Flights of The Electribird

Through Games, Events and Multimedia


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A Private View of Privateers!

When I was at GothCon this year, I got to test a demo version of a pirate-themed game called Privateers! by Myling Games. Now that the game is on the verge of being completed and ready for production, Myling Games allowed me to come over and put the game to the test once again. Good thing too, because I’m curious about how many changes they made to the game since last time I tried it. As a bonus, I also got to help to set the game up this time and, to add to the fun, Tina Engström, the creator of Privateers! and head of Myling Games, joined in and decided we try out the advanced rules for the game. But for this review, I’m just going to focus on what I experienced and learned from this test and hope I got most of the facts correctly…

First of all, every player selects a captain. There are several character sheets to choose from (12 in total) and each of them have special abilities for the player to take advantage of whenever possible. Even the gender of the captains can be chosen by flipping the sheet over to play as the opposite sex (sorry, no hermaphrodites or other genders than male or female, but I did spot a transvestite).

Do not mock with the vodou priestess!

I chose a female character as my captain, a vodou priestess. Why? BECAUSE I CAN!

Each player also get 12 glory coins (unless their character sheets say otherwise) to start with. After that, it was time to decide who’s going to be the first player and which of the 4 nations, Great Britain (red), France (blue), The Dutch Republic (green) or Spain (yellow), the players want to belong to. For this test, we all decided to side with the British, while the Dutch and the Spanish joined in to make it difficult for us to win. The French? Pardon, mes amis, they didn’t get to play with us this time. The reason might have to do with the influence board. This controls the game-controlled nations and the scoring of the game. I couldn’t see much of it, because I sat at the other side of the table, but the fewer nations you have in play, the faster it becomes to finish the game and we didn’t have all day. Another reason could be the specialty of each nation (France has some unusual allies and adds some odd dynamics to the gameplay, Spain has slow, but large and heavily-armed ships, The Dutch Republic have light ships and good crewmembers and Great Britain have many warships and refuse to surrender). Then it was time to place the board, which consists of 12 map tiles in the beginning. Each player gets to place one after another in turns (player 1 begins) and must place their game piece on the first tile they place.

The first few map tiles have been placed.

The first few map tiles have been placed.

After that, we placed some markers on the map. Some areas, where a anchor symbol is located, were turned into nation-owned colonies after we placed some circular markers with the nation’s colours. If the colour matches the player’s nation, they could sail to the colony to trade goods or find new crew members. If not, they can attack it to conquer it. Then we have what Tina called Tortuga, which had its own marker to place on the map. Much like the original place is known for, Tortuga is the pirate-friendly place on the board, where all players can trade their stuff for more stuff or people to hire.

Here's the full map with the colonies - and we weren't done yet!

Here’s the full map with the colonies – and we weren’t done yet by a longshot!

There were also some enemy ship markers to be placed on the ocean areas on the map, white ones (merchant ships), black ones (non-player pirate ships) and ship markers with the colours representing the non-player nations we were playing against (yellow for Spain and green for The Dutch Republic). Then we have the treasure chests. 3 of these markers were used this time and placed on some of the several palm tree symbols on the map. Each treasure marker on the board matched another set of treasure markers, where the minimum of 1 card is placed beneath face down. This brings us to the next part of the game set up, the cards. Privateers! have several kinds of cards to be shuffled and set up. The other players did this faster than I could blink and most of those cards were placed a bit too far for me to see, but I can tell you that each nation had secret cards to be chosen randomly with their faces down and that each player, starting with player 1, receives 2 asset cards (special items or status upgrades for the captain) and 2 crew cards (the muscle required if the enemy boards the ship) each after they had to use their glory coins to purchase a ship card (the status of the ship).

This is what I had left after purchasing a ship. You can also see a corner of the map, where some enemy ships, some Spanish colonies and a buried treasure have been placed.

This is what I had left after purchasing a ship card. You can also see a corner of the map, where some enemy ships, some Spanish colonies and a buried treasure have been placed, and the first player marker to the right.

After setting up, which took less time than it took me to write upto this point, it was time to get started! Since all of the players belonged to the same nation, the game became a co-op game, making it us against the game itself. Yes, even the game itself can win, leaving the players to walk the plank, but we had no intention of letting it do that without a fight!

