Sunday, July 31, 2016

Star Trek: 5 Year-Mission Review

During our vacation week we had the opportunity to try another new game, Star Trek:  5 Year-Mission, by Mayfair Games.  I had not heard of this game until my friend showed up at the house, pulled it out and said lets play.  It is a small box and only hold a few items;  two sided character templates, alert cards (blue, yellow, and red), two sided play mat, and different colored 6-sided dice.

The first thing you do during set up is choose either Original Series Enterprise and her crew or The Next Generation Enterprise and crew.  Once you have chosen your time period you then choose which crew member you want to play.  For our first play through we went with TOS and I choose Scotty as my character.  The only caveat to choosing characters is that one player needs to be either Kirk or Picard, the ship has to have a captain!

Once you have chosen your crew member you gather your starting dice and allocate dice to the ship play area.  Then you place a counter on the undamaged spot along the damage track on the ship play area.  Then each of the three alert decks are shuffled and placed out in front of the ship play mat.  The play area will look like the picture below:

The game begins by setting up the first blue alert card which is always "Five Year Mission"  Now the meat of the game is that each player must roll a pool of three different colored six-sided dice.  You then match up any of the values on the dice to a corresponding value listed on the Alert card.  If you match up all the required dice values, you complete the mission and either set it aside for scoring or discard and remove from play.

I will say that the most exciting part of the game is how they built up a sense of drama and urgency by introducing timed missions.  If you flip over a timed mission then you must use a provided 3 min hour-glass (I guess its a minute-glass) and then start the time.  You have until the sand runs out to finish that mission or it is failed.  The loose condition for the game is if you fail 5 missions then the game is over.  The other way to fail is if you have to draw a mission and i would place you at 4 active mission of a specific color then you fail the oldest one face up.  It happens pretty quick

The victory conditions must be agreed upon before the game starts, for example the Ensign victory condition is that you will complete two mission of each color and have 10 points total of completed missions (the point value may be mistaken, I can't remember).  What we started doing on subsequent games was to play until we failed and see how far we could make it.  One of our games we managed to get an Admiral Victory, and wow was that hard!

Pros (Things I like)

  • Easy and quick set up
  • The timed mission are stressful and exciting, you only have 3 minutes to complete and they make you use an hour glass!
  • Each round only takes about 30-45 minutes to play and we found ourselves playing a couple of games in a row
  • Except for the communications mishap card (see below) the game very much requires collaboration and team work to beat.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • The victory win conditions are a odd and didn't feel like a real victory
  • Once mission started to spiral out of control the game went bad quickly
  • Communication mishap card...if that mission is active...then players can't talk to each other!
  • The dice are limited and if a player trys to hold on to his it can penalize other players

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back to the Future: An Adventure Through Time Review

I am a child of the 80's!  There is no shame or accusation in that exclamation, just the simple fact that I suffer form 80's nostalgia.  One of the those is the Back to the Future movie series.  One of my friends brought over his copy of the new board game Back to the Future:  An Adventure Through Time.   If you are not familiar with the original movies you may be a bit lost, I apologize for not going more in depth in regard to the movies, but trust me, take an afternoon and get caught up.  You will really the movies!

So of course we had to give it a try.  By the way that same said friend is the giving the box cover rabbit ears in the picture on the left.  With all this said, I was a bit dubious of how well you can make a board game of Back to the Future without crossing the "Too Silly to Fun" line or wow this is a bad game syndrome form the 90's.

I have to report that is far from perfect, but we did find it to be a fun game that meets my families current game requirements.  Easy to set up, rules that are fairly quick to learn, and a deceptive amount of meta-strategy.

The game consists of a deck of mission cards that have three names listed.  There is a short stack of 3 of these for 1955, 1985, and 2015 time periods.  The goal of the game is use the characters from the back to the future movies; Marty, Doc, Jennifer, George, Lorraine, and Biff.  To meet the goal cards and have those characters present in the correct time period.

You accomplish this by moving the DeLorean back and forth and assigning each character to the correct time period.  The playing deck holds character cards that are individual character, dual characters, have a time cost, and a ripple cost.

