Review – Summoner Wars from Plaid Hat Games

Review – Summoner Wars from Plaid Hat Games, designed by Colby Dauch

Please note that a review copy of this game was provided by Plaid Hat Games

Boy, there are a number of up an coming companies and designers out there. It is great to see this especially in these tough economic times and it bodes well for our wonderful hobby!

Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games has come up with an interesting game which has drawn a lot of attention in the gaming world called Summoner Wars. Taking a bit of a different approach for a collectible card game, he has taken the genre and translated it into a battle game. There is a collectible element in that you can add expansions with new races. I played the Phoenix Elves vs. the Tundra Orcs.

The game for 2 players aged 9+ comes with 2 decks of cards, one for each army and a paper grid board to regulate movement like a miniatures game. Each army comes with a Summoner who you must destroy in order to win as well as champions, common troops, special army events, wall cards and a turn reference card. The troop cards tell you the Attack Value used in combat, Summon Cost used to summon reinforcements, Special Ability details, Range Symbol for ranged attacks, Unit Name, Unit Type, Life Points to kill em, and Character art which is reasonable but not spectacular. Event cards bring specail things that each player can use. Wall cards are where the summoned troops arrive. The Battlefield board is a simple, blank 6×8 grid where you set up your starting force on each half.You can order a nicer Premium Board direct from Plaid Hat Games.

The rules are exceedingly simple with a turn sequence of Card draw, Summon reinforcements, Play event cards, Movement, Attack, Build Magic – where you put cards from your hand and defeated enemy cards in a stack to build up magic points to spend on reinforcements that you have kept in your hand to deploy to the fight.

Gameplay

I was amazed that this game was so simple to play. Great thing is that I really didn’t have to refer to the rulebook once I’d read through them and got past the first turn. That is rare and a good sign of a game that will be all about the playing and not working on rules and exceptions, etc. Choose your hand, consider future forces to summon, move and fight, all in the name of getting to grips with the other guy’s Summoner and nailing him. Combat is very simple and most troops are 1 shot kills so you churn through the fodder.

Movement is limited to two spaces so this game isn’t a game of maneuver as much as plodding to the fight. And that’s a quibble. I would have thought Elves could move faster than the heavyweight Orcs so that is an issue for me. Each army has its differences so it is a case of playing and figuring out the best combination to hit the enemy. The terrain is bland and has no effect and here again is another quibble for me. More terrain cards would have been useful and added to the variety and choices.

I look forward to playing with other armies which include a Guild Dwarves vs. Cave Goblins set plus packs for Vanguards and Fallen Kingdom factions.

Did it work for me?

Well my quibbles are there. Not major quibbles but enough for me to consider this game very good, but a missed opportunity to be great. Summoner Wars is really good fun. Fast, sleek, gazelle-like in-fact. The simple mechanics is very much to my liking in a quick no-brainer game. A slugfest with enough variety, strengths and options to keep you on your toes although I would have liked a bit more.So overall, its good fun and a nice take on CCG’s. For a small game in a small box, this is good value.

Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 6.5 out of 10

Family friendly?

Yes. The age range is right. Good as a gateway to CCGs and fantasy combat.

For more information about Plaid Hat Games go to – http://www.plaidhatgames.com/

Advertisements

Review – HeroCard: Orc Wars by Tablestar Games

Review – HeroCard: Orc Wars by Tablestar Games, designed by Nico Carroll

Please note that Tablestar Games provided a review copy of this game

If you have been following my reviews, you will certainly have gathered that I am a fan of fantasy themed games so here is another for me to have a look at.

HeroCard: OrcWars is another in Tablestar Games’ series of games with the HeroCard common combat rules which is card driven. This is a 2-player game for ages 13+. This time we are in a fantasy setting where you can be an Elf Paladin that takes on the might of the Orc King and his minions as you battle your way through a number of scenarios. There are expansion packs for Ranger and Sorceress characters which add more variety.

The components and artwork are very nice and evokes the theme very well. The elf characters have nicely sculpted plastic minis and the Orcs are very solid card figures with excellent artwork. I must say that I would have preferred plastic minis for the Orcs too but that is a small quibble. The game board is made of large hexagons with outdoor terrain on one side and cavern terrain on the other. This makes for a lot of opportunity to create your own scenarios which adds value for money to this game. The cards are very well done and are very clear and easy to use.

