Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Winners of the 2nd Quarterly Contest...REVEALED!

I was a lot underwhelmed in the showing this time, and I blame myself. Usually I hype these a little more, but work has cut into my leisure time considerably, and thus the Circus has suffered.

That being said, I have three winners here, all of whom had something to say:


I first ran across you and your blog on boardgamegeek and have read much of what you posted over there.  I've also seen your creations for games like Castle Ravenloft and overall think you are a great supporter and contributor of our great hobby.

However, there are several articles of yours that I take offense at.  Seth Hiatt of Mayday Games, as you know, is a publisher of games and sleeves.  In this economy, people are looking to save money anywhere they can, even with Crokinole boards.  Seth has provided people with an opportunity to get a mediocre board at a decent price.  I think people know exactly what they are getting when they order Mayday.  A reputation like Seth's isn't just built up overnight.  Heck, I've been waiting six months beyond estimated release date for a pack of sleeves to arrive.  Sure, I could have gotten a package from FFG and had it now, but I can't help but smile knowing I saved a $1 once those things come in.  But your articles blasted him apart and pretty unfairly I might add.

The point is, you should have known what you were getting, just as the customer who sent you your board should have known.  And just like the customer that you were to forward your board onto.  All the replacements boards are of comparable quality because that is what you ordered.  I don't go to McDonald's and order a 99 cent burger and tell them I need to exchange it because it didn't have a ribeye in between the buns.  Because that next burger they exchange it with is going to be exactly like the first.  Sure, maybe they threw on an extra pickle because I complained, but there will not be a ribeye in that sandwich.

I know the next time I play on my Mayday Crokinole board and the disc flies off at an almost impossibly irregular angle from a screw protruding through the wood, I'm not going to be mad.  I saved $25 by buying that thing, and watching that disc flying through the air is a reminder of that.  And that makes me happy.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, and I look forward to more of your reviews and general witty banter.  You are the king shit of board game review blogs, and I'm not just saying that because you asked me to.


I really like your reviews as they are well written with many salient points.  I 
unfortunately was sorely disappointed with your review of Merchants 
and Marauders. It is a pirate board game and there was a lack of pirate lingo 
and expressions in your review which I found upsetting.

If you are unfamiliar with pirate lingo and expression, I thought to provide a 
few examples as to how to 'pirate-ify' your existing review:

After reading the rules, I was absolutely impressed with the game. 
After I do be read'in dar rules, my timbers were shivered by this here game 

The object of the game is to get ten glory points, and these can be through 
killing and pillaging, performing missions, verifying the veracity of some 
rumors you hear in port, or by having gold.
T' object o' t' game be t' get ten glory points, and these can be through 
killin' and pillagin', performin' missions, verifyin' t' veracity o' some rumors 
you hear in port, or by havin' gold.

If you fail, you cry a little on the inside and must discard that rumor as it 
proved to be false, but if successful, you reap a reward, a glory card, and an 
elusive glory Point, bringing you closer to victory.
If ye fail, you cry a little on t' inside like t' scurvy dog that you 
arrrrgghhhh and must discard that rumor as it proved t' be false, but if ye be 
successful, you reap a reward! Pillag'in and plunder'in yer way to a glory card, 
and an elusive glory Point, brin'in' you closer t' victory as the true sea dog 
son of a whore that ye be. arrrgggggghhh!!!!!

I hope that these few examples will help you with any future pirate related 
reviews that you might do in the future. 

Thanks for blogging,

p.s yarrrrrgggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!


Even though you review board games, my favorite article was:

The Sad Case Of American Mass-Market Beers

That was the first article that popped up in my head when I thought of your best article and I probably only say that because I agreed with every word in that article.
I`m just gonna re-post my comment from the comments section of the article, I don`t think anyone ever even read it because it`s an old article.

davidfits23 said...

Yeah, if you want a good beer, you have to go for the small companies or just go to a local brewing company and have a pint there. Nothing like a beer on tap!

A big round of applause (clap) for these comments. I'll expect an email note back from you proving you actually read this article and that you're not just a carpetbagging bastard. Or something like that. Games go out this week!

Keep your eyes peeled, Superfly Circus Faithful, because I have several brand new, never-been-seen in the US, games to review for you! That, and some oldies but goodies that you've probably never heard of but will want by the time I'm done!

Spy Trackdown - If The CIA Had This, They'd Have Found The Mastermind Years Ago

A buddy of mine, who is arguably one of the coolest cats and most ardent Ameritrashers to walk the planet, invited me down to his place a while back and we attempted, in vain, to play his copy of this game to find and apprehend the evil Mastermind who is the target of the game. Apparently the Mastermind had removed the batteries from the handset that comes with the game, leaving us unable to play, and therefore unable locate him.

Disappointed as I was, I was impressed with the simplicity and theme of the game, and so I tracked down my own copy for about twenty smackerels on the gamer's paradise that is Ebay. A week later, I had a brand-spankin' new copy, ready to track down the Mastermind that had eluded me down in the dirty south. That bastard's time was soon to come. And by "bastard" I mean the Mastermind, not my buddy.

