Barnes on Games- Barnes' Best GOTY 2016

Barnes on Games- Barnes' Best GOTY 2016 Hot

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Michael BarnesMichael Barnes   December 30, 2016  
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Spoiler- It's Star Trek: Ascendancy

Here it is, the last column of a shitty year that benefitted absolutely no one except rich, white scumbags. THANKS A LOT 2016 for finding all new ways to take good things away from us. Anyway, one of the brighter parts of the year is that there were actually quite a lot of really good games released this year- I found myself doing my "huh, this is actually pretty good" affirmation through more games than usual it seems, but it could also be because I've gotten MUCH more selective about what I play and review, if that's even possible because I was already filtering out tons of junk. So over at Miniature Market we've done our GOTY post, and it has my "official" GOTY picks on it which will probably surprise no one. They are:

Star Trek Ascendancy- This is the one game that just completely blew me away this year, and it was one I wasn't even really sure I wanted to play. In fact, Charlie asked me to review it and I was like "yeah, sure, whatever". But then I got a review copy and I was like "no, we are reviewing this together because it's awesome". This is a magnificent piece of design work that gives you the big, hoary 4x game experience but with streamlining in the right places. More importantly, it captures the sense of adventure, exploration, negotiation and discovery that defines Trek. It's a near-perfect use of the license and it is by far the best Trek game to date. I haven't gotten to play this game nearly as much as I'd like due to the three player limit, but every game has been awesome and well worth telling some other friends at game night to take a hike. This is also GF9's best game to date.

Scythe- This is probably the controversial pick because it was "promised" to be a 4x game when in actuality it is an economic game with a fascinating theme about agrarian cultures being driven to fight using the tools at hand. The title is apt, as it's a farming tool that can also be used as a weapon. This is a beautiful game refined and designed to spec at an almost Kubrickian degree, full of interesting and interlocking mechanics and a unique setting. I have the expansion sitting right here but I have yet to even take a look at it because of the disaster that was the holidays this year, but I'm trying to get at least seven lined up for a game this weekend.


Zimby Mojo- Jim Felli delivers again with this year's "vanguard" pick. This is a wholly outsider game unlike anything else you have played. It's bizarre, violent, goofy and idiosyncratic and it is a great example of the difference between scrappy but singular game design genius and sloppy Kickstarter non-development. It's kind of a mess, it's too long, and it's not a game that you can just break out and play with anyone but there is not an alternative. Much like Shadows of Malice (which held this same spot last year), you either let Mr. Felli do his thing or you go somewhere else. But if you do get on board, you're going to have a fresh, fun experience that is well worth working through the barriers to entry.

Now, you might find yourself asking where some of my other favorites, specifically Gorechosen and Silver Tower, are. Well, I couldn't pick those because we are beholden to choose games that Miniature Market sells for obvious reasons. Regardless, I think that ST:A would have still taken the top prize but everything under that would be completely in flux with those two games in the mix because:

Gorechosen: This game is quite possibly the best design Games Workshop has ever come up with and it hits every single element that you've wanted from their board games for the past 30+ years. It's ridiculous, funny, capricious, violent and the whole thing just kind of explodes. It is totally heavy metal to the hilt. But it is also an incredibly well-written gladiatorial game that avoids a lot of the stumbling blocks you often seen in melee-focused, low model count skirmish. Nobody stands around trading blows. Everything is always moving and the weapon profiles make maneuver a critical element. The cardplay is fun, the miniatures are of course the best in the industry, and it is just a blast to play in the same way that games like Wiz-War and DungeonQuest were in the 1980s.

Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower: As I've stated repeatedly, this is the best dungeoncrawl game on the market and I do not care one lick if it is not a 1:1 remake of the original game. This is a leaner, cleaner game with an excellent dice-based activation mechanic, lots of detail, simple leveling and TONS of great narrative thanks to the scenario format. It's also the best-looking game of its type available, with a very Tzeentchy color palate and a more surrealist, almost deco take on the usual aesthetics. This is a game with birdmen and spider-goblin hybrids. This is also probably my most played game of 2016, having gone through the full campaign solo and also with a group that rotated between 2-4 players over the course of it. I look at this game and it makes me think about getting rid of the AD&D Adventure System set I have, and that speaks to its overall quality. I want more WHQ, and hopefully GW will deliver in 2017.

