Though rife with shocking nudity and Masonic devilry, the game functions well enough for what it is, a "super-filler" that hosts up to seven players in 30 minutes. It's pretty, engaging, and the small decisions are nice. At the end you're rewarded with an awesome/mediocre/just-plain-sad tableau that tells the story of your soaring/forgotten/broke-ass civilization.
The game suffers grotesquely when players don't counter-pick—the player who manages to seat themselves between two milquetoasts will win with a shockingly massive score. We're talkin' 37-42-52-87-33 shocking.
"What the hell were you doing?!" I ask Ms. 87's neighbors.
They blink as if slapped. "I was building my civilization," they say.
"For the love of God," I rave, "Why did you keep passing her exactly what she needed?!"
"Well," they mumble, "I had other things to do."
"Yes," I gurgle through clenched teeth, "Like making sure she doesn't double all our scores!"
So, yeah, this game requires mouth-pooping in order to work. When everyone keeps a scatalogical eye on their neighbors—and even up- and downstream some—it's a nice little card drafting game that's over quickly enough that you don't notice the undigested corn.
When playing with people who refuse to poop in their neighbor's mouths, I strongly suggest you sit between two of them in order to maximize your score.
UPDATE: Much better (I'd rate it an 8) with the 7 Wonders: Leaders expansion. Leaders allow you to focus your strategy (just a little), or at least build some synergy. Or, with a poor selection, have hilariously random historical figures running your show. Hatshepsut in Rome?! ~LULZ
tl;dr — It's time to get excited about farming! Farming. And man, did we ever get excited. This thing hit like dynamite fishing and then we fought a massive war over it. And when I finally got to plowin' with my doughty farm-wife the earth gave up its dead because they only moved the headstones. 50 plays.
UPDATE: Well, there's massive shrinkage in Hell—I picked up a copy and I'm actually looking forward to playing it!
UP-UPDATE: I can totally see how people can rate this a 10. It's charming and mildly haunting, and there are actually opportunities to dump a turd in the downstream player's punchbowl. "Yeah, I didn't need that food. I went fishing just to watch your kids starve."
Ultimately, though, this gets stuck in the dreaded 7 ghetto—good enough, but missing that special something. And that something is a theme that isn't farming.
After 17 plays: I'm bumping this up to an 8. My wife loves it, and I find her enthusiasm for the game infectious. With two relatively experienced players—and wine—the game flies by; the struggle and decision-making is a pleasant diversion, and the tiny model farm you wind up with at the end is nifty.
FINAL ANALYSIS: All things being equal, the cards make or break the game. Either you get a fistful of synergy that showers you with freebies or you sit and watch someone else play that game. I suppose this could be mitigated with some kind of card draft or other time-consuming setup step, but really, the game isn't that deep or robust to support such shenanigans. This sensitivity to the vagaries of luck keeps the game firmly wedged in the "whipped dessert" category—very tasty, but ultimately nothing more than sugar and air.
After 27 plays: Revising down to a 7. Familiarity is bleeding this one out, especially after a brutal string of games with poor card draws. Also, the tension in the 5p game is unpleasant, or, more correctly, is out of whack with the payoff for suffering it. There are only so many times you can circle the drain of reductive choice where it's pastry, pie, cookie, crumb, bowl of poop before losing your mind and fantasizing about rolling some dice and kicking in the door of the guy who wasted the sow space for baking and using the axe you invented on his family.
"You got Ceramics? I got Clogs, bitches! CLOOOGS!!!"
So far the 2p game is my favorite—it's over quickly enough that a bad hand is tolerable. Two or 3p is definitely the sweet spot for this.
After 38 plays: Revising down to a 6. Not timeless, not a classic, and it's about farming. Farming!
After 50 plays: Bumping it back up to a 7. My wife really, really loves it, and that softens my hard heart. Besides, our last game was really weird—I didn't try my usual min-maxing by following the script that always nets 40+ points—I went after a wheat baron's seven-room stone mansion with constant barbeques. Meanwhile, my wife deviated from her script as well, with the game ending up 24-21 in my favor. I like weird.
Finally, a solution to the 400-year-old problem of four-player farming... This "game" gets a well-deserved 1 for being the epitome of Euroslack; as a good gaming buddy always says when Euros hit the table (with a wet plop, I might add): "What am I in this one, a farmer?" It pulls a 1.11 for only being available in Ancient Atlantean (that crazy mouth-stumbling they call a "language")—note to the designer: I hope you make a bajillion dollars selling this to all those multitudes of Atlantis who are obviously going to be going game-nuts over it. Sheesh. [BGG CON III got played]
By all accounts this game is the Second Coming of Caylus With Three Testicles.* The tidal wave of hype surrounding this should be more than enough to obliterate the actions of 17 rogue BGGers. But I am intrigued by the fact that it only took 17 people (out of how many tens of thousands who traffic this site?) to rock the boat...
*Once upon a time, Caylus was the savage hotness, the blazing terminus that divided gamers into two camps—the lofty intelligentsia who breathed the Language of God and shat meaningful decisions and the drooling idiots who would mold dice out of poop and gamble with their own teeth on the outcome. In the decade between then and now (2005-2015) the turd-rollers won. They won.
How does it happen? How? How can a two-player game blow out like a prolapsed colon, 43-21? We started with the same potential, nothing but fertile humps of land and 14 cards and then... sudden bloody spandex.
THERE IS NO GOD
Man, I had plans... When I fanned those cards I saw a shining path straight out of subsistence farming and into a fancy stone house filled with thick-legged daughters who could pull plow and carry water. Instead I got a surfeit of freakishly large vegetables and one single, stunted scion.
Oh, but how the neighbors carried on, with their prize sheep and eating meat at every harvest with the progeny sliding straight out of the birth canal and into the pot. Clipped the cord with the lid, they did! Damn them all and their noisy lot, their pink-rubbed children all wearing clothing and such. As if!
The boy and I go now to bury these man-sized carrots beneath the waning Moon like five neat graves and we'll see which Dark Forces come for whom. Oh, we shall see...
The less that is said about the "Five (!) Begging Cards Incident" the better. After 40-some-odd games you'd think it was unthinkable—but there I was, helping a newb avoid disaster and starving children and BAM it was harvest time and me without any kind of food engine other than perhaps eating our own young. And so my offspring, my beloved child, haunted those woods as emaciated as a living skeleton, hollow-eyed and pantsless, with one withered arm bouncing uselessly against its side as it loped through the shadows.
And all the while those Others just watched and whispered, gathered round their groaning tables piled high with meat and veg in their cozy stone houses.
Disaster, I tell you, is the root of madness.
"Daddy," the children wail, "make food come out of the ground again like you did that one time!"
"Shut up, shut up!" I rage, drunk on fermented moss. "I swear I'll set this goddamn place on fire!"
"If only you knew how to start one," snorts my doughty farm-wife.
A mild, yet entertaining diversion. And, yes, you can say, "Oh, the humanity!" one too many times.
UPDATE: I really like this. You try to assemble the best zeppelin manufactory possible and then dice off like crazy to build more—and better—airships than anyone else. If you like rolling dice (and that "baby needs a new tank of Blaugas" feelin') and putting together machines of cascading card effects to let you roll more and different dice, and you happen to like zeppelins, too, this is worth a look.
When you play this for the first time against someone with 100+ logged plays don't expect your ass to merely get kicked—expect it to go through a 2001-esque wormhole journey with a relativistic brick wall at the end, the collision with which creates a new Big Bang, giving birth to a whole universe of game-losing morons.
UPDATE: Got the iPad version to grind my head against, but it turns out the bots are worse than me. Don't think I've ever lost, even against the alpha-bot...
UPDATE: Revised down to a 7... to date, none of the many expansions have caught my fancy. I just don't like the direction they took this game in, genre-wise. There's nothing wrong with it—it's a perfectly fine game—the game world just inspires apathetic ennui in me. So it's me, not you, BattleLore.
Rating is as a family game—I'm currently using this as "stepping stones to the temple of Tichu" for my two sons. So far it's worked like gangbusters as a short, fun just-before-bedtime family game. My next scheme is to suck my dad & brother in with penny-a-point games...
