Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 76

Last night my daughters Maddie (7) and Georgia (2.5) helped me put together the map board for the 'Fall of the Dumutef Bridge' scenario from the Road to the Forgotten Forest HeroScape expansion set. This was a fun little family activity because both of them wanted to be involved in creating the battlefield that we were preparing for Grandma's visit the following morning. I'd first give one terrain piece to Maddie and tell her where to put it and then I'd give another piece to Georgie and show her where to put it. They then took it in turns placing the terrain until the battlefield was completed.

I was holding the left bank and the bridge. Grandma and Maddie were on the right bank and had to take the bridge to win.

This morning we got to play on it. In this particular scenario, Maddie and Grandma each had 350 point armies and were allied. Their goal was to try and take the bridge before the end of round 10. I also had a 350 point army. I had to hold the bridge. This was a particularly good scenario as it had a piece of terrain as an objective and wasn't just another 'kill all the other guy's army' type of victory condition.

Now normally two players versus one is not very fair. However, as the player holding the bridge, I did get reinforcements at the end of rounds 2, 3 , 4 and 5. The amount of points of reinforcements was determined each time by the roll of a d20 (20-sided die).

Grandma's army consisted of Crixus, Izumi Samurai, Thorgrim, Syvarris and the Warriors of Ashra.

Maddie's army consisted of the Nakita Agents, Raelin, the Ninjas of the Northern Wind and the Tarn Viking Warriors.

My initial army consisted of two Dumutef Guards, Anubian Wolves, Khosumet the Darklord and Mimring.

I'll just run quickly through the highlights of each round.

Round 1 - An Izumi Samurai dies trying to cross the river (roll a d20. 1 - figure destroyed, 2-4 - figure takes 1 wound). Grandma rolled a 3 (hehe!)

Round 2 - Mimring fries one of the Tarn Vikings. Syvarris shoots dead one of the Dumutef Guards. An Izumi Samurai kills off the second Dumutef Guard. I roll a 17 on a d20 for 175 points of reinforcements. I choose Me-Burq-Sa, Marro Warriors and Zettian Guards.

Round 3 - Mimring fries another two Tarn Vikings. An Anubian Wolf rips open an Izumi Samurai. A Nakita Agent shoots down an Anubian Wolf. I roll a 20 on a d20 (woohoo!) for 200 points of reinforcements. I choose Krug, Marro Drones and a Swog Rider.

Round 4 - An Anubian Wolf kills the last of the Izumi Samurai. I roll a 14 on a d20 for 125 points of reinforcements. I choose Grimnak.

Round 5 - A Ninja of the Northern Wind finishes off Mimring. Krug smashes Syvarris into pulp. I roll a 15 on a d20 for 125 points of reinforcements. I choose the Minions of Utgar.

Round 6 - One of my Anubian Wolves rolls a 1 for its Unleashed Fury special ability. Normally this would destroy the figure. Luckily I had Khosumet the Dark Lord in my army because he allows a +1. I still lose an Anubian Wolf to the blade of one of the Warriors of Ashra.

Round 7 - I'm starting to worry about getting my reinforcements up to the bridge. I only have three actions per round to my opponents' six. A Warrior of Ashra slays the last of my Anubian Wolves. The only figure of mine still holding the bridge is Khosumet the Darklord. I move my Marro Warriors and Minions of Utgar towards the bridge. The Ninjas of the Northern Wind have crossed the river and are moving around the rear of the bridge. One of the Ninjas kills a Minion of Utgar. Khosumet kills a Warrior of Ashra. A Minion of Utgar kills a Ninja.

Round 8 - A Nakita Agent shoots a Minion of Utgar who had just landed on the bridge to support the lone Khosumet. One of the Ninjas kills one of the Minions of Utgar protecting the rear of the bridge. I only have Khosumet the Darklord on the bridge. He is facing three of the enemy. Maddie flies Raelin (her favourite character) to land behind Khosumet. Raelin slays Khosumet and wins victory for her team.

Raelin slays Khosumet the Darklord to claim victory!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Board Games are Booming in Brisbane

Well, maybe booming is too strong a word, but board games, particularly Eurogames, are starting to make an appearance in some of the larger mainstream toy stores here in Brisbane, Australia. Just a year or so ago you really couldn't find any Eurogames at all unless you visited one of the very few specialist game stores.

