Saturday, 30 December 2017

The 5th Annual Kriegy Awards - 2017

Award time again, and in the usual tradition of spitting in the face of the concept of self appointed people giving out awards and claiming legitimacy i'm doing my own. Why? Because I can be a self-appointed expert as much as the next guy :)

Awards for a 5th straight year. That's basically a tradition now. 

As per usual, the awards are inconsistent year to year, somethings I just play/do more years than others.

Oh, and reminder that games can win awards even if they were not published this year. If it's new to me, it's new to me. 

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

For best solo game of the year

I added this award last year, and it's steadily growing in importance. I do a lot of solo gaming and have really enjoyed it. 

I've played a lot of solo games this year, and a lot of games that were new to me. But I really want to call out three games in particular who stood above the rest. This War of Mine, Anachrony, and Spirit Island. 

All three of those games were top notch for me, but the winner goes to the game with the best solo opponent in a euro game I've played. 

Anachrony is a beast of a game, a literal and metaphorical heavy weight game. It's worker placement, which is nothing revolutionary in and of itself, but it does worker placement with a neat theme, smooth systems and oodles of replay-ability. 

And the solo mode pits you against "THE CHRONOBOT" and AI opponent who is a cheating bastard guaranteed to screw you out of moves and places to place your workers. 

I highly recommend this game to anyone who like worker placement, solo or in groups. 

My Copy

Previous winners: 

2016: Terraforming Mars

The "leading cause of paper cuts this year" award

For best card game of the year

I'm not actually a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon trading card games, but I understand CCG and LCGs and the crazy culture that is behind them. 

Collecting, trading, selling cards, building decks, winning tournaments. I've done a bit of that in the past, and Millennium Blades is the board game of that. 

The game is thoroughly meta, as you play characters involved in those tournaments and card collecting, and their is real time card buying and trading, as well as collecting extras and building your collections for extra points. 

Then, once the trading is done you play through a tournament, where you try to score "ranking points" with your small deck of cards. The game is full of combos and neat things you can do, and it really rewards quick thinking and creativity. 

Also, the game has a metric butt load of content. You could play this game many many times without really burning through the options or locking on to an "optimal" approach. It's too haphazard and chaotic for that. 

Previous winners: 

2016: Blood Bowl Team Manager: Foul Play

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

The "The distant future, the year 2000" award

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

Not really a new idea as such, but one that seems to be gaining a lot of momentum, and that is solo support apps for games.

Asmodee/FFG seem to have clicked to how big the solo gaming community is, due to their descent app, and have created one for Imperial Assault.

There are a lot of games out there that could benefit from solo apps, and its not just dungeon crawlers.

And there is real money to be made by opening your games to an audience that might have passed them by otherwise. The solo boardgamers group lit up with people buying Imperial assault for solo play alone when the app was released.

And I can't imagine that group was the only audience for it.

Apps, and solo apps in particular, keep a game fresh, increase their audience, and still require the physical game to play. Seems like smart business to me.

Previous winners: 

2016: Tabletop Simulator: Playing boardgames on your PC

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

The "What shall we do tonight, Pinky" award

For best multi-player boardgame of the year

My normal gaming group has been spending most of this year playing the Call of Cthulhu RPG instead of board gaming, and while we have played plenty of games together, my winner for group game is a Cthulhu themed game I played with a different group. 

The Arkham Horror LCG is a great game in a group that gets in character and can roll with the punches that a brutal game like that brings.

We played through the entire Dunwich campaign and it was an absolute blast with everyone have a unique character and deck, their own role to play and their own contributions to the team. 

And the story was excellent, and while i'm a little worried that it won't have high replay value, the story itself was great fun and involved. 

That group is looking forward to doing the Carcosa campaign once that is all out. 

Previous winners: 

2016: Star Wars Rebellion

2015: XCom
2014: Spartacus
2013: Battlestar Galactica 

The "T.I.S.M" award

For best "This is serious mum" game of the year

Serious games aren't about complexity, they are about the content matter. A game that isn't about wizards, heroes and other escapist tropes. But games that make you think a little about the subject matter.

If I had this award last year, it would have gone to Freedom:The Underground railroad. Which is an excellent co-op/solo game with a serious topic that makes people think and reflect on a dark chapter of US history. 

