Saturday, November 24, 2012

Opening Weekend

I guess I like doing things on an annual basis. Let's go down through the list in chronological order starting in January. Okay, never mind, we'll start in March I don't have anything for January or February. There is IndyCon, Softball (sorta), Geekway to the West, vacation with the Schwirtz's, GenCon, Labor Day Badminton, 13th Tribe Extravaganza, Opening Day Deer Season Camping Trip, Christmas Eve Shopping, and finally New Year's Eve Gaming with the Sheltons. That's a lot of annual events, this time around let's talk about opening day of deer season.

For the past 5 years, Dad and I have been going camping and hunting on opening day of deer season, and it has become something I look forward to more and more. It is a time that I know I'll look back on when I'm old (that'll be in about 5 months when I turn 30) and think of with a smile. Most years we've gotten something, at least a doe, but this year was the best time we've ever had.

A family friend who hasn't hunted very much, Greg, went with us this year. After setting out tree stands up, we went back to the camp site, cooked a potato and steak for each us, slathered them in butter (that's right both the steak and the potato), and ate out side like men. Later of course I had my chai tea and Nutella like an European or Indian man, the steak and potato was Mid-west man. During this time we saw, what we'd call redneck humor. A camper pulled up, some fellas got out and set their beer and other important things on the picnic table. They then opened the camper door, brought out a bunch of firewood (we though this odd as the back of the truck was empty) and then next started to roll a tire out. It went down one step, then the second step, and then hit the ground. You see where this is going, the tire just kept rolling, down the hill from the camper and the slightly over weight, cut off flannel shirt guy, trying to keep his pants up while chasing the tire yelling "Oh S&#!" and hoping to stop it before it went pummeling another campers site. It was a good laugh for us.

We then played  a couple games, which I've brought on this very trip before, in which Greg used his cunning to defeat us at Small World. Then he took a real liking to the bottle in Bottle Imp and was disposed of. It was getting late about this time, say 8:30 at least, so we turned in for the night. We woke up the next morning at 4:45AM and took off to kill some deer.

I was in my tree and ready to go at 6:46. About 7 o'clock I saw a silhouette on the top of the hill, heard the deer walking around a bit, but never saw him. I continued to wait patiently and about 8 o'clock, among the war sounds that is opening day on public ground, I once again saw a silhouette going the opposite direction at the top of the hill. I thought he had gone on by, but as luck would have it, he did an about face, stepped into my line of sight for a brief moment, and without hesitation I shot a 6-point buck at about 65-70 yards. I was excited! I waited 45 minutes or so, continuing to hear coming from the direction of Dad and Greg, and then texted them (yeah, we're high tech deer hunters) about 9 saying, I was going to get down and clean my buck. I looked up from texting and now see a doe, padding her way towards me, looking over her shoulder (on opening day the deer are a bit skittish and I don't blame them). She heard a shot, paused for about ten minutes behind some brush, I couldn't get a shot on her. Finally, she moved and I was able to take her as well at about 25 yards. Two deer in one day! Never thought I'd do that.

To make a long story shorter, Dad also got one that day, so we had 3 deer to check in and drop off at the meat locker. We were all so tired and worn out from dragging and driving, we decided to call it a successful weekend and packed up to hit the road home. So after 5 years, I'd say camping and hunting has become a great tradition with my Dad and I. Maybe it'll continue with myself and Kaylee or maybe the tradition then will be going to some American Girl doll convention. Whatever it is, family traditions whether during the holidays or just the regular days are good things.

The spoils. That's three deer you see there or as I like to think of it, that's some good eatin'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Every 100 Games Series - Star Wars: The Card Game

My 3,600th game played (okay, it was more like 3,603rd game, because Invasion was played a lot in there) was Star Wars: The Card Game. Being a huge Warhammer: Invasion fan, which is how I got the Star Wars game by attending the World Championships for Invasion, I'm glad this was the next game destined to be reviewed by me.

Like all FFG games, the components of the game are top notch. There are focused counters, shield counters, damage counters, and the cards themselves of course. Personally, at least compared to Netrunner and Invasion, I think the card design is sorta lack-luster and boring. The art is okay, but nothing amazing and the cards functionally do the job. I do wish they'd included some kind of force marker, rather than just have Vader and Luke cards for this, to indicate when a unit has the force. Nothing really to complain about here and with the FFG Star Wars sleeves, they'll look really cool.

