Friday, June 11, 2010

MeepleTown has launched!

Monkeys With Typewriters started out as my personal blog, but over the months it has somehow evolved into a delicious disaster of boardgame coverage. Over time, I found that I had a lot more people reading for my gaming-related posts than my personal musings. I've decided that it's time to spin off the gaming content onto its own site so I can give those topics the attention they deserve.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the launch of MeepleTown, a new site for boardgame reviews, editorials, event recaps, and more!

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may notice occasional "classic" (okay, old) articles re-posted on the new site. The goal is to bring fresh, new updates on a regular basis, but until I have a few more contributors, I'm going to use existing content to fill gaps.

Which brings me to my other plea: I need more contributors! If you're a gamer and are interesting in writing articles (occasionally or as a regular column), I'd be happy to consider your submissions for MeepleTown. I can't pay anything (hey, this is costing me money!), but if you're passionate about games and like to write, it's a good forum for your thoughts on the hobby. Toss me a message on Twitter (username WhiteHowler) or send me an E-mail and let me know what you'd be interested in working on for the site.

I'm excited to be a part of this new project and hope you'll all come along for the ride.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Arkham Horror: The Story Begins

A group of my fellow gaming friends and I have decided to embark on an epic multi-session campaign of Arkham Horror, each week facing a new Ancient One and drawing one step closer to a final showdown with Cthulhu.

We started by using only the Dunwich Horror expansion, along with the character and item cards from all sets, and the Personal Story cards. As the campaign draws on, we'll be adding the small-box sets and alternating out the different big-box expansion boards. Eventually we'll have all rules from every expansion in play, and for the battle against Cthulhu we may actually use all four game boards.

Here's our starting roster (this will probably change as adventurers get devoured):
Diana Stanley the Redeemed Cultist (Christian)
Lily Chen the Martial Artist (Joe)
Patrice Hathaway the Violinist (Hillary)
Kate Winthrop the Scientist (Chris C.)
Jim Culver the Musician (Franklin)

(What can I say? The female characters tend to be better.)

We've instituted some house rules to make the campaign (hopefully) flow more smoothly.

General Campaign Rules:

- Seven random Ancient Ones are selected and placed in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest. Cthulhu will take the eighth and final spot. Each week we'll play a game against the next successive Ancient One.

- Investigators that are Devoured before the Ancient One awakens are gone forever. History. Toast. Grab another one and start over.

- Investigators lost (even "Devoured") in the final battle are considered to be knocked out or temporarily insane. They'll be available for the next session.

After a win:

- Investigators gain one Skill card, which will carry over to the next game (along with all previously-collected Skills).

- Investigators reset all money, spells, and items to their initial starting values. However, Investigators may keep items and spells collected in a previous session rather than a random starting item. (For example, if my character starts with a random Common Item, and I collected a Carbine Rifle this game, I may choose to bring that in as my "random" Common Item for the next game). All extra items and spells over the starting values are lost.

- Investigators may trade items or spells freely between games (again, remembering that you're limited by your initial starting possessions).

- Investigators keep all memberships, titles, and rail passes. Discard bank loans, retainers, blessings, and curses.

- Investigators may discard all but one Injury or Madness card. If the player only has one of these cards, it may be discarded. All Corruption cards are discarded as well.

- Personal Stories "reset" each game.

- If the party won its first attempt at a given Ancient One, the next game will begin with a Herald in play. Ouch.

After a loss:

- The obligatory "it was all a dream" clause. Five unused investigators are discarded from the available pool, and the players will face the same Ancient One for the next session.

- The next battle with the same Ancient One will have a Guardian in play.

- If the investigator pool runs out and we lose a game, the campaign is over. We decided that we'll probably play out the final session against Cthulhu just for fun, and call it a draw if we win.

My plan is to post a quick recap after each game. I'm not yet sure how often we'll be able to play, so this may stretch out for a while.

We're all excited to be embarking on the campaign and hope you'll follow our triumphs (and grisly deaths) as we attempt to save Arkham from the Elder God menace once and for all!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Atlanta Game Fest Wrap-Up Part 3

Welcome to the third and final part of my Atlanta Game Fest wrap-up! There are just a few more new games that I haven't covered yet, so let's tackle those first:

Hansa Teutonica - I don't think this has even been widely released in North America yet, but it seemed to be the big hit of AGF. It's a straight-up worker placement game, but the different things you can do through the placements are interesting and varied. There are several "tracks" on the player board that can be gradually unlocked to provide more options each turn (more actions or placement options, easier worker replenishment, etc.), which allows for several strategies for victory. I enjoyed the hell out of this game, and it's definitely on my short list for my next big game order. Rating: 8/10

Macao - The other hit of AGF, there must have been half a dozen copies of Macao present. It's a resource collection game with a rather unique planning element. Each turn dice are rolled to determine the available resources, and players must allocate them to an upcoming turn (for example, a blue four and a green two are available, which means you can have four blue resources four turns from now, or two green resources two turns from now). Players can use their resources in a variety of ways, buying and selling trade goods, jockeying for turn order, or investing in infrastructure to allow more resource flexibility. There are huge penalties for having no resources on a given turn, so there's a lot of forward-thinking strategy here. The game mechanics are all extremely innovative, and the only knock against it is that my first session seemed to take forever. Our four-player game lasted nearly four hours, which is a bit longer than I wanted to spend on this type of game. I definitely want to give it another shot; if we can get the playtime to a reasonable length, I can see this becoming a favorite with my group. Rating: 7/10

Forbidden Island - I picked this up shortly before the Game Fest started, so it wasn't completely new to me. Designed by Matt Leacock (who also created Pandemic), Forbidden Island shares many concepts and mechanics with its predecessor. It's a pure cooperative game, where players are attempting to recover four treasures from an island. Unfortunately, the island is sinking rapidly, and there isn't much time to recover the treasures and escape the island. The game takes some knocks as being "Pandemic-lite", and while the description is appropriate, Forbidden Island plays much more quickly and has a strong enough theme that it never feels same-y. If you're a Pandemic fan and want something similar that plays in half an hour, this is a very good option. Rating: 8/10

I also had the opportunity to playtest two unpublished prototypes created by Richard Launius, designer of Arkham Horror. I won't go into too many details, but one was a thrilling cooperative sci-fi themed survival game, while the other was a frantic dungeon escape where players tried to one-up each other without getting the entire group killed. Richard loves giving players unique, well-defined characters and tons of dice to roll, and these prototypes were no exception. Both were a lot of fun (though the co-op game was decidedly more polished), and I hope to see them in a game store soon.

Oh, and I did mention my acquisition at the AGF flea market, right?

It's a complete Arkham Horror set, including all six expansions. Not only is the entirety of the Arkham Horror universe included, but the set is pimped-out with custom dice bags, plastic containers for all of the counters, nice printed tuckboxes for all of the cards, and extra printouts of player aids and "cheat sheets". And naturally, since Richard Launius was present at the event, I just had to get him to sign it, right?

And at long last, I think it's finally time to conclude my coverage of Atlanta Game Fest 16. The event was a success in every conceivable way. I had the opportunity to try tons of new games, and more importantly, I made several new friends.

I'm sure AGF will stand as one of the highlights of 2010 for me, and I can't wait for the next one!