Reviews and Strategy Articles

Piecing Together Westeros by Thomas Aquino

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.

Jungle Elves 2nd Summoner Review

This is a quick review of the new 2nd Summoner for Jungle Elves

Just this past week in the Makati Gaming Group, Nicco and I tried out the new 2nd Summoners. Both of us were able to play the Jungle Elves and this gave me a chance to see how they play. 

The Jungle Elves introduced a new mechanic in Summoner Wars - POISON
It is an interesting mechanic that seeks to counter using heavy champions and encourage common play. Think of the possibilities if Mighty Krung has 2 Poison markers, he now only hits on 5-6! All it takes is 2 hits from your common hunters.


These guys have range, are cheap and effective threats to big guys due to poison. Every chance of weakening those big champions is going to make a huge impact on the battlefield as it decreases your opponent's chance to hit from 66% to 50% with one poison marker and 33% with 2 poison markers.

More than that though are the great events of Nikuya Na. He has a lot of events that quickly boost your unit's stats that make for good aggressive play.
These two cards give you movement and attack at a time where your opponent won't see it coming. Having faced the Jungle Elves twice already, I was surprised when Nicco pulled this combo out against me (this led to a bloodbath!). I got out of that horrible turn with wounds on my summoner and a wiped out army.  

One of the things that I noticed when Nicco played Jungle Elves is that he had to aggressively use his summoner and place him in the middle of the board because his events only work on units within 2 spaces of Nikuya Na. Nikuya Na has range plus 7 life which allows for breathing room to go on the offensive.

However the biggest weapon of the Jungle Elves is a big Kitty!
Miti Kyru is the big bodyguard of Nikuya Na. They work well together because Miti Kyru allows Nikuya to be placed in another space, which effectively extends the threat range of the summoner. Remember that Miti Kyru can attack first, move and mount up Nikuya Na to a better position in order to attack or escape. 

Overall the new Jungle Elves combine both offense and defense while being aggressive. They have a great champion in Miti Kyru and have hunters to poison and weaken the big bruisers of the enemy. 

We will end this review right here as we have not played enough yet to discuss the other units, plus we'll let you explore first and try them out!

Buy your Nikuya Na Jungle Elves pack here!

Summoner Wars - after 3 years!

 

 

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!

 

 

Unboxing : Star Wars LCG Core set

Unboxed : Star Wars LCG Core set

As you may know it is actually a little late to do an unboxing of Star Wars LCG given that it has been in the market for months now. But for the past few weeks, I have been bitten by the Star Wars bug plus the competitive drive to play a card game. I was initially going through the list ( Netrunner, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) and finally settled on Star Wars as the game is picking up steam and there's news that it will soon be playable under a COOPERATIVE mode. How cool is that?

Anyway what's also cool about Star Wars LCG is that you can get these cool Limited edition Slave Leia card sleeves (see the ones at the lower right hand corner). They look great and fit right into the cards. If you want to get them you can simply click here.

Going into the components:

The Star Wars: The Card Game Core Set contains everything two players need to begin battling for the fate of the galaxy: 
  • 240 Cards (117 light side, 117 dark side, and 6 Force cards) 
  • 1 Death Star dial 
  • Nearly 100 damage, shield, and focus tokens 
  • 1 Balance of the Force token 
  • Rulebook
  • *Assembling the DEATH STAR!!!

    The rulebook in my opinion is well written and executed very well for easy reading. The pictures there for visual presentation and really help out for those who have not yet started into the game. The starting decks are also laid out so you can quickly get into the game. 

    The special thing though about Star Wars LCG is that you deck build based on a set of cards together with objectives. This makes it a lot easier while not downplaying the customization aspect. More on this when I get to the full review.
                                                  * Yoda, Luke and Obi-wan represent the light force (Jedi faction)

    The cards are top notch and the art is something that you would expect from a great company like Fantasy Flight games. I'm really excited to try out the starter Jedi faction tonight at the Weekly Wednesday Game Night in Makati at Plaza 1 Cafe Gamboa st. =D

    Well there you have it. I'll have more pictures for you guys when I test it out tonight! 

