Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jan/Feb Boardgames: High Frontier and Zombicide

Despite the relative silence on the blog, I have been managing to get in some nerdery related activities. Intrigued by the writeups present on Martin at Fire Broadside! blog, I decided to jump in and try the game High Frontier. Martin does an excellent job reviewing, as well as describing a play-through, so I'm not going to try and repeat his great work. I would add some of my own thoughts after the first game.

High frontier takes place in our own solar system in a not too far advanced future. The real appeal to this game for me is that it's been written by a real rocket scientist (or at least a hardcore physicist). The bad quarter of the rulebook is filled with brief writeups on the technology present in the game, and it really makes you realize just how smart and clever some of the people are out there. Also, advanced math is hard.

Anyway, the point of the game is to get to various sites in the solar system and set up factories to take advantage of the 4 types of comet/mineral resources out there (such as nickel or carbonaceous). Low/Now gravity processes should allow for some amazing technologies to be realized. The Victory points are scored by the number of sites you create, but also by the relative number of each factory type. A monopoly on a given factory is worth far more than if multiple players have built one. 

The real trick is that, like real life, it's dead slow to move a massive spaceship and you need reaction mass. The space ships end up being attempts at optimizing thrust, water tanks (for reaction mass), the type of robonaut/factory you need to survey an area, and planning on what site you could actually get to. My friend Robert (a big space buff, and a physics major) and I spent some brain sweat playing our first game. As the perfidous chinese threat, he was able to claim jump and stop supporting his astronauts in space when the mission was 'done'. I never really had a chance, also his dice rolls were way better than mine. It's definitely a game that will not make much sense for first time or three (I'm suspecting the second time will start revealing more depths to certain cards and strategies).

Given a recent long weekend, Bryan managed to host another game of zombicide (previous game writeup here). There was an all time high of players (6) and we had some experienced salts at the table. We successfully finished the game without too much challenge. I think a combo of good card luck, and diligence in the midgame at moving towards our objectives helped immensely. There is a tendency to be a bit slow and kill zombies in the 'yellow' phase (of experience). This phase you are way better than most of the zombies showing up, you've usually found your equipment, and it's a bit of a breeze. It's actually the time when you are busy losing the game. The zombie numbers ramp up quickly, you gain xp fast, and suddenly you enter orange and then red. If you aren't close to finishing the map, you are probably toast.

Speaking with Bryan a few days after, he offered that having lots of players is a huge help, as you can spread the experience from killing zombies more thinly. Certainly it is already a tactic to try and ensure that all the players enter the next experience level on the same turn. As soon as one person gets to a new level, the zombie spawns get tougher.

 In our game we went south/down first and cleared the first building to the left. We managed to open both buildings in the bottom during the first experience level (blue). Buildings get populated completely as soon as they are opened.

 We managed to pop the door on all three of the buildings during the second, yellow level, while we all moved to a good location in the streets. Given our early luck equipping ourselves with extra ammo and various shotguns, we were able to clear out the masses of zombies quite quickly.
 It was actually the black 'X' objective markers that ended up sending us over to the next experience level into orange. By this point we only had 1 X to grab, and all the food water and rice cards we needed had been located. We were moving quickly to keep ahead of a mass of zombies, while clearing out the last group from the top left house.
 By this point the game is basically ours. Even with a terrible spawn in the top most spawn location, we had enough people and weapons in the local area to clear it.
 The dash down the alley and for freedom was trivial. The game was fairly fun, especially for the newer folks, but I think the few of us who had played numerous times were a bit surprised with how easy it had gone.

It's quite tough to say if card luck was the largest contributor, or if number of people made the difference.

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