Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Tag: ares games

Gen Con 50 Recap Day 1

Thursday opened the Con with its typical crush of attendees all vying for position at the main entrances.

While I didn’t really notice a difference in attendance on Wednesday, I surely felt it Thursday. Gen Con personnel did a good job of keeping things safe and moving so even with the larger crowds, the transition into the exhibition hall was smooth and quick.

Inside, I had a goal of grabbing the new dexterity game Flip Ships (art by my favorite game artist Kwanchai Moriya).  Unfortunately, Renegade Studios also announced a new game in the Clank! line so their booth was packed. With the aid of a friendly attendee couple, we found a way through the disorganized chaos of that booth and paid for our haul and got out of there.

I had about 30 minutes before my first event so I made my way to the Hawk Wargames booth to chat about the new Dropzone 2.0 rules.  I was not disappointed as the demoers were pretty knowledgeable, being avid fans of the original game. I have a summary of the 2.0 rules here. Please note that these rules were what I heard/understood and are subject to change.

Soon after, I was off to my first event of the Con: an X-wing variant “The Heroes of the Alturi Cluster.”  This variant automates the Imperial ships and turns the overarching flow of the game into a full co-op with all players (up to 6) piloting one ship.

I chose a B-wing to pilot and we were off to stop a group of Imperial interceptors from attacking a Rebel transport.  The system worked out very well and I plan on printing out the campaign for our group.

The system allows for pilots to gain experience and buy upgrades and skill so it also contains some light advancement rules.  Very fun and I can’t wait to get a group together to play through it.

The event ended a little earlier so I snagged a quick lunch and jumped back into the dealer hall to scout out some games that were on my demo list.  I went to the Ares Games booth to see about Hunt for the Ring but they didn’t have anything except some minis in a case (lame).

Next, it was over to Flying Frog Productions to see about their new 10th Anniversary Edition of Last Night on Earth.

The new bits look good but are a little cheap.  The new heroes sound fun and if they offered an upgrade pack for the fans that helped get them to 10 years, I’d be in but forcing me to rebuy all the content I already have gets a big “no thanks.”   From talking with the guys at the booth, they sound like they want to do the same thing for A Touch of Evil.  If that is the case and they won’t also release an upgrade pack, I can just scratch that publisher off the list of ones to ever check out again.

I popped over to the Catalyst booth with little hope for info on some of The Duke expansions that have sat around on pre-order for almost a year now.  Catalyst, as expected, was too busy dealing with their big Gen Con release, Dragonfire, to have info on those expansions but lo! What was this??

In their display case, a new Duke core set was shown (with some uninspiring art).  I went in search for more answers and it sounds like they are hoping to have this through in a year (don’t hold your breathe with this publisher).  After that, they want to work on a Feudal Japanese themed version.  That really isn’t news as they’ve been dangling that carrot in from of The Duke fans for years now.  In any case, it was surprising to see a new edition in the works with some new and out of print bits included.

So you may ask, ‘why does Catalyst get a free pass with a version re-issue and Flying Frog doesn’t?’ and it is simple economics.   I have a lot of Last Night on Earth and having another copy of all those components will be pretty useless.  Another copy of The Duke, however, can be used in a travel version I’m making and includes the OOP Arthurian Legends expansion that is impossible to find for anything but insane price points.  Also the price for this new Duke set will likely be on par with the original unlike the 10th anniversary Last Night on Earth set which is retailing for $100.

At this point, it was time to head over to my next event, A Song of Ice and Fire Miniatures Game.

This is CMON Limited’s new tabletop miniatures game that just finished wrapping up on Kickstarter. I’m really not sure what to think of what CMON was doing with this product.  They ended the Kickstarter campaign right before Gen Con, missing an opportunity to show the game off to a lot of people and gain more backers and base support.  I did back the campaign but wanted to try it out before I committed to any more in their eventual pledge manager.  Luckily, I was able to get into a demo and get some hands on experience.

I’d read the work-in-progress rules posted to the campaign so I was pretty familiar with the basics but it’s always better to see the game in action.  Unfortunately, CMON overreached on this whole product and didn’t have enough production copies on hand to run the full event that was listed in the program.  Instead of a full game, they only had enough models to play two units vs two units.  Some demo is better than no demo and they compensated us for the change in event layout with the remainder of the San Diego Comic Con exclusive promo.