Unfortunately, between my workaholism and the nighly home remodelling, the Mastermind was left to wreak his terrible havoc on the planet as I just didn't have time to play. Then, one day, my daughter noted that she was all about whipping my ass at yet another game, and since she's a Cluedo wizard, I figured I'd better crack this one out and see if I could hold my own against her. Little did she know that investigation and espionage was encoded into my DNA by my father, and since she was one generation removed, I figured I had a better than average shot at winning. And so it began.

Now before I get too much further, let me tell you what the game is about. This game is seriously one of the coolest little deduction games I've ever seen. The idea is that two to four Special Agents, presumably dispatched by CIA, Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Mossad, are hunting a devilishly clever Mastermind, a criminal of the highest intellect who will stop at nothing to evade you...except move at any point during the game.

In other words, the Mastermind is in a stationary location somewhere on the planet and you, as a professional intelligence officer, are to find and execute him. The game doesn't actually specify execution, but recent events have indicated that the final disposition of Masterminds is pretty much going to end up with a smoking 5.56mm NATO-sized perforation in the skull. Plus, capturing a bad guy isn't as satisfying as sending him to Hell, or 72 Virginians. Or whatever. I'm going to assume that once captured, he enters the US "Rendition program" where he is waterboarded repeatedly and subjected to long, repeated sessions of Barry Manilow at 140 decibels.

To find this Mastermind, you have to travel via various locomotive methods such as a motorcycle, plane, jet, or via special cards such as an airdrop. The secondary objective is to find the covert agent on each continent, and when found, this agent will provide you with cards to help in your hunt for the Mastermind. Now I know what you're thinking: "Pete, what's so special about that? It sounds like a lot of other games..." but let me assure you, it's not.

The difference is that this comes with a computer a'la Dark Tower that controls the game for you and provides you all the clues to the whereabouts of the agents and the Mastermind. The neat thing about this is that it has two volume levels, and will give messages to the group in the louder one and private messages in the very quiet one. In short, this game is cool as ice and twice as nice, and that's just how it is.

When you crack the box, you'll be met with a 17x11, bi-folded rulebook that explains gameplay exceptionally well, a neat little radio holder that locks into the board, the board itself which is very well illustrated and looks like something out of the old "War Games" film, four little unique plastic miniatures in different colors, a cardholder, and a smallish deck of cards. All components are of great quality, and the radio is a neat little thing in and of itself. There's a little sensor button on the back that lets it know whether or not it's picked up or not, changing the volume, so you need to be sure to set it in the holder firmly whilst playing to avoid not being able to really hear the messages. It has had a couple of brain farts during the several games I've played, but they were all correctable with a simple button press that didn't affect gameplay.

Let's get to the game itself, though, starting with setup. Setting up is very simple in Spy Trackdown. You just lay the quad-fold board out and place the radio holder and card holder on the board, setting the cards and radio in their respective spots, then you pick a figure. Once you turn the radio on, the radio will ask you which agents are playing, and each one has a really cliche name based on their color such as "Whitewolf" and "Silverwing", and you press either the X or O buttons to confirm. The radio then tells you all where to place your little figures and the game is ready to play.

On each player's turn, they may take two actions. Actions are based on location, but it always really amounts to either moving or playing a card. You may move along tracks from one space to the next, and spaces adjacent to any given space are connected by brightly colored lines which represent the method of travel. When you elect which space to move to, simply enter the X and O codes indicated on the board to tell the radio what you want to do, and it will accept or refuse the action based upon legality. The game assigns movement types by color, such as by jet, motorcycle, or car, but in the end there's no difference between them.

The other action type, which is where the meat of the game takes place, is in playing cards. The cards all have codes that you enter, just as in travel, to tell the handset what it is you're doing, and all of these cards have different and many times nasty purpose. Some examples of what cards allow you to do are that you can be airdropped to the other side of the planet, take another turn, set traps for your opponents which causes them to lose a turn, and close roads or airports so they are denied travel. The important cards, though, are the ones that point you in the direction of the mastermind and the one that is a dual purpose card allowing you to either search for the mastermind, telling you how far away from him you are, with the other purpose being to capture him if you believe you're on his location.

After you've taken two actions, the radio announces to the room what space you're on, with a mechanical voice stating "Agent Whitewolf is in Asia Zone 2, pick up the handset for a secret message." You then pick up the handset and jam it into your ear to collect this secret message. The sound level is a little higher that I'd ideally like, even though it is much lower than the normal level, because unless you take great pains to really cover the handset with your ear and hand, the closer players can hear what it's telling you, giving them much-needed intel. The message varies with what you did on your turn, but generally it tells you how many zones away from the continental covert agent you are. If you chose to play a card, it may give you additional information as well, such as your relative location to the Mastermind.

Since I'm on the subject of the cards and the secret messages, I'd better tell you how to get cards. It's pretty slick, really. As I noted earlier, there's a "covert agent" on each continent, and if you happen to end your turn on the agent's space, the secret message is that you've found him, and that you will get a certain amount of cards when you leave the continent. This is a very smart design in that if you immediately got cards, it would be like a spy convention on the next turn as all players rush to the space. Anyhow, the first player to find a covert agent on a continent gets four cards, and each subsequent meeting renders one less per player, with the fourth to find the agent only getting one.

