The Shell Case does Salute – Reece

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here are Reece’s Salute hopes and dreams:

Reece

What do I want to do at Salute? Mostly I suppose I don’t want to freak out about the size and number of people and spend the day dithering. Aside from that though, I’ll be looking out for skirmish games that catch my eye and getting the Demo games in. As much as I love large-scale battle games, with my piles of unpainted models, I feel a little less guilty getting into games that require a half-dozen models a side at most.

Plus, I’ve found that there is a bit more variety in small-scale games, with makers less likely to have sanded all the edges off, leaving slightly crazy things like models fainting from dehydration or being able to ricochet bullets off of walls, that sort of thing.

I’ll also be looking about for books to do with Warmachine, now that I’m on a PP kick. I may even pick up some of the tie in novels to see how they read. Oh and Infinity, Dead Man’s Hand, The Horus Heresy and Heresy Miniatures and…

And goes without saying that I’m looking forward to hanging out with the rest of the team and chatting with the #warmongers at the Meet Up.

The Shell Case does Salute – Mat

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s what Mat had to say:

Mat

MAT BUY TOYS! Sorry that was slightly involuntary and besides Rob did warn you [Yes I did, but perhaps not well enough if people are actually reading this. -Rob].

So yes this is my first Salute. It’s not my first event however: I have attended Games Day in bygone years but then I had bugger all disposable income. And it was a pure Games Workshop event and I’m reliably informed that Salute is nothing like. Other than it involves toy soldiers. And as some of you may realise, I’m really hot for other companies’ miniatures and games anyway right now so, bring it:

  1. I will be partly attending this year to perform my duties as an ambassador for The Shell Case and chatting with some awesome peeps, who do know I’m coming. As well as taking photos for The Shell Case. MAT BUY TOYS! Ahem. Sorry.
  2. I will definitely be heading over to see Andy from Heresy Miniatures we’ve been getting a bit of a Necromunda itch here, and he does some brilliant miniatures for a Delaque gang. MAT BUY TOYS! I’m so sorry, I don’t know why that keeps happening.
  3. After reading Ashley’s article about Saga I’m thinking of checking that out, along with Maulifaux which I have developed a warm squishy place for. And Godslayer. And Dreadball. Honestly my list is endless. I don’t know if I’ll part with my cash on these… Yeah, whatever.
  4. I do have a few other bits on my list that I definitely want to purchase…MAT BU- Sorry! Sorry! X-Wing toys for my growing Imperial fleet are a must. Some bits for my Tau force providing I can find a bargain, and I’ll be hitting up Forge World for a tasty Battlesuit. I also want to find some models for my Beastmen Mordheim Warband. I don’t want to have to use the standard models.
  5. #warmongers meet is going to be pretty cool and I’m looking forward to putting some faces to names.
  6. I’m just really looking forward to hanging out with The Shell Case crew and spending a day looking at all the shiny. MAT BUY TOYS! ARRRGH!

[The Shell Case would like to apologise for Mat. Really we would. His mother also got in touch and extends her sincerest apologies also.]

#TheVoxmanPledge 2014

In between recording podcasts and working in real life, I often get into lengthy conversations about miniature wargames on Twitter (My handle is @ATT64 if you wanna say hi). The other day I made an interesting comment (for once lol) and I would like to explain in further detail what I have planned.

“We live in a golden era of miniature games, go forth and play ‘em all!” (The Voxman Pledge)

It should come as no surprise to any avid miniature wargamer that there is an absolute colossal ton of games now available to buy. With dozens of successfully fundraised kickstarter projects and entrepreneurs looking to make a name for themselves in the industry, its an exciting time to collect miniature games. The competition between these new games is frantic and often brutal as the general population dictates the ultimate fate of these new projects. We have the power to change the landscape of miniature wargames for the better

Over the break, I thought about my relationship with the games I currently own and play:

Warhammer Fantasy: Empire | Skaven | Dark Elves

Warhammer 40,000: Tau | Orks

Warmachine: The Protectorate of Menoth | Convergence of Cyriss

Firestorm Armada: Terrans

Dust Warfare: Sino-Soviet Union (SSU)

