Sunday, October 28, 2018

Runebound: A Solo Review

In my quest (pun intended) for a good solo game, I've stumbled into Runebound. Before the latest expansion, Unbreakable Bonds, there were no official solo rules. The reality is, though, there's not much to the solo rules in this expansion and the game can be easily played solo without it.

However, the game itself is worthwhile. Of course, it is a better game with more players, but one can have a reasonably good time playing alone, controlling a single character.  There are several decent videos on YouTube which detail how to play the game, as well as show game play in progress. So, I will not get into a lengthy discussion of what is all involved in the game.

Simply put, each player controls a character, moving it across the board in search of combat and quests. These are determined by drawing cards from one of three adventure decks, depending upon the type of encounter...encountered. Combat, in this 3rd edition is actually intriguing. Instead of dice, players cast double-sided "runes" which have various icons, depending upon the character and their gear, that have different uses in a combat round. Where the recent expansion excels is in that there are now four different combat boards, one for each major archetype of NPC enemy. Each board is slightly different and so combat is varied and can become a real threat to the players' characters. In fact, in my game last night, I lost, barely, as I could not get off my own damaging attack before the final boss hit me with his. Had I just one more point of health or had I been able to do a single point of additional damage, I'd have won the game. As it is, that game was a good one and it did feel tense, at times.

Where there is a lingering problem for the solo player is the limited replayability of the game. The main game has two main quests/campaigns and each expansion adds to this. However, once these have been completed, the player can either run through them again, using a different character or just repeat it again and again. There's not much interest in me to repeat the same thing over and again and this is where I wish there was a bit more meat to the game.

I do believe it would be a simple thing to create an expansion of several dozen campaigns (a campaign is just a major campaign, not at all like a campaign in Descent or other dungeon delving games). As each current campaign is limited to two Acts, of twelve turns each, a series of one Act mini-campaigns that are linked to an overarching major campaign is not impossible. Heck, even including campaigns of up to four or more Acts would not be a bad thing, for the solo player. I'd not want to play such a lengthy game with three others.

One of the expansions adds to the PVP aspect of the game. It was originally intended to be a competitive game, but UB also provides cooperative rules, in addition to the solo rules. But, a solo player really has not use for the PVP rules at all, even if playing as more than one character.

Considering that the 2nd edition of the game had more expansions, then there is hope for the future.

I have all of the current expansions and intend to play through them. I will run the campaign that I lost, last night, again and if I win, will move on to the first expansion's offerings. At least, that is my plan.

But, such a plan may well change as I've a new game that arrived this week... which I will blog about in the near future.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Vast: A Solo Review

Vast: The Crystal Caverns is a dungeon crawler-lite game. What is most interesting about it is that each player plays a unique character that plays unlike any of the other characters. Now, most other dungeon crawlers that I have played, or am aware of, have different characters with maybe some variance in stats, skills, and starting equipment, but in Vast each character has completely different play mechanisms from the others.

Players, from one to five, can play as the Cave (yes, the dungeon itself), the Dragon, the Thief, the Knight, and the Goblins. The Cave lays down the dungeon tiles and events, attempting to thwart the other players' victory conditions by collapsing and killing all the others. The Dragon wins by escaping the Cave. The Thief has to steal five items. The Knight's job is to kill the Dragon. The Goblins are trying to kill the Knight. The Fearsome Foes expansion adds the Ghost, Ghoul, and Unicorn characters.

I've only played the solo version of the rules, but it looks to me like a multi-player game of at least three would be quite fun and entertaining.However, the solo rules, and it does come with rules for playing every character, except the Cave, solo, do not make for a very fun experience.

I've played solo as the Knight and it was truly a cakewalk, with no tension or feeling of foreboding. The knight starts with basic stats and additional action cubes, allowing her (yes, the Knight is female should anyone care) to move and explore/resolve encounters. She can earn more action cubes by earning Grit by performing certain actions, such as exploring a new tile or discarding a found treasure instead of equipping it.