The endgame comes when a player has played enough "Search for Mastermind" and "Point to Mastermind" cards to locate the Mastermind. Once a player has determined where the big baddie is, he plays a "Capture Mastermind" card, and if the player is correct, the game ends and the handset announces the winner. If you're wrong, though, you lose your next turn for being a dumb ass. Trust me, I've lost my turn several times by this method.

At the end of the day, it's a medium weight deduction game with some really slick mechanics and a bit of theme that lasts about an hour and a half if all the players are decent at deduction games. There's not a whole lot of runaway leader syndrome in this as some of these games have, and there's a lot of potential troublemaking. Luck is limited solely to the card draws, and there's enough valuable cards that you rarely get a card and wonder what the hell you're supposed to do with it. It reminds me a bit of Fury of Dracula without the depth, and without the requirement of having a player act as the mobile vampire. The short version is that it's twenty bucks well spent, for sure, and I recommend this game to anyone who likes deduction games.

Why This Made Me Put In An Application At CIA:
- Smart mechanics and quick lively turns make this a neat way to kill an hour or so
- The art's pretty decent, and the bits are very nice
- The handset is a really cool little device; like the Dark Tower but better

Why CIA Saw This On My Resume And Rejected It:
- The handset's "table" sensor is a little wonky and you'll occasionally need to reseat it for correct volume levels
- The immobile Mastermind makes this easier than it could've been, although this isn't an easy game
- Not the most thematic game ever, to be sure
- There's no "Abbottabad" space on the board

While this isn't the best deduction game I've ever played, it's still very good. I'd take this over Mystery of the Abbey or Clue eight times out of ten, and it's a very replayable game. The bits are great, and the handset is a very cool way to solve the problem of needing a player to act as the big baddie in the game. All in all, it's well worth the price of admission and anyone who likes deduction games should pick up a copy on Ebay or the BGG Marketplace.

3.75/5 Stars

To learn more about Spy Trackdown, you'll need to go to the Boardgamegeek page for it, as it's out of print:

If you want to see the rules, here's that page as well:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Survive! Escape From Atlantis - Less About Escape Than It Is About Genocide

I was in Dallas on a business trip, and I always look forward to it. It's not that I like to to avoid my wife or dodge my kids, because I honestly love to spend time with them, and it sucks to have to miss a moment. The reason I look forward to my trips out to Big D is that I have some good friends there as well as a few truly one-of-a-kind friends, and I always make sure to take an evening gaming it up with them.

This trip was beyond compare because not only did the business go well, my very dear friend picked up Survive! Escape From Atlantis (Survive) from Stronghold Games. One play in and I was hooked like a streetwalker chasing the dragon. We literally played 3 games in a row and then another game another evening, and that rarely happens with any other game than Heroscape. I mean, like never.

Ludicrously rare is the game that I've encountered that made me immediately want to buy, borrow, beg, or steal it. I'm a big time game skeptic who laughs viciously at the suckers that jump up to buy a game because of Board Game Geek buzz or the latest "unboxing" video. To me those folks are exactly like crackheads looking to get that high like they did the first time, not realizing it's not gonna happen. I'm the guy who waits and watches for six months or so to see what people have to say about it before plunking $50.00 down on something. It's the used car mentality.

Something very special needs to be put on my gaming table to make me take such notice that I actually consider selling off underutilized organs to fund a game purchase when I'm tapped. You can skip the rest of this article if you want because I'm just going to lay this out for you in two words: BUY THIS GAME RIGHT NOW, IMMEDIATELY, BEFORE YOU TURN YOUR COMPUTER OFF. The fact is that this game is simply one of the best games I've ever played, if not THE best, and my disdain for the Cult Of The New caused this one to slip right past my dragnet. My bad, Circus readers. The good news is that it's still available.

Survive is, according to the rules, a game about getting your meeple people off of a sinking island to the relative safety of one of four nearby sand bars. That being said, it's not really about that at all in practice. It's about jabbing your friends deeply and mercilessly in the eye with sharp, pointy sticks. While some "move optimization" exists, the optimization really boils down to choosing the method of execution of your opponents meeples and which meeple is going to have their shins bitten through, kicking their little wooden stubs to try to stay above the water, knowing that the arterial bleeding of wood filler will end their little pine lives sooner rather than later. Let's not forget about sending the dreaded purple headed sea monsters to kill at your discretion, shearing not only meeples asunder, but biting through boat hulls to do so.

It's about having giant squids squeeze your friends' meeples, from land or from sea, until their little wooden eyes squirt like caulk out of their tung-in-groove sockets. It's about pulling an Ahab Move and having a whale capsize their boatloads of little wooden immigrants to subsequently move the sharks into the freshly chummed water to feast on them like so many baby seals. I hate to use such overused words like "Epic" or "Cracking" so the only other word that can describe this game and not sound like a total hipster is "superdope". You can quote me on that.