I realized that my relationship with games has changed significantly over the years and the free time I have available to me is much more restricted. I started off playing massive battles of 40K with 4 childhood friends on a ping-pong tale, using cardboard boxes to create expanding cities. I eventually transitioned to playing Warhammer Fantasy, which allowed me to further design detailed ranked up miniatures in the form of my Empire Averland State troop focussed army and my 210 Skaven horde. Overtime I desired more variety in my gameplay and tired many things both in 40K and fantasy, but I always found that it felt the same regardless.

I tried multiple small units, monsters, all cavalry armies and even using only one Hellpit Abomination (rebel). I discovered Warmachine around 2010 and even though I slowed down playing Fantasy, I still retained a deep love for that game. Now with regards to 40K, I really found that while I still appreciated the universe and the built-in complexities within the established codices. I didn’t like actually playing it. I am a firm believer that the fun focus of that game is around list construction (for tournaments or causal play) or potentially creating a thematic army. I just felt that the game was usually over in 30 minutes, but played out for 2 1/2 hours. Keep in mind that I don’t hate 40K by any means, I just realised it wasn’t the game for me.

I have played Warmachine for several years now, but for some reason I have been beginning to feel burnt out. Maybe, its the sole focus of the competitive scene or the sheer flood of new miniatures being added to the game, but for some reason I entered a hobby slump. Don’t get me wrong, if you phone me up and have an army I will play you! I love the game, but I guess I am tired of it’s one direction approach and needed some more variety. I played Dust Warfare and Firestorm with varying degrees of success, but with their scattered release schedules and rule hiccups. I have decided to wait and see.

Recently though, I have had a rather profound realization about my hobby. I want to try everything. That’s really it, I am tired of trying to be “The Tournament goer” or “The Hobbiest” or even “The Fluff Gamer”. I want to have fun, it’s really that simple. For so long, I have prided myself by bringing the best list I can make for a tournament or building an entire army around a narrative or trying to be a better painter/modeller. But where was the fun? When I played Blood Bowl, Dreadball and even to a lesser extent X-Wing, I realized that I had been so focussed on a particular aspect of this hobby that I ignored what makes a game fun and engaging.

I don’t have to own an entire complete range of miniatures or even be a hobby completest, I just want to have fun like I have always done playing miniature games.

So I say unto you fellow Wargamers and Warmongers, that I will try to play every and any game I can during 2014. I don’t have to own or buy every miniature, heck I don’t even have to be that good at playing the game. I just want to have the willingness to try to open my mind to other experiences that these new/old games are offering. At the very least I want to trim down my collections and gradually have a variety of miniatures from several game systems. Now of course, common sense and reality are also important here. I’m not throwing pots of money at every game system. At the heart of my goal is to at least try every game and if I like it, then perhaps collect a small amount for that game. Simple, nothing complicated.

So I ask you then? Are also going to take the Voxman Pledge? Are you going to investigate other games and explore what makes them fun and enjoyable?

If not? That’s ok too, because there’s always a variety of ways to have fun in this hobby, just promise yourself to try to have fun during 2014.

Cheers!

Adam, aka Mr Voxman

Convergence of Cyriss Heavy Kit – A Review

Warmachine-Logo

The Convergence of Cyriss, is the latest faction to be released for Warmachine from Privateer Press, and trying to understand how this faction is meant to be played on the table top has been fairly challenging for me. This rogue faction is Privateer’s attempt to introduce a primarily battlegroup (warjacks) focussed faction into the game. Although infantry and other goodies exist in the book, it is obvious that the warjacks are the main workhorses of the army. Through army mechanics like induction and interface nodes, each warjack can share the Mat/Rat values (Or Weapon/Ballistic skills ) of their controlling warcaster ; they can also transfer one point of focus (which allows you to buy extra attacks or add another dice to roll) to another warjack if they are within 6 inches of each other.

This will be the first of many articles looking at the warjacks and their roles in the army list. Today I will also be taking a look at my experiences building some of the kits and the overall opinion so far.

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Cipher

This warjack (or vector as the book calls it) in my opinion is one of the most crucial vectors in the entire army! Bold words to be sure, but it makes perfect sense. This vector can fire its main cannon twice (with a focus point) and can change which ammo it uses for every shot. The first shot allows the Cipher to damage models under the template, while the other two can reduce the defence of models hit by 2 (Models trying to hit the enemy require a roll of Mat/Rat +2D6 >=Def) or create an area of rough terrain. Since the shot is a 4 inch Blast, it covers a lot of ground and can potentially debuff your opponent. To add icing to the cake, it also has 2 Pow 18 melee attacks which is above average for unbuffed heavy warjacks. It is the most expensive of the standard heavy warjacks in this army, but for good reason. I am finding it really hard not to take at least 2 of these bad boys in any given list.

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Monitor

This warjack is basically a buzz saw catapult that snipes invisible miniatures off the table…think about that for a moment…The Monitor boasts one of the strongest individual solid shot weapons in Convergence. Being able to ignore enemy stealth models makes this a really attractive addition to any list. The down side to this model is that it relies heavily on the warcaster having a high rat value. Stealth miniatures usually range around the Def 15-17 value, so if you are trying to hit them with rat values of 4 or less (even using 3 dice) can be a daunting prospect. In melee, this vector is average, but it has the nice ability to auto hit with its additional attacks if the first one hits, therefore symbolising the claw hand clamping down onto the enemy. A solid vector that is only 8pts, so it can fit into most Iron Mother and Forge Father army lists (Warcasters that have rat 5), but it is debatable with Aurora, Lucant and Axis (Rat values of 4/3/2 respectively) army lists.

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Inverter

The first vector so far, that actually has no guns to speak of. So you know what that means? IT’S CLOBBERING TIME!!!

 

The Inverter has an interesting load out that makes it truly unique within the Convergence. The Meteor Hammer, is a chain weapon that ignores shields, bucklers and shield walls, which is awesome for smashing tougher targets or warjacks. An added bonus is having the special ability of Reach, which allows you to target enemies within 2 inches of this weapon (Normally only ½ inch). The second weapon is the Macro Pummeler, which essentially knocks enemies on the ground and can only be used once per 2 player turns/one round. Having no ranged weapons, means that this vector needs to rely on having a decent mat value to smack targets and hopefully set up other friendly models by knocking down tougher models for additional abuse. While not necessarily a required vector in every list, I feel that this model is fairly effective in an Axis list (For Mat 7 and the counter charge ability), allowing you to make undesirable situations for your opponent. Theoretically, this vector can be a solid addition to any list that needs a warjack that has 2 strong melee attacks. If your focus is to be primarily a ranged battlegroup of vectors, you might want to look elsewhere.

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Was it fun to build? All three of these heavy vectors can be built from the same model kit, which has been a solid feature of all the current heavy warjack kits that Privateer Press has provided up to this point. Where the trouble lies is in the design of the moulds and the finished product. Although the kit was brilliant to look at and has many interesting aspects to it, there are a million mould lines and not the kind that is easy to remove. Multiple times I found a mould line that would fly over nearly impossible to remove surfaces like the gears or detailed arms. However, I powered on and tried my best to hide the ones that are obvious, but a smart modeller could probably locate them with no problem. I also went through the trouble of magnetizing the kit, so that I could use all 3 vectors and change them out to my liking. But even that proved to be a challenge, because there are many points of contact and needed to be planned out beforehand.

The positive side of the kit is that it can build 3 of the most important warjacks/vectors that will be in nearly every Convergence list. The bad, is that you will have to plan ahead of time and use a large amount of skill to remove painful mould lines. I was told by Privateer Press, that most of these model problems are a result of them being the first wave of that miniatures line. So perhaps my opinion of the kit might change in the future. However, for myself and others we will have to power on, until the next time we need to purchase the kit. Regardless, I finished the miniatures (multiple boxes) and I felt that I had overcome a massive hobbyist milestone.