Note: I chuck the deuce-as-top-card nuttiness and just teach it ace-high with "standard" card ranking (and refer to it as Step on the Little Guy rather than Big Two). Clears up a LOT of confusion for newbies this way.
Fun & funny, though the game itself is just a coupling device for amusing minds. It would be hideous with the humorless. It's all in the metagame, arguing why a given trade should or shouldn't happen, and attempting to craft the sweetest deal.
I expect the rating to rise with further play.
PS. Gola sez to also remove the wax and cocoa beans when playing with fewer than 6p. This is wisdom.
Great party game, as long as everyone knows how to swear like a nine-year-old Halo player and has a nutsack full of bile-spitting shrews. You can't just point a foam rubber gun at someone and say "Tee-hee! I will shoot you" and expect to get anything done.
You have to jam it in their eye and scream:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
"I will fucking do you, right here, right now—and then I'll do your whole fucking family, skin your kids and whip your pets to death with their wet, knotted hides and then I'll do myself so we can all meet at my pleasure dome in the afterlife where you are all my slaves and then I'll do you all again and so on forever unless you drop. The fucking. Gun! Do it! Do it now!"
My kids will never, ever see me play this game.
UPDATE: Played with the kids (who are now all of age). To my horror I find they are nasty, nasty people.
Good stuff in that it causes massive-project competition, though once the top-end threshold is reached there's really no stealing the titles away. Which I suppose is thematic; once your butt's in the seat you're gonna neck-stab everyone who has the same idea...
Has nice synergy with The Count as it gives everyone yet another reason to "cooperate" and complete features for each other.
Fig. 1 — Settlersbits work nicely as largest city & longest road markers.
Gold is for a-holes. It makes everyone horn in on your business, often finishing it for you while you watch in horror. And then they Scrooge-McDuck around with it, making really heavy, unstable pigsties and pressing peasants to death with stacks of ingots.
UPDATE: Gold is heavy—monstrously heavy—and when lifted can cause disastrous, spandex-shredding blowouts. While bowels in your pants is certainly de rigueur for Carc, it's as hard on the eyes as it is the stomach.
"I don't like gold," said Anna.
And she was the runaway winner, by something like 80 points.
UPDATE: For best results, treat this as a storytelling party game for history nerds where Linchpins can only be flipped in person. Take the typical chrono-chaos surrounding "1963: Kennedy Assassinated" for example:
wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff wrote:
Just as "Oswald" draws a bead on the President's head a time traveler steps out from behind a strange curve and brains the shooter with a tomahawk—
As "Jackie" suddenly pulls a switchblade and stabs Kennedy in the neck—
As "Connally" turns in the front seat and unloads a Model 642 Centennial Airweight .38 Special +P into "her" face, peeling "her" pink pillbox—
As "Abraham Zapruder" takes a knee on the grassy knoll and pops a goddamn RPG straight into the 1962 grille of the custom 1961 Lincoln Continental, blowing it to smithereens—
As a careening [nondescript] garbage truck gets air off the knoll, pulping the would-be rocketeer—
As a guy with a limpet mine (originally intended for the re-sinking of the Titanic) bolts from the crowd and clamps it to the side of the rapidly recombobulating limo—
As we all suddenly discover that limpet mine guy's mom was his dad while his dad dad was still his dad and so he cancels out like some kind of pesky denominator—
As a Fairchild FH-227D full of Jesuit proto-cannibals makes a sudden detour from 1972 and nosedives into the scene in an obliterating cone of fire—
And so Dealey Plaza becomes an ever-widening stutter of doings and undoings, up to and including the probable detonation of the Sun itself.
Time travel, you see, is not for the faint of heart—it requires real grit and the kind of single-focus determination one would imagine necessary for continual mass suicide.
Only really necessary if you play this game an awful lot, and love it accordingly. The wooden king piece is nice, but I already had a weighted Staunton king that I spray-painted gold and accessorized with purple felt... The replacement cards are nice, but I already keep 'em in sleeves... So, in the final analysis, all I really get are the new district cards.
I have to say, in all seriousness, my favorite part of this expansion is the box. It's much smaller than the original and has a nice linen finish AND IT HOLDS THE ENTIRE GAME!!! At last, I have a nice box that matches the form-factor of the game itself.
PURGED as redundant since acquiring the 2005 FFG Silver Line edition of the base game with the expansion included.
A mish-mash of mechanics (set collection cardplay, blind bidding, and a teensy bit of Tetris, among others) held together by an engaging theme and over-the-top production values. It really shouldn't work, but when played as a lighter, almost party-style game (i.e., social above all) it works brilliantly.
Corruption is the fastest way to victory points—and into the crocodile's gullet! For me the most engaging part of the game is the balance between greed (racing ahead via corruption) and trying to position yourself just enough to eke out a win. You don't need to be the least corrupt or the richest to win—you just need to be one unit less corrupt than the worst player and a single Talent ahead of everyone who's left. Really feels like walking a tightrope over a croc pit.
I hesitate to recommend it as YMMV, but around here it's worked great as a couples' game.
UPDATE: Okay, in all honesty, Clue is not one of those games that works well with reskinning. The original is built up from a solid foundation of Agatha Christie-style shenanigans. It works best when we're all running around a baroque mansion accusing each other of bludgeoning, strangling, stabbing or shooting Old Man Boddy... probably for his money. The whole D&D thing just doesn't work. I'd much rather play the '70s version with the photographs.
UP-UPDATE: Now that the kids are adults, the game is over in a flash—everyone pretty much hits the solution simultaneously and then it's a race to the center... Also, I've come to appreciate the D&D flavor as the sparkle-frosting on the pinky-pink cupcake.
This game is deliciously broken—it's all about the player interaction; the most "metagamey" game I've ever played.
UPDATE: Giving this classic the 10 it deserves.
Hasbro/Avalon Hill edition: 7
2008 Fantasy Flight Games edition: 10
Bluffing, gambling, negotiation, backstabbing, outrageous reversals—this game has it all. And a thick, gooey science fiction theme to boot! The rules are simple, almost laughably so, but that's not where the game is. The game is in finding the most clever way in which to use those rules to your advantage, no matter how bleak the situation. Taken at face value, it's pretty lame, and I can see why some people hate it so. Add in a bunch of raucous, cunning friends and the game surprises and delights every time. I'm constantly surprised at some of the subtle ways "I'm screwed" moments can turn into a big win.
Negotiated (or even forced) multi-wins are great since they keep the playing time more than tolerable (Read: occasionally too short—but what the hell, let's play again!)
Come sundown the Count prowls the streets, bellowing gibberish and obscenities in his iron mask and purple, crotchless velveteens, whipping the slower peasants with a manskin bullwhip. To call him mad would do dishonor to every last one of us, for he is but a symptom of the City...
"We have all taken our turns as the Count—and his gimp."
Has some nice synergy with The King as the person completing the largest city or longest road becomes King or Robber Baron (not the one scoring it), providing an extra incentive for nonscoring completions, the trigger for consigning a meeple into the Count's "care". Should also work well with the trade good tiles from Traders & Builders for the same reason—"helping now to hurt later."
This is San Juan to Cranium's Puerto Rico—it takes the best things from the base game and distills them down into a streamlined format and makes it co-op to boot. The addition of time pressure increases the tension (in a fun way) while ensuring the game doesn't overstay its welcome. All in all, better than the source material. (Rating and comments reflect "party" play with three couples.)
UPDATE: No love since Jen admitted that she hates this.
Great family game. Seeing what everyone picked for you is like Christmas morning—my wife felt especially loved when our two boys, a nephew, and I made her ranking of selections particularly difficult; we all picked things she enjoyed, every time. That's when she knew how well we knew her, and how much attention we pay to her likes and dislikes.
Awright—that's enough sap.
The game can be learned in 4.3 blimfarks (that's really, really fast) and doesn't last as long as you wish it would. Calls of "let's play again!" are not uncommon. Recommended for families.
