Guest Review : Space Hulk Death Angel

Space Hulk : Death Angel CoverSpace Hulk: Death Angel – the Card Game is a card based iteration of the Games Workshop classic, Space Hulk. You take on the role of a Kill-team from the Blood Angels Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines) charged with the investigation and purging of a derelict Space Hulk. This is a highly thematic co-operative game for 1 – 6 players that can be played in about an hour.

Appearance

Death Angel is very well produced and fits nicely inside the 8” * 4” * 1.5” box. The individual Space Marine cards truly bring each marine to life and the text area on these cards is easy to read. The Genestealer cards also have fantastic art and clearly provide the information needed on them. The Terrain cards are rather generic and a bit boring, but cards with text are easy to read. The remaining cards (Location, Action, and Event) are well produced and have good art and easy to read text. The game also includes a red custom die, numbered 0-5, with a skull icon on 3 of the faces and cardboard support and squad tokens, all of which have a high production value.

Rules/Ease of Learning

Once you have a few games of Space Hulk : Death Angel under your belt, the game is fairly simple to play, but the rulebook can be a bit of a hassle to navigate, due to a dis-jointed presentation. For example, the book presents the components of a game round in summary, then in detail, followed by specific rules on how specific actions work. In short, the first few games will probably involve flipping between pages frequently. However, after a few games, the rules become pretty clear. Someone that knows the rules
of the game can easily explain how to play in 5-10 minutes.

When starting a game, the various decks are prepared and locations are seeded, based on a starting location card, which changes based on the number of players. Players then randomly select their two
man squad by drawing squad tokens. Each squad has a unique ability that is tied to the specialty of one of the marines (eg, Heavy Weapons, Close Combat) and a set of Action cards. A round in Death Angel has four phases:

  1. Choose Actions – players select an action to perform, but cannot perform the same action back-to-back. Players may discuss actions, but cannot show their cards to the other players. Once an action is chosen, it is placed face down on the table.
  2. Resolve Actions – players resolve their actions in initiative order, which is printed on the action card they selected.
  3. Genestealer Attack – any Genestealers that are engaged with a Space Marine may attack
  4. Event – the current player reads the top card in the event deck, but does not show it or read it to the other players. This player makes any choices that are identified on the card and then spawns new Genestealers, and moves them, as directed on the card.

Attacks are resolved using the die provided. When a Space Marine takes an Attack action, they roll the die and if a skull comes up, they are successful in eliminating one threat. When attacked by Genestealers, the Space Marine rolls the die and if the result is greater than the number of genestealers in the attacking swarm, then the Marine lives – but it only takes one failure to remove a marine from the game.

Marines explore the Space Hulk by travelling to the locations in the location deck. Each location has a set number of Genestealers that will spawn and once they have all spawned the Marines move to the next location. The game ends when the victory conditions on the final location are met, or all Space Marines are killed.

Gameplay

Space Hulk LayoutWhile you play as a team of superhuman Space Marines, Death Angel is not easy. Communication, tactics and a bit of luck are needed to survive. To survive a game of Death Angel players need to work together and tactically select cards, especially since you cannot play the same card back to back. The necessary teamwork combined with the different abilities of each Marine, one really feels like they are part of a well-oiled Space Marine Kill-team.

Death Angel also captures the feeling of an unrelenting horde through frequent spawning of Genestealers. At the end of each round, more Genestealers spawn – and as swarms grow larger, it becomes more difficult for a Marine to defend against them, which adds to the sense of urgency and horror of facing a foe that vastly outnumbers you.

The location deck also adds to the theme of exploration of an unknown vessel. With each location change, players will wonder if the next location will offer a reprieve, or will the onslaught ramp up? Death Angel constantly pours tension on with each die roll and card drawn.

Having played Death Angel solo and with up to four players the game seems to scale well. The obvious complaint that one could level against Death Angel is the low chance to hit with a regular attack (50% chance) for a single kill, but special abilities are quite powerful and seem to balance this out. Genestealer movement and shifting Marines after a brother falls in battle can be a little tricky – a better rulebook might set this right though.

Conclusion

Death Angel is tense, thematic, and fun. The rulebook isn’t the easiest to read, but Space Hulk : Death Angel is easy to teach once you have a few games under your belt. It’s excellent for when you only have a short period of time to play, and the action can keep eliminated players interested.

