Monday, January 20, 2014

Lords of War

Designed by Nick Street and Martin Vaux
Published by Black Box Games
2 Player Strategic Card Placement Game

War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Actually, war makes a great theme for some great card games. The theme of enemies battling it out seems to be one of the most commonly used in board games from Risk to Stratego. One of my favorite card games when I was a wee lad was War. A little too simplistic now for my taste, I seek games with more depth and games not entirely luck dependent.

Lords of War is a fun little card game that is simple to learn and play, but offers a great deal of strategy. The game also offers a total of six different races you can play with which allows for different feeling battles and new artwork. The newest set (Templars versus Undead) was recently funded on Kickstarter and I can't wait to give that one a try with some new game mechanics such as card movement. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Each player has a deck made up of a conglomerate of different units/types, the most important distinctions being the six leader cards. The leaders make up your most powerful units, but one must be careful because the loss of 4 of these and your army will go into chaos unorganized and your opponent wins. If you don't involve them at all, your forces may be killed off too quickly and your opponent will win when he has been able to remove 20 of your units from the field. That is only part of the strategy you will need to ponder - the balance of using your leaders, making them exposed, and keeping them protected and safe is a delicate one and a great element to the game.

The game at its heart is a strategical card placement and mathematical game. Each card has a defensive value and then will have some sort of number(s) representing an attack value. These numbers also have a direction associated with them. Cards vary. Berserker units usually have a large attack value (say 5), but it may be very targeted (only one direction) and the unit will have a very low defensive value as they are focusing on attacking rather then what will happen to them. Some units will be able to attack only behind them, and others a good range of all around them. There are also range attack units that can strike from a distance (these can be vital, but usually are very open to attacks as well). After a card is played, the field is evaluated and all units attack simultaneously. Units are removed and kept by the opponent as a "trophy" to help keep track of the "score." You can also determine to have a shorter length game by agreeing on a number besides 20 (15 or 10 etc.).

When playing cards, the majority of them can only be played by "engaging" an opponent's card. This means that the card you are playing must have an attack arrow facing an opponent's (next to that card - including diagonally). This keeps the game moving very nicely. The only exception to this rule comes from playing a few unit cards that are considered "support" cards. They are allowed to be played adjacent to any of your own cards (these are the ranged units and spear units). These units can help protect your own cards or you may play these so they are safely protected by other units (perhaps a range unit being played away from immediate enemy peril.

I love that the game doesn't get too complicated. There are few other rules you can add to play an "advanced" version, and the new Templars versus Undead adds some fresh new things to enjoy with the possibility of getting Weather and Terrain expansion - you can always spice things up a bit too. The card quality is good, and I really like the packaging - it has a little flap that keeps the decks separate from one another and everything fits nicely with the playing mat. I'm a huge fan of fun 2 player games and this is a great one to add to any collection. The game does have some luck elements to it, and it is possible that you can have a hand full of similar type of cards or cards that really won't be any good for you right now. That can be frustrating at times. Some people may feel a bit limited by the rule of card placement, but it is there for a reason. I'm giving Lords of War a 3 Fingers Up or 8 out of 10 stars. The game is solid and very enjoyable and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to Black Box Games for providing the review copies making this review possible. Can't wait to try the new set!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What is the Ovoid?

Featured Kickstarter Interview

Game Designed by Joey Vigour
Published by Mirror Box Games
Interview with Matthew Austin (Lead Developer at Mirror Box Games)

Matt, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. I think today is going to be the big day that you meet your goal and officially become funded! Very exciting! As I learned more and more about Chaosmos, I knew that it would be a game enjoyed by all of my friends and family. The game concepts are simple and easy to learn, but the game provides a plethora of strategies. I really like that the game has so much player interaction. A lot of games these days seem to lack that element, but Chaosmos relies on that (in my opinion) and that is what makes the game seem so entertaining to play. 

The game has such great components (board, chaos clock, miniatures, cards) and I really like the artwork too. You have the envelope mechanic, 8 different alien races with special abilities, and did I mention cool looking miniatures?

OK, onto the questions!

Q - From the title, the game sounds like it will be pretty chaotic. Can you tell us how you came up with the title "Chaosmos" and why you feel it represents the game well?
Chaosmos is a mash-up of 'chaos' and 'cosmos', and it definitely represents our game well. In Chaosmos, you play an alien on a desperate hunt to find a mysterious artifact before the universe collapses. This narrative flows through to the gameplay, which has a very desperate, Cold War style mentality. You can't trust anyone but yourself, and you've got to deceive and outsmart your opponents if you want to succeed.

Q - Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The Ovoid of course! It's the beginning and the end of the universe!

