I rate the base game a 7, but it's an 8 with Leaders thrown into the mix. If you're lucky, you get to pick leaders that work well with your civ's baseline goal (like Greek philosophers in Babylon, or generals in Rhodes) or at least people who work well together so you can build synergy across the ages. If you're unlucky, or have a neighbor who understands how to poop downstream, you'll end up with a cartoon mishmash of random historical figures.
"Hatshepsut running Rome? More like Hatshepsut's enraged mummy drinking Roman orphans all day!"
And WTF Archimedes:
Who the hell wears a towel in the bathtub? Puritans haven't been invented yet—I want sausage and a side of eggs with my historical references, please!
PS. "The Sack" is worth the price of admission alone as it converts the metaphorical teabagging the game provides into a literal one.
UPDATE: This is really three modules that synergize well together—city tiles that grant trade goods, pigs to make the resulting city-rich farms worth more, and builders to grant extra turns to sneak into or steal features—but can be teased apart as you will.
Pigs & builders can be dropped into any game with ease.
Also: Trade good tiles work well with The Count, providing an extra incentive to "help" others complete cities in order to not only get the goods, but to stage a meeple in Carcassonne proper for later punch-bowl-poopin' deployment...
I really like what this does for roads—instead of being just points-padding dump-features they become something to be fought over with almost the same intensity as cities & farms, especially when combined with Inns & Cathedrals.
It's also nifty in that it adds features to the tableau that other players can monkey around with.
"Of course you see me, watching you and your scabrous, bandy-legged 'lover' from my fabulous gazebo—lovingly carved from the world's oldest tree, hand-polished (no, really—the rich brown stain was crimson once—it's amazing what hungry children will do for pennies)—and you're thinking to yourself, We are so not falling for the exploding swan trick again—how stupid does he think we are? And I can assure you that I am not thinking about how stupid you are, at all, right now—no, at this very moment I am thinking that even though I am a heartless cad with bad teeth I have enough lucre to grease the Viscountess's knickers clean off no matter how poorly I act or smell. The genes want what they want, no? Because, my dear, I am not actually in my gazebo but contorted in the backseat of my giant-fruit-shaped carriage struggling with the 30th buckle on what I hope is the final hoopskirt. How can this be? I imagine you ask as the Viscountess's beauty mark pops off mid-gasp. Well, my dear, it is because I spared no expense—no expense, do you hear me?—on the automaton that sits quietly ticking in my gazebo. Because while I would never expect you to fall for the exploding swan trick again I do imagine you will fall for the exploding me trick. Right. About. NOW."
So, dipping the tippy-toes in with our first game using all the new expansion rules but no modules—yet. We'll add those in one after another for an experience snowball—Bernals & colonists, freighters, GW thrusters, Futures—to get both the full effect of each and to prolong the experience. That means, what, like 12 plays before we're spun up to the full game? Shucks, I guess we better get crackin'.
Some notes from the first play:
• With the Income op at 2 and white cards selling for 4 out of the gate the economic system—so tight and shavey in the previous incarnation—is kinda bloated. WT is easy to come by, speeding up the game and mitigating the effects of crap-blowin'-up but at the cost of tension. I'm imagining that this will tighten back up with all modules on. (?)
• Extropy via Events and triangle burns is genius—definitely speeds things up. It's cool to move, cycle a deck and then Research the next card.
• Having single factories poot out multiple black tech cards is TREMENDOUS.
• The new Solar Cycle is kinda brutal, with events kicking off every other round like clockwork. I had a Martian resupply/rescue mission* get a hole punched in it three times in a row from back-to-back CMEs and Space Debris.
♪ That's High Frontier! ♫
UPDATE: I really like the Idea Turns to get things started quickly, though I'm still suspicious of how much bloat the full game will add—our Legacy games never went more than two hours, even with 5p and all Expansion modules on—and it would be a huge bummer if this tight, tense experience became an all-day sucker.
