Thursday, 30 May 2013

Eclipse session - Playing Planta

Last two games nights we have got in two games of Eclipse. It goes along with the current sci-fi theme at the moment. Maybe if we were a more established blog we could call this sci-fi month. For most of the club this is a new game, however in this game we implemented Aliens. To do this fairly we handed out random diplomacy tokens at the start of the game then had the choice of the alien or Terran in that colour. It was a five player game and Chris and I chose the aliens, he got a bit of a doozy, Eridani Empire, and I got Planta. 

I like both these races. People seem to have there problems with both. I however like them because I like the feel of each of these races. The Eridani is the once powerful empire, however are now struggling and in decline. The start with some pretty sweet resources and starting research. However they have 2 less influence which hurts hard later on in the game. The Plantas play like a weed, they multiply fast, getting to explore up to 2 hexs a move, and have 4 rather that 3 colonist ships. However there ships are not very good with bad initiative and less customisable so easy to destroy.

The game in progress, round 4.
I am green.

I managed to secure a good position early on in the game. Spreading fast and I managed to secure a couple of good techs early; improved hull and plasma canon. I mostly had a cruiser heavy fleet, I feel cruisers have an advantage over dreadnoughts, cheeper so you can have better action density when you buy two ships and you can have 4 at a time. Plus there is less to upgrade to get them to a satisfactory level.

I managed to secure the centre hex early on in the game, nice. However for the rest of the game I defended my position rather than move out and attack. I had quite a few battles from those contesting for the centre hex. Some were quite large so we used the over flow tiles to battle on the side. However the lack of initiative was crippling causing some heavy losses before i could even shoot. The shields were very helpful as a protective measure. I managed to win most battles but not without some serious losses.

A middle hex combat pushed to the side.

Sadly we had to cut the game one round short (round 8) due to time constraints. This round was the hardest for me as my focus was mostly on defending the centre hex. Zac playing Terran got behind my only weak point and got a interceptor into my home hex. Perhaps if we played the next round it would have been the end for me and my weeds. I think if I had gone on more of an offensive after taking the middle hex I would have been better off as it would weaken the opponents. However then I would have been open for attack from others. 

Planta player board.

Over all I enjoyed playing Planta, although there lack of initiative and weak ships hurt later in the game. I feel that they probably are a better defensive specie so in that sense I played them ok. However I am sure there are much better strategies out there, 

Photos take from my iPad so not the best quality. See our Eclipse for the iPad review here

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Star Trek: Attack Wing

I feel like we need to get back to more posts about miniatures. Although this post is not 100% about miniatures it is a step in the right direction. Lately at our games night we have been playing through a D&D campaign and interchanging with boardgames. Last night we played Eclipse, which was pretty darn awesome! So lets look into Star Trek: Attack Wing, WizKids new game using Fantasy Flight Games 'flight path' game mechanic from Star Wars X-Wing.

Star Trek: Attack Wing

I have known about this game for a little while however only just recently looked up the progress. It looks as if they will be able to release this game soon! However is it worth it? I am thinking maybe not. Attack Wing uses the 'Flight Path' game system which was created for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, which is awesome! However now that I have a decent range of X-Wing models I am not sure spending more to get a game which is similar is a good idea.

Lets have a look at some of the ships!

The ships come pre-painted.

By looking at the bases they seem almost identical to the X-Wing ship design, at a guess I would say they are a similar size to. The Stats seem to be, well, attack, evade, hull and shields. Notice anything familiar to X-Wing?  

A giant pilot card,
over a giant ship!

Some of the symbols seem similar to X-Wing. Perhaps from left to right, evade or bost, target lock, not sure about this one, focus. 

Looks like you attach the captain to your ship

Jean-Luc Picard was an awesome character! 

As I said before, although this game looks pretty cool, I feel it won't have much more to offer than X-Wing. Although I do prefer Star Trek. It seems pretty similar so far. I also feel the other disadvantage is that Star Trek was more about Exploring New Worlds, rather than in space combat, although this does feature a little bit. Where as X-Wing uses specific fighter ships, the theme seems more appropriate. 