That is a nice little bonus. It was unfortunate that I wouldn’t get to try out a full game but planning for this event has to happen months in advance and if any little issue comes up, it can cause things like this to happen.

Back to the demo at hand.  It was good to see and feel how the units work and interact but we hit another snag in trying to learn this game as the person running the demo (a volunteer for CMON) had zero experience with any tabletop game and it seemed like a passing understanding of the game he was demoing.  I would like to say that we just got unlucky but I had other friends demo this at the CMON booth later and they had the same experience.  It also didn’t help that, as a “feature,” CMON hired a live violinist to play Game of Thrones themes with amps pointed directly at the play tables. Not the best idea for your demoers to shout the rules at you over live music.  The musician was good but it was just another misstep in a series of missteps for this products first debut at the biggest gaming Con in North America.  I asked for them to turn it down or turn the speakers to point somewhere else but was told they couldn’t.

In the actual demo, after wading through a lot of missing rules, misunderstandings and incompetent instruction, we played a “game” with me running the Starks and my friend taking the Lannisters.  Whatever game we ended up playing was interesting but I have zero confidence that I actually played the game listed on the box.  I was able to surround Jaime Lannister’s unit and beat the hell out of him but I can’t claim that it was due to any strategic prowess on my part. Rather, it was due more to the fact that the demoer would let my friend know what he could have done instead, usually using a rule never explained or mentioned.

The miniatures are great and there seems to be an interesting game on that table if I cobble the basic experience I had playing with the physical models and combine it with the beta rulebook posted but I can’t say if I’m really going to go in on this game as there is too much unknown at this point.  I was glad to see some of the unit stats got revised between the start of the KS campaign and the demo as it looked a little unbalanced with the few units they showed so far. Things didn’t go as swingy as I thought but again, who knows what game I was actually playing.  I tried to get clarification from the person running the demo group but all I got was that some of the rules were modified to fit the extremely small game we played as a demo. Ah well.  At least the minis look cool. Maybe I’ll pick it up and pillage it for Kings of War.

While at the display case, I also checked out their next Kickstarter, Hate. I have no info on this game but the resin miniatures were fantastic looking.

Moving on from the debacle that was Song of Ice and Fire, I had a few more minutes to check out the hall before it closed and remembered that I saw some little teaser about some interesting 15mm miniature game coming out called Time of Legends: Joan of Arc. The company was new so it got shunted into the very corner of the exhibition hall so I trekked over and saw a pretty amazing scene.

My jaw dropped when I saw that display case.  I didn’t have time to really check it out but I immediately cancelled my first event on Friday to make sure that as soon as the dealer hall opened, I would bee-line to this booth and drop in for a demo to see if it played as cool as it looked.

With the dealer hall closing, we headed out to dinner and then hit the They Might Be Giants concert.

I’d always wanted to see this group live and they were ok but I think it had just been too long since I listened to them and that style of music just isn’t as interesting anymore.

We left the concert before the encore and headed to the BGG Hot Game room.  The game room didn’t seem as well stocked as last year or maybe the offerings were just weaker but we got in a good intro game to Flamme Rouge.

Flamme Rouge is a racing game with a customized track.  You move by playing cards from your two rider decks.  Each player has the same decks but you’ll be adding low “exhaustion” cards to your deck if you stay out in the lead.

By mid-game, I’d broken away from the pack and we all left our friend Colton (black riders) in the dust.  I figured my lead rider would burn out and my second rider to coast in using the blue riders as his wind shield. But apparently Colton had other plans and was just biding his time.  We got all bunched up on a hill and then Colton started subtly making his move.

and then used his sprinter to blast ahead right at the very end, narrowly winning the race.  The game was shocking and quite fun.  I’d definitely play it again but still feel like CFR delivers the better racing game.

