Saturday, 5 November 2016

First Play of Conan

We played Conan for the first time this week. There were five of us so we started with "In the Clutches of the Picts". I took a few photos of the board set up before the other players arrived.
This scenario involves three or four heroes attacking a Pict village. Their mission is to rescue a captive and kill the leader of the Picts (Zagor Sag), bringing back his head as proof of his death. There are Picts, hyenas, and a giant snake occupying the huts as well as Zagor Sag.   

The giant snake is the toughest creature the overlord controls in this scenario. The overlord can choose where the captive is held and secretly notes which hut she is in, so the heroes have to search the huts and find her.

Two of the heroes:
 I played as the overlord, and placed the captive in the obvious place, in the hut with the giant snake. The heroes injured Zagor Sag early on but he managed to escape to safety. The heroes searched nearly every hut and finished off most of the Picts before Conan entered the hut with the giant snake. He slayed the snake in one huge blow, and after stopping for a rest, picked up the unconscious girl captive, and then went to finish of Sag, leaving one of the other heroes to recover his head, before just making it off the board on the last turn. 
We all enjoyed the game and the scenario seemed well balanced. The activation mechanics for both the heroes and overlord make for a challenging and interesting experience, with constant decision making about how much energy to expend on actions throughout the turn, and how best to utilise the actions.
We made a couple of rules mistakes. The first was caused by a translation error from the original French. Conan has an ability which allows him to burst through walls, and he used this to get into the hut occupied by the Pict leader Zagor Sag on the first turn. However, this was a stone hut and the ability is only supposed to apply to wooden walls. Sag is deliberately positioned in the stone hut so Conan cannot get to him in this way, so it would have had an impact on the outcome. However, we thought the turn in which the heroes escaped was the last turn, when they should have actually had one more turn, so they would probably have completed the mission anyway.
Even though it was the first time we had played, we got through the scenario in reasonable time (probably around 90 minutes) so we had time for another game. I would have happily played the same scenario a second time, but the other players wanted to try a different one, so we played Hunting the Tigress, which uses the board with two ships. The setting for this scenario is that the heroes are on Belit's ship, and it has been grappled and attacked by an enemy ship. The enemy pirates with their captain, Zaparavo, and a wizard (who can sacrifice himself to turn himself into a winged demon) have to kill Belit within 8 turns. As well as the heroes, Belit also has a squad of guards to protect her.
We had another enjoyable game, but this one seemed a bit one sided compared to the first. The heroes won quite easily, and it seemed like it would have been very difficult for the overlord to win this scenario. Some other players have posted similar observations on BGG about this scenario.
My overall verdict is that is an excellent game, probably the best of this type of game  I have played. However, it needs more scenarios. You only get a handful with the base game, and as they are each designed for a particular number of heroes, there are only two or three for each number of heroes. So if you normally have the same number of players in your group, you only have a small number of scenarios to play at present.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Boardgames for Big Groups

In my weekly gaming group we regularly have six or seven players (there are eight of us in total but it is rare that everyone is present). This has grown over the last couple of years, mainly due to the addition of two of our players grown up children. Most of us are wargamers and we try to get some figure games in most weeks, but at our weekly gaming session we mainly play boardgames. This post will look at a few of the games we have been playing that cater for six or seven players.

First off, with a game we haven't played for some time, Memoir'44. This is a miniature wargame / boardgame hybrid by Days of Wonder. It is a relatively simple card driven game where each player plays one card on his turn to activate some units (normally in one sector of the battlefield, depending on the card played). It gives a quick, fun game and the rules are easy to pick up. The basic game is for two players, but the Overlord expansion allows for bigger battles and these work really well with six players. Each side has three players, each commanding one sector of the battlefield. One player on each side is designated as the commander-in-chief, and he has the extra role of managing the cards and allocating them to the generals in command of each sector.


Overlord scenarios can be found online (although you would need an extra board in addition to the basic set to play these) but there are also some special scenario packs available with a large double sided board with all the terrain printed on and the starting locations of the forces noted. These are obviously limited in flexibility but are much quicker to set up. We have two of these between us (which gives four scenarios), which gives us quite a lot of replayability as commanding each sector gives a different experience.

Next is one of the best known games of recent years for a large player count, and that is Seven Wonders. This is a civilisation building card game with a card drafting mechanic that means there is little down time as everyone is playing at the same time. Although it is the type of game I'm quite good at (as most of the skill is analysing the relative pay-off from the choice of cards, either in terms of victory points or resources and hence determining the best card to keep and play, and as a mathematician I'm good at this sort of thing) I'm not actually that keen on it as it seems a bit dry in terms of theme. Maybe it's because it's all cards, with no pieces or board to make it feel like you are actually building something.

Last Night on Earth is a zombie game, pitting up to four heroes against a horde of zombies. The zombies are controlled by one or two players, so it can cater for up to six players. We have even played it with seven players, using an extra hero and giving the zombie player a slight boost to balance the extra hero.  The board is modular and depicts a town with building such as a hospital, school and police station. The game involves the heroes moving around the buildings, searching for useful items and killing zombies. Heroes can search whenever they are in a building instead of moving, by drawing a card from a deck. All manner of weapons and other items can be found, such as guns, chainsaws, explosives, first aid kits, as well as event cards with varying useful effects.

