17
Apr 18

Winter Of The World

Over on my personal blog I re-read and then wrote a review of each book in the Winter of the World series.

It’s a 6 book series by Michael Scott Rohan which varies in quality and how they connect to each other. I’d recommend giving the first one a go anyway and decide what to read after that.

As well as being an Ice-Age era fantasy series there is also a Tabletop RPG and Map available. I’ll probably pick these up for the short stories and fluff included if nothing else.


16
Apr 18

Meeple Like Us

A while ago I found the Meeple Like Us site. I think it was also how I found CVSimulator which is a great colour blindness simulator.

It’s run by a bunch of academics and they review board games, both for the game along and then a secondary review for accessibility.

Obviously the Colour Blindness and Visual Accessibility are the most interesting to me as they directly impact me, but I always pay attention to the others too.

Well they recently launched a WordPress plugin to pull data from BoardGameGeek and their reviews.

I’ve went back and added to some of the articles here including the review of Lords of Waterdeep and intend to include in articles from now on. Need to also go over posts on personal blog to include data.

As an example of their work, here is the review of Century: Spice Road and the accessibility teardown of it.

Here’s the plugin data to show the kind of info you can get from it. If you use WordPress to write about board games I would encourage you to give the plugin a try.

Game Details
NameCentury: Spice Road (2017)
Accessibility ReportMeeple Like Us
ComplexityMedium Light [1.77]
BGG Rank [User Rating]205 [7.46]
Player Count2-5
Designer(s)Emerson Matsuuchi
Artists(s)David Richards and Fernanda Suárez
Publisher(s)Plan B Games, ABACUSSPIELE, Arclight, Asmodee, Bergsala Enigma, Broadway Toys LTD, Cube Factory of Ideas, Devir, Edinorog, Esdevium, Mandoo Games, Ninive Games and Piatnik
Mechanism(s)Card Drafting, Deck / Pool Building, Hand Management and Set Collection

Century: Spice Road, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
Colour BlindnessD
Visual AccessibilityC
Fluid IntelligenceB
Memory AccessibilityC
Physical AccessibilityB-
Emotional AccessibilityB
Socioeconomic AccessibilityB
CommunicationD


04
Mar 18

Necromunda Is Back

Back in June I discussed how much I was wanting Necromunda to return, and had been disappointed that ShadowWar: Armageddon had come out in it’s place.

I was then pretty surprised and delighted to see Necromunda being announced a couple of months later. Having spent months reading all the hype, the brand new shiny has arrived in my living room.

Step 1: Get some terrain

Knowing it would be 2D I ordered some awesome terrain from Wargames Tournaments. This took a wee while to arrive and several nights to de-sprue and clean up. Then more to partially assemble. I still haven’t got any of it painted yet either but it’s a start.

Step 2: Intro to 40K

Knowing that the rules would be similar to 40K I had some introduction games to 40K of around 1000 points. Having Space Hulk, and a pile of models around meant Genestealer Cults were the easiest. Given they were likely to show up in 40K (and now have) and are the only faction I was ever interested in (alongside Tyranids) in 40K made it an easy choice.

Step 3: Review old collection

My older collection consisted of 2 boxes of the core, with one not being complete, and a bunch of models. I checked and it was 32 Orlock, 42 Goliath, 9 Delaque, 5 Pit Slaves and some randoms. These can probably be used as Juves or hired guns in the new one. Looking over the cardboard terrain, as much as people have nostalgia for it, it hasn’t aged well.

Step 4: Get Necromunda

A combination of fear of missing out and knowledge that I spent years scouring eBay and the like to pick up the old Necromunda stuff I have convinced me to attempt to pick up the collection of stuff as it came out. I’m not fussed by the dice (yet) but planned to get 2 boxes of each gang, so it made sense to get two core boxes. This also meant a spare rulebook and enough tiles for 4 foot by 4 foot if that version proves to be fun.

So right now we are planning our gangs for a campaign to start soon, and are hyped now that we have 4 fuller options.

So far all we’ve arranged is a couple of games of Underhive to get a feel for the rules. The game was a lot more fun than I’d expected. And the combat shotgun proved to be utterly broken and overpowered.

There are some downsides to all this though, and it feels wrong to not include them.

The release-model is pretty bad. As great as it is to have the game return for the third time and Specialist Games have a bit of support, it all seems like 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

Looking back at the original box you had 2 books of 84 and 80 pages. So far with the new release we have Core Box (which you must have) and Gang War 1 and Gang War 2. These are 104, 64 and 48 pages. Between them they not only came out separately, with Gang War being needed for 3D combat, the two Gang War Books cost £17.50 each, and still don’t cover all the content in the original two books. The original release books covered all 6 core gangs as the most obvious difference. And sure, with Underhive/GangWar they released a Legacy Gang stop-gap sheet, this only covered a small amount of options, with people crying a lot about the lack of chainswords being one stand-out.

The lack of a proof-reader/editor shows too with the layouts being awful, no index and having to look in multiple places for inconsistent info. The layout of original had a weapon, with sometimes a picture next to it, its stat line and then another section with the Trading Post.

I’m not really familiar with the 40K world so it’s bad enough that each faction has it’s own style of each weapon, making it harder to remember which is which, but if you want to know what an Autopistol is:

In Core Book
Page 68 – shows a picture of the Escher version of Autopistol.
Page 69 – gives its statistics
Page 78 – the special rules for what Pistol and Rapid Fire mean
Page 88 – the cost for an Escher to buy one

In Gang War 1 book:
Page 30 – the cost for gangs to buy one, mentions it’s rarity
Page 32 – the stats for the autopistol

In Gang War 2 book:
Page 11 – the cost for an Orlock to buy one
Page 30 – the stats for the autopistol which have changed

So if you have to scan through this number of sections of these number of books to find inconsistent info, which do you use? If you play someone who has an older book and not the new one you will have inconsistent statistics. It might be ok if the later book acknowledged the changes and they released a FAQ/Errata for the older books changing it. But they haven’t. The books themselves aren’t the best to read either, they have insisted on using some horrible background for the text which gives it poor contrast and makes it hard to read in imperfect lighting conditions. And yes the original used black text on a white background. Quite frankly it’s not good enough.

