Slaughterball, Bloody Freaking Fun

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Recently, thanks to Erik at Frog the What games, I had the chance to play through a two-man game of Slaughterball.  It is an inventive and exciting game about a futuristic game, based on handball and combined with genetic mutants and freaks.  These people have been altered by companies to run faster, hit harder and have keen senses.  It’s almost like someone tried to create a human “master race” through genetic alteration, but all they managed was a really badass football team.  This game is up on kickstarter and they’ve been funded to their first stretch goal!  Get in there now and you can still get some serious early-backer swag!  You can also head to the Slaughterball website to get some more information about the game itself!

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Yes, that team looks just like a bunch of orcs.

My favorite part of this game is how everything feels like you should be narrating it with an announcer’s voice, and this is what I did.  It was legitimately one of the most entertaining times I have had sitting on my friend’s floor, playing a game.  As it went, we chose one of the four teams that came with the review copy.  I favored the spartan-themed Swords of Damocles whereas my friend went with the buxom Valkyries.  Now the pieces on the board are referred to athletes and the people playing the game are coaches, which makes sense considering either could feasibly be labeled “players,” so they opted to eliminate that distinction altogether.

Each athlete has 5 stats: accuracy, agility, brawling, speed and toughness.  Accuracy shows how good they are at throwing the ball, so when throwing the ball at a goal, you get the number of your accuracy worth of murder dice to roll.  I call them murder dice because they are covered in knives and skulls.  The more knives you get, the better you roll, so get knives.  To get the shot in, you have to get a number of knives equal to or greater than the shooting distance in squares between the shooter and the goal.  All of the tests work similarly with one stat giving you a number of dice and then another being the stat you roll against for the opposing athlete or just quick checks to see if you make a goal or pick up a ball mid-move.

Once you have your team selected, you have to place the little guys and gals on the board.  Everything is pretty well explained, though.  Once you’re all set up, it’s time to play.  Now each team’s turn encompasses three phases: draw phase, onslaught phase, cleanup phase.  The first phase is where you can discard any number of cards and draw more.  This allows you to mix up your strategy at a moment’s notice and keeps you from stagnating in actions.  There are a lot of cards, don’t be afraid to ditch the ones you have for something better!  During the onslaught phase, your athletes can move, chop (attack, basically) and pass or shoot the ball.  Moving and passing or shooting the ball are all pretty self explanatory, but chopping is where you use your athletes to attack the opposing athletes.

Successfully chopping the other team’s athletes is a good place to start really doing damage.  When you chop, it incurs a DnD-style chop test (with the brawling stat) which you roll the murder dice for.  For our game, both teams’ razors ( the skinny, accurate, fast ball-shooter) ended up in the slaughterbox, which is sort of the game’s hospital.  Except instead of healing the athletes, they are allowed to just lay there bleeding while kids and viewers throw popcorn and ice cream cones at them.  Getting off a chop attack will successfully down an enemy and, usually, score you points! Getting off more chops while they are down will get them injured, slaughter boxed, possibly penalized…. and more points!!!

That's not a scar!  I'll show you a scar!

That’s not a scar! I’ll show you a scar!

When you start the game, the goals are closed and the ball shoots out of a ball-port.  These blast the ball high into the sky, at least in my mind.  The athletes run in, grab the ball and then run into the meat grinder at the center of the board.  Wait…. fuckawhadinnabaht!?! No, they aren’t running headlong into a literal meat grinder like ball-playing lemmings, they are running into a section in the center of the arena filled with skin-slashing spikes, sandpaper carpeting and possibly demotivational posters.  It’s like the chokey for genetically-engineered athletes.  The best part is that you get extra damage on opposing athletes for knocking them down in the meat grinder.

Once someone runs the ball into the meat grinder, all the goals open and you can start making shots.  Keep in mind that any time you don’t run open goals or make a shot with the ball, anyone with the ‘Shot Clock’ card can use it to get an athlete in the penalty box, redeploy the ball and get a little edge over your opponents.  The structure of the game allows you to get some serious synergy, too.  During your onslaught phase, you can select three different athletes (indicated with the onslaught tokens) to make two moves each.  These can be used to run, chop, pass and shoot, as stated.  A lot of times I would use one player to run, grab the ball, throw it to another athlete who would run it to the razor or shoot.  My buddy Dave got two goals in the first round of the game this way.  Granted the ball practically deployed into his hands, but you roll a die to determine which port it comes out of, and the dice are always in that guy’s favor.  Gameplay is fluid, thrilling and fun.  Mostly fun.