Perhaps I was expecting more and disappointed from too high expectations, but I cannot imagine that playing as any of the other solo characters would have made much difference in the experience. I got about 3/4s of the way through the stack of tiles and just wanted to quit playing. Yet, I endeavored to persevere and finished the game with a big yawn.

Don't get me wrong, I am not unhappy with my purchase. I think this will be a fun intro game to players new to modern board gaming, and a nice filler after a meatier game ends early on a game night. I bought two of the available expansions (I am unlikely to by the miniatures expansion, although I was tempted to do so) and will probably get any others that add to the game play.

I do like how the backs of the tiles determine which goblin band can show up where, and the fact that they provide meeples for the characters as well as standees. I very much like the different play mechanics for each character. And I also like that the game plays fairly quickly. It is the the solo play that felt like a let down. This may be simply the product of solo play, lacking the banter and struggling with deciding how to beat the other players instead of the game, but I think solo rules should account for this in their design.

Yet, If you are looking for a lite multi-player game that would give a bit of fun for little involvement or investment, then you cannot go wrong with Vast.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Dice City, A solo review

As I've left behind my gaming group and am now literally in Indian Country (no offense to my Native American friends), I am having to dig down deep and resort to solo gaming, for the most part. I do have some folks who want to play games, but we're not at a point where we can do that yet (I need a table and chairs!). So, I am slowly buying games that can be played solo, as well as multiplayer.

Last night, I got out my recently arrived, Dice City. I had viewed several videos on YouTube, showing game play and more, and I thought it to be a decent 3 and 4 player game. That is could also be played solo is was sold me on buying it.

So, I punched out a the few pieces that I would need and went to work.

The box has four player boards, which was nice as I half expected I'd need a second box to get to 3-4 people in it. The artwork on the accompanying cards and board is a nice and full of heavily stylized imagery. The rulebook is full color, as is now the expensive trend, and there is a plastic organizer tray in the box, which means I wouldn't need to shell out another $25-$40 for a laser cut insert.

The rule book is fairly good, although it would benefit from several examples of game play and some of the rules specific to certain cards is...somewhat vague. The game is simple and straight forward, though. One rolls 5 different colored dice, which correspond to colors along the edge of the player boards. The resulting pips on a die also correspond to columns on the player board, giving one coordinates as to spaces the dice should now be individually placed.

Some of the board spaces are production sites, others add strength to one's "army" and still others allow one to re-roll the die or to gain victory points. So far so good.

The various cards that are available are either trade ships, enemy armies, production sites, or buildings. The first three are always out and available, either being a source of victory points or goods. The buildings provide a number of different bonuses, depending upon their type. To buy a card, one expends resources gained, although only one of each of the three resources (timber, stone, iron) can be saved each turn.

In a multi-player game, the players can attack other players' buildings, causing them to not produce or be useable until repaired, but in the solo game, this option is non-existent and the solo rules do not provide for an alternative threat

In the solo rules, one is playing against the clock with 4 (or 5) building cards being drawn each turn, slowly burning down the deck, and the bottom of two rows of cards being discarded at the end of each turn (after the build phase). In this way, cards are available for purchase for a maximum of two turns. Purchased cards can be placed anywhere on the board, even over other cards, which are now discarded and out of play.

An interesting aspect of the game is that although the dice are placed on specific spots on the board, the player can use them in different ways. One is to remove one die to shift another die to a different (more useful) space on its own row.  So, I can pick up the red die and move the blue die to another spot on the blue row.

The solo objective is to reach 50 victory points, or more if the player finds the game too easy. Victory points can be awarded in several ways, the main one being by building purchase, defeating the enemy armies, or purchasing trade ships.

As mentioned before, I think this is a decent, not great, game for 3 to 4 players and I think with 2 players it would be far less interesting. As a solo game, it is downright uninteresting and boring.

