Sunday, 22 March 2015

002. The Cardboard Cartographer issue 2.


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Welcome to issue 2 of The Cardboard Cartographer.

Editorial.
In this issue of The Cardboard Cartographer we'll be reviewing Samurai.
But first I'd like to thank you for visiting our website!

Each issue we hope to post some news, a game review and talk about topics relevant to table top games, such as mechanics, conventions, Kickstarter and so on.

We had some logistical problems with this issue.

Firstly, the Gama trade show happened the week before this issue was due to be published.
In addition, we attended Birmingham Comic Con and Memorabilia the same weekend.
As news from Gama filtered in throughout the week, and Comic Con takes up a whole weekend, a great deal was done on the day of uploading, instead of well in advance.
 
A bit of a nightmare.

While Birmingham Comic Con isn't a boardgame heavy event, Esdevium Games, part of the Asmodee group, were there giving attendees the chance to try out some of their games.
Which was awesome!

There just isn't enough time to cover Gama and Comic Con in the same issue, so we'll come to that next time.
In the meantime, enjoy this picture form the weekend!


001 - DH&Mario

As always, if you have any suggestions feel free to comment, email us, or hit us up @TCBCartographer on twitter.

News.


GAMA Trade Show.

GAMA Trade Show 2015; the first big boardgame convention of the season.
With the likes of Fantasy Flight games, Wizards of the Coast, AEG, Steve Jackson games and many more featured there was bound to be some exciting news.
The GAMA trade show has so much going on that listing everything would be ridiculous. So here are our standout announcements of the show.


Fantasy Flight Games gave an outline of the state of their business showing a continuation of fairly sharp growth, and went into the technical details of their recent merge into the Asmodee Group. As well as this they announced a huge amount of new products.
FFG have extended their Start Wars license agreement, meaning that they can keep pumping out Imperial Assault miniatures as well as new ships for X-Wing and Armada. In addition to this it means they can also create products based around the 7th film in the series.
In more FFG star Wars related news, Star Wars: Force and Destiny was announced. The third installment completes FFG's Star Wars RPG trilogy.
Another big Sci-fi announcement coming from FFG is Forbidden Stars.
Forbidden Stars is another Warhammer 40,000 big box game that combines both the ground and space aspects of 40k in one combat heavy game.
The game is about galactic conquest with direct player interaction across the board. Asymmetric player powers and Starcraft/ Twilight Imperium style combat system ensures that Forbidden Stars is going to be a frenetic experience.
Fantasy Flight games also announced that Tigris and Euphrates will ship with the original version of the game as well as new gaming options, meaning fans of the original game don't have to play a system they are uncomfortable with. While it isn't a huge announcement it is a nice addition.

Steve Jackson Games, publishers of Munchkin had a myriad of announcements too.
Almost exclusively in regards to Munchkin.
Not only will SJG will be releasing a new Munchkin version; Munchkin; The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it also has allowed Renegade Game Studios to produce Munchkin trading Cards. This may seem like an odd choice, but it fits the Munchkin sales model extremely well.

A handful of games currently on Kickstarter were also featured; above and Below by Red Raven games amongst them. Which will be hitting stores in Q4.
Another game that was recently on Kickstarter that caught our attention was Parfum by Queens games. A very arty, simple game about making perfume. Another game to look out for when the retail versions its shelves.


There is a ton more stuff. We recommend you check it out if you're interested in what will be hitting stores this year.

Cards Against Originality.

Since 2011 Cards Against Humanity has taken the world by storm. It is a game that almost everyone has heard about.
Due to the creators opting for Cards Against Humanity to be available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license (meaning you can use, remix, and share the game for free, but you can’t sell it without permission), it has seen many web and app based adaptations.
The vast majority of these are terrible.

Enter 'Cards Against Originality'; a new, free web app of the game that works on computers, tablets and smart phones. 


002 - CAO


The difference between this and the adaptations out there is that  you 'need' to be in the same room to play, just like the card game.
Functionally it works quite well, and honestly, with software like Google hangouts and Skype I'm not convinced you 'need' to be in the same room.
If you want to try it out for yourself head over to http://cardsagainstoriginality.com

 
Kickstarter.
Another two weeks have gone by, and another swathe of Kickstarter projects have been launched, as well as coming to an end.
Here is a smattering of what stood out in my opinion.