    As a backdrop - getting into LCGs isn't as expensive as people think. If you have a friend you each get 1 core set each and split the contents between the two of you. Every month force packs or expansion packs will come out and each of them will come in fixed contents! Meaning you already know which cards the pack will contain =D No more hunting for those uber-rare cards or dealing with scalpers. The game know becomes more of skill and not just an arms race. 

    If you want to get into the Star Wars LCG with me. You can get them here:
    Star Wars LCG Core Set. - 1,750php per core set
    Star Wars LCG Duo Bundle Promo - 3,200php only for 2 core sets!
    Till tomorrow!

    Summoner Wars Strategy Article - Cloaks

    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.

    Cloaks Faction

    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.

    Overall Strategy:
    Adaptability, Cunning/ Deceit, Assassination - AC/DC
    The whole strategy of Cloaks relies on their Summoner - Vlox. Their units are weak in terms of firepower especially their commons (all 1 Attack Value) thus Vlox will be relied on heavily for much needed attack power.

    Let's check out his card:
    Adaptability - Vlox can copy any ability of any Cloak unit on the battlefield while retaining his 2 attack power. This means he can do a lot of things that will enable to you to adapt and take advantage of any situation. Most of the time, the power here is not on the battlefield itself but on the mind games you can play on your opponent. How can you predict someone who can change abilities every turn? 

    Cunning - Vlox's cunning ability comes from these two units.
    One of the things I learned is that you lack firepower you need to have two things - SPEED and FIRST STRIKE advantage. The first strike essentially allows you the chance to double your attack power (because you attack twice first if your opponent is still alive) and Speed allows you to keep moving for those first strikes or escape routes. The gunner allows Vlox to move 5 SPACES! That essentially raises Vlox's threat to the whole board!

    What's more is that you can combo this with other setup plays like in the next cunning unit below.
     + 

    This allows Vlox the ability to move 5 spaces also while getting the opportunity to steal a card from your opponent's hand at the end of the turn. Note you can still attack before making the escape. Hit N Run!

    Deceit - The deceit strategy of the Cloaks is making sure that you limit your opponent's attack retaliation by constantly moving. Thereby deceiving your opponent into making wrong positioning mistakes. Here's the champion unit that you will really need.
    His Bio from PHG website perfectly describes this : "During the good times the man called Scam was a dashing stage performer. He would wow audiences with simple tricks of dexterity using his innate magical abilities. But that was a lifetime ago. Scam still uses magic, but now his tricks get him lined up for the perfect shot, or help him escape afterwards. Unlike many of the Cloaks, Scam isn't fueled by anger or revenge - right now war just pays better."

    Scam + Vlox allows you multiple options. Keep attacking and keep moving while taking advantage that both units are ranged! This means that only ranged units can catch up to them and you can even line them up to make sure you hide behind a wall or another common unit. This is the best end game of the Cloaks Faction.
    Assasination - This is my personal favorite style of play and I often use this very early on in the game. 
    Scrappers are the backbone of this strategy:
    I love their description on the PHG website : Scrappers are anywhere and everywhere at once. Masters of the shadows and adept at using decoys, one can never be too sure where Scrappers will appear in a fight. Numerous warriors have descended upon a lone rogue in the night, only to find themselves overrun by superior numbers.
     

    The Scrappers are instant teleportation devices provided they hit their opponent and that it is still alive. This allows Vlox to jump from one place or another to do instant swarms! If an opponent is tough the principle is to do multiple blows. I usually use this to get Vlox into a spot where he can attack the summoner. Take note, Vlox can still do range attacks, so taking potshots is still a viable option.

    Scrappers then are also an escape route. Try hit a weak common in a safe spot so that Vlox can get out of a tricky situation!

