Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Eminent Domain: Microcosm

Product– Eminent Domain: Microcosm

Producer-Tasty Minstrel Games

Price– $7 here http://www.miniaturemarket.com/ttt3003.html/?utm_source=boardgamegeek.com&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=BGG_Text_Ongoing&utm_content=Text_SKU-TTT3003_Ttl-4_Dsc-2_MMUrl-Yes

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 5 minutes (2 players)

Type-Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR– Bad rules hurt a great game. 83%

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Basics-Vie for galactic dominance!  Eminent Domain: Microcosm is the two player microgame version of the popular Eminent Domain game.  The game is set up by separating the types of planet cards based on how many colonize/warfare it will take to get that planet.  These cards are placed face down.  Then, the main deck of action cards is shuffled and three are placed face up in a row to be selection.  Finally, the five different technology cards are placed face up for all the players to buy.  After set up, players take turn drawing a face-up or top of the draw pile card, refreshing the visible row, and then playing a card or drawing as may cards as the player wishes from his or her discard pile.  The cards have an action on them, a symbol for other actions, and a way to score end game points.  The main actions on the cards are research, warfare, and colonization.  When a player plays a warfare or colonization card for its action, he or she chooses a planet pile.  These planet cards have different values of both colonize and attack needed to take the planet, but these values are hidden to the player when he or she chooses.  Players can show, not play, other cards from the player’s hand to meet these values.  If the colonization is successful, then the planet is placed face down in front of the player.  Planets have a symbol that can be revealed to add to other played action cards.  If a player plays a warfare card and has the needed symbols, then the planet goes to the spoils pile.  Planets in the spoils are only worth end game points and cannot be revealed for their symbols.  But, warfare has an added bonus.  A player can declare warfare on an opponent’s colonized planets, stealing them, and making the game much more combat focused. The last major card type is research.  Research allows you to take a technology card from the center row OR move an opponent’s technology row to the center row.  If a player can shows three more research symbols on other cards, the player can take the research action again moving the same or other research cards around.  The technology cards provide extra symbols for research, colonization, warfare, or other actions.  Play continues until every card from the selection row is taken, and then the players score points based on the cards they have: one point per colonized or planet in spoils, one point per political symbol they have, and then they get extra points based on the extra point conditions on all the cards they selected.  Winner of the game has conquered the (micro)cosmos!

Mechanics– Quick, lean, and deep are not words you hear together too often, but this game has that.  It plays in less than five minutes.  It’s not full of clutter as every card in the deck could be the difference between a win or defeat.  And, deep as playing what and when are the hardest choices you have to make in a game.  Honestly, once you know how to play, you won’t put this one down. 4.5/5

 

Theme-This game feels like a contest between two players over planets.  It’s not perfect as the random nature can really limit what strategies you can employ.  But, the addition of conquering colonized planets really adds a new depth to the game.  As you scorched-earth conquered planets, that really add to the strategy AND the theme.  Are you a galactic empire bent of destruction or are you peaceful colonists who will co-exist with the planet and use its resources? 4.5/5

Instructions-Tasty Minstrel….. where do I begin.  These rules are just bad!  You have some nuggets of gold here, but a lot of that is fool’s gold.  This isn’t a game where scores are 3 to 90.  This is a game where scores will be 30 to 31.  Knowing how to score is the most important part of this game, and you don’t really teach players how to do it.  If you go to Board Game Geek, there are no less than four different explanations to the rules.  This is a microgame!  I shouldn’t need to use my Ph.D. to score the game!  I love that you added cards to your other games, but honestly, I’d like one extra sheet over cards to the base Eminent Domain game.  I’ve played several times, and I still don’t think I’ve scored properly.  Also, you don’t really teach me how to play.  The cards give the basics, but the rules sheet doesn’t do a good job of that.  If I don’t think I’m playing properly, and I’m not sure I’m losing or winning properly, I can’t enjoy your game! 1.5/5

Execution-Tasty Minstrel Games knows how to make a card game.  NO STICKERS!  That right there makes me love this game.  I kid, I kid (kind of), but what is in this box is top notch.  The cards are good quality, the art is great, and the extra cards are icing on that cake.  It’s a simple game that a ton of fun.  5/5

Summary– This is the lowest rated Tasty Minstrel Game’s product, and it all has to do with the rules.  Honestly, on game play alone, I love this more than Eminent Domain.  It feels more right in this game to mess with the other player than it does in Eminent Domain, even with the expansion.  On theme, this is better to as now I think I’m really fighting over planets, and fighting has costs.  Colonizing is quick, but a gamble as you can really lose some points if your opponent swings planets away from you with warfare.  The game itself is well put together, but it should be for a card game that is less than 35 cards.  What hurts is the rule sheet.  There isn’t enough there.  I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s no fun if I don’t know how to play and score.  I can more easily score Seven Wonders than this game as that rulebook walks me through it!  If you rewrite the rules on two sheets instead of one, I will love this game more than any other two player microgame I have and bring it with me everywhere like Coin Age.  Altogether, this is a spectacular game with bad rules.  83%

Daily Punch 6-5-15 Stand Tall positive quality for Shadowrun 5e

Digging deep into the SR rules lately. Here’s one to keep that troll up longer when he takes a missile to the chest.

