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Chris Oldgeorge

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Go to the Twilight Struggle page
Go to the Ascending Empires page
Go to the War of Honor page
Go to the Junta page
Go to the BattleLore page
Go to the Nightfall page
Go to the Rex: Final Days of an Empire page
55 out of 62 gamers thought this was helpful

I suppose there has been a lot of buzz about Rex, from both lovers and haters of the original Dune, and finally the game is here so everyone can see what’s it all about.

I can’t say I enjoyed the original Dune, but I played it only once, long ago, didn’t own the game, rules explanation was a bit *******, needless to say the circumstances easily conspired against it. Despite owning it only for a couple of weeks, I’ve already had 4 games of Rex under my belt and everybody in the gaming group is asking for more!

The game itself is pretty easy to learn, you get to play one of the pre-emminent races in the TI universe around the fall of the Lazax empire, and you are trying to grasp control of the key strongpoints of Mecatol Rex while those lovely Terrans are spending some thousand tons of ordinance in a pro-bono urban renewal project (i.e. the Dune sandworm equivalent).

Although it seems like a wargame, it’s really not, since most of the time the death toll is so extensive (whether through bombardment or conflict) that your graveyard is often much more populated than your reserves. The core concept is area control and resource management through a complex web of diplomacy and intrigue. Did I say intrigue? Oh yes!

I’ve been jonesing for a decent betrayal oriented game since the days Junta, Illuminati and Colonial Diplomacy where the favorites of our playgroup. It seems there are so many chummy-chummy eurogames out there now, that people have forgotten how to lie. Success in Rex depends mostly on your skill to forge, betray and break alliances in a timely fashion, while plotting the demise of your opponents. It’s not a game I would recommend to people that get easily upset or feel bad when their tokens are swiped off the board, but the rest of the world will probably it enjoy it to some level or other. On an even brighter note, the duration is at worst two hours (more often than not 1), so you can have multiple sessions in a gaming night and have revenge on those pesky traitors!

The race powers are not balanced, but since the core of the game is diplomacy they don’t have to be. You just have to make your perceived strengths or weaknesses part of your diplomatic arsenal.

The components are top notch FFG quality, the rulebook is a very decent read with clear examples. Overall, an all-star game!

Go to the Alien Frontiers page

Alien Frontiers

73 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

At first glance, I must admit that I was rather underwhelmed by this game, mainly because it seemed like a simple worker placement affair with minimal interaction between the players. I couldn’t be more wrong!

Alien Frontiers is truly an ingenious mix of easy to learn (yet hard to master) mechanics, that can be enjoyed by all sorts of players. Minimal downtime, alternate paths to victory, constantly changing game plans and relatively controlled randomness (granted you roll dice, but there are so many of them that at some point your luck can and will turn) make this a really classy game.

Component wise (afaik the package I got was the 3rd printing, mind control helmets + scoring rockets) the game easily gets 5 out of 5. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in the box, the pieces and board are sturdy, the artwork fits the theme perfectly and everything is clearly marked out.

Rule wise, the game is pretty easy to learn, I don’t think that anybody that has played a few boardgames before needs more that 10-20 minutes to breeze through the rules and start playing. And if something looks a bit hard to grasp at first read (e.g. the use of the Terraforming station) after playing your first game you won’t have any issues with the rules whatsoever.

The mechanics are a clever mix of worker placement (spaceships, area control (colonies) and resource management (fuel and ore), where each turn you roll your spaceships (represented by nice large colored dice) and you place them in various areas of the board in order to trigger their abilities (harvesting resources, stealing from other players, building colonies, gathering alien tech, etc). The overall goal is to colonize areas on the other planet, scoring victory points and gaining more abilities by dominating said areas. As I said before, it’s very easy to learn (especially since you start with a small fleet), yet very hard to master, since the last couple of turns each game tend to be rather cutthroat as you try to sabotage everyone else and advance your path to victory.

The game is drastically enriched through the existence of the alien technology cards, that alter the rules in subtle yet important ways, from changing the values of the dice you rolled to blasting opposing ships out of space. Actually, I think that the brilliance behind AF lies in these cards, since they are the ones that grant the game its replay value as they have a very strong impact on the endgame each time.

Overall, it is an excellent game, one of the very few that the first time it hit the table everybody wanted an immediate replay once it was over. Here’s to hoping that the upcoming expansion will make it even better 🙂

Go to the Black Crusade page

Black Crusade

32 out of 33 gamers thought this was helpful

Well, if you haven’t played any of the Warhammer 40k RPG lines, probably this isn’t the right place to start, since character creation is a bit more complicated and more open than Dark Heresy or Deathwatch (which should probably be your points of entrance into WH40k roleplaying anyway – depending on the style of play you’re looking for). Additionally, GMing for a mixed group of characters (normal heretics and chaos marines) can be a daunting task for a novice GM.

Further on this (undeservingly small) review, I will assume that you are familiar with the game line, the systems and the other three games. Actually, the only real question about the game that i will try to answer is the following: if my group is enjoying one of the other three 40k game lines, would it be worth it to give Black Crusade a try for a short campaign?

Well, rules wise, BC is the 4th revision of the 40k rpg system (in case you are only playing one game line, each of those actually has subtle – or in the case of Deathwatch – less subtle differences), and in my opinion these changes are good ones. A reasonably better psionic system than DH, the Infamy systems more clear cut than the Rogue Trader Wealth Mechanic and the slight combat changes make things quite exciting (reader discretion: I really don’t like Deathwatch and the absurd power level of the characters/encounters – if you like that style of play, not sure weather BC will satisfy you without future supplements), etc.

Another plus is the relative freedom in character development, since the Ruinous Powers allow characters complete freedom (at a price as always, heh) to develop as you see fit. Instead of the traditional classes and ranks, players start from an archetype that is more of a roleplaying choice rather than mechanical one, and then they are free to purchase any skill in the book, with one caveat: most skills are favored by one particular ruinous power, so getting many similar advances can attract the patron deity’s attention. And you know how fickle are the whims of Chaos 🙂

Furthermore, the native game setting, The Screaming Vortex, is everything you would expect by a Chaos Realm. After playing a few adventures with my group and discussing about the experience, we all kind of agreed that playing in a less restricted millieu than the rigid land of the Inquisition, while all the same having considerably less freedom than a Rogue Trader group has is the perfect balance for us. Not to mention the really crazy locations & encounters you can create at a land scourged by the Warp. Maybe the diversity and insanity can get tiresome after a while, but there is always plan B: get back to boring Imperial space and try to topple the rule of the False Emperor. Really mature and experienced roleplaying groups can even try troupe style play, one moment/gaming night playing the Inquisitors, the other the Heretics, in a crazy cat and mouse game 🙂

Finally, although Dark Heresy had a strong Call of Cthulhu feeling at start (with the sanity rules, the big bad daemons, etc) I can’t really say it kept constant once the characters grew more powerful and swapped the stub guns for melta guns. In Black Crusade, things are different. Your slide into corruption is inexorable and inevitable, and the mechanics seem to mesh very nicely with the concept.

Overall (and quite subjectively – since RPG games are a rather personal experience), Black Crusade has been a must buy for me and my group since it was announced. The only bad thing I can find is the difference in the release date between the book and the collector’s edition, since essentially I ended up buying both versions :/ and the relative lack of material since it is one book vs a dozen+ in the other game lines.

But it’s solid fun and great entertainment. I can’t really ask much more from an RPG game anymore.

p.s. I can’t fault a game where your character can scream “Hail Slaneesh!” as many times per session as he wants. So take this review with a grain of salt 🙂

Go to the Star Trek: Fleet Captains page
132 out of 140 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve been after this game since its early previews came about, since there aren’t that many options available if you are looking for a light-medium sci-fi head to head game. As an added plus, Fleet Captains is abundant with Trek fluff, which is a always a good thing in my book (despite being a casual Trekkie at best).

The concept and game mechanics are really great, meshing well together to create an atmosphere of space travel, exploration, expansion and ofc combat, without bogging down with excessive rules. Even cloacking, which traditionally has posed a problem for many space combat games, is handled in a pretty nice and smooth way.

All the exciting Trek stuff is there as well, from sending out away teams (well, that mechanic could do with a bit of sprucing up, e.g. like having to roll a dice to succeed in their mission), to Klingons making cloacked ambushes at innocent little science vessels. The play by play tempo is excellent, fast paced with minimal downtime for the two player game (slight downtime in the four player game), and what seems to be at first a decent scaling mechanism for game size and length. So if you want a galaxy wide conflict, you can probably have it, although it might get a bit tiring to keep track of who moved and who didn’t in the end.

Now, the bad stuff. As people as saying left and right, the components are really, really, bad. I’ve heard that people have had some or minimal problems with their box, mine was a complete mess! The rulebook was mangled, about 8 of the ships had snapped at the connection point with the flyng base (some had snapped that badly that superglue wasn’t much of a help, I had to use a lighter to melt the plastic a bit and wedge them together), some of the command cards where wrongly cut, and there are a couple of hexes are the wrong size. For a base set of a game that aims to put out expansions and its pricetag, that was inexcusable. I suppose that they used Tribbles for quality control.

Also, the rules, while comprehensive need to be read a couple of times to be understood completely, and some information is scattered around the rulebook (and definately not in the place you expect it to be when you need to find a rules reference quick – rules indexes are clearly a Romulan invention) and the last page quick reference tables leave a lot to be desired. But that’s nothing that can’t be overcome, with a few player aids from the internet. If nothing else, it seems that this game is attracting a following already.

Finally, while the core rules mechanisms are easy to learn, explain and understand, there is no “let’s jump in the action” option for new players because even from the first game, players need to pick their 4 command decks, which either involves stopping for half an hour at least and going through 100 cards to see what suits you and the fleet you drafted, or picking four at random (or how their title translate in Ferengi) and risking having to play your first game with a command deck that’s not really compatible with your fleet – and as they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Most games out there, devote at least a manual page to a ‘your first game’ chapter.

In conclusion, minor quirks and quality issues aside, the game is a solid hit and I hope that the publisher realises at some point that a lot of people are after a more luxurious gaming experience and at least ofter the option to purchase the map tiles in harder cardboard. Laminating large hexagons isn’t as fun as it sounds…

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