Now, in addition to all of the above...I allowed the Review Corner writers to select an overall Game of the Year. Most of them had Star Wars: Rebellion on their lists, so editorially that was what made sense. I gave it four stars, but that crap-ass fake-depth combat system kept it from top marks. Nonetheless, it's a decent "popular" pick for an overall GOTY. Even if it is wrong by my standards.

That's it- now let's all limp on through the rest of this accursed year and hope for a better one come Sunday.

Posted: 31 Dec 2016 11:41 by drewcula #241612
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Great stuff as always MB. You're directly responsible for my purchases of: Spartacus, Earth Reborn, Cthulhu Wars and Claustrophobia among others I'm too Saturday morning drunk to remember.
I guess I'll have to look into Silver Tower and Gorechosen.
Still, I own a hell of a lot of Heroquest and Dungeon Saga and those scratch a lot of itches.
And Wiz-War fun in the 80s?! Come on now. I have fun playing Wiz-War in 2016! Wiz-War is probably by favorite FFG reprint.
Posted: 31 Dec 2016 12:21 by san il defanso #241617
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It occurs to me that Felli is working in a very auteur kind of design space. He seems to be designing games that he wants to play, and the rest of us are along for the ride. That's a great quality, and it makes Shadows of Malice and Zimby Mojo really special games, but it does severely limit their appeal to the hobby at large. I think most gamers, not unreasonably, expect a game to be theirs to mold and shape, and both of Felli's games resist that. Great games, and I'm keeping them both for the long haul, but they really do force the player to approach them with a willingness to let the game do what it wants, rather than the other way around.
Posted: 31 Dec 2016 13:42 by Gary Sax #241619
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Great post and choices! Thanks for your contributions here all year, Barnes.
Posted: 31 Dec 2016 15:41 by Southernman #241626
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I feel bad now (possibly heretical) .... I've just posted that, after my initial gushing over it, I think Star Trek: Ascendancy may be slightly broken (or just not that good) in a couple of aspects. (How many weeks suspension have I just occurred).
Posted: 31 Dec 2016 16:46 by Gary Sax #241627
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0, shit like that is way more welcome here than a bunch of people posting "me too!" And shouting down dissent.
Posted: 03 Jan 2017 18:56 by Michael Barnes #241751
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That's right, we here at F:AT completely embrace your right to be wrong.
Posted: 04 Jan 2017 10:19 by Columbob #241781
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Hey Mike, have you tried Mechs vs. Minions yet?
Posted: 04 Jan 2017 10:50 by Michael Barnes #241786
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An old friend of mine was in town for the holidays and he brought it over twice, but we wound up playing Doom and TMNT instead when I saw him. I'll get to it eventually!
Posted: 05 Jan 2017 22:12 by Malloc #241877
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Barnes, Ascendency is a mess, some good ideas in there but the game play is not great. There are real issues, from the fact that it encourages turtling, to the fact that the races all essentially play the same (due to turtling culture) and that the space lanes are kind of worthless once everyone starts warping. This thing needed more testing. Also combat... it could have been better. I like the dice but its pretty easy to figure out who is winning a battle before it starts.

I want to like it, its has things that could have worked but it needs help
Posted: 06 Jan 2017 08:40 by charlest #241885
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Interesting. I've only played four games but turtling has not been a thing for anyone besides the Fed. Whoever ends up with less culture typically cannot turtle at all. We've had 3 wins from Dominance and 1 from Culture.

The space lanes also matter because ships block people from warping through, so they create choke points.
Posted: 06 Jan 2017 09:15 by Southernman #241889
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I still like the game but my disappointmants (still) are:
- Research broken as it can't be used (effectively) both for weapons/shields and advancements (unless you are well on your way to a supremacy win, then it doesn't matter).
- Hidden exploration with no initial player contact for maybe five turns can make a player a spectator if they get unlucky draws (i.e. three phenomenon and a planet eater out of eight system draws = just watching the other two).
- It's still just a production race.
Posted: 06 Jan 2017 09:24 by san il defanso #241891
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I very nearly bought Ascendancy a couple weeks ago, but I decided against it. I think the 3-player limit and length were my main issues, but I am curious how this turtling thing plays out for other people. I think for any sort of map-based game that's the toughest thing to push against.
Posted: 06 Jan 2017 11:36 by Unicron #241902
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Southernman wrote:
I still like the game but my disappointmants (still) are:
- Research broken as it can't be used (effectively) both for weapons/shields and advancements (unless you are well on your way to a supremacy win, then it doesn't matter).
- Hidden exploration with no initial player contact for maybe five turns can make a player a spectator if they get unlucky draws (i.e. three phenomenon and a planet eater out of eight system draws = just watching the other two).
- It's still just a production race.

