Sunday, April 6, 2014

Game Review: King of Tokyo Power Up! Expansion

So a few weeks ago I was raving about how great King of Tokyo by iello Games is and its gotta make you wonder what could they possibly do to make it better?  Maybe add something to make the monsters play a little bit differently to add a little flavor to the whole thing?  That my friends is just what Power Up! does.

What's In The Box?
Since Power Up! is just an expansion it comes in a small box of its own.  Cracking it open you'll find the rules (inside the box this time) and a new monster, giving players yet another option in the game (It should be noted that the game still caps out at six players but having a little variety is always a good thing). Even so, the best part of Power Up! is still in the box; the evolution cards... but more on them soon.  Rounding things out are some handy tokens to track a few new special rules and of course a tray liner to keep it all nice and neat.

How Does This Change The Game?
The basic game of King of Tokyo gives you control of a giant monster seeking to dominate Tokyo which is awesome.  The only thing missing is a little bit of pizzazz to make the monsters more individual which is where the evolution cards come into play.

Each of the monsters in the game (including the newly added Pandakai) is given their own set of eight evolution cards in this expansion.  What makes these really cool is all of them are different but each are really in keeping with the individual monster's theme.  For example, the King has the cards Alpha Male and Simian Scamper while Gigazaur has Tail Sweep and Heat Vision.  These all give you minor tweaks to how your monster plays but really adds a nice flavor to each monster.  Sure Cyber Bunny is cool by himself but add on a Lupine Power Blade and an Electric Carrot and he just gets that much better!

To balance things out, the monsters don't start with all their evolution cards.  Instead players need to earn them by rolling at least three hearts on their turn.  These hearts don't need to be used to heal so you can even evolve while you are in Tokyo which is a nice little feature.  Drawing a card also doesn't replace healing so you don't have to agonize about whether you should keep yourself in the game or try to get a little stronger.

There are also a few variants listed in the rules; active evolution (which lets players start with a random evolution from their deck), controlled evolution (which lets players draw two and keep one as they evolve), and evolution draft (which adds a random drafting element to the evolutions). Our personal favorite is to shuffle all the evolutions together, deal out eight to each player and then everyone starts with the top evolution.  This does reduce the amount of theme that the cards bring to the specific monsters but it adds a really fun mechanic to the game and really helps keep it fresh every time we play

How Does It Measure Up?
Personally I think that this expansion really is a must have addition.  King of Tokyo by itself is a lot of fun but adding in the Evolution cards just takes the game to a new level and also might be part of the reason we play it so much. Using the Evolutions keeps the game fresh as it gives all the monsters enough of a tweak to really keep you on your toes and the amount of replay that it adds to the basic considering its cost makes this expansion invaluable.  Then there is the Halloween expansion... but more on that later.  Until next time...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Warmachine Battle Report: Issyria vs. Deneghra

Another Sunday and another game of Warmachine!  Sweet!  This time I paired off against Keith with his purple candy Retribution of Scyrah against the original warwitch herself, Denegra!  On Keith's side of the table he had Issyria in the lead backed up by a Hydra (which is being proxied by the Convergence Cipher), a Phoenix, and a ghost sniper.  Meanwhile I decided to switch things up and dig deep into my Army Transport, unearthing a Seether, a Deathripper, a small unit of bane thralls, and of course a pet Skarlock for Denny.  We decided from the beginning to keep it a friendly game as both of us were trying to get the feel for our units (I've actually only played my banes a couple of times and I've never used them since the switch to Mark II) and even allow pre-measuring!  How's that for living on the edge!!!

I won the roll off and decided to let Keith be first player.  With such small forces and being a casual game it didn't really matter but I still like to see just what I'm facing before I have to deploy.  With that done, we quickly headed into the game!

Most of the Retribution force advanced up the center while the ghost slunk off to the right side of the table and Issyria cast some buffing spells onto her Phoenix (I believe that one of them was Admonition which buffed its armor to 20).

My own troops advanced along the center as well in response though I did have my Seether and Skarlock start sliding over to the right in case I needed to deal with the ghost.  I've never faced one before but usually letting a sniper run around on the flank is a bad idea so I wanted to be ready to deal with him.  I also sent my Deathchicken out in front so I could try to make use of its arc node before it was turned into a 4 point piece of scrap metal (I'm not a fan of its cost in Mark II in case you hadn't guessed). 

Channeling through the node, I was able to hit the Hydra with a corrosive stream of venom which I followed up with crippling grasp (yeah, still gotta work on my timing).  Hmmm... maybe the Chickens are worth it after all...

