Category: Board Games

Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game

I picked up a copy of BTASDG (sorry, there’s no snappier way of saying this) a while back and it’s taken a while to get around to make time to play it given other gaming/life distractions.  But I’ve been able to have a couple of games now and can scribe up a review.

Essentially, it’s a twist on Steve Jackson’s Zombie Dice – no copyright infringement folks, it’s his company who makes BTASDG.  The premise here is that rather than being the Caped Crusader or one of his brats, you play one of four villains (Joker, Riddler, Catwoman & Poison Ivy) attempting to rob Gotham City whilst avoiding Batman’s attempts to foil your plans.  On a player’s turn, they roll three randomly selected die from the pot, check the results and decide whether to continue to roll or pass.  Rolling three Batman symbols means that the thefts have been thwarted and it’s turn over.

Each die has a combination of loot icons, alarm bell icons and the Batman symbol which are weighted according to the colour of the die.  The Loot symbol is the way that the player scores, alarm bells require a re-roll of that die and Batman symbol means the Dark Knight is on the hunt.  There are ten die total and if they are all are used on a players turn then any remaining alarm bells are converted into points.

The rules suggest that thirty points are required for victory – once a player passes this threshold and ends their turn, each other player gets one final turn to try and obtain the top score.  There’s nothing stopping players from raising or lowering this particular score if they desire.  Once a player reaches the target score, everyone gets to finish a round (so that all players have an equal number of turns) which could allow someone to snatch victory at the last minute.

Each of the villains has a unique power which gives them an advantage during the game.  The Joker can score bonus points for sets of coloured dice, even if Batman foils his turn.  Riddler can use four dice on his first dice roll.  Catwoman scores extra points for every loot icon from a blue die.  Poison Ivy can dodge one Batman symbol on a blue die (but if a second/third appear, they are not dodged).  I guess there’s nothing to stop players designing their own villains and powers if they so desire, I dare say that BGG might have a few suggestions.

BTASDG, like Zombie Dice, is a very quick game and can be understood by people of all ages.  You will need additional props: pen & paper or a game scoring app on your phone/tablet to keep track.  Like most dice games, there’s more luck involved than chance although knowing when to quit really helps.  The addition of the villains and their powers at least make this a different game to Zombie Die.  Also, the number of die and their weighting means mathematicians will have to calculate a new set of probabilities and variables for the BTASDG.

For once, the rules are clearly written and easily understood with no ambiguity or equivocation (board game developers of the world, take note).  The die faces are etched and the colours are not easily confused.  The tub nicely contains all game pieces.  The price is still a little higher than I’d have liked (approx. £16) but it’s a good warm up/filler game, will travel quite handily and doesn’t need much table space so you can eat/drink around it quite handily.


Matt had to go home to the wilderness that is east London so I took over the Middleton family (no, not _that_ Middleton family) and we shared games master duties.

Chapter 1 begins twenty-eight years after the first game, in 1694, with the owner of the house, Jebediah (Paul) surrounded by an angry mob who have found out that he was the one who murdered four others, all that time ago.  He throws a stone and hits the 72 year old Gran Gran (Brendan) causing damage.

The house is explored in the normal way when a second Omen is discovered in the basement (which is accessible in the hallway through a cunningly disguised staircase on the tile itself) meaning Gran Gran is working with the Revenant – a putrid Zombie-like creature who can attack, even when dismembered.

Fortunately, our brave heroes are able to take the head and bury it under the creek thus ending the threat of the Revenant…for the time being.  But the creature isn’t dead as we can hear it talking from under the earth… and may one day resurface again!

Additional bits: characters now have traits  (gambler, scholar, savage for example) which provide either one-time bonuses or game-duration bonuses.  Jebediah’s family still “owns” the deeds to the house as he buried the head of the Revenant.


Dom – Annika 32 (yellow) – younger sister of Timmy

Darren – Jezebel 14 (green) – daughter of Fanny

Joe – Maurice 27 (blue) – cousin of Mildred

Brendan – Gran Gran 72 (red) – grandmother of Anita

Paul – Jebediah 52 (purple)


Pre-game – Jebediah throws rock at Gran Gran, Gran Gran loses 1 physical, gains 1 sanity


Annika is a gambler, Jezebel is well to do, Maurice is a scholar, Gran Gran is a medical practitioner, Jebediah is a war veteran


Turn 1

Jebediah – Ground Floor Staircase to Common Room – “A Note” card

Jezebel – Front Steps to Hanging Tree (Omen) – takes the Chalice of Insanity

Annika – Front Steps to Woods – Glow card – Bright Light is in the Woods

Gran Gran – Front Steps to Creek – takes Louise James’ Burial Mask (heirloomed)

Maurice – Front Steps to Unfinished Room – takes the half-blind twat Spectacles


Turn 2

Jebediah – Common Room to Dining Room – takes mighty sloppy crossbow

Jezebel – Hanging Tree to Pastures – takes the claw hammer – uses well to do power to bury claw hammer and gain 2 might