Q - OK, so which came first with regards to Chaosmos, the theme/story or the game play/mechanics?
The game is really thematic, and the mechanics evolved naturally from the narrative. It's an open-world game where players have a lot of choices, and the rules take a back seat, allowing player decisions and interaction to drive a natural story.

Q - What inspired Chaosmos or helped contribute to the game mechanics and theme?
Chaosmos is unique in that it was inspired by a science fiction novel (Interstellar Pig, by William Sleator), and not by other board games. Our original mechanics, such as the planet envelope system, are a result of this inspiration. You can find more about the history of Chaosmos HERE.

Q - What is your favorite color?

Q - What sets Chaosmos apart from other games?
The mechanic that draws a lot of people to the game is the area-specific envelopes, where each planet contains cards that get moved around in a closed ecosystem - so cards continually shift in location and players must try to maintain a grasp on where things are and which strategies to use when.

Q - What kind of people will enjoy Chaosmos the most?
Chaosmos is for gamers who like to outsmart their opponents. If you have fun tricking your friends with those "AHA!" moments, you'll love Chaosmos. The game tells a story, building a narrative as players interact with one another. You're playing against the other players, not against the game.

Q - Why should people choose to back Chaosmos now instead of waiting to purchase it from a game store shelf?
Kickstarter is the cheapest and quickest way to get a copy of Chaosmos! Everyone saves $5 off of MSRP, and will get their game as soon as it becomes available. We're also offering a Kickstarter exclusive bonus alien and limited edition bonus cards that allow you to play with a 5th player.

Q - I really enjoy playing games with just my wife. Will this game work well with just 2 players?
Yes! Chaosmos becomes even more of a game of psychological warfare when played with 2, since you can more easily hide cards away from your opponent. There's less combat, but more stealth and deception.

Q - Pretend we live in a dystopian society which has just outlawed all board games other than the three chosen by the government. If you were the government, which three games would still be legal (and probably mandatory)?
1. Chaosmos – to show the citizenry what kind of chaos would ensue if they tried to revolt.
2. Twilight Imperium – to impress upon the people the might of the government's empire.
3. The Manhattan Project – to educate everyone on the government's massive and unstoppable nuclear arsenal.

Q - After Chaosmos becomes a huge sucess, what's next? Anything in the works? An expansion? A different game under development you would like to give us a teaser for?
We are so excited for building upon our success with Chaosmos! We already have ideas for our first expansion, and for an entirely new game also set in the universe of Chaosmos. Can't reveal anything yet, but stay tuned! :]

Well, thank you Matt for your time. If Chaosmos looks like something you would be interested in or you would like to learn more, check out the project live on Kickstarter by clicking THIS link or by clicking on the banner found on the right side of the screen. You can also see more discussion on the Board Game Geek page.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hop on the Magic School Bus!

Featured Kickstarter Interview

Argent: The Consortium
Game Designed by Trey Chambers
Published by Level 99 Games
Interview with D. Brad Talton Jr. (Founder and President of Level 99 Games)

Argent: The Consortium, one of my current Featured Kickstarters, has less than 14 hours left and I had the great opportunity to ask Brad, the founder and president of the game's publisher a few questions.

I for one am very excited about this game. Thanks Brad for taking the time to answer just a few questions. The project is doing so well and it has almost reached its final posted stretch goal. Congratulations! Let's start into the questions.

Q - I am very excited about the theme of this game. As I first read about the theme of Argent I personally thought about my growing up years reading Harry Potter and most recently The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. What was the inspiration for the theme and did the theme come before, during, or after the actual game design?
Argent was actually where the World of Indines--the world of BattleCON, Pixel Tactics, and Disc Duelers--actually began. When I played Trey's (the designer of Argent) game at BGG.CON 2012, I knew that the game was a perfect match for the theme :)

Q - What one word would best describe Argent?
Vivid. The game really leaps to life, despite the stereotype of Euro mechanics. Everything you do feels like part of a vast conspiracy.

Q - If you were one of the professors or students at the school, what department would you be in?
My trade skill is computer science, so I'd probably be in the Department of Planar Studies.

Q - The game comes with so many goodies and I love that you already have an expansion ready too. How much will this thing end up weighing?
We're looking at 6 pounds, probably 7 with the Kickstarter bonus content we're planning (Summer Break).

Q - This game is chalked full of really interesting game mechanics and components.  Name and discuss 3 of your favorite components or game mechanics that set Argent apart from other games.
For me, I'd say:

1 - Secret Voters are the biggest one. Not knowing the victory conditions unless you do your homework, and not having VP as a pure gauge of progress is really refreshing.

2 - Spells are pretty huge. Having a tool belt of different powers and capabilities that will change in each game means that you have to adapt new strategies by what you have at your disposal.

