Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Tea-Drinker and The Titan: A Journeyman's Tale

Good day, lovely readers!  You may notice that there was quite a gap between the last two reviews, but hopefully the breakdown of The Resistance will signal a return to normality.  Recently I've received my Kickstarter copy of Tessen, and have had my first games of Spartacus, Last Night on Earth, and Ticket to Ride, so there's plenty on the review plate!  But over the last 12 weeks I've been immersed back into the long-neglected tabletop miniatures side of the hobby, and that's kept me distracted from everything else in the world!
Now back when Games & Tea started it was always going to be a board/card game blog - I mentioned it back when the blog began, and I've mentioned it a couple of times since.  This is not something that's going to change.  This article is not a sign that Games & Tea will soon be filled with release updates and so forth, but in the same way as my Diary of a Roleplay Beginner series was an intro to that element of the hobby, I thought the last 12 weeks were a nice into to the tabletop side of things.  So without further babbling, here's my excuse for a lack of board game reviews...
I was a tabletop hobbyist for years before drifting happily over to the board game niche, but entirely focused myself on Warhammer 40,000.  Back in September of 2013 I started collecting models from the Khador faction of Privateer Press' Warmachine tabletop game - I knew nothing of the game, but really liked the models.  Unfortunately I have an addictive personality, so once I started buying there was no stopping me, and within a couple of short months I'd accrued roughly £600 worth of toys for a system about which I was completely clueless.  I'm also an incredibly slow and unmotivated painter, so once everything was built it pretty much sat there on my painting table gathering dust.  And so my Warmachine journey seemed to be over.
Then at the beginning of January my FLGS Titan Games announced the beginning of a Warmachine/Hordes Journeyman League.  I'd not heard of these before, but the Journeyman Leagues are an inspired idea from Privateer Press.  They're designed to introduce people to the hobby slowly over a period of several weeks, introducing them to the rules, the best ways to use their models in combat, and encouraging players to get their models painted.  All of this appealed to me, so I signed up and threw myself in!
A Journeyman League takes place over the course of 6 rounds, typically with each round taking place over a single week - Titan stretched their league out across 12 weeks, with 2 weeks per round to allow more time to get games played and models painted.  When starting a new faction in Warmachine/Hordes it's best to start with a battlebox, which contains a very basic beginners force, and it's with one of these battleboxes that each player begins the league.  This is a great way to introduce new players to the hobby, as they only have to focus on how their three or four models work as they get to grips with the rules.  After round 1, players expand their armies to a set number of points, but have to keep their battlebox, so they gradually learn more and more about how their army works, until the final round where they can field a decent-sized force of any models they wish.
Points are scored for each game played, with bonus points being scored for victories, and hobby points are scored for each model painted, based on the size of the model/number of models in the unit etc, and at the end of the league players are awarded prizes for the most game points, the most painting points, and the player with the most points combined is declared the overall winner!
As I said, I always used to play Warhammer 40,000, but even after 5 years of playing I still didn't know the rules, making games long and tedious affairs.  My lack of rules knowledge also meant that I was a thoroughly ineffective player, and throughout my entire gaming history I never won a single game.  This knocked my hobby confidence, and I was thoroughly convinced that I was a bad tabletop gamer, so when I went into the Journeyman I was expecting to rack up defeat after defeat.
It turned out that being drip-fed the rules to Warmachine was the best way to be introduced to the system.  At the beginning of Round 1 I was having to check the rulebook every few minutes (fortunately my first opponent was in the same boat, so we were happy to bear with eachother!), by the end of Round 2 I had a solid understanding of the rules, and by Round 6 the rulebook was largely unnecessary and on occasion I even found myself correcting the rules knowledge of more experienced players!  And because of the fact that I understood the working of the rules I was able to focus more on how my army worked together, and ended up with one of the most solid gaming records in the entire league, which was a big confidence boost!
But the greatest boon for me was in the painting department.  As well as having an  addictive personality I'm also a highly competitive person - I'm not a poor winner/loser, but generally if I have a chance of winning something I'll go for it with everything I have!  At the beginning of the league I looked across my table full of Khador and totalled up their value in painting points, and realised that if I painted them all within the following 12 weeks then I'd be almost unassailable!  Now as I said, I'm a slow painter, and there were more models on my table than I'd painted in the previous 5 years (no word of exaggeration), but still I put my life on hold and started painting.  I dedicated almost every free waking moment of my life to this cause, often painting until 3am, getting up at 8am for work, carrying on painting when I got home at 6pm, and painting until 3am again.  And of course, as the weeks went on I realised which units would work well with my growing army, and continued to buy more as the league continued, only adding further to my painting pile!  There were a few times when I felt like I was going to break down, but I just focused on the points, got my head down and carried on.  As a result, not only did I paint more models than I had done in years, but for the first time in my tabletop hobby history I had a fully painted army.  Not only that, but my hobby skills truly developed, and I now even build dioramas which I never would have dared attempt in the past, and am now planning a custom-built army based on the BioShock videogame series!
So here's the fruits of my 12 week labour in Round-by-Round update photographs, and with them the reason for the lack of Games & Tea reviews!
End of Round 1
End of Round 2
End of Round 3
End of Round 4