It comes down to whether or not one can produce enough goods, based on the die roll, to purchase enough cards to get to 50 (or more) victory points before the building deck runs out.

To me, this was like playing Solitaire with a deck of standard playing cards....yawn. There was no excitement or tension. And honestly, had I "lost" the game (I had 64 points before the game ended), it would have been solely due to my not having enough resources to buy the "right" buildings in time.


I think a better way to handle the solo play would be to have the enemy armies attack, with the player's buildings possibly being damaged as a result. As there are three different size of enemy army, they could come in rounds; no attack, small army, medium army, large army, no attack, etc. But, this would force the player to develop army buildings, instead of using the die rolls to help determine the size of his army (as otherwise happens as one can pursue victory without every using an army), and then hope that the die rolls always give enough troops to ward off the enemy. But...this means the player loses options that he would otherwise have, and be forced to play to the new meta.

In the end, I do not recommend this game if one is going to play it solo. There's no meat and the bone is rather weedy. On the other hand, I do see some potential fun when playing with at least three players.

A final note: There are three expansions out for this game, but none appear to sort out the uninteresting solo play, while the multi-player experience may well be enhanced.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Still Here. A Short Update

As much as I want to get back to regular blogging, including posts about solo gaming, I've just been slammed with the realities of the new job, the new town, the move and issues related to moving across the country, etc.

I'm in a graduate program for an MA in military history, as I have mentioned in the past, but I am now also in another graduate course for Native American history and culture in education. The latter is essentially a course that will help me know how to be a better teacher on the reservation; how to relate to students who have a somewhat unique experience, at least one very different from every other minority group in the States.

In the meantime, I have been trying to put my rather limited "free money" towards boardgames that offer something for the solo player. I have recently picked up two, but I have been very disappointed in some sellers on BoardGameGeek who either ignored my order completely or cancelled it due to some lame excuse or another. I am trying to get Dungeon Alliance, as it appears to be an excellent game for solo players, and may be even be fun for 4 players. The publishers recently finished a 2nd printing Kickstarter, which I missed out on (due to the move) and are taking orders for more on their website, but I've not got the dosh for it at the moment. sigh.

I've also got some feelers out for other games, which I also need to save up for some pre-orders on further print runs. Sadly, I missed on on two excellent solo games, sold via Kickstarter, which now exceed $250 for a copy. Which is way out of my price range/budget. I am kicking myself over it, as I have very few 1-player games out of my nearly 200 board games.

I am hoping to have some fellow teachers over before Christmas time, and perhaps during that time off, to play some games, but I need to buy a table, some chairs, a couple of lamps, etc., which will take time.

I also need a work table for the basement, as I am planning on casting up some more figures using the Prince August molds that I have. I have many plans, but limited budget and time. Alas...

This coming monday is a holiday, Native American Day (Columbus Day most anywhere else in the USA), and I intend to play one of my new acquisitions and take photos. Eventually, my plan (another bloody plan) is to have a video camera and do some video play-throughs and game reviews.

Well, that is all for now. I keep peeking at other blogs and am a regular lurker on TMP and BGG, so I have my head in the game, if not my wallet.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Where No Man Has Gone Before...

Way back, I mean WAY back, in that decadent decade of the 1980s, I owned a little brown computer known as the Commodore 64. Man, that was unbelievably liberating in that I did not have to rely on "friends" in order to play a game. I worked for a large-box retailer, at that time, and I was all too often working on Friday and Saturday nights, being then unable to play Battletech or some other game with my old chums. That little computer-that-could, chugging away with the amazing 64kb of memory was heaven sent.

Fast forward through a time when I was fixated with Apple Computer's Macintosh line, which took a nosedive by the early 2000s, until I returned to the world of Windows driven computers. Now, I loathe Macroshaft as much as the next guy, but I have to admit that they have the PC game market cornered.

Which leads me to my current state of affairs. No friends living nearby. All of my board games and miniatures having to remain in boxes until I can buy some furniture, including tables and shelves. And I get to the point where my trusty laptop is my sole source of gaming entertainment (sorry, but mobile games are, imo, useless and potentially moneysinks).

A few weeks before I moved, I saw No Man's Sky on sale on Steam. Now, I had heard and read some of the bad press from when it was originally released and I think it perhaps did deserve much of that at the time, but the NEXT update, which came out near the end of July, changed all of that, at least for me.

So far, I have sunk about 90 hours into the game...yes, more than I should have, but the draw is the game rewarding players for exploration and discovery. The impossible-to-visit-them-all 16 quadrillion procedurally generated planets makes for some mighty fine exploration firsts, for any player. The multi-player feature does not really do much for me as I am hesitant to play with total strangers in a game where they can steal from me or grief me in some way. If I could lock them out of using and abusing my base and equipment, that would be one thing, but alas that is not currently possible to do.

On the other hand, the solo exploration and continual opportunities to discover new planets, including unique flora and fauna is pretty cool. Another cool feature is the photo ability built-in to the game. Below is a picture from my own discoveries. Those creatures in the sky are actually quite large.

Although, the game may not float everyone's boat, it does provide me a bit of entertainment and relaxation, at least until I can get back assembling and painting miniatures or playing a board game solo. I figure it will take me until after the first of the year before I will be really set up, here, with a game table, painting tables, and bookshelves. Until then, it all remains in boxes, impatiently waiting to be released.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Home Sweet Home

I now live just East of Dupree and West of Gettysburg, see the river, to the left of that. It is a beautiful place, with better weather than I had in California, at least to my mind. Although, the Summer heat did follow me, it has been in the low 70s and mid-60s for the past few days. It will warm up again later this week and next, but I should see some snow in October.

It took nine days to get my internet connection set up, costing me almost what I pay a month in rent...the consequence of country living, but it is high speed fiber optic, so I cannot complain too much.

As I do not have any furniture and had to leave all of my bookshelves and desks behind (no room in the moving truck) it will take me a good six months to unpack the majority of my belongings that matter (books, board games, and miniatures).

I learnt a lesson my first week here. Whenever I make any big purchases out of town, because that is the ONLY place to go make big purchases, I must check the items first. Otherwise, a broken item will cost me at least 3 hours of driving time and fuel to resolve. Amazon only goes so far...

They do not deliver mail to the houses out here. I had to get a PO Box, which is a problem for FedEx and UPS. I've already been hit once by package thieves, so I need to be careful of when I order something. The drivers for both delivery services show up by noon, and I do not get off work until after 4pm, so it is a risk. However, work is a 5 minute walk from home, so if they deliver just before I go to lunch, I can sort it almost immediately.

Obviously, I've done zero gaming in the past couple of weeks, but I do have some solo games I hope to break out and give a go, posting about my experiences here. I need to FIND the games first, somewhere in about 100 boxes, which is not easy as they are nicely stacked and packed into one of my two bedrooms.

In about six months, I should have all the furniture (bookshelves!) that I need to get most of my things set up to where I can easily access them and put them away. I'll need to get some organizers for my paints and miniatures, but one step at a time.

I must say that I do love it here. It is a quiet, country life, with gusting winds that cool things down, generally, in the evenings. This is a far cry better than having 90+ degree heat at midnight, with nary a breeze to push the air around.

While poverty affects the lives of most here, they are, as a group, good people. I've been welcomed and encouraged to participate in community events. They have a local museum, with arrows from the Battle of Little Big Horn (I need to take pictures of those). I do expect to have stress from work and a lot of grief from my students, but my class sizes should be about half or less of those I dealt with in California. My classroom is half again larger and the retired teacher I replaced has left me all of her materials, meaning I do not have to reinvent the wheel this whole year.

They also have a local community college which has need of history instructors, so that is a possible opportunity for some income on the side, we will have to see.