I know that ten games isn't a ton, but on average, our games have first contact on turn 3. Two players are trying to make contact with the Romulans to get trade up ASAP. I don't think that shields and weapons are meant to be maxed, only to have the capacity for a few upgrades if they become the sole research priority. I think the terrible system draw can be crippling, but not as much as when you and your opponents are inexperienced. As for the production race, if that were the case, then I think the Federation should win every game, right?
Posted: 06 Jan 2017 18:14 by Southernman #241919
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Unicron wrote:
Southernman wrote:
I still like the game but my disappointmants (still) are:
- Research broken as it can't be used (effectively) both for weapons/shields and advancements (unless you are well on your way to a supremacy win, then it doesn't matter).
- Hidden exploration with no initial player contact for maybe five turns can make a player a spectator if they get unlucky draws (i.e. three phenomenon and a planet eater out of eight system draws = just watching the other two).
- It's still just a production race.

I know that ten games isn't a ton, but on average, our games have first contact on turn 3. Two players are trying to make contact with the Romulans to get trade up ASAP. I don't think that shields and weapons are meant to be maxed, only to have the capacity for a few upgrades if they become the sole research priority. I think the terrible system draw can be crippling, but not as much as when you and your opponents are inexperienced. As for the production race, if that were the case, then I think the Federation should win every game, right?

We are aggressive players so 1st contact does not come quickly, we are too busy exploring to get all the resource nodes to be able to attack or defend attacks.
I had two games in a row where I was basically out of the game by turn four/five - one wasn't as bad as the other and I was squirrelling away ships hoping to make a backdoor attack on the guy smashing over the other guy but he won before i had enough ships just to match one of his fleets.
Not sure where you are going with your Fed/production comment.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 00:24 by RabidWookie #241925
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Was it really necessary to start a Game of the Year piece with silly political hyperbole?
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 00:25 by RabidWookie #241927
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On topic, Ascendancy is broken and overly long for such a defensive game. Gorechosen and Silver Tower are brilliant, and I'd have probably picked Silver Tower as GOTY.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 03:39 by scissors #241930
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RabidWookie wrote:
Was it really necessary to start a Game of the Year piece with silly political hyperbole?

What's silly about it? And who says it's hyperbole? A majority of Americans and much of the free world considers the election of a longtime conman and liar a downright catastrophe for the US and for the rest of us. Even if Michael only alluded to it indirectly, per the FAT unspoken rule to generally stay away from politics, I am glad he has an opinion that goes beyond just board games.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 08:39 by Southernman #241933
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RabidWookie wrote:
On topic, Ascendancy is broken and overly long for such a defensive game. Gorechosen and Silver Tower are brilliant, and I'd have probably picked Silver Tower as GOTY.

I'm sure GW fan-boi games were excluded - actually they probably got gamers who played other games as well as GW to vote :-)
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 08:42 by Southernman #241934
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scissors wrote:
RabidWookie wrote:
Was it really necessary to start a Game of the Year piece with silly political hyperbole?

What's silly about it? And who says it's hyperbole? A majority of Americans and much of the free world considers the election of a longtime conman and liar a downright catastrophe for the US and for the rest of us. Even if Michael only alluded to it indirectly, per the FAT unspoken rule to generally stay away from politics, I am glad he has an opinion that goes beyond just board games.

Yes but this is the exact reason why we have separate forums for spitting your own flavour of vitriolic creed at everyone else ... most of the site is about discussing games (except for Black Barney who is allowed to post about anything, and usually not games) and probably all of us like it that way.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 13:43 by scissors #241947
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my own flavour of Vitriolic creed? you are kidding, right? since I barely ever come here anymore, for any reason, for that reason i should perhaps have kept it myself. this just happened to catch my eye, you self styled spokesman for what's right or wrong at FAT.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 14:09 by RabidWookie #241951
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scissors wrote:
RabidWookie wrote:
Was it really necessary to start a Game of the Year piece with silly political hyperbole?