Annika – Woods to Pond – Fog card, placing fog sticker on Pond

Gran Gran – Creek to Blood Field – Shallow Graves (where the characters from the last game are buried) (3) & 2 physical damage – uses heal power to restore might to starting value

Maurice – Unfinished Room to Hearth – “A Note” card – added family crest to card


Turn 3

Jebediah – Dining Room to Cramped Hallway – Whispers – gained 1 might

Jezebel – Pasture to Hallway – no action

Annika – Pond to Hallway – no action

Gran Gran – Blood Field to Hallway – no action

Maurice – Hearth to Blue Room – secret passage placed in Blue Room


Turn 4

Jebediah – Cramped Hallway to Guest Quarters – made speed roll (3) – Stacked Furniture (2) & took 1 physical damage

Jezebel – Hallway to Cellars – gained tubular Bells – uses well to do power to bury Bells and gained 1 might and 1 speed

Annika – Hallway to Work Room, then to Crawl Space – Darkness card – made sanity roll (5) & checked box on card

Gran Gran – Hallway to Kitchen – eat action (4) – revealed Haunt automatically and pulled the Brooch of the Undead and is now the Traitor. Haunt is 42, “The Traitor”


Turn 5

Maurice – Blue Room to Work Room via secret passage, drew Williams’ well bucket and buried Specs – Work Room to Common room via secret passage

Jebediah – searches Guest Quarters (5) and receives Jamie Oliver’s Book of Scripture – Guest Quarters to Hallway

Jezebel – Cellars to Hallway – gains Crossbow from Jebediah – Hallway to Kitchen – challenged Revenant and wins (takes arm) – attacks Gran Gran with Crossbow – Gran Gran loses 2 physical

Annika – Work Room to Kitchen – challenges Revenant and wins (takes leg) – attacks Gran Gran – Annika loses 2 physical – eats and gains 1 might

Gran Gran – uses controlling magics & places Burial Mask under Revenant – attacks Annika – Annika loses 1 physical – no movement

Revenant – attacks Jezebel & loses (Revenant is stunned); Jezebel and Annika lose 2 physical for holding body parts


Turn 6

Maurice – Common Room to Kitchen – challenges Revenant and wins – throws arm to Entrance Hall – eats and gains 1 might

Jebediah – Hallway to Entrance Hall – picks up arm – Entrance Hall to Creek – successfully buries arm

Jezebel – throws arm to Entrance hall – challenges Revenant and wins – Kitchen to secret passage – fails to bury arm & loses 1 physical

Annika – trades with Maurice for Williams’ well bucket & heals speed – uses Chalice of Insanity & fails to heal – throws leg into Entrance Hall – challenges Revenant and wins – Kitchen to Front Steps

Gran Gran – Kitchen to Front Steps – attacks Annika – loses 1 physical

Revenant becomes unstunned – two legs crawl back to kitchen – one leg reattaches to Revenant


Turn 7

Maurice – collects unattached leg from Kitchen, Kitchen to Common Room – successfully buries leg

Jebediah – Creek to Front Steps, takes head from Annika – Front Steps to Creek – successfully buries head – heroes win

Jebediah places sticker deed on the house


All players survived, Traitor Survives.  New cards added to game.  The Revenant will return…


WARNING: The following blog post contains spoilers for Betrayal Legacy.   I could try and work out how to hide them but I’m too lazy so here’s the review, completely unabated.

The year is 1666.  In London, a fire breaks out in Pudding Lane which spreads out of control and torches half the city.  Three thousand miles away, in a small town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, five families gather around an abandoned homestead where the previous members died of the pox.  But it’s rumored that the family owned a valuable chalice buried somewhere outside.

So, Betrayal at the House on the Hill is a game for 3-6 players where people take turns exploring a spooky mansion when at some point, the reason for people being lured there is revealed and one (or more, or indeed none) player turns traitor and then it’s a race for survival.

Now in 2019 (well, 2018 to be technical but we only played the first two games last night), there’s an upgrade and Betrayal gets the Legacy makeover.  For those ignoring the spoilers and don’t know what a Legacy game is, it’s a board game which is about 80% complete – the players provide the other 20% as they go through the game.  It’s designed to be played over a campaign, in this instance, 13 games plus a prologue.  Each game played will affect any and all subsequent games by amending the board, the characters, the game props and so on.

In Betrayal Legacy, you begin the campaign in the US Colonial Period (I just added the bit about Massachusetts Bay Colony) and each subsequent game is played at 25-35 year intervals.  Each player will take control of a family through the 300 years of the game and it’s possible that the same family member could pop up in two or even three games if they haven’t died.  The house begins as a homestead but will be added to and expanded upon as the years pass.  There is also a new region of the house to explore…the “outside”.

There are a few other rule changes from the vanilla set, in brief: items can be heirloomed down the ages, the house is deemed “owned” by the winner of each game, actions are now name-checked by verbs and only one of each possible action occurs during the turn.  There is a new book which guides the campaign and new decks to work through.

