Throwback Thursday: Last Will, Vladimir Suchy

Last Will- Vladimir Suchy

2-5 player/ 45-70 mins

CGE (2011)

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When I first joined Instagram a few years ago I was pretty clueless about the hashtag system. Whilst plugging away at my (then) online clothing business I came to learn all sorts of seemingly useless information. A few years later it’s become such a fundamental part of connectivity it seems ludicrous not to get involved. So whilst my business failed (c’est la vie) my knowledge of how to appropriately use hashtags didn’t. Now I’ve finally come up with a glaringly obvious way to ultilise this through my blog…with a board game Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday. Every week (here’s to hoping) I shall talk about a game that may not be new, but is nonetheless relevant. Games that I have enjoyed, perhaps games I have sold, or simply those that I have played often over the years. I’ll be reflecting on my experience with the game and how it’s changed for me as time has marched on.

I’m kicking off with Last Will, which I played on the weekend just gone. During the game I realised that it’s well deserved of a write up, not only as it’s one of my old favourites but also a very good game that I don’t see around too much.

Going back to the beginning, I have a feeling that Last Will was purchased in 2014. I believe that it was store bought, on a brave expedition through North London to Leisure Games in Finchley. I loved the premise of the game- to win by going broke. Have you ever seen the film Brewster’s Millions? Last Will is that, in game form. Y’know, kind of. A rich (dead) uncle has left his fortune, but first his dearest and nearest (that’s you) will each receive a sum of money. The person to spend it all first inherits the fortune. But much like in the movie losing your money is harder graft than you would think. Trust me.

You start with your personal player boards, a central ‘planning’ board, a starting hand of 2 cards and £70. Each round you will plan your day. First you will choose a planning space that allows you a certain amount of errands, cards and actions per turn. In a two-player game you use an additional marker to block off one space that you definitely don’t want to be stuck with or a space that you absolutely don’t want your opponent to have. You the draw the amount of cards specified on your planning space from the selection of decks on offer. There are companions, properties, helpers, expenses and events, all of which will assist you in spending money. You plan your day by sending your ‘errand boy’ to the spaces on the central board. Here you can take additional cards, jiggle the property market, draw another random card, or perhaps give your errand boy a day off (which will instantly lose you £2). You then each take your designated number of actions and this where your hand management comes in. Some cards will stay in play to be activated at any time, cards attach to one another based on type and symbols, some give you additional actions, and some will only interact with other cards. What you do with the cards in your hand will ultimately be where your money is spent.

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When I first played I was fairly new to modern board gaming and I pretty much took it at face value. I had no real strategy, I was just doing what it says on the tin- ‘ok lose money, cool’ therefore I was choosing action spaces and errands willy-nilly and selecting any card on offer. I performed as many silly stunts as I could think of and found it all rather amusing; ‘I’m going on a cruise with a horse! Woo-hoo!’ A few years and several games later I still find it amusing and have a giggle about theatre going with my dog and the like, often we building narratives around our antics. But I have come to realise that it’s all about the turn order, actions, and property. It’s really tough to win this game without buying and up keeping properties (ultimate money burners, how thematic). By cleverly fiddling the market you can swing it in you favour, or against your opponent. If you’re feeling especially mean you could just do it for fun. In my last game I deliberately didn’t purchase any property, to see if I could win without one. From my experience you fall so far behind it’s very difficult to catch up. Carefully surveying the cards on the planning board, what cards you are holding and how you use them is essential in winning Last Will. Determining player order is also a fundamental part of this. Say you have plan in place and your opponent nabs the card you need, or you don’t have enough actions to execute your plan this could make all the difference to winning or losing.

Reflecting on how the game has changed for me makes me realise that I have have grown as a tabletop gamer, but it hasn’t made the game any easier. Which is fantastic of course as it makes me want to carry on playing. Some games you may grow out of, some could become a little too lightweight, but I could revisit Last Will for a long time to come. Because it’s fun, thematic and smart, and has that charm and humour which never makes for a sore lose. I’ve never been desperate to win Last Will, I have enjoyed the gameplay without worrying too much about ‘the big win’. Where as some games I have an iron cast determination from the beginning to thrash my opponent(s).

I must say my favourite cards to play in succession are ‘hectic day’ and ‘a lavish ball’. Fancy a drunken trip down memory lane with some old friends? Why not host a wild party in the mansion you don’t want? By using a ‘hectic day’ to accumulate several actions and a ‘wild party/lavish ball’ you can lose a large sum in one fell swoop.

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Last Will is one of the rare games that I wanted an expansion for. I don’t feel that it needs an expansion but I can see why it was brought in- it fits nicely, it doesn’t distract from the base game but adds more fun in the form of Getting Sacked. You are quite literally trying to lose your job by getting caught in the act so to speak. Each round when you play a certain card type you may block off a wage space on your employment card, until you lose your job. You can also do this by performing an action on the planning board. Now we’ve played with the expansion I can’t imagine not playing with it- the additional income from your wages gives you an extra challenge to meet and ever so slightly increases the difficulty of the game.

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The appearance and rulebook is very much in line with the usual Czech Games Edition stuff; artwork that doesn’t take itself too seriously and a jaunty rulebook complete with back-story (I love the first line- ‘Your uncle has died. Hooray!’) It’s perhaps not a game where you would admire the card art, but not hard on the eye either. It’s a fair representation of the game and what it’s all about. Also those top hat meeples- adorable!