What's silly about it? And who says it's hyperbole? A majority of Americans and much of the free world considers the election of a longtime conman and liar a downright catastrophe for the US and for the rest of us. Even if Michael only alluded to it indirectly, per the FAT unspoken rule to generally stay away from politics, I am glad he has an opinion that goes beyond just board games.

Both candidates were crooked liars and plenty of people had good reasons (and bad reasons) for voting for either of them. To pretend otherwise is to engage in childish hyperbole. I couldn't in good conscience support either of them.

As far as gaming, 2016 was a pretty big let-down compared to the wonders 2015 delivered. My highlights for the year were pretty much relegated to Games Workshop working it's way back into my life after a 25 year hiatus and discovering older games for the first time, like Puzzle Strike.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 14:16 by RabidWookie #241952
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scissors wrote:
my own flavour of Vitriolic creed? you are kidding, right? since I barely ever come here anymore, for any reason, for that reason i should perhaps have kept it myself. this just happened to catch my eye, you self styled spokesman for what's right or wrong at FAT.

Wait, you're criticizing someone for supposedly speaking for the majority of a niche message board, after you just tried to speak for the majority of Americans and the world regarding your angry politics?
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 14:27 by Mad Dog #241956
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Please continue this discussion in the RSP forum.
Posted: 07 Jan 2017 18:52 by Southernman #241980
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scissors wrote:
my own flavour of Vitriolic creed? you are kidding, right? since I barely ever come here anymore, for any reason, for that reason i should perhaps have kept it myself. this just happened to catch my eye, you self styled spokesman for what's right or wrong at FAT.

Nope, the moderators are (I just know stuff) and they just told you to fuck off to another forum ....... told ya so, na na na

(PS My 'your own flavour' comment was the same as the 'royal we', meaning everyone).
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 10:01 by Legomancer #241997
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Look, we're brought here by a common interest, so let's throw out the political talk and focus on something we can all agree on:

Miniatures games are dumb toys for little babys.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 10:18 by Black Barney #241999
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Babies.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 10:39 by Colorcrayons #242001
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*Throws self on ground and has a tantrum*
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 11:44 by xthexlo #242003
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I started playing with mini's back in the late '70s with Ral Partha metal figurines. They were pretty cool for a while -- mostly in complex battle situations in a D&D campaign -- but my group drifted away pretty quickly. We never really got caught up in mini-madness. To us, they were more effort than value in our games.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 12:05 by Colorcrayons #242004
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I like to joke about painting my dollies, and dressing them the way I like while building dolly houses and an entire city for my dollies to live and fight out their dolly drama.

It gives levity and grounding to a hobby that people take so seriously.

I knew as a child I would be involved in toys for one reason or another for the rest of my life.
I used to obsess over my stars wars dagobah swamp play set with Yoda.



I distinctly recall telling myself as I am playing with it that; "I will be playing with toys for the rest of my life". This was in kindergarten.

While life gets in the way of my fantasy born need for egress, and have put some things away for a time, I always come back to them.

Play is important. Game designer Jane McDonagil (sic) made a very convincing video where she explains how important play is to a healthy life.


While it does rationalize and reinforce my own views on that choice, I know it enriches my life greatly. It makes me a happier person.
Sometimes, I just need a few dollies to suspend my disbelief that I am in a world that doesn't suck nearly as much as this one.

But then again, I am an unapologetic, giant man-child who still enjoys and revers Mr. Rogers and other things that grants me a small moment to feel wonder and the lack of cynicism as I did as a child.

Just sharing my own perspective.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 12:07 by Vlad #242005
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Legomancer wrote:
Miniatures games are dumb toys for little babys.

They are not a toy, they are sophisticated interlocking building system. Not a toy. There's an age suggestion because they have to put it.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 13:18 by wadenels #242009
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Legomancer wrote:
Miniatures games are dumb toys for little babys.

This makes me wonder what a Unified Tabletop Game Definition Theory could look like...

Tabletop games only exist because adults can't play make-believe without copious arguing and "nuh-uh"s. We need the rules so we can play with our dollies the right way.
Posted: 08 Jan 2017 13:40 by RabidWookie #242010
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Legomancer wrote:
Miniatures games are dumb toys for little babys.

