Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fire and Ice

I spent a Saturday at the Fire and Ice game convention in Manitowoc a couple weeks back. It was a great time. I saw Dan, Steve and Chris, whom I gamed with occassinally when I lived in Sheboygan, and Tye who is a great friend I first met in the UWGB Gamers Club and continued gaming with off and on for years after we both graduated. I also saw several people I recognized from and generally only see at Fire and Ice.

And of course I played games all day which I haven't had the chance to do since we moved to Green Bay.

Game 1: D12 Pirate Seas.
Participants: Me, Tye, his dad Al, and a couple people I didn't know and didn't see again after. Pete and Tom, I think.

This was a game Tye was playtesting for a group called the Red Shirt Gamers. Basic premise is that we're all pirates sailing around some islands racking up points (and resources) by visiting the islands and/or blowing each other out of the water. As we get points we can improve our ships from tier 1 to 2 to 3. The winner is the one who gets to a certain number of points first at tier 3.

It was a fun game. Relatively easy mechanics. We had to end the game before finishing it because the table was reserved for the next time slot. I had just blown Tom out of the water on his way to get a tier 3 ship, went and got my own tier 3 ship. Tye & his dad were close enough to their tier 3 ships that it was still anyone's game.

Game 2: Neuroshima Hex!
Participants: Me, Chris, a guy from Chicago named Travis and a guy named Tim from Sheboygan. I'd never met Tim before, but he knew Steve.

Neuroshima Hex is a tile placement game premised on a sci-fi future when earth has been taken over by neuro-machines? I don't know. Something like that. Each player draws tiles a random hand of tiles from his stash and places them on the board where they have some affect to either remove tiles placed by other players or help keep his own previously placed tiles on the board. Players get points by hits on other players "base" tile. Once you're hit a certain number of times (like, 30?), you're eliminated from the game. Tim bowed out about 1/3 of the way through the game to go play something else. The game was close. we eventually got to a point where I was at 4 points, Chris at 2 and Travis at 1. Chris knocked Travis out of the game and hit me 3 times. Then we spent several turns positioning tiles, I managed to get one hit in on Chris, then he took me out to win.

Game 3: Barbarossa
Participants: Me, Chris, Travis

Anime, Nazi, pin up girls invade Russia. A deck building game. Players start with a small deck of cards from which to draw a hand which is used to draft other cards from a public set into their own decks. The cards you draft let you get even more cards, some of which give points. Object of the game is to have the most points at the end. The game is actually only available in Japan and is printed entirely in Japanese. Travis had bought it while he was there once and had all the cards translated.

It was a fun game. I putzed around figuring it out and trying to grab cards with good synergy that would, theoretically let me get points faster eventually. Travis took a quick lead grabbing points cards as quickly as possible from the start and Chris followed his example. The final score ended up Travis 63, me 60, Chris 45.

Game 4: Dominion
Participants: Me, Travis

A card game with very similar mechanics to Barbarossa. In fact, if I understand correctly, Dominion came first and Barbarossa used its mechanics as a base design. Dominion is fantasy based, though, with military might and mystical might cards that each let you grab different points cards. I got lucky and the points cards that came up in the game fit well with the deck I accumulated. I won 65 to 50.

Game 5: Cyclades.
Particpants: Me, Steve, Tim and Heath. Heath is from Osh Kosh (I think? Maybe Fond du Lac). I see him pretty much every Fire & Ice.

This is the type of game I come to Fire & Ice to play. It was awesome. It was a resource driven war game, i.e. control areas on a map to gain resources, use the resources to purchase units, use the units to conquer more area on the map, fight other players towards some win condition. Cyclades is set in mythological Greece. Units are very, very simple. One type of naval unit, one type of army unit. Complexity in the game comes from the types of resources. There is basic "goods" that are used to purchase units and fortifications (strengthening your units and applying towards the win condition) and there's "favor" with the gods that reduces the cost of bidding for a god's patronage and finally there is the patronage of the gods. Patronage controls what you can do on any given turn. Naval maneuvers require Poseidon's patronage, army maneuvers require Ares', Zeus increases your "favor", Apollo your "goods" and Athena provides an alternate win condition. Each god also allows you to build one type of fortification and you essentially need two of each in order to win. Every turn you bid your goods (the same goods that are used to purchase units), with bonuses based on favor, against other players to get the patronage you want. That bidding process was a very fun dynamic to what otherwise is a very simplistic war game.

Heath and Tim jumped to high early favor with the gods, allowing them to pretty much get whatever patronage they wanted every turn while Steve and I took whatever was left to us. I typically defaulted to Apollo simply because I could get it cheaply. Which meant I racked up a lot of income per turn and could use whatever patronage I ended up with to its maximum utility. It was just a challenge to get the patronage that would be useful. Steve and Heath each met one of the two required win conditions early in the game, but the mechanics were balanced well enough that we could all stop each other from winning while we tried to manipulate the board positioning. It was intense, but I ended up grinding out two win conditions first while every one else was also within about a turn of winning.

And that's it. Fun, fun day.

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