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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Game Night Reviews: Braggart


The call of the Braggart! We’ve all been in the pub with “that friend” when he begins to tell the valiant tale of the time he confronted the eight foot tall spider with his homemade flame thrower. Well, Braggart is that friend… in a Box. No… not literally, that would be weird.
Braggart is a fast playing, take-that style card game that can handle up to six players. Is it a good game? Let’s get to the review!

A Quick Overview

In Braggart each player is dealt a hand of cards and one player is chosen to go first. The round begins with a draft. Cards are dealt from the top of the deck equal to the number of players, each player drafts a card in turn order. They then have two options, “Go to the Bar” and draw three cards from the deck or Brag. Before they brag they may play any number of Ploy cards (special abilities).

In order to Brag a player must have at least a Deed and Foe, but can also have a Scene and a Result. They play down their cards and read the story aloud (Roleplaying is not necessary but is encouraged.) All players then have the opportunity to play liar cards. These cards allow that player to swap any one card for a card in their hand, usually making the brag worse. The Bragging player must then read his adjusted brag out loud once more.

After each player either goes to the bar or Brags the bragging players add up their score (the numbers at the top of the card) the player with the highest score keeps all their cards using the number in the bottom right corner for victory points, the losing players keep only their highest scoring card.

The game goes until the deck runs out, the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.

Why Choose it?

So, it was our second meetup, at this point I didn’t know if my friends were still humouring me or if they really wanted to play games. It was Christmas, we’d had a nice meal and a glass of wine, Codenames had gone over well and we were looking for a way to wind down and relax. Braggart seemed like the obvious choice to me. It’s a small box, so it’s not intimidating, it has simple rules and fun colourful artwork. Braggart won't burn your brain and it’s funny, it has the feeling of a role playing game, or a storytelling game without requiring anything from the players.

It’s Funny

One problem with Braggart is that the game is driven by humour, it’s funny to laugh at a player who spent the night with the unfortunate trout or ran screaming from the terrified urchin. The problem is that the game becomes less funny the more you play it with the same group. Once you’ve seen all the cards you begin to repeat combinations and that story which once generated big laughs is now just a perfunctory point scoring exercise. You can certainly add a  roleplaying element to the game to bring back some of the joy if your players are comfortable with that, but once you fall out of the theme and the humour the game simply becomes about points and the best way to get them.

More Cards

There is, of course, a simple fix for this, expansions! Unfortunately so far Spiral Galaxy has yet to release any. Many of us are hoping that the second edition of the game (which does come with additional cards, if only a handful) will, if successful, spawn some expansions and really allow us to mix it up with new stories and grand, tall tales.

Did they like it?

Yes they did. One player even bought himself a copy. It’s simple, it’s light and it’s fast. If your players have any experience of role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons then they will get an additional kick out of it but no such experience is necessary.

Final Thoughts  

Braggart is a take-that style game which relies on humour to hide the fact that the mechanics are pretty simple. The drafting mechanism adds a little bit of an equalizer to the luck of the draw but realistically if you don’t draw the right cards you aren’t going to win no matter how well you play.

Of course, Braggart is such a light game that you should be playing it for fun, for the laughs and the stories and the moment when Bob acts out the lewd dance he performed for the Queen of the Fairies. If you are counting points and taking it seriously Braggart is going to give you no joy at all, but if you give in and let the theme overtake you then I promise you’ll have a fun time and so will everyone else.  

Monday, 9 January 2017

12 Games of Christmas - Day 12 Pandemic: Legacy

It’s Christmas so I decided to give my Game Night group a little present and picked up Pandemic Legacy. Okay, it’s mostly a present for me, but they get to play too! So far we’ve played January so what follows will not explore beyond the first two games but if you don’t want any spoilers look away now.

Image result for pandemic legacy

“It was a cold new year, much like any other, viral infection was rampant with the temperature lowering the populations immune systems. We figured it was a January just like any other, however the lady upstairs felt differently. Disease was spreading rapidly, multiplying and mutating at a rate unseen for decades.

We deployed the team, our scientist went south, hoping to put an early end to the outbreaks in south america while the medic headed east to offer aid to the Asian capitals that were struggling to adapt to such a potent disease.

The dispatcher and the researcher did their best to offer logistical support, ensuring that all the major players were in the right place at the right time with the right resources in hand. It was then that disaster really struck, in the middle east. The disease had gone largely unnoticed, as the team fought to put out the fires in Asia and South America. Something had changed about it, drugs had no effect. All we could do was treat the symptoms.

The whole region began to destabilize, Cairo and Algiers were the first to go and while we fought to bring that under control the whole of Northern Asia erupted into unrest.

The second half of the month brought with it more woes, but we managed to contain the situation with a good degree of control. The northern hemisphere was disease free except for San Francisco but we soon brought that under control and eradicated the strain that was causing the problem. Unfortunately our celebrations were cut short as Algiers fell to riots. We could see the fires, even from the safety of our research station in Cairo.

