27 February 2015

Store Championship at Armored Gopher (Urbana, IL) TOMORROW!

Yup, barring any late developing Midwestern winter storms, yours truly will be at the Store Championship presented by Urbana, Illinois' Armored Gopher on Saturday (tomorrow, at time of writing). I have no idea if they still have open slots or not, but Sean called and got us signed up only yesterday, so you're probably good if you're on the fence about going.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and say, "Hi!". Or if you're lucky enough to draw me as an opponent, pick up a few easy points, lols. Tourney starts at 2:00pm according to Sean. We might be there a little early.

Hope to see y'all there!


X-Wing Kickstarter- Dynamic Colored X-Wing Template Sets

I know, I know.

You already have a really dope set of acrylic templates.

Yup. Now you're pulling out your credit card for another

Are those sweet or what, y'all? The thing's already funded, and the campaign doesn't even end until 7 March. Note also they're doing some pretty nice looking translucent acrylic tokens too. Looks like you can hook them up as a set or in the form of add-ons. Oh, and they're selling non-slip inserts for the bottom of your ship's bases.

I'm in for at least Mandalorian. How about you?

Big ups to +Clifford Holm for bringing this to my attention!

24 February 2015

Guest Article- Against Marksmanship by Punning Pundit

Against Marksmanship:

Hello hello! I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about the card Marksmanship recently, and sat down to write a really annoyed missive about it. Our barkeeper, Clint, kindly agreed to host my thoughts here.

Before I dive in: online, I tend to go by “Punning Pundit”, and I’ll give 5 house points to anyone who can tell me- based on my cognomen- what my Major and Minor were in college.I blog about Class Warfare and Video Games over at Indignant Desert Birds, and tweet about the same stuff, and my dog Branson. I’ve been playing X-Wing since Christmas eve 2011, when my then-GF bought me the core set. Dear reader, a year later we were married.

So: I kinda hate Marksmanship. Probably more than it deserves, which is odd, given how much hate it does deserve. It’s the sort of card that looks good until you get to know the game better, and then you realize how little it actually does for you. The designers were still figuring the game out when they made the card, and players tend to only use it when they’re new.

Lets take a look at the text:
(3 points)

Action: When attacking this round, you may change 1 of your (eyeball) results to a (crit) result and all of your other (eyeball) results to (hit) results.

In effect, it uses your action to create a sort of pseudo-Focus. The biggest difference between Marksmanship and spending Focus on offense is that Marksmanship turns 1 (eyeball) into a crit. Because the action is not actually a focus action, it can’t be stolen by Palob Godalhi, nor can Carnor Jax prevent its being taken as an action, or spent as a token. Nor can it be banked by Mody Crow, passed around by Garven Dreis, or negated by Wes Janson.

Lets go all the way to the basics: this game is won by rolling enough more successes on red dice than your opponent rolls successes on green dice to account for every hull that your opponent has- and doing it faster than your opponent does the same thing to you. (As an aside: that sentence would be a lot easier in algebraic notation, or written in Latin/Greek. Sorry about that).

Lets take a break for today’s asterisk.

(Credit: some guy on YouTube)

When building a squad, points should be spent either on doing damage to enemy ships, or mitigating damage your own ships are taking. The Marksmanship action does not improve the odds of a hit more than a Focus action does. Instead, it marginally improves the odds that, if you cause your opponent to suffer damage, it will be a critical hit.

This seems like rather over-valuing critical hits. By way of comparison, look at the Heavy Laser Cannon and the Mangler Cannon. The HLC does 4 dice at ranges 2 and 3, converts (crits) to (hits)- before dice are modified- and costs 7 points. The Mangler Cannon tosses 3 Dice at ranges 1-3, converts 1 (hit) to a (crit) at any point before the defender rolls dice, and costs… 3 points less than the HLC. This tells us that a critical hit is worth significantly less than a fourth attack die.

Don’t get me wrong: All things being equal, I’d rather roll 3 (crits) than 3 (hits). But unless your name is Ten Numb [Most of this article has a giant asterisk next to it “unless your name is Ten Numb], those (crits) won’t actually make it easier for you to hit another ship.

Does the Marksmanship action give you a better chance to hit than the Focus action does? Nope. At least- not for any single attack. And if you roll an attack with no (eyeball) results, you’ve actually done worse than you would have had you instead chosen the Focus action- Focus tokens can be spent on defense as well as offense.