I have decided to document each game, to be uploaded here and to my profile on boardgamegeek.  This is because I forgot the Legacy game is 3-5 players, not 6 and 6 of us showed up.  So the traitor will sit out and become the games master for each game and if anyone can’t make a session, it’ll be easier to pick up!  Cunning, eh?

As a guide – player turns are colour coded.  Items/Omens are marked in bold.  Numbers in brackets are scores for a test.

Spoiler time!

The Prologue:

Dom – Timmy 14 (yellow)

Darren – Fanny 23 (green)

Matt – Mildred 8 (blue)

Brendan – Anita 14 (red)

Paul – Jebediah 24 (purple)

Turn 1

Jebediah – Upper Landing to Hearth – Stacked Furniture card (3) – lose 1 might

Fanny – Upper Landing to Unfinished Room – finds Mighty Sloppy crossbow (heirloomed)

Timmy – Upper Landing to Front Steps – no action

Mildred – Upper Landing to Common Room – discovers secret passage

Anita – Upper Landing to Front Steps – no action

Turn 2

Jebediah – Hearth to Woods – Feral Beasts card – Jebediah loses 1 physical

Fanny – Unfinished Room to Entrance Hall – no action

Timmy – Front Steps to Hanging Tree (Omen) – receives the Chalice of Insanity

All players receive a card indicating whether they are a witch or a normal human.  Game is now a battle-royale in order to find out who the witch is.

Turn 3

Mildred – Common Room to Entrance Hall – attacks Fanny – tie.

Anita – Front Steps – attacks Jebediah – tie

Jebediah – Front Steps to Entrance Hall – attacks Anita – tie

Fanny – Attacks Fanny with Crossbow – tie – no movement taken

Timmy – Hanging Tree to Creek – drinks (6) – loses all remaining movement – finds Tubular Bells (heirloomed)

Turn 4

Mildred – attacks Anita – Mildred loses 1 physical – no movement taken

Anita – attacks Mildred – Mildred loses 2 physical – moves to Front Steps

Jebediah – Entrance Hall to Front Steps – attacks Anita – Anita loses 2 physical

Fanny – attacks Mildred with Crossbow – kills Mildred – Mildred is a normal human – ghost in Entrance Hall

Timmy – rings Bells gaining 1 sanity & 1 speed – Creek to Pond – Blood card (1) – loses 1 physical – lost 2 sanity for not attacking (died) – Timmy is a normal human

Turn 5

Anita – attacks Fanny – Anita loses 2 physical – Entrance Hall to Front Steps

Jebediah – Entrance Hall to Pond – picks up Chalice of Insanity – loses 1 sanity for not attacking

Fanny – attacks Anita through Entrance Hall with Crossbow – kills Anita – Anita is a normal human – no movement – ghost is on the Front Steps

Turn 6

Jebediah – Pond to Entrance Hall – attacks Fanny – Jebediah loses 4 physical

Fanny – attacks Jebediah with Crossbow – Fanny loses 2 physical – no movement

Turn 7

Jebediah – attacks Fanny – tie – no movement

Fanny – attacks Jebediah with Crossbow – Fanny loses 1 physical – no movement

Turn 8

Jebediah – attacks Fanny – Fanny loses 3 physical – Fanny is killed – Fanny is a normal human – ghost placed in Entrance Hall

End of Game: Jebediah is deeded the house, all players discover there is no witch after all, all players name the families.

Timmy Van der Dyke

Mildred Middleton

Anita Manfredson

Jebediah Pantifrothington

Fanny Batter

Yeah, I succumbed to 7 Wonders on iPad the picosecond I found out about it and about one game later, snapped up the Leaders and Cities expansion packs. We 7 Wonders fans have been waiting for this on mobile media for AGES and it’s really fantastic now that it’s here. 

For the n00bz, 7 Wonders is a turn based card game where you have to develop your city into the best metropolis known to antiquity by erecting buildings, developing an army and even constructing a Wonder of the World.  Play goes forward by taking a card from the hand in front of you and then passing the hand to the next player, then repeating. This happens three times, over three ages. Each card will bestow a particular bonus and the groups of cards play to different strengths.

The Leaders expansion gives a group of leaders to each player at the start of the game who have their own bonuses whilst the Cities expansion adds black market cards; these provide a range of bonuses and the selection is different each time which adds to the variety.  The game is played between three and seven participants.

In terms of the video game:  Very bland introductory screen – a picture of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Dull stuff.  But you go into the game and you’re given a dashboard of options.  This menu screen is a simple enough affair to navigate, change options and set up a local or internet game. 

The game itself; I was very impressed by the UI which appears a little busy at first but once you play a couple of games, it’s very easy to absorb all the relevant information about what’s going on.  You get all the relevant information from your immediate neighbours as well as yourself (essential stuff) and you can zoom into other players to see how they are getting on.  Your cards are grouped according to colour and holding down on a card will provide an explanation about what’s going on.