Gameplay

Orc Wars is a straight up hack and slash slugfest managed by the HeroCard combat system. I find the system works very well once you get the hang of it and can be played on its own for a quick bout of combat with a friend or as the heart of the Orc Wars and other HeroCard games. In this games the scenarios start simply and progress with difficulty in terms of taking on the enemy and accomplishing objectives. Each turn plays quickly and as and basically involves managing your card hand, and movement and combat actions.

A nice feature of the design is the size of the Orc horde is scaled upwards with more players so its very manageable. The Orcs operate with an individual Orc King and Clans of Orcs made up of smaller squads of Orcs which are each governed for combat by attribute levels for the whole squad rather than for an individual Orc. Squads can attack as a group if only one Orc is adjacent to an Elf which makes it tough work for the Elf. To balance that, the Elf only needs to win one combat per Orc where the Orcs have to score a number of hits to defeat an Elf. You can also collect treasures which help the Elf defeat the Orcs and also heal so the balancing is there.

It is a good idea to keep clans together for the Orc player to maximise attributes to be able to slug it out in battle.

this is not a roleplaying game although there is a bit of rpg element to it but for the most part, this is window dressing for a brutal combat skirmish game. As such the mechanics come together.

 

Did it work for me?

As a combat skirmish game it works very well. It is very straightforward and works well. The combat system is clean and crisp and is a pleasure to play. The physical aspects of Herocard: Orc Wars are tops. This is a well produced game and adds to the theme. If I want a short slugfest, this is certainly a fun game to play.  On that level, I enjoy it. But having said that, I usually want more rpg and depth in my fantasy games so on that level it is limited but as long as I take it for what it is, this is a good game. The expandable aspect adds value as well with new scenarios on Boardgamegeek.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6 out of 10

 

Family Friendly?

Yes, I think younger the 13, say 10+ could work.

 

For more information about Tablestar Games go to – http://tablestargames.com/

Review – King’s Vineyard from Mayday Games

Review – King’s Vineyard from Mayday Games, designed by Sandeep Kharkar and Dave Haslam

Please note that a review copy of this game was provided by Mayday Games

Games about wine making seem to have been popular at this year’s Essen show and this is one of them. Less so about wine I guess but the growing of grapes in vineyards. King’s Vineyard is a card based game for 2-4 players aged 8+ where object is to gain points for growing grapes of the best quality as judged by the King during his three inspection visits.

The game comes with cards which are nicely illustrated with grapevines in four colors and combinations of colors representing hybrid grapes. There are also cards for the King, and different things that can help you grow and maintain your vineyard such as watering cans, shovels and lovely fertilizer. There are smaller cards which represent the vines and finally a set of cubes for scoring. I understand that in the newer release the cubes have been replaced by shaped pieces representing Goblets, Bottles and Barrels.

Everything is of good quality. Maybe not the best of cards and there seems to have been an issue with the first print run as to the cards but I don’t have a problem with my copy.

Gameplay

You shuffle the main deck and insert the three King cards inter-spaced to represent the 3 Kingly visits. The process of play is very straightforward as once you have drawn and discarded cards to get your playing hand, you proceed to then follow the steps of the growing process.

Wilt – existing vines start to wilt unless you can prolong their life with a watering can.

Harvest – All grapes on completely wilted vines are harvested and put in storage and held to determine the winner in the event of a tie.

Plant – You plant unripened grapes. The shovel allows you to plant an extra unripened grape plant.

Grow – Players add a leafy vine tile to each plant. The main grape card gives you a range of how many tiles you can place so you have a choice as to how long to grow them and risk harvesting before the King visits to get victory points. The fertilizer card gives you an extra leafy vine tile.

Ripen – You can turn your unripend grapes card to the ripened side when you think the time is right. Part of the challenge here is to try and time your ripening so as to get the best return on the King’s visit. You get points for how long the vines are as well as other things so timing is important.

