Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ Old Town Kopitiam Cheras 29/10/2010
Gamers: Wong LC (wonglc), Ken Yoong (wolfx), Aycee, Teddy Pang (teddy), Cheryl Mun (cmun), Samantha, Ian Tan (iantan), Wai Yan (waiyan) and CK Au (jack208)
Games: Space Hulk: Death Angel, Wallenstein, Pickomino, Niagara.
Location: Old Town Kopitiam Cheras Google Map
Date/Time: 29 October 2010 (Fri) 8.00 PM – 3 AM
SPACE HULK: DEATH ANGEL
This was played in last week’s Cassian Meetup and tonite Wolfx wants to infect the OTK crowd with his latest gizmo of claustrophobia in a space hulk.
Wolfx (right) explaining the game rules to Aycee
Action cards (three) you can play on your turn to indicate what your space marines will be doing. One out-of-theme mechanic here is that you have two space marines in your command but your action card affects both! Duh.. Can’t I have one marine on guard while another attack? Sorry dude, this is a card game. You want flexibility, go play the Space Hulk Boardgame (SH:BG). :S
Tokens and die used in the game. Dice are used to i) resolve your attacks to see if you kill any genestealers, and ii) to determine if you are hurt or killed when a genestealer attacks you.
The game simulates the hulk of the spaceship by laying everyone’s marines all in a row, and with some cards at the side indicating hull, doors, hatch, etc. Genestealers then come in thru those entrances.
To me, I felt it doesn’t really capture the feel of being trapped in a long corridor, moving in a single file and waiting anxiously to see if genestealers are around the corner! In fact, in SH:DA, marines can “swap position” with one another?
Abuden, the corridors supposed to be so narrow the marines can only move in a single file… how to swap places la? Oh.. the front marine somersault over the back marine! Tah-da….
Each player controls a team of two marines, each with a name – yes everyone got name! – and more importantly their own characteristics in terms of what they can do. This part I felt SH:DA did better than SH:BG. Lends a bit of personalization to each marines and make them less of a “faceless person” (in SH:BG, you do not really need to care about one marine from the other… but you do care whether it’s a marine, your Sergeant or a flame-thrower).
The 3rd Edition SH:BG did give names to the marines but only in namesake. They were not differentiated in the miniatures so for this, I think Death Angel implemented it better than the Boardgame version.
Your destination (or target) is indicated by Location Cards (see Hibernation Cluster above) and each of them has unique challenges for the marines to handle. But these cards cannot replace “Mission” coz you do not know what card/mission will come up UNTIL you reach the last card. Duh.
Ever try briefing a space marine team and tell them, “Dudes, you are going on a dangerous and possibly no-return mission. However I cannot tell you the mission yet coz.. well even I dun know what it is la. But I guarantee you, on my life, that when you reach your objective room you’ll find further instructions there. Good luck!”
The big change from SH:BG (where you play 1-on-1 ie Space Marines vs Genestealers) is Death Angel is a cooperative game between teams of marines against the system/game (Genestealers). No one controls the Genestealers, and their movement and spawning are handled randomly via cards, which is implemented pretty well.
However, this I felt is the main reason SH:DA does not feel like a Space Hulk game. The tension here is simply on feeling the stress of having genestealers being piled onto you. But not being the feeling of being stalked by genestealers. Here in Death Angel, you feel more like having a group of marines all lumped into a room and having genestealers surrounding them….
In SH:BG the Marines do have a mission, and they know it upfront so as to be able to form some tactics. The Genestealer player knows that mission too and his objective is to thwart them from achieving that mission, which does not necessarily means killing all marines.
For eg in Mission #1, the marines need to flame the Launch Control Room of the space hulk, and they only have one flame thrower. Hence the Genestealers would set up their tactics to try to isolate and kill the flame thrower. (Yes in SH:BG the marines can be isolated and not always lumped together in a “swimming pool”)
Picture from Atom Smashing blog
BTW can someone help paint my Space Hulk miniatures to look like above? 😛
The feeling of dread when you turn a corner to be confronted with hordes of Genestealers is missing here. Also in the BG, the Marine player plays under pressure of time (Genestealers player has no time limit to simulate the fact that Genestealers think & move so much faster than Marines) and if the marines are “slow”, they loses more initiative (implemented via command points).
The concept of Guard, Overwatch and Weapon Jam are also not implemented in the card game. Notably a critical difference in the fighting style of Marines vs Genestealers are not found in the card game. In SH:BG, Marines – since they carry storm bolter weapons – have the advantage when firing over distance, and this is their preferred mode of attack. Genestealers on the other hand, are lethal in close combat. Once they get in front of you, it’s time for Marine Pasta, which is where the tension comes in coz when your marines are cornered into facing a horde of Genestealers in close combat, the only thing left to do is to pray for a quick death.
I felt the only real tactical decisions marines need to make in Death Angel is to decide how to shuffle their positioning within their rank (you know, the I somersault over you thing?) in order to have a few marines combo-fire on genestealers. In the BG, when you come across a Genestealer you dun get to say, “Hey Joe, I got an ugly in front da me. You think you can shuffle into my front. I dun want to die!”