Graphics are smooth and the transitional animations between Ages (and Leaders) are smooth.  All static images rather than having animations but I’d rather a faster game than a sexier one.  Sounds are standard music from the Mediterranean with effects for certain cards like the tinkling of coins for money and the clash of swords on shields for military.  It’s not very intrusive and you can easily play on mute without it detracting from the game experience.

Playing against other people works ok with little noticeable lag and a simple chat screen though to my frustration, human players take a lot longer than I to choose cards and play a game.  An AI game, even with seven players can be over in five minutes whereas a three-player human game might take as long as fifteen.  Irritating.  But there’s usually a pool of would-be players ready to do battle.

A generally favourable review aside, I feel that the app is only 80% of the final product and a few tweaks could up the ante.  First of all, I was surprised to see that the Wonder Board pack wasn’t included in the initial run or as DLC.  It wouldn’t take _that_ much more coding to add.  I also thought that on the transitional screens, hints and tips about the game (which can be disabled) should be shown to help new players or could be background information on the wonders of the world.  I’d have liked tunes relevant to each Wonder rather than one generic soundtrack, just to customise the experience.   Some sound effects were “missing” like the cooing of a dove for peace and maybe a fanfare when a Wonder Stage is completed.

What’s really missing is an ability to record your scores, possibly merging the results with the 7 Wonders companion app where you can record game results.  I’d also like the ability to upload scores to Boardgame Geek.

Nice to haves – animations.  Combat animations would have been pretty funky.  Also, the ability to see your “city” with each of the buildings in a city layout + the wonder.  Like you used to be able to see in Civilization, Civ 2 & Civ 3. Now I accept that this ask would really hog more memory and the novelty would wear off fast enough but with (potentially) more expansion packs to come, there are hundreds, if not thousands of city combinations (and Leaders).

All in all, a very worthwhile purchase which can provide hours of fun of which I’ve yet to tire, two months later.  I hope, sincerely hope, that this is the beginning of the 7 Wonders journey and further expansion packs can add to the experience.

And as a final FYI – the above screenshots are not of the same game so please don’t rush to point that out.

Q2.5 – 2018

Three months later…

Yup, I’m getting worse.  Again, I’ve had a few odds and sods in development but not progressed to a finished article.  However, I’ve some clear space to get a few jottings down.

What’s the headline news?  My 40th birthday.  No, that’s not quite yet – I’m still choosing to call myself 39½ –  but I’ve been planning like mad for the birthday.  It’s all arranged, now I just need to show up.  I won’t commit to telling the world what it is just yet but I think it’ll make for some good reading.  I’ve been considering some vlogging as I’ve never done that before and I’m fairly good at making stuff up on the hoof.  I can work the video edit software on my iPad so will see.  

Since August/the last blog entry – Griffin Games has recommenced but at the Owl & the Hitchhiker in Holloway.  Bigger pub, nice food but lousy lighting.  As for the Griffin – its deterioration continues.  The former ruby lounge has been turned into a pool room with the ceiling being decorated with fake ivy…ugh.  My quiz team have been going to the Southwark Tavern where they haven’t won yet but have come second a bunch of times.

Gaming news – I’ve added a few more titles to my collection (and haven’t weeded out some of the rubbish): Super Mario, Star Trek TNG Fluxx, a couple of room escape board games and a couple of micro-expansions to Munchkin.  On the console front, I’ve bought Jackbox 5, Far Cry 4, Jedi Academy (now that original Xbox titles are on the console) and downloaded most of the Games with Gold titles on offer.  Still quagmired in Fallout 4’s survival mode with the game becoming increasingly unstable and prone to repeated crashing.  Whilst the no-save feature is challenging, it means that you can lose a great deal of progress if the Xbone has a fit and dies.  I wondered if the Xbone X might run the game more smoothly but I’m not shelling out all that money on a new console just to finish that damn game.  That said, Black Friday is coming up…

Oh, and my favourite piece of news is that I saw an app version of 7 Wonders has been released so naturally I snapped up a copy together with the Leaders and Cities Expansion packs. More on that soon.

The bathroom – in late September/early October, the bathroom was refurbished and it looks pretty snazzy.  I’d offer a photo but do you really want to look at the porcelain wot I sit on and defile?  The two weeks of the work were quite an ordeal to get through.  The sheer amount of dust kicked up by the project was ever omnipresent and forced me to keep all the internal doors closed.  This reduced the amount of light in the flat as well as impeded air flow.  Also, I really should have put up dust sheets, especially over the electronics.  Dunno how much contamination seemed into the TV, Xbone et al through the heat vents.  Anyway, as the lounge and kitchen were contaminated, I felt compelled to retreat to my bedroom as that was a relatively dust-free environment for the two weeks.  It was amazing how this “retreat” affected my mood as I just felt like hiding away from the world until the works were done.  Once the flat was back to normal – or whatever passes for being normal – first thing I did was to get out the house and have a day of indulgence.