Lastly I’ll leave you with the fact that I kind of suck at Last Will. I can never seem to win, no matter which strategy I employ. The irony of this has been pointedly remarked on often- considering how good I am at spending money when I have it in real life, how can I not do it so well in a game? But that’s what I love about tabletop games. It can be such a departure from every day life that in Last Will I can be the more astute millionaire, rather than the fool hardy spend-a-holic I wish I could be. Damn.

Thanks for reading!

A Shiny Happy Thank You…

Note:  As per my last GFM update, if you see your image on here and *don’t* want it on here please let me know asap and I shall remove it. Thanks!

Below are the faces, avatars and names of the wonderful people that contributed to my Go Fund Me. When I set it up back in February I really had no idea how it was going to pan out. I was hopeful, nervous and excited all at the same time (and sometimes just a little terrified). But amidst some negativity here and there, and the occasional niggles of self doubt (and one short time period of total doubt) I stuck to my guns. Now i’m off to GenCon50 2017 in less than two months! I’m totally ecstatic- and still terrified!

I may not have ‘made it’ to my goal, but it was a ball park figure. The contributions I had made it possible for me to buy my plane ticket, which was the biggest expense that I simply could not have afforded on my own. I made a recent video summarising some of my aims and plans for the event here. If you want to know why I set this up in the first place and what I intended from the get-go, please do visit the GFM (which is still active and contains all previous updates.) If you want to peruse the games I am selling to aid me with further funding then please do have a browse through my BGG Marketplace list.

I also very much enjoyed making the thank you cards and sending sweetie gifts to people. I am planning to bring some stock with me, to stash in the pockets of those I was unable to send it to originally! I won’t say too much more, other than just a huge thank you to everybody who has helped me, even if it was just words of support and encouragement, or advice and tips, it was very much appreciated.

See below for my contributor collage, and following on from that there’s a little bit about each of these lovely people.  If you want to stay in the loop please check out my channel for Gen Con vlogs and expect lots of content come August! Yippeeeeeeee!

Top left to right (or scrolling through if viewing via smartphone)

Chris M(BitterCommish) Someone I came to know via the board game Twitter community. A Fantasy Baseball League Commissioner and a bit of a top bloke! Thanks Chris!

8-Bit Matt– A friend made through my YouTube videos, and an Indy resident. Matt, you’ve been incredibly helpful and I appreciate all the advice you’ve given me and support you’ve shown. Thank you!

Kelly– An all round cool human who I come to know through Instagram, a fellow board gaming mum, who also organises Pub Skeptic events and works in science! I think she’s the Scully to my Mulder. Thank you Kelly.

Marguerite- One of the coolest cats around who I first happened upon when I joined Instagram. Miss Cottrell does heaps of stuff but her You Tube Channel and Twitter are the best places the start for jam packed board game goodness. Thank you Maggibot and I am looking forward to meeting you.

Ruth–  My co-host on The Five By with the soothing radio voice. Also she runs her own convention! Please check out this lady, she’s fabulous (and also has lived in the UK, I can tell as she always seems to get my vibe!) Thanks so much Ruth.

Harald- I don’t know how he found me all the way from Norway, but he took a chance on contributing to my GFM and has given me lots of movie related tips ever since! Thank you so very much.

GirlyGamer– Angela is the super cool gamer with the adorable grandchildren, who’s always making me chuckle. Such a funny, warm hearted person. Angela has a great Instagram page, is one of my fellow hosts on The Instgamers Network and has her own You Tube channel Thank you Angela.

Chris S– Has an adorable son, I love seeing his cute photos on Instagram, and is an avid gamer who seemingly popped up from nowhere and made a donation to me. Thanks so much Chris, I’m pleased to know you!

Copac– A truly lovely human, Mr Copac really is just one of those super kind and caring souls. Board gamer, programmer and seasonal Santa- and I can’t think of anyone more fitting for the role with your generous warm nature! Thank you so much Chris, and I shall look forward to meeting you.

Anon- Someone who has been very kind to me, a great support and a great friend to have. I’m very pleased to know you and thank you so much for everything.

Joel- I come to know Joel through Twitter and then Instagram. Or perhaps the other way around. Joel made a donation to me when my page went a little quiet and I’d just moved house and was high on stress. It was a real pick-me-up. Thank you very much for your contribution Joel!

Mark– My fellow Instagamers Network host, this guy knows his tabletop and always brings a smile to my face. You can visit Mark on his You Tube Channel and see what he’s up to. He’s a dude! Thank you so much Mark and i’m looking forward to meeting you.

Mike– A wonderful person who co-invited me to be on The Five By podcast which I absolutely love being a part of. Mike you are a very good friend to have. Thanks for everything, you’ve been fantastic.

Glyn, Allie and Kai- My lovely other family members, thank you all so much for your support and kindness. Not just with my GFM but in general over the years. Thanks to you all.

Chris – This fellow was the first person to send me a donation. Thank you so much for getting the ball rolling Chris, it really meant so much to me. You also have fantastic taste in music and films, I can always rely on you to know what i’m on about!

Cole– A game designer and superb artist. Amidst a Kickstarter campaign Cole still found the time to drop me a donation. Thank you so much!

Tony– A fellow Miller, Tony designs games, makes videos on You Tube and generally brightens up everybody’s lives- not only with his amazingly coloured viking locks but with his super warm and lovely personality. Thank you Tony, and i’m looking forward to meeting you!

Voltaire– Volt’s donation kind of blew me away a bit, the page had been quiet for a while and I received a donation from Volt out of nowhere. It was a really nice surprise and I’m very glad to know him. He’s a super cool board game fanatic with an adorable family- just a really awesome bloke who i’m sad i’m not going to meet (yet!) Thank you so much again, it really meant so much.

