Archive for the ‘Playtest Reports’ Category

GenCon ’05 aftermath: oh em gee, a playtest

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

Steve and I did finally get to play Clout Fantasy. It’s good. I would even venture to say that it is a better Diceland than Diceland. Thing with Diceland is that it’s both very random and very chaotic, which are not the same thing. The chaos in Diceland is made of the unrandom parts, the parts that are kind of knowable, in theory, but you’re never going to know them, without being some kind of savant or putting in way too much work ahead of time. The random factors in CF have been stripped to the bare minimum – there’s no directionality and one side – so all the cognitive load you have is the inherent qualities of the chip, and of course remembering what all the damn special abilities do. The set of abilities is pretty diverse up front, so that’s not inconsiderable, and I can see this game bogging down for some players as a result… but not as much as they would if you analyzed all the knowables in Diceland.

Anyway, it turns out that the price point is not a disaster – $15 gets you 30 chips in the form of two fixed, well-matched stacks that have very decent replay value. That price might have been a GenCon special but I don’t think so. I know that the boosters will be $2.50 for two chips. The boosters could have one more chip in them and I’d be happy, but having each player add four chips every week would not be an unreasonable way to grow the game.

Finally, playing on the carpet is fine as long as you are not anal about allowing rethrows for things that roll away to someplace inconvenient. Mind any furniture that you cannot reach under without injury or paralyzing fear. Clout safely, everyone!

Hecatomb First Look

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

A couple of us Cave dwellers got to play around with some Hecatomb TCG starters early last week. You would’ve heard about it in our OgreCave Audio Report last week if not for the aforementioned pooch-screwage. Now that I’m back from a cross-country jaunt, let me summarize what conclusions we came up with about WotC‘s latest CCG experiment.

Rocketmen First Look

Monday, August 15th, 2005

Okay, so, new poly-card CSG whatever, due out at Gen Con and I don’t think it got a sneak release anywhere although I could be wrong. OgreCave obtained four packs and got sort-of-enough ships to play a three-player game. If we had played a two-player game we would definitely have had fleets that made sense, although still not enough for a reserve fleet (that is, for the 30-points-all-over-again of ships that you can build on the fly during the game if you collect the right resources). So we didn’t even put the resources in. This led to a somewhat abbreviated version of the game, but it was still enough to sell Chris on the game completely. (Note, however, that Chris has never played Pirates of the Spanish Main.)

The ships look great for the most part. The standard banana-ship design for two of the factions isn’t terribly interesting, but the Martian and Venusian ships we got are very cool. They may be standard designs for the cruisers in those factions, however. (Every ship we got in four packs was a cruiser, the family-size minivan of the game’s spaceship classification. No squads of little fighters, and no full-size fighters that I recall. Looks like the biggies are this game’s mainstay, just like in PotSM.) Flow of play is much more gamer-y than PotSM – the goal is to take over the opponent’s base or DESTROY HIM. At least in the two-player rules that we, um, played by.

So, barring the whole resource-collection thing (which I think would work better if you started with, say, 15 points of ships and held 45 points in reserve, instead of 30/30… but I haven’t tried it), your goal is to fly around, shoot stuff, not get shot, crash into stuff and board it, and not get crashed into and boarded. All of this happens when ships spend their action points, which are marked AP but that actually stands for something goofy and story-related, so, action points. Combat is straightforward enough that I don’t actually remember how it works right now. Boarding is brutal, heavy on dice, and tends to destroy both entities involved rather quickly. It is also how you take over a base, so you’ll be seeing some of it – especially if you play with a fatalistic bastard like myself. Movement is much more anal, and frankly better, than it is in PotSM (or PotCC or whatever). Well, not anal, really: you spend action points to go straight, then you spend one to pivot. It’s clear, fudge-resistant, and nice.

I think I’ll stop there for now, because I expect Chris will jump in in the comments.

