Thursday, 29 August 2013

Femme Fatales Ride Steam Powered Rockets to Mars...

Mission: Red Planet, an out of print game by Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti and published by Asmodee.

When it first hit shelves all those years ago in 2005 I have to admit to having been rather excited.  Faidutti was a seminal designer in my ascendancy to gamerhood, who had had a hand in some of the my most enjoyed games, not least of which was Castle.

Combine Faidutti with Cathala, add some rockets, add Mars, add steam, and you can understand, I hope, why I thought this game was a cocktail that tasted of swoon.

I have written about this game before, but rather than post gratuitous links or expect you to trawl through the mire of ramblings here I will quickly sketch an outline:

Mission: Red Planet is a game of two halves, there is the jostle and brawl of the launchpad, where rockets destined for locations on Mars are loaded with astronauts, where you hope to get your people into the right rockets going to the correct places without blowing up.  Then there is Mars, more distant and in some ways harder to manipulate, it is a place where majorities rule.  Players will win by scoring points, and points are awarded on the basis of majority - whoever covers an area thickest with their kind will walk away with the medallions.

Mission: Red Planet is a strange mixture of role selection and area majority, but ties the two together surprisingly well.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the game is how pressured it is.  The game will last exactly ten turns, each turn a player will select and execute a role, rockets may launch and astronauts land.  There are nine roles and ten turns, every time a role is used it is discarded and may not be used again, although one of the roles allows you to reclaim your full compliment of role cards.  Choosing when to replenish in a ten turn game is vital.  It's something every player must do at least once, but when done is something of a wasted turn.  I find hinging the flow of action on that redraw to be one of the key and interesting aspects of a game that is all about timing.  Many of the roles must be timed to work well, filling and launching of ships must be timed well when the scoring rounds loom from turn 5 onward.  Timing a movement on Mars, timing the sabotage of a rocket on the launchpad, timing the arrival, execution or seduction of an astronaut on Mars, timing all of that within the framework of ten simple turns makes for a rollicking game.

Some will complain that the discovery cards can be unbalanced and that the actions of other players may ruin an otherwise perfect plan, but these too are aspects I enjoy.  It is a short game that feels quick and tense.  In all, Mission: Red Planet is one of my favourite Faidutti games, and one I don't get to play often enough...


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Dropzone Commander

I'm sitting here drumming up the fortitude to tackle the painting of another Epicurus Sky Fortress for my Dystopian Wars army.  Of course - like many gamers - I have what could only be described as a similar affliction for new and shiny things as a crow does.  And so, even while I have an ever growing pile of ships and aircraft and ground vehicles for Dystopian Wars, my ever wandering eyes are attracted by the new and shiny glinting of many an other game.

Dropzone Commander was a game that I originally investigated when my brother and I were looking for a game to collect.  The game itself sounded like a lot of fun, the ever changing array of objectives and the focus on movement, deployment and redeployment through drop ships sounded like a dynamic and interesting concept behind the mechanisms of game play.  It helped the miniatures also looked fantastic.  Eventually we stuck upon Dystopian Wars, but my interterest in Dropzone Commander, while waned, was still there, like an ember waiting for the right breeze to encourage it.

Hawk Wargames, who publish and produce Dropzone Commander have recently announced a new starter box set, and I am impressed.  It includes two starter armies (and a good size they are too), as well as rules, tokens, dice, a measuring tape, some city-scape posters and ten card-fold skyscrapers to flesh out the table.  The city scape, replete with buildings is integral to how Dropzone Commander works, and to get a collection of skyscrapers and whatnot in the starter box - so you can literally begin play with the miniatures and terrain to make the game shine, well, all I can say is bravo Hawk Wargames.

I have to say that this is really tempting... I already have a bunch of Dystopian Wars stuff, some Song of Blades and Heroes warbands, some Song of Arthur and Merlin warbands, and a small collection of other rule sets and miniatures - most of which still require paint and all of which require a better storage solution... but that boxed starter set is oh so shiny...

Here are some shots from the Hawk Wargames website of what I think looks like a spectacularly excellent way to leap into the game:

One of the things that turned me away from Dropzone Commander originally was the price, but this starter set is 65 Pounds, which should still translate into a very reasonable sum of Australian dollars.  Amazing value if you ask me!

Oh Hawk Wargames... why!



Thursday, 15 August 2013

Some new games and a pause for thought...

Two or three years ago I was an avid boardgames viewer, I'd check websites, updates and news on a daily basis for rumours and announcements about upcoming games.  I'd add and subtract from my wishlist those games that seemed to have all the glint and golden hue of promise that captivated me.  Today I am far less interested in the new releases, the glut of games and the endless tidal roll of titles is a muted noise to my ears, and I feel quite disengaged from what used to be such a hot passion of mine.  Of course - I love games, I love playing them as much as the next person, but perhaps I have entered something of a twilight, or rather I have paused in a secluded glade...  Either way, I am less interested in whatever the current hottest thing is, I am happy playing what I have to be honest, and I am certainly not watching the hobby board game market as I was used to of old, the landscape has grown to gaudy, too vast, too myriad for my tired eyes.

