Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Author: Christian (Page 1 of 25)

Gen Con Bound and Arrival

Gen Con prep this year was a bit time consuming but I was able to get through it before we left on Tuesday. This was the first time we left early but the flight prices were so much cheaper even with an extra hotel night that we decided to come out early.

After a 3 hour flight delay and some hotel hijinks, we got in bed at 3am. Luckily, we had a ton of drink tickets so a double scotch helped move things along.

When we got to the hotel, things were very deja vu as I saw a Waffle House right outside. After trying to convince my friends that we’d been here before, I realized that they weren’t with me last time I stayed here as it was the very first Gen Con I attended 12 years ago.  As nice as the trip down memory lane was, I am very glad that this was just a late night stopover and we will move on to downtown and markedly better accommodations.

This year I’m going to try to keep up with my recaps of the convention during the Con so updates will be coming as I have time.

Catacombs: An Experiment In 3D

Catacombs, the dexterity disc-flicking dungeon crawl game, is easily my favorite dexterity game out there.  I’m a big fan of dexterity games anyway but Catacombs has always struck me as the perfect balance between dexterity game and narrative story.

catacombs box cover from the publisher (on BGG)

I’ve had my 3rd edition copy for awhile now and I got it in my head to take the game layout, which is in a 2D layout with obstacles, to 3D.  This concept is one I’ve explored before but never with Catacombs proper.  With the CNC machine up and running, this gave me the best opportunity to try out some experiments.

One map in particular stood out in particular as the perfect starting point.  The Altar Chamber map (as I call it) looked like a great fit so I took some photos (the board is bigger than my scanner) and uploaded it to Illustrator.  In Illustrator, I traced the central altar piece and converted it to an .svg to import into my CAD program. From there, I tweaked the measurements and created the file for a test milling.

The test print came out very near perfect for the measurements.  The ramp was only roughed in (that’s why it has that stair-stepped look to it) and I plan on smoothing it out on a sander.

I then added the other side to the layout to complete the rough first step.  I sanded the ramps smooth to a sharp point then primed the two pieces dark grey and sealed them.  Finally, I went back to my initial photo image and printed, cut, and mounted it to the two pieces.

The effect came out very well.  The pieces still fit well after the layers of primer and sealant and even though my printer is inferior to the professional board image printers, it still came out well enough to not be distracting.

So the big question is, did it work? Well, no. Mechanically it doesn’t quite do it.  The ramps are about as smooth as I can make them but still catch the discs sometimes and rebounds them backwards.  A big issue is that the Catacombs discs are flat walled cylinders with pretty sharp corners.  This means they catch even the slighted unevenness and bounce back.  Crokinole and Pitch Car discs have bevel or rounded edges to them so it takes a lot of gap in the tiles or ramps to have them bounce bad.

I could bevel the bottom edges of my Catacombs pieces but I think that is overkill.  At the end of the day, I may just ditch the ramp concept altogether and variant a “jump” ability where you use a card as your ramp and flick up that to get to the higher levels of the terrain.  I was already going to introduce that concept for the ranged attacks so it might be easier to add a movement/melee shot option for it is as well.  In any case, I like the look and the feel of the piece and I’m glad to see my CNC performed within the necessary tolerances to produce this piece.

6 x 6 Gaming: Dropzone Commander and Pandemic Legacy

Early last week I got a reminder that a group of us were going to hit Dropzone Commander this past weekend.  I had some units that were still primed from my big priming spree before winter so I decided to blitz through a few and finish them up.

Up first was the new Skulltaker.  This aerial transport is the model for the special commander that first appeared in Reconquest Phase 1.  In Reconquest Phase 2, they made the model a general unit so that you didn’t need to work with the special commander rules (which are usually experimental in nature).  After some errata, the unit was actually playable and so I was happy to finish this one out.

This makes the fourth “Lifthawk” style model I have done and they are looking quite eclectic.  I also have a Hellhog (blue) in the back to round out my aircraft units.

