Clank! And 101st Anniversary

A Game That Does It Right

 

Clank! box cover
Clank! box cover

Clank! A Deck Building Adventure has been getting a lot of plays since I acquired it last December (2016). For a game that uses many common mechanics it just works well. It is also a game that works for me even though the theme is not a big draw.

  • It is a deck-building game, nothing revolutionary there. The cards are easy to understand. There are no complex icons to remember.
  • The theme is understandable. Go into the dungeon and steal things from the dragon, and get out alive!. No pressure.
  • There is drama. The drawing of damage cubes from the bag creates plenty of tension.
  • The players have choices. The players can play it safe and steady, or fast and loose.
  • It plays fast enough.
  • Suitable for beginners, and experienced players alike.
  • It’s expandable. More cards, different boards make for a varied and re-playable game.

It is always a pleasure to find a solid game that does it right. The gameplay is sound, despite being on the light-medium difficulty level. The cards are easy to comprehend. Despite not being the type of game that I would go for, I am glad I bought it. It is the game that Thunderstone should have been.

 

Tuesday Nights

Last week we had over our limit with 36 attendees. We had so many signups we had people on standby in the hope that we could find space for them. We accommodated everyone a little big of juggling, and having good table loading. We managed to fit everyone by ensuring the our tables were well loaded with people. A 6 player game around one table helped a lot.

This week we had only 27. Only one of the newbies came back. Just when I thought the attendance numbers were growing again they drop down to new norm of the high 20’s.

 

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The Somme 101st Anniversary – The Big Push After Action Report

July the 1st was the 101st Anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. After visiting the Somme battlefields last year I finally got to play the only wargame that cover the battle. Here is my After Action Report, with lots of pictures from my Somme trip.

Tim

2nd July 2017

Long Hot Summer

It was warm day on Saturday in Southern California. This is a sign that summer is fast approaching, and the temperatures will rise. Myself, and about 10 other lads meet up at Game Empire, in Pasadena.

I like gaming at Game Empire, it has a number of positive attributes. Is central in location for a bunch of guys. It has a British-ish pub, with Belgian beers, over the road. The owner, Chuck, like wargames, boardgames, and is a nice guy. He also runs a well stocked game store, with a large open gaming area.

Things are not all rosy though.

Game Empire can get busy, and full of gamers. This is good for a game store. A thriving game store is a good thing to have nearby. More people = more business, which is good for gaming. Unfortunately, it can get rather warm in the open gaming area, especially so on a warm weekend where the temperature is around 90 F. The store layout is such that the table we normally occupy is not covered by the ceiling fans. I have taken to bringing along a pedestal fan to cover our area. The fan helps, but it just makes it tolerable. This does bode well for the upcoming summer.

This weekend was a busy time is Pasadena, they were predicting chaos on the roads. A little known band called U2 were playing at the Rose Bowl. Nearby JPL was having one of it’s regular open weekends. and some of the local museums were also having special events.  The roads were not bad, I left a little earlier than normal on my way to and from.

The depressing thing is that the U2 tour were celebrating that it has been 30 years since the Joshua Tree album was released.  Yeesh, I feel old.

Lucky Baldwins Trappiste Pub,  is just over the road. It is one of three Lucky Baldwins locations in Pasadena.  It is close by, a mere few minutes walk from Game Empire. It has good food, and great beer. There is no need to jump in a car, or take a long walk, it is very handy having a pub so close by. However, we often joke that it does suffer from authentic British style standards of service. The normal waitresses were not there, they had two blokes who were very busy servicing a full pub with all the lunchtime food, and drink orders. More time in the pub means less time gaming. The service was intolerably slow this time. The Fullers ESB was good though.

After all that moaning, would you be surprised to hear that we actually played some games, and things were not all peachy with them too.

Game played that day included

Struggle of Empires, Battle Above The Clouds x2, Pericles, Giro D’Italia (incomplete), Once You Go Blackmail (Archer Love Letter), and Grifters.

Ken, and Karl had pre-arranged to play Battle Above The Clouds, by MMP. That left 7 of us to play a game. Luis suggested Struggle of Empires. It could play up to 7, and still be balanced. Not all games can do that well.

