The Tao of Gaming

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Wild Blue Yonder Initial Thoughts

I finally got to play a pair of 2 v 2 dogfights for Wild Blue Yonder, so a few thoughts. I poked around for a review for Rise of the Luftwaffe I wrote years back and found it on BGG, and not much has changed, for the dogfight. Simply, during your turn you pick an enemy (if you aren’t already in a furball) and play an attack card (which may give you position, or actually fire your weapon, or do a few other things). Your target may respond. You may respond to his response, etc. If the ‘attacker’ played the last response, the attack card takes effect. If the defender did it’s cancelled, but you can play as many attack cards as you qualify for (actually attacks cost “bursts” which are limited by your plane and position, but maneuvers are typically always playable, unless you already tailing your target).

Since most response cards cancel 2-3 cards, there’s probably a decent amount of skill of knowing the best way to cancel. You can also count cards. On the bigger picture you have to decide when to target a leader or the wingman, and play with altitude. I suppose its not surprising there are no strategy articles on BGG. It seems so simple, but I suspect even the dogfight has real depth. Yes, its a card game, so even a bad player can win sometimes, but skill will usually show in an equal match. (I do think the supposedly equal match (based on card VPs) that I offered was in fact slightly unbalanced, the British planes extra HP being less valuable than the better hand size for the Germans. The Germans won handily against the novice British, but the second game was much closer, although still a German victory, but with significant losses).

Unlike prior entries in the series, each side has their own deck of cards, which means if you draw the very good Ace Pilot cards (cancel any other card), I may still have mine in my deck. Ditto any other good or bad card. They may still cycle out in a bad time (when a wing-man draws their mini-hand) but at least its not “He got aces and I got deuces.” Your aces may show up later — possibly too late, but statistically it is more likely to even out. A nice touch.

I’ve read the campaign rules and would like to play a campaign. There was a solo campaign promised but it doesn’t seem to be anything like the regular ones. I guess I should have expected that, given the complexity of the card game, but I’m disappointed. There are many, many campaigns. The rules don’t seem complex, but they are numerous.

I was ready to really praise the insert. As some of you may know, I typically just chuck inserts. This seemed great. It could hold the cards while storing most counters underneath (although bagging the campaign pilots to keep them out of the way). But when I put the actual airplane cards in I discovered the space was so tight I couldn’t easily get them out, even with a thin blade I could only pry up 1/2 at a time. (When they were shrink wrapped pulling one out pulled them all out). Insert tossed. The box is the nice and sturdy type GMT has. I haven’t sleeved my cards, but I may if I play it frequently. (The cards seem generally nicer than the ones I remember, but its been a few years since I traded my copy away).

I think even interested ten year olds could play the dogfight. I’m hoping to interest the TaoLing in the campaign at some point. We’ll see.


Written by taogaming

December 18, 2017 at 11:32 pm

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First Impressions of the L5R LCG (based on rules only)

OK, I just read the learn to play book and glanced at the reference book (which does seem exceedingly well organized). Off hand three things jump out at me:

First — There seems no provision or even possibility of multi-player. Now, I played a lot of tournament L5R, and the game was perfectly fine that way, but the ability to play multiplayer was a huge draw. Shadowfist and L5R were the big mutliplayer CCGs (IMO).

Second — L5R had a lot of positive feedback. Take out a province, and you are closer to victory, maybe killed your opponents characters, and reduced their cardflow by 25% (or more). But now — people don’t die in battle (automatically, presumably there are still battle effects that kill people). But people do die/retire. When you buy a character, their base cost only gives you one turn of usage. You have to pay an extra fate (the currency instead of gold) for each extra turn you want them. Decide when you buy.

That change intrigues me. Losing a tightly fought, everyone goes battle and you probably haven’t lost the game. Honestly, unforgiving has a certain charm, (maybe more than one). But they also have some nice positive fixes — mulligans for both decks.

Finally, Simultaneous play  — Each player does upkeep, buys characters (dynasty phase), plays cards, and then each player may attack twice. (But one attack must be political, and one military. Political attacks are the same but each character has two skills). Each attack must also declare a ring type (which can’t be duplicated during the turn) and if the attacker wins he gets the ring effect. This seems like an interesting system.

Also — There’s no ring victory in the rules, but presumably that may be a card effect.

Look, I still have more L5R cards than I could safely lift from the ground (I could deadlift them if they were free weights, but paper takes up so much damn space), so I was always going to try this and reading the rules hasn’t changed my opinion. I’m cautiously optimistic, but in practice I think I’d be better off catching up on my netrunner collection and playing that. But we’ll see.

The differences in more detail (I may have mentioned this above, this was my list of notes as I read the rules).

