Thursday, June 27, 2013

Product Announcement

June 27, 2013
St. Louis, MO, USA

Subject: Product announcement - new version of Aaron W. Thorne product now available

Today, Thorne Industries is happy to announce the release of version 39 of our popular product, Aaron W. Thorne.  First released in 1974, the early model had a lot of promise and potential, but also some bugs and glitches that have been resolved over the years through various updates, patches, and behavioral modifications.  With the release of version 39, Thorne Industries is proud to declare that the product is now technically complete from an engineering standpoint, and we do not anticipate the need for further new versions in the future.  The world never stops moving, of course, and neither do we, so we do plan to  develop and release periodic bug fixes for the product, most likely on an annual basis for ease of scheduling.  Thus, in roughly a year's time we anticipate the release of version 39.0.1 of Aaron W. Thorne.  We at Thorne Industries trust that our valued customers will join us in celebration of this new version release and we look forward, as always, to working with you to solve the problems of tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Battle for Moscow

The next random game from my collection is Battle for Moscow.  This game has had a couple editions, being first published in 1986 by GDW and republished in 2009 by Victory Point Games.  In fact, the version that I have is an alternate printing of the 2009 version that was a free insert in issue 25 of C3I magazine in 2011.  The game is a pretty traditional "hex and counter" game, where the counters indicate the combat and movement capability of the unit, as well as its type (armor vs. infantry).  Combat is handled in the time honored fashion of totaling combat power of the attackers, comparing it to combat power of the defending unit, turning that into a numerical ratio, rolling a six-sided die, and then cross referencing the number rolled to the ratio on the Combat Results Table to determine what the outcome is.  I have literally dozens of games that use mechanics like this, so this game took almost no time for me to learn, nor will it take hardly any time at all for anyone with wargaming experience.

The game itself is more interesting than I thought it would be.  It depicts the German drive on Moscow in late 1941.  The German player must sieze Moscow to win.  Of course, it starts on the opposite side of the board at the beginning of the game, so the Germans have to get across the board and sieze it within seven turns, which is how long the game plays.  The Germans start with their army at full strength, while the Russian forces are all at reduced strength.  However, the Russians build up their forces rapidly, so the Germans need to do as much damage as fast as possible, and cover ground quickly.  Turns 3 and 4 are "mud" turns, signifying the bad weather that occurred in real history, and German capability is greatly reduced during those turns, making things quite tight.

My favorite thing about this game is that the two sides play very differently.  The German side has better units, and they all start at full strength.  German panzers can also move twice in one turn, which is very nice, though not easy to take full advantage of.  The Russian side starts with lousy units, but you can lose a whole bunch of units and you still win as long as you eventually strengthen your lines and keep the Germans from taking Moscow.  This is greatly aided by the fact that the Russians can move by rail, which is the only way to move quickly during the "mud" turns.    You don't have to destroy the Germans, you just have to slow them down.

Because of the small size of the game (roughly 40 counters in total, and the map fits on an 11 x 17 sheet of paper), and the fact that it has only four pages of rules, this is a nice game to quickly teach to others.  It also plays pretty fast.  Because of this, even though it isn't a really innovative game these days, it still has a place in my collection.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Warhammer Quest on iPad

Warhammer Quest is one of my favorite board games of all time.  It is set in the world of the Warhammer talbetop miniatures game, and is essentially a combination of board game and roleplaying game, though leaning more towards the board game end of the spectrum.  Up to four players take on the role of a character, and go into a subterranean tunnel complex to complete quests and kill monsters.  The game is quite random, with many things being determined through the drawing of cards, and some things being handled through dice rolls.  The game can be frustrating when the random fates decide it is not your day, but I have always really enjoyed it.

Recently an iPad version of the game was released.  I have been playing it quite a bit over the last couple weeks, and for the most part I like it.  It matches pretty closely to the original game, but there are some fairly obvious differences.  Primarily, the iPad game is too easy.  I am not sure why this is, but when you play the boardgame your characters die.  All the time.  In the iPad game you have to be pretty stupid to have a character die.  In the board game, you could either make melee or missile attacks, but not both.  In the iPad game, you can wade in the middle of five orcs, stab two of them, and then fire arrows across the board at other orcs.  It makes the characters really overpowered.  Also, the original game has all sorts of horrible random peril happen to you while you wander the countryside between adventures.  In the iPad game hardly anything ever happens to you.  It is just too kind.  Yet more evidence that America is becoming a country of wusses, I guess.

