Tag Archives: Meetup.com

Game Night, Heroic Aleworks, Woodbridge VA

Courtesy of Meetup.com’s thriving Northern Virginia Pavilion group,  I received notification of a game night at Heroic Aleworks in Woodbridge, VA.   I had been unaware of this location until quite recently (through meetup, in fact), and wanted to give it a try.  Now, I like craft beer, and I like it a lot.. but not on a Thursday night during the work week, so I just limited myself to one sampler glass and a cold brew coffee.  Besides, I had my son (who is not 21) with.  I like this place.. the atmosphere is somewhat self-consciously nerd chic, with some obvious geek cultural references–

This was just fine with me and my son. The people there were very friendly– basically a handshake and my name was enough to start a tab. this place hearkened back to a friendlier, kinder way of doing business.

Most importantly, Heroic Aleworks has a keen awareness about the intersection zone between geeks who drink craft beers and other geekly hobbies, like comics, movies, and boardgames. The fact that they know their crowd this well and cater to it, has earned my instant customer loyalty.

Garrett and I got there late– not my fault for once, he has classes until 6, so we were to get there at a little after 7, southbound traffic and all. Heroic is in a light industrial area, like a lot of microbreweries are nowadays (there are two of them in two similar facilities less than a mile from where I work). Thus, food can be a little problematic.

We had time for one short-playing game. I brought a few choices along with me, a mixture of two to four player short games. We ended up choosing STEAM TORPEDO: FIRST CONTACT, by Iello. I had played this at the demo booth at HISTORICON 2014 at Fredericksburg, VA, and not all the way through. I thought it was good fun, and idly put it on my Boardgamegeek.com Wish List– not for any motive beyond my own “remember this one and get it later” reasons. My Secret Santa for 2015 ended up getting it for me, and there it has sat, on the shelf, unplayed, mocking me.. “I’m steampunk.. I’m naval.. I feature shooty things… PLAY ME…”

Tonight was the night!

It turns out Steam Torpedo is a light and fun little non-war game. It reminds me somewhat of an older game called RED NOVEMBER. That is mostly a thematic comparison. Both games feature submarines, steampunky settings, and frantically running from compartment to compartment to avoid disaster.

That is pretty much the point where the comparison stops. In Steam Torpedo, you use a series of tiles to create a custom submarine built up of modular components that do things.. shoot at the other sub, make your sub go, defend your sub, and fix your sub. Crew tokens make this stuff happen, and they do it by moving from compartment to compartment.

Complicating everything is the fact that each compartment is rated for structure and oxygen points– a finite amount of oxygen. Once you run out, your ship is done. Every TURN, you remove ONE oxygen from your ship.. somewhere. Every time a ship takes damage.. the target captain puts a damage marker (red) somewhere. Once you start using up the structure points for a compartment, it goes away (not in the physical sense– it ceases to function)

We ended up finishing the game about ten minutes before the event ended at 9 PM.  I pulled off a victory– not from any obvious tactical superiority on my part, it just worked out that Garrett’s design for a sub had more weapons than mine, and mine had more “fix your damage” compartments than his.   Thus, I was able to man both a “sandbags” station AND  a “welding station” to absorb most of the incoming physical damages.   I discovered since you have a finite amount of crewmen, it really doesn’t matter if you have a gigantic array of weapons.  You can only man some of them at any given moment.  So if your opponent has systems that allow his/her sub to avoid the initial onslaught of incoming points, gradually, the balance will shift and as they start taking out your systems in response with their one or two weapons that can activate, and you will be in a bad way to respond.

This event was a lot of fun– I like the location quite a bit but will probably have to leave early to get there in time to have something stronger than a sampler glass.  The folks there are very friendly and I like the decor, the root beer, and the way they cater to their crowd.  Good times!


01 December 2012 Game Night at Caribou Coffee

Image representing Meetup as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

I’m a member of about a half dozen Meetup Groups that hold game meets here and there all over Northern Virginia.  The Northern Virginia boardgamers meetup holds a meetup at the local Caribou Coffee place.  I like this one because it’s close by and they serve coffee (important).  Tonight’s event was rather crowded, as the local school was holding an impromptu concert:

Modern Naval Battles (DVG)

Modern Naval Battles (DVG)


Gar and I brought MODERN NAVAL BATTLES (DVG), a recent present from my 2012 Wargaming Secret Santa from BoardGameGeek.   Modern Naval Battles is a reboot of a three older games of Dan Verssen’s (also called Modern Naval Battles, I, II and III) dating back to the days of 3W.  I didn’t play it back in the day but did enjoy the freebie COLD WAR NAVAL battles  (Creative Commons license by Dan V, using the old artwork) which was circulating a while back.  All of these share the same DNA as Avalon Hill‘s ancient NAVAL WAR as well as one of my favorites, ENEMY IN SIGHT.  I have played Naval War and Enemy in Sight quite a bit in the past, and really enjoy these “line of battle” style games.  Ships deploy in fleets, the fleets have a formation (linear in the case of Enemy in Sight, staggered in the case of Modern Naval Battles).  Players take turns launching attacks of different flavors against each other’s fleets using Action cards.  The action cards are defended against, either by shipboard systems or by sacrificing more action cards.  If you roll badly on your defense, or don’t have an action card that can defend a flavor of attack, the attack hits.    Attacks are cumulative and are represented by action cards under the ship card until the Hull Value is exceeded, and the ship sinks.