Each turn was based in 3 phases:

1. Player Phase

Here, the playable nations get to move their ships, fight or sneak past the enemy ships in their path, enter and island to trade, purchase or hire crew at a friendly colony, dig up a treasure, raid an enemy colony (I never got the chance to do that, though) or stay where they are and draw an event card. How many steps each player could take with their pieces depended on the sails of the ship and there has to be enough of them to get to the destination required on the same turn. Since all players were part of the same nation, it didn’t really matter who moved first, otherwise the playable nation with the Player 1-marker would have begun.

Are the ships too heavily-armed for you? No worries! The player can choose to sneak past them if they’re in the way. To do this, the player must roll the amount of dice that their stats have in cunning. Rolling a 5 or a 6 is considered a successful dice roll, if nothing else is stated, otherwise the player must either retreat if possible or fight the enemy ship.

When it’s time for battle, no matter how many players and non-playable enemies involved, a battle card is drawn each round. This describes the situation that’s going on during the attack and what the enemy will do during the fight. The battle round is settled using dice and if the battle card doesn’t state otherwise, the players involved must aim for a target on the enemy ships (sails, crew, hull or cannons) and fire their cannons using the amount of dice as their ships have cannons. If nothing says otherwise, a 5 or a 6 counts as a hit. The battles can end in several ways. Either the ships are destroyed by the cannons (players earn glory coins for this), or the ship’s boarded and whatever’s onboard gets collected by the players after the enemy crew has been defeated – if they win. If the player’s ship sinks instead, that person loses both ship card and loot cards and have their game piece sent to the nearest friendly colony. That’s why it’s a good thing that retreating is possible, if nothing says otherwise, because without a ship to use to gather an income, the shipless captain won’t be able to do more than move around the island or travel to another one by merchant ship.

Even the nations get to enjoy the spoils of war. The markers of the losing party after the battles ends up on the trophy spot belonging to the winning nation on the influence board. Even other markers, like treasure chests or hidden areas can end up here, depending on which nation dug them up or excavated them.

2. Enemy Phase

After all the players have done theirs, it’s time for the non-playable nations and other enemies to do their moves. To do this, the first player draws an influence card, which contain instructions of the events that take place and the movements of the enemy ships. These phases went by so quickly, I can’t remember much about them, but I did get to observe when the enemy ships were moved around and added to the map. Some were even stacked on top of each other, making them go from single ships to armadas, others ended up battling it out between themselves. This process went by really quickly for me, but the status of each ship appeared to be what decided which ship ended up destroyed or not. If a nation caused the destruction, the ship markers of the defeated ships ended up on that nation’s trophy spot on the influence board.

3. Influence Phase

This phase settles the score of what went on during the previous phases. The trophies are counted, the score markers on the influence board are moved and once again, I’m sitting at the wrong end of the table to see much of what’s going on and it was a bit tricky to keep up with what the other players were doing. But if the scores of a nation reaches zero, they lose and are removed from the game. The nation that maxes the score, wins the entire game.

I don’t know how well you can see it on the photos I took (I have to learn to bring a proper camera to these events instead of using my cellphone in the future), but the artwork of the game is amazing! There were still many cards that were lacking proper artwork (the game is still in beta after all), but most of the blanks and place holders had been replaced by Tina’s own artwork since GothCon. How she does it without a steady hand is a miracle, because she told me she had EDS (stands for Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, which means she suffers from hypermobility in her joints and is in constant pain everywhere), which prevents her from holding her hands steady at times. That’s why it’s so astonishing that she did the image on my character sheet so well (yup, no photography here, just epic drawing skills on Photoshop), because some artists can’t even do art that good by hand!

