Make it so!

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, so there was not much gaming (or even painting) going on. However, a couple of days ago, we had some friends over and decided to try a game I’ve had lying around for a while: Space Alert.

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It’s a cooperative game with two unique features: First, it comes with an audio-CD, which provides the instructions for the different scenarios. Second, the main part of the game runs in real-time. Basically, you play the crew of a starship and have to make sure the ship survives before heading into hyperspace. The computer voice, which is provided by the CD, gives you information on threats you have to counter. You can either shoot at them or transfer energy to the shields. However, energy is a limited resource and somebody better be in engineering to make sure that enough is available where it is needed.

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During the second part of the game, all the things you have decided in the real-time environment (and ‘programmed in’ with cards) are resolved and you can see how you have done and whether the starship has survived.

The game is great fun and demands real team work. This is not as easy when a countdown is running and information is coming in all the time. During the first game, which was a training mission, everybody was running around the ship and doing his or her thing, resulting in comical scenes were people were moving past each other without coordination. 

As the game is short – the real-time part of the training missions takes 7 minutes, after which you will need about 15 minutes for the resolution phase – we tried the training mission again. We managed to survive in the end, but considering that this scenario did not use the full rules yet and there are several more different kinds of threats to come, advanced missions are not going to be a walk in the park!

I really like the game. Real-time planning definitely adds to cooperative gaming and the experience is very thematic – it’s a game that really gives that Star Trek experience.

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Blood Bowl

Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t like sports. I don’t like to do sports, I don’t like to watch sports and I don’t like to listen to people talk about sports. I don’t even like sportswear.

So it was with mixed feelings that I went to Virago’s to play Blood Bowl. This is one of Virago’s all-time favorite games, so naturally, he wanted to share his enthusiasm.

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Now back in the day, my brother owned the second edition of this game and I guess we must have played it. I vaguely remember painting some Orcs, but I have no memories of how the game works.

Sigur had brought his own team, Orcland Raiders, while Virago let me chose between the different teams he had. I took Wood Elves, mainly because I liked their look, but I realised soon that they are a very strong team.

 

So it was Sigur’s Orcs against my Wood Elves in a game that saw the elves in their best form. Before you get wrong ideas, I had the great advantage of having Virago as my coach, who couldn’t hold back and gave me a lot of tactical advice. The elves played fast and nimble, while the Orcs relied on brutal strength, and at first it looked like they might massacre my whole team – I made the first two touchdowns, but each cost me about three figures injured or dead. However, I could hold my advantage and win the game!

Now, as I said, sports games are not my cup of tea. I can see, however, how this is a good game if you like the theme. It is very thematic and it seems perfect for tournament play – after all, tournaments and organised competition are what sports are all about, so it really makes sense in that context.

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Touchdown!

One thing we realised was that this is not a fast play game. Although it looks like it would be quick, it took us more than three hours to play it. This, of course, is something that was pretty standard at the time, when games usually took 3-4 hours to finish. By today’s standard, this is already considered long – many modern games claim a playing time of 1-1,5 hours (which is not always true, of course).

Why did this change? I often hear that people have less time today, but is this correct? Did people really have more time back in the 80s and 90s? Or was it just us that had more time, as we still went to school or university? I think that at least one reason why contemporary games are less time consuming may be that the target demographic is different: Back in the 80s and 90s, the target audience was kids and students, while today, it is (or significantly includes) 30- or 40-somethings, and those are the people who have little time (and probably didn’t have much more time back then). Or maybe I’m wrong – what do you think?

Happy New Year!

2017 was a good year for The Raft. In fact, looking at the statistics, it was the best year ever. Thanks for dropping by and reading, browsing and commenting! It really is very motivating to see that someone else is interested in what I do.

I know that, with the new job and all, my blogging declined a bit towards the end of the year. I hope that I will find more time and inspiration for the blog in 2018!

Looking back at my gaming, 2017 definitely was the year of Sharp Practice. I started tracking my gaming on BoardGameGeek in May and since then, I’ve played 16 games of SP – this is double as much as the next game on my list, Battle Cry! I’ve had the opportunity to teach SP to a couple of new players, but most of my games I played with K. Not only do we both enjoy it very much, we also realised that SP is a game that really profits from being played often – the more experience you have, the easier you remember the rules and the smoother the game runs along, letting you concentrate on decision making, command & control and the narrative.

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I’ve also played quite a lot of new games. Empires in America, The Cousins’ War and Zombicide are my favorites among those, but many others have been enjoyable. I’m also glad that I had the opportunity to play a couple of games of Songs of Blades and Heroes (respectively Flashing Steel) – a game that has been a continuous favorite of mine for several years now.

Thanks to everyone who played games and shared the hobby with me!

For 2018, I’ve got two new projects. One might say that the first is a natural outgrowth of my continuing interest in the American Civil War. I want to extend my collection so as to be able to play regimental-level actions. To give the collecting and painting a focus, I decided to do the Battle of Olustee. It was a rather small affair – three small brigades plus some cavalry and artillery on the Union side, and about the same for the Confederates. Also, it ties in nicely with my interest in the USCT.

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Period illustration of the Battle of Olustee

I’m still pondering about what rules to use. At the moment, I’m leaning towards Pickett’s Charge, but I also consider They Couldn’t Hit An Elephant and Longstreet. At first, I wanted to use Black Powder, as I liked the game we played at the club, but I have since browsed the rules and the ACW supplement and got a bit angry… but more on that some other time.

The second project is to paint a fleet for Man O’War. Recently Stefan, an old pal of mine, has rejoined the hobby, and he kindled the Man O’ War fever – Virago and Sigur also joined in, so what could I do? I’ve now got a Dwarf fleet waiting to be painted…

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Coming back to my gaming table in 2018!

Recently, I’ve also started to enjoy painting single 28mm figures. I’ve painted a couple of the anthropomorphic animals from Oathsworn Miniatures and some characters for our RPG group. This is no real project, as I paint what I fancy, but with the abundance of skirmish rules out there, it won’t be too hard to devise a use for the figures once enough are finished – Songs of Blades and Heroes being, of course, my first choice.

I wish all of you a great and inspiring New Year!

ZAMspielen Gaming Event in Vienna

The Museumsquartier is a large area of museums, cafés and cultural institutions in the center of Vienna. Three years ago, the group ZAMspielen together with the art communication agency esel.at started to host a semi-regular board and video gaming event there. ‘Zamspielen’ is Austrian dialect and means ‘playing together’, so the idea behind the event is to host a low-threshold opportunity for people to drop by and play games.

Last week, I finally had the opportunity to visit and join the fun.

The available board games were mainly family games, some older titles and some new ones. I started with Suleika, a rather nicely made tile placement game – I especially liked the small carpets made from real fibre.

Suleika

We then had a go at Ice Cool, which recently won the Children’s Game of the Year award. I’m not normally a fan of dexterity games, but this one is quite fun – you have to snip the penguins with your finger, one player taking on the role of the hunter trying to catch the others. It’s quick and simple and I can understand why kids like it.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Anita Landgraf of White Castle, a Viennese company that examines and brokers game ideas – so if you invent a game, you can come to them, they check it and then try to sell it to a publisher. I had the opportunity to test the prototype of a strategy game with an interesting movement mechanics. We also played a round of Elk Fest, another dexterity game that is being re-published by White Castle.

There were also a couple of video games from Viennese publishers on display, one of them a very nice looking adventure game called Old Man’s Journey.

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The event was small, but had a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It was a bit too much geared towards family games for my taste, but I guess this is easily remedied as everyone can bring what he or she wants to play. Let’s see, perhaps next time, I’ll bring one of my favorites.