Player Avatar
USA
Norway
Finland
I play black

gamerbling

gamer level 7
19972 xp
followers
31

Use my invite URL to register (this will give me kudos)
http://boardgaming.com/register/?invited_by=gamerbling
profile badges
...
...
...
...
recent achievements
Old Bones
Old Bones
Explore select games by completing a series of exploration actions. learn more »
Inspector
Inspector
Follow a total of 30 games
Explorer - Level 4
Explorer - Level 4
Earn Explorer XP to level up by completing Explorer Quests!
Novice Advisor
Novice Advisor
Submit 10 game tips, strategies, or house rules and receive a total of 270 positive ratings.
Go to the Automobiles page
Go to the Terra Mystica page
Go to the Carcassonne page
Go to the SET page
Go to the Dungeons & Dragons (4ed): Player's Handbook page
Go to the Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan page
Go to the Doomtown: Reloaded - Base Set page
Go to the The Resistance: 3rd Edition page
8
Go to the Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men page
42 out of 44 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household. Each family member (your humble reviewer, the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2) each get to choose a game in rotation. Recently, that game was Marvel Dice Masters, as chosen by Gamer Bling, as part of playtesting (note the disclaimer) and not as the weekly game night pick.

The Promise

Okay, here’s a novelty: a game box being sold with—get this—NO marketing text! That’s right, none! Aside from contents, choking hazards, and the license itself, this game makes NO promises about itself at all!

Gamer Bling is stunned.

The Delivery

Well, with no promises made, it’d be pretty hard not to fulfill them, wouldn’t it?

Choking hazard? Check.

Box contents? Check.

Marvel Comics dudes aplenty? Check. Each die has an icon on it that is evocative of the hero it represents, as well as custom colors that match those of the character. Each die is powered by one of several variant cards, each of which described the die’s cost and powers, and also shows what the various faces are. And, of course, there’s a big piece of cool Marvel art of each cards, which is good, because the dice don’t have much art space on them.

You start out the game with a bunch of semi-worthless sidekick dice in your bag, which are primarily good for getting better dice for your mix. You also start with up to 20 dice that you have chosen, which are dice available for you to purchase during the game.

Each die has energy faces (used to buy things or activate abilities) and character faces (used to attack and defend). The character faces are rated for fielding cost, attack, and defense.

Game flow is pretty straightforward. You draw some dice, you roll the dice, you do stuff with the dice, then you attack with the dice. Combat may result in dice getting knocked out, in which case they go to your prep area, where they can be rolled again next turn. Characters that are not blocked (as well as a variety of special effects) damage your opponent and then go to your used pile where they eat shawarma until they get moved back into your bag to be drawn again. Reduce your opponent’s life to zero, and you win!

The game has no means of getting sidekick dice out of your dice pool; you will have to use strategy and tactics to keep them out of your bag so you can draw the more powerful dice with greater reliability. Gamer Bling likes this design choice.

Additionally, having a pool of 2o dice to choose form allows for instant sideboarding. Since it is very unlikely that you will ever purchase all your dice during a typical 20-minutes game, you can toss in a few magic bullet dice to counter specific tactics that you fear your opponents might use.

Finally, Gamer Bling should mention that each player brings two Basic Action Cards (each with 3 matching dice) to the field. These dice can be purchased by either player, and allow for even greater variance within the game.

Finesse

The iconography on the dice is clear and well done; there is a variety of shapes, and they are representative. This, with the variety of colors used in the dice, should make it very easy to tell everything apart.

In addition, the color reminder cards were a nice addition for the Basic Action Dice.

The fact that dice that are knocked out get rolled for free next turn helps obviate the runaway leader problem, and, in fact, turns letting your dice get KO’d into a viable strategic option.

Finally, in an example of finesse that is business related and not gameplay related, it is only necessary to have a single copy of any given reference card. This means that hunting a super-rare card does not also require you to find four copies of that die; you’ll have dice enough from the common versions of that character that you find while rare-hunting.

Skills Required

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with Dice Masters.

Basic Math: Adding and subtracting happen a lot.

Local Advantage: When being attacked, knowing where to let someone through, where to chump-block, and where to fight back makes a big difference.

Probability: Rolling lots of dice for energy makes them calculate what the potential distribution is.

Risk Assessment: Happens every combat step.

Family Game Night Value

With the basic rules restricted to head-to-head play, it’s not the best option for a family game night, but for a guy’s night in, or any other such time that there are just two of you, it’s a solid choice. And it plays fast and aggressive enough that even ADD kids should remain engaged.

TL;DR

It’s fast, fun, and light, yet with a reasonable amount of tactical and strategic choices.

And with 99c boosters, it’s cheap. You have no reason not to buy it.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

5
Go to the Carcassonne: The Tower page
74 out of 81 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household, with the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2. Each one gets to choose the game of the week in rotation. One perennial favorite is Carcassonne, frequently chosen by the Gamer Bling Official Companion.

And when we play, we use most every expansion we have… except this one.