Stay tuned for more first impressions of the other Convergence vectors and models (which may or may not have model reviews included) to come in the following months!

The Convergence of Cyriss Battlegroup is available from Firestorm Games priced £33.07

ODAM 7 – Warning Might Contain Phil

ODAMRoundel copy

In the seventh Of Dice and Men show, we manage to insult just about everyone including Warmachine fans and, as it goes, Firefly fans. So go us. My bitterness levels may be slightly higher than normal, which may have been proportionate to the amount of alcohol I’d drunk just before the show.

We had come connection problems during recording but do bear with us, because we are ridiculous.

As usual there’s explicit language from the start, and unfortunately for some…me.

Enjoy…

ODAM Episode 7

I also have to apologise to my fellow countrymen, the English Civil War was 371 years ago not 700 years ago. I got a bit carried away trying to make a point.

Pluralism in Wargaming

As many of us do (and I almost guarantee you do if you are browsing The Shell Case) I read too much and this sparks off questions in my mind. Far too much when it comes down to it, so I’m going to be shooting off a few opinionated pieces in the next few months and I may as well start somewhere. One such post, on the The Back 40k entitled Why I look for Failure really caught my eye in this regard. In that it reveals a fundamental flaw of the internet age when it comes to wargaming.

Now before I start all this, just let me just post a disclaimer. This post has gone through quite a few stages. It started as a reactionary rant and then I junked it after advice, because I realised that that sort of post solves nothing because it just perpetuates the argument rather than starting a discussion. [Super Editor to the rescue! Ed.]

So this post comes not out of malice or the need to ‘score points’ against the The Back 4ok blog. I love most of their output, so seriously, before you read this, go check out their blog again. The writers make lots of good points to chew over and in many ways, have inspired me quite a bit when it comes to mature thoughts and discussion about our hobby. But there are some topics facing the wargaming industry today that are very important, that need to be discussed to gain a wider perspective on things and I don’t think they are given the attention they deserve.

Also, people may disagree with to do with my post and that’s fine too. That’s great, because at no point do I believe I’m right in all these points and if someone in the comments can make a decent argument as to why I’m wrong, I’ll happily change my mind.

I just want it so people are actually thinking and discussing these problems today, so the industry doesn’t make the same mistakes it did yesterday. One of the big ones is how much effect the internet thinks it has on the wargaming industry compared to mow much it actually does and how this plays into the collective unconscious of our thinking on this hobby of ours*.

So now that introduction is out-of-the-way, let’s delve into this topic properly:

1. Internet attitudes towards 40k as a game and Conformation Bias.

I think we can all agree that the internet is a great place. It allows us access to cheap things, the entire of humanities’ combined knowledge, cute pictures of kittens and porn.

Sometimes all at the same time!

Theres also this great little thing called communication, which allows people to establish communities, discuss topics and make friends (it’s all the rage with the kids I hear). Now forums and blogs are great ways to do this and each have their own positives and negatives to them. But regardless, I’m sure you have come across specific parts of the community that seem a little odd to you. I don’t just mean small club forums that revolve around lots of in jokes and memes.

But rather forums which have in place rules that forbid positive comments about certain companies, or where you get subjected to post after post attacking you if you mention that you play wargames with women, which is then allowed by the Mod team.

Which brings up the biggest problem with the internet to me. These days, thanks to search engine algorithms, it becomes too easy to find people who agree with our views whilst at the same time screening out differing views. This can create communities or pockets of wargaming that get sucked into a sort of feedback loop, that rewards those who think the same way whilst driving away those of dissenting opinion. This is called Conformation Bias.

Its killing our community.

2. The WAAC vs Fluffy gamer argument

Prime example number one is this debate, older than the internet itself. It’s a pretty benign and when it comes to how to build our armies, the simple answer is, ‘whatever you feel like’. Yet every time I pop onto any forum, another half a dozen debates have arisen over what is completely a personal issue. Yet it’s rare to see this opinion voiced in most communities. People seem to have gotten locked into the cycle of believing their own opinions are so valid, then when they meet dissenting ones, the only option in their minds is to fight back, instead of taking a moment to think about it.

