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Subject: Classic RPG Meets Board Game Love Story rss

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Matt Drake
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Picture the scene:

The little scout vessel is bravely battling the star cruiser around a deserted mining asteroid. The pilot (who resembles a tumbleweed) is trying to keep the ship steady as he throws it into another turn. The marine (who looks like a bowl full of earthworms) throws himself into an empty missile and launches himself into space. The engineer (a gorgeous woman, because no sci-fi epic is complete without a smokin' hot dame) is trying to evade an incoming missile by ejecting the breakfast dishes into space.

That's actually a pretty silly scene, come to think of it. I don't know why the breakfast dishes make missiles explode. I don't know about the wisdom of using a missile as a boarding device. But I know this - it sure is fun to try.

Battlestations is an exceptionally small-press game from a company called Gorilla Games. The company is Jeff Siadek and his brother Jason, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly Jeff, which means that if it was any smaller it would be run by semi-intelligent lemurs. In Battlestations, you do all that crazy stuff in that opening scene. You fly a spaceship around and battle bad guys, but the action takes place in the ship at the same time that it's occurring in space.

This clever idea is accomplished by using different maps. The ship-to-ship action is tracked on a black hex grid. The actual operations of the two ships, including piloting, firing cannons, fixing drives, scanning and targeting, and everything else, occurs on maps showing the insides of the ships. And the really cool thing is that the ships are made up of 5X5 square grids depicting different stations on a ship - the science bay, the bridge, the engine rooms, and the cannons are all individual pieces, and you build a ship by putting in all the necessary components. This means that you can use one set of cards to make a huge variety of ships.

This dual-action nature of Battlestations means you can do just about anything. You can board an enemy vessel, sabotage the science room, then launch yourself back to your own ship in the enemy's boarding missiles. You can fire a cannon blast that blows clean through the engine room in a massive hull breach, then have your science officer scan the enemy ship to find the hostages. You can use the heat from the engines to microwave some popcorn and watch Gilligan's Island reruns on the view screen in the bridge.

Battlestations also includes character generation rules that would do a light RPG proud. There are six different alien races in the base game, and more in the expansions. Aside from the afore-mentioned tub of worms and the leafless shrub, there are also rockpile aliens, six-limbed starfish and bug people.

[Tangential rant: What is it with space and bugs? Why are there always smart bugs? Why can't we have intelligent marsupials instead of intelligent insects? Hell, how about intelligent duck-billed platypus people - those freaky-ass animals look like aliens anyway.]

So you pick a race, you pick a job, you pick some skills and you pick some gear. This is a lot of work for a board game character - but this is no ordinary board game.

Battlestations is a hybrid game. It combines a tactical space simulation with a character-based RPG. I played this with my kids, and they would have conversations in character. It was really irritating, because their characters were even more retarded than they were, but they were having fun and their mom was listening, so I had to go along with it (who am I kidding, I was totally doing it, too).

Your characters can earn prestige, money, ship parts, experience, and otherwise develop as science fiction characters. Just because you don't have to explore your motivations doesn't mean this isn't role-playing. You get attached to these knuckleheads, give them names, and shout at the other players when their stupid maneuvers get your guy shot.

The actual mechanic of Battlestations works great. You roll some dice to attempt a task, and if you're good at it, you can reroll some dice. If you spend luck points, you can roll more. If you roll high enough, you succeed.

The Battlestations book is way too thick to discuss in lots of detail, so I'll sum it up. There are rules for dozens of skills, lots of weapons, a bunch of different ship segments, and page after page of scenarios. In essence, the game is too detailed and personal to just be a board game, and too tactical to just be an RPG.

There are several expansions for Battlestations, and they each have a different theme. Each expansion comes with a book, some new space tiles, new character pieces, and whatever else you might need. There's one expansion where you fight an intergalactic war, and another where you take the fight to the pirates. There's even one where you continually rescue stupid walking fungi as you tool around the galaxy. I don't have all the expansions, but I sure wouldn't mind picking up the ones I'm missing, because this game is fun.

The saddest thing about Battlestations is that the components are total crap. The illustrations in the book are fantastic, but the art on the game pieces is uninspired computer graphics. The boards all get dinged up at the corners if you look at them sideways, and the character markers have to be cut out and glued together. It's like they spent their whole budget for the rules and didn't have any left to spend on the pieces.

I don't care about the aesthetics in this case. My kids don't either. We would, but we're too busy trying to get just a little more power out of the engines, launching a boarding missile, hacking enemy battlestations and otherwise getting a huge kick out of the game.

Summary

Pros:
Great blend of RPG and board game
Nearly limitless options
Easy-to-learn mechanic

Cons:
Cheapest components ever.
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Fabio Calzolari
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That's a GREAT review! Thanks.

VixenTorGames wrote:
Picture the scene:
[...Tangential rant: What is it with space and bugs? Why are there always smart bugs?...]

I have some clues, both serious and semi-serious.

1) Some bugs were found to be the only alive beings in some nuke-test zones.
2) All that animals with an external "skeleton" (sorry, i don't have the right word in english) were the predators of our ancient ancestors, so we keep some instinctive respect and fear about them.
3) Look at these days: we can manage to kill of every specie (humans also) but we really can't be able to kill every kind of insect/bugs on the Earth (also 'cause of 1) ).

End of the OT: you wrote a so great review, so you deserve my efforts to your "question"
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Wolfgang Zelller
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VixenTorGames wrote:
The boards all get dinged up at the corners if you look at them sideways,


Hm. Maybe you want to look into the art of "counter-clipping". I clipped all my Battlestation counters and boards and do not have any problem with it. But I have to admit that I find the clipping process to be very relaxing too.

Do a search here on BGG on counter clipping and I am sure you will find all the necessary information.

