Piecing Together Westeros by Thomas Aquino
As a big fan of both the book and the series of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” better known as “A Game of Thrones”, I couldn’t help but get excited when the opportunity to build a 3-dimensional (or 4D as advertised) puzzle map of Westeros happened to chance upon my time.
This puzzle is unlike the other City puzzles by the same brand that have the element of time as part of its allure. As a basically a themed 3D puzzle, there are 3 layers to complete it and over a thousand two hundred pieces to it. The first layer consists of the base map of the puzzle and it is the most difficult one to finish. It contains the most parts and is in itself the challenge of the product. The second layer defines the lands and its divisions per area of the ruling houses of Westeros while the third layer defines the areas of interest in Westeros in detailed sculpture forms such as King’s Landing and Winterfell.
I have to admit though that I am honestly not really a puzzle guy. I did some before but these were mostly little puzzles usually when I take care of a nephew or a niece. Never anything on a scale of a hobby and aside from this being my proverbial ‘first time’ it was also something that dashed my expectations and humbled me. ‘Easy’ was the word I believed it would be, ‘Challenging’ is the word I want to use to describe the experience but honestly the one real word to describe the whole experience would be: ‘Rewarding.’
Like any simple puzzle I was able to tackle, I believed that building the borders would make it simpler. This was a gigantic mistake simply because this was not a simple puzzle. The borders themselves, although easy enough to appraise as a border, would be difficult to actually distinguish as the right piece. So, in a futile attempt to build things, I decided to go for the most indistinct part of the map: The North. Being all snow means its white enough to be easily marked allowed me to complete that part of the map first. This honestly was the right thing to do on my end. Piece by piece the white puzzle parts became a map of the North, from the Wall to the frozen wastelands that compose the northern end of the map. Honestly, the resounding triumph of completing this part gave a boost to my ego that allowed me to further work towards completing the puzzle.
Hours became days and changes in tactics allowed us (with help that changes from day to day) to progress further. Finishing the puzzle became a chant in my head. From building the North to the lands of Dorne then tackling the middle of the map and completing King’s Landing, the Reach and the rest of the ever so elusive lands of Westeros gave a sense of triumph, reward, and a sense of accomplishment that I have missed. As you find pieces that fit you feel as though you’ve completed something right and the gratification for such was in some sense immediate.
After completing the landed areas, the biggest challenge with the map awaited me: The Ocean. Of course this would seem easy, I mean it would really just mean fitting the right piece but honestly that was the challenge. Black pieces with almost indistinct markings had to fit in an exact area. Any forced piece would pose problems later on. In fact, we had to change certain pieces from both the borders and the other attached ocean pieces just to find the right pieces during the final stretch. I am honestly glad for the help from a friend, Kevin, as he helped me figure out stuff that I would have had a harder time with during the final push on the puzzle.
Finally, as the first layer of the puzzle lies complete in front of us, we admire our handiwork for a moment before we start with the second layer. In comparison to the first layer, the second layer was more or less quite easy to finish. A few hours and it was done. The second layer complete and the map had a better and detailed finish to it that just raises its quality up a notch.
The third layer was a bit trickier, mostly because you have to be careful with the second layer getting damaged. Nothing a little cleaning of the edges can cure though. Still, it took only a couple of hours to finish and we finally have the completed 3D (4D) map of Westeros.
This product is something I would completely recommend for those into puzzles as it was in fact a challenge and the finished product itself is beautiful. For first time puzzle builders like me, this is a good starting point as not only is it an interesting diversion of your time but it is something that can be done and eventually displayed. I would also like to recommend this as a pastime for couples or maybe for those that are interested in doing challenging things as a group. I don’t know how you’d find the product itself but for me it was a blast to build and it was definitely something I enjoyed especially since I am a fan of the series. I can’t wait to display this piece in my home and let right below the books of the series.
3 years ago the first Gaming Library Game of the Year award was given to Summoner Wars. This was attributed to the game's ability to be simple and quick yet competitive and deep in strategy and tactics aside from the fact that it is easy on the wallet for an expandable tactics game.
After two years, Summoner Wars has been over taken with some of the newer games like King of Tokyo and is now head to head with Netrunner.
While I enjoy the occasional King of Tokyo, The Resistance and Love Letter, I miss the deeper level of tactics and strategy that I'm used to when playing more competitive games. I'm also at a point where I cannot spend too much time and money because I'm currently running companies with a very lean structure. The problem now becomes apparent. How can I have the fun of deck building and conceptualizing strategies on my own and testing them against others, while fitting it to my gaming schedule?
This is how I got back to enjoying Summoner Wars. It fits the bill in terms of time and effort (and so much more cash!). I just got my new second summoners featuring the Cloaks and I'm thrilled to try them out while deck building at the same time.