We finished out the evening and day 1 with Kingdomino, the Spiel des Jahres winner.  I’m not sure what happened but I totally misheard the rules and played totally wrong, losing horribly.  This was surprising because the game is really simple.  I guess I was more tired than I thought or had a little too much bourbon during Flamme Rouge…

Showcase: Last Night on Earth/Invasion from Outer Space

One of the first board games I really got into was Flying Frog Production’s Last Night on Earth zombie horror game.  The game first hit the shelves in 2007 and I picked it up right away due to its unique art style using edited studio photography in place of the more common painted or illustrated art of other games.

image from bgg, publisher

The game play itself was pretty unique to me as well.  This game didn’t set players against each other or co-operatively against the board game itself, it had a player play as the zombies trying to defeat the heroes.  This one-vs-many approach was pretty common in dungeon-delving games like Heroquest and Descent but it was novel in the zombie game genre- a genre, I’d like to point out, was not anywhere near as populated as what we see today.  If you check out that Boardgamegeek geeklist of zombie games, you’ll notice most of the entries are after Last Night on Earth came out. Essentially if you wanted a zombie game back then, you were either doing the All Things Zombie miniatures rules, something by Twilight Creations, or little unknown one-off games from small publishers.

In my narrow view (and increasingly narrower) view of the board game hobby, Last Night on Earth’s hit release was at the beginning of the wave or possibly the catalyst for wave of zombies games that came after its release.

So with this game, I loved everything about it: the storytelling, the art, and the mechanics, but I wanted more. As I wrote about in one of my first posts years ago, this game really got me into painting and pimping out games, starting with painting the minis.

These were some of the first minis I ever painted and the original painting thread on Boardgamegeek was the inspiration.  Looking back at what I’ve done since then, it’s hard not to understate how important that one article was to my enjoyment of this hobby.

Flying Frog saw a lot of success from Last Night on Earth and was able launch their game company from it, spawning several expansions and ultimately branching out into other game systems.  In 2010, Flying Frog returned to the Last Night on Earth system and created a ballsy new edition: Invasion from Outer Space.

Aliens invading the setting of Last Night’s Woodvale was not that far fetched but Flying Frog decided to take on a crazy twist to the story by adding a carnival setting complete with tutu-wearing dancing bear.

The reaction to this adventurous take was pretty mixed.  I loved the wacky theme and new territory Flying frog was breaking into but the public seemed to not care for such a whimsical approach.

The heroes were more developed, more interesting, and more fun to paint, but I think it confused buyers looking for a more serious approach to the game system. In their defense, Flying Frog added rules to use the heroes from Last Night on Earth in the game in case you wanted to leave the crazy carnies out of it.  This mix was not enough and ultimately Flying Frog never returned to the game.

Abandoning the title was pretty sad as the aliens and mechanics around them were great and I really wanted to see more on the Carnival adventure.

One little pimp I did to the game outside of just painting the minis was adding these flying saucer miniatures taken from Monsterpocalypse by Privateer Press.  These markers represent the flying saucers flying overhead, warping more aliens down to the planet and causing havoc.

Ultimately, I still love the setting and both games but I was sad they never expanded Invasion from Outer Space.  Luckily, they haven’t abandoned everything and still produce Last Night on Earth content (though it has been quiet until very recently).

from ICv2, publisher

At GAMA, Flying Frog announced they are doing a 10th anniversary release of Last Night on Earth for 2017. From the ICv2 article:

Last Night on Earth 10th Anniversary Edition, which will be produced as a deluxe limited version of the game.  This boxed set will include eight heroes, including new playable versions of the original Townsfolk, along with a plastic Old Truck model, plastic pieces for several of the game markers, new scenarios, and an updated and expanded rulebook that includes rules for fire and the experience system introduced in the Timber Peak expansion.  MSRP is $99.95.

While I’m glad Flying Frog is back in the Last Night on Earth game setting, this product seems more like what new players should pick up as the hardcore fans likely already have the Timber Peak expansion and don’t need to rebuy all of that other material.  This is a little unfortunate as these same hardcore players helped keep the game alive and would likely want a lot of the special plastic pieces and new versions of the townsfolk.

Maybe Flying Frog will look at making a separate “upgrade” kit for original owns similar to what Ares Games did for fans of their War of the Ring Anniversary Release.

War of the Ring Anniversary Edition

As I teased at the end of my post last week, my copy of War of the Ring (second edition) Anniversary Release from Ares Games arrived.  I finally got a chance to check it out and it is, in a word, glorious.

With a foot print of nearly 16″ x 20″ and over 6″ tall, this box is massive. The only box that comes to mind that might be bigger is the OGRE Kickstarter.