New and Restocked Board Games: August 25th, 2011

New Board Games:

Catacombs
Catacombs: Caverns of Soloth Expansion
Catacombs: Dark Passageways Expansion
Defenders of the Realm: Heroes Expansion #2
Munchkin: Conan the Barbarian
Rummikub

Restocked Board Games:
10 Days in Europe
1960: The Making of a President
Alhambra Limted Gold Edition
Arkham Horror Miniatures Set
Axis & Allies Europe 1940
Babel
Blokus
Castle Panic
Catan Dice Game: Deluxe Edition
Catan Histories: Settlers of America
Clue: Classic Edition
Crib Wars
Cthulhu Gloom
Deluxe Illuminati
Diplomacy
Dirty Minds
Dirty Minds Deluxe Edition
Famiglia
For Sale
Fury of Dracula
Game of Thrones LCG: Princes of the Sun Revised Expansion
Game of Thrones LCG: Sacred Bonds Chapter Pack
Gipf Project Set #1
Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation 1517-1555
Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations
Horus Heresy
Jab: Realtime Boxing
Kill Doctor Lucky: Big Box edition
Killer Bunnies Orange Booster
Legend of the Five Rings: War of Honor

Merchants and Marauders
Mini European Card Sleeve
Munchkin 2: Unnatural Axe
Munchkin Zombies 2: Armed and Dangerous
Neuroshima Hex
Pandemic: On the Brink
Power Grid
Runebound: Cult of the Rune Adventure Pack
Skull & Roses
Tichu
Wooly Bully
Zombie Dice

Business Culture : An Introspection

Business culture is a strange thing – you hear about it a lot, but until you actually work in a few companies you don’t realise how different it can be from company to company.  It’s even stranger when you are the owner and thus the person who is actually responsible for creating and developing that culture.  It’s never something I’ve actually thought about in much detail, but with a pair of new employees and the potential of more employees in the future, I’ve started considering the kind of work environment and the people I actually want to hire into the company.

I’ve had bad experiences with a bad ‘fit’ for the company, as well as a clash between expectations.   At the same time, coming from an Asian background, I sometimes have a different view of ownership, business work ethics and relationships than most North Americans.  The difference can be subtle, but it does crop-up and can be jarring since my emotional & mental perspectives can also be completely different.

A really easy example is the workweek; to me 50 – 60 hours is a normal workweek.  Mentally, I understand this isn’t normal and mentally, I completely agree.  Emotionally on the other hand, I find it strange to not be working those hours – or for employees not to be voluntarily doing so either.  And to add another strange twist, I want and try to push for an ‘objective’ based sense of employment where the goal is to get the work done, not the number of hours you put in.  I did mention that I was confused about this right?

So, what is it that I’m trying to build? Here’s my current thoughts:

Ownership

Employees should feel ownership of their tasks and responsibilities.  Part of that means giving them the tools & rights to make the decisions and part of it is realising that I can’t jump down their throats if they do make mistakes.  A couple of quick examples include giving Kaja a petty cash allowance for office items and letting the employees know to fix the customer mistakes first, tell me later.

Free flow of information

Within reason, I’m working on sharing company financials and details with employees (and customers).  If they understand our financial position, our margins and growth, they also can make rational decisions for the company (e.g. fixing orders).  It also means I leave an ‘open door’ policy to my employees – even if the ‘door’ is my phone.

Fun

Hey, we work in a game store. Online maybe, but still a game store.  So let’s enjoy ourselves.  I don’t want to create a too formal culture, which means jokes are okay and chit-chat is fine so long as the work gets done.  I don’t expect to be bosom buddies with the employees, but at the least the office should be mostly free of politics.

What’s Missing?

Those of you who read or have dealt with previous ‘company values’ documents might realise we have nothing stating ‘Customer first’ or the like.  That’s mostly because I’m leery (okay, cynical) about those statements.  Are customers important? Of course, they pay the bills.  Some are even great people and friends now.  However, I’m not sure that’s a ‘value’ in a company as a process – do what you can, when you can, within reason for the customers.

Starlit Citadel Survey Results

I thought some of you might be interest dint he survey results.  I am not going to post all the results, some of it will be no real interest to casual readers, others we feel might be a tad too personal (even if all the information is consolidated).

Game Research

Here’s the chart on how the survey respondents get information on products:

Board Game Research Methods

 

I’d show you the chart for what sites people visited but it’s a mess.  I definitely need to review how we ask that question, we just didn’t get the results we needed.  The only standout (big surprise) was BoardGameGeek. Otherwise, various fan review sites and publisher sites seem to be the other major sources.