WARNING: This is, at its heart, a dice game. Much of the "action" comes in the form of "passing tests" which are nothing more than you and an opponent engaging in brainless card-play and then rolling D6s to see who gets the highest number. If this in any way bothers you, you will hate this game. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a terrific light filler (game length is adjustable) for Cthulhu fans, slathered to dripping in theme. The humor is silly, and really, what more can you ask of humor? I lost horribly in my first game—the only lap counter I got was from stealing an opponent's Gremlin-infested Engine of the Damned and taking a short-cut through the Dreamlands while drunk out of my mind on Space Mead. If that sentence gets you off, so will this game.
Like other Fluxx games, not so much a game as an innocuous game-like activity... Though this may be the best theme possible for it—HPL's dreamscape more than matches the swimming-against-a-tide-of-sand insane-o sensation of playing vanilla Fluxx.
"After we shoot the squatters in the McDonald's we'll drink the fryer grease. Well, me 'n you will anyway—screw those other guys."
* First play was rough, as I was the betrayer (dammit!) and had no idea how to nudge things in the desired direction without looking fishy. Providence lent me a hand with a disastrous "hospital adventure" in which two survivors perished (a vivid and memorable narrative moment), but after I dumped the first real turd in the punch bowl my poker face slipped and I was caught in a lie, summarily exiled, my objective rendered impossible. Next time will be different... right?
Some crossroads cards are marked with a li'l swearing word-balloon to indicate "mature content", facilitating their removal for those who'd rather not endure potentially disturbing material.* This is a neat idea in general ("Hey! I can play this with the kids, and Gramma!") but the application seems haphazard. The cards with the symbol aren't that rugged,
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Why can't we have a debate about smothering the baby?
and at least one card that wasn't marked has a truly horrific encounter with
Spoiler (click to reveal)
your dead parents—one by apparent suicide, the other zombified and coming straight at you.
If I were lily-livered and that one popped up in front of kids I'd probably faint. A note to the designers: If you're gonna go for the jugular, get to it. Hesitation marks evoke the wrong kind of disquiet.
After 4 plays: This gets a 7. While the narrative moments are grand (last night we decided that exiles get their arms duct-taped to their sides, with a police whistle affixed to their mouths**—they get a boot in the back to send them staggering into the icy night, all a-whistlin' to beat the band) there just doesn't seem to be much tension. Betrayers haven't been at all difficult to spot, and we've taken to exiling good people just to get the numbers down to beat a crisis or meet food requirements toward the end. Hopefully this picks up with experience, but so far the few bright spots have been awash in a sea of ennui.
*Seems ludicrous in a seriously-toned game about rooting around in the putrefying corpse of civilization while screwing each other over, but whatever.
**Because we were fresh out of air horns.
NOTE: Next time don't forget your goddamn reading glasses.
This ends up hovering at a sweet Lagrange point halfway between a table-top minis game and an RPG.
I like the basic game engine, especially in keeping combat to a single dice throw—range, hit and damage all in one tumble.
It can be a hellish challenge for the Marines, however (a win for them is a difficult stunt to pull off), but as long as everyone knows that from the get-go it can make for a good, albeit tense, time. (And when they do win, standing high-fives, jocular invectives, and a decent amount of crowing are well in order.)
Elder Sign is really all about the pulpy, three-fisted flavor and the delicious tension that comes from a 5-in-6 chance of instant doom as the lone bone rattles around in a sweaty fist and a depth of eyeballs stare...
...and for those rare moments of real catharsis when that 1-in-6 bit hits and the whole table erupts in exaltation.
*This play had an inordinate number of new players—three, I think—and we don't allow alpha-dogging in our co-ops. A crack team of veterans would have won this one.
**Though without the solo games this jumps to 80%. I consider solo play to be a degenerate variant as I play with a single character alone; Mr. Launius has stated elsewhere that the game is really "balanced" (or at least designed) for four characters at a time, recommending the full compliment for solo play. I dislike the fiddly overhead of running an entire team by myself, and besides, the game is much more challenging with a single character. And that's a good thing.
tl;dr — In terms of making the game harder, Unseen Forces misses the mark; but as an expansion that adds more of pretty much everything so that no two games (stories) are ever the same, it's a triumph. I would not hesitate to recommend it for those who use the game as a storytelling engine. In that regard it's a must-have.
So far we've won almost every game with the expansion, and only one of those felt anywhere near close. BUT—from a narrative perspective, all of those games were highly entertaining. Groans, cheers, laughter—the sessions evoked real emotions and made for a memorable evening every time.
The curse die, an element that looms so large in the rules—as in oh, man if someone gets cursed they are boned—ends up being a paper tiger. It's almost never an issue, is easily avoided, and except for when Tsathoggua is AO, easily remedied.
PS. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the fact that the new cards are exactly the same size as the old ones. One thing that put me off buying FFG expansions was mismatched card sizes—even when they're off by just a little bit they clump up when shuffled and are obvious in the deck. And I hate sleeves. But the Unseen Forces cards are perfect.
PPS. The expansion box top makes an excellent die rolling tray. We had been using the original box top but the new one is a much more convenient size for passing around the table, especially with larger groups.
UPDATE: The Master Mythos cards make the game as rugged as it needs to be—if they show up. It's still a cakewalk without 'em.
Holy crap on a stick being waved in your face while you're duct-taped to a folding chair in a shipping container lined with piss-stained mattresses! This should be standard issue at any gathering of more than three. Just be prepared for laugh-induced vomiting and spilled drinks! Definitely should have come with a Nerf enclosure to prevent chipped teeth when hurled. Highly recommended.
As an inveterate wizard-murderer, I feel it necessary to share a couple-three things that I believe increase the potential to enjoy the game:
1. Always use the Quick Match Variant. Score one point for every wizard you kill, plus one point for every Last Wizard Standing token you earn, high score takes it at the end of three games.
2. Play the game as the art might suggest. As gamers we often turn on the full force and power of our n-ply–grinding minds to run the numbers on the permutations and puzzle out the optimal selection of one, two, or three cards from a set of eight, based on the interactions of said cards, the relative life remaining in your upstream and downstream neighbors, your own remaining life, and how that might all play out when interfaced with the possible choices of the other five people at the table, the treasures in play, and how that maximizes your chances of getting a point (or more!) while setting you up nicely for the next round...
Or, you could simply "kill Dave" because he totally has it coming.
It's important to note that the box does not have a constipated dude in a goatee, floppy hat and man-dress frowning at a shipping manifest while totally-not-slaves unload a bunch of cubes from a boat—instead it's what animators see while making news on day three of an angel dust and baby-stabbing bender, with a "rich, vibrant" (as FFG might call it) fantasy veneer.
It tries to say that in the rules, but we are gamers after all, aren't we? And we'll all be goddamned if we're gonna let Dave put one over on us just because he spent that +1 brain cycle generating another surface for his three-space decision tree...
Everyone at the table needs to remember that this is a game where a wizard who has bourbon for blood can summon a giant testicle to attack his foes, and play accordingly. (Read: as quickly as possible. No, really—we're done picking. Flop that card.)
3. Soundtrack that shit with Mötley Crüe. Just trust me on this. It also makes people play faster, if only to get to the point where we can turn it off.
With all that our 6p games conclude inside a smack-talking, fate-tempting hour, making this an oft-requested night-ender. Naturally, YMMV.
This is the cards 'n dice version of Sailor Jerry, Charles Manson and Walt Disney taking turns making Aleister Crowley airtight while the third wheel does the Buffalo Bill dance in the PCP space helmet.*
Look, there's no mystery to it—if you're not sure if this is for you, it flat-out ain't. I mean, c'mon—the title is a dead giveaway in this regard.
For me, the game effortlessly evokes the sensation I strive for in every game I play, and underscores my perennial disappointment with Euros. Epic Spell Wars is pure theme, entirely unmoored and aggressively in service to itself... and somewhere beneath that country mile of sparkly-pink frosting is a tiny, skull-cracking nut of impossibly compressed chaos of the take-that variety.
Fig. 1 — Pretty much the exact opposite of this.
You won't win because you're smart or good at games, but because you were balls-out lucky. Just like a real wizard.
