Tag Archives: board games

Game Night: 15 May 2007 – Marvel Heroes (Part 1)

Marvel Heroes
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I think I’m going to build a Gamesignal and install it on the roof above the garage, with a switch downstairs in my office. Then when I want the Game Night crew to assemble I’ll just flip the switch, a powerful beam of light will bisect the sky and our emblem ((Note to self: we need an emblem; and a theme song.)) will shine brightly in the darkness for all to see, ((Projected on the … uh… stratosphere, I guess; or perhaps a giant screen in geosynchronous orbit.)) signaling Chris, Gus, Jeff and Miscellaneous G™ that the time of the gaming is upon us.

Yeah, that’s definitely the way to go.

As it stands, Game Night is coordinated via e-mail, which seems pretty mundane by comparison. Unfortunately, due to some manner of SMTP wormhole or IMAP confuddlement, Jeff didn’t receive confirmation that Game Night was go for launch on Tuesday and he was understandably absent. I’ve got to believe the Gamesignal would be far more reliable.

Miscellaneous G™ and Chris arrived at the International House of Johnson shortly after 7:00 and gaming commenced around 8:00, following consumption of various snacks and chitting of various chats. We decided upon Marvel Heroes, foolishly thinking that we could complete an entire game before Gus’ scheduled 9:00 arrival time. As it was, we hadn’t quite managed to finish an entire game round before Gus arrived. We briefly considered switching to something else, but then decided to simply deal Gus into the game already in progress.

The idea behind Marvel Heroes is fairly simple: each player commands a team of heroes who troubleshoot mysterious occurrences (called Headlines) in and around Manhattan. Successfully troubleshooting a Headline means collecting Victory Points; failing means the heroes get sent home with their web-shooters or adamantium claws between their legs (embarrassing and uncomfortable).

Unlike Arkham Horror, another Fantasy Flight title we’ve played at Game Night, players in Marvel Heroes aren’t cooperating with one another to overcome a common foe, they’re competing against each other for Victory Points. It wouldn’t do to have the heroes battling one another, though, so to aid in foiling their opponents each player controls a Master Villain — the nemesis of the team to his or her right.

We began by assigning Hero teams and Master Villains as follows:

  • Miscellaneous G™: The Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk). The Avengers’ nemesis,The Red Skull, was controlled by Chris.
  • Chris: The Marvel Knights (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Elektra). The Marvel Knights’ nemesis, Kingpin, was controlled by KJToo.
  • KJToo: The Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Thing and Human Torch). The Fantastic Four’s nemesis, Dr. Doom, was controlled by Miscellaneous G™.

Teams assigned, it was time to get cracking. The basic unit of the game is the Game Round, which is broken into three phases: Setup, Planning and Mission.

During the Setup phase, the game board is prepared. In the first round, six new Headlines are placed on the board (one for each area of Manhattan), four Story cards are dealt onto the Story track, and various tokens — indicating such things as the current Game Round, Victory Points for each team and Trouble Level — are placed on their appropriate tracks. In subsequent rounds, the Story track is advanced, the Game Round advances, and Headline cards are dealt into locations that were investigated in the previous round.

The planning phase is where all the strategy takes place; well, in theory, anyway. Team receive Plot Points based on a number of factors and spend those points to activate heroes and play Ally cards. The idea is to activate heroes whose skills and troubleshooting levels best suit one or more of the available Headlines.

Right. Boring. Where are the epic battles? Where are all the shield-throwing, web-slinging, Hulk smashing, eyebeam-shooting beatdowns?

Fear not, true believer! Once we get past all the setup and strategery…it’s clobberin’ time!

The Mission phase is all about applying boots to the posterior and taking note of monikers. Okay, there’s some other stuff going on (like moving heroes, healing heroes and such), but it really boils down to action. In fact, each Mission phase is broken into five Action Rounds. Typically, the first action is to move your team to a location and the second action is to introduce your heroes’ fists to some villains’ faces.

