Thursday, 2 March 2017

Boardgames are art? What does that mean?

One thing I've been fascinated with lately is the idea of board gaming as an evolving art form. Art forms take time to mature, to develop complex themes and ideas, but I think Board-Gaming is getting there. 

Boardgames are a unique art form, because it is about creating an experience for players, about evoking certain thoughts, emotions and ideas. Whether that's in a purely intellectually sense in an abstract game like Chess or a purely social sense with games like the Resistance.

And i'm not talking about the literal artwork on a game, but the idea of a game as art itself. 

Boardgames can be just a simple toy, but there is more to them than that. Just as Computer games and film explore settings, characters, stories and emotions, so do boardgames. And as an art form, its starting to present mature and interesting themes. 

Boardgames are a lot like music, an art form that can be recreated by others and each time it's interpretation is influenced by its participants. Just as "I will survive" sounds different when played by Gloria Gaynor or Cake. Two different groups of players will have a different experience each time they play a game.

So what do we get from this art form?

Well, a kaleidoscope of experiences depending on what games you play. 

Historic wargaming can be very intellectually stimulating, as the competition and competitive nature of the game tests your reasoning against other people. But its also a medium for traditional arts, such as painting and sculpting. Add to that the interest Wargamers show in researching the periods they play in to ensure historical accuracy, and you can see the impact the art has on them.

Fantasy/Sci Fi Wargaming is the same, asides from instead of researching the history, players tend to immerse themselves in works of fiction. And for a lot of people, army selection is a form of artistic expression. People play Space Wolves, for the most part, because they find space vikings cool. 

Euro style games tend to focus on decision making, maximizing moves, efficiency and reacting to changes in the board state. These games test us in intellectual ways, and the emotions that come about are normally to do with how well we executed our plans. 

Games with heavy social elements, like Spyfall, Battlestar Galactica and Coup test our social skills and expose our social dynamics. It's rare that we tell utter lies to our closest friends, but in these games, that is the norm. We get to experience deception and betrayal, misdirection and obfuscation and enjoy it. I can't think of any other time or place where you can do that with friends. 

And co-operative games explore group social dynamics. How much does one person dominate, do you problem solve as a team, do you defer to others, or do you just "do your thing".

Even solo games provide an interesting experience in introspection that's quite unique. 

Still counts for solo play

These are broad strokes, and your millage may vary. But if you have played a boardgame, and have at least one story about "the time that....", then the games have impacted you as an experiential art form. 

Every gamer has had a moment a bit like this. 

Does it matter?

I don't really know. Like a lot of art forms, you don't have to delve too deep to enjoy them. You can enjoy music without knowing what counterpoint is or what Phrygian mode sounds like. You can enjoy a movie without a degree in film studies (some might argue its easier to enjoy film then). And you can look at a painting and appreciate it without being able to hold a brush. 

But for me, I think i'm more interested in looking at what a game delivers, what experience its going for, and how that impacts on a social group than I ever have been before. 

And as a result, i've been looking at games with different themes, different ideas and different experiences a lot more than before. But more about that later. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The 4th annual Kriegy Awards - 2016

It award season again, and continuing to show my contempt for every other award series out there, I am doing my own..... again. 

Like all award ceremonies, prepare to read a list of things picked by self-appointed experts that claim to have more authority on the topic than you do. 

In this case me..... oh.... and some of my regular gaming gang who chipped in. 

Several awards have been suspended from previous years. One, because i'm playing mostly with my regulars and not doing much community gaming and another because I don't think i read any new RPG books this year. 

But there are new and exciting awards to replace them. But as always, we start with.......

The "F**k this, I give upaward

For model that most made me want to give up painting because anything I do will not be as cool as that.

While you might not like the art style because it is a little busy, the detail and level of artistry on these Titans is just humbling. 

I mean, seriously.... look at that detail work. Ugh, it's just galling to see the level of talent some people have. I've done some pretty average looking banners, and I can write Cygnar lettering pretty well free hand. But that's like smearing crayons on the wall compared to this. 

Anyway, head over to GMM Studios to check out more of this artists work. Then throw your brushes in the bin, make a million dollars, and commission him to paint your stuff instead. 

The "The distant future, the year 2000" award

For game idea/concept that could change the gaming world. 

Boardgames are evolving at a rapid pace, as is technology. I like to look at things that shook up the hobby and made me think "this is the future". 

