session report

Gears of War

I am trying to decide whether to get the Star Wars Imperial Assault game. This is the one with the tactical miniatures combat, which sounds great since I think there is very little that can beat the look of painted figures moving around a map. Especially Star Wars figures.

The problem is that it is only really for two players. You have hands of hidden cards and there is an element of surprise in the game play. I am hoping FFG will make a co-operative add-on for it (they already have three co-op adventures for Descent, which is their Fantasy game with very similar rules) and there are a few sets of solo-play rules that fans have created, but I am unsure.

In the mean time, I thought I would give the Gears of War game a go. This isn’t Star Wars, but it is a sci-fi miniatures game and it is all co-op with a clever deck of cards for the enemies that gives them very sensible and unpredictable moves and attacks.

I also took the opportunity to sort out the Gears of War components properly. More sorting, yay!

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I put each type of enemy Locust figure in it own bag along with its wound tokens. They were all rattling around in the box before. I am proud of the paint jobs I did on these so this will help protect them too.

It has been a while since I played this, so I started with the first mission which is simple and quick, taking place on only one map level.

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Emergence mission. The COGs start at the left and have to destroy the emergence hole (red dot) at far right. Enemy locusts will keep coming out of that hole until they do this. The question marks are places to pick up extra weapons and ammo.

This was also an opportunity to try out my note taking using my new Adonit Jotscript stylus and penultimate on my iPad. I normally take my notes in a moleskine with a tiny-nibbed pen. The penultimate pages sync up to Evernote as images, which are then OCR’d and I can then search in them.

Here is an example of some of my notes from this game. I have searched Evernote for the word ‘boomer’ which is one of the enemy types. It is pretty good at matching my hand-writing, and the handwriting is pretty good for a stylus.

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The main reason I keep notes is so if I get interrupted mid-turn I can pick up where I left off. They also help for blogs.

The humans are called COG soldiers which stands for Coalition of Ordered Governments.

At the start of the game, the two COGs Marcus and Damon team up and use an ambush to take out the two large boomer locust enemies. These are the most dangerous, being armed with shotguns.

Damon also picks up the weapon cache in his space, which is a choice of a Boomshot shotgun (as used by the enemy Boomers), or a Scorcher flamesthrower. He takes the Scorcher because this doesn’t require ammo to fire.

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The first Boomer is dead, and the second has been lured into line of sight from the right end of the map by an ambush. Damon kills it, but this still leaves two Drones and then a third Boomer appears at the map exit.

It is a good start, but it is a hard slog to get past the drones, with both COGs taking wounds. More locust reinforcements appear from the far end of the map while Marcus and Damon pick up weapons and ammo (weapons you find tend to be more powerful than the ones you start with, and more ammo is always good).

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Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance.

The COGs and Locusts meet in the middle of the back stretch. The Wretch is killed before it can get its claws into Marcus, but Damon takes a Boomshot to the face for a massive 5 damage. He collapses and is ‘bleeding out’. This is a rather revolting technical term. He is not out of the game, if he can crawl over to Marcus then Marcus can revive him.

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You lose one card from your hand per wound. Even if you have zero cards you are still fine unless you take more wounds. Damon’s hand was wiped out, and more, by the Boomer’s huge attack.

The locusts ignore any crawling COGs, so they all aim at Marcus now. Two attacks from the Boomers leave Marcus at zero cards, but at least he is still standing! The game is lost if both COGs are bleeding out because there is no one left to do the reviving.

Marcus uses a Sit Tight order to buy time to revive Damon and skip the locusts’ turn.

Damon then Blind Fires to take out one of the Boomers, Marcus charges to kill the Drone, and then Damon ambushes the other Boomer to kill it. They hack their way towards the final tile past more Wretches and Boomers that appear from the emergence hole.

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There is a constant supply of enemies to shoot

Finally, Marcus gets to within 2 spaces of the emergence hole and lobs a grenade it it. Kaboom! He rolls 4 dice and gets 1 omen result (the skull). This means the hole is sealed. No more locusts can appear from it. He also manages to take out a Wretch standing next to it.

This is the trigger to move to the last stage of the game, which is to mop up all remaining enemies.

Unfortunately as they blow up the hole, a bunch of locusts bust through the exit door. Now all they have to do is kill these last six enemies. Marcus is suddenly surrounded by clawing Wretches.

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Hiding behind a small wall is no help against claws and teeth.

Luckily, the Wretches don’t attack this turn. Instead the two Boomers come round the corner and open fire on Marcus.

At this point I remember a rule I forgot. This is pretty much a record for me, waiting until the game is nearly over before remembering something.

The rule I remembered is that you can use some order cards during the Locusts’ turn to react and shoot (it is called ‘guarding’).

So Damon shoots and kills one of the Boomers. He used his picked-up Boomshot shotgun and its special effect when he rolled an omen skull is to wound other figures in the same space, so he wounds the other Boomer!

This is great but not quite good enough. The wounded Boomer still gets its shot off and Marcus falls over, but the Boomer’s scatter succeeds in wounding all the other enemies in Marcus’s space!!

Futuristic buckshot is flying everywhere.

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The Locusts have tokens under them to indicate they are wounded and how many more wounds it will take to kill them.

It is now Marcus’ turn to crawl back towards his team mate. As he does, the Drone takes the opportunity to fire on Damon in the next room.

Now that I have remembered the guarding rule, I make the most of it. Damon guards again and shoots the Drone before he can attack. He uses the Boomshot again, rolls an omen skull again, and so wounds both the Drone and the two Wretches in the same space. All three are killed as all have only 1 wound left.