Scoring comes in a variety of ways including more points for sweeter grapes, longer vines, number of grapes o f the same color, etc.

The turn process is easy to understand and follow. Little down time at all. There is no player interaction at all as your focus is only on your own vineyard. Not deep but all connected in a logical framework that moves along nicely.

Did it work for me?

Well in a word yes. You might think that this is a pretty dull game but you know what? It all works and works pretty well. There is nothing complicated or deep here but this is a reasonably fun game that doesn’t take long so you can get more than one session in. The artwork helps set the theme although there is some difficulty telling colors apart but nothing dramatic. The process of planting, growing, ripening, harvesting, etc. is clearly connected and keeps you moving through the deck quickly. An easy game for non-gamers to get into. It actually makes a relaxing change from other card based games out there. No conflict, no brain burning. Just process the cards through, create the best combinations of grapes, hold out as long as reasonable to get a good valuation from the King and there you go.

Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 6.5 out of 10

Family Friendly?

Yes, the age 8+ is spot on. This would be a good family night game.

 

For more information about Mayday games go to – http://maydaygames.com/

Review – Na Grunwald! from Egmont Polska

Review – Na Grunwald! from Egmont Polska, designed by Filip Milunski

Please note that a review copy of this game was provided by Egmont Polska

Na Grunwald! is a light war themed game game for 2-4 players aged 8+ set in the year 1408 covering the build up of a conflict between King Wladyslaw Jagiello of the Kingdom of Poland and the Order of the Teutonic Knights resulting in the battle of Grunwald. This is a game which gives you an appreciation of the strategic decisions faced by the Polish King as he had to manage his resources by raising an army of loyal knights, hire mercenaries, bring in enough provisions to maintain the army and build finances to pay for it all. Having a long time interest in military history, I was looking forward to playing this game, especially after how much I enjoyed another game from the same publisher and designer, Mali Postancy.

The components are of a very good quality. The main game board has a very effective period map representation of the area of the conflict, nicely thematic, with places for the various card sets. The various cards represent Polish and Lithuanian Knights, Peasants, Teutonic Knghts, Mercenary Knights, Provisions, Ducats and actions. Also included are chits for ducats, and provisions and tokens for a few game ending titles which gain victory points. Lastly, you have standard meeple workers and 4 larger Royal Officer meeples. The artwork by Marek Szysczko and game board design by Maciej Szymanowicz is very good and gives a goo sense of theme for the period.

Gameplay

This isn’t a war game per se. More a conflict resource management game. Ultimately it is all about building up an army and maintaining it while taking on the Teutonic Knights. The mechanics are card based. There are six areas for activity, 5 of which have cards. Each turn, the players place their meeples and Royal Officers in the areas they want to harness resources, be they loyal or mercenary knights, ducats, provisions, workers or starting the 4th turn, into conflict with the Teutonic knights. In 4 of the six areas, players vie to place the largest amount of meeples to be able to gain the resource they want. The 2nd highest meeples placed will gain you a smaller result in ducats or provisions, otherwise you lose out. This means you need to be careful about your choices and try and outwit the other players to get the resources that will gain you the most victory points. So in a way, this is also an auction game of sorts. Very interesting.

Not enough to just collect resources though. As the turns move along you will find yourself picking fights with the Teutonic bad boys and hoping to capture a few to help you collect victory points at the end. You can’t merrily just build your forces either as you have to ensure you can feed them some grub or they will not count at the end.

Another nice feature is the action card that are chosen each turn. Representing a number of historical events, these give specific actions for the players to take which may make a difference to their fortunes.

The gameplay system is smooth, logical and flows nicely with little downtime. There certainly is player interaction as you try and out place each other with your meeples to get the best advantage in resources.

Did it work for me?

I am becoming a big fan of Filip Milunski’s design approach and style. For the 2nd game I have played designed by Filip I have felt that I was playing an engaging, historically interesting and best of all, light enough to get it without feeling overwhelmed.

The great thing is that the placement and card choice system is simple and moves quickly. You can get a good high level sense of the strategic problem. The stress level is right as it is tough to figure out your best worker placements as they could be undone by the other players and you end up with not a lot which can be frustrating but in a good way.