On the Site

Of those customers who did the survey, 52% had purchased from us in the last 6 months.  Of course, I have a feeling that this is a biased response since the customers who would respond to get the 5% coupon would also be those with the most engagement.

For the most part, 56% of our respondents first purchased from us due to price. Otherwise, availability and convenience were the second and third most quoted reason for purchasing from us.

Other Hobbies

In terms of other hobbies, these were the responses that we received.

Other hobby interests by survey respondents

Not a huge surprise that our customers were gamers of one form or another.  What was surprising that many were role-playing gamers like myself.  Of the lines we could add, RPGs came out on top as well, so it’s certainly something we’ll be looking at closely in the near future.

Communication & the Blog

Most customers visited our homepage and used our newsletter as their main form of communication, with social media following far behind in comparison.

In terms of the blog, what customers really wanted to see were more reviews.   On that, we have the guest reviewers being added.

The Respondents

Here’s some quick pointers about our respondents:

  • 89% male
  • 11% female

Of these:

  • 55% were between 22 – 34
  • 30% were 35 to 44

And lastly, we’re a generally well educated group

  • 61% had a university degree or more
  • another 19% had some college (which could easily be those currently studying as well)

Conclusion

Hope you found the results as interesting as we did.  We have quite a bit of information now about our customers, some of which we’ll be using to improve the site and our marketing.  We’ll likely host another survey next year to get an idea about any changes.

Guest Review : Dixit the Board Game

Dixit Box frontDixit is a wonderful family/party game for 3-6 players with light strategic elements, fast-paced, creative gameplay and beautiful artwork that will satisfy novice players and seasoned board game veterans of all ages. It is a game that primarily requires imagination and deduction, and maybe a little bit of telepathy. A great quick game for younger crowds or mixed age/experience groups; Dixit should only take 30-45 minutes to play.

Appearance: Dixit is absolutely gorgeous. The 84 cards that comprise the central mechanic of the game are beautifully-illustrated by artist Marie Cardouat, and are often fantastic, absurd, or downright strange. Words don’t really do the game art justice; see below for some pictures. The wooden bidding tokens handle easily, and the rabbit-shaped player tokens are a nice touch.

Setup of the game board for DIxitRules/Ease of Learning: The rules of Dixit are quite simple. Each player is dealt a hand of six cards. The active player begins by saying a word, reciting a quotation, singing a song, or even making a noise that somehow describes one of the cards. This is very open to interpretation – a player may physically describe some object in the picture, an emotion expressed by the picture, a memory they associate with the depicted events, etc. This is really only limited by the player’s imagination. Once the active player has vocalized the chosen card, each player must lay a card face-down on the table that they think best embodies the active player’s description. Often this requires some creative thinking on the part of the other players; it is rare that the word or phrase spoken by the active player will perfectly describe one of their cards as well.

The next phase of the game is bidding. The cards are shuffled and laid face-up on the table, and assigned numbers from left to right. Each player (excluding the active player) must secretly bid on the card they believe was laid by the active player. When all bids have been placed, the bidding tiles are turned face-up and scoring begins.

Scoring is the trickiest part of the rules. The active player only receives points if at least one player (but not all of them) chose the correct card. If all or none of the players chose the active player’s card, everybody but the active player scores points. This means that the active player must pick a word/phrase/etc. that is neither too specific nor too vague. Once the scoring is complete, the active player changes and a new round begins.

Dixit Score Track and Inside BoxGameplay: Though the rules are simple, the strategy is tricky enough that most new players will spend a few rounds of frustration as either nobody or everybody picks their card, denying them from scoring any points. Sometimes you are unlucky and nobody else has a card that even remotely matches the active player’s word or phrase, making it an easy choice for all. However, once players have played a few rounds, it becomes easier to find the right balance between obscurity and precision.

The gameplay in Dixit is also aided by an almost complete lack of language-dependence. Being composed almost entirely of pictures, Dixit can be played by people of varying linguistic ability – be they young children or people who speak English as a second language (though you may have to explain a word or two). I have played this game several times with people who have low to intermediate English skills, and it works very well. The flexibility of the verbal component of this game means it scales itself to the ability of the players. Clues might often be a single adjective, when playing with younger players or students. If playing with an older crowd, clues might be references to movies or song lyrics. If playing with close friends, clues could include inside jokes that might give certain players a somewhat-unfair advantage.