Sewage Grown Quorn Diet. The super-food for Vegan Underhivers

And sure you can argue that Specialist Games are a small division of a small gaming company up against deadlines etc etc. Except Games Workshop have been being lauded in the press for their massive growth and huge profits. So could all these downsides be forgiven for a small company doing their first release? Yes of course. And there are workarounds to fix these things too. But for a large company releasing it for the third time? Totally unacceptable. The lack of official PDF versions where they could roll out updates and corrections is also a good reason to download the unofficial compendium which collates the info from these 3 books, and the White Dwarf
issues. Is it breaching copyright? Sure. Is it working around problems with a >30p/page book readable? Yes. If GW won’t step up and fix these problems with a game you have to spend over £100 on, minimum, to play in 3D as well as buying a host of terrain, then someone else will.

It does look though like there’s at least a years worth of stuff to come. The 3 remaining core gangs, Chaos Cultists and presumably Outlanders. I would expect a bunch more bounty hunters/hangers-on as well as the guilders and future campaign stuff about Ash Wastes and Hive Secondus, probably with a more detailed Genestealer Cult release rather than a few pages in White Dwarf. And of course the greatly anticipated Squat bounty hunter.

Luckily Necromunda survived for years after Games Workshop abandoned it before so if they do that again, the community at Yaktribe and similar will step up again and create a new Community Rules Edition to continue it.

Game Details
NameNecromunda: Underhive (2017)
BGG Rank [User Rating]3780 [8.02]
Player Count2-4
Designer(s)Andy Hoare
Artists(s)Uncredited
Mechanism(s)Action Point Allowance System, Dice Rolling, Modular Board and Variable Player Powers

Edit: And less than 24hours after publishing this post Games Workshop published the FAQ for Necromunda. See the power of this site and it’s huge readership?


19
Jun 17

Warhammer Quest and Age of Sigmar Skirmish

I’ve previously written about how our nerdy gaming group first got introduced to Hero Quest first via the Speccy game, then later the board game.

One of the things that we didn’t really realise at the time was that it was jointly released by MB and Games Workshop. We knew who MB was, but no idea who these Games Workshop fowk were. Later on through seeing someones White Dwarf magazine, I found out they made other games you could get through mail order, and it had cool reviews of RPGs etc. I first saw White Dwarf when it was a hobby magazine covering all kinds of nerdy stuff. Yes I’m old.

Later in around 1995 or thereabouts I discovered a Games Workshop in Dundee City Centre, opposite the Burns & Harris shop where I occasionally nipped in to look at the model aeroplanes. When looking around I saw they had a game that looked like Hero QuestWarhammer Quest but it was in the range of about £50! That’s close to £90 in 2017, which to a young teenager was crazy money. We asked if they had any old Hero Quest stuff in the back and they said no. Wandering round, Necromunda was the other game that looked cool to me. Punk guys raking in skips for gear and getting injured after missions. You were basically playing at Mad Max.

Later as well as expanding my Hero Quest collection I picked up some Necromunda and other random bits including the re-released Space Hulk. We had always been put off expanding the creatures for Hero Quest by the expensive price for a bunch of mono-pose dudes for the fantasy setting.

In 2015-2016 I had heard ever more frequent rumours of a reprint of Warhammer Quest. Eventually Warhammer Quest Silver Tower came out in 2016. I bought it immediately. Building the figures was a bit more difficult than the snap-fit Space Hulk stuff but the figures seemed a bit more posable. I managed to get a game in and it was great, but then couldn’t sort a regular group to play it.

Soon Colin and I started playing and before we had completed we found out about Shadows Over Hammerhal coming out soon. Gah we weren’t even done with this one yet.

Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower

Game Details
NameWarhammer Quest: Silver Tower (2016)
BGG Rank [User Rating]1393 [7.59]
Player Count (recommended)2-4 (1-4)
Designer(s)James M. Hewitt
Artists(s)Uncredited
Mechanism(s)Cooperative Play, Dice Rolling, Modular Board, Role Playing, Storytelling and Variable Player Powers

Silver Tower was great fun, some nonsense aside and we enjoyed the campaign a lot.

Things I liked:

  • The figures are cool, especially the Chaos characters.
  • Choices when it comes to levelling or searching for treasure.
  • Some parts could be brutal – we got killed on one level, and on the final level found 4 boss level monsters within the first 3 rooms, which was, erm, challenging. It also felt fitting for it to be the final mission.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Sigmar. The setting is pretty crap compared to the old world, maybe it’s because I grew up on Hero Quest, but the loss of the silly comedy feel and classic fantasy type setting to be replaced by this bright colourful mess wasn’t as immersive. Sigmarines typify this. Fantasy shouldn’t have C3P0s running around.
  • Riddle we couldn’t solve. I don’t mind riddles, especially ones which seem solvable within the context of the game. But one riddle was reliant on you knowing a bit of Warhammer lore. I checked later and the relevant word was mentioned in one place in the book, and the link with the riddle question was in the fluff of one of the things that can come up on a random roll – which hadn’t done for us.
  • Disappointed to have no orcs or other fantasy trope enemies.

Hero Expansions and Games Workshop

I had also bought the hero expansions so had some new characters. In doing so I realised that Elfs and Dwarfs had went the way of the old world. Games Workshop have decided to rename a bunch of stuff for copyright reasons. Like Tolkien when his estate decided they owned hobbit and everyone else could use halfling thank you very much (even though it’s an older word).

