Tag Archive: “White Wizard Games”

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, June 15-19 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Day 12 of bánh mì withdrawl: Miss you Columbus’ Northside Market. Miss you everyday… and we also miss all of the good times we had in playing our way up and down the aisles (and then again and again) at Origins Game Fair! If you missed part one, go back and check it out, but without further ado, here’s part two!

 

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Dead Last (Smirk & Dagger Games)

Kris: Dead Last reminded me a lot of Ca$h N Gun$ in that it involved players taking the role of criminals who are probably going to all kill one another. All forms of table talk are allowed and encouraged, from open alliances to subtle nods. The coolest part of Dead Last is that the last two players standing enter into a final standoff where they can either cooperate or duel to the death. Accommodating up to twelve players increases its likelihood to come out when lots of friends are over, even if some of them aren’t all that familiar with gaming.

Dave: I’m normally very wary of party games. Most substitute hackneyed nostalgia, shock humor or socially acceptable nerd culture references in place of a good game. May I also add, get off my lawn! Now that I’m done being a curmudgeon Dead Last looks like a really fun game! Like Kris mentioned, my first thought was of Ca$h N Gun$ too – a fun party game but one that we already own. Thankfully we stuck around for a quick explanation where we were told all of nuances of Dead Last. Everything from texting to meaningful eyebrow stroking can be used to communicate with your fellow players. Party people seemed to be having a rowdy good time with this one all weekend long and for once I think I agree with them!

 

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Epic Card Game (White Wizard Games)

Dave: Honestly, collectible card games (CCGs) are more of Kris’ thing and while I could appreciate what was going on with Epic Card Game (and am a big fan of White Wizard Games other creation, Star Realms), I think I’ll let him handle this one.

Kris: This is easily in my top three games of the fair. The design goal of Epic, unfortunately one of the lamest game names ever, was to make every game turn feel like the craziest turn of a Magic: The Gathering duel. Mission accomplished. Anyone familiar with Magic will instantly pick up the idea and run with just how much they nailed it. For those who may never have played a CCG, Epic’s rules are few and simple enough to avoid intimidation. The starter deck comes with 120 cards from four different colored factions that can be used as standalone decks or in drafts or various other formats. A handful of boosters are also available. Epic is an impressive followup to the equally impressive Star Realms.

 

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Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game (Goblin Army Games)

Kris: The volunteer demoing Ruckus directly told us that the game was not good. This was a huge bummer, as secretly lining up blocks of goblin infantry in different formations looked to be right up my alley. I just feel bad for the designer that this guy who clearly did not care for the game he was presenting to gamers immediately turned us away.

Dave: The unfortunate reality is that the person presenting you with a game, and the people demoing a game with you, really color your opinion. At first glance, Ruckus appeared like a beer and pretzel game, and already owning a few goblin-themed beer and pretzel games, I wasn’t that interested. Then I was told that in fact this was a fairly long and involved tactical game but as soon as I got somewhat interested I was told that it really wasn’t that good of a game. Sorry we couldn’t be more helpful! Hopefully they’ll be at Gen Con with someone more helpful explaining things.

 

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Tiffin (Rio Grande Games)

Kris: I never would have guessed I could be so drawn in by a game about delivering hot lunches on a bicycle. Tiffin lands in my top three because of its unusual theme, easy-to-learn gameplay, and lively pace. This is another example of how an excellent game demo can make a world of difference. Dave and I played a full three-player game with a polite and friendly stranger after the Rio Grande volunteer ran us through the rules in five short minutes.

Dave: Yeah, Tiffin really was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game. Rio Grande has developed a great group of friendly playtesters who know the company’s games up and down and seem genuinely happy to explain them to you. For this game, each player has a number of tiffins (hot meal containers) that they load up on delivery bikes before sending them out into the busy streets of India. As the game progresses, the deliveries become more valuable and the player that dedicates more resources to the delivery scores more points. Easy to learn, quick to play, and still with a number of decisions and wagers, Tiffin was a lot of fun!

