Chances are you just clicked on my Games Owned or Commented, saw a bunch of Munchkin stuff and recoiled in disgust.
It's not what you think, honest!
I assure you I am a discerning gamer who lives for true strategery and decisions so meaningful they make grown men weepy. I must admit, however, that I do enjoy "stupid fun" just as much as a rarified mind-fight.
So, the Munchkin thing: It's a sweet little bonbon when played by 3 or 4 RPG geeks inside 45 minutes as a storytelling/party game. And while you could play it with 6 angry people for a multi-hour marathon of boredom, bile and eye-biting I can't in any way recommend that.
With that out of the way I bid you welcome to my Carnival of Comments—where the Strong Man has a pituitary disorder, the Bearded Lady isn't, and the Geek strangles hobos on his day off.
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 forty-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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.)
The global-effect dungeons are cool, flavorful, and actually speed up the game (a Good Thing). Sure, the Portal cards will get lost in massive decks, but you can always shuffle them into the top 150-or-so or just do the "discard four cards" trick to change dungeons. (Or houserule it to three if four is too onerous.)
(In the pure sepia set.) (In the Technicolor curb-stomp set.)
When we play I like to make sure everyone has at least one piece of game-altering swag; these extra bookmarks will go a long way toward that ideal seeing as how the ones that don't change hands get destroyed.
Holy crap this thing is sturdy. Makes sense if I'm going to be hitting people with it... or getting it chucked at my head.
UPDATE: Man oh man is this thing dead handy. How did we ever Munchkin without it? I dunno, but I now know those were dark days. Beyond gimmick, beyond branded swag, this thing is not only indispensable (especially when you have two—one for the party and one for the monster(s)) but genius the way it allows you to manipulate the gaming metaspace using the Scroll of Reversal. That, and the forlorn looks around the table when the Kill-O-Meters read something ridiculous like 81-80 and the antagonists are all tapped out.
This is the only extra Munchkin bit that I would consider to be a must-have.
(In the kick-ass Xmas set.) (2x in the Technicolor curb-stomp set.)
A wee bit pricey, but I'm going to assume that Steve Jackson knows what he's doing (even if it's only filling his tube socks with Krugerrands)—regardless, this is dead useful. The board is essential for visualizing relative position in the game; you can tell, at a glance, who must be picked on and who will be most amenable to being your lickspittle.
And it fits inside a standard Munchkin box!
I don't really care for the Epic Munchkin track on the reverse (for play to Level 20) as the game is only really fun for about 30 minutes.
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.
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 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.