Tuesday, May 26, 2015

X-Wing: When All Else Tries, Fail Fail Again (1 of 2)


I'll be the first to admit that my... somewhat unorthodox approach to squad building in X-Wing doesn't always pay dividends. I spend too much on whiz-bang gadgets, end up with too few ships on the table... and then the swarm-stomp eats my lunch. I am too enamored with those shiny Mangler Cannons, and Proton Missiles, and Engine Upgrades, and Elite Skills, and, and, and...

The most logical (read: boring) outcome would be that I use those losses as a teaching moment, and change my tactics.

Never happens.

If ever I am close to revisiting my tactics, the five year old in me drags it's grape-jelly-slathered angsty self to the forefront of my conscience, stomps its dirty foot, and steadfastly insists I keep hitting myself in the head with the hammer... because the next time will be different. I never learn, and it never is.

Except... when it works...

Rewind the clock to about a month ago. Maniacal laughter echoed throughout the house as I exuberantly sprained my arm patting myself on the back. I had undoubtedly cobbled together The Scum List To End All Scum Lists (TSLTEASL). Came up with a sooper-slick moniker for this I-WIN button... "Mangled Crow". How cool is that?! No need to be a gracious loser this time... no sir! I would sustain myself on the tears...

Whatever. You get the point.

PS7 Palob would front this merry band of sure-fire-thing; dealing scorching death death from range 3 and stacking Focus so high I wouldn't be able to see my opponent across the table. His backup singers, the Three Sisters of the Critpocalypse, would make short work of pesky low-PS Tie Fighters with their Manglers... gleefully shredding cockpits and setting fires as they flit about the board like angry crit-slinging wasps.

At least... that was the plan...

Secure in the knowledge that the world was simply not prepared for my level of genius, I anxiously awaited the scheduled arrival of my prey... ahem, my worthy opponent.

Then, it happened...

The rotten no-good, double-dealing, floor-flushing such-and-such rails against my meticulously constructed plan for cosmic domination. Instead of the expected Tie Swarm variant, jerk drops a PS8 Decimator on the table, with Expose and a Mercenary Copilot in the passenger seat. Thus ensuring any defeat was as humiliating as possible. I think Kir Kanos and a couple of Academy Pilots may have been thrown in there for good measure. Not sure, as I was too fixated on that stupid Decimator to really notice.

In case you haven't caught on at this juncture... this is not the part that works. Not even close. To be fair, Mangled Crow is not a bad list. I fully believe it would have performed, had I not suffered from an acute case of cranial-rectal inversion for the entirety of the game. I won't relay the blow-by-blow, as it is too painful and too recent for me to confront. Suffice to say; mistakes were made. I ran the Three Sisters way too close and spent the first three rounds playing bumper-car conga line with them... leaving them unable to perform even the simplest of action. However, the pinnacle of idiocy that day... the true Pièce de résistance of ineptitude, was the number of times I did not fire the Manglers.

See... Palob needs to blow a Focus to fire that Blaster Turret. I was so focused (heh) on keeping Palob alive that I deluded myself into believing that the same held true for the Manglers. As The Sisters had no Focus (or anything else action-related) for half the game... they were relegated to a 2-dice attack. Right?

Wrong. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Inevitable result is inevitable. I lost. Soundly.

The image of a gloating Decimator was seared into my brain, framed in the burning wreckage of what was once TSLTEASL. I vowed at that dark moment I would accommodate neither sleep nor sustenance until the glorious day I see it fall (not strictly true... I've slept and eaten plenty since then).

From that ignoble defeat, came the spark that would become TLTAW... The List That Actually Works. However, as this post is already well past wall-of-text, TLTAW will have to wait until the sequel: Part II, This Time It's Again.

To be continued...

Dumb Name, Great Game


My interest in standard board games is strictly hit-or-miss. And, as a general rule; movies, games, or books of the classic horror genre which don't have at least a sprinkling of scifi elements don't get my propeller spinning. So when a friend showed up at the house for a regular X-Wing session with Betrayal at the House on the Hill tucked neatly under his arm... I was less than enthusiastic. As 50% of the other members of my household are unappreciative of war-gaming, and in the interest of crossing off from the to-do list the obligatory "do something with the family this weekend", I accepted my fate of abject boredom and dejectedly settled in at the kitchen table.

Wrong is wrong... and I was indeed that.

Outside of the weird title, which still feels to me like a bunch of words strewn together for effect, I can find absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to this board game. As I have elevated nit-picking and complaining to an arcane art form, that's saying something. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I immediately placed an order on Amazon for a personal copy.

BatHotH (looks even dumber as a acronym... lets just call it "Betrayal" from here on out) is a Wizards of the Coast offering touted as a "fun and suspenseful game" which "is a new experience almost every time you play". Recommended age is 12+, and the game is designed to be played with 3-6 players. You could probably make it work with a two-player session, but the experience would be diminished for the good-guy side as it would be extremely rough going. The 'why' of that last bit is explained below.

At first glance Betrayal appears to be a standard build-as-you-explore format. Player characters advance through the square grid'd map and tiles are randomly drawn as the player moves through a door or up/down a staircase to reveal the 'room' beyond. As the room card is revealed, a symbol printed on the room tile corresponds to one of three specific piles of randomized cards and indicates whether the player has discovered an item, unleashed a random creepy (and generally highly detrimental) event, or unearthed an 'omen' and accelerated the encroachment of the "haunt". It is the "haunt" mechanic that makes this game stand out.