You sir are a mean and vindictive philistine. Miniatures, when painted properly, cure cancer and impotence.
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 06:11 by evilduck #242043
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huhu

i had to create an account to comment on your choosen game of the year...

star trek ascendancy was not the worst game i played last year (in fact it was second after vinhos, which is totally broken) but it was surly the most disapointing one...

which is worse!

why so? because the promise is so big and the execution is so mediocre (sadface indeed)

lets go into the details
first things first. the exploration is ace. the develepment of the galaxy, the starlanes, the mechanic of rotating loose ends that snap into place once the second lane is added are top notch, play well, give strategic decisionmaking to the player and are thematic... real good stuff here. its also a bit prone to luck of the draw, but yeah...

everything else from here is a serious letdown...

the rulebook ist not very good. in fact, its a mess. it reads like a rulebook from ffg from 15 to 10 years ago. ffg has made great strides in the past years to make their rulebooks better, but gf9 seems to not get the memo the rulebooks have to be concise, to the point, unambitous and clear and easy referenceable... this is specially bad for a game with a) not so many rules (you can easyly fit them on two pages) and b) not very complicated rules (the game is neither difficul, complicated nor complex)
for how to do good rules on complex games see gmt (commbat commander for example)

then game mechanics in general: oh my god... a blast from the past and not in a good way... . except from exploration everything else is soooo 1990... no kidding here. the rules remind me of something like axis and allies. yes this is ameritrash, but come on, even amerithrash games have evolved a LOT in the past 25 years. proof? look at fantasy flight games and the evolution of their games in the ameritrash sector. and the buckets of dice aproach is really all your designers come up with in this day and age...

when we see just the 4x a lot of plastic on the table genre its even more embarasing... please compare to the evolution of twilight imperium or take a look at eclipse...

into some specifics...

if you can win a sudden death victory by ascendancy with five victory tokens and you start by one and every token is composed of 5 smaller tokens, what is the networth of every small (victory) token? 5%!!!- yes that are 3 ! . what does this mean. the most effectiv action you can choose to do in a turn is ALLWAYS the one that gives you culture tokens. if you build anything else then culture on grey building spots you do it definetly wrong (because this site will produce victorypoint tokens from now on). the mathematicaly more inclined people on this forum could even tell when its even more efficent to sit on the culture tokens instead of building new sites because of given away 10% of victory points for a roi of +5% in two turns

or in other words its very very easy to build 5 culture factories, turtle up in my homesystem and just autopilot to victory ...
(just for those that still dont get it... you can autowin in 20 turns by never building or exploring anything just sitting in your homesystem, in fact its less then 20, because you start with some...)

the only way to stop this is to go all out war from the very beginning. which is no problem, just connect to the homesystem (no one can stop this from happening) and by the time you can warp more then one system (easy) you can bypass hazards... ussually red buildingpoints are of no concern, just pour ot ships, roll buckets of dice and see what happens...
the the combat system is lame (bucket of dice) and unimaginative
sidenote: the federation got massively shafted here because there biggest fleet is 6.

someway connected to this...
the science tokens!!! yeah, a tech tree... and what wonderfull thematic things i can do with it! ... but in reality there is only ONE viable option: forget about the techtree, go all guns!
yes even the shields are not cost effective (guns are way cheaper, so more bang for the bug (hehe) and faster to build. only exeption: a tech that brings you culture (see above... but is there any?)

i could go on and on, but i think you get the point
you have a wonderfully thematic game with one rally good idea that boils down to 2 effective ways to play (turtleup and autopilot to ascendancy or to avoid that, all out war from the getgo)

that a deep disapointment and really a wasted opportunity (my treckie girlfriend went nuts about the theme... and was deeply frustrated that all of that went poof the moment play beginns)

and that for 100 Euros!! (which ist STEEP) and at least 25 euros just for the license. my gf went all in (170 euros with both expensions) for something that boils down to "roll more hits than the other guy (dice it out). in a three hour plus game! maaaan...
there is a small hope that the expansion can remedy something about this disapointment, but were not holding our breath here...

as a sidenote: have you played mechs versus minions? THATS how its done. 75 euros, a steal. production value through the roof AND gone the extra mile for fantastic gameplay... gf9 take a note... or two...