In the end this is much better thought of as a party game where the goal is to entertain your friends—throw yourself into it and get that done right and everyone at the table "wins".
(Like other games of this ilk it benefits from being as short as possible and played infrequently; I highly recommend the "Quick Match Variant" over the normal—and potentially overlong—rules as written.)
*Part of a purloined spacesuit with the life support system jury-rigged to freebase PCP, ayahuasca and powdered toad; getting in and out of it is something of a chore, what with the mummified cosmonaut stuck inside. Well, most of him, anyway.
tl;dr — Light & fast = FUN; serious & slow = OH GOD KILL ME NOW
Thoughts after a single 2p game:
It works well as a chill activity with a glass of wine & some downtempo ambient. It's pretty, has neat little puzzles to solve, and everything you do nets you some kind of return, so there's a feeling of constant forward progress (as opposed to irritating impotence). I like the dark undertones of Rasputin-like manipulation of entire peoples, murder, and slave sacrifice in order to treat with demons. But that's just me.
I think it would be absolute hell with hardcore gamers, especially at max player count. Each turn can be laboriously optimized for maximum payoff with minimum setup for the next player; but this process, at least in the early game, involves brute-forcing all possible moves to climb the various branches of the game tree, a fractally-fuzzed boredom bush. This might be okay if you're playing against quantum computers (spoiler alert: you will lose), but it would be excruciating with savannah-born meat-brains (chuck a spear, check; grind n-ply game states in a timely fashion, not so much). A chess clock would be a must... or you could just hold everyone to casual play and save the thinky for heavier games where such deep contemplation is part of the intended experience.
Probably most enjoyable with your honey, family play, or two couples as a social activity.
Thoughts on the 2p rules:
It's a bummer that the process of turn-order bidding for two is merely implied in the rules—maybe more obviously for some, but still. It would have been nice to have a small, concrete example of what must otherwise be intuited.
No one wrote:
The two players will bid for four turn order slots; it is therefore possible, through clever and/or aggressive bidding, to get two (or more!) turns in a row.*
*If you go 3,4 in one turn and then 1,2 in the next that's four turns in row!
UPDATE: After 3 more games at 4p, it's a solid 7. Works as intended—a pleasant little puzzler with lots to do, Nerf®-edged back-and-forth, and gorgeous to boot.
Stuff we got wrong:
• Resource cards are hidden. Good luck finding that in the rulebook...
• Djinn & the market only refresh between rounds. What you see during turn order bidding is all you'll get until next time...
• Viziers score 1 VP each, then +10 per person with fewer than you. So if the final vizier count is 5, 4, 3, 1 the scores will be 35, 24, 13, and 1. This will crazy-change the game...
Great filler—rules can be explained and grasped in 30 seconds, and the game rarely takes more than 15 minutes. Lots of opportunity for bluff and brinksmanship crammed into a little package and short time span. A must for the Serious Games Library. Recommended.
Man, what a letdown. This looked great, and I feel as if I should love it, but it really felt flat to me. I'm not sure what it's missing—it just came out as a mechanical exercise instead of the nail-biting, fate-hanging-on-the-turn-of-a-card experience it promised.
Perhaps I just need to relax and get into it more, but the cartoony art provides a speedbump I just can't clear. Maybe... maybe if we had a more intuitive grasp of the rules so the game flows instead of clumps. Nice idea, but that would require more plays, and this one's slipped far, far down the list.
UPDATE: So we're playing and I'm bumping along the bottom and we make it to stage III and then I get a work call that forces me to step away from the table for a bit... Upon returning I find out I won.
UPDATE: 6 --> 7 Jeez, I don't know what my problem was. This game's a riot with the right people!
UP-UPDATE: Couple things.
1. Don't let the engineer in your group endlessly noodle with the iPad app—he will build perfect ships no matter what tactics are employed against him, like "bogart all cannons" or the classic "sand timer cartwheel". And then he'll double all your scores. Forever.
2. It takes a certain kind of emotional fortitude to not weep openly when you finally finagle things to punch it to the front of the pack and run down the four-dollar pirate, putting salvo after salvo of beam weapons through his papier-mâché flying saucer, and then you're not even buzzed from your first celebratory Zgwortz when you warp around a neutron star and straight into the teeth of Voidbeard the Pirate with his nonstop fusillades that peel your battery nacelles, fountain crew into the silent black, and pick your guns and engines off one after the other and so on until you're just screaming for it all to stop stop STOP! And then the iPad-practiced engineer comes in and mops him up for the 12-dollar bounty. There are words to describe that sensation, but they carry far more meaning when screamed inside an isolating helmet rather than read off a dumb screen.
Fig. 1 — The four-dollar pirate suddenly realizes that macaroni, glue and glitter make for terrible starship armor.
NOTE 1: Normally I hate it when people use the generic term "dollar" for all intermediary economic exchange units in games when there are already perfectly appropriate game-specific designators like "ducats" or "galacticreds" or "orphan femurs", but it turns out that "four-dollar pirate" is funnier than the thematic alternative.
NOTE 2: Voidbeard the Pirate, so-called due to his hideous predilection for weaving curdled space-time into his beard to strike terror into the hearts of his victims. And man, does it ever.
Rough trade in the form of cardboard and plastic. A crazy, ever-shifting puzzle that actually prevents immersion in the rich theme. If you let the mechanical aspects of the game fuzz into the background in order to provide a foundation for the experience of being a Taoist monk desperately fighting the legions of Hell, you will lose.
The game begs you to do so, with gorgeous art and super production values, but ultimately you have to look past the theme and see the grinding gears of the puzzle box if you have any hope of ever winning. Also, there's an enormous luck component (repeat die rolls to exorcise the ghosts), meaning that even optimal play can be fatally hosed with gallons of demon-tentacle spew. And the rulebook is... nigh impenetrable. I'm still not completely sure how some parts of the game work.
For all that, it's an 8? Yeah—it's stuck with me, I've been thinking about it, and I want to play it again until I beat it to death.
UPDATE: Dropped to a 7. Suffers from the same problem most co-op games do, but to a degree I just can't get over: one person masterminding everyone else's turn. Perhaps it's better suited to solo play instead of "one guy solves the puzzle while directing three chit-pushers".
What could have been just a parasitic cashing-in on the current Halo fever is actually a pretty nifty game. The best clix game I've played—fast and furious with real decisions. All we need now are better maps and some cool scenarios & we're all set...
We've only played with Laglor (the peg-legged six-million dollar ape whose standard is a scything sheet of hot lead) and the Orc, but that's more than enough to make me a believer. Sure, some of the powers are weak and the d20s and dice bags are shrug-enducing superfluosities—but the figures look great on the battlefield and are just plain fun. And isn't that what Heroscape's all about anyway?
The negatives have nothing to do with the game and everything to do with marketing. Making these Toys R Us exclusives and charging an insane dollar amount made me grind my teeth while cursing the anal retentive 12-year-old that dwells within me (and seems to be responsible for all of my more questionable decisions). As hard as it was to pay full price and as much as I was sure I would suffer from buyer's remorse, in the end I'm glad I picked them up. The reason? One word: dice.
The battle dice that come with each figure are fab. Now everyone who plays gets their own set of dice, in unique colors, so no one can put the bad mojo on the communal blue-n-red dice. No more having to wipe the dice off after Sweaty McGamer gets his man-funk all over them. These are MY dice, there are many like them, but these are MINE. Such a small thing, but in all honesty it's what I love most about this set. YMMFV.
Based on a single play with a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed four-year-old. Great at what it does—color recognition and matching with some minor min-max decision making. I failed to score a single snake and yet I had a blast. Recommended for little kids and the big dumb uncles who love them.
A hard-nuts negotiation game. It's like... Traders of Genoa & Acquire's crack-baby all grown up and having an ADD-fueled bipolar blowout in the boardroom. You will hear naughty words. Coming out of your own mouth.
UPDATE: This is now referred to as the "I'm Not Your Friend Anymore Game".