Crits are good though, right? Well yeah! They can annoy the heck out of your opponent. But for a crit to land, it has to A) Be against your opponent’s unshielded hull, B) Not be the final single damage that kills your opponent (so: a “direct hit” crit that dips your opponent into negative 1 hull is kinda wasted) C) Not be against Chewie.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that spending 3 points for the option of taking the Marksmanship action is overspending for the privilege of putting crits on your opponent. Compounding that, you’re also being a lot less flexible on defense.

Feeling a bit Numb from reading all this?

(credit: a different guy on YouTube)

If all you wish to do is modify your roll, Predator offers a lot more flexibility, does not require an action, costs the same amount of points, and can be combined with a Focus token to convert any straggling (eyeballs) into (hits).

When might Marksmanship be a good idea? I might put Marksmanship onto a build that was going to fire twice in one round, when it also had access to other ways to modify dice. For instance: Coran Horn, with Fire Controll System, and Marksmanship is not the worst thing I’ve ever heard of. I might slap Experimental Interface and an R2 unit on there, just for extra funsies. And then moan that I’ve just eaten half my list on a single ship with 5 hp.

Or maybe: Ibitsam + FCS, Marksmanship, E2 (modification), and Gunner. It will shave 6 points off the Corran build, and cost you 2 PS. Notice, though, that you could get rid of Marksmanship and Gunner in favor of Crew!Luke, and get very nearly the same chance-to-hit, be action independant, and it will actually save you a point.
For super trolling, try: IG-88B + FCS + HLC + Marksmanship + IG-2000.

Remember: you’re not paying for the privilege to turn an (eyeball) into a (crit), but rather for the privilege of turning (eyeball) into (successes) on more than one attack. Frankly, in all the times I’ve run Buzzsaws, it’s been extremely rare for me to need a focus in addition to a pair of target locks on a pair of attacks. Since the FCS/Gunner combo is action-free, it works even when you’ve been blocked. And yeah, writing this post just made me realize how awesome Crew!Luke is.

The StarViper expansion comes with a card called “Calculation”, which will do much of what most of us want Marksmanship to do, and only costs 1 point. It’s still a very situational card (but wonderful on Ten Numb. Pairs so well with an Ion Cannon on Ten Numb that it’s ridiculous.)

So Marksmanship: it takes an action to for marginal gain, uses an EPT, and leaves you incredibly vulnerable in your defense. Marksmanship: It’s a trap.

(I tried very hard to find something with “Ten Numb” and “trap”, but alas.)

23 February 2015

Tournament Talk- Evansville, IN Store Championship 2015

'Grats Cliffy- Evansville, IN Store Champion 2015!

So a month ago or so, my pal Sean messaged me the time and date for Armored Gopher's Store Championship in Urbana, IL. You may or may not recall, I played in their SC last year, met some cool folks, and had an all around good time, so after consulting with the work and the fam, I made plans to attend again this year (it's on 28 Feb, or this Saturday if you're scoring at home). 

Now, as you've likely guessed from my infrequent updates the past, oh six months? I've not been playing a lot lately. Work has been work, the wife is taking classes online to get her Master's, it's kind of a long story as to why, but I've been spending free time shooting guns a lot lately, and we've been playing games besides X-Wing on the weekends via Hangouts. I didn't really want to walk into the Store Championship tournament completley cold, but I was having a hard time making it by the X-Wing League Night that Cliff has going these days on Thursday evenings at Comics Quest in Evansville. 

Chas's Daughter did the sign. I didn't ask her name or take her pic because I thought it'd be creepy for a 40-year old dude in a Metal Bikini shirt to ask what appeared to be a 13-year old girl her name and if he could put a picture of it and her on his website

Then a couple weeks ago, Cliff sent out an email saying that he was going to be TO'ing a Store Championship at Comics Quest here in Evansville on 23 Feb, which surprisingly seemed do-able even with my goofy work, kid-watching, and gun shooting schedule. 

I spent the last week or so talking about lists with Sean and I'd decided that I wanted to try and run the following- 

Seems fun, right? Yeah, well, I thought so too. In fact, I thought it would be so fun that it didn't even occur to me until Friday afternoon at work that not only do I not own 4 A-Wings, I also don't have four Stealth Devices (I also probably don't own 4 Proton Rockets, but that seemed to be trivial comparatively at that point).

Anyhizzle, I was like, "Ah jeez, what the hell am I gonna do now?" 

