Unboxing and Review: Kylo Ren Force FX Lightsaber

I would like to start off by saying how happy I am to see Force FX products readily available in Canada again.  It seems that our market just hasn’t been a priority for Hasbro the way it was for Master Replicas.  But that’s another matter.

So, here’s the box:

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It’s… well, it’s a box.  It’s long, and it’s wide, but it’s nice art.  I don’t really have much to say about it, so…

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The empty space is unfortunate, and ties into my one complaint about the product, but more on that later.  The up-side here is that the packaging is simple.  A few foam bars to remove, and you pull the saber up and out.

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The cover on the three blades slide away easily, leaving you with the saber itself.

This saber does come with an interestingly designed display stand- very minimal and basic in appearance.

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The stand can be displayed either, as above, as this sort of cradle that the saber just rests on, or it can be flipped over and become:

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This looks kind of cool, in that the saber balances and almost hovers, but it does break the immersion of saying “this is a lightsaber.”

Okay, now a minor downside.  Batteries are not included.  The battery port, however, is interesting.  Force FX sabers have always hidden access to the battery compartment in interesting ways, and this is now exception.

A tool is required to gain access, but it’s not a screwdriver, nor any kind of key… you need a coin.

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I used a nickel, and was easily able to unscrew the end of the saber, and expose the battery pack.

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So, with the batteries installed, and the pack replaced, the cap screwed back in, you’re done.  It’s a very straightforward product.

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With the unboxing complete, I will give a short list of pros and cons.

PRO:
-Metal hilt.  This gives a certain degree of authenticity of the feeling of holding the thing.
-Sounds.  The sound effects are amazing.  The raw growl as you activate the saber is beautiful.
-Swing and clash sensitivity.  Swooshes every time you swing it, and doesn’t take a very strong hit to register the clash and product the sound.

CON:
-Blades are not removable.  This is pretty big for me.  If the crossguard blades could be removed, they could have cut down significantly on the width of the packaging.  It also means that you can’t carry the saber without visible blades.  It also means…
-No belt clip.  As the blades cannot be removed, it makes sense for the saber to not have a belt clip, but I love the ability to remove the blade from the other Force FX sabers, and wear them as a costume accessory.  Not an option here.

RATING:
Over all, a good product that produces the feel that you want.
4/5

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Factions of Westeros Part 2

Yesterday I posted an introduction to the (alphabetically) first four Factions of the 2nd Edition of the Game of Thrones LCG.  Today continues with the remaining four.  If what you read interests of intrigues, feel free to come down to our second Learn To Play event!

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Night’s Watch

Those who are familiar with the setting will know that the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night’s Watch guards the Wall against threats from beyond.  It is appropriate, then, that defense is the specialty of the Night’s Watch.

Just look at this combo:

So not only have you got a buff to all your characters, you’ve got a great bonus for completing the Challenges phase without losing an Unopposed Challenge, and a high strength defender to help you do that.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the Watch can’t strike back.

Jon Snow will happily throw his strength into any attacking challenge, while Ghost will occupy someone for the entire phase.  And that’s just an example.

The Watch is also interesting in that it includes Traits for each of the three divisions, Builders, Rangers, and Stewards, and has some card mechanics that interact with them.

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This creates the potential for a pretty versatile play experience within the broad framework of the faction.

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Stark

Potentially one of the most straightforward of Factions, Starks are also developing some mechanics that make them a little less direct.

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I figured I’d get old Ned out of the way first off.  Let’s face it, anyone who wants to play Stark wants to know how awesome this guys is, and he’s pretty awesome.  Good strength, Renown, and he just keeps getting back up as long as you’re being attacked.  So sure, if you’re going first, smack someone with him, he’ll just get up for the counter attack.

What else do Stark fans love?

Direwolves.  And they’re no slouches.  Big scary monsters who aren’t just a threat in Military Challenges thanks to cards like Like Warm Rain, and Grey Wind’s habit of just straight up eating small characters.

But there’s more to the House of Stark than violence.

Characters like Catelyn and Sansa can do their part to make sure that you don’t get knifed in the back, and gain power (and victory) through some less conventional means.

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Tyrell

The members of House Tyrell and known for working well together, and this stands true in the cards as well.