But for those who don't know anything about the game yet, a one-liner would be "Chess + Magic" best of both worlds combined! It is a very affordable card game with simple rules yet is still deep enough for constant competitive play.
Here's the official description of the game : Summoner Wars is the exciting card game of fantastic battlefield combat that puts you in the grandiose role of a Summoner. Strategy shapes the composition of each deck of cards and how they are used. Tactics determine the effectiveness of those cards in battle. Call walls of stone to protect you in combat and serve as magic portals for you to summon your warriors. Call your forces forth and send them in a surging wave against your enemy. Cast spells that bolster your forces and cut down those who would oppose you. - from PHG website
We've taught it to 8 year old students, both male and female, and after 2 turns they quickly get a grasp already of how to play it. They've joined tournaments and even won! Check out this write up by Gavin and Adrian.
If you think it isn't deep enough then you might want to check out the fact that there are now over 300 possible match-ups! As there are already 24 Summoners out already (but you only really need two to play =D) Each Summoner brings with him/her a plethora of strategies and play style that just keeps the game fresh and interesting.
There's also a group now on facebook that regularly talks about the game : Click here
I personally have all Summoners (mainly because I am biased towards the game) but have three separate groups for them.
1.) Go To Decks - always have with me
2.) For Flavor decks - will bring out from time to time for experimentation and surprise games
3.) Will not use - these are the decks that I will use once or twice only for personal reasons. Usually because they do not fit my play style.
If you're having thoughts on which decks to get I highly recommend getting the Master Set first then checking out this Buyer's Guide by PHG.
If you want to learn Summoner Wars then I highly recommend joining the groups and the new guy night event!
Venue: Plaza 1 Cafe
Date : February 26 Wednesday 730pm
Mechanics : Bring a friend and we'll demo Summoner Wars for free! plus you get a free promo card from Plaidhatgames :)
See you there!
With the upcoming Summoner Wars tournament this September 28, I've decided to do a few short strategy/review articles to help the new players out and to try to give people on the fence about this great game another perspective.
First we have the Cloaks. For the purposes of this article, I will only be tackling the base deck of the faction for simplicity purposes at the same time it fits right into the format of the upcoming tournament.
This is the description taken from the Plaidhatgames official website.
They are a nomadic nation of outcasts, driven into hiding and driven for revenge. The Cloaks launch hit- and-run attacks against those factions whose ambitions they disagree with, and then scavenge what supplies they can from their victories.
The Cloaks rely on stealth and espionage to win their battles. Cloaks players know how to find the weaknesses in their opponent’s defenses and exploit them, cheating opponents of their best cards. Thieves force opponents to discard cards, and spies and assassinations keep enemy factions from using cards at ideal times.
By Charles Tan
Mage Wars Quick Review
It's difficult to talk about Mage Wars without referencing one of the most important tabletop games from the 1990s, Magic: The Gathering, which gave birth to the Collectible Card Game (CCG) genre. At the core of both games is the theme of players taking on the role of mages who build up mana to cast spells and win in a duel. Rather than simply hurling Fireballs or Lightning Bolts at the opponent, a common (but not exclusive) way to win the game is to summon creatures to overwhelm your enemy.
There's a lot of similarities between Mage Wars and Magic: The Gathering, to the point where the elevator pitch might have been the board game equivalent of the latter, but that's not quite an accurate description. There's spatial tactics involved in Mage Wars for example, and perhaps one of the bulkiest components is its indispensable 4x3 board which tracks the movement of your mage and their corresponding spells (be it creatures, enchantments, conjurations, etc.). Perhaps the strongest selling point of Mage Wars is how it recreates the idea of a mage rifling through their spellbook: every round, each player goes through their spellbook (a four-card binder that comes with the base game) to select two spells which they can cast that turn. This simple premise not only reinforces the theme in a tactile way, but turns Magic: The Gathering's concept of a "deck" upon its head: luck stops being a factor in determining what your options are, and because of the two-card limit, provides players with avenues for bluffing and anticipating their opponent's actions.
While not revolutionary, Mage Wars builds upon the games that came before it to the point that it's not easily pigeonholed when it comes to its classification. It can be compared to Living Card Games (LCGs) for example, as deck building is vital and the fixed card sets is part of the product package. On the other hand, it also relies on components found in a lot of board games, such as tokens, counters, score trackers, and the physical game board. The game itself isn't wholly turn-based, as there are decisions which are taken simultaneously, and the design decision to alternate between phases (as opposed to the entire turn) ensures that there's never a dragging moment for either player.
At the heart of Mage Wars is this two-player game which values strategy and remains faithful to its theme. While that description seems to applicable to a lot of successful tabletop games, few games are as convicing that you are an actual mage, whether it's the pre-game setup of determining your spells, or rifling through your spellbook during an actual game.