I own, and have played, the game. It has been a while since I last played it. In fact it is almost 4.5 years since the last time it hit the table for me. Despite the time gap, I had a nagging doubt that it was a long game, and I was proven correct in the long run. By the way, BGG says it is a 3-4 hour game. Ha.

Struggle of Empires
The box front for Struggle of Empires

Martin Wallace is the designer of Struggle of Empires, I tend to like his games, I own most of the games he has designed. He is a designer that I follow, and he usually does a good job in producing a well rounded product. This particular game was, however, published by Eagle Games, now known as Eagle-Gryphon Games. The game includes 3 play-aid sheets, even though it is plays up to 7 players. That is not the worse thing , only one of the play-aid sheets is in English. The other two are in French, and German respectively. Oh, by the way, not all of the tiles are listed on the included play-aid. Nice job, piss-poorly done.

Luis did a good job explaining the game rules, although he was hampered by the fact that we could not all look at the play-aid sheet at the same time. The rules are actually quite straight forward. The key to doing well at the game is knowing, and understanding, the power of the ’tiles’.

Here is a display of the tiles, taken from BGG

The tiles in Struggle of Empires
The tiles in Struggle of Empires (BGG)

That is a lot of tiles, and they are key to the game. Those tiles are the flavor, the power, the substance of the game. They are a game within the game. Knowing them, and knowing how and when to use them is key. They are force multipliers. They are not an unusual element for a Wallace game. Martin Wallace is a devious, clever, and evil game designer. He likes to include nasty little twists in his games. This game has unrest.

Lose a unit in combat = gain an unrest. Oh, by the way, you will lose units in combat.

Need to borrow money = gain an unrest. Oh, by the way, you will need to borrow money, often.

If you have 20 unrest at the end of the game, you lose regardless of how many Victory Points you have. The player’s with the most, and the second most, unrest, will lose Victory Points at the end of the game. Did I not say, but how much Unrest each player has is a secret. Unrest comes in counters with denominations of 1,3, or 5. You keep the counters face down to hide how much you have from the other players. Not only that, but you try and track who is getting a lot of unrest. There are a limited number of Government Reform tiles in the game that allow a player to reduce their Unrest. He is a devious man, that Martin Wallace.

The other Wallace-ism in the game is the lack of actions. The game has three Wars, each war is essentially a game turn. Each war has 5 action rounds. In each action round, each player takes two actions.

Struggle of Empires = 3 x 5 x 2 actions = only 30 actions per player, per game.

As I often exclaim “Damn you limited action euro-games”. This game certainly feels like you have a limited number of actions, and you have to make them all count. With the 7 players, and excluding the teaching, we must have played the game for 5 hours. With the 30 actions per game, this results in an average of 1.42 minutes per action, almost 3 minutes per player turn consisting of two actions, one action immediately after the other.

With the limited number of actions, the large number of players, and the personalities of those present. This would be a long game. This could be a game for Analysis Paralysis.

Knowing that time would be a problem, especially early in the game I acted as the drumbeat. Calling out each players turn, making sure they knew it was their time. This game could drag if that did not happen. There was plenty of down time between turns to analyze the game state, but so much happens in the other players turn that it might all change by the time it came to your turn. A player’s first action, of the two, might fail; thus requiring a change in strategy.  React, reanalyze and move on. Quickly.

Of course, some players take longer to carry out their turn, compared to other players. I will mention no names, but I know their gaming style. They frustrate me at times, so I probably annoy them when I remind them that it is their turn. So I guess it evens out.

Even so, I enjoyed the game. I would play it again. There are some good user designed player-aids on BoardGameGeek that could to be added to the game. At the very least photocopy the English play-aid, so that each player has a copy.

Click on an image to view a larger version

 

After Struggle of Empire finished we had a re-jiggle of personnel. Some left, and some jumped over to a 4 player game of Pericles.

Giro D'Italia Card Game
Giro D’Italia Card Game box front

The real disappointment of the day was our abortive play of Giro D’Italia: Card Game.

I have always been fascinated by bicycle racing games. Compared to other facing games there appears to be lots of strategy, and tactics, in long distance cycle races. Pacing, endurance, breakaways, the specialization of different classes of rider, plus the drafting both in, and outside, of the peloton. All these factors make for a good candidate for a fun, strategic race game.

