Monthly Archives: January 2014

TMNT Game – Optional Rules

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the board game is an MB game TV tie-in with one of the many animated series that have been made in recent years.  I’ll begin with a confession – I love the turtles!  My first encounter with them was in TMNT the Role Playing Game, and I was hooked from that moment on.  Having said that, in the RPG you play as other mutant animals and so the actual turtle characters don’t get a look in (at least in the games we played).  I do fondly remember my mutant horse private investigator character.  I decided I could do without fingers in order to retain hooves with which to punch people (I’ll get the answers, someone else can do the paperwork!).

Anyway, I digress.  The game is for all those aged 6+ and is (as you’d expect) a pretty simple affair.  You get yourself from one end of the board to the other, beating up bad guys as you go, use a keycard or dynamite to bust into Shredder’s hideout and beat him up too.  Then it’s back to the sewers and pizza all round before you can say “Cowabunga!”.

The gameplay is heavily dice driven, with custom dice for combat – which works pretty well.  There is a custom d6 marked 2 to 7 for movement, but as you have to stop whenever you hit a new chit (which litter the board like .. um .. litter) that aspect is pretty meaningless.  The cartoon artwork is straight out of the Fox Kids series (and therefore awesome) and it plays out very quickly.

However, my younger son (aged 7) was not satisfied.  He insisted that we assign special powers to each character, and made me write them down.  Now, whenever we play, we use these rules.  He is definitely going to be a games designer when he grows up.  Marvel at the simplicity and balance to these powers.  See how they create additional interest and spice without descending into complexity or breaking the gameplay.  Wonder as … well – you get the picture.

So, in case you’re interested, and maybe even would like to try these rules for yourself, here they are …

Raphael: can reroll combat dice once per turn

Michelangelo: can use buildings as movement spaces

Donatello: can pass over one token without revealing it each turn (only if he is not in the sewers)

Leonardo: can turn over two tokens per turn – the one he’s standing on and one which is next to him

Shredder: can summon one bad guy token each turn to come and help him in battle

There you have it.  You’ll never look at this game the same way again. As the box says:

Time to apply some Turtle whacks!

You’re welcome, Internet!

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Clash of Civilizations

Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him:
“What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee?”

And Hezekiah said:
“They are come from a far country, even from Babylon.”

And he said,
“What have they seen in thine house?”

And Hezekiah answered,
“All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.”

And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah,
“Hear the word of the Lord. Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

2 Kings 20:14-18

I start with this … observation … about the character and, let us say, track record of the Babylonian civilization for no particular reason.  And certainly not, because it throws any light whatsoever on the events which unfolded this weekend.

We gathered, the seven leaders of fledging stone age tribes which would – in the millennia which followed – develop into giants of civilizations which would stride across the known world like the very Colossus at the harbour in Rhodes.

My own experience of this game stretches back to my school days, when we spent many, many hours creating (and destroying) civilizations courtesy of Civilization and then Advanced Civilization, with their iconic jigsaw style boards.  I still have some of the components from that original set (which did not used to belong to me) including some of the “house rules” we liked to observe:

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Some decades passed, and then I met a man at an underground venue who told me he knew where I could score another game of Civ.  Foolishly, I took him up on the offer and the addiction (which had only been dormant – never extinct) resurfaced like a submarine with fake reactor problems from the Sean Connery film “The Hunt for Red October”.

I have a soft spot for Illyria due to its “Twelfth Night” connections and was third to choose – so managed to get the thinking man’s civilization.

CAPTAIN.
This is Illyria, lady.

VIOLA.
And what should I do in Illyria?

Twelfth Night, Act 1

What should I do in Illyria? It is a good question, Viola.

Mostly building cities and learning new skills – that’s what gets you victory points in this game.  Also exchanging an unusually erudite class of table banter.

