Friday, November 16, 2018

Battle Ravens - a review

I’m going to be doing a review of Battle Ravens designed by Dan Mersey and published by PSC Games.  I was provided a pre-production copy of the game to review.  This game will be launching via Kickstarter on November 20, 2018. 


This game is set in the Viking era and represents a shield wall battle between Norse and Anglo-Saxon armies.
I have a pre-production copy, so components could be different in the final edition, but what I have here is very nicely done.  At first, I wasn’t all that excited about the cardboard standees that represent the units in the shield wall.  I have been a miniature gamer for many years and thought that models would add a lot to the look of the game.  However, the art work on the standees has grown on me and I think they actually look very nice.  They are a little difficult to tell apart, but I’ll talk about that a little later.

The rulebook is laid out well and has some snippets of poems from the dark ages that add a nice bit of character to the book and really fits the theme of the game.

Set-up
The players set up their shield wall with 3 hirdmen and 3 bondi in each of 6 sections in their shield wall.  Each player also has 3 thralls set up behind their line.  Each player takes 20 Raven tokens that are used in the game to take actions.  Both players roll 4 dice, and whichever has the most successes is the first player throughout the game.

Objective
To win the game, you need to capture 3 sections of the enemy’s shield wall.  If the enemy section has no models in it during the end phase, all of your models across from that section move forward and take it.  Your models that take that section are out of action as they are now busy looting the bodies and tending their wounds.  For each section you lose, you must remove 3 raven tokens from their pool and remove one thrall from the board. 

Raven Placement
At the beginning of each turn, starting with the first player, the players take it in turns placing raven tokens into sections of the shield wall.  A player can place up to nine ravens in an area, but they are limited to placing ravens in each area one time.  So, if I place a single raven in an area and then my opponent puts 5 in the area across from it, I can’t go back and add any ravens to that area.

Raven tokens are essentially action points that can be spent in that area.  This is an interesting mechanic as you have to decide if you want to put a lot of effort into a couple of areas or spread out your violence across your whole line.


Actions
The raven tokens allow you to take an action during the game.  On your turn, you can spend as many tokens as they like from 1 area to either attack or move.  The ravens are also spent to defend against successful attacks your opponent makes against you.  When attacking, each raven spent allows you to roll 1 die.  One hit is scored on a 4 or 5 and 2 hits are scored on a 6.  Each player has 3 Thralls, running around behind their lines shooting at the enemy.  The effect of these in the game it that each thrall can be spent to reroll one attack die each turn.

After the attacker rolls to hit, the defender can spend as many ravens as they like (from that area) to try to block hits.  They roll one die for each raven spent and any successes reduce the number of hits.  Successes are the same as attacks so a 4 or 5 blocks one hit and a 6 blocks two hits.

Unblocked hits are applied to the models in the enemy’s section.  It takes 2 hits to knock out a Hirdmen and it takes 1 hit to knock out a bondi.  You must apply all hits if possible.  Extra hits that don’t knock out a model are ignored.  For example, if I have 2 hirdmen in my area and receive 3 hits, I will remove 1 hirdmen for 2 hits, but the 3 hit is ignored because it isn’t enough to knock out the other hirdmen.

When moving, you spend 1 raven per model you wish to move, and each model can move one space left or right.  You cannot move over an area of your shield wall that has been captured by the enemy.  Moving can be important to fill gaps in the wall during the game.


Advanced Rules
The advanced rules add tactics cards to the game.  Each side has a deck of 10 cards and draws 5 of them at the beginning of the game.  These cards allow for a variety of actions to be taken at different times during the game.  The decks for each faction include different cards so the tactics of the Norse are a bit different than the Anglo-Saxons.

These cards add some interesting options and I think are a great addition to the game.

Thoughts
This is a light wargame and I thought it was a lot of fun.  It is easy to teach and learn and it takes 45 minutes to an hour to play.

