Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Battle Merchants

Game– Battle Merchants

Producer– Minion Games

Price– $50 here http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Merchants-SW-MINT-New/dp/B00LXFF56K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412045384&sr=8-1&keywords=battle+merchants

Set-up/Play/Clean-Up– ~2.5 hours

Players– 2 to 4

TL; DR– You will never have so much fun fostering warfare! 95%


Basics– Let’s make some money!  In Battle Merchants, you play the role of a weapon supplies for different fantasy races during a time of great war.  This game is played across four seasons.  In each season, players take turns doing one action until three new battles happen and the war begins.  Each turn you can do one of four things: get weapon skill cards, build weapons, sell a weapon, or draw a kingdom card.  By getting different weapon skill cards for each of the four weapons, your skill building each weapon type increases.  This is only important for when fights occur at the end of a season.  Building weapons allows you to build up to three weapons to sell.  Selling weapons allows you to sell weapons to a spot on the board that wants a weapon you have for money.  Each race at war is fighting on two fronts, and these fronts will require one of the four weapons for each spot on their side of the conflict.  The factions won’t buy a weapon they don’t want, so you have to diversify enough to be able to sell all the weapon types.  When you sell to a side of a conflict you get money and a token for that race.  The more tokens you have for a race, the more money you get each time you sell to them in the future.  When both sides of a battle have weapons, then a battle token is moved to the center of the board, and the next battle token is revealed allowing more weapons to be sold to the sides of that conflict.  If a conflict doesn’t have a battle token as it was moved in a previous season, then you can still sell to that battle again.  Kingdome cards give the player extra abilities and powers that provide new strategies for winning the game.  When three battle markers are moved to the center for that season, then each player get one round before the time of war.  At each battle with weapons on each side during the time of war, the weapon skill of each player’s weapon is compared and the higher skill says while the winner collects the defeated weapon as a marker of conquest and extra points at the end of the game.  Weapons that are still on the board at the end of the time of war need to be maintained, so the player who made those weapons gets extra money.  After four seasons and the times of war associated with them, just like life, the player with the most money wins.


Mechanics– This is a deceptively simple game that has lots of deep strategy.  On a turn, you can only do one action, so the game moves at a good clip while still having to make important decisions.  Everybody starts out on equal footing, so you have to think fast and figure out how best to procedure.  My only problem with this game is a run away victor problem.  As winners get both points at the end of the game for most defeated weapons and extra points/money for having weapons on the board at turn end, a player who wins the first battle of the game can develop an unopposed lead pretty quickly. 4.5/5


Theme– You do feel like a weapons dealer in a fantasy war.  The boards are cartoony enough to make it light hearted, but there is the undercurrent of making money off bloodshed.  In fact, a strategy you can take is to sell weapons to BOTH sides at one battle.  You get a win money for weapons attendance at a fight, the sale of both weapons, and defeated weapons for points.  That right there nails the theme of being a cold hearted weapons dealer. 5/5


Instructions– The instructions are not bad but are something you have to read very carefully to really get all the small details.  It’s a half sheet style of rules folded to make several pages in the rulebook.  The rules do teach the game well, but there are a number of fiddly rules that can really change the game.  These rules could use a bit more emphasis.  Also, some rules are presented in examples, and that would be great, but the rules are not presented before or outside the example.  That’s a pet peeve that makes the game somewhat hard to completely understand your first time through.  However, after that initial first game, you will be playing this game like a champ. 4.5/5


Execution-I like what comes in this box.  It’s got great cards with some fun, cartoony art.  The boards are all great cardboard.  The tokens are nice chunky cardboard.  My one small problem with this game is the weapon skill cards.  It took me ten minutes to find what the rules meant by the different colored backs.  During game set-up, you separate the spring/summer weapons cards from fall/winter cards.  What that means is some of the weapon skill cards will have colored spring/summer sections of the center season wheel, while the fall/winter will be light brown and the reverse will be true for the fall/winter cards.  It’s not a major problem by any means, but I hope it helps you understand what that means when you play! 5/5


Summary– This is a great game.  The theme might not be for everybody as you do play a conniving war profiteer in a fantasy setting.  However, I enjoyed being the bad guy.  The mechanics are fun; even they are not completely balanced.  I liked the art and the physical build of the game.  Overall, this is a great game that I wish I could play with more players. 95%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of the Current DnD 5e Expeditions Adventures

Product– DnD 5e Expeditions- DDEX1-1 to DDEX1-3

System– DnD 5th Edition

Price– FREE!!!  (at participating game stores)

TL; DR– Great to see the new LFR. 85%


Basics– Dungeons and Dragons 5e is here, and so is the Wizards of the Coast organized play program called DnD Expeditions.  Let’s look at the first three adventures as a group.  The first publish three adventures are: Defiance in Phlan, Secrets of Sokol Keep, and Shadows on the Moonsea.  They are all open for characters level 1 to 4, and all play a role in the current metaplot-Tyranny of Dragons.  Let’s do a rundown of these adventures and see how the stack up.


Story or Fluff– These three adventures give an introduction to the town of Phlan and its surroundings.    In Defiance in Phlan, five different short stories are introduced with a time of one hour each.  Secrets of Sokol Keep has the bay lighthouse stop working and the players are asked to fix it.  And finally, Shadows of the Moonsea has an unknown “thing” moving up the Moonsea coast approaching Phlan next.  All these modules follow a pretty standard plot as  with previous DnD living games: 1) Introduce a problem/get the PCs involved, 2) PCs find the problem, 3) PCs kill the problem.  That’s not a bad story structure for organized play adventures.  If these three have a single problem, it’s the introduction of the problem, and why the players should care.  Often a problem is introduced, and the players have no reason to care aside from wanting to play some DnD that day.  Here is one area that the DnD Expeditions loses to Pathfinder Society-pre story player involvement.  Another problem that can occur is one time checks that if not succeeded often prevent the players from finding a major plot point.  Nothing is game breaking for the story, but some extra story parts would really help the players get into the story and prevent the GM from having to do some heavy story lifting at the start on the fly. 4/5


Mechanics or Crunch– DnD is a pretty tight system, and the adventures show this for the most part.  The combats are well done and provide enough challenge.  Also, each combat is given a small stat block to change the combatants on the fly for really weak parties to overly strong parties.  It really helps the GM find his grove and run a great adventure with fun combats.  One encounter I can think of deviates from this as the fight is just too hard for a level one party, and it makes that adventure suffer a bit.  But, that encounter is a clear outlier for these adventures. 4.8/5


Execution– These are free PDFs given out to the organizers of the Adventure League, so I don’t expect art.  I don’t get any, so I don’t penalize the adventures for that.  What I don’t like is how combats are buried in the text!  When the players enter a room, a box is given with the description of the room.  Below that box is the standard description paragraph of the room with all the hidden items, other checks the PCs might do, etc, but if there is a combat, the monsters and their numbers will be hidden in that same text.  That is not helpful!  As a GM, when I have a room, I really need to know how many of any monsters are in the room first.  I’d separate that from the main text and have that listed right under the title of the room in a separate block of text.  It is the same in the Tyranny of Dragons adventure, and it really doesn’t help there either.  However, these are free adventures that do tell some interesting stories.  I like what is here, but some significant changes to the organization of the text could really push this over the top. 4/5


Summary– DnD is back, and so is the child of the Living Forgotten Realms.  It might not be the old Living Forgotten Realms, but if this is what its children look like, I’m fairly happy.  It’s great to see a major company give out several hours of free play to its fans.  These are not bad adventures by any means, but a few changes would really help with these be just a bit better.  Moving where the monsters are listed would make my life as a GM much easier!  I’ve read the adventures, but being able to quickly scan the text will help me find out what needs to be in the room after my 10th four hour event at a con.  The stories need a bit of work at the start to draw the players in a bit more, but the last bits of the story and the world they create are often great.  Shadows of the Moonsea has a left turn, but it’s nothing that you won’t enjoy.  All and all, these are three great adventures that any new player to DnD will really enjoy. 85%

Daily Punch 9-29-14 Strength Sneak Attack alternate class feature for DnD 5e

I have a rogue who want to hit hard and hit mean with none of this finesse crap.  Let’s make that happen.



Strength Sneak Attack

Some favor the shadows to strike daringly at their enemies.  You do not.  You are a brazen criminal who steps in front of your enemies and hits them as hard as you can..  You may use any weapon to perform a sneak attack, but you do not gain sneak attack when you attack while hidden.  You may still perform a sneak attack when an ally is engaged with the target of your attack.  Your sneak attack dice pool increase as normal.  This replaces the normal sneak attack abilities.




Daily Punch 9-26-14 Extra Background feat for DnD 5e

How about an extra background for DnD 5e?



Extra Background

Whether from your previous life or from your free time, you’ve trained in something completely new.

Prerequisite: Spend 30 downtime days or 1st level

Benefits: Gain the following:

  • Gain 1 to an ability score, to a maximum of 20.
  • Gain an extra background. You do not gain the equipment of the background, but do gain any other bonuses associated with the background.  You may change your personality, ideal, bond, and flaw.




Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game-Skull and Shackles base box

Product-Pathfinder Adventure Card Game-Skull and Shackles


Price– $60 here

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– ~25 min per player per scenario (1-6 players with expansion, 10 scenarios in the base game)

TL; DR– A fun addition to the Card Game. 89%


Basics-Ahoy matey!  This game is the sequel to the hit Pathfinder Adventure Card Game-Rise of the Runelords.  Players take the role of one character and progress between scenarios to move along the Skull and Shackles adventure path.  You have a character that has the six standard Pathfinder stats as a die.  Each turn you can move between different locations, and draw the top card of that deck as an encounter.  That card is either something you can equip like a spell or a weapon (a “boon”) or something that will attack you like a monster or an obstacle (a “bane”).  You can then play cards from your hand to give you extra dice or bonuses to your roll, select an ability based on the card encountered and roll the die related to that ability score.  If you beat the number on the card, you can add it to your hand if it’s a boon, while banes are defeated.  If you don’t beat the number on the card, you discard any good cards you encountered or take damage if you fought a monster.  When you take damage you discard cards from your hand.  If you can’t play cards from your hand to keep exploring, you draw up to your hand size.  If you can’t, then your character dies.  If you encounter something called henchmen while exploring, you encounter it as above, but if you defeat it, you can close the location the henchmen was at.  If you encounter and beat a villain or man bad guy for the scenario and the other locations are closed, you win!  While much hasn’t changed, what has changed is pretty different.


Mechanics-This game is and isn’t much different from the original.  Let’s look at each section individually.

Basic Play– The basics play described above hasn’t changed.  The rules go a little more in depth and make that section MUCH clearer, so that is very appreciated.  However, it feels like there are definitely winner and loser abilities and skills.  Maybe further in the game, some of the skills will matter.  But right now, it feels like some of the characters just don’t matter.


Ships-The largest new mechanic is the addition of ships.  The ships provide a constant bonus or ability for your group and the bonus to move as a group.  Also, the ships provide an awesome way to deal with not getting enough gear.  When you beat another ship or get to store plunder, you roll on a random chart, and place one of five different types of cards under the ship.  If you win, you get these cards in addition to any other bonuses for the scenario.

Display and Other Small Changes-Display is a new mechanic where you don’t just reveal a card from your hand, you set it in front of you.  The card now provides an effect and will then tell you when you can pick it up or if you have to discard it.  Some cards allow you to constantly use a displayed card.  This is just part of a handful of new terms for the game.  These new cards do an excellent job of updating the rules.  It provides new options for card design and helps the players.  I like how the rules have moved along.

Summary– The game plays like the basic adventure card game.  It’s a great game, but some of the characters don’t feel like they matter.  Maybe that will change, maybe not.  That will depend on what comes out later in this scenario.  Ships are amazing and help prevent characters just not getting enough cards.  The new terms and mechanics like display provide some new design and play space, and the new characters are fun.  It’s not perfect, but it is a blast to play. 4.75/5


Theme-You’re a pirate and you sail the high seas!  You get to move through the Skull and Shackles adventure path with was an amazing adventure series.  I like what I’ve seen so far as it hits the high points reasonably well.  However, if you haven’t played the adventure path, you will feel lost.  You do feel like an island hopping pirate, but the story does lack a bit since the story is still told by half card length paragraphs.  I really wish Paizo would publish a quick summary of each adventure part and an epilogue so the players would know a bit more about what is going on. 4/5


Instructions– Here there are some problems, but they don’t break the game.  You just might end up cheating by accident.  The rules are a giant tome!  There’s a lot going on here, but what it really needs is a one page summary to help character jump in the action.  The rules are a bit of a text book that tends to bury some important rule points under lots of other text.  The rules by themselves are ok.  They get the points across, but some concepts like who controls ships, number of cards per check, and even the blessing deck can get lost in the text.  Rules on the cards need some work too.  The first scenario of the main campaign is already errata’ed by the designers.  That’s a major problem!  That’s the scenario that should have gotten the absolute most number of plays and should be the most rock solid.  A bit more writing in some areas and much less in others would really help make the concepts and story much clearer.  4/5


Execution-For $60 you get a ton of cards, rules, and a nice box.  The cards are well done with great art, and they’re of decent enough quality to withstand lots of shuffling.  The design has slightly changed, but again, it’s all for the best.  As always with Paizo, the art is well done.  All and all, this is well done. 5/5


Summary– The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is a great co-op game.  My wife and I love to play this game.  The Skull and Shackles is a great addition to the franchise.  I loved playing through the Skull and Shackles adventure path, and this give almost the same experience.  The major problems in this game could be fixed with some clever writing.  Some of the rules and story need clarification, while some excess writing needs to be trimmed.  The characters are fun, but some just don’t seem as interesting or useful.  However, all told, I’m enjoying what’s this new base set, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.   89%

Daily Punch 9-24-14 Renown feat for DnD Fifth Edition

How about something that is specific for the Adventure league




You’ve figured out how to move among your group.  You might not be the smartest, fastest, or the wisest, but you are the best connected!

Benefit: Gain the following benefits:

  • Gain a +1 to charisma to a maximum of 20.
  • When you gain a point of renowned, make a charisma saving throw DC = 15 + half current level.  If you succeed, gain an additional point of renown.