Chiz– A fellow board game enthusiast from my neck of the woods who I’m grateful to know. A very genuine person who always has something kind or funny to say. Thank you very much my friend.

Jim– Who made a really thoughtful donation to me, and in return I sent him the weirdest sweets I could find, I believe he was the lucky recipient of ‘chicken paws’. A game designer and publisher Jim will be at Gencon with Devious Weasel. Thanks for your support and kindness Jim and I shall look forward to meeting you.

Sterling Quick– He of the superhero name who eluded me for so long, until I finally figured out who he was! Mr Quick is an Instagram buddy who just so happened to find my page and make a contribution. Thank you! (and i’m so relieved I come to know who you were.)

Chris Zero– One of my oldest friends of 17 years. Even though we don’t see each other regularly anymore it’s still so nice that he thought to send a donation my way. Chris has always been a brilliant artist with a pure punk spirit, and I’m so glad he’s doing what he’s doing. Thank you Chris!

Anon- I’m so grateful for your existence and glad you’re in my life! You’re the bees knees. Thank you so much.

Matthias- An Instabuddy who very kindly contributed back in the those initial couple of weeks and then another surprise booster later on. Matt knows his board games and he knows his beer! Thanks Matt, i’m looking forward to meeting you.

Keith– I have no idea how I came to know Keith but I’m glad that I do! A videographer, board game player and fellow pop culture aficionado. Thank you for finding me, contributing and stopping to chat with me!

Gavin– A donation all the way from Australia, Gavin is another person who came from nowhere and contributed. It was really wonderful to receive donations for those that I knew but Gavin was another who surprised me as he didn’t previously know me, but liked my page and what I was up to enough to contribute. Gavin also known as The Prototyper on Twitter is a game designer and publisher who can be found here. Thank you so much!

Annette- Also goes by Nettersplays and (along with Maggibot) was one of the first board gamers I came across on Instagram who inspired me. I was lucky enough to join The Instagamers Network which Annette co-founded, and I love working with her. Not only does she have a vastly extensive knowledge of all things tabletop but she also has an Instagram Page dedicated to her pet birdie. Awwww! Thanks Annette.

Hollie– This lovely lady is an old school friend of my sister, and someone I was often around when I was growing up. It was such a surprise to have a donation from someone I hadn’t seen in years but remembered me. Thank you so much Hollie, and it makes me happy to see you’ve done so well for yourself. Lots of luck to you in all your future endeavours.

…and you know what?? I think that’s it. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabletop I’m Excited For Summer/Autumn ’17

The time has come once again for a post solely dedicated to board game hype. Even when I think there can’t possibly be any more to get excited over, another awesome game comes a-blippin’ onto my radar. I love delving into upcoming games and new releases- call it window shopping, call it research, but either way I’ve found some fantastic stuff that I’m very keen to share with you…

The Kickstarters

I was a late bloomer to Kickstarter. I became a backer for the first time last year and up until that point I was fairly clueless and slightly dubious as to what it was all about. But I finally took the plunge and since those initial experiences I’ve come to discover how the buzz can get under your skin. Once you get the backing bug (which does make it sound like some sort of horrible illness, sorry) it’s difficult to stop. It’s fortunate in a way that I’m not currently able to make large pledges because I would just be throwing my money at publishers. But I must ‘fess up to being super frustrated of late at missing out on a couple I would of loved to back (namely Roll Player reprint + expansion). What I do like however are the affordable games. For the penny conscious amongst us, it’s always nice to have a few on offer that won’t leave you flat broke, and I also like when there’s a decent notice period- the kind where you think ‘ok, it’s couple of months down the line, maybe I’ll have some disposable income by then…’ The drawback to KS is that there is no barrier as to what can end up there, so it’s sadly awash with a few heinous excuses for tabletop games. So it’s important not to forget about the good and worthwhile games; the truly decent stuff that needs backers to make a great concept a reality.

Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture

Back in a January vlog I mentioned Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture being one to keep tabs on- six months later (and much embarrassment over getting the pronunciation so horribly, horribly wrong) Oaxaca is launching next week (12th June). You are honing your skills in various traditional handicrafts of the Oaxaca culture, using cards and pool building to create the most desirable and valuable market stall. You can read more and try the PnP here.

Mint Delivery (date tbc)

Mint Delivery is a follow up from last year’s hugely successful Mint Works. I have sung its praises on a number of occasions and rightly so, it’s a fabulous small footprint game that I’ve really enjoyed, and I especially love the solo variant. Mint Delivery is set in the Mintopia universe, only this time we’re picking up, delivering and managing mints. I’ve played the PnP and am very impressed so far. Mint Works was straight up thinky worker placement wrapped up in a kitschy little bundle, Mint Delivery feels like a natural progression of that. This is a lot more layered, with a subtle complexity, enough so for experienced gamers to appreciate but easy-to-pick-up gameplay for newcomers to the hobby and I love where Justin is taking this. I need to play more to write it up in full and as it’s still in playtesting it’s going to possibly progress & alter further. I’m certainly looking forward to the final results, especially as a solo game. So, eyes peeled for Mint Delivery and you can try the PnP here. Thanks again to Justin Blaske for the prototype.

