Moon Cakes, Munchkin, Smaug, zombies and exploding cows!

A week ago six of us decided we’d have a night of either “Zombicide” or “Middle-Earth Quest”. This got postponed, but I ended up having a games night at home with two mates yesterday after all. We played through one board game and three card games over five hours, with a slight pause for pizza in the middle.

  1. The Lonely Mountain – 1984 Tolkien Enterprises/Iron Crown Enterprises. 1-6 players, 1-4 hours, ages 13+.
  2. Star Munchkin – 2004 Steve Jackson Games. 3-6 players, 1-2 hours, ages 10+.
  3. Zombie Flux – 2007 Looney Labs. 2-6 players, 10-40 minutes, ages 8+.
  4. Unexploded Cow – 2001 Cheapass Games. 3-6 players, 20-30 minutes, ages 12+.

One board game, three card games… fun and mayhem!

The three of us were fairly game-focused, but we still had plenty of time to chat and make jokes. Normally most of our gaming nights involve about six people, and the more people, the more discussion about games choices or rules – and non-game related talk. With a small group, everyone gets their turn faster and I’d also say that the three of us were more interested in playing for fun than playing to win. Most of what we played suited this type of thinking. The only time we really got into a big “discussion” about a game issue was resolved when I quoted from the rules “When the cards disagree with the rules, follow the cards. Any other disputes should be settled with loud arguments among the players, with the owner of the game having the last word.” I got my level increase! (Munchkin)

The photos aren’t the best – lighting was great for gaming, but not so good for my camera.

One round of “The Lonely Mountain”.

The Lonely Mountain

The Lonely Mountain – The elves split in two groups.

This board game is set soon after the Dragon Smaug drives the dwarves out of Erebor in TA 2770. Each player controls 10 adventurers (2 fighters, 2 scouts, 2 archers, 1 ranger, 1 bard, 1 animist, 1 mage) which they can break into groups to explore the mountain, fight monsters (spiders, snakes, wights, trolls, kraken, fell beasts and 1 dragon), try to avoid traps, and collect treasure (and artifacts) before Smaug is woken. Then everyone tries to get out before the Dragon kills everyone or blocks escape.

There’s a fair number of rules, but they are quick to learn. There’s a basic and an advanced set of rules and we played something between the two. You can play for a set number of turns or until the game ends normally – everyone is out, or Smaug sits at the main entrance for 5 turns. Points are awards for surviving adventurers and for items of treasure.

There are 36 “stacks” of 2-3 treasure cards each guarded by a monster. About half of the stacks have artifacts and are guarded by the stronger monsters. You don’t know what the monster is unless you use magic or get close enough to “activate” it. Combat is quite nasty, and without treasure items (weapons and armour) it favours monsters over characters, even if you gang-up on the monster. There is no wounding – if you get a hit then it’s a kill. One of the guys hadn’t played before, the other two of us hadn’t played for a long time.

Each turn runs in phases: 1. Smaug activation roll (the chance increases every 3 turns, but he can’t actually wake before turn 7), 2. Player phases (move, attack, spells), 3. Creature phase.

We all made the mistake of heading towards the tougher monsters first. By about turn 5 I’d lost half my characters to 2 monsters (and a trap) and only gained one treasure stack. After my first disastrous combat, the other two guys tried to identify monsters then pick their fights. After seeing how fast my groups were dying off, we all decided to get out with what we had. Game over at about Turn 9. I finished with two adventurers and two treasures for 20 points, and the other totals were about 70 and 80 points – they had more living adventurers and the winning total (AK) included an artifact (the Arkenstone worth 40 points). No one got even close to Smaug (we revealed all the monsters at the end of the game).

I should re-write my rules summary for the game into two sheets – basic and advanced game – and I think we might implement a “house rule” that removes counter-attacks. Normally attacks (and simultaneous counter-attacks) are made in both a players phase and the creature phase. No counter attacks would increase survivability because you might actually be able to kill a creature before it gets to attack you.

One round of Space Munchkin.