  • 25 Honor wins, 0 honor is a loss. (This is a narrower range, presumably gaining/losing honor is harder)
  • Each province has a special power from the get go. One of the provinces is the stronghold, which cannot be attacked until 3 non-strongholds are destroyed.
  • When you buy a character, they cost some # fate tokens. You only get them for one turn, but can put additional fate on them when you buy them to increase their duration.
  • Fate tokens are also spent to play cards.
  • Starting player is random. None-starting player gets one bonus fate.
  • You get to mulligan some or all of your starting dynasty cards and fate deck (now called conflict deck).
  • You can reshuffle either deck when needed (must, in fact) but it costs you five honor.
  • Turns are simultaneous:
    1. Reveal Dynasty Cards. I did not see rules for event cards, its mostly characters. Holdings may modify the province, like regions.
    2. Gain Fate (determined by stronghold)
    3. Alternate buying dynasty cards or pass. First passer gains one fate), but is done.
    4. Each player secretly and simultaneously decides on how many cards they want to draw 1-5. The catch is that the low bidder gets the difference in honor from the high bidder.
    5. Next is the conflict phase. A conflict has one of the five (ring) elements and is either military or political. Each player player can only declare two conflicts each turn, and only one of each type. If the attacker wins the conflict, they win the ring effect.
    6. Conflicts (even political ones) work like battles, but you can attach cards as a battle action. Apparently there are also character cards in the conflict deck, as you can play a character from hand into a battle!
    7. Attacker wins ties in conflicts (unless tied at zero). The player who wins the conflict wins the ring of it. Each ring element can only be named once/turn (so 4 out of the 5 elements can appear in conflict each turn).
    8. Losing characters do not automatically die!
    9. A lost province looses its ability and cannot be attacked again, but still can be used to buy cards from!
    10. If the attacker wins a conflict, in addition to the ring token, they get the matching ring effect:
      • Air — Steal one honor from your opponent or gain 2.
      • Earth — Draw a card, opp randomly discards one card.
      • Fire — Dishonor a character.
      • Water — Ready a character or bow a character with no fate.
      • Void — Remove a fate from a character.
    11. You get the favor by comparing the glory (a stat) of your unbowed characters after the conflict phase. The favor is just a +1 political or military bonus (the player getting it must choose) during each conflict in the next turn.
    12. You then remove fate from each character and discard (as above) and add fate to each ring token that was not selected or claimed in the last turn, which goes to the next player to initiate a conflict with that Ring. (Ala Puerto Rico, and others). Ah, then you return all rings to the pool, so I guess there’s only one of each ring.
    13. Dueling works using the 1-5 honor dial. You add your bid to the skill, but the low bidder gets the difference in honor (as with card buying).

Written by taogaming

October 5, 2017 at 9:20 pm

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Do you even optimize, bro?

I’ve been whittling my best Factorio time down, and got a launch just over the nine hour mark (on peaceful). I think with more play I can make the eight hour achievement. I’ve also kept a factory going longer just to tinker … sometimes you want to play the big game. I’ll probably start a game on hard setting just to get more into the military side, and I haven’t even touched trains (except in the scenario and my first game). Then there are mega-factories. Launching one rocket per minute (RPM) is an impressive feat (I’m going for a second rocket in one game and thinking about just building a rocket factory).

Then there’s the guy who built a factory that averaged one RPM over its lifetime (granted, that was a few hundred hours so he could spend time launching multiple RPM to balance out the first).

And then there’s this guy. His factorio is called Grey Goo Mark I, which is an insanely descriptive name in computing.

And I haven’t yet even taught trains to dance.

So, factorio has that elusive “Just one more,” bit. “Oh, I’ll just balance my belt lines.” “Oh, I’ll just expand my belt factory.” “Oh, here I go murdering again.” And suddenly its 1.30 am.

Update — It also has styles of play. Speedrun (I’m speedrunned out, right now). I just finished every research achievement, and built up a base that has launched 7 rockets. Now I’m trying to figure out advanced trains and started a new game with actual enemies and a goal of a decent (non-spaghetti) design. I may be going too slow. And playing Multi-player with the TaoLing ….

Written by taogaming

February 18, 2017 at 11:17 am

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In the game’s defense, my first play took way too long and had the wrong crowd. (I suggest against a five player game with multiple new players). Obviously this game appeals to people — it’s popular.

I guess its capitalizing on the War-euro. (Wareuro? Weuro? I never know how to spell that contraction). It has combinatorics (you combine faction with resource chart). It felt like a point salad game with some clever warish designs to score bombs (win a combat? Get a star! And maybe steal some resources). Fine …. but it didn’t grip me.

If it took 1.5 hours instead of 2.5, that would have helped, but mainly because I could have played something else afterwards. I suspect if I think hard I could better describe my problems with the game, but for now I just say:

Rating — Indifferent, I may try it again and see if I missed something.

Written by taogaming

February 13, 2017 at 10:48 pm

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Tiny Malevolent Lifeforms

Got my copy of Jump Drive (note to local game stores. I’m willing to wait a week or two after I see “I got my copy at my FLGS” to buy it, but when you aren’t even willing to admit the game is out, that’s when I go online and buy it).

