24 November 2014

This War of Mine review

This War of Mine went completely under my radar, and I was made aware of the game from a comment to my Alien: Isolation review. As soon as I got the game I was hooked (you can get the game cheap on STEAM). This War of Mine is a rougelike game set in a warzone and has the player control various characters seeking shelter in an abandoned ruin. It is up to the player to improve the shelter, scavenge supplies and make sure everyone is fed, rested, kept war and disease free as you attempt to survive a siege inside a city. It's a dark, unforgiving and at times very depressing game that does a fantastic job in conveying the despair of the characters and the consequences of your actions.

Your characters can get sad, depressed, angry and your actions during scavenge runs as well as interactions with people showing up at the doorstep to your shelter always affects every character somehow. Turning down people in need may make some of your characters sad, while other characters see killing and stealing it as a necessary evil in order to survive.
Characters get sick from cold, and if untreated they can die from disease. They can bleed out over time from untreated wounds as well, and forcing wounded characters to move about instead of staying in bed and recover also adds to their health related downward spiral. 

Since the city is under siege food and supplies get more scarce by the passing of each day, you need to build water collector tanks, water filters, small animal traps and an oven in order to prepare meals. You also need vast amounts of supplies and debris to board up the building, create makeshift furniture and tools.

The game is rougelike in that it does not offer you any save possibility, instead the game autosaves at the start of each new day. This means that all actions and decisions taken during the day and following night when you are scavenging are final - which adds to the tension when your scavenger sets out to raid other ruins, military outposts, bombed super markets filled with other scavengers etc. There is a bit of combat in the game, most of the time you should stick to avoiding it since death comes easily - especially in the first weeks before you manage to get hold of firearms. Also wounded characters eat up a lot of rare resources such as bandages and it takes a while before you are able to manufacture bandages and medicine in your shelter. Character sent on a scavenge run also have a limited time to get back to your base, since snipers are shooting people as soon as dawn breaks so all movement occurs during the dark hours of the day.

The length of the game is said to be varied during each playthrough, so far I managed to get to day 23 before I decided to start over since my most valuable characters died from bullets and disease. The game is said to last between a month and a couple of months. There is a fixed number of characters in the game, but your group is randomly generated at the start of a new game, and so are the location, encounters and special encounters. I also think that you unlock new characters and places by reaching certain milestones in the game as I had basically the same 3 characters during my first trial games but received new characters after my long 23 day game that I ended myself. Anyway, you start out with 3-4 characters and only get new members joining your group every couple of weeks. Some characters have really good skills such as being able to carry a lot of loot, while others are less valuable and really only good for building and guarding at your base shelter.

With all that in mind I think the game offers great replay ability and truly weaves a real story each time you play. During my playthroughs I got a sickened feeling after having killed two elderly folk for their supplies as this was commented by the character when he got back to base (and after that he went completely depressed and was hard to deal with). I can't remember the last time I cared for the characters in a game or about their moral decisions the way I do about the characters in This War of Mine.

If the game has any flaws it is the lack of tutorial/introduction to the gameplay. This means that you will need to spend a couple of hours figuring out how everything works, what is good and in what order to build/do stuff. There are some guides on the internet but you will mostly need to learn for yourself how everything works which isn't that hard but some may consider it a "waste of time" and want to give the game a proper go from the start.

Still, this is one of the most intriguing games that I have played, and it is extremely addictive (probably as addicted to this game as I was to "FTL" ). Highly recommended for players looking for a quality game depicting a familiar theme from a different point of view.


21 November 2014

Alien: Isolation (PC) review

Alien: Isolation may be one of the best survival horror games that I have ever played! 
I finished the game not long ago and the impression remains, it's a solid game with few flaws imo. Oddly enough the critics keep underrating this game while the community gives the game the rating it well deserves.

The story is that you are Amanda Ripley, daughter to Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies. The action takes places in between Alien and Aliens, the company has found a transponder from the Nostromo and is researching the data aboard a far away and soon to be decommissioned space station called "Sevastapol station". 