Games Workshop were happy to jump on the existing ideas of fantasy worlds to build up their setting, but once they had done so they have decided to ditch Elfs, Dwarfs, Orcs, Goblins, Lizardmen, Treefolk, Ogres, Trolls etc. GW have decided that now it’s Aelfs, Duardin, Orruks, Grots, Seraphon, Sylvaneth, Gutbusters and Troggoth.

I don’t even understand this level of stupidity. Like as a kid I saw the cover of Hero Quest and saw Barbarians, Dwarfs, Elfs, Orcs etc. you cut yourself off entirely from existing fantasy tropes.

But that seems to be the whole point. I remember going into a GW store and thinking I’d walked into some LARP of the childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Worst sales technique until mobile phone shops came along. There was this incessant use of the term the hobby to describe Games Workshop games. Not a hobby. The hobby. White Dwarf had morphed into a sales catalogue for their games only, which you buy, and they decided that their games are the hobby, not one hobby among many or one type of hobby game.

I believe they have now relaxed their rules about playing figures with non-GW parts in their shops and tournaments but I know they used to clamp down on that too. Of course, they won’t attribute any of this stuff at all as to why large numbers of stores have closed or turned into actual 1-man (and it’s pretty much always a man) shops. So yeah you can see there’s been some barriers in the past and currently to be playing these games. It’s fair to say I play the games in this article in spite of GW, not because of them.

Warhammer Quest: Shadows Over Hammerhal

Game Details
NameWarhammer Quest: Shadows Over Hammerhal (2017)
BGG Rank [User Rating]4185 [7.99]
Player Count2-5
Designer(s)Uncredited
Artists(s)Uncredited
Mechanism(s)Dice Rolling, Grid Movement, Modular Board, Partnerships and Role Playing

Hammerhal arrived, and I built all the bits up, but we haven’t had a chance to play it yet. Some of the figures are duplicated, others were new. I’ve been disappointed that again all the enemies are Chaos, with no Orcs, sorry, Orruks. The destiny board has become flimsy. The thing that stood out though was the use of monocoloured dice and a different variety of colours for the destiny markers. In Silver Tower I found it really useful to know the colours of my marker and then dice. In this one, well the photo here probably shows a good approximation of what I see in the bottom left image. The roleplaying aspect and between mission stuff looks great though and I am looking forward to playing it.

Around the time Hammarhal came out there were rumours that Necromunda was getting a re-release. Given the re-release of Space Hulk and Warhammer Quest this piqued my interest. Later, the name Shadow War Armaggedon leaked out and then it was previewed. Space Marines vs Orks. Eh? But Necromunda is gangs in sewers fighting over scrap. Puny humans in vests holding a gun, not 8 foot tall acid spitting Nazis.

Guys in Mohawks finding guns in bins

Well that was me pretty damn disappointed. The pre-orders sold out and even though my local games shop had 1 remaining I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Even the paint jobs of the scenery were off-putting. The future promise of Forge World releasing proper gangs doesn’t entice me. Forge World are an off-shoot who make small batch stuff so it’s even more expensive than normal Games Workshop stuff.

Skirmish

Having been let down by Necromunda not being re-released, I saw there was another small scale skirmish game coming out – Skirmish. Set in Age of Sigmar, but more importantly costing only £6 for the rules. For Games Workshop that is pretty accessible – White Dwarf costs £5.99. Looking into it it seemed I’d be able to play with the figures I already had and the book. The Age of Sigmar rules were free online. So I picked it up when it came out.

The AoS rules were 4 pages. The FAQ for them was 7 pages! You are to read those first then the Skirmish rules. These are 2 pages of rules, 2 pages of campaign rules, and er, that’s it. There’s a list of point cost for your army, and then those types of figures have a small sheet with rules on what they can do. Really really simple. Perfect for a quick try anyway.

First go

We set up for a first game, my Chaos against Orcs. We started at around 28 points. We got a few rules wrong but generally figured out some of the basics.

Then I played against Order and got killed. The leader of the Sigmarites had an ability that said At start of your turn deal 1 damage to a Chaos character within 12″. My army consisted of wee guys we decided to name squishys who could move 6″, then attempt to charge, and had no save. So he was able to just pop the heads off my guys trying to run at him. This seemed slightly strong. I was enjoying it and figured I’d play more than once, so splashed out on the Khorne Bloodbound big box. This gave a better variety of models. I had worked out that I probably had enough points of chaos to make it through the 6 missions of a campaign but almost all were heros, a different faction or just the 1point squishy dudes.

First Skirmish battle

Learning from someone who knows the game

Later when talking about how we’d enjoyed it we were told by someone who knows AoS that we had some rules incorrect. He agreed to have a game of Skirmish so we could learn the rules. Picking a band at 50pts so we’d get some different abilities we had a quick battle and I got to know a bunch of rules we’d skipped over. I don’t mind learning games like this. Jumping in and learning every single rule can be off-putting, so learning stuff and gradually building on it is fine. It does mean I still don’t know what to do against spellcasters though as that hasn’t happened yet.

First go at the campaign

I then arranged to run through the campaign with Colin2. We started at 25 points as the book advises, although some people online thought 45 might be better. We left the scenery as it was and just rearranged for the final match where we could recreate the described scenario with a fenced off area.

I started with a Slaughterpriest named Khornebyn (leading Khornebyns Coalition of Chaos, for politics lols). He took up 20points and was joined by a Blood Warrior (4pt) and a Bloodreaver (1pt squishy). Colin2 started with a Slaughterpriest with Hackblade and Wrath-hammer called Bolvin and some dorks too. Over the course of the game he took the strategy of buying lots of little dudes whilst I focused on sinking renown into big single units, dunno if that affected outcome or not.