UP-UPDATE: Someone mean requested this at the last gamesday as a joke—knowing full well how much we all feared its power to upset and rile. Turns out that if you come into it resolved not to take anything personally the game really shines. It ends up being the "thinking man's Pit". I'm glad to see the game redeemed and back in the rotation.
After 6 plays: I want to give this an 8 in the worst way—and I often come by here to do just that—but something's holding me back.
I don't know if it's the player elimination—not something I normally have a problem with, as usually when people start dying the rest of the living aren't far behind, but sometimes one person will kick out early and for whatever reason the game will suddenly let up and enter a weird glide phase where things actually turn around, leaving the dead player with little to do other than dealing cards and sliding them around on the playmat forlornly.*
Or maybe it's that fragile variability where the card draws from the myriad decks conspire to make the game stutter between laughably easy and impossibly hard, with little rhyme or reason between either state.
It feels like it wants to be a story game, but all the moving parts detract from that—and it's too swingy to function as a strategy game, stranding it in an ultimately unsatisfying limbo between the two. It does neither well enough to really shine.
Also, the card art is hideously inconsistent, scribbling all over the map from cool/evocative to WTF/amateurish.
*I suppose the "Player Aliens" advanced rule would solve this for those who die by chestburster, effectively accelerating the end, but what about the poor sap who died by other means? And yeah, it's easy enough to houserule it so everyone who dies plays an alien, but that just feels like piling on... but maybe that's the whole point, right? The only problem is that I'm violently allergic to houserules.
Machi Koro is a pleasant-enough diversion when played as a social party game, but quickly settles into groupthink ruts and scripted play. Luckily, the Harbor Expansion is just the thing to kick it loose! Except for the the part where the rules as written (single big deck, 10 piles) make the market clog up with useless cards no one wants or can even afford...
My favorite of the pyramid games I've tried so far—short, dynamic and visually arresting. The dice inject a pretty enormous bolus of luck into the affair, but it's all good if you consider it as a filler or night-ender.
Pretty cool for what it is & does. A good co-op game for play with young children; a great introduction to agonizing choices. Spend a snack to pull Max back, or save the snack and risk Max getting the bird?
The classic children's game where good play is actually opaque to children, while the thing itself is a poster child for monopolistic IP fraud.
UPDATE: Truth be told, I've only ever played a single "proper" game of Monopoly with adults—a Star Wars edition on Halloween 1999. I freely admit that I rather enjoyed it; in fact, everyone present did. All other plays have been with children, which means they were either unnaturally truncated or "thrown".
Self-purchased in hopes it would be a nicer version than the Nostalgia Edition. It isn't. That said, it is the only set where the art & theme (Roaring '20s Art Deco) actually match the gameplay.
Updated Standard Edition (2008)
The standardized edition with Baltic and Mediterranean in brown (instead of purple), Luxury Tax at $100 (instead of $75), Income Tax at a flat $200 (no more 10% option), and the rewritten rulebook. The Title Deeds, Community Chest and Chance cards all came as a single deck of Bridge-sized cards, which is nice. The new rulebook is especially good, though—very streamlined, straightforward, and modern.
NO NO NO
The Speed Die is total pants. It takes the nice bell curve of 2d6 and distorts it to the breaking point. A key feature of Monopoly is being able to bet on seven—for yourself, and, most importantly, the financial man-traps you lay for your opponents.
UP-UPDATE: Replaying, rethinking, rerating up to a 7.
THE GAME IS INTOLERABLE WITH HOUSE RULES
The biggest problem with Monopoly (other than the fact that it works best as a distraction from hunger pangs and general squalor) is that it's taught through oral tradition rather than anyone actually sitting down and reading the rules.
With the most common house rules (money on Free Parking & no auctions or real trading) it becomes the world's longest, dumbest game of craps. And that's a rightfully hateful thing.
As many have noted, played by the rules as written (auctions) with four sufficiently self-interested adults (shrewd yet fearless trading), it ends up being a perfectly fine, fun game that plays inside of 90 minutes.
Especially if you end at the second bankruptcy. Which you should, as the contest between the final two comes down to nothing but a dice-off that takes forever as they swap wads of cash back and forth.
Of course, the real problem is that there are so many great games for four players this classic won't get any table time.
i 7 ? 6 heee 7 8 13 5 6 7 0! 9 4 warp zone 5 6 gorkle 7 8 X 10 15 3 4 fooog 5 & 7 8 eleventy-three 9 10 11 (2) 3 4 N 6 7 8 9 snizz 10 11 * 14 o
Moral: The winner will be the first one who doesn't roll Mr. Monopoly at the end.
Speed Die rules:
1, 2, 3 — Add to your normal move; does not count for doubles but on a triple A GATE APPEARS and you are sucked through and delayed.
Bus — Realize that though you are wealthy you are suddenly using public transportation; nearly die of shame & hand sanitizer poisoning.
Mr. Monopoly — If any properties unowned, proceed to nearest unowned property and buy or auction it; if all properties owned, eat an enormous sack of feces, suddenly and unexpectedly (well, you can bet on a 1 in 3 chance of this every roll, but still, this takes what little skill there is in the game, eats it and poops it into a sack).
Ingenious for what it is: a ubiquitous license slapped all over a not-bad set-collection game with heavy "take that" elements. It's Monopoly as played by the masses who don't bother to read the proper rules and learn it instead by way of ritual and oral tradition—far less a proper trading game and more as a set-collection/bleed-'em-out death march—compressed into 10 minutes.
So, is it Monopoly? No, but it is the distilled essence of how most people play the game. And that's where this thing is weirdly perfect.
I'm a dad, and for whatever reason the kids dig Monopoly. On the occasions in which I am duty-bound to play, this is the version I reach for. The Olde Tyme feel helps me excuse Monopoly's faults as senile dotage rather than feeling like the patsy in a cynical marketing coup.
I rate the base game a 7 when played:
- by the rules as written - with four adults - ending at the second bankruptcy.
tl;dr — When played by 3 or 4 RPG geeks inside 45 minutes (utilizing all "Faster Play" Rules) this is an absolute lark as a storytelling/party game; with the wrong number of the wrong people with the wrong mindset in the wrong timeframe it's absolute hell.
Once upon a time, when I was 13, we played D&D all night long at a slumber party. Around midnight we killed the whiniest kid's character, took all his magic stuff, drew a pentagram on his chest with Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (in the handy squeeze bottle) and threw him into the swimming pool. Munchkin is exactly like that. ~
Munchkin is a party game.
Whether it's fun or not depends entirely on the group.
It's a stupid-fun activity, not a strategy game where players capable of 4D chess will prevail. Dumb luck and above-the-table whining have far more to do with who wins than skill or intellect.* Yes, the jokes are lowbrow and get old.** The standard rules can make the game overstay its welcome by a factor of 10. But with the right group and right mindset this is good fun inside of 45 minutes. Just add beer, pretzels and a sailor's vocabulary.
*Not entirely true. There is a teeensy bit of strategy in building a hand and tableau that can threaten a sudden win from Level 6 if you know what you're doing...
**The intended audience—RPG nerds & the con crowd—actually appreciate the repetition.
It's fun as long as it's fun.
Kill it when it turns.
Munchkin's fatal flaw is game length. It kicks ass for about 30 minutes, and then everybody starts to get antsy, looking for the end that never seems to come—a cool, refreshing wave that rises up and curls white with feathery tips of sweet release... only to recede again as someone thwarts someone else's lunge for Level 10. Over. And over. And over... Until someone finally sneaks an exhausted win and the game is unceremoniously forearm-wiped back into the box and hurled into the closet to cries of "Why did you make us play that?" and "Never again—no, I really mean it this time."
SUDDEN ASIDE:A Note to Designers. Every game is only good for so long—find out where that is and then design your game to come to a satisfying conclusion juuust under that threshhold. This will make people cry "Let's do that again!", shuffle up and go—instead of "Thank God that's over," shuffle off and go. Think of it as analogous to the physical limitations of masturbation and you're on the right track.
So, can Munchkin reach a satisfying climax before chafing sets in? It can, but most of the time it doesn't. Hideous time dilation lurks deep in its DNA—everything possible must be done to prevent its expression.