To add a bacon wrap to the filet mignon that is Survive gameplay, the bits are absolutely outstanding. The art, done by the amazingly talented David Ausloos, is absolutely perfect for the theme, and it makes the board shine. The wee wooden meeples in four flavors are as good as any I've seen, with the added bonus of having point values etched into the bottom. The whale-eeples are easily identifiable as whales, and the sharks are ominous black, wooden fins. There are land tiles in three types which are randomly placed, and they depict sand, forest, and rock quite well. These tiles are also of varying thickness to depict height, so even if the art sucked, which it does not, it would be very easy to distinguish between types.

There's little wooden boats in the box as well, and while they're awesome, the only complaint in the whole game is that they sometimes cause the meeples within to tip over, which is a disadvantage in the game as the scores on each meeple is supposed to be hidden the whole time. That being said, they're perfect looking and aside from that tipping issue, they function flawlessly otherwise, carrying meeples to their safety, or to their death, in style. Beyond the sea of wooden tokens, boats, and tiles are the dolphins and the two dive dice. This group of items are used in a variant game, they are of the same great quality, and they also change the game enough that playing with them is a completely different game experience. The included rulebook only has four pages of reading, and its ridiculously well-written and clear to understand.

All in all, everything is top notch, and the final piece is my favorite. It's a red die that depicts whales, sea monsters, and sharks, and while it's nothing special to some, I love specialty dice with a passion and thus I love the little die dearly. The only gripe I have with the game besides the drunken boat people is that the blue meeples are such a deep blue that it is sometimes hard to make out the number on the bottom. It's not that big a deal, but a lighter blue would've gone a long way. To summarize, it's the complete package, and I was amazed how quickly I fell in love with it.

Now that you know what comes in the box and what the game is all about, in theory, let's explore how to play. It's fiendishly simple but allows surprisingly deep murderous strategy, and I'll explain how and why later. First, let's get to setting up the game.

Setup requires you to flip the land tiles randomly to the terrain side, and place them in such a way that the sand is around the edge, the forest is within that ring, and the rock is in the center. It's not mandated to place them in that way, and we've played with really funky setups and it works fine too. Once the terrain is set, you place the four sea monsters in their noted locations, which are right by the sand bars that depict safety, with the fifth being in the center of the island on an open water space. Once you've got those pieces set, you're ready to begin.

Each player chooses one of the four colors and takes their ten meeples of that color, as well as two boats. These meeples each have a value between one and six, and this is the score you earn by guiding the meeple to safety. Note that once meeples are placed, you may never look at the value of them again, so it's pretty important to your chances of victory that you remember which meeples are which, especially the four, five, and six valued meeples.Each player, in turn, places their chosen meeple, without revealing its value, on any unoccupied land tile. After all the meeples are placed, each player continues the rotation and places one of their boats on a space that touches any land tile until all the boats have been placed. Once that's done, the game begins.

On each player's turn, they may play a tile in their hand and then use three actions. More on playing tiles later. Actions can be to move one or more landborne meeples one space per action, move a boat, or move a swimming meeple one space over water. Boats can only be moved if they're not occupied, or if you have either parity or a majority of meeples in a boat, and the boats are extremely crucial because they allow you to move meeples up to three at a time over water, and they can move more than one space on the water, unlike swimmers.

After you've taken three actions, you have to take any tile of the lowest available elevation, one that is touching water, and remove it. One of the more fun aspects of this is dunking an opposing meeple into the water near a shark, causing that player to fear for their lives. The back side of these tiles is printed with an icon that performs many different functions. Some are kept by the person who uncovered it, allowing them to cancel shark or whale attacks, take extra movements, and other such things, but many are very nasty. Some cause a whale or shark to move or spawn, others are whirlpools which suck in all living things that are adjacent to them. The game can even end if the rock tile with a volcano is printed on the back, and the remaining scores are tallied to determine a winner. Playing tiles from your hand, as I noted earlier, happens at the beginning of each player's turn, with the exception of the cancellation tiles which are played on demand when you're being attacked by Jaws or Moby Dick.

After a tile is drawn and resolved, that's when the death and dismemberment happens. The active player rolls a die, and the die determines which creature you get to move and attack with. Each has its own target and movement rules, and each is deadly in its own respect. Whales may move up to three spaces and destroy a boat that they end their movement on. This is exceptional for dunking swimmers, not to mention that the boat that was destroyed is gone for good. Sharks move two spaces, and eat every swimmer in the tile that they end their turn on. It's incredibly satisfying when you pull a whale tile and use it to sink a boat, then roll a shark and send a Great White in to sever the arms and legs of meeples. The last monster is the dreaded sea monster who can only move one space, but it eradicates anything that it ends its turn on, be it boat, swimmers, or both. To top it off, any meeple or boat that travels through a space occupied by a monster cause the effect to happen immediately, allowing you to place them strategically to deny access to your opponents or clear your own path.

The strategy in the game is amazing because from the moment you set your meeples and boats down you have to really strive to put your meeples in a relatively safe position while allowing them access to boats. You can use boats and monsters to block sand bars as well as create barricades in the open ocean, as I mentioned, and knowing you have a shark denial tile in your hand to be played at a crucial moment, while never letting on that you have it, can make moments you'll be talking about for the rest of the night.

