It's been Ages
by Susan Rozmiarek
Soccer practice started this week and it was my turn to take Kevin, so I missed our weekly gaming group. However, last week I was able to go and miraculously got to play an "older" game - Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery, while the hardcore Cult of the New members (I used to be one) struggled through some new game called Carson City at the other table.
AoE III shares the honor of being my favorite worker placement game along with Pillars of the Earth. With both games, I feel the theme as I play, and both have just the right amount of luck to still allow me to pursue a strategy while retaining some uncertainty for excitement. It's been a while since I've played, but AoE III hasn't lost its shine one bit. There are several different strategies you can choose, mainly driven by which capital building you are able to get. I got the Monastery in Age I, giving me a free missionary each turn. I then scored the Cathedral in the second Age, which gave my missionaries an extra colonist when they arrived in the New World. This not only made it easier to get lots of colonists in the New world, but it also made it easier to be the first with three in a newly discovered region to grab the trade good there. By also placing in the Trade Good and Merchant Shipping event boxes whenever I could, I had a pretty nice income stream throughout the game. I mostly ignored discoveries. In the last Age, I was able to get Glory, giving me 2 VP for every region in which I had colonists, dovetailing nicely into the strategy I had been pursuing. Unfortunately, I had to settle for second place as I wasn't able to come close to the warmongering Mike Chapel. He went for having majorities in the colonies from the get go, and had a demanding lead from the scoring at the end of Age I and II.
As I whined earlier, I missed my regular gaming night this past week. While Ed was off playing fun stuff like Snow Tails and Ghost Stories, I was sitting in my dark car next to a soccer field in the next town over watching a sadistic coach torture my son. This was not as dull as it could have been, because of the nifty toy that Ed gave me for my birthday last year - an iTouch. This little technological miracle is my new obsession and I've been ferreting out the best games for it to amuse myself in such situations. Thanks to help from an app called Appminer that lets me know what apps are on sale, I now have a vast collection of games loaded onto it, many of which I got for free or a buck. My current favorite is Sword of Fargoal, styled after old school games like Rogue. It's a dungeon crawl in which your hero is searching for a sword, fighting monsters, finding items, and leveling up as he progresses deeper into the dungeon. The only irritating thing is that while it saves your game so that you don't have to finish in one sitting, it does not allow you to save your game so that if your character gets toasted by dragon or bashed by a troll, you can restart it from right before your death. Apparently, those games of old did this so that people wouldn't blow through them too quickly. I found out the hard way after getting my character all the way to level 12 and then getting a little reckless. Anyway, I'm on my third game of it and still haven't found that dang sword.
I bought but haven't tried Reiner Knizia's Money. It just went on sale in the app store. This card game has always been a favorite of mine. Shannon Appelcline, who writes excellent board game reviews, created this iPhone version. He talks about it here.
Posted by susanroz at 7:42 PM
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A New Year (thank goodness)
by Susan Rozmiarek
Well, I can't let Ed take over this blog completely with his Descent reports, so I better get with it and post something.
My blogging dropped off significantly this past year. Frankly, it's been a pretty bad year, both personally and for gaming. Ed, the primary breadwinner of our household, spent almost the whole year unemployed. Not only did this take a huge bite out of our game buying budget, but it also meant that we weren't able to attend the gaming conventions that we normally do. We also spent much of the year unable to attend our regular gaming nights due to our son's soccer practice and game schedule (he doesn't drive yet but should have his license by this summer). So, there hasn't been much gaming to even talk about. We are very behind on this past year's new releases although given the constant parade of new ones, I don't really mind. Also taking a bite out of blogging time is my job at my local library. It was very part-time at the start of 2009 and then went full-time for a few months that practically killed me. It is now a more manageable 20 hrs./week. Another reason my time has been limited will probably earn me a lot of flack - I'm a full blown World of Warcraft addict. I play online with a bunch of Gulf Gamers and we have a lot of fun. We use Skype and it's almost like playing with them in person. I really enjoy it but OMG, is it ever a time sink. It's not nicknamed World of Warcrack for nothing! Finally, working in a library has gotten me back into reading more than ever. I've always been a huge reader but had slowed down in the past few years. Working in a building full of books and having to keep up with the latest literature (using that term loosely given some of the popular fiction published) has renewed my interest. Oh, and I've also gotten back into another old love, gardening, although since it seems so difficult to grow anything but weeds and cactus here, we'll see how long I stick with it.
