Preparing for my first X-Wing Tournament, Part 3

 

X-Wing Store Championship 2015 Prize Support

I’m writing part 3 of this ongoing series a week late. The original idea was that I’d post an update on a weekly basis based on the games that I’ve played. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any games in last week, hence the lack of an article. This week though, I’ve managed a couple of games and so actually have something to report.

This week I managed to try 2 more lists, Super Fast Dash and wingman and 5×5, being Chewie and Leebo. For Dash’s wingman I have previously failed utterly with using Etahn A’Baht as he was just too slow to keep up with the Phantom and so I got picked apart fairly quickly. Mixing things up I changed Etahn for Corran Horn and tried again. The list went like this-

Dash Rendar- 36
Push the Limit- 3
Engine Upgrade- 4
Recon Specialist- 3
HLC- 7
Outrider- 5

Corran Horn- 35
Veteran Instincts- 1
Fire control System- 2
R2-D2- 4

Total- 100 points

The first game was Dash and Corran vs a Phantom and Mini-swarm plus Shuttle. My plan here is simple, Arc Dodge everything as much as possible while keeping the Outrider out of range 1 of the Phantom and keeping Corran as close to the Phantom as possible, while arc dodging. Corran is more or less dispensable, once he kills the Phantom, which is the number 1 priority target.

I’m not much of an arc dodger. Throughout this whole process I’ve discovered that I’m a tankier kind of player. Unfortunately the meta is moving away from that kind of play and so I need to adapt or die, more than ever once wave 6 hits because of those pesky Auto-Thrusters. This was my real test to see if I could actively arc dodge a significant number of ships.

The initial joust went as expected and Dash took a little damage but I managed to lure the Shuttle to one side of the board. I then quickly made a dash (no pun intended) for the opposite side of the board and tried to keep the action there as I knew that would rule the shuttle out for a few turns as it turned around. I managed to keep Dash and Corran out of most of the arcs, most of the time as they specifically chased and hunted down the Phantom. Given the proximity of Corran and his PS (my opponent didn’t take VI on his Phantom) the Phantom stayed cloaked for a good while, but was still worn down slowly by the repeated fire of Dash and Corran.

The Phantom died as soon as it decloaked, Corran taking its last hull point and I felt pretty confident from then on. I hate Phantoms, with a passion, because they are too slippery, and so taking one out with negligible damage to my own ships was satisfying. By this time though, the shuttle had made its way back around and the Mini-swarm that had been pecking away at Corran had closed in. Some effective shooting caused Corran to get an Stunned Pilot critical and then some clever blocking caused him to fly straight into a TIE, taking more damage and blowing up.

Dash, fortunately, managed to keep dodging around the edge of the action, taking shots with his HLC and picking apart the more nimble TIEs since the Shuttle was facing the wrong way and wasn’t a threat. The game ended with my opponent conceding after the death of the final TIE and the realisation that his Shuttle wasn’t going to be able to get Dash in arc to shoot him. A win for Dash/Corran.

I’m pleased to say that I learned a lot from this game. I’m substantially more confident around arc dodging and positioning and was able to use my high PS and actions to my advantage minimising the number of ships that could take a shot at me.

My next game, back on Vassal this time, was against an Echo and Chireneau Phantom/Decimator combination. Despite my better judgement I elected to take out the 5×5 list of Chewie and Leebo this time. Ultimately I figured that I’d probably face this set up, or something similar, and if I couldn’t figure a way to beat it with this list then the list probably wasn’t going to make the cut. The list looks like this-

Chewbacca- 42
Millennium Falcon- 1
Gunner- 5
C-3PO- 3

Leebo- 34
Outrider- 5
HLC- 7
Dash Rendar- 2
Determination- 1

Total- 100

I knew going in that I had to be very cautious of my positioning. In previous games the Phantom got within range 1 of the Outrider and shut down it’s HLC while utterly obliterating it with 5 attack dice. This time I planned to keep the Falcon very close to the Outrider to cover the Doughnut Hole and give Chewie range 1 shots at the Phantom if it got too close. I also knew that, if possible, I needed to block the Phantom to make sure I dictated where it would be so I could pour shots into it. The Decimator was less of a concern because I knew that it’d go down fairly quickly once I focused fire on it.

Chewie and Leebo with Determination are probably the most durable combination of Pilots in the game. Between them they can ignore a fair number of criticals and so you actually need to do the full 23 Hull and Shields as damage without hoping for Direct Hits and while you are doing it there is a good chance that they will remain at full strength and mobility.

The game started off well enough, I took a couple of pot shots at the Phantom but didn’t really do anything. The Phantom hit Range 1 of the Outrider on the next turn, which meant that the HLC had to target the Decimator and Chewie could take a couple of shots Echo, with 4 dice. I has successfully managed to block the Phantom this turn with the Outrider so it didn’t get an action to really hurt me.

For the next couple of turns I whittled the Phantom down while weathering the storm of fire which dropped Leebo to no shields and Chewie to just 1. I was worried that I would lose when I got a little luck and my range 1 shot at the Phantom, with a focused Chewie, was enough to take it out. I’d elected to focus, rather than evade with Chewie after noticing that my opponent was prioritising Leebo as the weaker target and so took a risk, one that paid off.

With the Phantom dead (that’s 2 in two games for anyone counting), I focused 100% on the Decimator. Unfortunately in the very next turn it got very close to poor Leebo and opened up. My opponent had locked Leebo and also had Predator and a Gunner on it, meaning it hits very hard at close range especially combined with Chireneau’s Pilot Ability. My opponent picked up a whole handful of hits and criticals and I drew 2 for each, as per Leebos ability. Luck struck again as the first critical hit cards were both Pilot cards, which were promptly discarded for no damage because of Determination. The second gave me the option between a Munitions Failure or an Damaged Engine.

I was about to take the Damaged Engine (which almost certainly meant I’d lose the game) when it occurred to me, Leebo was on 2 health and there was no way he was getting away from the Decimator next turn, it’d be back in range 1 and kill him. But if I took the Munitions Failure I could drop the HLC and get a power 3 shot at the Decimator right now and maybe another next turn if I somehow survived. It was worth a try as a low power shot is better than no shot, especially when it’s unopposed by agility.