Myth Journeyman.

 
003 - Myth Journeyman KS

'Myth is a cooperative game for 2 to 5 players developed and published by MegaCon Games. Blackwall Warrens and the Shores of Kanis expand and update the world of Myth with Journeyman Heroes, terrifying new monsters, exciting new weapons and armor sets, and a revised rule set and cards.'

Ending on March 29th 2015, Myth: Journey man by MERCS Miniatures is over 500% of their funding goal at the time of writing.
It is exactly what it says in the description; new modules for the existing Myth game. With revised rules, new miniatures and a swathe of new features it hopes to build on the success of previous Myth campaigns.
The original Myth campaign clocked in at $926,112 from 5,360 backers. That is 2,315% of the original $40,00 funding target!
All of this sounds great. New stuff, tweaks to old stuff from a company that has done this before.

Before the excitement and optimism gets too carried away, some issues need to be addressed.

In issue 1 I stated my concern over Kickstarter projects with lots of mini's.
Well Myth is one of the reasons why.
Yes, Myth smashed it's funding goal. The first part was done well, no one can really argue about that. The issue arises with backer fulfillment.
Now, there is always a risk when it comes to backing projects via Kickstarter. If something bad happens you chalk it up to experience and move on.
Lesson learned.
Well Myth's original campaign was just that. Bad.
The fulfillment process was littered with problems; very, very late delivery of rewards, warped miniatures, missing pieces, and a pretty much unfinished rule book.
If you want to hear a great explanation of why I'm planning to skip over anything Myth related, check out the 'Board Game Brawl Kickstarter Update' made for 'The Dice Tower's Board Game Breakfast.'


Hands In The Sea.

004 - Hands in the Sea KS

'Hands in the Sea is a two-player deck building war game set during the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage from 264-241 BC. Each player uses their deck of cards to perform up to two actions per round. Actions range from colonization, to naval movement, to battle, with most activity centred in Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. Players may also purchase additional cards to bolster their decks and provide them with more choices. There are also Strategy cards that players can purchase to give them additional advantages. The game is played over the course of several turns, up to a maximum of twelve. At the end of each turn, players resolve random events, collect income and score victory points. There are several paths to victory, from simply having the highest score at the end of the game, to capturing the opposing player's capital.'

Ending on March 25th 2015, Hands in the Sea by Knight Works sits at 133% of the initial funding goal.
This game is one of those games that has a great deal of detail and various small rules that make it very complex to understand in a quick glance.
If you want to know more about the game, check out Board Game Brawl's video preview of the game.
It is the best overview we've found of the game.


It is hard to tell what kind of game Hand in the Sea will be.
Board Game Brawl suggests it bridges the gap between board gamers and war gamers.
Personally I've found games that try to do that get lost in the void between the two.
It honestly could go either way.

Focusing on what we know for certain is that Knight Works hasn't made anything as of yet that has really grabbed the headlines. One of their previous Kickstarter projects, 'Forged in Steel,' was a Kickstarter Staff Pick, but excitement for the game has subsequently faded into the background.
That may be down to order fulfillment hitting around winter this year, which seems like an extremely long time.

I don't think Hands in the Sea's cause is helped by a extremely poor visual style. The project artwork that is displayed at top of the project is fantastic.

The problem is that the project is almost over and this is what they are trying to sell to you.


005 - HitS Board

The game looks like it was designed using Microsoft paint and word 1995, which would be fine for an initial prototype, but this is for intents and purposes the final product.
Additionally the 'upgraded components' unlocked as stretch goals are not enticing at all.
Everything else is dull, dated and just not visually pleasing in the slightest.

The jury is out on this one.

Alien Frontiers Big Box.


006 - Alien Frontiers KS


'Alien Frontiers was funded on Kickstarter back in 2010. Since then, this gripping game of colonizing an alien world has grown to include two major expansions: Factions and Outer Belt, along with a galaxy of other fun additions. To celebrate, we've collected them all into the new Alien Frontiers Big Box. If you haven't played or always wanted to get into Alien Frontiers, this may be your discount ticket to Planet Maxwell.'
Ending on March 26th 2015, Alien Frontiers Big Box by Game Salute currently sits a few thousand over their $45,786 funding goal at the time of writing.