Travel – I’ve been to Swansea twice in the past few months, and to Southampton (for the first time ever) to try a new driving test simulator we’re funding.  Although I crashed the car a bunch of times (note that I’ve never, ever driven an actual vehicle), I didn’t roll it unlike la Ringsell.  I’ve a week off next week and was thinking about a couple of days out the office but nothing is springing to mind.  Not essential though.

And to bookend this blog post with the last one – t’other week was the last London Video Gaming Market for 2018 (back on St Patrick’s Day 2019) and I convinced Darren to come along for this one.  Bought the below, this is cross stitch rather than bead art.

I know it’s been way too long since my last blog post.  I’m mentally in one of those places where there are other things going on and maintaining a blog is way, way down on my priority list.  To be honest, board gaming has ceased ever since the onset of the global heatwave beginning in June and video gaming has been sporadic.  I do have three half-finished board game reviews in my drafts folder but little impetus to finish them, not least as there are no pictures (as yet) to accompany them.

Catch-up on my activities: sun dodging and seeking refuge behind fans for the most part.  There’s been very little of note going on, more a case of “same old, same old”.  Weeks at work, weekends spent trying to chill/cool off with the odd foray to places like Borough Market, Camden Market et al.  I have been buying a few canvas prints of video game art from Camden.

And on 15 July, I did attend the London Gaming Market at the Royal National Hotel (that concrete monstrosity just off Russell Square) which was a nice change of pace.  I’m not a photographer so please forgive the lousy snaps coming up.

The market was in a room…I’d say 300 square metres or so, lots of stalls selling second hand games but also some selling board games, fan art and general merchandise (some bespoke, some official).  My aim – if it can be called that – was to try and track down a copy of Silent Hill for PS1.  Only one of the vendors had a copy and the joker’s were wanting £30 for it.  Nuts to that.  Nobody seemed to be buying games although a couple of stalls were buyers as well as vendors; separate arrangements needed.  I got a good lead for when I finally get around to pricing up my games.

I did buy a piece of art – bead art I guess you’d call it.  Again, lousy photography.

Next Market is 21 October.  Also bought a copy of Widows Walk Expansion for Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Anything else significant?  Can’t really think of anything.  Saw Heathers at the Prince Charles Cinema on Monday with Paul and KKOB, planning out my 40th birthday next year with a cross-Europe trip to some of my favourite places + the States and the Consolecation.  Um…yeah, that’s it.  I’ll try and finish off at least one of the board game blog posts I’ve got in draft.  Soon – week off next week so will have more time on my hands.

The Land of Vimto


Been a busy old time again what with my recent trip up to Manchester and trying to solve other people’s problems.  And a fairly involved time of it at work, tbh.

Starting with Manchester: first trip to the land of Vimto in something like eighteen years and I was determined to get something meaningful of it.  The cover story is work…well, that’s more the truth than a lie but I took full advantage of the opportunity and extended my stay.  Bunked in the Mercure – nice hotel (as my review will attest on but my room overlooking Piccadilly Square the way it was, the sound of the tram horns blasting from 6am was not a welcome phenomenon.

The agenda: visit the board game shops, gawp at the city centre, form a revised opinion of the city and the people, see Scott and Joey, ensure I eat something “local”, buy something nice and do something indulgent.  Succeeded in all my goals.

Post work event, the first stop was to have something to eat and upon Scott’s recommendation, we went to Gorilla, close to Oxford Road station.  Nice place, good food – bit loud (music) but I’m an old fart and don’t appreciate these things as much as I used to.  Then a slow trip back up the road to the hotel to go and pass out because it had been a long day and surrendering to blissful unconscious was most welcome.

Thursday; I ticked off most of the list above.  As for overall impressions – there’s a lot to be commended in terms of the city’s ongoing development and reinvention.  I can understand why Mancunians are proud of their city but when it comes to comparing with London, it’s comparing apples with circuit diagrams.  With Manchester, you can walk across the city centre in 20 minutes.  In London, you’ll be lucky to make it from one end of Oxford Street to the other.  Yeah, there are all sorts of reasons for this but they are two different places; there’s no competition (despite what the current Mayor of Manchester might think).

The board game shops were quite nice, well stocked and decent staff on hand.  I liked the street art in the northern quarter, ate lunch in a vegan diner, looked at some of the more off-beat places and then went to lie down for an hour as I needed _some_ energy for the evening.  In terms of games, I bought the Puppies micro-expansion for Munchkin and the Hallowe’en expansion to King of Tokyo (re-release).  Didn’t feel like buying anything bigger.

At S&J’s we played Secret Hitler but with the Donald Trump expansion (and I ended up being Trump twice), Salem and a few games on Jackbox.  Met some new folk and enjoyed catching up.  Good times.  Final day in Manchester saw me head off to the Manchester Museum in the morning, a late lunch at the Dough Factory before…amusing myself until it was time to catch the train home.

