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#23… of Ropes and Grapples and Rings of Fire (1565 St Elmo’s Pay)

I thought a bout a brief  get away to the sun…and where better than Malta…or so I thought

…but who are all these Ottoman chappies, milling about all over the shop, getting under foot and completely ruining every holiday photo I try to take…

…I have to say, all these muskets, crossbow and rings of fire play merry hell with one’s sight seeing

 

INTRO:

“Relive the Greatest Siege in History!

A vendetta spanning decades reaches its terrible and bloody crescendo!

Suleiman the Magnificent’s 30,000 strong armada descends on the 500 beleaguered Knights of St John and the defending people of Malta, with the express purpose of wiping them from existence, and changing the course of history forever…

 

So What’s All The Fuss About?

A historical card game! This time St Elmo’s Pay is set in and around Malta as the Grand Master, Jean Paristot de Valette takes to the field against the Ottoman commander,  Mustafa Pasha

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It is no secret, as mentioned in previous reviews, that I am an absolutely ginormous fan of Hall or Nothing’s first project Gloom of Kilforth which was, in fact, my very first review some while back. Some twelve months later on from GoK, 1066 Tears to Many Mothers found its way to both sides of my table… the fuss here was mostly my anticipation for a head to head game set during the shenanigans of the  Battle of Hastings. Not just that, but Tristan has spent a great deal of time working on a system that allows either side to be automated. Now this definitely builds my anticipation. A game set during a significant part of British history, art matching that of the Gloom of Kilforth and a solo variant to boot. That is what the fuss is about this time?

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Well, using a similar format and gameplay, a sequel-ish 1565 St Elmo’s Pay has hit Kickstarter and funded very quickly. A more historically modern setting, but with much of the flare from its predecessor

…but is all this new excitement just a little premature. is it going to meet my ridiculously high expectations?

let us find out…

Immersion or Subversion?

It has to be said that the standard for imagery has resulted in yet another sumptuous collection of 170+ pieces of absolute delight. Now I always say great art alone maketh not a good game. but bloody hell, once more these images really help create such an atmosphere that we could quite easily imagine ourselves  amidst the fracas… So, this does help build part of that immersive feel but it is not flashy, shiny shiny! There is a true gritty realism to each image. Beyond the lengthy time I have spent merely looking at each card I have in my hand, I have actually played numerous games so far, and surprisingly the units available, the event effects, attachments and various skills and abilities all bear that similar true historical accuracy found in 1066, though nicely adapting the game mechanics to introduce the more modern elements of military armament from the later period.

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This is not a game of miniatures taking to a sculpted battlefield, trying to accurately represent the conflict at Malta, but by goodness as a card game, it really does immerse us into the antics of 1066.

….oh, the art, the art…

Mechanical Attributes:

There is strong hand management element to this game in as much as each card we hold in our sweaty little mits, has a cost payable via various means (including abilities from cards already in play, discarding cards in our hands etc) …so holding back strong  cards or playing weaker cards for optimum use.. all add to a strong tactical application. There is no deck building, like some games that result in slow starts. I feel that as we play with a set deck, we know what might turn up on each draw but just how we utilize these cards., is key to our strategic warplan.

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The game its self is really split into two games in one. And it will be unavoidable to not repeatedly reference elements of 1066, as they share the fundamental mechanics. Initially both protagonists frantically race through a variety of historical Objective cards (each requiring addressing with abilities or traits on cards that we put into play) in their bid to reach the all famed final confrontation. Even during this section we are mindful that cards played now will also be those that will come into full effect when both sides face off on the final battle field. So not only are we planning to overcome the journey to the battlefield, these same units will be our force to face off against the foe.

This leads us to the second part of the game where all protagonists are hell bent on destroying each other and the locations (the three wedges)

It is with the same mechanics that both parts of the game are played, where we prepare, deploy cards and address Objectives or Wedges. I wont bore with technical details but the way the game dictates deployment, paying for cards using resources generated from multiple means (as previously mentioned, discarding cards from the hand, through resources generated by cards in play and card special abilities) provides us with numerous difficult choices, but simultaneously multiple ways of solving our dilemmas.

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It is pleasant to find multiple use cards… but in this case it is not an over crowded rectangle filled with confusing iconography. The majority of cards have three principal uses. Discard a card=generation of a resource… simple. A cost icon=resource cost to deploy. Three attributes for combat/confrontation and a box for special abilities/skills.