But this year, one game in particular made me create this award and got me thinking about mature content in board games and the hobby as art in general.

And that game is This War of Mine

I backed this one on Kickstarter, and despite its delays, it was worth the wait. 

This is not a game for children, or people who throw temper tantrums because the game is unfair. If you are "playing to win" or trying to optimize your game, you are missing the point of this one. 

It is entirely about the journey, not the destination. It is about having a glimpse at the lives people live inside a siege during a modern war. And in those circumstances, sometimes a bomb just lands on your house and you die. 

The game isn't fair, because war isn't fair. 

But that is the lesson the game is trying to teach. 

I recommend it to anyone who wants to take part in a sad/bittersweet story. 

The "Toy soldiers are serious business!" award

For miniatures heavy game of the year

In a year where a lot of gaming discussion has been about massive mini-heavy fantasy releases like Kingdom Death Monster and Massive Darkness, I find that the mini game I enjoyed most this year was XIA: Legends of a drift system.

There are several reasons for that, but one huge one was that I didn't have to paint a damned thing. Just crack the game open, put it on the table and its done. And it has oodles of neat little sci-fi ships drawing from a lot of different fandoms and sources.

Probably the best time killer game I have, you can just fiddle about mining, raiding, trading, upgrading your ship, taking courier missions and a bunch of other tasks. Good simple fun.

Also, one of the first PC games I ever really got into was Elite, and XIA is pretty much Elite as a boardgame. it's a wonderful sandbox game, where you pick a ship, pick the 2nd star to the left and fly on til morning..... or at least until someone else fires a rocket at you.

And, as an added bonus, the expansion adds in a solo mode which is pretty damned good.

Previous winners: 

2016: Radlandz
2015: Imperial Assault
2014: Zombicide
2013: X-wing

The "21st Century Digital Boy" award

For App assisted game of the year

A new award this year, and one that is bound to become a mainstay due to how the games industry is changing and how good some apps are getting. 

XCOM, Descent 2.0 and Imperial Assault are examples of great app assisted games, but the winner this year for me has to be Mansions of Madness 2.0. 

Mansions of Madness was a flawed masterpiece of a game. A fantastic experience and enjoyable every time we play it, but a complete pain in the ass to set up and play. 
The app has completely gotten rid of the Keeper role and the game is now 100% co-operative. 

And it is a much better game because of that. 

The app builds atmosphere with a narrated introduction and spooky sound effects, as well as randomizing the map and parts of the scenario, and in a way that a human just can't. 

Mansions 2 has already been played more than twice as much as I had played Mansions 1, and I really liked mansions 1. 

I cannot overstate to people who have only played Mansions 2 how much of a book keeping pain in the ass being the keeper was in Mansions 1. 

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

For best PC adaption of a boardgame this year

With Asmodee digital becoming a thing this year there are bound to be more and more quality boardgame adaptions coming to PC. 

But the one that did it for me this year was Lords of Waterdeep, a game I quite like but don't really love and we never really play very often. It's one of those "good, but not great" games that you would never turn down playing, but would be unlikely to recommend first.The PC adaption is great though, no setup time, a lot of the book keeping is taken care of, and the AI isn't too dumb. You can pretty much knock out a game in 20-30 minutes and its perfect for that. 

Previous winners:
2016: Twilight Struggle

The "Bob Ross" award

For most enjoyable "personal" project. 

Well, this one should be very obvious, I've been quietly working away on my COIN game without making too much fuss about it. 

It's all incremental improvements and pondering about the game now, with the odd bit of testing. I recently finished doing a massive rewrite of the rulebook and am trying to update all the content to fit the new game. 

Current plan is to get some serious testing of version 2.0 done in the new year. 

Previous winners:
2016: Radlandz - Game design - Terrain and scenery

And, the final award as always!

The "Golden Kriegy" award

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

A tricky one this year, and this is a bit of a fake out as normally the Golden Kriegy winner wins one of the other categories. But this year was such a solid one for games that I really wanted to give some other games their proper respect before calling out my favorite and winner. 

And before we get to that, there are legends in Aotearoa of mystical beasts that live in our rivers and water ways. They are called Taniwha, and growing up I was told that one lived at each bend of the Waikato river which ran through my home city.

I remember going up that river on a raft as a kid and counting each bend and thinking "That's a lot of Taniwha".  

