Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blood Rage and West Valley TableCon 2015

Way back in August I posted a wishlist of 6 games that were on my radar to play as soon as I could, the very next day our game group was joined by a new addict. Having read this blog he brought with him five of those games - Imperial Settlers, Baseball Highlights 2045, Tragedy Looper, Forbidden Stars and Arcadia Quest - I have covered all of those games over the past few months as I got around to playing them. This past week I finally got the chance to play my final game from that wish list, thanks to another member of our group.


Ragnarok has arrived and with it the end of the world as the vikings know it. Players take control of viking clans as they rush to claim stake to glory and earn a place at Odin's side in Valhalla. They can claim glory by dying valiantly in battle, invading and pillaging, completing quests and controlling regions of the land, and gloriously dying in Ragnarok itself.

The selection of a player's strategy is decided in the drafting phase, the first phase of the three ages that span the game. Using cards players create a starting hand of upgrades for their clans, battle cards and quests. This is followed by an action phase, each player starts with a limit of rage, and some actions may cost rage. In turn the clans will getting a chance to perform one action, such as invading, pillaging and upgrading. A player can no longer perform any more actions once they are all raged out.

What a game, I was initially too hyped up for this game and my first play didn't wow me as much as expected, but thinking back on it and the second play I had I feel part of the hype was warranted. The drafting at the start is a huge part of the game, deciding on how you want to play out each round, what gods you want to align with will be important. Thor brings you extra glory for winning, while Loki can give you victory in defeat, Tyr helps you strengthen during battle and Heimdal gives you foresight. Also keeping certain cards from opponents maybe even more important. Then how you use those cards during the action phase, the order in which you play deepens the strategy. Do you show your hand early, over loading on invades and burning up rage leaves you with less options as the map fills.

Also, I can't say enough about the minis that come in the box. Each clan has their own sculpts as well as a myriad of monsters. I got to play the blinged out Kickstarter version, but I'm sure the base box will be more than enough for most people. Seeing everything on the table can be overwhelming for some, making the game look more complicated than it really is. Extremely happy that I got an opportunity to play it.


For those of you who don't know, this past weekend marked an anniversary of my gaming group on facebook. West Valley Tabletop (link in the right column). To celebrate I wanted to put on something special, so I got with Jared at Game Boutique and hosted a weekend of games at the store. From 10am on Saturday to Midnight and then again from 10am on Sunday. 

I attempted to keep to a schedule which worked in part, starting the games off with Champions of Midgard. I got to teach this one, it is a gorgeously produced worker placement game, with a similar viking theme to Blood Rage. Players are battling to gain the most glory to become the Jarl of the village, to do thise they are sending out warriors to fight trolls, dragurs and other monsters. It is fairly light and plays like Lords of Waterdeep as you gather the resources needed to fight off the monsters. But instead of investing the needed fighters, the warriors are represented by dice and you have to roll to fight. There is enough mitigation to keep it fun, without making bad rolls to huge. Could easily see this become a staple and a replacement for Lords of Waterdeep.

After that plans fell apart, but it became more of a gathering of friends and a chance to play with new people. Introducing a few to heavier games then they had been accustomed to playing is always a join for me. Seeing that moment when someone's mind is blown by a simple mechanic that overlays a deeper choice. Speaking of which, I got to play Keyflower again, another awesome worker placement game where the workers aren't only assigned to actions but can be used as a bidding token for tiles to expand your village. Which in turn makes the placing of workers a harder choice because if you want to use an action that is now in another player's village they will get your used meeple at the end of the round.

Followed that up with a favorite of mine, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, certainly lighter but I enjoy the unique stories building up my castle can make. This game I was rocking the activity rooms, visitors would come to my place, leave their jackets in the cloak room off the foyer before being led off on an adventure that involved a train room, a theater and even a sewing room. Yeah you know it!

One of the highlights for me, was one fellow gamer coming along with part of his Heroscape collection and giving me the opportunity to play. Out of print at the moment and with great looking pre-painted figures this miniatures game was an unexpected surprise. Our two player game was feeling like a wash to me and I managed to turn it round to garner the win. I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford to get into this, but I thank him for bringing it along to give me a taste.

By then we were joined by many more, including the elusive Kohatsu, who once again brought with him Magnum Opus. A rather interesting unique deck-building race involving alchemy. Through the decks you have to collect up materials to transmute into more powerful cards and powers, as well as trying to find the three elements that make up the Philosopher's Stone. The first player to successfully gather this information and transmute will win the game. It was a fun experience and I was one good dice roll away from stealing victory but alas it slipped through my fingers. Again.