My grade for the version of Privateers! that Myling Games brought to GothCon was 3/5 (not bad for a hard-to-understand demo, in my opinion). Today, my grade of the game is 4/5. There were still parts of the game that seemed to fly past me, due to the high pace (which is common when everyone in the room except you has played the game a countless amount of times) and if the creators of the game hadn’t been present, there would have been some digging thorugh the rulebook, which would have wasted some fun time. But unlike the version I got to try out at GothCon, this version was playable and MUCH easier to understand. Another plus worth mentioning, is that they kept the things that made this game special, like how the cards were fun to read and that if you don’t count some odd details that’s been added for fun and mystique, the game was very true to the beliefs, historical facts and myths and other things related to the pirate era. In all, I had fun playing and didn’t care that the player’s team (the British nation, in this case) got keelhauled good by one of the game-controlled teams (the Dutch nation).

I look forward to see this game in the stores one day. Who knows, maybe I’ll get my own copy and write a third review to give the full game top grade. But for that to happen, Myling Games need support for the game through Kickstarter to be able to get enough funding to get the game produced and ready for shipment. If you wish to give them a donation, big or small, click here. I’ve done my part to prevent this awesome game from walking the plank. Will you?

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Spring Time for Traditional Gamers

Sorry for the lack of posts here, people. With work, physiotherapy (irrelevant story) and family-matters, I’ve barely had time to do anything blog-related for months. I have therefore crammed in as much of my nerdiness from those months here as possible and will pretend that’ll be enough to get any form of forgiveness for my absence.

GothCon 2015

While most people were busy celebrating Easter, I had an object from my bucket list scratched off  – I got to attend my first boardgame convention! I’ve been dying to go to a convention like this for years and now I’m glad to share my experience of what occurred at this year’s GothCon in Sweden.

Before stepping inside, I had to wait for a friend of mine to arrive (can’t play games without another player, of course). Luckily, there was a fight going on for me to observe in the meantime…

Don't ask me who won...

These knights demonstrated their might for people’s amusement.

Then my companion for the day arrived and we stepped inside for some fun. We had to take different entrances into the building to get to certain areas. An example of such an area, was the manga/animé-style games, where we got to try out a card game I’ve never seen before.

The artwork inside looked better, though...

How can you resist a game with the word “ninja” in the title?

Before the game began, the players have to set up the cards to create the game field. From what I recall, there was some shuffling involved to select the ninjas for each players “randomly”, but the image below show how the game field looked like in the end.

I have no idea if we did this right...

After setting up the river cards between each base card, the ninja cards are placed to guard the way to the other side.

Then it was time to get the game started! The first player starts the turn by rolling the three dice. Each dice has a colour that matches the colours of the symbols marked on each ninja and the amount you roll on each dice decides how far you can move a ninja with that colour symbol along with the ninjas below. If the ninjas land on an area where the other player’s ninjas are located, they battle using a rock-paper-scissors kind of system (red = rock, green = scissors and blue = paper) associated with a number that shows how much damage each ninja can deal and take (which comes in handy in case of a draw or if the ninjas meet a boss ninja, which has all 3 colour symbols on the card). When the turn’s over, the second player gets to go through the same process, from rolling the dice to move the ninjas to fight whoever’s in the space they’ve ended up on, as well. Once a ninja reaches the opposing player’s base, the game is over.

Ninja Taisen gets a 3/5 from me. The gameplay appears to be simple and easy to learn at first glance, but there were still a lot of things in the game that caused for a lot of confusion. To be honest, I’m not even sure if what I’ve written about the game is accurate enough! But it was still intreresting to play and had better artwork than most of the Asian-themed games present at the same area at GothCon.

My companion for the day and I then moved on to find where the new games were being demonstrated and advertized. We ended up getting stuck at a booth that belonged to the game company Myling Games for a very good reason. Apart from the many goodies and items they were selling at their huge table, they were also demonstrating a game that we were lucky enough to test – Privateers! (yes, the exclamation mark is included in the name).

Good thing we didn't have to set anything up ourselves...

The prototype of Myling Games’ upcoming game, Privateers!.

Since the game was already set up when we arrived at the booth, my friend and I got started right away, with the guidance of a game leader. From what I could understand, there were 3 phases for the players to follow:

The Player Phase: This is where the players do their things, like move their ships, fight battles, etc.
The Enemy Phase: This is when the non-playable characters in the game do their stuff.
The Influence Phase: This part was handled by our game leader, so we didn’t get to learn much about this, but it seemed like a part where the scoring was handled after both players and non-playable characters have done their parts.