This is the Big Box edition of Alien Frontiers.
That means it contains the game and every expansion and add on ever released for the game. Nearly $250 worth of product for $125 is always something worth noting, especially when you consider the rave reviews Alien Frontiers has.
In 2010 the game won The Dice Tower awards for 'best game of the year,' 'best game designer,' and 'best small publisher.' As well as MTV geek top toy of 2012, and the 'Dice Hate Me game of the year.'

That is a lot of praise.
The game looks good and seems to play very well. With all the expansions you certainly have plenty of bang for your buck.
Again, in issue 1
we talked about Empire of Ages, another project where the publisher has done a similar thing.
Games Salute may well be a small publisher, but it is a successful one. Much Like Eagle Gryphon Games.
I find myself asking if this really needed to be Kickstarted.
Indeed, everything Alien Frontiers has been launched via Kickstarter.
Yes, it mitigates risk, but that is part and parcel of being a business, especially one that has consistently provided a quality product for 5+ years.

Regardless of my beliefs on Kickstarter ethics, this is certainly one to look at, if you can afford the large price tag and postage.
It is one heavy board game that's for sure.

Above and Below.


007 - Above and Below KS


'Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. In the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they've been given jobs to do.'
Ending on March 26th 2015 Above and Below by Red Raven Games is floating around 486% of their funding goal at the time of writing.

If Hand in the Sea is dull and drab, Above and Below is anything but.
Ryan Laukat is both the designer and artist, and has done an amazing job on the visuals.
The game is extremely visually pleasing; fantastic artwork that is stylistic and simplistic at the same time.
Great colour combinations make everything blend well together, but stand out enough to be clear and easy to understand.

Great visuals don't always make for a great game. Above and Below doesn't seem to have that problem.
The game seems to be a cross between a Civilization building game, and a choose you own adventure game.
On the face of it the game seems extremely simple, but the game maintains a decent level of complexity through various player choices. In addition Above and Below creates a lot of character through exploring and the events that happen as a result of that.
We suggest you check out the game play run through.

Needless to say, Above and Below is this issue's stand out game on Kickstarter.

'Samurai' Review by DarKHaZZl3.


008 - Samurai Review Opening


Google - Fu.
Samurai is a tile laying, area control/ enclosure game for 2 - 4 players, designed by Reiner Knizia and Published by Rio Grande Games in 1997. Samurai is one of three games in the community named 'Knizia tile laying trilogy' alongside 'Tigris & Euphrates' and 'Through the Desert.'
Unfortunately the game is currently out of print, but can still be found via various online outlets.

If you'd like to know more, you can check out Rio Grande's Samurai webpage.
Alternatively head over to the Samurai page on Board Game Geek.

Contents and Impressions.
  • 39 Figures:
    • 13 High Helmets,
    • 13 Buddhas,
    • 13 Rice Fields,
  • 80 Tokens (20 x 4 Colours),
  • 4 Player Screens,
  • Game board (Japan in 4 Parts),
  • 1  Rule Book.

009 - Samurai Contents

I love the box art.
Strong, bold colours and very thematic.
Once you open the box everything is the complete opposite.

Gone is the bold style and grand, thematic artwork, replaced by almost pastel colours and very simplistic graphics.
While it is rather bland, it actually suits the game fairly well.


010 - Samurai game board

The game board is a 4 piece map of old Japan broken down into 4 provinces.
If you look at the board as a map then the visual style makes sense. It fits in with ancient maps of Japan in style.


011 - Samurai player screens

The player screens are probably the most recognisably Japanese themed pieces in the form of Shoji screens.

012 - Samurai Tokens

The player tokens also have simple visuals. The bold colours are reserved for these pieces to help make them stand out on the game board. A function they perform well enough.

The acrylic figures all mimic black glass, a such a lot of the detail is lost. However, they are distinct enough in shape for players to be able to tell them apart.