This year, it was easily Tabletop Simulator. Not only is it easy to load a game and play with friends, the workshop has allowed virtually every game to end up there in some form or another. 

Whether it is crushing my doctor friend at Rebellion or playing Terraforming mars solo, or even just exploring games and looking at them. Tabletop simulator has changed how I view the hobby. 

Previous winners: 

2014: Heroforge and bespoke 3D model printing. 
2015: XCOM. Mobile app and integrated game play. 

The "Pass me the lotion, I need some alone time" award

For best solo game of the year

This is a new award, as I've spent a fair amount of time playing solo board games and really appreciate a game that can be played by one.  

In the past I have played a lot of Arkham Horror solo, Zombicide, Pandemic, XCOM and pretty much any other pure co-op. XCOM won last years boardgame of the year off a strong solo performance as well as good group play.

But this year was a surprise for me as the winner is not a co-op. It's a competitive engine building game that becomes a puzzle game in solo mode. 

That winner is.....

The solo game feels very different to the group play, and that's really charming for me. Thanks to Tabletop Simulator, I've played many solo games of this without the hassle of shuffling about 200 odd cards each time and setting up the board. 

The "leading cause of paper cuts this year" award

For best card game of the year

I haven't played a lot of card games this year, but that's not because of any intentional reasons. I have the Arkham Horror LCG sleeved up and ready to play, but just haven't got to it yet. So this award is going to go to an older game which I have thoroughly enjoyed every time I've played it. And, due to GW and FFG having a spat, will no longer be getting any expansions or attention, which is a real shame.  

Previous winners: 

2013: Android Netrunner
2014: Android Netrunner
2015: Smash Up

The "What shall we do tonight, Pinky" award

For best boardgame of the year

This was a seriously good year for board games in my opinion, and the opinion of my regular group.

7 Wonders, Terraforming Mars, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Spheres of Influence and Ghost stories were all new to the table for us this year. And every one of them was received well.  

So, if I was to listen to my player group, the Winner would be Terraforming Mars with 7 Wonders as the runner up. 

But for me, the best competitive Boardgame experience this year was easily Star Wars Rebellion, the first game to come along in years that could dethrone War of the Ring from my "top grand strategy game ever" slot. 

Character driven, adaptive strategies, seems close every game, and really nice to look at. A solid game and the best 2 player experience this year easily. 

Previous winners: 

2013: Battlestar Galactica 
2014: Spartacus
2015: XCom

The "Toy soldiers are serious business!" award

For miniatures game of the year

Well, this is going to be pretty obvious, as it's basically the only Miniatures game I've played this year as I've been designing it. yeah, it's self-serving to give your own award to yourself, but in the Trump era, this seems entirely appropriate. 

Designing a skirmish game has been an interesting experience. And trying to make the game simple enough to play, yet deep enough to be rewarding, while not getting away from it's core design ethos has been a great challenge. 

I don't think i'll be publishing it anytime soon as it still requires much work, but what a rewarding and enjoyable project, and the games have been legitimately fun. 

Previous winners: 

2013: X-wing
2014: Zombicide 
2015: Imperial Assault

The "The Computer counts as a friend, right?" award

For best PC adaption of a boardgame this year

Another new award, brought about because of the amount of time spent playing either mobile adaptions of board games on my tablet, or just playing on PC.

This award also came about because the winner was just so good, and so much fun, that I had to create a new award. 

Twilight Struggle on PC is a perfect adaption of the board game. It looks good, has good ambiance, nails the game play perfectly, and the AI is not mug. Sure, you can beat it, but you can't play badly and still come out on top. 

Also, Twilight Struggle remains a high water mark for game design for me, so seeing this gem bought to PC made me very very happy. 

The "Ouch, my Wallet" award

For game that ruined my bank account.

Yeah, it's Radland's again. I was pretty sensible with my game purchasing this year, but for the next round of Radlandz testing I bought a whole bunch of terrain, and some custom made play mats from Deep Cut, a pile of arts and crafts supplies, a new airbrush, 30 odd airbrush paints, and a bucket of d8's. 

Previous winners: 

2014: X-wing
2015: Cthulhu Wars

The "Bob Ross" award

For most enjoyable "arts and crafts" project. 

This is a new award, and is for whatever painting or arts/crafts project has brought me the most enjoyment this year.

This year has been a low painting year for me, but i'm finally getting back into it. 

