Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gale Force Nine license for Axis & Allies products lapsed.

I don't know if this has been mentioned elsewhere, but I didn't see it at first glance: Gale Force Nine reports that there license for Axis & Allies products has lapsed so they can no longer produce or sell those items.

this means that the vinyl War at Sea map, the tokens and the stands for the ships are all gone. I liked the map, especially, and I'm sorry that's gone. I used the tokens for both AAM and WAS but I believe Litko has tokens that are usable substitutes. I never tried the stands.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Weather effects

As we start to batten down the hatches in preparation for the arrival of Mean Irene, it prmpted some pondering on the effect of weather in wargame -- or more precisely, the effect of extreme weather.

For the most part, until fairly recently in history, any sort of severe weather pretty much brought a halt to military proceedings. It was challenging enough to feed, clothe and move troops during normal times in the ancient era and most of the black powder era, without trying to do it in bad weather. The cases of major battles or campaign fought in extreme weather conditions or notable in part because they were so rare -- such as Washington's crossing of the Delaware.

Often bad weather caused battles to be postponed or even canceled. This all began to change as the Industrial Revolution gained steam and it became easier to supply armies and the general wealth increased. Railroads and steamships reduced the impact of bad weather on movements and fighting through poor campaign seasons and in the face of bad weatehr became more common.

By the 20th century warfare had reached the point where ideas such as "winter quarters" were obsolete and fighting continued year round through the seasons. It also expanded geographically into cold weather climates, jungles and deserts and other extreme locales.

One offshoot of this evolution is that modern-era wargames often have to take weather into account -- whereas it's an exceptional thing in ancient and black powder era games. But there's bad weather and then there's bad weather, and when we are talking about monstrous storms such as Irene, then there's no question of trying to represent tactical combat -- fighting would be impossible. But the time scale covered by most larger scale operational and strategic games doesn't lend itself to dealing with transient events such as hurricanes. A strategic level wargame depicting the entire US east Coast would probably involve turns covering a week or a month or more, whereas the entire hurricane event will be over in a week.

Here and there a game will through in a severe weather rule (Columbia Game's Pacific Victory and typhoons, for example) but generally it's ignored unless it's part of a larger climate. This does mean tha some historically significant storm events (such as the storm that aborted the probable Battle of Newport in the American Revolution) can't get an adequate representation.

Some new design techniques such as card-driven games may provide a way around that, though.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hauled out an old-timer today

Yes, I hauled out one of my all-time favorite game -- a set of miniatures rules from the 1980s called The Complete Brigadier.

Covering the heart of the black power era, from 1680 to 1880, The Complete Brigadier is a very tactical game ruthlessly focus on the perspective of a brigade-level commander.

My miniatures for this set of rules are from Flaying Pan & Blanket Amalgamated, 20 mm scale American Revolution figures. It just so happened that a couple of decades ago I often had staff duty officer while stationed in Germany. And because we were a nuclear-capable missile unit, we had secret message traffic all night long, so the SDO could not nap. As a consequence I had quite a bit of time on mu hands on a weekly basis and I used it to paint up a few hundred figures. I haven't had that kind of time since.

I won't say that they are well-painted, but they;re passable for wargame purposes.

I like the rules because they're very straightforward and while reasonably complex, they are intuitive. The rules concentrate on formations and orders and are deterministic when it comes to fireing and melee. There are enough modifiers that the outcome of combats is not overly predictable.

I ran a demo of the game at the local game shop today. I commanded a British force comprised of two regular foot battalions, a small converged grenadier battalion, an even smaller squadron of dragoons, a full-sized artillery battery and some Indians. Deployed off to one flank across a stream were three large battalions of Hessians, but unknown to the American player this was just a distraction force. The Hessians didn't know the stream was fordable and would therefore not take part in the attack.