Each player has a print copy of the Hill Valley Court House Clock and will use that as their respective play areas.  You pay an energy cost to move the DeLorean between time periods  and then pay a time cost for playing your cards.  The cards then have a secondary cost as well called Ripple.  In 1955 the ripple cost is 2 cards that you must discard to play an active card in your play area.  Meanwhile the ripple is only 1 card in 1985 and 0 card in 2015.  This make it cheaper to play your cards in 2015 and more expensive the farther in the past you go.  On the flip side when you end your turn and draw new cards you draw 2 in 2015, 1 in 1985, and 0 in 1955.  Also as you finish Quest/Objective/Mission card in a time period you score points.  The point value go up the farther in the past you complete your mission.

This leads to some careful consideration of where to move the DeLorean and how to play your cards.  You play it easy with low cost and quick card play, but you may be helping your opponents as well.

It does play quickly and only took us around 45 minutes per game after our initial play through to learn the game.  Which even that first time was only about 1.5 hours.  My wife, who loves everything 80's, love the game and I see us picking up a copy in the near future.  Regularly it is $34 on Amazon but right now it is on sale for only $23.52, so we may be picking up a copy fairly quickly.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Cool art work
  • It is based upon 1985's Back to the Future
  • Parts of the game are more difficult back in the past of 1955 and easier in the future of 2015.  Vice versa depending on which game mechanic you are using.
  • Play quickly, around 45 minutes per game

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • Lack of diversity in the art on each playing card
  • Clock tower is not made of the same card stock as the rest of the play token and areas
  • Instruction are a bit vague on some rules conflicts such as dual character cards, do they count as an Either/Or card or do you get t count both characters seperatly towards mission completion goals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vacation Plans

I have a wonderful wife.

With that said I shall elaborate as to whey that statement is true right now.  Every year I plan a weeks vacation on the third week of July.  This week is important since it is when I get together with my guy friends.  We get together and spend the week visiting, telling stories, drinking beer, and playing every game we can get our hands on.

Attendees will vary based upon everyone's work, schedule, and family plans.  We usually have 5-7 people here for the week.  With that said, my wife and I usually host the get together since we have the room for guests and my wife loves to cook for everyone.

This year has been no different and we just wrapped up our festivities.  As I have mentioned, we have been playing more and more board games in recent years but still manage to squeeze in a RPG or two during the week.  We played a lot of new board games this year and I want to share some of of game experience and give you a review or two in the upcoming weeks.

I know I have been quiet and appreciate the patience, but rest assured I have a few more stories ready to go and several game reviews prepped and ready for your reading pleasure!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Finding Common Ground

Once upon a time, way back in my call center days as as supervisor I was moved from one of the call center teams to another group that was known to be a group of malcontents and trouble makers by reputation.  As you can imagine I was concerned about the change and not really looking forward to the transition.

Mary Sellers was the name of one of my new agents.  She was no nonsense and not very happy about the change in leadership for her group.  I had been warned about her by a few of the other supervisors that she was "difficult" to talk to and work with or around.  I spent the first two weeks being fairly calm and letting things run the way they had been for the past year or so before getting more involved and make a few changes to how the group operated.

One of the few items that had never been in place was a monthly review for each employee by the supervisor.  So I set about rectifying that issue and doing an initial face to face with each of the team members.  It was a get to know you kind of thing, and an opportunity to explain who I am and how I operate.  I took it as chance to hear from each agent about what they liked and didn't like about the current work environment.

It all went well and I learned a great deal about my agents, until it was Mary's turn.  I could tell when she walked into the room that she was already on the defensive and didn't want to be there.  I attempted to put her at ease and get her talking about family and friends, but that failed as well.  So I dived right into the what to expect part of my face to face.  That quickly devolved into a heated discussion about behavior of the team and her in particular.

To this day I am still not sure how our conversation turned to a yelling match.  I realized that I had failed in my attempt to bridge the gap with this employee  and quite possibly created an enemy that would fight me every step of the way.  I calmed down and attempted to salvage the situation by explaining that we were on the same side and should work together.  She crossed her arms and simply stated "Are we done here!"  to which I nodded that we were finished.

She left the room and I was bewildered on what had just happened and how it had gotten so bad so fast.  The next day she was radio silent and kept to herself during her shift.  It was the next day she came to me and said "I think your right.  We should work together."  It as simple as that.  She quickly became my star agent.  I learned that she had forceful personality and the respect of the others on the team.  It wasn't long until we really were working as team and she became the driving force behind my leadership and kept all the wayward agents inline.  I hate to call anyone an enforcer but if any of my employees had earned the title it would be Mary Sellers.