Now Taniwha are funny odd sorts, some are vicious loners who don't like people much. Some, like Ngake and Whātaitai, the Taniwha of Wellington harbour are playful scamps, and others like Awarua from Porirua are competitive.

But they are always guardians, spirits that protect the local area from negative influences.

All their stories are part of the rich mythology and culture that makes Aotearoa/New Zealand a unique place to live. 

And this year someone made a game about spirits like that and it was amazing. 

Spirit Island is my game of the year and the winner of the Golden Kriegy for several reasons. 

The theme is perfection to me, and is such a nice counterpoint to all the games about colonialism made by people in Europe with rose tinted glasses about empire. Those games tend to annoy me at best, or make me angry at worst. 

Secondly, the game is pure tension. every time we have played it has felt like the game was balanced on the edge of a knife, and win or lose, it was a fight to the finish. 

It also has a depth in its strategy and game play options that few games can match, especially straight out of the box. All the spirits play different and synthesize differently we each other. Add to that the scores of power upgrades and cards, and even two games with the same combination of spirits will play differently. 

And finally, It is customizable to an amazing extent. Their are different invaders to face, different scenarios, and numerous ways to tweak the game to your optimum enjoyment.    

Spirit Island is a mind-melter though, and I mostly recommend it to people who are pretty serious about gaming and don't mind playing a game that takes forever to master. But its not a game you can pop on the table with random non-gamers and have a blast.

It's hard, it's deep, but damn its rewarding. 

Previous winners:

2016: Terraforming Mars
2015: Talathen Sector Star Wars (Combined X-wing, Armada, Imperial Assault)
2014: Age of Rebellion RPG.
2013: Android Netrunner

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Anachrony - Complete

Anachrony is a beast of a board game,  a massive worker placement game that deals with a unique setting in the distant future, time travel, mechs and cults.

It's a really neat game and I highly recommend it. 

Anyway, this is one of the first games i've done almost entirely with the airbrush for base colours. And boy did it save some time. Just check the video below

Anyway, here are the final products, and I went for quite different styles with each fig. 

The yellow based dude is very basic, almost entirely airbrushed with very few brush details. 

The blue squidy thing has a lot of brush effects and the first time I've ever tried doing a "verdigris" effect on a model. The lower half of the model is supposed to look like worn old copper with that blue verdigris effect, and the top slightly rusty. 

The green dude is a very standard brush job with warm greens and tans to look as organic as possible. Probably the most time intensive of the models. 

The red dude was all about the contrast between red and yellow, and he actually looks pretty boss in person.

And finally, the black dude, who is literally airbrushed, washed and given a little bit of electric blue for flavour. 

All the dudes in their storage box. 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Star Wars Rebellion - Complete

Quick update today on Star Wars Rebellion.

Rebellion is a great game, one of the best two player lite wargames on the market, and is very comparable to War of the Ring. 

A lot of very small models, so I didn't go too crazy on the details. All I want is for them to look good on the table, not under a zoom lens. 

The Rebels were almost all done in a "brown scale" from a deep brown to beige. Now a lot of rebel units are almost white in the canon, but I wanted the pieces to look like a coherent faction, when opposed to the Imperials who were done in a "grey scale"

I personally think a few painters forget that they need to be game pieces first and foremost, and while painting units accurately is all well and good, it makes them slightly annoying to play with. 

I think I nailed a good contrast between the two factions here. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Zombicide - Finale

All of Zombicide is now finished


I am so glad I decided to stick with the "monochrome" zombies and only paint the survivors seriously. I feel pity for anyone who spent hours and hours and hours on painted hundreds of disposable zombies, when they just end up looking like a blurry pile of blobs on the board anyway. 

This was a beast of a job, even with a gazillion short cuts. 


Standard Horde
Toxic Zombies

Skinner Group 1

Skinner Group 2

Seeker group


Game in play

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Scythe - Complete

So, I finally decided the paint something for the first time in..... i dunno.... forever! Almost entirely motivated by the fact I got my airbrush working again, so base coating and undercoating is now rather painless. 

I put a poll up on the solo-boardgamers group and asked "what game should I finish off doing", because I have about 10 in partial completion and just haven't finished them off. 

Until today. 

All airships were base coated using an Airbrush, which made them take less time to paint than one of the mechs. Anyway, enjoy! 

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. 

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