As I noted the game ends when the volcano appears, but it can alternatively end when everyone's meeples are either casualties or have reached salvation. Once either case has come to pass, everyone counts their surviving meeples and tallies the score. Now while I'm here, I should mention that there's two expansions available, one of which adds a deadly giant squid that closely resembles a characature of Squidward from Spongebob. The squid is activated by the whale tiles and dice icons, and it moves exactly as a whale does but it can pluck one unlucky sailor off of a boat or can crush one landborne meeple that it's adjacent to.

This expansion is a must-have, in my humble opinion, because it adds tremendous tactical choices let alone the fun of crushing an enemy meeple's head when the opponent thought they were safe. The other expansion adds the ability to field two more meeple colors for a maximum of six players, but I haven't played that so I'm going to reserve comment on it. I can only say that more squid and shark fodder is always good, so if you regularly seat six at your gaming table, it's a no-brainer. The really surprising thing about these expansions is that they're under eight dollars a piece, which is one hell of a value these days.

In conclusion, this is a must-have game for anyone. If you like brainburning Euros, this is for you. If you, like me, are an Ameritrash addict bent on violence and backstabbery, then this is for you. If you're a parent who has kids around ten years old or older, this game can be a great way to spend an hour with your kids, and kids love sea creatures, generally, so they'll be all for it.

 I very, very rarely give such a strong recommendation for a game, especially one that I don't even own as of this writing, but I just had to tell you all about this one. It's phenomenal in every aspect of the word and this game would be a very, very solid TEN were it not for my gripe about the meeples falling over in boats. Get this game as soon as you can because this will eventually be out of print, again, and if you miss out, you're a sucker. Come this paycheck, I'm buying this and eating canned cat food if I have to, it's just that good.

What Makes Survive One Hell Of A Great Escape:
- Ausloos art, great components, and some of the best gameplay I've ever seen
- Depending on who plays, it can be a family game or a vicious game of cutthroat free diving
- Simple to understand with simple rules, yet surprisingly complex strategic options abound
- You get to bite the heads off of meeples with a shark; Charlie sheen was never so #Winning

Why Survive Should Be Held Underwater Until The Bubbles Stop:
- The boat design can cause meeples to topple sometimes, which can give away meeple values

This game is the stuff of legend. It may be an update of an old version, but everything has been updated, including the rules, so this is simply brilliant. David Ausloos art and premium components make this look wonderful on the table, and the gameplay will keep it on the table. I thought that it might get old, but I was dying to play again at 2AM after a fifth play.

It's addicting, and with a crowd with the right mindset it can be one of the best gaming experiences you've ever had. Even with a tamer crowd its still fun, with the downtime being minimal and outrageous due to each player egging the active player on to eat someone else's meeple other than their own. Add to that a six and eight dollar expansion, both of which add real value, and what else can I say other than, "Get this game".

4.9/5 Stars

You can read more about this game at the Stronghold site, where you can order it as well the expansions:

And speaking of expansions...

And this is what I picture in my twisted mind while I'm playing...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conversation With A Gaming Innovator #6: Chad Hoverter

Welcome back for yet another edition of my Conversation with a Gaming Innovator series of interviews! This time we're talking with the lovely and talented Chad Hoverter, sculptor of all of the miniatures you'll find in the new Plaid Hat Games' Dungeon Run. These things are magnificent, and I just had to talk to Chad about his experiences with becoming a paid-gig sculptor.

All of the images below are the pre-production models for Dungeon Run, which Chad crafted, and you can see that they look amazing. Without further delay, here's the conversation with Chad, a true gaming innovator:

SFC: Chad, I’ve known you for a couple of years now and I’ve been amazed by your seemingly limitless talent and passion when it comes to sculpture. While many people have only seen the recent Dungeon Run stuff, because of our relationship I’ve seen some of your other stuff and I’ve always been thrilled to see what you’ve been cooking up. So how did you start doing miniature sculpture?

CH: I've been fiddling with miniatures to one degree or another since about '95 or so, when I traded all my Magic cards for a Tyranid army. Painting armies led to customization led to converting, etc. Eventually I was introduced to a temperamental substance called Green Stuff which changed everything. After my most ambitious conversions, the Green Scar and Heroscape Hive you may remember, I thought I should try my hand at sculpting a entire figure. I tried it and loved it.

SFC: Are you, like Eric Carter, just a naturally talented guy or did you go to an art school or something?

CH: I've always been into art starting in high school. I began a Fine Art degree and then switched to Architecture, yeah, no idea why, I was young and dumb and .... well, you know the rest. I was a horrible student, dropped out to enter the work force as a regular schlub and didn't do much more than sketch, badly, for many years.

In recent years I have tried to focus my creative energies and concentrate on finishing things I start, and my artistic ventures have since been much more satisfying. I still have a lot to learn about art and sculpting but I'm getting there, I hope. Many are mystified by artistic talent, however, I believe it is learned and not natural; anyone can do it, given the desire and proper training.

SFC: I have to disagree with you there. I can do design and layout on a pretty good level, and I can paint with the best of them, but when it comes to illustration I end up looking like a monkey trying to hump a football. I think people were given gifts by God, genetics, whatever you want to call it, and some people are innately talented. The learned part is whether they choose to develop them. That being said, I'd call you the real McCoy. My all-time favorites of yours were either the Rush n' Crush cars you made or that Hulk Heroscape Custom. Those were some of the coolest things ever!

