Quantum Review

Quantum set up for two players. Wine and GoT coasters not included.

I love Star Wars. I really enjoy science fiction movies, books, and TV shows. I would love to love science fiction themed games...but my main gaming partner, my lovely wife, does not care for the "space" theme at all. So it is rare that any "space games" make it into our home. With this big factor going against it, does Quantum make the "Flartner" cut?

Quantum is the latest from publisher FunForge and designer Eric Zimmerman. Quantum is a lighter space civilization and combat game where the players' ships are represented by dice. The goal of the game is for each player to construct all of her quantum cubes on empty planets.

Players construct their cubes on planets by having ships in orbit around a planet that are exactly equal to the planet's number.

On a turn a player gets 3 actions. Players can Reconfigure a ship by rerolling it, Deploy a destroyed ship to the board, Construct a Quantum Cube (which costs 2 actions), Research (which can help a player get powerful Advance Cards). The last option is to have a ship Move/Attack. A ship can move as many spaces as it has pips on its face - so a ship represented by a die showing a 5 could move 5 spaces.

In this combat example, blue's Destroyer narrowly defeats yellow's Interceptor.

Ships attack by moving into a space containing an enemy ship. Each player involved rolls one combat die and adds this to the value of the ship in combat. The player with the lower total wins. This means the game asks players to strike an interesting balance between their ships' mobility against their ships' effectiveness in combat.

All civilizations play exactly the same - aside from color and name.
...that rhyme was an accident...I promise.

Additionally, each type of ship has a special ability that can be used once per turn and that does not cost an action. The Frigate (4), for instance, can modify itself to be either a 3 or a 5.

There are also 6 Advance Cards available for players to take. The cards come in two varieties, gambit cards (which trigger instant effects) and command cards (which are ongoing effects). These can be acquired in any of 3 ways: by constructing a quantum cube, by destroying an enemy ship, or by getting your research die up to 6.

I play a lot of games with my wife. She will try almost anything once, but I avoid bringing home games that are set in outer space because of how much she does not like the theme. After our first game of Quantum, she said, "Ok, that was a really good space game."

As with any game with cards and dice, there is a good amount of randomness included in the game. This might push some players the wrong way. The randomness of Reconfiguring a ship can be frustrating if a player gets exactly the ship they want, and some of the cards in the game do seem much stronger than others. Both of these issues are mitigated somewhat by the game's relatively short playing time and fairly abstracted rule set. Speaking of abstraction, that is another possible issue for Quantum. The game is about space ships warring and colonizing planets, but some ships can swap place with each other? And any ship can randomly change into another kind of ship? These make for exciting and interesting game play elements, but go a long way to making the game feel more abstract and themeless.

I think that Quantum overcomes these few shortcomings and is ultimately a very fun, very engaging game. I have always thought that many strong games have one thing in common - a small number of simple rules but a great number of interesting decisions. Quantum is a prime example of this type of game. The rules are fairly limited, but the way the rules come together and interact with each other create a fairly deep play space which is quite fun for players to explore. The most basic concept of the game - that the stronger a ship is, the slower it is, and vice versa - is a perfect distillation of this idea. Quantum seems to take many things that make space games fun, and reintroduces them with the old K.I.S.S. principle, very much to it's benefit.

Overall, I would give Quantum a 7.0/10. It is a very fun little space game that would fit well in many a collection. There will be frustrating randomness at times, and there is definitely some theme wonkiness, but these are both reduced as negative factors by the game's shorter length and relatively broad strategic play space. This may not be the next Eclipse, but it was never trying to be. Quantum is one of those creative endeavors that doesn't overreach, but absolutely nails what it was going for - quick gameplay, simple but difficult decisions, all wrapped up in a pretty space package. I recommend you check it out.

BattleLore Second Edition Review

Battlelore 2nd Edition is the newest game using Richard Borg’s popular Commands and Colors system. Released late in 2013 from FFG, the game is a reimplementation of the original BattleLore which was originally released by Days of Wonder back in 2006.