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 Dawn of Peacemakers 

A while back I remember having a conversation about the use of animal characters in games. Then I heard that Dale of Merchants creator Sami Laakso was designing a different kind of game set in Daimyria, where Dale of Merchants hails from. So imagine my delight at receiving a Snowdale Designs newsletter informing me that Dawn of Peacemakers is scheduled for fall ’17. Dale 1 & 2 were a little before my Kickstarter days begun, but I have since purchased and played both of the games and think they are wonderful. This looks epic. Peacemakers is to be a co-op fantasy wargame using an evolving campaign style set up. My mind is boggling with the possibilities here, but I’m thinking: fantasy adventure, animals miniatures, unlocking secret surprises from a box full of goodies, terrain building and story telling- I’m in. I love when designers push the boundaries and change things up, and I think Sami is the man for the job in this case. Read about it in link above. I’m backing this, enough said. Thanks for the hi res images Sami!

The Expansions:

 Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium

I really liked Terraforming Mars, it was one of my top games of 2016 and I’ve blogged about it a couple of times over the past few months (and it has since been Spiele nominated!) So I’m sure by now we all know the general gist of what TM is about. I am very much looking forward to this expansion. At times an expansion can seem a trifle unnecessary, especially when there’s already a heavy game going on. But I have to make an exception for TM, because yes, I want more. And maybe I should start saying ‘yes’ to expansions and ‘no’ to more new games? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, but that’s definitely a post for another day. Anyway, in Hellas & Elysium we have two new maps added to the base game that have their own milestones and awards, taking the game in a different direction and giving us more stuff to do when terraforming Mars. Yay! See link above for further deets. 

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 The Cities of Splendor

Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m all in for this expansion that is actually a quartet of expansions. I first played Splendor a few years ago when I was new to the hobby, and loved it. As more time has passed the less it has made it’s way onto the table. It’s often a front-runner as a title to introduce new gamers to. It’s straightforward to pick up, easy to set up and generally a smooth little ride down the set collection route. But it’s got to the point now where as I have evolved as a tabletop gamer the less inclined I’ve been to to play Splendor regularly. I think an expansion would zhoosh it up for me a treat. This is 4 expansions in one, 4 independent games that integrate with the base game and each other. How fantastic is that?

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The UKGE Faves

I wasn’t able to make it to UKGE this year, but of course I stalked Instagram and Twitter during the 3 day period to see what the scoop was. There were a couple of titles that cropped up time and time again, so of course I went to find out more…

The Cousins’ War

This is one of the reasons I was gutted to have missed last weekend. The Cousins’ War is a two-player game of battle and area control, driven by cards to deploy troops and bluffin’ dice to determine the outcome. I’m kind of envisioning Inis on a micro scale (but without the card drafting) with some crunchy game play. I’m looking forward to finding out. 

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Package?!

This was a Kickstarter game that I definitely missed somewhere down the line, and it sounds like a right little gem. An abstract strategy game designed for super quick play, using dice to determine which actions you can take to deposit parcels around 5 locations. I love small footprint games and I’m always interested in abstracts. This is probably the kind of thing that will leave me puzzling over what I could of done but didn’t do for days after playing, and wanting just one more game. Hopefully it will be retailing soon!

The Hotness: Renegade Game Studios

Renegade have several titles lined up for the coming months and I’m intrigued by all of them. They are as follows: Fox in The Forest; a fairy tale esque trick taking two-player, Flipships; a sci fi themed dexterity game, Sentient; limited information at the moment but I’m liking what I’ve read so far- programming a valuable network of robots in a cyber future. Lastly, Atlas: Enchanted Lands– a set collection card game themed around magic and fairies. Will they all be as good as they sound? Coming from a roster of already well received and generally bloody fabulous games (Lotus and The Blood of an Englishman are up there for me, and Fuse/Flatfline are high on my wishlist) I’m pretty damn confident that these are well worth looking into further in the next few months. 

And the rest….

Raja of The Ganges

Yes, I like the theme, I’m not going to lie I’m sold on that (trading, building and travelling across the 16th Ganges). But more to the point the designers are the same team behind one of my solid favourites, Village, and created the Spiele nominated Exit series (I’m yet to play my copy of Abandoned Cabin) so this puts ROFG in a whole new light for me. I’ve heard good things, it sounds great, and visually it’s gorgeous.

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Seize The Bean

An economic card game where you are playing as baristas starting up your very own coffee enterprise in Berlin. I don’t have any solid information other than what’s on BGG at the moment, I discovered this one through my UKGE stalk-a-thon. I think it sounds like a friendlier Arkwright- managing and adjusting your business to meet consumer needs and thrash your opposition. I’m really excited to find out more on this one.

Witches of The Revolution

I’m just so stoked for this. As a co-op deckbuilder Witches looks to have a similar feel to the style of the Legendary/Legendary Encounters games. You are each playing a coven of witches coming together to fight the powers that be during the war of independence. Which sounds absolutely nuts and I love it. I do like a deck builder and I like combative card games- especially where you are using spells and such to tackle events. Having studied the game so far it does look a little tongue-in-cheek without being dumbed down at all (which is refreshing) and there’s a couple of intruiging aspects. I’m especially interested in how the ‘moon tracker’ effects the pace of the game, and also how the decks are built. To quote the box material ‘a subtly different deck builder where decks are shaped and upgraded, rather than simply built, with consequences for pruning too aggressively’. Which sounds to be a little more thinky than your average buying up whatever you can afford, balls-to-the-wall deck builder. So yes, this is a game I’m very much looking forward to. It’s on pre order for July, and I’m hoping very much hoping that Atlas Games will be at GenCon. It, will be mine. Oh yes.