Before I get into Dungeon Run, your latest creation, let me ask about your gaming passions. I remember how you were so giddy about “The Adventurers” at GenCon…it was infectious, and then you taught me Dominion that same trip! When and how did you get into gaming, and what kind of games really excite you?

CH: Magic was my entry into gaming. I was really bad at it and that was back when you played for ante! Holy moly I lost so many good cards! It probably would have turned me off to gaming if I hadnt discovered 40K as I mentioned above. All that was in '95 or so when I was a young' un.

I like games that are heavy in story and/or theme. I love card games like Dominion and Summoner Wars that are elegantly simple and yet hold a level of depth that is always engaging and fun - every game different. I love euro games like Puerto Rico, Carson City, Cyclades and La Havre. I love miniature games as complex as Space Hulk or Decent and as simple as Drakon, and I simply cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of Dungeon Run. Yeah - I know I sculpted the miniatures, but beyond that, the game is tons of fun - literally tons! Mostly, as I get older, what satisfies me the most about gaming is having a great time with friends and family.

SFC: Yes, I am aware of your love for Dominion…if you recall, you were the one who taught me the game! In fact, one of the most fun games we ever played together was The Adventurers back at Gencon last year. So on that note, what games have you been playing of late? Warhammer Quest, perhaps?

CH: Hmm no, no Warhammer Quest, haven't played that in many years, unfortunately. Also unfortunately, I don't really have a regular gaming group or time, I'm lucky to get in a few games with friends once a month or so. My saving grace is my iPad, I am enjoying all kinds of games right now. Disc Drivin', Hunters, Tactical Soldier, Shadow Era, and the incredibly immersive Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery. The last time I was able to get together with some friends we had several very fun games of Shadow Hunters and Nuns on the Run. Really looking forward to GenCon and some serious game time!

SFC: Me too, man. It’s going to be epic! So, let me ask you this, since I know people are looking forward to Dungeon Run, what’s the creative process like when you’re making minis specifically for a game that’s been designed? Did Colby and Bistro give you broad brushstroke concepts on the miniatures, or did they give you more precise specifications? What was it like working on the project?

CH: Plaid Hat has some really talented concept artists that they can tap and they are the true creativity behind the look of the characters. Basically Colby gives me a concept drawing/painting and it is my job to translate that into 3d somehow. I'm relatively new as a miniature sculptor and this was certainly a huge challenge. Thankfully, I had a good bit of mentoring from several of the regular sculptors from Reaper miniatures.

Working this project was a bit of an uphill climb because I don't sculpt full time (yet), my regular job kept getting in the way with overtime and long weekends. So I found myself getting up at 3am to sculpt, then work at 5:30 and then back at my sculpting desk by 3pm, bed by 9:30 and do it all over again. Thank goodness I have an understanding family! On top of it all I had to redo 3 entire miniatures because of scale issues due to my inexperience. But I think in the end I was able to fix things satisfactorily.

SFC: From what I’ve seen, your inexperience sure as hell doesn’t show. They look top shelf, all the way. So what’s next for you, Chad? What have you got on tap for the near or long term?

CH: Well I am currently working on a couple of audition pieces for a couple of big miniature companies. I also have several private commissions in the works. Basically I am just going to keep sculpting as much as I can until I get enough work to quit my day job and sculpt full time. I really have no idea when that will be but hopefully sooner than later.

There certainly are a lot of miniature companies out there and once Dungeon Run hits the shelves I plan to start hitting them all up for work!

SFC: Well that’s kind of why you’re here! I’ve seen what you can do and I’d put you up against just about anyone on the market, from a Pepsi Challenge perspective, any day on the week. I do these interviews not only for my readers’ informational purposes, but also so that people I believe in and feel have a tremendous amount of underutilized talent may get a look by someone who needs a designer, artist, or in your case, amazing sculptor. Call it paying it forward or whatever, but my overdeveloped sense of justice simply forces me to do what I can to help who I can, when I can.

This seems like a good spot to call this a wrap, and thank you so much for your time. Wait, I lied. One more question. Where are you going to be at Gencon? Maybe doing autographs at the Plaid Hat booth with Mr. Bistro or something?

CH: I will definitely be around the Plaid Hat booth although not in any official capacity. I'll be running around trying to drum up business. And when I'm not doing that I hope to be playing some game or other, Summoner Wars perhaps.

Thanks, Pete!

SFC: The honor is mine. It's great to see an incredibly talented sculptor finally being recognized and watching a friend's dreams become a reality. It really couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, and the Circus staff wishes you nothing but good luck now and in the future.

Just to give some reference, Chad's been up to all kinds of things over the years as we alluded to, such as his comment about modding a Heroscape Marro Hive to look absolutely amazing...

...as well as kitbashing a Marvelscape Hulk to be Gladiator Hulk...

Want to read more about Dungeon Run? How about a rulebook, chief! See here: http://www.summonerwars.com/DungeonRun-Rulebook.pdf

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Second Quarterly Giveaway...And You Thought I Forgot!

June is coming, which means the end of yet another quarter! Why do you care? Because The Circus is giving away more games!