Mix this in a community famed for its members with poor social skills and you have a potential powder keg on your hands, as offense is taken and grudges spill out over multiple blogs and forums.

But what people always tend to forget on the internet, is that every opinion of the wargaming scene (hell every opinion really) should automatically assume it has the following addendum added:

‘well, at least in my opinion’

I doesn’t matter if that scene is a town, or an entire tournament circuit. Every persons play experiences are different, even if two people experience the exact same scene; it’s unlikely their opinions will be identical down to the last detail. Because everything in life is ultimately subjective. Especially when we talk about something like wargaming, which relies on a huge amount of luck.

Yet the rise of net listing and group think on forums has managed to convince people their views are the only way to play. Yet even a cursory look at even something like tournament gaming shows that the wisdom of net listing isn’t true. People forget that the reason net lists work is because the people using them also happen to be really good players.

Take the 2012 winner of the UK 40k throne of skulls. It was a Demon player. By all rights it should be an Imperial Guard player or a Necron player. They of the ‘broken flyer armies’ variety. Nids are rocking 4th place, despite them apparently ‘being nerfed beyond repair’. Both of these results are a slap in the face for all those players and their established ‘wisdom’ created online.

Yes, I can hear the arguments already: “Throne of Skulls doesn’t count since they changed the rules.” “Throne of Skulls is a rubbish tournament which isn’t competitive enough.” By whose benchmark though? There’s a glaringly, embarrassingly and inescapable obvious truth that we’re all becoming narcissists.

Perhaps it’s that there may be some differences between how different tournaments are run? Perhaps it’s a different view on what makes ‘a good gamer’?

Now that, tortuously, brings me round to my next point.

3. US and UK wargaming have fundamentally different design philosophies.

I’m generalising when I say this, but from where I stand in the UK, I see the two countries have different outlooks on wargaming. The UK has always held its focus on the story, and the mechanic reflecting that over tournament gaming. The US-based games developers, like the good folk behind Magic: The Gathering and Warmachine, seem to be more of a mindset that is about being the best, most brutal gamer possible within the rules. There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches either. I love both games and the ideologies they carry. It’s just when you try to make either game fit the opposing countries ideas, they don’t come off looking the best because it’s not how they were designed to play.

So when I see people making definitive statements about a game and how ‘it needs to be this way’ it makes me sad. Of course 40k can be competitively played. Just don’t go expecting a game, made by a bunch of geeks in the 80s to facilitate narrative stories with their mates, to be quite as sound, rules wise, as a game built from the ground up to be a lean mean, powergaming machine.

Accept the differences. Embrace them. House rule things you don’t like within your own group if they will let you by all means. Just don’t expect people everywhere to agree to your opinions just because it’s what you believe and what you want.

It’s all a part of diversity, of growing up and becoming a bit more of an adult to accept that perhaps you don’t know everything and that’s okay.

Perhaps that should be the new addendum to what everyone types. It would sure make things a bit easier on everyone.

Well, at least in my opinion.

You can find the author Reece on Twitter. He’s lonely and self-aware enough to write his bios in the third person, so let him know what you think of his writing. Preferably in a way that shatters his fragile ego.

*Oooh, look who did A level psychology!

Warmachine Tactics

So it’s finally happened, the heavy hitters of the wargaming community are finally moving into Kickstarter as a way to fund new projects rather than invest profits – as if they didn’t make enough to begin with.

Privateer Press has put up the Warmachine Tactics kickstarter, seeking the modest sum of $550,000 to create a video game version of the much played (and much maligned on this site) game. They’ve already smashed through $438,000 with 29 days to go so obviously it’ll get funded by the loyal, and no doubt sticky panted, fan base.

