Happy Birthday to us!

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One year ago today, Imaginary Wars opened its doors for business.

What can I say? I’m exceptionally grateful to all the people who have helped and supported the store this past year. Without all the awesome people in the community around me, this store would never have come into being, never mind still being here one year later.

I was hoping to do a bit of a review of the store’s highlights over our first year, but I’ve ended up having all my time getting devoured by my getting ready for the upcoming Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, the International Table Top Day we ran in the store last weekend (to great success, I might add!), I’ve also been keeping abreast on our Heavy Gear League (which includes me having to paint up my own stuff –have I mentioned that my painting pace is …glacial?),  trying to post on this blog more regularly, and managing our promotions for Games Workshop’s  Tau releases as well as the new set for Magic the Gathering’s Ravnica block, Dragon’s Maze. On top of that, I’ve been running the store’s first year anniversary Facebook Contest …and finishing planning some sort of festivities for Saturday, April 6 when we’ll be officially ringing in our first year.

After re-reading that last paragraph, I’m left wondering what I’m doing still writing today’s post. However, I am exceptional at getting too caught up in taking care of things (or looking towards the next fire I might need to put out) that I quite regularly forget to mention and thank all the unsung individuals who help me out every day–my wife being first among them. There are plenty of others, but she’s the one who puts up with me (and the store) the most. There’s also my business partner and the family and friends who helped get the ball rolling and the store started, all of whom –just as with my wife– I cannot thank enough.

Anyways, I’ll end things here –but if you live in Calgary (or close enough by), come down to the store THIS Saturday, April 6 and celebrate our first year with us. OF COURSE there will be cake and refreshments and board gaming and maybe a few more things going on that day …like deals! I’ll be at the store ALL day.

If you don’t live in or near Calgary, just remember that **shameless plug** if you live in Alberta, shipping is free, with no minimum purchase amount!

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FLAMES OF WAR RANGER DAY: MARCH 30!

With the first anniversary of Imaginary Wars Games and Hobbies fast approaching (the first week in April, for those curious), the store’s plate of events is getting more and more full! Today’s post will be focusing on one of the lead-up events to our first-year anniversary:

Rangers Lead the Way GLOBALLY

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MARCH 30th

We’ll be having members from our local Flames of War club, Calgary REGIMENT [link] coming by to show people how to play Flames of War. They’ll be providing everything needed to play a small, fifteen-minute game! This is being done in conjunction with Battlefront miniatures as part of their Rangers program (where they send players to local stores and get them to introduce the game to new people), and I’m really excited to host a day dedicated to introductory gaming with Flames of War.

What I also like is that the members of The Calgary REGIMENT club also really pay attention to what makes miniatures games cool: the overall effect you achieve when playing solely with painted models and using scenic gaming boards. I’ve encountered very few individuals, tournaments –or stores even– that pay attention to the overall look of a miniatures gaming board like this club does. They strive for playable tables that look almost like dioramas depicting World War II European battlefields but use loose, movable terrain so as not to sacrifice re-playability for looks.

To get a sense of just how good a job they do, check out the post on their blog detailing the game set up to replay the Carentan battle following the D-Day landings in 1944. What was really cool was that the whole game was inspired by the Band of Brothers episode where Easy Company fought to take Carentan.

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ALSO ON MARCH 30th: INTERNATIONAL TABLE TOP DAY

I’ll be getting into this a bit more in another post (hopefully) in the next few days, but for now suffice it to say that coinciding with the Ranger Day for Flames of War, we’ll also be commemorating the International Table Top Day that was initiated by Wil Wheaton’s Youtube show, Tabletop.

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However, before I can post more details, I’ll need to take care of some coordinating with the people who have already volunteered to help make the day a success. Until then, for a better idea of what kinds of games we’ll be hosting that day, I’d recommend watching any of the episodes of tabletop on their Youtube channel. If you’ve seen any of their episodes, you’ll already know what kind of board games the show tends to showcase; if you haven’t I’ve included the episode where Wil Wheaton shows off the 2003 Game of the Year winner, Alhambra.

One Month and Six Days: Imaginary Wars Store!

I was over at the BaneLegions site the just yesterday and realised that:

(a) the link to us that listing us as a retailer carrying their excellent models leads people not to our website but instead to my hobby blog;

(b) the last post on my hobby blog is all about how Imaginary Wars is not yet open for business; and

(c) I haven’t posted a blog update in over a month! (So much for my goal of trying to post every week!)