This time I've picked out three more giveaways for you, my loyal subscribers. That being said, I'm not saying a thing about WHICH games they are, aside from that they're worth more than $10 and less than $100, that they may be games that I've reviewed, and that you're likely going to like them.

Yes, I know it's vague. But that adds to the fun, if not for you, then for me!

1. You must be a Superfly Circus subscriber to qualify.
2. You must submit an email to me, noting your subscriber name here, that indicates which article you loved/hated the most, and why. Note that while I MAY OR MAY NOT choose to withhold the name you provide and will modify it if I do use it (ie. Doug from Memphis), I most certainly will be reprinting the letter to indicate why I chose yours as a winner. No email addresses will be shown in any case or circumstance, so don't worry about hate mail.
3. The funnier, more touching, or more interesting the letter, the higher your chances of winning. If you say something like "Your El Grande article offended me because I think that the King in El Grande is the perfect size dildo, thank you very much, Mr. TNT", that will get in the pile of potential winners. Writing "You are a mysogonistic scumbag that has no writing skills, you use too much foul language, and your bald head resembles the penis that you truly are" will also get you a shot. I'm an equal opportunity giver.
4. I will pay for the game to ship anywhere in the US. Outside of the US, I'll pay for the first $20. Last contest cost me over a hundred bucks, and mama wasn't happy.
5. I am the FINAL ARBITER of the winner. No arguments, no bitching or whining.
6. Winners to be determined and announced on or about JUNE 1, 2011.
7. I will email the winners at the same email address that the letter came from.
8. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT I WILL SELL OR USE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS FOR ANY REASON, WHATSOEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. If you get signed up for gay porn or something that might offend, don't blame me, because I didn't sell your name.

So, in short, get those letters into...

superflytnt $at$ insightbb *dot* com

...and tell me why the Circus is the king shit of board game review blogs.

~ God Emperor For Life, The Superfly Circus

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Star Wars: Assault On The Death Star - The Movies Aren't The Only Thing In 3D

Sorry, all, for the delays in getting reviews back up; being out of town and remodeling my house has taken a toll. It's done with now, so I'll be back in the swing of things starting with this oldie but marginally goodie!

Well, since Lucasarts in its infinite wisdom is going to re-release the Star Wars movies in 3D, I figured to honor that triumphant achievement I figured I'd hop in the Wayback Machine and review this old-school Ameritrash non-classic. Note that the bit about the re-release is total sarcasm.

This game really looks neat and screams 1990's Ameritrash, complete with a X-Wing that shoots ball bearings, totally random spinner-based gameplay, and an endgame that has a tiny bit of strategy but overall is 20% skill and 80% sheer luck. I should love this game, but honestly, it's really not a tremendous bunch of fun. It's clearly targeted at the eight to twelve year old age range, which again, I should totally relate to, but there's just not enough game in here to really have me wanting to play it unless my kid wants to play.

This game, for as mediocre as it is, has some of the neatest bits ever. It has a pseudo-pinball quality to it that makes it fun enough to not burn it after an inital play and release its essence back into the force, but the gameplay is so massively underwhelming that this is one that only the kids will want to play repeatedly. This is not to mention that every time you want to play, you have to plan for fifteen minutes of assembly since the game is pretty novel with regard to the fact that almost all of the contents of the box need to be assembled into a large playfield. It takes a while, to be sure, and if you're not careful you can damage the bits, so it's not quick although it is pretty simple.

The concept of this game is that you play as what I will collectively call "The Heroes", meaning Chewie, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and the droids. How the droids can deal a deathblow to the Death Star I'll never know, but you can play with them. Anyhow, the cool thing is that this game is actually two games in one, in a sense, as there's two parts to the game. The first part has your avatars walking a linear path, driven by a spinner dial, to the docking hangar and placing Tie Fighters on the board due to events on the dial.

Some events allow you to take shots at the Ties with a little steel ball launched by a plastic and cardboard X-Wing. The second half of the game begins when your pawn gets to the docking bay, and then it's all shooting, with the goal being clearing a path to the Thermal Vent, which I have colloquially dubbed, "The Glory Hole", which when hit launches the Dark Lord of the Sith, Vader, into deep space. Somehow firing the "Money Shot" into the "Glory Hole" and launching a little helmet-headed dude sounds a little perverse, at least to me.

When you open the box, you'll find a friggin Corellian freighter load of plastic and cardboard. The artwork is actually pretty decent on everything, and has the same aesthetic as the sets of the movies had. The main inner box has the parts printed onto the sides, which you punch out, and then the box is repurposed as the game board upper deck.

Then there's the plastic Death Star Trench lower deck with a removable cardboard top that the upper deck locks into via cardboard bridge. This bottom section is blow-molded plastic and acts as the target field for the endgame. This lower deck has spots for a bunch of plastic trap doors that you can hit with the steel balls, and it empties caught balls into a little trough on the side of the lower deck. Finally, there's a bunch of Tie Fighter chits, there's cardboard standies and bases, the spinner assembly, the steel ball "proton torpedoes", and of course, the cardboard and plastic X-Wing used to launch those torpedoes.

