All posts by David Obenour

ZIMBY MOJO (Devious Weasel Games)

Being a Zimby is to hunger. To hunger to rule. To hunger for magical powers. To hunger for the flesh of your fellow Zimbies. Everyone agrees that the king has outlived his use. Not everyone agrees who should replace him. Now you must lead your tribe of ferocious warriors into his compound, working with the others to get his crown, then working against them to keep it for yourself.

In a brilliant twist on the cooperative game, Zimby Mojo unfolds as two different games in one. To start, players work together to thwart the king’s thugs, unlock his protecting wards and take him down. Then, the game transforms into something else completely as players fight against each other in a mad dash to bring the crown back safely to their own tribe’s lands.

This all works so well because very few things in Zimby Mojo can be done on your own. Most fights require multi-tribal stacks of warriors to sway the odds or well placed magical barricades and mindless Zimby Zombies to break up escape routes. It demands cooperative play, but cautious and guarded cooperative play that leaves you in a better position than the others.

IMG_2749

The great game art and background information provided in the rules is an immersion into the vicious world of Zimby Mojo. The backstory is also a nice reassurance that no, this isn’t some outdated imperialistic view of the dark jungle continents and their “savage” inhabitants. Zimbies are entirely fictional humanoid-type creatures with their own cultures and evolutions.

Outside of this rich narrative, the main problem with Zimby Mojo does come from its rules. It’s not that it is an overly complicated game, but the mechanics can get a little sticky with all of the things you have to remember. The rules don’t do the worst job in conveying how to play, but they also fail to give a clear and concise rundown without having to rifle through a number of pages. Even a player aid that I found online was four pages long. This makes explaining the game to new players daunting and you almost have to approach your first game with a mindset of playing the game just to learn its rules. Our first play through was riddled with “Oh, you can do that?” and “Wait, you can’t do that,” and then looking back we still got a few rules wrong.

The complication with the rules mean that Zimby Mojo probably won’t appeal to casual gamers, which is a shame because it really is an enjoyable twist on the cooperative game that is bringing so many new folks to the table. It’s also a fun theme (who doesn’t want to be the cannibal king?) that works well with the mechanics of how the game is played.

If you are someone who can have fun while being confused Zimby Mojo is a game unlike any other on your shelf. You’ll be plotting two-sided team ups for a backstab, only to be backstabbed yourself before you’re even halfway through your original plan. No time for hard feelings though because last turn’s traitor is this turn’s only way to stop someone else from winning. (Devious Weasel Games) by David C. Obenour

BLOOD BOWL (Games Workshop)

Are you adequately prepared for some fantasy football?! Let’s hope so, because Games Workshop has released the long awaited update to one of its most popular specialty games, Blood Bowl.

In this game, players field their own football teams comprised of races from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. Aelves (elves), dwarves, orcs, and Skaven (rat-men) each have their own team which possesses unique strengths, weaknesses, and look. Speaking of appearance, Games Workshop again shows why they are a leader in miniature modeling. The figures included in the base game are incredibly detailed and dynamic. There is a great sense of motion to all of them. The box game comes with 12 figures each for a human team and an orc one. A small but greatly appreciated update is now the figure bases include a hole for the ball to insert into to signify which player is currently in possession of the ball.

IMG_0662

The double-sided game board is really well done too and printed on high quality, heavy duty cardboard. Offering home fields for both sides, with a muddy and gruesome orc side and the slightly better kept human grassy field, this breaks up the monotony of playing on the same game field each time.

The included accessory sprue is also a nice benefit, especially the improved passing ruler. Finally there’s not just one, but two sets of the specialty dice needed to play the game! Everything about the physical design of this edition just screams high quality.

As someone who played quite a bit of Blood Bowl in previous editions, I am glad to say that the rules remain basically unchanged. With the transition of the Warhammer Fantasy to the much different Age of Sigmar system, I was concerned that Games Workshop would attempt to “improve” the rules by further streamlining them. No worries here though as the tactical grid based system remain the same.

My one complaint is that the base game box only comes with rules for playing the human or orc teams. If you want to play as one of the other teams, such as dwarves, Aelves, or Minions of Nurgle, you will have to pick up a copy of their Death Zone: Season One supplement. You also need this extra rulebook for rule on league play. Blood Bowl is complete in what you get, there is just a lot more you can do but to do it you’ll need to look out for additional supplements.