We might find that we have a field stocked full of units but we do have to be careful with the application of their attributes… Predicting what might be of most use to us  can cause big headaches. Tire a character to use an ability or attribute for a certain task and it is no longer able to help us face unforeseen event cards, for example, or help in challenges over Wedges, and so you see we have to plan very carefully.

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It is almost as if we have a small table space miniature wargame, only instead of millions of figures, with pages of stats and modifiers, we have a simple, lusciously illustrated card with all the statistics printed clearly and accessible on a series of cards.

Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:

I really don’t need to say much here as Tristan has always insisted on very high component quality and this game falls in line with those standards. The prototype I played with has almost the same standard finish as a production copy, so I am positive this will reach backers with a pleasing Hall or Nothing standard of detailed finish we have come to expect.

Meeples and Standees:

  • Game Design: Tristan Hall
  • Art: –
  • Graphic Design: –
  • Publisher: Hall or Nothing Productions
  • Play Time(or recess for those of the US persuasion):30-40 minutes
  • Gangs of One:1-2 players
  • Age of Consent:10+
  • DOB: 2019/20

Solitarianism:

Ye Ghad! This has turned out to be a pretty exceptional solo experience for me, once again. Familiarity with how 1066 plays has helped me get into the thick of the action but the rule book does a perfect job guiding the novice player.. The AI opponent gives us s real run for our money, generating an intense, competitive battle. Ordinarily, I would not  have expected a head to head battle game to be at all usable by soloists other than in the old ‘play yourself at chess’ technique, but I stand and nod my head in acknowledgement of a rather well thought out system for the soloist. There is nothing tacked on to pacify the louder soloist protagonists. This is a solid solo system that, certainly for me, works very well. As a multiplayer game, we soloists actually experience an intense game that is just as thrilling and challenging as the live player head to head.

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As a Light to slightly mid-weight strategy game (well, that is the feel for me). I don’t necessarily get deeply involved with all character’s special abilities as part of my planning (and suspect there may be some very hardcore strategists that find the game a little light) but my experience playing the game tells me this really is ‘bang on the money’. A great balance of strategy, excitement, challenge with an over balance of exceptional art.

Bots and Wotnots: 

As a head to head (player verses player) game it would not be an instinctive thought to expect this to be playable by in an solo fashion, primarily as a live opponent is constantly making decisions firstly based on their own strategy, but secondly as a reaction or pre-emption of the enemy’s own actions.

Now 1565 comes with a Solo Rule book that covers all the rules governing an opponent that works for both factions to play as an AI players. In essence the AI plays as we do, using a certain restrictiveness regarding hierarchy of deployment, defeating its own Objectives and Wedge battles. The small differences in actions an AI player has compared to us, the intrepid soloist, comes down to resources. A table of increasing resource availability (in addition …or subtraction to those available on the game surface provided by played cards) is used to allow the AI to play their cards. The AI does not have a hand of cards as we do but draws cards from its deck each turn and deploys with in the restrictions for its side of the table.

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The set I had to use did not have some of the solo specific attributes/actions/abilities on the cards, but the process and procedures are very similar to those at the heart of 1066

Initially the AI is a little restricted with resources, which results in its weaker cards coming in to play. However, as time progresses, it becomes more affluent and can replace its lowly arrow fodder cards with strong, heroic  characters. Some of this resource restriction acts as a method to replicate the human player… as we would struggle initially to build up enough resources in the early stages of a game to bung down our super powerful top brass and such.

The system on the whole is very simple for us,  the real player, to manage. There is no book keeping and no decisions to make on the AI’s behalf. Any restrictions to card placement (some units have row preference etc) are identified in the solo rule-book. Many card abilities are activated immediately which might not normally be the case for our side, but this compensates for the AI not having the deductive powers we possess. Then there is a list of abilities/actions that are ignored by the which do not become active. All in all this makes life so much easier for us, allowing us time to plan our own cunning strategy.  I have only played once thus far as the Ottoman team, as the remaining seven games have been the Malta based factions and have yet to feel that  the AI is a weak, meaningless buffoon of an opponent. It grows in strength, as we do, and although not always deploying cards as we might, the games have often been ridiculously close. In fact the three games I won have been right down to the wire, me usually being on the back foot playing catch up.

In conclusion; although this is not a bot as such, it is a semi intelligent AI system that suddenly makes an otherwise unusable game for the soloist, a great challenging head to head experience.