As you may imagine things go wrong immediately, as your ship arrives at the station it is already falling apart. Not being able to communicate with it part of your crew attempt to board it by making a space walk, you get separated and after finding an airlock enter a dark and eerily silent reception. Soon enough traces of trouble appear, walls painted with insane writing, body bags lining walls, flickering lights and life support systems malfunctioning - and groups of survivors fighting each other and scavenging supplies throughout the station.  On top of that you have the station AI controlling artificial workers "Working Joe's" that have started killing humans due to some kind of flaw in the programming and everyone is talking about the monster that stalks the station killing off the remaining crew one by one.

All in all the main protagonist could not have arrived at a worse place and at a worse time. The great thing about the game is that it is a survival horror that sticks to being about surviving and not shooting up the opposition. Amanda Ripley is an engineer and begins the game with no combat gear, she can collect various pieces of scrap metal and components to craft decoy grenades that emit sound, pipe bombs and stimpacks and even when she starts to come across weapons the ammo is very scarce and using anything that creates noise is soon deemed extremely risky due to the constant threat from the romping Alien. 

The Alien in Alien: Isolation cannot be killed with regular weapons which makes it a lot more frightening, it is also unscripted in where it appears and how it hunts in each area that you visit. It is attracted to noise, so running, fighting, shooting or setting of an alarm signal will attract it - and it will be on top of your location within seconds. Being able to hide from enemies becomes your biggest concern, and you will do well to scout hiding spots as you explore the station as you never know when human, artificial or Alien enemies show up. You will need to use decoys, to throw off your enemies and sometimes you can turn two groups on each other to slip by unnoticed. The latter often includes provoking the arrival of the Alien that goes on a killing spree.

Alien: Isolation does a fantastic job to create a great atmosphere and a feeling of fear of your enemies which is rare these days. Countless times did I button mash my keyboard in panic to escape death or almost pass out from holding my breath as I was sneaking about enemies looking for me. The Alien showing up and hunting for you adds to the constant tension that does not let go until you finish the game. You are offered a multitude of memorable locations and events throughout the game, including a flashback revolving around the alien spaceship found in the movie Alien, an incredibly frantic life & death situation where you are locked up with the Alien in a small area and exploring an Alien hive. Alien: Isolation is a very long game considering its genre, and you can spend well over 25 hours of gametime before finishing it. Most of the time you will spend in sneaking about, but the game does offer certain areas where gunplay is encouraged to let you play with the guns you may have collected up to that point.

If there are any flaws in the game it may be the story itself which may seem a bit drawn out and not that interesting when you think about it. Another thing that could be better is the save function in the game, you can't save freely but have to use save stations scattered across the maps. This adds to the tension of not being able to save/load as soon as you encounter danger but the save system also makes for easy mistakes when saving/loading a previous save. Several times I managed to overwrite my progress by accidently loading an earlier save (there are only a few slots) which meant that I had to replay a few of the maps twice...

However, the gameplay, the enemies, areas that you explore and the sensation of dread makes Alien: Isolation one of the best games released this year and one of the best survival horror games that I have ever played. Add to that the "retro" style interface/computer interaction in the game and other details that can be directly traced to the original Alien movie and you have a very well made game with fantastic attention to detail being true to its inspirational source.

I give Alien: Isolation 8,5/10

16 November 2014

BF&S Huge division battle Poland-Lithuania vs a Muscovy and Ottoman army

This Saturday David, Johan, Robin and I played a big By Fire & Sword division sized battle. The division structures were not "100% legal" due to me running a an additional regiment of western type troops and the oppossing army was made up of 4 Muscovy and 2 Ottoman regiments. Nevertheless, the point was to show the guys at the club how a big division battle could look and play. Johan and I played the Polish Crown army while Robin and David were playing the Muscovite&Ottoman alliance.

The armies included the following troops and regiments:

Polish Crown Division

General with 4 command points (CP)

Polish Cavalry regiment 1667-76
Colonel 3CP
Rotamaster 1CP
6 Bases of Pancerni with spears
6 Bases of Pancerni
12 Bases of Cossack style cavalry
6 Bases of Winged Hussars

Volunteer Regiment
Colonel 3CP
11 Bases of Volunteers

Elite Dragoon Regiment
Colonel 3CP
8 Bases of Elite dragoons

Foreign Contingent infantry New type regiment
Colonel 3CP
Lieutenant-Colonel 1CP
12 Bases of musketeers
2 regimental guns