I do miss my friends in California, but life must go on and I cannot move forward while looking back over my shoulder. The school here still needs teachers, and I have been asked to check with any teachers that I know of who are looking for a job. Since the housing is cheap, compared to California prices, it has its benefits, but I do not know of any other teachers who want the contemplative life in the country, which will also get very COLD in a couple of months. Still, if any of my readers know of teachers looking for opportunities, they should check out the Bureau of Indian Education website. We even have teachers on work visas, from another country, who are here to teach, so that might be an option for non-USA folks.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Signing out of California, finally!

Well, just a quick post to let you know, I am moving this weekend and am in the process of packing and preparing.

Due to the record heat-wave of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more almost a month straight, I did not want my stuff out on the back patio to cook, especially my hobby paints, primers, glues, etc. Nor did I want my books out there, as the heat causes problems with the bindings (the covers end up coming off the books, leaving the pages to eventually come apart).

So, I elected to wait as long as I could, before packing up. I did have a number of items out at my parent's shed, for the past ten years, which did the boxes they were stored in no amount of good (animals and sun), but as I was re-packing that at 6:30am, today, I discovered I had a LOT of Games Workshop figures, including Mordheim, Battlefleet Gothic, Warmaster, 40k, and Warhammer Fantasy Battles, plus some Old Glory historicals. The GW stuff is just like found money, were I to sell it, I could probably get a few thousand dollars, as there are some rare or one-off figures that only employees and prime retailers were able to get, including a 3-up Space Marine in pewter.

I plan on keeping a lot of this, but may sell large chunks, which I will of course regret later. But, as I am starting a whole new life, with the needs of a new life, my budget for the next six months is very tight.

I also found, in excellent condition, many of the older GW publications from the Black Library, including Epic 40,000, Warmaster, Town Cryer, Blood Bowl, and other 'zines. I was relieved as I thought I had accidentally thrown all that out years ago.

As the paints, and I am talking about a thousand dollars in paints, if I were to take them in the moving truck or in my car, which is being towed behind the truck, they would cook off and harden up, becoming useless. Since this already happened to me before, when I moved from Wisconsin back to California, I want to avoid it again. So, I purchased a ice chest/cooler, with some chemical ice packs, to keep everything cool for the two days of driving. The temperature in the cooler should be about 40 degrees, which will not cause the paint to freeze.

Luckily, this Sunday's temperature is supposed to only be 96 degrees (only!) and that means the internal temperature in the car will be under 130, so maybe my primers will survive the trip. I cannot fit them inside the cooler, unfortunately, as 100+ bottles of paint takes up a large amount of space.

Yes, there is a bit of stress with the move, just the packing, loading, driving, unloading, and unpacking, to look forward to over the next week, but otherwise it is all good and all ahead full.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Finally, I have my move date.

Well, I can now feel safe to announce that I am moving to South Dakota in August. My new job starts on the 20th, but I can move into my home any time after the first. So, I will be moving up there about the end of the first week or the beginning of the second week of August.

I will be living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, teaching at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.

My new home is two bedrooms, with a detached garage and full basement. In other words, a perfect mancave. I'm hoping to acquire some prints from historical painters, within the first year, to hang on the walls.

Everything in the small town is withing walking distance. I will be able to see my place of employment from my house. Between the savings in gasoline and other living expenses, it will be a financial boon for me.

The best part though, are the students I will be teaching. I am excited and looking forward to teaching Native American youths, helping them earn and education and find their roads to success.

My move will be stressful, as it is a long drive in a rental truck, but I have a friend who is planning on helping me drive and unpack, before I send him home on a plane.

Future plans are in the works for hobby related projects, mainly finishing ones I've already started, but there are a few others that I can now start as I will have the space to do the work.

I am looking forward to the peace and quiet, something I rarely ever get in California.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Well, yesterday I finally received some word on my new job. I've passed their internal background check and now I get to deal with the Office of Personnel and Management, sometime in the next week.

I am supposed to receive an email explaining the next step(s) and once this last portion is completed, I should receive my move-in date to my housing unit.