So far it looks average. Graphically it’s okay but it’s nothing exciting. It’s basically just an animated version of the tabletop game in so much as although  the characters move and the weapons fire, it feels like stop frame animation of action figures and there’s no real interaction with the environment. Granted there’s some nice animations when people get blown up but the world around them is unaffected so it just feels a bit put on. It is still in development but at present it all looks a bit clunky and horrid, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

I could rant about how this isn’t what Kickstarter should be for but if Kickstarter themselves don’t give a fuck then what’s the point?

Anyway, here’s the Kickstarter video. It’s got more ham than a tin of Spam but stick with it as it does show quite a bit of the game play.

Level 7 [Escape] – A Review

Level-7-Escape

On the most romantic day of the year I decided I’d write about boardgames. One of the things I resolved to do was play and review more of them. True to my word I got hold of Level 7 [Escape] by Privateer Press.

For those that haven’t heard of Level 7, it’s a semi-cooperative survival horror in which 4 civilians have to escape a secret government facility within which humans are being harvested by an alien race who feed on fear. Basically really shit Dark Eldar.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is work your way through the 7 levels and escape the facility with as many of your marbles as you can hold on to.

The box contains a lot of cardboard. Lots and lots and lots of cardboard. 47 tiles, lots of counters, profile cards and playing pieces.

contentsWhich is actually a bit of a disappointment. Just about every board game I’ve ever played has plastic playing pieces so the fact the Level 7 comes with a flobbidy gillion plastic bases to slot card playing pieces into is a bit weird. And poo. And they’re just far far too big.

The playing tiles are gorgeous. Every single one of them is different in some way and the attention to detail is superb. Unfortunately you never get to see any of that detail because the cards for the characters, guards and clones are huge. Laying one down – which you’ll do frequently – will cover half a tile. This is needless to say problematic if multiple pieces get knocked down over the series of turns.

To be fair, the tiles are also too small. This may seem like I’m labouring the point about the pieces being too big, but because Privateer wanted to cram as many tiles on to the frames as possible they made everything small to the point that you have to really scrutinise certain icons to make sure you do the right thing, and all the white arrows on the floor to indicate doorways aren’t very clear. And as door ways, and with it a means of escape, are quite important it’s a bit of a pain.

That said, the production value is very good and that goes for the tiles, tokens, playing pieces and the decks of cards. It all looks ace. And I can’t emphasise enough the quality of the artwork and overall presentation of the game as a whole.

It plays pretty well too. Although I have to point out one thing. It isn’t a horror. It doesn’t come within a country mile of the title because there’s nothing remotely suspenseful about the game. Last Night on Earth, for all the niggles, ramped up the stakes to the point that you appreciated that shit was getting real and that only very careful planning would keep the heroes alive. A game can never be horrifying because it’s just a game, but the good ones provoke enough of a response that you can imagine how horrific it would be. Level 7 doesn’t quite deliver. Granted, and to its credit, when shit gets real it gets just as real as LNOE did and, if anything, you feel even more helpless. But it’s helpless in the ‘I might as well just take him off the board’ way rather than the ‘come with me if you want to live’ way.

Level 7 is let down by the cardboard. The event cards are all just a variation on a theme. That said you find yourself hoping for mild misery over any other kind so there is an element of tension but as none of the cards are positive you’re never looking forward to the Event phase of your turn. But then again, maybe that’s the point. Grinding you down all the while aliens and guards are hunting you down.

But it’s hard to get excited about scary aliens that feed off human fear when they can topple over if there’s a draft. It’s also hard to get excited about aliens that play exactly the same as guards. You could use coins with green dots and blue dots at this point for all the difference it would make. The only difference between the two is that the aliens are drawn to your fear rating and the guards drawn to your threat rating. But as it can be quite hard to increase your threat rating they’re not that much of a worry beyond the ease with which they will bust you up. And in the game I played with Neil and Lee of The Chaps we didn’t draw a single event card with a guard on it during the event phase.