End of Round 5
Although I put up a good fight, I didn't manage to score the most gaming points (finishing second on that front by a mere 1 point!), but this gargantuan effort did secure me the victory for most painting points, as well as the overall winner!  You may wonder why there's no 'End of Round 6' photo, but packing up all of my Khador for the weekly trip to Titan became such a chore as they increased in number, that after playing my Round 6 games I decided to let them all enjoy their rest!
So this was my Journeyman tale, and hopefully it will inspire anyone looking to enter the Warmachine/Hordes hobby!  At the beginning of the league I didn't know the rules in the slightest, and had almost no painted miniatures, but with the help of my FLGS and the other participants I emerged at the other end as a keen hobby veteran, and if I can do it then so can anyone!
I hope you've enjoyed this little hobby ramble.  Now that this is over Games & Tea should be resuming normal service, and I'm personally really looking forward to cranking out reviews again in the coming weeks...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

SolForge - The Making of "Nesh, Wind Giant" (Guest Article by Snack, Play, Love and Foodstuff Finds' NLi10)

Crowd-funded projects (Kickstarter etc) are definitely on the rise at the moment, and are a great way for smaller games which may never normally see the light of day to make their way onto our gaming tables.  The more money a backer pledges to a project, the greater the reward, and one of the more popular rewards offered by game creators is your likeness on a card/model/box etc.  We've happily backed a few projects in the last few months but have never gone in for a pledge level like this, but fellow blogger and friend of Games & Tea, NLi10 of Snack, Play, Love and Foodstuff Finds, has been through the process from start to finish.  Here's his tale of being immortalised in  digital card form!

On August the 2nd 2012 while watching the SolForge live-stream for the final count down I decided that the game and the community were interesting enough to increase my investment from one of the low tiers to one of the high ones.  I wanted the prize on offer (At Club1980 drafts are free...) and couldn't make use of the GenCon tickets on the layer above so it seemed perfect.

I resolved to forget about the game for a year and when the new Magic core set came out that summer I'd begin to wind down my activity and spending on that and reap the savings.  I'd looked at the lower tiers when signing up but come the e-mail asking for pictures on March 13 I'd pretty much forgotten about the 'Your likeness on a card' tier.  At the time I'd joked i'd give the honour to someone else, or that I'd try to get one of my cats on the card.  When it came up though I thought it would actually be cool to see this through.

My first contact was Eric - the concept writer for SolForge - and he laid out what we'd need to provide.  Over the next few messages I stated that i didn't really care which faction, but gave two real ideas.  The first was job based, I work in infection control so how about a Nekrium guy whose job it is to do the reverse.  The second was based on my partner and I going on long walks in the British countryside.  It was from one of these walks in Wales that we got our source pictures.  I created a Tempys shamenesque character called Nesh (a northern dialect word I picked up at uni) who is more at home on remote ridges than the battlefield.

I sent over 4 pictures with some fully body and close ups that I'll spare you but these two capture the essence.  A guy who is more of a tactician than a solider.  I mentioned that I'd prefer equipment more than weapons to that end, and I mentioned that I'd love scale birds.

