Hapsburg Eclipse from Victory Point Games is a light solitaire war game about the difficult position facing the Austro-Hungarian monarchy during the First World War. The game is driven by 50 historically-based event cards and challenges the player to progress on five combat fronts (Italian, Blakan, Romanian, Carpathian, and Polish) while maintaining loyalty among the disparate nationalities of the empire.
Hapsburg Eclipse can also be combined with an earlier release, Ottoman Sunset, as either a larger solitaire game or a two-player coop.
As with other titles from Victory Point Games, Hapsburg Eclipse is available either bagged (for $17) or boxed with a mounted mapboard (for $26).
I’ve been sitting on this review a while, waiting for Nosidam Games to launch the Kickstarter project for it. In a way, I’ve very glad I did. The initial draft of the rules I had gotten for the game were confusing, and severely affected my enjoyment of what turned out to be a very excellent game.
At its heart, Primary is a deck building game, where you get to create your deck of cards from a pool of different colors. Different color cards have different effects. The three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue have the powers of offense, support, and defense respectively. These colors can be mixed to produce green, orange, and purple effect. These have the powers of recovery, take, and control. The numbers on each card let you know how many times you can use it’s effect. Merging and splitting colors are necessary in any strategy. Combine a 2 blue and 2 red to create a 4 purple card. Later on split that 4 purple into a 2 red and 2 blue again.
Red – Red is the key offensive tool in the game and decreases your opponent’s future turns.
Yellow – Yellow is the key supporting tool in the game and it makes your turns more powerful.
Green – Green is both defensive and supportive, and allows you to regain lost turns.
Orange – Orange is both supportive and offensive, and allows you to take your opponent’s potential turns and make them yours.
Purple – Purple is both offensive and defensive, and allows you to make your opponent’s turns less effective.
The object of the game is very simple, stay in play longer than the other players. You’re out of the game when you cannot: a) play a card on your turn, or b) sacrifice a defense counter off a card to skip your turn.
You can take a look of the updated rulebook I used to play to get a better feel of how the game actually works.
The game carries much more strategy and depth than I originally though when I received the first draft of the rules. Deck building is half the fun, and seeing how well your deck plays out is a satisfying experience.
Primary has a goal of $13,000, and as of this post has already reached around $2000 with 32 days left to go. This is a project I’d love to see funded. The game is a beautiful as it is fun, and I can’t wait to see the finished product.
A prototype copy of Primary was provided free for review by Nosidam Games.
At Toy Fair, I had an opportunity to get a closer look at upcoming products in Spin Master’s lines of Ionix shapeshifting construction bricks. [Click on the thumbnails to see full images.]
For the second series of Tenkai Knights on TV, Spin Master is set to release a 2-in-1 set ($25) that converts from Flame Phoenix in to Fire Raptor jet and a 2-in-1 Tenkai Dragon set ($50) with disc-firing action bricks. An Elemental form of Bravenwolf will also make an appearance as a mini figure ($5) and titan ($12).
The Pokemon figures are just rough prototypes at this point, yet they give you an idea of what to expect in the fall.
Sets for DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon are scheduled to hit retail just before the second movie in June.
ApocalypZe is a zombie survivor themed card game that plays from 2 to 4. Players manage a group of survivors at a mostly secure location, trying to manage the stronghold’s resources. Survive longer than your opponents and you win the game.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first, because this is a good game and I don’t want to end on a down note. (And for my part, there only are two major negatives to this game; we can get through those quickly.)
ApocalypZe was funded through Kickstarter and one of their stretch goals should have been an outside editor. The organization in the rulebook could be clearer (including ending a paragraph in mid-sentence), some rules are confusing and unclear in presentation (example: several strongholds have a “once per game” ability followed by a second ability, but it isn’t clear if that second ability is part of the “once per game” or can be used on each turn), and typos occur on several cards.
The other issue I had was with the design of the cards. (Disclosure: I am a graphic designer who has developed card and board games.) While the typeface used for flavor text is too small and formatted oddly, the larger problem is the presentation of information on the cards. The major stats for a character (or attachment) are difficult to read. It feels like the makers of ApocalypZe made rushed design decisions to present the important information on cards: placement and presentation really should have been rethought. With the rulebook layout suffering from similar layout choices and the poor editorial work, there are several parts of the game that are confusing.
However, once you play a practice hand and see how the game works, it flows a bit smoother and you’ve got a really nice game in the box.
