My week started off with a game of Brass Lancashire, but the big news was that Extra Life, a worldwide charity gaming event, was this past weekend.
While I did spend most of Extra Life organizing events, teaching games, running auctions and trying to get people to part with their money I did get in quite a bit of gaming. A total of 11 game plays spread over 8 different games.
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Monday night we had a small group of only three players. That was enough to break out my shiny new copy of Brass Lancashire. This is the newly reprinted and upgraded version of the Martin Wallace Classic. I did an unboxing video a few days ago and I suggest you check it out so you can see how great this new printing looks. In it, I look at both Lancashire and Birmingham. I also got the awesome Iron Clays deluxe gaming clays with both games and show those off in the video as well.
So we all know the new version looks great, but how does it play.
Game play is as good as ever. Brass is a top 25 game on BoardGameGeek.com and I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t that high. It’s my favourite Martin Wallace game and one I’ve been happy to own for years. The fact I was willing to pay for this deluxe edition of a game I already own is a good indicator for how much I like it.
Brass is an economic strategy game that takes part during the industrial revolution. Players must develop, build and establish a network of industries and ports across Lancashire, capitalizing on the growing iron and coal industry while attempting to ship cotton from the various ports. You play through two phases, the canal phase and then the rail phase representing the huge change the steam engine brought to the area. The mechanics are a mix of card playing, economics, and route building.
This new printing does update and smooth out a few of the rules from the original game. One of the biggest improvements is a better two and three player experience.
We had a great time. Brass was as good I remembered, if not better. The rules changes were not noticeable which I think is a good thing. Everyone loved the Iron Clays. Rules took a bit to grasp but aren’t overly complicated. Brass is still a fantastic game. Sadly it’s not perfect.
The new artwork for the board, while pretty and much more evocative is too dark and subtle. I actually preferred playing on the original board. While the original was rather ugly it was very easy to tell where your canal and rail routes were as well as what industries could be developed in which cities. Multiple times players went to make a move only to realize it wasn’t legal when they went to put their industry chit or route marker on the map. I was most disappointed with this. I would be tempted to break out the original board but some of the changes made in this edition were changes to the board itself. Now I will say that after time players will learn the board and these mistakes will be less common but it would have been nice if they could have improved the artwork without losing any functionality.
Overall I’m happy with this new printing of Brass. Things like the new player board, the slightly improved rules and the Iron Clays offset the minor problems reading the board. It would have been nice to have all of the above though.
Extra Life. Wow, what a ride.
This weekend hundreds of local gamers gathered at The CGRealm for our sixth annual Windsor Gaming Resource Extra Life event. The store was open from 10am Saturday until 5pm Sunday and there wasn’t a time when someone wasn’t gaming. During the day the place was packed, overnight we had more than 20 players stick it out and keep the gaming torches lit.
Together we raised over $6000!
It was amazing. Huge thanks to The CG Realm for hosting and all of the people who volunteered to help. Amazing job to the players who raised money and thanks to everyone who donated in one form or another. We still have some silent auction items to be paid for and some math to do so watch my feeds for a final total. I may do up a wrap-up blog post, I haven’t decided yet, but we will be talking about Extra Life on this week’s Podcast being recorded Wednesday.
There is still time to donate! Show your support for this amazing event by heading to https://windsorextralife.com and hitting that Donate Now button.
I have to admit I didn’t play as many games as I expected at Extra Live, but I was busy. We had more people than expected, which was awesome, but it kept us very busy. I was running auctions, greeting people, teaching games, passing around cheat jars, and basically trying to get people to part with their money most of the event. I did manage to find some time to play too, mostly later at night and overnight.
The first game I played actually pretty early into the event was Azul. I received the Azul Joker Tiles I had ordered from Next Move Games in the mail on Friday, the day before the event. I really wanted to try the game with this expansion.
Besides looking amazing, the new tiles add just a little something to Azul without breaking anything that was already there. They open up the options a bit and make completing those rows and columns easier at the expense of not completing colour sets. I really dig these new tiles and what they added to the game. I always enjoy expansions that add something without changing the feel of the original game.
Later in the day, I sat down to a game of Kingdomino with a local couple. They had only played two player before so I showed them how to play with three and we had a very close game. I still really like Kingdomino. It’s perfect for an event like this as it appeals to pretty much all gamers at all experience levels. After finishing Kingdomino I again grabbed my copy of Azul and showed off the new Joker Tiles. They were a big hit.
The game I played the most during the entire weekend was Lazer Ryderz. The store has this mobile 4×4 table that they usually use for Warmachine that worked perfect for Lazer Ryderz. It’s just the right size and it’s easy to move around the table to put down your lazer pieces. Every group I have taught this game to loves it. When I first bought the game I expected it to be a fun gimmick, something I break out every now and then to show it off, and then just put back on the shelf. It’s so much more than that. This Tron clone is a very fun game that was enjoyed by multiple groups over the weekend.
Up next was something totally new for me: Tiny Epic Zombies. This was my first experience with any of the Tiny Epic Games. A couple local gamers sat me down and walked me through the rules. We were playing with the co-op rules but I guess there are like five different ways to play. The copy I played was the Kickstarter one which had a ton of cool bits. I have no clue how much of what I saw was Kickstarter exclusives vs. retail. I do have to admit it looked cool. Wooden bandages and bullets to track your health and ammo. A wooden police car. Plastic meeple with these plastic weapons you could attach to them. Lots and lots of little green zombies. It looked neat.
