Articles Reviews Barnestorming #41- 1812 in Review, BattleCon, DAF

Barnestorming #41- 1812 in Review, BattleCon, DAF Michael Barnes Hot

Written by Michael Barnes     February 16, 2012    
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Canada1812Cue the Barnestorming #41 Overture

On the Table

Holy crap, 1812: Invasion of Canada is great. Here's the review. Highly innovative, sleek design, reasonable playtime, plenty of narrative. It’s the total package, although it hardly looks like it with its fairly sparse board and wooden cubes. This is going to be one of the games to beat in 2012. I think it’s an instant classic on par with the better Columbia titles. The only thing is that it really needs five players. It’s not a two player game with a team option. It’s meant to be a five player game.

I have an advance Thunderstone Advance in hand. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but it’s a damn good looking package. The product design looks less chintzy, and new features like the board are _great_. I love that it has slots for everything and two sides for mixing up the gameplay. Really looking forward to seeing how this works both by itself and with the legacy sets.

span style="font-family: Calibri;">BattleCon: War of the Indines. Why isn’t anyone here talking about this game? I’m really digging the review copy they sent me. It’s another fighting game, but it’s sort of getting at different things than Yomi. There are some ways I think it’s better than Yomi, but it’s definitely not as streamlined or ruthlessly balanced. It’s not really a combo game either. But I love how attacks consist of pairs of cards- an “adjective” and then the base attack- and that creates tons of different possibilities for each of the 21 (!!!) characters. There’s a neat cycling thing that goes on to that sort of sets the tempo for when certain attacks are available. A fight between a vampire knight and a robot really feels like just that. This is a neat game, more on it later.


On the Consoles

I’m finding Kingdoms of Amalur oddly soulless and not very engaging. It’s not a bad game, but it just feels so plastic and academic. I compared it to “Young Americans” over at No High Scores.

Reviewing Warp today on XBLA. It’s a neat little puzzle/stealth game that feels like a cross between Metal Gear, Portal, and ‘Splosion Man.

Vita next week. Strangely, the games of choice for me seem to be Hot Shots Golf (I have this weird thing about golf right now- I hate it, but I want to play a golf video game badly) and Rayman Origins, which was very good on consoles but I think I’ll like it on a handheld better. Uncharted…I dunno. I just played and have been playing Uncharted 3, so I don’t feel a big rush for it.

I’m also reviewing Syndicate next week. I actually liked the demo quite a bit, don’t know if the full game will hold up but I had a good time with it. It definitely makes you feel like you’re on a team of Cyberpunk hard asses.



Ascension is kind of wearing me out. Too many games at once. If you’re in a game with me and it’s slowed down, I apologize. Once I weed through the 35 or so games going on, I’m going to try to focus on playing a smaller number at a time. Still love it, just TOO MUCH of it.

League of Evil 2 came out. The first one was the best IOS platformer. The new one is even better. The cartoon art style is better than the faux 8-thing, and it looks awesome on the iPad. It’s hard, but not Super Meat Boy hard.

Got the Epic Quest table for Zen Pinball, for some reason I’m not that interested in it on XBLA. It seems pretty easy but not unappealing. The RPG stuff is cool


On the Screen

River has gotten really into Howl’s Moving Castle. He asks to see “How” all the time. Somehow, my other Miyazaki DVDs are missing so I’m about to rebuy all of them so he can see them.

Howl’s is such an odd picture. There’s this weird New Orleans/Mardi Gras thing going on. Lots of old people. Transvestitism.  Demons.  A war that looks like it could have came out of The Wall.

I think Miyazaki has had some strange obsessions since Princess Mononoke (still his best film)…black goopy stuff and so forth. Very interested to see the new Ghibli film even though Ponyo was unbelievably bad.


On Spotify

DAF. Deutsche Amerikanishche Freundschaft. They were a German electro act from the early 1980s, very much like a European version of Suicide but more obsessed with sex and fascism. It’s minimal, sparse, propulsive, and sometimes utterly awesome. Particularly tracks like “Der Mussolini”, “Alle Gegen Alle” and “Sato Sato”. It’s all very “Sprockets” in a way, and you can definitely hear how Nitzer Ebb pretty much based their early sound entirely on what DAF was doing. EBM wouldn't exist without this band. Spotify has all the major albums and a best of, all on Mute. So if you like the whole Mute thing, you’re likely going to dig this.

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Comments (21)
  • avatarstormseeker75

    Mike, why does Spotify Premium suck so bad? I hate that I have to make a playlist for everything and then it will sync those playlists to my iPod. HATE.

    BattleCon sounds good. I hated Yomi. Maybe this is more my speed.

  • avatarSpace Ghost

    I haven't logged onto Xbox in a couple of weeks, but will likely get Epic Quest next time I do. Looks like it could be kind of cool

  • adam.skinner

    You know, I really enjoyed Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror. While it doesn't come out of Studio Ghilbi, and in fact has a more "American" (Pixar-style) animation, it was really enjoyable and reminiscent of Ghilbi productions. It's a re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland ... kind of.

  • avatarSagrilarus

    Alright Mr. Barnes, here's the question -- what's the primary driver of action and decision in 1812? Is this a map game or a card game? Is it a game where the cards are adjusting your tactics or driving them?


  • avatarDr. Mabuse

    Howl and Ponyo are my least favourite Miyzaki films.

    I LOVE Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky.

    Oh and I can't say enough about Joe Hisaishi's scores; absolutely brilliant and heart wrenching.

  • Schweig!

    DAF are touring again.

    I have already ordered 1812, now I really want to play it.

    Michael, you should also check out Academy Games' Strike of the Eagle.

