I was again disappointed.
After that I headed to the office. I won't bore you with the details of this suffice to say that I sat in a computer training room for 4 hours with 9 other people learning the complexities of the new program.
I decided to get out of the office at lunch time, so I walked a couple of blocks back past Westfield Belconnen to the shores of Lake Ginninderra where I found a nice spot to eat my lunch and read my book.
A relaxing half hour by the shores of Lake Ginninderra
If you're wondering about the photo above, no, I didn't ask someone to take a picture of me, I simply set my camera on the rock wall and pressed the timer button. That explains the odd angle. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cool. What I really enjoyed was the lack of humidity in the air. Brisbane is often very humid during the warmer months but Canberra is more southerly and also inland so it's much drier. After eating my sandwiches and reading more of the awful murders which occurred in Whitechapel in 1888 I headed back to the office.
I struggled to keep awake through the afternoon session but before I knew it I was heading back to the airport by taxi to catch my flight home. Unfortunately my flight was booked for 5.45pm and I arrived at about 3.30pm. That meant I had about 2 hours to kill. I decided to head up to the departure gate to see if I could catch an earlier flight. This time as I was passing through security I followed the same procedure as the morning. I placed my bag on the conveyor belt while I walked through the metal detector. There were two metal detectors and just like in one of those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books I chose the left one. I must have chosen incorrectly because the metal detector beeped and I was directed by security personnel to take off my shoes and pass through again. This time my shoes went for a ride through the x-ray machine while I again passed through the metal detector. Thankfully on this occasion there was no beep so I picked up my bag and put my shoes back on. It must have been the metal eyelets on my shoes which had set off the metal detector.
I checked to see if I could get on an earlier flight but they were fully booked. With a couple of hours until my flight I decided to head back past security to the lounge area where I bought a coffee and read some more of my book.
Come the time to pass through security again I chose the right walk-through metal detector. I must have chosen correctly because, bizarrely, that metal detector did not pick up the metal in my shoes and I walked through without any hassles.
By this time I was feeling pretty tired. It had been a long day and I always find training sessions to be quite draining. I still couldn't sleep on the plane so I just read. The plane touched down in Brisbane about 7.20pm and I caught a taxi and was home just before 8.00pm.
The sunset looking west out of the left side of the plane at about 6.30pm
Monday, October 15, 2007
Today I was going through my games considering which ones I'm going to sell.
Look what I found when I opened one of my HeroQuest boxes...
It was like opening a pirate's chest to reveal the treasure within!
Obviously to save space I'd put it in an empty HeroQuest but forgot about it! D'oh!
A tower of 16 HeroQuest boxesI'm going through a bit of a Spring clean with my games at the moment with the plan of putting a few of the less played games on eBay and opening up some shelf space for future game purchases. As I had today off work I decided to do a bit of a stock take. It was then that I realised I had 16 boxes of HeroQuest! I know I've had to ditch broken HeroQuest boxes in the past so I would estimate that I'd have over 20 complete sets within those 16 boxes. Wow!
I've had plans for cutting up some of the boards room by room and corridor by corridor to use as terrain for other miniatures or role-playing games. Other projects include painting and basing the miniatures for war games rules such as Hordes of the Things. These are all things I'm going to do when I have 'time'. Unfortunately free time is something that is in short supply when one works full time and has young kids.
I plan to list a stack of books, games and miniatures on eBay on Thursday 8 November. Anyway, back to the stock take.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
We decided on Through the Desert. This is a Go-like game of placing plastic pastel camels on a board to obtain points by various means, such as claiming water holes, reaching oases, having the longest camel route and enclosing areas.
I was green and Mum was orange
On an amusing (!?) note we'd just placed all the water holes and oases on the board and were into our second or third turn when Georgia grabbed the edge of the board and lifted it up sending camels, counters and palm trees everywhere. Ahh...the joys of playing when toddlers are about! We started again but as it was that time of the morning I laid Georgia down for a nap. We were then able to play in peace.
It was interesting that in this game Mum was striving to simply place camels to get the most points while I was trying to strike a balance between attempting to deny her points while trying to secure points for myself. I cut off a couple of her camel routes from being able to reach more than the one oasis while myself having a couple of my routes managing to reach two oases. I also was able to enclose a relatively large space while she managed a few smaller areas. She had 3 of the 5 longest camel routes but I was able to peg it back to 2.5 each on the last turn. Even so I though for sure I would safely win this one. It turned out that it ended up quite close. I won on 119 points but Mum was very close behind on 113 points.
Next up was Carcassonne. We played with the Inns & Cathedrals expansion tiles but as we hadn't played this in a while I decided to just teach and play the vanilla Carcassonne rules. For those of you who don't know, Carcassonne is a historic fortified city in southern France. In the game players randomly draw a tile and place it so that its edge matches the edge of an already laid tile. The tiles represent the castles and surrounding countryside of the Carcassonne area. Each player has 7 game markers colloquially referred to as 'meeple' which they may place on tiles they have just laid down (an 8th meeple is used as a marker on the scoring board). Depending on what sort of tile it is and where you place your meeple on that tile determines how many points you will immediately, or possibly later, score.