So my master plan to get and score with the fucking ball didn't work.  Risk in this game is not usually worth it, unless you have the cards to back it up.

So my master plan to get and score with the fucking ball didn’t work. Risk in this game is not usually worth it, unless you have the cards to back your strategy.

Notice the letters in different shapes on the athletes’ cards.  These show the different types of athletes.  Int he actual game there will be lovely plastic pieces that have differently shaped bases, but the review copy had these useful proxies.  There is the butcher or ‘square B’.  This is a big fucker that will chop anything and often ends up in the penalty box when you can get the card.  You’ll have one on your team.  The razor or ‘circle R’ is a lithe and speedy little fucker with four-arms who can move like nobody’s business.  These guys make a lot of the shots.. at least until they end up in the slaughter box.  You also have one of these.  There is also the cleaver or ‘pentagon C’.  These guys are pretty good defensive athletes.  They have decent accuracy, agility and speed, but they aren’t much for brawling and chopping.  This means you can use them to run the ball and score pretty well if you lose your razor.  Then there are the slashers.  These guys have higher toughness and brawling than your slashers, which makes them decent for defense.  These guys will be good at carving (providing interference for athletes running the ball) and generally defending the guy running the ball long enough to get a score in.  They are a little slower, less accurate and agile than the cleavers.

Big surprise.. butcher in the penalty box.

Big surprise.. butcher in the penalty box…

I may have mentioned that there are penalties and fouls that you can call.  I love the way the rules are explained for this in the game.  A great way to look at the rules is like the truth during a great story: never let either get in the way of a great time!  This means that the referees of the game are all but fucking terrified to step into the arena.  I would be too with these genetically-altered freight-train people charging and chopping each other all over the place!  Each team looks like a scarier version of the Monstars from Space Jam!  Fuck!  So there are penalty cards, which can be used to call fouls.  This represents a time when a referee was paying attention long enough to call a foul on a player, likely getting himself side-lined to the slaughterbox in the process.  The thing is, violence is one way that the sport itself is so popular.  These athletes knock eachother down, injure one another, rub eachothers’ faces in the meat grinder etc. all for points and the entertainment of fans.  It is like soccer would have been in an ancient roman gladiatorial arena and it is brutal, spine-shattering fun.

One thing that I wanted in this game, which really disappointed me, was that there seemed to be no option for a “fantasy football” league.  You know, an option that would let you alter the stats of your team, name your athletes and get more into it?  I told this to Erik, the game’s creator and he said this:

“In league mode you can design your own roster, picking which athletes are on your team, you can spend winnings to increase your traits and skills.  However, there is no build from scratch mode in this release. That’ll be in the next Kickstarter. ;)”

Back this game NOW!!!!!  This is going to be something awesome that we nerds can have for our own!  It will be a sports game that will allow us to weave in our love of football, american football and other sports that will allow us to make our own teams, then compete on a larger level!  I can see this game being the next big international board game, like Warhammer.

I was playing this game and just imagining the athletes in the arena, I want to see this game turned into a show on adult swim.  Seriously, think about it.  The world has enough personality, there are several layers of conflict (athletes against eachother, teams and their coaches, all the athletes on the board and the referees, the fans and the referees), and you can throw in the TnA of the cheerleaders (available as an extra purchase on the Kickstarter) to make it a great show with an an amazing world.  On top of all that, it would be EXTREMELY relevant considering all the violence in sports these days and it already has a nice fanbase going.  For now, this is just an awesome game, and I am still hotly debating backing it although I can’t really afford to right now.  I mean, look at this game!  I only played a scrimmage, although I wanted to get a larger game going.  It is a great time and it allows you to fuck with the rules, bullshit and not get too upset over getting screwed.  You’ll be screwing up the other player at some point, too.  Sure, they are already backed, so let’s work on getting those stretch goals met!

