Posts tagged ‘fantasy flight games’

Twilight Imperium Board Game – A Newbie’s Guide To Ruling The Galaxy

Author – Jeff Woods

Twilight Imperium (3rd Edition) is a board game of galactic conquest and strategy for 3-6 players. With the expansion, up to 8 can play, and rules variants are available for 2 players. It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games.

I have not owned Twilight Imperium very long, and have not played that many games yet. But, it is a game I truly enjoy, and you may as well. It’s not my intention here to go into a lot of detail about every part and every rule. I thought I would write down my thoughts, and why I already love the game, to help you decide if it’s the game for you.

What is Twilight Imperium (TI) all about, you may ask? TI is a massive strategy board game that takes place mostly in outer space. The ‘game board’ is actually a map of the galaxy made of hexes, and is different every time. Players play one of several galactic races trying to take over leadership of the galaxy. You do this through conquest, politics and even economics.

Twilight Imperium Is HUGE!

TI is a huge game, and not just in scope. If you’re considering getting it, make sure you have plenty of table space for the map, all the different cards, and areas for each player to keep track of his stuff. My 4-by-5 foot table is barely big enough for a 4-player game. This is not a light, “hey, let’s play something,” game, but an event that you need to plan for and set aside plenty of time. All the games I’ve played have taken at least four hours. If you’re playing with any optional rules (yes, there are plenty, and lots of markers/chits for those, too) plan for longer.

When you first open the box, be prepared to be overwhelmed. The amount of pieces and parts is staggering. You get map hexes, cards, plastic ships, markers for this and that, and a nicely put-together rulebook. But don’t worry about what to do first; the rulebook itself tells you what piece is what and how to organize things. The production quality of the parts is wonderful. The map hexes and various markers are made from high quality material, and are sure to last a lot of games. One note of warning here, though: the box itself has no dividers. Invest in some baggies, tackle boxes or a combination of both to keep everything organized.

Basic Play

Twilight Imperium is played in rounds, each broken into three phases:

  • The Strategy Phase
  • The Action Phase
  • The Status Phase

The Strategy Phase

During the Strategy Phase, players pick a strategy card that gives them some type of bonus for that round. You may be able to get a free technology upgrade, or resolve a political situation and change the rules of the game, among others.

The Action Phase

During the Action Phase, you move you ships, engage in combat, and play to the bonuses of your particular Strategy Card you picked.

The Status Phase

The Status Phase is mainly a book-keeping phase in which you check your score, repair ships, and ‘reset’ the board for action in the next round. While you’re taking your turn, other players are planning their next moves, trying to sabotage you, and bartering for political gain.

Everything Has A Cost

This is a game where everything you do has a cost. You have a limited number of Command Counters, which allow you to move your fleets, and take advantage of certain strategies. You have, or may not have, Trade Goods (the game’s currency) you can spend to either help build ships, research technology, or buy votes in the political arena. Planets you’ve taken over provide you with resources and influence, which you use to expand your fleets or vote in politics, respectively.

How Do You Win?

You win a game of TI, and leadership of the Galaxy, by achieving objectives, which are random and different every game. An objective could be a simple as controlling 10 planets, to more difficult, like controlling Mecatol Rex (the Capitol planet that’s always in the center of the galaxy) with a number of ships and ground forces.

Why Do I Like Twilight Imperium?

I really like this game because for me it has it all. I love science fiction, so to me the theme is golden. You have large scale space battles, planetary invasions, politics and lots of player interaction. Although it’s possible, it’s highly unlikely that a player is eliminated from the game. The map is random, as are the main objectives for winning, which makes every game different. Each Race that can be played has a different bonus, and adds a bit of role-playing. There is plenty of player interaction, with very little downtime between turns. Even though it can take a long time to play, there’s enough going on to keep most people interested.

Of course, what appeals to some can turn others off. As I said before, it’s a massive game that takes a long time to play. There are a lot of rules, and a lot of steps to accomplishing any goal in the game. If you don’t have the table space, or aren’t into a LOT of bits, this isn’t the game for you.

A Little Advice

Check out the rules (They are 44 pages long), then the FAQ section on Fantasy Flight Games’ website for rules clarifications. Then head over to Boardgamegeek.com and peruse through some of the excellent articles there. This is an expensive game, both in money and time. If you’re interested and trying to find buddies that you can play with, let your friends know it’s a little like Risk, but with politics and economics. Although combat and galactic war are big parts of the game, they’re the means to an end, and not the end itself. Although unlikely, it’s possible to win without firing a shot.

And for your first game, set a time to stop, and allow lots of mulligans as you interpret the rules.

Twilight Imperium is a great game for me. I can’t play it as much as I’d like because of the investment in time, but when I do, it’s an event that’s remembered.

You can also check out more information about Twilight Imperium here.