The game really feels like a battle of attrition.  While movement is important, I didn’t do a lot of it until I had to fill holes in my line.  As both sides start losing models, the lines get thinner and thinner and eventually, you just don’t have the models to plug the holes in the line.

I really like the action system in the game.  Placing ravens at the beginning of the turn forces you to decide where you want to focus your efforts.  But then you have to decide, based on the enemy’s ravens, if you want to strike hard with a big attack or hold some back to defend against their attack.

I did have a few minor quibbles with the game.  The artwork is very nice, but the units can be hard to tell apart.  Each model has its name on the base, but that is mostly covered by the plastic stand.  This adds a little time to the set up as I had to separate out the forces to place on the board.  I will bag the models in the future by faction, so it is easier to set up.  But maybe a little different design would make this quicker.

My other minor problem is this is a dice game and luck can play a big factor.  This is fun and frustrating at the same time.  It is great when your 2 die attack becomes 4 hits and represents a surge in the line.  But it can feel frustrating when you are on the receiving end of that attack.  I’ll call this a pro and a con as it is fun when one side is clearly falling behind but pulls off a great attack and swings the battle back into their favor.

At the end of the day, I was impressed with this game and will be playing it more.  If you are looking for a heavy wargame simulation, this probably isn’t for you, but if you want a lighter wargame that is easy to get into, then you should check this one out.  

You can watch my video review below.


Friday, September 14, 2018

The Fellowship of the Ring...

The release of a new edition of the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game by Games Workshop has rekindled my interest in the Lord of the Rings.  Okay, I've continued being interested, but it has motivated me to paint some models.

I've had the Fellowship sitting around for years.  I had textured the bases and primed the models, but never got any further than that.  So, with some motivation, I decided I would put some time in and paint the fellowship.

As usual, I used a simple process to paint them, but am pleased with the results and think they will look great on the table, though probably won't win any painting competitions.










Monday, July 9, 2018

6mm Fantasy - Painting Beastmen from Microworld Games

My demon army needs someone to fight against, so I'm also working on a Beastmen army.  These models are also from Microworld Games.  The level of detail on these models is pretty impressive.

I have managed to get a good amount painted so far, but have more to add to the collection in the future.  This will give me more options for army selection and allow me to field larger armies.


Faun Archers

Dire Boars

Command Stands (Generals, Heroes, and Shamans)


These models were fun to paint and turned out very nicely.  I look forward to getting these models to the table.

I've now got the core forces for 2 armies completed so I can actually play a game or two with them.  I hope to test out the Lord and Lands rules soon and will be sharing about that in a future post.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cavern Terrain

A friend has encouraged our gaming group to start playing Relicblade.  This is a fun game that plays on a 2' x 2' board and each player only has a handful of models.  So far, it has been a lot of fun.

The game has rules for different terrain types, so I thought I would try my hand at doing a cave board.  I thought about doing stalagmites and stalactites, but I was under a deadline and I wasn't sure my skills were up to it.  Instead I went with a more basic look.  I'm pleased with the results and only have a few more minor details I plan to add.







What do you think?  What did I miss?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

6mm Fantasy - Painting Demons from Microworld Games

I picked up some 6mm demons from Microworld Games's fantasy line.  I really like the models and I will be using these for games of Lord and Lands or Kings of War - Small Scale.

I've got a fair bit painted so far and thought I would share them with you all.

Blade Demons




Fire Demons



Cyclopean Demons



All of these models are very characterful and were pretty easy to paint up.  If you read this blog, you know I like simple paint jobs, but the model must work with a simple paint job.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Great Plains Game Festival 2018

I spent a couple days at the Great Plains Game Festival in Lincoln, NE  a couple weeks ago and thought I would share a little about the experience.

This is my third time attending this convention.  Each time has been full of games and has been tons of fun.  The convention is focused on board games, but there were some RPGs represented this year.  I didn't see any miniature gaming, but I could have missed it.