Game Play
This is a Living Card Game, so each player will eventually have customized decks of cards that they use to compete against each other. The cards are made up of objectives, which have some text on them, a damage amount, and resources players can spend each turn to play cards from their hand. Cards also include the usual types of cards in these games of units (the fighters), support cards (I think you know what they do), and action cards (one time play cards).

On a players turn, they focus a resource such as on an objective, support card, maybe on a unit and use that resource to pay for a card to play from their hand. The focused card gets a token on it to show it can't be used again until that token is removed. Once all the cards are played that they want to play, the player can choose to attack one of their opponent's objectives, the opponent chooses who'd they like to defend with, then the edge battle happens. In this players play cards face down, add up their edge value, and see who wins the edge. According to who wins the edge, different card abilities trigger. Finally, one at a time, players focus their units, do some battling and try to destroy the objective they are attacking.

The Light side wins the game if they can destroy 3 objectives. The Dark side wins by getting their Death Star counter to 12, which is done by destroying objectives (the more you destroy the faster it moves to 12) and by having the game last longer since it advances by 1 every turn no matter what. I've of course, left quite a bit out, but that should give you a good overview of the game.

There is plenty of strategy in this. First, of course, from the deck building portion before you ever play. With the Core Set, you don't really have a lot of options but there will be plenty of expansions on the way. The neat part about the deck building rules is that you don't choose individual cards. Rather you choose an objective and 5 cards come with that objective. You are allowed to have 2 of the same objective in your deck and at least 10 total objectives.

Then in the game play itself there is plenty of strategy on when to defend, when not to, who to focus, how much of your resources to spend this turn, and general good decision making. That being said, if you get a good big card out early, it can be devastating to your opponent such as Yoda or a Destroyer. There is also quite a bit of strategy and bluffing when it comes to the edge battles, because those can really devastate your hand and make it difficult to defend if you lose.

My Thoughts
Okay, this is where I may get in a little trouble. I wasn't happy with the game. That being said, I don't think it is a bad game, it just isn't want I wanted out of a Star Wars LCG. Star Wars is a great theme and with card games like this, though theme isn't everything, I think it is more important than say in a Euro game. They really mess the theme up in my mind in two ways.

First, characters such as a rancor, or Ewok, or Luke can fight against ships. So I have a ship, flying around in space, and your rancor is going to destroy it? Umm....okay. In that case, I better watch out for those Ewoks, because we all know how good they are at throwing rocks into space! Second, the Force is given to up to three units that you control. I'm okay with that. The problem is, that you can give the Force to Luke (that makes sense), but you can also give it to an X-Wing (now that doesn't make sense). If X-Wings have the force, why didn't Luke's just pull itself out of that swamp anyways? Both of these things really disappointed me this game.

Also, I'm not so sure what I feel about the 3 different factions on each side. I think it would've been better served by just having the Empire and Alliance or just the Dark/Light side and leaving it at that. In the end, Star Wars feels shoved on to this card game, rather than a card game designed around Star Wars.

A say all that though, obviously not extremely keen on the game, knowing full well that this game will do really well because of the Star Wars license. That is and has been the biggest temptation for me to get into the game, because when it comes down to it, what makes these LCGs fun for me is the competition and Star Wars is going to draw way more players than Invasion, Netrunner, Cthulhu, and probably A Game of Thrones.

My Recommendations
Potential Living Card Game Player - I'd recommend any LCG before a CCG, so there is that. This is coming from a Warhammer: Invasion fan, so I'm of course going to recommend it first, because I think it's mechanics are the easiest to pick up. After that, I'd probably recommend Netrunner, because of the way the theme integrates with the game play and also because of the uniqueness of it. Finally, I'd recommend Star Wars. If you are a huge Star Wars fan, then perhaps it'd be above Netrunner. I'm not even considering Lord of the Rings Card game here, because it is co-op and it has been so long since I've played my 1 game of A Game of Thrones that I can't say where it would be.

