Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kill Tokens: short play variant for Epic Spell Wars

Epic Spell Wars awards victory to the first player to win two Last Wizard Standing tokens. But playing with four or five players, it can take five to six games for the magic second win, and that’s too long a game for some people.
   If you want to play a set number of games and come away with a definite winner, or you suspect the game may have to end early, try this variant rule.
   Every time you play a spell (or use a treasure, however you do it) and knock a rival wizard out of the game, you win a Kill token. One spell kills three enemy wizards? That’s three Kill tokens. If the game has to end before someone has won two Last Wizard Standing tokens, break the tie between people with one LSW token apiece by counting Kill tokens. If that’s still a tie, heck, I say let them tie. (Haven’t had a tie yet…)
   The play pattern shifts a bit in a good way. Players recognize that getting a kill may end up helping them win, so there is more point to going out in a blaze of glory.
   You don’t score a Kill token for taking yourself out, but if you can take yourself out you prevent a foe from getting the kill. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bravo for the Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep deserves the acclaim it’s getting in the boardgame world. For detailed reviews, see Boardgame Geek and elsewhere on the net. Rodney Thompson and Peter Lee created the design in their free time before selling WotC on the idea. The published game lives up to their original vision.
    I had to wait a bit longer than I liked to play my first game. But after my first two-player game, I arranged games four days straight. The last [non-narcissistic!] boardgame I wanted to play so steadily was Dominion. I’m as fond of Lords of Waterdeep.
    If I have a problem with the game it’s that I’m better at it than I am at Dominion. I've won five of six games of LoW, though that might qualify as ludicrous trash talk given some of the two and four point margins of victory I’m crowing about. Even so, that’s a victory record that makes games harder to play in my family. Lisa loves Dominion because she can count on a better than 50% chance to kick my ass.
   I've played LoWwith friends who know little about the Forgotten Realms and in a couple cases nothing about D&D. They talk of the adventurers in the game as ‘orange’ and ‘black,’ the colors of the cubes, instead of calling them fighters and rogues. When I asked my brother if he was going to finish a quest one turn he said, “Well, it looks like I’m going to Discover a Hidden Temple of Laugh-Out-Loud-th.” But even people playing the game as a series of actions designed to acquire cubes of a certain color and cash them in for victory points enjoy the game immensely.
    The more a player knows about D&D the more they catch the flavor. And if you know the Forgotten Realms, you’re thinking “Yeah, hosting a festival of Sune requires two fighters and two wizards who translate into bards singing for the goddess of love and beauty, that’s perfect.”
   I’m looking forward to playing more games soon. And I’m OK with that comment about winning too often coming back to bite me on the VP track. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Three Evil Overlords

Yesterday morning I decided to take advantage of the buy-15-and-you-finally-get-1-free card I had from Starbucks. I rolled on down the hill to the drive-through, made the order, pulled up to the window and reached for the postcard where I'd thrown it in the passenger seat. "That's odd," I thought. "There's a 13th Age postcard in here. I thought I only had one of those.  Great! It must have fallen out of Jonathan's stuff and Lisa found it when she cleaned the car." The card was something we put together for Jonathan when he was on panels at Norwescon. The wonderful art by Aaron McConnell and Lee Moyer shows two of our evil icons, the Diabolist and the Lich King.
   Beat. Beat. Beat.
   "So where's my Starbucks card?"
   Yeah, I was a few sips of caffeine shy of firing on all neurons and I'd grabbed the wrong treasured postcard from the special spot behind the Fokker DR-1 triplane model on my desk.
   So as I floundered for my wallet to pay for coffee with a Starbucks Gold card instead of a postcard, I told the barista I'd grabbed the wrong card.
   "Well that looks really cool! What is it?"
   Turned out I could  *almost* have traded the 13th Age postcard for coffee. The barista and a friend working beside him play a lot of tabletop games, mostly Pathfinder and Warhammer. Next time I'll find out which Warhammer armies they favor.