Game Review: Bananagrams

By Drew

 

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Background
Bananagrams is a tile laying game where the goal is to be the first player to complete a word grid after the pool of letter tiles has been exhausted.

Initial Thoughts
The game is inexpensive and very quick to learn.  It uses elements from Scrabble and Boggle; so, players familiar with those games will have almost no learning curve.  Bananagrams is a multiplayer game, but you have little interaction with the other players.  The only player interaction is racing to complete your grid first after the last tile has been drawn.  There are no turns.  Everyone places at the same time.

Review
Pros: Bananagrams has very high replayability.  Its easy rule set makes getting new players up to speed a quick process.  If you get bored with the base rules, there are variants to the game that people have posted online.  The game has a heavy dose of luck which does help level the playing field when playing with poorer spellers.  Bananagrams is great for causal gamers and those looking to take a break from more complex games.  The only set up is placing all of the tiles into the middle of the table face down.

Con: I have few, if any, complaints.  The game does bounce between being skill based and luck based, but many games are.  The basic game can get repetitive if you play too many rounds, but that’s while variants exist.  The pieces are high quality.  The packaging is very thematic (it’s a zip up banana), but it can make putting Bananagrams away more difficult.  You can’t just put it at the bottom of your game pile.

Final Thoughts
This game is loads of fun, quick to teach, quick to set up, and a great breather from more complex games.  It’s fun for heavy table gamers and casual players.  Each round is short, and you can keep playing rounds until you are bored with playing making the game last essentially as long as your group wishes.  I highly recommend playing this game.

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Game Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous

By Drew

 

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Background
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is from the same company that designs the Pathfinder role playing game.  The card game is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players (up to 6 if you get the expansions).  Each player’s character is made for a deck of cards, stats, and class (familiar to all roleplayers).  You’ll improve your character (specifically the deck you use) by earning or finding new spells, items, upgrades, and other loot to change your deck.

According to Paizo, “the adventure begins with a Base Set containing nearly 500 cards, including the first chapter of an Adventure Path that offers your characters interesting locations to explore, monsters to fight, and villains to hunt down, as well as piles of weapons, spells, armor, loot, and everything you need to build you own unique character deck.”

Initial Thoughts
Getting into the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is for only dedicated players.  The full Adventure Path will take you months to play (assuming a season a week like my friends).  The base game is only around $60.  However, the base game is only the first of many parts to the Adventure Path.  With 6 expansion decks at $20 a piece, the full adventure will be over $200.  If you want extra characters, items, and the ability to have up to 6 players, it’s another extra expansion.  However, there is enough content to last 7-12 months depending on how frequently you play.

Review
Pros: I enjoyed the mix of a card game and the idea of leveling up and gaining new equipment.  The story was a little thin, but most card games, if they even have a story, ignore it during the actual game play.  The full Adventure Path can take awhile to play.  The group I play with has been playing almost weekly for three months, and we are not finished with part 1 yet.  At the rate we are going, when we finish, we will feel as though we accomplished something.  New players can join at any point and other party members can sit out if they can play that session (although if you sit out you miss out on possible loot).

Con: I have two main complaints.  First is the price.  Yes, the game is expensive if you want to do the full Adventure Path (about $200).  If you are a fan of collectible card games or miniature war games, you may not have sticker shock.  For others, here is my reasoning.  If my friends and I are actually going to play it through, then the price is fair for the total hours play (100+).  If you think you will only play a few times, only get the base game.  It’s much cheaper, and you can try it out.

My second complaint is the potentially repetitive nature of the game.  Once you learn the game play, each session consists of using your cards to defeat other cards until the boss creature is found and destroyed.  Unlike Magic: the Gathering, there doesn’t seem to be too many synergistic decks you can make out of found loot.  Rangers take range weapon cards; paladins take swords, and so on.  However, we are still early in the game, and that may change.