The Real Nitty Gritty:

  • Winners and Losers:As a two player game one player is always going to win. With the solo game, however, we are trying to defeat an artificial intelligence. It is a significant challenge working through the Objective deck and then attempting to be victorious at each of the three Wedges, but victory is achievable. It is not easy and the few victories I have achieved came about right at the last minute. This is very much an edge of your seat game.
  • Rules is Rules is Rules: 1565comes with two rule books. The base game is around the twelve page size, guiding us logically/sequentially through the do’s and don’ts, relaying the game-play in a well ordered fashion which I felt did its job effectively. So far I have not come across any situations not covered in the rules. The solo booklet of four pages length similarly makes light of explanation. I did find I had to refer to the Foe Deployment/Foe Playing Cards section repeatedly as numerous cards had exceptions to rules that I had to double check regarding placement and abilities but nothing that left me baffled or confused. I think, in two short documents, the game rules have been well conveyed to those reading them.
  • Lucky Buggers: The random draw from both our and the AI decks adds a luck element to the game but it is how we optimize the cards we have drawn. How we play them to their most effective. So, at the end of the day, with the absence of dice, there really is little left to random chance that is beyond our control.
  • Lows and Highs: The setting is one of extreme violence and heavy bloodshed. The illustrations have a distinct gritty realism but although hint at the violent exchange, they do not portray any disturbing imagery. So, from a visual perspective the game has great realism but without the disturbing aesthetic of war. The game its self is a race, a battle, a massive challenge which leaves us elated, dejected and any range of emotions between the two but at its conclusion, the forty minute roller coaster ride  of a game leaves us with a feeling akin to children disembarking a theme park ride…’again, again’
  • Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table:I was extremely lucky to have one of the gorgeous play mats that were available during the previous 1066Kickstarter campaign which, not accurate to the theme of 1565, at least h helps with setup and overall aesthetics of the game (there is likely to be something similar fwith appropriate imagery by the time the game reaches fulfilment but playmats are not integral to game play) and as such all components can be accommodated on the mat. Leaving a space for my hand of cards, I would say a playing space of 83cm x 50cm should be quite sufficient to play comfortably.
  • Set It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: If the two protagonist’s decks are kept separate it will take a matter of moments to shuffle each and plonk them on the table. Ordering the three wedges and locating the Objective cards adds a staggering couple of seconds and, of course, there are the red and blue tear/wound tokens to place near by. This is a really quick set up and shouldn’t take more than a minute or, perhaps, two for both set up and packing away.

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Me, Myself and I:

We, and really I do refer to Me, My self and I in this instance… yes all three of us, were most surprised by the game. I knew before hand it was going to be quite good but again it proved to be such an engaging challenge. I know the decks are set and the Objectives remain the same from game to game, but in my first several games not a single game played out in the same way. Even when I found some strategies that appeared to work in one game, apply them to a new game and everything goes completely to pot, as unexpected events/opponent characters chuck a homping great spanner in the works. There is enough variation and introduction of more technologically advanced methods of warfare to keep play as fresh as the old 1066. this is not just a new veneer tacked over an existing system. The advancement of ballistics introduces new ranged weaponry and I like that some card effects don’t just affect the opponent cards in play, but recreate the effect of attrition by forcing opponents to discard vital cards from their deck. Terrain effects similarly have a nice implication to opponent’s ability to use cards/resources ect further adding to the realism of more modern engagements.

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Yay or Nay?

It would be foolish of me to try and create suspense by inferring I might not like the game…then surprise you all by saying it’s OK. With out a doubt this is a battleicious success and, through subtle use of long range archers, defeats the BSoMT 1d8 die into a resounding (8). For my table, this really is a very decent solo adaptation of a head to head game, engaging, gorgeous to behold, and challenging to play. This is a gaming system that looks like it could be the template for a good number of subsequent historical conflicts.

This is definitely a title I recommend soloists consider, whether a history buff, battle connoisseur or just a solo gamer that loves great art

OUTRO:

…I have a ring of fire my self, but I suspect that has something to do with the local cuisine more than a deadly military device…thank goodness I left the toilet paper in the freezer last night…

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Something For The Weekend, Sir?

1565 St Elmo’s Pay kickstarter link

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tristanhall/1565-st-elmos-pay-the-card-game-of-war-and-history

 

 

…of Stabs in The Back & Lost in The Pack (Slyville)

Intro:

Ohhh my goodness, Lethargy, you useless henchman… I asked you to go and find me a really Big  Deal and what did you bring me back?

A wheel. A bloody great big wheel! Now what am I going to do with just one huge wheel?

Just get back out there and make sure those Red Ruffians don’t get the better of you again…I’ll never live down the day they conned you out of all my gold for a shiny magic bean…like you were in some silly fairy tale. It must have been… a bipedal bean because when I planted it, after several weeks it had grown two feet….