the only people i can see having fun with this are roleplayers (yes!) which play "how its meant to be played". one competitive player or someone who is a tiny bit analytical and effective and evverything fall apart

for me it seems that gf 9 rushed the game out of the doors because of the anniversary which by nature has a deadline. which ended with one great idea and a lot of mediocicy with a ruleset from 25 years ago.

what a shame

evilduck

ps: the above is a perfect example of germans not being able to make short sentences...
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 08:14 by Black Barney #242046
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Ouf...good thing we won the war
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 14:10 by Southernman #242098
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Evilduck - some good points but a lot of it rubbish, I suppose if you only play against your gf then you may miss aspects of the game.And 100 euros man, I got it for under £60 delivered and that was in rip-off Britain, you can't accuse a game for being costly on you not living in the US.
But just to answer the turtling bit, if you have converted your open nodes to culture unless you have luckily drawn lots of production you are not going to be able to withstand attacks. You don't like it, fine as it has got some old school stuff in it but some people still like rolling dice, I think it would work better if research worked and the advancements weren't random (although that is easily fixed with one of the suggested variant rules).
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 17:11 by RabidWookie #242124
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GF9 hit home runs with Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy, and a standing double with their WWE game, but the mediocrity of Firefly should have given them pause before trying to tackle something as large and complex as a 4X Trek game. It feels like they took a simple and intuitive design (which they have a clear knack for) and bolted on a bunch of mechanisms until they were left with an appealing looking mess.
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 20:56 by Gary Sax #242136
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Firefly was a game I really liked on my first 3-4 plays but after that I soured QUICKLY. The splay the whole exposed decks out thing was a big downer.
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 22:59 by Shellhead #242146
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At the rate this thread is going, by weekend we will have a mob with pitchforks and torches ready to go after Star Trek: Ascendancy.

I'm a fan of GF9, but the discussions of Star Trek: Ascendancy elsewhere at F:AT turned me off, because the strategy and mechanics and gameplay all seem too detached from the Star Trek show. Any game based on a licensed property owes the players a game that connects well with that setting, because that is what they are hoping to get. Even the word Ascendancy in the title seems like a warning, because wtf does "ascendancy" have to do with any of the hundreds of episodes and dozen plus movies of the Star Trek franchise?
Posted: 09 Jan 2017 23:12 by RabidWookie #242148
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Shellhead wrote:
At the rate this thread is going, by weekend we will have a mob with pitchforks and torches ready to go after Star Trek: Ascendancy.

I'm a fan of GF9, but the discussions of Star Trek: Ascendancy elsewhere at F:AT turned me off, because the strategy and mechanics and gameplay all seem too detached from the Star Trek show. Any game based on a licensed property owes the players a game that connects well with that setting, because that is what they are hoping to get. Even the word Ascendancy in the title seems like a warning, because wtf does "ascendancy" have to do with any of the hundreds of episodes and dozen plus movies of the Star Trek franchise?

That's a great point, the game does seem a little too militaristic for an IP focused on enlightenment and exploration. It's especially surprising coming from GF9, a company that's built it's reputation on licensed games that perfectly emulate their source material. The good news is that we already have the perfect Trek game (Fleet Captains).
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 02:30 by Southernman #242150
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Shellhead wrote:
At the rate this thread is going, by weekend we will have a mob with pitchforks and torches ready to go after Star Trek: Ascendancy.

I'm a fan of GF9, but the discussions of Star Trek: Ascendancy elsewhere at F:AT turned me off, because the strategy and mechanics and gameplay all seem too detached from the Star Trek show. Any game based on a licensed property owes the players a game that connects well with that setting, because that is what they are hoping to get. Even the word Ascendancy in the title seems like a warning, because wtf does "ascendancy" have to do with any of the hundreds of episodes and dozen plus movies of the Star Trek franchise?

Strange then that, if my memory serves me OK, guys like Mike and Charlie and Josh who have reviewed it (and many at BGG) says it does feel like an epic Star Trek theme, not a USS Enterprise tactical game but the Federation and other races exploring the galaxy. It's not about Kirk or Picard winning battles or having adventures (there are already a couple of current ST games out their that do that) but seeing which empire (and their credo) becomes the Ascendant one in the galaxy. I feel that it will play, and feel, different with more players and players will get to use more of their empire abilities as a 3-player game does assist a 'tank rush' strategy, especially if one player has had a slow/poor start in exploration - in fact I think it may be a very different game with five players.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:23 by Shellhead #242156
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Southernman wrote:
Shellhead wrote:
At the rate this thread is going, by weekend we will have a mob with pitchforks and torches ready to go after Star Trek: Ascendancy.