The box itself has some nice features. The art is classic and well done and the sides and bottom are all done in black fabric.

Underneath the sturdy top box lies a full fabric wrapped case with magnetic latches and metallic lettering and art. As a little side note, the fabric wrapped boxes removes the silly “box fart” that most larger board game boxes encounter. This box can swing in event the most sophisticated parties.

Opening the inner case reveals layered trays to hold all the components.  Each tray is divided by a thick art piece that features some great John Howe art and, on the reverse, a guide to putting all the miniatures back in their tray.

Speaking of miniatures, the main draw for this anniversary release was the pre-painted miniatures.  These miniatures turned out pretty good for pre-painted but not near the quality of Rackham’s AT-43/Confrontation line or Fantasy Flight’s X-wing.  Even the venerable Heroscape might be better in the pre-painted department.  I think it the lack of a good wash and the painting attempt was emphasizing multiple painting steps and color options over letting a good wash bring out those details.  (click on any of the above images for more detail)

You can see from these close ups of some of the random samplings of figures that, in general, the painting is fine.  Some models are easier to paint or lend themselves to this style while others are a little harder to pull of or show what can happen with an assembly line-style painting process.  Poor Gimli lost half his face up there with a paint mishap.

After the minis, we get to the print material of the set.  Namely, the player cheat sheets, the opaque bag, the slipcase of the rulebook and companion book and the massive playing board. That board takes up almost my entire 3.5′ x 4.5′ game table. The hardback rule and companion books are very well done and bound stylishly as well.  I will likely keep these out of the case for casual reading.

A nice little touch to the game board is the foil stamping of the Mount Doom area. It’s hard to see in the image but in person, it stands out.

And of course, the whole thing comes with an authenticity letter claiming my copy is 1 of 2000 printed.  Actually number 87 according to the sheet.

I wouldn’t be a game pimper if I didn’t try to pimp even the most pre-pimped game in my collection.  I made this alternative bag for the “hunt tiles” a while ago for my original second edition.  While the Anniversary Release’s bag is nice, I will probably keep using my original bag.

Last but not least, I also picked up a hand-made, painted custom mount doom for my original version some years ago.  It’s nice see that it fits well on this large game board as well.

Big Pimpin’

One thing that has fascinated me in board games is the concept of taking a standard game and blowing the whole thing out to a larger size.  These “super-sized” or “Giant/Mega” versions of games are usually seen at game conventions or public spaces. I suspect this is mostly due to the cost involved in creating giant versions of the game and the space needed to play/store it but it also creates a spectacle and attracts a lot of attention.

It’s the spectacle that drives us to make giant versions of these games. It’s this unique aspect of play that engages the players and the audience in a way that takes something very familiar and maybe even boring and makes it into a memorable experience. For me, playing a giant version of the game brings me back to a child-like state where the pieces barely fit in my hands.  My movements are awkward and clumsy and I become fully immersed in the game itself.  It occupies a wide field of my vision and I am in the game as completely as I can ever be.

Giant games are also more engaging for an audience since the playing pieces and board components are large enough to see the game progress from a comfortable distance away.  The audience almost becomes the parent, watching their children at play.  The event takes on amusement as the audience watches these “children” play, even when that “child” might be your own father or an old friend.

All these thoughts were going through my head when I decided to try to make my own giant version of a game.  I had a dream to make a giant version of Fantasy Flight’s X-wing miniatures game but the cost to acquire large versions of the models prevented it from going anywhere. I still would like to try it some day as I’ve seen WizKids’ Star Trek Attack Wing in giant form and it looks great.

Giant Attack Wing

I was able to buy an old copy of Milton Bradley’s Broadsides and Boarding Parties from a friend and soon after, Ares Games released an Age of Sail miniatures game, Sails of Glory. This game utilized a lot of the movement rules of their famous World War I bi-plane dogfighting game, Wings of Glory.  I’d known that system well and with the Broadsides game in hand knew I had a good opportunity to make my own giant game.

Giant Sails of Glory

I’ll feature the full giant-sizing process for Sails of Glory in a Showcase but the experiences playing and seeing giant versions of games at conventions inspired me to strike out and make my own giant game.

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