While this was happening, I moved my Skarlock over to try to cast venom onto the ghost but the dice would have nothing to do with it.  Worried that I'd loose my little pet too early, I decided to give the ghost something else to worry about and run in with the Seether.  I wasn't able to get him into melee but at least it gave him something else to worry about in the meantime.

Next turn, the Retribution continued their steady advance in the center toward my main force and both the Hydra and Phoenix opened fire on the Deathchicken but completely missed it! (Definitely reconsidering my opinion of the Chickens now... Need to try fielding them again soon.)  While this was happening, the ghost quickly fell back to rejoin the rest of the battle group and get away from my heavy 'jack that was looming over him.  As he fled, he let loose a shot at the Seether, causing some structural damage but thankfully nothing else.

As played turn over to me and with his troops nicely positioned, it was time to try to hit his heavies as hard as I could.  Deneghra moved forward slightly and then channeled venom through the Deathchicken again.  This time the stream was able to catch both 'jacks and Issyria in one shot which I followed up with a second venom just for good measure.

Next, the bane thralls charged forward and cleaved their axes into the Phoenix and Hydra.  I was hoping that their dark shroud would lower the 'jacks armor enough that I could do some substantial damage but I was only able to damage their shields.  The Seether went next and followed up on that annoying ghost, squashing him into the dirt!  All in all not a bad turn but I had really been hoping to do a little more damage to the heavies.
On his turn Issyria was quickly moved away from the combat while Keith inched his heavies forward and attacked the closest bane thralls, quickly dispatching their ghostly forms before hacking into the Deathchicken with his Phoenix.  Even with its high defense, the onslaught proved to be too much this time and the Deathripper was reduced to scrap.
Having lost half of my Banes and my Deathripper, I decided to take a chance and commit Deneghra herself to the fray.  I unleashed the withering on the two heavy 'jacks then charged her forward onto the debris of the Deathripper.  She lashed out at the Phoenix in the hopes of taking advantage of its current state with the remaining Banes following her lead but even with this combined assault I wasn't able to finish off the Phoenix (Quick note here... I actually should have killed it but I forgot to take the Dark Shroud armor reduction into account.  Just too many modifiers to keep track of this time).  With both of the Phoenix's arm systems and its cortex still remaining, I bracing myself for the worst and waited for the killing blow to land...
...which amazingly enough didn't happen.  Between average dice rolls, the lingering effect of the withering and Deneghra's high defense, Keith wasn't able to land a single hit on her (Another quick note... Keith had used Issyria's feat this turn but this time it was his turn to forget.  Guess it worked out in the end) though the Hydra did dispatch the two Banes that were harassing it.
On my turn, I took full advantage of my ridiculous luck from the previous turn.  The Seether took advantage of its position behind the fray in the center of the field and charged the Phoenix, ripping into the back of the myrmidon and finally destroying it.

With the Phoenix gone, I moved Deneghra around the side of the Seether and hit Issyria with venom but was only able to wound her.  The Skarlock then followed her lead as he moved in and did the same but at the end of the turn she was still alive.

With his forces rapidly disappearing, Keith tried to attack the Seether his Hydra but between damage it had sustained earlier and the crippling grasp that had been in place from the beginning of the game it wasn't able to damage it.

With the end in sight, the Seether tore into the Hydra and was able to finally destroy it which left Issyria open for Deneghra to land the killing blows.

Definitely a good game even with the mistakes that Keith and I made but it was meant to be a friendly game.  We talked some afterward about his force selection since this was his first time fielding the Retribution and we both saw some potential directions to move in for expanding his force.  In particular Issyria's feat gives her entire army truesight and lets them all roll and extra die on their attacks, choosing the best to use.  With its current build there's not a lot that can benefit from this but if he added in some of the riflemen that feat would become quite a bit more devastating.  It will definitely be interesting to see how it develops in the future and it was also a learning game for me as well.  Maybe the Deathrippers really are worth four points after all...  Until next time...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Warmachine Battle Report: Karchev vs. Asphyxious

After about a five year hiatus it looks like I'm finally returning to Warmachine!  This past weekend I played in a 20 point match between Khador and my old stand by Cryx.  On the other side of the table Matt fielded Kommander Karchev backed up by the Behemoth, a Juggernaut, and a full unit of Mechaniks while I had good old Gaspy (aka Iron Lich Asphyxious) and his pet Scarlock with the Deathjack (of course), a Seether, and a small unit of Mechanithralls.