Reiter Regiment
Colonel 3CP
6 Bases of Reiters
4 Bases of Armored Reiters

Artillery Colonel 2CP
2 Falcons
1 Organ gun
1 6pdr Medium gun

Additional Units
3 Bases of Polish Hungarian infantry
6 Bases of Lan infantry

51 FSP in total  (including "Financial troubles" being paid for)

Muscovite-Ottoman division

Muscovite General 3CP

Muscovite Soldat Regiment
Colonel 3CP
12 Bases of Musketeers with Berdishe
6 Bases of Pikemen
3x Falconet light guns

Muscovite Pomiestna Cavalry Regiment
Golova 2CP
8 Bases of Boyar Sons with Spears
8 Bases of Boyar sons

Muscovite Border Dragoon Regiment
Colonel 2CP
16 Bases of Muskets
8 Bases of Oike
2x Falconet light guns

Muscovite Servant Cossack Regiment
Golova 2CP
15 Bases of Servant Cossacks

Ottoman Feudal Sipahi (European Provinces) regiment
Sanjakbey 3CP
18 Bases of Sipahi

Ottoman Privincial Force (European Provinces) regiment
Mounted Aga 2CP
9 Bases of Besli
6 Bases of Segban infantry

1 Muscovite medium gun

Additional Units
4 Bases of Muscovite Reiters

44 FSP in total

Preparing for the battle

The Muscovite-Ottoman army was smaller in points and was defending, choosing a defensive battle - and spending their point difference on turning and narrowing the battlefield making the battle be fought across the short edges. They also invested some of their points into buying field fortifications and finally spending their last 3 points of difference between the armies to roll additional effects, which generated "Good omen" for the Soldat regiment boosting their Motivation level by 1 point and inflicting Panic on a squadron of Pancerni and a Squadron of Cossack style cavalry in the Polish cavalry regiment.

13 November 2014

7 Wonders boardgame review

Here's a short review of a little game I bought a few months ago but haven't had the time to write about it until now.

Seven Wonders is a cardbased game where players control competing ancient civilizations as they attempt to create the country with the best level of technology, social structure and technological advancement as well as military might.

The game mechanics are quite simple, cards are played in order to add resources or buildings to your city. Buildings require certain amount of recourses and resource types in order to be finished. Each city has a few starting resources such as clay, stone etc but you will need to quickly add more to your city if you want to build stuff. If you lack the resource you are allowed to buy resources from your neighboring cities (player to your left and to your right) - any resource that they have in their city can be bought for 2 gold / unit.

The game also has a "tech-tree" which allows players to build buildings or add technology centers to their city for free if they have already built specific buildings during a previous age. In game terms this means that some players will focus on social buildings, others on military and others yet on technology as they have a foundation for one of those departments early on and can quickly build the next level of buildings for those departments for free.

How the game is played is fairly easy as it is divided into three "Ages". Each age has its own deck with buildings and resources - and depending on the number of players you add or remove a specific number of cards with player symbols on them. Each "Age-deck" is divided evenly among the players who then take turns in playing a card from their hand (adding a building or resource to their city) or scrapping a card in order to receive some cold.

Once every player has played a card, everyone passes their deck to the neighboring player, and the next round begins - with another card being played. The game continues in this fashion until every player is left with a single card on his hand, at which time the current "Age" ends.

At the end of an age, players compare military strength with their neighboring cities (player to the left and right) and add victory or defeat markers according to who won the strength competition. These markers add or subtract victory points at the end of the game.

Then the next Age begins, and players are dealt cards from a new deck and keep playing. Once all 3 Ages have been played through the game ends and players compare their score which is based upon scoring buildings, finished levels of a "wonder", military might, technology level and economy points.

This game is easy to learn and plays very fast. It can be played with 3-7 players (a 2 player variant is also possible and featured in the rules, but is not that fun to be honest). You can finish a game within 1 hour even with 6 people. The simplicity aside it is actually really good for a fast paced board/card game that can be played with a mixed group of casual players and veteran gamers alike. Having introduced the game to a variety of people within my group no one has disliked it.

You may however consider getting the App to calculate victory points as it can get a bit confusing (the App available for both Android and iOS is free).

All in all it's an 8/10 for the core game, and this is coming from a person who generally doesn't like cardgames. I have not tried any of the expansions for it though.
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