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Attack of the 50 Foot Colossi!
Publisher: Tiny Battle Publishing
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/14/2019 07:25:12

(Updated 2019-09-14 to reflect updated PDFs by the publisher.)

On September 12, 2019, the publisher updated the PDFs to address several fatal shortcomings which made print-and-play unfeasible (detailed in an earlier version of this review):

1) Counters now have a consumer-friendly paper size: both US Letter and the original "Arch A" are now provided.

2) Counters now have grid lines: this makes assembly after printing less of a hit-and-miss proposition.

3) Printer-friendly Rulebook and Player Aid Card: the "noisy" backgrounds have been removed (the originals are also still available).

4) The 8.5x11-inch map PDFs now have some margin, so they won't be truncated when printing on consumer-grade printers. Unfortunately, this means that there is no graphics overlap at all for the two halves of the 8.5x11-inch map sheets, but the 11x17-inch copies are still available, for those who have a compatible printer or print them via a professional service.

With that, my review is changed from 1 star to 5.

THANK YOU, TINY BATTLE PUBLISHING!

(What follows is the review from before the publisher addressed the shortcomings described above...)

i unfortuantely have to give THE DIGITAL EDITION (only) of this game an extremely poor rating. i bought this as part of the Bundle of Holding's "War on Everything" bundle, along with the sister titles in this game's series (Invaders from Dimension X and Space Vermin from Beyond). i'm sure the physical copy is just fine, but as a print-and-play title, it has several fatal problems:

1) The counters use "Arch A" paper size, which is a US-only 9x12 inch format (229 × 305mm). Printing these counters on standard paper sizes (namely A4), within margin the limits of consumer printers, requires shrinking the counters even smaller than the 1/2x1/2(?) inches they are now. To get them printed at the intended size requires extracting the graphics from the PDF, splitting the graphics in half, then printing them across two pages (which complicates assembly of the dual-sided counters).

2) The counters are laid out such that they all fit on one page which "could" be folded in half to line up the fronts and backs of the counters... but there are no lines for such alignment, neither around the counters, along the edges of the graphics, nor between the two halves of the page. Folding them properly into place once there's a piece of cardstock between the two halves is an exercise in futility. There are no borders between the counters and the margin for folding errors is extremely tiny.

3) For PnP purposes, parts like the rulebook and "Player Aid" really need to have their noisy backgrounds removed (ideally two copies: one with and one without such a background). Those waste precious printer toner and they hurt legibility unless one prints at 600DPI or higher. The rulebook, in particular, with black text on a "muddy grey" background, is barely legible on the screen or printed on a consumer-grade printer.

4) The map PDFs are laid out all the way to the edge of the paper. Most consumer-grade laser printers cannot print all the way to the edge of the paper. The 11x17-inch map could, if one has a printer capable of handling that size, be printed with the truncated margins without breaking the map. The more consumer-friendly 8.5x11-inch map file is set up such that one would need to truncate "required" edges of the maps. There is some overlap in the two halves of each map, but it's impossible to say, without printing it out, whether that overlap is enough to account for truncation by a printer which cannot print all the way to the edge of the paper. The moral here is that laying out graphics all the way to the edge of the paper is an absolute no-no for consumer-grade PnP purposes.

@Publisher: no game should be released for PnP until/unless the publisher has actually attempted to print, assemble, and play the title as a home consumer would (this means, for example, without access to non-standard paper sizes and with a limited printer toner budget). This title, in its current PnP form, cannot be reasonably assembled and is therefore unplayable.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Attack of the 50 Foot Colossi!
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Space Vermin From Beyond!
Publisher: Tiny Battle Publishing
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/06/2019 11:50:58

This review applies ONLY TO THE DIGITAL EDITION, not the physical edition!

i recently bought this title in digital form, along with the other two titles in this series, via the Bundle of Holding's "War on Everything" bundle.

The digital edition of this game is literally useless unless one has access to a printer capable of printing paper all the way to the edge of the paper (no margins). The maps are prepared in two formats: 18x12-inch and split into 8.5x11-inch chunks, but both sets cover the whole surface of their pages, all the way to the edge of the paper (i.e. no margins). On the 18x12-inch versions, it would be possible to print them out and lose a small bit around the edge of the map without actually breaking the map. On the more consumer-friendly 8.5x11-inch pages, doing so will lose parts of the map, such that the sections will not fit seamlessly together (hex numbers along the edges will get truncated, and those numbers are important during play).

Most consumer-grade laser printers cannot print all the way to the edge of a page because their paper feed systems require color-free edges of the paper to grip. Supposedly inkjet printers can commonly print all the way to the edge, but inkjet is "so 1990s."

One could, of course, print the maps at a smaller scale, but that would require printing the alread-tiny counters out at a corresponding size, making the components unplayably small for anyone without superb eyesight and exceptionally nimble fingers.