While the Skulltaker is a big beast of a unit with upgraded guns and weapons, its main purpose is to transport psycho berserkers quickly to a key close quarter battle. These berserkers were the next item on my list.

With these quick paints complete, I was able to complete my list and be ready for the game.  I haven’t been keeping up with the Dropzone tournament scene but apparently 1250 points is becoming pretty popular.  We decided to try out that sized game. I went with a pretty balanced list with a good bit of anti-air, infantry, and anti-tank.

We had four players and split into 2 separate games.  I was on the ruined map layout and was going against my friend’s UCM list which featured a heavy load of air units and anti-tank but light on the infantry.

initial setup

The detail on the layout that our host setup was great.  His burned out cars and dead bodies really add to the atmosphere of the scenario.

We decided to play Secure The Flanks scenario and started up, each approaching from our respective corner.

We both settled in on our close objectives, me with my Freeriders and the UCM with their Legionnaires from a Raven A.

I started down the main street lane when the UCM sent a few air units to sweep by.  After a horrible whiff, they all fell to my Gun Wagons.  My front Kraken (missing in the pic above) was caught not far enough behind the building and was lit up by the UCM main force of anti-tank units.  I rolled especially bad and lost 5 of the 6 (red) Gun Technicals.

white primed dropfleet ship subbing in for another condor

The UCM quickly took up position around the right focal point. He had two Gladius, a unit of Sabers, and a unit of Rapiers all defending this spot.  The scatter terrain was really favoring this position since all his unit have articulating turrets to see over the debris.  For whatever reason, my massive Thunderstorm Hover-building with gunship lasers mounted on the top does not have the height or articulated turrets rule so I could never really get line of site on anything and it became a huge waste of points. This seemed pretty ridiculous so for future games we’ll house rule that LOS will measure from the gun mounts.

poor thunderstorm. guns mounted 2+ inches off the ground but can’t fire over a simple rusted out car

Moving on! I decided to centralize my forces in the middle buildings for the middle objective.  Unfortunately, the UCM had came in with their 2 squads and got in the building first.  I sped in with my Skulltaker and shot up the building and flamed it but found that the flame weapon on the Skulltaker (usually a great anti-personnel weapon) is pretty lackluster.  I dropped off my Berserkers and in the ensuing close quarters battle, they wiped out the Legionnaire squad with a 4:1 dice advantage.  Since the UCM had two squads in the building, they only needed to commit one squad to my Berserkers.  The other unit got a lucky roll and found the objective in one turn and was off the map before I could do anything about it.

We both still had our close objectives but his anti-tank and orbital laser-firing commander soon reduced my objective building to rubble. Playing tit-for-tat, I rushed my Barrel Bomber over to his objective building and launched my goliath bomb to knock the building down to 2 hits remaining.  The debris falling killed all but 2 Legionnaire figures.  My next salvo did no more damage and I couldn’t finish off his objective.  His next turn, the Legionnaires got another lucky roll and found the objective on their second try, then got out and left the map again before I could stop them.

Things were looking grim.  I was down 4 VPs to zero and there were no more objectives on the board.  The only way I could win now was to occupy both focal points at the end of the game and make no unit of his could make it within 6 inches, and then also win on kill points.  I had three rounds to defend and eliminate his units.

First, I sent my Cyclone helicopters in to assassinate his commander.

Then I cleared out some entrenched Legionnaires from a building near one of the focal points. This time the flame weapon worked, though this one unit only had 2 guys left.

And finally, I wiped out every last one of the crazy armor 10 tanks from his entrenched focal point.  It was round six and he had one dropship unit left: a Condor carry a single Bear APC with 2 units of Flak squads.  They set up in the building I previously cleaned out (getting them in focal point range) and I sent the Skulltaker back over.

Again the flame weapon did it’s job and wiped out a full flak unit and then I launched a salvo of rockets and heavy machine guns to knock the building down around him to try to finish off that last unit.  All my salvo shots failed and that was the end of the game.