The concept of Fear in the game is an interesting one. If your fear is low you can think clearly but you don’t have enough adrenaline in your system to respond to threats. Too much and you’re psychologically crippled.  Lots of things in the facility the characters interacts with causes bowels to loosen slightly be it a creepy corridor, an area with no lights or the dark and confined spaces of the air ventilation system. As fear increases it can afford you bonuses – as your system floods with adrenaline and the fight or flight instinct kicks in – but it also makes you a more appealing prospect to the aliens that appear to be wandering the corridors freely. It presents you with a difficult decision as a mid level of fear increases you attack rolls, however, an unlucky event from your fellow escapees could result in your fear increasing very quickly which would force you to use adrenaline cards which acts as both bonuses and wounds. If you run out you’re knocked unconscious and you have to rejoin the action slightly weaker than you were before. Run out of ‘lives’ or vitality points and you’re out of the game altogether.

The adrenaline cards are a nice touch. You get as many as you have vitality points and you can recover one per turn as they get used either through compulsory discard or to offset a particularly unpleasant event. The benefits on the surface can appear game breaking. Being able to manipulate your fear level as well as give your characters bonuses can give you a real edge. Especially if there’s a lot of aliens around as it can mean the difference between them hunting you and hunting one of your comrades. However, the rate at which your fear levels increases or the swiftness with which an enemy can descend upon you, the bonuses are badly needed. And even recovering one card a turn it is, by no means, a game winning advantage. It just means you have a chance.

The problem is that just about every room you go into causes a fear event or some borderline impossible test to avoid something terrible happening. Usually an alien leaping from the shadows to punch you really hard in the face. It isn’t scary,but I suppose it does make you desperate. You pray for an uneventful turn. That the card that brings woe down is the one your mate picks up. I can really see what they were trying to do even though, for me they don’t quite manage it. And because the rules are a little vague it lacks atmosphere because you’re never entirely sure why things are happening, you’re just doing them because it says so. Although it’s another rule book that isn’t written in order of game flow so there’s lots of back and forth.

It’s made worse by the fact that the concept isn’t clearly thought out. The scenarios are levels 7 working up to 1. The scenario featuring the name of the game is the most basic scenario. And it isn’t very good. You don’t get any skills and you can in a 4 player game, if you’re lucky, find the exit with in 3 turns. And more over, as you end scenario 1 by finding a lift, why wouldn’t you just press the button for topside? I know the game is trying to ease you in but it generally lacks the peril that the rather cool short Privateer put together tries to instil.

WARNING: CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT

The problem is that because fear is such in integral part of the game it’s hard to over look it, despite the core rules surrounding exploration, searching and challenges (face manging) working rather well. A turn only last a few minutes so you can smash through a couple of games in a night. Plus the way the game escalates means that you can very quickly find yourself in a tight spot which, if your co-players are feeling uncharitable, will end very messily. Although if they’ve been clever, they’ve used their adrenaline cards precisely so it will end messily for you.

Although certain rules are also very easy to abuse. For example, each scenario has a limit on the number of clones and guards that are allowed to occupy a tile. There’s also a rule that says an alien or guard that has been knocked down during a fight cannot get up if there’s a player piece in the tile with them. Presumably because they keep their weapon trained on them or just keep lumping them into unconsciousness. This means that you can use a player to essentially shut off an entire avenue of progression by keeping knocked down enemies knocked down. And as there’s no obvious progression system or any some-such you can fling yourselves in to the guns of the guards knowing that you will some how survive the attack and make it back to the rest of the group in time to start the next game. And there was much rejoicing.

Although Level 7 has some bugbears – mainly the cardboard playing pieces – and the whole horror aspect doesn’t entirely deliver, it is a good game. It’s also very quick to play and looks awesome. It is a fast paced game with events unfolding very quickly so a plan rarely lasts long and fortunes can turn on a pin head. The mechanic and required dice rolls are simple and straight forward to resolve so once you’ve figured out all the rules it doesn’t slow down the rate of play. The card system is such that you have to think tactically about not only your hand but those of your opponents, all the while weighing up your fear and threat and knowing when to make the most of them.

