Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Cardboard - Hanamikoji Review

Just an ordinary Saturday night in, waving teapots at geisha and trying to be more charming than everyone else in Hanamikoji, a two-player card game that packs a big punch (mainly to your poor little brain) for such a small game. It's too pretty for a boring box-shot, so everyone pretend this is lovely cherry blossom, okay?

Shh, I was trying to be artsy...

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Handmade Fair - September 2017

It looked like a grey start for this year's Handmade Fair as we arrived at The Green at Hampton Court, not helped by the distinct reduction in bunting levels from previous years. Still, it didn't take long to get into the spirit of the day and start looking around for exciting things to do.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Cardboard - Dice Forge board game review

With all the games on display at the UK Games Expo this year, new titles had to work super-hard to get themselves noticed. From the tiny wooden ladders of Catch the Moon to the novelty bed and sleep-mask in When I Dream, fancy components played a big part in the fight for attention, and one game doing a particularly great job in this respect was Dice Forge from Libellud. Upgradeable dice with interchangeable faces, striking box art and a beautiful board packed with a rainbow of colours all help the game to scream novelty - but is there any substance under all that chunky cartoon style? We've done deck building. We've done bag building. Time to try some dice building!

Dice Forge - box art - Random Nerdery review

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Guild Ball: I finally played some! (Farmer's Guild launch event)

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters - Snow and Skatha I've been guilty of vanishing slightly over the last month, partly being busy with the usual mix of life, work and games but also having dedicated a big chunk of time to fixing this hideously unpainted situation:

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters - Unpainted

That's an awful lot of grey to cover...

Guild Ball is something I've written about before when we attended Steamforged Games' SteamCon in Leeds late last year. It's a mob football miniatures game where you're attempting to play the most dangerous game of football ever on a kill-or-be-killed pitch filled with dodgy (but beautifully detailed) characters from various power-hungry guilds from across the Empire of the Free Cities.

I came back from the con super-enthused to pick up the game, learn the rules properly and get my models painted up. True to form I did none of these things, and the Hunters returned to their bag, lost and forgotten in the shadow of shiny new board games (as much as it was possible to forget, that is, living with the most Guild Ball obsessed man ever...)

But then earlier this month, during a bit of a resurgence in the game at my local gaming store, Dice & Destiny, I found out about a launch event for the new Farmer's Guild: a few friendly games being played, with some promos and prizes up for grabs. The store is under new management and much improved in terms of decor, outlook and community engagement, so I'm more than happy to support what they're doing and in a fit of enthusiasm I signed up to play, along with my husband. This gave me just over three weeks to get my act together. Nothing like working to a deadline, eh?

Obviously I prioritised painting over learning the actual rules, spending lots of happy evenings pottering about with acrylic paints, green stuff and PVA glue making them a lot less plain and grey:

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters - Snow and Skatha

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters - Seenah

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters - Egret

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters - Hearne

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Chaska, Theron, Hearne

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Young Theron

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Theron and team

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Hunters team

I also got in a rules refresher and some practice introducing friends to the game on a visit, and a couple more panicked 'aaargh, I don't know anything' games with my husband before the big day.

Guild Ball is one of those games where the rules, at their most basic, are pretty fast to pick up, but to get good takes lots of practice, strategic thinking and good knowledge of what everyone's models can do.

It will be little surprise to say, then, that I did not play well! Even so, the day was amazingly well run by our local Pundit (volunteer Steamforged rep) and loads of fun. Everyone was playing in the spirit of the day regardless of experience level and it looked like they were having a great time.

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - vs Fishermen

Highlights of my games included conceding two goals to Salt, the sea otter, a hilarious post-match overtime kickabout during which I scored a goal with 'borrowed' momentum and five minutes containing the most horrendous string of dice rolls I have ever put together in a game, ever!

Here's Salt, scoring his second goal...

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Salt goal

Everyone received some promotional tokens and an alternative art card for Grange, the Farmer's Captain. There was also a Farmers themed cauliflower ball model to take home for best painted team, which I was very excited to win against some amazing competition:

Random Nerdery - Guild Ball - Farmer's Guild cauliflower ball

It might look like just a tiny metal vegetable, but it was very exciting to me!

Nicest of all though was a prize for best opponent, where people voted for their most enjoyable game of the day. I was very proud (and super embarrassed) to win this prize too!