Final score:

UCM: 5 VP  581 kill points

Resistance: 4 VP 1,021 kill points

Definitely an interesting game.  When the objectives were found and removed before the end of round 3, I figured I was out of the game and we could have called it.  I was surprised that it actually remained as close as it did and I almost wiped out his entire army.  I need to rethink my use of the Thunderstorm Hovercraft as it seems to really struggle to do much in a game and can fall very quickly to concentrated anti-tank fire.  Couple that with the need to keep anti-air units around as protection and it becomes a big point sink.


A few weeks back, we also finished up our game of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.  The second half saw us lose a few more game and definitely got a little tougher but we were able to pull through and finish the entire campaign out with the best ending result.

I was happy to see that my character, Bobdoh Johnson, survived the whole campaign and was pretty key to our success.  With two scars, he had a few close calls but my wife bailed me out to keep him around.

I can’t really go into detail (even in the redacted style I did last time) as it starts to spoil too much so I’ll just talk about some final thoughts in general terms.

While I thought the campaign worked very well and I liked where the story went, I didn’t really ever have an incentive to switch characters.  They kept adding new characters throughout the campaign (even in the second to last month) but I felt such history and duty to stay with my character that I felt that was only an option when/if my character died.

In the last few games, I got a particularly nasty scar (the orange stickers on the lower right of the character card).  Initially, we didn’t think it was a problem but then things changed on us and the inability to trade cards ended up being pretty crippling.  Even with that major handicap, I still was loathe to just ditch him and start with someone new.

The other thing that became tiring was the hidden bonus cards that you got to scratch off when you completed certain tasks or won a previous month.  This was novel the first couple of times but soon became a real chore to do and the mess it created was less and less novel.

Other than the lack of a compelling reason to change characters and the lottery scratch off cards, the game was a lot of fun and we’re looking forward to trying out Season 2.

from BGG (taken from the publisher)

New Track for Championship Formula Racing

Even though I’m still a bit distracted with the new Catacombs expansion, I found some time to print out a new board for Championship Formula Racing.

Abu Dhabi was released on the CFR Kickstarter page as a downloadable extra while Jolly Roger Games figures out what to do about the board vs car size issue.   Since I skipped the issue by picking up my own car miniatures, the board is a nice little bonus edition.  Doug Schulz, the main designer behind this CFR renaissance, has a lot of extra boards (and how to make your own) on his site but I don’t think any are print-ready and in the same style as the CFR game.

Printing this was obscenely easy.  I went from getting the file, adjusting the size, sending to printer and picking up finished print all in a Sunday afternoon.

First thing I did is run the board file through Photoshop and cropped a small section out to print at home to test the spacing.   The test was successful and so I checked out Walmart’s photo site online and found the best option they had was a 20 x 30 print size.  I opened up the file again and added to the overall print size to match 20 x 30 and filled in the new space.  I’ve talked about using Walmart awhile back when I made my Thunder Road custom boards and this was no different. Well, a little different as I “splurged” and decided to get the mounted backing print. It’s a $10 difference.  Art board is about $6-$8 so it was worth it to go ahead and have them mount the print.  The total was about $30 and I found out when I went to pick up the print that there was a smaller option not listed on their website that would have required no extra space for cheaper.  Ah well. I’m still happy with the results.

As you can see, the Abu Dhabi board is a little bigger than the standard boards.  Luckily the box has enough room to fit a 20 x 30 tri-fold board (down to 10 x 10) so I’m not worried.

The print quality of the file is great and very legible.

It would be great to see Jolly Roger Games release more of Doug’s tracks but this extra one will help for now.  It looks like a lot of fun with the long straights and all the lane-ending S-curves.

Catacombs: Wyverns of Wylemuir Preview

I got a nice surprise in the mail the other day, an advanced copy of the next Catacombs expansion, Wyverns of Wylemuir.  I helped Elzra Games proofread the manual and components and as a fantastic thank you gesture, they sent me my copy early. This is a full expansion similar to Cavern of Soloth so you need the base game to play it.  I believe there are a couple of other copies floating around as it was available to purchase at Dice Tower Con.