I attended her wedding a couple of years later, had her and her husband over for dinner at my house  a few times, and to this day we stay in touch.  What started off with a rocky start turned into a good friend that I know I can count on, no matter what.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tokaido Review

My wife and I have been playing more and more board games in the past couple of years.  As I have stated before, with careers and a toddler running around we have found ourselves with less and less time for playing RPGs but can usually take an hour or so to play a round of a board game.  With no prep time, relatively quick play time, and easy clean.

Our newest addition to the board game collection is Tokaido by Passport Game Studios.  I am a member of a board games group on Google+ and keep a eye on what games are posted and discussed to help us decide what games we would like to branch out and try our hand.  I had seen several post about Tokaido and how much fun it was to play.  The descriptions were that it was a quick game, deceivingly simple yet had a deep strategy to play and win.

My wife and I open up the box and prepped all the pieces for play.  The game is a very long and fairly short board in height.  My wife and I sat side by side so that we could both read the board, which in hind sight was silly since all the writing was in Japanese and we had to rely on the pictograph icon symbols to decipher what each area on the board represented.  The player markers were fairly simple "Meeples" but you randomly selected two of the travelers to choose between as your player.  Each character has an ability that allows them to advance better in one facet of the game.  You place a colored drawstring bag marker in the round hole of the player card to match up your character with your colored marker on the  board.

If you are playing a two player game, much like my wife and I play, the recommended way of playing with a two player game is to have a third marker that is controlled by each player at different points.  This third character is there to run interference between the two players and makes sense for a two player game but I am not found of that mechanic.  I was also stumped by the initiative rule when I read the rule book.  It states that the character in the back of the road is the one that gets to take the next turn and on that turn you can move as far as you like until the next Inn location.  I wondered why you wouldn't just race to the end and be done with the game but it became evident that the designers wanted you to take your time and stop as often as possible to score.  This is in direct relation to the idea that you are traveling on a road and to enjoy the journey as much as the final destination.

The game represents the road connecting one end of the main island of Japan to Edo or what would become Tokyo.  You travel the road and meet strangers, buy souvenirs, eat fine meals, take a nice bath in a hot spring, and enjoy the amazing vistas along your journey.

Our game was about 40 minutes long and seemed to pass very quickly.   My wife and I saw that the game was simple to play but there is a lot of strategy to where you stop, to block other player and keep them from scoring certain types of rewards.  We both look forward to playing more in the future and figuring out the subtlety of play and how a larger player game will function.  The game wasn't available at our local hobby store so we picked up a copy from Amazon for $30.00+shipping and we are happy with our investment.  I would recommend the game to others that can gather at least 3+ players.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Beautiful game board and materials
  • The individual characters are unique and speak to more story beyond they presentation of the game.
  • The game movement mechanic and scoring create a take your time and stop everywhere feeling, as intended by the designers to reflect the journey across Japan.
  • Cost was low, only $30+ shipping from Amazon

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • We had to keep referencing the rules to figure out what special ability our traveler had.  This is was a product of our being new players and should improve with more play time.
  • The two player game using a third marker to run interference
  • I wish I had known about the deluxe edition.  The basic edition has "meeples" but the deluxe one has sculpted characters to match the player cards.
  • The game played very quickly, hopefully a larger number of player will increase the play time.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Help Weeding the Garden Box

If you have read any of my blog post you have probably figured out that when I was a teenager, I ran around with two other guys.  I have been calling them Sam and Houston to help protect their identities.  The three of us did a lot of stupid kid/teenager things back then but Houston would frequently take the cake in how "out there" his activities actually were.  Oddly enough, fire was usually involved.

This story does include fire and starts out with me trying to get out of the house on a Friday afternoon to go play basketball with my friends.  As I was running out the garage door mom yelled "Make sure you pull the weeds in the Flower box next to the garage before you go!"

In typical teenager fashion, it was the end of the world.  I was ready to go and have fun but Mom wanted to me pull weeds in the 2' x 2' garden box next to the garage door!  So for a job that would have taken all of 20 minutes, Sam and Houston decided to help me get done faster.  Houston said "We always burn the weeds around the fence posts when working on my buddies farm."  So that was that, we would burn the weeds and not have to get our hands dirty.

I got the lawn mower 5 gallon gas can and dumped about half of the full can of gas on the flower bed of weeds.  Houston began instructing us that we need to let the gas soak for a few minutes then we could light it and it would burn all the weeds.  The house would also be perfectly safe since it was a brick home and bricks don't burn.  I turned away from the garage and headed inside to warn my sister not to smoke around the side of the garage, since this was her favorite place to sneak smokes. when I hear a loud WOOOSH and Houston started yelling while Sam let out a shrill scream.