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So that concludes this rather lengthy post, and to reiterate what I said on my Twitter a couple of weeks ago I just love love love having this hobby. There is always something to look forward to. Whether it’s playing a game I already own, planning a purchase, introducing someone new to an old favourite or being excited about a future release- it’s just a wonderful feeling to carry around with me, and I love sharing that with other people. Thanks for reading!

Upcoming: A Review of Bemused, Jim Felli

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Bemused

Jim Felli/Devious Weasel Games

4-6 player

Duration 10-30 mins

A couple of months ago a lovely promo came my way in the form of Jim Felli’s Bemused. This is a gorgeous thematic card game involving hand management and bluffing with a strong take that element. And when I say it’s gorgeous I mean the artwork is really is beautifully detailed, with an ethereal feel that resonates throughout the game. Later on I became privy to some information about the intent of the artwork and it’s meaning, but first of all I should really give you an idea of what Bemused is all about.

It’s very much a social game (well all games are social but you know what I mean) it’s 4-6 player, and I’d say it’s essential to play with those whom you’re comfortable with. Or with a certain type of tabletop gamer who will catch the Bemused vibe. Having said that I can almost see it having the potential to be used in a weird psychosocial experiment- with disastrous consequences, like something out of a horror film. It is a weird one. And if you know me by now you’ll know that I’m good with the weird.

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You are playing as a muse, who is on a mission to elevate a human virtuoso to toppling heights, and the virtuoso is the character card you will be randomly dealt. There are 6 virtuosos available- the dancer, the painter, the thespian, the singer, the musician and the poet. But since your protégés are pretty damn fabulous already you are now seeking to destroy each other instead, by driving virtuosos insane and/or killing them. You achieve this by planting niggling doubts and seeds of dread in the form of coloured doubt and neutral dread cards. The colour of the doubt cards depict the type of virtuoso it associates with. You begin the game with a hand of five cards, including one dread, plus an unrevealed Gemina card and a secret (more on these later). Whilst you are still sane you draw two doubt cards into your hand and are able to take two actions on your turn if you choose; plant a doubt, instill a dread or use your virtuoso’s/ Gemina’s ability. These are individual abilities that can shift, change or remove doubts and dreads from yourself and each other. A combination of five dreads and doubts will drive a player insane, which limits the amount you can do on a turn, but also reveals the insane player’s Gemina card. An insane virtuoso can regain sanity, but if they receive further dread in the meantime their insanity kills them…but their phantasm can still haunt the remaining players! The Gemina cards represent a virtuoso and once revealed you can use that virtuoso’s ability as well as your own. The secret cards add further depth, as these reveal your hidden feelings toward your Gemina. So maybe you secretly hate your Gemina and wish a horrible death upon them, therefore if the Gemina is a phantasm at the end of the game you will gain further points for their death.

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The game end is triggered when there are fewer than two sane virtuosos left. There are some rules around what players can and can’t do depending on the state of your character throughout the game, so please visit the BGG page to have a peek at the rulebook.

So there’s a fair bit to absorb here, and it can take a little while to get your head around it, but trust me- the pay off is worth it. In terms of gameplay it’s actually dead simple and fast paced, but it has that intriguing depth and complexity. It’s clever. And I’m pleased to say- it’s also a lot of fun and highly amusing. But it is what you make it. There’s not much entertainment to be had if you choose to move through the rounds in a monotonous fashion, simply slapping dreads and doubts on other players. But if you can get down with some ‘shameless table talk’ as the rulebook encourages, and start to weave a narrative around each other’s characters, that is when the real soul is breathed into the game. The way that the rules shift with your virtuosos change of state is also interesting. As well as some clever hand management it’s the dual use of the cards, the choices you make with them and the virtuoso’s secrets that give the game it’s bite. No one can really tell who’s playing whom until it’s perhaps too late. This is where the good stuff begins- the bluffing, scheming and contemplation as to what the hell is going on.

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I appreciate the thematic quality of Bemused, and how it leaves you questioning each other’s motives during the game and in the aftermath. It definitely has that ‘fancy one more quick game?’ appeal. I also think in the case of Bemused, it’s the more the merrier; we had fun with 4 players but I imagine it will be even better with 4 plus.

As previously mentioned the stunning artwork is a wonderful addition, it’s diverse, and laced with intentional nuances, which the designer let me in on. Despite wanting to share those with you I’m instead going to leave it here and ask you to look closer…what do you see?? This I think is where the game is a winner for me- physically there’s not a huge amount to it, but it’s chock full of stuff and it’s your job to figure it all out. And I love that about small box games.

If this sounds like your weirdly wonderful cup of tea, or vicious and thematic card games are your penchant you can pay the BGG page a visit here. It’s available for pre-order on the Devious Weasel website, or you can pick up a copy at Gen Con in August. Until then I’m going to be concocting ‘Bemused- the social experiment gone wrong’ movie script…Thanks for reading!

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Kickstarter Preview: XYbrid, Gabe Shultz

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I mentioned XYbrid several weeks ago, and I was cheeky enough to get my hands on a prototype, albeit a little late to the party but I got there nonetheless. I received it (thanks to the kindness of the project creator), played it and now I’m going to give you a brief insight into what it’s all about.

Initially there were a few points to catch my eye, namely robots with animal features, transparent cards and a vivid, very cool artwork style. So it comes as no surprise that the designer-Gabe Shultz-is a graphic designer by day with a self confessed childhood passion for modular creativity, and a game designer. XYbrid was four years in the making and it definitely shows. In an industry brimming with cool and novel ideas that are sometimes unfortunately rushed out or poorly executed, XYbrid works, it works well and it’s fun. It does have a lot of style but in this case not over substance, which is a huge relief.

This is a filler game for sure, lasting up to 30 minutes it’s not intended to be a mind-boggling epic, and as I’ve said many times before this is something I personally welcome wholeheartedly. I love playing games and I always aim to have fun whether it’s hours of heavy strategy, medium crunchiness or lightweight fillers. In XYbrid you are building monsters over three rounds and after each round you deploy them to do combat. There’s no major backstory here, this is just what happens and it’s cool ok?

At the start of each round you choose a core part (the torso if you will) and you will build upon this using the cards from central ‘lab’. You are also dealt three ‘breakthrough’ cards to use later on. You take turns choosing subsequent parts such as heads and limbs that are of different numeric values and sciences (biology, chemistry, physics and robotics) and attaching them to your creation by overlaying the cards. Some cards have effects to assist you along the way; some can be used when they’re drawn, some at beginning of a turn, others during the deployment phase. The card abilities vary but just to give you a few examples -you can upgrade your monster, maximize your infamy points or take out your opponent’s parts. When monsters are completed they are then deployed, and this is where you can have some serious fun fighting each other and utilize your deployment abilities and breakthrough cards. When all effects have been resolved you add up your infamy points (which can be done using an accompanying app) and move onto the next round. I won’t go into a rules explanation beyond this, but please do take a look here if you want to get a broader spectrum of the game.

 

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Core Parts

I found XYbrid to be impressive, on an experience level and the design itself. It has that retro-console-as-a-card game feel. Which is fab! I mean what’s not fun about assembling a weird monster with a shark head, robotic arms and ostrich legs, then getting combative on your opponents ass and blowing the limbs from their panda/lizard hybrid? It’s genuinely good fun, but at the same time is an elegant design where the more practiced gamer will be able to strategise a little deeper. As I’ve only played a few times I can’t give you a definite example as yet, but there’s something going on here beyond weird science and blowing each other to smithereens. I really enjoyed the multi faceted cards, and I especially loved the auxiliary parts- unnecessary but aesthetically pleasing additions you can attach to supersize your monster, a couple of tails for example, and this is also a good way to notch up a few extra points.

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Breakthrough Cards

The transparent cards are pretty nifty but not for the sake of it, the reason for them being transparent makes sense within the game, and I like that. I’m pleased to say that as of last week the campaign funded and I’m so pleased for the designer, there must of been a huge amount of work that has gone into this game to make it work as well as it does. The Kickstarter campaign itself is pretty much ‘no frills’, which is refreshing, and funding covers the expense of the printing technology that goes into making this concept a reality. I must say that the quality of the prototype was very decent anyway, so the final version should be mint. So all that said there’s only 4 days left on this one (I did say I was late to the party) so if you want to get your hands on a unique small box game this year then XYbrid is where it’s at. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Great Western Trail, Alexander Pfister

 

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The first time I mentioned Great Western Trail was last summer in one of my first ‘tabletop I’m excited for’ posts and once again in my ‘Essen Wishlist’ video last autumn. And sometimes things I’m excited for can change from one month to the next. It can be for any number of reasons, but on many an occasion my initial excitement over a game can turn into a ‘maybe….not’. Others however will go the distance. Great Western Trail was one of them for me. Despite its 8.3 BGG rating  it’s received a mixed bag of reviews, many very positive but a few of disappointment that it maybe wasn’t the wonder game that was expected. So here I am to throw my two-pennies-worth into the mix.

I think that when a game does get a lot of pre-release hype, or has a tall order to stand up to (in this case Mombasa) it can struggle to meet expectations. I’ve not played Mombasa but I did enjoy Broom Service a great deal (that Pfister co-designed) and I wasn’t really holding it to any extravagant expectations. I just thought GWT sounded like a good time. It’s a eurogame about travelling around midwest America living the life of a cattle rancher. This involves following a forked trail, moving your meeple from place to place (only 1-3 route spaces at a time), stopping at buildings, selling and trading your cattle (cards) getting ahead on the railroad (with your adorable wooden train) hiring workers and selling your hand every time you arrive at good ol’ Kansas City.

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For me it was an instant hit, just on a cerebral level I knew liked it, I didn’t have to think ‘why do I like this?’ or ‘hmmmm maybe I need a few more games to get into it’, it simply clicked. But for the purpose of writing about it I guess I should touch on what ticked the boxes for me (in my funny lizard brain).

I like games that I’m not instantly good at, where I start off not really knowing where I’m going or what I’m doing or why. I see the sprawling board with a ton of detail, multiple tiles and little wooden pieces, my intricate player board full of stuff, and of course- cattle cards. It’s like a fascinating puzzle waiting to be solved. Once I got my head around the game not only does it become clear what I’m doing and why, but also how I’m going to win. This is also the point where I start to see how wonderfully designed the game is.

Here are a few things I’ve come to appreciate during my initial plays of Great Western Trail…

The Flow of the Game

I like the way the game flows as you make your way up to Kansas City and back again. Turns are super speedy but you choose the pace of how quickly you travel from one end of the board to the other. Every time you sell your hand at Kansas City three out of nine tiles on the ‘foresight’ spaces are chosen. If you choose to place future workers on the job market this affects how quickly the game will end, because when the last worker drops off the market that’s end of game. Something about the movement of this game just does it for me, it’s smooth and has a different feel from many other games I’ve played, and it’s a good thing.