This cover is my favorite box cover of the whole line.  I like how Kwanchai is continuing with the circle motif of the series and the inner picture is dramatic and compelling.

Because there is a brand new board in the box, it came out in the same large footprint size as the base game.

Elzra Games is learning from some of the challenges of their previous offerings and have included a box insert to keep the wood pieces from crashing around too much. I know a lot of people hate box inserts but these games can really use it for care during shipping if nothing else.  A little side note for those that pick this game up later, the new board is under the box insert.

Now that we have everything open, lets look at the contents:

  • 1 double-sided game board
  • 2 Heroes
  • 2 Catacomb Heroes (used in the Catacombs & Castles set)
  • 8 Wyverns
  • 2 Catacomb Lords
  • 5 Monster Groups
  • 11 Room Cards
  • 5 Items
  • 2 Catacombs & Castles Catacomb Warriors
  • 4 Attack Templates

In terms of raw extra content, it’s not quite as heavy as the Caverns of Soloth expansion but it makes up for it in the brand new content like the Wyverns and Attack Templates as well as adding a new game double-sided game board to the mix.

Here we have the stars of the expansion, the new Wyverns.  Elzra Games did a clever thing here where there are eight unique Wyverns and two copies of each so that both the Hero and the Catacomb sides can each run the same Wyvern if they want. Each disc has another Wyvern on the other side.

A sample of some of the new monsters.   Most of the monsters employ the new Attack Templates, which I’ll get into later in the post.

Two new Catacomb Lords and two new Heroes. One thing that both the Heroes and Catacomb Lords have in common is they all get to start the game with their own Wyvern.

Two new board layouts (double-sided), each detailing a great new outdoor scene.

Another nice addition is some of the promo cards that have been released at conventions. Elzra Games has moved away from a strictly exclusive model for promos and Kickstarter items and here we see some of the results of these releases like the Shadowlithe Fist ability for the Thief and the Teleport Chicken ability for the Chicken Hero. Adding to the group are two new template-centric options, one ability for the Skeleton Hero and the other is an item that the Dwarf Miner can start with.  Both are really interesting options for these lower tier heroes, especially the Dwarf Miner’s Rune Axe as it is a permanent item that allows him to use the ability all the time.  Quite a boon for a hero I put at the back of the pack in my strategy guides.

Here we have an example of Hyba, one of the new heroes, riding one of the Wyverns, the Wylamander.  The card abilities for the Wyverns are divided into three sections starting with the upper left ability section.  This section is the same for all the Wyverns in that it allows the hero to perform a melee shot with the Wyvern followed by the new “Wyvern Strike” shot.  The Wyvern Strike acts like a Rush shot but if you strike an opponent disc, you gain a Wyvern Claw token.  These tokens can later be spent to activate one of the other Wyvern abilities.  In the example above, Hyba spent one claw to use the Wylamander’s second ability, placing the ring template and hitting two Succubus monsters.

Later in the game, Hyba has earned more Wyvern Claws and spends them on the Wylamander’s third ability, using the spread template to hit more Succubus monsters.

In this last example, we look at one of the coolest items, the Wyvern Familiar.  This little guy looks like a ton of fun as he’s permanent, like all familiars, but if you look at his life, he has “-” like Antients and the new Wyverns which means he is invulnerable to damage.  An unkillable familiar seems very interesting but his only way to deal damage is through the short template.  This will make for a very challenging attack as you will want to get close to a monster to use the short template but with a bit of finesse since if you hit too hard, you risk knocking your target out of range.

As is likely no surprise, I’m really excited about this expansion and all the new options it brings.  The template powers bring a bit more finesse to the game as power flicking discs will generally be less effective than subtle shots that put you in perfect template range.

I’m not sure when this expansion hits the full release or Kickstarter but Elzra Games is currently running a quick Kickstarter Campaign for another game in the Catacombs series, Catacombs Conquest.  Conquest is a light, quick, card-driven version of the game meant for new players and quick, open-table play.

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