I was green and Mum was yellow
I haven't played Carcassonne that much but I understand the basic strategy and the importance of farmers. Mum and I played relatively 'nice', not really interfering with each other's tile placements. I say this only because I'm aware that Carcassonne can be played as a 'cut-throat' game in which you actively try to disrupt your opponent's plans. So this learning game was rather sedate with me, after explaining the rules, reminding Mum of her options each turn. I think after a few more games under our belts I'll increase the confrontation to spice things up. Final scores were me on 123 and Mum on 87.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
In Burg Appenzell (or Castle Appenzell) each player controls four cute coloured mice and tries to collect pieces of cheese from within Castle Appenzell. On their turn players spend action points to either put new mice into play, reveal corridors in the castle, move their mice, or push a tile which changes the maze and can possibly drop mice into the dungeons below. If on a turn any two of a player's mice are sitting on tiles that show the same kind of cheese, that player obtains a piece of this cheese. The first player with 4 different pieces of cheese wins the game.
On a side note, Appenzell is a region in north-east Switzerland. A cheese called Appenzeller has been made in this region for the last 700 years. My mother was born in Switzerland so it was interesting for Maddie to link the place where this game was set to her Grandma's country of birth.
The components are simply beautiful with nice thick cardboard, lovely artwork and cute mice tokens. The box itself doubles as the castle and contains a plastic tray with internal wells representing the dungeons.
Each player starts by placing one of their mice (did I mention how cute these mice are?) in one of the four castle towers. The starting player is the last person to visit a real castle. Out of the three of us that would have been me but the general policy in our house is that youngest player (in this case Maddie - aged 6) goes first. Maddie chose blue, Grandma chose yellow and I chose green.
Maddie quickly picked up the action-point mechanic and used it to lift roof tiles to reveal cheese tiles below and move her mice. Roof tiles cover 2 to 4 spaces. There is an element of memory involved because as soon as there is no mouse in an area at the end of a player's turn the roof tile is replaced thus hiding any cheese tiles below. There is also the element of sliding tiles like in the Amazing Labyrinth. The cool part is there are 3 tiles with holes in them that can be used to drop opponent's mice into the dungeons and take them out of play.
I took an early lead and mentioned to Maddie and Grandma that I already had 3 pieces of cheese. I was proud to then see Maddie whispering in Grandma's ear about ways to stop Daddy from winning. As I was so close to winning we all decided to change the required number of cheeses to 7. I did eventually go on to win with 7 pieces of cheese, with Grandma on 5 and Maddie on 3. Burg Appenzell is a light fun game for adults and children.
Next up was Der schwarze Pirate. This was another beautiful game with great components. The board is formed by four pieces which interlock like a jigsaw puzzle. I was concerned that the edges of the board pieces may not lock together properly or perhaps be warped but was relieved to find they fit together extremely well and lay flat. There are raised edges around the edge of the board and also raised areas on the board which represent islands.
Each player is assigned a coloured wooden ship with cloth sails which starts on a predetermined space in the middle of the board. A black pirate ship starts in a predetermined bay on pirate island. The aim of the game is to move your ship around the board by blowing it with a rubber puffer or bellows. On the various islands will be gold coins which you will collect if you enter the bay (represented by a lighter blue than the surrounding ocean) of that particular island. When all the available coins have been collected the player with the most coins wins the game. Maddie chose red, Grandma chose yellow and I chose green.
On their turn the player will roll two dice. The first die will show how many puffs of the bellows you can use to move either your own ship or the pirate ship. The possible outcomes are 1) move your ship 3 puffs, 2) move your ship 4 puffs or 3) move the pirate ship 3 puffs. The second die determines onto which island you will place a coin. Sometimes two coins will be placed on two islands.
Moving ships with the bellows is the cool part of this game. Experimentation will reveal that it is best to blow at the more stable wooden base of the ship rather than the cloth sail. Blowing at the cloth sail will often result in a capsize which ends your turn and forces you to place your ship back on its predetermined starting space in the centre of the board. Maddie took a little while to perfect her bellows-style but was soon as proficient as the adults.
If your die roll means that you move the pirate ship you can choose either of two tactics. Either move the pirate ship into the bay of an island (like you would do with your own ship) and claim all the island gold for yourself or try and move the pirate ship so that it touches an opponent's ship. The player whose ship was boarded by the pirate ship must now take 3 coins from their bag and place them hidden in their two hands (either all 3 in one hand or 1 in one hand and 2 in the other). The pirate player then selects a hand and gains all the gold in that hand.
As the placement of the coins is randomly decided by a die then you will find yourself having to try and navigate around the raised islands to seek your glory. Dexterity games like this are fun with all players cheering when a particularly well-placed gust of wind sends a ship flying towards its target.
Once again this was another quality game from Germany with a beautiful thick board, lovely cloth bags, gorgeous yellow wooden coins and stunning wooden and cloth ships. Fun for adults and kids alike. Final scores were me on 18, Maddie on 10 and Grandma on 8.
Our final game of the morning was my hand-made copy of Diamant. This is a fun quick game of push-your-luck. Players are adventurers exploring 5 caves which hold gems and hazards which are determined by revealing cards. Knowing when to leave and take your accumulated gems is the key to this game, although sometimes pushing your luck and outstaying the other players can pay off. Its all about managing risk versus reward.
The photo above was taken on the second card draw of round 1 before I realised that we had forgotten to share the gems before moving on to the next card. Final scores were me on 51, Grandma on 48 and Maddie on 25.