Thursday, October 27, 2011

Puppet Mayhem! - Part Deux!

For a quick game replicate this board
Who can't stop playing this damn game? Me that's who! Anyway having had a few more weeks and games behind me I thought this game deserved another word or two. It seems this game is one that really deserves a few weeks of game play. Usually with games like this one can play 2-4 games and get a sense of what is going on, strategy and basic game management. While you might be able to grasp some basic strategy and rules there are quite a few more levels to this game that only extra game play and experience can expose.

So first of all let's talk about the board make up. The pattern book the game comes with is a good one, but something I failed to talk about in my previous post was the rules for making up your own board on the fly. This is an element that really lends re playability and fun to the game. Creating the boards can be a lot of fun and doing it on the fly makes the eventual game to be played very interesting. It also adds an extra level of strategy to things. In fact this feature very much mimics the beginnings set up phases of many table top skirmish games.

 Don't taze me bro!

Another wonderful little gem to be discovered in the pattern book are the alternate scenarios. While I have not tried them yet I have read through them and they seem great fun. The versatility of the scenarios in combination with random board construction will really give this game a long run with regards to gaming groups.

This game can haz it! Wow. When I played my first few games I really coudn't even see the level of stratagy involved behind this game. Now having constructed a few shoeboxes and played more games it unfolded before me like an oragami sculpture designed by the MIT club.

First off all, unlike Malifaux you do not reshuffle your cards after a full turn. This means you really have to decide how you use your cards in every phase. Proper management of cards and utilization of turn options will yield a much more successful player. However, seeing the proper management and options is the real difficulty. This lends a giant learning curve to the game that makes this very enjoyable.

This is my new toybox I built. Free hand painted the suits in the corners. Its got magnets to hold the top on.
List building is another twisty turny road this game has. Sure you can design the list with your master's suit as the majority of your peices, but if you have good resource managment skills and keep track of a few things you can design a real nasty box of toys with a good variety of animation requirements. The ability to utilize a list like this can really catch an opponent off guard.

Finally play option strategy. This is another great big bag of cats. There is so much you can do here. Looking at the big picture is the only options here. If you start to micromanage one or two pieces you end up losing because your puppets will eventually die. It is vitally important to a players success that they are aware of all their options during an animation round.

All in all my opinion of this game has drastically improved the more I play it. This is not a quality that is easily seen in a game. So kudos to Wyrd for making a game that can stick around for a long haul.

A word about my balance issues with the game
I have had a lot of questions about this from people so let me get into a few specifics. I only really have problems with 3 peices in this game. Thankfully, only one is available for general release currently so lets start with her.

Pandora. I have played her more than any other master so far and I can honestly say this: she is not as potent as other masters and does not function as well with out of suit pieces in relation to other masters. Get her woes and masks and she is significantly better. Unfortunately without them she is basically a tempest in a teacup, that is to say her powers are generally neutered. I still love playing her though even without her preferred stuff. Good management of your primary toybox will make up for her shortcomings if your a good player. I also love her BYOB ability.

The hooded rider and Pokey Viktoria are the other too. Thankfully, while they are legal pieces, they are not officially released. Each one has one power that makes them far too powerful for general game play.

The Hooded Rider is the worst. He gains powerful +1 for each move he makes durring an animation. This means he can one hit a 4 stiched puppet since he has sprint. Not cool. He is basically shelved until fixed as far as I am concerned. A better route would be too allow the controlling player to add whatever suit they want to his defense when he is attacked and give him powerful +1 if he moves during an animation.

VIki is an easy fix I think. He teleport power is powerful but I think it's one of her free actions that really gets her in the broken bin. Basically you give her a free action and she can make an attack. This means that you can discard an animation card and let her attack without animating her. Very no. A possible fix may be that there is a clause in the ability that states it may only be used when she is being animated or if she is not exauseted. Either option might bring Viki down to a human (puppet) level.

Thankfully these two aren't released yet and Wyrd still has some time to fix these two before generally release so I am not too upset. Those guys are always very receptive to players and are already listening.

So people have been coming to my blog lately. That is really cool. Thank you. So if any of you readers out there in internet land want me to review something let me know. I am always open to suggestions, especially if any of you readers happen to be creators and want to send me your game or product. I am always happy to try new games and I seem to have a regular time to play and review new games lately. I also seem to be able to get my grubby little paws on new games as well.

Anyway until next time, drop a train on em Edgar!
Steve (this episode brought to you by the letter Strongbad)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Puppet Mayhem!

Cute little minis that like to rip out their own stuffing? Yes, please. This is another game I was trying to avoid. Unfortunately, I managed to get my hands on a few of the miniatures and painted them up. Then I got my hands on some more ( including some of the LEs) and painted some more up. Then I just picked up the game because, well I had all the pieces everyone was looking for.
Snuggles here enjoys long walks on the beach and diet tab soda
Puppet wars is a game that takes place in the world of Malifaux. Specifically, the game takes place on the bayou workbench of one Zoraida. She is essentially the Baba Yaga of the Malifaux-verse. Basically, the voodoo puppets of other Malifaux characters come to life and wage a war against each other. Don’t worry though, some needle and thread will make it all better.