After stopping by the local FLGSes on my way home from work and coming up empty-handed on both another A-Wing and a Firespray, I punted and tried to go back to my safe zone of a Dreis-Dutch list which also included Gemmer. I tried it out on Sean (who was running a bog standard Fat Han) Friday night. It didn't do well. Gemmer did ok, but I was kinda wishing I'd have found the points for Jake Farrell, and well, maybe I should try to make a Jake-Dreis-Lando list work somehow, or maybe I should just roll a couple of Advanced with Proton Rockets and Vader, and blah, blah, blah. Now, it's like 2am and I've got a Store Championship I'd rather not completely embarrass myself at in 10 hours and nothing in my head is fitting together well at all. 

So after some deliberation, I decided to get out of my safe zone and not only did I not play a ship that involved pilots I'd never actually played before Friday night, I also decided to go against my usual tendencies and run a 3-ship Rebel list that didn't include a Falcon.

With zero experience with the list and only a few hours of sleep between my late-night of coming up with said list and my youngest waking up at 2:50am from a nightmare, I arrived at Comics Quest ill-prepared and with a Diet Mountain Dew IV, and by IV I mean intravenous, not a Diet Dew Mark 4, about 10 minutes before the shindig was supposed to kick off. I was happy I'd get to play though, so it was all good. 

My first opponent was the eventual tournament winner and all-around good guy, +Clifford Holm. You may remember Cliff- I've mentioned him on here a couple of times in the past and if memory serves, he may have even written an article or two for the Bikini. He's been running a Biggs, Ten Nunb, and two Prototype A-Wings list for awhile now and he's gotten pretty solid with it. Obviously, I'd been banking on my ships being hard to hit until they could get to Range 1 and dump those rockets on somebody's head, but when Cliff told me the was rolling Ten with Autoblaster I knew I was gonna have a hard time. 

Sparing you the gory details, I managed to get Biggs off the map fairly quickly (no small feat as he was sporting R2-F2 and a Stealth Device), and things were fairly even as we got tangled up in a pretty good traffic jam for a few turns, but eventually, the Ten B-Wing got loose in the hairball as they're wont to do and starting auto-hitting my A-Wings, with no chance for them to evade damage because of the synergy between his card text and Autoblaster. After 1 match, I was 0-1. 

I went outside to catch a vape and when I came back in, I was informed I'd be bye'ed into the next round as we had an odd number of people present. I'm not 100% sure how I was selected for the bye, but I'm pretty sure it's because I had the lowest point total after the first round (31). In any case, I spent the next 75 minutes vaping, making small talk, deciding that I was probably being kinda distracting making small talk, thought I should be courteous and STFU, went back outside for another vape, posted some pics on G+, thought it'd be cool to take some pics of the other participants actually, you know, playing, for the site, went back inside to do that, and grabbed another Diet Dew. 

Cliff v Craig

Jeff v Cameron

Troy v Chas

For the third round, I drew Craig, who had driven up in the sleet, snow, and ice from Dawson Springs, Kentucky where he'd run a Store Championship tournament of his own, and I think won. Craig is a super cool guy if you've ever met him- he gets around the X-Wing scene; went to Gencon and checked out Nationals as a spectator and is a fixture on the FFG Boards as Bjorn Rockfist. He was running a Fat Han with 3 Z-95s in support. 

Craig doin' his thang

If you thought my game against Cliff was underwhelming, I managed to get zero points off the table against Craig. The highlight of my match against him was touching off Gemmer's Proton Rockets after the Falcon had been stripped of it's Evades and/ or Focus tokens which allowed for Gemmer's Opportunist to kick in and give me a six Attack dice rocket shot, of which I actually managed to roll three hits and three Focuses, which I subsequently was able to turn into hits. Wasn't enough to down the Falcon as I'd only managed to take off a shield point or two in the turns leading up to that point, but it was pretty cool to see a little ol' A-Wing rip off six hit points. 

To be honest, I'm not sure what place I came in. Cliff won, I believe that Craig placed second. I have to assume if I wasn't in sole possession of last place, I was at least tied for it. We were all trying to get out of Dodge before all the rain and slush turned completely back into ice, so once we'd all been given our swag and congratulated Cliff on his victory, we split. It was a good time though, and I'm glad I got to try my list out before I went to the tournament in Urbana as it would have been even more disappointing to realize this list had a couple of fundamental flaws after driving all the way up there. 