The Promise

Quoth the box: “In this Carcassonne expansion, players have the opportunity to build upwards! The lords of the region around Carcassonne erect towers to strengthen and promote their power and influence. They employ followers to stand guard on the towers, watching over the land so they can inform their lords of all who travel and move throughout the area.”

There is more, but it pains Gamer Bling to type it all in (this is called “foreshadowing”). But the marketing promise is greater control of and influence over your area. Seems like a winner…

The Delivery

Sadly, it’s not a winner, nor does it even execute on the promise.

The Tower converts the passive-aggressive Eurogame nature of Carcassonne to a direct-conflict, assassinate-your-meeple sort of game. Gone are the days of trying to shark someone’s city by trying to attach two of your meeples to the city; in this game, you can destroy valuable farmers who have been there since the start of the game and rob the other player of a ton of hard-earned points.

You see, certain tiles have a tower foundation printed on them. On your turn, instead of placing a meeple in the tile you just played, you can place a block on the top of any tower on the board, and, when you do so, capture a meeple belonging to another player that is (a) along the same row or column, and (b) within a number of squares equal to the tower’s height. The captured meeple can eventually return to your pool… but not to the place it was stolen from.

So sure, you build towers up, but that is merely a nice-looking game-state marker. The towers don’t need to go up. You could just as easily have used dice, poker chips, or anything else, because what looks like a tower’s height is really the range of its artillery. The only reason the towers go up is so they can make you pay for lots of wooden blocks.

Let’s be clear: these towers do not defend, they only attack. If you put a meeple on top of a tower (another option), then no one, not even you, can use that tower further. But you’re down a meeple. And the only reporting they do on movement is to watch as other players make your farmers travel off to captivity.

As a tower grows, so too does its reach. Two or three large towers can cover most of the board. It feels like nothing is safe.

Gamer Bling played this expansion with the Gamer Bling Official Companion once and once only. Tempers flared and feelings were bitter. We agreed never to play it again, and never ever to show it to the Gamer Bling’s sister-in-law, who might actually kill your humble reviewer.

Finesse

The expansion does come with a very nice two-column tower that holds all your tiles. It’s solid, it takes up no table space, it’s convenient, and we use it every single time we play. The tower accessory holds all the tiles for the base game and multiple expansions, and fits neatly into the box it came in. Better yet, the box it came in fits neatly inside the Carcassonne Limited Edition Box, which makes storage of everything very tidy.

The tower pieces interlock both with each other and with a meeple on top. Not tightly, but enough that a table bump will not usually result in a disaster.

Yes, Gamer Bling is not commenting on the game design finesse. That’s how little he likes the tower rules.

Skills

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with this expansion.

Emotional Restraint: Because they’ll want to leap over the table to pummel their siblings. This will also help avoid federal charges when the inevitable IRS audit comes.

Situational Awareness: As the towers grow, they can reach further and further across the board, forcing everyone to reconsider areas that were previously closed off.

Family Game Night Value

Use of the tower (this combined with Gamer Bling’s tip of shuffling while picking up) makes setting up and tearing down a breeze, and greatly facilitates game night. No more passing around a bag or the box lid, we just assign one person to hand out tiles from the top of one stack or the other. Fast and easy.

TL;DR

Buy it. Use it. Don’t play it. Rating as an accessory: 10. Rating as an expansion: 1.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

9
Go to the SET page

SET

82 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household. Each family member (your humble reviewer, the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2) each get to choose a game in rotation. Recently, that game was Set, as chosen by Gamer Bling.

The Promise

Gamer Bling’s package of Set is remarkably free from marketing hype, which is (a) refreshing, and (b) entirely in keeping with the cerebral feel of the game. The game’s tagline is “The Family Game of Visual Perception,” and the closest thing to actual sales text is “12 ‘Best Game’ Awards,” which is presented with nary an exclamation point.

As mentioned on the box back, the object of the game is to identify sets of three cards, based on the quantity, shape, color, and shading of the objects on the cards.

Sounds vaguely bland and “educational,” doesn’t it?

The Delivery

Set delivers quite precisely on its promise, with two caveats: (1) it’s a lot more fun than they make it sounds, and (2) it’s not really a game of visual perception; it’s more of a game of visual analysis. If it were a find-the-hidden-picture game, it would be a game of visual perception. Instead, the puzzle aspect and logical component (see below) mean that, in Gamer Bling’s opinion, it is a game that is actually fun.

There are no turns. Players lay out 12 cards in the center of the table, then try to find sets among them. (As a sample, there is a set of 12 cards on the back of the box that has no less than 6 sets hidden within it.) The first player to spot a set calls out “Set!” and collects the cards. New cards from the deck replace those taken, and the cycle continues.

If everyone gets stuck, deal three more cards to the table to break the logjam. Once the deck gets depleted, players score by the number of cards they collected.

Please indulge Gamer Bling while he gets a little mathematical here.