The shot hit and caused critical damage, which gave my opponent a Damaged Engine. This suddenly meant that Leebo had a chance to get away and that he’d struggle to keep up with the Falcon, which could now dictate the pace of the battle. My opponent conceded at this point and I racked up my 2nd win is as many days.

The last game taught me a few things, not least of all that accurately blocking Phantoms is hard but worthwhile and that keeping both ships together is absolutely paramount for this list. Between the 2 lists I used, Corran and Dash is by far the most powerful but it’s also harder to use. 5×5 is a good list but it relies on a lot of luck to beat a Phantom and I suspect a swarm would also ruin it through weight of fire without exception arc dodging on my part.

I’m going to try both lists a little more but, at the moment, I’m leaning towards the Dash/Corran set up, possibly with a couple of tweaks. I’ll report back next week, hopefully, with my progress.

Until then, Fly Casual.

Painting the Firespray

Firespray, cover

I’ve wanted a Firespray for a while but until they were reprinted and finally reached the stockists it wasn’t really viable as I didn’t want one anywhere near enough to pay double for it. As I’ve mentioned before I am a Rebel player exclusively and while I’ve toyed with the idea of picking up some Imperials I’ve yet to take the plunge but the Firespray changed that, sort of.

I mostly got a Firespray because I’ll certainly be picking up Most Wanted for my Rebels (2 more Z95 and another Y-Wing plus Y-Wing bomb load-outs? Yes please!!!) and it has Scum and Villainy dials and Pilot cards for a Scum Firespray and HWK. This means that, right out of the gate, I’ll be able to field a number of different Scum lists, if I want, and this meant that picking up a Firespray was justifiable.

The standard Firespray is painted to be Slave-1, which is all fine because Boba Fett is awesome and his Scum Pilot card is awesome but I wanted something a little bit different. I also don’t really like the engines which are painted and think that they could be made to look much better. All of this added up to my first X-Wing repaint being my new Firespray. The way I looked at it, it’s a Scum ship and so if I make a mess of it then it doesn’t really matter all that much.

Before we start, a little disclaimer- I don’t profess to being a great painter and so anyone with a reasonable amount of skill could likely produce a much better finish but I thought I’d be interesting to talk about how I went about painting the ship.

Colour-wise I wanted the skirt to be a deep green, akin to the basic Bounty Hunter Pilot Card art. The Engines I wanted to paint to be a light blue glow, which is colour I’ve seen painted on ships a number of times online and I like it a lot.

The first thing I did was to mask up the ship using some very low tack masking tape. I made sure the canopy and the area adjacent to the skirt were all covered as I only want to paint certain sections of the ship. A word of warning here, low tack masking tape is very hard to use in small pieces as they don’t have enough tack, individually, to hold to the ship. I had to interlace several pieces to ensure proper coverage.

I decided to begin painting with the engines as they were small and would allow me to test how the paint would apply and how much undercoat would be needed to cover the existing paint. Ideally I didn’t want to have to strip the model but I also didn’t want to obscure detail. Fortunately the engines have very little detail and so if it went wrong I’d be able to fix it pretty easily.

As I’ve said I wanted to go with a blue glow for the engines. This would mean several layers of paint to gradually bring the colour from blue to almost white. The best blue I could find to fit the image in my head was an old GW paint, Enchanted Blue. It’s a rich middle of the ground blue that isn’t quite as dark as a more Regal blue or as plain as an Ultramarine blue.

As the engines were already a darkish muddy pink I decided that they would need an undercoat and as I wanted a nice clean blue glow, I went with white and used the standard GW Skull White (I have no idea what they call it now). I should point out at this point, to save repeating myself, that I always water my paints down. It varies how much depending on what I want them to do but in general I go to about a 50/50 water/paint mix. The white went on nice, smooth and even, giving good coverage without needing multiple coats. It didn’t obscure the pink entirely but it did enough so that it wouldn’t be noticed through the blue.

Firespray, engines, undercoat

The first layer of blue was the straight blue, with no white mixed in to provide a base background colour for the engines. I then applied successive coats of blue mixed with increasing amounts of white to gradually bring the colour up from blue to just off white. On the round engines the lighter colours were applied in ever decreasing circles and on the strip engine I just applied thinner and thinner lines down the middle, decreasing the length of the line on the last couple of coats so as to imply that the very middle is glowing almost white.

Firespray, engines, first coatFirespray, engines, 3rd coat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After applying the last coat I used GW’s Eshin Grey to touch up the engine housings and provide some contrast from the light blue of the engine cores. I then applied a blue wash (Ahriman Blue) to the engines just to soften the lines between shades and bring the whole thing together.

Firespray, engines, post wash

For the skirt of the ship I wanted it to be a deep and strong green but I also wanted it to look worn and patchy, similar to the red on the stock model. As the ship itself would likely have been undercoated grey that’s what I went with, using a 50/50 mix of Eshin Grey and Dawnstone Grey from the GW range. I applied this liberally around the skirt and made sure that it looked nice and even.

Firespray, skirt, undercoat

I then used a heavily watered down GW Knarloc green for the green coat. This was watered down as far as it would go and still hold as it’s a base paint and very pigment heavy. Despite this watering the green coat looked both heavy and dull once it was dry.

Firespray, skirt, Basecoat

I wasn’t particularly pleased with how the green came out initially and so I wanted to add some extra depth as well as make it look worn. I considered a number of techniques but, in the end, I just applied a little GW Devlin Mud wash to the area’s between panels on the skirt to give some depth and contrast. I then took a sanding block to the skirt, roughly removing the applied paint all the way down to the red on the stock model and a little beyond. This method gave a satisfying worn look to the model, as if it had seen battle and traversed asteroid fields.

