Escape from Colditz

I’m having a big games cull, and getting to the bottom of the pile in theloft I found my original 1972 copy of “Escape from Colditz”. Although it’s worth while listing it on the geek to sell, I feel really uncomfortable having this game and trying to sell it, due to the predominant swastikas on the box and components. I’m tempted just to destroy it.


Power Monkeys Are Go!!!

Chris recently commented on Tree Weasel Weekly about how many portable devices he carries around. I’m the same, iPod, PDA, Blackberry (my new toy), PSP, DS etc. I’m not convinced by convergence, I’ve got a (full!!) 80Gb Video iPod, and until mobile phones have that sort of capacity I’m happy having them as separate devices, not to mention the battery life.

Not mentioning the battery life brings me round to this posts topic – battery life. In an uncharacteristic bout of sanity, mobile phone manufacturers have (mostly) agreed to adopt the mini-usb plug as standard for power, thus doing away with the nightmare selection of various power supplies. However until they and every other device manufacturer comes to their senses, we’re stuck with lugging round a bag full of wall-wart power supplies with our ultra-slim and portable devices.

Not any more, here comes the mighty morphing power monkey.

This device, about the size of a car cigarette lighter plug, is just a rechargeable battery, but the clever thing is that it has a plug on it that accepts a load of adapters which come with it, converting it to fit any device. I’ve got adapters for all my electronic goodies I carry around, all in a nice little bag. It also comes with an extendable usb cable which is used to charge it up, and this is the same plug for the adapters, so you could charge your devices from any computer. The mains supply for it comes with adapters for all countries, so on our recent family holiday to Spain it was all we needed to keep us in electronic happiness.

The website also sells adapters for everything, with new ones added all the time. The new power monkeys even come with solar panels!

Great stuff.


Over the summer I went to a few fairs and car boot sales, and always ended up browsing through the second-hand books. I’m a keen Sci-Fi reader, and something that struck me is that you never see any Sci-Fi books at these events. I’ll happily pass on books I’ve read to friends, not expecting to get them back again, but I have a problem giving them away to charity shops, school fairs etc. If I’ve read and enjoyed a book, I want to pass on the book to someone, saying “this is great – you should read it” rather than just chuck it on a charity shop shelf (mind you, if you see a Harry Turtledove in Kingston’s Oxfam it was probably mine, I couldn’t get it out of the house fast enough).

I’ve also come to the conclusion that gamers and Sci-Fi fans tend towards OCD, and this is why you never see anything decent at second-hand stalls. There are copies of Trivial Pursuit that have lived their entire lives on bring-and-buy stalls. Then again, maybe they are like me, and only pass the trash they’ll never read again on to these fairs. Something has to explain why they’re knee-deep in Jefferyy Archer and Jilly Cooper.

An Infectious Game

Every so often a game comes along that grabs the imagination. I recently got Pandemic from Z-Man games, and it’s rapidly becoming our most-played game.

If you’re not aware of it, it’s a co-operative game for 2-4 players where you are a team of scientists trying to contain and cure a series of infectious diseases that are ravaging the world. It’s full of difficult decisions, and a fine balance of trying to contain the diseases on the board whilst working as a team to cure the world. Each player takes one of five roles which are dealt out at random, so the tactics used vary from game to game depending on which combination of roles you have available.

It’s a very tense game and you rarely lose a game without feeling you could have won if you’d only played a little differently. The game does whop you on the head sometimes, and we’ve had some spectacular early game losses, but it’s a great feeling when you win.

It’s certainly grabbed Jackie (and my eldest son, Joshua), and we’ve been playing it alot (nine games in the last three days!), as it’s got that “one more go” factor.


First Appearances

Two new games atthe UK Games Expo were Monastery from Ragnar Brothers and ice Flow from Ludorum. Both are very promising games with interesting and unique mechanics.
I’ve noticed, however that alot of people have commented that Ice Flow is like “Hey That’s my Fish”, and Monastery is like Carcasonne, but other than a passing resemblance in appearance there is nothing in common between these games. It’s interesting how people need to pigeonhole games, and will often overlook a game because in their mind it is associated with a game that they don’t care for.
I’ve caught myself doing this, and I’m often swayed by the appearance of the game. Tinners Trail by Warfrog was another new game at the show, and I was very lukewarm about it when I saw it. There’s nothing wrong with its appearance, the board and pieces just looked a bit ordinary to me, a map with areas on it, wooden cubes etc. I got a chance to play it in the evening and it’s a great game, a strong tactical/economic venture with difficult decisions, auctions and rewards forward planning.
I’m going to endeavor in future to not judge a game by its pieces!


This game has a high heft factor, you get a lot in the box for the money, A large two-sided map board, ten very well painted miniatures, character sheets, loads of counters and a beautiful rule book. The artwork is lovely, and very evocative of the (imaginary) period. The rule book is especially good, and is an easy read, describing events and ideas in the game first, rather than launching straight into the game sequence, which makes it very easy to learn. All the rules are summarised in red, making it easy to scan for rules clarification during play.