BattleLore 2nd Edition is a 2 player fantasy squad based war game that puts players in command of their own armies from FFG’s Terrinoth universe. Those familiar with previously released games using the Commands and Colors system will be able to pick this game up without much difficulty.

During this game, the red Uthuk Y’llan army will have a defensive bonus. They will also score a point for every pair of forest and hill hexes they occupy at the end of their turn.

The biggest changes to the game from the 1st edition of the game come during the setup procedures, which have really been incorporated strategically into the game. After players have chosen which side they will play, each will choose a scenario card. This card will dictate the terrain on their half of the board, will add a special rule and scoring opportunity specific to their army, as well as which spaces they will be able to muster onto during setup.

After choosing scenario cards, players will build a 50 point army, and secretly setup their side of the board by placing deployment cards facedown in the shaded hexes on their scenario card. Once this is done, the cards are replaced by the actual figures and the game can begin.

Two examples of basic Command Cards. Obviously your version of the game won’t have the BETA watermarks.

A player’s turn revolves around playing 1 command card per turn, which allows her to move and attack with the number of units in the sections indicated on the card. Each player will have an army made up of different types of units which have their own abilities and strengths.

Combat is pretty straightforward. The attacker rolls a number of dice equal to her unit’s attack rating. Melee attacks hit on 2 sides of the dice, and ranged attacks hit on 1 side. The defending unit also might be made to retreat in a straight line away from the attacker. If the defending unit is not eliminated or forced to retreat, it may immediately counter attack (if adjacent to the attacking unit).

Some of the Uthuk Y’llan unit cards. The Blood Harvester units can move 2, attack with 3 dice in melee, and begins with 3 health.

Play repeats like this until one of two victory conditions are met: one player wipes the other player’s army out, or one player accumulates 16 victory points. While I think the latter will happen most often, the former is certainly possible.

Here is what the board looks like setup for the scenario cards shown above. [GoT coasters not included.]

BattleLore 2nd Edition is the third game in the Commands and Colors family of games that I have played, and it is definitely my favorite. The core gameplay and combat strikes a wonderful balance between the simplicity of the system made popular by Memoir ‘44, while distilling the (sometimes overly) complex rules of Battles of Westeros. What really sets this edition of BattleLore apart are the great decisions that are added during the revamped setup phase of the game. The scenario selection, army construction, and secret deployment may seem a little daunting to those new to the system or even to those accustomed to the prescribed setups of games like Memoir ‘44 of the other C&C games, but are actually quite simple and go a long way to adding interesting levels of decision making and strategy to an already fun combat system.

That said, one of the big cons for the game is the setup time. For those of you who have played a C&C game, you know that setting up a game can take a good 10-20 minutes (and can feel a lot longer). The time investment doesn't change with BattleLore 2nd Edition, but FFG did make these 20 minutes more interesting by incorporating player choices and strategy into the setup - effectively making the setup part of the game itself.

Overall, I give BattleLore 2nd Edition an 8.0/10. FFG has done a great job distilling out almost all of the fiddly rules from the more complex Battles of Westeros, while making the game more interesting and entertaining than the more family oriented Memoir ‘44. I would heartily recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun, 60 minute, medium weight battle game.

If you think BattleLore 2nd Edition sounds interesting, you should also check out: Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, Dungeon Command, and Castle Ravenloft.

A Changing of Seasons

So, for those of you that have followed me for a long time, you're aware that I've now posted over 300 reviews, and been maintaining this site for over three years.  While this site started as something that I wrote just for fun, as it has matured, I have had far too many times where it has felt like a chore or an obligation instead of something that I do because I enjoy it.  Specifically, here's a Catch-22 that I've found myself in repeatedly: I love getting free games, so I've accepted many review copies, but then when I go to game night, I feel like I have to play the games that I brought, because I "need" to be able to review them.  I don't like that.  I want to go to game nights and play whatever we feel like playing.  At the same time, this site has gotten me caught up in wanting to cover new games that get me extra pageviews instead of older games that I might actually enjoy playing more.  That's unfortunate.

Yet, even with these things, I like this site.  I've invested a lot of myself into it, and honestly, I'm very proud of it.  I don't really want it to die off - yet I desperately need to step away from it for a while.  I've been debating exactly what this means.  My initial thought was that I was just going to leave this a desolate wasteland for a while - abandoning it, and then coming back and writing more in the future if I felt like I wanted to jump back in later (or there were review copies that I really wanted).  Instead, I think that I've found a bit of a better solution.  I've talked with one of my guest reviewers - Jim F., and he's going to take over the site for a bit while I step away from it to pursue other interests.

My goal right now is to do a couple of things - enjoy gaming, and have time to also pursue other interests.  When it comes to enjoying gaming, I think that this means spending more time playing games that I've already learned, and that other people are wanting to play, instead of trying to convince people to play whatever I have most recently received in the mail.  This may lead me to coming back and posting "pimp my game" style posts with pictures of games that I've pimped out, along with the steps for someone to follow suit if they wanted to.  It might not.  This also means that I'm going to feel less obligation when it comes to reviews.  For example, if someone reaches out to me about reviewing their game, it's fine that they send me a copy of their game.  However, if I didn't reach out to them, I will no longer feel an obligation to review their game.  If it looks cool, I'll play it and write about it; but if it doesn't, then I won't.  (At least, that's my plan.  It might be hard to tell myself not to feel obligations.  But, if you're a publisher, please be aware of this.  If you send me an email that says "I've been following your site for a while and...." I'm going to assume you've read this!  (I've already made a note of this in the Contact Josh page, but I'm convinced that nobody actually reads it.))  As for other endeavors, you may see some iPhone games come out from me in the future, and I have also started trying to write fiction (short stories).  If you're interested in reading the stories that I write, you can check them out at Blast Area Writing.  That's a new site that I just started with a friend of mine that was also interested in writing.  Please check it out and leave feedback on what you think of our stories.  Just like writing reviews, I'm hoping to get better with practice, and feedback on what works in my stories and what doesn't helps me get better.

So, what now?  Well, I'm going to disappear for a month.  At that point, I may come back.  That's my plan - at least to come back occasionally and write a few posts.  When (if) I come back, I will probably be more flexible with what I write about - instead of everything being a review or preview, I might re-explore games that I've already reviewed, to give you an updated opinion.  I might post "pimp my game" posts.  I really don't know - but I want to resume this site being something I enjoy instead of something that I do out of obligation.

Thanks for all of your support over the last three years!  And I'll see you after a while!

Dungeon Fighter Review

Dungeon Fighter game in play

Since I regularly try out as many dexterity games as I can, it should come as no surprise that I finally got my hands on a copy of Dungeon Fighter.

In Dungeon Fighter, the players take on a party of heroes that are attempting to navigate their way through a dungeon in order to defeat the ultimate (final) boss!  However, to do so, they will be throwing dice onto a target - often with strange stipulations included.  Throughout the game, the players will go through various rooms.  In each room, they will encounter a monster.  In order to defeat the monster, the players have to deal an amount of damage equal to the monster's health.  How?  By throwing dice onto the bullseye (hopefully).  Specifically, the players have three standard dice (and potential bonus dice).  Each time that they throw a die, it must bounce once before landing on the target, and then (assuming it actually stays on the target) it will deal damage equal to the area on which it lands.  If the die rolls off the target, doesn't bounce before hitting the target, was not thrown legally, or in any other way was a "miss", then the player throwing the die is "hit" by the monster.  After the players have thrown their three standard dice, if they have no bonus dice (or choose not to use any), then they are all hit by the monster again (but they get their standard dice back).  Play continues like this until the monster has been defeated (or all of the players have been).  Then, the players advance to the next level and repeat the cycle of die-bouncing dexterity.  If they manage to bounce their dice all the way to the final boss and defeat him, then they win!  When (yes, when - not if) that doesn't happen, the players lose!