Time passed.  Many more hikes were done (including Norway - I think my card would have been a little different with those pictures used!) and it became Jan 2014.  Eric got back in touch saying that Anton (the artist) required some more close up shots at varied angles so that he could get the faces right.  Naturally I panicked about this and eventually managed to get some I was reasonably happy with, for example this one.

This is my deliberate attempt at an enigmatic face.  This is harder than you'd expect when home alone and having to resort to selfies.  Many digital photographs were deleted that day...

It was in response to this that I received my first idea of what the card would be like.  Pleasingly this sketch had the file name of "Nesh - example", which was the name I'd given to the write-up in the original e-mail discussion.  For me it helped to visualise the character, but I'd no hope of becoming a unique named character as that was a much higher tier.

I did as instructed and copied the pose (long arms come in handy for these selfies I tell you!) and sent it off.  Note the cereals in the background - FoodStuffFinds till I die yo!

At this point I was getting excited.  I showed the initial pic to a few fellow players and they agreed it looked pretty cool.  Eric mentioned he's seen the final versions and that he thought they looked cool too so all was good.

Time passed.

Set 2 was announced as being "in March" and the end of the month rapidly approached.  As the preview cards came up I wondered at each time whether I would recognise myself.  On the morning of March 18th I had to be at work early for a conference and didn't check anything digital until I was in the car on the way there (being driven I might add).  There was the usual tournament stats post up which had been linked from the forum, and I just happened to notice a new card had been previewed below...

Thundergale Invoker appeared to be a Tempys card like mine was from first glance, and it involved wind...  I had a zoom in and then a rather large smile on my face!  I couldn't explain out loud in a car with work people, but tweets and messages were sent to those in the know.  Much was said about me sending naked pictures to StoneBlade (I didn't :p) but everyone agreed it was indeed a good likeness.

The article here detailed the cards abilities and it seemed to fit in with the kind of play style that I have.   Essentially it allows you to move your pieces around with the power of the wind if you played them in the right slots.

I immediately messaged Eric after work to say thanks to both him and Anton and to ask permission to write this experience up for posterity and to beg for some of the art that went into the process.  So I've included a few of the more exclusive key pieces here but to save on the Games & Tea internet I'll host the majority back on my regular blog.

 Here we see three of the original pictures I sent in, alongside what I guess is the very first concept sketches for the card.  This includes the original idea of looking out at the action from afar, suiting up, and entering the fray.  The wind gauntlets are particularly cool, looking decidedly like something from the Dynasty warriors series.  While this makes the CosPlay harder, I think that it's a great idea.

Before I finish up here I'd like to thank StoneBlade in general but specifically Eric and Anton for taking the time to make something that I am very happy with.  If this much effort went into all the players vanity cards then that's a lot of extra work.  I look forwards to discovering who all the people behind the faces are over the next few weeks and continuing to aggressively draft 'me' and then getting sad when the creature dies.

But hey - there are plenty more copies to draft and play, and we'll always have those scale birds, right?

