Tuesday, 29 January 2013

KoffeeKlub Evening 3rd February

Sparks will fly this Sunday as we take on another classic eurogame, Power Grid by Friedemann Friese

Power Grid is a strategic game about balancing your expanding network of power stations with your ability to power them up. The player who best achieves this balance (at the right price) will ultimately win.  

KoffeeKlub meet at The Black Knight Gaming Centre every Sunday between 7pm and 11pm.

Power Grid

Hillfolk RPG Session 3 (pt 2): DEVILS IN THE SMOKE

In the second part of Hillfolk Sesson 3 write up we have backstabbing, poisonings, berserk rages and a fantastic reveal at the end, all of which are examples of why I love this game. Any concerns that the theme, Devils in the Smoke, was too specific was to be unfounded as in hindsight it was a great evocative title that brought the mind a shadowy threat to the tribe whilst allowing hints that the devils could be lurking much closer to home.

Scene8 (Dramatic scene called by GaryG; Cast: Patch v Eagleeye; When: After scene6) While the scouting party heads out, Patch leads Eagleeye to the site of the Desertwalker camp proving in fact that he was right about the location. Inexplicably Patch sends Eagleeye ahead knowing that the warrior will be detected by the Desertwalkers. (Outcome: Eagleeye agrees to Patch's guidance and walks into a trap; GaryG gains a token from Dave)

Scene9 (Dramatic scene called by Dave; Cast: Eagleeye v Forest; When: After scene1) Eagleeye identifies the dead warrior as one of the Brother's of Blood, one of the desertwalker tribes. In a petition to Forest Eagleeye asks that he watch out for Strongaram and he keep him from harm. This may be a plee for Forest to intervene should Eagleeye attempt to harm the ex-chieftain or an honest request for help to protect his friend. (Outcome: Forest agrees; Dave gains a token from Trevor)
To Kill or Cure

Scene10 (Dramatic scene called by Andy; Cast: Strongarm v Patch; When: While the scouting party are away) Strongarm asks Patch for the blessing of the gods, but those of the new gods and not the Old. Patch tells him that their is no new god only the Gods. However he does concede to give Strongarm a gift and presents him with a potion to give him strength in the battle ahead. This is a poison, which will give Strongarm strength and courage at first but will eventually kill him. Strongarm drinks from the potion (Outcome: Patch agrees; GaryG recieves a token from Andy)

Scene11 (Procedural scene called by Trevor; Cast: Forest, Eagleeye and Arrow; When: After scene8 As Eagleeye walks towards the Deserwalker camp) Forest while scouting comes across the desertwalker camp but spies Eagleeye inadvertently about to alert the camp guards. Forest uses his knowledge of animal cries to alert Eagle to the danger. The scouts then move away believing that they are un-noticed. Unfortunately as they exit the forest they are attacked by a mounted deserwalker. (Outcome: Success with a negative consequence to Eagleeye; good continuity link to scene1)

Scene12 (Dramatic scene called by GM; Cast: Desertwalker v Strongarm , Siren; When: Flashback to a decade before) Strongarm and Siren, Eagleeye's wife, appear to be scouting the Deerhunter camp years before. As the pair approach the camp they witness a confrontation between a tall Desertwalker cheiftain and the Deerhunter headman, wherein the deerhunter is refusing to give up one his wife as a tribute to the Desertwalker. Strongarm moves forward and announces that he is here as requested and apologises that it was difficult for him to get away unnoticed. He presents Siren as a tribute to the Desertwalker and requests that the Bullhead tribe is left unmolested.(Outcome: Strongarm agrees to the petition; GM recieves a token from Andy; Not sure we handled the token transfer correctly here)

Scene13 (Procedural scene called by GaryG spending a drama token as Patch was not cast; Cast: Strongarm, Eagleeye & Forest; When: The Desertwalker camp) The poison flows through Strongarm causing him to recklessly charge into the Desertwalker camp, At his side Forest fends off an attacker whilst Strongarm continues on barely registing the near fatal blow Forest has prevented. He attacks five of the enemy, killing three before he is surrounded, his weapon wrenched from his grasp. Eagleeye comes to his rescue stepping in to defend his friend and between them they defeat the remaining Desertwalkers.(Outcome: Success though Andy has to expend multiple bennies/positive consequences for redraws; he commits a lot of his reserve for this fight)