The counters, unlike those of the Attack of the 50-foot Collosi set, are mounted on a grid, so they can, with some effort and great care, be lined up front-to-back, but there are no guide lines along the edges/corners of the counters, to assist in this, nor a fold line between the two sides (which are on the same piece of paper), making it extremely difficult to align them properly if there's a piece of opaque cardstock between the two sides.

Currently the only way to get this properly assembled is to send it off to a professional printer which can print to the edge of a page (assuming they'll print copyrighted materials at all - i've heard tales of printers who refuse to print such packages).

On the plus side, unlike Attack of the 50-foot Collosi, this one has a printer-friendly rulebook, without a noisy/toner-wasting background image on every page.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Space Vermin From Beyond!
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Underworld Stories
Publisher: STUDIUM CMLXV
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/19/2019 03:45:03

Disclaimer: i was one of the playtesters for Underworld Stories but have no formal association with the game or its author, e.g. no financial ties.

Underworld Stories is an solid, ultra-light solo dungeon crawl game which plays in less than half an hour. It's conceptually similar to Four Against Darkness, but (A) the rules are both much lighter and much tighter, and (B) the player controls but a single character with no choice of class, race, etc. (That said, the game engine is flexible enough to easily customize it for new character types.)

For randomness it uses a deck of 18 cards - the exact same deck used by the designer's "Hannibal ad Portas" game and other upcoming games in his 1-Page Game series. The cards depict many types of information, each of which is used in different contexts in the game, e.g. generating dungeon layout, populating rooms, attribute tests, combat resolution, or even NPC/monster reactions.

Printed out, the tabletop footprint is 2 pieces of paper: one for the character record sheet and one for the dungeon. The game includes several dungeons, each with distinct monsters and treasures, and completing them grants the character XP with which buy new abilities or improve attributes for future delves. The character sheet contains everything one needs to track the character's state and includes a summary of all important rules of the game. After only one or two sessions, referring to the rulebook is no longer necessary. The dungeon page contains all tables required for that particular dungeon and has an empty area for drawing out the dungeon (most of which have random layouts determined by the cards, though fixed-layout dungeons are also possible). My recommendation is: rather than print out a new copy of each dungeon for each delve, put the pages in clear binders and use a dry-erase marker on them.

The game's environment is completely generic, including no "flavor text" or "world background", so if background/flavor is important to you, this game will not be a great match for you. If, however, you simply enjoy roaming dungeon halls, slaying monsters, and taking their loot, without any significant bookkeeping, then you'll be right at home here. Likewise, it may also be of interest to players who enjoy seeing new and clever game mechanics.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Stories
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HAGGIS the Fantasy Golf Miniatures Game
Publisher: Fez Sinister Games
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/30/2018 06:36:48

Haggis is one of the most refreshing things to happen to fantasy-genre gaming since the genre became a genre. While i have never played real-life golf, i've clocked hundreds of hours playing various video console renditions of the game, and Haggis does an excellent job of modelling those while also keeping the rules simple and playable. Though the character creation is somewhat involved (in that there are many different clubs and accessories from which to choose), the rules of play are about as streamlined as a golf game can be while also being close enough to call it "golf". (The game comes with several fully-equipped sample characters.)

Though golf is inherently a competitive game, Haggis can be played solo, either using multiple golfers or one golfer vs. the course (which can be set up with any number of obstacles for the golfer to overcome - monsters, ball teleporters, sand traps, ... limited only by the imagination).

Haggis is infinitely tweakable. It could, for example, be used in conjunction with an arbitrary fantasy roleplaying game, swapping out Haggis's combat system with the one from that game. Add competitive golf to your otherwise "normal" game campaign. If you want a sci-fi or modern theme, instead of fantasy, that's trivial to do, as the core rules do not require a fantasy theme.

i'm mostly a boardgame and hex-and-chit game player, not a miniatures wargamer, but since getting Haggis (via its 2017 Kickstarter campaign), i have started building up my tabletop terrain collection because, quite simply, Haggis inspires me to do so. Strictly speaking, minis are not required: if you have a large enough sheet of paper (1 sq. yard or more), you can draw a course directly on it. If you're really cramped for space, using half-inches instead of inches as the standard measurement unit will let you set up a course in 1/4th the amount of space (but conventional 28-30mm minis will be out of scale at that size). Apropos minis: the printable minis created for this game (available separately) by David Okum are gorgeous (and can be printed at any scale).

Monsters: Haggis takes a flexible generic approach to monsters, allowing players to make use of whatever monster miniatures they have handy. Alternately, if aestetics aren't important, plain old plastic pawns will work just as well.

Just one minor nitpick, really: the graphical background on each page increases the printing cost notably. i.e. it uses up far more toner than it really should. Individual pages can be imported into Inkscape to remove the background and (for character record sheets and the like) be resized to something more comfortable. (Simply drag the rulebook PDF to an open instance of Inkscape and select which page you want to import.) That said, the only part which needs to be printed out is the club swing template (which is used to specify where you want a ball to go and to determine where it actually goes).