Main thing I noticed was Marksmanship on Tycho the way I have him set up didn't result in the synergy I'd hoped for. It seems so obvious now, having played the list twice and, well, you know having some sleep and all, but I'd somehow got it into my head that having the Focus and the Marksmanship would be totally handy as I could use the Focus defensively then use Marksmanship to affect the rocket roll, but in reality they kinda conflict with each other. You have to have the Focus to touch off the Missiles, so paying for three points for Marksmanship when you have to have the Focus anyway, but not spend it, is a waste in a list this tight. I'm still not entirely sure about the way I had Gemmer set up with Opportunist either, but Jake Farrell was and is, simply awesome. That dude I absolutely love now. If you've not flown him before, give him a try. Especially if you're a mainly Imperial player who likes (or liked) to run those three ship lists with like Vader, Soontir Fel, and Turd Ferguson. You'll find Jake is right up your alley. Having an A-Wing that can Barrel Roll doesn't seem like that big of a deal on paper, but I found myself wishing I'd had it available on Tycho especially too. Hmmm... 

The prize spread. Box of tissues not included. P.S.- If you squint, you can see my hand-written list in there. Printer wasn't working, so I had to go old school.

So the Urbana tournament is this weekend at the time of writing and I'm in something of a quandary- Sean has enough models and cards that I actually could run the 4-ship A-Wing list with Gemmer that I'd initially dreamed up, but I keep thinking with a bit of work on the upgrades, I could make that Tycho, Jake, Gemmer list work a lot better than it did yesterday, so I don't know. I'll have to think about it a bit before the weekend. I'm also going to try like hell to make it by CQ this Thursday to give the list Mark 2 a trial before I pack it up north. I'll let you know how it goes. 

On the bright side, I did get an alternative art Soontir Fel card and a super swanky X-Wing dice bag for participating.  

Yes- I am mixing my gaming metaphors, so to speak. I didn't want to pack my entire collection up there, so I put my stuff in my Imperial Bolter Ammo can (which got some compliments, by the way- it is pretty dope, after all).

It was cool getting to meet the guys from the X-Wing group that Cliff has put together and I was totally impressed with Craig driving all the way up in the ice and whatnot from Kentucky. Was fun to talk some shop in person for a change too- not that I don't love all y'all's emails and G+ posts and whatnot of course, just good to get back out into the community for a little bit before I sequester myself out beyond the Dune Sea again, y'know? 

Oh, and in an effort to show some solidarity to the store for hosting the tournament and to console myself after such demoralizing losses, I picked this up too- 

... which I'm like totally stoked to check out. I don't know if y'all are up on this Golem Arcana business, but it sounds friggin' awesome and seems as though it'd work over Hangouts without a lot of the work we normally have to do playing stuff over the internet. Give me a couple of weeks to play around with it and I'll post a review. 

So once again, congrats to Cliff, shout-outs to all the other participants, and I hope to see some of y'all in Urbana this weekend at Armored Gopher! 


20 February 2015

Store Tournaments, Scum and Villainy

Store Tournament- Evansville, IN

So I don't know how many of y'all are somewhat local to the area, and by the area, I mean my area, but lo and behold, it would appear that I might actually get to play in my local store tournament. 

If you do happen to be around Evansville, the tournament is going to be at Comic Quest and starts at noon on Saturday (21 Feb). Entry is $10, 100 point lists, etc. etc. 

I'm under the impression this is an actual FFG Sanctioned Store Championship with the usual trappings as such, but to be honest, I'm not 100% sure on that. I don't want to sound negative or anything, just saying that although I'm literally like 5 minutes away from this store, I've had zero involvement whatsoever with this, so take this more as information rather than an endorsement. Mainly saying that in case some of y'all out-of-towners see this and feel strongly one way or another about officially sanctioned tournaments. In any case, I do plan on attending assuming nothing crazy in my personal life goes down. 

As for what I'll be flying, well, it'll either be really effective or really stupid. I've not had a chance to play much at all the past few months, but as I'm wont to do, I shunned the usual tournament lists for something of my own devising. It's slightly cooler than my 4 TIE Advanced list I rolled at the Urbana Regionals last year, and by cooler I mean more dangerous, but who knows if I'll actually be able to do anything with it. I'll tell y'all all about it on Monday. 

Those of y'all playin' in your Store Championships- what are you flying? Are you sticking with Fat Hans and VT/ Phantoms or what? 

Scum and Villainy Release TODAY!

As usual, I'm actually writing this in advance, but from everything I've seen, by the time you read this (or very shortly thereafter), S&V will finally be available. I don't know if the same West Coast longshoreman's slowdown is what's been affecting S&V's release date, but it's definitely been causing some issues with overseas parts here at the plant. In any case, they're supposed to be available from your favorite retailer today, so for those of y'all who didn't pre-order, you oughta be able to swing by your local FLGS or your favorite internet game store and get hooked up with S&V. 

