Monday, 30 November 2015

Boardgame session: 29Nov2015 month I gave away my copy of Forbidden Island to my niece, Erin. As a replacement I bought Forbidden Desert and this weekend our friends, Val and Chris, came round to try it out. The game is obviously of a similar style; it is co-operative, searching for objects to escape the desert, whilst the game does all it can to hinder and kill the players. Tiles don’t disappear from the game (unlike the Forbidden Island) but are instead buried under sand, which players need to clear to allow movement and excavation. To find the locations of the hidden objects, the majority of tiles must be excavated because the desired location is at the crossing point of two directional tiles for each object. A blank, Sandstorm, tile moves around the board, adding sand and moving the other tiles. The Sandstorm increases in ferocity and all the while the players are forced to consume their valuable water. The timing of collective visits to potential wells is a crucial decision and the Watercarrier character is I think essential to surviving. The game does provide a range of useful tools for the players to find and the timing of use of these one-shot tools is again important.

We played two games, both set at the Standard (rather than Novice) level, and we failed in both! In each game we only gathered 2 of the 4 objects, and our deaths resulted from mis-timing our visits to wells to replenish water. I think we need to spend some more time working out our strategy and we need to be more focussed on the risk of water usage. The game plays fast and very well. My initial feeling is that it is more difficult than Forbidden Island but this may be incorrect because once we had worked a strategy for Forbidden Island, then it became easier. All-in-all, I am happy with the new game and look forward to playing more often.

To finish our game session we returned to our favourite, Dungeon Petz. Always an enjoyable experience. This time Chris won primarily by efficiently matching his pets to potential customers, and getting his imps on the auction square to increase his victory point multiplier. We all seemed to have ‘poo’ mountains which resulted in ‘sad’ pets. We rarely have pets escaping, but 2 of Elaine’s imps were hospitalised whilst restraining them.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Possible House rules for Kings of War

In an earlier post (September 2015) I gave my thoughts about Kings of War rules (the shortened, free download version). I concluded that I would probably buy the full published version, which I have now done. My views on the actual rules themselves remain the same as before, so I don’t think it worthwhile repeating them here. If you wish to read my thoughts on the rules please go to the earlier blog post. The hardback published rules essentially provide, in addition to the rules, a background history to the ‘Mantica’ world setting, some scenarios, a wider range of army list options, a range of arcane magic items, plus ideas on timed games. Most of the background information I personally find irrelevant and of little interest. I think the old GW background will equally fit with whatever fantasy world a player wishes to imbed their games, and I suspect the GW version probably has more depth due to its longer development period. I am glad that some basic scenarios are included to provide variation to the simple head-to-head clash format. The arcane items list is OK and useful to add those few extra points to an army list, but I don’t think any are overpowering. The expanded army lists are, again, useful but the basic online versions cover most of the key elements in any army, so the new lists are not vital to any player. Overall, I think the free online rules and lists are fine for anyone wishing to try KoW, and the published version adds little to the experience. I therefore have a mixed feeling about spending £25 on the hardback rules; I think they are probably worth it but they have not left me feeling great or inspired.

If you have read my earlier blog post then you know I generally liked the rules but that I did raise a number of concerns and mentioned that I may introduce some house rules to address these concerns. I am normally wary of introducing house rules to any game when I have only a limited experience with the rules as written, but the lack of any Command and Control mechanism is really a problem for me. I have discussed this potential issue with keen Kings of War players at a local club, and they generally don’t think this is a problem. They like the rules as written and feel additional rules, however simple, would clutter the streamlined nature of the rules. On reflection I think this is a fair point, but for solo games I would like to increase the degree of uncertainty. So, I envisage only using these house rules for my own enjoyment in solo games, and I will stick to the rules as published when playing opposed games.

