Sunday, October 15, 2017

D&D Attack Wing is an enjoyable Flight Path game as expected

I bought Dungeons & Dragons: Attack Wing about 3 years ago, but only today I finally got around to playing it with my friend Jeff.  I only just discovered yesterday that the game is discontinued, so there's that.

I am well familiar with the Flight Path system, as I have played X-Wing and Star Trek: Attack Wing, and even Armada previously.

The game is about 80% similar in mechanics to the other Flight Path games that I mentioned, only there are rules for ground combat, as well as some tweaks concerning the ability to change altitude and permanent armour bonus that doesn't go away unless a critical hit, which is unlike space opera shields found in X-Wing and Star Trek.

I noted that the game's dice has different symbols than other Flight Path dice, no doubt just to squeeze an extra buck from us.. 

Jeff and I set up a flight-only try-out this time and left the ground combat to another day even though I had some Elf and Hobgoblin troops.

We set up a 75 point game, with my Blue Dragon and Gargoyle, vs Jeff's Red Dragon and Wyvern.

Jeff is much more intimately aware of the D&D universe than I am and dutifully informed me that Blue Dragons in D&D are usually evil.

I shrugged as I had no idea. I just liked the name of my Blue Dragon, Eshaedra..

Eshaedra was equipped with a bite and tail attacks for melee, as well as a ranged attack using lightning breath..

My gargoyle Malebolge was a bruiser on the ground, able to roll 5 attack dice on terra firma, 3 in the air. Not bad..

Both Eshaedra and Malebolge had armour upgrades, able to deflect 3 normal hit points of damage with every blow, which made them both harder than a coffin nail. Or so I hoped.

What Jeff and I were not used to was that in D&D: Attack Wing, melee attacks could be front and rear arcs (e.g using a tail), and not necessarily have bases touching. You can bite someone at range 2 for instance, to take into account the size of the creatures and fluidity of aerial combat.

I forgot to bring a terrain mat to play. Since we didn't want to do our majestic dragon vs dragon battle on Jeff's wife's flowery brown table cloth, we used a black mat and called it a night battle.

We set up the game, and put hidden obstacle markers (the yellow circles)...

The yellow circles symbolize either ground or air obstacles that will only be discovered when a creature flies through them, even slightly. Creatures that pass through them have to roll for damage and lose an action as they traverse it and attacks through it give the defender a bonus defense die.

I at first found this stupid.. How can you not see terrain on the ground until you're on top of it?  And what the hell is an air obstacle? Clouds?

Jeff though, being the D&D loremaster that he is, pointed out that it's pretty common in fantasy to have floating castles, islands, rocks, etc, in the sky, as well as traps on the ground. Fantasy he explained, is replete with illusions spells, vortices, magical storms, etc, and that dragons fly very fast (60 mph he said)... so it all made sense.

I grudgingly conceded his point, but the grognard in me had a wait-and-see attitude about these terrain rules.  The rules called for us to agree on a set number of obstacles and place them in turn on the board before setting up. We agreed this time that neither of us would see what kind of terrain it was and blindly put them on the mat. Underneath these yellow tokens was a number and we followed the rulebook's example. with the obstacle numbers 1-6 being a ground obstacle, 7-10 being air, and 11,12, being dissipating mist (nothing).

It did not take very long when playing to see how important these obstacles are to game play.

Jeff cautiously skirted having his dragon go through them during play..

I however collided 3 times in the game with these things,  with 2 points of damage on my 5 health point dragon, and 1 point on my gargoyle.. all because I needlessly risked going through them. To be honest, I at first naively thought my 3 armour would protect me, but only after I flew through them did we look up to make sure about our assumption. I turns out that obstacle damage penetrates, with no armour protection.

Thus, my Gargoyle took a hit here in my eagerness to engage in melee with Jeff's Wyvern....

And another 2 obstacle hits on poor Eshaedra.. she got got hit once when I soared past Jeff's dragon,

and then another hit on the dice roll when I did an emergency bootlegger reverse after the fly-past to get behind Jeff's dragon to fire a lighting breath at him...

I had to roll a red attack die for every brush with obstacles, and got a hit 3 times even before Jeff laid a hand on my forces... bad bit of luck there..

Anyways, it turned out that obstacles we encountered and uncovered were usually ground ones..  Jeff dug up some ice terrain as they were about the same size in diameter as the yellow circles to symbolize that..

Performing a lightning breath attack
We both critically realized that setting up the obstacles is an important part of the game.. you can use it to put a crimp on the other guy's play, especially if you know what kind of terrain obstacle you're putting.  I imagine when you play with ground troops, you can try to lead the enemy into ambushes with the ballista and other such ground based ranged attacks in killing zones.

I had Lightning breath, and Jeff's dragon had Fire breath.. It sounds powerful, but once you use it, you have to put 3 delaying tokens and waste 3 turns to charge up again.. so, even powerful dragons have to engage in melee a lot and can't just stand back and attack at a distance..  This is a bit different than the other 2 Flight Path games I am used to..