10 February 2015

Carbon Squadron Campaign Part 1- The Spice Run

I realize that y'all are probably embroiled in your Regionals list testing phases and all, but if you need a diversion, I got an idea for a set of linked missions earlier this evening and spent the past hour or so fleshing them out a bit. 

The first mission is available for you to check out here

If y'all dig it, I'll make the rest of them and do a little writing to help flesh out the story. 

If ya don't? No harm, no foul. 

I'll warn you in advance, I didn't playtest it, so if any of you have (constructive) feedback, let a brotha know. 

02 February 2015

Elder Sign Review

At this point, and by this point I mean dangerously close to 41, I don't remember how or what exactly made me get interested in H.P. Lovecraft and his crazy writings. I remember reading his stories while I was in high school, and I was into him enough that my buddy Sean got me a Cthlhu for President sticker before the 92' (American Presidential) Election, so it's been at least that long. 

Anyway, point is I've enjoyed the Mythos for a long time. I've read most all of the stories at some time or another, so naturally when Mythos stuff comes out, I'm interested in it by default. Unfortunately over the years, that's largely lead to disappointment, but there have been some bright spots here and there. 

Elder Sign is one of those bright spots. 

The Game Itself
At it's core, Elder Sign is a dice game. In a way, it's kinda like a Cthulhu-themed Yahtzee! kind of thing. There's more to it than that, but when I describe it to people, that's what I say and it's pretty well nails the main mechanic of the game. Elder Sign is produced by Fantasy Flight Games, so you likely have a few suspicions about it going into it, and in all likelihood, you're probably right. 

Elder Sign has lots of things in common with the other FFG game I play a lot, X-Wing Miniatures. First, like with a lot of FFG games, there are a lot of "parts." 

Game in Progress shot of Elder Sign
(Dig my awesome period set dressing props!)

There are Investigator cards, Adventure cards, Other Worlds cards, Items, Unique Items, Spells, Allies, Blessing, Curses, Mythos, Ancient Ones cards, tokens for Sanity, tokens for Stamina, tokens for Clues, tokens for the Doom Track, Elder Sign tokens, funky dice, a carboard clock... I mean it's crazy. Like X-Wing and other FFG games, they're totally necessary, and they make the game play fairly smoothly by including so many different components, but setup is something of a chore if you're not used to playing these kinds of games. 

That said, once you've played a few times, setup goes relatively quickly and isn't off-putting to the point where you don't feel like dragging everything out after working all week either. There is a fair amount of "stuff" management within the game, but again- not to a distracting degree. 

Another thing Elder Sign has in common with X-Wing is the level of complexity. On the surface, it seems like a pretty simple game; basically, the Investigators try to complete the dice criteria on the Adventure cards. If they do, they get some rewards which help them complete other Adventure Cards and/ or amass Elder Signs to help them win the game. If they don't complete the criteria, they lose Sanity, Stamina, or sometimes even something worse (cue evil laugh). 

Once you've played it through several times though, you start to appreciate the level of depth that's present in the game. I read a couple of reviews of Elder Sign before writing this just to kind of get a feel for the general consensus of the game, and it brought back memories of X-Wing's initial reviews from people about it being too simple to be engaging or something that FFG could reasonably support for a period of time. It's kinda the same thing here. Much like X-Wing, at first, you can't see why anyone would want to take anybody except for a handful of the best (easiest) Investigators, but 10 or 12 games in, you start to see the value in some of the more subtle Investigators and how they can compliment each other. 

Mythos card deck, Ancient one card, stuff

Elder Sign is cooperative for the players and there's no GM or ref running things- you're playing against the game in the form of a clock, primarily, though the actual villain in this game is the particular Ancient One you're battling. Beginning players are probably better off selecting an Ancient One, but as you get the hang of things, it's pretty intense to just choose one randomly to battle.

At the end of each Investigator's turn, the game clock advances a quarter, and when it strikes 12, another token is placed on the Ancient One's card on the Doom Track (among other things). While there are things that make the clock run faster or slower, for the most part, it's inexorable just like in real life, so basically Elder Sign is a game where you're trying to be productive in some way every turn because you're trying to beat the clock. While the amount of Doom Track spots varies somewhat, it's basically between 8 and 12 for most of the Ancient Ones. This clock mechanic also translates into a fairly fast-paced game in real life. Even with much table talk and strategy discussion, games will very rarely go past two hours, and are more frequently around 60-90 minutes. 