Here's what we do:
1. Play with 3 or 4 players only. With 5 it's a grind; 6 is miserable. Keep it short and sweet with fewer players.
2. Use the most current version of the rules. Four Doors & four Treasures as the starting hand (and when returning from death).
3. Use ALL "Faster Play" Rules. Add Phase 0—Listen At The Door; Loot The Room for a Treasure instead of a Door; win is shared with helper, regardless of helper's level.
5. Time limit/call it the moment it blows. We usually play to 30 minutes, maybe 45 if it's a particularly good session. But the moment anyone is not enjoying themselves and would rather do anything else, we call it after one more round (The Rat-a-Tat Cat Rule). If no one hits Level 10 by then the winner is determined by highest total combat bonus from cards in play, with level as a tiebreaker.
The "dirty" OG set for camping & unwashed children:
No other game lets you be a half-halfling cleric/cleric.*
If you really, really like Munchkin, this, along with Munchkin 3: Clerical Errors, are the only two "must-have" expansions. They add a decent amount of variation (and good humor) without game-crippling bloat. Everything else beyond these two only makes sense if you actually are a Munchkin, your players froth at the mouth for it, and every session leaves you dry-heaving from laughter.
(In the dirty children's set.) (In the pure sepia set.) (In the Technicolor curb-stomp set.)
*And, apparently, neither does this one... Rules check!
If you really, really like Munchkin, this, along with Munchkin 2: Unnatural Axe, are the only two "must-have" expansions. They add a decent amount of variation (and good humor) without game-crippling bloat. Everything else beyond these two only makes sense if you actually are a Munchkin, your players froth at the mouth for it, and every session leaves you dry-heaving from laughter.
(In the dirty children's set.) (In the pure sepia set.) (In the Technicolor curb-stomp set.)
tl;dr — A good version of the game for hardcore fans of the show, but otherwise impenetrable. If you have doubts about either it ain't for you.
Now, if you're me, you'd rate this game something mathematical like GOOGOLHEXAPETILLION!!! but that's only because the acid flashbacks finally allow you to understand the language of donuts , pick up your sword , wade into the dungeon  and collect pelts  as the wailing guitars shred time and space. 
If you're not me, then I dunno. It's slightly better than vanilla Munchkin, being generally more creative and playful*, and the move toward iconography is nice. That should put it at a 7.62 or something, but the Adventure Time theme is pretty narrow, so it loses 1.49 points for that.** Math!
1. They were merely telepathic, but now they speak.
2. Knockoff AK with drum magazine.
3. Shopping mall.
5. "Girl from Impanema" Muzak.
*We enjoyed the way some of the cards produce effects based on your current physical environment.
**Meaning, for best results you can really only play it with rabid fans of the show as anyone else will simply be perplexed. (Unless they're into toad-licking and goats with tires around their tummies, in which case it's Game On, Duchamp!)
And the "Zombie Santa" card from Munchkin Zombies. It has a different card back but that's just because we all know when Zombie Santa arrives... the smell... the sound... bourbon & tuna, farting & off-kilter jingle bells... OH GOD HE'S HERE
It turns out I already own three other fantasy Munchkin sets—which makes me either stupid, rich or duped. I think I'll go with "hopelessly funtropic" & "shame-impaired" instead.
So why yet another? Well, the original is in the camping bin and gets begripped by the filthy hands of wild children, the second is "pure sepia" from the era before full-color cards, and the third is specifically frosted for Christmas holiday play. This one, though, was conceived via the hideous congress of my anal retentive tendencies and my irrational love for the game—I wanted a set that could absorb and utilize all the various small expansions that SJG poots out with maddening regularity.*
Note: Whole shebang is collected in a battered Ultimatum box with the Hobby Japan chit tray that came with S.F.3.D. Original. G.E.V. maps have been pasted onto the backs of Outdoor Survival boards. Frankengame FTW!
Literally ridiculous—outsized and excessive in every way possible.
• The box is so large it strains under the stresses of its own mass.
• It should have come with a built-in shunt—this thing box-farts more air than four Olympic swimmers' lungs. (No, really—I did the math!)
• There are enough boards and counters for 10 (!) individual wargames.
• While the entire kit accounts for storing everything neatly the same cannot be said for the bulk of the box itself. Where the hell am I supposed to put this thing?
In the end it is quite a thing to see, breathtaking to experience firsthand—no photograph can contain its raw majesty—and it is simply a wonder, a miracle that this titanic pinnacle of hobby gaming made it from concept to doorstep intact.
(This was my first Kickstarter and I must say I am thoroughly spoiled by SJG's superb handling of the entire process. While the end result has exceeded all expectations it was the journey that let me know I'd backed the right pony—their communication was constant, clear and honest.)
UPDATE: Really, really hate the two-hex bits. They add nothing to the actual gameplay other than the distracting itch that one must constantly be reminded that THE ASS-END IS ILLUSORY and while the probability cloud of a given OGRE's position might appear to fill two hexes it really only squats in the front one when its waveform collapses upon observation...
That said, they aren't completely worthless—it's fun to sit the 3D models near their record sheets for the visual impact. But I am immeasurably glad I picked up the Classic Counters so I have some OGREs that are appropriate for actual play.
"Pink Hijinks" is less a euphemism for pantsless monkey shenanigans and more something Keanu Reeves might do in front of a green screen circa 1995.
Evocative of cyberpunk ICEbreaking–in the most superficial of senses—as the win conditions feel like unlocking a gateway or crashing a system. (Not to be confused with actual code breaking as there's already a 'mid game for that: Black Ice.)
Random and feather-light—qualities that are just fine in a tiny little filler like this.
It's craps with a theme—but oh, what a theme! Makes you lose your voice, though. "I feel a 'nyar' comin' on... NYARRR!!!"
The unofficial subtitle for this game is Guess Wrong & Fight! It's best to avoid everyone as the loser of a sea battle tends to get hammered into an irrevocable last place. On the surface this would seem to be anti-piratey but in reality it's probably accurate—skulking around avoiding "fair" fights while preying on the weak.
It is terribly annoying, though, as the winner gets more and more powerful and goes over the horizon into the sunset.
Best played with the understanding that it's a completely random experience game that doesn't yield to thought, planning, or strategy.
Preliminary rating based on one (incorrect) play. I like the general feel of this fantasy world, as well as the breadth of choice on your turn; however—and this was agreed to by all present—the game was fussy and cramped compared to Talisman. Several players wished out loud that we were playing Talisman instead, as it seems to move more quickly and can support more players with less downtime. Will update after playing correctly.
I feel like a little girl when I play this, and that's a good thing.
UPDATE: The one time I felt like a real man playing this a friend and I got into a, hum, heated debate over the play of some card. Meanwhile, the third (newbie) player sat stock still as one might if two bellowing apes were shaking the branches and hurling sod at one another.
Is Rage better than Oh Hell/Blackout? I dunno... The action cards and two extra suits add an element of chaos and high-screwery to the proceedings, which, with the right crowd, could enhance the whole groaning/cackling fun. On the other hand they actively reduce the amount of skill that can be brought to bear. So... more fun, but with less skill. Perhaps this is the "party game" version of Oh Hell?
UPDATE: Drop everything and go play Wizardright now.
I'm conflicted on this one. On the one hand, I'm a big fan of Faidutti's work, it plays up to eight (!), and no other game I know allows you to nearly drown, catch on fire and then achieve crush depth while counting down a nuclear missile launch. On the other hand it's really just a filler that takes about an hour-and-a-half too long for what it is. If it played through in 30 minutes I'd probably give it a nine, easy. I suppose future plays will tell. Does it get shorter with familiarity? Will we be willing to jump in again, and enough, to find out? Will anyone remember that fires deplete the oxygen track?
AKA Baby's First Screw Yer Neighbor Game. Simple and short, with silly art and fun VP markers (cats & dogs you can place as spectators around your current act). Rating reflects play with a bright, shiny four-year-old.
It's Risk, and if you're a hater, then get ready to turn your nose up and move along—there's nothing for you here.