There are a variety of scenarios, for example in one the heroes have to find keys and gasoline and get to a truck to escape the town. The zombie player (or players) moves the zombies to attack the heroes and gets events cards which help the zombies or hinder the heroes. The scenarios seem to be well balanced and the heroes must work together effectively to win.  It works well with a large number of players as there is very little downtime. The game is great fun and full of tension and cinematic moments.

Shadows over Camelot is a relatively new game for our group, and one I’ve been wanting to try for ages, being a fan of Days of Wonder games. It is a cooperative game with a possible traitor, so the players are never sure if they are all working together. The players take on the roles of King Arthur and his Knights. They go on quests (such as the search for the Holy Grail or defeating the Black Knight) whist also defending against attacks from the Saxons, Picts and other unnamed forces. The players have to work together and plan their actions, but there are times when some players don’t get to do much of interest – for example the player with the most Grail cards will usually go on the Grail quest, and whilst on this quest, all they will do on their turn is play a card on the grail track.

Lastly, and another recent acquisition, but one we have played a lot over the last few months, is Quartermaster General. This is a six player card driven WW2 game. The players are in two teams – Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) and Allies (Britain, US and Russia).
 The board depicts the whole world, and there are army and fleet counters (wooden tank and ships) but it’s not really a wargame in the normal meaning of the word. The game covers the whole war and playing time is about an hour, so we can get through three games in an evening – yes, that’s right, a game depicting the whole of WW2 in an hour!
On each players turn he plays a card and draws a card, so it moves quickly with little downtime. There are five main types of card a player can play – Status cards which are played face up onto the table, and have a permanent effect from then onwards (for example one such card for the Russians means their units are always in supply), Response cards which are played face down and can be triggered by future events (for example the British player has a response card which stops a fleet being removed), Build Army or Navy which is the main way units are deployed, Land Battle or Sea Battle which destroys an enemy unit,  and other events, based on actual historical events such as Murmask convoy (where the US can give aid to the Russian player) or the Enigma machine (allowing the British player to remove a German status card). There are no dice used – if a battle card is played (which you can only do if you have a unit in supply adjacent to the enemy unit) the enemy unit is automatically destroyed, unless the owner of the unit has a response card or status card which can stop it being removed. It’s a great game and we’ve had a lot of fun playing it recently. As with any card driven game it is quite dependant on the cards you draw – sometimes you feel like the outcome is more based on luck of the draw rather than how you play the cards, but given the game length this isn’t a huge issue. Another downside for some groups might be that it really is a six player game. You can play with less, but then some players would be playing as more than one country, with more than one hand of cards, so it would actually slow the game down.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Crom ! It's finally here!

After a year and a half waiting, my Conan Kickstarter package has arrived. And it's a big package - no sneaking this one in quietly past the wife!
 I went for the "basic" Barbarian pledge, as this seemed to offer the best value in terms of number of figures, scenarios and gameboards for the money. Most backers seemed to be going for the more expensive King pledge, but I figured that I'd get plenty of play out of the basic game and all the kickstarter extras, and if I wanted more stuff later I could always buy it at retail.
Inside that huge package are two very large boardgame boxes.

One box is the base game, and the other contains all the kickstarter extras.They are nice sturdy boxes (which they need to be) with attractive artwork.

Inside they are both packed full of goodies - rules and scenario books, cards, thick cardboard tiles and markers, gameboards, and lots and lots of plastic figures.

I had a quick look through the contents and read through of the rules last night, and it's mostly very impressive. The double sided gameboards are very nice, and most of the figures look to be very good sculpts. There has been some discussion online about the varying quality of the figures, and it is true that a few of them are made from a different plastic and are noticeably worse, with softer details. Unfortunately, these are the hero figures. They are not terrible, and if all of the figures were like it, they would be acceptable quality for boardgame miniatures. It is a little disappointing though because of how good the majority of the figures are, and the fact that it the hero figures that are worse. I haven't painted boardgame figures before, but I think I will probably paint the heroes at least, so hopefully they will look better when painted and the difference in quality won't be noticeable.
There has also been discussion about the quality of the rulebook, and I believe a new one is being written. I'm not sure how this is going to be distributed to buyers though. From my quick read through last night there wasn't too much obviously wrong with it, but maybe some of the problems only become apparent when you play.
Hopefully I'll get to play in a week or two, and I'll post more pictures and thoughts then.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Trees from China

I recently ordered some trees from an ebay seller based in China. These trees cost £X including postage to the UK.

I based them on round mdf bases that fit into a larger irregular shaped base. These were another ebay purchase, that I'd bought some time ago and was waiting for something to use them for. The bases are two different sizes which was handy as there are two sizes of tree.


The bases were textured, painted (brown then dry brushed) and flocked with a woodland undergrowth mix.

The large bases they fit into were given the same treatment.

The finished forests. The trees can be removed to allow space for multi-based figures, and they can also be taken off to use without the big bases.

 Here they are in action. A couple of days after I'd completed them we played Bolt Action and the new trees were put to good use.


I've decide to start a blog. I'll be posting about the boardgames and miniatures games I play (including games played with rules I'm working on) and painting and modelling.
As a quick introduction, I'm a wargamer and boardgamer based in the North West UK. I play a variety of wargames, inluding ancients, medieval, Napoleonic, WW2 and fantasy. I am the author of Sword & Spear, a set of big battle ancient and mediaval rules. I also normally have one or two other rules projects on the go.
The website for my wargames rules is here:
I also have a forum for discussion of my rules: