Crystal Clans box

Plaid Hat Games is probably my favorite board and card game company. They have created several games that have been favorites of myself and my children. The first game of theirs that I bought was Mice and Mystics, several years ago. It was our family’s first dungeon crawl board game. It immediately became our favorite game. That game led to me deciding to experiment with full blown role-playing games with my children once I saw how much my children loved the aspects of role-playing games that were in Mice and Mystics. It was also the first game that I painted the miniatures for. Plaid Hat put out a PDF giving instructions on how to paint the game and I decided to give it a go. Fast forward years later and I and my children are loving the hobby of miniatures gaming and painting. Right now, my children are painting the miniatures for Stuffed Fables, the spiritual successor to Mice and Mystics. Both of those game, Stuffed Fables and Mice and Mystics, are my recommendations for the two best tabletop games for parents to play with their elementary school children.

But before Plaid Hat Games put out games with miniatures in them, they put out a card game where the cards stood in for miniatures. The game was Summoner Wars. Summoner Wars happens to be a favorite with the students in my after-school game club. The game is one of the miniatures games that wears its evolutionary descent from chess on its sleeve. Thus, it’s a good game to introduce to a school club that centers around chess. Of course, once the students played Summoner Wars they didn’t want to do chess anymore… But Summoner Wars is now out of print and getting harder and harder to find for purchase.

So, enter Crystal Clans! Crystal Clans is the newest 2-player card game from Plaid Hat Games. Once again, cards are standing in for miniatures. But this game is not simply Summoner Wars 2.0. It’s definitely its own game as much as any two miniatures games are their own games. Obviously, you will see some similarities to Summoner Wars, based on their mutual chess/ miniatures lineage, but those similarities do not define the game by any means. So, let’s take a look at the game…... and……. compare it to Summoner Wars along the way!

Monsterpocalypse Boxes

Monsterpocalypse has arrived! I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this game since I saw it announced. I love the Kaiju monster battle theme and liked the pre-released images I saw of the game. King of Tokyo and King of New York have been favorite board games of myself and my children for years now. The idea of transforming the board game experience into a miniatures game was very exciting for us. I even ordered the special GenCon exclusive Cthugrosh monster miniature off Privateer Press's website. But I have now gotten the two starter sets and built the models. My children have played their first game against each other (with me cheering both of them on) this evening. The first game took about 2 hours for my children to complete (subsequent games should be much faster). It was a down-to-the-wire finish with both of their monsters down to one health point a piece. They were holding their breaths on the final dice roll my son made. If he didn't make the roll and win, his sister was sure to make her roll on the next turn and win with her fully powered up monster... He happened to be ganging up all four of his small units with weapons on her monster, because his own monster was out of power (dice)... Units are extremely weak compared to monsters... It was anything but a sure thing...

So here are my detailed thoughts on the game.

Here's an interesting Ted Talk about the power of tabletop role-playing games.

This looks like it is going to be such an awesome miniatures game. You basically have Godzilla, Power Rangers, and Robotech forces versus Wellsian Martians, Cthlulu, and Alien Planet Eaters. What a great theme. In the game your monsters will be taking control of buildings to power themselves up. The terrain of buildlings is an essential part of the game beyond just providing cover, as in normal miniatures games. This terrain is destructible because giant monsters like to throw each other into buildings. Everybody knows that's what they do. If all the Kaiju movies throughout history and the Pacific Rim movies more recently have taught us anything, it's that. Thankfully, after watching all those movies the human race is prepared for when it happens. We all know to start running for the countryside when the monsters arrive. And knowing is half the battle! Thank goodness!

I'm glad Privateer Press are the ones doing this game, because they know how to make smart miniatures games with quality miniatures. And Privateer Press is probably the second biggest miniatures company out there in terms of market share right now. They are doing the launch right by releasing 4 factions right from the get go. So you'll see a nice variety of forces fielded by players right away. I have learned that's very important in making a miniatures game successful. (I'm looking at you, Fantasy Flight...)

I really hope this lives up to the hype!

KeyFOrge image from FFG's website

Fantasy Flight Games has announced a new card game they will be releasing this year called KeyForge. I think this card game sounds like the most interesting modern card game I've ever heard of. First of all, the designer is Richard Garfield. Richard is the designer of the world's first and still most popular collectible card game, Magic The Gathering.