 So I decided to rectify what I can.

“Rectifying” includes having a picture of Krull, on this post as it’s easily the most awesome of all the BaneLegions models!

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Location Secured, Lawyered Up…Engage!

I think I’ve said it two or three times now: I’ve got the location chosen and secured. Well, now it’s official! Yesterday I received (via courier) the full lease, every page initialed by myself and the landlord and all the appropriate blanks signed and witnessed.

All the people I’ve talked to about this have said it’s a real ‘champagne’ moment, but it hasn’t felt that way to me. I think it would have been a bigger deal had I not already had “the lease is negotiated” moments several times already. Don’t get me wrong; I’m ALL kinds of excited…maybe it’s just ‘cause I’m so focused on all the other things that need to be taken care of as well.

Such as…

…LAWYERING.

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Games Night: The Downfall of Pompeii

I’ve decided today to do a review of a board game that’s been increasingly making a good impression on me and leaving me  feeling that more people should be playing it: “The Downfall of Pompeii.”

This post was all conceived last night while my wife and I hosted a games night (seems a bit much to call it a full-fledged games night considering it was just us two and a friend of ours). Anyways, despite there just being three of us playing a board game (I generally prefer board games when five or six people are playing), we had a great time playing! The object of the game is to get the most of one’s people tokens safely outside of the city. Yes, it is a simple and straightforward objective, however its how the game goes about setting the scene and handling going about winning the game that makes “The Downfall of Pompeii” such a smart, elegant and enjoyable game to play.

Some Quick History & Then the Review

The Downfall of Pompeii is—you guessed it—centered on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, an eruption that lasted two days, killed more than 10,000 people and buried the city of Pompeii and some surrounding towns under ten to twenty feet of volcanic ash.

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Middle Earth Mayhem!

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While the staff tournament waits to wrap up, I thought I’d shine the light on a couple board games that have recently caught my fancy; first up: Middle Earth Quest!

Middle Earth Quest is a semi-co-operative game newly released from Fantasy Flight Games this fall (or thereabouts) which, at a glance, feels like it is a cross between FFG’s Descent and Arkham Horror games in that it combines the ‘team-of-heroes-versus-the-evil-overlord’ format that Descent has with the ‘running-around-the-game-board-trying-to-put-out-fires’ style of game play that powers Arkham Horror.

Before I knew anything about gameplay, I was excited as it (1) had to do with Middle Earth and (2) was designed by Corey Koneiczka –he did the Battlestar Galactica board game (which is PHENOMINAL). Did I mentin that early on I found out the game doesn’t use any dice? None. That also had me intrigued.

Middle Earth Quest takes place during the seventeen-year period from when Bilbo leaves the Shire to when Frodo leaves the Shire (so, the game follows the canon put forth from the books not the movies). Gandalf, aware that Sauron has re-taken Barad-Dur, has suspicions as to the true nature of Bilbo’s ‘magic ring’ and needs to keep Sauron’s shadow at bay in the world long enough to uncover the truth about the ring and(ultimately) get Frodo safely out of the Shire.

That’s where the unsung heroes of the Free Peoples come in: each player chooses one of the five possible heroes, and it’s their job to stem Sauron’s influence from spreading too quickly while at the same time, embarking on quests that further Gandalf’s goals. Though the players don’t get to play as any of the famous personages from the books, Tolkein’s characters are present and treated as a resources for the player-heroes.

MEQ Components

GAME PLAY

The entire game is on a countdown to the end game, and there’s no real way to slow the game down (speed it up, yes; slow it down…not so much). This “count-down clock” is represented by the Story Track: eighteen squares that all the players move their markers on to show how much time is left in the game, as well who is currently winning. The Heroes get one marker to move along the track, signifying the passage of time (or, more accurately, the time it takes Gandalf to realise what he’s dealing with and formulate a plan).  Sauron gets three markers, signifying how close he is to: corrupting all the leaders of the Free Peoples, unveiling Gandalf’s plans, and mustering sufficient forces to wage open war. When any one of those four markes reaches the last spot on the STory Track, the game ends (more on that below).