If the Doom Track completely fills, the Ancient One awakens and generally you're in for a bad time. I'm not saying it's impossible to win once the Awakening happens, but I've lost more than I've won at that point. Each Ancient One has a different "Attack" that occurs during this out of time battle deal and often it's just kind of luck of the draw when it comes to whether your Investigators are going to survive or if they even have an opportunity to strike back if it comes to this. 

Hopefully for you though, it won't come to this. The most common way to win is by collecting a preset number of Elder Signs as dictated by that same Ancient One card with the Doom Track and stuff on it. If you manage to collect that many Elder Signs, you lock the museum back up before the AO can awaken and you win the game. Like spots on the Doom Track, the amount of Elder Signs can vary, but it's generally around 10 or 12- usually a couple more than the number of spots on the Doom Track. 

Investigators can acquire Elder Signs by beating Adventure cards with an Elder Sign icon in the reward section of the card. Not all of the Adventure cards will net you an Elder Sign if you beat them, and they're usually harder to win if they do have an Elder Sign as a reward. 

In addition to the Doom Track getting another token, at Midnight the players have to flip the next Mythos card face up. Mythos cards will produce some kind of in-game effect for the duration of the next turn. Sometimes it's absolutely nothing, sometimes you lose a die for that entire turn. Often there's an immediate effect coupled with a turn duration kind of thing. In any case, the card tells you what's up. 

The clock and the dice

Those of y'all who have messed around with Elder Sign before will recognize the dice in the picture above, but for those of you who are completely new to the game, the black die and the white die get shuffled in with the Unseen Forces Expansion. Yes, there's another thing that Elder Sign has in common with X-Wing- it has Expansions. That said, it's only the one currently, although there's another Expansion coming soon. I plan on doing a separate review for Unseen Forces (and Gates of Arkham when it drops), so I won't talk about it a ton in this review. 

The dice are the main result generating mechanic for the game. Elder Sign includes the six, six-sided green dice you saw above as well as a yellow six-sider and a red six-sider. By default, only the green dice are available to an investigator with the red and yellow becoming available primarily through the use of Unique Items and Common Items respectively, which are represented by cards the player my discard in order to bring in those other dice. 

The green dice, like the X-Wing dice, are not adorned with numbers, but symbols. Namely, the Terror symbol which looks like some tentacles, Lore which looks like a little scroll, Peril which is represented by a skull, then three Investigation results- 1, 2, and 3. The Yellow die is exactly like the green ones,save for the fact that there's no Terror result- it's replaced with a 4 Investigation (thanks +Kaelte Container!), while the Red forgoes the Terror result in favor of a Wildcard face which resembles an Investigator's profile and can be substituted for basically any result necessary. 

When the Investigator whose turn it is decides to try and complete an Adventure card, it goes a little something like this- 

The Lights Out Adventure Card

Again, by default, an Investigator only has access to the 6 green dice, so if the player decides to try and beat the Lights Out Adventure Card, he picks up the dice and starts trying to roll the symbols shown on the card. Remember how I said it was kinda like Cthulhu Yahtzee? 

Now, this isn't quite as easy as it sounds. For each Success you roll, you actually lose that die from your die pool to try and hit the rest of the symbols. For those of you scoring at home, that means for this particular card, you've got to roll those 5 results on 6 dice. Not great odds considering that Lore (the scroll) and Peril (the skull) are only on the green die a single time. 

Making this even tougher, notice the way the symbols are laid out? Ok, so you start at the top and work your way down, so when you make that first roll, no matter what you roll, you can only complete that 3 Investigation criteria. Now yes, internet commenters, there are ways to, "Well, actually..." that statement with Spells or Investigator abilities, but by default, that's the deal. So that first roll, you pick up the six green dice, roll all of them, and if any of them turned up with the 3 Investigation symbol showing (or you have other Investigation results showing that added together equal or exceed 3), you remove it from the pool, place it on top of the 3 Investigation symbol on the Adventure card, congratulate yourself for being successful, pick up the remaining 5 dice and try to roll one of the other criteria. 

The second row is the dual Peril symbols. Making this roll tougher is the fact that on those five remaining dice, you gotta roll two skulls in this next roll- again, a symbol which is only on a single face of each green die. So you pick up the 5 dice you have left (remember, the 6th is on the Adventure card and is out of the pool), roll 'em and if you get two skulls, you take them out of the pool and place them on the card as well, then proceed onto the, in this case, final criteria of two scrolls. With only 3 dice at your disposal (cue foreboding music). 

To clarify, if there are multiple symbols showing in the same row on the Adventure card, you have to roll all of those symbols in the same roll to satisfy that criteria. 