What has been enjoyable though was building a massive ruined city, spraying it with the airbrush, and then having the lads over for a day to help get it painted. 

We still have a long way to go before the whole job is done, and I should really stop painting Cthulhu Wars stuff and focus on this. 

The "Golden Kriegy" award

Overall winner For best game system of any kind for the year

This was pretty much a consensus decision for this year. An impulse purchase after reading one review online, the theme immediately drew me in. 

It's combination of excellent theme, good group play and excellent solo-play make this a real winner and a gem in my collection. 

High replay-ability with a massive selection of cards, factions, and approaches to building your terraforming engine. Also, you get to smash moons into Mars. 

It was also the clear favorite of my gaming group this year and a game that will always get sounds of approval when someone asks to play it. 

7 Wonders gets an honorable mention as runner up for this award. 

Previous winners: 

2013: Android Netrunner
2014: Age of Rebellion RPG. 
2015: Talathen Sector Star Wars (Combined X-wing, Armada, Imperial Assault)

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Radlandz Scenery - Step 1 getting some terrain sorted.

So, in order to take testing for Radlandz to the next level, I have decided to splash out on some scenery and other goodies to make the game look a lot more professional, and well, more RADLANDZY. 

Fortunately for me, this was all prompted by a message from a local games supplier saying they had 30% off all battlefield terrain. And after browsing through the massive collection they had, I settled on the Mantic- Sci-Fi Ruined Quadrant. 

That's it all assembled below. 

It looked like a lot when I was looking at the pictures, but holy cow, once I got it home and opened it I was blown away. SO MANY SPRUES AND PARTS. 

The first thing I assembled, was the three story tower shown on the box. They say it only needs to be clipped together, but that felt a bit bloody optimistic to me as I struggled to get the hang of sticking things together. So the Tamiya plastic cement was deployed and I have no regrets about making the terrain permanent. 

I also picked up a small pack of 20th century terrain bits, shown in orange below. Its a nice little pack with barricades, picket fences, stop signs and other very contemporary bits of terrain. 

After i felt more comfortable with assembly, I decided to make buildings that looked nothing like the ones on the box cover. I'm personally quite proud of my ruined barn and it should be a nice piece for the board. 

Radlandz needs a lot of terrain to work effectively, as its a cover based game. I also wanted the terrain to look familiar yet ruined. And the setup below shows a bombed out street

 I also wanted interesting visuals as the game uses true line of sight, so getting down and looking at model level should be interesting.

This is simply stage 1 of 5 planned stages for building the Radlandz terrain. 

This week is stage 2, spray undercoating all the terrain

Stage 3 should happen on Friday and Saturday, and that's where i use my recently repaired airbrush to base coat all the terrain. 

Stage 4 is detail work, and i'm employing the services of my Radlandz testing crew to come around, grab some brushes, and do some details on these buildings. Chances are we wont get them all done in one day, but I hope we really break the back of it. 

Stage 5..... well that's a secret :) 


Pretty stoked with this purchase, can't wait to test them out for real. 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Battle for Axamar

Well, this was a three stage engagement, with both ground troops, fighters and the fleet involved. 

The three missions were as follows. The fighters would screen transports ships as they left the base, the Fleet would wait to hyperspace ambush the imperial fleet as it arrived, and the special forces team would defend the base personnel and take the last transport out. 

The stakes were high as any failed mission would impact on the rebels command structure during the next phase.  

Battle one: Fire in the sky of Axamar

The rebels were going to be outnumbered in this one, but they had two simple goals. Get the transport off the table and kill the bombers so they couldn't get the next transport off the line. 

I was forced to deploy randomly, so split my deployment into 6 zones and rolled for where each squadron went. 

8 ties with no upgrades, 4 basic intecerptors, and 4 bombers with torpedoes and missiles for transport blasting. 

The rebels countered with 4 Awings with concussion missiles, 4 X-wings with Torps, and Airen Cracken in his Z-95. 

Things started pretty normally, with the rebels attempting to use their concentrated mass of fighters against the bombers and one group of ties before the interceptors and 2nd squad of ties could get in position. (Dr Vox just loves the camera, and yes, hes wearing an armoured hoody)

Unfortunately for the rebels, the Empire slammed on the breaks in their Tie Bombers and the A-wings, who were expecting them to fly full speed ahead towards the transport, were totally out of position. 