Scene14 (Procedural scene called by Dave; Cast: Strongarm & Eagleeye; When: ) At the height of the battle Strongarm and Eagleeye confront the Desertwalker cheiftain. Still unarmed Strongarm attacks the desertwalker with his bare hands to no avail and the blows bounce of the huge warrior. Eagleeye, as usual, is ready to strike and cuts down the enemy with his sword. Strongarm however is still enraged in the grip of the poison and with no-one left to attack he turns on Eagleeye. The scene ends with Strongarm battering Eagleeye into the ground. (Outcome: Success for Strongarm; for eagleeye, not so much)

Eagleeye learns why
he is called Strongarm
Scene15 (Dramatic scene called by Andy; Cast: Strongarm v Eagleeye; When:following on from scene 14) The battle has died around Strongarm and Eagleeye and the fury has passed from Strongarm. In the quiet Strongarm asks for forgiveness and while initially it appears he is apologising for the beating he has given Eagleeye, instead he confesses that he had lied about the death of Siren and that in fact he had given her to the Deserwalkers as tribute years before. Eagleeye is stunned and demands why. Strongarm claims that they could still save Siren if Eagleeye forgives him but Eagleeye does not reply. (Outcome: Eagleeye refuses; Andy receives a token from Dave;)
Scene16 (Narrative scene called by GM to close the episode) As Strongarm and Eagleeye talk tendrils of smoke drift into the camp growing denser and denser. Soon shadows appear to stalk forward in the smoke strangelt twisted and malformed. As Strongarm and Eagle appear certain to be attacked, Goldmane charges from the smoke his blonde hair flashing and he leads his father and Eagleeye to safety.

We decided that the next 3 to 4 sessions would form a new arc of the story in a slight change of pace. The begining of the story is over, the initial threat to the tribe has been averted, and while the war is not over the next part of the story will focus on the internal conflicts within the tribe.

The themes of  'Winter' and 'Gods, Old and New' were established for the second arc of the Trials of the Bullhead Tribe. Food stocks have been secured and the war band has been dismissed for the cold season. Now the tribe must look to their Gods and pray that they will survive the winter but which Gods?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Hillfolk RPG - Session 3 (pt 1): DEVILS IN THE SMOKE

The Wednesday night roleplaying group continued to play Hillfolk by Pelgrane Press this week. We decided that this week would represent the first of a trilogy of story arcs and that we would finish the evening on a high note. If I was concerned that this pressure would result in a unsatisfactory result I was to be pleasantly surprised as the shock ending to this weeks episode was a fantastic way to tie up the introductory story arc. I will start with the additional background detail that the group contributed this week.

Background Facts Established

The Chieftain of the Bullhead clan is voted into his position by a council of Elders. It is possible for a Chieftain to be voted in well another Chieftain still lives though it is consider shameful to survive your position as Chief. There are five Elders on the council and they remain in this position for life. Each of the Tribal Elder's have a established role, include the role of Seer.

Scene1 (Procedural scene called by Trevor; Cast: Forest, Eagleeye & Arrow; When: Sometime after the raid near Bullhead) The opening scene of the episode is a scene where Forest, Eagleeye and Arrow are surprised by a strange horseman whilst on a scouting mission. A combat ensures and Eagleeye manages to avoid being charged down by chopping at the horses legs and causes the attacker to be thrown. When it appears that Eagleeye will be cut down, Forest attacks the horseman form the flank saving his half brother but sending the enemy into a frenzy. The Horseman feints towards Eagleeye but lashes out savagely against Forest, who dodges out of the way. Taking the opportunity Eagleeye attacks with his sword striking the horseman's head from his shoulders. In the heat of the battle no one notices that Arrow does not engage. (Outcome: Success; positive consequence awarded to both Dave and Trevor)

Scene2 (Dramatic scene called by GM; Cast: Blackeye v Patch; When:Sometime in the past; Where: The Smoking Tower) In a flashback Patch remembers Blackeye, a blind old tribal elder, visiting him in the Smoking Tower. Blackeye speaks of his past battles, including a encounter with the Brothers of Blood, and claims that the only time he ever felt fear was in the waiting before battle. Blackeye asks Patch to end his waiting and take his place on the Elder council ever though he knows that Patch must kill him to take the seat. (Outcome: Patch agrees and GM gains a token from the kitty)

Scene3 (Dramatic scene called by GaryG; Cast: Patch v Forest; When: Following end of episode 2 at Deerhunter camp) Patch and Forest investigate the massacre at the Deerhunter village. Patch declares that the slaughter is the work of the Desertwalkers. He requests that Forest give up his opposition of Strongarms war and help give him the heart to stand strong and act quickly. Forest refuses  to support the war or speak to Strongarm about it(Outcome: Forest refuses and recieves a token)