The size of the playing pieces does bug me and you’ll probably be better of substituting the cardboard for some 15mm models but it’s still a good laugh.

Level 7 [Escape] is available from Firestorm Games priced £37.75.

box

Board!

So a thought occurred to me last night as Neil (of The Chaps) and I played quite possibly the most nail-biting game of Dreadball, or any game, that I’ve ever played. The thought was this: board games are awesome.

I don’t know why this comes as a surprise to me seeing as I cut my wargaming teeth at the age of 7 on Hero Quest and Space Crusade. Even now I still remember the thrill of excitement when I opened the box and read the rules and set up my first dungeon. Even now, almost 24 years later I look at the artwork and still feel that spark of wonderment.

heroquest

Of course, by today’s standards; the models are shit. I mean spectacularly. But you know what? Back there and back then they were the most incredible things I’d ever seen and it took me on a life long journey of boards, armies and dice that I’ll never trade and never forget.

But back to the present. Ish. As I say, it was the monthly games night and Neil and I were playing the Dreadball game to end all Dreadball games that went down to the last rush and the last dice throw that won me the game. Next to us Ian and Jeremy were playing Memoir ’44 another, by pure chance, hex based game.

What made it so good was that we all got to sit around a single table – a barrier of munch separating the boards – the games were hugely fun, were over in under two hours and didn’t require an hour either side to set up and tidy away. Now, I’m not opposed to a tabletop game. Of course I’m not, I have two full companies of Ultramarines for crying out loud. I’m all for boards, crammed with scenery, hundreds of models and dozens of dice. But board games have their place too. Even over a skirmish game which still requires faff and time to set up.

I suppose my thought is this – a board game, if well written, can have a tremendous amount of variety and diverse outcomes all wrapped up in a relatively restrictive setting. Let’s go back to Hero Quest. The outcome of a quest was determined as much by the people playing and the routes their heroes took as it did the dice being rolled, the objective or the beasties they had to face.

This thought has run in parallel with a couple of others I’ve been having recently. The first is that time for me is about to come in extremely short supply. At least for the next few months. The second is that I have so much shit, I don’t know what to do with it when I do find myself with a rare window of free time. And the third is that for some of it I just don’t care enough. No matter how awesome a range of models is or how good a game can be potentially, if it’s hours of debate over badly written rules or page flicking because the book was compiled by a room full of retarded monkeys then what’s the point? It’s meant to be fun, after all.

As wargamers we invest a huge amount of time and effort into our hobby so the return absolutely has to be there and I’ve begun to wonder if there is a strong enough one for certain games that I collect and play. This isn’t to say that’ll jack them in. At least not yet. But it does mean that I’m going to start looking at games that give me a better return on the investment I make both financially and my time.

My recent forays in to boardgames like Last Night on Earth, Guards Guards, Dreadball and observing Memoir ’44 has presented me with a new and relatively inexpensive avenue to enjoy a game with my mates that doesn’t require a huge outlay for any of us. Granted there is a sliding scale. Level 7 by Privateer Press and Super Dungeon Explore are around the £40 and £65 respectively but both are still relatively inexpensive games that still retain their roots in wargaming. But with the likes of Halo Risk out and Mass Effect Risk on the way it’s hard not to have one’s heard turned by the more conventional wargame.

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This isn’t to say that I’m hanging up my tape measure or anything like that but it’s an avenue of wargaming that needs far greater exploration and far greater attention paid because, when time is short, a board game allows you the opportunity to play a game and often allows the entire group to game together especially with the likes of Level 7, Zombicide, the soon to be released Warhammer 40,000: Relic by Fantasy Flight and the recently announced Firefly the Game from Gale Force 9 .

RE01 copy

I’m still madly in love with Mordheim. 40k is still my jam and Godslayer has me and The Chaps so hot and hard we can barely look each other in the eye, but you know what? I have room in my heart and in my cupboard for a couple of boardgames. And when it’s a school night and everyone needs to be in bed by eleven, I think something like Level 7 or Dreadball fits the bill nicely.