The American player -- experienced with board games and Magic: The Gathering but not historical miniatures -- had a force comprised of a battalion of Continetnal Line, a battalion of militia, small battalions of light infantry and riflemen, a troop of dragoons and a small artillery battery. His missionw as to defend the hill, specifically the mansion near the top.

Because the opposing player was a newbie, a treated this as demo game, without a focus on victory for one side or the other. That said, it was an interesting and well-fought battle.

The Americans basically deployed in two lines of units -- with the first line made up of the militia, the Continentals and the light infantry, while the dragoons, rifles and artillery formed the second line.

For my part I placed the Indians on the far left, with an eye towards having them sweep on a wide flanking move though some woods. On the right I placed the lights and the dragoons, whose mission was to fix the Americans in front of them. In a compact mass in the center I placed the grenadiers and foot, with the artillery lined up in column on the road. I hoped to outflank the main American line with fire support form the guns.

The battle more or less followed the plan, with the inevitable adjustments due to the enemy's vote. On the right the lights advanced into firing range of both the American light infantry and the rifles while the dragoons attracted the attention of the gunners. There ensued a long exchange of fire that the lights and dragoons eventually lost. The good news is that this tied up half the American force for most of the battle, but the bad news was that it was costly.

The American player was not content to passively accept the attack and moved the Continentals and the dragoon troop up to meet the main British attack. The dragoons and the light infantry were pushed back by the advancing British foot units and as the game ended due to time on Turn 10 the British grenadiers and the Buffs were about to take the house. The American dragoons with the rebel general attached were last seen sabering the fleeing remnants of the other British foot unit but were out of the battle. Likewise the Continentals could not resist the opportunity to charge the British guns just as they were about to unlimber -- chasing them back and eventually capturing the whole lot. This also, however, removed the only regular formed Ameircan unit fromt he critical point.

Left holding the bag were the hapless militia, who were hit on both flanks. On one side was the Buffs, while on the other side were the Indians, who had completed their sweeping move and were now in the American rear area. The militia dissolved in a quick rout.

Overall, with two turns left, the Americans had no formed troops left in position to contest the objective, but the game ended due to time before the final moves could be made.

Still, it was a hard-fought battle, with the British side suffering more heavily. Of the American units the Continentals, the light infantry and the artillery were all unscathed., while the rifles had 9 of 12 left and the dragoons 5 of 6 figures left. Only the militia unit was completely destroyed.

On the British side, in contrast, the light infantry, dragoons on one foot unit had all routed off the field and the artillery battery were prisoners! The grenadiers had 10of 12 left while the Buffs had 22 of 24 figures left. Only the Indians had avoided loss.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Perhaps I was too hard on Archibald

My first impression of the Archibald, the human cannonball hero in Invasion From Outr Space was that he was a hard hero to use effectively. His talent of "Fire Me!" would likely see him stuck in the middle of a bunch of angry Martians every time it was used and he'd die a quick death without accomplishing much.

Well, he proved me wrong Friday at a game session of the Central Connecticut Wargamers.

We were playing a four-player scenario of Abduction. Two opposing players handled the Martians, while Mark Kalina had Angelica the bearded lady and R.J. Flanagan, the ringmaster. I started with Lucrezia the contortionist and Cassidy the trick shooter.

The first half of the game went passably well for the heroes, as the novice Martian players had some trouble marshaling their resources effectively and the initial board configuration was favorable to the heroes with four of the six allies in a clump on the Ferris Wheel/Trapeze Tent board. The Purple Martian player also had early bad luck in getting his troops beamed down.

Eventually the Martians started to get their act together and the heroes became hard-pressed. Bosley the elephant and Jimmy the stable boy were off by themselves and picked off by the Martians, although Cassidy did pick off a few Martians headed for Jimmy. Soon it became clear that the Heroes had to concentrate their forces to protect the clump, though, as the Martians gathered a large force, including the Zard beast, nearby.