April 15, 2009 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

A Night with Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game

Author: Shawn Wolen
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is a semi-cooperative game for 3-6 players ages 10 and up that can be played in 2-3 hours. The theme of the game is devised from the recent remake of the 1970’s television show, Battlestar Galactica. The game picks up after Caprica and the surrounding planets have been decimated by a nuclear attack by the Cylons and the humans are running (flying through space) for their lives in search of Earth.
The game is enjoyable for fans and non-fans alike. If you are a fan of the new series you will enjoy detail and homage the game makers gave to the miniseries that launched the recent television show. The characters and their storylines from the show are weaved into the development of their characters and talents in the game. If you are not a fan or not an avid watcher of the television show fear not; it is not a requirement of the game to know the show or their story lines. You can easily pick up this game and start playing after reading through the games instruction manual. You do not need to know or understand any elements of the show’s stories to understand, enjoy, and play the game.

The game, as with most co-op games, has a “screw you” element. At the beginning of the game, cards are handed out to indicate if a player is human or a Cylon.

If you are a human, your goal is to survive until the last jump to earth.

If you are a Cylon, you have two options:

  1. Embrace your robotic nature declare your metallic stature to the group, and spend the remainder of the game thwarting the human’s efforts of trying to reach Earth or
  2. Remain quiet about your true identity and hinder the human’s efforts using subterfuge and malice.

Both options provide some interesting game play. There is no requirement in the rules that players announce their affiliation if they don’t wish. So, if you are a Cylon, you can continue to feign humanity in an effort to defeat from within (there is a caveat to this rule; during a later round, the Sleeper Agent Phase, if a player has a Sympathizer card they are dealt with immediately. To learn more about this phase, see the rule book). Some creative game play is required with this method. A player wants to cause enough havoc to prevent the human’s advancement without being so obvious as to be caught (being caught means being sent to the brig, but does not infer a need to reveal yourself a cylon).

If the player decides to announce their true selves, the thwarting can be completed in any number of obvious ways; destroying their main ship (Galactica), destroying enough civilian ships, boarding Galactica, or depleting any number of resources the humans need. As a reveled Cylon, you have much more powerful options available to you to prevent the humans from escaping.

Get your own copy of Battlestar Galactica.

March 22, 2009 at 1:25 am Leave a comment

Battlelore: An Epic Fantasy Game

Introduction

In Battlelore, Richard Berg (the designer) once more employs the battle system based on command cards that he used so effectively in Command and Colors: Ancients as well as in Memoir ’44. Like Memoir ’44, Battlelore started out as a Days of Wonder game, although the rights to it are now owned by Fantasy Flight Games.

Battlelore aims to recreate the battles of the Hundred Years War, but does so by adding a fantasy element. You can command the English longbows at Agincourt against the flower of French chivalry, or you can send a horde of goblins to attack strongholds staunchly defended by stalwart Dwarfs. With over 200 miniatures, numerous command and lore cards, a good variety of terrain tiles that allows you to customize each map as you like, and much, much more – this is not just a game: it’s a gaming system.

If you’re looking for a game that has endless re-playability and completely immerses you in theme, then look no further.

Innovative Rules

With a rule book that has more than 80 pages, this game may seem a bit daunting at first. However, many of those pages have full-page colour illustrations, and indeed this is one of the most accessible and even beautiful rule books that I have come across.

What is unique about Battlelore is that you don’t need to learn all the rules at once. For instance, when you play the first scenario from the Scenario Book (Agincourt) you only need to read the first few chapters. No need yet to worry about the dwarves, the goblins, the lore council, or the monsters (the Spider, Hill Giant and Earth Elementals – the latter two are expansions). All you need to know are the basic rules of combat. And if you ever forget a rule you can use the handy compendium at the back of the rule book for a quick reference check.

So, rather than review all the rules, let me point out some of the elements that really set this game apart.

The Command Cards

In every game you will have access to a number of command cards that allow you to control troops in the centre or on the flanks of the map. This is the only way you can allow your troops to attack the enemy, so if you run out of command cards for one section of the board then you’re in trouble. It’s important therefore to make the best of your command cards and manage them carefully.

Troop Strength and Resolve

Each infantry unit includes four troops and each cavalry unit has three horsemen. However, the number of dice rolled for the entire unit always remains the same, even if individual troops are lost.

The Battle-Back Mechanic

When a unit has two friendly units beside it, it is said to be supported, and so it can battle back when attacked. This means that if you keep your troops in formation you allow them to fight even on your opponent’s turn.

The Dice

The dice make resolving battles very straight-forward. Three of the sides show a helmet (coloured green, blue, or red). Each colour corresponds to a level of troop strength. A red unit, for instance, includes the most heavily armed fighters. For each helmet that matches the colour of the troop’s banner that you’re attacking you score a hit. The other symbols on the dice are the bonus strike symbol, the retreat flag, and the lore symbol (which allows you to collect lore tokens).

The Lore Council

More advanced scenarios allow players to recruit a lore council. You can recruit various leaders who will help you in battle. These range from a rogue to a cleric, and each one allows you to play lore cards (once you collect enough lore tokens) to play alongside your command cards. These cards further range in strength, with the most powerful costing 13 lore and allowing you to command all your troops at once for the entire turn.

Final Assessment

Personally I think this is a great game, and I play it regularly, even two years after pre-ordering it. An average game takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half (including set-up time). The game also lends itself well to a tournament setting, if you can get enough friends together for a series of sessions. Despite my enthusiasm I will point out that the game has a few drawbacks. For one thing, the set-up time can be quite long. It often takes around 10-15 min. to set up a scenario, although if you play two sessions in a row the set-up time for the second scenario will decrease dramatically.