The actual game played okay. Each turn you had to move three times and at the end of the move, you do an action. Most of these were either fighting or shooting a zombie. You could also interact with the room you were in or activate other things around the board. With it being my first time playing I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of options and generally just followed what my teammates suggested. There seem to be some inconsistencies with the rules. I didn’t get to read them myself but the other players were confused by the way a few things worked, a lot of them had to do with the item deck and what items we could pick up and what stayed in the room. Then we had some boss card that caused stuff to move around.
Overall I thought it was okay. Only okay. I’m not a big zombie fan in the first place so that didn’t help. It did seem to be a lot of game for a small box. I think I would like to actually sit down and read the rules myself as I was lost on a few things. Still, I’m not going to be rushing out to buy this one.
Up next was some more Azul followed by finally getting to play Maki Stack with four people. Four adults, I will add since this is meant to be a kids game. The components in this game are amazing as you can see in my first unboxing video. It’s basically Melissa & Doug level play food in a board game box. The goal of this game is to stack sushi but you have to do it as a team. Each round you flip a card and that shows a set of stacked sushi bits and you have to work with your partner to build a matching stack. But it’s not that easy.
Each card is either red or yellow. When a yellow card is drawn you have to build the stack using “chopsticks.” This means that each player can only use one index finger to manipulate the pieces and the two players have to work together to move anything. It’s way harder than it sounds at first though my partner and I were getting quite good at it by the end. When a red card is flipped one of the players has to wear a blindfold and their teammate has to direct them on what and how to stack.
Maki Stack was a TON of fun. Way more than I actually expected it to be. Now the fact we were playing at like 2am may have had something to do with that.
Late Saturday night after the majority of people went home, I broke out Big Trouble in Little China the board game. I haven’t played this since The Tabletop Bellhop Launch Party and I had forgotten how much of a beast it was to set up. I also forgot how much of a table hog it was. Now The CG Realm has a lot of tables but they are a bit skinny. Had I remembered how big the game was I probably would have stolen that Warmachine table again.
Big Trouble in Little China is an epic game. A planned game night game. Not something you break out on your regular game night due to how long it can run. Our game went over three hours which was perfect for a night where we were playing overnight.
While it took a while for me to teach (I was rusty on the rules and very tired after doing the live auction) once we got playing it flowed very well. The game uses a dice based action point system that can take a bit to get at first as it’s somewhat unintuitive. However, it works very well once you grok it. You pick four characters and play out key scenes from the movie. The game is split into two parts.
The first half has you completing quests in Chinatown trying to up your chi and build audacity in order to level up your characters. This has a very strong RPG feel to it as the quests have you reading through an adventure book and picking paths which-way style. Each turn players spend their dice to run around on the map, complete skill checks and battle mooks and basically try to become as badass as possible. Each round Big Trouble happens with the flip of a card and new minions spawn and generally, bad stuff happens. Once enough bad stuff happens or the players become badass enough, the board flips and you move to the Showdown phase.
The Showdown Phase is just a big brawl. Players defeat minions to get keys. They use these keys to get to the ritual room and face Lo Pan’s Ghost and his guards. If the players can manage to defeat Lo Pan’s Ghost he becomes corporal and players rush to the final floor and try to take out the demon for good. Something that we actually managed to do this time!
That’s right we actually won Big Trouble in Little China. I still dig this game. It’s not amazing. There are some rules questions. While the quests are cool, the fact that once a personal character quest is started any character can continue it just feel odd and wrong. The Chinese Hells you collect by dying is neat but if you get too many of them your character can end up next to useless. We had a quest we could never complete because we ran out of minis. Yea, it’s not perfect. But it does a damn fine job of emulating one of my favourite movies of all time so I’m willing to overlook these issues. What I plan to do is some research on BGG before I play again and see if there are any official or even fan-made rules tweaks to fix some of these issues.
Besides more Azul and Lazer Ryderz I got in one more game this past weekend and that was Fallout The Boardgame. I still dig this game. It’s got more flaws than even Big Trouble in Little China, but I still really enjoy this game. Fallout does some really amazing things using various card decks to make the world feel real. I love the way exploration works in this game. I love the way the wasteland comes to life. I love the way I can get paid back at the end of the game for being a dick at the start of the game.
There’s so much awesome in Fallout. but then it ends, abruptly, because someone got some arbitrary cards that have nothing to do with the story that was unfolding at the table. That or there’s one player who has nothing go their way. They never find good loot. When they have encounters they are all for skills they don’t have. That player wanders the wasteland never leveling up and never finding any new equipment. They watch as everyone else has fun.
Both of those problems happen far too often for me to recommend Fallout. But I still dig it. When it works it works so well. When I get to play out a full storyline I love the game. Even when I’m the player who gets screwed by bad cards I want to come back and play in the Wasteland again. Our game last night was like this. I had no hope in winning, I was just wandering around having fun. The other players I taught the game to had mixed feelings, understandably. I get it. This game is not for everyone, it’s a bit of a hot mess. It does some things so well and others so badly. More than any other game I own, I recommend you try before you buy.
So that was it. That was my Extra Life gaming in a nutshell.
Did you take part in Extra Life this past weekend? What did you get to play?