Today I visited Toyworld in the city. Toyworld has over 170 independent toy stores nationwide. It's been a couple of months since I last visited this store. Previously I'd been impressed that they were stocking Blokus, Carcassonne and Cosmic Encounter. I couldn't believe my eyes today when I found a section of their shelves containing the following games:

I didn't have long to browse but those above were definitely there. I'm fairly certain there were others but those above are all that I can recall.

I suspect that not every suburban-mall Toyworld is carrying Eurogames though. This particular city store is one of the largest and it also stocks items that the other stores do not, such as massive ranges of die-cast model cars, action figures, and models. Still, for the board gamers of Brisbane it's a positive sign.

The Roman Invasion

I was very excited to find a large parcel waiting for me when I arrived home from work this afternoon. It was some games that I'd had on back order - Commands & Colors: Ancients, Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians, and Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #3: The Roman Civil Wars.

As I'd previously received Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms, this now completes my collection of C&C Ancients and all the expansions...until GMT releases another that is!

C&C Ancients was the only game I'd rated a 10 on BGG that I didn't own - until now!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 75

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my 7 year-old daughter (AKA Maddie) and my mother (AKA Grandma).

Our first game of the morning was Chateau Roquefort (I have the Burg Appenzell version). In this game players are mice searching for cheese within the castle. The cool aspect of this game is that the box forms the playing area of the castle. There are plastic wells sitting below the sliding tiles of the game board. When tiles are moved by inserting a tile into the side of the box this pushes other tiles in a line. This can sometimes send a mouse falling into one of the plastic wells (dungeon) as a tile with a hole in it is moved under the mouse.

"Cheese! Gimme Cheese!"

On your turn you have four action points to spend on movement, lifting a roof section to reveal the room(s) beneath (and the cheese!) and also to slide a tile. The aim is to collect a piece of cheese by having two of your mice sitting on the same type of cheese at the same time. As only one mouse can be in a space at the same time this obviously means you will have to find two of the same type of cheese scattered throughout the castle. The first person to reach a set number of cheeses is the winner.

The other trigger for ending the game is for one player to lose three of their four mice to the depths of the dungeon. This actually happened in this game. I'd already used the tile sliding feature to send two of Grandma's mice tumbling to the bottom of the box. Maddie took out her third mouse. At this point the game ended. Grandma couldn't win even though she was leading with two pieces of cheese. The player with the highest total of cheese would then win. As Maddie and I both had one piece of cheese we were tied. In a tie-break situation it is the player who had been waiting longest for their turn that won. As that was me I ended up winning! A very short game but it revealed a new tactic that none of us had previously considered.

Coda - always fun!

Our next game was Coda. This is a fast, fun game of deduction which we always enjoy. We decided to play three games, taking it in turns to be the first player. I was very impressed with Maddie's improving powers of deduction. She almost won the first and second games. Grandma almost won the third game. However, it ended up that I won all three (but only by the slimmest of margins).

Our final game of the morning was another family favourite - Der Schwarze Pirat. In this game each player blows their ship around the board with a rubber bellows to try and enter the bays of islands to claim treasure. Dice are rolled each turn to determine where gold is placed and also how many squeezes of the bellows a player can use on either their own ship or the Black Pirate. There was only one pirate boarding in this game, and that was me boarding Maddie's ship. I only got one gold out of that. All the other times the pirate ship was used as a substitute ship to sail to islands to claim the gold.

Maddie's pink ship sails in search of treasure

Grandma did very well in this game (the wind gods must have been with her) for she went on to take the win with 18 gold. Maddie and I shared second place with 9 gold each.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Return of my Xbox 360!

My Xbox 360 arrived back from the repair centre yesterday. It only took seven calendar days from the time I posted it off to the time it was delivered back to me. Apart from the initial shock of seeing the Red Ring of Death I found dealing with Xbox 360 Customer Support and the whole repair process to be easy and hassle-free. I'm very impressed at how quickly they fixed the problem and returned my console. Most of all I'm pleased it didn't cost me any money.

