Category Archives: Ethnos

Great Gaming Weekend

This past weekend (Friday and Saturday to be exact), I had the pleasure of engaging in tabletop gaming with a pair of my best friends, Wally Wenklar and Kevin Sarnowski. Man, what a blast!

SANTORINI

Wally and I started things off late-Friday morning playing six games of Santorini. Wow, what a fantastic little game. We played three games using the basic rules, followed by three games using the various God powers.

Santorini is easy to learn, but difficult to master, especially when you factor in the near infinite variety of the God Power match-ups which bend the rules in slight and intriguing ways. That keeps the game fresh after repeated plays.

The word elegant is tossed around too often to describe good game design, but it’s a perfect word to describe Santorini. It’s truly a slick game, an instant 10 star rating for me, and a game that I can’t wait to play again.

ETHNOS

On Friday afternoon, I sat down with Wally and Kevin to play our first ever game of Ethnos. This was a board game that my wife got me as a Christmas gift in 2021, and I had heard good things about it.

Ethnos is an interesting hybrid; part set-collection card game and part area-control game. It’s got a fantasy veneer, but at its heart it’s a slick, point-gathering Euro game. What really makes it shine are the 12 different tribes (creatures) that provide special ways to earn points, more easily control areas, break ties, and so on. And the special powers truly make thematic sense. Cool!

I’ve heard folks complain about the game’s dull looking map and pastel control markers. They don’t bother me. The map & control-markers are clear and functional. John Howe’s card art is attractive to me, but I can see it might not be to everyone’s tastes (the colors are muted). Overall, this is an average game from an aesthetic standpoint.

Ethnos’ simplicity, quick pace of play, and variety of strategies based on the mix of tribes you’ve chosen to play make for a game that’s highly re-playable and fun. My initial rating is 9 stars. The only small niggles are the luck of the draw and end-of-turn beancounting aspects of it. Overall, it’s a great game that I’m eager to play again.

WARLORDS OF HEXENSTEIN

On Saturday, Kevin and I played two games of Warlords of Hexenstein, a fast-play, hex-based, fantasy wargame that I’m developing. Kev’s Dark Elves were pitted against my Mythic Greek army. I lost both battles. Aargh!!

I like to try out odd army builds and wild strategies during these early playtesting sessions. Consequently, my Greeks had hardly any shooters (just two javelin-armed Light Cavalry units and a monster with poisonous breath). That proved to be a big detriment against a wily enemy comprised of 12 units, 6 of which could shoot. With limited terrain to shield my infantry’s advance, I aggressively plowed ahead and took lots of risks, and paid for them dearly.

And… Oh… My… God… The Dice Gods hated me! Usually, the law of Big Numbers applies and your dice luck evens out over the course of a battle. Not on Saturday! You simply gotta laugh it off.

The turning point in Game-1 was when I threw my Warlord (Perseus) into battle on a hill, his tough-Spartan unit was damaged, and he gloriously failed his Death Save, rolling a 3, which had an 8% chance of happening. I say “glorious”, because I boldly proclaimed “My Warlord once failed this test when I was playing Wally.” Somewhere, the Greek Goddess, Nemesis, is smiling. She’s the goddess who enacts retribution against those who succumb to hubris, arrogance before the gods. BITCH!  

Game-2 was even worse. This was a grinding battle. Eventually, the weakest of the Greek units couldn’t outlast the Dark Elves or the Greek army’s continual failures. My Sorceress was pitiful and needs to be sent back to Wizarding School. My Minotaurs turned traitors and defected to the Dark Elves side! BASTARDS!! My javelin-armed Greek Light Cavalry couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. My Glamazons charged boldly ahead, only to be unceremoniously cut down, sexy pink blood flooding the plains of Hexenstein. It was a heroic display of futility.

Still… Even in defeat, I had a great time. This was our 5th playtest of Warlords of Hexenstein and I’m pleased with my design progress. As always, I jotted down my post-game designer notes, and aside from improving the Routing rules and making some minor Strength value tweaks, there aren’t any major issues jumping out at me. I’m hoping to get those adjustments done and another game played within the next 4 weeks.

Some snapshots from Saturday’s game below (click images to enlarge)…  

Until next time, happy gaming.

Christmas Games 2021

In 2020, I told my wife, “don’t buy me anything for Christmas”. Well, she listened. LOL. If I’m being completely honest, as much as giving gifts to others feels great (especially when they love what you got them), Christmas does lack something when you don’t receive any gifts.

This year I wanted to avoid that melancholy feeling, and so I sent a list to my wife, asking for a few gifts to cover Christmas and my birthday (which arrives in 3 weeks). She listened and I scored some gifts this year, including several fun gaming-related things. Suffice to say, I enjoyed the holiday this season a lot more than last year. Something in the back of my mind, perhaps Catholic Guilt, makes me feel a bit selfish for saying that, but not enough to worry about it.

Cigar Box 4×6′ Battle Mat – Mixed Ground with 4″ Hexes

The hobby gift that I wanted most was a nice looking, hex-gridded battle mat that I could use for games of Warlords of Hexenstein with my friends. I already own one plain, felt green mat from Hotz Mats, but I wanted something with a nicer background.

Below are snapshots of the Cigar Box Battle mat that I received as a gift from my wife. This is a Mixed Ground mat with an overlay of 4″ hexes. I like the looks of it. It’s very versatile and will work perfectly for Warlords of Hexenstein where a 3″ or 4″ grid (recommended) is required so you can comfortably fit one unit (on an 80x60mm element base) into one hex.

Board Games: Ethnos and Age of War

I also received two board games that were high on my list.

The first is a small box game called Age of War by designer Reiner Knizia. It’s a very light and fast-playing card & dice game. I wasn’t even aware of this game’s existence until I saw a review of it by fellow blogger Guru Pig, and that piqued my interest in it. I don’t really have that many light/fast games in my collection, so this will be a nice addition.

The second board game that I received from my wife is a highly regarded strategy game called Ethnos that I learned about last year. I like what I’ve seen of this from YouTube videos, and it has a combo of theme and mechanics that I love (fantasy, area majority, card drafting).

My board game collection has outgrown my ability to play everything, so in the past few years I’ve become much pickier about what games I want to acquire. It has to be something that I’m 100% sure my friends and I will play, isn’t overly complex, and fills a niche that’s not already covered by other games that I own. So, I hope these will be nice additions that will stick.

Until next time, be safe and enjoy the holiday break.