Look at these two 4 gold gets you 6 strength, 2 icons each, and standing defenders.  Oh, but it doesn’t stop there.

So Loras, the Knight of Flowers is attacking by himself to limit defenders.  Sure, but someone like Lord Stark up above could take him on his own… until his sister Margaery steps in to help, adding her strength to the challenge without participating.

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And then you’ve got guys like Randyll Tarly here.  After Margaery, or some other card, boost his strength, he gets back up to trouble your foes again.

Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork.

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Targaryen

Last, but not least, the fire and blood of House Targaryen.  Less of a House in the traditional sense, more like a collection of allies.

Here’s the only two characters (so far, anyway) who bear the name Targaryen, and as you can see, one of them isn’t much direct threat.  The rest of the characters are split between the allies these two (though really Daenerys) have collected, including:

Dragons.  Mmm-hmm.  Dragons.  Note how all three provide a bonus to Stormborn characters.  Take a look up at Daenerys.  She’s the only one so far.  But we’re not done yet!

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Behold the most versatile kill card in the game at present.  One gold, kneel a character with a cost as low as 2, and for 3 gold worth of resources, you just killed a 6 gold cost Jon Snow.  Or any number of other characters.

But I said there were other allies, didn’t I?  Here’s a sample:

With friends like these, who needs family?

 

Well, there you have it, my introduction to the remaining Factions of A Game of Thrones.  I certainly hope you’ll consider joining us on Thursdays.  We hope to have a league going soon.

Come and play the only game that matters, the Games of Thrones, where you win or you die; there is no middle ground!

Factions of Westeros Part 1

I would call last week’s Learn-To-Play Night for the 2nd Edition of the Game of Thrones LCG a success, and in the spirit of providing more people exposure to the game an its concepts, I thought it might be helpful to provide an introduction to the eight factions of 2nd edition, their themes, strengths, and weaknesses.

I will be providing this list in alphabetical order- this isn’t a review, or a countdown of my favorites.

I will also make this as spoiler-free as possible.

So, without further ado, the first four…

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Baratheon

At the end of the day, Power is the name of the game in A Game of Thrones.  There are only two ways to win a one-on-one game: have your opponent deck out, or collect your 15 Power tokens.  Given how relatively little draw power GoT has compared to other card games, you’re much better off trying for the 15 power.

House Baratheon are the undisputed masters of collecting, defending, and manipulating Power.  The majority of Baratheon characters carry a Power Challenge Icon, thus enabling them to attack and defend in Power challenges, and cards like The Red Keep and Kingswood give you an edge over the competition.

And while you thus acquire and defend your power, cards like Tobho Mott’s Armory and Chamber of the Painted Table give you significant incentive to invest in the dominance phase.  Throw in The Iron Throne, and watch your Power grow.

On to…

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Greyjoy

Hailing from the Iron Islands, the Ironborn of House Greyjoy are fierce raiders, partly inspired by the Vikings of our own history.  Gameplay under House Greyjoy emphasizes striking quickly, and striking hard.

Cards like Ahead of the Tide will help you win Initiative, while Iron Fleet Scout and Raiding Longship help you capitalize on it.

Raiding Longship, when used on a single defender, also makes the challenge effectively Unopposed, well then… see what Loot, Asha Greyjoy (Yara, for you HBO folks), and Theon  Greyjoy can do for you:

 

Add to that a host of cards that buff strength, remove defender, and the like, and you’ve got one brutal and efficient fighting force.

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Lannister

Anyone who is at all familiar with any incarnation of this series will be unsurprised to hear that the Lannisters are very good at collecting gold.  What’s impressive are the variety of things they can do with that gold.

Military Challenges getting you down?  Bring out Ser Jaime Lannister or Ser Gregor Clegane.

Need to drain your opponent’s hand a little faster?  Here come Cersei and Tyrion…

Or maybe you just want a giant hammer to pound your enemies with?  Well, here he is…

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Take up the Lannister banner, and throw money at your problems until they go away.

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Martel

The Martels often seem like foreigners compared to the rest of Westeros.  Their homeland, Dorne, is far to the south, desert-like, and (from the books) they’re also of different ethnic stock.  It seems only fitting that their playstyle should be different- and it is.