There's also some stickers to apply to some of the plastics, but this is pretty minor so I saved it for last. In short, there's a lot of stuff in the box, and all of it is pretty high-quality. I'm not a fan of spinners, so if I had to pick something that was really pretty crappy, that's the one. It can stick and be very stiff to spin because after a while, and so I'd have to say that gluing the back of the spinner in place is the best solution to solve this particular gripe, which I've done, and it works well so far.

Setting up, as I said, involves assembling about 8 pieces of cardboard and attaching them to the upper deck to create the total playfield. Once you've got that done, you'll need to install the eight or so little trap doors, which is no biggie. After that, you'll have to put the cardboard cover on the plastic base, which again, is no biggie, and add the Darth Vader track to the end of the plastic base. All in all, it'll take you about 10 minutes or so to assemble it, and that's being slow and careful.

Once you're done with the assembly, choose a standie as a pawn, set it on the Rebel Base start, and then set the Darth Vader's Ship standie on the start space of the Vader's Track at the end of the board. Finally, place the Leia standie in the slot to block the Glory Hole and then you're ready to take down an impenatrable battle station.

Gameplay is truly as basic as possible. In the first section of the game, you spin the spinner and depending on where it lands, you take an action. Most spaces will have you move your pawn a couple of spaces or to the front of the pack, but a couple do other things. One forces you to add a Tie standie to the upper deck as a target to shoot at and then take a shot with the X-Wing, and one has you take a free shot. The last one, which is a small sliver on the spinner field has you move Darth Vader's ship, which has about ten spaces, and if Vader gets there before you get a Money Shot into the Glory Hole, all players lose.

The one interesting and/or strategic part of the game is that if your pawn lands on a space that has an image of a Tie, you have to place a Tie standie on the upper deck without taking a shot at it, up to five Ties. If there are already 5 Ties there, you have to raise a Tie trap door in the lower trench area for each you couldn't place.

The interesting part, as I mentioned, is that if you get to shoot these upper deck Ties, when you kill one you get a Tie token which can be used in the endgame to buy extra torpedoes. This is critical, because you normally only get one shot per turn, but a minimum of two Tie trap doors come back every turn when you get to the endgame, so it's critical to play these at the proper time.

Once a player's pawn makes it to the end of the Rebel track and reaches the Docking Bay space, the endgame begins. The Leia standie is removed from the bottom of the lower trench so that a player may subsequently torpedo the ol' Glory Hole. Players who have not made it to the Docking Bay still continue to play as normal until they reach the Docking Bay, but if they happen to have a stray torpedo nail the Glory Hole, they still win.

Players who are at the Docking Bay, however, have a far better shot. On a player's turn, they are given one torpedo to fire, and if they trade in any Tie tokens they've previously earned, they get extra torpedos for each. Once you've determined your torpedo allowance, you must spin the spinner, but this time you ignore all the icons and specials and only look to the number printed on the outside band. This is the number of Ties you need to flip up in the lower trench. These, essentially guarantee that your shot will be captured by the Ties you hit, blocking a clean shot at Vader. If you happen to have five torpedoes, you're in luck because there are only 4 Ties to contend with at most, and the last shot, if well placed, can take out Vader and destroy the Death Star.

The hard part is that each time the a player in the Docking Bay is up, they have to spin the spinner and add Tie defenders to the lower trench. The minimum is two, so if you're very lucky on your turn you may be able to pull off a win, provided most or all of the Ties are shot down. The reason is that there are two distinct paths to the Glory Hole, and thus you may raise Tie trap doors on one side, leaving the other free of defense.

Really, though, the game is no longer really "loseable" if all players are at the Docking Bay because Vader's Ship is no longer moving when you spin his icon, and this takes a little bit of tenseness away. We've houseruled it that if Vader comes up, the ship still moves and you add the allotted Ties on top of it, making it much harder, and a little more fun.

In short, it's a decent little distraction with great bits, but it's a bit on the simple side for anyone who isn't planning to play with a child, a hardcore Ameritrash fan, a dexterity game junkie, or a complete devotee of Star Wars.

What Makes The Force Strong With This One:
- Great production value makes this a neat game to look at
- Shooting stuff is always fun, I don't care who you are
- Reasonably priced on Ebay; you can get it for under $20.00 with shipping
- This is the definition of Ameritrash
- Anything letting you talk about "slinging a money shot in the ol' glory hole" rocks

Why Meesa Think Thissa Meestake:
- Fun but repetitive gameplay can get old pretty fast
- Setup and teardown takes too long and can damage the bits if you're not careful
- Not for small children due to .25 inch ball bearings being included

While this game is a neat little bit of Star Wars history, and it's really pretty fun the first few times, the fact that it really is just an excuse to shoot little balls from an X-Wing at Darth Vader knocks this down a notch or three in my "Book Of Coolness." I think this is great for a kid who digs Star Wars, and it's a good way to spend a half hour of quality time with the kids. I got this specifically because I am indoctrinating my kid into a little Star Wars fangirl, not to mention the cutest little shooting enthusiast you've ever seen. For me, it was a no-brainer.

2.25/5 Stars

I'd have put more up here, but it's been out of print for 13 years or so and thus it can only be found on Ebay or the Boardgamegeek.com Marketplace: