Thursday, January 29, 2015

Save the world in Fantasy Flight's X-Com!

You are humanity’s last hope…

XCOM: The Board Game is a cooperative board game of global defense for one to four players.

Placed in command of the elite military organization known as XCOM, you and your friends must find some means to turn back an escalating alien invasion. As UFOs appear in orbit and worldwide panic threatens to undermine national governments, the game’s free companion app and its push-your-luck dice rolling mechanics immerse you deep in the tension and uncertainty of a desperate war against an unknown foe.

In XCOM: The Board Game, the alien invasion has begun. Early encounters have only served to prove that the world’s militaries are hopelessly outgunned. Panic leads to riots, and governments struggle to maintain any control. Human civilization is on the brink of collapse…

As the department heads of XCOM, you and your friends must succeed where the world’s militaries have failed. You lead the elite members of an international, military organization, which is funded by a secret coalition. It is your job to destroy UFOs, research alien technology, uncover the alien invasion plan, and find some way to turn back the alien invaders. You must do this all while preventing the collapse of the governments that secretly fund your organization, and you must do it quickly. You do not have the luxury of time.

Each game of XCOM: The Board Game requires the cooperation of XCOM’s four department heads: Commander, Chief Scientist, Central Officer, and Squad Leader. Whether you play the game solo, with one friend, or with three, you must always include all four roles. Each department head manages a specific set of responsibilities, and each is vital to the world’s defense.

While you and your friends immerse yourselves into your roles as XCOM department heads, the alien invasion continues to escalate. XCOM: The Board Game incorporates the use of a free digital companion app, which you can either download or access online. By coordinating alien activities in real-time, this companion app heightens the game’s dramatic tension and its immersive qualities.

Each round, the app tracks the time you have allotted to respond to each task, forcing you to think quickly, even as you must carefully measure the strategic implications of your decisions. However, the app does far more than track time. Its design is integrated deep into gameplay, and it permits both a mutable alien invasion plan and a dynamic turn structure.

While humanity stands upon the verge of collapse, you have no room for failure. Once you formulate your response to the alien invasion, you must engage the enemy in an untimed resolution phase. Here, the push-your-luck dice rolling system in XCOM: The Board Game reflects the peril of your situation. Whether you’re resolving your base defense, attacking UFOs, or pulling all-nighters in the lab to upgrade your tech, you’ll need to succeed at a number of dice rolls.

Your dice pool is generally equal to the number of resources you’ve committed to the task. For example, you get one die for each Interceptor you’ve committed to combat the UFOs with which it’s engaged, or one die for each scientist working on the research you’re attempting to complete. Similarly, you get one die for each soldier assigned to your base’s defense; however, you roll an extra die for each soldier who has received officer training and an extra die for each soldier whose skills match those indicated by the icons on the alien you’re aiming to defeat.

The stakes of XCOM: The Board Game are as high as they come. The very existence of human civilization hangs in the balance. There’s no room for error, but you’ll need the wisdom to pick your battles. And, sometimes, you’ll need the courage to cut your losses.

With its distinctive player roles and free companion app, XCOM: The Board Game evokes all the fear, desperation, and heroism that lie at the heart of the popular and acclaimed XCOM computer games. All the while, it immerses you in a wholly unique play experience.

Destroy UFOs. Research alien technology. Defend your base. Uncover the alien invasion plan. Should you fail, humanity is doomed.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Coming Soon: Deus

S├ębastien Dujardin is probably best known for Troyes, which was a big hit in 2010. Having a game that stayed fresh after multiple plays was key to his design. "I'm obsessed with replayability. Normally, one should always find elements of high replayability in my games; it's one of my engines".