Normally, you want to will Challenges- how else do you win the game, right?  Well, the Martels might make you re-think that strategy.

When the Martels start reacting to losing a challenge, the pain begins.  Ghaston Grey launches people back into your hand, Caleotte robs them of their icons, Sunspear raises their claim for counter attack, Unbowed robs your opponent of options, and Vengeance of Elia flips claim to the winner.  It’s horrible.

House Martel requires a unique playstyle where you lose a little, only to come back and counter hard, gaining the power you need to win before you opponent fully understand why they haven’t won already.

It is exactly the sort of knife-out-of-nowhere tactics that the Dornish love to employ.

And that is where we draw to a close!  Half the Factions down, four more to go tomorrow!  Hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and I hope even more that you’ll consider trying the game!

 

Top 10: X-Wing Imperial Ships

Hi, there!

Today I will be presenting my picks for Top 10 Imperial ships in Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures…

Or, at least, that was my intention.  As I was writing my list, I realized that there are actually only 12 Imperial ships.  So, while I am limiting myself to 10 here, it’s almost like a brief review than an actual Top 10.

Anywhere, without further ado…

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My Top 10 Imperial Ships

 

#10: Lamba-Class Shuttle
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If I had written this list a couple years ago, this ship would have ranked much higher (and no, not just because there were fewer ships).  When outfitted with upgrades like Heavy Laser Cannon, the Lambda-Class Shuttle can pack a surprising punch, and with its 5 hull and 5 shields, it can take a lot of damage.  It’s options to stand still, rather than being required to move, can also be of strong tactical advantage.

So what’s the catch?  It’s.  Slow.  Though I have seen this mitigated through the Engine Upgrade card, giving it the Boost action, the fact is that this flying rock is easily out maneuvered by virtually every over ship in the game, and it’s lack of a turret option means that you’re doomed to have it spend the back half of the game trying to keep enemies in its firing arc.

It’s fun every now and again, and it comes with some fun upgrades, but I’m afraid that the ship’s overall performance clocks it in at the bottom of this list.

#09: Imperial Raider
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I had considered not including any Huge ships in this list, but that would have left me even fewer ships to talk about, and frankly this beautiful beast is eye-catching that I take almost any opportunity to discuss it.

The first Imperial Huge-size ship certainly cuts an imposing figure as it sits either on a shelf, or ready on the field of battle.  That said, I almost don’t feel qualified to discuss its actual game performance, as I’ve only had a chance to play it twice.

Playable only in Epic games of 300+ points, and sporting the highest retail price amongst X-Wing products, this ship is not a casual piece.  That said, the TIE Advanced (and associated upgrades) that it comes packaged with make it tempting even for the player who does not regularly play Epic (like me).  That’s why it appears so low on this list.

That and my experience with it is somewhat mixed.  In the first game I played it with, the Raider didn’t take a scratch, tearing apart its opposition (mostly large ships) with volleys of fire.  On its second outing, facing up against a CR-90 Corvette and a trio of star fighters, it took a heavy beating and was destroyed before the rest of my fleet could come to its rescue (some errors occurred on my part, but that’s neither here nor there).

The Raider’s lack of a turret when compared to its rival, the CR-90 is significant, as is the lower (often) value of its Primary Weapon.

All in all, my conclusion is that the Raider NEEDS escort ships to survive when I wish it were more autonomous

#08: TIE Advanced
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I wish this ship was higher on this list.  I really do.

The TIE Advanced goes all the way back to the initial release of the game, being part of the first wave of boosters.  Sad to say, it shows it age.

When the other other ship available is a TIE Fighter, the 2 shields, target lock, and missile upgrade slot offered by the TIE Advanced are very attractive.  The 2 dice of Primary Weapon, however, are its downfall.  At anything farther than close range, that’s a pretty poor chance of damaging an opponent.

As an added factor, the Advanced does not offer much in the way of maneuverability.  With only 4 green options on the dial (1 banks, and 2 and 3 straight), Stress Tokens can become a major problem.

While it is true that the aforementioned upgrades packed with the Imperial Raider can do more to give the Advanced an edge, the inclusion of those cards only kept the Advanced on the list.

#07 TIE Defender
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Speaking of ships I want to like more.  Sigh.