Adventure cards- deck top right, Other Worlds card deck bottom right

So what happens if you blow it? 

You remove a die from the dice pool and try again, and if you want, you can pick out another die from that pool, keep that result, and roll the rest. Rough, huh? If all that wasn't enough to make Lights Out a real tough nut to crack, notice there to the left of the top criteria is a stone looking arrow. That symbol isn't on every Adventure card, but when it is, you have to not only hit all those criteria, you also have to hit them in the order that's on the card. It can make for a tough night, I'll tell ya. On the bright side, cards that don't feature the arrow allow you to hit the order however you want. For example, if we pretend like Lights Out doesn't have the arrow and you rolled a couple of Perils (skulls) on your first roll, you could go ahead and pluck them out of your pool to satisfy that second criteria even though they're second on the list. 

If at the end of all the rolling you manage to satisfy all the criteria on the card, you reap benefits which are dictated by that little white field on the bottom right corner of the card and return to the Souvenir Shop, which is kind of the home base for the museum all these shenanigans are taking place in. In the case of Lights Out, the Investigators would be awarded an all-important Elder Sign and a Spell card, the Adventure card is awarded to the Investigator as a Trophy, and it's replaced with a new Adventure card. If you don't manage to beat the Adventure card, it remains in play, the Investigator stays in that location, and the bad stuff that's represented in red on the lower left corner of the card happens. In this case, that'd be the loss of Stamina, an outside of Midnight advancement of the Doom Track, and the loss of a second point of Stamina. 

As you might have noticed in the pic above, there are always six Adventure cards in play with a few cards generating or removing Adventure cards (including those extra funky Other Worlds cards), but by default it's six. 

Joe Diamond, Private Dick (Huh-huh-huh. Hey Beavis- he said, "Private.")

Investigators are the personas the players adopt while exploring the Museum in Elder Sign. Generally, a player controls a single Investigator, but there's no reason you can't play multiples if you want. Me personally, I think Elder Sign is tougher with fewer Investigators than many because each Investigator has some kind of special ability. Ol' Joe Diamond up there gets two re-rolls instead of just one every time he plays a Clue token, for example. Like I said, some of the abilities are pretty straightforward in their application (think Wedge), while some are more subtle (think Jan Ors). In the beginning, I selected my Investigators, but now I draw randomly just to mix things up a bit. 

Investigators all have a Sanity and Stamina value they start at as shown on their card and represented by the appropriate tokens. Usually, this is some combination that adds up to 10 meaning that while some Investigators are fairly evenly split between their Sanity and Stamina, most are skewed more towards one value than another. As you'd expect your brainy, bookworm types have more Sanity while the fighters in the group are heavier on Stamina. The splits are usually 6 to 4 or 7 to 3 in either direction. 

The Investigator card also outlines what equipment the player's Investigator begins the game with. In Joe's case, that'd be a Common item (the symbol that looks like a .45) and a Clue token (the footprint). Clue tokens let a player pick up as many dice as he'd like (including every single one of them if so desired) and roll them again upon discarding. The effects of Common Items, Unique Items, Spells, and Allies all vary, but are fully explained on their card text many of which will look very familiar to folks who have played any of the other Mythos-themed FFG games. 

If a player's Investigator manages to drop enough Sanity or Stamina to hit zero (or less), that Investigator has been devoured and is removed from the game entirely along with all of the items and whatnots that Investigator has managed to acquire throughout the current game. Earned Elder Signs stay, because once awarded, they don't remain in the player's inventory, per se. Good news is there are some items that will either offset loss of Sanity and/ or Stamina, and some will heal or calm a player in need. There's a couple of characters that also have healing or calming as their special ability, and worst case scenario a crazy or hurt Investigator can receive treatment at the Souvenir Shop at the cost of exploring that turn. You can get a point of either back for free, or you can pay to get more and/ or both, but again- you're playing against the clock in this game so don't get the idea you can just fart around in the Souvenir shop for three or four turns to get fully healed and there not be any consequences!

The Cursed/ Blessings, Common Items, Unique Items, Allies, and Spells decks

The Game Over Hangouts
Elder Sign works pretty well over Hangouts. Typically, one of us "runs the game", that is, they have the master set, so to speak and any cards drawn are drawn from the stacks in that master game and the result is replicated on the slave games the other players maintain to keep track of what's going on. It's a little work, but it's not bad. The main thing that's tough to deal with in playing games online is movement, and since the players are just going from room to room in the Museum, that's a snap to deal with. Basically, you're mainly just keeping up with token accounting, and even then you're really only dealing with the Investigator's tokens (Stamina, Sanity, Clues, etc.) and the game tokens like the Doom Track and Elder Signs. 