  • avatarKingPut  - re:
    Sagrilarus wrote:
    Alright Mr. Barnes, here's the question -- what's the primary driver of action and decision in 1812? Is this a map game or a card game? Is it a game where the cards are adjusting your tactics or driving them? S.

    Sag it's a map game first. You only have 3 cards in your hand so the cards just modify your tactics. In your hand you may have 1 card that says move 3 armies 2 spaces the other card says move 2 armies 3 spaces. Your grand map strategy maybe to focus on taking Quebec in the east while holding the line in west. The other thing that may adjust your tactics is that turn order is random. You may look at the board and think the British and Indians have moved this turn so the US will have 2 out the next 3 turns lets make a big push now. I'd rate 1812 in fun and complexity as similar to M44, C&C:A, etc. and if you like C&C and you like team games you'll like 1812.

  • avatarMr. White

    How does this compare to the team play of, say, Wellington? This does look a bit more abstract.

    Also, any idea what the next game in the series is? A team play game with four would likely get played more.

  • avatarStephen Avery

    I agree War of 1812 was a pleasant surprise. I got to play the native amewricans and enjoyed their superior manuverablity and had some tough choices trying to keep them spread around to assist the other two armies.

    Good game.

    Steve"Thumbs up"Avery

  • avatarlfisher

    Nice review. I've been curious about 1812 since you first mentioned it.
    Maybe I'll ditch battlelore and get this, although I'm not that into the history.

  • avatarBearn

    I have a feeling after playing Amalur that it is suffering from being transformed into a first person RPG when it was intended as an MMO. I have had several people ask me what "This new MMO" is called and i had to inform them it wasn't an MMO. They were very surprised because it looks like an MMO but doesn't have that MMO satisfying feeling. It has a great base to it but nothing long term hurts it immensly.

  • avatarmoofrank  - 1812

    So far the worst comment I've had on 1812 is "I thought I'd be nice and play it to humor you all, but its actually a pretty good game."

    The extremely soulless historical wargame look is a total turn-off for nearly everyone.

    I think after 7 games, however, I've yet to see an American win. The best rule I can come up with is "Don't ignore the west side of the map". It looks so empty, but it is the furthest trek both sides need to make to bring troops to bear, and there are quite a few points in a dense space.

  • avatarwkover  - 1812

    ...after 7 games, however, I've yet to see an American win.

    I've only played two games, but we had one tie (3 player game) and one Canadian/Indian/Regular win (5 player game). Both games were a lot of fun.

    As far as "needing" five players, I think the game plays just fine than fewer than five. It's not logistically difficult to have one or more players in charge of multiple factions. Players could take turns running the odd faction out, if needed.

    Even a 2-3 player game works well, I think.

  • avatarmikecl  - re: 1812
    moofrank wrote:
    I think after 7 games, however, I've yet to see an American win.

    That's happening in our games as well. The thing is the most dice the Americans can roll is five, but the Canadian/British side if they have all their factions in the same area could conceivably roll eight.

    The British never flee. The American Regulars do and the American side starts with 10 fewer armies. After a few plays, one of my friends, noted: no wonder the Americans never won this war! I haven't played it enough to figure out if the Americans have a map advantage that may be exploited.

    Since dead armies return to their muster areas, perhaps the solution is not to be afraid to throw your American soldiers into the fray. They get to come back and I haven't studied the cards enough to know if they get a move advantage that can bring them back up to the front lines faster.

    It is quick, easy and fun to play though. And it definitely plays as well with two as it does with more. It's essentially a two player game because like War of the Ring, there's only two sides. Adding more, means players on the same side now have to cooperate which can be a lot of fun too.

    And yes it's a essentially a map game, not a card game.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Yes, definitely a map game. There's only 12 cards per player, and once used they're out of game. There's not really any kind of hand management or anything like that, it's all about timing and coordination. I'd say that those two things plus the dice outcomes (which include tactical decision points) are what drive the action.

    The cooperative element is really important...the reason the Americans tend to do badly (at least from most of what I've seen) is that players sometimes don't get how closely they have to work together. It's a long walk back to the fight after American units have fled. You've got to chain movement cards to get your people back into the fight while also keeping pressure on AND maintaining a defense. This requires more than just your cards.

    The US seems to do best making just a couple of big, massive pushes while keeping the border tight. Once guys start fleeing, it can be hard to get them back into the fight. It seems like the US team really has to get the advantage quickly and then push the treaty- it only takes two cards. They simply won't win in a longer game. The Redcoats are BRUTAL, and once they get momentum and then you've got Native Americans and Canadians streaming across in canoes and infiltrating behind your line, you're done.

    I also think the fighting in the central zone is very much a do or die thing. If you're going to do it, go all in. I've seen a couple of games that were a pissing match there and the US can't win it if it comes down to a back-and-forth.

    It doesn't seem unbalanced to me, but I'm looking at only five games that were 3-1-1, England. A couple of close ones though.

  • avatarSagrilarus

    The Americans did lose the war, so it kind of makes sense for them to have a steeper challenge.

    Thank you all for your responses. This sounds like my kind of game.


  • avatarBlack Barney

    Is there a card that burns the White House?

  • avatarMsample

    No White House card. The cards are either move cards, combat cards, or localized events - it all takes place around the Great Lakes.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    There should be a card that the Americans can play when they lose that basically prevent future generations of Americans from learning about the war and this causes the game to end in a draw

  • avatarPavingMantis

    So is BattleCon as ugly as it seemed to be in pictures. Some of the characters look like something a kid whipped up during study hall, and the graphic design on the cards I saw in the dice tower video looked like prototypes at best. Does it gain something when you see it in person?

  • avatarKen B.

    BattleCon is pretty awesome, I'll be covering it in a couple of weeks.

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