We set up the board which consists of the Sigmarite Mausoleum on the Necropolis Battle Mat and decide to just reroll the mysterious terrain rule for each item each game – Cursed, Arcane, Embolding, Crumbling, Enchanted or Foreboding.

Wargamer space is a running joke, so we go for the full space for 12 playing card games

1. Clash At Dawn

This mission has us set up in random quarters of the board. I think we were basically in one half, at different sides. we just ran at each other for a rammy and I managed to win due to lucky dice rolls. This meant I got 10 renown to Colin2’s 6. I had started with the Crusader Command Ability and the Helm of Authority Artefact (which let’s you pick a Command Ability). I randomly rolled on the spoils and earned another Command Ability. Oh well. I then used my renown to buy a Mighty Skullcrusher. This is a guy riding on a giant demon cavalry thing. I won’t describe using the terrible GW fluff-speak which is alliterative adjectives and heavy thesaurus use. There does seem to be a template of phrases which annoyed me during Silver Tower which thankfully has been avoided as far as I can see. So far 1-0 me. Yay. The way the campaign works though is you can be 5-0 and if you lose the last mission you lose overall. Winning the missions just gives you a higher renown count to improve your squad.

2. Treasure Hunt

Starting at opposite corners we were to find and hold some treasure. I went first and raced my Skullcrusher to the middle and split my dorks between the other 2 closest. By round 2 I had found 2 hoards whilst Bolvin had only found 1. Ha. Time to start chopping boys. After a round or 2 of combat we have a squad of 3 of my dorks in the middle with a dead Skullcrusher and poor Khornebyn. Bolvin is all who remains for Colin2. I could make my guys retreat to a horde with 1 round left and earn a draw, or team up on Bolvin. As the great Bob Maher would say Greatness, at any cost. I surprise Colin2 by charging my squad of 3 at his lonesome dude with a couple of health left. I hit him once dealing another damage. Ha. he swings back. With his guy who does 3 + D3 attacks. So 6 attacks split against my 3 guys then. Oops. The suicide run ends the round quicker than expected and Colin2 gets the score back to 1-1. We are now tied on around 42 renown. I buy another Blood Warrior and yet again roll a Command Ability on my prize list. That’s 3 and the ability to choose one, whilst Colin2 has 2 artefacts.

3. Fragile Cargo

This mission has Colin2 trying to move his squad from the central column of the map off my side of the table. He yet again investiged in a pile of squishys, and at this point has about 12 models to my 6 or something silly. I send the Skullcrusher in the middle of his team and take out about 3 of them. That almost evens things out. We then knock the shit out of each other until I manage to kill his leader. Bolvin has 8 bravery which means if 2 of your team die, no one else cowardly runs away. Once he dies though the squad bravery drops to 5. Kill one and roll a 5 for battleshock and 1 guy flees. I immediately look at his squishy guys and send in the team. A crude victory earns me another Command Ability and enough renown to buy a second Skullcrusher. 2-1.

4. Vortex of Power

Khornebyn is stuck in the centre of the map and we each have a half of the table. This isn’t good for my hero ability. This lets you find a character within a certain distance, and if you pass a roll, roll to do damage. Colin2 has the same leader, so he has the same ability. I try to send the Skullcrushers round to flank, but rubbish rolls and terrain I have to avoid means they are bogged down by Colin2s left hand side. He sends his army of dorks to beat up my smaller army of dorks. During this Bolvin managed to kill some dorks reducing his roll needed to hit my leader who was stuck to the spot. Taking 2 turns in a row like a Cheaty McCheaterson didn’t help (me). He now has to roll a 2 to boil Khornebyns brain. He gets a 4. Now a D6 for damage. 5. Brilliant. I need to roll a 5 or 6 to save. 1. Obviously. 5 damage to my boss with 6 health. He then pops his head a turn later before I take Bolvin out. I then wiped out his team. Phew. The first sentence of mission is If one player wipes out opponent…win a major victory. Bizarre template then overrides this with the last sentence which says if my leader is dead but I wipe out Colin2s team then it’s a draw. The programmer in me is annoyed at the blatant disregard for how if statements work but accept it nonetheless. It’s 2-1-1 and we have 2 missions left. I suit up another couple of blood warriors and now we mean business.

5. Assassinate

I have my army in the centre of the map and Colin2 lines his up around the edge on all sides. He has to come in and kill my leader. Colin2 has been raiding my model collection now to make up points and has a Wrathmonger. These attack 5 times and when you kill them they take over the model who killed them and have a shot fighting. Hmm. He places that to my West, a squad on the East and Bolvin and a group of BloodWarriors to the North.

I go first and send a Skullcrusher East and one West. A strategy he didn’t expect. Given the large movement I make it to the east but fail to the west. Landing in amongst a group of guys I kill 3 and then we fight later. The result of round one is his East flank breaks and flees. I split my party but took out over a third of my opponents with 1 model. Seems legit. I bog down the enemy to the north and run the Skullcrusher into them later after taking out the Wrathmonger. Total Party Kill. Major victory, celebration and all that. Colin rolls on the rewards table, gets 12 and earns an extra 6 renown. We are going into the final mission with me having won 3, Colin winning 1 and 1 draw, and I have an army of less points than my opponent. I’m not sure that’s how it’s meant to work but two armies of Chaos can’t complain about stuff ending up weird.

6. Seize the Relic

Having left the scenery in pretty much the same place we rearranged to match the final battle plan and prepare for battle. Due to Colin2s large squad after I recruited a third Skullcrusher we know I will be going first. The map has us racing to the top corner from 2 sides through a wall with only 1 entrance for each of us. Every round a storm gets closer to that corner dealing damage to models it reaches.