The Resistance, Part 2: Gameplay & Verdict

In our last article we took a look at the box contents for Don Eskridge's The Resistance; a party game of deception and deduction for 5-10 people.  Now it's time to see how those contents come together as we run you through the gameplay of this incredibly back-stabbing game, and give it our usual final score!
Apparently it's futile...
The first thing to be decided is which players will be the loyal resistance operatives and which will take on the roles of the spies.  The appropriate Character Cards are taken from the box and shuffled together, before being dealt out to each player face-down.  The spies must almost be outnumbered by the resistance operatives, so in a 5 player game they are broken down 2-3, for 6 players it's 2-4, for 7 players 3-4, and so forth.  All players then close their eyes, and the spies are asked to re-open theirs, allowing them to know eachother's identities.  They then close their eyes again and all players re-open them, leaving the resistance operatives in the dark over who can and can't be trusted within their cell.
The appropriate Score Tableau is then placed in the centre of the table, each player is given a pair of voting tokens, one player is randomly selected start as the team leader, and the game is ready to go!
Each game takes place over the course of five rounds, with each round representing a resistance mission against the government.  At the start of the round, the team leader must choose which players (including themselves, if they wish) will be sent on the mission.  The number of players sent on each mission varies from one mission to the next, but the Score Tableau handily reminds the team leader of how many players they must choose.
Once the team has been selected, all players use their voting tokens to approve or reject the lineup.  This really comes into play after the first couple of rounds, by which time most players will start to have formed an idea of who the spies in the group are, and so will want to keep them off the mission team!  If the majority of votes approve the lineup then the mission goes ahead, if the majority reject it (or if it's a tie) then the mission is aborted and the Leader Token is passed around to the left, and the process is repeated.  If a lineup is rejected by the popular vote five times in a row then the spies are considered to have derailed the resistance cell, and they win the game.
Each member of the mission team is given a pair of Mission Cards.  They must choose one of these cards and hand it face-down to the team leader.  The resistance operatives must always choose the Success card (after all, they do want the mission to succeed!), whereas the spies have the option of playing the Fail card if they wish - this option gives the spies wonderful opportunities to throw suspicion onto other players, as well as to worm their way into the trust of the resistance operatives.
Once the team leader has received all of the Mission Cards they shuffle them, and reveal them all face-up.  If all of the cards are Successes then the mission was accomplished, whereas just a single Fail card means that the mission was sabotaged and the spies win the round.  At least three of the five missions must succeed in order for the resistance operatives to win, whereas three failures means victory for the spies!
Most games of The Resistance in our experience go right down to the wire.  The Score Tableau above gives a good example of this, with the resistance operatives having succeeded in their first and fourth missions, but with the spies thwarting them during missions two and three.  By the final mission the team leader has to have figured out the identities of the spies, as they have to send every loyal resistance operative on the mission in order for it to succeed, which can create an incredibly tense atmosphere for the final round, as the loyal operatives vie for their rightful places on the mission team, whilst the spies must argue for their inclusion as well, in order to bring the cell down once and for all!
The main enjoyment in The Resistance comes from playing mind-games with other players.  In one of our early games one of the spies made a slight slip-up which gave away his true nature.  However, only one of the resistance operatives picked up on this, and their attempts to explain it to the rest of the team only ended up throwing suspicion onto themselves.  It's certainly a game which raises the blood pressure, but as long as you're playing with the right group of people, and can play with the attitude of "what happens in the resistance, stays in the resistance" then there's no reason the insults, mistrust and back-stabbing can't all be taken light-heartedly - The Resistance is a party game after all!
The The Plot Thickens expansion adds some extra depth to the game by intorucing Plot Cards for each round.  These can allow people to sneak a look at other players' Character Cards, overthrow voting choices, and other such actions to thwart the plans of spies and resistance operatives alike.  Again, these can be used to great effect by either party - in one of our games a spy had to reveal his identity to one player, and so chose a resistance operative.  When the operative tried to share this information they were branded a spy and left in exile for the entire game.  This is a perfect of example of how The Resistance isn't just another game of playing the right cards at the right time, but it's also largely down to how the players adopt to the roles of their characters and how much they can make the other players believe their theories.  It's this, in our opinion, which makes The Resistance something very special indeed.
Is it a perfect game though?  Of course not, in our years of board gaming we've yet to experience such a thing - every game has shortfalls, even if they're only minor ones.  The minimum 5 player requirement is the first for The Resistance, as it can make it difficult to get a game on the go in the first place!  We've yet to experience a game with the maximum of 10 players, and don't expect we'll get to try it at any point in the foreseeable future.  The deceptive and back-stabbing nature of the game may be too much for some players who have trouble taking things with a pinch of salt, and we can genuinely picture people rage-quitting and friendships ending over a round of The Resistance!  Like we've said, it's great with the right people, just make sure that you're all going to be able to shake hands and put things behind you when it's over!
One massive shortfall which didn't become apparent for a few games was the difficulty in dropping preconceptions from previous games.  If a player is a spy for a few consecutive games, it can be hard for players to see them in any other light, and this can derail a game before it starts.  We did hear variations on the line "I think he's a spy - he was a spy last time!" crop up far too often for a game with random character assignment!
And finally the game components need a little TLC - as we mentioned in Part 1, the satin finish on the cards makes them prone to weathering, and so an investment in sleeves comes highly recommended.
So, it looks like it's time for our customary break-down...
The Good Points
  • The Resistance is quick to learn and quick to play, meaning everyone can get into it with only minimal explanation.
  • Refreshingly, it's a game that doesn't break the bank.
  • Accommodating up to 10 players, this is a game which large groups can all get thoroughly involved in.
  • With the right group of people it can be great fun playing mind games with your friends, and throwing suspicion around where none exists!
  • It requires only a very small amount of playing space.