EDIT: I recently caved and contributed 110$ to this campaign.  I got the early razor and the cheerleaders!  Ra ra! EDIT EDIT: I just bumped my backing up to 180$.  The things that made me do this was the fact that I was already at 150$ due to add-ons.  I also wanted to get my mitts on the extra team that was unlocked (Fury) and I wanted to get two teams’ cheerleaders! Sis boom ba! EDIT EDIT EDIT: Yea, changed it again.. hopefully the last..  230$ now so I can get my name on a card and a couple of cheerleaders teams! WOO TAH! ED.. oh you get the idea..  So I caved and I went for the Hall of Fame backing.  480$ for my name and picture in the game as well as the cheerleaders and every perk from the Butcher level.  I guess I will be really abstaining from backing people for a while! X P!

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Fuck Chess! We’re Playing Beguile!

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I am not the right kind of smart to play chess.  A lot of people suck at it, and just being smart doesn’t help.  It takes a certain patience and a skill for long-term planning, both require focus, discipline and training.  It also requires a strong resistance to falling asleep while sitting down, ability to avoid daydreaming and a skill for not flipping the board when you lose after 4 hours of grueling play.  O yea, and if you play it in the park, you have to do all this on a fucking timer.  Fuck that!  I am just not studied enough in the art of chess to really know how to play!  I know the basics though.  Plenty of sorry fuckers know the basics!  We were fucking taught them by some masochistic prick (or prickess) that taught us to play only so they could experiment with strategies before mercilessly murdering us.  It’s not funny.  It’s not fucking fair.  And it is about fucking time we got even.

Thanks to this fucking guy, we’ll be able to do just that.  Study that face.  He’s is the guy normal people like me will be hi-fiving while our chess-skilled friends will hire a band of rabid ninja monkeys to hunt him down.  Really, I am pretty sure that the kickstarter for the game will be used to fend off rabid bands of ninja monkeys.  All he did was add cards to chess.  Yup.  That is fucking it!  So what do they do?  Oh, my that is the fun part.  In short, they will make it so that you will be on fair ground against your chess-club friends.  It makes chess shorter, more fun and hilarious.  Our game took only an hour and a half, accounting for the stops to marvel at the wonderful art on the cards.  The creator was able to send me some demo PDF’s that I printed for play!

Had my pawns running offense for my knight until he was taken with this card, getting an enemy knight one extra space for the kill!

Had my pawns running offense for my knight until he was taken with this card, getting an enemy knight one extra space for the kill!

My brother Joel has an awesome twili… I MEAN.. vampires vs werewoles chess set.  Black is werewolves, white is vampires.  It went with the medieval theme of the game, and even played on some of its more magical or demonic cards.  You play chess as normal, except at the start each player gets 5 cards.  You can play one card per turn and there are two different card types: T cards that take up a whole turn and C cards that play concurrently with a piece move.  Now, I started off the shenanigans with a “Rally the Troops” card that allowed me to move three pawns at once!  It was one hell of an opening move that made my brother laugh and get his game on!

As we played we realized that this made chess casual and even entertaining.  We scarcely took the game more seriously than we would have if we were playing parcheesi.  And as each card went down, it made one of us laugh and groan simultaneously.  After a few turns, I started really getting devious with Joel.  I charged my rook through a pawn with “Phantasmic Step” and took my brother’s rook, leaving him a little confused.  This happened a lot though, one or the other of us would make a crafty play or take a good piece and we’d look at the card: half to verify that was actually in the deck, half to see the artwork and read the card itself.  The cards can often be funny and they make a serious effort to look really really nice, which worked.  Look through the cards on the Beguile site.  Rather lovely.

Our majestic wall of Old Spice

Our majestic wall of Old Spice

Then there is this fucking card.  Did you read that card?  Yea, I was mopping the floor with him.  I got all of his pawns, a rook, a knight and even his queen while simultaneously making a few devious plays of my own.  I used “Necromancy” after sacrificing my queen for a good capture, then I used a bishop to take a few pieces and played “Sacrificial Lamb” to sacrifice a pawn and keep my bishop.  I was closing in for the kill… then he played that shit up there!  I heaved a massive sigh and traded spots with him.  Now faced with grim prospects, I began picking my attacks more carefully.