To counter the design weaknesses, the illustrations on the cards are fantastic. The illustrations are in grayscale, carrying the theme of early zombie movies, with the addition of color to help identify card type. When there is blood and gore depicted on a card, the black and white nature of the illustrations don’t push it too far over the top. Individual zombies in the Zombie Horde card have their own personality. Gender and ethnic balance is diverse in the heroes and villains of this game. Very expressive illustrations with interesting composition makes me wonder if there’s a comic book done by the artist, because I’d love to see it!
Oh, but the game, Thomas. Tell us about that!
Your group of survivors is a deck of 60 cards, gathered at a stronghold. In ApocalypZe, you play survivors to your stronghold, play different locations to scavenge from (such as the mall or a supermarket), and raiders to assault your opponent’s stronghold or scavenging locations. All of these cards—including attachment cards like guns and chainsaws, and trump and wildcards to change up a situation—come from your deck. Deplete your deck, and you’re out of the game. So while it is simple to drop down five bikers at the Roadside Diner and give everyone there a crowbar, a baseball bat, or a handgun, that uses up 10 of your 60 cards and you are that much closer to losing the game.
ApocalypZe uses several mechanisms to help keep you in game. When cards go out of play through combat, they may be recycled (along with any attached cards) to the bottom of your draw pile (they may go to the discard pile instead, but we’ll see how to get them out in a moment). Several other effects allow you to recycle played cards, keeping that draw pile alive. But what is really clever, the part that really makes this game, are the scavenging locations.
Scavenging locations are locations that are stocked with resources, but here’s the thing: those resources are fed by your discard pile and you must have enough cards in your discard pile to stock the location. For instance, the Mall requires twenty-four cards in your discard pile to play that location, so that location will only come into play when you have gone through about half of your deck. Send survivors there and cards can come back in your hand. Clear the Mall and sixteen cards from your discard pile go back under your draw pile. With these scavenging locations, players have an opportunity to reuse cards and expand the life of the draw pile, keeping the player in the game longer—but they have to burn through cards to get there.
And then there’s the consumption cost. Survivors gotta eat, you know? At the end of each turn, you have to discard some cards based on the number of survivors you have in play. You have those five bikers at the Roadside Diner? You’ve got to discard five cards from your draw pile, one at a time, watching the items and cards that would be so useful to have fall away, one by one. Or you could discard two cards from your hand instead of one card from the deck. Or you could kick some of your bikers out to be eaten by the walking dead. The more survivors you have, the safer you are; the more survivors you have, the faster you go through your resources.
Sixty cards doesn’t seem like a lot, but some of those cards are twofold: survivor/raider on the left, zombie version on the right. When played, you decide if they are a survivor for your camp or a zombie attacking another opponent. Suddenly that sixty card deck has a lot of extra choices in it. It’s a clever idea and the presentation of these cards is well done.
Once you’ve played with the four pregenerated decks, you can use the additional 64 cards to build and customize decks. While not stated in the game, the ApocalypZe game is set up for additional expansions. (This box is subtitled “Those Left Behind” and all cards are indicated as coming from the set.) At a $40 retail price, this is a fun, fast (well, about 30-45 minutes for two players) game with many clever mechanics. ApocalypZe is available in “game and hobby stores through all of the major distributors” as well as at ninekingdoms.com.
A copy of ApocalypZe was provided free for review by 9 Kingdoms.
The recent wedding of IM Sagar Shah and WIM Amruta Mokal in India was, of course, Chess-themed. The bride and groom wore queen and king engagement rings, decorations featured Chess pieces, guests signed Chess boards with greetings, and a mini-team-tournament was held pitting friends of the groom against friends of the bride. The bride’s side won!
The New Zealand Festival of MindSports runs Friday through Sunday, February 28th-March 2nd, in Thames. The event features Bridge, pub trivia, Chess, miniature war games, Draughts, Scrabble, Mahjong, Backgammon, Magic: The Gathering, Sudoku, Dungeons & Dragons, Poker, Snooker, and Blackjack. A registration fee of $15 covers entry in to all events.
Medals will be awarded in a MiniPentamind tournament for players that accumulate points playing Backgammon, Chess, Draughts, Mahjong, Scrabble, and Bridge.
More than 1700 people competed in the various tournaments of the Moscow Open. The rapid Superfinal, was won by Alexander Grischuk, who was the 2012 World Blitz Champion, after defeating Evgeniy Najer in a tie-breaker match. The Women’s Superfinal was won by Daria Charochkina. In the Men’s Cup of Russia, Alexander Moiseenko of Ukraine and Maxim Matlakov of Russia shared first place, having equal results on all three tie-breaker criteria.
Another event at the Moscow Open was a Chess-Shogi Biathalon, in which Boris Mirnik of Germany was the winner. Boris told organizers that he only plays Chess about once a year, preferring Shogi instead.
Baadur Jobava of Georgia won the Bronstein Memorial on tiebreaks in Minsk, Belarus after drawing his last two games early, both on move 15.
Hrant Melkumyan won the inaugural Casino Graz Open in Austria.
Magic: The Gathering
Special Grand Prix events over the previous year qualified 40 players for the first Super Sunday Series Championship February 8th and 9th. All received expense-paid travel from WOTC, met with WOTC execs, and had the opportunity to play some games with WOTC R&D. Also part of the weekend was a tournament that combined standard and draft, Theros, Born of the Gods, and Modern Masters. And taking home the $6,000 top prize was Owen Turtenwald.
At Grand Prix Paris, a player about to enter the top 8 was disqualified for errors made earlier in round 13. In the end, though, Javier Dominguez of Spain claimed the title.
A tough draft didn’t stop Mark Lalague of the United States from winning Grand Prix Mexico City.
Mathias Horvat took home the trophy at the second Mahjong Swiss Championship.
Mharr Justhinne Ampong solved Skewb in a world record 3.21 seconds at the Pangasinan Northern Express Open in the Philippines, only to be bested a day later by Brandon Harnish with a 2.19 second solve at Bay Area Speedcubin’ 2 in California.
At the Princeton Winter, Justin Mallari solved a 3×3 one-handed in 10.38 seconds for a North American record.
Perennial record-holder, Feliks Zemdegs, won the Melbourne Summer with an average of 7.17 seconds, while also setting an Oceanian record of 5.66 seconds for 3×3 single attempt.
A robot built with Lego can solve a standard 3×3 Rubik’s cube in 3 seconds.
Mayday Games had a mock up of Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000 available at Toy Fair. This game, reminiscent of the “You are free to eat. Have a dumpling” scene from Kung Fu Panda, has players trying to get the same colored pieces out of a central bowl using chopsticks at the same time. Use your chopsticks to block, grab, and steal the pieces you need!
(Photo above has place holder components.)
Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000 will be appearing on Kickstarter within 2-3 weeks.
Anyway. It’s been a while.
With the release of Pokemon X&Y, I figured now would be a good time to jump back in and start playing with the kids. I’m happy to say not much has changed, and we were easily able to jump right in and play.
Now when I say not much has changed, I’m speaking about the bones of the game. Obviously there’s been some status effects, Pokemon types, and even EX types added to the game since I last played. These new additions were very easy to pickup, and we really suffered no confusion or misplayed rules at all.
The 2 decks we played with were Resilient Life (Xerneas) & Destruction Rush (Yveltal). Both decks are well made, balanced, and complement each other very well. The biggest surprise to me was the addition of a deck box and play mat in the Theme Deck box. Very nice touch.
Resilient life is a Fairy and Psychic deck, with a focus on getting Fairy energy to the table and moving it around at will with Xerneas and Aromatisse. You’ve also got status protection for any Pokemon with Fairy energy attached to it thanks to Slurpuff. Add in the Fairy Garden Stadium that allows you to retreat Pokemon with Fairy energy on them at no cost, and you’ve got a really flexible deck.
Destruction Rush, on the other hand, is a hard hitting Dark and Figthing deck with Yveltal’s ability to pull dark energy out of the discard pile. Add in Krookodile‘s Knock-Back, and Malamar‘s Mental Panic to keep your opponent at Bay, and this deck hits hard and leaves the enemy struggling to come back.
Overall we had a blast getting back into the game, and are really digging the new cards. I can’t wait to get my hands on some more XY cards!
Copies of Resilient Life and Destruction Rush were provided free for review by The Pokemon Company Inc.
The two new offerings from Mayfair Games are Mad City and Karnickel, both available before summer 2014.
Mad City is a speed tile-laying game where players try to match up different colored districts to form large contiguous blocks in just one minute. While frantically grabbing and arranging tiles, players can grab special tokens to bet that they have completed certain mini-goals, such as having the longest street in their city, the most parks, or more of one type of area. As fast-paced as the game is, Mad City comes with an expert mode where players complete certain levels of construction (like a four-block residential section) before unlocking additional point bonuses. Mad City retails for $35.
Karnickel is a quick light strategy roll and move game for players 6 and up. In Karnickel, the players use the colored results on dice to move bunnies out of, and often into, the path of an oncoming train as they scramble for the carrots growing on a railway track. But fear not for our furry friends! If the train passes through a rabbit’s space, the bunny just hops out of the way, scattering carrots as it flees for it’s adorable little bunny life. Karnickel retails for $20.