    Overall keep those in mind! Cloaks are basically the toolbox deck in Summoner Wars. They have a lot more things to offer and it is up to your creativity and imagination to take advantage of them. 

    Well that's it! I'm keeping it short and simple as I don't want to giveaway all of my tricks. But I do hope I got you interested in Summoner Wars and the Cloaks specifically.
    If you want to get the Cloaks or any other Summoner Wars Faction pack you can ge them at the link below:
    http://www.gaminglib.com/products/summoner-wars-faction-packs
    Till the next one!

    Mage Wars Review by Charles Tan

    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.

    A Quick Review of Escape: The Curse of the Temple

    Escape: The Cure of the Temple is a game for one to five players published by Queen Games via Kickstarter in 2012.  It is a fast-paced cooperative game that plays in ten minutes or less (excluding set-up).  As with all my other reviews, this review will not strive to cover all the rules.  If you prefer a more in-depth intensive rule walkthrough, I suggest you take the time to look elsewhere.

    COMPONENTS:
    The game comes with a bunch of tiles that represent the growing/changing map within the temple, a bunch of crystal tokens, a rulebook, a ton of dice (each player gets a certain number), a music CD, a bunch of cards and five wooden figures that represent the adventurers.  

    The dice are of very good quality... hefty, and the images are engraved on the dice to help (but not totally prevent) wear and tear.  The crystals are the usual translucent green crystals found in other games, and the tiles are thick and of decent quality.  The cards are average, and the wooden figures are... well... wooden figures (not much I can really say about that).  The rulebook is written quite well leaving few (if any) ambiguities.  The CD includes two soundtracks to play the game to, and an audio file which explains the rules.  Having the audio on the CD explain the rules is a nice touch by the way, as it ensures uniformity in explanations and helps ensure that players thoroughly understand what they have to do during the game.  While you may have to fill in a blank or two along the way, it still serves its purpose quite well.

    Overall, the components are of above average quality... what you'd come to expect from Queen Games.

    GAMEPLAY:
    Gameplay is simple.  So is set-up.  First you lay out the starting tile where all the adventurers begin their respective turns.  Then you lay out a couple more tiles in accordance to the game's instructions.  You also bring out a certain number of crystals, depending on the difficulty level you want to play.  Hand each player five dice, start the soundtrack, and you are ready to begin.

    The soundtrack ensures that each game will not take more than ten minutes... possibly less if you are all extremely unlucky (I've never seen it happen).

    A quick word regarding the dice, which is the meat of the game.  Each dice has certain symbols that'll help you depending on what you need to do.  Some symbols help you "discover" gems, some symbols help you reveal new tiles, some symbols allow you to enter a room, and so on.  There's also a symbol which "locks" your dice, leaving you unable to roll 'em... as well as a symbol that helps you "unlock" dice.

    The game is played in real-time, with all players rolling dice and taking their actions simultaneously.  You need to roll the right symbols if you want to enter a room, and/or if you're at an open doorway, you can roll to reveal the next tile in the stack and add it to that doorway. Some rooms contain a combination of symbols, and if you roll enough red or blue symbols, you "discover" magic gems, moving them from a separate gem pile onto that tile.

    Once the exit tile is revealed, players can try to escape the temple by running to that tile, then rolling a number of key symbols equivalent to the gems that haven't been removed from the gem pile.  So the more gems you find, the easier it is to escape the temple in the end. When a player escapes, he gives one die to a player of his choice.  If all the players escape before the third countdown (determined by the soundtrack), everyone wins; if not, everyone loses (even those who escaped).

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a fun and quick filler that can help set the mood for game nights/days/weekends.  It is a cross between a party game and an adventure game and a dice rolling game, which in my opinion makes it an excellent game to play with casual or non-gamers.

    For hardcore gamers though, if you usually play with a group that's devoted to playing heavier/meatier games... then I suggest you pick up something else.

    All-in-all, a great addition to the ever growing list of cooperative games.

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