Final Thoughts
In the end, the question is, “is this a fun game and worth the price?”  My answer is yes.  After you get over the potential sticker shock, the game will provide, by my estimation, over 100 hours of game play.  This is a card game with loot that carries from session to session and the ability to add and drop players from session to session.  My friends I and are looking forward to the day we finish the game and have a feeling of accomplishment we’ve never had with a cooperative card game before.

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Game Review: Machi Koro

By Drew

Machi Koro

Background
In Machi Koro, 2-4 players roll dice and spend money to buy properties for their city.  The first player to construct four special building completes their city first and wins the game.

Initial Thoughts
Each type of property (wheat field, bakery) have their own effects normally related to income.  Some effects can happen on anyone’s turn and others only happen on the active player’s turn.  Some of the cards are more useful during the early stages of the game and others are more useful during the end of the game.  The variety of card mechanics means there is no one specific way to win.

Review
Pros: The base game is simple and easy to learn with the expansions adding different layers.  Even when teaching new players, games last about 30 minutes.  There is a good mix of strategy (which property do I buy) and luck (you need to roll dice well to win).

Con: Although you can play with 2 players, I suggest at least 3 players.  The problem we ran into when playing with only 2 players is it removes much of the strategy.  While there is no guaranteed “buy properties in this order” method of winning, having only 2 players made it much easier to do the same thing each game and consistently win.  There is only a limited numbers of each properties.  With 4 players, you may not be able to buy the properties you want.  With only 2, you pretty much can buy exactly what you want.  At that point, the game becomes only about dice rolls.

Final Thoughts
This is a fun game that is easy to teach new players, is quick to play, has light strategy, and is expandable with the expansions.  If you like building style games, give Machi Koro a try.

Machi Koro

Game Review: X-Wing Miniature Game

By Drew

Background
In X-Wing Miniatures Game, you control ships in ship-t0-ship space combat from three different Star Wars factions: Imperial, Rebel, and Scum.  All of the miniatures come prepainted.  The game is designed for small battles of only a few ships on either side.  Each ship offers several different pilot choices as well as different upgrades to make the ship more effective.

Initial Thoughts
The game is very easy to learn how to play.  We have players as young as 9 years old playing.  The game has a chess-like strategy element to it that allows more advanced players to continue enjoying it.  Having played many, many miniature games, it’s nice to have one that doesn’t require me to paint the miniatures.  The stock paint jobs are well done.  However, the ships are easy to repaint if you are so inclined.  There is a bit of a collected aspect to the game.  Different upgrade cards are only available in different ship boxes.  While they are not randomize (you know exactly what’s in each box), you will find yourself buying ships you may not want just to get the upgrade cards.  The game is one of the most balanced miniature games I’ve seen.  There is no “automatic winning” list to play.

Review
Pros: Inexpensive compared to most miniature games.  The base game is $40 and extra small ships are $14.  $100 will get you a tournament level amount of models.  Very easy to learn but with enough strategy to keep the game fun and interesting.  All of the ships and pilots are from established Star Wars canon and not created solely for the game.  The models come prepainted with nice paint jobs.

Con: Limited amount of ship choices and factions.  Currently, there are only 3 factions with each having around 12 ship choices.  Ships are only from after Star Wars New Hope.  Upgrade cards are only available in specific ships.  There are no booster packs offering random cards, and you may end up buying ships you don’t want just to get certain cards.  The ships come prepainted.  If you are more heavily on the hobby side of miniature gaming it can be a negative, but the ships are easily repaintable.

Final Thoughts
Play this game.  It’s fun, easy, and cheap.  First time you blow a Tie Fighter up with an X-Wing, you’re going to want to collect all of the models.

Born of the Gods Prerelease

The second set of Magic the Gathering’s Theros block is Born of the Gods.  On February 1st and 2nd, players got to participate in a prerelease event where they were able to play with the newest cards before they are released on February 7th.  Born of the Gods is a smaller with only 165 cards.  The set introduces a new planeswalker: the blue/green Kiora, the Crashing Wave.  As a continuation of the Theros’ gods, the set also introduces the ten demigods of Theros.  The demigods are dual-colored and uses their controller’s devotion to both of the demiogods’ colors.  Born of the Gods will feature five of them with allied-color combinations while Journey Into Nyx (the final set of the block) will feature the remaining five.