The Duke is a modern take on a chess-like abstract game. It's been around for 5 years now and is out of print. There will be a new version of it coming out before long, however. So I have wanted to get my hands on a copy of The Duke for use in my after school strategy gaming club for a while, but it sells at exorbitant prices due to its current out of print status. I was finally able to grab a used copy from someone through the virtual flee market at Dice Tower Con for a low cost, however. So, now that I finally have my hands on it, how does it compare with its progenitor, Chess? Let's see.

Krosmaster Arena Junior is a simplified version of a standard grid based miniatures game. The underlying point of the game is to teach young children the basics of miniatures combat games. The game teaches children concepts such as health points, attacks, blocks, critical hits, movement points, attacks of opportunity, dodges, terrain use, resource gathering, commanders and units, and range vs. melee attacks. When you consider that miniatures games are an evolution of chess it's quite an impressive list of additional things for a child to manage mentally in a game beyond what is already in chess. Non-tabletop gamers often view chess as an example of a very complicated game. But if you take chess and give each of the pieces multiple attack types (melee and ranged), terrain to use as cover, different levels of health, possibilities of critical hits, reflex attack possibilities on units close by, and resource gathering to purchase additional units, the additional complexity sounds mind numbing to an inexperienced person. Now along comes Krosmaster Arena Junior with the mission of teaching this complexity to 7 year olds who may have never played any tabletop game with complexity beyond Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Put within that context it is quite a lofty goal for a young children's game.

Starfinder is a fun new roleplaying game by Paizo. The setting of the game is a mixing of science-fiction and fantasy, somewhat like Star Wars is. It is perhaps slightly more towards the science-fiction side than Star Wars in feel, but it is not as far towards science-fiction as Star Trek. The story setting is that Golarion, the world of Paizo's Pathfinder game, a fantasy clone of Dungeons and Dragons, has disappeared and no one knows why. It is now thousands of years in the future and  the descendants of everyone that used to be on Golarion have somehow kind of woken up and found themselves on a huge space station that inhabits the space where the world Golarion used to be. Nobody knows what happened to Golarion and know one knows how they ended up on this space station. They call this time period comprising the destruction of Golarion and and thousands of years after it "The Gap" since it is unknown to anyone what happened during that time. However, the Golarion refugees (if you will) have explored the Space Station and found that it is run by technology beyond their understanding. The space station is powered  by a mysterious thing they have labeled the "Starstone." It provides apparently limitless energy and has the ability to act like a homing beacon in "The Drift." The Drift is Starfinder's equivalent of hyperspace. The Starstone makes the space station kind of like the center of the Drift so that anyone trying to get from one part of the Galaxy to another can more easily and quickly jump to the space station than anywhere else, no matter the distance. So the inhabitants named the space station Absalom Station and turned it into the center of commerce and government for the Pact Worlds (the collection of worlds in the solar system). Various alien races live on the station as ambassadors or traders for their home planets. And of course a lot of beings who have left their home planets for various other reasons sort of wash ashore to the station. On the station there is an organization called the Starfinder Society which specializes in hiring out adventurers and scholars to advance the cause of knowledge in the Pact Worlds. The Starfinder Society is hoping to find out what happened during the Gap as well as seek out new lifeforms and civilizations on new worlds beyond the Pact Worlds solar system (ala Star Trek). They found out that there was a pre-Gap organization called Pathfinder Society on Golarion and so they named themselves after that. Thus the players of the game are fresh adventurer recruits working for this organization.

Star Wars: Legion is Fantasy Flight Games latest game to be produced with its Star Wars license. Fantasy Flight has previously released Star Wars: The Card Game (a 2 player "living" card game where new packs of cards are released every month or so), Star Wars: Imperial Assault (a cooperative "dungeon crawl" RPG-light board game with a miniatures skirmish mode and regularly released character and mission expansions), Star Wars : The Role Playing Game (three different tabletop role playing game lines of products that can be combined), Star Wars: X-Wing (their first miniatures game with pre-painted fighter space ships), Star Wars: Armada (their second miniatures game with pre-painted capital space ships), and finally Star Wars: Rebellion (a regular board game).

The big question with Star Wars: Legion is if it is worth getting into yet another Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight, particularly with its similarity to Star Wars: Imperial Assault's skirmish mode. Imperial Assault has very nice miniatures compared to other board games so why not just stick with that? Well, there are quite a few differences between the two games. I believe there is enough of a difference between what they both offer that I collect both. So this review is going to cover Legion itself, as well as compare it a little to Imperial Assault to help prospective buyers decide if they want to just get one or the other game or go with both.