Stand Tall

Cost: 3 karma

You take a licking and keep on ticking!  When you take damage, you are not knocked down until you take double your physical limit in damage.  You are also not automatically knocked down if you take 10 damage.

Thoughts?

Daily Punch 6-4-15 Escalating Assault feat for DnD 5e

I see a lot of builds out there for two weapon fighters.  Let’s build on that.

Escalating Assault

You are a master of multiple strikes making each more painful than the last.  Each time you attack with a melee weapon, do damage, and are able to add your strength modifier to the damage, increase the damage by the number of times your successfully damaged the target.  As an example, your second attack would do double damage, your third would do triple, and so on.

Thoughts?

DAILY PUNCH 6-3-15 Extra Service positive quality for Shadowrun 5e

Lot’s of Shadowrun lately, but let’s do a bit more.  This time for all the summoners out there.

Extra Service

Cost: 15 Karma

You a a master of the managed magical.  Those that you summon or bind fell your personality on them like a weight.  Any spirit you summon or bind owes you one additional service.  You must have at least one service for this quaility to trigger.

Thoughts?

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Cosmic Patrol

Product– Cosmic Patrol

System– Cosmic Patrol

Producer– Catalyst Game Labs

Price– $ 25 for the physical book, or FIVE BUCKS(!) for the PDF here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/94125/Cosmic-Patrol-Core-Rulebook

TL; DR– Fun and light, but needs a bit more explanation. 87%

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Basics-Time to rocket off to space with the Cosmic Patrol!  In Cosmic Patrol, players (and even the GM!) take the rolls of different patrol agents as the fight for truth, justice, and Space America!  This is a story telling RPG that takes place in the universe of 1950’s Sci-Fi.

Mechanics or Crunch– Let’s break this down.  There isn’t much, but it is slick!

Non-Combat-For any action that the players want to do where dice are needed like decrypting an ancient alien script, piloting the ship, or seducing the green women and men beyond the stars, players roll a d12 (a twelve sided die) and either their brawn, brains, or charisma die and add those two together.  Brains, brawn, or charisma dice range between d4 to d12.  The Lead Narrator (LN), this systems version of a DM/GM, rolls a d20.  If the player meets or exceeds the LN dice roll, then they succeed.  Players also have a luck value.  If any of their dice roll that value, they succeed.  That’s it.  This game is built for flat out speed and storytelling.

Combat-Want to shoot somebody with you atamo-blaster?  You roll your combat die, and they roll their combat die.  You beat them?  You shoot them.  Done.  Weapons do have ranges like close (fist fight), near (across a room), and far (sniper duel), and those will indicate if you can use the weapon across the space or if you take a penalty to the die result.  If you do hit, you deal damage indicated by the weapon.  Done.  Like non-combat, die rolls are kept quick.

Damage-Weapon do damage equal to their damage value.  Every character has armor with a number of damage circles.  When those fill up, characters start to take health damage.  As the health damage track fills up, you begin to take penalties to your brawn roll, then brawn and combat dice rolls, and finally you pass out.  While quick, it also has the hint of realism that I love in combat.

Turn order- Outside of combat, players act pretty much any order they choose.  In combat, turns are quick starting to the left of the Lead Narrator and going around the table.  Players get basically a move and an action to borrow terms from other RPGs, but this is pretty much just left up to the LN to adjudicate (Remember this is a super-light weight game!  No need for battle mats here.).  After all the players take their turns, then the Lead Narrator has all the enemies take their turns.  It’s quick and easy to keep running.

Plot Point-I love cheating points from other RPGs, and I love them here too.  Plot points give you narrative control over what happens.  You can increase or decrease a die roll, have the enemy’s rocket’s thrusters cut out, rip the man out of the evil kill bot suit, or any other action that will enhance the story.  But, every plot point a character spends is given to the Lead Narrator!  The Lead Narrator can spend those to add enemies to a fight, create plot twists, or anything else that might provide some narrative fun, but they can’t use it to directly hinder a player’s roll or action.  Players get more plot points by acting using their characters cues/characteristics or simply starting their turn with no plot points.  The fact that these points are currency for both sides of the game makes them fun, and the nature of how quickly you get them back really makes the plot full of cheesy 1960’s sci-fi events.