The primary pro for Dungeon Fighter is that it can be highly amusing.  The designers have taken a very simple concept (bouncing dice onto a target) and have forced players to perform this "simple" task in a plethora of quirky ways.  For example, you might have to flick the die off the back of your hand instead of throwing it.  Or you may have to throw the die with your back to the target.  Or throw it under your leg.  Or, you might have to (or choose to) do all three!  Really, this is where the amusement of the game can be found - in being forced to do insane combinations of movements while trying to get the die to land on the right place.  (I think that my most difficult combination was having to flick it off the back of one hand, hit it with my head somehow, and also blow the die while it was in the air.  Or something like that - regardless, it was not a simple matter.)  Doing all of these goofy movements will definitely attract an audience - which may not be the thing you're looking for if you prefer not to be the center of attention!

Dungeon Fighter bullseye target for dice
Throw your dice here.  Easy, right?
The next pro for Dungeon Fighter is that, if you enjoy the game, then there is quite a bit of replayability.  There are several different heroes (9), a lot of monsters (53), and even a few different final monsters (4).  Add in the different pieces of armor and weapons, and you should wind up with different combinations of ways that you are forced to throw the die between any two games that you play.  (Granted, this is all assuming that you are good enough to get very far in the game.  If you die very quickly, then you might wind up just encountering the same green (easy) level monsters repeatedly - and may not even get far enough to buy any gear.)

Though the game has some fun elements to it, I found a few cons as well.  First, the game is incredibly hard - even on easy mode.  (At least to me.  Admittedly, this will differ between any two players.)  I have played this game a handful of times, and I have never beaten it.  Or gotten very close to defeating the final boss.  Or even fought the final boss.  And I have only played it on "easy!"  And I play a lot of dexterity games.  Granted, after the first play or so, I realized that one of the important things in Dungeon Fighter is to be almost on top of the board when you are playing.  Forget all of the things you've learned in other dexterity games about being a "respectable distance" away from the playing surface and such.  If you want to have any chance whatsoever in Dungeon Fighter, you will be throwing the dice from as close as humanly possible.  (I think that this is also why they added the rule about the die having to bounce before hitting the target - they were expecting people to be insanely close to the board.)

Dungeon Fighter hero cards
Some of the different heroes
The next con that I have for Dungeon Fighter is that there seems to be something "off" about the number of players.  The game really has a party game feel, where you want to have as many people involved as possible.  After all, a group will probably gather around you to watch you make a fool of yourself.  And, in fact, the game supports a respectable six players.  Yet, there are only three standard dice that you can use each round.  So, if you are playing with a lot of players, on any given monster several players will be completely at the mercy of the rest of their party when it comes to whether they will receive damage or not.  I felt like there should be some way of keeping more people involved throughout the game.

The third con that I had for Dungeon Fighter was that the iconography was not very intuitive, and so you often find yourself looking up what various things mean (more so on powers than on different die throwing requirements).  Whereas this isn't really a big deal in most games, one of Dungeon Fighter's appeals is that it is a game that is very quick to teach and to learn - thus you can get people involved very quickly.  Yet, with the iconography causing confusion, it impedes that ability to learn it quickly.

The final con that I will found when playing Dungeon Fighter is that the game grows stale fairly quickly.  This will depend highly on your group, but in the different groups I have played with, there was not much desire to play it repeatedly.  Yes, there was some initial excitement when the game came out, and different people wanted to try throwing the dice (because, naturally, they assumed that they would be amazing at it).  However, pretty quickly people's interest waned - sometimes even before they had finished their first game!  I think that Dungeon Fighter is a very interesting concept, but it feels a bit more like a gimmick than anything else.

Overall, I give Dungeon Fighter a 7.0/10 (I debated giving it anywhere from an 6.0-8.0).  Whereas I don't really mind the gameplay, I felt like the game didn't keep me as actively engaged as I would have liked, and I was very disappointed by how quickly the game felt stale.

If you like dexterity games, you should also check out Toc Toc Woodman, Tumblin Dice, and Micro Mutants Evolution.