The Bad Points
  • The flipside of the high player numbers is that smaller groups may struggle to get enough people together for a game.
  • The cards will need sleeving or else they'll suffer wear and tear quite quickly.
  • With the wrong crowd, this has the potential to start fights and end friendships!
  • Players' opinions can be easily influenced by previous, unrelated games.
Recommended Number of Players: 5+
Not a particularly helpful recommendation, we know!  But from our experience The Resistance works very well with various player numbers. As we mentioned earlier, we're yet to try it out with a full quota of 10, but based on games with fewer players it should continue to be the same great experience.
Average Game Time: 20 minutes
One of the greatest things about The Resistance is that it's a very quick game to play.  Not only does this mean that players don't get bogged down until the intrigue stops being fun, but with the game being skewed in favour of the spies, players tend to want to play through several games to try and secure that elusive resistance victory!
Replay Value: High
Again, being a party game, The Resistance hinges on having the right group of people to play it with.  With a good crowd it can be returned to over and over again, and with the same gaming group a poker-esque element could almost creep in as players learn to spot eachothers "tells".
The Future: Dystopian
Whilst The Resistance is a lot of fun, there isn't really anything to breathe extra life into it if it ever starts to go stale.  Obviously the The Plot Thickens expansion is included in the box, but most players will probably start to use those within an hour of their first game.
Price: £16
The Resistance is certainly a wallet-friendly game, and in terms of money-to-enjoyment it gives a very good return.  Since its initial release it's become a very popular pocket-sized game, and should be easy enough to acquire for those gaming stores who don't carry it on their shelves as standard.
Tea consumed during this review: None!  It's been a Pepsi Max evening on account of a devastating lack of milk.  -53/10

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more of the same, come and like us on our Facebook page to keep up to date with our reviews, as well as our general day-to-day ramblings!

The Resistance, Part 1: Box Contents

Good evening, ladies and gentlegamers!  We know it's been a while since we last posted a review up on Games & Tea, and we hope you haven't missed our incessant ramblings too much!  There will be a little article up shortly which will explain what's been keeping us from our precious reviews, but in the meantime we're going to try and restore a sense of normality to our world as we bring you our thoughts on Don Eskridge's The Resistance; a game of general deception, deduction and back-stabbing for 5-10 people.
The Resistance is a party game, which means that all players get to interact during every turn, as opposed to each player taking their turns separately.  The players take on the role of a resistance cell attempting to overthrow a malignant government.  However, a number of the team (dependant upon the number of players) are, in fact, government spies, and it's their job to sabotage the resistance's missions and cause them to fail.  The game takes place over the course of five missions - if the majority are successful then the resistance win the game, if the majority fail then it's victory for the spies.
The true resistance members are tasked with the using deduction to identify the traitors in their midst, whilst the spies have to exercise their deception skills to throw off suspicion and worm their way into the resistance's trust.  We'll address how this all works in the second part of the review, but in the meantime let's take a look at what you'll find inside the box...
First of all, you have the three Score Tableaus.  That's right, The Resistance contains tableaus - not tables - leaving us feel as though we were perhaps a little bit too lower-class to be playing this game.  These three cards are double-sided, with each side containing a scoring chart for games of 5-10 players.  The tableaus keep track of how many missions have been successes or failures, how many times the current mission team has been voted on (more on that later), as well as providing a quick reference on how many players need to be sent on each mission.  Each side of each card also features some rather nice artwork, which give the players something of a glimpse in the world in which their resistance cell operates.
Next up, we have the tokens.  The rifle tokens at the top are simply used to indicate which players have been chosen to go on a mission, the Reject/Approve tokens are used for voting on the mission teams, the large diamond-shaped token goes to the team leader, and the circular tokens are all used for tracking information on the Score Tableau.
There are three different types of cards in The Resistance, and the first are the Character Cards.  These are dealt out randomly at the beginning of the game, and let each player know whether they are a resistance operative (blue), or a government spy (red).  Unlike the Scoring Tableaus, the artwork on the cards does seem to be somewhat hit-and-miss, with dome of the cards still featuring rather nice images, but others being kindly described as a little bit ropey.
The second type of cards are the Mission Cards.  Each player on the mission is given a pair of these cards and must choose one to submit face-down to the team leader; Success if they want the mission to succeed, and Fail if... well, you can probably guess the rest!
And finally we have the Plot Cards!  These are part of the The Plot Thickens expansion which comes with the main game.  These allow extra actions to be taken each turn which can help to uncover the spies' identities, or, if played by a cunning spy, can throw further doubt and suspicion into the minds of the loyal operatives!  For the purposes of our review game we'll be leaving these out, but they're easy enough to add in once players have a basic familiarity with the rules.
All of the cards in The Resistance do have a satin finish to them, which we have seen in a number of games.  This does, unfortunately, make the cards more susceptible to wear and tear, and so an investment of sleeves is highly recommended.
So that's the box contents for The Resistance!  It's not an overwhelming set of box contents, but one of the hallmarks of a good party game is that it's enjoyable to play without an overabundance of complex rules and gaming pieces (look at Cards Against Humanity for a perfect example!).  Come back for Part 2, where we'll run through the mechanics of the game and give our thoughts on the experience as a whole!