Summary- Cosmic Patrol is in a sweet spot for me.  You get the danger of DnD 5e, but you also get the off the wall narratives of Fiasco as everyone really gets to tell the story.  It’s a granola and yogurt parfait; it has just enough mechanics to keep it crunchy, but enough fluff-based fun to keep it smooth.  Also, whenever I spend a plot point as the Lead Narrator, I can’t help but make the organ du, Du, DUN noise from any soap opera at my players.  It’s just that much fun. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-   There is a ton in this little red book.  The book starts with world building instead of numbers, and paints a world where 1950’s Buck Rogers would happily live.  It full of all the tropes you love and room to add some more.  Yes, everything you do in this game will somehow be a cliché, BUT that’s why you play this game.  It’s full of a tons of crazy alien threats to mankind, and all the classic rocket shaped antics you can find. 5/5

 

Execution– I’ve had nothing bad to say about the previous two topics, but here things will change.  This game expects a lot from its LN, especially from its first game.  Sure I love the small, red book, I like the art, and I like the quick character generation rules and examples.  But, what I hate is the fact almost NO game mastering advice is given aside from some of the standard that should be there.  As a first-time game master for this system, I didn’t know how many bad guys to throw at my players.  And to answer the obvious question-yes this is a story system, but it does have crunch.  So, it does need some balance to keep it fun.  Throwing a full ship at everyone might be story wise ok, but crunch wise out of the realm of logic.  Adding just a few more pages describing how encounters should go would really help.  Also, the game provides some example missions, but again, those missions are extremely barebones about their presentation.  You get a few bullet points describing things like 1) Find ship 2) Deal with inhabitance 3) Neutralize death bomb! And as a GM from other systems, that just isn’t enough to keep my creative juices going.  Sure, I can make a game happen, but honestly that’s a tough pill to swallow.  I just need a bit more to really make this a fully out of the box playable experience.  3.5/5

Summary– If you want a game you can just pick up and play with your group on an off night, Cosmic Patrol is your game.  You get the rules in less than five minutes, and that is amazing.  The theme is something we’ve all seen and, for the most part, love.  As I was running this game once, my ring tone for my parents started, and as it’s the Flash Gordon Theme Song, it was most appropriate.  What isn’t as good as you might expect is the execution, and even that is really only not on point when it comes to the game mastering side of things.  As a book with art, monsters, and world building, it amazing.  I just needed a bit more to help me start running.  If you want a Space Opera game with a bit more meat on its bones than Lasers and Feelings, but you don’t want Traveler, then this is the sweet spot for you. 87%

Daily Punch 6-2-15 Medic Magic quality for Shadowrun 5e

You can’t heal stun from a Medkit.  Some people would like too.  Let’s work on that.

Medic Magic

Cost: 7 karma

You were the kind of kid who always had to get a band-aid when you scuffed your knee.  Now as an adult, it hasn’t really gotten better.  When you use a medkit to heal damage, you can choose to heal physical or stun damage.  If you choose stun, you heal half as many boxes of damage as the kit is not designed to heal that kind of damage.  The normal amount of medkit reagents are used when you heal however.

Thoughts?

Blurbs from the Booth- Origins Day 1 and Day 2!

I’m out at Origins 2015.  One of the most awesome cons out there.  I’ll reiterate what everybody else says-Origins is the right size.  It’s small enough that a know a good number of people, medium enough that designers are out demoing games, and large enough that there is an awesome selection of stuff at the con.  If you’re interested, here is my schedule.  I’m working for Catalyst Game Labs doing Valiant RPG, Cosmic Patrol, and Shadowrun.  If you get a chance, stop on by!

Day Date Time GM Event
Wed 3-Jun 1200 Edward Kabara CMP 2015-01:  The Tennessee Suite 1:  Copperhead Road
Wed 3-Jun 1700 Edward Kabara Cosmic Patrol:  Gravastar 2:  Into the Mouth of Evil
Wed 3-Jun 1900 Edward Kabara Valiant RPG, Unity 2:  Grab the Wheel
Thu 4-Jun 1300 Edward Kabara Cosmic Patrol:  Gravastar 4: The Center Cannot Hold
Thu 4-Jun 1500 Edward Kabara Valiant RPG, Unity 4:  The Rightful Owner
Thu 4-Jun 1800 Edward Kabara CMP 2015-01:  The Tennessee Suite 1:  Copperhead Road
Fri 5-Jun 1300 Edward Kabara Cosmic Patrol:  Gravastar 3: A Glimpse of the Future
Fri 5-Jun 1500 Edward Kabara Valiant RPG, Unity 3:  A Sinking Feeling
Fri 5-Jun 1800 Edward Kabara CMP 2015-01:  The Tennessee Suite 1:  Copperhead Road
Sat 6-Jun 1300 Edward Kabara Cosmic Patrol:  Gravastar 2:  Into the Mouth of Evil
Sat 6-Jun 1500 Edward Kabara Valiant RPG, Unity 2:  Grab the Wheel
Sat 6-Jun 1800 Edward Kabara Into the Shadows
Sat 6-Jun 2000 Edward Kabara Into the Shadows

I’m a day in, so let’s give the run down on the con.