Short breakdown: All you really need is a good quality nail clipper to do the actual clipping and an old CD-case. Then you remove a corner of the CD-case with a file until the corner is "open". File away that much so that the corner of a counter laid into this opened corner of the CD-case is sticking out wide enough to clip it. This is the template to put the counters in for clipping, so all clippings will have the same size. The main danger here is to clip away too much, so do some tests regarding the amount you file off at the CD-case so you don't end up with clipping away too much. You don't want "octagonal" counters...

I myself find the counters and boards look much "cleaner" after the clipping. But it's a matter of taste. Others can't stand clipped counters (especially if they are clipped too much...)

I admit, I even clipped the hexagonal counters of Battlestations free handed...

Quote:
Cons:
Cheapest components ever.

That is really harsh, don't you think? I own a lot of (good) games with much (!) worse components. Sure the components could have been made better, but small independent game companies do not have the money to invest here. Actually for an independent game company I find the quality very decent.

Think of it in the way of the CheapAss philosophy: Cheap components, great game. Just replace the components to your own liking with miniatures, battle-mats, 3D-space ship modules. All that stuff is available for this game if you like that kind of candy. That is at least what I did. Not because I couldn't stand the original components, but because I love this game and I like pimping good games in the spare time where I do not have opponents around to play them (pix will follow some time...).

If you still are not convinced, I suppose for an example you take a deep look at the component quality of Frag. And that is not made by an independent small company... As I see it, that game had the same price range as battlestations when it was new, but here the game board is made out of thin poster paper and does not lie flat, the counters and character standees are neither pre-cut, nor are any foldlines scored, the paper of the counters is much thinner than in BS, and even then still there are no dice included. In the end the amount of gaming material is about one third of what you get from BS. So for me that is clearly the game that single handedly carries away the title of "worst components ever in relation to price tag" (still a fun game though...).

bye
Wolfgang
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William Hostman
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I've been Banished to Oregon... Gaming in Corvallis, living in Alsea... Need gamers willing to try new things...
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I agree with the review except for one element: The components are not crap.

They are decent quality cardstock counters, directly comparable to SJG offerings, and better than SJG offers in many ways.

The cardboard stand-ups are, shall we say, the "cheapest" components. I ran package tape over mine before cutting and folding, and they hold up quite well.

The hexmap is easily dealt with, but The Brothers Siadek haven't taken the requisite step yet: release a PDF with the full numbered map, and let people print and laminate it themselves. Heck, the entire game could easily be released as a PDF (Jeff doesn't believe me, but more convoluted component sets have been), with instructions to use light card. (Heck, I'd love a PDF version. Jeff, Jason: Are you listening? Chance to get another $30 out of me...)

Lets talk about the components:
Sheets of counters and deck segments, 1mm cardboard with double sided printing.
Map sheets on 1mm cardboard, double sided with ship control sheets
Sheets of cardboard stand-ups, on about 150# (0.2mm?) cardstock
Sheets of tables on 1mm card.
a few dice.
(2nd ed supposedly has a few minis.)

OK... the dice don't work as printables. Everything else can. Most home color printers will take 110# cardstock. Some will even take 150#.

So, Standups: print on 110#, tape both sides, cut and fold. You'll have trouble telling the difference.
Thin card counters: just like standups, but no folding.
Thicker stuff: Print it, then glue down to another sheet of 110#, head to home depot, and get Con-Tact laminate in clear or matt clear, and apply 2-3 layers on the "wrong side" and 1 on the right side. You get a nice counter of about 0.7mm!

Oh, and the matte finish con-tact laminate will let you write in pencil (and erase with a nylon eraser).
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Fabio Calzolari
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Men, i can't debate about the quality of the Battlestation components, but i tend to think that somewhat which are comparable to what i can print and glue is cheap and poor.
I own games that are near old like me (38) and they're still perfect 'cause they're made of REALLY THICK material (i'm thinking at Starship Troopers right now).

Going thru the years i can see that my GW games (StarQuest & SpaceHulk), HeroQuest, BattleTech, all my well used games are still in good shape, being the box the weakest game part (i wonder a game box made like the ravensburger puzzle boxes).
SJG CarWars Deluxe, which have REALLY THIN pawns are still perfect, 'cause the cardboard is thin but have some "plastic" feeling... somewhat i can't use to print on it.
Are they good 'cause they're "old school" games? I don't think so.
"My" new games (well, they're officially gifts to my sons ) - D&D Basic and the ugly "Fantasy adventure, Bolide, Hybrid, Wings of War - all have good components.

So i repeat my point: i've played for decades without have to glue nothing but the box, and i'd like to stay on this route.
So, while i can't judge Battlestation components until i see that game, i want to say that anything equal to what i can print and laminate are poor components. And i fear a bit when someone is happy of this kind of materials.... i don't want gorgeous miniatures on a crappy board, which seems the way games tends right now.
 
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Wolfgang Zelller
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parduz wrote:
So, while i can't judge Battlestation components until i see that game, i want to say that anything equal to what i can print and laminate are poor components.

Well, so please do have a look at them. I collected a lot of experience with printing and laminating etc., still I couldn't possibly produce components of the quality that BS delivers (well, maybe with the exception of the character standees).

While admittedly the cardboard of the new edition has got a little thinner than that of the first edition (which had about the same thickness as the parts in the old GW games you mentioned), they still are far beyond everything I could put into my laserprinter and the professional print quality is much better than what I could do. And so even with the new edition they are far beyond anything I would call "flimsy" or "crap".

Only critique: The punching quality of the components is below what I get from top notch german games. But if you remove them carefully and clip the corners yourself, that is just a thing that matters on the first day.

bye
Wolfgang
 
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