What’s All The Fuss About?

I’d say the fuss has to be about a non-solo game making it onto both sides of my table…

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And to be fair, it is not the normal sort of game I would look at, as Slyville is a game of backstabbery and take-that-ness to extreme proportions, and I tend to stay clear of most ‘take-that’ style of games. However, this multi player game of Medieval commerce has made it to the table and has been played, no less… but is it a worthy multi-player guest spot on the BSoMT website?

 

Let us read on and find out.

(Press play for a medieval ambiance to accompany your read)

 

Immersion or Subversion:

The cartoonesque style of visuals throughout the game provides us with a humorous yet subtle visual to this fantasy world. It is believable and dos help create an idea of the population inhabiting this world. But we cannot rely on fancy visuals alone to submerge us into the complexities of a Medieval world. Fortunately the way the game plays, the way it allows interaction, certainly does help plunge us wallet first into this bustling city of commerce. IMG_20191005_132814The way the game is constructed along with the tasks we need to complete to make ourselves successfully wealthy are, although lacking the complexities of a super heavy Euro-game, really simple and as such, effectively allow us to dip a tentative toe into this genre of game, without being bogged down with a multitude of overly complex rules. We very quickly find ourselves vying for commodities and seek, at all cost, that special Deal to ‘rake in’ the old shiny shiny…or in real terms, Influence Points from the Deal Tiles that are acquired during play…in effect, victory points. I was definitely drawn into the ins and outs of not just my henchmen’s activities, but also the city district resources and, more importantly, where my competitors were. Trying to second guess their underhand tactics actually made me feel like I was at the cutting edge of Medieval commerce.

 

Mechanical Attributes:

The bulk of the game revolves around a card driven action/hand management system where we select a series of order cards that we “issue” to our henchmen. We play them at various locations about the city and once all players have played their orders, a resolution takes place. The actions have a hierarchy of play order and are resolved in said order. Things like Sabotage that can foil our opponents’ plans, Acquisition that allows us to acquire valuable resources that can later enable us to obtain the highly sought after Deals… which themselves equate to the points we need for victory. And so on. The actions and the order they are played in has a feel of Citadels about it, but there are no similarities or comparisons other than how the cards order is resolved, and I feel is a good solution to the problem.

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A nice concept for my mind is that we have to play an action player by player and repeat until all players have placed their allotted number of action cards. Nothing fancy here, I hear you exclaim in mild frustration, but as there is no restriction to the zone action cards are played, nor is there a limit on duplicate actions in a location. So we can study our opponents in detail as each card is placed (not unlike a primitive commercial espionage) and adapt or evolve our strategy as the turn unfolds. Additionally, as these actions cards are face down, we are also in a position to bluff our opponents into believing falsely our true strategy. There is an element of take that, as our actions can be interrupted, our henchmen can be moved from their location thus preventing them from acting in the original zone, and the Prince’s Decree cards can holistically mess with all players. As all players have the same action card sets, we know what is available to our opponents and helps us second guess their cunning bluffs.

Light strategy, light take-that, but heavy on the entertainment, for sure, as we race to achieve 100 victory points from our business Deals (Big Deals require more resources and are big scorers, whilst Small Deals require fewer resource as payment but yield a lower victory point. This offers us even more scope for strategy) What is nice with the end game scoring I that the first player to hit or pass 100 triggers an end of game situation giving all other players opportunity to complete a final turn. In this way, first to the post does not necessarily mean a victory can be assured. Tactical players may have held back for a final push in the last few moments, sneaking their devious way to victory.

 

Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:

I have only a prototype copy of the game but the finish of art and cardboard components id very good. If the production copy is as good or better, we will be in for a treat once the game is published.

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Meeples and Standees:

  • Game Designer: Dominika Gerasimiak, Justyna Leszczynska, Marek Daniluk, Mateusz Romach
  • Publisher: Hexy Studio
  • Play Time: (or recess for those of a US persuasion) 46-60 mins
  • Gangs of One: (at present only 3-5 players)
  • Age of Consent: 10+
  • DOB: 2019

Solitarianism:

In its current form, the game is for three to five players, so not suitable for the soloists among us. That said, the game complexities are not huge so some bright spark somewhere will undoubtedly devise a cunning AI to offer between two and four opponents for us solo players to enjoy the game when friends and family are nowhere to be seen

 

Bots and Wotnots:

At present this title comes as a 3-5 player format only and no immediate plans are on the horizon to facilitate solo play, that I’m aware of, but I suspect once on the market, the game play/mechanics lends themselves to fan-made solo suggestions. We shall see.