I spent many an hour as a teenager in the late 90’s parked in front of my PC and playing the Collector’d Edition of TIE Fighter
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This game put you in the cockpit of Imperial fighters, and pit you against pirates, Rebels, and even Imperial traitors.  It was one of the most fun fighter games I ever played, and I credit it with the majority of my enthusiasm for getting into X-Wing in the first place.

The TIE Defender was created for and debuted in this game.  In it, the Defender dominates any battlefield- 4 lasers, two ion guns, a warhead launcher, shields, a hyperdrive, and maneuverability and speed to rival an A-Wing, I invested in X-Wing Miniatures in the hope that one day I would be able to field a wing of Defenders for the glory of the Empire!

And now I can, but it wouldn’t be a good idea.

Yes, the Defenders base stat-line is very impressive, 3’s all the way down, but again maneuverability becomes something of an issue.

Okay, yes, the Defender boasts a 4-speed WHITE Koiogran Turn, and that is amazing, but it’s 1- and 2-speed turns are RED and its only green maneuvers are straight.  This makes for a ship whose turns must be planned very carefully, unless you plan to eat up your Modification slot with the upgraded Twin Ion Engine Mk II.

This grace, rivaling that of the Lambda-Class rock above, keeps the TIE Defender, my favorite starfighter EVER from approaching the top 5.

Sigh.

#06: TIE Punisher
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From ships I wished I liked more, to a ship I didn’t expect to like at all.

When the TIE Punisher was announced, my first reaction on seeing it was something long the lines of “Holy crap, look at that thing!”  It’s clearly a Bomber with three extra missile tubes.  And if that’s all it was, I wouldn’t like it much at all.

Sure, it’s only got 2 Primary Weapon dice and 1 Agility, but it’s 3 shields and 6 hull ensures it won’t be going down in a hurry.  There also isn’t a whole lot of red on its dial.  Just a 4-speed Koiogran, and 2-speed turns.  There isn’t a whole lot of green to offset that either, but considering it’s a bomber, and that it can Boost, there’s a lot of maneuver options there.

My problem with TIE Bombers (note that they do not appear on this list) was that they would often be destroyed before they could deploy their payloads.  The Punisher has a much easier time of this.  Add the pilot abilities and upgrades that come in the pack, and you have an intimidating source of damage.

#05: TIE/fo Fighter
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Which brings us into the top 5, and the first ship on the list is also the newest ship on the list.

Introduced with the Force Awakens Core Set, the TIE/fo breaths some fresh air into an already good ship design.

On top of the 1 shield (no more 1 hit kills from X-Wings), the TIE/fo also sports a Target Lock action and a new upgrade slot at the cost of just a few points.

The TIE/fo also introduced a brand new maneuver into the game, the Segnor’s Loop, a bank that ends in a 180.

The addition of a green 2-speed turn, previously seen only on the Interceptor, helps the TIE/fo to stand out and contribute in spite of its Primal Weapon value of 2.

#04: TIE Fighter
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It’s actually surprised me how high this ship made it on the list, and not to long ago it wouldn’t have.

As you may have gathered from reading this list so far, I consider base stats and maneuverability to be important.  My playstyle with Imperials relies on these traits, using my fighters speed and maneuverability to try to keep them out of the line of fire, and trusting to their Agility to help them survive if they can’t.  High damage is also a must to actually destroy the enemy.

On its face, the TIE Fighter does not live up to this well, being somewhat toothless with their 2-die Primary Weapon, though 3 Agility does help them avoid damage, a mere 3 hull can result in quick losses.

The new pilots introduced with the Imperial Assault Carrier, though, have seriously revitalized this ship-of-the-line, introducing a host of new abilities to plague the enemies of the Empire.  It doesn’t pack a big punch, but being one of (if not the) cheapest ships in the game means that you can field more of them, and there is strength in numbers.

#03: VT-49 Decimator
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If you’re not agile, you’d better be tough.  It’s not, and it is.  Zero Agility, only 4 shields, but 12 hull.  12.

If you’re not maneuverable, you’d better have other options for attacking.  It’s not bad, acutally, sporting a nice array of 2-and 3-speed turns.  But the star is the 3-die Primary Weapon turret (the only imperial ship with a 360 degree arc) that makes coming up behind it just as dangerous as coming head-on.