Building in the Game

In my initial game of GWT I thought ‘ok I’m placing building tiles, cool, I’ll just put one erm….here!’. But after a few games I realised it’s really not a case of popping them wherever and hoping for the best. The buildings not only score you bonus points at the end of game but they can really save your hide (sorry) at the last knockings. When you’re almost at Kansas City and your selling hand is terrible (more on that later) they can also help you accumulate cash- for instance some buildings mean that a player has to pay you (if able) when they pass through. Other buildings will help you rake in the cash, e.g.- when you have multiple buildings on green areas of the board you’ll receive two coins for each building. So if you choose the ‘get rich quick’ route those particular buildings are really handy to have. But you can only place ‘2’ ‘3’ ‘4’ buildings and so on when you have builders to do so, so there’s some balancing to be done there. Hazard tiles on the trail can also be cleared to assist you with achieving objectives and to clear the trail. This means you can build on the spaces where smashing bonus actions are available and avoid paying a fine for passing through a hazardous area.

Bonuses in the Game

I love me a bonus I do, and there is abundance in GWT. I love wracking up bonuses knowing that if all else fails I’ll have some good solid points awaiting me at end scoring. As well as the building bonuses in the hazardous areas there are also bonuses on your player board and objective cards. I must admit I was a bit unsure of the objective cards at first. You are dealt one at random during set up and you choose to collect more thereafter. These go straight into your discard pile and if you commit yourself to a card later on by placing it in your play area then you must meet it, or else are deducted points at the end of game. When that time comes you can choose to score them anyway, whether you are committed or not, so I was kind of wondering why bother committing yourself to them in the first place? Well it’s the bonus actions that can be taken when committing to the objective that can really help you out. Perhaps you’re in desperate need of money, or really want to move up the train track- it can be for any number of reasons, but trust me, at some point one of those bonus actions will matter.

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 The Train in the Game

During my initial play-through of GWT I honestly didn’t understand what the train aspect of the game was for, other than being synonymous of the old west and another complexity to an already full game. And it is a complexity but yet it’s so necessary. Your selling hand at Kansas City determines the station you can stop at, which in turn allows you to take a wooden cube from your player board unlocking an ‘auxiliary action’. The pain of it is once you have stopped at the cheap and cheerful stations you have to keep increasing your hand value to go further. For example- your final hand is the value of 7 but you’ve already stopped at stations 2-6, meaning that you can now only stop at stations 8 onwards. Of course you can always go back- to Topeka or Kansas City- but this deducts points at the end of game. So you really need a decent hand (and to have found ways to increase its value on your way up the trail). The certificates that can be accessed on your player board/buildings/train station tiles are so unbelievably helpful for this as well. The train can also give you bonus tiles and actions or can be used as payment for auxiliary actions, so overall the railroad is absolutely crucial to the game.

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The Cows in the Game

Another crucial aspect to the game is of course The Cows, and the deck building element to GWT is pretty fantastic. It’s also kind of different for me to play a deckbuilder that’s not using the deck for combat or special abilities, but simply for points and cash, it’s basic yet it forms the crux of the game. Throughout GWT you are refining and manipulating your deck to build the best hand possible in time for Kansas City and it’s really great fun. The cattle market is refreshed when the job market hits the yellow arrow and you can buy cattle via certain buildings. You need cash to purchase of course, and 2+ cowboys for the pricier cattle. It’s also desirable to arrive before your opponent if you want first dibs on the best of the bunch (a Texas Longhorn worth 7 points- amazing). The auxiliary actions and buildings are essential for building and fiddling your deck, and that’s what I love about GWT; not only does it flow nicely but the mechanics are interwoven very well indeed.

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 What I’ve enjoyed the most is how damn replayable it is. There are so many ways you can go about scoring big and/or winning that at the end of every game I think ‘next time I’ll try something different’. The game is so deep you can’t possibly do it all in one play, so you have to sacrifice one aspect in order to focus on another, and then resolve to try another next time.

I’m so glad Great Western Trail went the distance for me, from wishlist to shelf to possibly a top ten game. It is a complex one but not crazy heavy, but heavy enough to feel like you put your poor brain through the ringer. I never thought a game about cattle ranching could make me swear so much and GWT is one of those where you’re desperate, exasperated, nail biting, plotting and hustling the whole way through and it’s unbelievable enjoyable.

And that’s my thoughts on Great Western Trail. And…cows. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Ode To Being A Board Gaming Mummy

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I had this really weird day back in October 2014 when I found out I was going to have a baby and that weird day pretty much lasted for two years. It’s ok; this post isn’t going to be alllll about Mumlife and the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, I promise. But it is Mother’s Day in the UK today so it made sense for me to touch on how motherhood has changed me as a tabletop gamer and where I’m at with it nearly two years later.

One of my fears toward the end of my pregnancy was ‘everything is going to change and I won’t be able to play games anymore’. It might sound a bit silly, but it was a legitimate concern. Tabletop gaming has pretty much been my sole hobby for the past few years and when you’re a new parent and don’t know what to expect you seek out (and are told whether you like it or not) so much information about parenthood, and most of it makes your blood run cold. I just thought my life was going to be permanent exhaustion, zero free time and a non-functioning game-brain for years to come. And well I was right in some respects. Kind of. Let me continue….

Up until the day before I had my C-section and Gwen said hello to the world I played board games. Being pregnant didn’t stop me enjoying myself but it was a massive pain in the arse. I was often very uncomfortable, especially during long games. I cried over anything and everything, from dropping a card on the floor for what seemed like the 100th time and being unable to pick it up without a gargantuan effort, to accidentally spilling a drink over Doomtown: Reloaded because I was just so ungainly. Sometimes it was simply just because my whole body was hurting and I’d had enough or ‘I really want to finish this game but I physically cannot sit here any longer’. I didn’t particularly like being pregnant. I didn’t enjoy the experience. The main issue was the perpetual state of fear I existed in, and when complications started to arise I was just fully terrified.