In the first round, Miscellaneous G™ sent Thor and Iron Man to Lower Manhattan, Chris sent Elektra and Spidey to Brooklyn, and I sent Mr. and Mrs. Reed Richards to The Village. Instead of troubleshooting in the second round, Miscellaneous G™ chose to take a Story Action and build up his hand. The real action started with Chris’ turn when Elektra investigated rumors of mutant monsters prowling the sewers beneath Brooklyn.

Any time a player troubleshoots a headline, all the other players have an opportunity to play cards (Villains and Agents) that make it more difficult for the hero to triumph. When Elektra descended into the sewers, she didn’t find mutants waiting for her there; she found The Vulture, a Villain card that I played from my hand. Once a Villain has been played, he or she becomes the Lead Villain for that encounter, and the other players can play additional cards as backup effects — cards that allow the Lead Villain to use sneaky tricks during combat to gain an advantage or otherwise inhibit the hero.

Unfortunately, The Vulture is an old man, and apparently senile to boot. Why he chose to confront Elektra in the confines of the sewer rather than engaging in an aerial battle amidst the towering skyscrapers high above is anyone’s guess, but the end result was a trip back to Codgerville Prison and Chris picking up several Victory Points.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, the ever-elastic Mr. Fantastic investigated the origins of a mysterious column of energy, only to find that it was yet another fiendish plot by Latverian dictator and Darth Vader wannabe, Dr. Doom.Never mind that Dr. Doom made his first appearance fifteen years before Darth Vader. Though the bad doctor wasn’t actually present, his machinations were felt in the form of an increased Trouble Level — one of several ways in which a Master Villain can attempt to alter the outcome of a Mastermind Headline. Miscellaneous G™ (controlling Dr. Doom) could also have opted to arrange a direct encounter between Mr. Fantastic and the Master Villain, but chose not to; instead, Chris played Avalanche as the Lead Villain and Miscellaneous G™ threw the Crimson Dynamo into the mix as a backup effect.

Much to Doom’s dismay—not to mention Miscellaneous G™’s, as his disdain for Mr. Fantastic is the stuff of legends—Avalanche proved to be no match for the leader of the Fantastic Four, and I collected the sweet, sweet Victory Points. It was a promising start for me, but little did I know how quickly my fortunes would take a turn for the worse.

When Thor arrived on the scene in Lower Manhattan to investigate reports of a UFO crash, instead of little green men he found a big green-and-yellow man: Electro. For those who may not know, Electro’s claim to infamy is his ability to manipulate electricity, while Thor is the Norse god of thunder who wields the enchanted Uru hammer, Mjolnir, and says “thee” a lot. Smart money was on Thor, and the son of Odin did not disappoint, leaving the only real question whether I should say that he hammered, nailed, or pounded Electro.

Chris, meanwhile, had moved Elektra to Queens, where she found several horribly mutilated bodies… and Hydro-Man. Now, Hydro-Man is essentially made of living liquid and can control nearby bodies of water. Even so, he’s still a second-rate villain in the Marvel Universe. Elektra, on the other hand, is a Greek ninja assassin ((No, seriously, Elektra is a Greek ninja. And an assassin. A Greek ninja assassin. Oh, and her last name is Natchios, which doesn’t sound at all like “nachos”.)) who was killed by Bullseye and then came back from the dead. That’s pretty badass. On the other other hand, Hydro-Man was being assisted by one Mortimer Toynbee, also known as The Toad. The combination of Hydro-Man and His Amphibious Friend proved too much for poor Elektra, and the villains (wait for it) mopped the floor with her.

Elektra’s ignominious defeat marked the end of Game Round One, as well as the arrival of Gus. Rather than abandoning the game in progress, we decided to give Gus the X-Men, shuffle the nemeses around a bit, and continue the ongoing battle for truth, justice, and a slogan that didn’t belong to a competing comic book company. Excelsior!