Anyway, it’s good, but not great. Then again, is the game really meant for me? I’m reminded of the time I told Frank that Fugger, Welser, & Medici’s basic game seemed simple and solvable.

“Yes, by people like us. We play the advanced game.”

It has a lot of depth … for a 10-15 minute game. But now I feel what others did when they said Race was over before it began.

Rating — Suggest, but not as good as Race. Then again, few are.

Edit — “Suggest, but not as good as Race” is probably true. My (80 hours later) thought is that it’s closer than I originally thought. I played the City (which isn’t as good as Race, or Jump Drive, IMO) nearly 100 times and that had a language barrier I had to sell.

Since it is new my de-facto Jump Drive rating is Enthusiastic (but I assume that’s temporary). There are more subtleties than I expected in it (even knowing who designed it). I’m playing it a lot right now. I mention this because the idea of my ratings is objectivity (actions speak louder than words) and my actions rate this higher.

BUT — It was typical for me (time and opponents willing) to play a game 4+ times in a weekend if it was hot, and those were long (Euro or Longer) times. In the same amount of time, you can really crank up Jump Drive’s play count. Given the TaoLing I can come home, play a game, start some soup, play a game while it cooks, take it off the stove to let it cool, play a game, etc.

I’m averaging a game every three hours since I got the game.

Written by taogaming

January 25, 2017 at 8:50 pm

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Robinson Crusoe

Traded for this as yet another solitaire (and co-op, I suppose), based on its reviews. These are initial thoughts based on a single game (controlling 3 players, not using the solo rules, but since its an open info co-op, that’s fine).

Like most coops, you have a bad (ish) event, then some good events. In the case of Robinson Crusoe, you get a bad event, gather your (automatic) resources, then players can take their actions. Each player gets 2 actions, but for most actions if you only spend a single action you have a chance for failure. You roll three dice. One of which shows success or failure (but if you fail, you get ‘determination’ tokens, which you can spend for re-rolls and other advantages). One shows if you get wounded or not, and one shows if you get an adventure — another random event which isn’t necessarily bad, but I think averages more bad than good.

There’s no order to taking actions, players just negotiate their setup until everyone is happy and then you resolve everything. Then there’s some end of turn checks (Do you have enough food? Shelter? Etc) and you do it again until you’ve completed the scenario, run of time, or had a player die.

Theme — Good, with several clever ideas. As I mentioned in my recent thoughts on Magic Realm,

Some scenario games [mix core events and rare events] by having generic cards in the game and having the scenario define the meaning

Robinson Crusoe does this. The event deck has ‘book’ icons which are scenario defined (in the first scenario — no effect). In addition to the “one typically bad effect per turn” random event, you have adventure cards which do random things but sometimes they set up an effect then go into the event deck and when they resolve the effect you’ve set up triggers. Call them foreshadowing or foreboding. “Oh, you just ate some wild berries? I’m sure you won’t be plagued with stomach issues in the near future.” Or “Oh, you think you saw something moving through the forest? I’m sure a tiger won’t randomly attack in a while.”

This is straight out of Hitchcock’s playbook. As the master said, if you have an explosion the audience jumps, but if you show them the explosives underneath the table, a five minute dinner conversation will be amazingly tense. Robinson Crusoe shows you (the player) the explosives, then shuffles them into the deck. You may be able to win before they show up. You may not. And these cards don’t make the event deck thicker: they do not count when drawn. This increases variability, as you could have a bunch of foreshadowed bad events hit at once.

I’m OK with that, I think.

There are six or seven scenarios (not counting expansions/online ones) and you start with different inventions you can build each time, and of course the event decks are much bigger than you’ll use in a given game, so I think replayability will be fine, although I’m not sure how much luck there is. You could get a bunch of “Good” adventures or “easy” hunts, or really hard ones. Again, as an experience I think I’m ok with that. It would be annoying in a competitive game.

Nice components. The rules are a bit spotty (IMO) and took a while to figure out all the components.

Would I play this co-op? Perhaps. I think this would be very prone to a single driver, so for now this will probably just stay at home unless I get a group that really wants to play a co-op.

A note on difficulty — I was surprised that I won my first game as this has a fierce reputation. After checking a few rules I realized I’d earned the dreaded commissioner’s asterisk on my achievement. It’s two wounds per missing food. (I realized this while playing Scenario 2, which I lost even without my rules screw up). This is apparently quite difficult. Going to go with 3 players plus the dog attempt at scenario 1 again.

Very early rating — Enthusiastic (as a solo).

Written by taogaming

December 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm

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30 Rails

A clever little filler that just takes a printout, some pencil and a few dice. Solitaire or multi-player. Worth checking out.

Written by taogaming

November 25, 2016 at 8:30 pm

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