3 - Variable Time Rounds really add pressure. In Worker placement games with removal, you usually play Chicken to see who will take the high-value spot first and get zapped. However, in Argent, the Bell Tower mechanic makes rounds end early, and means that you often have to seize opportunity while you can, or you won't get anything.

Q - Replay ability is a big factor for me and your Pixel Tactics games did such a great job providing huge playing variation that keeps each game fresh and always offering something new each time it's played. Does Argent have that same level of replay ability or more in your opinion?
I'd say Argent has more total variations, though two matches of Pixel Tactics probably feel more different than two games of Argent. With large games, you have to make sure the baseline is solid across multiple plays, so that skill and strategy have room to develop. But no two games will ever be quite alike!

Q - Artwork. Wow. I guess that really isn't a question. :)
There's an artbook/lorebook too! :D

Q - I really can't wait to see and play the final product, I think it is going to be epic. I really am in awe of this game and I can't stop thinking about it. It is doing so many things right. Any suggestions on what to do to pass the time between now and June?
Play BattleCON: Devastation! It'll be at your FLGS by the end of January!

I know many are excited for Argent to come out this year and can hardly wait, but playing Pixel Tactics or BattleCON as we wait doesn't sound half bad!  I hope to be able to provide you all with a review of Battle CON: Devastation! soon and I should be able to provide you all with a review of the final game come summer time when the final game is released. If you are interested in backing Argent on Kickstarter, you may only have minutes left! If you miss it, I'm sure you will be able to get a copy eventually, but why miss out on the great Kickstarter rewards and that is How Lou Sees It.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pixel Tactics

Designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr.
Published by Level 99 Games
2 Player Strategic Card Game

In Pixel Tactics, 2 players use identical decks consisting of 25 cards. The characters and game take place in the World of Indines (along with other popular Level 99 Games such as BattleCON and their game currently being successfully funded with many stretch goals, Argent). While the game has a certain amount of luck involved with the drawing of cards, the game is tremendously well balanced because each player is playing with the same deck of cards (now this can be modified with multiple copies or versions of the game if desired, but that most likely will happen after you get the hang of playing with one of the decks). 

What I find really cool is the fact that each card can be utilized 5 different ways. So, while players are using the same card decks, they will most likely be played very differently each time. The game provides many strategical choices to the players without having really any necessarily "bad" choices - each player must work on what strategy works best for them and their current situation (remembering to adapt to your opponents as well).

I really like this game a lot, my only concern stems from the amount of options presented to players which relies heavily on reading and remembering text (there are helpful icons used in the game, but until players are more familiar with the certain cards, games can be considerably longer as players are trying to understand all the options presented to them and how all the cards are going to interact while played).

To begin each game, each player looks through their starting hand and each player selects a "leader" that will stand in the center of their unit and which will greatly effect the strategy used by that player for that match. Each card has a "leader" side which has a special leader power. The goal of the game, to destroy your opponents leader while protecting your own. Your leader stands in the center of it all and all other cards are placed around that leader in one of 8 different locations. Each hero played will have different abilities or actions it can take depending on where the player decides to place that hero. The cards are themed very well and I am amazed at the plethora of special actions that were created for all of the cards. They are all pretty exciting and everything just works.

The game includes reference cards and tokens to keep track of damage points. The quality of the components are good and the instructions fold out to provide a playing mat (this can be helpful for beginner players). The general idea and concept of the game is pretty straight forward and the rules cover that pretty nicely. The real rule issue with this game comes from very specific questions that may arise about how certain abilities or cards interact. The game seems very prone to confusion as players get used to all the cards and associated actions. Most areas of question are discussed and resolved via discussion forums or Level 99 Games is great at getting back to any questions you may have.

I won't get into any further details on specific rules or game play, but the game is very solid and I really enjoy all the different characters. Pixel Tactics 2 gives a new set of characters with even more possibilities. I think that whoever would enjoy Pixel Tactics would probably want to get a hold of Pixel Tactics 2 and any other sets (there will be more!) including some really fun promo cards (there is even a Tom Vasel - pretty great stuff). In closing, the game is really fun, but some may be turned off due to "option overload" and feeling like they have to keep reading card options over and over again and trying to keep track of what each hero can do. I will suggest to those who pull out Pixel Tactics to play it for the first few times to take time and enjoy reading and discovering all of the cool actions and characters. Don't view learning the actions and characters as a "chore," but take a minute to realize how great all of these characters and actions are. You can check out my video review of Pixel Tactics below. Definitely check out Pixel Tactics and that is How Lou Sees It!

Level 99 Games has another game, Argent: The Consortium, which is about to finish a very successful Kickstarter project with many cool stretch goals (including some Pixel Tactics cards). Only about a day left to check it out. I will be posting a little interview that I did with Brad later today or tomorrow!