Another issue some gamers may have with Battelore is that strategic planning will not always win out. The dice add a significant luck element. If you know this in advance then you can enjoy the thrill that comes with rolling the dice. If you want complete control, then this game will not be for you.

Lastly, some players may not like the odd mixture of medieval and fantasy warfare. What is a Giant Spider doing in medieval Europe? And why are goblins riding on ostriches? Who came up with that ridiculous idea? Yet the gaming experience Battelore offers is rich enough to overcome these challenges. The different types of troops, the banner and command card systems, the lore council – all these elements are woven together seamlessly. There’s nothing quite like playing a command card like Darken the Skies (which unleashes a storm of arrows), along with a lore card that doubles the effect. Or let’s say you have a mighty cleric in your lore council, and you notice that all the enemy troops are crossing the river that flows across the board – time to cast River Rage and watch the enemy get swept away!

The game also appeals to a wide audience. Compare this, for instance, to a system like Warhammer – which is really only for those dedicated to invest in huge armies of miniatures and an extremely complex rule-set with many modifiers – and you’ll see the difference. Battlelore will appeal to the whole family. Even younger children can play, and the ability to customize the rules and set-up to allow for different gradations of difficulty really helps.

This is a game I will be playing for many years, and the fact that there are many expansions will keep this game fresh for a long time to come.

You can get your own copy of BattleLore here

March 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

Fantasy Flight Games – New Video Posted

Just wanted to let everyone know that Gary and I spent some time putting some videos together for you all over the holiday break.

There are a lot of informational videos coming about different game companies, game systems, and just stuff to help you determine if a game is for you or not. We are trying to be a little different than the average video guys out there and offer you something you may not have seen or heard.

The first one is a quick overview of Fantasy Flight Games. In this one, Gary goes over the basic characteristics of these games and tells you a little about what to expect if you decide to purchase one of their games. They are definately for a specific type of gamer!

January 2, 2009 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Arkham Horror – A Brief Introduction

Author – Tristan Ansel T. Angeles

Arkham Horror is a cooperative board game for 1 to 8 players by Fantasy Flight Games, and designed by Kevin Wilson and Richard Launius. Set in the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, the game has the players running around the town visiting and closing dimensional gates in locations such as the Arkham Sanitarium, Miskatonic University, and the Unnamable as well as “other dimensions” made famous in the stories by author Howard Philips Lovecraft , or H.P. Lovecraft as he his more popularly known . While doing this, monsters come out of the gates trying to ruin the investigators efforts to halt the awakening of an ancient one, one of the big baddies of the Cthulhu mythos, which will more or less decide the outcome of the game.

The Theme

For those uninitiated to the Chtulhu mythos, or H.P. Loveraft’s stories, a little background might be needed, although not necessary to fully enjoy the game.

First and foremost, H.P. Lovecraft’s stories (though not all of them), follow a premise that in the ancient past the earth was ruled by creatures from the other worlds, and that these creatures, through the help of minions and cultists are trying to regain mastery over the earth.

Perhaps the example, which best illustrates the theme of the H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, is none other than “The Call of Cthulhu”. In the short story, a strange statue procured from a police raid, pushes the protagonist to research on its background. The information he acquires reveals to him cults trying to awaken the ancient ones. The story climaxes, with the crew of a fishing vessel stumbling upon the sunken city of R’lyeh , and almost fully awakening Cthulhu, high priest of the ancient ones.

Some other H.P. Lovecraft stories that might be of interest to those trying to get into the game are:

  • The Shadow over Inssmouth,
  • the Unnamable
  • Dunwhich Horror( which is also the title of one of the Arkham expansions).

There are more H.P. Lovecraft stories to be found on the net, which will surely interest once one gets into the game.

The Gameplay

For those people looking for a quick game to be played during break times, Arkham Horror is NOT for you.

The game takes roughly 4 to 5 hour hours to finish and takes a huge amount of gaming space.

Now that the gaming constraints are set aside, lets continue to the actual board game review.

Arkham Horror is one of the very first board games I bought, and it does not disappoint. First, the amount of playing pieces in the game are astounding – more than 700 pieces. The pieces are composed of decks of cards which represents several elements of the game (Locations, events, items etc). There are also chits and tokens which represent the monsters, and various gates and portals that the player’s investigators will encounter on the board. Of course, there is the gigantic board itself which represents the fictional town of Arkham.

Aside from the high quality pieces, the artwork depicted on the cards and tokens will surely please any Lovecraft fan because they accurately evoke the theme of the game. Since we are in the topic of theme already, it is also safe to say that playing Arkham Horror will emulate the feel of the Lovecraft stories, that is, man against ancient horrors from beyond time and space, since the game is very hard to beat.

For the gameplay, there has been several complaints that the rulebook were hard to understand or confusing, but from my experience we did not have any problems with them. Once you play it a few times you generally get it.

Buy Arkham Horror here

January 1, 2009 at 7:50 pm 2 comments


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