Each card is defined by four parameters:
• Quantity of figures on it (1, 2, 3)
• Shape of figures on it (oval, diamond, squirgle)
• Color of figures on it (blue, green, red)
• Shade of figures on it (hollow, shaded, solid)

Thus, with four parameters, each with three options, there are 81 (3 to the fourth power) possible permutations. And, of course, there are 81 playing cards in the box, so each card is unique.

Now a set is a group of three cards for which each parameter, evaluated on its own, either has three different values or three identical values. Thus a set might have all identical quantity (two figures), identical colors (all blue), different shades (one each hollow, shaded, solid), and different shapes (one each oval, diamond, and squirgle). Since each card in the game is unique, you will never have a set where all the cards are identical; there will always be one parameter where all the cards are different. And therein lies the wonderful challenge of the game.

The greatest feeling of success comes when you find a set for which all of the parameters are all different. Yes, it’s a set, but the cards bear no relation to each other at all, for example: one hollow blue squirgle, two shaded red ovals, and three solid green diamonds.

The game plays quickly—20 minutes maybe?—and you can easily get 2-3 games in during a game night. But play too many games in a row and you’ll find your brain gets exhausted from its mental sprints.

Finesse

The colors used for the cards are not your standard colors. The blue shades towards purple, for example. Gamer Bling cannot swear to it, but it appears that the color may have been carefully chosen to minimize the impact of color-blindness on a game that requires differentiating colors.

There is no text at all, so it is eminently portable to all cultures. As long as you can teach them.

Skills Required

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with Set.

Logical Analysis: This is a biggie. Since each set of cards must have at least one parameter that changes, one must look for trends and series. This skill is enhanced when one has to grind to find a set; taking a measured analytical path (“All right, I’ll look for any possible 1-2-3 set”) means making a quick decision and rigorously implementing it.

Clarity Under Pressure: You are in direct competition with other players, and have to keep your mind focused in order to win.

Thinking Out of the Box: Again, the best aspect of this game is that each set has to have one parameter that varies, often more. In an age where the school systems teach to the test and promote parroting over understanding, this creates better mental agility.

Family Game Night Value

It’s fast, it’s got a great mix of logic and intuition, and it’s easily handicapped for varying skill levels, although you may be surprised at how fast your kids pick it up.

Once folks get over the learning hump of “everything can’t be the same,”, it’s a solid gateway game for non-gamers.

And it’s very portable, being maybe the size of a Kindle .

TL;DR

For a seemingly dry game, it’s fun.

For a speed game, it’s analytical.

And it’s cheap. You have no reason not to buy it.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

7
Go to the Star Trek: Fleet Captains page

Star Trek: Fleet Captains

129 out of 150 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household, with the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2.

Each one gets to choose the game of the week in rotation. Recently, Gamer Bling played Star Trek Fleet Captains with a gaming buddy of his, with an eye toward introducing it to the family. So technically, this is not one of the games we played. But it almost was.

The Promise

The game bills itself thusly: Star Trek Fleet Captains puts the entire Federation or Klingon fleet at your disposal as your fight for control over a sector of unexplored space. Encounter new civilizations, expand your influence by establishing an outpost or a starbase, and complete missions to secure your victory!

For marketing text, it’s pretty spot on… assuming that “the entire Federation fleet” is 3-5 ships. Which is really a squadron.

Aside from that, you really do pursue the other items, and do so in classic Star Trek style.

The Delivery

Star Trek Fleet Captains certainly delivers on the promise of a frolic through the Star Trek universe. Every mission, every command, every hex of the map evokes a story or moment from the series. Yes, even the deep space map hexes, boring as they are, evoke the series by taking a pull quote from the opening credits: “Space… the final frontier.” As a veteran of TOS, TNG, and parts of DS9, Gamer Bling found himself fondly reliving many hours sitting vacant-brained in front of the TV.

As far as components go, the ships are standard Clix quality ships cast in plastic and unpainted. No complaints.

The map hexes are middleweight linen-finished cardstock, and are, in Gamer Bling’s opinion, underweight. This was clearly an area where production cost became an issue. They are nicely designed graphically speaking, but Yours Truly would have been happier had they been punchboard.

At its core, this is a standard 4X board game. That is, you build an empire through Xploration, Xpansion, Xploitation, and Xtermination.

The map tiles start upside down, and you explore the map, sometimes having encounters that can result negative effects or successful missions (and victory points). You build outposts that you can eventually upgrade to starbases to increase your dominance (and victory points). You can attack enemy ships for glory (and victory points). You get the picture.

Each turn, you can move your ships, explore space, add crew to your ships, attempt missions, play cards to surprise your opponent… there’s a lot going on here! So much that Gamer Bling will not even try to give a rules overview. Instead, he will touch on a few salient points and ensure that you understand the feel and flow of the game.

Each ship has three states: undamaged, yellow alert (slightly damaged), and red alert (a whole lotta hurt). Within each state, the players can select 3-5 different energy profiles, from an all-power-to-weapons approach to a massive-scanners-and-shield approach. Each ship can adjust its power profile once each turn, even in the middle of an action (e.g., in response to an unexpected encounter with an alien planet-eating machine). While three hit points seems low for a starship, it works out pretty well and gives a lot of tactical and strategic choices.