Our board was your basic forest on either side with a hill in the middle.  Nothing too fancy but it was enough to push us right at each other from the start which guaranteed the bloodshed would commence quickly.  In fact we were engaged and trading blows within just a couple of turns.

Matt tried to get first blood by lobbing mortar shells from the Behemoth at my Skarlock but thankfully the cover of the trees saved him.  Another volley flew off toward my McThralls but fell short, peppering them with debris but little else.

Things went slightly more in my favor as the McThralls charged up to Karchev and one of them managed to pound him with a double steam fist slam, rocking him and more importantly actually inflicting damage!  The Seether tried to keep my momentum going as it charged the Juggernaut but failed to actually connect.  Argh!!!  It was then that I realized I'd mistimed things as I didn't have the Skarlock cast Parasite onto Karchev before the McThralls did their thing so went for the next best target; the Juggernaut.  With its armor weakened, the Deathjack thundered toward it and tore into its weakened armor, nearly reducing the 'jack to a pile of scrap by the time it was done.

Surprised by how potent the Deathjack was, Matt had the Behemoth charge the Seether but through a whole lot of luck he was only able to destroy one of the arms.  On the other side of the battle, Karchev responded to the impudent McThrall that wounded him by squishing him like a bug.  He then continued his assault against them, quickly annihilating all but one of them.  Behind the scenes, the mechaniks ran forward to try to repair the damage to Karchev and the Juggernaut but thanks to the excessive amount of vodka they'd had before the battle they weren't even able to hold their wrenches properly.

Sensing that the tide of battle could shift against me any second (and that the store owner might kick us out so he could go home), I decided to go for the Cryx suicide run for victory.  The damaged Seether raked his remaining death claw across the armored shell of the Behemoth but was barely able to scratch the paint.  Meanwhile, the Skarlock skirted the back of the massive skirmish and cast Parasite again, this time on Karchev himself.  Next, the Deathjack pivoted around the shambling but still dangerous Juggernaut and was able to rip into Karchev but in the end the man machine was still standing.  Finally Gaspy launched himself forward and tore into Karchev with Soul Splitter again and again until he collapsed to the ground in a crumpled heap.

Overall it was a lot of fun even though there were some tactical and timing mistakes that I'd made during the first half of the game.  It was also good to get in a friendly game instead of having to push for a win to advance in a tournament.  An added plus for me is that the crowd at the store is just getting into Warmachine so it will give me a good chance to ease my way back into the game.  Heck, I couldn't even remember what I was supposed to roll to cast a spell in this game so I definitely need some training wheels while I get my head wrapped around the rules again.  And next time I'll make sure I bring the camera so I can get more pictures of the action as it happens.  Until next time...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Movie Review: 300: Rise Of An Empire

This weekend my wife and I went to see 300: Rise Of An Empire.  Neither of us had seen the original 300 so we weren't sure what to expect but the description sounded promising so we decided to give it a shot.  Overall it was pretty good but in some spots it just tried too hard.

Without giving things away (and without seeing the first movie) it seems like Rise Of An Empire begins with the events that lead up to and follow the last stand of King Leonidas.  Overall it was a pretty good movie and we enjoyed it except for a couple of things.

1) The big one for me was at times it felt like the 3d aspect was being pushed too hard.  As I wear glasses we had opted for the regular 2d version of the movie but it was still quite obvious which bits were meant to "showcase" the 3d and a lot of them seemed a little forced.  Okay, I get that its the new viewing experience but at least try to make it fit into the flow of the picture.

2) At times the slow motion scenes were really... rreeaalllyy... rrreeeaaallllyyy... common.  At first it was like "And now its time for more slo mo... yay..." but talking with my wife afterward she made the point that maybe they were trying to capture the soldier's perspective.  In the heat of battle with the adrenaline pumping things can almost seem to slow down.  Not that I've been in battle but she did touch on our own experience during a car accident and how thinking back to it things seemed to move slower.  Looking at it that way it made more sense but in the moment it seemed a little repetitive.

Other than these particular things we both enjoyed Rise Of An Empire even without knowing the story of the first movie.  It felt like they touched on the most important aspects of it in the natural flow of the story so we weren't left wondering what they were talking about.  Is it a must see?  No but it definitely felt like it was worth the price of admission which is saying something nowadays.  Until next time...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Game Review: King of Tokyo

Things are finally settling down in our new temporary abode so its time for another game review!  Yes, its finally time to review the game that has dominated our table ever since we first played it, iello's King Of Tokyo.