Scene4 (Dramatic scene called by Dave; Cast: Eagleeye v Patch; When: On return journey to Bullhead) Eagleeye is clearly conflicted and seeks knowledge from the tribe's Seer Patch. Patch answers the warrior in a riddle, flaying a strip of flesh from Eagleeye's arm, demanding that he think upon that. (Outcome: Patch refused or at least only partially granted Eagleeye's petition; Dave gains a token from the kitty)

Scene5 (Dramatic scene called by Andy; Cast: Strongarm v Eagleeye; When: After Scene5 on return journey to Bullhead) Strongarm calls Eagleeye aside and confides that he fears that he will not survive the coming confrontation. He demands that should he fall that Eagleeye being the agent of his revenge and kill Goldmane framing Arrow if possible. Eagleeye continues to be conflicted with all the demands being heaped upon him but still sides with his friend. (Outcome: Dave agrees; Dave gains a token from the kitty)

Scene6 (Dramatic scene called by Trevor; Cast: Forest v Strongarm; When: On return journey to Bullhead) Forest makes a plee to Strongarm to focus his attention on the defense of Bullhead and give up his foolish notions of war. Strongarm refuses to commit to peace. (Outcome: Strongarm refuses, Trevor gains a token from the kitty. This is too close to a number of petitions made previously and we agree not to repeat this scene in the future)

Scene7 (Soft Open scene called by DM resolved as Dramatic; Cast: Raiding party; Patch v Strongarm; When: After Scene 6 On a ridge overlooking Bullhead) The raiding party see Bellhead in the distance with the Smoking Tower bellowing out a plume of smoke as a call for assistance but the fortress does not appear to be under siege. Arrow and Forest suggest that strongarm sends a scouting party forward to ascertain the location of the desertwalker force. Patch intercedes and uses his knowledge of desertwalker tactics to determine the location of the desertwalkers, saying that they use smoke to hide their attack and strike fear into their enemies and that they would attack with the wind behind them. Arrow disputes the wisdom of Patch who is not a warrior and forces Patch to confront Strongarm to decide which course of action he will choose. (Outcome: Strongarm refuses Patch and sends a scouting party; Andy gains a token from the kitty; In hindsight this scene could have been resolved as a procedural scene)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

GamesReport: 20-Jan-13 El Grande

El Grande
Winter came and trashed our planned Game Of Thrones session, but after a little scrabbling I found better weather for our four surviving players in medieval Spain with El Grande.

El Grande is by no means a new game, in fact it was winning awards back in the mid nineties and was the 1996 Spiel Des Jahres. Indeed for many Eurogame fans it remains one of the best releases from that rich period of "German-styled" strategy games.

El Grande is an area control/influence game and is based in 15th century Spain. The map and components are excellent, but I was concerned that they would give our non-Euro players the impression of a risk-style conquest game, instead of the more subtle area control strategy game that El Grande is.

Each player is a member of the high aristocracy (or "Grandes") who exert their influence across the different regions of Spain through the placement of "Caballeros", lower ranked aristocracy. 

Each round players bid for action cards that allow them to exert their influence in different ways and swing the balance of power in their favour. 

Regions are scored during rounds three, six and nine to establish which Grande has gained the most victory points by best using their influence in Spain.

It was a first game of El Grande for ChrisG & DaveB, but they did well to stay in contention throughout the evening. GaryG 108pts, AndyA 98pts, DaveB 90pts and ChrisG 78pts.

El Grande is a fine Eurogame, hopefully we'll get to use the expansion next time we play.  

The other games played were Bucket King and Bluff.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hillfolk RPG - Session 2 (pt 3): FEAR

Here is the final part of the write up for the Hillfolk game on Wednesday last. It was not an overlong session but we generated a lot of content. It would be fair to say that we covered a lot more ground than we would have in a standard roleplaying game. It was also great that the episode system lead us in a very natural way to create a complete mini-story in one evenings play while introducing plot point to be resolved in the next episode.

I will start with the additional background details that were introduced this week, italics indicate player created details.

Whenever you have to lump the northerner and southerners together, you simply call them "the people". In other languages you are collectively known by various names all of which mean "Hillfolk", or sometimes "the rude ones."
Although differences of detail separate you from your northern brothers, you follow the same religion. Whilst many follow new ideas such as the belief that there is but one god of the Hillfolk, others hold to ancient and darker ways and follow the Old Gods.The old ways are lead in worship by a Seer who is chosen by the gods, rites of the New religion have new leaders including the Seedbearers.
Will Eagleeye kill his friend?
Scene12 - (Dramatic scene called by GM; Cast - Goldmane v Eagleeye; When - before the raiding party left Bullhead) Goldmane calls Eagleeye to his chambers and tells him that he knows that Eagleeye is angry that he was not chosen as raid commander and offers him the spearhead token of the raid commander. He asks that all Eagleeye must do is ensure that Strongarm does not return from the raid (Outcome Eagleeye agrees +1 drama token to Dave)