So there my friend and I were, rolling dices, moving ship pawns and reading cards for over an hour. We had almost no idea what we were doing and most of the time was spent on checking the rulebook, but you could still tell a lot of effort, heart and soul had been put into making this game. The historical accuracy about pirates had been mostly nailed, a lot of weird stuff had been added for comical effect and the game designer has clearly made sure the game is as gender neutral as possible by adding male and female sides to certain character cards. In all, this is a very fun game to play, but there was still a lot of work to be done on it at the time, since it was still in beta…

This demo version of Privateers! gets a 3/5. Some of the cards were fun to read and there wasn’t a moment in the game where you didn’t feel like you weren’t in a 17th-18th century piratey world, even if the weird stuff may not always belong to that world (the sense of humour and the subtleness makes up for that, though). Since the game was still very incomplete and complicated to learn at the time, half of our game time was spent on digging through the rulebook and talking to the game designer for clarification, which took a lot of the fun away. Luckily, Myling Games asked my friend and I for our inputs and advice and promised to take them under consideration for when the game recieves another update. Thankfully, they kept their promise and the rulebook (which you can find as a PDF-file here) has been updated a lot since then. I’ve also been told not long ago that this game has a fundraising campain going on at Kickstarters.com, if anyone wants to help them get the game produced as soon as possible, so I can test the game again and give it a proper rating.

Time really flies by fast at these conventions! We spent so much time at Myling Games’ booth, we missed out on almost everything else at the convention, like the game auction and a tournament for a Star Wars miniature game. But we did get to try out one more game before we left.

Malifaux is a miniature game, where a group of gremlins and a mad scientist and his undead goons (at least those were the figurines we got to play with), each with specific statistics to pay attention to, are battling it out on a Western-style battlefield. By using a regular deck of cards (except for the jack, queen and king), my companion and I tried to knock each others’  figurines out so often, we nearly forgot the aim of the game, which was to take over the sign figurines which have been placed around the board, if I remember correctly…

Malifaux, all set-up and ready to play!

Malifaux, all set-up and ready to play!

The rules of the game may have been too complicated to remember, but the game still gets a 4/5 from me. Once you get the hang of the rules and all the stats for each character, the gameplay becomes a breeze, if not too simple. Luckily, simplicity doesn’t have to be a bad thing…

In all, GothCon gets 3/5. I really wish the day could have lasted a little longer. My companion and I got stuck on so many awesome stuff, we missed more than half of what was going on during GothCon this year. I have to admit, they didn’t advertize much about the stuff that was going on (or I completely missed it), but the stuff we got to experience was enough to keep us occupied for hours and lose our way. I also wish the convention wasn’t so spread out, because it’s quite easy to lose your way when you have to leave the building and enter it from another entrance to reach a specific section of the convention…

Retrospelsmässan 2015

Those who were young gamers between the 70’s and 90’s know the charm of the old games they grew up playing and don’t hesitate to share the joy with their young, just like young gamers today know how famous old titles are today due to the cult status they hold  now and to the sequels to the most popular ones among them are still popping out to the retail market every now and then. Since most of those old gems are getting harder and harder to come by today, it’s a good thing they have conventions for those. In Sweden, that convention was called Retrospelsmässan (translates to “Retro Game Convention”).

If you think no one cares for old games anymore, think again. The line to the convention was so long, it covered an entire block! Thousands of people of all ages stood in line to access the convention, both in and out of costume.

Don't let that mask scare you!

Can you see the cosplayer in this photograph?

This wasn’t even half the line, just half of the line that formed behind me! People had come from pretty much everywhere to attend this convention.

I wonder how he could fit through the doors...

I never saw Pac-Man, but his car was here.

To prevent people from getting bored, other cosplayers had been hired to entertain the crowd in line. Strange, considering how much effort some of the visiting cosplayers had put in their costumes…

Poor Kirby seems to be out of shape...

Yup, even Kirby made a short appearance!

But eventually, we made it inside the building, where the real fun began right after we paid the entrance fee. The first thing my companion and I discovered, was the kids’ corner. Here, they had set up art stations, game consoles and small arcade machines for them to play with.