For those who are long standing fans of the game or those looking for a skirmish level miniatures game that has a ton of character, Blood Bowl is a can’t miss. (Games Workshop) by Adam Talicska

This past summer Ghettoblaster sent our artists out with a mission to capture MPMF with a pen and paper.  MPMF returned again this year in Cincinnati with a weekend long festival packed into a 1 block radius featuring a ecliptic mixture of bands from every level of the music industry.  The expected highlights of the weekend included the Mountain Goats, Future Islands, Joan of Arc, Tokyo Police Club, Reggie Watts, and of course the closing act Band of Horses.  The real story for their comic came from a side stage groupie, who put on more of a show than the band.  Inspired by this attendee at MPMF,  heed this groupie warning and learn to see the signs before your band becomes the next victim.

comic

Each issue of Ghettoblaster features a live review done by one of our comic illustrators – currently the very talented, Etch+Tiffany. To subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine head over to our In Print page.

DRAGOON (Lay Waste Games)

For centuries you and your fellow dragons have rested peacefully on your remote island. Now, hordes of humans have started invading, building their villages and cities. It’s awoken something long slumbering in you. A desire for gold. A desire for power. If these insignificant men won’t give it willingly, then you will take it anyway and leave them with nothing left.

The turns for Dragoon are split into three quick and easy to follow rounds. First, the island is populated by rolling two dice – the red die represents rows on the board and the black die represents columns. These coordinates determine where the unworthy humans amass for that turn. Second, players take their actions with the last place player picking the starting player for that round. Players have three actions and can use those to move, destroy or subjugate, steal from each other or the thief, or gain more cards for further mayhem. After everyone’s completed their actions the turn ends with your dragon letting loose a mighty or not too mighty roar (determined by a die roll) and tribute from the subjugated villages and cities is given out. Turns continue like this until a player wins by being the first to reach 50 gold.

These clean rules and mechanics make for a fun and very accessible game. A number of die rolls does mean that luck plays a rather heavy role, but players can pillage and fight their way back to a more even playing field. Plus win or lose, you are still a dragon atop of a mound of gold and that’s badass.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-7-15-28-pm

The only real drawback of Dragoon comes from one of the really cool things about it too – the game’s components. The game box proudly proclaims that Dragoon comes with over 50 metal pieces, some of those metal pieces being real gold! Thematically, that’s totally awesome. You’re dragons amassing treasure – having your pieces actually be treasure is great! Except… treasure comes at a price and this “Special Edition” retails at $75 (and that’s on sale). It’s a steep cost that will make many gamers think twice. Would metal painted plastic pieces be as cool? No way! Would them knocking $30 or more off of the price make them seem a little cooler? Eh… maybe so. (Lay Waste Games) by David C. Obenour

Just in time for the holidays, it’s Ghettoblaster #45! This issue features a double cover on Lambchop is a Band and Beach Slang in addition to interviews from Dinosaur Jr, Neurosis, Brookzill, Opeth, Drive-By Truckers, Teenage Fanclub, of Montreal, Russian Circles, Maria Bamford, Matt Berry’s Music, EarthQuaker Devices‘ comic Octo Skull,Atlas Obscura and so, so, so much more! Order online soon or grab one at your favorite record/book shop.

You can order a copy soon over here, or you can fill out this form to subscribe for a whole year’s worth of Ghettoblaster delivered straight to your door – a perfect gift!

ESCHATON (Archon Games)

There is no hope left for this world. Fanatics and acolytes run the street. Civilized religion has collapsed into cults of primal fear and aggression. Monsters and gods awaken to loose havoc. There is no hope left other than to embrace Armageddon’s arrival. The end is upon us, brothers and sisters. Join me!

A deck-building meets dudes-on-a-map game, Eschaton bares a number of similarities to wildly popular deck-building game, Dominion. Players draw a hand of five cards every turn and use those cards to draw more cards or buy others. Players pick and choose the new cards added to their deck to create machines (ongoing chains of plays to maximize each turn) that grant them advantages or deny them to their opponents.

Unlike Dominion, cards also give the ability to draw from a special divination deck of demons, relics and more, and move and fight their pieces on the map. Using the map as a game board, players send their cultists out in an effort to gain control of territories end game values and in turn advantages. It’s as fun in gameplay as it is thematically, as you spread your horrible cult in a hope to win the most favor at the last judgment.

img_5029

An aspect of Eschaton that more strictly strategic players might be frustrated by is the Events and Omens deck. At the beginning of the game three stacks of two Event cards are shuffled with an Omen card and a forth stack is shuffled with the Armageddon card that marks the game’s end. Stacks are combined and at the start of each round a new card is flipped. It isn’t the same shuffled 8 Events and 3 Omens either as those cards are drawn from two much larger decks of possibilities. The unpredictable boons and goals punish and reward with little or no warning. You may have just spread thin your cultists and now a foreign invasion forces you to remove one from each territory, you may have just marched to the island of The Old City only to have a plague break out there, an Omen of sacrifice may put your opponent in the lead through no prior planning on either of your parts.