Setting up for the final battle

I decide that I’m gonna race a Skullcrusher to try and block his entrance. He has lots of dudes who move 5″, whilst Skullcrushers are 8″ and most of my guys are 6″ range. I also have less guys to get through the narrow doorway. I get so far, and then Colin2 wins the diceroll to go first in round 2. Disaster. He gets a pile of them through the door before my partycrasher can arrive. I manage to bog down some of his team and then try to flank them inside the sanctuary and blocking access to the objective. Having achieved this there are 2 routes to victory. 1. Hang on another 2 rounds and have more models near the objective – when he has more models. 2. Try to slaughter them all.

Blood for the Blood God

Being the motto of the army we are both playing I have no choice.

Skullcrushers attacking for 5-6 attacks plus anything you run into is good against an army of squishy dudes.

Victory is mine. The whole thing took around 4 hours and was great fun. We started at 25points and finished on around 70 going into last mission, so starting at 45-50 would end in around the 100 range which would be cool too. It was interesting to see 2 similar armies with different strategies. I’m not sure if my victory was down to Colin2 going easy on me, differing strategies, my superior strategies or just plain beginners luck (spoiler: it was totally beginners luck).

I have tended to avoid games based on dice rolls because of my notoriously bad luck at them but it kind of evened out here. Shocked myself by rolling 5 dice needing 4s, and getting a 4, a 5 and 3 6s. That’s better luck than I’d normally expect over the course of a day. All those sad 1s though. Bad dice.


29
Mar 17

Amonkhet Masterpieces – Abomination Series

In 2 of the last 3 Magic: The Gathering blocks they have included ultra super mega rare cards called Masterpieces. These were of a different theme and style each time. Zendikar had Expeditions. Kaladesh had Inventions. The intention is to do this kind of thing in all Standard sets.

After seeing the new ones for Amonkhet I immediately thought they were horrible.

I’ll make the assumption that you are familiar with normal magic cards, so here are the problems that stand out in order of importance for me:

Font used for the name of the card and typeline

Without knowing the name of this card would you be able to read that and tell it correctly immediately.

If you can, do you think everyone can? Including those with visual problems? There is someone who regularly comes to pre-releases at my store who has to pick up new cards and move them right up to their nose to read them.

What about people in other countries? These are all going to be in English. For someone who doesn’t speak English, or a latin character based language how easy would it be to read what those characters are?

What about a new player who is not familiar with what one of them does? The rationale of Russian foils and Elesh Norn phyrexian language cards being the same falls apart when you realise a new player at their first pre-release won’t open one of them or face it across the table.

Extra characters on the type line

The problem of the font being hard to read is made worse by it being padded by similar characters to either side.

Colour identity of card

It took seeing a number of these cards before I could tell what the colour identity was. Normally the frame shows that, including for multicolour cards.

The other clue of the casting cost is also gone. You don’t realise how much you subconsciously used the colour of the casting cost as well as the symbol before it was removed.

Artwork size

There is a comparison image I found, with unattributed source unfortunately. this shows various printings of Wrath of God. This shows the art to be about 10% smaller. You can also see gradual changes to the style of cards over the years as well as a full art textless one.

Orientalism

Whilst it is great to use sets based on real cultures there is a feint whiff of Orientalism to the whole thing. This may be unfounded so I won’t expand.

Border Colour

There are rules about the border colour of cards being used in tournaments (I’ll leave aside my support for more gold and silver bordered sets). I didn’t initially realise these count as black bordered. Mainly because the border is a mess.

There are some good things about the design though:

It’s good to try out new ideas. One response I saw repeated though was that this was trying too many things all at once. There were mock ups where the font on the name and type line were left using the normal font and they look a lot better and probably wouldn’t have resulted in the same volume of negative reactions. One repeated image on twitter was the car designed by Homer Simpson where he changed practically everything to suit himself and it resulted in a complete mess.

The art is amazing. It’s just a shame it’s reduced in size.

The theme is spot on. Leaving aside my worry about it veering into Orientalism, for a set which is inspired by Egyptian mythology it’s bang on for style.

Centring text looks pretty good. Some of the mock ups of improving text showed the text still centred and it looks cool.

Overall I’m pretty disappointed with these. Masterpieces in the sets they have been included with have been seen as lottery tickets. Ultra rare cards which probably have a high demand and you can throw in a commander deck. These would stand out from every other cards in lot’s of negative ways.

Mostly though, I’m disappointed that the accessibility issues of these cards hasn’t been considered a high enough priority to put a halt to them at some point in the design process. The worst part of this being that even if these are only printed in this and the next set then they will be around forever. They can also be encountered in multiple versions of the game – Modern, Legacy, Commander so we will face seeing them across table and not being able to read them, or recognise them (based on new art) for the foreseeable future.


01
Jun 16

Magic yearly goals 2015-2016

At the start of the 2015/2016 Magic season I set a bunch of goals for the year. I did a pretty meh job overall.

Goals for 2015/2016:

Grand Prix: attend at least 2, have positive record

August: 1 (London: 5-4-0)
May: 0 (Manchester).

Unfortunately I had to pull out of Manchester due to illness, which also impacted points and ranking etc. Being ill for 2 weeks meant I couldn’t attend the other events either. I was pretty gutted I couldn’t make it along to the second GP as it was all paid for and booked in advance.

World Magic Cup Qualifier: attend all three, positive record in all, top 8 in one

Attended all three, not positive records in all, no top 8s.

Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier: top 8 at least once per season, win once

Season 1: 2 top 4
June: 1 top 4
July: 1 top 4
August: 0

Season 2: 1 top 8
September: 1 top 8
October: 0
November: 0

Season 3 was then delayed until after Christmas as they readjust schedule.

Season 3: 1 top 4
January: 0 (only 2 events, season started final weekend)
February: 0
March: 0
April: 1 top 4.

Season 4: 0 top 8
May: 0

So over the year I top 8’d 4 times, not getting to any finals or obviously winning any. I spent at least 6 months of the year with next to zero interest in Standard so having the vast majority of events be Standard reduced my enthusiasm somewhat.