Day 1

Day 1 started by sucking hard.  I started driving from my house, much later than I wanted, picked up my buddy, and promptly get two miles on the high way before the front passenger tired blew.  That slowed me down, made me miss my first slot, and could have thrown my con into disarray if not for the Catalyst Demo team stepping up to help one of their own.  Good people…Good people!

When I did get to the con, I watched the master run Cosmic Patrol.  I had read the rules, but it’s a much looser game than any I’ve run so far.  Also, while I love the game’s idea, the adventures are not as in depth as I would like.  After learning by osmosis, I then stepped up to the plate, and ran my first Cosmic Patrol.  I only had three players, but I had a blast and I think my two players did too.  They learned the true horror that is the Blaath! (dun Dun DUN!)  Then no one came for Valiant, so I was drafted to teach an intro Into the Shadows character creation game followed by some Crossfire.  I love both those.

Next is the main perk of running with Catalyst-the super secret, NDA ridden, ask Catalyst meeting.  Everybody got some insider info on when games are coming out, and then we all got some swag.  Since I’m running 32 hours of games, I got some awesome swag, and then headed to the hotel.  That was a little adventure as we’re a bit away from where we game.  It’s not bad as I can use the walk, but finding where I’m going in the night time city is a bit harder-even more so when the hotel lists its address on the wrong side of a one way street that isn’t even the drive up entrance.

Day 2

Day 2 started with some solid adulting!  I had to go and find a tire place to fix my car.  That took a bit, and I got a hard sell on buying overly expensive tires because of tire tread depth.  Pro-tip- it honestly doesn’t matter.  Second pro-tip-Don’t try the hard sell with me-I will walk.  Yelp will find me 10 other people before you finish you spiel on why you should get more money.

Then I got back to the hotel, got ready, and headed to the con.  I was running Valiant, Cosmic Patrol, and Shadowrun.  It’s now almost 6PM.  Sadly, no ones showed up for either Valiant or Cosmic Patrol.  Both are awesome games, but I’d like some more players!  I did give some quick, elevator pitches on both to some people walking through the room, but I’d like to run a few more games.  COME PLAY VALIANT-THERE IS AN AWESOME PRIZE.  You have to play a FULL, 2-HOUR GAME, but it is worth it if you’re a diehard Valiant fan!

That’s where we are now.  Tomorrow, I’ll hit the show floor, buy some toys, and have more RPGs and games to discuss.

Daily Punch 6-1-15 Dual Training positive quality for Shadowrun 5e

Let’s keep building of the small unit tactics idea.  What if you could double up on the abilities?

Dual Training

Cost: 5 karma

You don’t do anything by halves.  You don’t work small scale.  You like your cake, and you want to eat it too.  When you do a small unit tactics test, you can, in the same free action, name two different abilities.  You can make your small unit tactics test as normal, but the needed successes is the sum of both selected abilities.  Only other characters with this same quality can assist with your small unit tactics test, but characters without this quality can benefit from its result.  If you don’t get the needed successes of both abilities, neither triggers.

Thoughts?

Daily Punch 5-29-15 Tactics Training positive quality for Shadowrun 5e

Been reading Run and Gun for a few missions.  I think small unit tactics don’t get enough love.  Let’s add some bonuses to that.

Tactics Training

Cost: 10 Karma

You drill, then you drill, and then….you drill some more!  After 10,000 thousand times doing the same thing again, you MIGHT just not screw it up!  When you are effected by a bonus from a small unit tactics ability, increase the bonus by 1, or increase any penalties the enemy is affected by by 1.

Thoughts?

Daily Punch 5-28-15 Collapsible Poll item for DnD 5e

You know why haflings are horrible thieves?  10 foot poll is three size categories larger than them!  How they going to get this anywhere?  Let’s fix that.

Collapsible Poll

Cost: 20 gp

A 10 lb iron poll. that collapses into a one foot dowel.  It takes an  action to extend the poll.  It ways enough when swung at  a foot pad to set it off with the weight of an average medium creature.

Thoughts?