While I won't go into the minutia of the game mechanics, suffice to say the players want to hold off the haunt as long as possible while gathering items and powers will assist them once all hell breaks loose. The more 'omens' that are on the table, the better the chance (its a die roll) that the haunt begins and the players are up against it.

Here's the hook: there's a traitor in the player's midst, and no one playing has any idea who that malcontent is until the haunt begins. Not even the soon-to-be traitor themselves. So while the first portion of the game is 100% cooperative, there is an overarching air of suspicion and tension... however unjust. Once the haunt finally drops, players reference an easy-to-read table based on the name of the room where the last omen was drawn, the player who drew it, and a small number of other factors. This provides a 1-100 result which corresponds to a page number in the included "DO NOT READ" scenario booklet. It is at this point that that traitor's identity is revealed (much to everyone's surprise) and the vs. phase of the game begins, with the traitor on the side of the house/monsters.

The end result is 100 separate potential scenarios involving anything from werewolves to carnivorous creeping vine plants to vengeful soul-sucking poltergeists. The good guy players receive one set of secret instructions/goals, the traitor receives a differing set of secret instructions/goals, and the information is not shared between the two. The traitor knows that the players are up to something which could defeat the monster(s), but not exactly what that 'something' is... and vice versa. The game is won once one side is, erm... well... dead.

This all translates into 2-5 players on the side of good (more akin to "survive") versus 1 player and an equivalent number of monsters on the evil house side. Despite the apparent inequity in numbers, the game is remarkably scaled depending on total number of players and balanced enough to ensure both sides have a fighting chance at ultimate success.

The randomization of potential scenarios and layout of the house itself, and the fact that the the "bad guy" could be any player in any game, make Betrayal eminently re-playable. There are elements to the game that some may find disturbing (ritualized demonic summoning, lots of gruesome descriptions, pervasive creepy concepts, monsters, etc.), so not strictly a "for the whole family" entertainment option. Age 12+ is probably close to spot-on. YMMV

In case it wasn't painfully apparent, I thoroughly enjoy this game and have no issue making it a strong recommend. As a bonus... it makes the "spend family time" obligation much less painful. As of this writing the second edition version (most recent) it is going for under $35.00 on Amazon.

More information: https://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=ah/prod/houseonthehill

To my adoring wife: if you are reading this, spending time with the family is not painful. This was just dramatic prose. No, really... I mean it! Nothing is better than family time. Nothing!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Best Laid Plans...


As if not readily apparent; the touted revitalization of RD&C did not go according to plan. Life... it happens. Long hours of work, vis-à-vis short hours for play, means prioritizing towards actually playing these games over which I obsess and devoting considerably less effort towards endless trimming-gluing-priming-painting-rinse-repeat cycles.

So... that's exactly what I did. Rolled some dice. Actually, a lot of dice. Not well... but damned if I didn't roll 'em anyway. The gods of random chance have been cruel as ever with the actual dice rolled I needed... but it was a fine change of pace. Easy to forget, when you're knee deep in discarded sprues and resin flakes, that there are supposed to be, you know... games in the mix somewhere.

And... if I were to be completely honest; the dizzying rapid-fire release of a new $50.00+ hardback codex(es), which utterly invalidates the previous $50.00 hardback codex you bought nary a year ago (looking at you Craftworlds, and soon to be Space Marines) leaves a sour tinge in my mouth and causes this writer to lean towards 'somewhat numb' from a creative standpoint.

So here's the scoop: RD&C is not dead. 40K still a passion, though I am focusing more on 'skirmish' builds and Kill Team games. May even revisit Special Operations Killzone for another go. For me, skirmish scale is simply more entertaining and manageable. That said... RD&C is branching out to other facets of war gaming. Evolve or stagnate.

X-Wing eats up a well-deserved portion of my gaming cycles as of late. Three full tackle-boxes of Scum, Rebel, and Empire (not counting the GR-90 or CR-75... which fit in exactly no carry case of reasonable size) attest to the unhealthy level of infatuation I have for this game. Already have a number of articles queued up on this very subject, and those shall be filling space on RD&C in short order. In the interim, I highly recommend The Metal Bikini (http://www.themetalbikini.com/) and Unofficial X-Wing Squadron Builder (http://xwing-builder.co.uk/build)... if you weren't already in-the-know.

Wave 7  fascinates me, and it is a forgone conclusion that at least one K-Wing...

...and three Kihraxz...

...will be resting atop the already preposterous pile of FFG plastic in the collection, immediately upon availability. Now, if only the damnable Imperial Raider would touch down in stores.

Unsurprisingly, I'm already core+two expansion packs deep into Armada as well. At this point it might be more efficient to simply direct deposit my paycheck into FFG's corporate account.

And then there's Infinity...

At any rate, that's enough blathering on for the time being. If you're still here, thanks for sticking around.

TLDR version: Alive. Yes, 40K still. Plus X-Wing/Armada. Plus, various other TBA.

Yeah, yeah. I know... heard this before: "updates incoming" and all that jazz. This time, it's different.