Scene13 - (Procedural scene called by Trevor; Cast - Forest, Eagleeye, Arrow and Fury; When - Dawn near the Stag camp) The scouting led by Forest try to determine location and numbers of the Deerhunter camp. Strangely no patrols are found and the only recent tracks found are a small force leading away from the camp (Outcome Failure)

Strongarm besieged
Scene14 - (Dramatic scene called by Andy; Cast - Strongarm v Patch; When - simultaneous with Scene13) Strongarm approaches Patch and reveals to his brother that he is unsure that has taken the tribe on the right path. He admits that he should have taken the Gift the Gods offered to him. Patch reassures him that that does not matter and that he is on the right course (Outcome Patch concedes +1 drama token to Andy)

Scene15 - (Dramatic scene called by Dave; Cast - Eagleeye v Strongarm; When - Flashback until after scene11, Early morning) Eagleeye confesses to Strongarm that he has had dreams sent by the Old Gods in which he must kill Strongarm. He also confesses that he accepted the Spearhead token from Goldmane to kill Strongarm. Eagleeye asks for forgiveness and that Strongarm trusts him. (Outcome Strongarm agrees +1 drama token to Dave)

Scene16 - (Procedural scene called by GaryG ; Cast - all main characters and rest of Raiding party; Where - The Deerhunter camp) The raiding party splits into the Bull Horn formation with Eagleeye taking the right horn and Arrow leading the left. The raiding party is met by no resistance when they enter the village and there they find all the Deerhunter tribe dead with their hearts cut out. Arrow asks Eagleeye which direction the tracks he found led and Eagle points back towards Bullhead where now a plume of smoke rises. Arrow turns to Strongarm and states "You will have your war after all" (Outcome ended through narration )

Another episode will follow next week

Friday, 18 January 2013

Hillfolk RPG - Session 2 (pt 2): FEAR

Here is the second part of the write up for the on-going Hillfolk game. This week was intriguing as there are a number of reveals, facts that came out in play, that gave surprising insights into the characters we were playing.

- Dave for example dropped the fact that the DeerHunters had killed Eagleeye's wife in to the middle of a scene which explained the fear that he had in fighting the DeerHunters again and perhaps the rage he felt in battle.

- Andy whose character Strongarm always projects forcefulness, even arrogance, when he talks to other characters has a scene late in the evening where he confides to Patch of his doubts. Brilliant insight in Strongarm character given the very person who he trusts most is the person who plots against him.

- Forest's confusion and hesitancy when confronted with the mercurial Fury was priceless and was one of my favourite scenes.

Forest still burns and not
just for Fury
Scene6 - (Dramatic scene called by GaryG; Cast - Patch v Strongarm, Patch v Eagleeye; When - Night 2 days after Scene5) Patch gathers Strongarm and Eagleeye to prepare them for ordeal ahead. He offers them both a gift from the Old Gods. The wants them to accept their fate and accept that they do the will of he Gods. Patch urges them to eat a sliver of the sacrifice to demonstrate their acceptance. Strongarm refuses but Eagleeye accepts the gift (Outcome Patch v Eagle concedes +1 drama token to Eagleeye; Patch v Strongarm refuses +1 drama token to Patch)

Scene7 - (Procedural scene called by Andy; Cast - Strongarm and Forest, When - Day 2 days ago after Episode1) Strongarm visits Forest to ask after his health and get into a discussion over Strongarms desire for war. The debate becomes heated and this allows Strongarm to achieve his real goal to find and take the evidence that he left in the crop field that could implicate him in starting the fire. The scene ends with the brooch in Strongarm's hand but Forest still has burns from the brooch on his hands (Outcome Success for Andy)

Strongarm will return with
his shield or upon it
Scene8 - (Soft open which resolved as a Procedural scene called by GM; Cast - Strongarm and assembled Raiding party, When - Next morning after Scene6) The raiding party has gathered outside the strongholds walls awaiting the raid commander Strongarm to lead them off. Strongarm sees fear and certainty amongst the band but through a rousing speech convinces them that they will return victorious and stronger than before. (Outcome Success for Andy)

Scene10 - (Dramatic scene called by Dave; Cast - Eagleeye v Strongarm; When - After Scene9) Eagleeye tries once again to divert Strongarm from the path he has chosen. Eagleeye obviously has doubts about continuing with the raid but why is unclear (Outcome Strongarm refuses +1 drama token to Dave)