The above praise notwithstanding, the fantastic art and simple gameplay often steers veteran board gamers away from Dixit. It is easy to see Dixit as a game solely for families and young children, but one shouldn’t discount it entirely. Part of the amusement I derive from Dixit is trying to guess how other people think I think, and then trying to outthink them. The strategy involved is as complicated as you wish to make it.

The strategy and gameplay in Dixit depends partially on the number of players. The three player game is somewhat weak, although the rules change do change to accommodate the lower number of players, with each player (except the active player) choosing two cards instead of one. Nevertheless, the game is definitely much more enjoyable with five or six players. Because the game is played until the deck is depleted, increasing the number of players adds more depth and enjoyment to the game without appreciably increasing game length.

Dixit Card Close-UpBeing a game that relies on individual imagination, Dixit can vary wildly from group to group. Knowing one of your opponents very well often helps you make the leap of logic between the picture on the table and the word or phrase spoken by the active player. Players often have to put themselves in their opponent’s shoes to try to figure out how their minds work. Telepathy is an asset.

Conclusion: Overall, Dixit is one of the best party/family games that I’ve played in recent years. It combines imagination and creativity with deduction and mind-reading to create a game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. People looking for a serious, strategically complex game should steer clear, but those who want a game they could play with their children, friends, parents, and grandparents all at the same time should certainly give Dixit a chance.

Cos & Effect and Changes Behind the Scenes

Posting has been relatively slow lately, as we’ve been busy with a number of projects; mostly behind the scenes updates that make running the business easier.  I thought I’d do a quick update on the most recent changes as well as do a quick Con report for Cos & Effect.

Cost & Effect

Cos & Effect is the new cosplay convention in Vancouver after Anime Evolution went defunct.   Overall, for a first year, the convention went well with quite a few attendees.  The fact that it was their first year showed in a few places – e.g. the promised ‘gaming lounge’ was completely inappropriate for gaming with knee-high tables. However, overall it seemed pretty well run and we had few hiccups.  I’m looking forward to next year when I hope the vendors have a dedicated room; increasing overall security for our stock.

Sales-wise, it was significantly lower than Anime Evolution.  It’s partially, I think, due to the fact that the con-attendees trended towards the younger end of the usual AE spectrum, thus reducing their overall budget.  Of course, not being directly related to Anime or cosplay either,  we generally see lower sales at these events. Generally, we do these events for the exposure more than sales so I’m not completely stressed by the lower sales.

Hiring

We’re currently in the midst of attempting to hire again for a part-time position.  Business has picked up sufficiently that I’d like Kaja to focus on some additional duties, which she is unable to do so due to the increase in sales (and added complexity of running both Canada Post & FedEx right now).

It’s been interesting – on our worst day last Friday, we had 8 interviews arranged and only 3 turned up.   We currently have an offer out and will know at the end of this week if it’ll be accepted.  Otherwise, we might just have to bit the bullet and not hire anyone till October where we can attempt to hire someone full-time.

Site Tweaks

You might have noticed a new pair of options to sort games via ‘Bestsellers’ or ‘Reviews’.  It’s a minor tweak, that we think has provided a nice new viewing / sorting option to customers.

Game Reviews

As many of you might have noticed, we requested some guest reviewers last week and had some interested applicants.  I expect to get the first review later this week up, let us know how they do and who you enjoy.  I’m currently planning for 1 review per week, potentially increasing if these reviews get a positive response.

Back-End Changes

We’ve also tweaked our backend design a bit, making it easier and faster to process our orders and to find specific orders.  We’ve also redesigned our PDF invoices so that they’re easier to read to make it easier to note multiple copies of games.

Next on the list is an automatic upload of tracking numbers for Canada Post & FedEx.  This will result in faster shipment reports for customers.