Safe and sound with an extra bonus for me

They even provided me with a complimentary one month Xbox Live Gold membership card. This will give me the opportunity to check out Xbox Live though I'm not sure if I've got the spare time to fully take advantage of it.

I was a little anxious hooking up the power lead and re-attaching the hard drive to my Xbox 360. However when I turned it on all was well.

That's what I want to see when I turn on my Xbox 360!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan

It was my father-in-law's 65th birthday today. We had a small family celebration of a barbecue and some beers at our house this evening. It also happens to be the 42nd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. This battle is arguably the most famous battle fought by the Australian Army during the Vietnam War. The date the battle began, 18 August, is commemorated in Australia as Long Tan Day, also known as Vietnam Veterans' Remembrance Day.

Coincidentally, my father-in-law spent his 23rd birthday on 18 August 1966 only about 1000 metres from the battle. He was part of the 1st Australian Task Force stationed at the Nui Dat base. He'd only arrived in Vietnam a week prior to the battle. Where he was dug-in on the perimeter of Nui Dat was right in the path of the advancing Viet Cong had they not encountered D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR).

It was interesting talking to him over a few beers. Although he didn't take part in the actual battle, he was close enough to hear it and had been on the receiving end of incoming mortar fire on the preceding night. He was also part of a small detachment which searched and buried the bodies of the enemy dead on the morning after the battle. I'm going to have to find some time in the future to properly interview him and capture his memories of his time in Vietnam for our family history.

In other news, this morning I checked my service request number online which shows the status of the repair of my Xbox 360. Apparently it has already been repaired and posted back to me. When I got home I found a card in the letterbox stating that they'd tried to deliver it to me today. Wow! I only posted it off seven days ago! That's quick service.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 74

My mother (AKA Grandma) dropped by for her regular Saturday morning visit and game session. Today I decided to try one of the games I'd recently picked up in a math trade - Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers. I've played the original Carcassonne several times before but this was my first experience with Hunters and Gatherers.

Hunters and Gatherers is part of the popular Carcassonne series but instead of being set in medieval France it's set in the stone age. Players build a prehistoric landscape with tiles depicting forests, rivers, lakes and meadows. They then send out members of their tribe to hunt, gather, fish and establish fishing camps. It includes many of the familiar mechanics from Carcassonne but with a few new options.

A close up of the board in play - I was green and Grandma was yellow

As my wife was at work and my daughters Maddie and Georgia were busy watching Alvin and the Chipmunks on DVD, that left just my mum and myself to play Hunters and Gatherers.

I quite enjoyed Hunters and Gatherers as a two-player game. I liked the incentive to close off forests containing gold nuggets to be able to take a bonus tile. I liked the scoring of rivers better than the scoring of roads in the original Carcassonne. I liked the sabre-tooth tiger mechanic of eating a deer in the same meadow. In fact, there were a lot of little things I liked that have made me wonder if I really need the original Carcassonne and expansions (the River (included in the base game) and Inns & Cathedrals) in my collection.

In our game this morning I was able to grab all the points for the largest hunting area (36) by having one more hunter than Grandma in the same meadow. My huts scored 16 to her 13. I went on to take the win with 117 points to her 73.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Enhancing Tigris and Euphrates

One problem I had when I opened my new Tigris and Euphrates game from Mayfair Games was the off-centre tiles. This was fixed by notifying Mayfair Games who sent me replacement sheets of tiles.

Another problem with the components was that two of my monuments (both green) did not hold the centre step piece that is supposed to fit snugly within the monument piece. I was sick of them falling out every time I picked them up. I decided to fix it this afternoon by applying some PVA wood glue to all of the monuments to ensure they would be secure.

A little bit of glue solves the problem

The other thing that I thought would improve this game was repainting the boring plain wooden treasure cubes. I decided to paint mine gold to really represent their importance and value within the game. I gave them a white undercoat and then a gold finish. After they'd dried I gave them a gloss spray clear coat for protection. I'm very pleased with how they turned out.

The results of my mini-project to enhance my copy of Tigris and Euphrates

Red Ring of Death

My Xbox 360 console died two weeks ago on 26 July 2008. Yes, when I turned it on that morning all I got was the infamous 'Red Ring of Death'. These three flashing red lights is the Xbox 360's way of informing you of a general hardware failure.


