Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another new game: Julius Caesar block game

Another game that my brother and I played during PacifiCon was Columbia Games new block game Julius Caesar. JC, as I'll call it, is very reminiscent of other recent Columbia Block games such as Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex in that you play a card each turn then move that many groups of blocks.

JC adds the extra mechanic that movement cards have both a number (Roman numeral in this case) showing how many groups you can move, and symbols for how many steps can be recruited after movement. These steps can be to rebuild damaged blocks or to recruit new blocks. The extra wrinkle in this game is that many blocks, such as Roman legions, can only be recruited at a particular city. So, leaders find themselves having to move a block to that city (fighting for it if necessary), then using one of their recruitment steps to "build" a new legion. The legion is built at strength 1, so it's still very fragile at first, and players may have to spend several turns improving it so that it's fit to fight.

In our first game, which only lasted a few turns, I found it confusing knowing where all these recruitable legions were located. I suggested that we place these recruitable legions on the board face down. It then became obvious what cities were important to both sides for recruitment purposes.

This is a good game. Block game fans should check it out.

New game played: Marcher Lords

My brother was able to come visit me for PacifiCon over Labor Day. One of the the new games that we tried was Fiery Dragon's game The Marcher Lords. It's a medieval game about a relatively rare subject: the Normal invasion of Wales during the 11th century. Our mother's maiden name is Bowen (Welsh "ab Owen"), originally from the Swansea area. As such, both of us were interested in a simple game involving the invasion of Wales.

The game has some interesting asymmetric features:

- All reinforcements are random draws. The Welsh get infantry and bows, while the Normans get infantry, knights, and crossbows. The Normans have better fighters, including Knights, but the Welsh have more bows which get to fire first in combat. The Welsh do have some cavalry, but they appear at the start and can't leave their home kingdom. The first Norman reinforcement into a newly conquered area is a castle, which then shores up the defense of forces in that area. Often, the Welsh must try to reconquer an area quickly before the Normans can build their castle.
- The Normans can invade wherever and whenever they like, but any Welsh kingdoms adjacent to conquered areas become mobilized so that they begin receiving reinforcement. Welsh kingdoms not adjacent to conquered areas just sit there, as the Norman's aren't this kingdom's problem (yet!). So the Normans may want to invade only some areas so that the Welsh don't get as many reinforcements.
- To invade, the Norman force must be in supply. The more units they attack a Welsh kingdom with and the farther this kingdom is from the home Earldom, the harder it is to be able to commit resources. The Welsh only roll for supply when attacking a home Earldom.
- There are random events that come into play. At one point, the Vikings attacked the Normans, conquering one of their castles forcing the Normans to deal with them.

It was a pleasant game, finishing in a couple of hours. We were pretty pleased with the game; I'd rate it about a 6.5. It has some nice features, and might also make a nice game for a miniatures campaign.