This allowed the bombers to punch right through the formation, and while there was some scrappy dogfighting in the grand melee, things did no go well for the rebellion. 

Once through the breach, the lead bombers hit the rebel transport with everything they had. And while the interceptors kept the rebel fighters busy, the second tie squadron crashed in on the other flank. 

Caught in a crossfire, the rebels started taking heavy damage, and once through the line, the bombers fled the engagement zone to attack the next transport leaving the surface 

Round one in the Battle for Axamar was a solid Imperial victory, with the rebels losing half their fighters before retreating, and the Empire taking out the Rebel transport and getting two bombers off the board edge. 

Battle Two: Begin planetary bombardment

While the fighters were engaged, the capital ships had a different mission. The Imperials objective was to bombard the rebel base, while the Rebels had to prevent them from doing so, and force them to retreat and get reinforcements before continuing the attack. 

The Imperial Squadron, led by the Imperial Star-Destroyer "Malice" and it's victory class bombardment specialists. Heading straight for Axamar. 

However, using "hyperspace ambush" the rebel attack fleet, supplemented by a massive expenditure of favours with Rebel high command to include a Mon Cal cruiser for the fight, were in prime position to exploit the Imperial fleet deployment. 

This is because our leaders get to make a tactics roll, and based on that roll, they can buy upgrades, including flank deployment. In this battle, they had rolled well enough to get 2nd deployment and a flank deployment. Which was huge. 

The Empire decided to break for the planet Axamar and pound it instead of breaking and engaging. They knew they would not be easily able to turn the fleet to engage before the rebels were on them, so it was full speed ahead for the Victory destroyers, while Malice would turn and engage the rebels to buy time.  

In, what can only be described as some amazing admiral skills, the Rebels were almost always out of firing arcs when the Empire came to shoot, but right within range when the rebels could return fire. 

Malice was absolutely mauled by the Mon Call cruiser, yet could never return fire on it until it was much too late. 

However, the Victory cruisers made it to the planet while the rebels were flanking and gave it a solid bombardment. Damage cards were piling up on the rebel base, and they would greatly impact the next scenario. 

This did nothing to save Malice, who could simply not bring her guns to bare on the Mon Cal cruiser, and was ripped to pieces by it, causing the Empire to signal a retreat to wait for reinforcements. 

So while this was a major victory for the Rebellion, the personnel on the ground paid a heavy price, and the base took 10 damage card worth of bombardment. 

As we will see in the next battle, this changed the scenario completely. 

Battle Three: Get to the transports

Imperial troops had landed and the main base evacuated, but the secondary command center, designed to cover the retreat, had been badly hit. 

In the Hangar at the rear of the base, three transports were ready to take survivors away. But no one was moving in the base. 

The special forces team job was as follows. 

  • Deploy at the doorway outside the base
  • Retrieve as much data and sensitive material as possible from the base (as depicted by the cards on the map)
  • Rescue as many of the survivors as possible. 
  • Get to the transports, which had limited capacity 

The base was a wreck, and there were internal fires, smoke, impassable areas, and rubble that would need to be cleared. As the team moved through the base, they would uncover survivors and material. 

But they would be on a very short timer. 

Following them into the base, was every Stormtrooper I could muster and an AT-ST for a laugh (even though it couldn't get inside the base)

As you can see here, smoke and fire was really starting to spread, and the time pressure in this scenario was the real driver. The team had to split up, make calls that included leaving one trapped rebel officer to die in a fire, and rush for the transports. 

Eventually, the team cleared a path to the transports and fought a rearguard action to slow the Imperials down so their allies could reach the transports. 

But overwhelming numbers mean't they could only delay, and once the bases crew were onboard the transports, the assault team bolted and ran for the transports. 

Almost all the secure data and base personnel recovered, and two of the heroes were wounded. But it felt very close and tense the whole way through. 

Final outcome

Imperial fighters carved a hole in the rebel transportation corps and the fleet had a good day against the empire, while still allowing the Empire to bomb the rebel base. 

But in the end, the ground forces managed to pull off a close win and save the rebellion from catastrophe. Still, there will be some rolls in the resolution phase to see just how bad the damage was, and if anyone didn't make it out. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Talathen Sector - Round 6 - The Empire Strikes back

Round six is in the books and we are beginning round 7. The Talathen Sector campaign will end in round 9, which corresponds to when Return of the Jedi happens. 