We want to thank everyone that came out to the store for the prerelease event.  A special thanks to the players who came to our Sunday event (Go Seahawks).  Hopefully, next year Wizards of the Coast won’t schedule the prerelease during Super Bowl weekend.

Born of the Gods Prerelease 1

Born of the Gods Prerelease 2

Born of the Gods Prerelease 3

Magic the Gathering Commander Event at Anime Kat

On Saturday, 11/9/13 Anime Kat hosted its first Commander Tournament.  According to Wizards of the Coast, Commander (sometimes called “Elder Dragon Highlander”) is a multiplayer Free-for-All game in which any number of players compete against each other as individuals.  It’s played with the Singleton format (in other words, except for basic lands, each card in your deck must have a different name), and each player starts with a life total of 40 rather than the usual 20.  Most importantly, the centerpiece of each deck is a legendary creature that serves as that deck’s commander.

To build a deck, you first choose a legendary creature, called a “commander” or “general,” then construct a Singleton deck around it containing exactly 99 other cards. Only cards of the commander’s color(s) and colorless cards may be included in the deck.

Appropriately enough for a format named after the legendary creature that’s leading your team, your commander works differently from other cards in the game.  Before the game begins, each player removes his or her commander from the game.  You may play your commander from the command zone (no matter how it got there) for its normal costs plus an additional {2} for each previous time it has been played this way.  If your commander would go to the graveyard or the exile zone from anywhere, you may put it into the command zone instead . In addition to the normal Magic loss conditions, if a player is dealt 21 points of combat damage from a single commander over the course of the game, that player loses the game!  Currently, MTG Commander hosts the complete rules for the format.

For our event, we ran 2 rounds (which turned into 3).  All players were divided up into 3 groups for the first round.  The winner of each group went on to play all other winners in a second round.  Because of a great play by Mike,  he and one other player lost simultaneously in the second round forcing a draw.  They went on to a third round were Mike was the last person standing.

Commander StandingsCommander Event

Fighting to win Round 1

Fighting to win Round 1

Fighting to win in Round 2

Fighting to win in Round 2

Theros Prerelease Events

With the Magic 2014 Core Set release still fresh, we are diving head first into the newest Magic the Gathering block, Theros.  According to Wizards of the Coast, the plane of Theros is ruled by a pantheon of all-powerful gods.  Krakens, minotaurs, and other monsters threaten the safety of walled cities.  Heroes rise to battle, bolstered by their devotion to the gods.  Theros is a very dangerous land outside of the walled cities Meletis, Akris and Setessa (which are inspired by Athens, Sparta and the legends of the Amazons).  Nyx is the night sky, and home of the gods, it moves around each night.  The five main gods are: Heliod (white), Erebos (black), Nylea (green), Thassa (blue) and Purphoros (red).  The gods can take multiple forms and walk among mortals.  The planeswalker, Elspeth Tirel, will fight a Hydra and attracts the attention of Heliod.  Elspeth doesn’t want to be a hero and does not believe she will be called on to be a leader in a world of gods.  Minotaurs are the rampaging savages of Theros.  The Merfolk of Theros are called ‘Tritons’. Thassa (goddesss of the sea) favors appearing as a Triton when she’s among mortals.

Waiting for Theros

Waiting to get inside Anime Kat to register for Theros.

With every new release, there is a prerelease.  Anime Kat had a more limited than usual number of available player slots for this prerelease.  We did sell out and had to turn away hopeful players from our final event.  Players were able to get their hands on the newest cards before the official release date.  Congrats to all who came to Anime Kat to kick off the new Theros block.

Theros Sat Sealed winners

Theros Two Headed Giant winners

Theros Sunday Sealed winners

2013 Magic Celebration

On September 7th, Anime Kat was of many game stores that hosted the Magic Celebration.

