Category Archives: Uncategorized

Temple of Elemental Evil board game

A brief review on this one: it’s not for me.

A slightly longer review: it’s a good game, well-constructed, and if you’re really into the combat side of D&D, you’ll love it. Production values are high, and the (co-op) game is not easy to win (this is a good thing). We played it four times over the weekend, and I had to threaten to gouge my eyes out with a spoon to get out of playing a fifth time (I was voted down, but it was a narrow vote; we played something else).

For me, though, the game takes everything I enjoy in D&D out of the game, leaving a stripped-down version of the combat system. It suffers from having not enough die-rolling, and from having very, very limited actions that a player can take. The die-rolling comes up because most turns, you’ll be lucky to roll one die once, and that leaves too much to randomness, which combines badly with the limited actions: if you have a run of, say, three or four bad rolls, you could be effectively useless for half an hour of play, and that’s not a lot of fun.

The distinctions between the classes are sanded off too, or some of them are. Wizard still gets really low hit points, and has precious little advantage gained by it; Rogue gets no bonus whatsoever to finding/disabling traps. Cleric will find they use Blessed Mace almost exclusively, with the occasional dip into a scarce healing power when things get hairy. But I didn’t feel different playing with the Wizard vs. the Cleric, except that I had a worse AC and fewer HP. I didn’t feel like, “I call down a lightning strike on the gnoll archer, avenging the death of my father with a blinding stroke!” so much as “I roll an 8, +7, that’s a 15 and a hit for one point.” For me, the theme has fallen so far off the original as to be only tangentially related to D&D. For those who remember this, it’s more like Chainmail than D&D.

The rulebook could be better written and organised, too; for example, nowhere does it specifically say “only place monsters on a new tile where there are monster icons requiring it”, but this does appear to be the implied rule.

It’s not a bad game, and for those who like the combat parts of D&D to the exclusion of all else, it’s a fun and challenging one. It’s just not in my wheelhouse, as it were.

SimCity BuildIt: play tips

I’ve been playing this a fair bit lately, on my tablet, and really enjoying it (available at the Google Play store for Android, not sure about the Apple version). It took me a few starts to get the method of playing without paying – the key is patience.

– For example, at level 10, both Education and Mass Transit become available as services, and when they do, the people will start clamouring for them. Odds are good, though, that you won’t have much gold when you bump into L10, so you end up having to listen to the Sims whine incessantly. Much better, I’ve discovered, to stop short of L10 (and L12, L14, L16, and L20) to make sure you’ve got enough gold, or keys, or whatever you need to make the next steps. In my case, this meant waiting four real-world days between stopping just short of L10, and finally upgrading to hit the promotion. In that time, I was producing as best I could, and selling everything valuable that I made.

– Selling products of your secondary industries is much more profitable than selling the products of your primaries – that is, if it comes from a factory, it will top out at a little over 100 gold to sell even if it takes three or four hours to produce, while if it comes from one of the commercial properties it can end up being worth several hundred in just half an hour. Vegetables are a particularly good thing to sell, maxing out at 160 gold per unit and taking only an hour’s production time (twenty minutes twice for seeds, twenty more for the veg). Nails are also a fairly concentrated form of money, taking only seven minutes’ production (two minutes for two metal, plus five more minutes for the nails). In order to get the best of Nails, though, you’ll want to play for a certain amount of time – otherwise your queue will empty, and your store will sit idle. In this way, I was able to build up from 15k gold to 120k, enough to buy both the Departments of Education and Transportation at once, and thus be able to get past the hump of L10. Similar choices at L12/14/16 led to profitable and effective play.

– Another tip for playing this one is to take advantage of the ability to move buildings around. If you place a new residential zone in a place that, say, has no Fire coverage, you have two approaches you can take: the expensive one (buy a new fire station!), or the cheap one (move the building so it’s covered by existing resources). This applies also to high traffic alerts – instead of immediately caving in and upgrading to a six-lane street, try swapping a couple of buildings around so as to spread the traffic load over separate streets. This can give you the time to earn the gold to be able to do the upgrade when it’s convenient for you, rather than at the demand of those ever-pestering Sims.

– Know the value of your goods. When you get an offer coming in, don’t sell unless you’re sure you’re getting more than you’d get in the market. That is, if you get an offer for four Vegetables and they’re offering 500 gold, tell them to get lost. if they’re offering 800 gold, take that deal!

