Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The boardgame Secrets of the Lost Tomb is a tribute to the pulp genre

My friend Jeff and I got together to try out his RPG-like boardgame Secrets of the Lost Tomb by Everything Epic Games..

We're basically pulp adventurers working for a good secret society fighting the forces of darkness presumably in the inter-war years.

The game pieces and art all are of high quality and mesh well with the Indiana Jones's theme..

This game piece below right away struck me as being deliberately reminiscent of the ancient Greek owl symbol prevalent in the Ancient world, and it goes over your character board to mark your character's health and "audacity" (your reroll attempts).

The character board was standard fare, with a bit of fluff for the character in the back. Dripping with 1930s theme of course. I picked a Sam Spade gumshoe type of tough guy for the adventure.

These rifle bullet pieces are a nice touch to keep track of your actions. You flip them over once you do a an action.. Once everyone does all their actions, the turn is over.

This game turn marker is very The Mummy-ish.. you turn the "ancient device dial" to mark the turn.. Nice touch! The designer is well versed on the genre. Probably a guy like myself into von Daniken, In Search of, Unsolved Mysteries and Ancient Aliens.. I've been eating that stuff up with a spoon since the mid-1970s and it was nice to see this done lavishly for a game.

This game is basically a dungeon crawl, but there are plenty of tiles to keep the variety going for a long time it seems...

Some symbols to remember, and a bit fiddly with lots of counters to keep track of things but that is par for the course in these types of RPG-like boardgames.

Like more and more games these days, this game takes up a lot of space on your table..

The only really annoying part of the game pieces was the dice. What neither Jeff nor I liked was the green wax on a black background d12.. It was hard to read the numbers which was a bit annoying and it was basically 1-6 twice. A bit annoying especially as this game can be a dice fest at times. It's like picking gnat sh*t out of pepper every minute or so.

Like a good dungeon crawl of course, you got monsters galore..

Vampiric Gargoyles, Revolutionary Poltergeists, Menacing Mists, Deep Ones, Skeleton Pirates, Eye Monsters, Werewolves.. you name it..

And like any good dungeon crawl, you got traps and exotic "rooms" (more like dimensional portals I think) to stumble upon..  Mineshafts, quicksand, spike traps, nest of scarabs, evil shrines, lava pits, and even in true Indiana Jones fashion, a "Well of Souls"  to name a few..

Lots of tiles to discover.. 

Your reward for surviving these rooms are of course, treasure and artifacts from the Gods.. The Lightning bolt of Zeus, Ruby Scarabs, etc.. you get the picture, O Adventurer..

As you kill monsters, you get the game's currency, "soul shards", which you trade in with this being..

who is always present in one of the tiles, for magical items..

We played the first scenario, which I'm told is pretty easy..  It seems to be an almost exact copy of the plot of The Mummy.. an evil ancient Egyptian noble villain is reviving.

His name strikes fear..

He is..






before he plunges mankind into an eternity of darkness..

Our objective is to kill Rhaz and no matter what, not let him escape out of this foul, dark tomb...

Jeff's character and my character, and our sidekicks (did I mention we have trusty sidekicks) enter the tomb entrance..

My trusty sidekicks..

Shortly inside, I come across Shiva's Pit of Lava, and I see 3 sarcophagi.. Like the eager adventurer I am, I uncover the lids, and 3 mummies shamble out, and we fight it out..

Jeff in the meantime ran into some trouble, avoiding getting trampled upon in another room by a brontosaurs, and later, a foul stench black cloud, spiked pit and poltergeists out to hurt him..

The mummies and I fight it out, but aha!.. I defeat them and get the SHAFT OF RA...

I then meekly enter the Tomb of the Illuminati, but to my horror, find myself cursed.. cursed I say.. the Curse of the Tomb, which greatly hinders me game-mechanics wise.

After Jeff fights off the polergeists, he encounters witches from the Library of Alexandria whom he frees and they gift him the AMULET OF LYN, making him immune to curses...

After a brief rest, I discover the Lake Cam Picchu, and following a trail of blood on some mushrooms, who turn out to be Trinidad toadstools.. Tempting, but I don't eat any..

Some more monsters shamble in.. Blackbeard skeleton crew and a Stone Spirit of Olmec .....

I go downstairs and see some sort of sacrificial altar...The altar seems to have parts of an alien space ship with a voice in my head calling me to turn it on.. I find the inner strength to resist the mind pull and keep going on..

Meanwhile Jeff finds a Shrine of Fertility and we shudder to find out what foul deeds were being done in here...

He then gets into the Antechamber of Anubis, but is attacked by carnivorous scarabs..

Meanwhile, I find myself face to face with a giant anaconda snake..