Regular constructed: win at least once per month

June: 1st in 2 Standard
July: 1st in 1 Modern
August: 1st in 3 Modern
September: 1st in 1 Draft
October: 1st in 1 Modern
November: 1st in 1 Standard
December: 2nd in legacy and 3rd in a Standard were closest I came.
January: 1st in a Sealed, 1st in a Standard
February: 3rd in 2 Modern
March: 1st in 3 Modern
April: 1st in 1 Modern
May: 0.

Only 2 months let me down. December where there were less local events because of Christmas etc and May where I was ill so had to take half the month off. Even once better I didn’t want to travel to other cities for PPTQs etc for a weekend and then missed the GP too. I think the highlight must be winning the Modern events with colourless goblins (eldrazi). To go from people pissed that I play Goblins or Lantern in modern cos they are shit to be pissed that I am playing Eldrazi cos it was OP was salt-tastic.

Yearly overall: Hit 2250 points again

187.5/Month is on track.

Month, Ranking in Scotland
June: 258 (+70.5) points = on track, yearly 4th
July: 431 (+56) points so far, yearly 5th
August: 1019 (+456.5) points so far, yearly 3rd
September: 1278 (+528) points so far, yearly 6th
October: 1558 (+620.5) points so far, yearly 5th
November: 1623 (+498) points so far, yearly 7th
December: 1653 (+340.5) points so far, yearly 6th
January: 1854 (+354) points so far, yearly 6th
February: 2003 (+315.5) points, yearly 6th
March: 2185 (+310) points, yearly 8th
April: 2403 (+340.5) points, yearly 7th
May: 2632 (+382) points, yearly 9th

So I hit it and had spent the bulk of the year on target. There was one hairy part where the PPTQs were delayed due to the season being adjusted. Finishing 9th was fine. Especially when some carpetbagger is down as Scottish to try and cheat his way to World Cup Team Captain spot.

Scotland Lifetime: Top 50

Highest reached, or standing at end of month, will drop down if other active players are attending more Grand Prixs than me etc.
June: 71
July: 70
August: 63
September: 59
October: 55
November: 54
December: 52
January: 50
February: 48
March: 44
April: 44
May: 43

Once I hit 52 I recognised all the other names around me, so they were definitely active players. The next player with a name I didn’t recognise was about 400 points ahead of me. I thought that I could probably reach 51st at best. I did then manage to get over 50, but some active players were going to Grand Prixs so I wasn’t sure I could sustain it. I did think that hitting 50 would be tight but I did manage it in the end.

Visit other Scottish games shops: Competitive Events at each store once

Venue: Earliest visit
Abbey Games, Arbroath: July
Black Lion, Edinburgh: August
Bus Stop, Largs: No
Common Ground, Stirling: June
Geek Retreat, Glasgow: June
Highlander, Dundee: June
Little Shop, Dunfermline: No
MinMax, Kirkaldy: No
Settlers, Hamilton: No
Spellbound Games, Glasgow: June

I Managed to get to most of the shops. Largs being on the other end of the country meant no on from the North East was ever travelling there. I think Dunfermline must have stopped doing events as I never saw any. A couple of other shops gained recognition to host events throughout the year and I managed to get to some. Settlers event clashed with something so I couldn’t go. Having read the mad ravings of the owner of MinMax I decided to not give that arsehole any money by going to his events.

Goals for 2016/2017

So let’s come up with a list for next year

  • Grand Prix: attend at least 2, have positive record
  • World Magic Cup Qualifier: attend all three, positive record in all, top 8 in one – I think top 8 is unlikely so that is definitely a stretch goal.
  • Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier: top 8 at least once per season, reach two finals – reduced from last year
  • Regular constructed: win at least once per month – reasonable given I attend 2.5 events per week – Legacy, Standard and Modern. Stretch would be 2 win once in each format over course of the year.
  • Yearly overall: Hit 2250 points again – benchmark has been set for 2 byes.
  • Scotland Lifetime: Top 30 – 2250 points would put me roughly 25 but there are at least 5 players between 44 and 25 who regularly attend events and finish in top 10 points in Scotland.

Not sure if I can commit to trying to travel so much over the next year which loses one goal from last year and probably harms chances to hit points/rank target.


24
May 16

A bunch of kickstarters

Having spent most of my non-Magic nerd time playing Vs and Game of Thrones, I haven’t managed to write anything about these yet. A chunk of other time has been spent on reading graphic novels, some reviews may follow soon.

The pile of unplayed games is still piling up faster than the JSitP crew can get through them and some kickstarters are adding to that.

Current:

Red Markets is one I just found yesterday and got pretty excited about it. A huge number of games have come out over the past few years which add a zombie skin to them. The reason for doing so appear to be the success of the Walking Dead more than any gameplay reason.

Red Markets is about trying to rebuild after the zombie apocalypse.

In Red Markets, characters risk their lives trading between the massive quarantine zones containing a zombie outbreak and the remains of civilization. They are Takers: mercenary entrepreneurs unwilling to accept their abandonment. Bound together into competing crews, each seeks to profit from mankind’s near-extinction before it claims them. They must hustle, scheme, and scam as hard as they fight if they hope to survive the competing factions and undead hordes the GM throws at them.

Society rebuilding after a disaster has always appealed to me more than the oh god what is this walker/shambler? especially in a universe of people ignorant of the zombie trope. Jericho was a great TV show for a reason.

There’s a facebook group for Red Markets here and an actual play podcast here.

Star Bastards: A Two-Fisted Sci-Fi Adventure Gamebook is a modern take on a choose your own adventure book. As well as the physical book you can get an e-book which has all the jump points linked etc. An interesting way to release a classic gaming tool. Can’t not back that.