There was lots of maneuvering back and forth as you would expect in a Flight Path game..

My Gargoyle was being chased by the Red Dragon and eventually taking a beating down to 2 health points...

until finally Eshaedra maneuvered just right and homed in on the Red Dragon in her sights after Jeff spent some time chasing my hapless Gargoyle..

and opened up again with lightning breath ..

However, there was no damage in that lightning bolt, and so Jeff opportunistically decided to get close to me and go toe-to-toe in a fight.. bite vs bite in a dragon slugfest. We both landed on the ground as we gingerly wanted to avoid the nearby obstacle, as it's easier to maneuver on the ground as you can pivot 90 or 180 degrees or even go backwards.

The same thing was happening with our Gargoyle and Wyvern.. neither of whom had a ranged attack and so both had to close to use teeth and claws in melee...

It was here that my wounded gargoyle entered my Dice Hall of Fame, as he pounded the healthy Wyvern to death inflicting lots of damage, all in one roll, despite being wounded from the Red Dragon's pounding.

I realized that the Gargoyle figure should be used primarily against ground troops, as the +2 attack dice when on the ground comes in handy.... a thought as I filed away for next time when we play with infantry.
However, just as I killed the Wyvern, Jeff's Red Dragon inflicted 2 critical hits on me (bypassing my armour), killing poor Ephaesdra. They just both happened to be the same critical hit, "Crippled"..

We decided to call that a game as we fulfilled our objective to familiarize ourselves with D&D: Attack Wing.

We both enjoyed it, as there are some subtle differences with the other Fight Path games. We definitely want to try it again and next time, use ground fantasy troops as well. I read somewhere on BGG that some found the ground aspect kind of clunky, but we'll see.

Now that the game is discontinued, we are hoping that the expansion packs will be discounted on the shelves....

Thumbs up on D&D Attack Wing.

We finished the evening with this post-apocalyptic tableau building game, 51st State: Master Set.

I won't elaborate too much on this game here, as tableau games do not lend themselves to interesting blog posts.

I just want to say that the artwork is very pleasing, and the meeples are not bad quality (guns, gasoline, metal, bricks, people)..

The tableau gameplay is very enjoyable and the game goes by quickly, with less than 2 hours to play..

The art and theme is very post-apoc, and sometimes, the cards are amusing to read...

The tableau at the end of the game is very pleasing with all the artwork. and there is some satisfaction at the game mechanics to build it.

All in all, an enjoyable gaming Saturday with two very different games and genres...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Quick update on some Canadian Thanksgiving gaming

On this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, my friends Jim, Jeff and I sat down to play the 3X game Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, by Czech Games.

I've discussed the game play of this Civ game before, so I won't elaborate again on the mechanics. It is a very elegant game, mechanics wise, but like many a tableau card and cube pusher game, it does not blog very well, so I won't bore everyone with going over the details again.

This is the first time Jeff played it, and the first time, at least for me, we had a 3 player game.

As both a history and Civ lover, this game hits all the right notes for me and Jim. Jeff though is not a big Civ guy, nor into history as much, but he was a good sport in trying it out.

Like last time, it was a long game.. We started around 10:45 and, with an hour and a half lunch break, finished around 8 pm.. Way too long I admit.  Sure there as a learning curve and a bit of analysis-paralysis by everyone at times, but 9+ hours felt like a stretch at the end. I can't imagine how long a 4 player game would take.

Unlike last time, there seems to have been an arms race between Jim and I. Time and time again, I attacked and raided him, but I was thwarted for the most part by Jim pulling out this and that card to block me. Very frustrating... My military strategy was ground into the dust, while Jeff, like usual, plotted his machinations secretly and naturally enough, he eked out a win at the end.

However, given the length of the game, Jeff is not too keen to try it out again in the near future. He chided me afterward that Jim and I's fear of long games is not very believable after today's session. He now wants to try out the notoriously long game Twilight Imperium after today's marathon session and has threatened to pick Twilight the next time at his place given today's precedent.

Still he enjoyed it, but admittedly, 9 hours feels like it has been like going to work.

I enjoy the game immensely though, and as always, am willing to try it out again. It's too bad it's not a computer game as I would play it solo on my computer.

All in a all, a good session. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A quick look at the rule book Dracula's America

I got in the mail today the skirmish rule book Dracula's America: Shadows of the West, from Osprey Games.

Nice solid hardcover, glossy sturdy paper and 140 pages. Quality you would expect from Osprey. 

The premise of the book, to copy from BGG:

It is 1875, and Count Dracula is President of the United States of America.

In the wake of the Civil War, with the country struggling to regain its balance, Dracula seized power. 