Magic Celebration is a free, yearly event courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.  Each Magic Celebration player received one Magic 2014 Core Set booster pack.   After opening his or her booster pack, the individual was able to choose a Magic 2014 Core Set Sample Deck to add cards from your booster pack to.  That created the deck players were able to use for the event.

When players were finished playing their matches, they received an additional Magic 2014 Core Set booster pack as a prize.  We had enough booster packs for only 18 players and we had every slot filled.  Thanks to Wizards of the Coast and our players for making this a great event!

Magic Celebration 2013 at Anime Kat

Magic Celebration 2013 at Anime Kat

How to lose at minature wargames

By Marucs T.

No, you didn’t read that wrong.  As Captain Kirk once said, “How we deal with death is certainly as important as how we deal with life”.  There is a simple truth here that does in fact relate to miniature gaming.  That is that you will lose. Perhaps not today, or perhaps not against someone with no idea of what they are doing, but you will experience defeat.  This is ok, it’s good for you.

There are a nearly infinite number of guides online to winning, list building, unit selection, and tactics.  Far more rarely do we address NOT winning.  Let’s face it, it’s a competitive game. One of you isn’t going to make it.  Here’s how to deal with that, and if you really pay attention I can even show you how to enjoy it.

I like to think that I’ve made an art form of losing games over the years.  Sure, I win some but I’m fairly sure I lose more.  Part of this is my character.  I am not a super competitive person by nature, and this is reflected in my gaming habits.  If you ARE a super competitive gamer this isn’t a burn on you by any means.  I’ve seen good losers and bad losers, as I have also seen good and bad winners.  It’s an easy thing for a person to say, “relax buddy- it’s just a game!” as they skip to the winners circle but it’s a harder thing to accept when you have been beaten for the 46th time in a row by a guy who paints the corpses on his models bases to resemble your army.

The first trick is to laugh.  When something terrible happens to your forces during the game don’t lose your cool. If the opponent chuckles, you guffaw.  If they snicker, you He-Haw.  Recently I attempted a hail mary pass at the final turn of a game of Infinity, trying to assassinate my opponents lieutenant and deny him victory.  My first shot with a grenade launcher missed and deviated about half a mile to the left, landing directly on the only model on the OPPOSITE side of the board. That model happened to be mine, and she died in a burst of high explosive irony.  I’m pretty sure I laughed harder at this turn of events than my opponent did.   When a model performs in a spectacularly disappointing manner, I like to verbally berate them in front of their squad mates and describe the punishment they will receive later.  Painting them pink, renaming them Corporal Fail-pants, etc.

The second trick is to never allow an impending loss to compromise your sportsmanship.  Even in the midst of defeat, I will remind my opponent if he didn’t move a tank to a more advantageous position, or point out a rule in his favor they may have forgotten.  In this way, I know that even though I lost, I lost honestly and fairly.  I lost because they were a better player, or I chose tactically inferior models.  I have never “softened defeat” by trying to be sneaky.  It’s a capricious thing but you could say then that at least you “died with your boots on”.

The third trick I’ve found is to allow yourself to share in some of your opponents victory.  A simple handshake or “good game” will accomplish this, but be honest with yourself.  Did he have one brazen moment of glory that really turned the tables against you?  Was there a one-in-a-million dice roll that they pulled off?  If so, it’s time for the post battle 3 R’s.  Recognize, Relive, and Respect.   This gives them a chance to do the same for you, and in that you can regain some of your lost dignity.  When you have just been soundly beaten it’s hard to see any bright sides, but if the other guy is telling you about how scared he was to take on that one unit, or how he was sure your Commander would slay his, it’s a reminder that you probably had some good moments too.

It’s only “just a game” if you don’t take steps to make it a great game, regardless of who won or lost.  Now what to do if you mistakenly win a game once a decade….is a story for another time.

Social Gaming (Playing well with others)

By Marcus T.