Joel started getting really devious, throwing out a few plays that got a couple of my pieces.  At one point he played “Holy Warrior” and moved his knight like a bishop to take my knight.  Except I had “Man in the Mirror” and took his knight instead!  There were a number of really clever plays he got off, but by the luck of  the cards I was able to get his army down to nothing but a king.  I got his king into checkmate and!   …. He played “Back Against the Wall” teleporting the king across the board.  He was also able to use catacombs to get across the board and take a couple of my last remaining pieces with just his fucking king!  That was ok, though.  After a while I was letting him take all my pieces.  just waiting.   Waiting until stalemate.  Once it happened I stood victorious!  I threw down “Sir Charles Roundhouse”, which allows you to win in a stalemate!  I got that card on the second turn and was able to really give it to him!

Sir Charles Roundhouse now has a barony in the wolf-lands of Nothern Siberia.

Sir Charles Roundhouse now has a barony in the wolf-lands of Nothern Siberia.

The moral of this story is that you don’t need to know how to play chess to have fun with chess anymore.  Beguile adds some great flavor and a faster pace to a game that is traditionally pretty tough and makes it casual and entertaining in ways that it was never meant to be.  The great news is that the Kickstarter is already past 50%!  Woochah!  Let’s get some money in there so we can start working on those stretch goals!  (note to Americans: It’s a Canadian Kickstarter, so exchange rates account for the shipping cost!)  This would be a fantastic addition to any nerd’s game cabinet!  I wonder if something like this could be done for checkers?

Lift Off!, Devious Extra-terrestrial Boardgaming

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As kids, my brothers and I loved to play board games, and when we played they got rowdy.  With five of us all told, whether we started fighting or not, it was always an interesting game.  Granted, my oldest brother always made up new rules, so my second oldest brother was always the one consulting the rule book to shoot him down.  Rainy days, snow days, days we didn’t feel like going outside: any reason would do to ransack the attic looking for one of the numerous boxes of board games that my parents kept around.

Lift off is a board game that would have been an awesome find in one of those boxes.  The art is cool and the concept is simple enough for a bunch of kids to comprehend.  The story is something simple and fun: someone tripped over a cord at the center of the planet and now it’s caused a cataclysmic chain reaction that will annihilate the planet!  Sounds like a doomsday scenario that only a programmer could imagine.  One little tiny thing is off and everything explodes.  When you start a game, you build the board.  This is similar to other board games, except that the pieces are HUGE so there is no way to really mess it up.  You start with the core, which is the center of the planet and the game board.  Apparently aliens hang out at the core of their planet, not the surface.  There are four exit points, providing egress from the core, and four lift off points, to get you the hell off the planet!  Once the board is built, everyone draws two cards, the moon is set at the top of the board and the sun is placed in the day tracker.

Also at the center of the board, there is this giant, ugly gargoyle.  He starts in the same place as all your little aliens, whom are in the midst of a mass exodus from the planet, so that never bodes well.  He looks like the embodiment of planetary disappointment.  Your world’s final ‘fuck you’ before you leave it to explode into space-dust.  If you want to follow along with how you play this game, I am basically writing this article alongside the explanation of the game, delivered by creator Eduardo Baraf on his kickstarter.

A lot of pieces, but at least most of them are big.  I hate it when there are a billion tiny pieces for you to lose... cause I usually do just that..

A lot of pieces, but at least most of them are big. I hate it when there are a billion tiny pieces for you to lose… cause I usually do just that with them..

During your turn, you can do any combination of 4 things.  First, you can move your aliens.  Again, these are the little guys that are trying to escape the planet and the focus of the whole game.  Each turn you get 2 moves.  Typically, you can move one alien out to the perimeter via an exit point for one move.  You can also move that alien from one board section to another using one move.  Now, moving is important and all, but it’s not everything.

The next action you can take in a turn is placing your resource cards at a lift off point.  So, at the start of each turn, you draw two cards.  (for those following along, this means on your first turn you’ll have 4 cards)  Now this is how it works.  You can move your little aliens around the board, but when you place him on a lift off point, you have to spend resources to get them “onboard” the lift off point.  For instance, Ed (the game’s creator), shows us that it takes 2 screws to board the satellite and that it can hold up to 3 aliens.  Once you get an alien to the satellite, you spend 2 screws and he boards the satellite.  It’s like paying Charon the boatman, but instead of trying to buy a badass yacht to shepherd souls to the afterlife, I guess he is trying to build one instead.  I congratulate him on his new-found work ethic.  Removing an alien from a lift off point also costs the same amount of resources as placing them, so, unless you want to be stuck in some kind of hardware pyramid scheme, leave the fuckers where they are.  As the aliens pay to board the points, they start paying the cost.  Once the full cost of the point is paid, the point takes off and the aliens are given to their respective players.