This only leaves the Boomer, which advances two spaces and does not fire this turn.

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Only the Boomer remains. It follows Marcus as he crawls back towards Damon.

Not firing is the Boomer’s downfall. Damon unloads his last boomshot shell and kills it, winning the game!

Han vs the Bounty Hunters

Time to see how the Millennium Falcon flies.

I set up a battle between Han Solo and bunch of Scum & Villainy ships as a change from fighting Imperials.

The Millennium Falcon is great because not only does it have a turret, allowing it to fire in all directions, but this is its primary weapon, which means it can get all the bonuses that regular primary weapons can get, such as an extra die for close range.

This makes getting close to the Falcon extremely dangerous.

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A waitress, explorer, handyman and bootlegger walk into an Antarctic outpost

We set up both boards for the Rise of the Elder Things ancient one in Eldritch Horror. The game took almost 5 hours, with a few breaks, and used up a phenomenal amount of brain power.

We won. We had to solve four mysteries before time ran out and the doom track went down to 7, which was only two or three bad turns way from the ancient one awakening.

The game never felt like it was getting away from us, but it did seem very hard to make progress. It was about two hours before we managed to get even the first mystery solved.
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Rum Punch

“Something is not right here”, says Valeros, looking around the marketplace. His hand moves to the hilt of his sword.

Merisiel taps his arm twice and vanishes into the crowd.

Turning, Valeros glances at the half-elven siblings. Lirianne and Seltyiel are a short distance away, heads together, whispering to each other. Valeros waves briefly to them. They nod, separate, and begin to survey the square.

The mood in the marketplace has subtlely changed. The volume of chatter is lower and the haggling merchants are less animated.

Valeros shifts his position to place his back to a wall.

A faint blue light glistens around Seltyiel’s hands.

Lirianne slowly pulls back the hammers of her flintlocks. There is a clear audible click.

For an moment, like a lull in a storm, a quiet falls over the square. Everyone seems to be holding their breath.

“Uhn!”

“Gaah!”

“Hrrrch!”

“Whu?…nnnkh!”

Merisiel appears at Valeros’s side. She is wiping a dagger on her thigh.

“There were five assassins,” she says. “The fifth got away.”

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Drink up, me hearties

SeltyielSeltyiel raises his hands and takes a slow step backwards. The rapier point follows his movement, inches from his throat.

The alleyway is dark. Moonlight shines on the roof tiles, but shadows hide the features of the ruffian brandishing the sword.

“Time to pay up,” the thug snarls, “We don’t like people trying to avoid our ‘taxes’!”

Three more sinister shapes sidle out of doorways and three more blades glint in the darkness.

Seltyiel flexes his fingers slightly. Faerie-fire flickers on his fingertips as he watches the sword-points advance towards him. His back presses against the rough wall and he prepares to strike.

Suddenly four sharp cracks echo around the alley. The bitter smell of gunpowder fills the air. Four bodies slump to the ground.

“Not bad if I say so myself,” comes a voice from the rooftops, “Four out of four, and in the dark too!”

Seltyiel relaxes. “Where have you been?” he says, “I’ve been leading them around for hours.”

Lirianne drops lightly to the cobblestones and holsters her flintlocks.

“Stop fussing,” she says, “You are being like Dad.”

Seltyiel grimaces. “Why do you keep saying things like that?” he says, “Just because you were old enough to know him before he left and I wasn’t.”

Lirianne hooks her arm around his neck and rubs her knuckles into his scalp.

“Come on,” she laughs, “Let us get out of this miserable port. I am sick of the smell of fish.”

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Take me to the river

The Elf-Lord Glorfindel stands gazing south along the river. His golden hair blows slightly in the breeze and his eyes are bright and distant.

The Anduin weaves, broad and slow, between the banks that separate the borders of Mirkwood from the foothills of the Misty Mountains. The Company has escaped from Mirkwood, but the journey to Lorien will take them along its borders and within the territory of the goblins that lurk in the hills.

Glorfindel turns his head and watches the twin Elf-princes Elladan and Elrohir stride up the bank to where he awaits at the forest edge. Their ranger cloaks are damp and weariness shows on their faces.

“We have been several leagues up and down the river,” says Elladan.

“There are Orc tracks and trails of Wargs,” says Elrohir.

“Also one large footprint, and a set of smaller prints, ones we did not recognise,” adds Elladan.

“We saw no marks of spiders,” finishes Elrohir.

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Flies and Spiders

My new Lord of the Rings Card Game deck with the three Elves smashed some serious spider face.

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The little Fellowship has been tasked with couriering a message from the King of the Wood Elves to Lady Galadriel far south in Lorien. (Lady Galadriel was Cate Blanchett in the movies). The first stage of the journey is through the gloomy forest of Mirkwood.

A previous group of messengers had left some days earlier and had never been heard from again.

Old Forest RoadAs the three Elf Lords, Elrohir, Elladan and Glorfindel, lead the band down the Old Forest Road and the gnarled trees begin to loom over their heads, they can hear rustling among the foliage.

One of the spearmen curses as his pike becomes entangled in a web spread high above the path.

The rustling stops.

Elladan glances at his twin brother Elrohir and silently draws his sword. Glorfindel signals to the rest of the company and they fall into a defensive formation.

There is silence. Water drips onto moss. Metal scrapes on metal as someone shifts their stance. The eerie silence continues.

Glorfindel, listening, raises his hand to give the sign to continue.

Then the spiders attack.

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