So, given how diverse my current activities and interests are, I will probably start adding a few other topics to my blog posts, as well as just general, personal posts. My poor family and non-gaming friends occasionally visit here and often have no clue what I'm talking about. I suppose I could just use a separate blog (there is another one on this site) but I'm going to try mixing it up for a change. Yes, I do want to start back to blogging more often! My primary focus will still probably remain on gaming. The blog is titled The Game Ranch, after all. You might also notice that my writing style is more informal at times. Alas, I think Facebook and Twitter have ruined me.
To start the year off, here's a post from October that never made it up:
October could have been a pretty sparse month for gaming. A welcome shot in the arm came from our Fresno friend Mark Jackson, who blew in for a quick visit. Games that hit the table:
Arkham Horror: Yay! My current favorite! Mark had never played this so we gave the base game a whirl. It was an uphill battle with lots of mayhem and terror from monster surges, but in the end we saved Arkham by defeating Hastur.
Journey to the Center of the Earth: This was probably my last playing of this game. Very "meh" and just doesn't deliver any of the excitement that the theme suggests. I was happy to play it one more time, though, to cement my feelings before reviewing it.
Gangster: On the other hand, each time this one comes out I have to wonder how this little gem has managed to slip by most people and not get the attention it deserves. It's a great lightweight area majority game with a little bit of "take that", some luck to provide a few surprises, and enough strategy to keep me engaged.
Zahltag: Mark brought this fluffy card game of managing a hand of workers and bidding for city contracts. Although we have loads of other card games that fit in this niche, I really liked Zahltag and would pick up a copy if I had the chance.
We had a great time visiting with Mark and wish we could get together more often. BTW, Mark often writes about games on his most excellent blog.
Playing Journey to the Center of the Earth
with Ed and Mark
The exclamation point to end October and the perfect way to spend Halloween afternoon was a monster game of Arkham Horror - eight players (nine actually, with two sharing a character) and every expansion. That's right - ALL of them, big and small. It was quite the experience although I think that I'd rather just play the expansions one or two at a time in order to fully absorb the flavor that each brings to the game. But, given that Arkham Horror is currently my favorite game, I had to try this at least once.
Posted by susanroz at 3:53 PM
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Descent Campaign 2 - Session 5
by Ed Rozmiarek
So, way back in the Dark Ages of 2009, I was reporting the progress of our second Descent: Road to Legend campaign. I seem to have "forgotten" to update the blog with our progress. Yeah, that seems like a good excuse. Anyway, I have actually posted the session reports over in the Road to Legend forums on BoardgameGeek, but if you don't follow those, you may not have seen them. You may be wondering about the adventures of our heroes, Nanok of the Blade, Landrec the Wise, Verikas the Dead and Grey Ker, as they struggle to stop the evil Sorcerer King from blotting out the sun and bringing on the Endless Night. Well wonder no more as you can now travel back with us to early 2009 and relive their exciting adventures. I'll try to catch the blog up over the next week or so as we have played ten sessions in our campaign and hopefully will play number 11 in a week or so.
Previous session reports:
Session 1 / Session 2 / Session 3 / Session 4
Avatar: Sorcerer King
Conquest: 54 total / 9 unspent
Upgrades: Snipers, Silver Eldritch, Sir Alric Farrow, Lord Merick Farrow, 1 Event Treachery
Upgrades: Bazaar, Enchanted Boat
Nanok of the Blade: 0 XP. 2 additional black power dice, Taunt, Axe, Ring of Protection
Varikas the Dead: 10 XP. 1 silver melee power die upgrade, Leadership, Plate Mail, Iron Shield, Sword, Leviathan
Landrec the Wise: 30 XP. Quick Casting, Ghost Armor, Elven Robe, Immolation, Gauntlets of Power, Staff of the Grave
Grey Ker: 10 XP. 1 silver range power die upgrade, Eagle Eye, Great Bow, Crossbow, Iron Shield
A quick summary: The heroes have recently trained and have camped just outside the Red Echo River dungeon. The overlord has recently buffed up as well with the Silver Eldritch upgrade and a point of event treachery. We pick up our action as the heroes start the dungeon.
(Note: We were missing the player who controls Landrec this week due to a last minute schedule conflict. Landrec was played by the same person that is playing Varikas.)