After killing it, I discover an artifact in the room, no doubt one of the snake's earlier victims.. A fedora..

Naturally, I put it on and head to meet mystical man, to trade my soul shards to remove the Curse of the Tomb off of me.

I then rush to help Jeff fight off the carnivorous scarab swarms.

After we do that, he pries out an artifact, the RUBY SCARAB.

He gets the ruby artifact, but I on the other hand, enter an armoury shortly afterward and pick up a measly dagger.

Jeff then moves off and avoids falling into both Khepri's Nest of Scarabs and quicksand..

I keep moving and encounter Davy Jones' locker.. avast me hearties.. again, I am urged mentally to drink from a bowl, but with the assistance of my trusty sidekick, resist and move on.

Jeff meanwhile is faring better, entering Mt. Olympus and acquires the Bolt of Zeus!

Eventually, Jeff goes into the Well of Souls and has to fight several Sphinx statues.. I run in to help him and we fight them off in two turns.

After we do so, we open up a sarcophagus and get another artifact, the COWL OF ANUBIS..

The tomb keeps filling in with monsters all this time.. Doppelgangers, Maoi Men, Olmec, Followers of Anubis, Tomb eyes, and such..

We rush to and fro fighting them off easily enough for the most part..

 I fought one too many fights though and had low health by the end, so I had to rest a bit as well as drinking some Heart soup, to get me back up to healthy again.

Rhaz finally shows up, and Jeff and I run back to the cave entrance to make sure he doesn't leave it..

Armed with the AEGIS OF HERCULES, THE RUBY SCARAB, THE COWL OF ANUBIS, THE STAFF OF RA and a hearty bowl of  Heart Soup..  we heroically smited him after several rounds of combat..

The world became safe again..

For now.

All in all, this was an enjoyable session... very RPG-like.. and dripping with the pulp theme. Thumbs up!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Played a very enjoyable session of Axis & Allies: Naval Miniatures War At Sea

I've been playing a lot of World of Warships online lately, and found it highly entertaining..

Why just yesterday I sank an amazing 7 ships in a single engagement with a tier V Minekaze-class destroyer, one of my best efforts..

That being said, I've been wanting to get into War at Sea, by Avalon Hill (Hasbro) for some time now. (I can't believe I have to now add Hasbro to the hallowed name of Avalon Hill, but what are you going to do..)

I've been slowly buying ships and planes for this game over the last couple of years, and found pdfs of all the stats, which I then made into cards. They all fit nicely in my little organizer box which my friend Jim gave me earlier..

I painted up some islands the other day, as discussed here, and was ready to slug it out with my friend Jim.

I also finally got a chance to use my sea mat by Hots Mats for a change which is a plus.

I actually took it easy in our first session and stuck to "normal" battles; no alternate Earth stuff (Germany and the US vs Britain and Japan, that sort of thing etc)..

The first battle was a carrier battle in the Pacific, 159 points each.

We decided that the first player to knock out 100 enemy points wins..

The line up of the first game.. The Kaga vs the Enterprise, with respective fleets, somewhere in the Pacific..

We decided to use weather rules and used a d8 to see which direction it would go every turn.. A squall affects line of sight like an island.

I also marked up some wooden cubes I bought at the craft store for $1 with matching letters to place on our cards and respective ships to keep track of identical class ships individually. It turned out to be a smart move and helped ease play.

The Kaga...

My fleet in starting position at the Southern end..

The Enterprise...

The U.S. fleet at the Northern end..

I head North at first. but keep my carrier back.. Jim however surprised me by moving his carrier (CV) closer to me at first.... I had a deliciously fleeting thought of pouncing on that fragile CV with my big guns..

and didn't say anything.  He quickly realized though he made a mistake and retreated his carrier behind the island..

He kept his battleship (BB) and other ships, a cruiser (CA) and destroyers (DD) advancing South, trying to slip East around the middle island....

I positioned my BB behind the middle island to keep him from spotting me, and requiring his planes to look for me..

The island is blocking line of sight as you can see below and so Jim sent out his planes looking for me (we made a beginner mistake though, as we realized the BB couldn't be in a coastal area. It didn't make a difference as we were still not in LOS no matter where I put my BB).

Anyways, his planes kept looking for me, and all missed spotting checks..I did the same thing and the earlier aerial movements were really fruitless searches trying to find the other.. (You stop making aerial spot checks once the ships are in visual range and no LOS blocked).

The first opening salvos was when Jim's CA, a sub and two DDs were East of the middle island, facing my BB.. His BB though couldn't see me just yet.

Now that we could see each other, our torpedo and dive bombers did not have to do spotting checks, and thus there as some furious fighting all over my BB on top of the pop guns from his CA and DDs.