What's In The Box?
When I opened the box, the first thing I noticed was no instructions... because they were attached to the outside of the box.  Full color and very well laid out, they do a very good job breaking down the game step by step.  They also have a brief glossary and overview of some of the somewhat questionable cards you can bring into play throughout the game which is very handy and to me shows that they put this game through its paces before releasing it to the masses

There is also a small but very colorful board that also has some handy in game reminders, a set of eight special dice, a deck of power ups you can purchase in the game, energy cubes (no they're not candy!!!), a number of pre-punched counters, boards to track each monster and a cardboard figure for each.  All of these are full illustrated and really help to capture the giant monster feel.

As a nice little plus, the box also comes with a tray liner that lets you keep everything nice and neat in the box between plays.  Overall, just great looking components and presentation.

How Do You Win?
Winning the game is elegantly handled and one of the things that I really love about the game.  There are two ways to do it.  You can either be the first monster to earn 20 Victory Points or you can be the last monster standing.  Why do I love this?  More on that later.

How Do You Play?
The basic mechanic of the game is similar to Yahtzee.  You roll six dice up to three times looking for different sets and combinations.  The difference is that in addition to the numbers one, two, and three the dice have a claw, heart and lightning bolt.  So what does it all mean? Let me explain.

As I mentioned before, one of the ways to win is by scoring 20 VPs and you can do this with the dice by rolling sets of three or more ones, twos, or threes.  The set of three is worth the number rolled (so three 2's are worth 2 points) and each additional number increases that by one point (so five 2's would be worth 4 points).

The other symbols work slightly differently.  Each claw that you roll will do a point of damage to the other monsters, while each lightning bolt earns you an energy cube and each heart will heal a point of damage.  None of these need to be rolled in sets and there isn't a bonus it you do (so one claw does 1 point of damage and five claws do 5 points).

Once you have rolled your dice, its time to resolve what's happened.  Damage is applied, healing is done and point are earned according to the final outcome on your dice and depending on whether you are in Tokyo or not.  At the start of the game there are no monsters in Tokyo but as soon as one of the monsters resolves at least one claw that monster will move into the city.  This is an ideal situation in some regards since you are trying to become the King of Tokyo after all and does have its perks, but there are some slight drawbacks as well.

One of the perks is you earn extra VPs every turn starting when you first move into the city.  The turn you move in you earn 1 VP and every turn you begin in Tokyo you earn another 2 VPs.  You also damage all of the other monsters when you attack; roll two claws and everyone takes two damage, roll five and they all take five.  Sounds pretty good, right?  The downside is that you can not use any hearts that you roll to heal yourself and if any of the other monsters roll any claws they are coming right at you.

The good news is that you can yield Tokyo after you are attacked (after you take the damage of course) to get yourself out of the cross hairs for a little while.  As soon as you do this, you move your monster out of the city and move whoever just attacked you in.  Unfortunately this means that your opponent will immediately earn 1 VP and then earn more at the beginning of their next turn (assuming they are still there) but sometimes you just have to step back and lick your wounds.  While outside of Tokyo, you can heal one point of damage for each heart rolled and any claws you roll are applied to whoever is currently in Tokyo but no one else.

So what about those energy cubes that have been piling up?  Those are used in the next phase of the game to buy special cards to power up your monster.  Some of them have a permanent effect for the rest of the game while others are played immediately but almost all of them can give you some kind of edge in the game.  This is also where those extra two dice come into play as there are specific cards that you can buy that will let you roll an extra die (or two if you've greedy!) during your turn.

How Does It Measure Up?
I can honestly say that right now this is my family's absolute favorite game to play.  With 32 plays in less than a year, this game has blown all of the other games in our collection out of the water but the question is why?  There are several things that really make it stick out for me.

The mechanics are very straightforward (after all, who hasn't played Yahtzee before?) but the theme gives the game a really enjoyable twist.  The artwork is also very well done with a fun cartoon quality to it and the monsters are diverse enough that there's going to be something for anyone.

Above all this one of the things that I really enjoy is the built in timer that is inherent with the mechanics.  As soon as someone rolls a claw, they are going into Tokyo whether they like it or not and the race is on!  Leave your opponent in there too long and they'll quickly reach 20 VPs and steal the game but be careful of getting yourself sucked into the spotlight as everyone else will now be gunning for you.  This really keeps the game from going too long but it isn't so rushed that it feels forced.  A great little balancing act that not many games are able to pull off so well.

This is one game that I am very glad we added to our collection and I definitely recommend giving it a try.  There are also two expansions which add even more to the game... but more on those later.  Until next time...