 

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Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space (Osprey Games)

Kris: Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the title of this game explains everything. From the folks who brought us the brilliantly streamlined miniatures game Frostgrave comes my favorite gaming experience of Origins 2016. Players secretly become humans or aliens on a spaceship. Armed with only dry erase notebooks full of ship layouts and a marker, aliens try to track down and kill humans while humans try to make it to escape pods. Fans of Nuns on the Run will instantly understand the appeal of Escape, and newcomers will pick it up in a flash. It’s one of the most exciting games of cat and mouse tabletop gaming can offer.

Dave: This was my favorite game of the con too and the only one I actually played twice. Everything about Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is on point. The art is bleak and eerie and adapts easily to the gameplay. The rules are quick to explain and easy to understand. There are a number of different spaceship maps and playing variants to keep play exciting and new (plus, it’d be ripe for expansions). It’s probably the most excitement I’ve felt in playing a non-real time board game.

 

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Age of Conan (Ares Games)

Kris: I didn’t get much of a look at Age of Conan outside of a very brief explanation. It’s definitely a dudes on a map game that looks to have significant depth. All of the components did well to represent the brutal world of monsters and warlords that make Conan’s adventures such an enjoyable celebration of violence.

Dave: Almost two weeks out from Origins, Age of Conan is the game that haunts my dreams. The castles, the armies, the kingdoms on the map, the varying quests of Conan as he wrecks havoc across Hyboria, cleaving men and bedding women… this game is a metal album or dusty paperback novel that you get to play out! I didn’t get a chance to demo this one but the super friendly staff at Ares’ booth gave me a very in depth run through. Also of note is the recently released Adventures in Hyboria expansions which “takes Conan from a two-dimensional character into a more dynamic presence” in the game. Sounds like a must have to me!

 

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Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers (Tasty Minstrel Games)

Kris: This was the first game of the con that we played, so we were all jazzed up to try something new. It’s a shorter, fast-paced game in which players captaining huge battlecruisers gun it out with hands of cards. All captain’s decks are identical, and if they play the same cards in the same turn the results can be disastrous. Though hands are small and decks burnt through quickly, the game comes with a lot of cards that can be mixed and matched and lead to interesting tactical combinations. I can see a lot of replay value in Battlecruisers.

Dave: Yeah, there’s no denying the white-hot enthusiasm as my inner voice chanted, “Games! Games! Games!” for the first play test of Origins. Thankfully Battlecruisers proved to be a lot of fun as our first game too. Sometimes what I like to do with demos is play them thematically and see how that works for gameplay. The first card I played was the Reckless Pilot, so after playing that and needing to burn a card it only felt natural that a Reckless Pilot would have no use for a Captain and all of his by-the-book ways. This lead to the type of fast and loose game that you’d expect, which showed a great marrying of concept and design.

 

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Fire Dragon (HABA)

Kris : I didn’t get a chance to experience this one at all. Dave?

Dave: Fire Dragon or Feuerdrachen as the large German title on the box proclaims is a game for children or adults that are easily impressed by shiny things. Guess which one I am? In the game players fly their two dragons around the volcano, collecting the rubies spewed out with each fiery eruption. The volcano sits in the middle of the board and is a neat, two-part aluminum cup that you pull apart on each eruption – spilling the rubies onto the game board. It’s fun, short and silly for people of all ages.

 

and now, some teasers

 

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Wasteland Express Delivery Service (IDW Games / Pandasaurus)

Kris: Who wouldn’t want to be the Pony Express of a Mad Maxian world? That sounds crazy fun! I was really excited to see this. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to speak with anyone about it much. From what I gather players make their way across interlocking terrain tiles while balancing speed of delivery against avoiding radiation poisoning and murderous marauders. I love the theme, the artwork is phenomenal, and one of the designers also made Dead of Winter. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one.

Dave: The whole time while watching Fury Road I kept thinking, “I want to play this as a game!” Soon, thanks to IDW Games and Pandasaurus, we all can with the upcoming release of Wasteland Express Delivery Service. The artwork is awesome and kind of reminded me of the hyper-detailed work of comic illustrator, Brandon Graham. We didn’t get much more than core concepts and a look at a decently assembled prototype, but that’s plenty to be excited about!

 

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The Last Friday (Ares Games)

Kris: Probably the game that I am most eager to play, The Last Friday is a slasher movie game that pits a murdering psychopath against sexy teenage campers. Its main gameplay mechanic is hidden movement, similar to Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. The narrative plays out slasher movie style across four acts with all the splatterific tropes fans of the genre have come to love. Whether you grew up cheering for Jason Voorhees or just want the thrill of surviving a lakeside massacre, The Last Friday is full of potential.