New and Restocked Boardgames: August 18th, 2011

New Board Games
Clue: Classic Edition
Gubs
No Peace Without Spain
Red November: Revised Edition
Ultra Pro 65×100 Board Game Sleeves

Restocked Board Games
10 Days in Africa
10 Days in the Americas
Arkham Horror
Arkham Horror: Innsmouth Horror
Bang! Wild West Show
Black Friday
Call of Cthulhu LCG Core Set
Clue Reinvention
Crows
Galaxy Trucker
Game of Thrones Living Card Game Core Set
Game of Thrones LCG: Kings of the Sea Revised Expansion
Glory to Rome
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Hive
Pass the Popcorn
Pirate’s Cove
Qwirkle
Red Dragon Inn
Resident Evil Deck Building Game
Rowboat
Scrabble
Seven Dragons
Smiley Face
Spirits of Niagara
Star Munchkin
Succession: Intrigue in the Royal Court
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Thurn and Taxis: All Roads Lead to Rome
Thurn and Taxis: Power & Glory
Tien Zi Que
A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game

New & Restocked Board Games : August 16, 2011

New Board Games
A Game of Thrones : Winds of Winter Chapter Pack
Field Commander : Napoleon
Enchanted Forest

Restocked Board Games
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayers
Chronicle
Civilization the Board Game
Colossal Arena
Commands & Colors Napoleonics
Cthulhu Dice
Cthulhu Gloom Card Game
Dungeoneer : Tomb of the Lich Lord
Forbidden Island
Gloom Card Game
Gosu
A Game of Thrones : Raven’s Song Chapter Pack
Ingenious (Updated Ed)
Last Night on Earth: Growing Hunger Expansion
Last Night on Earth: Survival of the Fittest Expansion
Last Night on Earth: Zombies with Grave Weapons
Lord of the Rings LCG: Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack
Mini USA Game Sleeves
Munchkin 3: Clerical Errors
Munchkin 4: The Need for Steed
Munchkin 5: De-Ranged REVISED
Munchkin 6: Demented Dungeons
Munchkin 7: Cheat with Both Hands
Munchkin: Go Up A Level!
Munchkn Cthulhu 4 Crazed Caverns
Once Upon a Time: Dark Tales
Rattlesnake
Risk: 2210 A.D.
Runebound 2nd Edition
Standard USA Game Sleeves
Super Munchkin
Tanto Cuore
Through The Ages
Zooloretto : Polar Bear Expansion

Looking for Guest Reviewers / Bloggers

One of the major requests from customers was that we write more reviews on the blog. However, it’s not something I’ve had time to do recently. On that note, we’d like to put out a call for guest reviewers / bloggers.

If you can (or do) write reviews for other sites, let us know. Reviews would:
– become our property for use on the site and possibly other promotional purposes
– be posted at Starlit Citadel’s blog first (can be re-posted elsewhere, but would be referenced to our site)
– follow our general review format (that means approximately 800 – 1000 words minimum)
– be well written
– open to editing by us

If you are agreeable to the above conditions, we’d offer:
– payment either as Gift Certificates or games at $25 per approved review. Cash might be possible; but would be at a lower value.
– reviewers that take the time to take photos, etc. might receive more (to be negotiated)

This is a test run, so we’re looking at 1; maybe 2 reviewers to start to see how it plays out. Let us know if you’re interested by either commenting here or e-mailing us. Any prior reviews (or sample writing) would be helpful.

New and Restocked Boardgames August 11th, 2011

New Board Games:

Quarriors

Restocked Board Games:

Acquire
Apples to Apples: Bible Edition
Arkham Horror
Battle for Normandy
Bohnanza
Castle Panic
Coloretto
Combat Commander: Europe
Commands & Colors Ancients (3rd Printing)
Cthulhu Dice
Descent: The Well of Darkness
Descent Sea of Blood Ocean Map-Board
Dice Town Expansion
Fishing for Terrorists
Guillotine Card Game
Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage
Imperial 2030
Intrigue
K2: The Board Game
Kinder Bunnies
The Magic Labyrinth
Mansions of Madness: Seasons of the Witch
Munchkin 3: Clerical Errors
Munchkin 7: Cheat with Both Hands
Munchkin Bites!
Munchkin Quest
Munchkin Quest 2: Looking for Trouble
NightFighter
Olympos
Pandemic
Power Grid
Power Grid: Factory Manager
Queen’s Ransom
Race for the Galaxy
Ricochet Robots
San Juan
Santiago
Scattergories Bible Edition
Stone Age
Talisman: Sacred Pool Expansion
Talisman: The Dungeon Expansion
Talisman: The Frostmarch Expansion
Talisman: The Highland Expansion
Tide of Iron
Tribune Expansion
Villa Paletti
Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow: the Village
Zombies!! 3.5: Not Dead Yet!
Zooloretto