What you get

Opening a new game is a magical experience. The smell, the packaging the shinies. Well this box has all of that. This is another, of the ever increasingly popular, self contained miniature board games.

The game comes with 18 very nice metal, unpainted miniatures, a 12inch x 12 inch board (small but very acestically appealing), the stat cards for the puppets, 2 specialty puppet decks of cards ( they can double as simple poker decks), and plastic and cardboard counters. The miniatures included make for a perfect 2 player game since you get 2 master, 4 sidekicks and 10 pawns. To scale up to a 3 or 4 player game you need to get the master expansion pack.

On par with the rest of Wyrd’s products the puppet wars minis are the reason to buy this game. They are beautifully crafted and well thought out. Little buggers are downright adorable too. You will not find too many miniatures in this style or quality anywhere else. Honestly, they are just fun to paint too. They go quick and have all the detail you could want. Despite their small size you can do some pretty fun things with the puppets in this box.

How it is done

Normally I do this section myself. However a friend of mine on the Wyrd forums put together a very nice and comprehensive Youtube rules synopsis and I have been given permission to share the videos with you.

Part 1 

Part 2 

List Building

I really like using these videos to learn to play. Unfortunately, I found the rule book rather difficult to lean from. I have played a number of games and only now do really feel like I understand the intricacies of the rules. Thankfully rules queries are readily answered on the Wyrd forums allowing for easy access to any information you may need for the game.

A Few Other things

Wyrd has been doing some very interesting things with regards to releasing pieces for this game. Currently there are 4 “expansion packs” out. One is the masters pack, which contains some sidekicks, pawns and two master puppets. The others are simply assorted minis that can support any of the 5 suits available.

Also, even though the packs are not randomized there is still an element of collectibility in this game. There is a chase Teddie pawn that can be found once in every 10 booster packs. There are 5 different versions of this character too. Thankfully I managed to get my hands on a few through a shadowy benefactor.
I'm home alone?! AHHHHHHHH!
My Thoughts

My first few tries I did not especially enjoy this game. When you are swimming through a game’s rules and it does not flow quickly things can go downhill. Thankfully I did not give up on this. I found that the more games I played the more I enjoyed Puppet Wars.

Wyrd does a good job with their games in terms of rules evolution. There are always people trying to break good games so, the fellows at wyrd make sure their rules continue to evolve through a game’s life. The company even added a section specifically for this game on their forums.
 How does she swing that sword...?

One thing that I find tragic about this game is that it really requires each individual to have their own collection of miniatures. It is difficult for two people to open the box and simply start playing since there is only a certain number of miniatures available between the two of them. Thus for an ideal play situation there should be private pools of miniatures available for each player so they do not have to draft from the miniatures available.

This problem especially puts a crimp on doing a multiplayer game. The master expansion pack comes with an additional two masters. However, if you do not have supporting pieces from the other non-random “booster packs” some people can be at a serious disadvantage.
There are also a few figures that seem to be slightly off balance. Some are very powerful and some very week. Normally you could just say hey that’s how things go, but the differences are notable and sometimes they apply to the master puppets themselves. This causes for unfortunate disparities between the suits/factions. 

All in all I enjoy this game though. Wyrd has put out a lot of support for it and is very much behind it. Playing for fun this is a very enjoyable game. It is another ground breaker in the new realm of hobby-board games in the vein of Super Dungeon Explore, and Dread Fleet. This is certainly a genre that I have been enjoying and one that seems to be the next step in evolution from the miniature skirmish game.
Due to power gaming I think this game is one that should probably not see competitive play. However, in the casual arena it has quite a bit of potential. Between the miniatures, the compact nature of the game, and the downright fun of concept this is a game worth checking out, even if you end up drafting from your friends miniature collection.

Hope you guys enjoyed the eye candy. So until next time all you readers out in internet land, keep on sewing those buttons!

Steve ( puppet warlord)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dreadfleet - A Review

I wasn’t going to play it. I wasn’t going to buy it. It was expensive and more stuff to paint. So why did I say yes when Scott asked me to do a few games with him? He had just picked it up and suggested it and I said “he no worries, you have the key to the game store, want to test it out tomorrow morning”. He was on board and thus we set sail.

Navel combat has never been cooler than in this game. I have played Uncharted seas, the old CCG Pirates game by Wizkids, and Man O War, but nothing has compared to this game.  So let’s get down to business because I don’t know about you but I had no real concept of this game, it’s rules, contents or general fluff.

The Box

What’s in the box will make your head spin. This is an all in one naval combat game. You get everything you need. Islands, ships, monsters, cards, stats, rulebook and – get ready to hold onto your pants – a 3x5 cloth sea matt!