He closed in with his BB when it finally swung around the island, and we slugged it out.. I managed to sink him after some tense dice rolling..

My CV was nearby and it helped, and managed to place my own bombers on top of his CA and BB as well..It quickly became a shooting match on the sea and in the air..

However, he crippled my BB (I had 1 hull point remaining), and I desperately tried to make a run for it to hide in the squall.. I was surrounded by his remaining DDs, who were trying like jackals to take down my big BB..

A run to bad weather!

Try as he could though, my BB refused to sink.. I was more than amused..

However, la piece de resistance in this game was my two CAs that were heading North..

During the slug fest to the South of the middle island,  my two CAs were all this time swinging north West of the middle island while he was heading south to the East of the middle island like I said....

Jim did not do much with these 2 CAs other than send some ineffectual torpedo bombers at them, but it was too late as I headed straight for his CV.

His carrier was unprotected against my two CAs.. it was nothing but net as I went on a mad torpedo run and firing my pop guns at it while I was getting closer.. It was glorious as I sank it for the win.

We both enjoyed this session and liked the game so far. We quickly did another game, but this time, it as going to be a pure slugfest-city. The second battle was a non-carrier battle in the Atlantic, 147 points each. It was to be reminiscent of say, Jutland..No planes.. just gunnery and torpedoes. Old, old school.

Again, the first to sink 100 points of the enemy would win.

The Friedrich Der Gross vs HMS Repulse, with respective fleets, somewhere in the Atlantic.  

Jim suggested I use my remaining wooden cubes to make distinct numbering of my identifiers as we found in the first game that some excess discernment was needed in picking out friend and foe.

So I took out 10 minutes and numbered some cubes for my side. He would have the lettered cubes for IDing his side.

I let Jim position the islands to wherever he wanted for this game.. We rolled and did not get weather this game.

My monster BB, the Friedrich der Grosse and CA, the Prinz Eugen..

My German fleet at the beginning at the Southern end..

We both headed at the beginning toward the middle, and I headed my two big guys to the East, while everyone else to the West. Jim had a BB and a DD headed to the East of the middle island. They were thus isolated and I was going to use my big guns to slow them down a bit.

On the very first salvo of the game, the very first mind you, I rolled spectacularly, worthy of the Dice Hall of Fame.. I rolled so good, that right at the beginning, I reached his vital armour rating and his huge BB exploded and sank... the first salvo of this game as I said... Like right out of Jutland where several of the British BBs exploded as their magazines went up!

I even sunk the accompanying DD that was with his BB.. You can see below the black sank markers placed on the bottom two ships..

Right away, Jim was de-fanged, losing a large BB with me not getting a scratch.

I then just waited out of sight behind the Eastern middle island as I knew now Jim had to come to me to catch up on the points.

More bad luck hit Jim as his BB just West of the middle island did not really hurt me, and my subs were threatening him ships at such a close range.. (Subs bypass ship armour and can only be sunk by anti-submarine attacks, which usually DDs have only). Without DDs escorting you, your big ships are vulnerable to pesky torpedoes.

He had no choice but to retreat North as he realized he was de-fanged right at the beginning and his one shot of knocking out my BB and CA was not materializing.

I continued to press the issue, not letting up on him despite losing the Prinz Eugen, closing in with my subs and BB.

I even jokingly quoted Khan from Star Trek to him as I pressed the issue..(it so rare that I win games, that I took the time to ham it up jokingly).

Slowly, I chase Jim North with my subs and my BB while he kept retreating and retreating..

He tried to take shelter in the Northern island to no avail as my subs continue to fire torpedoes.

Realizing he can't win by retreating, Jim surprised me by suddenly heading South to meet my BB point blank.. He also sent his other crippled BB out from the coastal area to see if he can hit my BB with it's main gun, even at a far range.

My BB manages to survive as amazingly, his 2 BBs and his remaining CA don't sink it..

I then retreat my BB behind the island, and let my subs do the rest, sinking the CA for the 100 point win.

All in all, Jim was a good sport about it and we both very much enjoyed War at Sea, and resolved to play again.

I asked Jim if he ever comes across a booster pack of this increasingly hard to find game, to buy it for me and I'd reimburse him. He agreed.

For the remaining evening, we tried the light card game by FFG called Stars Wars: Empire vs Rebellion.

There is not much to say about this and won't elaborate after the nautical session. It's a cute cardgame.. light...with some strategy.. Good production values and the cards looks fine.

 I racked up the 7 VPs necessary to win the game.. We were both surprised I won all 3 games today, as usually I lose..

Anyways, an enjoyable gaming day. A hearty thumbs up!