Games, games, games

A lot of games have suddenly come into stock, so I’ve been getting regular parcels from MilSims of late. The highlights:

Rails of Europe – the expansion to Railroad Tycoon, which is now out of print, and the license to the RRT name has gone. So, Glenn Drover is using the same system to produce a Rails of the World game, but before that comes out, Rails of Europe allows you to use your RRT pieces in a new setting. Confused? Cool! However, this is a really great game. I played a 3-player game with Randy and Rich on the weekend which Randy won, although I showed you could make a fairly high score without upgrading your engines.
Yesterday I had a 4-player game with my students. I won it by a solitary point – Sam would have won if he’d had completed his Baron card. Incredibly close, and very fun. I had the Venice-St Petersburg Baron card, but due to Steve’s links, I couldn’t go direct. It was more like Venice – Paris – Berlin – Moscow – St Peterburg! I owned the centre of the game, but Sam did really well down south.
Brass – I’ve played this once with Mark Brown and Randy, and absolutely loved it. My own copy came in yesterday. Lots of components, and a great Industrial Revolution game. Martin Wallace strikes again! 3-4 players, 2-3 hours. I’m looking forward to playing it again, especially as we’ll get all the rules right this time. Not sure when we’ll get a game, but we’ll see.
Through the Ages – from the designer of Galaxy Trucker, comes this little game that brings the Civilization computer game experience to a card/board game. Well, sort of. This is another incredibly fun game, which I’m really happy to have. 2-4 players, plays best with 3, and takes about an hour per player for the full game. Our game on the weekend (Randy, Rich, me) saw me crush the other two by being (a) the technocrat with a lot of technologies and culture, and (b) be very lucky by drawing military defense cards to hold off Randy’s barbarians as they attempted to crush my buildings. Highly recommended.
On the D&D side of things, both Martial Power and Dracomonicon: Chromatic Dragons arrived yesterday. I’m conflicted about D&D at present – it really doesn’t help that lots of sessions have been cancelled or have been interrupted in one form or another recently. I hope Sunday’s session goes well, because I need a good D&D experience before the year ends.
I’ve also been playing a lot of Stone Age online recently. I’ve begun to win games, although I’ve also lost a couple of games by 2-3 points (which is frustrating, especially in 3-4 player games). Stone Age is just lots and lots of fun.


  1. mearls

    So I have to ask: what’s the source of the D&D angst? Is it group issues, or issues with the game itself?

    Personally, I hate it when my campaigns start to veer into cancellation. When they run fine, or when it’s clear the group isn’t working, I can handle it. But when it’s on the line of falling apart or pulling back together, I have trouble keeping the energy level needed to ensure the campaign can survive.


    • merricb

      It’s worse, Mike: It’s a combination of things!

      I’ve had a few players over the past year pull out of the games due to scheduling problems, not because they want to quit, but because work or Life(tm) has been interfering. Unfortunately, they’ve been the better roleplayers/storytellers of the group, which has meant that the feel of the games have been affected quite dramatically. It’s shifted more of the burden towards me as a DM of keeping narrative flow, where they’d be driving things more in the past.

      A couple of recently cancelled sessions (including this Friday’s) haven’t helped, either. Playing once a fortnight is tricky enough, it’s more tricky when you play once in four weeks and everyone’s forgotten what happened last session.

      Then too, there have been a couple of problems (issues?) with 4e that have occurred. There are lots of great things about 4e (not least that it fixes the incredibly wonky power curve of 3e), but some of the combats just aren’t working for me. They’re taking just a bit too long.

      It’s odd, because there are times I’m really upbeat about 4e, and everything runs smoothly, then I have sessions like the last Sunday one (where I was also distracted with car problems), where we had a couple of new players being overwhelmed by the choices in combat and slowed everything down to a crawl.

      It’s one of the things about 4e: it works best with experienced players, despite it being more newbie friendly, because the emphasis of rule-knowledge has shifted onto the players. I’d almost say that it requires more of the players than 3e, strange as it seems, because of how it relies more on individual player powers. Certainly in AD&D, you could break the relationship of DM/player down to:

      Player tells DM what he’d like to do
      DM tells the player what to roll and what happens.

      In 4E, it’s much more:
      Player tells DM what he’s doing, rolls, and tells DM what happens.

      Good things and bad things about that approach! 🙂

      I’m hoping that Sunday’s session – which won’t be purely combat if I read the Thunderspire Labyrinth encounters properly – will perk things up. One thing I’d dearly like to see in Wizards adventures is more exploration areas with actual descriptive text and not direct combats all the time.


      • mearls

        Interesting. The long combat thing is a complaint that I’ve been investigating for a couple of weeks now. I’ve been following play reports on it and trying to figure out the root cause. The interesting thing, to me, is that we’re not seeing it internally. Is it situational, or a consistent thing?


      • merricb

        Long combats are somewhat situational, IMO. In general, my group has been very fast with combats in 3e (I’d run them in half the time other people would take, according to posts I saw on EN World… meaning about 30 minutes for a standard combat). In 4e, combats are going from 30-90 minutes depending on the situation.

        I’ve been feeling this more in the H series of modules, because I haven’t been choosing the monsters. Recently, there have been a lot of fights against Hobgoblins and Duergar. The first have a very high AC (thus a lot of misses from the players); the Duergar have fire resistance (which knocked out a lot of the best attacks of the Wizard).

        I really think it doesn’t help that both groups haven’t had a leader for most session; once someone is knocked out, they’re down a PC for the rest of the combat so the remainder of the combat goes slower – the ability to concentrate fire on monsters is greatly reduced.

        Combat seem to take 5-9 rounds on average, and, as I note, between 30-90 minutes.


  2. srhall79

    Bummer on the D&D front. That dang life thing has taken a real toll on my group, and it looks like we’re soon going to be reduced to just three of us. Fortunately, we’re all comfortable with playing multiple characters.

    On combat length- I never had combats as quick as your 3E, but a lot of the slow down I’ve found in 4E is the same problem of earlier editions- indecisive players. I did have some fears about lengthy high level combat while I was doing H2, but those have mostly evaporated with H3. I’ll try to track a little better how long my encounters go when I run this weekend, but for the most part, they don’t seem long; there’s enough going on, enough options (especially with H3- each room seems designed to have an interesting feature of some sort) that it never seems to drag. And I prefer the number of rounds we go through to how a 3E encounter, even a boss fight, could be done in 3-4 rounds.


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