Each hex of the map had a size rating, which is how many movement points it takes to cross. This makes certain sections of the map the space equivalent of swamp, and channels movement in an interesting way, especially when a newly explored hex is a completely different size than you’d hoped.

The command cards cast a wide and wonderful net across all the series, so you can have 60s Kirk teaming up with Quark from DS9. Very nostalgic and anachronistic.

And the encounter cards are very creative; it’s clear that the designers spent a lot of time with their DVDs.

As in the TV series, the encounter cards throw a wide variety of challenges in your path, some of which can be great or devastating. Gamer Bling believes that these were designed to be balanced, but they can nonetheless feel random when the draw does not go your way.

Finesse

The first finesse you will notice upon opening the box is that every single ship has its own custom slot to snap into, and WizKids very kindly provided a key to show you which ship snaps into which slot so that you are not left fumbling about at the end of the game trying to hammer a square Enterprise into a round slot. Thus your models are very securely packaged and will withstand all sorts of box drops. Bravo!

Another one of the nice touches that WizKids included was to have every instance of the words weapons, engines, shields, and scan followed immediately by the matching icon. Each of the icons is different in appearance and color, and the sheer repetition of the association makes the game easier and quicker to pick up. All the icons on the ship reference card; the ship’s clicky dial; and every mission, encounter, and planet all reinforce this association.

Laying out the ship reference cards so that they echo the information on the ships’ dials was, technically speaking, unnecessary, but it sure makes gameplay easier. Players could have been forced to click their dials back and forth ad nauseam (and Gamer Bling uses that term deliberately), comparing the values to decide which click to set their ship to, but having the reference card makes the game fast, easy, and a lot less clicky-noisy.

Skills

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with Star Trek Fleet Captains .

Americana: An immersive tour of Star Trek creates pop-culture awareness. However, without a meaningful reference to most of the stories and quotes, Gamer Bling wouldn’t expect these to stick. Far better to watch key episodes.

Fluid Long-Term Planning: With all the options (combat, missions, building); the various ships powers; and the somewhat random effects of many different locations, encounters, and missions; players must find an optimal path to victory in a complex environment with no clear answers and few guaranteed results.

Probabilities: Interactions are resolved using value plus d6 versus value plus d6.

Family Game Night Value

This is a fine Ameritrash game. Sadly, due to theme, game length, and complexity, it will not be appearing in rotation at the Gamer Bling table.

On the other hand, Gamer Bling’s gaming friend is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to buy it from Yours Truly.

TL;DR

This is a gamer’s game and a Star Trek afficionado’s game. While great for those groups, it is not for the casual gamer who is also not a Star Trek fan.

Definitely try it if you love 4X and/or Star Trek.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

9
Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition page

Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition

51 out of 73 gamers thought this was helpful

One of the funniest gam3r comments that Gamer Bling has heard regarding 4e was that 4e doesn’t stress role-playing. That it is really just a miniatures game in RPG clothing. In fact, Gamer Bling heard several gam3rs argue that 4e isn’t a role-playing game at all.

Even Lone Wolf’s brogue-alicious Colen MacAlister, who is ordinarily a very intelligent guy, fell for this argument, and relayed it to Yours Truly at Gen Con 2008. Of course, by Gen Con 2009, he had actually played 4e, and vowed that he could never return to 3.5. Gamer Bling has also taken this vow.

Now, when he originally heard this argument, Gamer Bling was given significant pause to wonder. How can a game be definitively proven to be a role-playing game, or to stress role-playing? By definition, role-playing is not something that can be classified, categorized, and ruled upon. Doing so makes it a rule-playing game.

Simply put, to quote the august Mike Pondsmith, who is an amazingly creative guy and has given Gamer Bling many freelance dollars over the years, as well as allowed him to vent his frustrations regarding the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion upon a stack of boxes of old product, “RPGs are ‘let’s pretend’ with rules.”

This necessarily splits the content of an RPG into the role-playing part of “let’s pretend” and the rule-playing part. The rule-playing part deals with the effects of interactions: his sword versus her head (as Gamer Bling immediately commits a Freudian slip that clearly reflects his opinion on the First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion). The role-playing part deals with the style of interactions and the motivations behind them.

Any gam3r worth his weight in pretzels must necessarily understand that any RPG book must focus primarily upon the rule-playing portion of the game. After all, most of us instinctively know how to play “let’s pretend.” Heck, most of us do it at the movies, when we agree or disagree with the activities of a character and whisper back and forth about it until the people behind us call the usher and we get ejected from the theater.

In point of fact, the Second Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion is a fan of making many comments during movies, though fortunately she only does so when we are watching movies at home. At times, the Gamer Bling Official Companion can be a regular pit bull of opinion, and when a movie is unrealistic Gamer Bling often wishes she would just let it go and suspend her disbelief from a noose dangling from the ceiling fan.

In any event, Gamer Bling was moved to wonder whether or not WotC had, in fact, created an RPG that wasn’t an RPG. But to make a determination, he first had to figure out how to go about analyzing the data.