I'm a fan of GF9, but the discussions of Star Trek: Ascendancy elsewhere at F:AT turned me off, because the strategy and mechanics and gameplay all seem too detached from the Star Trek show. Any game based on a licensed property owes the players a game that connects well with that setting, because that is what they are hoping to get. Even the word Ascendancy in the title seems like a warning, because wtf does "ascendancy" have to do with any of the hundreds of episodes and dozen plus movies of the Star Trek franchise?

Strange then that, if my memory serves me OK, guys like Mike and Charlie and Josh who have reviewed it (and many at BGG) says it does feel like an epic Star Trek theme, not a USS Enterprise tactical game but the Federation and other races exploring the galaxy. It's not about Kirk or Picard winning battles or having adventures (there are already a couple of current ST games out their that do that) but seeing which empire (and their credo) becomes the Ascendant one in the galaxy. I feel that it will play, and feel, different with more players and players will get to use more of their empire abilities as a 3-player game does assist a 'tank rush' strategy, especially if one player has had a slow/poor start in exploration - in fact I think it may be a very different game with five players.

And that's precisely the problem. The tv shows and the movies generally don't give two fucks about the Federation on grand strategic level. Ascendancy may be set in the Star Trek universe, but it is largely disconnected from the experience of the show, so it misses the mark. Sure, there is exploration, but on the show, the exploration was never about how a given discovery will help the Federation develop. No, the exploration was all about the adventure experienced by the crew of one ship, especially the bridge crew.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:34 by charlest #242157
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I think Dan Thurot said it best:
For me, as a longtime lover of Star Trek, one of the things that appeals to me the most is how Ascendancy truly captures the feel of the “best three” series. The early stages are all about the danger and adventure of exploration à la the Original Series, with entire fleets getting gobbled up by space amoebas or stellar nurseries. Colonization is a testy prospect, ships are sort of slow, you have no idea how the map will shape up. And since the map itself is organic and ever-changing, filled with surprises and deadly corridors and various avenues of approach into hostile territory, each match presents something entirely different. Then you make first contact and the game changes. Now it’s border tensions and stolen research projects and diplomatic wheedling, straight out of The Next Generation, and eventually the escalating alliances and warfare of Deep Space Nine. Remember how the Federation finally got the Klingons and Romulans to put aside their differences to beat the Dominion, so the Dominion teamed up with the Breen to sack Earth, and so on? That’s how the latter third of the game feels, with everyone trying to wreck whichever team is about to dominate the Alpha Quadrant.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 09:50 by Michael Barnes #242159
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He obviously is mistaken and has no idea what he is talking about. :-)
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 10:00 by san il defanso #242160
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I've not played Ascendancy yet, so I'm really not a good source of info on it. But my impression is that rather than recreating the feel of a Star Trek episode, it recreates the feel of the Star Trek universe. Nothing (that I know of) really pitches Star Trek from the POV of the Klingons or Romulans, but their goals are definitely different from that of the Federation. From a distance at least it seems like Ascendancy recreates that well.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 10:22 by charlest #242161
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That's really the MO of GF9's design team though. Sons of Anarchy didn't feel like a specific episode of the show. You're not putting up with Gemma's bullshit and trying to keep your toddler from being captured by some high school dropouts, you're running a gang and trying to wrestle turf out from under the next leather-clad mob.

In Homeland i'm not dealing with a bipolar agent who can't keep her shit together or attempted assassinations in the streets. I'm running agents and orchestrating a greater war effort.

Spartacus isn't about hanging out in the baths and proving yourself in a training courtyard. It's about running the Ludus, achieving fame, and spilling blood. All with a grin on your face.

By not recreating specific events, and instead going for the thematic overtones of a grander picture, these games allow you to forge your own stories that feel apropos to the fiction at hand.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 13:24 by Southernman #242168
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100% correct Charlie - but then so is Shellhead when he says it doesn't feel like an episode and he doesn't like it - so like everything in life it's 'horses for courses', no one requires you to like it if it is not what you're after but that doesn't make it a bad game because it isn't for you.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 13:26 by Jexik #242169
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The Sons of Anarchy game was pretty dull to me. Find the spaces that convert 1 thing into 3 things. Protect them. Play your opponents off each other. Profit.