The rule book is what it should be; simple and easy to understand.
Having said that, there is literally no flavour text to build up theme.
So if you like a bit of story or role playing in your games, be aware that you won't be finding that here.

Overall, the game is inoffensive to look at and while it is quite a bland affair it sort of suits the game.
Even with that in mind, you're not going to rate it in your top ten visually pleasing artwork.
That said, great artwork and visuals do not guarantee a good game.
Personally, I'd take a game that plays well and is enjoyable over something beautiful any day.

Game Play.

The object of the game is to capture the most figures in a certain way; this will be covered a little more in depth later one.
To do this players take turns to deploy their tokens to exert influence over certain locations containing these figures.


This set up of this game is dependent on the number of players.
In this example we have two players.


013 - Samurai 2 player set up pt1

To set up the two piece region of Honshu is set out.

Players then simultaneously select five of their tokens (by choice or randomly) and shuffle the remaining tokens and place them face down beside their screens.

Players then place one of each of the figures in the Capital; Edo.
After this players take it in turns placing a figure in cities until each city contains two figures that are different.
They then take turns placing figures in each of the villages until each village contains a single figure.


014 - Samurai two player set up pt2

When all figures have been placed on the board, the game begins.


015 - Samurai two player set up pt3

During in each turn a player will select one or more tokens to place from the five they have behind their screen to place on the board to exert influence over the figures on the board.

The tokens are broken down into a handful if different varieties.


016 - Samurai token types 1

These tokens match the three different figures. The higher the number, the more influence it exerts on the matching figure. These can only be placed on land.

017 - Samurai token types 2
These tokens are neutral; they influence every figure they are next to. The Samurai can only be placed on land, while the ships can be only be played in the sea.

018 - Samurai token type 3

This token is the Token Exchange. When this token is played it takes the place of a token you have already played, which the player immediately places that token elsewhere on the board.

019 - Samurai token type 4

This token is the Figure Exchange. When played a player can, but doesn't have to, swap any singular figure on the board with any other singular figure on the board, so long as it doesn't break the rules regarding figure placement in set up.

020- Samurai token type 5

Finally, some tokens have a Kanji symbol on the same side as the symbol dictating its power. A kanji means that this can be played for free. In essence it allows a player to play more than one token per turn. Note; a player doesn't have to play more than one token.

Players take turns doing this in an attempt to capture figures.

021 - Samurai gameplay 1

A figure is captured when it has been surrounded on land.

022 - Samurai gameplay 2

When this happens, the player exerting the most influence on that figure take sit and places it behind their player screen.

023 - Samurai gameplay 3

If there is a draw between two or more players the figure is placed beside the board and cannot be claimed.

025 - Samurai gameplay 5

However, with this example, a player could utilise the ability of the ship which has a Kanji on to sneak in and claim the figure.


026 - Samurai gameplay 6

Another more complex example is when multiple players are influencing multiple figures.

027 - Samurai gameplay 7

In this example each player adds up the total influence they exert over each figure and compare them.

Red exerts a total of 9 influence on rice paddy, while Blue only exerts 5. Red captures the rice paddy.
Red exerts 2 influence on the Buddha, while Blue exerts 9. Blue captures the Buddha.
Red exerts 2 influence on the High Helmet, while Blue exerts 5. Blue Captures the High Helmet.
This happens because the Samurai token influences all figures, making them very valuable.


028 - Samurai gameplay 8

Players continue in this manner until the last figure of any single type is captured, which signals the end of the game.

029 - Samurai gameplay 9

Players then score their figures.

030 - Samurai gameplay 10


In this example Blue is the winner.
Red has captured the most High Helmets, However Blue has captured the most Buddhas and the most Rice paddies making blue the immediate winner.

The scoring is very specific when it comes to deciding who has one in more complex outcomes.
For example, if Both players have captured the 'most' of one type, this qualifies them for victory.
Those players then add together their other figures. The player with the most of these wins.
If both players have equal 'other' figures, then the player with the most total figures wins.
If players are still tied, then the game ends in a draw.

If you want to check out the rules for yourself then you can head over to Rio Grande's website; alternatively click here to download.

Personal Opinion.