If you don't mind the Risk base engine, then this one has a couple of neat little quirks for you. First and foremost, the triple use of cards leads to some acutely agonizing decisions. They can be turned in as sets to gain reinforcements, OR used to build a ship, OR played for their special effect text. Secondly, the non-compatability of the two armies within each faction makes for more interesting play. The Republic and the Separatists each have two armies, and no matter how many players there are, all four armies will be in play. The two armies within each faction cooperate for the end-goal, but they cannot share territory or cards—and each army gets its own turn.
The Order 66 shenannigans add a nerve-wracking thematic clock to the game; watching systems flip to the dark side is a nail-biter for the Republic player... culminating in a desperate, last-gasp mad-dash assault on Palpatine. The all-or-nothing feel of the endgame is simply delicious.
There's not as much going on here as there is in 2210 or LotR, but my 11-year-old son and I had a great time. Overall a good rootbeer & pretzels game, provided you like the modern Star Wars and don't mind Risk. Lucky for me, I find I'm hovering at a sweet-spot of equanimity in respect to both.
tl;dr — A solid storytelling/adventure game that's best with two players; the token-casting combat system is better than dice.
There's something deeply satisfying about taking a whip and an axe to a necromancer.
Say, friend—are you looking for a game with
- expendable sidekicks - wizard-scalping - the "Festival of Scabs" - and a French-kissing ettin?
Well, this is it! I found these things in the box—and more!—and so can you!*
*DISCLAIMER: Specific instances of absurd fantasy tropes may or may not actually be in box and may instead reside in very specific skulls, one of which may or may not be yours. Horrible Black Void where prohibited.
After 10 plays:(5x 2p, 3x 3p, 2x 4p)
Comparison with 2nd Edition. I am a HUGE Runebound fan—having burned through 1st Edition and collected a complete set of 2nd—and I really like what 3rd is up to. It's an entirely different game, and doesn't supersede or obsolete 2nd in any way. I will continue to play both, for different reasons: 2nd to bask in a fully-realized fantasy adventure world, 3rd to explore the new thing. Comparisons between the two at this point are useless—remember how thin and spare 2nd was when it first came out? 3rd is just a new beginning...
Emergent narrative. When it comes to games in general I'm most interested in the stories they tell; when it comes to adventure games it's all I care about. I don't give a fig for the systems, mechanics, or underlying math—I just want a good story. My only questions are "Was it fun?" and "Was it memorable?" 3rd nails both, and so far the stories have been fantastic.
Build the character you want. Everyone I've played this with really enjoys the fact that you can build pretty much any kind of character you want to play. Though each character starts on a path you are not forced down it—you can change it up based on how skills and gear come out. Lord Hawthorne can become a powerful mage even as Master Thorn deviates into a combat monster, leaping from wall to wall lopping off heads... It's cool to hunt for killer combos of abilities/skills/gear—there's a lot of very powerful synergy hidden in the game.
Play time. Count on at least one hour per player; you can knock 30 minutes off the total if everyone's experienced. This means 2p in 90 minutes (!) but you're still looking down the barrel of 3½ hours for 4p.
Player count. This is, first and foremost, a story game—and as such it suffers at max player count where there's just too much story to pay attention to. With 2p you have your story and your opponent's story (as well as being engaged in every round of combat, either doing it or running the monster); delightful. With 3p you have two other stories to pay attention to; a stretch, but not unreasonable. With 4p you have three other stories and I find it's just too much story flying around as all the action becomes a mishmash of narrative elements to no good effect. The sweet spot is definitely 2p.
Final analysis. While I could go into more detail about what I've come to love about this, I won't, for the simple reason that it's a game of exploration and adventure—and that means it's best experienced in person over time rather than laid out for you here. You're going to have to figure out for yourself how to become a hero in this world—how best to prepare for that final fight as the clock ticks down; how to interleave movement toward your next goal with mundane pick-up-and-deliver jobs and exploration quests; how best to utilize and sequence your interactions with the three kinds of encounter decks... and so on. You could sit down, read all the cards, and min-max your way into an empty, soulless win bereft of surprise or novelty—or you could just play, explore the world organically and become that hero through trial and error across many raucous sessions with friends. The resulting stories are the real treasure here.
The banners are about as useful as cartoon-character bedsheets on a stick. Everyone groans when they come out—especially the poor sap who wasted their Market Step pulling it. Otherwise a great expansion.
SIDE NOTE: Runebound is one of the few "system" games that I don't feel bad buying every last expansion for. Most system games hit a point where more stops being better (Carcassonne, anyone?). With Runebound, the excellent minds at Fantasy Flight have found a way to make "more" mean "nuance". Kudos & pass the dice!
The new "equipping allies" mechanic is cool and some of the new weapons are, like, whoa. The Soul Eater is the nuclear weapon of Runebound. If ever there was a reason for PvP, it's to take it away from anyone who's not you.
Played a couple recent games of this with 10 (!) players, everyone from a 12-year-old niece to a 70+ grandma. Worked suprisingly well, like, eerily well. Most were non-gamers, several were merely casual. Gramma marveled at how much fun could be had with just a deck of cards, and how much Skip-Bo sucked in comparison. She was also pretty good at being the Grammateur.
All the pleasure of a CCG without any of the abject agony. Branded with the usual Knizia hallmarks: complexity arising from simple rules, intuitive gameplay that leads to counter-intuitive strategies. All this and easy to learn, fast to play.
After 3 plays: A lighter take that card game with THE AWESOMEST THEME POSSIBLE: disparate genre tropes wedded as conjoined twins to do battle with enemy Frankendecks. The presentation and form promise hilarious, rapid back-and-forth; this is unrealized in actual play as everything bogs down with the reading Reading READING of too much text on most every card, leading to more rereading and rules-interaction head scratching.
From the designers: "A dystopian absurdist fantasy." FNORD
UPDATE: I really don't want to like this game... but it's not letting me not like it.
UP-UPDATE: At this point The Spoils is a game that's good enough. The theme is an easy 10. The art is another effortless 10. But the play... [shrug] As I said, good enough, a solid 7, nothing wrong here, no tumors under the petticoats, but nothing that hauls me back for more, either. I'll play if asked, no problem—and if I never offer to play it's only because it's just slipped my mind.
A fun-enough party game. I love pulling some Enron/WorldCom-style accounting practices (stacking five dice in a super-crappy "Leaning Tower of Pesos"), taking your 10k payout and then riding the ejection seat on a burning plume of investors' dreams into your next company.
Good God but the box is some kind of joke—it actually tore as I opened it, and this was going in forewarned of its flimsiness! I suppose the designers, as Magic: The Gathering fiends, consider deck packaging to be the equivalent of sausage casings, only there to keep the meaty bits in one place until wolfed down. I recommend immediate replacement with, say, a translucent deck box.
First couple plays: Just like the last breath torn from your lungs during a decompression event, this is short and far sweeter than you'd think. I am especially impressed with what must have been a great deal of editing on the part of the designers in order to arrive at such simplicity when it would have been so easy—and surely seductive—to just keep piling on more and more...
And it turns out I'm a sucker for the badass sci-fi art—any one of those cards would look just plain awesome airbrushed onto a panel van.
PS. The Authority Cards (used to track "hit points" for game end) work just fine—they're not nearly as fiddly or inconvenient as others might have you believe. I love the fact that they allow for the entire game to fit in a standard hobby deck box with no need for extra bits like glass beads, dice, or even paper & pencil.
I dig the self-contained portability of the thing—in the end it's just a deck of cards. And that's perfect.
An innocuous, light, roll-n-move family game. It carries just enough mutant gentic code from Monopoly & Talisman to be familiar and accessible to non-gamers and kids, but without any of the associated lethal alleles. Everyone gets to play 'til the end, and there are several balancing mechanisms to keep runaway leaders in check. Yes, it's powered by dice, but with two pawns per player and most rolls only letting you move one of them at a time there are choices to make. This is very much a family game, a "kick back and socialize" game, a "roll the dice and talk like a pirate whilst not caring too terrible much about what happens 'cuz we're all having too good a time just being together" game. Four-dimensional Tigris & Euphrates it is not; it gets a 7 because we all had a good time, and really, what more can you ask from such things? Recommended for families.