The VT-49 Decimator is a space-tank, blasting at its choice of targets while taking what they dish out.  Pick your pilot and upgrades right, and this ship becomes an absolute terror that lives up to its name.

#02: TIE Phantom
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This sleek little beauty came out at the same time as the TIE Defender, and at the time I just picked it up for completion’s sake.  Why would I play this thing I’d never heard of when I had a DEFENDER at my disposal?

Well, I’ll admit when I’m wrong.  I was wrong.  There, I did it.

Even just the baseline stats of this ship, including a 4-die Primary Weapon (the highest in the game) should tell you this fighter means business.  The hull of 2 may seem fragile, and the 2 Agility ill-suited to protect it, making the TIE Phantom a glass cannon, but once you get a handle on the cloaking mechanics, it is anything but.

Now, you do have to be careful with cloaking, especially with the revision that was handed down regarding when one uncloaks, but the 2-speed shift that happens, combined with a good dial results in a ship that can go almost anywhere at any time.

And if you can ensure the highest Pilot Skill at the table, you need never be rolling fewer than 4 dice for defense.

In my experience, TIE Phantoms have shredded more than their fare share of enemies, often closing to range 1 to get that extra die before cloaking again and flying off to the next unfortunate soul.

#1: TIE Interceptor

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Finally, we reach the Numero-Uno, the TIE Interceptor!

Part of the 2nd wave of releases for X-Wing, the Interceptor has long been a mainstay of my squadrons.  If I’m not building with a specific theme or trick in mind, I always look at my Interceptors.

Solid stats (3 in everything but shields), boosts, and one of the best dials in the game (those green 2-speed turns) make this a ship with only one real serious downside, and that’s the lack of shields.  A bad roll can doom an Interceptor in one or two hits, which is why it is so important to Boost and Barrel-Roll you way into the best positions possible.

A wide arrange of effective pilots and upgrades just adds to the versatility and usefulness of this starfighter.

And as if that weren’t enough, the Imperial Aces box introduced us to this:

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It’s stats aren’t any different, but look at that beautiful crimson predator, ready to streak through space and obliterate anyone who stands against the Empire.

The Imperial Aces box also introduced numerous upgrades, including Royal Guard Interceptor, which allows an Interceptor to have 2 Modification upgrades.

Pilots like Soontir Fel and Carnor Jax turn this already solid ship into a dangerous and deadly opponent.

It’s not the strongest, it’s not the toughest, but all-around I say that it is my hands-down favorite.

 

So there we have it, my Top 10 list/review of Imperial ships for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatues.

Agree, disagree?  Other comments?  Reply below!

A Feast of Cards

Greetings, all!

In this article I sang the praises of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, though I also mentioned that it was a game at the end of its life; a new edition was coming, one that would prove incompatible with the previous version.

Well, that time has come!

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A Game of Thrones: the Card Game Second Edition is here, and the title is still kind of awkward (Would you like to play a game of A Game of Thrones- say it out loud, it sounds silly).  That said, I have to say that the game play has only been improved by the new and different mechanics!

As a pretty good tutorial for the game can be found here, I don’t feel the need to tell you how to play the game (even better- come ask me to teach you 🙂 ), so instead I’ll give my impression of what’s new and what’s different and what’s great (or not).

First up, the cards themselves:
I find myself very pleased with the new templates, layouts, and choices.  The introduction of two new factions in the game necessitated some reconsideration of the colors of the various houses, and the guys at FFG also took the time to completely redesign the card faces,  I think for the better.  Here are some side-by-side examples; first edition on the left, 2nd edition on the right.

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So, here we are not only demonstrating the difference in the faces of two Plot cards, but also how the potency of cards in the game has shifted.  And I gotta be honest- I think I actually prefer the 1st ed style of plot a little better.  I like the fact that the art window is bigger.  That said, I do like the updated look of the gold, initiative, and claim values, and how they’ve neatened up the When Revealed trigger in bold to make it more consistent with other cards in the game.  Also note that we’ve gone from you and an opponent searching your whole decks, to just you searching your top 10 cards.

