Monday, February 11, 2013

New Year's Resolutions Revisited: What Counts?

Okay. A couple of my game-related resolutions are already causing me consternation:

The resolutions in question are as follows:

1. Play 12 new games.

2. Record all plays in BGG and record 100 plays over the course of 2013.

Let's take the second one first.

There are two main questions I have here. The first is "Do games like King of Tokyo count?" Tough one. Certainly these games are fillers and are not ones I take seriously (until last session when I won two games in a row -- suddenly this games seems much more strategic!). But I have two main reasons for counting these. The first is simple. I'm new to recording games and was curious whether I would actually hit the century mark. I want to hit 100, so I count them. The next reason is perhaps a bit of a cop out. I have dedicated some amount of my gaming time to this and it does involve a board so it counts. I play games for three reasons: to appreciate the way the game's problems are solved by the rules, to enjoy the company of my friends, and, finally, to win (not my number one concern, mind you!). The game definitely takes care of the first two. The game captures the fun yet unrealistic silliness of giant monster movies. And it also allows us to yuck it up quite a bit. So, the verdict is...count it!

The second question is "How do I count games like Descent?" We recently started a Descent campaign (an item on my gaming bucket list!), and we were able to make it through the introductory scenario (Ettin -- dead!) and through phase I of the Castle Daerion adventure. So, how do I count that? Is it one session of the game, kind of like a roleplaying session? Or is it two scenarios, each one counting as a play? And add to that the fact that the second scenario we played was really only half of a larger scenario. Or is each chapter its own adventure? We talked about this one. I was going to count each chapter as one play, so that night, I would have recorded two plays. Tom Grant says each adventure is a scenario, so go for it. If you played two ASL scenarios in a night (a loooong night), it would count as two plays, right? So why not Descent scenarios? But TJ, always ready with an answer, made the possibly valid point that the scenarios had two chapters, so the scenario wasn't a play until both chapters were completed. Fair enough. In Descent, the first chapter has an effect on the second chapter of an adventure (whether that effect is significant is debatable). Also, at the start of chapter 2, you are forced to keep the damage you attained at the end of chapter 1. Hmmm...that's a fairly strong connection (until, of course, my healer character casts what I like to call "rain of neosporin" -- feel my soothing wrath!). So I guess they both have a point. At the end of an adventure's second chapter, you lose the damage and fatigue. Seems like a breaking point in a scenario. So, the verdict? Two chapters count as a play! Right after this posting, I'll go and change my plays for that night from 2 to 1.5.

Now for the new games. The question here is "How do you count expansions?" I have been playing War of the Ring with the Lords of Middle Earth expansion. Is that a new game? Generally, I would say how much does it impact the play of the game? Let's look at two expansions that have hit my table since Christmas.

First up, the Power Up expansion for King of Tokyo. In this expansion comes the new character Pandakai. Okay, not much there. But the evolutions are pretty significant. It makes the hearts doubly useful, but most importantly it puts a lot more power into the game. Three hearts are not that hard to get, and now my Cyber Bunny is pimped out pretty early in the game and is fighting pimped out giant apes and mechanical dinosaurs. This is, in the end, a significant change. The game becomes longer as players choose fewer Victory Point dice and fewer claws in lieu of hearts. And every roll ends up with an exception and a bump by the end of the game. I don't think this is, in the end, a good change. It's kind of like hitting too many home runs in baseball. Sure, when the game was juiced, a lot of runs were scored, but the best games, the classics, were still the 1-0 pitchers' duels. Power Up adds too much power to a game that is defined by its lovable simplicity. And that significant a change definitely counts as a new game.

Second up is Lords of Middle Earth. The Balrog is back! The Lord of the Nazgul is back! Elrond! Galadriel! Cool new dice! But, in the end, this expansion is not nearly as significant as the old Battle of the Third Age expansion for the original War of the Ring game (well, not the Richard Berg original, but you know what I mean...). The dice end up being in play for a somewhat limited time(because they are eventually "replaced" by the regular dice of the Witch King and Gandalf the White), and only one can be used per turn. So there is a minimal expansion of each turn (advantage to the Shadow Player as more actions only means that the Fellowship's moves become just that much more dangerous). The Balrog is so brittle as to be almost unuseable. He does a nice job of clogging up Moria, though. In the old expansion, the seige weaponry had a huge effect and could really change a game. And the old game had those battle games (another bucket list item). So, what's the verdict? For The Battle of the Third Age, count it! It's new enough that the seige weaponry can really ruin your day if you don't prepare for it. And those Corsairs can be pretty interesting, too. But for Lords of Middle Earth, while it adds a dash of spice to one of my favorite games, it does not change the recipe enough to count as a new game. So the verdict here is no, not new!

Well, everything clear as mud now? Some future topics I'm considering are: Descent Second Edition comments (you might call it a review), Andean Abyss comments (same), Mage Knight: The Lost Legion expansion, and a one day at Prezcon AAR.

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