Dave: This game looks so cool it’s almost not fair. I love Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan as much as most everyone else, but The Last Friday? C’mon. Railroads across Europe and frantically trading for stone to get the largest army or running for your life from a deranged 80s horror archetype? Sure, with a playing time that tops at out two hours this game isn’t going to be for everyone but you’re on game 20 of a two post long review of a gaming convention. You know you’re every bit as excited as I am.

It’s that time of year again. Gamers the world over are nearly bursting at the seams in anticipation of “The Best Four Days in Gaming”™ at Gen Con 2014. Well, I’m not going. My decision to skip this year isn’t out of protest or anything of that ilk. It’s just a busy time of year, and I have other things to do. So I figured I’d post my super late thoughts on the 2014 Origins Game Fair, an event I actually attended.

I like Origins. A lot of gamers seem to think of it as an appetizer to Gen Con’s main dish.  Others describe it as a lesser convention. I don’t know if either perception is necessarily accurate. Columbus’ Origins has it’s own identity and a pacing that is very different from its neighbor in Indianapolis. My experience this year was a more relaxing one than any time I’ve spent at Gen Con. Granted, I wasn’t there on Saturday and heard that lines on that day only were nearly unbearable. Anyway, here are a few games I played and stuff I thought seemed cool.

I saw this bootleg Archer shirt. It was probably funnier when ISIS wasn't real and super scary. Organized murderers are the real monsters.
I saw this bootleg Archer shirt. It was probably funnier when ISIS wasn’t real and super scary. Organized murderers are the real monsters.

This year’s theme was monsters, so it was cool seeing Ninth Level get some attention for the full-color release of their beer and pretzels RPG Kobolds Ate My Baby! They also featured a quick and easy card game starring the same hungry kobolds from their RPG. A brief demo was enough to recommend a purchase. It was also nice hearing the occasional bellowing of, “All hail King Torg!” Things like that warm a gamer’s heart.

I spent some time with our Editor-in-Chief and Lead Designer at the Cool Mini or Not booth. They make some really fun games. Their price point seems a little higher than average, but that’s easily explained by all the neat plastic miniatures included. No cardboard standees here. Kaosball offers a unique update in the vein of Blood Bowl or Bill Lambeer’s Combat Basketball. It’s a two-to-four player board game in which your team can try to score the most points or simply murder the opposition. The core set comes with four full teams, all of which have beautifully designed (although unpainted) miniatures. Tons of additional teams are also available for purchase. Rivet Wars was their other game we demoed. It has elements of RTS games with two players building up armies that will ultimately march to their doom. If you’re the type of gamer who doesn’t mind a substantial initial investment for hours of fun in the longterm, you can’t really go wrong with Cool Mini or Not.

A four-player game of Kaosball in progress
A four-player game of Kaosball in progress

As I’ve been building my WFB Skaven army, of course I had to pick up some bits. I managed to score some different sized bases that I plan to use in creating some unit-filling scenery, a few Dwarf victims, a Plague Priest, an older Warlord model, and a reasonably-priced Forge World Warlord on Brood Horror. The army is coming together nicely. Check back for studio updates and hopefully some battle reports.

I picked up what looked to be a trading card on the top of a trashcan. It turns out it was some clever advertising from illustrator Kelsey Cretcher. Her work has a very clean, almost storybook feel to it. Check her out if you want some drawings or design work.

Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games is a pretty cool twist on what could be a tired zombie trope. Two-to-five players try to get their group of survivors through a deadly post-apocalyptic scenario. Basic concerns like food, fuel, and ammo come into play. Most interesting, however, is that each player has her own secret objective. Victory conditions can be met for the team, but individual players can still lose if they fail to meet their secret objectives. Add to this the fact that one or more of the players may win by betraying the others, and things get very interesting. Votes to exile members of the community show that even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse politics still plays a vital role. There’s potential here for a huge amount of replayability.

Sticking with this year’s monstrous theme, RARRR!! by APE Games could be a great educational tool. It involves elements of betting, pressing one’s luck, and a whole lot of basic math. The demo was enjoyable, and the art style is a perfect fit for a light-hearted monster game.