The Count's thralls assassinated President Lincoln and his entire administration in a single night and, in the ensuing chaos, their master made his move. Dominating the Senate, he declared himself President-for-Life, and now rules the Union with fear and an iron fist. His vampiric progeny, the Coven of the Red Hand, infest every strata of society, and enforce Dracula's will with ruthless efficiency.

Drawn by the shadows gathering across the nation, secretive cults and evil creatures emerge from their lairs to thrive in the darkness of the new regime. Fleeing from the oppression and menace of the East, hordes of pioneers head to the West, hoping for a new life.

Dracula's greed, however, knows no bounds, and his reach is long…

Dracula's America: Shadows of the West is a skirmish game of gothic horror set in an alternate Old West. Secret wars rage across the country - from bustling boom-towns to the most remote wilderness - as cults and secret societies fight for power and survival. Players will throw their support behind one of these factions, and will lead a Posse in fast-paced, cinematic battles for dominance and survival.

Clearly, the author has been influenced by the movie Abraham Lincoln Vampire hunter, a movie I enjoyed, especially the Confederate Vampires.

I am a history lover, and indeed, have a graduate degree in American history, specializing in exactly this period, from the antebellum period just before the Civil War to the Old West afterward. I know it very well and love it, and couldn't resist buying the rule book.

In this gameverse, the Civil War drags on past 1865 and the South is fighting a guerilla war.  It seems Drac baby at this time wormed his way into Lincoln's administration as an advisor until the President and his entire cabinet were assassinated in a single night mysteriously. Gallant Dracula, following Honest Abe's last wishes,  assumes control of the country while laying blame on the Confederates.

Hell follows with him, as vampires from the Old World come to America in droves, presumably at the behest of a certain Romanian count. They need to f.f.f.f.f.f.eed after all, and the Old West suddenly is seeing more refugees from the East Coast fleeing, with vampires following.

This is where the game lore becomes interesting.. There are both demonic and mystical cults and secret societies galore, battling it out in the Old West, along with the usual preachers, runaway slaves and hired guns.

There is the Twilight Order, an anti-evil secret society who remind me of the Templars..


to be thwarted by thralls of Dracula, called the Red Hand Coven

and allied (?) by a demonic cult, the Crossroads Cult, serving demonic masters masquerading as wealthy rail barons out East..

,,,to be countered by native American Skinwalker tribes using shapeshifting magic (you just saw this coming a mile away)..

Let's not forget the Dark Confederacy, who use necromancy so the South can rise again, in more ways than one, with the aid of ghostly Revenants.. 

Confederate necromancers! Love it!

On top of all these guys jostling for power, you got zombie and vampire outbreaks and a whole bestiary of minis to face, including of course, Sasquatch, the Chupacabra and the Jackalope.

Frostgrave, a popular Osprey skirmish campaign game, is downright plain compared to the premise of Dracula's America what with the Vampiric cowboys, hellhounds and pale riders home on the range, and some magic.

In the campaign game, you generally have one of the above type of warbands, called posses naturally enough, to go forth and battle, and level up and acquire dollars to buy equipment and members and hired guns (like the Carpathian Guard from the original Dracula novel). Unlike Frostgrave, where the goal of leveling up is for your wizard to ascend, there doesn't appear to be an end goal in mind in Dracula's America, other than collecting victory points. More likely, you will level up until you get bored of the campaign, or retire your group, much like a traditional RPG. 

I thought for sure when I ordered the book that I would find steampunk tropes, but there aren't any. The equipment in the game is Gothic. Miniatures come armed, in addition to shootin' irons, dynamite, shotguns, etc, with Holy Water, Silver bullets and such.

In terms of game mechanics, the game uses "successes" (a common mechanic with such companies as Two Hour Wargames), with a success being a roll of 5 or better on one stat called "Grit".  A miniature's Grit is based on his level of expertise, novice, veteran or Hero. Novices roll on a d6, vets on a D8 and Heroes on a D10. Sounds simple enough and perhaps not as "swingy" as Frostgrave. 

Initiative in the game is based on a standard set of playing cards. When I read this, I thought for sure it was for use of the poker trope you see in Westerns, but it's not. Each player has his own deck, and generally draws a hand on the number of minis on the board. To determine who goes first, players pick a card from their hand, with the higher number card going higher.. however, black cards always trump red cards, even if lower. 

In this example, the player with the Jack beats the player with the 5...

but in this example, the player with the 2 beats the player with the Jack.

This is the most interesting game mechanic that I can see. Initiative, which can be crucial, can be wild and very unpredictable, and harder I guess for opponents who are card counters.

I ordinarily am not a horror guy, but both my friend Jeff and I like the Old West background. Throw in magic and vampires, coupled with firearms, and the game looks interesting. The only thing holding me back from playing is that I don't have Old West terrain, but I guess some cheap mdf buildings for the town Jail, Dry Goods store, etc, can solve that. 

Very interesting rule book. I look forward to trying this out one day.