Scene11- (Dramatic scene called by GaryG; Cast - Patch v Eagleeye; When - Night near the Deerhunter camp) Eagleeye sees shadows in his tent which appear to instruct him to kill Strongarm. Patch emerges from the shadows and interprets the vision as the will of the Gods. (Outcome Eagleeye agrees +1 drama token to Dave)

One more part of the write up will be published in a day or two

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Hillfolk RPG - Session 2 (pt 1): FEAR

The Wednesday night group once again returned to Trials of the Bullhead Tribe using Pelgrane Press Hillfolk roleplaying game. This week was as rich a gaming experience as the previous week and we were clearly getting to grips with the challenging format. We welcomed a new player to the group, in DaveB, who took very well to the demands of the game and came up with a great character Eagleeye who will further serve to stir the pot of politics and inter-tribal conflict.
Some very cool scenes in Hillfolk last night. It's not like any game I've ever played before, it's pure role-playing with very little distraction. The players are fully immersed and decide (through their scenes) the direction the story takes. - GaryG
We covered a lot of ground in the evening and the write-up will be long, apologies for that now. I will be breaking the write up into a couple of post over the next day or so.

New Characters
DaveB - Eagleeye is the tribes Raid Commander and the related by blood to Forest. He is a disciplined warrior but is known to be a fearless beserker in battle. He seeks the power to control the anger within, and redemption for past failures.

Episode 2 - "Fear" (theme called by GaryG a couple of days prior to the game to give the rest of the players the chance to come up with a scene or two)

GaryG's scenes are edgy and twisted,
and raises the bar for the group.
Scene1 - (Dramatic scene called by GaryG; Cast - Patch v Goldmane, Goldmane v Strongarm, rest of Tribe spectating; When - Night 2 days after Episode1) Patch is leading the tribe in a gruesome sacrifice to beseech the gods for guidance. Patch tells Goldmane that he will be victorious in the upcoming conflict but that his enemy is not the one he expects. When asked who the enemy is Patch leads the tribe to believe that the true enemy is Strongarm. Goldmane demands proof from Strongarm that he will not harm the tribe and challenges him to succeed in his raid against the DeerHunters. Strongarm agrees. (Outcome Patch v Goldmane concede +1 drama token to Patch; Goldmane v Strongarm concedes +1 drama token to GM)

Scene2 - (Dramatic scene called by Andy; Cast - Strongarm v Patch; When - earlier that evening; Where - Patch's chambers in the Smoking Tower) Strongarm approaches Patch for assistance in getting the war he so desires. Patch warns Strongarm but promised to do his part (Outcome Patch concedes +1 drama token to GaryG)

Fury is not as formidable
 as she first seems
Scene3 - (Dramatic scene called by GM; Cast - Fury v Forest; When - later after the Scene1) Forest is confronted by an incensed Fury, Bladedancer's widow, who demands to know why Forest allowed her husband to die and who now will support her and her son. While it appears that she simply wishes to vent her rage at Forest, it becomes clear that what she really seeks is comfort. Forest hesitates and Fury takes his response as a refusal and storms off (Outcome Forest refuses +1 drama token to GM)

Scene4 - (Dramatic scene called by Trevor; Cast - Forest v Patch; When - After Scene3; Where - the Smoking Tower) Forest appeals to Patch to use his influence to stop the conflict between Strongarm and Goldmane that is threatening to destroy the tribe. Patch refuses saying that the gods have spoken. Forest defies the gods influence. (Outcome Patch refuses +1 drama token to Trevor)

One of the Bullocks, 2 Bulls and a dog
Scene5 - (Dramatic scene called by Dave; Cast - Eagleeye v Strongarm; When - simultaineously with Scene4) Eagleeye berates Strongarm for his folly in bringing the tribe to the brink the war pointing out that the DeerHunters are strong and defeated them once before. Strongarm refuses to relent saying that war will make the tribe strong (Outcome Strongarm refuses +1 drama token to Dave)

More Scenes to come

Monday, 14 January 2013

Trail of Cthulhu... coming soon

Trail of Cthulhu
Most of our blog posts focus on our KoffeeKlub boardgame / wargame evenings, but we also role-play on a fairly regular basis. Hillfolk and Cold City are two recent examples that we've blogged about over recent months.

I'm pleased to confirm that I intend to run a purist Trail Of Cthulhu scenario beginning in late February or early March 2013 on Wednesday evenings at The Black Knight. In the meantime watch out for further updates on Hillfolk as we progress through this cool new DramaSystem Kickstarter game.

