Sunday, June 25, 2017

Scythe Review

This game has been on my list for some time now, so this past weekend I picked up a copy of Scythe.  I have read a lot of Google+ posts about the game and most of those are very positive.  So I was eager to play, but family commitments worked against me and the game sat on the dinner table unopened for a few days.  My first impression; the box is heavy and the artwork is Amazing.  

The game is produced by Stonemaier Games and created by Jamie Stegmaier and that "Amazing" art work by Jakub Rozalski.  The game was a successful Kickstarter back in 2015 and is now commercially available via many outlets.  We pick up up our copy from Amazon for $62.00.

Upon finally opening the box, we found detailed minis, wooden tokens, cardboard coins/tokens, double sided game board, rules books (yes two books, we will get to that in a minute), an achievement sheet, and about 30+ ziplock baggies of various sizes to hold all your minis and tokens.

With my toddler son "helping" pop out all the card board tokens, my wife and I were ready to set up and try to play our first game.  One of the pointers in the rules books says not to stress over the rules and do not attempt to explain all the ins and out to new players but to just "jump in and push the buttons and see what works", and after playing the game for the first time...I would agree with this statement.  

The actual game play flows very well.  The turn order is dictated by what player mat you are randomly assigned and then goes around the table.  You will have a faction mat and player mat assigned.  the order, costs, and rewards may vary between each faction mat and player mat.  Each turn you will choose one of four actions found on your player mat and you can't choose the same action two turns in row (unless you are the one faction that breaks that rule).

These actions will either move your character, mech, or workers around the mat.  While other actions will produce resources, trade for resources, or recruit people to help your faction grow.  Each action has it pros and cons during play and you will need to consider your needs in the immediate and long term of the game, to get yourself in position to play stars and win the game.  Each player is attempting to play 6 stars and thus end the game.  Once the game has ended you score; hexes, monuments, and several other criteria to determine the overall winner of the game.
Each faction has unique abilities that break some of the established rules.  For example I mention earlier there is  faction that can select the same action turn after turn instead of being forced to not select the currently action for the turn.  For example if you select movement this turn, then you have to select one of the other three actions on the following turn.  After you have then done the new actions, you can move again your following turn. 

The box and rule book state that the game should take around 115 minutes to pay but our first play lasted closer to 4 hours for a two player game.  In the games defense we did stop and watch part of a 30 minute Youtube video how to play, to clarify a question we had about resources.  Once thing we did notice was that the game was slow in the begging during our build up but accelerated as the game progressed.  So our last few turns flew by.  

The last item I would like to touch on is that the game come with a second rule book just for playing the game solo.  Yes, the game is for 1 - 5 players.  I haven't had a chance to try out the solo play yet but I should get a chance soon and will update my readers with my impressions.  I recommend the game for anyone who likes resource management games with a healthy dose of combat.


Pros (Things I like)

  • Impressive artwork
  • Large amount of detailed minis 
  • Stonemaier Games and Jamie Stegmaier have a large on-line presence
  • Lots of storage baggies provided with the game for minis and tokens
  • Top action and Bottom actions are a fun mechnic to manage your turn 

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • The rules are straight forward but we found ourselves referencing online FAQs for clarification on a few rules.
  • The 30+ page rule book was a bit intimidating at first and the first read thru was difficult to keep it all straight.
  • Cost, the game had been above $100 on Amazon for awhile and finally dropped down to the $60 range and is a bit more affordable

Sunday, June 18, 2017

King of Toyko Review

I recently got the opportunity to play King of Tokyo by Richard Garfield, and yes the same Richard Garfield that created Magic the Gathering!  The game is published by iLLEO and available for around $30-$40 depending on if you can catch a sale or not.

The game that I played was a first edition copy of the game and includes two different monsters and different art work for the monsters who make a return in the newer second edition of the game.  We were unaware that we had purchased the second edition and the different monsters and artwork came as a bit of a shock.

Game play is simple, each player controls a monster and attempts survive and gain 20 victory points.  VP are represented by lighting bolts on your character tile.  Your character tile also contains a portrait of your monster, your health wheel along with the previously mentioned VP wheel.

There is also a stand up portrait of your monster and a city tile for Tokyo.  Each player takes turns rolling 6 dice (good old fashioned 6-siders) in an attempt to roll claws (attack), Lighting (energy), or just the numerals 1, 2, and 3 for victory points.  You score extra victory by having your monster inside Tokyo but you are unable to heal while in the city.  Meanwhile outside the city you can damage the monster occupying the city and heal as you wish but in theory you won't score victory points as quickly.