My RARRR!! monster tearing shit up
My RARRR!! monster tearing shit up

White Wizard GamesStar Realms just might be my favorite game of Origins 2014. It’s a two-player deckbuilding game in which each side attempts to build up their fleet while decreasing her opponent’s influence. Think Dominion or Ascension… only in space. Ships and bases belong to one of four factions. Some allow players to get rid of their basic cards, some allow for draws or forced discards, some build up for massive attacks, and others help replenish a player’s influence. The core set is fantastic, inexpensive, and has me very excited about future expansions. If this sounds even the least bit intriguing for you, be sure to grab a copy of Star Realms.

That’s that, I suppose. All in all, I had a pretty great time. I guess not everyone around me shared my perspective. I heard the comments, “I’d rather be at the Geneva Convention,” or “I wish this was Gen Con,” more than once at this year’s Origins. For all those gamers left longing a couple of months ago, it’s just about time for those wishes to come true. Enjoy the hustle and bustle, everyone! If you’re lucky or rich enough to play in the Cones of Dunshire charity event, then bully for you. Thank Adam Scott (or Ben Wyatt if he’s in character), and tell him that he’s a goddamn genius. 

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, July 11-15 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour

The annual warm up for Gen Con, what Origins lacks in size it delivers in less crowded halls and less hurried play-testing tables. Having to awkwardly defend your space behind a fellow gamer for 15 minutes while they finish their play-test isn’t much fun and neither is having someone lurk over you when it is your turn to play. So taking advantage of this more laid back convention, Ghettoblaster was able to get in a whole lot of gaming! Not all of the games featured here are brand new, but they were new to us and maybe you too.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a lot more to do at Origins besides just playing games and some of our past reviews have covered all of the great food and fun that surrounds this five-day event (see Origins 2012: Day One).

But without any further ado, onto the games!

 

KAOSBALL (CoolMiniOrNot, 2014)

CoolMinisOrNot lives up to the first half of its name with the new, Kickstarter funded, Kaosball! Sure the base set with a board, rules and four teams retails for a hundred clams, but as a parental figure may or may not have told you growing up: you get what you pay for. Fantasy teams made of trolls, lycantropes, valkyries, cowboys, steampunks and more, all battle for your insatiable appetite for blood sport. Players control runners, bruisers and ringers as they fight, steal and tackle their way to possessing the ball and holding on for dear life, and points, atop of the scoring zones. Each team has their own special rules, and cool figures too, so Kaosball can potentially be a dangerous cash sink, but when you’re having this much fun…

 

RIVET WARS (CoolMiniOrNot, 2013)

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Let’s time warp back a year (and to last review): CoolMinisOrNot lives up to the first half of its name with a previously successfully Kickstarter funded project, Rivet Wars! While steampunk is a pretty polarizing style, the World War I fashioned robo-minis made for Rivet Wars are pretty undeniable awesome looking. Infantry, artillery and vaguerly tank-ish looking contraptions fight through trenches and over hill and dale as provided by the nine double-sided battlefield terrain tiles. Unlike some military tabletop games, the rules are fairly uniform and simple, plus the battlefield is grid-ed out so you don’t need a tape measure for shooting or movement. Again, retail for this starting game set is $100 (though Amazon has it new for only $70) and again with a number of additional expansions with more cool minis it’s a potential cash sink… but also again, fun.

 

XENOSHYFT ONSLAUGHT (CoolMiniOrNot, 2014)

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The ‘get your attention while walking through the Exhibitor Hall’ pitch is that Xenoshyft Onslaught is a cooperative, deck-building, tower defense game. For those of you not fluent in geek, that means you’re using a starting deck to acquire more and better cards, using those cards to stop your enemy, and all working together as a team. Concept-wise, Xenoshyft is pure Avatar. Humans have scoured the galaxy, seeking out resources, and in this case, are mining a planet dry of its inhabitant’s main food source. Players take the role of department heads (Med Bay, Weapons Research, Science Lab and Armory) for the company, NorTec Military. Each round a new wave of sunken-eyed, famished aliens assault the base and players must work together to defend each other and the base. It’s not easy, and you can tell the designers wanted you to feel torn about what it is your actually doing, but it’s still fun.