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I love the update to Event cards!  When I taught new players card recognition it was always that you recognized plots by process of elimination- it wasn’t a Plot, Character, Attachment, or Location.  Yeah, they had this raven border, but that didn’t help as much as one might expect.  Now we’ve actually got a little banner that says “Event” under the cost.  But, apart from having a new and distinctive appearance, there are other glaring revisions to Events: they have faction alignments, and a gold cost space (that space is always there, even if it is 0, an occurrence that is MUCH more rare now)!  Of those two, alignment is the biggest shift.  Any card that refers to “in-house” can now include Events, and that opens up a whole new world of deck-building and strategy!

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So, the gold cost is about the only thing on a Character card that stayed in the same place.  Name and faction crest has moved, challenge icons have moved… and they all look different stylistically.  That’s really a take-it-or-leave it issue, as far as I’m concerned, but also note the shift in cost that we see here.  From 3 to 6 is a big jump, and you’ll see similar jumps in big-name characters- and while set-up gold has increased from 5 to 8, the disposable gold over the course of an average round really hasn’t increased much.  It takes planning and timing to get 6+ cost characters out these days.

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So, what did I notice first and foremost about Attachments?  The title moved from the top of the card to the bottom.  Why?  So that you can slide the Attachment under the card it’s being stuck onto so that it covers the art, but not the text or title.  It’s brilliant!  Attachments can get so awkward to track, and this makes it a bit simpler.

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I, uh… I don’t really have much new to say here.  It’s and old Location, and a new Location.  Things have moved around… but that’s the biggest shift.  Done.  Moving on.

Actual Mechanics Changes:
Okay, so we’ve seen the changes in the cards, but what about in the basic rules of the game?  Well, you can learn those changes in the above tutorial, or by downloading the rules documents here.  But this is a review, so what do I think of these changes?

I like ’em.  I like the removal of the draw cap, and the introduction of the Reserve limit.  I think that does a great job at making drawing a whole bunch of cards both rewarding and dangerous.

I like that some cards now have a little banner below their faction icon- this means that card is Loyal.  Only non-Loyal cards can ever conceivably make their way into another faction’s deck, and only through the use of an Agenda.

I like that Attachments (by and large) now bounce back to your hand if their attached card leaves play.

I like that the game is now much more clear on what can interrupt what and when.

This was a great game before (again, see the above linked article), and it seems like an even better game now.  And now is a GREAT time to get into it, as the core starter is the ONLY product so far for the game- though, if you’re going to get into it, I would strongly suggest getting two starts if you can.  The fact that they only give you one of each of your core characters is a little disappointing.

But I am super happy that this new game is out, I love it to bits, and I will play it at virtually any opportunity!  I am very much looking forward to adding some Chapter Packs to my collection, improving my decks, and making more.

This game has returned to its very important place in my hobby life; welcome back.

Portal Board Game Review

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How do I being?  Where do I start?  This game did such a wonderful job of being thematic and authentic to its inspirational IP before I even glanced at the rules.

I guess let’s start with the name.  Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game.  What more could you ask for in a Portal product?  Nothing.

Box art: done in the style of the 1970’s board games that I remember so well from my childhood, the box is rather unimposing.  A blue tinted scene of the board graces the front, with the title in white.  Faux wear and tear mark the corners, and the back displays a picture of a family “enjoying” the game- but instead of the saccharine scene of joy one might expect, everyone looks on the verge of tears while being observed by shadowy figures with clipboards.

The teaser text on the back promises a “fast-paced, highly lethal test environment” that will lead you to “compromise every moral you thought you possessed.”  What either kind of board game would GLaDOS preside over?

The instruction book is written in part in-character as GLaDOS, but never to the detriment of learning the rules, which are simple- the entire booklet is in the are of 20 pages, with big text and illustrations.

Here’s a complete board set-up for two players:

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The Aperture Science Lab consists of these 15 interlocked tiles (the game comes with 18- they are shuffled and played randomly, with the remaining three going back in the box).

Each player receives a team of 8 test subjects (4 of which start on the board), and 8 slices of cake.  The lab has a “new” edge (the left edge where the players start, and where things generally enter the lab), and an “old” edge (the right edge, where the portals start).