– If you’re going to play for a little while, queue your secondary goods up in order of increasing time for production. This way, your short-time items will come up while you play, allowing you to keep the queue full with ease

– Lastly, let me recommend buying extra queue slots for your Farmers’ Market, your Hardware store and your Building Supplies store. I keep all three at four slots, allowing me to queue up a couple of hours’ production at a time, and meaning even when grinding as noted in the first tip above, I can keep the production ticking over without having to play more than every two hours or so. As part of this, keep your City Storage maxed out in size at all times.

I hope you enjoy playing as much as I do – and if you want to Friend me in the game, I’m Emily H, and my city is New Tottenham (just shy of 100k population atm, and L18).

Travel Blog: A Review

Today, a quick review for a game that Chris came up with for the Youtube show to review, Travel Blog from Czech Games Edition.

I don’t have any pictures or notes, so this is off my memory. We played it to start our night on Saturday, taking about half an hour to get through the game on first play. The components are generally pretty good, though the two large maps would be better being on slightly heavier stock. The money is the best I’ve ever seen in a game: though small, it’s of superb quality, and the euro bills are beautifully designed to mimic the real thing. The cards are of good stock, and are designed with some lovely art.

The concept of the game is one of knowing your political geography: you are tasked with picking countries to minimise or maximise a path, in one of two maps provided: the US’ collection of states, and the EU’s collection of states (using both meanings of the word). We noted that it would easily be expandable, with Asia, Africa, or Brasil all being reasonable possibilities.

The game runs seven rounds, with the rules changing slightly between rounds 2 and 3, and again between 4 and 5, and lastly between 6 and 7. The dealer sets out a group of seven cards, each corresponding to (in our game) a European nation. When an eighth card is played, the players must each choose one of the other seven as being as close as possible without sharing a border. When all players have chosen, they must pay a fee for each border they cross getting from the start place to their chosen card. Two rounds like this, before a small change: now the players must pick two cards to satisfy the same conditions, again paying a fee for distance to their choices.

Another two rounds follow, this time with a pair of goal cards; players must choose two cards, making the shortest possible route with all four cards involved.

The above all represents the learning experience: the travel blogger (the player) is travelling around on a small budget, getting to know the area. In the seventh round, the blogger comes into their own, and is now paid for the travel: the goal changes to maximising the route by picking countries as far apart as possible from the goal cards, and the bordering-each-other penalty becomes a bonus instead.

Player with the most money wins.

We found the game to be very close, with Chris winning from Craig and I by only 10 Euro in 340.

Overall, it’s entertaining and educational, would be quite suitable for a family game night. Time runs maybe half an hour, would be useful as a filler game in a games day, while you’re waiting for new players to roll up, for instance. Small footprint on the table.

GTA Online: Heists

The Aquamarine Ungulate says: GTA Online’s Heists are a tremendously fun addition to the genre, each providing at least a few hours of play, and all delivered free of charge to people who own the game. Each player gets a job, and each has to do their job to allow the Heist to come off. Verdict: Let’s get HEISTING!

So, Rockstar Games recently released the Heists Update for GTA Online, promising teamplay for major crimes. The DLC dropped about a year after it was expected, making an impressive entry in the Furthest Slipped Release Date award for this year; Rockstar said that they wanted to make sure that the game would be exciting, challenging, and worth the wait.

They DELIVERED (SPOILERS BELOW).

Continue reading

GTA Online Cosplay

Before I start talking about GTA, I wanted to say “HEISTS ARE COMING!” We finally have a date (March 10), after which we will be able to do the online heists. Since these require four members to do, and our clan (GTBL: The Gamers’ Table) has several, I’ve got permission to offer that anyone out there on PS3 who wants some Heist partners, please feel free to get in contact. I’m dykevadr on PS3, and if you mention the GTBL code in your Friend request, I’ll get you added right away. We’re a group of adults, and can be relied on not to be assholes, jerks, racists, or use any slurs. We play almost exclusively in Closed Crew servers. You can also send Friend requests if you don’t play GTA, of course; I also play various other PS3 games, and am usually happy to join in some online play if it’s available.