Recently fulfilled

Scoville: Labs Expansion arrived but I’ve not had a chance to play it yet. I was initially excited by this game, but the promise of being colour-blind friendly did not deliver.

101.1 arrived and seemed really cool. An attempt to play it failed due to the poor lighting on the location we tried to play it though. Again colour-blindness due to the colour of the lettering on each side not having enough contrast to see which side was which.

As well as these, there have been a bunch of cool Humble Bundles for comics and through similar sites which have scratched the nerd itch lately. One by Image was insane. For $15 I got a massive pile of books, some of which I owned in physical copy anyway, but when you were paying about 10c per comic in the volumes you can’t complain.


05
Jun 15

Random Encounter on Kickstarter

Do you like games which make you giggle when you win?

Do you like games which make you giggle when you shoot yourself in the foot and lose?

Yes to both?

Time to pledge for Random Encounter on Kickstarter then!

It’s made by Joyride Games who kickstarted and then delivered Jackpot! which we blogged about previously.

Random Encounter

Random Encounter

I first saw this game when Jamie popped into the pub one Saturday afternoon with his new prototype. We quickly named it Battle for Beanville and told him to kickstart it. He refused the name (we only wanted 10% for suggesting it) and has spent the last few months refining it.

Those first few games though, firstly trying to win then just trying to manufacture all the types of interaction for silliness.

At the time of writing it’s at over 25% with 3 weeks to go so fingers crossed it makes it. With pledges starting it £9 including postage there’s no reason not to give it a punt if you are into card games.


01
Jun 15

A year of Magic

After starting playing Magic at the start of 2013, the last year has seen me improve a lot and play a lot more. I’ve tried to not let it overtake all my other nerdery (board games, computer games etc), but it does tend to dominate.

2014 saw me go to a number of events and for the next yearly period (Jun 02 2014-May 31 2015) I set myself some goals. Time to see how well I did.

Seasonal Score: 400

400 points per season was the marker to get 1 bye at a Grand Prix so I wanted to hit this each season. Wizards then decided to change the bye policy. So don’t know if I hit that or not. I’ll assume I did as my score for the year is more than 4 times that.

Yearly Score: 1300

After the bye scoring was changed I decided I would instead target 1300 points for the year to make sure I then got 1 bye all the next year. I actually hit 2250 so that reached the next target of 2 byes. So for the 2015/2016 season I will have 2 byes at every Grand Prix I attend.

Scottish Season 2014-2015 showing some local players too

Scottish Season 2014-2015 showing some local players too

Scotland Lifetime: Top 100

I ended up being 75th which was pretty cool. Seeing someone you know a few points ahead of you in the lifetime or yearly standings was a good motivation to keep going to events. I know for lots of people they never even look at these stats but I found it a good marker to keep track of progress.

Scottish Lifetime Rankings

Scottish Lifetime Rankings

Grand Prix: attend at least two

I ended up attending Utrecht and Liverpool. I did awful at them but that’s not the point :D. They were two different formats: Standard and Sealed.

Pro Tour Qualifier: Positive Record

4-3-0, 1-2-0, 4-3-0
Were an improvement on the previous years 4-4-0 and 2-4-0. I dropped in the second one as the World Cup Trials were happening for the World Cup Qualifier the next day – getting a bye in that seemed more important when my score meant I couldn’t top 8.

World Cup Qualifier: Attend all three

After attending only Dundee ones I wanted to travel to all three.
3-4-0, 3-4-0 and 3-4-1 would have probably been good for me at the start of the year.

When Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers were announced I decided I would try to:

Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers: Make 1 top 8 per season

I achieved this by losing a final with Red (splash white) Standard in Season 1 and losing a semi final with Goblins Modern in Season 2.

Leave Dundee for some events

The previous year I had only attended events in Dundee, and in Manchester whilst visiting for work. Over the last year I have attended 2 Grand Prixs as well as competitive events in Glasgow (Spellbound and Geek Retreat), Black Lion Edinburgh, Common Ground Stirling and Little Shop of Heroes Dunfermline.

Other changes over the year

I think the biggest downside of the year was the closure of Major Arcana. It left Highlander Games being the sole games shop in Dundee. The ownership of Highlander also changed.

Goals for next Year:

I swithered over whether to publish my goals for next year but sod it. I have set a pile of goals which try to improve on last year without needing me to dedicate the time that would make Wizard Poker take over even more of my spare time.

Grand Prix: attend at least 2, have positive record

London is one, any other UK ones (don’t think there are any) and then at least one in mainland Europe is the plan.

World Magic Cup Qualifier: attend all three, positive record in all, top 8 in one

This time last year I was barely using a proper deck, over the last year I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the meta game and trying to have a standard deck based around it. Instead of trading random bulk rares for more I’ve been trading into staples – for example getting a playset of all the fetchlands early on. Having hit top 8 at some competitive events but with a poor record (2/9?) I would hope to hit 1 out of 3 for these. This is a stretch goal and I doubt I’ll hit it.

Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier: top 8 at least once per season, win once

Having hit one top 8 per season I think I should try to sustain that, qualifying for one Regional Pro Tour Qualifier being a supplemental goal.

Regular constructed: win at least once per month

Over the last year I have improved a lot at constructed and now almost always have a positive record at the end of the night. I want to make sure this continues by winning at least one event per month.

Yearly overall: Hit 2250 points again

At the start of the last year I aimed to hit about 2/3rds of this. Hitting the same total again this year reduces need to go to Grand Prix Trials for the next year and helps give an incentive to go to more Grand Prixs.

Scotland Lifetime: Top 50

This year I hit 75, so lets see if I can hit number 50 this year. Over the last year I leapfrogged a few people I know don’t play very much any more so if the 25 players above me still play regularly this could be not possible. Right now I am at 3603 points. So if I meet the previous goal that would put me at 5853 points which would as of right now mean 38th so it seems a good midpoint to account for that.