The Real Nitty Gritty:

  • Winners and Losers: It is a difficult one to predict, in that runaway winners are easily targeted and brought down to ground. Players have so many ways to vary their ill-gotten gains strategy that it can be difficult to predict who will eventually emerge victorious. As a journey, it is easy to progress, easy to find one’s self stabbed in the back and equally find one’s self the back stabber. The game really does go down to the wire as even if a player hits the golden 100 point total, play continues until all other players have completed their turn…and not until the final countdown will the first to 100 know if they were victorious or will a last minute surge brings victory to a rival?
  • Rules is Rules is Rules: The rule book is an easy read, fully illustrated and launches players very quickly into play. With eleven sides, including explanation of Action Card and Prince’s Decree Cards, there will not be a lengthy rule reading session required before any first play.
  • Lucky Buggers: Luck of the draw regarding Prince’s Decree cards is about all that can be a random influence. All other aspects of gameplay rely on our ability to firstly choose actions wisely and also draw upon our ability to read our opponents and equally our ability to bluff or trick them back
  • Highs and Lows: Very much tongue in cheek, the gameplay and the backstabbing elements are all taken in fun. Winning or losing does not leave a particularly sour taste in our mouths. Especially with the right group of friends or family, this tit-for-tat nature can only enhance the fun.
  • Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: As a potential five player game, the footprint is very reasonable with the current prototype components taking up no more than 80cm x 80 cm, allowing ample space for player’s dashboards, as well as the principle play area.
  • Set It Up Just to Tear it All Down Again: There are a number of player boards and colour coded player cards…and a bazillion smaller resource tokens/order tokens which need to populate the playing area. But as most cards are colour coded and the gameboard take little time to set up, we will be wasting no more than five minutes, or maybe ten at most before we dive into play…and as the game is estimated to last for around the 45 minute mark, this is time well spent.
  • Pay Per Play: At this stage I have no idea the price entry level the game is likely to take, but there is a high production value and a lot of entertainment contained within, so I think it unlikely disappointment will follow.

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Me, Myself and I:

I think the fact that this is both tongue in cheek and very light, make it particularly entertaining for me. Now, saying it is light does not mean it is without substance, structure or challenge… I merely refer to the ease of gaming. We are not completely bogged down with rules and as commerce, economy and resources are calling for our management, ease of said orchestration makes the gameplay, interaction and outright backstabbing so much more enjoyable. Now it must be noted that I do not favor backstabbing in games for the most part as it can invariably lead to ganging up on individuals, resulting in illumination or putting a player in an unwinnable position. Slyville has scope for all players to come a cropper, fall foul of their rivals but with such variation in Prince’s Decree cards altering zone effects, the Prices favor moving from player to player and a wide choice of actions and deployment of action cards, being able to gang up on a single player would be much more difficult to actively implement. It is light and often strategies can quickly come unstuck, but there is scope for those of us who like to plan ahead, but moreover, the game is suited to those of us who are able to adapt and think on our feet…

For a 45 minute to an hour’s gaming, this title does offer a lot of fun, especially for families, although the more hard core gamer would not feel out of place playing either…unless one is adamant that only the heaviest of heavy Euros are the only true form of punishment…

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I think that because there is so much variation in available Deals to be made (including each one having small & large side options), that we are able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and mold our strategies to fit. Strong front runners do not materialize…or at least in the level of gaming I experienced testing out the game, no run away leaders occurred. And let’s face it, the moment this happens, all and sundry wish to see their demise, and so Slyville brings a natural order to play.

Yay or Nay?

Oddly enough, I really enjoyed this game. Much more than I imagined I would. I think because of the lighter gameplay, speed of game start and lighthearted Slyness…so in the city center I rolled the BSoMT 1D8 die for a sneaky little (7). There will be a link below to find out more about the game and its availability.

Outro:

Lethargy!

Where is that incompetent buffoon? Some days it is just better to go and strike those deals one’s self and not rely on henchmen at all…into the hustle and bustle of the thriving city and me only n my Tuesday slippers, for goodness sake

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Something For The Weekend, Sir?

You might like tonvisit the game preorder link:
BGG profile:
Facebook giveaway (you can win a free copy of the game):

#14solo…of Science Fiction And Asteroid Affliction (Sensor Ghost)

I did it… I actually managed to escape from Bernard, the psychotic computer that locked down the assembly line on the spaceship manufacturing platform…

…now I have to traverse my way through the void towards home.