Although it initially looks like another minis game such as Star Wars Miniatures (which I really like as well), it has it’s own uniqueness to make it worth looking at. The first thing you notice is the board, which is overlaid in a series of circles in various colours. Each colour represents an area such as a room or corridor, and if two minis are on the same colour, then they can see (and shoot at) each other. No more complicated line of site. Some areas of colour are smaller than others, neatly representing the restricted view in a dark corner or a dingy corridor. Combat is decided by D10s, you roll the number of dice equal to your Combat value, and have to get equal or better than your target’s Stamina value. The target makes a saving throw in a similar manner, which neatly allows for the various characters to be represented in a simple manner. This all makes the game flow well, and when you’re familiar with the rules you can play very quickly.

Another interesting feature of the game is the way you can customise your character’s equipment. Each person has four spaces on their character card, and there are various tokens to represent different weapons, equipment and abilities. Each token has a picture of the associated character on it, each character having three sets of three tokens, along with a special weapon unique to them. When you’re familiar with the game these tokens may be switched around, allowing you to customise your troops to suit your style of play. There are also several crate tokens on the map which can be opened for extra goodies, and Fantasy Flight are releasing extra tokens via download from their website on a monthly basis.
As well as specific missions you can play the game as all-out “kill ’em all”, as well as “Capture the Flag” and “Domination” games, familiar to those players of video games.
There are extra characters on the way and along with the download elements and the more usual expansions there’s a lot of future in this game.


I recently bought Jamaica from GameWorks SàRL, which is a very enjoyable pirate race game. Light enough for the kids to enjoy and enough tactics and decisions for the more experienced gamer, it’s a fun 45 minute game.
The most striking feature of the game is the gorgeous artwork. The board and pieces already put the game high up in the glamour stakes, but the cards are works of art in themselves. Each card has an intricate cartoon of the pirates performing the actions the cards represent, and can be placed side-by-side into a five foot long mural.
I feel we’re in a golden age of boardgaming, where the look of a game is as important as it’s gameplay, and a high standard is expected for both.

Images on the Geek is a fabulous site, and the vast amount of information on all types of boardgames uploaded by its users is a great resource.

I’ve recently been uploading various images I took at the UK Games Expo, and have been a little perplexed and frustrated by the censoring of these images. I’ve had a fair number of images passed ok, and then some spurious rejections, such as some photos I took of the fabulous giant Shadows Over Camelot game, which were rejected as being irrelevant to the game. I changed the title slightly and had two of the photos accepted. Out of interest I uploaded one of the photos that had already been accepted, only to have it rejected as out-of focus!

I also had some shots of Identity Crisis I took at the show rejected as too similar to other photos for the game when there is only one other photo in the database and that’s of the box top.
I took macro lens close-ups of the miniatures from Tannhauser, and had six out of ten accepted. The others were rejected as out-of-focus (pin-sharp to my eyes!), irrelevant etc.
I’m intrigued to know how the approval process works.

Panzer Tactics 2

I’ve had a chance to play Panzer Tactics on the Nintendo DS for a while now and although I’m really enjoying it it’s sadly not as good as I was hoping. The AI’s tactics are generally good, but occasionally it’ll do something bizarre and send an AA unit after a tank and such. Not really a problem, but it’s worst failing is that if you get close to a group of enemy units who are all in a good defensive position they’ll come out of cover to try and get you – not a good tactical decision.

It’s also quite odd because they’ve done their research and have pretty much got the units spot on, but there’s some glaring errors. I’ve been playing the German campaign and it starts with the invasion of France, and moves to North Africa and then Russia. The British North Africa units for example are Matilda tanks, Humber ACs, Portee’d 2 pdr guns etc, and then they have Lancaster bombers, which I’m fairly sure were never deployed in the desert. The Germans have Panther tanks, which also didn’t serve in the  North Africa campaign, and weren’t even introduced until 1943, after the scenarios in the game.

As a result of this you have the strange sight of Panzer Vs taking on Matilda 2s and losing! In it’s day the Matilda was a formidably armoured vehicle, but no match for the Panther.

It’s a shame they’ve done this, as otherwise they’ve obviously tried to get the historical detail spot on in the game.

Rose-Tinted Glasses

I recently played a couple of games we haven’t dug out for a couple of years at least – Roborally and Starfarers of Catan. Jax & I played Starfarers with my boys, they’ve played it before but not for a couple of years and the chrome is always appealing. We used to play this a fair bit when it came out in 1999, but it has definitely lost it’s shine. The gameplay was slow and quite frankly a bit boring. The boys enjoyed it, especially Tom who always enjoys trading and doing deals, but I don’t think we’ll be getting it out again in a hurry.
Iain and Tully came over last Tuesday and I introduced them to Roborally, which was decidedly flat. Iain was especially keen to try this and must have gone away wondering what all the fuss was about over this game. Ok, we didn’t play with any weapons or power-ups, and had a simple run across one board, but the game wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as I remembered it. My copy is the original from 1994, and looking at the expansions they seem to add more frustration and complexity without adding any more gameplay and strategy.
I’m decidedly cold on Settlers of Catan after playing it a few times over the last year, and maybe we are just used to much higher quality in modern games. The recent highest rating games on Boardgamegeek are all full of tactical options, themes and great components, and even a fair number of medium-rated games would have shone if they’d been released in the mid-nineties.
We’ve come a long way in game design