Visit other Scottish games shops: Competitive Events at each store once

I haven’t attended competitive events at Bus Stop Largs, due to the pain in the arse travelling there from Dundee. At least two other shops in Scotland are trying to qualify to be able to host competitive events. So right now it’s Go to a PPTQ at Largs but that may change over the course of the year.

Goal Setting

Goals concept on blackboard

Goals concept on blackboard

So having made all these it should be obvious that they all feed into each other creating a feedback loop. If I don’t attend many events I won’t get the points total. Without the points total I won’t climb the Scottish Lifetime rankings. Doing less events means hitting targets for wins/top 8s becomes more difficult. I’ve tried to create a list of goals which all refer to each other. If I start slipping in one it leads to failing the others so creates motivation (for me) to keep on playing in the way I am and to improve. I also tried to make them all stretches but achievable if I just do a bit better than I did last year.

How do you set goals for competitive gaming? Do you aim for the same as last year? Do you just note landmarks along the way of improvement?

Lifetime Stats

Now after writing about the last year here’s my lifetime stats (via Xamleeg) so can you see on the scale of new player to great player I’m currently at middle of road player.

Overall record: 485 wins, 517 losses, 18 draws
Win percentage ignoring draws: 48%

So I’m still under 50% and playing catch up from when I first started.

Formats

I’ll take out the formats I’ve played 10 or less matches at.

Regular Constructed:

Standard: Overall record: 210-251-10, Wins: 46%

Still below positive although recently I have been having a positive record most nights so hopefully next year I’ll get above 50%.

Modern: Overall record: 85-82-1, Wins: 51%

So I have sneaked ahead into positive in Modern. Goblins OP

Block Constructed: Overall record: 12-20-1, Wins: 38%

Reflects how bad my deck was during Theros block. Looks unlikely to change as that format is kinda binned.

Limited Formats

Booster Draft: Overall record: 80-94-3, Wins: 46%

Still below positive in drafts.

Sealed: Overall record: 59-51-2, Wins: 54%

Above positive in Sealed. The format has always been my favourite limited format.

Trios – Limited: Overall record: 11-8-1, Wins: 58%

Positive here, although I seem to remember it mostly being down to my teammates in these matches.

Tournament type

Competitive events and their feeders

Magic Pro Tour Qualifier: Overall record: 15-16-0, Wins: 49%

This type of tournament has now been retired so looks like I will forever be negative here.

Magic Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier: Overall record: 39-27-3, Wins: 59%

Dragged up by two top 8 finishes.

World Magic Cup Qualifier Trials: Overall record: 4-3-0, Wins: 58%

Positive here although I can’t seem to remember doing well at them.

World Magic Cup Qualifier: Overall record: 11-15-1, Wins: 42%

Seems my bad first two tries in Dundee dragged me down a bit. Last year I went to all three which will have improved score somewhat.

Magic Grand Prix: Overall record: 9-13-0, Wins: 41%

Seems about right, I’ve sucked at every one I’ve attended.

Magic Grand Prix Trial: Overall record: 37-45-4, Wins: 45%

I’ve won one and lost a couple of finals so expected this to be higher, oh well.

Public Event at Grand Prix: Overall record: 15-11-0, Wins: 58%

Annoyingly a pile of public events at Grand Prixs went down as casual, like Chaos Drafts, so I never got the points boost from them.

Magic Prerelease: Overall record: 55-44-2, Wins: 56%

These tend to be sealed so that may help explain my positive record there.

Magic Game Day: Overall record: 15-21-1, Wins: 42%

The last year I have barely made any of these which hasn’t helped boost record up.

Friday Night Magic: Overall record: 51-37-2, Wins: 58%

A positive record here which is good.

Magic Tournament: Overall record: 215-275-5, Wins: 44%

The generic bucket for sanctioned events, not positive here yet.


09
Mar 15

A minor lesson for Magic sealed pools

I’m just back from a fun trip to Grand Prix Liverpool for Magic the Gathering.

A good weekend, some fun games and of course the main event.

The way a sealed pool works at an event like this is, you open 6 packs and have 10 minutes to register all the cards against a checklist, removing the basic lands. You then pass to someone else following instructions, so it may be swap with person opposite pass left twice or similar. You then have 20 minutes to check against the registered cards, build a deck and then register which cards you are using. I was quite rushed and ended up making a couple of wrong cuts and sideboarding in some cards in later games which should have been mainboarded.

I built my deck, played my rounds of Magic and ended up winning 6 and losing 3. The cut to make day 2 of the main event was 7 wins and 2 losses so I fell short. My Sunday was spent playing side events before travelling back.

GPLiverpoolPlacing

I finished up 353 of 1772 which is top 20%, so respectable but not amazing.

When I stripped apart my deck I noticed something unusual though, I only had 5 rares. Now when I checked the pool I noticed there were less than 45 cards in each set (15 per pack * 3packs * 2 sets) but put this down to the basic lands being removed.

GPLiverpoolPool

Edit: When I later checked it appears I was missing 1 rare from Fate Reforged and either a common or a foil from Khans of Tarkir. When I was registering I was focusing on building the deck and registering correctly, I didn’t even think to count the rares. So one of three things has happened:

  1. I have lost 1 rare from this pool
  2. The person registering the pool lost 1 rare from this pool
  3. The person registering the pool stole 1 rare from this pool

So it was either down to me being careless, someone else being careless or someone else being malicious.

I don’t know which it is, but I now have a new thing to remember to do and remind others to do:
Count the rare cards in your sealed pool

The kicker though: you aren’t seated randomly, you are seated alphabetically, so the chances of me being seated near this person again at a future large event in the UK are extremely high if we both attend, although the chance of him passing his pool to me are based on the instructions given for the randomisation.