Firespray, skirt, scuffed

I then mixed a little of the Knarloc green with some white to lighten it a couple of shades and watered it down heavily before applying it sparingly to the panels to give them a little bit of depth. I was very careful in doing this as the stock model isn’t highlighted and I didn’t want to end up repainting the whole thing as it might look out of place against the rest of the ships and snowball into having to repaint everything.

Firespray, skirt, highlight

Once this final highlight was done I removed the masking tape and checked the model for unpainted spots or over paint but was pleased to see that the masking tape had done its job and the paint job looked clean and neat.

Firespray, complete

That’s it. All in all it took me about 2 hours to paint the model with about another hour of fiddling with the masking tape before I started. It was a nice little project and I’m pleased with the overall result.

Vortex- a Numenera Adventure Review

Name: Vortex
Type: Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
System: Cypher System
Format- PDF
Page count: 18
Weight: N/A
Price:  £3.98 approx ($5.99)
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Numenera- Vortex cover

Vortex is an adventure for Numenera designed for 1st and 2nd tier characters that was originally written as a convention game for Gen Con in 2013. As it can be used as a convention adventure it comes with a set of pre-generated characters and is short enough to be able to be run in a double convention slot, which is 8 hours. Needless to say this review contains SPOILERS, so, if you plan on taking part of the adventure as a player you should probably stop reading now.

The background of the adventure is that a cult has developed, over a several generations, around a strange piece of Numenera that takes the form of a large black construct that sporadically teleports around the landscape. Inside this construct (which has the Tardis-like property of being substantially bigger on the inside than the outside), amongst other things, is a swirling vortex of energy that is the focus of the cult activity as the cultists worship it as a creator being.

Over the last few years the cult has waned in strength and so it has taken to kidnapping in order to bolster its numbers and the man currently in charge of the cult has a dark malicious streak to him turning the cult ever more introverted and suspicious of outsiders. It is the escape of one of the kidnapped members that spurs the party to investigate the inside of the monolithic black Numenera.

The adventure itself is split into 2 primary parts, investigating the teleporting Numenera device and exploring beyond the Vortex. The first part makes us the bulk of the adventure with the latter part being a series of rooms with little ability for the party to stray from the intended path.

The first part is simple enough, a quick hook to show the players what the device can do, a suspicious town and enough subtle hints that the Numenera is worth investigating. From there the party find the Numenera in the wilderness, encounter a cultist who has just escaped and wants them to rescue her brother and a decision as to whether to help her or to try and take the Numenera for themselves (or both). Regardless the hook has been suitably baited for them to go inside and investigate.

Inside the Numenera there are innumerable ways to go and paths to take and exploring the entire inside could be a campaign in itself. The actual path is lit by candles, burning incense and walls daubed with cult symbols and designs. My party actually wandered off the designated path, which the adventure kind of accounts for with a few random room encounters that I embellished myself. Eventually, after a few hours of wandering I managed to steer the party back on course, though not before some memorable encounters.

The middle of the adventure is designed to be confrontational. It doesn’t have to be direct combat as there is certainly room for some stealth and/or intimidation. The party are placed in direct opposition to the cultists, led by the hardened self-appointed deputy who has a mean streak who will attack intruders without question. Certain cultists, older members who are dedicated but not violently fanatical, may be persuaded towards the PC’s point of view as they long for a change in leadership. The nature of the Cypher system, along with the clever use of Numenera means that there are numerous avenues that the PC’s can explore as they try to overcome this challenge.

After the deputy the party meet and have to overcome the cults leader, a man with the unique ability to repel all metal around him. This was an interesting challenge to run as the leader is highly charismatic and, in my case, began the encounter by trying to persuade the PC’s towards his point of view, successfully in one case. It was hard to explain to a player that the view of the leader was compelling to his PC even while the player himself disagreed with it and this lead to a little confusion at the table.

Almost inevitably this encounter devolved to combat as the players violently disagreed with the cult leader. It makes for a very interesting encounter with lots of opportunities for GM interventions because of the nature of the leaders anti-metal ability. One of my players has a PC that is a cloud of metallic nanites and so he, in particular, had to find inventive ways to remain relevant during the encounter.

After this the party finally come to the shrine room, that contains the vortex for which the adventure is named. This is a glowing ball of light that looks similar to a miniature sun and has the ability to transmit vague telepathic messages to anyone inside the structure. One of these messages instructs, almost compels, the receiving player to go to another part of the structure with little explanation why. Once there they have a relatively simple encounter with a series of Numenera devices designed to allow them to travel safely through the Vortex. More than anything this is a series of investigative skill based challenges that give the players free reign to be inventive.

Once the party are suitably protected they can travel through the Vortex, assuming they are brave enough to touch it. Once through they find themselves on a space station (although that might not be instantly apparent) that is deteriorating as it collapses into the sun.

The voice that it talking to them is a trapped energy construct that wants them to free it before the station completely breaks up. The party travel around a circular path of interconnected rooms while the station begins to break up around them. Again there is plenty of room for a GM intervention here as floors fall away or ceilings collapse.

This section should feel and play tense, as if the station could disintegrate at any point. I managed to maintain this feeling although it got bogged down by a few bad roles that meant a PC was trapped after the floor collapsed for a significant period of time and this drew some of the drama away. There is a little bit of combat here as automated guardians take exception to the presence of the PC’s but most of the section is down to player wit and character skill.

Regardless of whether the PC’s successfully release the energy being or not the superstructure of the station begins to collapse and the final hurrah of the adventure is a short series of agility based skills as the PC’s rush to escape the failing station. They do this by dodging falling girders, jumping gaps in the floor and otherwise trying to navigate their way out alive. The series of skill checks is fairly simple but my players, almost to a man, failed and only one managed to reach the exit. Unfortunately (for him) he decided to try and help his comrades as the station finally succumbed to its proximity to the sun and fell apart, killing them all.

Fortunately for me this adventure was a test of the system, for me and my players, so we could learn how it worked, make sure they liked their characters and otherwise see if Numenera was a game for us. Despite the TPK the experience was a good one, had this been anything other than a test I would have likely made the ending a little less lethal so my players had more chance to make it out alive.