Now, the satellite is an easy take off point.  It costs 6 screws to get going, 2 screws to board and takes off at any time.  Some of the other lift off points are more complex.  Take the rocket for example.  That shit can hold 6 people and costs 6 fuel and 6 screws to take off.  You pay 1 fuel and 1 screw to board it.  In addition, it can only take off during a full moon!  The fuck!?  So apparently this moon mechanic is important.  At the end of each player’s turn, it moves to the next slot over on the board.  If you have any talent for physical extrapolation, you’ll see from the pieces of the board above, it forms a circular shape.  Now, if the moon is directly above a section of the board, say the rocket, it is a full moon at the rocket.  If it is on the section of the board directly opposite the rocket, it is a new moon at the rocket.  When the moon is at any section in between the rocket and the section opposite the rocket, it is a half moon.  So the fucking rocket only takes off when the moon is directly above it.  Fucking showboater.

Personally, I would favor the Stargate.  Cause it's fucking awesome.

Personally, I would favor the Stargate. Cause it’s fucking awesome.

Moving back to the original structure of this article that I seem to have abandoned faster than the aliens in this game leave their planet, the next type of action is using action cards.  These cards are where things get really interesting.  They have a variety of effects on the game, all of which Ed explains, none of which I will explain.  These cards let you manipulate the mechanics of the game so that you can get your aliens off the planet quicker or prevent the other players from lifting off.  So, for instance, I might use terraform to swap out a lift off tile that will allow me to take off faster with one of my aliens leaving everyone else to fend for themselves.  Heh heh heh!  I’ll take the jetpack, you assholes can take the trampoline off the planet!  One of the biggest dick moves is to relocate the gargoyle.  If you move that fucker to a lift off point, it cannot take off at all, regardless of how many screws they gave to Charon.  Granted, you can always move him back to the center on your turn with the gargoyle card or when the moon reaches its original resting point.

The last type of action is pretty simple and common to a lot of games.  Discard.  This is basically a way to trade off items and gamble a little to try to get what you need.  You can discard two cards in order to draw another card.  Discard two resources for an action card or any combo of two cards for another card.

Now the way game progress is tracked is the combination of the sun and the moon.  Every time the moon reaches its starting position on the board, the sun moves forward a spot on the day tracker.  There are several day spots and then a run of explosion spots with numbers.  The numbers relate to a number of players.  So with the most players in a game, five, you have nine days until the planet explodes.  This means that with 8 moon slots on the board, the game gives 5 players a grand total of 40 turns to GTFO.  Of course, who ever has removed the most aliens from the board when it explodes wins the game.

Murder, my favorite pass time!  Also, Red Rum, my second favorite drink!

Murder, my favorite pass time! Also, Red Rum, my second favorite drink!

Why should you give this guy you money?  Well, aside from getting a copy of Lift Off! he’ll also throw in a copy of one of his other games, Murder of Crows.  Eddie B has a lot of neat shit they want to do the more money they can get, so check out the entire kickstarter, review the donation options and get neat stuff!  As of right now, this campaign is 51% there.  With 22 days left, this is a project that is worth betting some money on.  But wait!  There’s m0re!  Are you from the EU?  This game is EU-friendly, so all rewards for backers in the EU and US will ship for free.  Stick that in your pip and smoke it.

Smallworld, Better Than Pit-Fighting Midgets!

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Originally a board game, Smallworld 2 is really just a board game on your computer.  If you have played the board game, just imagine playing that game on your computer.  That is this game.  Go ahead.  Just exit the webpage.  Yup….  Ok, is he gone? Good.  Now that it is just those of you who have never played the board game, let me tell you about this weid ass board game I found!

Essentially, it is 8 turns of mayhem during which you have to use several races to get you as much money as possible.  Apparently all the creatures and peoples of this mythical land worship the same god: The God of Gold.  I mean, you control numerous people across the ages and collect coins at the end of each turn.  The winner has the most coins by the end.  So, yes, ultimately it is a game about collecting more coins than two italian plumbers before the timer runs out.