…Earth…

Home, my arse, I should. They have disowned me…shunned me…to win favour back and be permitted to land I shall have to take a detour and waste precious oxygen searching for some samples of space dust or fossilised alien poop or something equally unexpected….

…oh, well main thrusters…IGNITE

Blast, the wick has gone out in the engine again, and me only in my Wednesday shirt.

(Press play for a deep space ambiance to accompany your read)

 

INTRO:

Way back in space and time, the sci-fi game Assembly emerged from the void with its  brain melting puzzle-like nature of a sci-fi game, which was, for me, almost impossible to escape from… but I finally did and now I am jet-setting it across the universe with my ship sensors playing up. Stupid sensor trying its best to thwart my escape. Typical huh? Sensor Ghost is a sequel-esque card driven movement/push-your-luck game with a small element of pick-up and deliver… and even with its small table footprint, compact card count, it delivers a mammoth challenge to us, the budding space piloting soloists gamer.

 

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What’s All The Fuss About?

Touched upon above, the fuss here is for the eagerly awaited sequel to the very successful Assembly. A randomly generated, gridded playing area provides us with the deep space void we must negotiate on our journey back to earth. Ahead of us are innumerable obstacles, wormholes, meteorites and even the occasional free-space sector. Earth, for some inexplicable reason, hates us and fears our return with our mad computer, so to appease them, we must collect various items, equipment and such to offer as payment…then we can land and be free of the nightmare. Sounds simple? Hmmmm!

 

Immersion or Subversion?

In essence, this game is relatively abstract in nature, but the deep-space setting and the amazing component rendering (by designer Janice) really embellish the concept of space travel and generate an additional feeling of tension, as we attempt to navigate the treacherous gridded vacuum. I most certainly felt like I was at the helm of a spacecraft, tasked with a multitude of life threatening decisions to be made, navigating all that space has to throw at me. The mechanics within the game, the card driven movement mechanic, the randomness of the void (during setup and changeability via numerous encounters) and the disruption deck (a deck of cards depicting circumstances thrown up as a result of our friendly antagonistic on-board computer…all of which can play merry hell with the path we planned to take through space). All this provide us with a sumptuous environment in which we playout our sci-fi fantasies

I think that considering it is an abstract game, theme has been seamlessly woven into the fabric of the game and we, as a solo player, can become inextricably engulfed in a deeply thematic game of space survival, as we solve the puzzle before us.

 

Mechanical Attributes:

Card driven movement features as the principle mechanic. Cards drawn from a deck into our hand, offer us the limited number of movement choices which can be taken… how we use them to negotiate the vast number of hazardous sectors in space is where the game cleverly burdens us with constrained and difficult choices. Effect cards also add to the chaos of space and effectively emulate the mad-cap actions of the psychotic computer, hell-bent on out demise…it also adds the inherent dangers of deep space travel. Special abilities from selected crew members can be drawn upon, but their influence is very short lived. In essence, we have very little in the way of resource (some minimal resource management also features, but it is our whits that we must rely on), skills or magical super powers. This game relies upon our ability to solve puzzles with the smallest of external assistance, and, for me, is where its design is strongest.

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Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:

As the game stood when I played and reviewed initially, all was very much prototype scraps of paper and place-holder are. As time went on, I was fortunate to receive a very fancy prototype with some excellent sci-fi illustrative components. Visually, the game will look excellent and, if its predecessor is anything to go by, all other physical components will be of a high quality when the production copy lands on Kickstarter backer’s doorsteps

 

Meeples and Standees:

  • Game Design: Janice & Stuart Turner
  • Artist: Janice Turner
  • Game Publisher: Wren games
  • Playtime:(recess for those of the American persuasion) 10-20+ minutes
  • Gangs of One: Solo (now comes available with up to 4 player option)
  • Age of Consent: 8+
  • DOB: 2019

 

Solitarianism:

This can be a cooperative game for two players but has  fundamentally been designed with the soloist in mind. There is a character (or two if playing cooperatively) possessing certain special abilities that can be called upon once during a game, but beyond that, there is no book keeping or maintenance required for characters. In fact the only tracking is that of shield tokens a vital aspect as they are frequently bombarded, depleted and generally abused… and if reduced to zero we are space dust, so careful maintenance is crucial). It is a very “thinking game” that can be all consuming but works exceptionally well as a solo game. Purpose designed, it certainly delivers a short, sharp shock to the gaming system.