If you are looking for a detailed treatment of the conflict, look elsewhere. This is a game to be played and have light fun in a short time span.This is a well designed, interesting and fun game which gives you historical flavor, easy mechanics, short play time – a winning formula.

Attention larger publishers!!!  Another game from Egmont Polska which deserves wider distribution.

Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 7.5 out of 10

Family Friendly?

I would say yes although I’m not so sure 8 year olds would get it. I would say 10+

 

For more information about Egmont Polska Games go to – http://www.egmont.pl/en/

Review – Gettysburg by Treefrog Games

Here is a review that I wrote for the new issue of Thru-the-Portal ezine which can be found at – http://www.thru-the-portal.com/ttp/digital-magazine-ezin

Gettysburg, by Treefrog Games and designed by Martin Wallace

Let me state up front that I am a long time wargamer, having caught the bug when I was in high school in the USA in the late 60’s-early 70’s so I got to experience the first “golden age” of board wargaming which featured games published by the 2 giants, SPI and Avalon Hill along with other smaller companies such as GDW. So my wargaming back- ground is of the classic hex and counter variety.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried more recent designs and systems which I have welcomed but it does mean that I have some experience and think I have a pretty good idea as to what I generally look for in a good wargame. Added to this is a life-long interest in the American Civil War and games from that conflict in particular.
I attended the UK Games Expo 2010 and amongst the new releases (at least in the UK) I was keen to try was Gettysburg, by Martin Wallace. The folks from Treefrog were very gracious and indulged me as I played the 1st day of the 3-day battle of Gettysburg. Having given it some consideration since UK Games Expo, I’ll share with you my initial impressions so far.
Components
Generally, the components are a curious cross between Euro bits and pieces and a reasonable area movement map of the battle. Adequate is the word that comes to mind here. The Euro style military meeples, command pieces, en- trenchment pieces and obligatory cubes are there. The life and soul of wargames for me are the military units as they should add a degree of flavour and information to give you a sense of who was there and how the units relate into a command structure.
In Gettysburg, they are souless. Yes there are infantry, artillery and cavalry units but no information and designa- tions making it all very generic and lifeless. Yes the elite units are in red, but so what? Unless you are a Civil War buff, you probably won’t know that you are manoeuvring the might of the Union Iron Brigade, coming to the aide of Devin and Gamble’s Cavalry troopers as they stave off an attack by Harry Heth’s Rebs who are trying to break through before the rest of the Union Army can arrive and consolidate on high ground on day 1. I want an immersive experience where I feel I am working with troops and leaders who I have read about.

The map itself is serviceable but fairly basic with areas for movement and defense indicators for the key defensible terrain.
Gameplay
As this was a learning game facilitated by Treefrog, we picked up the rules as they were explained and the movement and combat was relatively straightforward. The command rules worked well once we got used to them and I particularly liked the hidden commands which are the heart of the game structure, however, in reality, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out how many commands were available to my opponent. The care you must take to ensure you have commands available for later turns was interesting and worked pretty well.
From the Gettysburg page on BGG it says “With Gettysburg Wallace wanted to produce a balanced rather than a historically accurate game. The game e.g. ignores casualty levels, and Units do not correspond exactly to brigades or divisions – even if the forces’ proportion is close to historical accuracy.”
Well I think that wargamers will be put off by this to be honest. I certainly am. Wargamers want to deal with the history as it was faced by those who had to make the decisions.

Gettysburg is probably the most wargamed of any battle from the Civil War and it is pretty much balanced on day 1 as both sides have a chance to make a killer blow. But progressively, by day 3, the Union forces, if used defensively just need to use the terrain wisely and soak up the Confederate attacks. So the battle itself is unbalanced and the challenge for the Confederate player particularly is to flank the enemy early with strength to make the Union position untenable. Not easy but possible. As my photo shows, I played the Confederates into a pretty decent position by the end of day 1 but still hadn’t struck the killer blow.