Unlike the recent debacle with Citidel Finecast, these plastics are machined to perfection. These ships are wonderful dry fits (you do not have to glue them). The ships each have a custom base that has wonderful detail, you can see waves and on the elven ship’s base you even have a few dolphins. The islands also have wonderful detail, these things are the perfect scenery and have little to no flash while keeping a wonderful amount of detail.

When Scott broke open the box and showed me the cloth matt I decided to buy it. This thing is spectacular. The detail and colors are fantastic. It is also essential to the game as it has the wind directional markings on it.

Needless to say the ships are gorgeous. Each fleet has 5 ships, the fleets being lead by the Heldenhammer and the Ravager ships.

 You will probably have to paint these guys piece by piece though because there is a lot of detail on the insides of the ships. For instance you can see a dirigible being launched from the inside of the dwarf ship. Also, for those of you who are wondering, the ship sails have the designs in relief. So, you can either paint the beautiful sail designs and say it was your own free hand or you can file them off and paint your own.

The movement tools this thing comes with are on par with the rest of the game. There are two movement compasses that have a 45 degree angle on them for easy turning. The ruler that is included is broken into 3 pieces. It is created as such because it bends to a 45degree angle at each joint. This is amazingly helpful in determining arcs on ships.

Also inside are things called Cogs. These are small ships that can depart from the parent ships. They can be different for each ship. For instance the elven ship’s cog is a dragon. These were awesome little additions to the game that make you really enjoy things. They are usually just mini ships though ( well crafted mini ships though). Strangely enough they are just about on scale with Man O War ships.

Is that a figurehead in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

The cards are also all color-coded for easy sorting and use. The ship cards have a picture of the ship on one side and the name and stats on the other. Each stat side of the ship card also has words around the boarder. When the ship takes damage you put the corresponding damage cards along the side of the ship card. This makes for a real clean and interesting game play area.

The Rules

The rules are very well put together. I was pretty surprised by this. They are simple and flow very well. The turn is broken down into the following steps: Initiative, Status, Fate, Action phase, end phase

First we roll for initiative. Easy enough, higher roll gets to choose to activate first or second during the Action Phase. Then you alternate between players in the activation of ships during the action phase (but this comes later).

Fate comes next. Each player draws a fate card. The effects of the fate card are then activate. Then the fate cards dictate the wind patterns. Easy enough, though this can be a serious game effect.

Then comes status phase. You resolve any status affects on your ships. Some examples are: “set ablaze”, “waterline shot” or “magazine ignition”.

Now comes the action phase. This is broken into the following for each ship: Issue orders, Move, Broadside, Boarding. Each is pretty strait forward. First the ship can issue an order that affects the ship in some way ( Hard to port will turn your ship left before you move). To make a successful Order you simply make a command check based on the ships captain. Just roll a dice and as long as it equals or exceeds the command the order is issued.

Ship movement is easy in this game thanks to the counters. You have a move stat, that’s how many inches the ship can move. If you want to turn your ship you look at it’s handling stat. The ship can make one 45 degree turn each time it moves it’s handling stat in inches. Again, easy.

Next we fire. This part is easy too! Wow! Look at the broadside stat and roll that many dice. Then you check range. 1-6 inches means each die hits on a 4, 6-12 means a 5 or better and finally 12-18 is a 6 or better. Then for each hit, your opponent makes an armor save which is – you guessed it – in the armor stat. Now if a ship takes damage it draws a damage card and applies the affect. To sink a ship it must have hull damage cards equal to it’s hull stat.

Finally, the boarding party. Simply look at your crew stat, and modify it by the crew damage the ship may have taken and roll that many dice. Each player does this at the same time. A 5 or a 6 results in a victory for that die. The player with the most victories win and the loser draws damage cards equal to the difference in victories between the boarding parties. 

This is what happened after the Heldenhammer boarded the Raveger...

Your oppent then activates one of their ships and completes the action phase with one of their ships. This repeats until there are no more ships to activate. Then end phase is simply any clean ups or conditions that happen in that phase. Now we just start a new tern from the top of the order.

What I think

This is a great game. Period. I am quite amazed that Gamesworkshop was able to produce a game so smooth and uncomplicated. The rolling of dice is intuitive and fast, there is very little to keep track of and to move around and all the pieces are compact and beautiful. The rules set is something much more solid and foundational than anything I have seen from that company in quite some time.

Unfortunately there is always the price. It is a little sleep MSRPing for 115 USD. Fortunately you certainly get what you pay for.

The game is one that is driven by scenarios, similar to Space Hulk. As long as there are continuing resources for scenarios ( fan base or company based) I for-see a bright future for this game. There also seems to be a good basis for replay of scenarios since movement and fate play such an important role in this game. So go try this out, you will have a wonderful time. This game has certainly reset the bar for naval combat games. I haven’t played something this cool from Gamesworkshop since way back when I discovered Battlefleet Gothic. 

So until next time all you barnacles, keep clinging to those hulls, 

Steve (The dread Pirate Roberts)

PS Since my posting there has been a nice expanded discussion here on the Wyrd forums.