Overall Vortex is a fun adventure. It was all the aspects you want, combat, stealth, social and skills along with a simple to navigate plot and enough ways to spice it up if that’s what you want to do. I think its serves as a good introduction to the settling and system overall as it manages to showcase pretty much every aspect of the ruleset in a nice manageable chunk.

My only real concern with the adventure, especially as an intro adventure, is that it is quite lethal. I tend to think it’s pretty hard to die in Numenera overall, which is good as PC longevity tends to help players connect with the game, but as the climax has a reasonable chance of causing a couple of PC deaths and the slim possibility of a TPK, it makes it a pretty steep intro to the game. If you modify the end to give the PC’s a little higher chance of surviving then the adventure as a whole would be even better.

Tiny Epic Galaxies- Playtest Review

Name: Tiny Epic Galaxies- Playtest Print and Play Files
Type: Card Game
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Players: 2-4
Age: 14+
Playtime: 30 mins
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing Kickstarter and happened across the Tiny Epic Galaxies project. I thought it looked interesting and like good value for money so I elected to pledge for a deluxe copy. A little bit of further reading revealed that Tiny Epic Galaxies is actually the 3rd Tiny Epic game, after Kingdoms and Defenders but I’ve neither played nor heard of them before this project so I’m approaching it with my mind completely open as to what I’m getting.

Given that I’m throwing down my hard earned cash (complete with high international shipping costs, no offense Gamelyn, it’s not your fault), I figured actually trying one of the games might be of benefit and, fortunately for me, Gamelyn have provided basic Print and Play rules for just such a situation. So 20 mins later with printouts, glue and some white card I have a basic set of Tiny Epic Galaxies ready to go.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is a card and dice game that will be for 1-5 players. The object is to grow your galactic empire bigger and faster than the other players and this is accomplished through colonising planets and harvesting energy and culture. The Print and Play version is only for 2-4 players, both the 5th player and solo mode have been added as stretch goals through the project and so aren’t included. What you get in the Print and Play files is 4 Player Mats (Home Galaxies), the Control card, 24 Planets and a sheet with enough faces for you to customise 7 dice for use in the game.

Tiny Epic Galaxies, Playtest Contents

In terms of the Print and Play I didn’t want to glue the new faces onto my dice so I just cut the sheet out and used it as another control card, labeling the various results between 1-6 so that we could just use normal dice. I also didn’t print out in colour, despite the files being in colour, because I forgot to change the settings and couldn’t be bothered to print the files again.  For tokens we used a whole host of dice grouped together by colour.

So how does it play? Well I got a full table of 4 together and we cracked on with it. I was the only one who had read the rules in advance and I’d read them twice. My group are well versed in games of all types and play weekly as a group in addition to each belonging to 1 or more roleplay groups and also playing games separately on other nights of the week. I’d say we probably classify as hardcore gamers and that means we tend to grasp how to play games fairly quickly.

Tiny Epic Galaxies, Actual Play

The rules are simple and easy to grasp leaving little room for ambiguity.  On your turn you roll the dice and then take actions, in any order, as indicated by the rolled dice, locking them into the control card as you do so. After you take an action another player can spend some of their Culture (one of the games 2 resources) to take the same action thereby advancing their own position. You never need to take all of the actions indicated by the dice and in fact tactical play would suggest that it’s advisable not to some times.

Tiny Epic Galaxies, Actions

The actions are, Move a Rocket, Harvest Culture, Harvest Energy, take a Colony Action, Colonise a Planet using Economy and Colonise a Planet using Diplomacy. Moving Rocket is self explanatory, Harvesting Culture or Energy provides resources to allow you to expand the influence of your Home Galaxy (which lets you roll more dice, therefore giving you more actions) through Colony Action. Colony Actions also let you use the action on any planets that you have claimed through colonisation.

Taking actions also allows you to colonise planets using either Diplomacy or Economy. When you have successfully colonised a planet (indicated by spending enough Diplomacy or Economy actions to move up the track at the side of the card), you can add it to your galaxy. This gives you access to the Colony Action indicated on the bottom, and earns you the indicated amount of victory points.

Tiny Epic Galaxies, Playtest Planets

The endgame begins when one player reaches 21 victory points. At that the other players get one more action, moving clockwise around the table, until the turn gets back to the first player (not the person who reached 21 points) ensuring that every player will always get the exact same number of turns.  Once everyone has had their final turn they add up their victory points and the player with the highest score wins.

The gameplay is smooth and simple and we managed to play through our first game in about an hour, which isn’t bad considering that the advised playtime is about half an hour and we were learning a brand new game.  About 45 minutes in we actually realised that we’d been harvesting Culture and Energy wrong and harvesting much less than we should, which had slowed the game down a bit and once we rectified that everyone suddenly managed to upgrade their galaxies much faster and the speed of play picked up considerably.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is half card game/half dice game with resource management elements thrown in. It’s a well-balanced game that allows for numerous strategies to develop your galaxy and enable you to colonise planets. There are only a few ways in the Print and Play game to directly affect your opponents, such as moving them back down the colonisation track and sending rockets back to home galaxies but there are many ways to indirectly influence your opponents by not taking actions or taking them in specific orders.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is very easy to learn but has a surprising amount of tactical depth that isn’t instantly apparent. We only played the one game and I’d say we barely scratched the surface of what you can do regarding dice and planetary combinations. Considering that the deluxe box will also ship with a Super Weapons expansion as well there is a huge amount left to explore in this game.

I downloaded the Print and Play for Tiny Epic Galaxies because I wanted to see if the game is worth my support on Kickstarter and it became readily apparent within 10 minutes of starting to play that it was more than worth the £23.00 or so  it will cost me for the deluxe version. I have a strong suspicion that Tiny Epic Galaxies will become a stable of the gaming group once it arrives in (hopefully)  September. As it is I’ll likely break the Print and Play out a few more times between now and then.

The Kickstarter ends on 07/02/2015 (that’s the 7th of February to any Americans reading) and I wholeheartedly think you should back it, it’s awesome.

I’ll review the game proper when it arrives.