Did it work for me?
My overall first impression? I have mixed feelings about Martin Wallace’s Gettysburg. On the plus side, I think the game played pretty well and more smoothly as I became familiar with the mechanics. It is pretty easy and works as a gateway game but there are much better games around on Gettysburg. So yes a decent game to play. However, it doesn’t work on the more important level of immersion into history. Meeples just don’t work at all and the lack of historical information is a deal breaker for me. I would rather break out one of my Avalon Hill Gettysburg games to introduce a newbie to the hobby.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 4 out of 10

Family friendly ?

Not really. It’s just not a family game.

Review – Herocard: Rise of the Shogun by Tablestar Games

Review – Herocard: Rise of the Shogun by Tablestar Games and designed by Alexei Othenin-Girard

Please note that the folks at Tablestar Games provided a copy of this game for review purposes

Funny how some games float around on your radar for a time and you just don’t seem to get to them, and yet they intrigue you enough to nag at you to get them to the table. Well this is one of those for me and I finally managed it.

I’ve been aware of Herocard: Rise of the Shogun for a while and as I am always up for a game set in Japan with ninjas and samurai, well it was time to get it to the table. This is a game for 2-4 players, and aged 12+. In the small box, there is a fair amount of stuff. There are card decks for Samurai and Ninja characters in the 2 player game and castles, pieces representing peasants and shrines as well as cards for Treasures and Missions for the strategic game. Unfortunately the plastic pieces smell kinda nasty which is a shame and there is a bit of board warping which is disappointing. Please note that there are enough pieces for a 4 player game but you need to purchase the Prince and Miko expansion decks in order to play with 4 players.

Gameplay

Set in a mythical medieval Japan, this is really two games in one. The core game is the Herocard combat system which is card based. Note that this system is used in all of the Herocard games and cards from each game can be used interchangeably which can make for some interesting settings and mixes of characters and settings across the set of games. The beautifully illustrated cards for both the Ninja and Samurai players provide attack and defense options across three Attributes – Body, Mind and Attribute X which is particularly stylized according to the genre of the character making for some interesting extras added on to help the character or impede his enemy.

The combat system works well and is relatively straightforward. The rules are a little bit unclear but I was able work them out without too much difficulty. There is little down time between the players as the card combinations for attacks and blocks are resolved simply by who scores the highest points during the action phase. In the base Herocard game, you get one point for winning the winning the round and 3 points wins the game. Very fast and very lethal. as a refreshing change from the usual collectible card games with all their permutations, the Herocard combat system is a refreshing change as you have a set deck to use. Yes there is the luck of the draw as with all card games and this can be frustrating , especially if you don’t have useful cards in your hand but there are some choices in how and when you place your attacks and blocks.

The real meat of the game is the strategic game on a map representing medieval Japan which has the players seeking to form alliances with lords represented by castles. You form alliances by conducting Missions which include fighting your enemy, for the lords you wish to ally to. As you do this, each castle brings victory points. You also establish trade routes between your castles using peasants. These trade routes chains can bring victory points but can be disrupted through attacking peasants. Lastly, you can visit shrines which bring special treasures such as extra victory points and monsters you can unleash on your enemy.

Each turn moves quickly enough and the players are always having something to do through attacking and defending each turn making for continuous activity. This is a good aspect of the game and makes it more fun than many games where you sit there and wait for ages for the other players to do a long list of actions.

All in all, the game system works simply and reasonably well. The theme is evocative of the genre and is fun to play. It is simple enough to play without getting bogged down in mechanics. The combat is handled with the base rules and the strategic game is tied together with it.

Did it work for me?

In the main, it did. Herocard: Rise of the Shogun is a nice game. The theme is played out on a simple level and the combat works for the most part although not choosing useful cards is no fun. I do like the variety of attributes and the tension of trying to play the most effective cards. Not a game which will lead to much analysis paralysis which is a good thing.

This is a simple game which has a nice feel to it although it just seems to be lacking in depth and I would guess needs some optional scenarios to add more strategic choices. It works as a basic game and works on that level as a diversion and reasonably fun game. The mechanics are nothing really new and earth shattering but it works in general and is playable and that is important if you don’t have a lot of time to play games.

Family friendly?

I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a family game although older kids may like it. Its not meant to be one. More for the hobby gamer and those who like the theme.

Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 6 out of 10

For more information about Tablestar Games go to – http://tablestargames.com/