One could make do with playing by camera, with the camera showing the play area of the master game and the rest of the folks could just make do with that view without maintaining their slave copies, but you'd need some veterans who know a lot of the card text off the top of their heads, a high resolution setup on both ends, or just not really care. 

A lot of the strategy of Elder Sign comes from trying to maximize the Investigator's turn. There's rarely a clear cut, definitive, correct path forward, and it's very contextual based upon the Adventure card's requirements, the rewards, the penalty for failure, the Investigator's special ability, and the items and whatnot they currently have available, as well as the risk/ reward in trying to down the inevitably more difficult Adventure cards to gain Elder Signs and win the game. In other words, it's a great cooperative game because there's potentially a ton of discussion to be had about who does what, when. While video isn't really necessary if everyone runs their own copy, audio is a must. I can't imagine trying to text or type these kinds of strategy discussions with any effectiveness, though like most things, I'm sure if you wanted to bad enough, you'd find a way to make it work. 

There are some dice apps that could be made to work over Hangouts and the like, or you can just call out results like we do. Note that with Clue tokens, Spells, and Investigator abilities in play, it's beneficial if not necessary to actually call out the results of each die in each roll. There are times when another player might have an option to help the current investigator in some way, so it's important to know what exactly is going on. 

I really like Elder Sign. Its rules are simple enough to explain to a person who is completely new to the game and is fairly easy to get the hang of. I've taken it along to National Team matches and played it back at the hotel after the game with brand new people and a few beers in me, so it's not that tough to get your head around. Also, since most of it is symbols, you could play it with your kids too if the artwork isn't too scary for them. 

To put it another way, much like how X-Wing is a great gateway drug to get your friends to actually play a miniatures game, Elder Sign is a great way to introduce those non-gamers in your life to try a game that's a little more involved that what's typically on the shelves at your local chain retailer. Don't discount this game though- in the reviews I read, I saw people complaining that the game is too easy. Having played this game quite a bit, with and without the Unseen Forces Expansion, I can say they've either become very good at the strategy of this game or they're doing it wrong. Being as how most people on the internet tend to review things after the first or second time they use it/ play it/ whatever, I kinda think it's the latter. 

If there's any cons to the game I'd bring up, it's that- there's a lot of management that can be tough to remember at first- the clock advancing, flipping over a new Mythos card, etc. There's a decent amount of stuff to keep track of, and you'll have those games where the clock strikes nine during the first game turn and you realize you forgot to draw a Mythos card (don't laugh- that happened to us just last Saturday) at the start of the game, but after you've played it a few times, it becomes much easier to run. Like most games, this one is much easier to learn if you've got some buddies who play, but it's not impossible to learn on your own, cold either. The FFG support page for Elder Sign has copies of the rulebook (and also the rules for Unseen Forces and the upcoming Gates of Arkham Expansions) as well as a FAQ, so if you're stuck, check it out. There's also a video tutorial which I didn't even know about until tonight. 

One way you can kind of test drive Elder Sign (or get your fix in-between game sessions) for cheaper than the relatively low retail price is Elder Sign Omens available in the Apple App Store as well as the Google Play Store. The game handles all the necessary number and result-crunching and really does give a pretty accurate representation of the game on your mobile device or tablet. 

It ain't a substitute for the real thing though- the game itself is just too cool, man. Typically high FFG production values are well represented here from the amazing artwork present throughout the game to the tarot-sized Adventure, Investigator, Ancient Ones, and Other Worlds cards. It's a really nice looking setup and when you've got it all strung out on your table mid-game, it really comes together nicely. I could totally see breaking this game out, turning off all the lights in the house, and lighting some candles (maybe not in that order) on a stormy night when my kids get a little older. 

Ia! Ia! Bikini Fhtagn!

I don't always talk about X-Wing.

Ok, well, up to this point, I kinda have really. Off the top of my head, this was the only completely non-X-Wing-centric (jeez- how's that for some hyphenation?) post I've made on here.

Anyway, long story short, I play a few other games over Hangouts besides X-Wing and one of those games is FFG's Elder Sign. I've been playing it for a couple of years now, and as I get a lot of email about playing X-Wing Miniatures over the net/ Hangouts/ Skype, I thought it might be fun to start talking about some of the other stuff I play online.

Anyhizzle, stop back by in a few hours at the usual update time to check out my review on Elder Sign, and assuming y'all don't unilaterally hate it, I'll do some Bikini-style articles about it too in the future.