Despite some heroism that saw Lucrezia defeat the Zard Beast in hand-to-hand combat and blast a full back of Martians with a bomb, overwhelming Martian numbers finally told. A Saucer blast took out poor Cassidy. While this brought in Jo Jo, the dancing bear was too far away to be an immediate help. And immediate help was what the Heroes needed as Lucrezia finally fell to an assault by a full Martian pack led by the newly arrived Martian Leader. The full back was stacked with two of the remaining allies (the twins and Doc Mesmer) and was just two squares (one move by the Martian Leader pack) from a saucer. Neither Angelica nor RJ was in a position to intervene. It was basically game over on the next Martian move barring some amazing turn of luck -- as the Martian players noted gloatingly.

Well, that amazing luck arrived in the form of Archibald, who arrived nearby. He rolled just enough to movement to make it to the cannon that's next tot he trapeze tent, climbed in and fired himself through the tent (oh, and that part of it was on fire) to land on top of the Martian leader's pack. Bam! All three regular Martians were killed and the Leader was wounded -- and Archibald promptly boxed him into oblivion as well. RJ and Angelica also had good turns knocking off Martians and suddenly the worm had turned.

The Martian regrouped and brought in a new wave and redirected their efforts against the Ferris Wheel, where Texas Jack and the Fuji Merman were hiding out. JoJo came to the rescue here, battling back the Martians, for a few turns. Angelica and RJ, who were guarding the twins and Mesmer, were trapped by fire covering both exits of the Trapeze Tent at a critical moment, and suddenly it looked like Jo Jo was about to be overwhelmed by a new Martian Leader-led full pack. Archibald rolled up a Power Token and dashed to another nearby cannon. Again he fired himself through the Ferris Wheel and right into the Martian Leader's pack. Bam! Three dead regular Martians and a wounded Martian Leader were the result. And once again Archibald boxed the dazed Martian Leader out!

Now time was running out for the Martians -- with just a couple of turns left they couldn't abduct allies in time so they had to concentrate on killing heroes instead. Poor Archibald's number came up and the big galoot of a Hero fell in a barrage of ray gun fire. Hannah the fire breather rushed onto the scene, but she was on the other side of the board and there simply wasn't time for her to reach the action.

It came down to a final turn's assault on Jo Jo, the dancing bear, by five Martians, including a full pack in the bear's square. The ray gun blasts left Jo Jo hanging on by a thread -- one more wound and the Martians would win! In a card-enhanced 4-die to 2-die fight JoJo rolled a 6 and with the bear's talent and a power token to boost it to a seven and the game was saved. (In the Hero turn JoJo would simply step back out of range so there wouldn't be a fight in the Hero turn.)

While they didn't survive, Lucrezia and, especially, Archibald were clearly the heroes of the fight. Archibald took out two Martian leaders and two full packs and several other Martians as well. Lucrezia killed the Zard beast and a full pack as well as a couple of other stray Martians. Cassidy did quite a bit of damage before she fell as well, taking out pairs of Martians three or four times. Jo Jo was also devastating. Angelica was effective when she finally got into the fight, but she had a lot of low movement rolls. RJ Flanagan did his thing, although he's not much of a fighter. Hannah is normally a powerful Hero, but she showed up on the next-to-last turn this time and played no part in the outcome.

Everyone agreed that it was a highly entertaining story -- and that the Martians had the game in the bag until Archibald's timely appearance and amazing heroics. It was very B-movie cinematic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No new OGRE until at least (?!) 2012

1977 OGRE

Wow, this news from Steve Jackson is a real bummer.


I haven't done a good enough job recently of communicating the status of Ogre 6th Edition. The status is: Still planned, still the super-fancy as per the prototypes you can see on that page (and which I expect will show up in the display case at PAX in a couple of weeks) . . .

And definitely still not on track for 2011. I warned everyone in May that it might not happen in 2011, and now I can say it definitely won't. I knew that at the end of June, before I took July off, and I should have shared.