The house rules I propose to try are:

  1. Command and Control. Each Leader has a command value of 9. Each time a unit wishes to move, the player rolls 2D6 and needs to score equal or less than this number, with the following modifiers:
    -1 For each full 12” separation between the leader and the unit.
    -1 If the Leader does not have a LOS to the unit.
    -1 If the Leader is not the army C-in-C.
    Units do NOT need to be commanded to counter-charge, or to shoot. Leader/Individual figures do not need to be commanded to move themselves.
    If the player throws a double 1, then the unit can undertake 2 moves if desired. If the player throws double 6, then a Blunder occurs. Roll another D6:
    1: The unit must move straight ahead a full move plus D6”.
    2: The unit rotates 45° left, and then moves a full move.
    3: The unit rotates 45° right, and then moves a full move.
    4: The unit moves a full move directly to the left.
    5: The unit moves a full move directly to the right.
    6: The unit retires directly backwards a full (not half) move.
    Thoughts: I want to keep the command system as simple as possible to maintain the fast pace of the game. I did consider various mechanisms (PIP allocation, card activation etc.) but decided that any rule would have to be very simple and in harmony with the design ethos of KoW. The mechanism I considered most suitable is based on that used in Warmaster, Black Powder and other games, with each leader assigned a command value modified only by distance to the unit to be commanded and visibility. I think a universal command value of 9 is about right, and I don’t want to vary this value for different army types. There may be room to add unit/Leader specific characteristics at a later date, and I can envisage some command characteristic for different unit types (e.g. some species like Goblins or Skaven, might blunder on scores of 11 and 12 to reflect their slightly insane personalities).
  2. Contact. Units stop at contact and do not shuffle to conform to the enemy’s frontage.
    Thoughts: I generally dislike the shunting/shuffling of units on contact. I think it can cause friction in the game and is unnecessary. This simple house rule should work with very little change to the game mechanics.
  3. Hordes. In the published rules Hordes occupy a double frontage, making them more slightly more bulky to use, but they enjoy all the mobility of smaller formations. Points-wise, they appear much better value than smaller units, and have higher morale/attack values. I have noticed a strong tendency for players to maximise on large/horde units, which feels ‘gamey’ to me. I feel there needs to be a downside to taking hordes. My standard units have a frontage of 13cm (the size of movement base I have at the moment), and a double frontage unit just takes up too much space and is too large on the table. Therefore in my games I propose that the Horde has the normal unit frontage but with a greater depth, and I rule that it cannot pivot and move in the same movement action. The unit either moves straight ahead, or it pivots on the spot, but not both.
    Thoughts: I hope this introduces a cumbersome character to these large formations which also reduces the unit footprint and size down to a manageable scale. Hordes will work fine in the centre of a battleline moving forward against the enemy line, but on the flanks against a more manoeuvrable foe they will now struggle big-time!
  4. Game Length. The rules as written allow for games of 6 or 7 turns. This is rather limited, and when taking in to account the disruption of unit activation caused by my Command house rule (see above), the game length may need to be extended slightly. I plan to try a modified End of Game mechanism: Use a large dice to record each paired game turn. When the dice reaches ‘6’, at the start of the next turn the first player rolls a D6; if it scores equal or more than the game turn dice then this turn is the last to be played. If it score is less than the game turn dice, then the game turn dice is lowered by one PIP and the game continues. This process is repeated until the game ends, with the required score dropping each turn.
  5. Other thoughts. In KoW spells are very basic and limited in effect. In the published version of the rules they are not expanded, which surprises me. I quite like the limited magic idea, but I’m sure there is plenty of room to develop this area of the game within reason. Too often, it seems to me, fantasy games can be decided by super-spells, and this does not feel right, so caution needs to be maintained when thinking of house rules in this area.
    I now plan to try these house rules in my next few solo games to see how they work and affect the playing of KoW. At the end of this process I will re-assess KoW and write a review of the amended rules.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Off the Painting Table (Nov 2015); part 2

The Kings of War painting binge continues, this time I have completed a few units of Dwarves!


Whereas the Goblin figures only came to life when the eyes and teeth were painted on, the Dwarves livened up only when the metallic paints were added. I have not gone for a ‘uniform’ look and instead used a variety of colours on individual figures.



The artillery piece was a pain to paint because it is all metallic, and the Dwarf army contains little, or no, wood. I still have some Mantic Dwarves to paint, but these figures look different to the GW figures, so I’m not sure how well they will fit in.