The kids seems fascinated by the old NES consoles and the table version of Pac-Man.

The kids seems fascinated by the Nintendo consoles and the table version of Pac-Man.

Lots of templates were available for those who liked to create fanart using beads.

Lots of templates were available for those who liked to create their own art using beads – or you could by finished artwork at the shop about a metre away…

In the speakers, event commentators could be heard for a little while. It didn’t take long for them to be spotted either, since their tables were not only close to the children’s corner, but also close to the information desk. When they were done talking, their voices got replaced with some well-known music from various games, like Superfrog and Batman for Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

These gentlemen were chatting away loudly as the first part of the convention was in full swing.

These gentlemen were chatting away loudly as the first part of the convention was in full swing.

I wonder if there was another purpose for the information desk...

Got any questions about the event? Get in line and hope they have the answers you need.

The place may have been small, but the booths were many and everyone of them had something for sale or on display. If it wasn’t a modded game console from the 80’s or 90’s or an antique computer in mint condition, the sellers had something tailored done to show off.

Their customers got ripped-off big by their broken merchandise.

One of several booths, who sold modded game consoles and other used stuff.

Imagine one console to rule them all...

Some modding companies had both modded game consoles AND game consoles that they make themselves!

And sold quickly, by the look of it.

Even old computers, like Commodore VIC-20, were available for purchace!

Already have the desired device? Don’t worry, the games for them were being sold there too!

Mostly for Nintendo's consoles, no doubt...

Cartridges… game cartridges everywhere!

I hope the games still work...

You can really tell the games were played a lot in the past by the quality of the packaging.

They bring memories back, don't they?

Even these old gems for Nintendo’s consoles were being sold off to whoever grabbed them first!

Hardware and software in all their glory, but there were of course more stuff than that for sale! Fan merchandice and spare parts could be found pretty much everywhere, both the real deal and knock-offs.

Or perhaps you're into something else?

Any sign of your favorite?

Batteries not included.

Parts available for all your assembly-required needs.

At least this one wasn't opened.

Old figurines and toys of characters from various comics, cartoons and games, like M. Bison here, could be found in their original packaging.

But what kind of game convention would this be without something to play and observe? An arcade and exibit area had been set up in a dark corner.

Too bad we couldn't play with it.

A lego computer for humans.

She liked it so much, I didn't have the heart to tell her that I wanted to play too.

An arcade version of Tetris.

MAME... can it get more awesome?

A portable game console – retro style!

At least we didn't have to pay to play!

A retro game convention without a pinball game? Blasphemy!

This part of the room needs more light...

This NES was one of the few consoles set up and ready to play, with a few game cartridges to choose from.

And what about the cosplayers? Apart from the few I saw while standing in line outside to get in, several more could be found inside, both hired ones and visiting ones. Most of them vanished as quickly as they appeared, while others popped up a little too much. There was also a corner, where a photographer had set up a camera for visiting cosplayers to have their pictures taken in front of a green screen.

The predator didn't say much, though...

A predator had a chat with Captain Haddock and his friend.

Judging by his perkiness, I take it his weapons got confiscated earlier.

Deadpool goofed around a little here and there.

I don't know who's blood's on his fan, but I hope it's not Mega Man's...

Air Man appeared to be looking for something or someone (Mega Man, maybe?).

And last, but not least, a game tournament was in full swing when we arrived and a couple more started later on. Several games were being played on a large screen at the end on the convention hall.

This game was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

A lot of spectators were watching during the Zelda tournament.

This convention got the fine grade of 4/5. It took hours in the rain to get inside, the convention hall was small and my friend got stiffed on a broken Wii, but it was worth it once we were inside! Not only was this like taking a trip back in time, I was able to find the things I’ve been looking for in the past and bought them for a price that would make a cashier facepalm if they were brand new! I was also impressed by all the different kind of people that was there and that the place wasn’t just crowded by old-time gamers. This generation’s gamers were there too, no matter what their reasons for coming was, and they looked like they were having fun too. I just wish the cafeteria served warm food a little longer, because I ended up starving about 1 hour before closing time…