I turn around to see Houston running around the drive way with his pant leg on fire, the garden box consumed in flames that rise up the brick wall of the garage and are wrapping around the eaves and onto the roof of the house.  All the while Sam stands about 10' from the fire and continues to scream and alternate pointing at the house on fire and Houston still running around with his pants on fire!

I quickly ran around to the front of the house and grabbed the garden hose and drag it back to the garage.  By the time I get set up and start putting out the garden fire, Houston has remembered to stop drop and roll (and the gas on his pant leg had all burned off as well).  In just a few minutes we had the fire out and were catching our collective breath.

"What the H**L happened?" was my first question.
Houston turned to look at Sam and said " Well...I saw a spot of gas had dripped on the drive way.  The ant that was crawling across the drop looked like he need to a barbecue.  So I used my lighter and flicked it to see if the drop of gas would catch."  he finished sheepishly.

About that time a mini-van pulled up in the drive way and Houston's Mom got out.  She looked around and said that she saw the fire from her house up the street as she was getting home from work and knew Houston was involved and came down to help.

Lessons learned:

1.) Never go to Houston for advice on how to weed a garden box
2.) Fire is never the correct answer to the question of how to get work done quicker
3.) Sam does a very convincing damsel in distress scream
4.) Mom will make you repaint the eaves of the house if you attempt to burn the garage down
5.) You can't play basketball if you are repainting the eaves of the house
6.) The fire did get rid of all the weeds

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On the Way to Allie's House, Part # 3

Once again we found ourselves at Houston's house waiting till it was late enough to sneak out and head to over to Allie's.  We were playing Street Fighter II Turbo on Houston's Super NES and getting our butts kicks by Sam playing Chun Li.  I really hate that whole impenetrable wall of kicks that she can throw up when ever she wants.  Its bit off topic but thought I would share my distaste of the video game character some 20+ years later and how it is just as strong today as it was back then.

This time we were getting ready to shutdown the Nintendo and head out when there was a quiet tapping on Houston's window.  We quickly investigated and found my younger sister hiding in thee bushes outside the window and looking at us urgently as she tapped away.  a quick glance at the clock showed that it was almost 3am and way past my 12 year old sisters curfew and bed time.

Houston went over and cracked the window so that he could see what she wanted.  She leaned in close and asked if we had a smoke that she could have?  My little sister had taken up smoking recently and would bum cigarettes when ever and form whom ever she could.  Houston kept her talking and getting her worked up by asking why she was up so late looking for a  cigarette and why did she sneak out of the house.  Meanwhile being the responsible older brother that I am, I called down to the house and woke up my mom and step dad and asked if they knew where my sister was at 3 in the morning.

I got off the phone and walked back in to Houston's room in time to hear my step-dad from down the street, yelling my sisters name and telling her to get her little butt home right now!

As an adult I feel a little guilty about what happened.  I realize that we busted her out and my parents came down on her pretty hard for sneaking out to get cigarettes, but as teenagers we laughed and laughed at her plight.  We talked about it the whole way over to Allie's house that night.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Runequest Classic Kickstarter

I am still pretty new to the this whole "Kickstarter" thing.  If you read my earlier blog post about the Ghostbusters board game, it came from a Kickstarter campaign.  A couple of years ago I missed a one campaign for a two volume Glorantha compendium.  I have since tracked down copies of those compendiums but I hate the fact that I missed the original campaign.  Runequest Classic was an early RPG that I discovered in an old musty basement.  Here are my copies of those books and as you can see the main book is well worn.  I have used it to play Runequest off and on for over 20 years.

Here is the link to the Runequest Kickstarter:

Kickstarter Runequest Classic Edition

Once the Kickstarter was complete they publisher made the digital down loads available for each item that was included in the Kickstarter.  Those were fantastic and it was amazing to have copies that had been reworked and were of very nice quality.  Then a week ago the new hard bound leather rule book with its nice color dust cover arrived!  I am very excited to have another copy of my old book and one that is in much better shape.

The only downside to this process is that it takes some time upon completion of the Kickstarter campaign to get the hard copy of the books.  This is due to time or processing and allowing the printer to complete the order and then arrange shipping, and in this case, it was international shipping as well as domestic.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy 4th of July

I would like to take a few minutes away from my beer, burger, and fireworks to wish you all a happy 4th of July!