GamesReport: 13-Jan-13 A Few Acres Of Snow, Cthulhu LCG & More

Last night I had another play of FFG's Call of Cthulhu LCG, this time against AndyA. 

His deck combined The Syndicate, the seedy underbelly of the city, with the deranged artists and raving lunatics of Hastur's cult. I played a much more civilised Miskatonic University, for their Mythos knowledge and linked it to Yog-Sothoth and it's strength in travelling between worlds.

Domain Marker
The game oozes Mythos and it's artwork and card text are an immediate attraction for any Lovecraft fan. Andy struggled to get enough supporting characters into play in the early game and I quickly took the first story-card whilst making good progress to my second. He however managed to level the field again by winning a card that forced me to shuffle my own story-card back into the deck.

I gradually managed to re-assert my dominance and used some of my spells to recover useful cards from the discard, eventually winning quite comfortably.

I enjoy playing the CoC LCG, but feel that it could run a little more smoothly, especially when handling story-card struggles between players. The theme will always have me coming back for more though, perhaps a few well chosen house rules can add to the experience a little?

CoC LCG in Play
At the other end of our table, DaveB was teaching ChrisG a thing or two about winning at A Few Acres Of Snow.  DaveB won comfortably with the French before switching sides and whopping him with the British too! These games were not without incident though, as Dave's shuffling action and discarding were brought into question. A military investigation committee to follow perhaps?

A Few Acres Of Snow
Great to see new players picking this one up.


We finished our evening at The Black Knight with a game of The Settlers of Catan (won by ChrisG) and a few rounds of Bluff. Perhaps I took my explanation of the Settlers rules a little far...

Settlers - Probability Curve
Elsewhere through ACTS, I'm playing a few games of Twilight Struggle.

Next Sunday at KoffeeKlub it's Game Of Thrones!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

GamesReport: 11-Jan-13 Combat Commander Europe

My Combat Commander Stuff
Inspired into action by recent posts on Sgt Steiner's fine blog, I've finally managed to get Combat Commander to the table.

Back in July '12 I picked up a copy of Combat Commander Pacific to scratch a Pacific Theatre itch and it was quickly followed by purchases of the New Guinea battle pack and then the Combat Commander Europe base set from eBay. Buying is too easy sometimes and despite my good intentions these games fell behind an ASLSK renaissance. 

Sometimes the biggest barrier to playing a new game is learning a new game, so kudos to JohnK for offering to teach this one to me.

A CC:Europe card
Anyway onto the game itself...

The Combat Commander series is a card-driven system that focuses on the tactical infantry combat of World War II across it's many theatres. There are no dice as such, the cards are used to determine in-game effects... dice outcomes, random hexes, events etc.  

Learning Combat Commander
I didn't want to leave it all to JohnK, so I walked through *most* of the rules this week just to familiarise myself with the terms and the basic phases of play. Even so we struggled through the set-up and the first few turns, but I gradually got use to the simplicity of the card-play if not some of the more detailed rules... they will have to wait until I re-read the rules having experienced a full scenario...

The Scenario
Playing as the US vs. John's Germans we played Scenario #4 "Closed For Renovation".

Humaine, Belgium, December 27, 1944 - After three days of fierce combat and heavy bombardment, the town of Humaine was surrounded by forces of the US 2nd Armoured Division. Most of the German defenders surrendered after some hard fighting. Remnants of 9th Panzer Division occupying a château on the north end of town refused to give up, however, and it fell to CCR to root out these stubborn troops.

Initial Set-Up
Reinforcements At The Wall
Taking The Objective

I elected to push Elite units up the eastern side of the château and took out his 75mm IG 18 Gun and the troops stationed in the building there. I hoped that this intense pressure would draw some Germans away from the main objective to give my main attack (from the western wall) a better chance.

It worked pretty well, but the eastern assault weakened my troops there and I had now choice but to begin the second attack against the heavily fortified Germans. Time was running out!

Just one round before a sudden death finish was called, I took the 15VP objective and had eliminated enough German units to give me a 4VP win. I'd almost left it too late though. 

First Impressions
I'm very familiar with games that have fire and movement as a certainty in your turn. If you want to move, you can move and if you want to fire, hey you can fire! However, the card system in CC:E only allows you to fire and/or move if you have the cards to do so. If you don't, you have options to discard and re-draw or to play other orders instead. 

This was an early barrier to me as I planned my assault on the building objective in our scenario. The cards certainly add a chaotic feel to the game, so if I can embrace that, there will be a place for the series at my game-table in the future. Right now the jury is still out...