The first thing that Gamer Bling decided was that he was NOT going to do it by word count. No way. He’d be up all night for weeks, muttering “three thousand seven hundred and forty two… three thousand seven hundred and forty three… three thousand seven hundred and forty four… um… zzzzzzzz…”

Even page count isn’t necessarily accurate, since (a) pages can have dramatically different numbers of words, and (b) Gamer Bling keeps getting distracted by all the pretty pictures. On the other hand, comparing page count to total book length is a reasonable estimate of how much gravitas a subject is considered to have.

Eventually, as Gamer Bling ruminated on the issue, it basically boiled down to the questions “What sort of examples do the rulebooks give?” and “What priority do the rulebooks imply?” and “How can I make some actual money doing this blasted web page?” Even ten dollars would be fine. That’d pay for pizza.

So Gamer Bling did a side-by-side comparison of the 4e rulebook and the 3.5e version that Gamer Bling has with a gold foil stamp on the cover that says, “GenCon 2003,” because it gives Yours Truly a chance to taunt people with his ownership of the book before he eventually puts it up on eBay to pay the Gamer Bling Monthly Access Fee.

The first thing that strikes Gamer Bling is that the 4e rulebook is friendlier (“How to Play” vs. 3e’s “Introduction,” and “Making Characters” vs. 3e’s “Abilities”), but that does not bear on whether or not it is an RPG, just how easy it is for n00bs like Josh to learn.

The introductory section takes three pages in 3.5 (1% of the book) and eight pages in 4e (3%). In addition, the 4e PHB provides an example of a role-playing session dialog before it presents the core mechanic of the game. In contrast, 3.5 moved the role-playing example so far behind the core mechanic that it apparently tripped over the index and fell right out of the back of the book. Oops.

Maybe that’s because in a real 3.5 RPG session there is little talking as folks spend so much time looking up the rules for grappling.

The next several chapters of both PHBs take players through the task of making their characters. In 3.5, they start with abilities, then race, class, skills, and feats. Then 3.5 ends with a pitiful 8-page chapter on “description.” So 3.5 demonstrates (intentionally or not) that description is the last thing you should think of when building your character.

In contrast, Gamer Bling is of the opinion that one must have the character’s gestalt before trying to bring it into life with abilities and such. 4e starts that part of the book with a 20-page chapter on “Making Characters,” which includes a section titled “Roleplaying.”

Gamer Bling looked; nowhere in the 3.5 PHB is there a section labeled “Roleplaying.” Zing.

3.5 spends a page—a whole page!—with charts for height, weight, and age. 4e ignores that almost entirely, leaving it in the hands of the players with no more than brief guidelines. Role-playing versus rule-playing. Zing.

In contrast, 3.5 spends a pitiful half a page on “Looks, Background, and Personality”—what, no eye-color charts?—before getting back to “Customizing Your Character.” 4e spends two pages discussing Personality, Mannerisms, Appearance, and Background.

After the introduction comes the Races chapter. Which makes sense, since if you parse out the standard PC intro, “I’m playing a” is the introduction, which is then followed by the race and then the class, as in “I’m playing a dwarf fighter” or “I’m playing a flying fire-breathing Syberis kobold rogue/sorcerer/arcane trickster so I’m better than you.”

In 3.5, each race gets a description and a black-and-white head shot or two. In 4e, each race gets a description with a full-color illustration. Each version gives racial rules and abilities, physical qualities, personality, etc.

The big difference is this: In 3.5, “Choosing a Race” is the title of a section at the start of a chapter. It deals with how your race/class combo can impact how potent your character is. In contrast, each race in 4e has a small section labeled “Play a [race] if you want…” and follows it up with three reasons, two of which are pure role-playing and personality issues, and only the third deals with race/class combo.

Next, we check out classes.

3.5 spends 40 pages, 14% of the book, on classes. 4e spends 126 pages, or 40% of the book. Now this is not a fair comparison, of course, since the 126 pages includes many, many options for each class. Because apparently (according to gam3rs) having options precludes role-playing, while renaming your skill from “move silently” to “footpaddin’ ” is extraordinary role-playing (see the end of the 3.5 Description chapter if you fail to catch the reference).

To compare the classes more equally, we should lump the Magic and Spells chapters in with the Classes chapter for 3.5. But that, too, is unfair, as we shall discuss presently. So instead, let’s look at how the classes are presented.

In 3.5, the section starts out with a brief description of a generic [classname]. There then follow the sort of adventures the class takes, what the class is like, what their alignment is likely to be, their religion, background, best races, opinions of other classes, and role in the party. Then we get into the game rules for the class.

4e starts out with a pull quote and a big ol’ illustration to set the mood. Then, in a rare case where 3.5 presents role-playing material first, 4e has a block that deals primarily with game statistics. But then 4e follows again with a larger description of the [classname]. Following that, players can pick a slant for their [classname], which is again prefaced with a solid description.

So the way that 3.5 and 4e present classes is fairly even. The big difference is in how 3.5 and 4e present sample adventurers.

