Sunday, August 12, 2012


I have owned my copy of Nanofictionary for around 10 years.  In all that time, I never made the time to play it until today.  The reason for this is that the game is very much outside of my usual subject area.  Nanofictionary is not a wargame, or a strategy game, or anything like that.  It is a story-telling game, where each player uses their cards to set up a story.  The only other game in my collection that even comes close to this idea is Once Upon a Time, but there are some significant differences in the way that each game plays.  In One Upon a Time the players are all working on telling the same story, but in Nanofictionary each player is working on their own independent story.

Game play works as such:  each player starts with five cards.  Each turn they draw a card from the draw pile and then either play one card from their hand, or they can discard as many cards as they want and draw enough cards so that they end the turn with five cards in their hand.  The goal is to get at least one Character, Setting, Problem, and Resolution on the table in front of you.  There are also Action cards you can play that let you do special things, like swap cards with another player or take a card from the discard pile, for example.  Bonus points are scored by ending play before other players, and the last player gets two rounds to wrap up their story.  Then, each player tells a short story using the cards in front of them as the primary elements, and the players award victory points to the stories they like the best.

The game plays pretty quick, and provides a mild diversion.  With certain groups of people I can see the game being a lot of fun.  People who are not natural storytellers might have some trouble getting into it, though.  Also, this game is better with more people, and the rules allow for spectators to award bonus points to the stories that they like the best, so this game would even work well at a larger party, as those not directly playing the game can still laugh at the silly stories the players come up with and influence who scores the most points and thus wins the game.  While there is some skill involved in trying to tie all of the story elements provided by the cards into a coherent whole, there is also a fair amount of luck involved in the cards that you get.  Some elements just do not go together well, and someone stuck with such cards will find it almost impossible to win.  Still, a game can be played in as little as 15 minutes, so you can always try your luck again in the next round.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


Zero! is a card game about air combat in the Pacific theater of World War II.  It is the third game in the Down in Flames series, focusing on the early part of the war in the Pacific, generally through 1942.  The game comes with cards for each of the planes in the game, along with a separate 'action deck' of cards that are used by all players to play the game.  As befits a wargame, there are a number of different campaigns that come with the game that you can play (the invasion of the Philippines, the invasion of Burma, the Pearl Harbor attack, the Battle of the Coral Sea, etc.  Each campaign consists of a number of missions with varying objectives, but before I get into that I want to discuss the basics of the game.

The basic scenario is the dogfight, which lasts for six turns (though you can play as long as you want if not playing in a tournament or other official competition).  Dogfights take place between elements of fighter planes.  Each element consists of a lead plane and its wingman.  The lead planes have three basic attributes:  Performance, which indicates the maximum number of cards that player can have in her hand; Bursts, which indicates the standard attack factor of the plane; and Horsepower, which indicates the number of cards you draw at the end of your turn.  There can be other attributes (Agile aircraft, bomb capacity, etc.) but those three are what drives the game.  Wingmen have an Offense and Defense rating, but no separate hand of cards.

At the start of the game, you get a hand of cards equal to your leader's Performance rating.  For example, the P-40C Tomahawk has a Performance of 5, so if you were playing an element of P-40Cs you would draw 5 cards.  The cards either describe attacks, defensive actions, or maneuvers that you can execute during the game.  Every card has an "Attack" and a "Response" box on it.  Items in the attack box indicate actions that you can take when you play the card to take actions on your turn.  For example, an 'In My Sights' card lets you make an attack using a specific number of bursts to do a specific amount of damage to an enemy target.  Your opponent then gets to play cards from her hand that have 'In My Sights' listed in the Response box, like the 'Vertical Roll' card, for example.  On your turn you play as many cards as you can, then you draw cards equal to your Horsepower (though not exceeding your Performance rating in total cards in your hand), and then your opponent does the same.

That all sounds rather dry, I realize, but it is the interplay among cards (especially with multiple players) that makes the game fun.  And there are many additional elements that mix things up.  Your Horsepower rating is affected by altitude, maneuvering behind an enemy gets you extra bursts (required to play the higher damage attack cards), the action deck has two 'Ace Pilot' cards that let you respond to any card played by another player, etc.  The game is quick to learn, but there is a fair amount of strategy to it.

The campaigns add bombers and strategic targets to attack, as well as a scoring system for determining after all missions have been flown who won the campaign.  None of these additional elements is all that complicated, though I do occasionally have trouble keeping all of the different types of bombing straight (level bombing, saturation bombing, dive bombing, torpedo bombing...), and of course they all have their own rules.  The only rules quibble I have with the campaigns is the fact that bombers are worth ridiculous points.  Usually, getting your bombers home undamaged is worth more points than actually destroying your target.  Of course, your opponent can also get lots of points for shooting them out of the sky, so some missions just devolve into the attacker trying to protect his bombers, rather than doing his best to take out the target.  But that is a minor quibble over a good, fun game.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

This Accursed Civil War

I'm back with another random game from my collection (which seems to be all that this blog is about anymore...).  This time it is This Accursed Civil War, the first game in the Musket & Pike series.  Over 3 1/2 years ago I wrote about the third game in the series, Under the Lily Banners, and my general opinion of that game applies here, as well.  Same rules, same game play, etc.  This game, however, deals with the second English Civil War, often referred to as "Royalists vs. Roundheads" when Oliver Cromwell was trying to kick the king to the curb.  Therefore, all of the battles are from that war.  The only noticeable rules difference relates to cavalry.  As I wrote in my earlier review of Under the Lily Banners, cavalry are pretty unpredictable.  Well, in this game, cavalry are just about completely unreliable.  While in other games in this series there is a good chance that your cavalry will run amok, in this game they are almost guaranteed to run amok.  This is supposedly a nod to historical accuracy, but it does make for more chaotic game play as you have to assume that as soon as your cavalry win a battle they are going to merrily chase their opponents all the way into the next county and no longer take part in the present battle.  Annoying.  Still, a good game and the first one in the series I ever played, so I have fond memories of games over the years.  Lots of laughs, as long as you don't take winning and losing too seriously, because you just can't rely on your pesky cavalry.