The Medic and Scientist worked through the night to find the solution, panic erupted on the streets in streets of Taipei but at last we had them in hand, we had the cures.”

So, we lost the early part of January, consumed by diseases that were all next to each other causing chain outbreaks. Despite this early setback and the surprise that the Black Disease was no longer curable we managed to eek out a victory in the second half of the month. This was partly due to the more favourable placement of starting diseases and the knowledge of how to deal with and contain the black cubes. However it was also greatly assisted by our upgrades (remote treatment upgrade for the medic and a research station in Cairo) and our increased funding allowing for 6 events in the deck.

Overall we found January to be an intense month, which can mean things are only going to get more intense! We found the legacy format refreshing and enjoyable, the nice twists and surprises, along with the potential damage we caused by having so very many outbreaks. If the next 11 months prove to be as exciting I will be very happy with Pandemic Legacy.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

12 Games of Christmas - Day 11 Paperback

Okay Granddad, put Scrabble back in the cupboard, it’s time to learn a real word game! In paperback you begin the game with a deck of five letters R, S, L, N. T and five wild cards. On your turn you draw five cards and then must spell a word using your letters and a common shared vowel on the table.

Image result for paperback board gameYou then score points for your word and can use those points to buy cards from the middle which go into your deck allowing you to spell different words and give you special abilities. As the game progresses you can use your word score to buy more letter cards or to buy victory point cards (which still count as wilds). When two of the four stacks of Victory Point cards run out the game ends and the player with the most VPs wins.

The beauty of Paperback is that you don’t have to be good with words necessarily to win. Yes, often, longer words score more points, but using the special abilities on cards to your advantage can mean playing simple words can still score high. There is no rule about playing the same word as someone else or playing the same word multiple times in a row.

Because the game uses the deck building mechanic you can sometimes be at the mercy of your cards. If you only draw consonants then it can be pretty hard to play a word but most of the time you will find you have a wild to help out and there is usually a common vowel on the table that any player can use.

Image result for paperback unboxed the board game blog

Paperback is one of my favourite short games, packing a lot of meat into a very small package and play time. It allows for creativity as you build your words, but it also allows for tactical game play in the way you build your deck. As each hand is different and the letters change from game to game I find that the words you build will also change preventing the game from becoming stale and obviously also expanding your vocabulary at the same time.

If you can find a copy, Paperback is definitely one I recommend picking up.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

12 Games of Christmas - Day 10 Not Alone

Image result for not alone board gameMy collection has grown vast and unwieldy with 300+ titles and as such it is difficult for me to find games that don’t already resemble something I already own. Not Alone however I think falls into that category.

Not Alone is the embodiment of films like Predator or Alien. Most of the players take on the roles of the Hunted, their ship crash landed on an alien world, their job is to repair their ship and escape before the Alien Player can hunt them all down and assimilate them. Each turn, each Hunted secretly plays down a place card numbered one to five. Then the Alien player plays out up to three tokens on the various locations, hoping to catch the Hunted. The players then reveal their place cards, if the Alien caught them he scores a point and reduces their will to resist, if he missed them they get to use the power of the place.

The various place cards allow the players to reclaim played cards, open up new areas to explore, help them discover new pieces of survival gear or fix the ship and bring them a step closer to being rescued.

At the end of the round the players discard their place card face up rather than taking it back into their hand, meaning they can’t travel there next turn, lowering the number of options they have and helping the Alien better know where to strike. The game of Cat and Mouse continues until the players escape or until the alien player has assimilated enough of the crew that the others no longer want to leave.

Image result for not alone board game

Not Alone is a great game. It’s a small box and a small price point from a company I haven’t really heard of before (Geek Attitude Games), but it’s a quality product. The game itself is fun, it has a deduction element, a bluffing element and a push your luck element. It scales from two to eight and plays in twenty to thirty minutes.

It offers a unique experience and it does so with some lovely art and enough diversity among turns to keep the game fresh and interesting each time you play. This one is getting a huge thumbs up from me.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

12 Games of Christmas - Day 9 Celestia: A Little Help

Image result for celestia a little help“All ahead full!” The Captain yelled as the airship pulled away from the Teacup dock and out into the violent storm that raged across the void between worlds. The sky shook with cannon fire and wild vultures attacked the rigging and the crew, but it was okay, the Captain trusted to his magic spyglass, everything would be fine.

Celestia is a retheming of Cloud 9, but it is done so in a beautiful package with stunning art and visually wonderful pieces. Each turn a player takes on the role of the Captain and rolls the dice. The players in turn then decided to stay in the ship, trusting the captain has the cards they need, or to abandon ship and take a treasure from their floating port. The first player to reach 50 points worth of treasure is the winner.

The a Little Help expansion adds a small number of cards to the game and increases the complexity only slightly. It adds Double cards, these have two symbols of the same type on them allowing you to use them to pay for two matching dice with a single card. They also add the Helping Hand Cards. After all passengers have spoken, the captain can declare he doesn’t have the cards he needs. Players may then play Helping Hand cards that match the missing symbols to stay afloat.

Image result for celestia unboxed the board game blog

Finally it adds two more misfortune cards, the first forces the captain to roll an extra dice, the second is played after cards have been played to stop the airship moving. Both are mean but fun additions.

The A Little Help expansion is an inexpensive add on for a wonderful little game. Is it necessary? No not really but it allows for more interaction between the players and even with the helping hand cards the ship still crashes more often than not. If you like Celestia I would recommend picking it up and throwing it in the box, it has variable player powers if you want to shake things up and the special cards are easy to teach once everyone is familiar with the base game.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

12 Games of Christmas - Day 8 Codenames

Image result for codenamesCodenames is such a simple concept but it really is a fun game. Each team is composed of spies and a spymaster. The spymaster simply has to get the spies to identify all of their agents by giving cryptic single word clues, followed by a number. The spies can then guess answers up to the number given plus 1. If they guess right you put out a spy of your colour, if they guess wrong and get an opposing spy or bystander their turn is over. If however they find the dastardly assassin they automatically lose.

For example, I wanted my spies to guess the following three words, Shakespeare, Tokyo and Dinosaur. I gave the clue King 3. Here’s my thinking, Dinosaur, T-Rex, Rex means king, Shakespeare wrote King Lear and King of Tokyo is a board game. True, it’s not the most straightforward clue but that’s the trick of Codenames, you need to give clues with loose connections to maximise your team's chances of winning.

Codenames works well with many different groups although groups that know each other well will find different ways of giving clues based on shared knowledge, whereas strangers might have to be more literal. For a different challenge you could also try Codenames Pictures, it’s the same game with erm… pictures. Finally, if you’re feeling a bit more immature and you want to be able to give the clue Knob 3 then perhaps take a look at Codenames Deep Cover.

Image result for codenames

For more info on these here’s my good friend Paul talking to us at the UK Games Expo…

Monday, 2 January 2017

12 Games of Christmas - Day 7 Star Wars Armada

Grand Moff Tarkin stood on the bridge of the imperial Star Destroyer and with a snarl and a curled lip he simply uttered the words “You may fire when ready.” Then the gunner team rolled all their dice and rolled nothing but blanks, for six rounds!

Star Wars Armada is a two player fleet game set in the Star Wars universe. Each player takes control of a series of large ships, such as Imperial Star Destroyers or Corellian Corvettes and takes turns pummeling each other until a victor emerges.

The mission was to rescue/capture the VIP. I was going second which meant I could set up the location of the VIP, I placed it within two turns of Tarkin’s Star Destroyer, planning to use the heavily shielded and armoured ship to hold the objective for the rest of the game and score the 50 bonus victory points. For added insurance I was flying a Gladiator Class Star Destroyer in close formation with the Victory. This way if anyone tried to take the VIP back they would face down a barrage of high impact black dice.

Meanwhile I set up a flanking maneuver with my two fast and maneuverable small base ships; an Imperial Raider and an Imperial Light Cruiser. These two gunboats were supposed to move quickly, staying at long to medium range. They would attack and destroy the heavy hitting Nebulon B in my opponent's fleet before moving on to harass his Assault Frigate.    

Finally I added an attack wing of Tie Fighters and Boba Fett to mop up any X-wings that might try some bombing runs on my Destroyer.

Everything started as expected. The flanking force ended up barrelling towards the guns on the Neb B (which was not in the plan!), while the Gladiator and Victory charged the objective. From the other side the Assault Frigate ambled towards the Victory, backed up with a few squadrons of X-Wings. The Corvettes took off heading for a flanking maneuver on the Victory, which would take them out of position for at least three rounds. However it was the MC30 missile boat that proved to be the problem.

The rickety old frigate sailed alongside the Gladiator, placing herself in range of twelve attack dice. She knew it was kill or be killed and unleashed her attack. She ripped through the Gladiators 2 shield and five hull with hits to spare. It was only the beginning of turn two and I was already a ship down. This made it five vs. three and it was the beginning of the end.

The Victory Class, with Tarkin at the helm, held her own in the middle of the firefight but at the end of turn four all guns were aimed at her and the Grand Moff turned and ran, hoping to hold the VIP. The raider and the light cruiser had launched everything they had at the Neb and the ship didn’t even have a scratch. She turned her guns on the Raider and it vaporised. The MC30 mopped up the last of the ties and Corvettes sped after the slow moving Victory, destroying her on the last turn and preventing her escape.

It had been a promising plan, but being two ships down on the enemy at the start of turn two put me at a huge disadvantage. It was my dice however that really let me down. I didn’t destroy a single rebel ship and every time I had an opening I rolled blanks. Long live the Rebellion!

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