Prizes aside, I think it's so nice that Steamforged have designed an event around having fun rather than the usual winning-focussed tournament formula and I hope they offer lots more like it in the future. And I'm not just saying that because I'm terrible at the game... Hopefully I'll get lots more practice in with Theron and co before heading to SteamCon again later this year.

Big thanks to everyone involved at Dice & Destiny and especially our Pundit, Haydn, for the awesome day!

If you enjoyed this post perhaps you could take a look at my Facebook page and leave a like or come and say hello on my Twitter or Instagram feeds!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Handmade Fair September 2017 (and ticket discount offer!)

With all the recent board-gaming excitement and my ridiculously long break I've written nothing about craft-based-nerdery since Christmas! As if to redress the balance, I was reminded that it's time to start booking fun trips for 2017!

Kirstie Allsopp Handmade Fair 2017 with discount code

Monday, 3 July 2017

Cardboard - Star Wars: Destiny dice game review

A long time ago, in a living room far, far away...

Star Wars Destiny - Random Nerdery review

This week I'm taking a look at the Rey and Kylo Ren starter sets for Star Wars: Destiny, a collectible card and dice game from Fantasy Flight Games. Each player brings their own deck to the table, centred around a character (or characters) from the Star Wars universe and packed with weapons, equipment, events and support characters that will hopefully leave them as the last team standing.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Cardboard - Mystic Vale card game review

Druids, fancy see-through cards and a substantially reduced chance of ruining your game with a drinks spillage. What more could you ask for in a deck-builder? Cue Mystic Vale, newly crowned Origins card game of the year!

Random Nerdery - Mystic Vale review - box art

As anyone who's met me in any kind of geek capacity will know, I'm one of life's support characters. Somewhere around 95% of my pen-and-paper RPG characters take their classes from the following priority list: druids > other healers > scientists > wait, there are other characters? Yes, my default game setting is to immediately pretend I have sticks in my hair and possibly a talking badger. So it was with no small amount of happiness that I broke open my shiny new copy of Mystic Vale, a deck-building game with a lovely theme and definitely the coolest, most novel cards in my collection to date.

The Beastbrothers, Lifewardens, Dawnseekers and Waveguards are druidic clans tasked with safeguarding and restoring the cursed-but-mystical Valley of Life. Each player takes on the role of one of these clans and uses their magical druidey powers to bring the Mystic Vale back to life, one card upgrade at a time. Clever, see-through plastic upgrades!

Although not the first game to use the 'clear plastic cards' idea, Mystic Vale did mark the debut of AEG's Card Crafting System, due to be continued with Edge of Darkness later this year. The idea of the Card Crafting System is that rather than gradually adding cards to improve your deck as you would in a normal deck-builder, you instead start the game with a deck of sleeved starter cards into which you slide clear plastic upgrades that add new powers and symbols. Now not only are you worrying about how your cards work together as a deck, but also the interplay of individual sections of the cards. Sounds complicated? I promise, it's not so bad!

As with most deck-building games, your original deck is made up of almost-but-not-quite complete uselessness, although this game is unique in my experience for including some cards that start out absolutely blank...

Mystic Vale - starter deck cards

You'll spend the rest of the game trying to make your 20-card base deck look a little more like the picture below, with the thematic idea being that each card is a piece of the valley that you're working to restore to life:

Mystic Vale - completed cards

This is such a fun idea, although the fact that you aren't allowed to cover any existing sections of a card with upgrades means you'll be forever stuck with nasty Cursed Land sections in your beautiful new valley... Sad times!

At its heart, Mystic Vale is a race to build the best cards into the fastest engine to score the most victory points. This engine runs on a number of symbols, including those for growth (happy green tree), decay (mean red tree), mana (blue circle), victory points (blue gem), spirit (animal, forest, sky and the swirly purple wild spirit) and the guardian (helm).

Mystic Vale review - symbol overview

During setup of the game, each player will lay out their initial field of cards. This is the most fiddly bit to explain but breaks down nicely into steps:

  • Flip the first card of your deck and lay it back on top of the deck face up. This card is now known as your on-deck card.
  • Play the on-deck card onto the table to start off your field
  • Turn over a new on-deck card
  • Play the new on-deck card into your field
  • Turn over a new on-deck card
  • Continue in this manner until you have two decay symbols showing in your field and one on the on-deck card

This is the starting point for every turn, which then goes through the following phases:

Planting Phase

This is the push-your-luck part! If you're happy with the field set up above, you can choose to pass and move on to the Harvest phase. However, if you're feeling brave/lucky/good at probability, you can choose to push and play your next on-deck card into your field. This means you have to turn over a new on-deck card. If the new card shows a decay symbol (meaning you have four or more decay symbols revealed) sadly you spoil, effectively ending your turn. This phase is basically like playing Blackjack but with mean red trees...