My first exposure to miniature gaming was in middle school. Chronologically, this took place around 1992-1993.  At the time, I was dabbling in tabletop RPG’s and assorted video games.  Then I went to my friend Jon’s house and it all changed.  He mentioned some game that his older brother was playing in the garage, and we ventured out there before long. The  were  just setting up a game of Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition. (the game is currently on it’s 6th iteration)  The scene was like something out of a movie.  At first I thought I was looking at some crazy uncle’s elaborate model train diorama.  The table was easily 8 feet in length. At the end closest to us were rolling hills covered in light forestation, leading to a river winding through the table half.  Across this crystal blue ribbon was a forward firebase brutishly dug into the lovely green of the riverside, allowing the imperials a commanding view of anything coming down the valley.  I say valley because the other end of the table rose to a sub-alpine forest at the base of a mountain that rose two and a half feet above the base of the table. In miniature game terms, this is friggin huge terrain.  Not to mention it was a navigable mountain, with switchbacks and a plateau on the far side perfect for an artillery park. (the player on that side of the board actually used it as a launch pad for his myriad jump troops)

I want to set the scene here as it is pivotal in understanding this hobby.  Following my eye popping first look at the table, I was delighted by the quality of their models.  Closest to me was a fellow I came to know better over the next few years, Seldon Norman.  I don’t know if he is still around but I blame him for my miniature wargaming bug.  He used a combined force of Imperial Guard and Blood Angel Space Marines, versus the brightly colored Eldar warhost belonging to my friend Jon’s brother (name lost to the ages).  The table was immaculate, the models were all lovingly painted, and a fantastic story was unfolding in front of us. The cinematic quality of the battle was palpable. A hobbyist’s dream.

20 years later, my favorite thing about that Saturday afternoon is not listed above.  I’ve come to realize that the most memorable quality of that game was the courtesy and consideration of the players.  They agreed to keep army lists secret from each other, trusting that there would be no threat of cheating and waited excitedly to see what the other would bring to the table.   They even took turns leaving the garage to allow the other to deploy his troops in secret. I recall one instance where Seldon pointed to a copse of trees and exclaimed, “YOU HAD SNIPERS THERE THE WHOLE TIME???”  His delight at being cunningly outmaneuvered matched his dismay at what was about to happen to his troops.   There was no trash talking or aggression other than friendly banter and polite reminders if the opponent forgot to move a particular unit.   They helped each other to provide the best game experience possible.   Not for a moment did they consider winning by taking advantage of the other or using some strange loophole in the rules.  Neither fielded armies that would be considered weak, but they were not powergaming.  They used very well rounded, sensible forces that fit their play-style AND fit the spirit of the games background.

Looking back it seemed that they were fencers, politely engaging in a friendly match interspersed with sips of tea and a jaunty British accent.  They were totally committed to destroying the other, but would never sacrifice mutual respect to do it.

What the hell is the point of this you are likely asking at this point.  Well I’m glad you asked.  Since that fateful day, there has been a development in the gaming world. I’ll call it “Competitive Jack-assery (CJA)”.   This is condition, marked by excessive internet research, over indulgent dice calculations, and in severe cases cheating has become more prevalent in the modern gaming paradigm.  Perhaps it’s the demographic.  Are the cases of CJA happening because the average age of the gamer is getting younger?  Is the immaturity of youth to blame?  Perhaps it is the game developers allowing and even encouraging competitive level tournament play.

We are slowly forgetting the point of games like Warhammer.   At no point should anyone feel the need to cheat at a game like this. What exactly would the point be?  At least in major sporting events there is money to win.  At the tournaments my group regularly attends, there is a box to check on the scoring sheet for each game that if marked indicates that you had an enjoyable game with a noble opponent.  This shouldn’t be on the paper because EVERY GAME should be enjoyable and had with a noble opponent.

The OBJECT of miniature wargames is to win, defeating your opponent and scattering his forces to the four winds.

The POINT of miniature wargames is to have a good time, engaging a fellow hobbyist in a mutually enjoyable match.

It is also important to know what to do if, despite your best intentions, you find yourself at a table with someone suffering from CJA….but that is a story for another time.