Love Letter- A Review

Name: Love Letter
Type: Card Game
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Players: 2-4
Age: 8+
Size: 19cm x 11.7cm x 3cm
Weight: 83g
Playtime: 15-20 mins
Price:  £7.99
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Love Letter, box

Love Letter is a card game of intrigue, bluffing and memory with a touch of luck thrown in for good measure. It’s the 4th in a series of games based in the court of the Citystate  of Tempest. Tempest is unique in the world of board and game games as it is a persistent world with an story that unfolds over the course of the various games and has a cast of recurring characters.  The plot for this game is that the Queen has been unveiled as a traitor and now the unwed Princess Annette is due to inherit the throne. Suitors seek to be the one that claims her hand in marriage and so compete to ensure that their Love Letter is the one that reaches, and is read by, the Princess.

The game comes in a plastic blister pack and can be retained after opening as it easily opens and clips closed. Inside the blister you get a faux velvet pouch, 20 cards (being the 16 for the game and 4 reference cards), a zip lock baggie with 13 plastic cubes in it and the rulebook, which is A8 sized.

Love Letter, Componants

The rule book is 28 pages long with the 1st 6 pages being devoted to a little fluff for the game. The rules themselves are pretty simple and can be summed up with a sentence or two (they take up 6 pages in then rules) and I’ll give a bit more detail in a minute. The rest of the rulebook is given over the some extra information regarding the varies characters and interested parties in the game.

Love Letter, Pouch

The faux velvet pouch is a nice touch and it nice houses the rest of the game. It has a simple drawstring at the top to keep it closed and I think it adds to the overall feel of the game making it feel delicate and slightly aloof. The plastic cubes are very small and are used to denote how many rounds each player has won. The cubes could easily be replaced by any other token, I think glass beads in particular would work well with the tone of the game.

The cards are all made of cheap, thin card and I doubt that they’d stand up to spillage. They are full colour and each have a character on the front along with an action to take when the card is played or certain criteria are met. Each card has a character ranking on it, from 1-9, as well as a number of stars indicating how many of the cars, in total, are in the deck.

Love Letter, Cards

The game is pretty simple but does vary slightly depending on how many people are playing but the overall goal is to win a specific number of rounds. The object of each round is to have the highest ranking card in your hand when the draw deck runs out or to be the last player left in the round. In a 3-4 player game the deck of 16 cards is shuffled, the top card is put aside (face down) and each player is dealt a single card. First turn is denoted in a suitably abstract way (what game doesn’t decide in an abstract way now?) by giving it to whomever last went on a date.

On their turn players draw a card and then discard a card, taking into account the effects on the discarded card, which allows you to take actions such as looking at another players hand or protects you from card effects until your next turn. The object here is to try and keep the highest ranking card you can in your hand while trying to knock the other players out (using card effects).

The fact that there are only 16 cards in the deck with only 8 different characters (in varying amounts) means that the game involves a large amount of bluffing and tactical play. This only increases as rounds progress because you can see exactly what has been played and so know roughly what cards are left in the deck. Combining this with knowledge that certain cards cause others to be discarded or force certain effects when you hold them and players can use their wit to try and figure out what cards others are holding and therefore use that to their advantage.

For a game with so few cards Love Letter has a surprising amount of depth to it and is great fun to play. I picked it up because I was fascinated by how a game of just 16 cards could be playable by 4 people and provide any level of tactical challenge and I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it is.

It does have a couple of disadvantages though. First is obviously the quality of the cards, the game is cheap enough to buy but anytime you are playing there is the risk that such flimsy cards will be damaged and given that the game relies on bluff and tactic having any mark on a card would render it useless. Second is the number of players it supports, it states 2-4 but I found that it lacks depth as a 2 player game and devolved down to just guessing what the other player is holding. There isn’t anything wrong with a game that supports 3-4 players but it’s a shame that it only supports a narrow group size. With that said, I suspect it might just support 5 players, assuming that you substituted some tokens but certainly no more than that.

Overall I really like it. My group got quite into the spirit of the game and spent much of the time calling one another bounders, cads and knaves and challenging one another to duels. It plays quickly and so easily slots into any game evening or can be whipped out when you are just waiting for another player to arrive. It also does a surprisingly solid job of giving the feel of court intrigue.

As you can tell I’m pretty high on this one. I am still surprised at how good I found it, despite its size and simplicity and by how much fun it is. It’s certainly a game I’d recommend to others and it’s convinced me that I should try some other games in the Tempest series.

At the time of writing Love Letter has no expansions.

Preparing for my first X-Wing Tournament, Part 2

X-Wing Store Championship 2015 Prize Support

So last week I discussed how I went about getting into the X-Wing Tournament, what my background with the game is and what lists went into that initial round of consideration. This week I’ll go into some more detail about narrowing the lists down, specifics of the lists I’m trying and some details of the results of the games I’ve played.

So the first thing I needed to do was to try and narrow down my 6 potential lists to 3 or 4, at least in general terms even if the specifics aren’t set yet. First out of the potential lists is my A-Z Swarm, I’m just not convinced that it packs enough firepower to consistently drop a Phantom at this stage and Phantoms are by far my biggest woe.

Second out is Fat Han. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ and I’ve also bored a little of running it as a list. My standard Fat Han runs with 3 Bandit Squadron Pilots and kits Han out with C-3PO, Gunner, VI and the obvious Millennium Falcon. I don’t like running Lando as I prefer certainty to possibility and I also think that it Lando works best with Jan Ors crew around and that means running a support ship that is either too cheap and squishy or too expensive and therefore reduces the firepower of the list too much. Obviously others get different results from running their Fat Han lists but my play style works best with Han and 3 Bandits. Anyway, that’s me off on a tangent, Fat Han is out.

I also dropped the idea of triple YT’s. I love the idea of playing this but, try as I might, I simply couldn’t get a workable list out of it. It’d be very tanky but the lack of elite pilots and upgrades means that it wouldn’t be able to deal out much damage, in fact it’s put out less than half the damage potential of the A-Z Swarm list.