Every turn the player can play Aperture cards (acquired in several different ways), move some of their test subjects, and then finally Activate a room.  Only a room on the Old edge can be activated, and doing so unlocks the rewards for that room (depicted in traditional Portal warning icon style), though only if a player has test subjects in the room (so the first few turns go by with activation providing no results).  The rewards generally come in on the New edge, and the room is then “recycled”- flipped over (tiles are double-sided) and placed on the New edge, creating a new New edge.  Any test subjects in the Activated room are killed (returned to your supply), and any cake is incinerated (removed from play).

That’s right: you need test subjects in a room to activate it, and activating it kills those subjects, only for more to be brought out of storage to die for you.  How Portal is that?

The fact that ANY room on the Old Edge can be Activated means that the nicely squarish Lab is not likely to stay that way for long:

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Test subjects can carry cake of any color, meaning that you can haul your opponent’s unprotected confections toward their inevitable fiery doom at the old edge of the Lab as a room MUST be activated at the end of each player’s turn.

The every-lovable Companion Cube makes an appearance as an obstacle that prevents an Activated room from providing its rewards (due to distracting the test subjects), while the eager-and-friendly-death-machines that are Turrets also join in the fun, instantly killing any test subject(s) they counter.

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The game ends under one of two conditions: either a player has no test subjects in the Lab, or their last slice of cake is incinerated.  I find that in a two player game, the latter is much more likely to be the cause of the game ending (as it was in this case), as it is too easy to keep your subjects alive.  However, as the winner is the one with the most cake in the lab, someone with lots could easily march their subjects to their doom and avoid putting more on to end the game in their favor.

I can only imagine the chaos that would result from a full compliment of four players.

A relatively simple and straight forward game that has great potential for mayhem, death, and fire, I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who loves the source material.

-Christopher Roberts

Why I like Force of Will Better than Magic: The Gathering

Now, there’s a clickbait title.  I also recognize that it’s one that’s liable to get me lynched, but I figure if I’m going to do product review blogs, I should try to offend at least some people.

So, with that explained, let’s begin:

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VS.

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If you haven’t heard of Force of Will, I don’t particularly blame you.  It’s a Japanese game, and it’s been available in North American markets for less than two years.  Most of the advertising seems to have been done through distributors rather than directly to customers.

If you haven’t heard of Magic: the Gathering, I have no idea what you’re doing reading this blog or anything online with the word “game” in it.  Magic is ubiquitous and inescapable.  Walk into any card/board game store on a Friday night, and you will likely see people playing.

That being the case, I will spare you the redundancy of explaining what Magic is like.  If you happen to have somehow avoided all knowledge of this game, a quick google search will give you all the information you ever wanted.  And maybe some that you didn’t.

Force of Will, however, likely deserves an explanation.

To be honest, the games share many points of similarity- so much so that I frankly wonder how Force of Will is avoiding legal action on the part of Wizards of the Coast.

In Force of Will, two players engage in battle; using magical energy of five different elements, they cast spells, summon warriors, and create modifications to the field or said warriors, with the end goal of damaging their opponent sufficiently to reduce their life points to 0.  Sound familiar?  Yeah.

Maybe the five elements are different?  Nope.  Darkness, Fire, Light, Water, Wind.  Wind is green because Japanese culture associates green and living forests with wind (see Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for another good example of this), but otherwise the colors are exactly what you’d expect them to be.

The card types will also largely be familiar to you.  You’d got Resonators, who have Attack and Defense scores and are sent out to damage your opponent (Creatures), Spell: Chant cards that can only be cast on your turn (Sorceries), Spell: Chant-Instant cards than can be cast whenever (Instants), Additions that are generally added to a Resonator or just onto the field (Enchantments), but then we get into territory that differentiates Force of Will from Magic.

Spell: Chant-Standby cards are spells that you pay for (either with 2 of any color, or their printed cost), but then they go into play face down, wait around for a specific condition, and then trigger without additional cost.  I have no experience with Yu-Gi-Oh!, but I’m told it’s similar to that game’s Trap cards- I think it’s adds an interesting dimension of strategy to the game.