It's nice to get back to some wargaming!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Hillfolk RPG - Session 1: HUNGER

We tried something quite new at our Wednesday night gaming session this week. We created a story used Robin D Laws' new DramaSystem roleplaying game Hillfolk. This game is a cooperative storytelling system which shares the creative job normally reserved for the gamesmaster to the players around the table. While Hillfolk still has a GM he has just a much control of the creative process as any other player, his job is to focus the creative process of the players into a coherent story. We had incorporated a little of this joint creation in our previous games most notably Cold City but never to the level required by Hillfolk.

This style of roleplaying is different to the regular pen and paper style and takes some getting used to. We struggled a little to start with because we tried to create too much detail for each element, by trying to rationalise each idea and ended up over complicate things. An example of this was it character generation when one of the players established that what they wanted from one of the other characters was 'his silence' the other had a little difficult leaving the statement open and unexplained. We went back and forward for a few minutes trying to decide what it was his character knew and why it needed to be kept secret. We soon realised that simplicity is the key, establishing only enough at one time to give the table a hint of a story untold and leave it as a hook to be explored later.

Here is what we created this week about the setting. The text in italics are the elements added by the players in response to a GM prompt
You live in the rugged southern highlands, where the strong and self-reliant prosper. Jagged hills cut them off from the rest of the world. They shelter you and daunt your pursuers. A distinctive natural formation, said to resemble the head of a bull, marks the hill on which your band’s fortress is built. This formation lends its name, Bullhead, to both your band, and to the fortress itself.
A narrow strip of flat land, raised on a plateau, sits in the middle of these hills. Your farmers work its poor soil. Uncertain rainfall soaks their fields one year, and leaves them to parch the next. In the rolling zones between hill and flatland, your herders pasture hardy sheep, scrawny cattle, and impudent goats. They graze on its weeds and grasses.
The land begrudgingly grants you grains and meat sufficient to a meagre existence. To enrich yourself, it demands that you go elsewhere, to raid. In bad times, like now, you raid each other. In good times, when a strong chieftain unites the hillfolk, you band together to raid more distant neighbours.
 Many clans like yours inhabit the Southlands, each with its own distinct variations on a set of common customs and beliefs. Amongst these rival clans The DeerHunter tribe whose people are said to worship the Great Stag, are the Bullhead’s most tenacious and implacable rivals.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

KoffeeKlub Evening 13th of January

A Game Of Thrones (2nd Ed) was recently voted as KoffeeKlub's game of the year for 2012. This Sunday we will get our first chance to try out the new expansion A Dance With Dragons.

The expansion introduces us to an alternative set-up which reflects each House’s new position in Westeros at the time of the Dance With Dragons novel. Players will have a new set of house cards and will need to quickly adapt to the changed landscape in order to succeed in this shorter scenario.

KoffeeKlub meet at The Black Knight Gaming Centre every Sunday between 7pm and 11pm.

”Men are men, vows are words, and words are wind.” - Iron Emmett

Monday, 7 January 2013

GamesReport: 6-Jan-13 Race For The Galaxy and A Few Acres Of Snow

A late one this week at the KoffeeKlub. Unintentional, I promise.

Not One For The Kids
Having run a demo game of Race For The Galaxy last weekend for DaveB and ChrisG, I was eager to have another go this week and made it our main game for the evening.

First up, with a few still to arrive, AndyA introduced us (and a few of the Magic players) to Cards Against Humanity, a tongue-in-cheek card game where a question or phase with a blank is read out (the black cards) and players choose the funniest card in their hand (the white cards) to play. Rules didn't seem important and we spent over an hour trying to out-funny each other with some cutting combinations. 

Q - "I know I can always get laid by _______." A - "Overpowering my father." You get the idea!? Harmless fun...sort of...

+Funny... mostly.
+Can handle loads of players.

-Humour will definitely not be suitable for everyone.
-Should only be taken in small doses.

Front and centre this evening would be Race For The Galaxy, a fine card game by Thomas Lehmann. Now I've blurbed a bit on this already, so check that out if you wish. Needless to say this is a firm favourite of ours that just seems to get richer and richer in terms of depth and strategy. ChrisG described it as a bit of a brain-burner. Which it is, so get someone who knows it to teach you and you're flying!

We managed to squeeze three games in last night and only this morning I realised that I own a copy of one of the expansions Rebel vs. Imperium and haven't yet put the cards in the main deck, so expect to see it again soon.

Scores from our three games to follow:
GaryB won game #1 and GaryG won games #2 and #3

+Rich in strategy options.
+Fairly quick given the game experience you get.
+Good expansion options.

 -Tough on the first-time player (seems like a lot to take in)

As the evening closed GaryB and myself agreed to walk ChrisG and DaveB through a few turns of A Few Acres Of Snow, one of my favourite games from last year.