 

FREEDOM: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Academy, 2012)

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Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a remarkably well-made game. For all of the mindfully-done and historically influenced mechanics that it employs, once the turn order is ran through and understood the game plays fairly intuitively. Not getting bogged down in complex decision making minutia allows players to appreciate Freedom both as a game and as a look back at a time when America was most divided. Taking on the role of historical figures from the abolitionist movement, players work cooperatively to help guide escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad while evading slave catchers, and work to raise funds and support for the cause. Each character has his or her own special abilities, so a smart group utilizes their individual strengths to help the team. The main possible flaw for Freedom comes with this, as it does with most cooperative games, in an overly controlling alpha player can easily takes the reigns if not checked.

 

STAR REALMS (White Wizard Games, 2014)

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A head-to-head deck builder, Star Realms is deceptively simple and insanely addictive. Players take on the role of star fleet admirals and amass ship and base cards. Most all cards come with an alignment (either The Trade Federation, The Blobs, The Star Empire or The Machine Cult) and the more cards you’re able to play in a turn from the same alignment the more bonuses you receive – drawing more cards, additional attacks, higher purchasing power, etc. The starter set for a 2-player games is only $15. Want to add a third or fourth player? All you have to do is buy another set! There’s really not much else to say about Star Realms or maybe there is but writing about the game just makes me want to go play it again… I’ll be right back.

 

QUILT SHOW (Rio Grande Games, 2014)

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Admittedly, a game about competitive quilting doesn’t sound all that exciting at first but then a new game from Rio Grande sure does! Designed with the help of longtime quilting advocate and designer, Judy Martin (having published the most number of original patterns, she’s the Robert Pollard of quilting) Quilt Show is a fun little game. Players collect scraps of different colored fabric, much like collecting different colors of trains in Ticket to Ride, and use these combinations to acquire quilt square tiles of varying intricacy and point value. After a set number of quilt squares have been made, the first of three quilt shows is triggered. Players arrange their squares in patterns either different or alike, add up their quilts’ point value and ribbons and cash prizes are awarded. The fun twist here is that your unused fabric cards and quilting squares carry over to the next show, so while you might not have done well this time you’re in a much better position for the next show.

 

COPYCAT (Rio Grande Games, 2012)

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The overall concept of Copycat matches its theme completely. Designer Friedemann Friese took all of the best mechanics from some of our favorite games – Dominion, Agricola, Through the Ages, Puerto Rico and Power Grid – and implemented them for a game about political campaigning. Benefit from and then take credit for the work of others. Perfect, right? Friese’s work isn’t completely void of it’s own inspiration though. While a lot of games can suffer from this sort of direct… copycatting, Copycat borrows enough different mechanics and uses them in a way that you never find your mind wandering to thoughts like “this is fun, but I’d rather just be playing…” or “I already kind of own this.”

 

TSURO OF THE SEAS (Calliope Games, 2012)

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Tsuro of the Seas takes much of its game play from the classic 2004 puzzle game, Tsuro. Players place tiles with interweaving paths, trying to keep those paths from the edge of the board for as long as possible. However, with the seas come monstrous daikaijus that add an element of randomness to play by devouring ships whenever their paths cross. The Veterans of the Seas expansion (2013) adds even more twists with Tsunami, Uzushio (Whirlpool), Taihou (Cannons) and Mystic Portal tiles. Ultimately, a lot of the original Tsuro’s beauty lay in its simplicity so Tsuro of the Seas’ variants, while interesting and beautifully designed, only clutter the concept.

 

RARRR!!! (APE Games, 2014)

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The Zombie tide has crested (or at least plateaued) and rising from the murky depths to challenge the undead’s pop-culture dominance is the mighty daikaiju. While a constant staple, over the last few years Godzilla and the Godzilla-like have been gaining more and more favor as the next big nerd theme. The aptly named Rarrr!!! starts with players building their Japanese movie monsters by drafting single syllable cards (creating fun names and divvying out electrical, toxic, radioactive and fire powers). After your monster is created another round of drafting creates your starting hand of power cards and you’re ready to clash over the major cities of Earth. Though different in its play mechanics, there did seem to be a fair amount of similarities in the look and feel to iello’s 2011 game, King of Tokyo. That said, there’s probably enough room for two hulking monsters on your gaming shelf.