a Change of Tempo

The Reading Half is finally out of the way. By my standards it didn't go too well, with a finishing time of 1 hour and 33 minutes...my goal was always to get round without an injury however, and that was aciheved, so we'll call it a draw and move on.

The next race is a triathlon in May, and before then I have to get myself upto speed on a bike. I intend to cycle into work every day over summer, and build up the confidence and speed on the machine. This weekend I bolted a cycle computer to it, nad I now know that I cycle at about 20 miles an hour, with my target being 25. It should be achieveable, just need to get the feel of putting the power down into the pedals. I also need to sort out some outdoor swimming practice, as I'd rather not have my first wetsuit swim being "in anger".

In other, non-exercise related things, the Descent Team recently finished a rather long campaign (we reckon about a year in total). Byrnie did sterling work as the Overlord, and managed to go into the finale with a decent lead, and we all thought that it would be a brutal death to the heores, however the game was against Byrnie in a quite horrendous way, and in aspects we never really thought about, resulting in a fairly unexpected (and rather un-climactic) win for the Hero team late on Saturday/early on Sunday. Overall it was a good experience, though I think we are all feeling a bit of balance-fatigue and rulebook-exposure. There is a plan to take a session or two's break, and then start another campaign.

We've been having a few Left4Dead online sessions, which are a riot. It's quite possibly the best team-based game I've played, as it actually involves working together (not just playing together). In three weeks time an expansion comes out for it, which should add to the fun no end! My xBox360, on the other hand, is currently sitting at a repair site in Germany, after deciding to stop outputting sound. The Microsoft support system for them is actually fairly comprehensive, and after two phone calls doing trouble-shooting a pickup from UPS was arranged. This weekend I picked up a cheap copy of House of the Dead:Overkill for the Wii, and it's quite possibly the most hilarious game I've played in a long time. Gill and myself spent a cracking afternoon blasting our way through the initial campaign. The entire theme of the game is done out in a camped-up 70's psychodelic horror (the closest film similie I can reference is House of 1000 Corpses, which I'm fairly certain in turn takes it's style from another, older film).

We have a holiday sorted for Wales in a few weeks time, which is promising to be an eclectic blend of walking, boardgames, consoles and food, with the pleasant backdrop of the Gower peninsula. I'm dragging along my bike, a wetsuit and a kite, though I probably won't try and use them all at the same time. Fingers crossed that the weather holds on, as for the last couple of weeks it's actually been rather spendid. I'll also have a couple of crates of games, including Smallworld, if it decides to arrive on time...

If the weather does hold on, then this weekend (Easter weekend) I plan to finish prepping the garden for summer. We spent a couple od days tediously scrubbing and cleaning the decking, ready for a new coat of stain. I've tried to seed the patches in the lawn as well, but it doesn't seem to have taken (and the bloody pidgeons have eaten it all now!). Once it's serviceable then I suspect there may well be a barbeque planned...well, it would be rude not to!


It has been great fun playing descent but a lot of the problems we observed with the normal game carried over to the campaign in addition to the normal fantasy flight ambiguous rules syndrome endemic in their games. I wish the campaign had been more coherent rather than the actions in the game being largely irrelevant except as a mechanism for leveling the characters the board game equivalent of grinding. If they had tied the end game into the main game a bit better and made the plot stuff more important it would have been a more satisfying experience for all concerned I think more of an epic fight than a exercise in collecting enough bad arse spells and weapons to win one final battle.

Still it was a fun game, hearty congratulations to my fellow heroes and commiserations to the evil overlord of applewood forest and thanks for an enjoyable game. That hat is a worthy opponent, forged in the hardships of a gruelling alpine crossing it knows no fear.

Ah the joy of the xbox360 repair service system, being on my 3rd console now I too have enjoyed its subtle pleasures. Sometimes it's quicker than others and they send the reconditioned console quickly (the first time I had a new one in single working day) other times it takes weeks.

Overkill is great fun, ridiculously over the top even more so than normal house of the dead games.

Evilmatt's picture

A couple of people have recommended a game called Battlestations, which is a sci-fi game where most players play the crew running a ship on a mission. From what I can work out the "evil" player has a slightly different role, slightly more akin to a traditional GM...

It's quite interesting going through the dungeon-bash games, and they all seem to suffer from balance issues. Most don't even attempt campaign rules, and those that do tend to suffer from balance creep. As I was listing off what I considered our requirements on BGG

  • Team-Based / Co-Op play
  • No player elimination
  • Balanced campaign rules
  • Un-ambiguous ruleset
  • Oodles of theme

Descent struggles on 3 and 4. 4 could be fixed by FFG hiring a decent rule editor, and a review of the million and one question threads on various forums, however 3 is a little trickier to master I guess...

babychaos's picture

I can cut them a little slack for the balance as it's probably quite difficult to balance a campaign like that given the length of time it takes to run it and the expense of playtesting multiple versions it would need to tweak it. But then Descent started out as horrendously unbalanced so it wasn't like they were working from a solid foundation.

The rule set thing just seems to be stupidity on their part.

Evilmatt's picture

I now have a copy of Battlestations, and in the process of digesting the rules. I've also been huting down a copy of the expansion Galactic Civil War, which adds Fighter Bays to your ships, and Powered Armour. It's out of print at the moment, however I emailed the games designer and he's let me know that there is a limited print run coming in this month, and has put me in touch with the UK distributor...