I have played Flamme Rouge a few times, but have been unable to get my hands on a copy. It is also only 4 players, and from my experience is best with the full 4. It is on the lighter side of the difficulty curve, but it is fun, and fast. I wanted something meatier.

The Giro D’Italia: Card Game game seemed to meet the criteria, but reality was different.

It’s a card game, where they have used cards in place of other possible game components, like a game board. There are about a bazillion different decks of cards in the card, and they are not well defined as to which are used for which purpose. The rules are in multiple languages, but the diagrams are only shown once in the Italian rules section. The rules appear to be condensed to fit on a single small sheet of paper. The rules suck, big time.

The only people who have played the game, and appeared to understood it, had also played a similar board game called Giro D’Italia. There are some similar mechanics in both of the games, so knowing the board game helps to understand the card game. Unfortunately, I thought I understood the card game. Neither myself, nor Eric could work our way through it. Which was a shame. Now I have to tackle the rules again, in an attempt to understand them. And the rules still suck, big time.

 

Tim

Mid-Week update – 22nd March 2017

Along with a recent update on the gaming last Saturday at Game Empire, I recently finished an article on Analysis Paralysis, the article is long and I found myself rambling on, as I often do. I hope people find it useful as it does contain some useful tips on redicing the effects of AP. A poll on the BoardGameGeek page on Facebook was created to gather peoples opinion of games that suffer from AP.

I recently meet a game designer, Chris Renshall, at Carrows the other week, he’s a nice lad and we have started a friendly rivalry after he beat me at Qwixx by one point. I have added Chris’s website to the Useful links page.


We had a good crowd last night in Newbury Park with 27 in attendance. Despite the threat of rain, Mark drove down from Goleta.

A recent newcomer to the group, Spenser, is having a blast with every new game he plays. After extolling the virtues of BSG to him last week. I was happy that we roped him into a 6-player game of Battlestar Galactica (aka BSG). Teaching BSG is tough. The mechanics are quite simple, yet the permutations are huge. It does require a lot of regular games to get good at BSG. We play BSG a lot, it is one of our go-to games, so hopefully he will become a regular cylon player.

Larry taught Greg how to play the new version of Through The Ages. I am interested in learning this, yet have yet to take the plunge.

Games played last night included:

Strasbourg, Star Wars Rebellion, Through The Ages, Power Grid, Ticket To Ride, Terraforming Mars, Concordia, Clank!, and Battlestar Galactica.

VCSB Meetup 21st March 2017
Some of the games played at the VCSB Meetup 21st March 2017
montage 2
Other games played at the VCSB Meetup 21st March 2017

 

Tim

 

 

Game Empire, Pasadena – 18th March 2017

My regular wargaming fix is to meet with a bunch of fellow historical game enthusiasts once or twice a month at Game Empire .

Game Empire, in Pasadena, is a central location for fellow gamers coming from around the Los Angeles area, and beyond. After arranging things about a week in advance. People drive in from all directions. My drive is about 50 miles which by no means the furthest distance that attendees have to travel.

With 10 in attendance we had enough players to break out a mix of two-player, and multi-player games. Here are some photo montages of the game played.

GoG Capture
Guns of Gettysburg
RPC montage 18-march-2017
Red Poppies Campaigns
misc games montage Capture
Other games played on 18th March 2017

Games played included: Fury of Dracula, Wellington, The Wings for the Baron, Twilight Struggle, Guns of Gettysburg, and two games of Red Poppies Campaigns.

Karl and myself were both rusty at Red Poppies Campaigns… let’s just say the second game went better for the attacking Germans. The lesson learned was to attack on a narrow front with adequate reserves to exploit a breakthrough. A little luck is also needed in creating an opening to exploit. Both the attacker and the defender have to take risks, and therefore take causalities. Although the British are outnumbered, they have reserves that can move quickly to reinforce any weakened areas.

Wings For The Baron is a fun, historical economics game. I do have a problem with the variations in the cards for the Allied Fighter Effectiveness. The game can go into a race condition where it is impossible for the players, as aircraft designers, to match the Allied Fighters. Even so, it is a fun game where I enjoy having to modify my strategy due to the change in the fortunes of war. Having four different game-end conditions allows for a nice amount of variety in how the game progresses.

Tim
21st March 2017