I was aware of the Xbox 360's rumoured unreliability. I'd done a fair bit of research and had seen posts in forums of gamers bemoaning the loss of their Xbox due to the 'Red Ring of Death', or RRoD as it is commonly referred to. While I believed that some units could be faulty I suspected that the RRoD problem (which is believed to be due to overheating) was more than likely contributed to by overplaying and poor care of the console by these gamers.

I purchased my Xbox 360 only seven months ago on 17 December 2007. I'd even delayed my purchase by several months to ensure I bought one with one of the newer 65nm CPUs (codenamed Falcon) which meant there would be less heat build-up within the unit. The one I got had only been manufactured the month before in November 2007.

So for the last seven months I've been enjoying my Xbox 360 immensely. I took care to place it in a cool, stable area and never played it for more than a couple of hours at a time. I believed if I took care of it and didn't allow it to overheat then I'd get many years of play out of it. How wrong I was. My Xbox 360 was only eight months old when it died (So young. Sniff!).

I've since read that it is believed that there is about a 10% failure rate with the new Xbox 360 Falcon chipsets. Apparently Microsoft don't release any information about the failure rates of their consoles so it's hard to get a clear picture. I do know that due to this problem Microsoft published an open letter on 5 July 2007 recognising the console's problems, as well as announcing a three-year warranty extension for every Xbox 360 console that experiences the "general hardware failure" indicated by three flashing red LEDs on the console (AKA RRoD).

So I called the Microsoft number and they assured me they will fix my Xbox 360 free-of-charge. All I have to do is package up the console safe-and-sound and then post it to the local repair area. They'll cover the cost of postage.

My Xbox 360's 'coffin'

So I'm hoping to get it back in around two to three weeks. I'm also hoping this is the last time I'll ever see the 'Red Ring of Death'.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 73

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my Mum (AKA Grandma) and my 7 year-old daughter Maddie.
Our first game of the morning was King Me! This is a game I received from BGG user Mark_Owen_Reich in the first Australian national board game Math Trade back in May and was the first time any of us had played it.

This game is all about scoring points for the final ranking of each of six characters players are secretly assigned at the beginning of each of three rounds. After taking it in turns to place the 13 characters on levels which not only represent their closeness to the throne but also what victory points they'll receive, players then take turns picking one character to move up a level. If a character is moved up to the top level (the throne) each player then immediately secretly votes to see if that character is crowned using Yes and No cards. It only takes one No vote to eliminate that particular character from the game. Although your Yes card is returned after each vote, your No cards are limited and not returned. This is where the bluff aspect of the game comes to the fore. Do you vote Yes to a character you don't want to be crowned in the hope that someone else will vote No, or do you use one of your precious No votes to ensure they don't get crowned?

King Me!

King Me! is a fast light filler that can take up to six players. We all enjoyed it and I'm sure it will get a lot of table-time in the future. Final scores were me 1st on 68, Grandma 2nd with 55 and Maddie 3rd with 54.

After that Maddie went off to player with her younger sister Georgia which left Grandma and I free to play Tigris and Euphrates.

We picked up an error we made in the last game. I thought the scores were abnormally high and it turns out we were assigning victory cubes from monuments to both players at the end of each turn rather than only the active player receiving them.

I suggested we play with a 2-player variant I got from the BoardGameGeek site. In this variant the four corner temples are removed, as well as removing 14 red tiles, 9 blue tiles, 8 green tiles and 8 black tiles. All other rules apply except that the game ends when only 1 or zero treasure cubes are left. This variant seemed to work fine.

Board layout at end of game

No catastrophe tiles were placed this game by either of us. I guess I'm still learning the strategy around when and in what situation these should be used. There were less monuments built in this game (only three). We had some great internal and external conflicts. I actually ended up winning 12 to 5. [Wayne: Red 13, Blue 29, Green 20, Black 12 - Grandma: Red 18, Blue 5, Green 14, Black 13]

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

300th Post, HellBoy II & Osprey Books

This is my 300th post since starting this blog back on 25 December 2006.