So, I like the iPad game, but it isn't mean enough.  Games should be challenging, at least, and this one is just a walk in the park.  I do like the themed quests, though.  Those are a nice touch.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Zombie in my Pocket

Zombie in my Pocket is actually two different games.  First, there was this game, a free "print-n-play" title distributed over the internet.  This version of the game was a solitaire game, where one player plays against the system.  It was called 'Zombie in my Pocket' because the idea was that the components would be small and you could literally place all of the game components in your pocket, a small tin, etc.  I have never played that game.  The game that I have is this one, published by Cambridge Games Factory.  It is supposed to be basically the same thing, but the rules have been modified to allow up to 8 people to play the game at the same time.  That is interesting, because while everyone is on the same team, playing against the board, it is entirely possible for some of the players to lose, while others win.

The setup is that all of the players are stuck at a house somewhere, and the zombies are coming.  it is 9PM, and if it gets to midnight without them having found the evil idol and purged it with the right ritual then the world is overcome with evil zombies and everyone loses.  On each player's turn, they become the "leader" of the pack, and moves around the house.  Everyone is always in the same place, but the decision on where to go next rotates around the board.  On your turn you can either stay where you are and gain health (but you burn a card from the deck), you move to an adjacent tile and then draw an event card (which usually, but not always, means zombies show up), or you can do the special action of the room you are in (if there is one to perform).

The game board is made up of a series of tiles.  At the beginning there is just one tile, and you have to explore to find other tiles.  This is important because you have to find the evil idol, get outside, and then find the graveyard to win the game.  When you do explore, you turn over an event card.  This is important because the event deck (which isn't very big) is the game timer.  Once you go through it three times you lose.  Moving around the board uses cards, but so does staying where you are, so it is a race and every turn the player in charge has to decide what is best to do.

Fighting zombies is actually pretty clever.  Everyone has two decisions card that say FIGHT or FLEE.  When zombies show up, each player decides on their own whether to fight or flee.  If everyone in the group decides to flee, then everyone loses a health point and you have to vacate the room.  If anyone fights, all of the players who fled gain a health point.  Those who fight total up their combat scores against the number of zombies (which increases the more players you have), and if the players equal or beat the zombie total they win, otherwise the difference has to be taken as health point loss by the fighters.  It is even possible that all of the fighters die, but as long as somebody fled the game continues.  This is how you can end up with some losers in the game, even though everyone is supposedly on the same team.

And that is the real meat of the game, the decisions.  Do we move to a new tile, or stay where we are?  Do we fight, or do we flee?  Maybe one person is really injured and they can flee while the others fight, but don't trust your friends too much, or you might find you are facing a horde of zombies by yourself while your friends laugh at you.  Trust me, this is the voice of bitter experience, your friends will stab you in the back just to laugh at you in this game.  Or, at least, my friends will.

So why do I have this game in my collection?  I picked it up last year on a lark when I saw it in my local game store.  I don't care for a lot of the art, and I don't find it to be that good of a solitaire game, but it can be fun with the right crowd, and I don't have many games that play fast and work with up to eight players, so it has its uses.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Rivets is the next random game from my collection.  It is an old game, from 1977, that purports to show warfare between two "armies" of robot war machines.  See, the people have all died in all the wars over the last few decades, but nobody bothered to tell the machines, who just keep slugging it out forever, I guess.

The game rules are actually pretty similar to the game Ogre, with each combat unit being rated for combat strength and movement.  The differentiating factor in Rivets is that most of the combat units are stupid.  In fact, for most of them, you have to program them at the beginning of the scenario to only attack one type of enemy unit.  Then, during the game, they can only attack that type of enemy unit.  If they kill all of those types of units, and you want them to attack something else, you have to bring them all back to your 'factory base' and reprogram them to attack another type of unit.  Does that sound annoying to you?  That would be because it IS annoying.  I think it is supposed to be funny that you have these units rolling around the play map trying to get to the units they are supposed to attack, but it just feels stupid to me.  Not a game I plan to ever play again.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Ogre Scenario Book

Back in 2009 I wrote about one of my favorite boardgames, Ogre.  The next selection from my game collection is an expansion for that game, the Ogre Scenario Book.  (I know it says "book 1" on the cover, but there was never a book 2.)  This book was published back in 2001 and provides seven new scenarios for Ogre and its companion game, G.E.V.  The scenarios are pretty good, and provide a range of situations, from reversing the standard Ogre scenario (such that the command post "defenders" are ambushing the Ogre), having two groups of units on each side of a pass with a rogue Ogre in the middle that doesn't want to let either group through to attack the other.  If you like to play Ogre, then this is a nice book to have.  It cost me $6, so it didn't set me back much when I got it, and it adds some good variety to the Ogre game, so it is worth having.