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Bots and Wotnots:

There is a strange irony here, in that the game is fundamentally about a psychotic computer/bot, that is once more hell-bent on our demise, as the one in Assembly was… yet there is not an actual AI bot, as such, in the game. There is a deck of cards that present a wide variety of unusual circumstances/events that are as a result of this computer’s foul shenanigans, but no Bot system where we, the live player, needs to control or operate. This aside, the game system works particularly well, as events usually result in disruption to our carefully formulated  plans, be it hindering our movement or even complete and catastrophic changes to the actual structure of the space matrix (layout of cards on the table)…in fact it appears to work all too well when I play…grrrrr

 

The Real Nitty Gritty:

  • Winners and Losers: This is definitely not a walk in the park. It is exceptionally challenging but not impossible. However, as each game will never replicate a previous session, there is always an intellectual mountain of new decisions to make with each game. It is a fun challenge come win or lose and after several plays it becomes apparent certain techniques work with certain situations (which is helpful) but as the layout is always different, these techniques will always have to be adapted or improvised as we progress across the void.
  • Rules is Rules is Rules: My prototype has eleven pages of (A5) information, fully illustrated with game layout and simple rule explanations. It is quick to get started and the complexity is low, which should enable gamers of all abilities to quickly digest gaming concepts…and get stuck into the action immediately.
  • Lucky Buggers: The turning of cards from both the Command (movement/action) deck and from the Disruption deck is very much reliant upon the draw, but beyond this, pretty much all gameplay relies upon our cunning and wile to navigate, negotiate and activate our grew and ship. This is a decision making game, not a game of chance…although we do push our luck at times with our decision making/predicting possible negative effects that may flip cards, revealing nasty surprises.
  • Highs and Lows: It is always a bit of a blow to lose a game but this title offers us such an engaging challenge, a loss is merely a learning path to future victory. I have always come away from my plays feeling very positive.
  • Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The as set-up requires laying out a grid of about 70cm x 60cm, depending on how spaced out (like the pun?) a player prefers
  • Set IT Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: There is a moment or two we must set aside for set up because of the randomised space grid used at the start of each game, and time to ponder which special character to take, but in real terms there are few components (a set of location cards, and two decks of cards) which means that little more than ten minutes need be set set aside before we can begin

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Me, Myself and I:

It was a tricky venture to try out Sensor Ghost, having had such a good experience with Assembly, its predecessor. The anticipation of a follow up game can lead to great disappointment

.…but I need not have worried. Even in its unrefined developmental state, it proved to be an exciting challenge. Since then it has seen development, refinement, application of superb graphics and has now funded on Kickstarter…it will become a reality for backer before too long.

It is us against the game. Plane and simple. No fancy complex AI flow charts, just our wits verses the mad computer, and all the unforeseen events we may encounter. This is what tests our metal…our ingenuity and adaptation of limited resources.

It is a very challenging game, but one that stimulates and engages from start to finish…assuming you get to the finish. So many times I have failed…yet every time I am compelled to try again…to try and learn from my blunders. This has to be the sign of a good game to keep us wanting more even after failure. I like this game a lot, me and myself are in accordance so three heads are obviously better than one in this instance. Small-ish, compact and pretty quick to play, it suits the soloist down to the ground. Brain exercise that is easily accessible, quick and fun to play but all in a very small package. perfect

 

Yay or Nay?

Despite the enormity of isolation in deep space, the BSoMT 1d8 has sped through the vacuum of space for a very creditable, deeply spacable (7) and a title i will happily recommend to any soloist, sci-fi fan or puzzle solver, interested in titillating the old grey matter.

 

OUTRO:

I am truly afflicted by asteroids….oh, the misfortune, the torture, the…

…lack of effective medical treatment or ointment in deep space…

Right! Where is that inflatable pilot-seat cushion?

 

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Something For The Weekend, Sir?

 Wren Games: https://wrengames.wordpress.com/

Wren Games on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WrenGames

 

 

 

#1Bot…AuTauPilot

Initial ramblings:

Flying solo in the deep, deep, deepest of Tau Ceti system space. Alone in space, surrounded by an infinite vacuum of nothing. Isolation, no companionship and only an on-board computer with the most irritating sardonic attitude imaginable. Adrift in the void…

 

Meat & Potatoes:

But that is all such nonsense. Tau Ceti space is absolutely teaming with life. In fact you can’t bloody move for other-worldly beings carrying on in an unruly manner or just you try and vent your space-suite without bumping into oddly formed alien life, asteroids, planetary crisis, hostile encounters or living starships. It’s a veritable nebula boiling pot of activity…and I really am referring to just the solo variant. It’s interesting to know that the solo version of this 4x-ish multiplayer game not only facilitates any number of AI opponents, but also has any number of independent living starships milling about the place chucking a spanner in the works when you least expect it…and as most space vessels tend not to rely on old-school mechanical infrastructure, getting a spanner stuck in your subsidiary conduit is not something you ought to experience alone in space.