So now for other odds and sods:

I finished my latest play through of Fallout 4 (first time completing Nuka-World following complete massacre of the gangs, Minuteman ending) and started on Fallout New Vegas.  Making heavy reliance on VATS as aiming is a sod and I’ve been spoiled by playing number 4 first.  More to come on that later but I’m enjoying it for now, the only exception is a lack of a companion at the start of the game to help ferry items around.

But what I did want to say is that just for shizz and giggles, I started a game of Fallout 4 on Survival Mode.  Only lost my temper twice this far!  Essentially, I wanted to see how it played, see what a difference having to properly regulate your character makes as well as all the other game changes.  Day 3 in the game was the toughest for me: I wanted to get the double meat perk early from Sunshine Co-operative (given the need to constantly feed your character) but each time I made it there, something killed me off as my character was unarmoured (hadn’t run into any raiders yet) and I was only about level 5 from building stuff at Sanctuary Hills and Red Rocket.  Mirelurks, Smacky-Smack Smacks (Ghouls) – each time I got clobbered/killed just when I thought I’d made progress.   The only other thing of note about this game is I’m going to avoid the Pesto Gravy & the Minutemen as there are unique options for Nuka-World before becoming the General.

Not sure how I feel about the Fallout 76 announcement – given that all the rumours are pointing to an online game (no thanks, not with this one).

What else?  After a couple years’ worth of general abuse, something went horribly wrong with the lightning jack for my iPhone and I’m the sort who won’t upgrade to wireless despite snagging the damn things repeatedly on swivel chair arms at work.  I felt compelled therefore, to go to the Apple Store in Covent Garden on what felt like the wettest day of the year (snow days don’t count) the other day to try and buy a new one.

Yeah, you’ve guessed it, this is going to turn into a rant.  You may want to switch off now or skip ahead.

You may have heard of the phenomenon “IKEA Rage” whereby happily partnered couples can descent into bitter enemies just by crossing the threshold of the flat-pack kingdom, sulks going on for days.  Several couples I know have agreed to never, ever go to IKEA together again.  IKEA rage can also cover the joys of assembling the furniture but the in-store rows are for me, the most memorable.

I’d like to add a new term to the lexicon: “Apple Store Rage”.  This is the phenomenon – which I have dutifully reported on before (see purchasing of iPad Pro about a year ago) – where despite knowing what you want, what you’re prepared to spend and being an organised (albeit still prospective) customer, the lousy service you receive from the blue/red/green shirts thrusts you into a homicidal rage, unless you’re a bimbo with an ample buxom which male members of staff tend to leer over (except the gay ones, then it’s the muscle nerd boys leered over).  Twenty minutes.  It took twenty stinking minutes to find someone to take my payment; I refuse to believe they were *that* busy.  About the only thing I can do is leave negative feedback but every time I go to an Apple store, the experience is the same.

Anything else?  No, not really.  Plus I suspect most of you have switched off by now.

Fallout: The Board Game

A spontaneous trip to Finchley, an impulse buy, another £50 I’m not going to see again… that’s the brief story as to how I ended up with a copy of Fallout: The Board Game. I’d heard Stefano mention it a while back and although I didn’t really think about it at the time, there much have been something in my subconscious which resonated and made me paw the game three times before plucking it off of the shelf. Well, that and Munchkin Undead booster pack. Kinda timely – that very morning, overcome by a little nostalgia, I put in Fallout 4 into the Xbone to start a new game (with the goal of finishing as aligned to the Minutemen).

Anyway, the vagaries of my neuroses aside, the game.

Broadly speaking, the Fallout board game, which is for one to four players, consists of elements from Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. For those who haven’t read my blog or who’ve never played a game (or cannot be bothered to do a cursory search on Wikipedia): the world of Fallout is set in a different timeline to ours. The transistor circuit was not invented in the 1940s; its discovery won’t be for another 100 years and as such, the electronics revolution does not happen. Because vacuum tubes are the vanguard of the digital revolution – such as it is – power consumption is massively up and the world embraces nuclear energy. Design and architecture is largely stuck in the 1950s, possibly as a deliberate attempt to show American Capitalistic power against Chinese Communism. By 2040 or so, most of the world’s fossil fuels are depleted leading to various wars. China invades Alaska in an attempt to seize control of the last major oil resource and ultimately, this leads to a nuclear exchange in 2077. 200 years later (events of Fallout 3 & 4), survivors are struggling with every day existence in a post-atomic landscape full of mutants, hostile bands of people and persistent levels of radiation.

The way that the board game of Fallout works is that there are four principal missions which pitch two factions striving for control of the Wasteland and players will interact with the two factions as well as get swept up in various side-quests that emerge. The player characters are a Vault-Dweller, a Brotherhood of Steel outcast, a Ghoul, a Super Mutant and a Wastelander. Each character starts off with a character card giving them something unique as a way of differentiating between the five. Each mission requires the board pieces (there’s no main board, just hexagons à la Settlers of Catan) arranged a certain way and will have other set-up requirements. The way the game progresses and the story unfolds is at the discretion of the players.