In 3.5, sample adventurers are placed in the classes section and presented in emotionless game-stat format: “Human Sorcerer Starting Package / Armor: None (speed 30 ft.) / Weapons: Shortspear (1d6, crit x2, range inc. 20 ft., 3 lb, one-handed, piercing)…”

In 4e, sample adventurers are placed in the races section and presented in role-playing personality format without any game stats whatsoever: “Donaar is a paladin of Erathis [who] believes that the dragonborn race is destined to rise from the ashes of its ancient empire…. As a reminder of his heritage, he keeps a piece of the shell from which he hatched in an amulet around his neck.”

Next, Gamer Bling observes that both 3.5 and 4e give roughly equal treatment to the chapters on combat (10%) and adventuring (3%). The sole difference is that in 4e, the chapter on adventuring comes before combat, while in 3.5 combat comes first. But of course adventures should be more important, right? Because adventures lead to combat, but not vice versa, right? So which version pushes adventuring to the rear? Why, 3.5.

Skills and feats get more or less equal attention, although Gamer Bling will point out that skills and feats have less import in 4e than they do in 3.5, because the class abilities are so much more flexible and impactful.

The equipment chapter in 4e is longer, because it has magic items. So call that a wash.

Finally, the last 40% of the 3.5 PHB is devoted purely to spells. That’s over one third of the book devoted to effects that 4 out of the 11 base classes cannot use. Worse yet, another 3 out of those 11 can’t use nearly all of the spells, being restricted in level to 6 (bard) or 4 (paladin, ranger). That’s an awful lot of the book devoted to a few classes.

This fact requires barbarians, fighters, monks, and rogues to employ feats to develop an identity. But that’s an argument for another day.

In conclusion, Gamer Bling presents another fun Deathmatch table:

Gives a sample dialog for a roleplaying session: 4e
Has a section named “Roleplaying”: 4e
Presents description before game stats: 4e
Gives roleplaying reasons to play a race: 4e
Sample characters are descriptive, not stat blocks: 4e
Adventuring is presented before combat: 4e
Is the version Gamer Bling sold off on eBay: 3.5

So remind Gamer Bling… which version stresses role-playing?

9
Go to the Guildhall page

Guildhall

144 out of 151 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household, with the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2.

Each one gets to choose the game of the week in rotation. Recently, that game was Guildhall, as chosen by the Gamer Bling Official Companion.

The Promise

Guildhall bills itself thusly: “Progress! That’s what these Dark Ages need, someone with a little get-up-and-go. You’ve been a serf in this one-pig town long enough, and it’s time to shake things up. You’ve opened a guildhall for like-minded professionals from all over Europe to work together, build their trades, and get some economic stability. Now if only everybody else didn’t have the same idea…”

And thus we are promised the opportunity to grow and thrive whilst in competition with others. Sounds pretty euro, doesn’t it? And it is.

As an aside, the main spokesman for the game, sitting front and center on the game box, is a gap-toothed, bald-headed, knob-nosed pig farmer, happily holding two little pigs. You’d think he would rather be holding the dancer’s puppies, but to each his own. And by puppies, Gamer Bling of course refers to the two cute dogs at the dancer’s feet, which were sadly cut off when the art was laid out. Gamer Bling knows these things.

Regardless, it’s pretty brave to have such a homely guy be the face of the game. And he’s as close as the game gets to the actual plague-ridden, flea-infested, contaminated-water Middle Ages. Which is just fine by Gamer Bling. The rest of the game is as clean and smooth-flowing as a mountain stream.

The Delivery

The game box is filled primarily with air, especially if you get one of the first-printing boxes before they renovated the storage system. 150 cards, one punchboard, rules. That’s it. It is sad that games must have a large footprint in order to be seen on retail shelves. However Gamer Bling hears that the new improved storage tray inside second-printing boxes is much better, and will be able to hold the inevitable expansion as well.

The rules are very light. On your turn you get two actions, which can be any mix, match, or combination of:

* Play a card to your action area (it cannot match a card already in your guildhall, or be the same profession as a card you already played this turn).

* Discard as many cards as you like and refill your hand to 6.

* Buy a VP card (many have abilities you get when you purchase them).

Then, at the end of each turn, you sweep cards from your action area into your guildhall. Shazam!

Even the Gamer Bling Official Companion, who is usually good for at least one accusation of skipped rules explanations, picked this game up with no hard feelings whatsoever. Gamer Bling was pleasantly surprised, this being, as near as he can recall, a first.

There are six different professions in the game, each of which appears in five different colors. Each of the professions has a unique ability, and the power of this ability grows as you gather more of that profession into your guildhall. For example, the first farmer you play scores you nothing. If you play a second farmer (one already being in your guildhall), he scores a VP, as does the third. The fourth and fifth farmers score 2 VP each.

Once you collect all five colors of a given profession in your guildhall, that chapter gets closed (flipped over), and you can use it to buy a VP card. Also, your guildhall is now empty of that profession, and you can play more of that card.

