Random thoughts on boardgames and D&D 4e

I’ve just finished punching out counters and other “some assembly required” actions for my new games. It’s funny; some people enjoy painting miniatures, I enjoy punching out wargame chits.

The two wargames in question were, firstly, Combat Commander: Europe. GMT provided a bunch of small ziplock bags to put the counters in, but there weren’t quite enough. Off to my supermarket-bought ziplock bags. That took an hour or so, but they’re all separated and bagged now. Secondly, Command & Colors: Ancients. This GMT game uses wooden blocks with stickers on them. You’ve got to apply the stickers. Over 350 wooden blocks with stickers! That took about 3 hours. I did most of them while watching the cricket last night, humming happily to myself.

Of course I’m strange; I’m a gamer!

Randy and I got a chance to play two of our new purchases yesterday. Randy’s choice was Thebes, a really fantastic Eurogame about going on archaeological digs. You spend time researching the sites in the cities of Europe, and then you go off to Greece, Egypt or wherever and draw a number of tiles from a bag – the more research you do and the more time you spend on the dig, the more tiles you draw. Some of the tiles have treasures (artefacts) on them worth points, other tiles are blank (sand!). The sand tiles get replaced in the bag, so subsequent digs have less and less chance of finding artefacts. However, if you dig early, you probably haven’t researched as much. Keep an eye out for this game (2-4 players), it really was fun.

The game I chose was Prophecy, which is really a Talisman variant. The major differences from Talisman come from movement (you move one square, or pay money to move more), and the guilds: there are five guilds that provide training in special abilities. The object of the game is to become powerful enough to enter the magical vortices and retrieve four of the five magical artifacts you need to become ruler of the world. Our 2-player game took 90 minutes; it’ll probably become quicker as we become more experienced, but a 5 player game may well take too long. The game suggests 3 hours on the box. Hmm. Talisman may still be my preferred fantasy adventure game.

Lots of news coming out about D&D 4e now that the D&D Experience convention is underway. So much that poor old EN World has crashed. A few things of note:

  • Yes, fireballs are now square. Honestly, it bothers me less than I thought it would. The saving on placement time will be well worth it IMO.
  • Defenses (the old saving throws – Reflex, Will & Fort) now gain a bonus from the higher of two ability scores. Willpower is either Wisdom or Charisma. Fortitude is either Strength or Constitution. Reflexes is either Dexterity or Intelligence. Woo. This one is going to be good.
  • The sleep spell is unusual – it causes those affected to become slowed, and if they then fail a saving throw (as an ongoing effect), then they become unconscious. Nice way of doing it, IMO. Note that saving throws in 4e aren’t the Defences. No, for ongoing effects you make a saving throw on a d20, with a 10+ saving and a 1-9 failing.
  • Oh, random hit points are gone. Your initial HP are based on your Consitution score plus a bonus for your class. After that, you get a flat number each level (based on class – it’s 5 for the rogue), and probably not modified by Constitution. On that note, the number of skills you have isn’t modified by Intelligence either. Multi-Attribute Dependency seems a thing of the past, and Paladins everywhere will be very happy.
  • Fireball is really interesting. Apart from being square (see above), you make one damage roll. Then you roll your attack vs each opponent in the area of effect to see if you hit them for full damage or half!
  • Action Points. You begin each day with one Action Point. After every two completed encounters, you get another one. You can use them to gain another Standard or Move action (as well as other things, I expect). When you go to sleep, you wake up the next day with just one.
  • Read a few interesting things here. Enjoy.
  • Healing. Boy, this is interesting. There are these things called “Healing Surges”. You can use a number per day determined by your class and Con modifier. Each will heal you for some value – possibly a quarter of your hit points. During an encounter, you can use only one (Second Wind) unless you have other abilities. Between encounters, if you rest for 5 minutes you can use any number of them, plus you regain all your per encounter powers. When you rest for the day, you automatically heal back to full hp and regain all healing surges. (The Paladin’s Lay on Hands ability allow them to use their healing surges to heal other PCs!) Note that Second Wind is now a standard action (not swift like it is in Saga), so it’ll be pretty much your only action in the turn. OTOH, I don’t think you have to be on half-hp.
  • Primer downloads – before I forget: Rules Primer for 4e; Sample 4e Characters (from Wizards site)

Anyway, I’m now really, really interested in 4e. Regular old Ulek tomorrow…

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