Round six is set just before the Battle of Hoth, and imperial probe droids have, while searching the galaxy for the main rebel base, located the Talathen sector base on Axamar. 

As a result, the major focus of this round was evacuating the base before the Empire wiped it out, fortunately, due to good intelligence, the Rebels knew the attack as coming and could prepare. 

Recruitment, and some healthy politics

A regular gang of new recruits were available, but the first recruit up for bid was the Red Queen, ruler presumptive of the newly freed Nimbala. The Basra Consortium, looking to shore up its investments bid 22 Clout for her loyalties, for the short-term at least. 

Also up for bid were a collection of pilots, soldiers and specialists, including the very first force-using character for Imperial Assault missions

Probably the most surprising move of this round was the Luxon militia saving all their clout for one purchase, that of Mozza Thun for 32 Clout. 

Gemma, Dao-Vurn and Hobbie went to work for the Basra Constortium.

Diala joined the Peoples movement, along with Occa. 

Jinn and Beryn joined the Republicans. 

The Basra consortium continued its move away from support people to military specialists. 

In the political round, several changes were made. X-3P0 was forced to step down after a terrible Alliance phase the previous turn, and was replaced by Mozza. From Slave to Alliance leader in one move. 

The racist Nun Diem was also finally sacked from being head of R&D and replaced with the competent, yet slightly boring looking Beryn Krell. The Republicans finally had a non-combat command for the first time in the campaign. 

Which of course means they had to be stripped of a combat command. And Airen Cracken, despite an exemplary record as fleet commander was forced to step aside and let the Beast of Luxon, Oleg Thrax assume command. 

This Major shake-up means the combat roles are now 

Fleet - Basra Consortium
Squadron- Republicans
Ground - People's movement
With the Luxon Militia frozen out of military command and focusing on diplomacy and alliances. 

The strategy phase

Now its worth noting that this phase took place before our epic adventure in Cahn, so notes of a viral outbreak on several worlds in the core system were troubling, but not as troubling as the imminent arrival of an Imperial Armada

Alliance command, under Mozza, secured enough points on their role to activate all alliances this round. The Red Queen, The Wookies, The Hodda Clan and the Bothan spynet would all be contributing this round. A huge swing from last turns inactivity. 

Many considered this a sign that the shakeup had done its job. 

Logistics command stockpiled resources as normal, but hit on several intelligence boosts while trading. Combined with the Bothan Spynet, Rebel intelligence command would have an unprecedented amount to spend this turn. 

Manny Bo'thans, super spy, slipped into the Korvas shipyards to find out what the massed Imperial fleet was doing, it was then he discovered they were heading straight for Axamar and the Rebel base. This changed the earlier discussed plans and everything focused on evacuating the base

Ged'Ruh focused on dropping false leads about the rebellion, shifting eyes away from Nimbala. X-3PO, deposed from Alliance Command, went into deep cover on Talathen VII station. And Sly conducted support missions for the Luxon Militia forces on Luxon, it was probably the only help they would get this turn. 

The Diplomacy core set about opening a dialogue with Kronos & potential rebels on Korvas. 

Lianna tell spearheaded an operation to convince the administration of Selano that the Alliance had more to offer than the Empire, who couldn't even build a base without it blowing up (we miss you Gax).

A stunning pair of triumphs vastly increased Selano's support of the rebellion, and work orders for the Empire were suddenly delayed. 

The Red Queen also consolidated the Rebellions hold on Nimbala

Fleet command had one goal, and one mission. Protect the base until they could escape by ambushing the Imperial fleet as it came out of Hyperspace

Squadron command also had one goal, protect the transports leaving the rebel base. But Lt Telji's squad was also dispatched to investigate rumours that pirates had uncovered the wreckage of a Subjugator class cruiser in the boneyard. 

Ground Command had Besh squad defend the base and hold the line until the last transports escaped, while Del Kern and Cresh squad caused a distraction on Nadir. The Wookies, were once again, fighting alongside the Luxon militia on Luxon

Recruitment had a bumper round, gaining an unprecedented bonus to recruitment, while training and R&D enjoyed modest returns, with Hodda and his cartel focused in on the new virus that had appeared. 

Intelligence spent its remaining points digging deeper into the core worlds of Talathen, Talathen VII and Korvas


The battle lines are set, next up was the evacuation of Axamar base. A three stage battle using Imperial Assault, Armada and X-wing. Update to follow

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