Monday, 3 March 2014

UK Games Expo Press Release

Sometimes it feels like Games & Tea has been going since the dawn of time, but the fact is we are still a fledgling blog with just under a year under our blogging belts at this point.  One of the nice things about being new to the scene though is all of the first time experiences, and one thing we're looking forward to later this year is our first Expo: The UK Games Expo 2014!

The UK Games Expo is held annually, and is a great opportunity to discover new games, play your favourites against new opponents, and talk to some of the big names in the industry, not to mention pick up a bargain or two from the trade tables.  It's also a great event for board game designers, as it gives them the chance to get their games playtested by real gamers - and as a playtester, the flipside of this is the bragging rights - you could be one of the people who first played the game which turns out to be next year's epic new release!
We'll be there hunting for bargains, trying out new things and generally trying to raise Games & Tea awareness with business cards and relentless pestering, so read on for the Expo's official press release on the event, and maybe we'll see a few of you there!

Climb on Board for the UK’s largest Hobby Games Convention
Board Games are back! Thousands of families are discovering a new generation of table top games that are fresh, exciting and just plain fun. If you think board games are limited to Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble think again. An annual Expo of all the latest non-electronic games returns to the Hilton Metropole Hotel, NEC at the end of May. When the doors open 5000+ visitors will descend on the hotel to explore 100+ trade stands, sit down and try out hundreds of new games or enter National Championships for the chance to be crowned the UK Champion. UK Games Expo is the premier event in the UK where all aspects of the gaming hobby are represented under one roof:

  •  Card Games
  •  Boardgames
  •  Role-playing Games
  •  Miniature Games
  •  Family games

The organizers have worked hard to create a fun event which will appeal to families and the general public as well as the Hobby Games enthusiast. These are the main elements:
Tournaments and Championships in the most popular game systems. Prizes include all expenses paid trips to World Finals in Berlin, Paris and the USA.

  •  Newest games and releases on show.
  •  The largest Hobby Games trade fair in the UK.
  •  Family Zone - lots for the kids to do
  •  Authors and artists
  •  Participation and Demonstration Games - No need to know the rules in advance.
  •  Costumed Groups

Guests this year include Red Dwarf star Chris Barrie, Material World Presenter Quentin Cooper, game design legends Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, Roleplaying veterans Monte Cook, the King of Cooperative Games, Matt Leacock as well as one of the world’s most prolific board game designers Reiner Knizia.
Seminars and Talks on hot topics in tabletop gaming and guides on designing and publishing your own games and books and using crowd funding.
Space for Open Gaming and the largest Roleplaying Games schedule in the UK.
UK Games Expo is open to the public. You can book in advance OR just turn up and pay on the day.
UK Games Expo is on Friday 30th May, Saturday 31st May and Sunday 1st June 2014 at the NEC Hilton Metropole Hotel. Adults tickets from £9, Family Tickets from £22. 10’s and under get in free. Visitors can arrange accommodation via a special rate.

Full details on