It is an interesting phase.  Partly brought on by the tiredness that seeps into ones bones when a task becomes inured to us through familiarity.  It is partly a result of the endless parade of pretty things, of colours and brightness and gaiety; I feel in this regard like a bored Roman hedonist waving the show girls away, their prettiness besmirched by tired repetition, a mixture of colour and excitement that seems to lack some essential character of allure that it once had.  It's also partly brought on by the fact that I simply don't get to play as often as once I had.  Some of my passion for games has also been subverted by my renewed interest in miniatures games (as followers of this blog may be able to attest to).

I am not disinterested in the tumble of new games titles and releases that are upcoming, but I'm simply not as interested as I once was.  It is a pause, a denouement; it may pass like a cloud before a sun, it may not, but there it is.

Interestingly I sat down to write this blog post about two new releases just announced from Fantasy Flight Games.  I was an avid watcher of FFG a few years ago, but the cycle of new releases for their LCGs particularly caused me to glance away and cast my eyes elsewhere.  Things always seem to happen when you aren't watching...

The two new games are Warhammer Diskwars, and Battlelore, Second Edition.  Two years ago these announcements would have me chomping at the bit in a froth and exuberance of excitement.

Battlelore is an old favourite of mine, a game that rang with a glorious potential that was tragically never met by either of the publishers who stood at the helm.  The second edition just announced has been rethemed to align to FFGs Terrinoth property - something I don't mind.  There are new rules for recruitment and scenario generation which can only be good, and some subtle and less than subtle rules changes, like unit sizes and individuality.  All in all it looks to be an interesting second edition.  The wait between first and second however has allowed me pause enough to find Song of Blades and Heroes and Dystopian Wars, and Battlelore cannot compete on those fronts.  The new art style also puts it into the realm of games that I won't be setting onto the table to play with my son, it's a little too grotesque for that - not that I personally have issue - I like Terrinoth, but there it is.  A good looking second edition of a solid game, an old flame remodelled and brought back to life... I'll be interested to see how how it's received.

Diskwars is an interesting concept, a table top wargame using disks rather than units of miniatures.  I like the sound of this, and if it stands to be a short game (say no longer than 45-60 minutes), then I might well consider getting a copy.  A light and fun game is always welcome; but I sense the game is longer and slightly heavier than that - we shall see.  I like the look of it, but rather than storm the bastion for a copy as once I might have done, I shall wait and see what comes of it before taking any measures.

I suppose this post might seem somewhat jaded, certainly there is probably a recurring theme of tiredness, of boredom and general disinterest, but it might well be overstated.  I am still a great lover of games of all stripes, I still listen to the gaming podcasts I love, read the forums that pique my interest, and most of all I still love drawing a game from the shelf to play...

And of course, I am all vim and vigour for the miniatures games I set upon, especially Dystopian Wars.

A brief entr'acte then perhaps... we shall see!


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Incoming Dystopian Wars...

Dystopian Wars is my new flame, a game that excites and enthrals me.  For anyone who isn't aware, Dystopian Wars is a tabletop miniatures game set in a dystopian and steam punk past.  What I love about the game is the excitement, theme and story that rises from the game play.  Seeing great behemoth ships traverse the seas, giant airships hove into view and myriad fighters and dive bombers struggle for aerial supremacy is a pleasure.  The broadsides, torpedo salvos, laser fire, bombs, mines, submersibles, giant robots and other technological marvels all seamlessly weave together through a tight ruleset to make a gloriously enjoyable game.

Spartan Games have been expanding and releasing stuff at an astonishing pace, and from rumour the rest of 2013 and 2014 is going to be even more amazing.

At the moment I collect the Covenant of Antarctica, and there are plenty of posts here that show my fleet as it stands.  But I've also been particularly excited (as silly and nationalistic is it might sound) to see that Spartan have released a fleet of ships for the Aussies.  The models look nice, and I have a box waiting here for Fathers' Day to roll around (which means I must get to painting the rest of my Covenant minis pretty quick smart).

The staunch Aussie fleet, replete with little Crocodile boarding submarines...
Some of the other recently released fleets look fantastic, the Ottomans, and the Chinese look particularly amazing.

The Chinese fleet also includes a support box with floating towers that can create a great wall style shield effect...

This monstrous Ottoman model is a walking airfield.  Oh - and you can remove the top and it can sail the waters too...

It's also been interesting to watch Spartan change their approach to packaging, they have expanded their line of boxed sets immensely, where every faction once had a single naval and ground boxed set, they now, they now have a variety for every theatre (ground, naval and air).  I have been impressed with the way they have decided to make sure that the boxes include enough models for maximum strength squadrons, rather than minimum or some other number.  When you get a box - you get enough to field full squadrons of those models.

One of the announced boxed sets is an expansion for the Covenant air arm - including an amazing flying saucer like behemoth - the model is about 12cm from side to side!  Looks amazing!

That giant saucer really is giant...

In the works is also a 2.0 rules book, and from the rumours I've read online I'm again impressed.  According to Spartan it will pull together much of the stuff from the fleet booklets and scenario books as well as the core rules.  In addition it seems they are planning on publishing a hard cover book, with a free PDF also available - free.  The supplanting of one version with another is always something that irritated me about some other rule sets, but the opportunity to upgrade the rules via a free PDF is a fantastic thing, kudos to Spartan for choosing this route.

All in all I am really excited about the direction this game is taking, there are some new developments thematically/story wise scheduled for next year, and Spartan are also working a novel, which should be fun.  I for one can't wait!  Now if I could only fit in more games...