Star Wars Fans - It doesn't matter what I recommend here, because lets be honest, you are Star Wars fans and will buy it anyways. I hope when you do, you aren't disappointed and enjoy it, perhaps just having a Star Wars card game that is absolutely trash will be good enough for you all. I'm wondering though, if the above theme disconnect bothered me, who isn't a very huge Star Wars fan (it's LotR for me all the way!), then will it bother those uber-fans of the movies?

Dads with Boys 12+ Years Old - You might want to look into at least the base set for them. The game itself is more difficult than say Dominion, but it isn't completely out of this world difficult either. So if you boys (or girls) are all about the Star Wars legos, movies, and books, this might be a good option for you to connect with them in a way that you get some gaming and they get some of that Star Wars fix.

Myself: Keep this on your radar, because you know Invasion will likely not last forever, but be glad you sold your copy on eBay for now. If Invasion ever goes away, then consider this and the probable player base before getting into another LCG. These aren't the cards you are looking for...(I'm sorry, I couldn't resist).

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

FFG World Championship

Last weekend, I drove a total of 1500 miles to go to the Fantasy Flight Games World Championships. I got a free pass for the weekend, since I won the North American Championship for Warhammer: Invasion. That combined with them interviewing me and even inducting me into their Hall of Heroes (Yeah, a boxing pose, they edited down the picture I sent). This of course stroked my ego enough to drive all that way to attempt to become world champion.

Part of the deal for driving that far, was to drop Krista and the girls off in Wisconsin to see her parents, which added an hour or two each way, but was well worth it for the girls to see Nana and Papa. Once I dropped them off and caught some sleep, Friday morning I drove the rest of the way and got to Roseville, MN in the afternoon. I grabbed a sandwich at Quizno's (shout out to Tom who was awesome there) and then went over to FFG's Event Center to learn Netrunner, another card game I wanted to play in the Worlds, since I'd drove all that way. Problem is I barely knew the game and had to borrow decks from a friend. After a quick refresher the tourney started and they stuck me at the feature table with Nick. Nick was a great guy, we had a good time, and the *TV crowd (that's right, I was on TV!) even caught us making a mistake in the game play. Nick got the victory that round, but as the day progressed I got a little better and ended up finishing 15th overall, which wasn't bad for my 12 games of Netrunner.
The Feature Table
Saturday morning, after some eggs at the Remigers, I drove and met Sarah and Ryan for some Starbucks. It'd been at least a couple years since we've seen each other and it was great to catch up and meet their awesome boy Zeke. Now with my chai tea drank, my friends hugged, it was time to get down to business for the feature of the weekend - Invasion!

Zeke and I
I played several warm up games with Brian (a guy who I met online before the weekend) as he tried to get caught up on Invasion, similar to how he caught me up on Netrunner the day before. It was great fun meeting him and playing cards over the weekend. Of course, I also played some against Steve from Louisville and his crew, while Leon and I discussed the merits of Blue and Pink Horrors (that's geekspeak for...well...nevermind). Then around 4pm the tourney began for real.

One side of the Event Center
The other side of the Event Center
I got a bye, along with all the other regional and national champions, played Brian some more since he was using my High Elf deck, and then finally got to play my first round. I played Rick, who was from right there in MN and sneaked a victory against him, making me 2-0. Next up was Christian, a German card player, who from talking to him has been to the US several times thanks to various card games and tournaments he as one. He played excellent, defeated me soundly, and moved into the Top 4. Next up was Brian, a guy I'd met at GenCon and who'd been really welcoming me to in Minnesota as he is a native Roseville player. We were both playing similar decks and this was by far the most fun round for me, as it was played as Invasion should be played, smash mouth and lots of attacking. I was able to get the win against him, which propelled me in the Top 4! I'd lose in the semi-finals to the eventual tournament champion and called it a night.

For making the top 4, I got an uncut sheet of cards (cheap guy that I am, I cut it up to use the cards), and some cool plastic capital boards. The next morning, I had some great breakfast with my cousin, met his girlfriend, and said goodbye to them and my aunt and uncle and hit the road for Wisconsin and then Indiana. It was quite a trip, had a really fun time seeing family and friends, and making some new friends while competing in a game I've really come to enjoy!
Capital Boards for Invasion
*By TV, I mean which apparently has a bunch of stuff that nobody watches on it, but it is TV, it is live, and I was on it.