Gus sat to my left and took Dr. Doom’s green hoodie from Miscellaneous G™, who in turn donned the maroon-and-purple helmetAbsolutely not double entendre. of Magneto, the Master of Magnetism. Our musical chairs mini-game complete, we proceeded to Game Round Two.

To be continued…

Game Night: 24 April 2007 – Marvel Heroes

I had planned to do a complete session report for Marvel Heroes, the strategy board game by Fantasy Flight Games, but thanks to a long day at work on Wednesday I didn’t get to it right away and most of the details have evaporated. Instead of a full session report, here are some of the highlights I do remember:

  • Unlikely Outcomes: When the Green Goblin goes up against The Incredible Hulk, the end result should be one squished goblin. Thanks to some truly awful dice rolling, it was the Hulk who wound up taking a powder, while the Goblin went on to threaten Iron Man. Also unusual: Avalanche beat down Wolverine and the Dread Dormammu sent Captain America packing. Some of this was due to bad dice rolls, but there was also some excellent use of villains as backups, which allowed for re-rolling, stats enhancement and other sneaky tricks.
  • Awesome Soundtrack: Gus scoured his music collection to put together a excellent playlist of superhero theme songs (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The Greatest American Hero) and superhero-themed songs (“Superman’s Song” by Crash Test Dummies, “Superman” by Five For Fighting, and “Ode to a Superhero” an excellent parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” by Weird Al Yankovic).
  • Cheap Victory: I led the Uncanny X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Jean Gray) to victory in our first game, but a review of the rules between games revealed that I had interpreted one of the key rules incorrectly, giving me the Arch-Nemesis token throughout the game when it should have gone to Gus or Miscellaneous G™.
  • The Learning Curve: It’s not all that difficult to learn Marvel Heroes, but we were all starting from scratch and it took me most of the first game to get used to the turn sequences and all the various phases and sub-phases within each turn. As a result, the game felt a little flat to me. It wasn’t until the middle of the second game that we really started to understand how Mastermind Villains worked (and even after two games we’d never had a hero and a Mastermind Villain go head-to-head in combat).

I definitely think Marvel Heroes will make another appearance at Game Night, and now that we’re more familiar with the rules we should be able to concentrate more on the heroics and less on the crunchy rules.

Game Night: 27 February 2007

Marvel Ultimate AllianceThe evening began with Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which may be the last great game for the Xbox Classic. Miscellaneous G™ and I continued our assault on Atlantis with our Femme Fatale squad (Invisible Woman, Marvel Girl, Spider Woman and Storm). S.H.I.E.L.D. sent the heroes to investigate a coup in the undersea kingdom that appeared to have ties to Doctor Doom’s new villainous organization. The heroes found that Attuma, a warlord who believes he is fated to rule Atlantis, had stolen the throne from Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Attuma was using sonic emitters — devices apparently supplied by Doctor Doom — to play havoc with the Atlanteans’ emotions and turn them against Namor and all surface dwellers.

At about 9:30, our special guest gamer, Gus, arrived. We turned off the Xbox, examined the vast array of board and card games at our disposal (most contained within Miscellaneous G™’s awesome Geek Box) and Monsters Menace America, which none of us had ever played (in fact, it had not yet been removed from its cellophane womb).

Monsters Menace America
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Monsters Menace America is a board game in which players control giant monsters rampaging through North America. Each player also controls the deployment of one branch of the military. The object of the game is to gain health and Infamy by stomping cities, military bases and other locations (typically tourist attractions and monuments such as Carhenge, Graceland and Mount Rushmore) in preparation for the Monster Challenge, a monster-on-monster brawl that determines which monster reigns supreme.

We started out slowly, fumbling through the rules a bit and not certain what our strategies should be, especially around the deployment and movement of military units. I played Toxicor, a towering radioactive purple blob, and controlled the Air Force’s fighter jets and cruise missiles. Toxicor first appeared near Lake Ontario and stomped all over Cleveland and Detroit, completely ignoring the smorgasbord of cities along the eastern seaboard.