In Death Angel, the tagline should be “In space no one can hear you
I know I may be getting lots of hate mail for the above “thrashing” of Death Angel so perhaps let me add that one of the plus point I like in Death Angel is the ability to play coop among the space marines. This was one of the more popular “wish list” for the SH:BG, a kinda like DOOM where you get to have 3 space marine players fighting against the DOOM player.
If they call this game “Death Angel: The Deadly Shuffle”, it may even be considered a good value game (given it’s relatively cheap price compared to the now OOP Space Hulk Boardgame where some are hawking in eBay for USD200).
After writing the above review, I’m now itching to get a session or two of Space Hulk: the Boardgame. Sadly everything in my 3rd Edition SH:BG is unpunched and unassembled. Sigh. Perhaps I should just pull out my 1st Edition to play.
PICKOMINO a.k.a. HECK MECK
While we were “shuffling” space marines on our table, the other table did a lighter fare – the popular Heck Meck also known as Pickomino game of collecting worms! Eughk!
With cmun and her daughter Samantha in town, waiyan brought out Niagara, an impressively beautiful game to look! Niagara is about us being jewel-seekers who would brave the dangerous rapids of Niagara Falls to grab some sparking gemstones for ourselves.
To those who have not yet played Niagara, the game box itself is convereted into the game board of the Niagara River…. your canoes travel up-stream and down-stream on this river, braving the rapids in order to take some of the gemstones along the river bank.
In-between, you can also snatch the gemstones from the other players!
At the end of each turn, the canoes are also pushed downstream by the current… and if yours are on the edge of the waterfall, it’ll be sunk and you lose all the gemstones on board.
After Death Angel, our table was debating which game to play next! Too many choices for them, I suppose. In the end, they decided to brave the cube towers of Wallenstein!
Wallenstein was re-implemented by Shogun. Some rule tweaks in Shogun I felt made the game better (which I’ll talk about later in this report) but map-wise, I still favor Wallenstein’s Germany which is very open to attacks from all sides (unlike the longish Japan map in Shogun)
The starting position for a 5-player game. As you can see from the map, each province can be attacked from 2 or 3 sides.
The various generals were good frens before war broke out in Germany
The five action cards, selected at random out of ten, but opened face-up before each player selects their own actions. You use this action cards to determine which “action” will occur in which province. You basically use actions to 1) move troops, 2) tax a province for either gold or grain, 3) buy troops, 4) build one of these buildings (trade house, church, palace) which scores you point at end-game, and 5) attack another province, whether empty or controlled by another player.
Event cards (below) of which four are selected for each year, shown to all players and then one event selected randomly for each season. Here the Church Peace event was triggered in the Summer phase which protected provinces with Church(es) in it from being attacked.
The most famous of implements in this game is probably the Cube Tower (pictued below). Most ppl wrongly refer to this as the Dice Tower, it’s not really since it’s not used to roll dice. Instead we throw in color cubes into the tower and depending on the number of color cubes coming out into the tray, that determines the result of the two players in battle.
I suppose the “Dice Tower” reference is an analogy to the number of your own color cubes being the die roll for eg if wolfx has 3 blue cubes coming out of the cube tower, you can say he rolled a die of three.
Teddy’s (brown) forces being encircled by Wong LC (yellow), Aycee (red) and Wolfx (blue). Teddy’s armies in Osterrich were eventually wiped out but he came back late in the game to reclaim part of Osterrich from the north.
Wong (yellow) quickly established a dominance in Bayern but bad luck befell him and soon his hardwon territories were all claimed by the rival generals.
Aycee (left) and wolfx, friendly neighbours who’s armies were mainly at Osterrich (east) and Kurpflaz (west) located on different sides of the board…. therefore their main beef was not each other but Wong’s (yellow) troops whom were largely mobilized in-between both of them in Bayern.
Ang’s (one of the Sg Long based Weiqi boardgamers) black armies were relatively quiet, minding their own business in Brandenburg and part of Sachsen but power corrupts.. and as soon as his armies grew to sizeable units, he started harrassing his neighbouring provinces.
Fierce fightings in Kurpfalz as wolfx (blue) seeked to eliminate the last of Ang’s (black) troops to avoid him reclaiming the lands resulted in a few provinces that were razed to the ground, which happened as a result of players tying on the cube tower results (ie both sides have the same numbers of cubes rolled out)
This “scorched earth” policy is one rule I do not like in Wallenstein and which has been updated in Shogun. In Wallenstein, player can sometimes use the “razed to the ground” rule to purposely attack a province hoping that if battle result tied, the province is turned into a wasteland and therefore cannot be entered by any party, forming a barrier which can protect his province(s) that are situated behind the razed province.
In Shogun, the province is merely razed of all buildings and revolt markers, turning it into an empty province that can still be enter and conquered by the next army.
Aycee’s (red) armies consolidated strongly in Osterrich and proceeded to build lots of churches. “In God We Trust” is their motto. J
Teddy’s brown armies adopting a strong “scorched earth” policy – note the two wasteland protecting his eastern front – as he massed his troops in his southern border to continuously attack Wong, to his chagrin!