Deus, the newest strategy game by Dujardin, came out of the Essen Spiel this year with a lot of well-deserved buzz. It's a hybrid of a game that combines card and resource management with board control. The rules are pretty simple, but there is a lot of strategy to explore. Each player will take the helm of an ancient race of people looking to expand their empire into uncharted lands. Through careful hand management, players are able to explore the board and build up new cities, exploit the resources available to them, and wage war on their opponents. At the same time you must remember to keep the gods happy. Timely sacrifices will win their favor and grant you an advantage during the game.
Deus plays 2-4 and the modular board scales based on the number of players. Each of the seven continent tiles are double-sided, ensuring that the make-up of the board will be fresh with each new play. The random layout is pretty important. Some resources may be tough to come by, depending where they end up, and barbarian villages will vary in value depending on their location. Victory Points are the ultimate goal, but there are many different paths to get them.

Continent tiles are made up of seven different regions: there are always two sea regions and one barbarian village. The rest of the regions are made up of resource-producing land. Each land type produces a specific resource. Fields will give you Wheat, Forests produce Wood, Swamps yield Clay, and Mountains provide Stone. The Continent tiles are assembled in patterns depending on the number of players. They can be oriented in any way you like, but no two Barbarian Villages can be adjacent. Each Barbarian Village gets Victory Points placed on it, equal to the number of regions that surround it. Depending on the number of players, the board is constructed of 4-7 continent tiles, and you're going to want to plan your attack once you've seen the layout. You must spread your cities across the new world and the path you take can be critical.
Players begin with a supply of resources, money, and two of each of the standard building types. They also have a hand of five cards and a personal player board. The boards are designed to hold the columns of different building types that will represent your growing civilization on the board. At a glance you'll be able to see what buildings you have in play and their effects.
You can do one of two actions on a turn: Construct a Building or Sacrifice to the Gods. When you Construct a Standard Building you pay the cost in resources and/or gold (four gold can replace a resource at any time). The card gets added to the appropriate building column on your player board and a wooden building gets added to the board. Immediately, all the building cards of that type built in your tableau get activated. For example, if you play out a Science Building it gets added to your tableau; then all of your Science Buildings’ special abilities can be used. You start with the first building you constructed and work your way up, ending on the building card you just played. You can string together some pretty dynamic combinations when you construct.
A new building can either be placed in a region that already has your buildings (just one of each building type in a region) or adjacent to a region you occupy. If the unchecked expansion of your neighbors has left you surrounded, not to worry, there is a way out of that jam. You can start a new city on an unoccupied coastal space in exchange for three points.
There are five different types of standard buildings. Maritime buildings are represented with blue cards and are the only buildings that can be played on sea spaces. When activated they help you trade resources for gold or buy resources from the bank. This can be invaluable when you don't have access to a certain land type. Production buildings require green cards. They will generate resources of the land type they are placed on. Yellow cards construct Science buildings. They will allow you to gain either more cards or buildings from the general supply. Civil buildings use the brown cards and will give you money or Victory Points depending on the type that you build. Red cards are for Military buildings. They allow you to attack Barbarian Villages and your opponents. They are also the only type of building that can be moved around the board.
Temples work a little differently. The first one you build costs the standard one resource of each type. Each additional Temple you build requires you to first build at least one building of each type. You're going to want to build Temples, too. They're one of the major ways to gain end game points. Temples are each worth up to 12 points. They will score depending on different conditions at game end. For example, two points for every wheat resource you have to a maximum of 12 or four points for each region that has five of your own buildings in it... to a maximum of 12, of course. Temples can direct the way you play your game. In order to score max points with a Temple you may have to garner your actions to meet certain end game conditions. It gives players different end game paths to points.
At the start of the game you make a general supply of Temples equal to the number of continent tiles in the game. These work as a bit of a timer for the game. When the Temples run out it triggers game end. You finish out the current round and total up your points.
Barbarian Villages will not cause you any trouble; in fact you'll be able to attack them for precious points. On the turn a Barbarian Village is completely surrounded by buildings (with at least one military building present) it will be raided. The player with the most military buildings in adjacent regions will win the Victory Points for the village. The points token is removed and the village is now treated as a dead space on the board. If two players have the same amount of military, the points are split (rounded down). Game end can also be triggered on the round the last barbarian village is attacked.
Making an offering to the gods requires players to discard cards to appease the different deities. Each god is associated with a card color. If you want to activate a certain god, you must have at least one of their color cards in the ones that you ditch. You will get a benefit from the god you invoke—money, points, extra cards or resources—but often the more important benefit is acquiring more buildings. For example, Neptune is activated by the blue Maritime building cards. He will earn you two gold for each discarded card and one maritime building. Ceres responds to the green Production building cards. She produces one resource of your choice for every discarded card as well as a Production building. You start the game with two of each of the standard buildings, but you'll definitely need more as the game progresses.
You sacrifice cards by announcing how many cards you'll be discarding then ditching those cards. It's important to put the card type of the god you want activate on the top of the discarded cards, so it's clear to the other players whose powers are being invoked.
Choosing when is the right time to build and when to sacrifice is the key tension in the game. Buildings give you more board control and can allow you to access resources and point-yielding Barbarian Villages. They also allow you to activate all of the previous building cards of a certain type. This can garner big profits. Sacrificing to the gods usually works best when you want to clear most of your hand to redraw, but sometimes it's just necessary to get the building type that you need.
At the end of the game you total up all the points you've earned so far, Temple points and resource majorities. Each resource majority and the gold majority will be worth two points. If there's no clear majority then no one gets the points.