Also, over the next few weeks, I will be going over the results from the various medical tests that I've had to undergo, hopefully with good news all around. I am thinking my inability to get more than a couple to a few hours of sleep a night is due to sleep apnea, which then triggers my frequent and painful headache episodes, among numerous other symptoms and issues that are causing me problems.  I am hopeful and expecting some form of treatment that will improve my quality of life, starting before the end of this month.

I am about to bid farewell to my current job, which comes to an end on Thursday afternoon. While extremely excited for the new job, the move out of California, and going to live on a reservation (I honestly cannot express the huge relief this will bring for me), there is a slight feeling of melancholy lingering. I have some very good co-workers, which is rare, and leaving them behind will be a permanent parting of ways. I love teaching and being a plank owner of this school site means I have a lot of good memories from here. However, I simply cannot wait to get to my new school site.  I promise to reveal more on that soon.

As I am working on a second Master of Arts degree, this one in military history, I am again back to researching and writing in preparation of a thesis. The topic centers on British preparation for WWI in tactical and technological innovations as influenced or not by the American Civil War. I have some very good books on this subject, but unfortunately they are not from academia, meaning they are useless to this project apart from their bibliographies. I've bought a few hundred dollars of books and then saw another two, last night, that are more than a hundred dollars each....ouch!  I'll have to wait on those until after the move is complete.

Anyhow, this present line of inquiry has inspired me to build the 28mm ACW army I mentioned in my last post. I've ordered a box of Union infantry and Zouaves from Perry Miniatures, as test units for painting strategies and assembly times. I intend to use the "dip" method a'la Army Painter, but we'll see just how far I can bring myself to not paint the detail.

Lastly, my 50th birthday is in three weeks. on the 27th. As I am lacking a significant other, I do not have anyone who is all that supportive of my birthdays, anymore. Last year was the first, in the last decade, where I did not pay for my own birthday dinner. My last birthday gift received was in 2010, from my last girlfriend, an expansion for Campaign Cartographer 3. So, it was a good present, well appreciated, she just turned out to be a complete nutter. <sigh> Thus, I end up buying myself something that I want or need. I have no idea what it will be, this year.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Future plans, projects, and predicaments

...still. Well, the job I accepted back in February, with the proviso that I pass their background check, as still yet to complete said background check. I understand that time goes more slowly there, truly, but as I live in California, time brings tons of pressure with each passing moment.

Thus, I am under a little bit of stress, far too much according to my blood pressure, while waiting for the "your move in date is ___." I cannot think of anything that would prevent me from passing through his background check, but government workers cannot be forced to move at anything beyond a glacial pace. No insult intended, just a commentary on the culture of working in government.

Of course, this puts me into a predicament, in that the longer it takes for me to get the final okay, the more it will cost me to move. Which reduces my spending money, delaying what I really NEED to buy...more miniatures. <sigh> ...and books....lots and lots of books.

Which brings me to future plans.

I've long wanted to have at least one nice 28mm army, actually opposing armies, so that I can invite someone to play a game, where they do not have to bring anything except their beverage of choice and themselves.

I am looking hard at ACW, using Perry Miniatures (mainly plastics, but metals for leaders and special units).

I mean, just look at these figures. They paint up very nicely, at under $1 per figure.

And this leads me to a future project...

I will need to buy, assemble, and paint these models in a fairly quick manner. This way, I can either invite someone over or travel to play elsewhere, with most everything necessary to play, minus the table.

I've seen the suggested method of using Army Painter sprays to basecoat the figures, but they also used the same color for boat coats and trousers. I'd rather use a darker blue for the Union coats and a variation of good colors of greys and browns for the Confederate coasts.

Any suggestions, using Army Painter or GW paints? I've already got most of both lines and really do not want to go into Vallejo. Now, if a few paints from Wargames Foundry would work, fine, but again, I do not want to invest into a large amount of paints.  They will all dry up before I can use them up.