Ang’s black armies were doing very well (below). In spite of his disappointment in Kurpflaz where his troops were all but vanquished by wolfx and Teddy, he has regrouped and literally controlled Brandenburg and has a strong say in Sachsen.
The green round markers you see in the picture above are to indicate the farmers’ “revolt” possibility in the province. Whenever you tax a province – and you do need to levy tax on your provinces for both grain (to feed your troops) and gold (as war chest) – a farmer revolt marker is added to the province. When there are two or more revolt markers, the farmers will organize a revolt against you, and you need to send in your troops to quell it.
Every year in winter, you need to feed your troops and have them well-rested for next year’s campaign. There’s no fighting, movement or taxation in this phase. You do have to ensure you’ve collected enough grains tax over the earlier three seasons to ensure you have sufficient grains to feed your troops after factoring in “grain losses” (which is determined by one of the Event cards).
Your grain level (above) indicating how much grain tax you’ve collected over the months. You need one grain for each province you control.
If you do not have sufficient grain to feed your people, some of the armies will join the farmers and revolt. You then need to expend more troops to quell the revolt. The table above determines how many of your provinces will revolt (middle column) based on what’s your shortage on grain (first column). The last column shows the number of farmers (green cubes) joining in the revolt.
A revolt happening at the “wrong” province can cost you very dearly… both in terms of resources (gold or grain) and VPs.
The game is scored twice; in the 1st year and then again in the 2nd year (both times during the Winter phase). At the end of the 1st year, Aycee was leading the game with 15 pts and wolfx a close 2nd at 14 pts. Teddy’s lowest at 9 pts.
Woflx led the pack in spite of him having a very low “grain taxation” year and was unable to feed two of his provinces leading to one successful revolt (hitting him badly as that province contained a few costly buildings). He’s obviously playing for the VPs rather than just a “nice” board position.
In the 2nd year, Teddy was very aggressive in his territory expansion (each province controlled gives you a VP) and most were expecting him to come out tops. We also expected Ang to challenge strongly as his black troops strong position in the northern provinces, with most of them containing valuable VP buildings should provide him with good VPs.
When the scores were tallied after the 2nd year, surprisingly Wolfx managed to retain his lead and came out 39 pts to Ang’s 32 pts. A surprise third was Wong LC – even he himself kinda gave up on his board position with control of 3 provinces only (wolfx has 3x as many) – as he scored a 28 pts. This proved that a bad board position (both Wolfx and Wong’s board positions cannot be considered strong) is not a pointer to your final VPs. Therefore play for the points, not board position. 😛
SHOGUN VS WALLENSTEIN (and can they be cross-implemented?)
I’ve already explained earlier in this report why I like the non-scorched earth policy in Shogun. With this, it’s easy for us to house-rule Wallenstein and implement similar non-scorched earth policy in Wallenstein which would allow for more “open” play.
I also like the new scoring track board in Shogun but this is not easily implemented in Wallenstein, and neither is it a crucial change.
Player turn order is randomized in Wallenstein, and to make it worse, it’s not done until after each player has selected the province card for their 10 actions. Sometimes the wrong turn order can completely screw your plan. In Shogun, they mitigated this by allowing players to bid for turn order (with gold or warchest as called in the game). This means you are not left to the vagaries of “random” to know if you go first before Mr B.
However this also means the rich gets richer and the poor gets less chance to haul in the rich.
As to whether we can implement this “bid for start order” feature back into Wallenstein, in theory it looks possible and simple. Just print copies of the turn order bidding card, and use them in Wallenstein. But I suspect provinces in Japan (ie Shogun) are generally richer (ie able to provide more tax in gold) than provinces in Wallenstein. As such without re-balancing this element, adding turn order bidding card into Wallenstein while it may solve the random turn order issue, may also introduce new issue of not having enough cashflow to move around.
IMHO, a simpler tweak will help for Wallenstein, without having to implement the full “bid for start order” function. In Wallenstein, you do the following in sequence:
1. Lay out general Action Cards
2. Plan your own Action Cards
3. Determine Player Order
4. Choose Current Event
5. Resolve Current Action
I found that if we just swapped #2 and #3, it helps to reduce the player start order randomness. Perhaps I’ll house-rule this and try in the next session.
1. Lay out general Action Cards
2. Determine Player Order
3. Plan your own Action Cards
4. Choose Current Event
5. Resolve Current Action
The last two differences favor Wallenstein more than Shogun. First is the taxation level vs farmer’s allegiance. In Wallenstein, if a province is only taxed once (per year) the farmer’s allegiance still remains with you (which is as it should coz taxation is still a norm in any country). In Shogun, as long as you had taxed a province, even once, the farmers will turn against you. Too petty, I think. 😛
Secondly, in Shogun when a province is attacked, ALL defending units fall in (ie get thrown into the Dice Tower) to resolve the fight! In Wallenstein, the defender can choose how many defending units to commit to the battle. This simple rule can have an impact on how battles are strategized in the game.
Both the above rules are not difficult to implement into Shogun so if you wish to, by all means house-rule them.
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