Now this is all based on my personal experience and I’m not deterring anyone from being a parent, honestly. Because of course it has many wonderful aspects. I wish I could go back and tell post-pregnancy-me not to expect too much from myself. Don’t listen to everyone else religiously but it’s ok to let other people help. And it’s ok not to get it right and be perfect. It didn’t click into place for me right away, it didn’t feel as natural as it should have and much of this relates to my post-pregnancy health issues. All I can tell you is that for 6 months post- pregnancy I really didn’t think about games at all. All I cared about what making sure Gwen was healthy and that I was getting some sleep. Nothing else seemed to matter. It was only in December 2015 when I received board games as Christmas presents that I felt like I could even dare to start thinking about it again. But this is completely, 100%, a personal thing. I’ve seen photos of people playing games, holding their very newborn babies etc. and I think ‘wow, that’s amazing’. Because I just couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t focus on anything but Gwen and making it through each day. But what I had to hold on to and I still do when things seem hard,  is that it’s a temporary state. There are so many stages and they pass so quickly, and you always wish you could go back and just enjoy them more.

I think once I felt just a little bit better and more like myself and I could start to consider gaming again I just haven’t looked back since. It’s like anything, sometimes the thought of it is scarier. Maybe that’s an anxiety thing, ‘what if the baby wakes up half way through the game? Well…maybe we just shouldn’t play then…’ but you just have to try to get out of that mindset and do it because of course that scenario has happened, a countless number of times, and it really doesn’t matter a bit.

I couldn’t play many new games for a while after having Gwen. When she was around 3 months old I went to a family gathering and was offered a game of Forbidden Stars, and I’d been looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately due to being exhausted, not being present through the majority of the rules explanation (for a reason I can’t remember but it was definitely baby related) and then having her in my arms for the rest of the game, I consequently really had no idea what was going on or what I was doing, couldn’t handle the components with ease and I really didn’t enjoy it at all. The thought of Forbidden Stars still makes me shudder. So yes, new baby+new games was a no-no for me.

I can say with absolute honesty that even though raising a child is hard work, it’s mainly the sleep deprivation that makes it harder. I genuinely believe that you can do anything you put your mind to, but everything is a million times harder when you’re functioning on a few hours sleep. I was told by a few people at several points last year that it does get easier, but you will always been tired, and I thought ‘there is no f***ing way I can live like this’ but I can now say that is so true. The sleepless nights have ended, but I am still tired. Things can be very draining, and to a degree it just does become your permanent state. But the point is you just don’t let it beat you and you fight passed it.

So Mother’s Day got me thinking about motherhood and all it entails, and how it’s changed me. I had a random conversation with a stranger when I was working in a shop last year, for some reason I felt compelled to tell my life story to this person. Some people just have that ability to help you open up, and I think I  have that ability too, I’m usually a person people feel they can talk to. She told me that she believed it takes about two years to get over a pregnancy and I think she was right. It took two years for me to feel any level of confidence over being a parent, to feel like I could wear the kind of clothes and style I always have without feeling like an idiot. Two years to feel like I can function in society again and two years to claw back parts of myself I lost to pre and post pregnancy anxiety and sleep deprivation. It probably sounds like I’m complaining a lot; and to an extent I am (can’t break the habit of a lifetime) but I love being a Mum to Gwen, I wish I could convince my whole self I’m doing a good job, when a small percentage of my brain knows I am, but silly monster brain tells me I’m s**t. I wish I could give myself more credit. My daughter is amazing, intelligent, sweet and good-natured and I’ve been the main person to nurture her. I’m so proud of myself that even though I didn’t spring back to being a career woman right away, and still haven’t, that even though I didn’t become a domestic goddess (and still haven’t) I grafted to do something I wanted in my spare time, which for me was to continue to play games, grow my blog, start a YouTube channel and create stuff. I’m fiercely protective over what I do, because it’s the only thing that’s reminded me I am a separate entity from Gwen and I’m still my own person but also because I grafted at it through anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and getting to grips with motherhood, so if I feel anyone belittles  that, whether it’s nicking my material without asking me, or making me feel like what I’m doing isn’t worth anything if it’s not financially gaining anything, well let’s just say I get irked.

I’m going to end this on a sweet note- one of Gwen’s nicknames actually came from Vlaada Chavtil’s Dungeon Petz. Because everyone referred her to as ‘Gwen-Gwen’, I rhymed that with ‘Dungeon Penguin’ in reference to ‘Dunguin’ the one eyed cave dweller from Dugeon Petz. So since Gwen was about 3 days old until this very day, I pretty much sing ‘Little Miss Gwen-Gwen, Dungeon Penguin…’ at least five times a day. It’s my ode to being a board gaming mummy. I’ll look forward to explaining that to her when she’s older.

Well, happy Mother’s Day from me, and generally ‘good f***ing job to everyone who is or has been a parent’. As an aside- to anyone who is pregnant, or a new parent or is having issues with mental health, please do say hello to me. I’d be happy to listen, be a sounding board and give any advice if asked, I always say this, but i’m not as scary as I sound, I’m a total dork and a nice, caring person- it’s only when people abuse that I turn into a harpy from hell!

Thanks for reading and bearing with me whilst I’ve been getting my arse into gear, and I’m working on some actual board game content as we speak! Have a great week everyone.