I think if I was to get a Star Trek game Star Trek: Fleet Captains (also by WizKids who have the Star Trek license) looks pretty sweet! 

A promo game in progress
It comes with a lot of ships! 

This game by the look of things has more of a Star Trek feel with specific agendas to match the different fleets. It also has a lot of space ships! Where the base set of Attack Wing comes with 3 ships then there are I believe 8 separate ship expansions worth about 20NZD each. 

However on the whole I am excited about trying out Attack Wing some time and maybe if I did not have X-Wing I would buy Attack Wing instead. I will leave you with some pictures of an Attack Wing game in action with a very large set... and my favorite Star Trek intro scene quote...

"Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Feel free to check out some of our X-Wing Miniatures game posts which uses the same 'flight path' game mechanic here

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Who is John Hurt, Doctor Who season 7 finale

Normally we do posts on table top games, however I thought I would do a one off post on Doctor Who. I figure it fits in with the geek (I like to think chic) vibe of our blog. However I must admit I found this season an underwhelming, dragged out season, scattered over almost a year. There where some high points like Asylum of the Daleks, the first episode. However the last episode I thought was a little bit unexciting, yet has raised some questions about the 50th anniversary episode. I would probably give it a 6.5/10

I will try keep this as spoiler free as I can. However there will be one main spoiler, I personally don't think it is a big one, however it is hard to say so don't read on if you are worried. Don't say I didn't warn you! 

The poster for the season 7 finale

So I am not really interested in going into the episode. However at the end it introduced the Doctors darkest secret. Which apparently is, well, himself played by actor John Hurt. This was introduced with what I thought was a pretty cool shot and title, here it is:

Cool huh, well maybe that shot doesn't do it justice but I love shots with 'Introducing said person as character'. So there is of course plenty of speculation already as to who he is and where he fits into the Doctors timeline. The internet seems to point towards the Valeyard which is an amalgamation of the Doctor's dark aspects, supposedly between the 12th and final incarnation. The Valeyard was introduced with the 6th doctor in Trial of a Time Lord.

Another suggestion which I thought sounded pretty good was that John Hurt was playing the Doctor between the 8th and 9th when the Doctor destroys Gallifrey. Some people thing that John Hurt will be both. Perhaps he will just be the next Doctor after Matt Smith, a new Doctor could be nice. Matt Smith has bene good but there comes a time for the Doctor to move on, just as it was time for the Pond's to go. Who ever he is I am sure not many people will get it right, only the crew of Doctor Who will know. Till November.

Well I am looking forward to the 50th anniversary episode. The return of David Tennant and John Hurt as a mysterious incarnation of the Doctor will hopefully make for a good episode. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Eclipse: A New Dawn for the Galaxy iPad Review

It has been a great couple of weeks for sci-fi. The release of Star Trek Into Darkness; the announcement of Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game wave 3; Alien Frontiers 4th edition kick-starter campaign; and of course, Eclipse being released on the iPad! Eclipse is an epic 4X board game designed by Touko Tahkokallio. The premis of a 4X game, for those who don't know is eXplore, eXpand eXploit and eXterminate. Eclipse is a highly rated game and has made its way to 5th on Board Game Geek

Eclipse and it's very large box

This game was transferred from cardboard to the iPad by Big Daddy Creations... and they did a great job! Such a great job that I got myself a copy of the board game after a few days of playing the app, as you can see above. So lets look at more depth into the game on the iPad.


Eclipse on the iPad has a well made user interface, one of the best I have seen (admittedly I haven't seen allot). It utilises a 'tray' system allowing you to open trays with relevant information that a player needs to know. As you can see from the photo below the game has allot on information on every player's board so compacting that into a 10inch display in no easy task.

The player board fro the Eridani Empire
The 'tray' system.
Trays for the ships and diplomacy functions are pulled out
The tray system defiantly sets a gold standard for board game apps in the future. Another useful aspect of this is that you can always see the world map. The world map functions well and looks great. They have changed some of the planet colours and the hex layout slightly from the board game. This I believe is a good thing as Bid Daddy Creations has taken liberty to change things in order for it to work better on the iPad.