The design process was relatively quick for Dujardin. "It was less than one year between the first prototype of Deus and its release. I love antiquity and that gave the initial idea (for the game). Then I loved the duality of maps and spatial development." Both the theme and mechanic appeared for him at the same time.
The components are exquisite. Each of the continent tiles are colorful and have interesting little details. The wheat fields have windmills and farmers working them, boats populate the sea spaces and eagles and gulls soar high above the landscape. You kind of feel like a god looking down across the world. Each of the buildings has its own wooden representative for the board and there are 96 building cards with cool art and easy-to-read iconography.
So, who is going to like this game? Although the initial teach feels like a lot of rules being thrown around, the actions are really intuitive. In a few short rounds you'll already be developing a strategy for the game.
"Deus is the fifth game from Pearl Games, but it is also the most accessible," expressed Dujardin. "I am pleased to see players enjoy it while they found my other games too complex. It's got a bit of the hand management and card combinations of 7 Wonders and the board control and resource caching of Catan. That's a pretty stellar combination! Deus is well worth a try: for a small time investment to learn the rules, you'll get hours of variable fun in an undiscovered, ancient world.

 Deus will be available on January 28th!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Machi Koro: The Harbor Expansion is in stores today!

Its election time in Machi Koro and your mayorship is in peril. The citizens are no longer wowed by Cheese Factories and Coffee Shops. Winning reelection means going big.

Remember that bay that the cheese factories have been dumping their unsold Gouda into all these years? Your salvation lies in rehabbing that polluted body of water northeast of town. So get ready to roll up your sleeves and earn those votes.

A harbor with fancy boats and sushi bars and a shiny new airport will surely bring more gold to town and more gratitude! Sure, the city might not have the money in its coffers to pay for all this, but that never stopped you before.

The Machi Koro Harbor Expansion injects further excitement into the game that has everyone talking! Want even more fun in your box?! Perhaps ten new establishments, one new starting establishment and two new landmarks will help?

Machi Koro the Harbor expansion requires the base game Machi Koro to play and is designed to add more variety, strategy and a 5th player to the smash hit Machi Koro.

Say hello to more variety, more nail biting and MORE players!

The Harbor Expansion is an absolute must for bonafide Machi- whizzes and newbies alike!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Upcoming from Mayfair: Extra! Extra! and Flea Market

This past Thursday and Friday, we had Bob Carty of Mayfair Games here at Alliance East to demo two new games for us: Extra! Extra!, a worker placement game in which you try to print the best newspaper, and Flea Market, a dice rolling game where the goal is to acquire a certain amount of money.