In Florida, the monocular menace known as Zorb (played by Gus, who also controlled the Army) trashed Tampa and mauled Miami, then started making its way up the east coast toward Boston and New York. Each stomped city grants the stomping monster additional health points, and larger cities provide big bonuses. Zorb was heading for a veritable feast and there was nothing to slow its progress, save a handful of National Guard units.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Gigantis (an oversized praying mantis played by Laura) destroyed Los Angeles, Phoenix and several military bases, despite the brave Air Force pilots’ valiant efforts to stop the insectile marauder.

Miscellaneous G™ quickly learned that Megaclaw’s lair near Montana wasn’t an ideal starting point, due to a lack of major metropolitan areas in the region. His plan to amass Infamy tokens (which could be traded for extra attacks during combat) was working well as he demolished Carhenge and other nearby attractions, but Megaclaw’s health was not rising as quickly as those monsters who were decimating the coastal regions. Unfortunately, Miscellaneous G™ had to leave before the game was over, so the hideous Megaclaw was retired, as were the Navy’s fighters and nuclear submarines.

Realizing too late that Zorb was on his way to becoming unstoppable, Laura and I sent our combined military forces to the east coast. Again and again Zorb was attacked by Air Force cruise missiles and Marine Corps rocket launchers and fighter jets, but city after city fell to the creature’s deadly gaze and it grew ever more powerful. Even the mighty Mecha-Monster, a special unit I drew late in the game, proved to be little more than a minor annoyance to Zorb the Inexorable.

After twenty locations had been stomped, the Monster Challenge began. Zorb challenged Toxicor, who was sorely outclassed. The poor toxic blob had a mere 8 health points (not to mention zero Infamy tokens) compared to Zorb’s 40, and was soon reduced to a purple stain that stretched from Syracuse to Rochester. Gigantis put up a much better fight, cashing in six Infamy tokens and beating Zorb to within an inch (or perhaps a dozen Health points) of his life. The awesome might of the terrible eye proved too much for the massive mantis, however, and Gigantis was ultimately destroyed.

I have to admit that I completely dropped the ball in terms of strategy with Monsters Menace America. I don’t know what the hell Toxicor was doing, but it sure wasn’t collecting Infamy tokens and increasing his health in preparation for the Monster Challenge. Granted, I had a few unlucky rolls after destroying Detroit and Cleveland that resulted in Toxicor getting almost no benefit from their destruction, but it was foolish not to sweep over to New England and start wreaking havoc.

Even though my strategy was lacking (okay, nonexistent), I still enjoyed Monsters Menace America a great deal and would definitely like to play it again. It’s a welcome addition to Game Night, which is itself mutating into something new; once 4+ hours of video gaming every other Tuesday after work, its scope has expanded to include board and card games and a growing list of attendees. An epic game of Arkham Horror looms on the horizon, but Doctor Doom and his Masters of Evil cannot be allowed to succeed in whatever fiendish plot the masked monarch of Latveria is hatching.

Gamestuff: Arkham Horror Solo Play

Arkham HorrorMiscellaneous G™ loaned me his copy ((Is it correct to call an instance of a boardgame—or any game, for that matter—a “copy”? Grammaticons, a ruling. Now!)) of Arkham Horror over the weekend, and I played a solo game Saturday night.

Unbeknownst to Drake the Magician, events were unfolding in Arkham, Massachusetts that would eventually result in the Great Old One Ithaqua awakening from its aeons-long slumber. Compelled to investigate these strange occurrences, Drake soon found himself battling cultists and unspeakable monsters, traveling to indescribable Other Worlds, and feeling his grip on sanity slowly and inexorably weakening.