For the player(s) to win, they need a certain amount of influence with the inhabitants of the Wasteland which is scored through “Agenda cards”. Each player has an Agenda card at the start of the game which is not disclosed unless a player is choosing to align with one of the main factions. Each card is worth one influence point and can be worth more if the criteria on the card is met. A player may only hold four agenda cards at any one time and these are typically awarded when main or side quests are completed. Players are up against the clock however, as the two factions vying for dominance will also be progressing towards their final goal of control of the Wasteland. If they manage to complete their goals (by reaching the final space on the mission sheet), that faction will automatically “win” and all players lose.

How is the game played then? It’s a bit reminiscent of Eldritch Horror. Players take it in turns to make their moves and receive two actions per turn: they can explore the map, move their character, explore ruins or settlements, set up camp to heal & trade, fight enemies or complete quests. Unlike Eldritch, players can choose the same action twice. Once all players have had their turn, enemies on the map get to move around and attack players if in range. If killed, enemies will immediately respawn (where appropriate) – just like the video game!

Each story card (deck of 160 cards) will result in a number of choices and progress is determined by a player fulfilling a particular success criteria. An simple example would be say: Choice 1, kill a robot enemy. Choice 2, reach a landmark on the map. Other missions may have more complicated criteria to be fulfilled. There are also encounter cards which do not count as story cards but can be drawn when a player is on a ruin space or a settlement space. Ruins typically (but not exclusively) allow players to draw loot from the abandoned rubble. Settlements typically allow players to buy and sell items at shops.

So that’s a description of the game in a nutshell, now for my thoughts.

Physical Bits – the game is made by Fantasy Flight games (Eldritch Horror, Talisman et al) and like their products, the board/board pieces are made from a pretty solid cardboard, the character figures are wonderfully detailed and the other playing pieces are not too fiddly. Each player’s pip boy (or personal playing area) has slots for their tokens and stats like health and rads are marked by peg rather than by counter which is a nice change. There are three dice with symbols that will need a bit of getting used to but they are a good contrast of black and green (like King of Tokyo). Game cards are a standard size and a micro-size (so they fit with FF/Generic card sleeves if so desired) but are perfectly readable and all together the game fit on my table without needing to pull out the extending bits (think 1m by 1m).

Artwork – the board doesn’t have much artwork, it’s pretty crude but icons and space segments are clear. Enemy tokens and item cards are the of the same sort of feel though it’s vaguely reminiscent of hand-drawn posters from the 50s keeping with the theme.

Box – Medium sized, just about fits all the bits and pieces in but you’re going to need a few zip lock bags for tokens once punched out. You can live with the cardboard insert but I suspect if/when expansion packs come out, you might want to chuck it away. Nice art on the box and the back gives you a good flavour of what to expect.

Complexity – Like many games, I feel that the rules could have been clearer in places as I had to refer to BBG message boards twice because neither the “learn to play” rules, nor the glossary book could adequately answer the questions. The back of the glossary features a summary of the turn order though chances are that’ll be passed around inexperienced players. It took a while to get used to the nuances of the rules but once comprehended, I was able to fly through my turns. I think a board game n00b could probably get through a game of Fallout as the game concepts are simple, the player actions are clear with few rule “exceptions” and players don’t have to keep a running tally of other game concepts issues in their head.

Gameplay – I think that the linear dynamic worked pretty well. There’s a definite flow of stages in a player’s turn and also in the turns of the enemies. The only time this is interrupted is when a quest is completed with immediate effect and the rewards and subsequent game effects must be resolved before continuing. As a solo player, I almost forgot to finish my turn but with more players, the chance of skipping out a move is unlikely. Fighting enemies and tests will be a large part of the game and that’s simple enough to resolve once a player gets the hang of how combat works. An interesting feature of the game is how it’s not quite co-operative, not quite competitive, more than one player can win simultaneously and everyone can lose. I can’t think of [m]any other games which play with this style so there’s something new as well as familiar, given the subject matter.

Favourite bits – For me, what I liked particularly was the XP system; being quick to level up in the early game but taking longer as it progressed (just like the VGs). Being an addict of the video games, I liked how the board game managed to cram in lots of references and make them an integral part of the board game. I also liked the fact that pegs were used to track game progress rather than a million counters and tokens although after a few plays, will the cardboard be irreparably damaged by inserting and removing the pegs? I thought the glossary was very helpful in looking up rules, better written than Eldritch Horror.

Who will the game appeal to? Regular gamers, fans of RPGs because that element is there, co-operative gamers, competitive gamers, a real broad appeal. And don’t forget to download the Fallout OST or look up the radio stations on YouTube to accompany the game!

Unstable Unicorns

Capsule Review: Unstable Unicorns

Darren backed this on Kickstarter and received his set shortly before Xmas.  We played a couple of games then and in January before he gave me a copy for my birthday last week.  I reckon now is as good a time as any for a capsule review.