In a market filled with micro games and heavy euro's some people will look at this and skip over it.
Others will look at the almost complete lack of theme in this game and do the same.

I honestly think that that would be a huge loss on their part.
Samurai is deceptively simple; the visuals and rules do not allude to how cerebral this game really is.

The game has great depth in terms of strategy and tactics.
Havering a game plan and sticking to it means you'll rack up certain figures quickly in the early game, but other players will then move to contain that momentum.
On the other hand, being too balanced will result in you not having enough of one type of figure to qualify for victory.
Knowing when to change up your play style is key to winning the game.
What makes this game really enjoyable is that this will be different in every game you play.
The distribution of the figures, the tiles you chose to start with, the moves other players make and when give this game a different structure every time without being too random.

Another nice things is that the game is quick and easy to set up, and assuming everyone knows how to play, relatively quick to play.

That being said, I have two main criticisms about the game.

Firstly, other than drawing random tokens to refill your hand, there is very little luck. This can be frustrating for new players.
I don't see this as a huge problem.
If you are a fan of strategy games you will pick this game up very quickly.
If you are not, the rules and mechanics are relatively simple to pick up, even for inexperienced gamers.

Secondly is how the game plays depending on the number of players.

In a two player game you have a single defined opponent. In a game all about area control and capturing pieces it is hard to out manoeuvre a single opponent who knows exactly how many pieces a player has at any given time.

In a four player game I feel the lack of luck is a more telling factor.
The Maths is simple. 4 players and 3 types of figures.
Someone will lose out.
With three types of figures it is reasonable to expect that at the very least two players will fight for control over the same type of figure from the outset, leaving the other two to dominate a type of figure each.
If this happens it is very hard for the two players who have fought over one type of figure to catch up with those who have not.
At best this can lead to great meta type game, where players change up tactics and targeting different players.
At worst it can separate the players into a top two, bottom two scenario.
Nothing is worse than playing a game with the sole purpose to not come last.

This is why I recommend Samurai be played with three players.

With 3 players and 3 figure types there is technically enough room for each player to claim one type of figure each.
This transforms the game into a much more strategic and brutal one.
It is now up to each player to actively ruin each other players plans to win.
There is a greater impetuous to achieve a balance between attacking other players and gaining figures for yourself.
It makes the game even more cerebral and tactical.

When you win a three player game you feel as if you 100% earned it.

Overall I still strongly recommend you check out Samurai, especially if you're a fan of strategy games, area control and capture or games where your actions impact other players.

Expansions, Reprints and Different Versions. 

This is one of the few games that does not have any expansions.
It has several different versions of the game for different languages, however they all have a similar same rules set (the tied player scenario is somewhat different).

There is a samurai card game.

Unlike most games, the card game appears to have no digital version of the rules. and ;lke Samurai itself, it is out of print.
So ii really is hard to judge what the game play of this game is like.

Digital Spotlight.

Samurai does have a couple of App versions of the game available.

There is an official ios version of the game available on the Apple store.
The ios versions seems to be reasonable; very much like the board game. The user interface is a bit off, but that can be over looked.
The biggest problem is that at the top of the screen it displays exactly what figures are owned by what player.
I think this takes a fair amount from the game; keeping the figures secret is an intrinsic part of the game.


031 - Samurai ios

Additionally there is an unofficial adaptation for Android called Shogun Hex available from Google play.
The Android adaptation however is a different story. Added tokens that add different powers, empty territory where nothing is influenced and an extremely clunky user interface that makes the game painful to play for a prolonged period of time.
100% avoid in every single way.


032 - Samurai  hex shogun andriod

There is, or rather, was, an official PC version of the game by Klear Games.
The fate of this game is unknown as the domain is no longer active, but it seemed to operate very much like the ios version. If you're interested in it regardless there is an article about it here - http://archive.gamedev.net/archive/reference/articles/article1887.html

 
Outro.

What did you think of this issue? Pro's, Con's?
Did any other Kickstarter projects grab your attention?

Have you played Samurai, or any of the App versions?
What did you think?

Feel free to comment on this post, or alternatively hit us up on twitter
@TCBCartographer

Thank you for reading this issue of The Cardboard Cartographer, until next time!