Anyway, to the cosplay! I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, and I need to spend some more time getting other people to take pictures of me, because the results are so much better than selfies. Still, here’s a few of the ones I’ve been able to put together so far. Only one small bit of post-GTA modification: I made motoko’s hair a bit more purple in the second shot (on the bike).

kusanagi motoko of ghost in the shell

kusanagi motoko, from Ghost in the Shell

motoko2

kusanagi motoko, from ghost in the shell, on a Hakuchou; the word “death” is in white kanji on the lower front part of the cowl

six from bsg with a car looking like a cylon raider

Caprica Six with her Raider – BSG’s Cylon beauty

wonderwoman cosplay

And my most successful, despite being wrong in several ways – Wonder Woman!

More as I can get them photographed, preferably by someone else (the light’s bad in my apartment, and there’s a shortage of mirrors!): I have Zoe from Firefly, Amy and Leela from Futurama, Alex from A Clockwork Orange, Winry from Fullmetal Alchemist, and I’m working on Starbuck and Boomer/Eight from Battlestar Galactica, the eponymous characters from Thelma & Louise, and Agent Carter from Marvel’s Agent Carter.

If you’ve got any suggestions for outfits you’d like to see me try and put together, please comment. When I’ve covered all the women’s outfits I want, I’ve also got a male character I’ll be dressing up.

Firefly storage solution

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on the game, Firefly can have an enormous footprint when fully deployed, and the expansion packs just make it more so. With up to seven Captains at the table each with a ship card and crew/upgrades, and seven Job decks (with discards), and six Supply decks (with discards), and Misbehave deck and three Nav decks (and their discards) and and and…well, it’s a lot of space needed.

Having noted this issue when playing Arkham Horror a few years back, Craig came up with a solution that is brilliant and effective, and when he saw Firefly’s footprint he used the same solution. Hot glue and foamcore board make for a sturdy set of carriers and covers, allowing easy transport and blazing fast setup. The footprint of the whole system, packed up, is barely larger than the folded board. Unpacked, it’s about twice that size.

Storage container with covers on

The entire system, covered and stacked for transport.

The first pic shows the entire game, covered and stacked up for transport. The covers go over the two stands, which sit back to back on top of the box, which holds the other trays.

Firefly_Storage_2

The entire system, unpacked and pretty much ready to play. Job cards in the stand on the back left, Supply and other portrait-display cards on the back right. Not shown: drawer on back of Supply deck stand.

Unfolded, the system looks like this. Note that short of distributing money, this game is now pretty much ready to get into the startup procedure of placing things on the board. If the decks are shuffled up before putaway, you can be choosing Stories, Ships, and Captains within five minutes.

Firefly_Storage_3

The Jobs stand from the top: note the inherent discard containers, in front of each deck and slightly lower (so that the identity of each deck can be seen). Internally, this stand has six levels. Also the storage within the box for Warrants, Goods and Passengers, and the various ships.

The multi-level design allows for clear identification of the Job decks and their discards (including room for Lord Harrow and Mr. Universe). It’s harder to see here, but this tray set has a deeper compartment to the right, where the ships and dinosaur are kept, and shallower compartments to the left, where the Goods, Passengers, and Warrants are.

Firefly_Storage_4

The Supply deck stand from the top, showing the drawer extended (at top of picture, showing Disgruntled markers) and the discard holders for each Supply deck. Again, six levels internally, to make it easier to see both fresh and discard decks. Lastly, the bank – a tray that fits into the carry box, and opens out to provide a simple use solution for the money.

And lastly the Supply deck stand and bank. The stand repeats the multi-level design of the Jobs stand, while the bank helps keep the money tidy throughout a game where it’s coming in and out constantly.

The box, in which the trays stack, also has a compartment at the bottom to contain the various rule books. All told, the entire game comes to about six pounds (2.7kg), so it’s easily carried.

I’ll be trying to prevail on Craig to write up his plans, so we can post them here for anyone else who wants to use it. If there’s interest, I’ll see if I can get the same look at his Arkham Horror setup.

A strategy for Firefly

The more I play the game, the more I enjoy it.

Saturday night, Craig, Ken, Chris, and I played Any Port in a Storm, the story using Havens in Alliance space, and a simple goal: be the first to have 12000 and get back to your Haven. The Alliance are on high alert, though, so any illegal job nets you another warrant. And while we didn’t use the PvP option, we did have the expansion board in (Miranda and the Blue Sun, Lord Harrow and Mr. Universe).