The game design is both brilliant and elegant for this one reason: You can only have one of each color in your guildhall. As the number of cards of a given profession grows, their power likewise grows, but your chances of playing one of the remaining colors diminishes. Thus, as the game goes on, you are often looking for ways to sluff off people already in your guildhall so you can play that duplicate in your hand, or else find some way to trade for that last card you need.

It plays quickly, with the turn sometimes flying around the table. You have to take time to score points, which is always clever. And although there is a bit of spite, it is fairly light and easy to recover from. Usually the spite is incidental to getting your own chapters closed.

The only downside is that sometimes you can tell that a given player will win on his or her next turn. Sometimes you can stop it with a dash of luck by buying up VP cards, but usually not. That said, the game progresses quickly enough that even with four players, this last gasp to stop a win lasts only a couple minutes.

Finesse

Color-matching games–or in this case, color mismatching games–are problematic for the colorblind, but AEG handled thus very nicely. Each color has a unique texture, as well as a set of three symbols each tied to one color. Thus even those who are completely colorblind can mix and match the crosses, fleurs-de-lis, etc.

In addition, each profession has a little signpost in the upper left hand corner with a unique icon. Thus even a small fanning of cards shows you what you have as far as professions and colors.

Finally, each card has clever iconography to explain its use. This means that the cards themselves have no language dependence. Obviously, you need to have someone teach you the rules, but the Gamer Bling Official Expansions (aged 10 and 12 when they first played) picked up the game functions very quickly.

Skills

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with Guildhall.

Complex problem solving: Given a set of diverse cards, players must find a way to maximize their benefits by stringing together simple tasks. Even with a mere six professions, the options explode exponentially. Gamer Bling believes that this encourages independent thinking (as opposed to rote methodology) which leads to creativity and success. Likewise, the realization that your assets (cards in your guildhall) may be impeding your options (cards in hand) is a useful life skill.

Iconography: Perhaps this is a reach, but Gamer Bling Believes that exposure to iconography expands understanding of iconography. This coming from a guy who spent many years of his childhood thinking that the Handicapped Accessible sign (the dude sitting in a wheelchair) was a icon for a guy sitting on a toilet bowl. Because Yours Truly only ever saw them on restroom doors.

Family Game Night Value

It sets up fast. It tears down fast. It progresses quickly around the table. It’s got a touch of “Look what I did” and a touch of “Take that!”

It’s colorful, it’s got a lot of thought for a light game, and it’s fun to hear your wife say “I’ll dance for two” or your daughter say, “I assassinate your weaver, then I dig him up with my historian.”

It is a regular in the rotation at the Gamer Bling table. Just check Gamer Bling’s stats for games played.

TL;DR

This was an instant hit in the Gamer Bling family. And it plays fast, which means we can get in two games in an evening. Double the winners!

Buy it.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

8
Go to the Ticket to Ride: Europe page
59 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household, with the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2.

Each one gets to choose the game of the week in rotation. Recently, that game was Ticket to Ride: Europe, as chosen by Gamer Bling Expansion #1.

The Promise

Ticket to Ride: Europe promises to take you “on a new train adventure through the great cities of turn-of-the-century Europe,” a promise that is reinforced by the appearance of five different people dressed in five different colors, all looking happy and adventurous.

Curiously, the game also promises that you can “erect lavish train stations” and become “Europe’s greatest train magnate,” goals that seem far beyond the reach of most of the people on the cover, especially the schoolgirl in yellow and the sooty engineer with the wrench and oilcan.

So… adventure or capitalism? Already Gamer Bling begins to wonder who the heck writes their marketing text.

The Delivery

Despite the personable faces on the front cover, you do not play a person adventuring by train. You are, in fact, much closer to a train magnate. However, unlike what you might have experienced in Sid Meier’s venerable Railroad Tycoon, the tracks you lay do not even have to be contiguous.

The map is a very nicely rendered and thematic map of Europe before The Great War. Single and double train routes connect the various cities. Each route is colored to show what sort of cards a player must discard to gain control of that route.

Broken down to its most basic mechanics, the game is a mix of set collection and territory grabbing. Each turn, you either acquire cards for a set (either by taking a face-up card or via a blind draw from the deck), or else discard a set of cards from your hand to claim a route that matches the cards in quantity and color.

Players score points by claiming routes (longer routes are worth proportionately more) and by connecting the cities listed on your “tickets,” which are basically secret missions.

There is a bit of passive conflict inasmuch as you can claim a route that someone else may want, but there is no overt attacking. The ability to place train stations to allow you to use another player’s route to improve your score mitigates any potential hostility that would erupt over contested routes.

Tunnels also allow for a bit of a gamble; when claiming a tunnel route, it costs 0-3 more cards than its list price, as determined randomly by deck draws.

Finesse

Color-matching games are problematic for the colorblind, but Days of Wonder very nicely has symbols unique to each color. Thus even those with complete colorblindess can play by matching symbols on their cards to the symbols on the map.

In addition, since the game pieces are (a) limited in quantity and (b) used as a game-end timer, DoW very nicely includes extras in a separate baggie to replace any that get eaten by your dog or your toddler.