There is a little consolation prize for spoiling: you get to turn over your mana token, which gives you one more mana to spend on a future turn. Not great, I know, but better than nothing, eh? It's easy to become overly familiar with this token, as it can be hard to resist the little voice that says 'if only I could just get one more mana to spend...What could possibly go wrong?' I'm fairly sure it's the same self-destructive voice that tells me it's fine to have another biscuit or that it's definitely okay to back *another* new Kickstarter project. Spoiling on every turn is not going to win you the game, though, so it's often wise to settle for what you've been dealt!

Mystic Vale - mana token

Harvest Phase

If you pass on the Planting Phase without spoiling, you get to resolve any 'harvest' abilities on the cards in your field and count up what's available to spend on shiny new upgrades (remember not to count the symbols on your on-deck card!)

Mana symbols can be spent on advancement cards. There are nine advancements available at any one time as well as a pool of basic Fertile Soil cards. These can be for the top, middle or bottom of a card, and you can only buy upgrades that will fit onto one of the cards in your field without covering up something that's already on the card.

Mystic Vale - advancement cards

Spirit symbols can be spent on vale cards, which offer various abilities to supplement the cards in your deck:

Mystic Vale review - Vale cards

You can also harvest any victory point tokens indicated by blue gem symbols on the left side of your cards. When the little heap of victory point tokens runs out, the game ends after the current round is completed.

Mystic Vale - victory point tokens

If you see any grey gem symbols on your advancement or vale cards, they count as extra victory points at the end of the game.

There are also guardian symbols, which can do different things depending on the context of the card, for instance 'gain one victory point token for each guardian symbol on this card'. This throws in an extra thing for you to think about collecting in your deck, although usually provides a focus for a particular card.

Discard Phase

During the discard phase you need to sleeve any advancement cards you purchased and replenish any advancement or vale cards that you bought from the supply.

This is where the next player can start their turn, while you move on to the prep phase.

Prep Phase

The final part of a turn is to set up the field for your next turn. Just like you did at the beginning of the game, play your on-deck cards into the field until you are showing three (or more) decay symbols. You're then ready to go as soon as it's your turn again (which it usually is, by the time you've done this!)

As mentioned above, the game ends when all the victory point tokens are claimed and when everyone has had an equal number of turns. Everyone counts up their points, either from tokens or cards, and the most points wins.

Mystic Vale - game in play

I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed Mystic Vale. I love the new dimension added to the standard deck-builder puzzle by making it important to have combinations on individual cards as well as making your deck fit together. The game plays really quickly, with tiny amounts of downtime between turns. This is partly because you're busy setting up your turn while everyone else takes theirs, but is also helped by the finite number of choices available. There will only ever be a small number of things you can afford to buy on each turn, and often some of them won't fit in to the empty spaces on your cards anyway! That doesn't make the choices less interesting, though, and whatever you choose always feels positive because even if you haven't bought the optimal card, it's always going to be better than the blank card you started with.

The see-through cards shtick is not new, by any means - games like Gloom and Redakai use the same idea to good effect - but this is the implementation I've enjoyed the most. The sleeved base cards make the whole arrangement easy to manage and fun to use. There's a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained from filling cards with lots of shiny upgrades, both visually and when they power your points-grabbing engine.

The setup time for the game is minimal (after the first game, which can take a while if you're planning to peel off all the film coverings on the plastic cards) and tear-down is not as cumbersome as I thought it might be, if people help to unsleeve and sort their own cards when the game ends. The rules are clear and all the quick reference material provided is really helpful, both on the back of the rulebook and on individual player reference cards.

Mystic Vale - player reference cards

I do have a few niggles with the game, though. Trying to 'shuffle' the plastic cards has made me want to throw the deck straight out of the window. Static is not your friend in Mystic Vale, and with or without their original film covering the advancement cards can tend to glue themselves together. A few plays renders the cards a little grubbier and easier to separate, but the first few games may leave you slightly rage-filled when setting up the game. It's lucky they're pretty!

Mystic Vale can also be a very solitary experience, as there's not a lot of player interaction. It's fun to watch someone if they choose to push their luck in the planting phase, although in a two-player game you can end up missing this whilst buried in your own prep phase.