If I want to sell drugs I could just go for Puerto Rico, right?
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 13:31 by Shellhead #242170
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I like the Sons of Anarchy game on a mechanical level, but a different design could have nailed the feel of show more closely. All the main characters had personal agendas, but often came together to face threats against the whole club. Lies with good intentions often caused a lot of trouble. And the bodycount on the show was much higher than in the game.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 13:32 by Shellhead #242171
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Spartacus the game actually captured a lot of the spirit of the first season of the tv show.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 13:47 by RobertB #242173
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I had a couple of Sons of Anarchy players who really didn't like pretending to be drug dealers. The rules just say 'contraband'. I'd tell them to pretend they were bootleg CDs, fake Nike T-shirts, whatever.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 14:16 by charlest #242176
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Jexik wrote:
The Sons of Anarchy game was pretty dull to me. Find the spaces that convert 1 thing into 3 things. Protect them. Play your opponents off each other. Profit.

If I want to sell drugs I could just go for Puerto Rico, right?

I can see it playing that way, but with the right group there's tons of brinksmanship and teaming up on the perceived leader. Calling favors and making deals is a big part of it when we play. I also love the drug trafficking mechanism where you can flood the market and reduce profit per piece of contraband.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 14:20 by Shellhead #242178
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Sons of Anarchy is a good game, but just an okay Sons of Anarchy game.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 14:22 by Jexik #242179
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Yeah, much like Bootleggers, I can see it being group dependent to get the right mood. I played with the table of slightly older guys that normally stick to heavier Euros (they're in love with Terraforming Mars at the moment), and they all ignored me because I wasn't the perceived threat and I quietly pocketed a ton of money. They're more heads-down kinds of guys (and I am too if you don't bring it out of me) so it was sort of quiet and the efficiency questions weren't as nuanced as the ones asked in a game like Power Grid. 1 for 3? Yeah, duh!
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 14:36 by hotseatgames #242184
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I found SoA to be a boring game. Based on a bad show. But Spartacus is still top notch.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 14:49 by stoic #242185
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hotseatgames wrote:
I found SoA to be a boring game. Based on a bad show. But Spartacus is still top notch.

I agree. BUT, SoA is a game dependent upon the dynamics of your group. If everyone isn't into negotiation and diplomacy type treachery, then the game is boring. The negotiation offers the chaos that glues it all together. I've found it's the same thing that causes Cosmic to backfire too when you play it with the wrong crowd.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 15:02 by charlest #242188
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I wasn't aware so many people disliked SOA here. It's still my favorite worker placement game, easily.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 15:06 by Vlad #242189
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RobertB wrote:
I had a couple of Sons of Anarchy players who really didn't like pretending to be drug dealers.

Just out of curiosity, did you play Spartacus with them and if yes, how did they feel about being slave owners? :)
Man, I liked SoA because drugs and guns, I only wish it was based on Breaking Bad instead and the duffel bags were blue.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 15:20 by JEM #242190
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Sons of Anarchy is a very tepid worker placement* game on a purely mechanical level- leverage the best spot to get this or that resource to exchange for victory points. What elevates it is the player interaction, and that is not guaranteed. Compare that to a game like Argent: The Consortium, where the cogs and gears of the worker placement machinery directly contribute to the interaction (and by extension, "fun") in ways that SoA barely scratches.

Guilds of London I think is very close to SoA; capable of similar amounts of negotiation/diplomacy, only the flavour of the game (a kind of inoffensive cardboard/vanilla) doesn't immediately inspire it. Even so, "I won't mess with you on that tile if you don't mess with me on this one" debates are there, as is the unspoken (sometimes spoken) threat of the neutral workers (nee: hit-men). You could re-skin that game pretty nicely into a gangster kind of game for sure. It might even make for a better SoA game.

*Or Area Control if you prefer to see it that way.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 15:58 by Shellhead #242192
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Every time that I have played Sons of Anarchy, there was plenty of interaction (throwdowns and pile-ups) but very little deal-making. It turns out that most people are somewhat resistant to making deals after getting attacked.
Posted: 10 Jan 2017 16:24 by JEM #242195
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Most games players don't understand negotiation. They see it as "Get off my spot or I'll kill you." So long as they're having fun it's all good, I guess.

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