However if winning the game isn’t the only reason you play, the Events and Omens deck is just another part of Eschaton‘s brilliant immersion into the volatility of a world on the brink of Armageddon. The theme is further established with an awesomely evil looking screen-printed cloth board and even darker card illustrations. The design isn’t always clearly indicative to the rules or gameplay, but it’s a small sacrifice in making a game that feels like the best metal album of the year.(Archon Games) by David C. Obenour

VIKINGS ON BOARD (Blue Orange Games)

Take control of the harbor and send your ships out to sea, filled with supplies (or at least gamble correctly on who else will be so fortunate) as clans compete for power in Vikings on Board!

For this game, players take turns over seven or more rounds selecting from the 11 available actions at the Village. Some of these actions are more useful than others, but fall further back in the order of the Village. It’s a pretty brilliant and easy to follow mechanic as players place their Viking pieces from one side of the Village (the current turn’s order) to the other (the upcoming turn’s order). Take a strong turn and you’ll be limited next time. Make small moves and set yourself up for a big next turn. Play continues this way until seven of the eight ships at harbor have set sailed at round’s end.

The 11 Village actions are primarily used to move, swap and rearrange your’s and other players’ ship segments to determine control. Sections contain one to three shields in one of the player’s colors, denoting power. The player with the most total shields when a ship is sailed is given control and in the case of a tie, the tied player with the segment closest to the front is given control.

img_5003

But having control may actually score your opponent more points… if they played it right! The actions not associated with ship segments include adding supplies to the ship, increasing the value of supplies, and gambling on which clan will have control. Having control of a ship gets you first pick of that ship’s available supplies, but then the second most picks, and the third the most and so on, circling back if supplies remain. Supplies won are worth one point at game’s end, but players can choose the market Village action to raise the value of any supply type to up to four points! Gambling is the final aspect of control looked at after sailing as players can place one of their four gambling tokens face down on a clan’s color and secretly score that token’s points if they gambled correctly.

For as simple as the rules are and with only two ways to score there are still a number of ways to play Vikings on Board. Do you focus on collecting a single supply type and raise its value? Do you keep a keen eye on ship control and gamble accordingly? Do you play spoiler to your opponents trying to execute their plan? Many games might have been tempted to add a deck of randomizing cards as an action, but the lack of chance involved makes every decision unfold many times over throughout the game.

Finally, the attention that Blue Orange Games put into the production of Vikings On Board is brilliant. Being pretty purely decisions-over-luck in its gameplay, the mood is set with great game board art, cartoony Viking miniatures and smartly crafted cardboard ship segments. Whether you’re playing with younger gamers or are just someone who appreciates more thematic games, the game itself keeps the Viking theme central and saves play from feeling too strictly puzzle and strategy based. (Blue Orange Games) by David C. Obenour

THE NETWORKS (Formal Ferret)

From just filling the timeslots on cable access to landing ad spots for the country’s latest hit crime show, The Networks puts you at the head of programming. Will you bring in viewers by signing the biggest stars to host your sports shows or by developing large budget dramas or by unifying programming around a single genre? The choices are endless, but your budget is not!

As a game, The Networks is played over five seasons of quick single action turns from diminishing options. On a player’s turn they can develop a show, sign a star, land an ad, take a network card (game advantage), attach a star or ad to a show in their lineup, or drop out and budget to end their season. With the actions related to shows, stars, ads and network cards, each season only provides so many available cards to choose before the season change. As more turns are taken so are the better cards, leading to hard decisions on when’s best to drop and budget, giving you better positioning for the next season. After all players have dropped from the season, income and expenses from active cards are determined, show viewership is added to your total, shows age into their next season (usually with fewer viewers) and the cards for the new season are dealt. After five seasons the player with the highest viewership wins!

img_2627

As a fan of thematic play one of the best things about The Networks comes from the genre bonuses. After programming the 3rd show of the same genre, players immediately gain five viewers and can draw and pick from a number of star or ad cards, and on the 5th show players gain 5 more viewers, can draw from star, ad or network cards, and can exchanged money for viewers. This rewards creating a network that makes sense in the real world. People watch ESPN because they like watching sports, SyFy because they’re interested in sci-fi shows and TLC because they… well, I don’t really know why people watch TLC.