Unstable Unicorns is a deck-building card game, reminiscent of Exploding Kittens, for 2-8 players where the goal is to form a stable of unicorns (exact number depends on the number of players.

There are three types of unicorn one plays with and several card types.  Each player on their turn can draw a card from the pool, play a card from their hand (or draw a second card from the pool rather than play) and discard down to a maximum hand size.  Most cards have particular actions affecting game play and it is possible to play specific cards out of turn in order to screw over players.  Once one player hits the stated goal, the game is over and that person wins.

There are three types of unicorns: babies, normal and magical.  Everyone starts with a baby unicorn, and it’s possible to get more through other cards.  Normal unicorns come in different styles but there are no other differences between them other than card design and name.  Magical unicorns have abilities that can affect the player each turn.  I should probably mention that as well as unicorns, Narwahls also feature and count as unicorns.  Again, just for a bit more flavour.

Other cards played can boost one’s stable, diminish another players stable, act as game changers or cancel the last card played.

It’s a very simple game to pick up as the game is more reactive rather than proactive.  Experienced players can anticipate particular cards and adjust their plans accordingly so novices may struggle against experts.  There’s a certain amount of king-making, much the same way as game like Munchkin and Settlers of Catan are played where the player in first place will be ganged up on.

In terms of aesthetics – the box is compact but tough, not flimsy cardboard.  The artwork on the card is cute, very Japanese in influence.  The text on the cards is a little small considering the size of the cards although I appreciate that “more text” can be a turn-off.  If you’re trying to read the cards in other player’s stables around the table, that can be hard.

There’s a bit of a learning curve in the game given all the different types of cards and effects.  There are also a few notable instances where rules lawyering is required.  However, a game be played in under thirty minutes, even with a larger group which can help.  The artwork will keep people amused and the game interrupts present genuine tactical choices.  Unstable isn’t quite top tier for quick card games like Dominion but it’s a worth addition to anyone’s collection.

I’ve also got the Uncut Unstable Unicorns Expansion pack full of more…adult cards, themes, graphics and the like. Good unwholesome fun.

Gaming Catch-Up

I keep trotting out this phrase – and its variants – but post move, I’m starting to rejoin my life.  And catch up with gaming, of course.  So this blog post will be a brief catch up on games, both video and board.

First on the list: the Doomsday Heist on GTA Online.  Essentially, James Bond is in the world of GTA online.  First of all, you need to buy a “facility”, an underground bunker not entirely unlike one used by a supervillain.  But relax, you’re not the supervillain.  Once you buy the facility, you’ll be contacted by Lester who has an opportunity for you…

I won’t ruin the story should you not have indulged, it’s a pretty good one, as these things go.  There are three parts to the heist and each part has a number of missions, both a set-up and the mission itself.  Set-ups typically involved undertaking an activity on a lobby map so other players can interrupt you and make your life miserable.  Missions are undertaken independently of the main lobby.  Anyone in your organisation or motorcycle gang (you need to be a CEO or Chapter Leader) can help in the set-ups and a minimum of two players are required to do the heists missions and finale.

Sales aside, the cost of purchasing a facility is several million dollars which is a significant in-game investment but the pay offs after each part of the overall heist are very much worth it.  But perhaps the key part of the Doomsday Heist update are the new vehicles available, including (and I’m not using the in-game names) the flying DeLorean with missiles (aka Flying Troll Car), Lotus Submersible, the Jet-Pack and others.  There’s also the Avenger – a mobile flying base like the big-rig introduced in part two of the Heist.  Lots of stuff for players to indulge in.

Each Facility can be pimped out, has storage for a number of cars and has a few optional extras.  These include strike teams to target other players, a receptionist to hand out free snacks & Pegasus Concierge services and perhaps the most interesting feature, the orbital cannon.  Instadeath on another player – it costs a lot to fire but can be satisfying to get back at trolls.  There’s also the usual deathmatches and other lesser vehicles in the update but most people don’t care about them.

Next on the list: Star Trek Timelines.  Version 4 of the game was released t’other week, the main updates were around rewards in the cryovault for immortalising specific groups of characters (races, traits etc) and more options for organising your crew, making it easier to compare, see who needs upgrading etc.  For those of us playing over two years, collecting the rewards for immortalising characters was amazingly rewarding.

Nothing new with Animation Throwdown except the addition of a new category of card: animal.  Been getting back into Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus after a long hiatus.  Managed to get past the Roswell base and into the Uberkommando assassination missions.  Still refused to change from “normal” difficulty into easy although shouting at the Xbone is more the rule rather than the exception.

And in board games: I bought myself Ticket To Ride: France/Old West edition for my birthday as well as Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathoep expansion.  And P&D gave me a copy of Unstable Unicorns with the rude expansion pack. Haven’t tested any of them out though.  Gave away Scotland Yard to a work colleague and need to start putting my other games on eBay soon.  At KKOB’s yesterday, I played Power Grid for the first time and Small World with a number of expansion packs (except the Pirate one).