Skills

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with Ticket to Ride: Europe.

Long-Term Planning: Connecting a city in Spain with one in Russia requires forethought. It’s a long route, with a lot of links and multiple paths to select from.

Geography: It is, in fact, a map of Europe. Even if it is 1910. At least the kids can learn where the cities basically are, even if the borders have changed. However, the city names are rendered in the local language. Rome is Roma, Vienna is Wien, and Istanbul is Constantinople. This is cool for adults, but less so for kids. But at least the Russian cities are not rendered in Cyrillic.

Family Game Night Value

This is a very accessible gateway game, easy to learn, easy to play, and fun to complain about when the cards aren’t falling your way. Better yet, with the secret-mission Ticket cards remaining hidden until the end of the game, you can’t tell who’s going to win until it’s all over.

It is a regular in the rotation at the Gamer Bling table.

TL;DR

This was an instant hit in the Gamer Bling family. And from everything Gamer Bling has experienced and heard, it is the best of the Ticket to Ride line of games.

Buy it.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

6
Go to the RoboRally page

RoboRally

93 out of 100 gamers thought this was helpful

Sunday night is game night at the Gamer Bling household. Sadly, this does not mean watching football. Happily it means playing games with the Gamer Bling Official Companion, Gamer Bling Expansion #1, and Gamer Bling Expansion #2.

The quiet lull after the Expansions are shelved for the night is a decent enough time for Gamer Bling to spout his opinion on the Game of the Week. This week, that game was RoboRally, as chosen by Gamer Bling Expansion #2.

The below should all be approached with the understanding that Gamer Bling owns the original version of the game from 1994, as well as a few extra boards he scrounged here and there. Any improvements in the 2005 reprint remain unknown to Gamer Bling, and are therefore unimportant.

The Promise

RoboRally promises “Robot Racing to the Extreme!” And, in Gamer Bling’s opinion, “extreme” starts with this marketing promise.

You steer a robot across a map filled with various environmental hazards, including but not limited to conveyors, crushers, lasers, oil slicks, pits, and your fellow racers. With Phil Foglio illustrations, it promises to be a game of wacky zany racing.

Sounds like great family fun, right?

The Delivery

Each turn, you program your robot’s movement across the board using a selection of cards, each of which has one action printed on it (“Turn Right,” “Move 2,” etc.). Your hand starts at nine cards, but gets smaller as you get damaged. Of these nine (or less) you choose five to get yourself across the board.

Your goal is to tag each of the however-many flags you placed on the course during setup.

Thus each turn boils down to this basic subroutine:

* Inspect your limited options for movement.
* Arrange them in an order that best progresses you toward your goal.
* Rinse, repeat.

Gamer Bling finds that this game is not particularly wacky, inasmuch as 2/3 to 3/4 of the game time is planning, and the rest is execution. It moves quite slowly for a race game.

The wackiness does arise on occasion when one robot bumps into another and knocks it off course. If this happens early enough in the turn, the hapless second robot can get sent careening in the wrong direction while following its program.

Sadly, this does not happen often, because there is too much room on the board and the robots easily get split up geographically. This past game we just finished, one robot was knocked one square once, to no major effect.

Gamer Bling also notes that when RoboRally used to be demoed at the WotC booth at Gen Con by the late Paul Randles, Paul demoed it on a board that was a quarter the size of just one of the board tiles provided in the game. That promoted interaction between the robots!

The game also rather breaks when one stops thinking about the fun of being wacky and focuses on the goal of running the race most efficiently. Gamer Bling usually wins this game by crushing margins by doing just that, rather than trying to get repairs, upgrades, or mess up other players like the Expansions do.

Skills Required

As a homeschool parent, Gamer Bling believes in seizing every opportunity for learning. Here’s what the kids can learn or practice with RoboRally.

Spatial Orientation: This is a biggie. You must be able to steer your robot right and left when it is across the table, facing you, and sitting on a rotating gear. This has led many to do the infamous “RoboRally Dance,” wherein one uses hands, fingers, bodily facing, pens, or what have you to diddle one’s way around the board. Watching this is often more entertaining than the game itself.

Optimization: You have limited resources, and you must apply them in as efficient a manner as possible.

Planning: One must scout the best route to advance to the flags. For example, conveyor belts are obstacles if the run against you, but beneficial if they run with you, thus going out of your way to catch the right conveyor can make a lot of difference.

Family Game Night Value

Kids love it. Boys especially, since it involves lasers and crushers and pushing people into pits.

It’s accessible, and a solid gateway game for non-gamers.

And it’s fun while it’s new. As a veteran gamer, however, this reviewer is tired of it. He only keeps it around because Gamer Bling Expansion #2 keeps asking to play it.

TL;DR

For a race game, it’s slow.

For a nominally wacky game, it’s pretty dry.

Pick it up if it’s cheap, or you want to house-rule it into shape.

And thank you for taking the time to read a Gamer Bling Sunday Night Review.

× Visit Your Profile