First turn you pick a race, and each race comes with a little prefix.  These can be things like hill, mountain, seafaring, imperial, diplomatic, etc. And each of these prefixes adds a special feature to the race to which it is affixed.  Each race naturally has a special ability, so adding the two together can either seriously enhance or considerably weaken the clout of each race combo.  This is honestly the biggest source of laughs and chuckles this game has to offer.  When you get combos like beserk leprechauns or dragon-riding pygmies, you know there is something wrong with the world in that demented hilarity kind of way.  Like sucking someone’s brains out with a swirly straw.

My first race combo was Spirit Humans.  Humans just get you one extra gold for each farmland they end the turn holding.  The spirit prefix makes it so that they add one race to the number you have in decline.  What is decline?  Well, I am glad you asked!  You know how every absurdly arrogant prick you know has the same book about the rise and fall of the roman empire on his bookshelf?  Well, this is the only game that gives that guy a semi-reasonable segue to bring up that book.  As an empire rises, so, too, must it fall.  When your empire goes into decline, the army tokens flip over and extras are removed from the board.  Going into decline is useful and necessary.  In an average session of Smallworld 2 you will have 3 – 4 empires.  You will still receive 1 coin for each region held by a race in decline and you can have only 1 race in decline at a time.  Unless you had a spirit race.  Then you can have 2.  That makes it a pretty useful little prefix to keep an eye out for.

Damned imperial pixies with their Death Star!  There is no way to beat that shit!

Damned imperial pixies with their Death Star! There is no way to beat that shit!

You may have noticed that each prefix and race has a number on it.  Totaled together, those numbers indicate how many armies your race will start with at the beginning of its turn.  Each turn your race will start from an edge and battle its way inland until it is no longer an effective way of doing business.  At the beginning of each turn, generally speaking, you will get additional forces in the number of regions you possess with a given race.  So, right off the bat, playing a race for more than 2 turns is a bad idea, unless it really isn’t.

On the topic of beserk leprechauns, that was my second race.  They cut a bloody swath through the territories of the battle dwarfs and skirted around my former spirit humans.  Leprechauns also have the added benefit of getting a pot ‘o’ gold on each region they own and, upon entering decline, each pot ‘o’ gold counts as 1 coin.  Unless some asshole cuts a fucking path through your territory with his stupid ass hill vampires.  Lame as fuck.  He got 1 coin for each pot ‘o’ gold he captured.  Same with the underground amazons.  Bitches…

Flying Dwarfs.  Isn't the idea the same if you exchange 'dwarves' for 'lead'?  Nevermind.  Lead is less stinky.

Flying Dwarfs. Isn’t the idea the same if you exchange ‘dwarves’ for ‘lead’? Nevermind. Lead is less stinky, less hairy and less alcoholic.

Fun to kill some time.  And BOY do you have options on that note.  I mean, you can watch the bots take their turns.  I did once or twice.  Then I found the ‘FUCK IT I HAVE A LIFE’ skip button.  Then again, if you find yourself on your computer playing a board game by yourself you have the special kind of issues.  Of course, this game has DLC’s which do exactly what an expansion pack for a board game would do: add more pieces to a game with way too fucking many pieces already.  Luckily this is a virtual board game, which leads me to speculate this was the reason for making it a video game.  You can find this title on Steam for 14.99$, the DLC’s total up at 10.97$ altogether.  My special thanks to The Dead Sparticus for cluing me in!  I guess I get so steamed up that I occasionally forget to mention where to get the fucking game!

Among the things that fucking anger me the most in this game nothing.. NOTHING angers me more than the fact that they have to put MOUNTAIN TILES on the MOUNTAIN REGIONS!  They did this in the fucking board game too!  Seriously!  Like, it is a picture of mountains with a mountain tile made specially to display it is a mountain.  And does this mean that no one can traverse this ever so superfluous terrain additive? NO! It just takes MORE FUCKING PEOPLE to take that shit!  It is almost like those assholes over at Days of Wonder are trying to make trees a thing of the past or laminated cardboard into a new currency standard. GAH! I’m just going to leave this here..

dawg