More significant, perhaps, are the Ruler cards.  Every Force of Will deck has one, in fact every deck NEEDS one.  Here’s an example:

Faria,_the_Sacred_Queen

You can’t read her text too clearly, but if you click on her, you’ll see a larger image.  It’s cool, I’ll wait.

Okay, so there’s some text on there that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense- I’ll get there.  What’s important is the every Force of Will deck has one of these, and there are many to choose from.  They often have some abilities, but there is one thing not written on the cards that they do, and it’s their most important function: calling Magic Stones.

Okay, so note that I haven’t said anything about an equivalent to basic land yet- well, those are the Magic Stones, but unlike Magic they don’t sit in your main deck.  Instead, they occupy their own secondary deck, the aptly named Magic Stone deck.  The primary way, often the only way, that you get Magic Stones out of their deck and into play is through your Ruler.

Your Ruler may be rested (tapped) once per turn to put the top card of your Magic Stone deck into play.  Now, if you’re playing a simple deck with only one color, then the fact that you’re blindly taking the top card doesn’t mean much, but like Magic has dual-lands that can produce two different colors of mana, there are Special Magic Stones that can generate two different Will Attributes.  There are also True Magic Stones with special abilities, but these are extremely rare.

Rulers may have other abilities, such as Faria here’s ability to give you 200 life at the cost of two Light Will (if those numbers seem high, there’s a reason for that.  Another trend in Japanese games seems to be to have unnecessarily high numbers.  In the case of Force of Will, every attack/defense/life number can be safely divided by 100.).  This introduces an aspect of strategy that I find interesting: balancing your desire for more Magic Stones against the desire to play your Ruler’s abilities, especially if they require resting the Ruler.

The majority of Rulers (but not all) also have a cost listed as J-Activate.  The J is short for Judgement, and paying that cost results in you flipping the card over to the other side:

Faria,_the_Ruler_of_God_Sword

You’ll notice the shift in abilities, but also the addition of an ATK and DEF scores, enabling her to engage in combat; to attack, to block, but also to be attacked.

These elements make your Ruler as important a choice as practically the rest of your deck combined, and a well timed J-Activation can be the difference between victory and defeat.

By now you might be thinking, “But Chris, this article would have been better named ‘How Force of Will is Like Magic, but also Different.'”  And you’d be right.  But as I said, it was partly clickbait, but also because I needed to explain these differences before I would explain my reasons.

The Magic Stones are a big part of it, honestly.  One of the things that came to bug me about Magic was that the Mana you need to play the cards in your deck come from cards that are also in your deck.  Putting the Magic Stones in a separate deck, and working a mechanic for fetching them into the basic game rules creates what I think is a much more balanced play environment.  Yes, you can still get starved for the Will Attribute (color) you’re really looking for, or flooded with one you aren’t, but it’s much less likely- and next to impossible in a mono color deck.

Maybe some players prefer that gamble, that no matter how good you or your deck are, there’s always that chance that your land will be clumped by your shuffle, and you’re doomed.  Cool.  I don’t.

I also do really like the Rulers, I think they’re a fun addition to the general mechanic, and allow for even more variety and personalization in deck construction.

Lastly, Force of Will has a very open turn sequence.  In Magic (basically speaking) you have your Main Phase where you play cards, your Battle Phase where you can attack, a second Main Phase, and then you’re done.

In Force of Will, the Main Phase encompasses battle as well.  You can play a Resonator, attack, then play another, attack again, then call a stone, attack again- on and on in whatever combination you like (as long as you have resources to use, of course).  It is probably the least restrictive card game I’ve ever played in terms of when you can play what card, or activate an ability.

All in all, these elements create a play experience that I just find more enjoyable.  I have constructed three Force of Will decks in relatively short order, and I have inspiration for at least three more.  I know that doesn’t sound like much compared to hard core cardgamers, but it’s actually quite a lot for me.  I went a long time before I made even a second Game of Thrones deck.

And, to top it off, now is an excellent time to look at starting the game.  A new set of Force of Will drops September 25th, the equivalent of a new Block in Magic, and it has already whipped up a fury of interest an excitement in the community.

And, to plug local events as well, anyone interested in checking out the game can hop by the store (Tramp’s, this blog’s host) on a Wednesday evening and check it out- we have weekly tournaments.

That’s all for now from Chris.  Happy gaming!