Sword and Skull Playtest Report, plus sort of some news

Monday, April 4th, 2005

This interview with Sword & Skull designer Mike Elliott leads off with a note on one of those missing Wizards CCGs – a Xiaolin Showdown license – and goes on to explain some of the numerous ways in which S&S is like Monopoly but less sucky. I mean, how many times have you glided your top hat past Park Place and thought, “this is okay, but I wish I got to fight pirates”? Your wish was not in vain, sir.

I won’t repeat Elliott’s specific claims – my 3-player test on Friday night basically confirmed them all. We did have one player who seemed to want the game to be over sooner than it was, although she ended up winning (maybe because she was the only one goal-oriented enough to want the game to end). S&S can suffer from a bit of Talisman Syndrome – wander around the board trying to build some stat up, have random things happen to you that knock you down, lather, rinse, repeat. But you do get some ways to ameliorate the grip of luck, and frankly, just staggering around trying to get your friend back for stealing your gold last time is pretty fun. Our game ran a little under two hours.

So: light and frothy by contemporary AH standards, not the grind Monopoly can be, all the “advanced” stuff that Elliott goes on about doesn’t drag it down (but doesn’t end up being all that salient either), and we liked it. We recommend that you rechristen your Pirate and Officer figures as Giant Dwarf and Nancy-Boy, respectively.

Playtest report: Cyberpunk the CCG

Wednesday, February 4th, 2004

There’s a lot of buzz lately about Cyberpunk the CCG. Around my area, much of that buzz is gamers asking “What’s it like?” or “Where can I get it?” It seems some local retailers have been reluctant to buy into another collectible game, at least until it’s a verified Runaway Hit (TM), so around here it’s making the game harder to find. This hasn’t slowed us down though, since Social Games President Peter Wacks hooked us up at Gen Con SoCal, and we’ve been playing around with the game ever since. Though we’re still working on the full review, let me see what I can tell you so far.

Sort of an Age of Mythology Playtest Report (but really more like bragging)

Monday, September 29th, 2003

I offered some more thoughts on AoM in the comments on this Slashdot Games link.

I’m ready for the exploding computer graphics: BattleBall Playtest Report

Friday, August 8th, 2003

I’ve got my hands on it and it is indeed the new Epic Duels. (Except that that other thing is more literally the new Epic Duels, because it’s just like the old Epic Duels. Yeah.) If Blood Bowl is too ponderous for you but seems to hold some appeal, you need BattleBall – what it lacks in humorous theme it more than makes up in speed and simplicity.

Crimson Skies Playtest Report, or: Rules-bogeys at 12 o’clock

Monday, May 26th, 2003

If you’re accustomed to other WizKids combat-dial games, the CS Air Action rules are going to throw you some curve balls. Sadly, due to vague technical writing, those curve balls may hit you right in the unmentionables the way they did my test opponent, a MechWarrior fan. Here’s what you need to go in knowing: The turn begins with both players rolling off for initiative. The winner sets speeds on all his planes, and the other player follows suit. Then, the rest of the turn consists of ten pulses, from Speed 10 down to Speed 1. Within each of those pulses, the initiative winner’s planes moving at that Speed get assigned their moves first, then the other player’s (the player who wins initiative each turn is called the Aggressor in the rules – they don’t give a catchy name to the other player, whom we’ve chosen to call Bitch, for a nice A-and-B scheme, but that breaks if you go multiplayer – anyway!). Then the Aggressor’s planes at that Speed reveal their moves, make them, and fire if they want. Then the other player’s. Then you move on to the next lowest pulse, down to 1. Then roll initiative again to start the next turn.

Once you’ve got that straight, this is a fast, chaotic, incredibly fun game. Digging into each plane’s stats reveals deep strategy if you want it. We didn’t try the Aces game, which uses the big figures in the Ace Pack and looks a little like HeroClix. We might test that if we feel wealthy anytime soon, but we have a feeling most people are in this for the planes. It’s a more innovative game, while still satisfying those base urges you can’t deny.

Be careful taking the things out of the packages, though. I’ve already had to glue one.

Shadowrun Duels tournament thoughts

Thursday, March 20th, 2003

At the Tuesday dinner presentation, we got details on some of WizKids‘ plans for the coming year. A humorous promo movie on Creepy Freaks, a number of HeroClix, MechWarrior and MageKnight expansion announcements, and it was on to what everyone really wanted to dive into: a tournament of Shadowrun Duels. Everyone in the room received a prototype package, containing an action figure with interchangable equipment, a large click base with three dials, small dice of certain colors and sides, and a storage tray that affixed to the underside of the base. For the tournament, each table of 10-14 people was split down the middle to form teams. Having been fortunate enough to get Kyushi, a cute Asian sniper chick, I opted to join in.

To my dismay, there were six players against five, and I was on the smaller team. However, my teammates made better decisions on their equipment, which gave us an advantage. The figures have little pegs at various locations (hands, waist, etc) that can hold weapons, medpacks, mystic talismans, and such, up to 12 points worth. Each little plastic piece of equipment has a point cost printed on it, along with a color and size of die the item affords the character. Lose the item in combat, and you’ve got fewer dice to do your actions with each round, which might mean you don’t have enough dice to block with, shoot, attack close-up, or whatever. There’s more to it, of course, including criticals, varying range capabilities for each character, and armor. But from our couple hours of competition (which we won, btw), the game seems to run very smoothly. The basic game has only a slight learning curve, easily manageable by the target audience (ages 8 and up), and loads of potential. I’ll be interested to see larger combat scenarios and campaign rules, which were mentioned earlier that evening. I expect the gorgeous figures and seamless combat of Shadowrun Duels will draw in hordes of new WizKids devotees.

Lift Off Playtest Report

Tuesday, November 5th, 2002

Now that we’ve played more Fightball, and sampled this German real-time card game, I think I can safely say that the future of realtime card games looks a lot more like regular card games than it used to. We’re playing enough Fightball that we may be heading for a full review soon, so:

Gnome Tribes Playtest Report

Saturday, September 28th, 2002

So a few weeks ago these two games from Tilsit show up at the store. Most of the Tilsit games I’ve seen are longish strategy games, up to 5 hours in average play time, and many of them hue pretty closely to the conquest mold: you have a big map of territories, you have units that travel across them and kick each other’s asses, et cetera. I’ve been calling this kind of game “Risk-like” just so people know what I’m talking about, although few of them are like Risk. One of the two games I had my eye on was Space Pigs, which actually looks not very Risk-like at all. It looks more like Starfarers or Cosmic Encounter. It does involve hunting for the secret recipe for beer, however, so it might be worth a look. The other was Gnome Tribes – more directly Risk-like, which is what I’m into right now, and cheaper, so it came home with me.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Board Game Playtest Report

Tuesday, September 10th, 2002

It was like seeing God in the Toys R Us. I was just there to kill some time looking at Legos, and really, honestly did not expect to be looking in the games aisle. And there it was. The video game that devoured so very many neurons during the late period of my dot-commery, transmuted into my new medium of choice. And at $20 for a substantially heavy box, I had to go there. Also, they had things you fold up so they’re 3D. I mourn my lost copy of Oh What A Mountain… I still mourn.

MechWarrior Dark Age Playtest Report

Monday, August 26th, 2002

I now own one starter and two boosters of MechWarrior, and have a nice long 300-point game under my belt. With these new developments, I can say with definite confidence that MechWarrior has many more robots than Mage Knight does. Like, at least ten.

Game Of Thrones CCG Playtest Report

Friday, August 16th, 2002

…but I’m not too preoccupied to go down to the store and play a test game between House Lassiter and House Baratheon.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Playtest Report

Wednesday, August 14th, 2002

I got to play this two-player Knizia game (not to be confused with the Sauron expansion to the multiplayer LOTR game) once right after Origins, before it really hit stores, and then extensively last week. It is, right now, my favorite two-player strategy board game. It’s like Stratego for smart people.