Very early in the game, the Cretans took two cities in what I would ordinarily regard as Illyrian territory:

With the benefit of hindsight, I should not have allowed this to stand.  I was too generous, and ought to have protected my boundaries with more vigour.  It left me too hemmed in for building cities – I think I had a maximum of six the whole game.  Although a protracted conflict is to no-one’s benefit in this game, my neighbours to the East and West (Asia and Italia) were both understanding and co-operative.  I ought to have joined them in their sporadic assaults on Greater Crete.

Ah well.  It ended with a Cretan victory.  We did not complete the game to the end, but my 1,777 points were good enough for a mid-table finish (4/7).  Egypt were a close second, and had the game played to its conclusion may have even stolen the win.  Babylon had a solid collection of Civ advances, but a series of costly calamaties and conflicts hampered their development too much.

The second new era game also ended before completion.  It is an unapologetically long game, but a lot of the start of it feels like set-up.  Perhaps one solution would be to have a bronze-age set up – so that it plays to the end more quickly – maybe there’s something like this on BoardGameGeek?

DUKE.
“If music be the food of love, play on;”
Twelfth Night, Act 1

Space Cadets – damage report

I never wanted to go to space. I never sat gazing at the stars, yearning to be among them as they burned their stellar invitations in the night sky. There was always enough to explore here, on Earth…

Hmm. It’s easy to forget. There, on Earth, I should say. Estranged planet of my birth. Home. Despite the cards life had dealt me, it was still my home, it was – it is, still where I belong. And now, I’ll probably never see it again. So this is my fond farewell to a planet over three million years away – which may not even exist any more. My body may be minutes away from being abandoned to the cold vacuum of space, but my soul’s coming home at last.

I was only trying to buy a copy of Monopoly …

No, wait. I think that’s the plot from Red Dwarf, isn’t it?

Whereas I’m here to tell you about Space Cadets. Space Cadets is a cooperative board game for 3-7 players, played against the clock, where you take the roles of spaceship personnel trying to steer an increasingly ramshackle craft through uncharted space and collect the space treasure – returning to your own galaxy / dimension / time zone before the whole damn thing explodes, killing every last man, woman and alien life form on board.

Actually, it is a bit like Red Dwarf – and in a good way, too. Do you remember that episode where the crew are tracking some object through space and Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and Holly are all on the bridge tapping away on their computers, and all talking across and over each other at the same time. And it’s really tense moments because the object could be anything, hostile robots, space junk, aliens! And then the whole apparatus goes down because Cat has unplugged it all to use his hairdryer?

The whole game is a lot like that. And if you think that sounds like smeg loads of fun, then you’d be dead right.

The basic gameplay is basically performing ostensibly simply tasks of manual dexterity and/or mental agility under high pressure circumstances. Which is fun. But you get to play at space ships while you’re doing it. And quote lines from Star Trek and Babylon 5 and, yes, even Red Dwarf at each other. Which is really fun – if you like that sort of thing (which I do)!

So, I started out in charge of Engineering, which means doing a funny little 7-piece jigsaw puzzle. The object is to try and get as many complete circles in your puzzle, which translate to energy capsules for various parts of the ship.  So, if your shipmate wants to fire torpedoes, first of all I have to earn some weapons energy circle thingys.  Then, later in the turn, the weapons guy has to do some Tetris puzzles to load the torpedoes and a shove ha’penny game to fire them.

Each of the stations in the game operates in a similar way – with minigames for scanning, tractor beam, helm, damage repair, shields etc etc etc.  Having acquitted myself with such high honours in Engineering, a shift change meant a well earned promotion for me.  I took the news with surprising humility and settled into a role I was clearly born to – although not all of the crew took the news so well.

To tell the truth, my captaincy did not last very long.  We managed to grab a second space crystal (not a euphemism for drugs!) of the three required for victory and made an ill-fated attempt to jump to hyperspace.  Turns out that, while in engineering, I ought to have been doing something called “Jump prep” – which would have been useful…

Still, the effort was bravely made and our adventures have been recorded for Space Corps staff training purposes.

I have been told that Space Alert is a much better game. I haven’t played Space Alert, but Cadets is certainly a great fun evening of sci-fi gaming, so it gets my recommendation.