Each game turn is split in half: Sauron’s phase and the Heroes’ phase. In Sauron’s phase, he takes actions to place influence tokens on game-board locations, summon/move/control his minions and monsters, or add more cards to his arsenal of plots cards and shadow cards (both can be used to make uncomfortable things happen to the heroes). Also in his phase, the Sauron player draws an event card (which can affect everyone on the board, good and evil, for good or for ill) and moves all the markers on the Story Track forward (the Good tracker always gets moved forward two spots; Sauron’s markers only get moved according to his Plot cards currently in play).

In the Heroes’ phase, the other players each take their turn starting with one player and continuing clockwise (not willy-nilly however-you-choose as in Descent). Players move across Middle Earth, trying to defeat Sauron’s minions, consult with famous characters, and complete quests to become more powerful and collect Favour tokens (which are spent to ‘foil’ Sauron’s plots ie: stall Sauron).

The central focus of the game is Sauron’s Plot cards: up to three can be in play and though each one can sometimes give Sauron an advantage in game play, it usually just speeds up the rate at which one of his counters moves along the Story Track (thereby making the game end quicker, ensuring the heroes can’t complete their objectives and aren’t powerful enough to stop Sauron’s minions). Each focus card in play has a corresponding location and Favours cost: if a hero travels to said location and pays the Favours cost, the Plot card is removed from play and Sauron is less likely to be able to end the game quickly (and thus, less likely to win).

To ensure that traipsing across the board and foiling his plots isn’t so cut and dry for the Heroes, Sauron can control his minions to harry the Heroes’ progress –but monsters can only move to locations that are influenced by evil, so it’s important that Sauron place sufficient influence tokens on the board every turn to ensure his monsters have freedom of movement. What all this turns out to be in actual game play:  Sauron is constantly juggling his resources keeping his Plots in play, placing influence tokens on locations  and moving his forces around to get in the way/combat the group of heroes he’s up against. And it’s quite the juggling act.

But the Heroes fare no better; they juggle completing their own personal quests (they get them at the start the game) with completing the quests that are geased to them during the game, while also trying to collect Favour tokens and also moving to Sauron’s different Plot locations (to get rid of said Plots). All of this is done while trying not to get killed by Sauron’s monsters and minions (the minions are Sauron’s hero-level monsters). Yes, the Heroes have a harder job; but  there’s two or three of them to share the load (heh).

Once a marker (any one) gets to the end of the Story Track, the game ends and a winning side must be declared.  The winning of the game rests entirely on the part during the game set up where each side draws a card from their respective Mission deck, with the card drawn revealing to its player(s) what needs to be accomplished by the end of the game for that side to count as having “won.” This objective is kept secret throughout the game.

The act of winning the game is not dissimilar to how close combat in Warhammer is done. This is the only part of the game that isn’t absolutely excellent –due mainly to the very “sudden-death-overtime” way it plays out: just like in Warhammer, where whoever gets the charge gets first crack at winning close combat, the side in Middle Earth Quest whose marker gets to the ed of the Story Track first gets first chance at winning the game by revealing his/their Mission card first. Once revealed, if said conditions are met, he/they win the game instantly. Just like that. Regardless of what the other side did.

BUT, if they FAIL to achieve their mission, as stated on their randomly-drawn mission card, the other side gets to reveal its mission. If the second-place side’s mission WAS accomplished, they win the game. Lastly, if neither side completes their secret mission, then the side of Good chooses which one of them will fight the Ringwraiths all by himself, with the game being won by the side who is victorious in that fight.

The only reason I feel a little off-put by the way the game comes to a conclusion is because the rest of the game is well thought out –checks and balances abound throughout the game to ensure the game remains a neck’n’neck nail biter to the very end. It’s not a bad way of ending the game, it just doesn’t feel like the same sensibilities behind the game’s mechanics were used to create the end game.

Still, even with that criticism, the game is awesome. It was designed to always play out as a close game; it emulates a lot of the feel of Middle Earth found in the novels and its production values are top notch: plenty of counters, plastic figures, cards AND a wicked double-sized game board/map of Middle Earth with all its most interesting spots marked off as game-location places.

I feel like I’ve written w-a-a-a-a-y too much already and haven’t even touched on how the game uses NO DICE. I think I’ll leave that for the FFG website: they post the full rules to all their games, and the rules book does do a pretty good job explaining how the cards are used without one needing to “play” in tandem to reading that part of the rules.