Anne, Skype

Anne even joined us via Skype from West Virginia!

Garrett chose an American fleet consisting of the Enterprise, the Virginia, the W.H. Standley, the Cromelein, and the George Phillip. Garrett also brought in the New Jersey and Los Angeles, as reinforcements during the game.

USA, Fleet, Modern Naval Battles

Garrett at start, setting up his American Battle fleet

I deployed a Soviet fleet of the Okrylenny, Slava, Marshall Shaposhnikov, A missile boat, the Carrier Kiev, and submarine U507 starting in passive mode.

Immediately I lost a missile boat to Garrett’s opening salvo, which I couldn’t counter. I took this in stride and responded with everything I could bear on the Enterprise. One air strike from the Kiev and two missile strikes actually did for the Enterprise in one turn.

Goodbye, Enterprise

So long, CVN Enterprise!

I also spent some cards to bring the Kirov into the battle line, at range one to the other line. I might lose her, but she could really hammer the enemy fleet, too.

Gar’s response was to spend a lot of action cards on bringing in the New Jersey through reinforcement. A really heavy hitter but she is expensive– he barely had cards to do much after that. I took out another one of his ships, and he heavily damaged the Okrylenny. Then I figured it was all or nothing. Two missile attacks on the New Jersey and a bomber salvo. It proved to be more than enough to bring down the New Jersey. Garrett once again spent most of his action cards to bring in yet another expensive ship, this time the Los Angelese submarine. Having taken down the Enterprise and New Jersey, I was ahead on points (we were playing to 25 tonight), a fact I reminded Garrett about. I decided to spread the attacks around and put missile salvos on everything Gar had floating except the Los Angeles. This took out a couple of small fry and technically the game was won– but being a gentleman, I let him have a last turn. He did for the Kirov and the rest of the already damaged Okrylenny. My crews became heroes of the Soviet Union, and we emerged from the fray victors, 27 to 11 points, Soviet to American. This was our first time with Modern Naval Battles and we both really enjoyed it.  Along the lines of constructive criticism, there were some vague areas in the rulebook, but common sense and experience with the ancestors of this game helped figure things out for me.

Here’s a slideshow of the evening’s games:

Game Night, Caribou Coffee 12-1-2012

(Indie Boards and Cards)

Our second game of the night was GAUNTLET OF FOOLS by Indie Publishers, the same folks who brought you THE

Gauntlet of Fools (Indie)

Gauntlet of Fools (Indie)

RESISTANCE. I had hopes for this one, as the designer, Donald Vaccarino, was the guy who brought us Dominion.  This game is published as being for 2-6 players, but I would not recommend it for less than four for reasons I’ll get into. The game, in brief, is about running adventurers and boasting and bragging about their exploits. I was hoping the bragging part was going to be more colorful than it turned out to be, but that element was sadly formulaic and we hardly used it.  Sad face.  The Adventures of Baron Munchausen this ain’t.  Essentially the players put out a row of cards representing adventurers, weapons, and encounters. The players select the adventurer card and weapon… and if any OTHER player wants that adventurer/weapon combo then has the option of bragging about that character to “trump” the previous player. As in “I’ll have the monk walk through this dungeon with one hand tied behind his back”, etc. You can trump that brag by adding another “brag” to the character and stealing him. Brags (there are effectively nine of them) work out as penalties to combat. Since there’s no rule that says you MUST brag, we didn’t bother to since we only had two players playing.  We had zero incentive to use the best mechanic in the game!  The game will work better with four players playing as there’s more reason to hamper the other guy and before he goes into encounters. After adventurers are selected, they go through a series of encounters and defeat them until they die trying. We only played until 20 gold or the first death. I easily managed to get the Gold Pieces threshold without taking a lot of damage.  Garrett did pretty well, too, and only got wounded once.  I like the general idea of this game but I wish the storytelling/bragging element was more intricate than just counters on a card, that really took away from the experience for me.   I’d like that to be the main focus of the game, not just cards going on a dungeon crawl kind of game.

End Game

There are good ideas in this design and I’d like to play it again, but I didn’t think the two player variant that the rule suggest, which is essentially running two characters and having the characters alternate active turns, was very satisfying. GAUNTLET OF FOOLS is really designed for 4 players minimum.. you don’t get the nuances of the bragging without that many players at least. Without four players, I’m not seeing how the game has much to differentiate itself from other similar games of fantasy combat. I’ll try it again with four players next time and revist this post.  I’ll be the first to say that due to time constraints, we were a little rushed, and I had to curtail a few actions I normally would have taken to figure out the rules I didnt’ get at first.  The rule book is also a bit vague in spots, and even though it is relatively large for the game we’re playing, it had a lot of lists and not a lot of rule interpretation.  Maybe that’s just me, some elements were confusing and perhaps I’m not playing it 100% as intended, but I know I got close.

I find myself agreeing with Tom Vasel’s review of Gauntlet of Fools, so I’ll include that here:

So that was our Caribou Coffee night out, we listened to some live music, drank some hot chocolate, enjoyed the, erm, cozy surroundings, and played two new games. Definitely not an evening wasted.

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