I'm adopting the format started by PaulGrogan on Boardgamegeek:
Overlord CP gain shown in 
Hero CP gain shown in ()
Red Echo River Level 1: 8 - The Warrens
Since we drew this level at the end of the last session, I was able to think about it before playing today. Being that I just upgraded to silver Eldritch I thought I would be able to do well with the duel sorcerer level leaders. Their special power was that the weaker one healed back up to the same wounds as the stronger one, even if the weaker one had died. That meant that the heroes needed to kill both on the same turn. I figured if I split the sorcerers up it would be much harder for the party to kill them at the same time. And I was right.
The heroes split up to
take on the sorcerers
I went with the starting minions of 2 beastmen and a golem. The golem was now silver and came with 16 wounds and 6 armor, a decent meat shield for one sorcerer, Onyx. The other sorcerer, Ebon, would be go on the offensive since he took take as much damage as the heroes could dish out as long as I protected the other one.
The heroes realized that they needed to split up to go after the two sorcerers so they sprinted down the entry hall and split up. This left Grey Ker exposed just enough so that Ebon could move up and fire from around the corner. This reminded the heroes why they disliked silver Eldritch as Ebon ripped into Grey Ker for 11 damage. After one of the beastmen got his claws on Grey Ker, he was at less than 50% health. Meanwhile, the sorcerer Onyx set up a defensive position in the treasure room behind the golem and waited for Nanok and Landrec.
Welcome to my dungeon,
meet my bodyguard
The second round Varikas took out the first beastman and took a swing at Ebon. Grey Ker shot at Ebon as well before starting back to the entry glyph to visit the temple. Since Nanok and Landrec could not bring down the golem in one round, Onyx was left unhurt. That meant that Ebon healed right back up to full strength. Leaving Varikas for the second beastman and some newly spawned skeletons, Ebon raced after Grey Ker intending to bring him down before he reached town.
Nanok and Landrec teamed up again on the golem, causing some damage, but he remained standing. During this, the heroes flipped the glyph (+3 CP). The golem had to attack the taunting Nanok and did little damage. However, some newly spawned Shades were able to slip past Nanok to get to Landrec. By now, I was lucky enough to get my new treachery card, the infamous Crushing Blow (more on that in the comments). The first shade made it to Landrec and made a successful attack and out came the crushing blow. The first target, the Gauntlets of Brokenness Power. Meanwhile, Ebon continued running down Grey Ker and was able to kill him as Grey Ker was standing next to the starting glyph [+3 CP].
The golem finally falls to Landrec wielding the Staff of the Grave. Between Nanok hitting Onyx and Varikas getting Ebon, the heroes finally get some damage on the sorcerers that carries over (just 3 hits). Another round later and Ebon is back in the fight. Between him and the last shade, they take out Landrec [+3 CP]. The two remaining skeletons and Onyx combine to take down a cursed Varikas [+5 CP]. With Grey Ker still in town shopping (he gets the Ripper and the Belt of Strength), this leaves Nanok as the last remaining hero in the dungeon.
With the two sorcerers sitting at 9 wounds a piece (out of 19), the party decides to have Nanok grab the treasure and run. This delay allows me to spawn razorwings. Although they cannot hit Nanok and his 7 armor, they can block his way to the glyph. The blocking maneuver forces Varikas to return to the dungeon to help clear a path. Enough monsters survive to continue blocking Nanok's path to the close glyph, but in protecting Onyx, I left an opening that Nanok uses to make a run to the starting glyph.
The chase was on and a running Nanok is faster than normal speed monsters. However, I was able to spawn a pair of dark priests hoping to give Nanok a few extra points of damage. However, two misses from the priests and a minor hit from Ebon only cause a handful of wounds to the heavily armored Nanok.
The level cleared of treasure and gold, the heroes call it a week, leaving the rest of the Red Echo River dungeon untouched.
CP: Heroes: 40 / OL: 65/20
With the heroes back in Tamalir, the lieutenants continue besieging their cities. Alric adds a second siege engine to Riverwatch and Merick adds his first to Dawnsmoor. The conquest from the last dungeon and this week's handout point gives me 21 points to spend. I decided to go ahead and buy a second point of event treachery to give me more flexibility. The heroes decide to leave the lieutenants alone and head north to their first rumor dungeon. They have a quiet trip to Greyhaven.
CP: Heroes: 40 / OL: 66/6
A quiet week for the overlord. It's time to save up conquest for future purchases so I don't do anything with the 7 points I have after the weekly point. The lieutenants continue their sieges. Riverwatch now has three siege engines so I will start rolling for the city raze during the next week.
The heroes continued with their plans and headed towards the Gate to the North for the Dark Shard rumor there. On the way they have a non combat encounter. They all had bad nightmares where the avatar reached out and burned a mark into their arms. They each took between 2 and 4 points of damage. They then made it to the Gate to the North dungeon and locate the dungeon (+1 CP).
Gate to the North Level 1: 22 - The Citadel
I was not impressed with this level. It came with a sorcerer level leader which was silver for me, but the minions were mostly beastmen which are basically one hit speed bumps right now. I went with the beastmen and ferrox in hoping to at least get bleed damage. Also, the level is very large and open, too much space to cover with too few minions. I had two beastmen hang back to protect the leader and the remaining minions hide out behind the first door.
Grey Ker started out by returning to town and shopping for potions. The rest moved up with guard orders. Super tank Nanok started running for the far end of the level and the glyph. I drew the Dark Priest spawn card so decided to add to my forces before opening the door. Between the guard orders, a knockback from taunting Nanok and some misses, the monsters were ineffective. And that pretty much sums up the whole level for me.
The second round saw Nanok continue running to the glyph. Varikas and Landrec cleared out more of the starting minions. I was happy with what I was able to pull off to slow down Nanok. I drew the Shades spawn card. Since Shades have Ghost and cannot be hit by melee, I spawned the shades around the corner near the glyph. I then moved them to block the hallway leading to the glyph, effectively stopping Nanok from getting to it.
A really bad attack
roll for the Overlord
The rout continued the next turn with the minions being cleared. I had a decision to make my next turn as I drew the Evil Genius power card. I usually don't play power cards as the heroes have not been staying long in the dungeons for the cards to pay off. However, since this is a rumor dungeon I know the heroes will be trying for all three levels. So, I went for the long term plan and decided to get Evil Genius in play. It's probably the best power card to get out early. However, it would take another turn of conquest plus some card discards to do it. That put a major damper on my ability to spawn.
With the glyph blocked by the shades, the heroes went after Grelius, the level leader. I went in to delay mode, trying to rebuild my threat and hand. Grelius lasted a couple rounds, but finally went down from a blow from Grey Ker. Of course, my luck with undying continued and Grelius stayed dead (+2 CP). I still have had only two undying monsters revive, not that I'm counting. Varikas got the chest that contained 250 gold, a health potion and the Skull Shield (yet another treasure for the group).
Still trying to delay and cause what damage I could, I decided to move the shades up to attack the party. The shades fell to Landrec and the Staff of the Grave. With the way open, Nanok decided to run for the now open glyph (+3 CP). I was now restocked with threat and cards so the heroes were cautious thinking I might spawn. So getting to and from the glyph took another three rounds. I made the decision to just stock up for the next level.
The heroes exited the level with suffering just a few wounds and being up 6-0 in conquest. I finished the level holding a full hand of cards and 42 threat ready for the next level. The special feature of this dungeon never came into play as the heroes would always run through the hallways and never stopped in them.
Gate to the North Level 2: 20 - Two by Two
The second level is Two by Two. Again the hero party will need to split up to complete this level. That's been painful for them in the past. However, it was getting a little late and the heroes did not want to go much further without Landrec's player, so we called it a day. We will pick it up here when we restart.
CP: Heroes: 46 / OL: 67/7
So first off, Crushing Blow. Yep, I now have access to it and I'm going to use it. Yes it is powerful, but so is this group of heroes. They are a strong group of characters and they are now loaded up with copper weapons, armor and shields. In fact, I now have two points of event treachery giving me access to two Crushing Blow cards. Will I use both? Sometimes. But there are also some other treachery cards I want to try out. But, I still think this party will have the advantage in the long term. A few crushing blows will slow them down but not stop them.
Now, today's action; two levels, one goes to the overlord, one goes to the heroes. The first level went how I hoped. Splitting the party up is always good for the OL. Being able to freely use one sorcerer as an offensive weapon was a nice chance of pace. I think the heroes could have pushed through and completed the level, but it would have been costly. I got three kills and the sorcerers still had over 50% health. The party probably did the right thing from their point of view by running out.
The second level was almost too easy on the heroes. I hardly did any damage to them. Between the monster attack misses, the lack of hero misses and me spending the threat on Evil Genius I didn't have the offensive power to do much. This is balanced by what I have going into the next level. Evil Genius in play, and handful of cards and 42 threat. Looks like a rough time ahead for the heroes if they want to complete the rumor.
More pictures from this session can be found here.
Posted by edroz at 12:40 PM
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