I (top left) got the opportunity to demo the games on Friday; with me were Bob Carty (top right), Tim (bottom left) and Jessica (her hands are in the bottom right). Extra! Extra! (Pictured) was the first game we played. The objective is to publish your newspaper, filling it with the best articles you can because the biggest articles are worth the most points. There were a lot of elements I really liked about this game: You earn 4$ from the bank each turn (this is set some time in the 30's, so that's enough to make a newspaper with, right?), and could make additional money by renting out workers or selling news articles, but each worker you had cost 1$ per turn to keep. Starting with 2 workers, and only able to hire a maximum of 3 more, you have a decent cash influx most turns.

Of course, you need that cash because the game also has a bidding element to it. Many actions in the game (grabbing the news stories in a certain city, trying to publish a certain sized article) can only be undertaken by one person per turn, and if someone has already grabbed a spot that you want, you can put a worker down with a bid to take the spot, paying more money than the person there (first play costs nothing, but to bump someone you have to pay). This made for an interesting balance between wanting to hire workers in order to get a lot done, and wanting to keep money in order to guarantee you could get the things you wanted with the few workers you have.

I made the decision, turn 2, to bid six dollars in order to grab five news stories from Rome (Rome was a busy place that turn). It was a very rash plan, and I came very close to not being able to field a newspaper because of it, but some lucky card turnouts made it so that my early acquisition of so much news let me publish several large articles, giving me a 28 point newspaper (compared to Tim's 27, Jessica's 25, and Bob's 22). Even then, the only reason I did that well is because we all aimed for grabbing large articles, which took us much longer than Thursday's group; they finished in half the time we did, but their winner had a score of 19. Tim said it best "Extra! Extra! is definitely a gamer's game. There's a whole lot of strategy, with choices you can make at every level of the game. That said, I really liked it and had a lot of fun with it."

Flea Market was, by comparison, a fairly simple game. Each player starts with 24$, and the goal of the game is to get 45$ (or to have the most money when the board is cleared of items). Players take turns being the 'Sales Agent', rolling 3 dice to determine what item is up for sale. The items themselves, numbered 3 to 18, range from the Holy Grail and Excalibur to the Flux Capacitor and the Ruby Slippers. Whatever item goes on sale, the other players then roll 2 dice to determine how much they would pay for the item: highest roll gets priority for the purchase, but is also forced to pay the most if they would like to buy the item. Whoever chooses to buy the item pays the bank for it and they (or the Agent, if no one was willing to buy) then gets the time, and the Agent changes to the the next player.

If the item that gets rolled belongs to a player, that player acts as the Agent for that item, with a twist in that they get paid buy the buyer, and the bank gives them an additional payment for a completed sale. How much the bank pays is based on how many items have already been purchased, and this is how a player wins the game; if only player-owned items are sold, there's a net cash influx for the players. Flea Market was fun because it was fast-paced, and a much easier game to learn, even if there's not as much strategy to it. Bob pointed out that Flea Market is more aimed towards non-gamers, as something that is still fun to play no matter what strategic level you are at.

Extra! Extra! and Flea Market will both be releasing later on in 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

TableTop Season 3 Episode 5: Stone Age

Wil Wheaton and guests Nika Harper, Jesse Cox, and Jordan Maron play Stone Age in this episode of TableTop!

The Dawn of Mankind. Our ancestors were hard workers, resting only very little. Luckily for us, their ingenuity allowed them to make their work easier, day after day. In Stone Age (ZMG 71260), players are sent back to that arduous period of history. With tools, quite archaic at first, you will be able to collect wood, stone and gold. These resources will allow you to attain higher levels of knowledge and build sturdier roofs over your head. Though luck plays an im­portant part in the game, only those who master their fate will be able to grasp victory. Finally, one mustn’t forget to feed their tribe, as that would represent a major setback for them. Relive history!

Carve your victory in stone!