The world map zoomed in.
There is allot going on.
The only issue I can find with the user interface is sometimes the world map can be hard to distinguish what is going on as there is allot but you can quickly get your head around this. Another way to make the world map easier to read is by turning off the starry background and going with plain blue, however that is a bit boring. All in all they have done a great job with this, so much that if you didn't know it was a board game, you may not even realise.


The gameplay is great, after all there is a reason it made it to the top 5 on Board Game Geek. At first it seems a little overwhelming, but the primary concept is actually quite simple. In order to take actions you use influence, but this comes at a cost, the more influence you use the higher the cost in money (one of the three resources) you have to pay at the end of the turn. So in order to take more money you need to colonise orange planets. The more colonists you have spread out over the galaxy on orange planets the more money you get. Simple huh. The same applies to the other resources  science which lets you research technologies and materials which lets you build ships, orbitals and monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

When you take actions, spending influence you can only take one action at a time (except free actions like trading resources), then every other player has a turn (up to 6) till its your turn again. When it is your turn again you can take another action or pass. This carries on till everyone has passed. The key actions you can take is; explore another hex connected to a wormhole, then you can place an influence on this hex/sector to control it then claim its resources; change influence of your sectors; research new technology such as ship upgrades; upgrade your ships; build ships; or move your ships around the board. Once everyone has passed ships in the same sectors fight it out!

In combat you simply roll the dice (well pressing a button) corresponding to the weapons equipped to your ships and you hit on a 6. However you can equip your ships with computers which add bonuses to your ship. For example if you have a +2 computer you will now be hitting on 4/5/6 not just 6. The game has a cool effect when shooting rather than just some dice rolling effect. The space ships are highly upgradeable, better weapons  better computers and shields, better movement rates (drives) and energy. Energy is important because you may have researched allot of neat stuff, but you need the energy to power some of the better weapons, computers, drives etc.

After combat you can take over hexes of those you defeated (assuming you also destroyed their colonies. Then if you can't afford to pay for all the influence you spent that turn you have to declare bankruptcy and remove influence off hexes you can't afford to pay for. This however can sometimes be to your advantage as it doesn't use up a turn like the action 'change influence'. This all lasts for 9 rounds then the game is done.

Simple huh. OK maybe to so much, there is allot going on in this game. I imagine my description did not do it justice but once you get the hang of it, it's allot of fun and plenty of variation to each game to keep you coming back for more. But this all raises one big problem, how do you learn to play it? For me it was simple, I have already played the game so only really needed to learn the user interface which the in built tutorial helped with immensely. However I have heard that this tutorial does not do a great job in teaching you how to play UI aside. There is a inbuilt manual which is reletively logical, but still people seem to complain. So if this is a problem I recommend just downloading the PDF manual. I do recognise this as being a problem with complex games as I downloaded Le Havre, a complex game, on sale a while back and still don't have any clue how to play.


You have a choice to play with seven different species in this game. They all offer different advantages and disadvantages. This follows some story line of the seven different species forming a galactic council after some war. However the peace is soon to be shattered as you play eclipse. Yep that's the premis of the game, it's alright and there is a pretty cool opening sequence explaining this. Terran (humans) are the most common and everyone can play Terran however the 6 different aliens can only have one player each. Terran are pretty standard offering no special benefits however they have no real disadvantage either, middle of the road. Peoples favorite seem to be the Hydran Progress who have special researching powers and Orion Hegemony who are pretty good in combat. Others are; the Descendants of Draco who are friends with the ancients (ships which occupy some hexes to make occupying them harder); Planta who rock at exploring and are more peaceful than the rest; and Mechanema who are robots who can build stuff on the cheap. However a race that I am enjoying are the Eridani Empire who I describe below. All these races provide a good amount of variation and add to the challenge!

A description shot of one of the races.

AI games vs Online Play vs Pass and Play

First off, I have never played pass and play and probably never will so, no comment. Playing against the AI is fun, there are 3 difficulties, easy, medium and hard and they all presset their challenges  I recommend playing with 3-4 players rather than 5-6 as it can take a while to get round to your turn, despite the AI having relatively fast turns. I find the bigest challenge is trying to play with the Eridani Empire, they start off with allot of money and some good starting research however 2 less initiative than the other races! This is quite challenging and the great starting resources don't seem to make up for it. None the less it makes the Eridani a good challenge!

I am not much of a computer gamer so online play is a bit foreign to me. However I decided I would give it a shot. The online play is pretty good, it has an in-game chat function and there seems to be a few different games to choose between. However my two main concerns are; firstly it can be a bit buggy, however I am sure Bid Daddy Creations is working on this; secondly, people pulling out before the game is finished, which is frustrating as I have never managed to finish a game. My first game I wasn't doing great but I managed to beat this one guy in combat with a bit of luck and he "rage quit", not very sportsman like. So I don't really rate online play to hightly but maybe if I had a better experience I would have preferred it.


I can honestly say this is a great buy. It is a well made app, it looks great, the user interface is good, the gameplay is superb and it is allot of fun. Watch out however, if your like me you may end up buying the board game as well. Unless of course you already own it in which case you probably know it will be an awesome app. However if you were contemplating one or the other I would recommend geting the cardboard option. There is nothing quite like playing someone across a table (a very large table is needed for eclipse).

All in all it is a great app. Bid Daddy Creation's is working on some of the bugs as you can see here. I am also looking forward to them making the expansion Rise of the Ancients for it, I am tempted to get the cardboard version of this also. So what would I give it?

Overall: 9/10

For more on board games click here. Photos taken with a 50mm f1.4 lens or taken from the Bid Daddy Creations Website.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Play-testing A Study in Emerald

Monday night saw four of us gather for our weekly games night, including Chris who was keen to join us again after two weeks on honeymoon.  This time the game was Study in Emerald a currently prototype boardgame by Martin Wallace that is in its Kickstarter project phase.  The prototype is available for play testing before the board, rules and design are finalised.

Proposed box art

The game picks up where the wonderful short story by Neil Gaimon ends: with the sun setting on the Victorian Empire, Sherlock and Watson take what seems to be another assignment - a murder, a word written onto the wall beside the body and no apparent clue as to the culprit.  But as they investigate further, the assignment becomes stranger than any other: the body is not, well, human; its blood is green and although there is little that is left of it one can tell that it is not of this world...

For those who want to read the story I won't give too much away, but the story ends with the uncovering of a movement of people in Europe against the established royal families and other elite.  Known as the Restorationists, they strive to restore the natural order of things by removing the rather unnatural aristocracy.

Anyway, back to the game.  The game play is based on the accumulation of victory points.  One accumulates such points by taking control of cities, by killing agents, or by assassinating the named royalist in that city.  The board is set out with a number of cities on it, linked by movement tracts, and cards immediately above them with the top card turned over:

The board and it's groundbreaking artwork 
Each player has a deck of ten cards, of which (s)he draws six.  Each player has their agent on the board.  The game has an "influence" mechanic whereby a player bids either on a city or on a card deck by playing influence tokens on them.  If at the start of their next turn they have the most influences on the city they can take control of that city (and get the city card as well as the victory points) and similarly if they have the most influences on a card they get that card which enables them to do different things during their turn.

Bidding far a card
(Mrs Peacock is the white player with the sheep from Agricola)
A highly contested city

A turn consists of two actions: if you are to take a city or a card, that has to be your first action and you can only do that once per turn.  A basic action requires the playing of cards, which have symbols on them - block to enable you to place an influence block and a coin to move places or buy more influences.  A normal action involves placing influences on one card or one city.

There are more actions than that involved that I won't go into: blowing up agents / royalists, turning yourself or others into vampires, bringing on zombies, accumulating more agents, having double agents (which is cool) and the like.  There is a lot of variety to the game play and I could not get my head around tactics for most of the game.  You are also either a Royalist or a Restorationist.  Whichever you are appointed to at the start affects the way you play as there are only royalists on the city squares to blow up so the Restorationists have more ways to accumulate victory points.  The Royalists are, if you like, defending more - trying to kill agents before the agents kill the royals.

The restoration and war tracks 

Without the board game bling, we were never going to be "wowed" by the game.  I can see, however that the game would be fun and could be played a number of times with different tactics depending on which side you are on and how the game unfolds.  So my lasting impression is quite favorable and I am keen for Steve to buy it so I can play it more often.

I think with some cool pieces and an attractive game board that it could be a real winner.  The rules do need a bit of clarifying though - there were some "rules moments" which us gamers all know about: particularly around free actions but also whether you are playing with your fellow Royalists / Restorationists or whether it is every (wo)man for themselves.  Zac and I as the Royalists came out on top with a bit of rules bending and Steve and Chris in true anarchist fashion fought each other and came last and second to last.

Stephens restorationist card,
looks a little bit like a spy from the Resistance

Allocating points is always random so I say 7.24926 / 10.

Zac dedicates his victory to Nadar

Sunday, 5 May 2013

X-Wing Wave 3 Announced!

So apparently the wave 3 Star Wars X-Wing ships were announced on May the 4th. Heh. My FLGS posted about it on Facebook and now I'm in the know. I am getting my information from the Star Wars Common Ground blog. The release date is TBC. The photo quality is not top notch sorry to say. 

So here we go.

Lambda-class Shuttle

This new imperial ship looks awesome, probably my favorite of the lot. As you can see on the tag its not final but still, its looking awesome.

A sample pilot

Looks similar to the falcon in terms of stats, but why is it so cheap? I assume it doesn't have 360 firing. What's that new upgrade? Well apparently its Advanced Sensors.

Advanced sensors
TIE Bomber

All we have here is the photo. Obviously it will be able to have bombs. However I am not sure that that is a great thing for me as I officially suck at dropping them. I have a 0% hit rate. I kind of think the ship looks ugly but I guess its designed for functionality.

The Moldy Crow aka HWK-290

I really like the look of this new rebel ship, thought I noticed some distaste from others to it. It doesn't look that strong, only 1 attack and 2 evade. It isn't amazingly cheap either, seems to come at a similar price to the Y-Wing.

Moldy Crow
A blurry side shot.

It has some good upgrades with the pilot upgrade and the turret. Hopefully they will make another turret rather than just the ion cannon turret (which is pretty good however).


I don't really like the look of this ship I must admit. I assume being a B-Wing it is a bomber so like the TIE Bomber It may not be a good buy for me.

Final Thoughts

I think I am the most keen for the Lambda-Class Shuttle, it looks awesome. Second to that is the Moldy Crow, just not sure about its stats. The TIE Bomber and the B-Wing don't quite do if for me... Yet. I guess I have enough ships as it is, so I may just expand my collection by two. 

Photo Source: Ryan “Picasso” Krippendorf @ FFG’s Star Wars Gaming Experience. Photo by Ryan “Picasso” Krippendorf. See more about Star Wars X-Wing here(EDIT: I found some new photos here. They are much better photos and make the TIE Bomber and B-Wing look cooler than the photos above look making me more keen on them). 

X-Wing vs fire-spray from wave 2

Friday, 3 May 2013

An RPG Excusion: Gardmore Abbey and the Deck of Many Things

A book written specifically for our group

In large part, this is a blog about table top miniature gaming and boardgames.  But the history of our gaming group lies as much in Dungeons and Dragons as it does in war gaming.  For me, an interest in war games only developed when I was in my mid thirties (around 2-3 years ago) whereas my teenage years were all about DnD back in its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s.

So with that background, I have happily played the Dungeon Master for a few DnD games and get the occasional hankering for a few sessions.  Last games night I developed a scenario around the discovery of a card from the "Deck of Many Things".  The scenario was designed to pull the party into the Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure path but also to be able to end that night if no one wanted to keep going.

The cast behind the DM's screen waiting to come on
The setting was the entrance to the crypt at Moonstone Keep in Fallcrest.  The adventurers each summonsed by Berrian, the master of the guard at the keep.  None of them know why they had been summonsed and they each wait to be let inside.  Once Berrian comes he explains that the Lord of the Keep has gone mad following the discovery of a card and he enlists the help of the adventurers to destroy the card accordingly (which he has stolen from his Lordship and is about to give to them).

At this point the Lord makes an appearance - angrily using his powers to throw Berrian against a wall and summons zombies (always good to reuse those EOTD zombies I spent so long painting).

Rather than run headlong into combat I then handed over to each of the party a mission personal to them.  One was to kill Berrian, another to protect him, another to get the card for themselves and run etc.  So the party each had personal goals that conflicted with the corporate goal (and with each other's personal goals).

The Battle in Progress
It was interesting to see how it played out - Matt almost died trying to kill Berrian and there were a series of small skirmashes between the party over who would get the card which cooled down before anyone got seriously hurt.  It also got them into the Deck of Many Things and made them pause to think whether they wanted to collect these cards or destroy them.

After negotiating the first combat they all then proceeded to the wizards tower at Gardmore Abbey on the understanding that he could destroy the card.  There was much debate about that, but they finally decided it was the best thing to do.  I gave them two puzzles to solve to get in.  The first to determine how many times to knock to open the door.  The first had a horsehoe with words written into it: see The riddle that accompanied it was worded as follows:

To know how many times to knock
Look at the horseshoe from the top
Rearrange the words half and half
Three of them will show the path

The second to get out of the antechamber involved arranging eight queens on a chessboard so each was not able to take another.

The Solution
Again it was successfully negotiated, but only just in time as the walls that were closing in around them only had a few minutes to go before they were crushed.

The good thing about DnD is the collaborative nature of it.  Whereas war gaming is naturally competitive, DnD is social and for that reason can be a lot of fun.  There is a lot of talk about different versions of DnD which I simply don't get into - the fourth edition that we play might be a bit simplified but that really is exactly what we need.  A good break for any war-gaming group - expect updates as the adventure continues this year.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

X-Wing Preystalker mission thoughts

A few weeks back Matt, my regular X-Wing gamer, and I tried out our first X-Wing mission, Preystalker. This mission came with the Slave 1 and I thought it looked pretty cool. The basics, the imperials have a bounty on one of the rebel ships and they have to take it down. To make things more complicated the imperials only have 90 points to spend but the rebels 150, although the ship with the bounty costs double points! I will briefly go over our game and then some thoughts.

Set Up

As you can see the rebels have to set up backwards, a major disadvantage. The imperials can set up within range 1-3 and the rebels range 3 from their side of the table. Oh and did I mention the rebels also all have stress... Oh Dear.

I opted for Boba Fett, I mean how could you not use him in a bounty hunting scenario! I also added in a tie and an interceptor. Matt used a 4 X-Wing build, putting the bounty on Luke and using Bigs to defend him. When choosing the character with the bounty you have to double their ship points, but as a bonus they get 10 free points worth of upgrades.

The Game

The game was a swift victory for me, I think starting facing the wrong way can be pretty hard and needs some quick and cleaver manoeuvring while protecting the bounty.

Keeping Boba at Heavy Laser Cannon distance
Interceptor in some trouble
X-Wing down!

So I may not have got these photos in the right order. Also, I did some pretty bad manoeuvring this game, but managed to load the damage quickly onto Luke and took away the victory. 


We played another game after this which ended similar thought Matt lasted a bit longer. I don't think the sides were uneven just needed some pretty swish manoeuvring from the rebels to survive. However did I think it was a good mission? Not really. I thought it was still for both sides just a shoot out, pretty similar to the base game. I think the other missions may be better as they add new gaming mechanics and interesting objectives. With that in mind...

4.5 out of 10

Though it's advantage is it is quicker than a standard 100 point game. I am keen to try out some more missions however, but this one can collect dust. 

See more on X-Wing? Click here. More boardgame reviews? Click here. Photos taken with a Canon 600d.
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