Between games throughout the first day we had people playing many other games, including Cosmic Encounter, Viticulture, Trains, Captains of Industry, Ghostbusters, Cash n Guns, Concordia, Isle of Skye, Favor of the Pharaoh, Marco Polo and some others. Over the day we saw 30+ people come and go, a great turnout.

We ended out the first day with an epic couple games of 2 Rooms and a Boom, with 18 players and myself moderating. The essence of the game is hidden role with two competing teams. The President's Team (blue) and the Bomber's team (red). The teams are mixed up and placed in separate 'rooms', with a time limit a room leader has to choose a number of hostages to swap with the other room. The red team wants to end up with their Bomber in the same room as the President, thus blowing him up. The Blue team wants to avoid that happening. Roles start hidden, but you can make agreements with other players to reveal to one another, so slowly information will leak out into both rooms. It's a great game both in which to participate and watch as you see the segregation in each room.

Sunday promised to be slower day. Starting with an epic four hour, and unfinished, game of Forbidden Stars. Playing as almost a learning game for all of us we had to call the space epic at the start of the 6th round (of 8). A draw between myself and Mario for two of our four needed objectives. The game state at the end seemed to dictate a power shift was about to come as I had spread myself rather thin along the middle of the galaxy. One day I will see this game to a conclusion. Two player rematch perhaps?

I got to savor Blood Rage again, before finishing out my first TableCon with Roll for the Galaxy a staple of many gaming nights for us. Other games on Sunday included Dominant Species, Flick 'em Up and 7 Wonders.

Special thanks to my wife, Cindy and my family for coming along on the crazy ride; Huge thank you to Mario and Trevor for being in attendance all day both days, also for teaching games to others; Jared and Andrea for giving me access to the store for it; Cyndi for also being there all along, thanks for being a constant; Dr Dan for leaving Blood Rage in my hands; Gary for the orange whips; Kohatsu for keeping it real 'old'; Sara & Josh, Jeff C, Judy & Jim, Rob for being with the group at the beginning; Matt and Nicole - get better soon; Steve for learning the correct rules ;) ; Michelle for putting up with us; Shelly for the alcohol; Tom for being larger than life; Aubrey for the quiet moments and good luck with your training; Also thank you to all the others who came along during the weekend, it was a pleasure to meet you all and I hope to see many of you again soon.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

West Valley Tabletop: A Journey and Thank You

    This week marks a milestone and a celebration of sorts, it has been a year since I started up a facebook group in an effort to grow a community of gamers for the far west side of the greater Phoenix area. This is our origin story...

    My wife and I had fallen into hobby games a few years back, but we had only really played Catan, Ticket to Ride and the like. After a new local game store opened on our side of the city I started making the concentrated effort to get regular gaming going. Tabletop Tuesday was born. Many of our attendees came from these first few meetups, but unfortunately the store closed and a decision to move hosting to our home. With a little discussion we settled on a regular Wednesday get together and with that West Valley Wednesday became a thing.

    Wednesday night has become a staple of our lives and a regular turnout of at least 15 gamers each week is impressive and allows us to play many varied titles. I want to thank those that have joined us over the past weeks, those who have brought, shared and taught games. Also those who have kept us fed. It has been great to make new friends and share these great little cardboard experiences together. This past year has been alot of fun and we hope to continue this on for as long as we can. 

    Thanks to everyone around me I've had the opportunities to play alot of games that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. As many who play with me know, I have been tracking my plays since the end of April and in the six plus months since I started doing so I have played almost 200 unique games. 
     I enjoy the experience of learning a new system each time, mechanics, card play, movement. I love to bury myself in a heavy euro as much as playing a strong thematic game with randomly high luck. There is so much choice and diversity out there in this hobby and so much that I have yet to get to play, both old and new that I look forward to every week to get together with my new friends and play.

     So with that, I am excited for this weekend and our first TableCon. Hoping we can introduce some new people to games we love and to this hobby.

     Keep on Playing!

     The previous year wouldn't have been possible without help from the following:
Cindy Coles and our kids, Theresa, Chaeli and Robert; Jared & Andrea Adamson, Mario Attilio, Trevor Shaff, Gary Pryzbocki, Cyndi Weaver, Nathan Kohatsu, Jason Washburn, Wil Sisney, Matthew Green, Nicole True, Michelle Brinker, Danielt Montgomery, Thomas Kirksey, Jeff Carroll, Kevin Kaye, Aubrey Hudachko, Michelle Bonk, Niki Stanger, Jason Schneider, Leo Vandenburg, Steve Rasmussen, Judy Ives, Darren Borquist, Rob Ruppert, Bridgette Sims and the many others who I have played with....