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Artificial Intelligence:

A quick glance at he rule book may fool the casual bystander…byfloater, it should be, as gravity is in short supply unless we find ourselves firmly planted on the surface of a rock such as Earth.

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Don’t be lulled into believing that the solo variant is an afterthought tagged on to the end as a mere fleeting fancy to pacify the soloist fraternity. There is a mere 2 pages or so dedicated to some dedicated solo rules but don’t fall into this cunning asteroid-laced trap. Oh no! The surface has only just been scratched. Each of the Alien Races has a solo card that accompanies its Race dashboard. Each of these cards has a series of actions the AI will take dependant on a die roll and influenced by the choices you have made as the only live person in the universe, as you go blundering through the void.

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Each race will act differently and if you play, as I usually do, with two AI opponents, life can get pretty competitive. Admittedly there has to be an element of book keeping  to be undertaken on behalf of the AI (managing its Energy and Tau (currency) and a hand of cards) Now this isn’t as daunting as it appears. The hand of cards is just a growing pile of face down cards that needs the occasional shuffle and an occasional card pinching from the deck to be bunged in the centre of the table during the Enlightenment phase…oh and moving two tokens up and down a tracker. This is nothing to test the old grey matter.

 

The Real Nitty Gritty:

Like any 4x-ish game, unless there is any direct fisticuffs, there is not very much interaction with opponents as they beaver away trying to fulfil their own selfish goals. Tau Ceti, for me, at any rate, feels like it offers something a little more flavoursome. Everyone contributes cards during the enlightenment stage to help or hinder the universe…in the solo game the AI contributes randomly from its ever growing hand/deck so it really is a space lottery of excitement (as might be expected from the multiplayer game) Both your actions and those of your cunning opponents could well effect the Tau Ceti Exchange/availability of space craft upgrades making their moves unpredictable (although you can plan and strategies once you are familiar with a race’s AI card to a degree) I wont say this is smooth as a baby’s buttocks, but I really don’t think this type of game is ever a slick no-brainer. It requires planning, consideration and to badly split infinitives. There are a wide variety of actions to take and so many activities to get sidetracked with, making this an enormous universe to explore. The mechanics work well to provide a competitive opponent (I forgot the bitter sting in the adding-things-up-at-the-end tail. That enormous pile of cards building up face down in the AI’s pretend sticky little fingers could completely swing the results in the AI’s favour come the final reckoning…if they have enough cards with an appropriate scoring symbol on them) which makes for a tense, thrilling exploration of Tau CetI.

 

Multiples of Solo:

I think I waffled on significantly and sufficiently enough above to give a hint towards my feelings on this game. I think this is a splendid solo version of a multiplayer game with Artificial Intelligence that is capable of reacting to the real players life choices (within the game that is…it is not so developed as to react to you shaving your head or tattooing a on each bum cheek so it spells WOW when you touch your toes) There is a high level of replay-ability here, with a large number of different races all acting, reacting and playing differently, there is a random/different set up for each game and the large number of encounters, missions and transmissions knocking about from rock to rock make this a veritable space explorers dream…transmissions…that reminds me…the Living Starship is an independent oddity that has its own deck of cards governing if and when it might pop up and give your orbitals a jolly good pounding.

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I love this as a solo game and play frequently. I think, however, that player interaction with the AI is not as poignant as with some BOTs which might not be to some peoples tastes but I also think that this is the nature of exploration, exploitation, plastic potplant cremation. For the style of game, this BOT performs admirably.

This Tau Ceti AI mechanic and Living Starship Bot earns its self a galaxian 7/8 sides (of the octagonal gaming table)



A link to the …of Vacuums and Voids article about the Main Tau Ceti solo game #2 …of Vacuums and Voids (Tau Ceti)


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______________________________


Something for the Weekend Sir?!

Game Designers: Mike & Stan Strickland, Joseph Pilkus

Outer Limit Games: https://www.outerlimitgames.com/

In Space No-one Can Hear You Scream

*COMING SOON*

Alone and adrift in deep space, desperately trying to explore, expand, exploit and exterminate as many X’s as is alienly possible in the Tau Ceti system.

…unless, of course, you have the gift of time travel or can move through space so fast that you realize time is a curve and you find yourself coming back on yourself…in which case this will already be old news