However, although I dropped Fat Han, while playing around I discovered that I can fit a Han (whose obviously lost a fair bit of weight) into a list with a couple of upgrades and run him with Leebo in a YT-2400. This seems like a fun set up so it got added to the list of potential candidates. That gives me 4 lists to play with, Super Fast Dash and a Wingman, Chewie and Leebo, Han and Leebo and an XXBB list.

So, onto list design. Han and Leebo was the new flavour of the week and so that was first up-

Han Solo- 46
Millennium Falcon- 1
C-3PO- 3
Veteran Instincts- 1

Leebo- 36
Outrider- 5
Heavy Laser Cannon- 7
Determination- 1

Total- 100

I like this list because it’s got some punch and provides the all-important Phantom protection in Han Solo. Han is equipped with Veteran Instincts to ensure that he shoots first, moves last and his 360 arc means that he should, hopefully, be able to get in range of any enemy Phantoms and shoot them down.
Leebo packs a punch with the HLC and Determination means that he’s more flexible when using his Pilot ability to choose between 2 critical hits. It’s not the most mobile of lists but it’s got a good number of hit points and it’s limited weaponry is able to cause some reasonable damage because it’s all on a 360 degree arc.

I set up to play a few games with a friend, who is also going to the same tournament, on Vassal. If anyone of you haven’t seen or heard of Vassal, it’s a great way to play games when travel is a consideration. It’s a free online program that has various mods built that allow you to play a huge variety of tabletop games, online. It’s a bit clunky and takes a little while to get used to but, for me at least, it means I can playtest a few nights a week when I’d otherwise be restricted to weekends.

First game up was Hanbo vs Super Dash and Corran Horn (which incidentally is one of my YT-2400 and wingman builds) and it was a whitewash in my favour, mostly due to some mistakes made by my opponent early on so I can’t really take credit for it too much.

Game 2 was much closer and admittedly ended early, without a clear winner, because it was late and I lost connection to the server. I’d lost Leebo but Han was unscathed and my opponents Dash was pretty significantly damaged so it could have gone either way but I’m racking it as a loss because I was definitely on the losing end when the game ended.

Game 3 was against a Decimator and Doomshuttle set up. This was a really close game. I lost Han first when my opponent used his Vader crew in the shuttle to cause a final critical that just happened to be a direct hit. The Shuttle went down next as I arc dodged it while staying well out of range of the Decimator, that was down to 6 HP by this point from early combined Han and Leebo fire. I have to say here that the Isgard crew card is a real annoyance, at least as much as C-3PO, and so I’d recommend any Decimator players equipping it. It came down to the wire here with what was practically a head on joust between the Decimator on 3 Hull and Leebo on 4 but I pulled out the win.

At this point though, I was starting to see cracks in the force. The Outrider’s donut hole at range 1 seems awfully big when you have an E-Wing hugging your hull and Han just doesn’t work all that well without being tooled up. It’s not a bad force but it’s probably not going to make the final cut for the tournament.

The 2nd list I tried was a YT-2400 and wingman. I’d been playing around with alternatives to Corran Horn and decided upon Etahn A’Baht to try and up the rate of critical hits and, most importantly, allow the HLC to cause critical hits. The list went like this-

Dash Rendar- 36
Outrider- 5
Heavy Laser Cannon- 7
Engine Upgrade- 4
Push the Limit- 3
Kyle Katarn- 2

Etahn A’Baht- 32
R2-D2- 4
Push the Limit- 3
Fire Control System- 2

Total-100

The idea of this list is to stay hyper mobile with and use Push the Limit along with the Fire Control System and Kyle Katarn to get 3 actions per round, per ship. In the case of Dash the idea would be to use the free Focus from Kyle to supplement attacks, while using PTL to get in position and then, if possible, gain Target Locks. Etahn would use PTL to Barrel Roll into position if needed but otherwise would Focus and Evade while using the Fire Control System to get free locks and making use of green manoeuvres to both clear stress and regain shields with R2-D2.

I’ve only played 1 game with this list so far and I can already see a glaring weakness. I played a fairly common list and one I fully expect to meet in the Tournament, the Chiraneau Decimator and Echo Phantom combination. My plan going in was to try and clear the Phantom as quickly as possible and then focus fire on the much less mobile Decimator. From the start I was on the back foot with the Phantom either out of arc or out of range of my ships. The Decimator took some token fire but I fared much worse. The game overall was done pretty quickly. I managed to get the Phantom down to a single HP before I Lost Dash but Etahn repeatedly failed to get the Phantom in arc and that, I think, is the downfall of this list, Phantoms.

I’ll be testing a Corran Horn/Dash Render list later this week to see how that feels against the Deci/Phantom. In principle I know it should be a much better match up but a lot comes down to play style. However the lesson reinforced here is that the only way to consistently beat a Phantom is to stress it, which isn’t that easy for Rebels, or to have a higher Pilot Skill. The higher Pilot Skill means that all the onus is on the Phantom player to guess where you will move to and try to make sure they end up out of arc instead of knowing your arc and simply using their huge mobility to get clear. It also means that you shoot first, which therefore means that they defend with 2 agility dice and not 4. Phantoms break when you hit them but hitting a cloaked and mobile Phantom is no easy task but it’s a task I’m hoping Corran will be up to.

Going forward I think Phantoms will be the Achilles heel of the 5×5 Chewie/Leebo list, but at least they don’t have to worry about arcs and hopefully weight of fire will bring down the demon machine. Love them or hate them Phantoms are responsible for the rise in prominence of turrets because without them you have to take expensive high PS pilots, with Veteran Instincts, to ensure you have the chance to bring some weapons to bear on them.

To be clear, I’m not moaning and saying Phantoms are broken, they aren’t, they are powerful (probably a shade more powerful than they should be but there is no way to alter that within the confines of the game without making them massively underpowered) but they have very specific weaknesses, like many ships, and it’s exploiting that weakness that is the difference between an average and a good player.

So next time I’ll discuss testing 2 more lists, probably Corran/Dash and the XXBB variant which remains very much undefined at the time of writing.

Numenera Cypher Chest- Review

Name: Numenera Cypher Chest
Type: Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
System: Cypher System
Format- Boxed Set
Size: 28.3cm x 22cm x 4.8cm
Weight: 689g
Price:  £23.99
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Numenera Cypher Chest, Box

The Cypher chest is an accessory for the Numenera roleplaying game. The cards included were originally designed as Kickstarter Stretch Goals during the original Numenera Kickstarter and, through this product and Print on Demand (PoD) services, have now been made available to the general public.

The product consists of 250 cards split between 3 different decks all housed in a very large box. The 3 decks are an XP deck, a Cypher Deck (which has 2 types of cards) and a Monster deck. The box itself is pretty chunky and a little advertising insert included advises that extra decks will be available via PoD through Drivethrurpg. The size of the box itself is specifically designed to allow you to expand upon what’s included.

Numenera Cypher Chest, Contents

The box is sturdy and solid and the plastic insert is designed to hold a total of 6 decks of cards, each of probably 120 cards. As it stands the box is probably around a third to half full based on the included contents. This does give you the impression that you aren’t getting a huge amount of value for your money and that you are paying mostly for packaging but I do like the fact that there is room to expand upon the contents with future releases.

The cards are individually 8.9 cm 6.3cm in size, all full colour and are made of strong, laminated card stock. I always make a comment as to whether a particular card component would pass the beer test (which is spilling beer or another liquid on it) and I think these would. As always I wouldn’t advise testing it and unless I end up with a duplicate card somewhere down the line I don’t plan on testing it myself. I will say that one of my cards came damage, with the top laminate coming scratched away from the card, damaging the artwork beneath but this appears to just be an aberration as the rest of the cards are pristine.

Numenera Cypher Chest, damaged card

The decks are varying sizes with the XP deck having 30 cards, Monster deck 100 cards and the Cypher deck containing 120 cards in total. The XP deck is comprises of just two types of card, 1XP cards and 4XP cards. These are to handed out to players during the game to represent GM Intrusions and serve a nice little reminded that the XP is there to be used, either to fuel upgrades or, in the case of my party, to mitigate the inexorable number of 1’s them seem to roll.

Numenera Cypher Chest XP Cards

Every Card in the Monster deck is different as each represents a monster from either the Core book  or the Bestiary. The cards are all double sided with one side showing a full colour image of the creature (which can be really helpful since describing some of the more outlandish creatures can be somewhat of a challenge) and the other showing a breakdown of their level, habitat, motivations and combat capabilities such as HP, damage, unique attacks etc as well as the page reference for the relevant book in case you need to look it up. The deck comes alphabetised and I highly suggest that anyone who picks up this product keeps it that was for ease of searching. I find this deck very useful because it means that, ahead of time, I can pull out a few cards that I’ll need and then I don’t need to have the book, or books, open and on-hand during the session, making sure that the table is free of clutter.

Numenera Cypher Chest, Monster Cards

The Cypher deck comes in 2 parts. The first 20 cards represent a type of Cypher and show a picture. These are used as examples for the type of tech that has been found, such as a wearable item, tablet, large bulky item or even injected substance. The majority of the deck, being the other 100 cards, are taken from the Cyphers in the core book. Each card has 2 or 3 cyphers listed on it, along with a description of what they do and the level. The idea here is that you randomly draw one card from each deck to quickly generate Cyphers on the fly. I’ve used this regularly and, for the most part it worked fine. I do think that it’s be better if the Cyphers were limited to 1/card so that you could hand them to players to keep until used/discarded, but I understand that this would double or triple the size of the deck and that’s not really plausible.

Numenera Cypher Chest, Cypher Cards

Overall I like the product and it makes it to the table every single session now. The XP deck sits by my side, a constant reminder to players that I may throw a spanner in the works at any moment (especially when I start picking up cards and playing with them) and the Cypher deck is used whenever a player comes up with an inventive way of finding cyphers that I hadn’t accounted for in prep. The standout though, is the Monster deck, which I think is brilliant. I warmed to the idea after picking up the Monster Vault for FFG Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and ever since I’ve thought the idea is brilliant and such a space saver.

My only real criticism is the difficulty in obtaining the PoD add-ons anywhere other than the US. I looked into it and the first add-on would cost me as much again as the initial product because of the ludicrous price of shipping from America, which is a real shame. I wish someone would set up a PoD hub in Europe for anything like this so that we can reap the benefits of what is an excellent service.

Preparing for my first X-Wing Tournament, Part 1

X-Wing Store Championship 2015 Prize Support

Late last year I signed up for my very first X-Wing Tournament, which is one of the Store Championships and it takes place in February at Entoyment in Poole, Dorset. As this is my very first X-Wing Tournament and actually my first real tournament of any kind other than a few MtG ones as a kid, I thought it’d be interesting to document how I’m going about preparing.

The first thing is that I know I’d like to come in the top 4. This is primarily because I would like to win the plastic Focus tokens that form part of the prize support supplied by FFG. I don’t really care about coming first because this is a proper Store Championship and it feeds into the Regional, National and World Championships and since I probably won’t be going to Regionals even if I win I think it’s unfair for me to take that win (and the 1st round bye that is afforded the winner of a Store Championship) away from someone who could potentially go further overall than I intend to. That’s not to say I won’t be playing to win though and if i end up in the final i certainly won’t be throwing the game.

Now, despite wanting to come top 4, I am under no illusion that this will happen. There is a good chance that some serious players will show up to the event and I’ve only played a very small group of people in the past, so my experience is limited. I don’t think that I’m bad at the game, by any means, but I also don’t think I’m excellent. I’m also pretty new to the game, having only invested in it in the latter half of 2014. To a degree I’ve been playing since it was released, as some friends bought in early on, but I didn’t play all that often before I picked up my own force.

So, onto the all imported question, list choice.

The first step is pretty easy, I’ll be taking Rebels, simply because I only own Rebels and I don’t want to have to borrow ships off someone else or use ships that I’m unfamiliar with. So, what to take? For ease of reference I’ll list what have so you can see what I’m working with-

1 x Corvette

1 x Rebel Transport

5 x X-Wings (including the expansion pack and Rebel Transport Pilots)

5 x Z95 Headhunters

3 x A-Wings (including the expansion pack and Rebel Aces)

3 x B-Wings (including the expansion pack and Rebel Aces)

3 x E-Wings

2 x Y-Wings

1 x HWK-290

2 x YT-2400

1 x YT-1300

As you can see, I have more or less everything for Rebels but I don’t have cards that only specifically come with Imperial Expansions, cards such as Predator so I am somewhat limited in what I can use.  The Tournament is a standard 100 point list with the requirement that all Pilots and Upgrades used are represented by the appropriate cards. Also, as it’s a standard tournament that throws both of the Huge ships out of contention (not that I’d use either in competition even if I could). The tournament rules can be found over on the FAQ page.

As you may know from this post, I have recently been running a Rebel Swarm (A-Z) list against my friends and so, initially, considered whether I should take this. In addition I played around with other combinations, mostly tried and tested ones as I want to do well, and ended up with a few options-

  • Duel YT’s, likely a YT-2400 and a YT-1300
  • Tri YT’s, 2 YT-2400’s and a YT-1300
  • A-Z Swarm (3 A-Wings and 3 Z95 Headhunters)
  • YT-2400 and Wingman (Some variant of the Super Dash set up)
  • YT-1300 and Wingman (some variant of the Fat Han set-up)
  • XXBB (2 X-Wings and 2 B-Wings)

Six lists is a few too many to try and contend with and certainly too many to try and refine before the Tournament in roughly six weeks’ time.  I doubt I’ll be able to play more than a couple of games per week and so I need to start narrowing it down to the top 2 or 3 lists to work with.

Next time I’ll discuss how I’ll narrow down my choices, give more specific force lists and go into some detail as to how I’m refining the lists to give me something that I can comfortably fly.

X-Wing Miniatures Dice Pack

Name: X-Wing Miniatures Game Dice Pack.
Type: Miniatures Game Accessory
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 1-2
Price:  £6.99 Each
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

X-Wing Miniatures Game Dice Pack

I didn’t buy into the X-Wing Miniatures game in the ‘traditional’ way, which is picking up two core sets since that method works out cheaper than buying the 2nd set of 3 ships separately and provides and extra set of templates, dice and cards etc. This mean that I only had 3 each of the attack and defense dice which is a little annoying as 3 of each isn’t even enough to deal with some of the situations out of the core box never mind range 1 Decimators with Expose or Cloaked Phantoms at range 3 behind asteroids.

So this meant actually I had to shell out for another set of dice, which FFG do sell, in a pack containing 3 of each and that’s exactly what I did (well I got them as a Christmas present but that’s beside the point, I would have bought them if someone hadn’t bought from my Amazon wishlist).

They came is a small blister pack, one much smaller than the ones the ships come in so FFG at least appear to be environmentally conscious with their packaging. Inside you get the 6 dice, 3 each of the 8 sided Green Defense dice and Red Attack dice.

X-Wing Miniatures Game, Dice

What else can I say? They are good quality dice and do the job I need them to. I think the pack is a little expensive considering that the dice are nothing but custom faced D8s and not particularly fancy ones at that. I also think that they are a touch expensive considering that you pretty much need them to play the game, even the game right out of the box.

All in all they are OK, I’m glad I have them but I don’t think that you should have to buy a 2nd core box or this pack, you should get 6 of each in the core box because that’s how many you need to play the game.

Cards Against Humanity, First Expansion

Name: Cards Against Humanity, First Expansion
Type: None Collectable Card Game
Publisher: cardsagainsthumanity.com
Players: 4+ (although you can play with 2+ if you don’t care about a winner)
Age: 18+
Size: 9cm x 6.5cm x 3.6cm
Weight: 195g
Playtime: 30-90mins
Price:  £8.00
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Cards Against Humanity, First Expansion

Unsurprisingly the First Expansion for Cards Against Humanity is exactly what is says on the box. Despite the nature of the game and how offensive some people may find it, Cards Against Humanity is nothing if not honest.

Inside the box you get another 112 cards to add to the base set for Cards Against Humanity. This is made up of 80 White Cards, 20 Blacks and then 12 Blank Cards (8 White and 4 Black) for you to write your own. The cards themselves are the exact same size, weight and standard of the cards in the base game. The box is made of thin card and is small, lightweight and snugly fits the cards.

Cards Against Humanity, Blank Cards

With reference to the quality of the cards I did notice that a couple of my cards were slightly misprinted, with the front of a couple of White Cards having a black line across the top and, likewise, a couple of the Blacks have white lines on them. I can’t say it’ll effect the game particularly, but the misprints are visible from the back so someone who plays with the set a lot could tell if a certain Black Card is due up or if another player is holding certain White Cards.

Cards Against Humanity, First Expansion, Black Misprint

Unlike the base game it looks like these haven’t been adapted for the UK market as they use words such as mom instead of mum and mention products such as Slim Jims, which aren’t commonplace here. Just like in the base game, cover a variety of humorous and offensive topics such as “walking in on dad peeing in mom’s mouth”, “The Gulags” and “Andre the Giant’s enormous, leathery, scrotum”.

The Black Blank Cards fortunately come with a white box to write in which saves the bother of having to try and find a white pen with which to fill them out. I’m pretty sure that I read somewhere that it was a rule that you couldn’t use the cards in the Expansion without first filling out a few of your own, now I can’t find this written anywhere in the set so it’s possible that I’m just making it up but I think it makes for a pretty good rule nonetheless.

It states on the box “Don’t even think of buying this is you don’t have the main game” and that’s certainly true but I found that you can play the expansion stand alone, in a limited fashion, provided you only have a few players and, at most, each player hold 5 cards. It’s not perfect but it did let me test the set out.

All in all a great expansion and fantastic value for money. It gets a slightly lower rating than the main game only because of the misprints on my copy, something you hopefully won’t experience.