Lvl 5 +2 (Pschic) +8 (tail gun, symbiotic partner, x-ray specs) vs Lvl 8 Star fish -5 vs felines = I win

Lvl 5 +2 (Psychic) +8 (tail gun, symbiotic partner, x-ray specs) vs Lvl 8 Star Fish -5 vs felines = I win

“Kill the monsters – Steal the treasure – Stab your buddy – In space!” This fairly fast paced card game is lots of fun. You win by being the first player to level 10. Levels are gained by defeating monsters, selling items, and getting “level up” cards. Combat is simple: your level + item bonuses vs the monsters level – and other players can help (usually for a share of treasure) or hinder (you don’t want another player to go up levels faster than you). Classes and races give bonuses or penalties against certain monsters or with items.

Everyone starts as a level 1 human “with no class”. This “space” version includes felines, mutants and cyborgs (races) and psychics, bounty hunters, traders and gadgeteers (classes). Cards include the Star Fish (looks like a shark in a spacesuit), Bottle Bottle (the annoying alien everyone hates), Captain Quirk, the Cellophane space suit, Neuronic whip, etc… most monsters and items are humorous versions of things from movies, tv, novels, etc. I ran a close second almost all game – building a successful psychic, half-cyborg, half-feline with a +4 tail gun. Game to PE with his cyborg gadgeteer.

Five rounds of Zombie Flux.

Zombie Flux: Hand limit zero, draw 5, play one… arghhhh!

Flux is a crazy, really funny (or really annoying) card game that constantly changes. Cards are either – Rules (draw # cards, play # cards, hand limit, goal modifiers or odd miscellaneous), Goals (requirements for a win), Keepers (items, weapons, friends, etc played to help you win), or Actions (single use play cards that move cards, change hands, or create havoc). “Zombie Flux” also adds in Creeper cards – zombies – that are hard to get rid of and generally stop you winning, even if you have the right Keepers to satisfy a Goal.

You start with the “basic rules” of draw 1 card, play 1 card and the game goes mad from there…. A typical game round may have rules that mean you draw 5 cards, play 2 cards, and then discard most of them because of a “1 card hand limit” rule. We groaned when playing zombies to the table, killed zombies, moved zombies to other players, and tried to make a zombie baseball team. The only player win went to AK (I think) – the other four games were won by the Zombies with the “Un-Goal” of 5 Zombie cards on the table with all players having at least 1. I’ll put the extraordinary number of zombie wins down to mind-set of the three of us playing – we have never seen more than one zombie win in a flux game before.

Like Munchkin, there are many version of this game (basic, cthulhu, monty python, etc). You can take the zombie specific cards out, and play a standard flux game with this pack.

Two rounds of Unexploded Cow.

Unexploded Cow – the mad bomber gives everyone a bomb… BOOM !!!

“Europe – Summer 1997. You have discovered two problems with a common solution: mad cows in England, and unexploded bombs in France.”

Each player starts with 3 cards and $2000. Cards are either “Cows” – you play them into your “field” or possibly another players, or “Events” – cards that move cows, swap cows, discard cows, change dice rolls, etc. Playing nearly every card has a price and the money goes into the “pot”. Each player take a turn to draw two cards, play any number of cards (paying for them), then roll a dice to see which cow explodes – hopefully one of yours, but sometimes another players. If your cow explodes in your field, you claim city cards worth points. When all the cities are cleared, the player with the highest city points gets all the money in the pot, and the richest player wins.

I won both games. When the first game ended, I had the lowest city points, but the pot was nearly empty and I’d made a lot of money exploding cows during the game. The second game finished with a heap of money in the pot. Two of us had equal city points and split the pot, but I already had more slightly more cash in hand than he did.

Cheapass Games are generally really fun, low cost games – where the players supply the dice, tokens, etc required for the game. “Unexploded Cow” came with 12 city cards, 69 cow/event cards, a rules sheet, a “sturdy cardboard box and two full minutes of breathable air”. I made up a money design on my computer (photocopied and laminated at work) to provide enough playable cash for about 6 players, but you could use “money” from any board game (like monopoly) you have around, or just write on bits of paper.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival and good gaming to you!

Even though its mid-spring in Australia, I’m always happy to celebrate Asian festivals because they usually involve food (and my wife is Chinese) and I love moon cakes.

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