As usual, I picked Yun Qi as my boat, just come to love the Lucky Lady while I play, and to try and play against type, I picked Womack (the Merciless), who gets a bonus for doing Immoral jobs. Started my Haven at Albion, right on the edge of Alliance space, and somewhat central to the expanded board.

The Aquamarine Ungulate says: the strategy is simple, assemble keywords early on, add in a strong ability in one area, and try to focus entirely on Crime jobs, the kind that pay off immediately on a single Work action, and which require Misbehaving to beat. . Verdict: Quite effective, will experiment more.

Once the pump was primed (three cards turned off the top of each Supply deck into the discard), I noticed that not far away was Regina, and Regina had some very sweet items: Nandi’s Gun Collection (a Gun icon, FANCY DUDS and FIREARM keywords, plus a reroll on Talk tests where the die comes up 1) and a good TRANSPORT option, along with a Grifter who added a FAKE ID keyword. On my way to buy stuff, I stopped at Niska’s, and got some new jobs – all three in my hand were now Crime jobs, with several Misbehaves to get paid. Two of them were paid based on the number of Gun icons in the crew and gear.

The strategy thus presented itself to me, and I went in whole hog (the shopping trip cost me $2500 of my initial $3000): I would deliberately seek out jobs which were Misbehave-only, and attempt to pass them through a balanced crew (3 or more of each icon, at least), heavy gun skills, and as many keywords as I could lay in on gearnot on people, because gear lasts, people die. The advantages were multiple: with half the keywords in the game, I was able to bypass many Misbehave cards quickly and easily, and the Jobs were all one-shot deals, much quicker to do. And if you can stack up a few in a row very near one another, you can get a lot of money VERY QUICKLY. I had a Fugitive delivery at Triumph (my only non-Crime job), followed by a Motherlode Crime, and a JiangYin Crime. In three turns (Fly to Triumph, Work; Fly to Motherlode, Work; Buy Fuel and Parts at JiangYun, Work), I’d made more than $9000.

It worked beautifully. By night’s end, I had a CryBaby to keep the Alliance off, and a Pilot and Mechanic to keep the Reavers off; 10 gun icons, and keywords as noted above plus SNIPER RIFLE later. Between the keywords, the shooters, and the generous use of Bribes on Talk tests, the only Misbehave card I couldn’t handle was the worst one in the game: the one which is botched unless you have River Tam. Period. You have your choice of ugly outcomes, but if you don’t have River, you’re not finishing your Work this turn. Every other card I drew, I passed.

In the end, I came second, barely; if I had not quite simply forgotten a second action in my penultimate turn, which would have been a payoff for $3500 net, I was literally one turn behind the eventual winner (Chris) – who’d had an unusual strategy of his own.

Finding Simon Tam on his first draw at Persephone, Chris decided he’d dig for River as well, and use her remarkable abilities (tempered by Simon) to enhance a balanced but weakish crew. This took all but two draws of three from the Supply Deck at Persephone, something like ten turns Chris sat still, Working for $200 and drilling into the deck for three cards. When he drew the Shepherd too, he had only two members in his crew’s six who needed paying. The low overhead, and a good crew with a bit of good fortune with River (no pudding in the hair at all!), meant that he arrived at his Haven next to Persephone one turn ahead of me accomplishing the same.

I had my good fortune too, though the whole table was having some weird bad timing: we had a huge number of 1s rolled on the die overall, and the Border Space Reshuffle card came up five times – three of them within TWO CARDS of the top of the deck. That is, we reshuffled, and the top card was REAVERS EAT YOU. Reshuffled, and the second card was REAVERS EAT YOU. After a more normal 15 or 20 cards into the next one before REAVERS EAT YOU, the ensuing reshuffle again led to the first card being REAVERS EAT YOU. It was weird and kind of hilarious, even though one of those was me. 🙂


A brief note: sorry to be so slow getting back to this. I deal with fairly serious depression, and winter is usually my very worst time – and it’s been a cold one so far here. Happily, my latest set of meds seem to be having an effect, and so far it seems to be a good one. Fingers crossed that this continues, but I’m going to try and keep the momentum rolling with another post in a few days showcasing my GTA Online cosplay fun. Tune in for Agent Carter, Winry Rockbell, Zoe and Kaylee, Joan from Mad Men, a droog from Clockwork Orange, and any others I can think of before then. We’re working on a Thelma & Louise tribute as well.