He goes on to note that he gets more mail about this project than any other one -- to say this is highly anticipated would be an understatement.

An undercurrent to Jackson's announced plans is a hint that this may be the last edition of Ogre, ever. The base game has been out of print for a very long time despite a high level of demand, so clearly demand is not the only factor at play here.

I wonder if there isn;t some emotional attachment involved as well. Ogre was Jackson's first design -- and it was/is a big hit. It started out as a very inexpensive, bare-bones wargame and it looks like it may go out in a super deluxe version that could fairly be described as a collector's edition. It's supposed to include most of the content from GEV and Shcokwave as well, which pretty much guarantees there will not be any expansion of follow-up products. He said that there will be just the one print run and he'll let the after market fight over it from then on.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cute cooperative game -- Forbidden Island

Tried out a recent cooperative game called Forbidden Island at the local game shop and liked it enough that I brought it home, where it proved to be a hit with the kids as well.

The basic idea is a party of advaneturers searching for clues on a slowly sinking island that will lead them to four treasures -- which they have to find and take off the island.

The components in the Gamewright edition are nice. Everything comes in a tin with a well-designed plastic insert, There's a small, full-color rule book, a cardboard water level tarck with a plastic slider, six wooden pawns to represent the adventurers, four failry large palstic miniatures representing the four treasures, 24 double-sided cardboard tiles to represent the island and a deck of 58 cards. 24 of those are "flood cards" one for each isand tile adn six are character cards, one for each pawn. the remaining 28 cards make up the treasure deck.

The game starts by randomly laying out the island tiles in 6 rows of 2, 4, 6, 6, 4 and 2 tiles each, forming a rough diamond shape. Players randomly pick a character from the six available, each of which has a special ability and a specific starting tile.

Six cards from the flood deck are selected, flipping the named tiles to their flooded tile. If a flooded tile gets flooded again, it "sinks into the abyss" and is removed from the game, along with it's card.

On a player's turn he can take three actions with his pawn. The available options are to move to an adjacent tile, but not diagonally, to "shore up" and adjacent tile by flipping a flooded tile back to its dry side, give a treasure card to anotehr player on the same tile or "capture a Treasure" by turning in four cards that match the treasure on one of two tiles that bear the image of that treasure. Players can repeat the same action, so a player could move three tiles, flip three tiles or trade three cards or any combination of those.

After a player has completed all actions he draws two cards from the treasure deck. Most of these are simple treasure cards, five for each treasure figurine. They have no game effect aside from needing to discard four of them while on an appropriate tile to claim the treasure. There are two helpful treasure cards -- sandbags, which allow the flipping of a flooded tile anywhere on the board without costing an action and Helicopter Lift, which allows moving any or all pawns from one tile to any other tile. You also need a Helicopter Lift at the end of the game to win. After gathering all four figurines, the explorers much gather at the helicopter landing zone called tile (Fool's Landing) and leave via the play of a Helicopter Lift card. There are also three Water Rises cards, which move the water mater up one tick on the meter.

Complicating this is the last part of a player's turn, where he draws Flood Cards to see which tiles get flipped or sink into the abyss. The number of cards drawn depends on the current state of the water meter, but ranges from 2 to 5 per player turn. As a tile that gets flipped twice disappears the island can rapidly turn into a tough place to move around. No dawdling!

The difficulty level of the game is adjusted by changing the starting level of the water meter. At Novice or Normal levels the Flood Card draw starts at 2, while at the Elite and Legendary levels it starts at 3.

The two plays today were at Novice Level and the players won each time, but they caught some lucky breaks in the set up and I can see how it would get tougher at the more difficult levels.

Playing time is rated at about 30 minutes and that seems about right, which probably puts it in the category of a supplementary game for a night's entertainment, rather than the main course. It also works a s a kid's game.