Kinda-sorta super-fiddly. It bogged the game down—but that might be because we had six players and Talisman proper can drag, time-wise, with more than four. Looking forward to rerating after a play in the sweet spot.
Otherwise, yeah, dragons. I was never really into them, don't think they're cool. I'd probably feel differently if I were a huge Anne McCaffrey nut, or had smoked a dragon-shaped bong in junior high, or owned a collection of those pewter-n-crystal statuettes... but, alas, I'm not, I haven't, and I don't.
I was extremely leery of the dummy player aspect as I dislike fiddly overhead—especially in light two-player games—but I ended up pleasantly surprised.
Players take turns running the dummy player by drawing a ticket card and claiming a single route as indicated by text at the bottom of the card. If there is no text then no route is claimed; otherwise the human player chooses which color the dummy snags. This allows for some mild blocking as you'll tend to choose the color your opponent has been collecting and/or the one you don't have much or any of (so you don't block yourself).
In the end it's painless and necessary if you're playing competitively; if you're doing it purely as a pastime it's probably too much and you'll want to skip it to prevent rage-pooping.
The dummy player made the game tense, tight and forced both of us to rejigger our plans as we played. I can't see doing two-player without it as the bridge toll tokens add a delicious extra dimension of planning, hard choices and scoring.
More chugging on the love train—what's not to like? The stations (which allow the sharing of routes) and tunnels (which add a bit of a gambling element) are nice twists that bump the game up a notch beyond the base set.
More variation to breathe new life into a not-so-old classic. A fistful of new destination tickets and a couple of different play modes mean this one's got a few more miles left in it. (To be fair, the new play modes are nothing more than small tweaks—they don't make it feel like a whole new game, just the old game with a minor twist or two.)
The US-themed full-sized cards are a nice touch—we had been using an extra set of TTR: Europe cards.
This game changes dramatically with each added player, i.e., 2, 3 & 4p games are all radically different in feel. Best to play with a minute-timer or pre-agreed turn time limits—each turn has a mathematically optimal move which can take some people decades to find. Better to force intuition with some form of time limit. Or public humiliation.
Intriguing due to the tiny footprint, this one is best met with expectations likewise constrained. It isn't a "big game in a small package", it's just small all around; an ambitious filler, really. A certain level of whimsy and suspension of gamer-disbelief is required to enjoy it. Trying to make a meal out of this amuse-bouche will leave you hungry and disappointed.
As is usual for Kickstarter games this one looks great but feels vaguely brain damaged—I'm sure there are degenerate strategies and "broken" powers lurking beneath the surface, to be found, mercilessly exploited and then dishearteningly house-ruled until we can't stand to touch it anymore. How many plays in the box, then? Who can say—but more than would be expected when engaged with a light touch and lowered expectations, certainly. Besides, it's short enough that even a thorough hosing is bearable.
After 3 games of 2p I'm not sure it works at that count—whoever gets the upper hand in resources and attacks on the first turn essentially wins the game, making it enormously uninteresting. I suppose we could be Fonzies and ignore each other for a while... but that just feels weird when the win is dangling right there for the taking.
This is working well as a party-game replacement for Settlers when we have couples over. The super bonus item is that it seats six neatly, whereas six-player Settlers is godawful.
Will update after more plays.
UPDATE: No more plays—that damn Ticket to Ride bastard barges in, slams down one too many and ends up curbing poor, stupid-brave TransAmerica in the parking lot. And, of course, all we do is call 911 and hide under the table.
Blah blah blah Asian philosophical underpinnings, choices, the path, blah blah blah—
It's TRON lightcycles, I fight for the User, and I will see you derezzed teeth-first through your virtual windshield.
* Our 2004 copy got soaked by a leaky cooler while camping in 2015—the game itself escaped harm but the box needed to be dried out over several days and reinforced with hasty duct tape. The box still does the job, it's just that all those neat planes have been rendered as eccentric as potato chips. Around here we call that "character".
A not-awful night-ender/filler if played fast, loose and goofy. And only every once in a while. Seems overarchingly dominated by luck at first (with all the die rolls) but there are definite strategies for racking up points while remaining sane long enough to cross the 100-point finish line. Because the game could still come down to nothing more than Lady Luck's fickle bon-bon-eating hand wave and outstay its welcome it's best to attack this like a 10 minute party game. Anything more than that will come off like a legless zombie—it will stink and drag.
Options that help tremendously:
- Allow all words that appear in the Mythos, even (especially?) the proper nouns.
- Allow the nearly insane (those with a single sanity point left) to spell anything at all, including single letters and gibberish. As long as they shout it at the top of their lungs as they play it.
- Don't be a "Scrabble Dictionary only" stickler. As we're fond of saying around here, "It ain't that kind of movie, Starbuck." We allowed slang, comic book sound effects, the word caca and even known misspellings if they resulted in comic effect (intended or not). Does it break the game? Hardly. It is the game.
Preliminary rating after play with the family. They were initially leery during setup as the game looks far more complicated than it really is. Once we got rolling they warmed up to it—especially when the All You Can Eat Corn 'N Mayonnaise Bowelstravaganza Buffet came out... A good time was had by all (explosive diarrhea notwithstanding).
An incredible value for beginner and veteran alike—a bucket-load of better-than-average minis for Ork/Space Marine players, scatter die and blast templates, and all the rules in a super-handy handbook (small form-factor paperback).
It's kind of funny to claim I own this, as I've already cannibalized and parted out the entire box contents:
- Orks, dice, templates and rulebook to my sons
- Terminators into my previously-raided Space Hulk game
- Space Marine minis into my bitz box.
I'm using the box proper to hold all the random 40k crap—rule book, dice, templates, rulers & tokens.
UPDATE: Marking as "previously owned" for the sake of honesty.
A fun gambling exercise where one must quickly calculate the odds of success (in rolling different Yahtzee combinations) vs. your risk (chips bet) and the expected payout. If you suck at these things, you will get fleeced until you are chapped and bleeding. (Of course, you could always trust your gut and hope your intuition is hooked into your math co-processor somehow.)
One aspect I particularly enjoy is the ability to bet for or against the shooter's success; if folks give you the vote of no confidence by betting against you, you can throw it back in their faces by making your numbers and taking their money. This allows for ripsnorting levels of crowage.
Not recommended for children (or general non-gamer family) as the odds calculation can be troublesome for them, leading to early bankruptcy and player elimination.
... dead walk the earth lightly and with much luck ... shell casings dance in hazy gore-spray ... send more cops ...
This rates a 5 played with the rules as written out of the box. With the proper amount of house-rule spackle this can climb as high as a 7 or even an 8 with the right music, mood and people.
How much spackle? All of it. You'll want to come up with new rules for movement, combat, endgame and victory conditions, using any combination of your own tasty brains, the Quick(er) Play Rules, Yugblad's suggestions:
1. Throw out the rulebook. 2. Pick and choose from the variant rules on the Geek - remember to keep it SIMPLE! 3. Do not lay down tiles after finding the helipad. 4. Forget counting "dead" zombies for the winner - this is a kill-the-zombie-to-escape game. Let the most bloodthirst player place the helipad. 5. When a player dies, have him/her/them control the zombies, etc. 6. Trim the card deck to a custom-picked 50-60 cards. NO more, no less. Keep it 50/50 to screwage/benefit cards. 7. Use a timer - this keeps a panicky atmosphere ticking over. 8. Mount the town tiles on 2mm-thick card. 9. Use the subway expansion.
and the smorgasbord of rules salad on the Twilight Creations website.
I have to admit that I was very put off by this at first—if I wanted to make my own game I would have made my own game, not spent money on an unfinished product. With time, however, I've very much warmed to the idea of Zombies!!! as a sandbox/tool kit experience game, a gaming hot rod that can be fiddled with and tuned until you get the custom ride that perfectly suits you & your game group.
If you dig the theme, have the time and are so inclined to tinker, this is pretty darn good.