In retrospect, I really wish I’d played with multiple investigators — players who frequent the forums at Fantasy Flight Games recommend playing with three or four investigators during solo play. With my lone investigator, I soon found that the turn sequence resulted in Arkham being rapidly overrun with monsters and gates to Other Worlds. ((Each turn ends with the drawing of a Mythos card, which almost always results in a new gate opening, a monster appearing, and some other horrific side-effect. Forum posters recommend a “house rule” for solo play, wherein Mythos cards are only drawn every other turn.)) Poor Drake was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, frantically gathering the vital clues that would enable him to seal the gates. Unfortunately, his efforts were all for naught. Twice, the horror undermined Drake’s sanity and the poor man had to spend time (and money) recovering his wits in the infamous Arkham Asylum.

To make matters worse, I drew a Mythos card (I don’t recall which one) that forced Drake to focus his efforts not on closing gates, but on battling a steady stream of monsters in one district of the city. This led to the inevitable end of the game, as Drake was unable to stand against the monsters and prevent the Terror Level in Arkham from rising to the point where the bulk of the population fled the city. Following the departure of its citizens, Arkham was then overrun with all manner of vile creatures and Drake threw in the proverbial towel.

I suspect that I could have fared better—even with a sole investigator—had I abandoned random selection of both investigator and slumbering Great Old One. Each investigator has unique attributes and starting gear, and perhaps one of the others would have been more suited to solo play. Likewise, each Great Old One has its own attributes and effect on the game overall, some more challenging than others. Pitting Drake against Ithaqua may not have been the wisest of moves, but as a new player I really didn’t know any better.

There’s a lot to keep track of in Arkham Horror, and as a new player doing a solo game, it would have helped to have someone keeping me honest as far as things like monster limits, the Doom and Terror Tracks, and various other game elements that must be monitored from turn to turn. I’m sure that I flubbed a few things here and there, but it was still fun inspite of the crushing sense of despair and hopeless and the knowledge that my efforts would bear little fruit.

Next time (if I can borrow the game again), I’ll play with a team of three or four hand-selected investigators and choose a Great Old One that won’t add much complexity to the game. Perhaps I’ll manage to stave off the horrors for a while longer, perhaps I’ll be consumed by madness or lost in time and space, but I won’t go down without a fight.

Game Night: 16 January 2007

Miscellaneous G™ came over to the International House of Johnson last night, putting an end to the Game Night Winter Holiday Hiatus. Here’s how it went down:

Wii!

Miscellaneous G™ was in the right place at the right time last week and managed to score the much-coveted Nintendo console. We took a swing (literally, in most cases) at all of the Wii Sports games: baseball, boxing, bowling, golf and tennis. I give bowling and tennis high marks, but they were all fun. We also played some of the mini-games in Rayman Raving Rabbids. I enjoyed shooting rabbits with my plunger-gun, but I think I may have hurt myself while spraying carrot juice into their SCUBA masks — and then there was the moral ambiguity of the cow-hammer toss. Moo.

Arkham Horror

I’ve wanted to play this Lovecraftian horror board game ever since I heard Mur Lafferty mention it on Geek Fu Action Grip. I’ve known there was a copy of the game sitting at Comics Heaven in Willoughby for at least six months, but I’ve never been willing to plunk down fifty bucks of my hardly earned cash to make it mine. Once again, Miscellaneous G™ came to the rescue; he plucked the game from the very shelf where I’d seen it on numerous occasions and completed the requisite financial transaction like a true capitalist.

For a board game, the rules of Arkham Horror are pretty hefty, and there are many, many different types of cards and tokens. After a few rounds, we started to get the hang of it. Unfortunately, it was right around that time that the one o’clock hour drew nigh, and we decided to bring the evening’s activities to a close. The Ancient One had not yet awakened from its slumber (though the Young One did), but there were monsters roaming the streets of Arkham and several gates to Other Worlds had been opened (and one closed). I look forward to playing this game from start to finish in the (hopefully) near future.

Between the Wii and Arkham Horror, we didn’t have time to bust out Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Burnout: Revenge on the Xbox, and we were one person short for a game of Apples to Apples, but there will be other Game Nights for all of those things.