The theme is fairly thin, with everything translating quickly back into coins and points, although I like the idea that the cards are 'blooming' as you develop them and the artwork is really beautiful throughout, which helps a lot.

All-in-all this is a really solid, fun game with plenty of options and replayability. It might not be for you if you hate games with an element of luck thrown in (or if you are easily enraged by static), but for fans of deck-building games in general this will be a fun twist on a comfortably familiar experience. If you do start to feel like you've exhausted all available combos there are already two expansions on offer to help fill up the pre-requisite empty box-space: Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic and Mystic Vale: Vale of the Wild.

If you'd like to read more about the Card Crafting System, I came across a really interesting article by the game's designer, John D Clair, on the development process for (amongst other things) Mystic Vale on the AEG website.

Mystic Vale

Designer: John D Clair
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
Players: 2-4
Age: 14+
Cost: RRP £41.99 [Find your friendly local brick-and-mortar retailer in Europe]

Thanks to Esdevium for sending me a copy to take a look at. If you enjoyed this post perhaps you could take a look at my Facebook page and leave a like or come and say hello on my Twitter or Instagram feeds!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

UK Games Expo 2017 Highlights

It's official: the UK Games Expo is currently the world's third largest board gaming convention having welcomed over 16,500 unique visitors to the Birmingham NEC and Hilton Metropole over the last weekend, including a very excited and over-caffeinated me.

UK Games Expo 2017

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Cardboard - Yamatai board game review

If you take a look at my game shelf there's a notable trend towards picking up every game I see with a Japanese theme. From Tokaido to Takenoko, Mottainai or Hanabi, I think I have a small obsession - but it hasn't let me down yet! Let's start by going down the list of reasons for me to be excited about this game:
  • Colourful shiny box: check
  • Days of Wonder: check
  • Japan: check
  • Lost, ancient, mysterious kingdom setting: check
  • Smile-based reward system: wait, what?
Yamatai box art - Random Nerdery board game review

Yamatai is the latest offering from Days of Wonder, designed by Bruno Cathala (Five Tribes, Dice Town, Shadows Over Camelot) and Marc Paquien (...Yamatai). With the prospect of a rewarding smile from Queen Himiko at stake, 2-4 players strive to become the most prestigious builder as the capital of Yamatai takes shape on an archipelago in ancient Japan.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Cardboard - Codenames Pictures giveaway

I love, love, love the original version of Codenames, the word-linking party game from the awesome Vlaada Chvátil (Galaxy Trucker, Mage Knight, Dungeon Lords) and having tried out a prototype of Codenames: Pictures at last year's UK Games Expo I decided that I liked this version even more!

Now the proud owner of my own copy of the game, I thought with the anniversary of my first game approaching it would be fun to share the love and give away a copy to someone in the UK - see below.

Friday, 26 May 2017

UK Games Expo 2017

I can't believe it's been a year since the last UK Games Expo. In just under a week it'll be time to make the trip up to the NEC Birmingham again for another weekend of games, friends, fun and food, and I can't wait!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Cardboard - Marvel Legendary: Captain America 75th Anniversary card game review

Continuing my little series on Upper Deck's Legendary deck builder, this week it's the turn of Legendary: Captain America 75th Anniversary. Again, I won't go into details on the basic gameplay, as that's covered in my original review of the base game which you can catch up on here.

If you didn't get enough Captain America in Marvel Legendary: Civil War, here he is again dusting off the shiny vibranium shield for his very own small box expansion to celebrate reaching the grand old age of 75. That's a lot of candles...

Marvel Legendary Captain America 75th Anniversary - box art

There's a lot packed into this little box (including a bit of time travel, which can never be bad), so let's have a look through what you get in your 100 cards:

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cardboard - Marvel Legendary: Civil War card game review

So Marvel Legendary was great fun, but that box was looking a little empty with just the base set inside. Not that there wasn't plenty of choice in the starter box, but with shelf space at a premium it would be a crime to have that much spare air in the box for too long, wouldn't it?

Luckily enough, Upper Deck offer plenty of expansion options to switch up your game (or make best use of your storage space!) and I'm going to take a look at a couple: Civil War and Captain America 75th Anniversary. I won't go over the basic gameplay again, as they're all in my review of the base game which you can catch up on here.

Join me as I hang my head in nerd-shame at how little of the Marvel universe I really know. First up, Civil War:

Marvel Legendary Civil War box art