As well as Gravwell I played Tammany Hall last week which is a game I love but, as is often the case, one I can’t seem to actually win. All seemed to be going my way when I was pipped to the post by a tie-breaker. One day Tammany, one day…..
Players: 4 (plays 2-4)
Duration: 1 hour
Who thought escaping a singularity would be so tricky? In Gravwell players are spaceships trying to slingshot their way out of a black hole by using the gravity of other spacecraft. The game takes place entirely on one track that spirals out from the start all the way to the finish some 50 or so spaces later. Each round is split into two parts. The first is where players take it in turn to draft fuel cards from a common pool and for each pick they will get one card they can see and one that is a mystery. After all cards have been picked then players play one card simultaneously until either one player has successfully escaped or until all cards have run out (in which case a new round begins).
Fuel cards have a letter (corresponding to an atomic element) and numerical value. When cards are played the player with the card nearest to A goes first and they move in the direction of the nearest ship a number of spaces that match the number on the card. Then the next player activates his card and so on in alphabetical order. Plans are made and immediately broken when a spaceship lands right behind you and you end up hurtling in the wrong direction. It’s chaotic but still a lot of fun and players are issued with an emergency stop card that they can use once per round to stop any huge blunders.
That is the basics of it and it’s a very simple idea. There are a few cards called repulsors that push you away from the nearest ship instead of pulling you towards it and a couple of tractor beams that pull every other ship towards you but in general this game is all about picking a card, playing it and hoping it all pans out. Science fans who are hoping for a high level physics strategy game will be disappointed but for a 30 minute game night finisher it will certainly generate a few laughs.
The Netflix TV model is one that I really love. Episodes are as long as they need to be and as numerous as they warrant. Bloated 26 episode seasons on major TV networks will give a First Person Shooter for every Tooms and wouldn’t it have been a lot better had they figured out that island without all the time travel filler? It’s great to see smaller ideas get made with a bit less money but no less quality and this is where you get amazing telly like Stranger Things.
Like all good mysteries Stranger Things is spoiled with too much description but if you love suspense and ripping yarns then it’s the best telly in years. A bold statement and one that is tough to back up when I am hard pressed to give too much away but I would hate to take away the magic in this wonderful series. The basics are fairly straightforward though. Set in the 80s in a small US town a young boy vanishes and a strange girl appears. The two events seem to be linked and a trio of young friends set out to discover the town’s secrets.
The mood of the whole series is incredible. The electronic soundtrack alone perfectly fits with the time period but the entire thing feels like an early Steven Spielberg tale with the childhood camaraderie of ET and the creepy tones of Poltergeist. In fact it’s chock full of 80s film and TV references that were mostly lost on me (I was born in 1979 so only just made it into the 80s) but I am sure many eagle-eyed viewers will spot them.
At only 8 episodes Stranger Things is a tense and well-structured adventure. It’s creepy to be sure and viewers who struggle with being spooked out too easily won’t make it past the first episode but those that aren’t big babies will love the tale that Stranger Things tells. I sure did.
Wednesdays are the new Mondays. Having recently moved house I have had to leave my old gaming group in Liverpool. I was sad to leave a lot of cool people but it has given me the chance to discover fresh gaming experiences with a new set of people. It has been interesting seeing how the two groups differ but some things remain the same in that everyone piles into the back room of a pub and has a lot of fun. Although now I have to drive that fun is a few pints less!
Players 4 (Plays 2-4)
Duration: 90 minutes
Ankh-Morpork is an area control game set in the wacky city of the same name which featured in many of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It’s a chaotic place where everyone has their own agenda to fulfil and where best laid plans can easily turn sour. Much like the river.
At the start of the game players are given a Personality card which tells them their victory condition. These include causing trouble, controlling regions on the board or hoarding cash. Players put one of their minions in three regions of the 12 region board and play begins. Play is controlled entirely by cards and players start with 5 in their hand and then draw back up to 5 at the end of their turn. These cards have one or more actions on and these actions let you do things like add more minions to the board, build a building in a region, gain cash, assassinate opponents minions and a whole host of other effects that can change the board state.
When a region gets a second minion in it then a trouble marker is assigned to that region. Regions in trouble can’t have new buildings placed there and mean that any minion in them can be assassinated. Regions can only have one trouble marker though and when a minion is removed from a region the trouble marker is removed. I guess that he takes the blame for all the trouble there! Play then continues until a player has satisfied their win condition at the beginning of their turn or the deck runs out (in which case the player with the Commander Vimes card wins or if he is not in play then the player with the most wealth is the victor).
This game is a lot of fun. I played with the full player count of 4 and it was pretty wild. Whenever I gained a foothold somewhere then another player would try to scupper my plans or rob a few coins from me. The variable win conditions mean you have to constantly guess what your opponents are up to as well as balancing your own actions. Are they causing trouble everywhere, placing buildings or just trying to run the deck down? It’s tense and staying on top takes luck as well as planning but if you keep your head down you might just win.
Terry Pratchett fans will get a huge kick out of this game too as most cards represent characters from the books that they will recognise. Even I remember Death, a great card I managed to steal from a player before being forced to discard by another. I laughed. Then plotted revenge!