A Few Acres is a 2-player deck construction wargame covering the French & Indian Wars of 1754–1763. It combines card play with a beautiful board to represent the areas contested by the British and the French. 

The game does have it's critics, but we absolutely love it! If it hadn't been a 2-player game, and therefore featured more at the KoffeeKlub, it probably would have been my game of the year for 2012. 

Anyway our few demonstration turns GaryB/ChrisG (The British) against DaveB/GaryG (The French) got a little heated and we saw it through to a resounding French win! Apologies again to DaveB as my competitive streak took over and I ended up running the French side when it should have been him learning the game. I'll let you play more next time... :)

You can find more of our thoughts on the game here.

A fine KoffeeKlub evening. Back on track!

Friday, 4 January 2013

GamesReports: 23/29/30-Dec-12 Merchants & Marauders, Star Wars LCG and Shadows Over Camelot

I know it's January already, but we still have a few festive sessions to add before we get stuck into our gaming for 2013.

23rd of December Session - Merchants & Marauders
Michael (owner of The Black Knight) bought this one recently and kindly offered to walk us through a game in our last KoffeeKlub evening before Christmas. Merchants & Marauders gives you the chance to pirate and/or trade your way to victory by racking up ten "glory" points before your fellow captains do.

You achieve glory becoming an awesome trader, by plundering the merchantmen of the high-seas and by completing rumour missions. Throw the French, British, Dutch and Spanish navies as well as some other pirates into the mix and thing begin to get much more interesting, as moving from one port to another isn't often as straight-forward as it seems. 

Merchants & Marauders is fun and definitely the best game of it's type that I've played. Whether or not it stays the course after multiple plays remains to be seen. Certainly worth a try though. 

Player vs. Player Sinking
In our game DaveB came through to pip me at the post with a vast hidden treasure!

+It's a pirate game and you can switch between piracy and trading throughout.
+Artwork and pieces are good.
+fun to play with enough strategy for another few plays.

-Only 4-players
-May lack enough depth for many plays.

29th of December Session - Star Wars LCG
In a surprise (I didn't expect to be able to make it) additional Saturday session, I played a couple of games of the new Star Wars living card game from Fantasy Flight Games against TrevorH.

I have mixed experiences with the living card games released to date and whilst I like the idea of buying specific card sets rather than collecting random boosters, the actual game play in most of the LCGs I've tried hasn't quite hit the mark. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game and Warhammer Invasion spring to mind.

So is the Star Wars LCG any stronger? well I've only had a couple of plays as I mentioned earlier, so this is very much a first impression. Thematically the cards and artwork are good, but they are abstracted out a little as the mechanics of the game are played through. For example you can find a rebel unit such as Luke Skywalker in conflict with a Star Destroyer attempting to take a rebel objective, so you really need to abstract out that this is of course not a direct fight, but instead a higher level struggle. To be honest I didn't have a problem with this, but some players may do.

I worry more about choosing not to engage the enemy and to instead conserve your resources for the attack you will make in your own turn. This seems wrong to me and the penalty for doing this can be quite light. A few more plays are needed though to consider it properly.

All that being said I enjoyed the couple of games very much and look forward to playing again soon.

+Great artwork and feel to the game.
+Good deck options for Rebel / Empire players.
+Fun to play and games don't last too long.

-Abstracted combat may put some people off.
-Possible issues pushing player to opt-out of some engagements with the enemy.
30th December Session - Shadows Over Camelot
Shadows Over Camelot, from Days Of Wonder, is a co-operative hidden traitor game similar in many ways to Battlestar Galactica. It's game-play though is much more straight-forward and it relies heavily on player interaction to drive the round-table experience.

The players are knights of the round-table and take on various quests to protect Camelot from the many threats the game throws up. Whether you choose to try to find the Grail, fight the Black Knight, quest for Excalibur or fend off the Saxon/Pict attacks, each success or failure will add either black (bad) or white (good) swords around the round-table. Score more than 6 (of 12) white swords and the loyal knights win the game.  A hidden traitor may secretly plot against this and try to bring Camelot down through careful card play and failed quests.

In truth the game-play is fairly simple and probably not enough to hold our attention beyond a few attempts. Fun, without a strong level of strategic play.

ChrisG was the traitor, but died in his attempts to kill off some other more noble knights. Even in his absence we still couldn't win and eventually succumbed to the siege engines at Camelot's door.

+Very atmospheric, with thematic quests.
+Can handle six plus players.
+Excellent components and artwork.

-Light on strategy.
-Needs a level of role-play to get the most out of the game.
-Limited re-playability.