I saw the movie Hellboy II: The Golden Army in the city after work this evening courtesy of GenCon Oz who kindly offered up free tickets to GenCon Oz attendees. I've never read any of the Hellboy comics but had rented the original Hellboy movie just recently so that I had a bit of an understanding of the characters and history prior to seeing the sequel. Overall, the movie was fun, action-packed, visually-stunning and with a vast array of incredible creatures. There was also a fair bit of humour which had the audience laughing at times. I was glad I went along to see it.

I arrived home just before 10.00 pm and found what I at first thought was a rubbish bag just inside the door. My wife had probably left it there for me to dump in the wheelie bin outside. When I looked more closely I saw that it was actually an overseas delivery.

What's in this sturdy plastic bag?

I'd recently won a competition on the Osprey Publishing blog of twelve of their recently published books. This looked like it might be them.

Alright! My prize awaits!

It was pretty exciting opening the box. The Osprey books were very well packed so had survived the international shipping unscathed.

Here is the selection that I picked for my prize.

ACE 77 Albatros Aces of World War 1 Part 2
ACE 78 SE 5/5a Aces of World War I
ACE 79 Bristol F2 Fighter Aces of World War I
AEU 26 Jagdstaffel 2 ‘Boelcke’ Von Richthofen’s Mentor
CAM 188 Thermopylae 480 BC Last stand of the 300
CAM 182 Granicus 334 BC Alexander’s First Persian Victory
DUE 7 Sopwith Camel vs Fokker Dr I Western Front 1917–18
GNM Alexander the Great at War His Army - His Battles - His Enemies
GNM Rome and Her Enemies An Empire Created and Destroyed by War
WAR 124 Teutonic Knight 1190–1561
ELI 155 Roman Battle Tactics 109BC–AD313
GNM Knight Noble Warrior of England 1200–1600

Osprey books are not only informative they also have fantastic artwork!

Unfortunately I only received ten of the twelve books. Thermopylae 480 BC Last Stand of the 300 and Roman Battle Tactics 109BC-AD313 were temporarily out of stock. Hopefully I'll receive these soon.

With ten new cool books I know what I'll be busy doing over the coming weeks. Thanks Osprey Publishing!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

HeroScape Card Lamination

I like to take care of my games. I also like to enhance them where possible. For example, this morning I laminated 29 HeroScape cards using my el cheapo hot laminator. I then carefully trimmed them using a craft knife and metal ruler. A pair of scissors was used to round the corners. This will protect the cards from being torn by exuberant kids or damaged if drink is spilt on them. Hey, I can now set up a HeroScape game outside without fear of it raining. If I wanted.

Three hours work but worth it

I think my next game-enhancement project will be to paint the plain wooden treasure cubes from Tigris and Euphrates in a gold colour.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 72

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma). My wife was at work and Maddie and Georgia were having a play birthday party for one of Maddie's favourite stuffed animals.

As it would be just Mum and myself I decided to pull out a game I'd received a couple of months ago in the last math trade - Tigris and Euprhates. Tigris and Euphrates is a game by famous designer Reiner Knizia and is the highest ranked boardgame on Boardgamegeek that I currently own (ranked no. 5 as of today's date).

The game is set in the ancient fertile crescent of the land bounded by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers with players building civilizations through tile placement. Players are given four different leaders in four colours: farming (blue), trading (green), religion (red), and government (black). The leaders are used to collect victory points in these same categories. However, your score at the end of the game is the number of points in your weakest category, which encourages players not to get overly specialised. Conflict arises when civilizations connect on the board, i.e., external conflicts, with only one leader of each type surviving such a conflict. Leaders can also be replaced within a civilization through internal conflicts.

The board at game end

I've only played Tigris and Euphrates once before, and that was back on 26 April 2006 (and I didn't really know what I was doing). It certainly helps to sit down with the rule book and view the board and pieces prior to playing a game. I felt I had a fairly good understanding of the rules prior to explaining them to Mum.

Mum built the majority of the monuments and certainly benefited from that during the early to mid-point of the game. I was able to come in and take control of some valuable kingdoms by internal conflict and piggy-backed off the monument points from about the middle of the game. Monuments are certainly powerful when one has leaders in those kingdoms. I only used one catastrophe tile and Mum used none. I took an early lead in claiming treasures by linking regions but Mum soon caught on. Mum took the win with a score of 28 to my 24. We both enjoyed Tigris and Euphrates and plan on playing it again soon.