It's a good value for the money as well. I paid just $20 for my copy at the game store and I've seen it online for less.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Memoir '44 Grand Campaign finished

Finished my first Grand Campaign from the Campaign book against Game Store Tony. It was a very near run thing, but Tony's Germans managed to prevail with a pretty convincing 6-3 win in the final game. This game him a 2 point Major Victory in the campaign and a 4-2 overall Grand Campaign victory.

It all did come down to the last game, though and had the medal count been reversed the Allies would have won a Minor campaign victory, worth 1 point, and therefore edged out a 3-2 Grand Campaign win. Nicely balanced.

Next we're moving on to the Russian front for a Grand Campaign of Barbarossa. Unlike the Normandy Campaign set up, where the outcomes of different battles would direct the Grand Campaign down different Campaign paths, in the Barbarossa Grand Campaign there are just some small variations among the battles played, but all three Campaigns get played -- one each for Army Group North, Center and South. The twist is that you play the first half of all three Campaigns first and then go back and play the send half of the campaigns. This seems like it will make it hard to gauge overall progress toward victory in the early going.

The battles will also be interesting. All will be played with the Red Army Commissar rule, which basically forces the Soviet player to play his command cards a turn behind the action. He plays his command card under the Commissar and then executes it the next turn (with certain exceptions such as Ambush and Counterattack). Game Store Tony has volunteered to play the Soviet side for this campaign.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A few more thoughts on Invasion From Outer Space

I think it's worth pointing out that Invasion, while a skirmish-level "wargame," doesn't get into any nitty gritty details about what your character is doing in the sens of tracking postures, facing or the like. You character is simply in a space, carrying one or two items. About the only detail that's tracked is whether it's a 2-handed item, in which case you can just carry one. This is much less detail than, for example, Munchkin.

This opens up the possibility for some house rules if you want to create a stronger narrative for the game, at the cost of slowing it down. Still, I could see importing some rules from more detailed skirmish-level games without too much trouble. This would work especially well if you have just one hero per player. If there's a drawback to the game it is that it might be too simple for the more hard-core gamer types if they're only handling one character.

I also think that inexperienced hero teams should probably be given an extra "life" or two, as the learning curve is really quite steep. In a game the other night the Heroes got off to a real strong start in am "Invasion" scenario, killing 16 Martians without a loss -- and then they lost two heroes in the same turn and were done. Perhaps a group with no experienced players should be given two extra heroes in the Invasion scenario (and they really have no business playing any of the other scenarios at all). If a set of Heroes has half or more inexperienced players they should get one extra hero life. In this case I'd define an inexperienced player as someone who has never played, has only played the Invasion scenario or hasn't played in a year or more.

As I mentioned, there are two scenarios (Blow 'em Out of the Sky and Unleashed) that are really for experienced players only and I don't think they can afford to have any inexperienced players to have a chance, but should they insist they probably should also get extra chances with dead heroes.

Another balancing mechanic would be to give players an extra hero card or two, but I think more replacement heroes is probably more helpful. Using the cards properly requires some undertsanding of the game and probably won't help a newbie much, while being able to survive a run of bad luck that leaves your hero dead is the sort of break a newbie can use.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Invasion From Outer Space: The Martian Game

Invasion From Outer Space: The Martian Game, is a very campy cinematic-style 2010 wargame from Flying Frog Productions, using the same system from its zombie game Last Night on Earth.

When I say "cinematic-style," I mean that the game doesn't try to depict "reality" as such, but rather attempts to capture the "reality" of a movie or television show -- which we know isn't quite reality at all.

The game relentlessly evokes a cinematic style, with developed "characters," scenarios that resemble movie plots, artwork that appears to be "stills" from a movie and it even includes a soundtrack.
In a touch of brilliance, the game pits Mars Attacks! style Martian invaders against Circus Performers! Now, I'm unaware of any actual movie that had that match up, but there should have been.

On one side are the Martians, controlled by one or two players, depending upon the number of players in the game (helpfully divided into blue and purple Martians) comprising a regukar force of 18 soldiers and two Martian "champions" -- a leader and a"Zard beast."

The game is asymmetric, with the Martin s acting together through the turn phases -- so all Martians move at the same time and fire their ray guns at the same time, for example. In contrast, the heroes each take their turns individually, so each hero moves, shoots and fights before the next one acts at all.

Both sides have decks of cards they can draw from, although this is also asymmetrical. The Martians get 2 cards per turn, with the possibility for more, while the Heroes get more cards by giving up their movement for a turn and "searching" while in a building. This entitles them to draw one card. Giving up a move is a pretty severe penalty for the heroes, however, as greater mobility is one of their key advantages over the Martians. Most of the time the Martians move a single square per turn, while the human heroes move 1-6 spaces depending on an die roll.
And yes, the board uses squares. The heavy card stock board is a full-color overhead view of a circus or carnival. There's a double-sided central board (one side depicts a "big-top" tent while the flip side is then open "fairgrounds." There are six L-shaped single-sided boards depicting various other portions of the circus. Four of these are randomly selcted and arranged around the central board to make a 21-inch by 21-inch playing surface.

The highlight of the components are the figures. There are 18 regular Martian soldiers in three poses and two colors. These come with clear plastic "domes" you glue on for the proper effect. There are also the two aforementioned Martian champions, a leader and a beast in a neutral steel blue beacuse they can be used by either player if there are two Martian players.

The Hero side is comprised of eight highly detailed (very suitable for painting by those so inclined and talented) grey plastic heroes.

There are two decks of sturdy cards, one each for the Heroes and for the Martians. Both sets include "events" that can be played to aid your side or hinder the other. The Humans also have access to various helpful items, many of which are weapons, while the Martians have "Technology" cards that can enhance them in sundry ways.

Other components include dice, thick card stock templates, hero cards, scenario cards and other play aids and several counter sheets of glossy counters. It's all very snazzy and attractive. There 32-page full-color illustrated rule book book explains the fairly straightforward game system comprehensively and even inldes rules for combining the Last Night of Earth game with Invasion You can have the circus performers fight off zombies instead of Martians, for example, or have the Martians invade the town instead of the circus. You can even combine the two games into a massive three-sided Humans vs. Zombies vs. Martians battle that can accommodate up to 8 players.

There's a basic game that leaves out a few of the more involved rules and a third of each deck and has just one scenario -- "Invasion" -- which is basically a straightforward battle. Most groups will want to transition quickly into the "Advanced" game which adds four more scenarios.

The rule book doesn't provide much guidance, except to note that the learning curve is steeper for the hero side, but the most balanced for new players is definitely the Invasion Scenario. The Heroes are trying to kill 20 Martians before they lose two of their own. It's worth mentioning that the Hero side si always comprised of four heroes, no matter how many players there are. In a 2-player game one person controls all four heroes, while in a 5- or 6-player game each hero is controlled by one player. If a Hero is killed, then a new one comes on the board immediately to replace the fallen one. Two of the scenarios "Abduction" and "Wipe Them Out" involve the Heroes trying to protect circus allies or crowds, respectively, with the burden of attack on the Martian side. These are still very challenging for inexperienced heroes, but not hopeless. The other two scenarios, "Blow 'em Out of the Sky" and "Unleashed" are for experienced heroes players only. Both involve finding specific cards from the deck as prerequisites for the actions needed to win and the burden for victory rests with the Hero side.

That's not to say that the Heroes don't have some advantages. They are, as noted, potentially much faster than the Martians and if they find ranged weapons they will usually out-range the Martians. For some reason the Martian ray guns are very short-ranged -- just one square. (I don't know why, heavier Earth gravity, perhaps, or maybe thicker Earth air). Even a revolver has a range of three squares, in contrast. And the Martian fire isn't all that accruate, hitting on a 5 or 6 on a D6. Three Martians can share a square and if they do, they get several advantages -- including shooting better -- they now hit on a 4-6. But the humans get a saving roll against each potential hit. each has an "agility rating" but even the least agile has a 50% chance of dodging a ray gun blast.

When Heroes and Martians are in the same square they "fight." Each Martian rolls one die, while each Hero rolls two dice -- with various cards and special abilities potentially affecting the results. The higesht single die roll determines the winner. So, for example, if a Hero is fighting a single martian and rolls a 3 and 5 while the Martian rolls a 4, then the Hero wins. If, however, the Martian had rolled a 6, he would win. The loser take a "wound," which is enough to kill an ordinary Martian. All the heroes and the Martian champions can take more than one wound.

The entire system is quick and intuitive and easy to teach to new players. It';s also quite colorful, a s quick rundown of the Heroes reveals.

The two strongest Heroes are Carl, the Strongman and Jo Jo, the Dancing Bear. While nether one can use guns, they both have special abilities that help them in a fight. Every Hero has several special abilities, inlcuding one that is called a "Talent." Talents are especially powerful, but require spending a "Power Token" to use. Each Hero starts the game with a Power Token and has a 33% chance of getting an additional one every turn, to a maximum of three. For example, Carl always rolls an extra fight die as part of his "Heavyweight" special ability, but in addition he can spend a Power Token to activate his "Bash Heads" talent which allows him to do an extra wound whenever he wins a fight. Carl and Jo Jo are both tough, taking four wounds to kill, although they are somewhat vulnerable to the ray guns -- only dodging on a roll of 4+. They'll normally be used to wade into hand-to-hand combat with Martians.

At the other extreme are Lucrezia, the Contortionist, and R.J. Flannigan, the Ringmaster. They die on their second wound, but are very agile, dodging on a 2 or better. They each have some movement bonuses and have some healing ability. Lucrezia and heal herself of one wound if she give sup a move, while R.J. can heal himself or another hero by spending a Power Token and rolling a 3+. They're best used to search for stuff, although their dodging ability is useful to frustrate Martian ray gun fire.

The other three ladies among the heroes can form some deadly combos, depending on who is in the game. Hannah, the fire breather, has a devastating Fireball attack than can take out more than one Martian at once while Cassidy, the Trick Shooter is deadly with firearms. Angelica, the Bearded Woman, has the unique talent of Teamwork, which lets her copy any other hero's Talent. This can be a nasty if she teams up with Hannah, of Cassidy (assuming Angelica gets a gun)> It also combos nicely with R.J. healing ability and Carl's head bashing. These three are of average toughness, taking three wounds to kill and dodge on a 3+.

With similar stats is Archibald, the Human Cannonball, but his talents eems alkittle hard to use efefctively. He can fire himself from one of the circus cannons scattered around the board with a potentially deadly effect on any martians he lands on. That's good, but it also means he's likely to end up in the middle of some Martians when he's done.

Besides their stats, each Hero has a little background bio, helping to set the proper movie-like mood. For example. Lucrezia, the Contortionist "Left at the stoop of the ringmaster's wagon as an infant, the only life Lucrezia has ever known is that of the circus. As the youngest performer, her exotic nature and fantastic abilities only further her desire to discover the truth of her mysterious past ... and her terrible nightmare."

While all game designs are collaborative efforts, Invasion has an impressively Hollywood style list of credits, including 19 listed "Cast" members. And it has a soundtrack.

I'm no music critic, and the sound track is nice enough, but I have to admit that it didn't seem very 1950s-ish. Still, it wouldn't hurt to have it playing softly in the background. Overall this is a really nice production and I've had some fun introducing it to new players. The game warns that it has a "mature" theme, but I don't think it's especially problematical for most ages. The scariness is rather cartoonish and while it's rated as being for 12 and up, in reality younger kids can easily grasp the game concepts and probably have seen worse on TV on a Saturday afternoon.

Sorry for the hiatus

Among the travails of volunteer blogging is that sometimes life crowds you out.