As with most all games, the first few turns of The Networks may be a little rocky as you try to understand the different options and advantages that come with each available action. The rules aren’t complicated but the changing options that come with each season’s new show, ad, star and network cards take careful consideration. It’s just accessible enough that anyone who’s interested should be able to not get lost and just complicated enough that serious gamers have plenty to weigh out too. Tune in! (Formal Ferret) by David C. Obenour

AGE OF CONAN (Ares Games)

Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian inhabits a world completely void of the mundane. The rippling muscled champion set off on scores of adventures filled with treacherous villains, mesmerizing beauties, the fury of the wild, high-stakes politicking, countless treasure and much more. Tattered paperbacks transport readers to the heart of this swarm of sword and sorcery. It was awesome when it first came out over 80 years ago and it’s maybe even more awesome today.

Beautifully capturing this setting, Age of Conan provides another entry to this world as players take charge of one of the four main kingdoms vying for power and influence in the time of Conan. The game is divided into three ages, each comprised of four adventures by Conan. To start his first and each following adventure, players secretly decide on bids for Conan with their bidding tokens and strategy cards. The game then begins with the winning player taking control of the hero and rolling the seven fate die that will determine the next actions available to players on their turn. Turns unfold with military and diplomatic campaigns against the neutral provinces and other kingdoms, savvy collection of strategy and kingdom cards to amass benefits and the thoughtful guidance of Conan as he sets off on adventures. At the end of the fourth adventure, the age change phase gives players a chance to collect gold, build cities and raise troops, complete objectives, take control of artifacts and set up play for the next age.

img_2587

While that is a broad overview, the rules for Age of Conan are rather long and involved and it’s very likely your first game may take more than two or three hours after set up and explanation. Released earlier by Fantasy Flight (and experienced gamers probably already know what I’m about to say) the rules can be a little dense to navigate. They aren’t poorly written or particularly hard to follow, but something about their games always seems to take a little longer in the learning. Just have fun with it though and count the first play through as a learning experience.

The main disappointment for Age of Conan however is the titular champion’s limited role. While he can affect outcomes, often times he just seemed to wander about between starting location and his adventure’s goal. You can put out raid tokens and he can help your armies in battle but really, when you play a game with Conan in the title you want more Conan in your gameplay!

Thankfully, an expansion entitled Adventures in Hyboria is available. This expansion provides all of the flavor and adventure that thematic gamers will be looking for from Age of Conan. It introduces new, more interactive adventure cards for Conan, story cards that can alter the hero’s path and an evolving mood and experience track for Conan. It would have been hard to include all of these rules in the initial game, along with the introduction of spies and prisoners rules, but after you’ve mastered the core game’s rules, this expansion really is a must have. (Ares Games) by David C. Obenour

 

BATTLECRUISERS (TMG)

Amidst the chaos of battle, every member of a ship’s crew has a role to play and a time at which to play it. Taking charge of a space battlecruiser, it’s your job to lead this team in outplaying or outlasting your opponents. With a lot of planning for strategy and a little luck for timing, you just may do it too.

For each game of Battlecruiser a set of cards is determined for all players to start with. Players then discard one card from their hand at random face down and put another card at random into the recovery zone face up, with the remaining cards making up each player’s starting hand.

After setup, each turn follows with players selecting a crew member action card. Once every player has selected, the cards are revealed simultaneously and resolved from lowest to highest number. Players who solely selected their crew member take the described action, but players who selected a crew member also selected by another player must resolve the negative “clash” described action. After all cards have been resolved, this turn’s cards are moved to the recovery zone and any cards previously in the recovery zone return to the player’s hand. This continues until only one player remains (having forced the other players out through discarding their entire hand) or until one player reaches 15 victory points.

…and that’s Battlecruisers!

img_4798

For as much as this is a light, 20 minute, in between game, it has a lot going for it. First, with over 30 cards to choose starting hands from, there’s a ton of replay-ability, similar to that offered by Dominion. The designers went ahead and suggested a number of starting hands that are fun to explore the different mechanics, though players are sure to want to pick their own combinations to amp up different aspects. There’s also the kind of classic card game mechanic of having to figure out what card your opponent is going to play. Far from just a blind bluff, there’s keeping track of which cards were played last round, who’s discarded and what do you think they might have sacrificed, which cards could best help your opponent, and which card would hurt you the least if a clash action were to take place. Finally, each game has two ways to win – do you want to try to destroy your opponents or do you want to be the first to 15 victory points? Some decks are better suited for one way than the other, so your answer might change with each game.

I liked this game after playing it at Origins this year. It was fun, had nice enough art and we had a pleasant group of gamers to learn it with. That said, it did have the feeling of the sort of “inbetween game” that so many games seem to execute all right enough, but usually rather unremarkably so. After playing Battlecruisers a few more times the stigma of being a short-playing card game in a small box fades to reveal a remarkably fun game that’s just similar and different enough to keep you coming back. (TMG) by David C. Obenour