...as a bit of luck, it's Esdevium, who are the stockists for Eclectic. They've let me know that they are putting in an order, and to let Darrell know to keep an eye out for it.

It will be very interesting to see how it plays, as it is very much a mix of RPG and boardgame. The players form a crew for a spaceship (and 4 players is the recommended number, to cover the job roles of marine, pilot, engineer and scientist). Each character has 5 skills (athletics, piloting, engineering, combat, science), and nearly all actions in the game are based on these, with the typical mechanism being;

  • 2D6 + skill vs TARGET NUMBER

Target Number is typically about 7 plus/minus modifiers (some equipment or support brings it down, repeated actions, hard moves etc put it up). Players will also have racial traits, special abilities, professional abilities and Luck (see below) that allows rerolls to dice.
For example, a Pilot may reroll 1 of the 2D6 whenever he makes a Piloting-based check. If he was a Human pilot he could choose to reroll both (other races get abilities such as damage reduction, allowing them to reroll a dice that determines how hard they are hit). All players also have a Luck pool of rerolls (6 for most characters) for use per game. The upshot of this is that anyone can do anything, however characters focused in a skill area will naturally be better.

As far as roles go...

  • Piloting is used to fly the Spaceship (Helm module), Fighters (Fighter Bay) and use a Jetpack (equipment).
  • Engineering can get more power from the Engines, repair modules, and use the Tractor Beam module.
  • Science uses Teleporters, the Science Bay (see below) and the Warp Drive
  • Combat is used for all shooting, including Missile Bays (module) and the Cannon (module)
  • Athletics determines Hit Points and general survivability.

The Science Bay allows yes/no questions to be asked about the surrounding area of the GM (the target roll being 2D6+SCIENCE vs distance to target of question). Its also used for Target Locks on enemy vehicles (which in turn allow a reroll when shooting).

A typical mission would be;
1) Warp in (random facing about 12-15 space hexes from target)
2) Clear area of hostiles (ship-to-ship combat)
3) Board target
4) Capture objective (downloading data, pick up object, rescue people blah blah blah)
5) Leave

It does look a little bit vicious on the player-death side of things, though you are cloned for future missions (for example, if you are in a module hit during ship-to-ship combat, you may well die...low odds of being hit, but fairly nasty if you are). This can be mitigated by supplying bots, which are emergency crew members.

Campaign-wise, it's dealt with by determining ship size and enemy crew levels by determining a Mission Difficulty, which in turn is determined from Total Rank of players (read experience levels). It's also "tweakable" by the GM (who is not an Overlord in this game).

All-in-all it seems pretty well thought out...

babychaos's picture

Sounds interesting, bit different from descent doom etc but then variety is the spice of life as they say.

I like the flexibility of everyone being able to do everything but some people are better than others. The idea of working as a crew and everyone having a role in the crew seems interesting.

Evilmatt's picture

I bumped into Aggro at lunchtime, and his initial thoughts were that everyone would be a combat marine...

...which would be funny when you were trying to dock and board an enemy vessel, and everyone is in the Helm trying to work out how to make the ship go left!

The way experience is done if you die on a mission you gain prestige (and therefore rank), but not experience, which means you'll end up with a leader who is probably overall worse than the low rank peons who keep everything running...

Went to Eclectic at lunchtime, and they were more than happy to put the pre-order in for me, so fingers crossed I'll have hold of the expansion rules reasonably soon :-)

babychaos's picture

All of us as combat marines ... only if there is an option to wear unfeasable amounts of armour ... at least 10x what everyone else has ... that's just how I roll.

Although jetpacks

Evilmatt's picture

Ahh, with that I believe you are referring to;

Powered Armour, one of the reasons I'm getting the expansion... If you want to really up the survival stakes, you can also be a sentient pile of rocks (aka Silicoid)...

babychaos's picture

hmmm a sentient pile or rock you say, I would guess there would be some slight agility penalty for being made of granite.

Evilmatt's picture

You are a little slower than normal, and I believe you only have one hand (ohh, here we go. Move 5 (compared to human of 5), subtract D6 from all damage, +1 damage in hand-to-hand, and +10 carry limit. You're a little easier to hit.

Alternately you could be a Xelosian (6-armed floating starfish, can use empty hands to increase movement, and good with guns)...

...or a Zoallan (3-armed, 3-legged cockroach, with built-in armour)...

...the Tentacs are a mass to tentacles, with infinite hands, hard to hit, and reroll all incoming damage...

...or the Canosian, basically a living tumbleweed, which gets to move every turn as a bonus action...

...or Human, who merely get to reroll both of their dice for all Profession checks.

There is a race in the expansion called Whisters, who look like dandilion seeds, and they get a free jet-pack move every turn, but are really easy to shoot...

Every race has it's own ship layouts as well, with specific rules;
Human ships are easier to manoevre
Tentac ones ignore facing rules
Canosians have better shields
...and I can't remember the others :-(

babychaos's picture

I'm really looking forward to this. I have the distinct impression it's going to be a blast. Even if the system is a mess, any game that lets me play a one-armed ambulatory geological feature in power armour has got to be worth playing.

AggroBoy's picture

now if we can combine this with galaxy truckers and then add in twilight imperium for the overriding game we'll have the ultimate board game

Evilmatt's picture

The ship targetting system is very Galaxy Trucker (in that your ship is built on a grid, and you roll 2D6 to determine hit location), so not putting your Helm on the 7 line is always advisable.

Also, the shots all seem to have the "piercing projectiles" "feature".

babychaos's picture