So grab your standard set of polyhedrals and Fudge/Fate dice, place your miniature ball on the coarse, choose a club, and take a swing (i.e. roll 4dF). May your balls fly straight and your clubs not get bent!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HAGGIS the Fantasy Golf Miniatures Game
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Rifles in the Ardennes
Publisher: Tiny Battle Publishing
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/04/2018 05:40:35

(This only applies to the PDF version, not the print copy...)

Why i only give it 3 stars: the game itself is clever and highly (re)playable, and anything i could say about it here is already stated in the product description or the other review (there's only one other review as of this writing, though there are several reviews and playthroughs over on YouTube). However...

The layout of the counters in the PDF edition makes it far more effort to construct the game than is even remotely necessary: i needed 3-4 hours to completely assemble the counters on heavy stock (beer coasters, actually) and cut them out. If the counters could be assembled (with a reasonable quality) in under 90 minutes, i would rate this game 4 out of 5 (i've sent a mail to the publisher explaining how they can rearrange the counters to cut the assembly time considerably, and will update this rating/review if they take those suggestions to heart and update the PDFs). Likewise, i would rate a physical copy 4 out of 5, but i've got the PDF one, so that's what i'm rating. The counters themselves are gorgeous, and look fantastic when printed out on a laser printer. Their layout in PDF form, however, is highly inefficient, requiring twice as much cutting as strictly necessary (due to large gaps between each and every counter), and lining up the front and back sides is far more work than it should/could be (in particular with the Russian troops, where one column of counters is misaligned). Thankfully, however, the publisher saw fit to add "unusually wide" borders on the counters, which means that slight misalignment (up to about 1mm) when combining the front and back sides doesn't completely ruin the counters (except for the 8 Event counters, which need to be aligned precisely if they're to be used as intended (to convey hidden information)).

Tip: after you've assembled the counters, go over their edges with a black marker. This will cover up most misalignment problems and just makes them look much snazzier. i'd post a link to my Rifles in the Ardennes photo album, but i suspect that posting an external link in this review would get the review removed by a moderator :/.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Rifles in the Ardennes
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Fiend Folio (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/20/2017 09:40:08

This classic work is arguably the most iconic of the 1E books. Unfortunately, the publisher completely ruined this edition with their July 20, 2017 update, changing the format from text (copy/pasteable and searchable) to images (each page as a single image). Not only is it no longer searchable and copy/pasteable, but the visual quality of both the text and the pictures were sharply reduced (while the file's size more than doubled, from 18MB to 40MB). If you managed to keep your pre-July 20th copy, good for you. If you replaced your copy with that update (or haven't yet bought it), then tough luck. i would have heartily recommend this book before that update, but cannot at all recommend it now.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Fiend Folio (1e)
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GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/02/2017 11:52:51

Unfortunately, whoever prepared this work obviously didn't bother trying to actually read it, in particular on a mobile device. PDF viewers, by and large, use the single largest page's size to calibrate their zoom levels. The final page in this book is huge (roughly 8 normal pages in size), which means that every PDF viewer i've tried starts out with the normal pages zoomed out really small (so that the single largest page takes up one screen). My tablet-based PDF viewers are literally incapable of zooming in far enough to make the normal-sized pages readable on a 10-inch screen.

The only fix for this is to use your system's "print to PDF" feature to "print" out all of the pages except the last one (i.e. pages 1-71), and then to read that copy.

Grrrrrr.

Other than that, i'm sure it's fine, but jeez, people - try reading what you're selling!



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos (Basic)
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Four Against Darkness
Publisher: Ganesha Games
by Stephan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/01/2017 17:00:36

For me, 4AD's magic is in its elegant simplicity and its tweakability.

The elegant simplicity gets and keeps the player in the game. The first few sessions will require a bit of page-flipping (and/or appropriate judgement-calling), but it nonetheless flows quickly, with neither fuss nor muss.

Tweakability: after your first couple of delves you'll be adding your own classes, creating rules for managing the party outside of the dungeon (e.g. the "party stash" and whatnot), creating your own encounter charts, and possibly even your own dungeon map generators. There's nothing in the game which hinders players in this regard, and there's enough material in the system to provide a good basis of "what's really intended to fit" within the framework.

In the long term, i suspect that 4AD will be known not so much for what it is itself, but as a catalyst which will spawn many other similar systems, each tweaked for variable levels of complexity, depth, and play styles, but ultimately having roots which lead back to this game.

One play tip: stone or aluminum tiles used for flooring and walls, preferably in the size range 2cm to 1 inch or so, can be bought cheaply in large sheets at most hardware stores and make an excellent component for this game. See this photo album for examples of 4AD play using such tiles instead of drawn-on-paper dungeons: https://goo.gl/photos/ACpGecKRRvbpx2mJ7

(Pedantic note: the backslash-escaping of quotes in this review is not from me, but is a bug in the review tool.)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Four Against Darkness
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