You can win by either being the first monster to score 20 victory points or be the last monster standing.  I have seen the game won both ways and with the victory point win, I have seen the monster in the city win and a monster who had never "gone into" the city win.  The plays quickly and is fun, even in a 5 player game the dice come back around and you don't have to wait very long between rolls.

We have also played the game with the younger crowd and even my mother-in-law, who also likes the game.  I would recommend this game for those who enjoy dice-rolling games and want something that plays in 30-45 min.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Fun monster and with nice artwork
  • Simple rules that flow well
  • Plays very quickly.  The 5 player games wrapped up in about 40 min.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • $40 is a bit steep in price for such a simple game
  • Better markings between editions, some expansion material is edition specific.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Today I went to see the DC Comics movie Wonder Woman, Staring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.  This movie was directed by Patty Jenkins.  Going into this movie I was only vaguely aware of who Patty Jenkins was and I have not seen her other directed movie Monster (2003).  I was very aware of who Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are and hopeful that this movie would better than some of the past DC Comic movies.

Right up front, I am a long time Marvel Comics fan and have been for well over 35 years.  I have enjoyed some of the DC Comic flagship tittles;  Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern, but I would not consider myself anywhere near as big of DC fan as I claim to be a Marvel fan.  With that said, this movie was fantastic!  My wife, who was not a comic fan but since our marriage she has picked up a lot of comic knowledge and appreciation for the written material and movie adaptions, upon the last credit rolling.  She turn to me today and summed up the movie fairly concisely.

"Wow, now I am excited to watch the Justice league movie...I hope Batman doesn't screw it up."

let me continue by addressing the previous DC Comic movies, since this film in a continuation of the DC Cinematic Universe.  I am not big fan of Zack Snyder's darker and angst filled DC movies.  There were parts of Man of Steel that I did enjoy but over all the movie didn't feel right and I found myself soured to this presentation Superman.  Then came along Batman vs. Superman, once again not a big fan.  In my opinion the best parts of the film were in two scenes;  when Batman fights the thugs in the warehouse while saving Martha Kent and then the second scene was actually Wonder Woman fighting Doomsday near the end of the film.  You know the scene where Doomsday knocks her back and she get up and smiles before jumping back in to the battle.  So Batman vs Superman fell flat and did not deliver and failed to set up the "Dawn of Justice".

Now Wonder Woman.

Did they deliver on a beautiful actress to portray Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta?  Yes and not only that but director Patty Jenkins brought her to life with grace, skill, and respect to her being a powerful confident woman.  Many a comic fan has cried for a positive female roll model to lead her own film in our renaissance of Comic era movies.  Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have delivered.

I won't get into spoiler territory with this review out of respect to those who may not have had the opportunity to go see the film.  What I will speak to is the fact that Gal Gadot portrays Diana as educated, mature, and confident woman.  She doesn't pander to the damsel in distress tropes that plague female characters and she does not need her co-star Chris Pine to save her.   At times his presence in the film served as more of a plot device than that of a co-star.  Yet, with this powerful woman leading the charge, literally at times, she does find a centering force in Chris Pine's character Steve Trevor.  The movie managed to address the issue of a confident woman and sex.  Granted the scenes are off camera and very tastefully done but the message was clearly sent that this character is a mature woman who can have a physical relationship and in a healthy fashion.  I was worried the Patty Jenkins would skirt the issue and just avoid any hint of sex, but she did not and it was handled with grace.

Since this is a period piece set during World War I and gives us the origin story of Wonder Woman, I have read many comparisons of this movie to Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).  In that regard, yes there are some similarities, but they don't go much farther than the general approach to the film.

I have hopefully delivered sufficient praise for for what the movie does well.  So lets move on to the few items that I felt were detractors.  First off the special effects were fantastic but there were a  few effects that suffered from poor cut-aways from the action or seemed to have been rushed in post production.  For example there is an explosion that has the structure intact and then seems to "skip a frame" and the building is rubble while the explosion is still occurring.  The next item I have is that this is a period piece but due to camera angle and placement in several scenes some of the sets feel small.  In those scenes you only get a few angles and see the same background repeatedly.  The final nit pick I have is the creation of the small group that appears in the picture from Batman vs Superman,  it felt forced.  I wish it had a more organic feel and gave each of the characters a stronger sense of history between them.

With all that said, I enjoyed the movie.  My wife and I are planning on going to see it in the theater again and we haven't done that since Star Wars Episode.  If you have the opportunity make sure you catch this one on the big screen.  This movie worked hard to redeem the DC Comic Movies and raises my hopes for a good Justice League Movie.