I managed to play a pile of board games.  Some were totally new, others I've played before.  I even managed to play a few games that I have in my collection that I hadn't played yet.
A fun game where you build up your Fair with attractions while others are trying to keep it from getting too big.
A good game with some interesting player interactions.

Post apocalyptic theme where you are trying to establish your turf. 
Lots of options and was a ton of fun. 

Each player is putting on shows at their own Colosseum trying to out do all the others.
One of my favorite games.

Healthy Heart Hospital

An interesting co-op game with an uncommon theme.  Players are trying to treat patients before they get so sick they die.
I own this, but hadn't played it.  I need to re-read the rules and give this another try.

Zombicide

A co-op game where everyone is trying to eat you.  You've got to work together to be successful.
I enjoy this game, but it can go on a little long sometimes.  

Forest of the Impaled

Forest of the Impaled

This is a historically themed game where 6 armies are working together to defeat Vlad the Impaler.  It is very pretty and I enjoyed it a lot.  This was a Kickstarter that I didn't back and now I regret not backing it.
I might have to see about finding a copy of this.

Escape from 100 Million BC

Time traveling when your time machine breaks.  Your group is stuck and you have to find parts to fix the machine without screwing up the future too much.
This one was a little tedious and the components could have used a bit more work.

Terraforming Mars
You get to spend 20 generations trying to turn Mars into a hospitable place.  Lots and lots of options.  So many that is is hard to know what to do.  This is one that will take a few plays before you really know what is going on.

Another game that I owned, but hadn't played.  Glad I have it and have played it a couple times since the con.  It is great!


In this game, you are collecting resources and fighting monsters, but you can only move right and/or down.
It seemed a bit odd at first, but it forced some interesting decisions.

This one might end up in my collection, but I think I want to play it again before I buy it.

This is an abstract, puzzle game where you have to build a structure out of balls, but the rules change every round.
It was a lot of fun and it plays very quickly.

I have already purchased a copy and have introduced it to several new players.


Empire of the Stars
Prototype Playtest

This was a prototype that reminded me a bit of Twilight Imperium.  It was a fun experience.  I look forward to playing it again after a little more play testing and tweaking.  After the game, I was thinking about different choices I should have made.  That is always a good sign for any game.

Designed by Cody Sahs

I had heard good things about this game and they were all true.  A fun bluffing game where you don't actually have to bluff at all.  I think this one will find its way into my collection at some point.

This game is kind of hit and miss for me.  I've played it before and it was alright so I thought I'd get in on another go. 

This is a real time game that didn't really trip my trigger.  It's hard to say what I didn't like.  I don't know if it was too light or if the theme was just not right for me.  

I pre-registered for the convention and received a free game when I arrived.  They had a nice variety of games for that that pre-registered and it was random which game I got.  I've never heard of the game I got (Pack Wars), but hey it might be a hidden gem.  They did have several games that I had heard of and some were fairly pricey games (MSRP up to $60).

The convention had snacks available for purchase.  This included candy, donuts, chips, soda, hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, etc., but also included some specials from local restaurants like Valentino's, Chick-fil-a, and Famous Dave's.  

They also boast a wide selection of Play-to-Win games.  I think there were about 50 games that you could check out and then were entered into a drawing to win that copy of the game.  I played a few of these, but didn't win any. 

And finally, the game library is pretty amazing.  I think they have 2,000 games in the library, and you can check any of them out to play.  And we aren't talking about a bunch of crappy old games.  They have lots of classics, but they had most of the new popular (and some less known) titles available.  I suppose I should have taken a few "shelfies" to show off the selection.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at the convention and look forward to next year's event.  If you are in the area or within a day's drive, I'd say it is worth the trip.  Great folks, great games, and a great time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Neglected to long.

I have been neglecting this poor lonely blog lately.

I apologize for that and plan to get back to posting more regularly here.

Stay tuned.