UP-UPDATE: (6 plays) Though it's been a rough start, I really like what Colonization does. It's got a ton story built into it, with an exponential arc of explore-industrialize-colonize-ascend. There are real reasons to push politics, as well as to go to war. (Operation Scrub the Space Pope, anyone?)
It's ponderous and clumsy until you get the process of establishing dirtside Bernals down, but once you're there, it should sing. (Much in the same way getting factories was initially so daunting in the base game, but once you got that down the game rolled hot.)
I get the impression that this might fit into a three-hour timeframe with experienced players and all modules on; at least I hope that things radically snowball once labs get built and everyone's promoting cards. We shall see...
*Yeah, people still get stranded on Mars in this one. Sigh.**
**I know you're scratching your head and thinking, "But Chris, that's a total rookie mistake—how the hell did that happen after 30-some-odd games?" And all I can say is that when you're the UN, your first patent is a solar sail, and Mars is open for business, you just kinda go for it. It's not until you slide your Corvette into the valet lane at Chez Valles Marineris that you realize your hot date is just a blow-up doll filled with hydrazine.
Lots of good stuff in here... Whatever you do, don't let the Gnomes get the undersea gold foundry! And if you own it expect to have Gnomes all up in your biz constantly. The good news is that they're such cheapskates they tend to hire convenience store clerks to assault in Cold War-era Soviet subs. Listening to the valve sproings and reactor blowouts on passive sonar is a real Kurskapalooza!
This looks like an insta-win with just more of what makes Waterdeep a great game—top-notch art and production values*, as well as solid gameplay that's pregnant with opportunities for lordly shenanigans and emergent narrative—but only time and actual plays will tell.
At this point I'm pretty sure I'll only want to play the modules separately and just ignore the variant where you play everything all at once. Part of the base game's charm is in its sweet concision—playing a 6-player, all-bells-and-whistles "long game" is probably like trying to drink an entire bathtub of maple syrup.
Undermountain — 3 plays
Just as quick and tense as the base game, with players adapting easily to the new material. Two 40-point Quests were scored despite Mandatory Questage (horrors!) and scores were higher in general—yet it was still a close game with the victor only squeezing the win by a single point. Nice.
Skullport — 1 play
*Yeah, the cards aren't the same size as the original game and that makes real shuffling a bit of a thing... but it's such a minor annoyance for one who poops in clean drinking water daily.
I really don't know what else to say. I mean, 46 new scenarios—that's more than twice the plays that even the most ardent fan would get out of a "favorite" game. Should you manage to wear this book out you'd be a master of M'44. Even if you lost every match.
For any given single scenario there's only one way to play, and that's twice, once as each side and then comparing total medals from both games for the win (this handles the historical "balance issue"). But for the game system as a whole the only way to play, really, is campaign mode, and man, this book delivers potential years of replay value.
Currently dipping our toes into the "Island Hoppers" Grand Campaign and we couldn't be happier—not even if we had magic motorcycles that gave Nirvana-inducing blowjobs and shat gold coins. No sir.
PS. Oh, yeah—and an entire Breakthrough campaign in Normandy, to boot?
Like Hitler and Napoleon, now you too can experience the joys of Russian winter.
UPDATE: Sure, it's cosmetic—but damn, does it ever look good. And the nation-specific medals (Victoria Cross on the desert side & the Hero of the Soviet Union on the winter side) add that extra little bit.
The campaign rules that come with the board seem wonky at first glance—with no hope for anything approaching balance—but in actual play they work great. We played scenarios 4-8 from the Mediterranean Theater as a campaign and the attrition dice between rounds made for some interesting decisions, and, in at least one instance, directly helped the whipping-boy underdog score a stunning victory.
If you want campaign rules that are better balanced and more robust, go with one of the Campaign books; otherwise this works just fine for linking three, four or five scenarios into an unbalanced night of great, narrative fun.
This is, after all, a Sgt. Rock comic, not Churchill's Memoirs of the Second World War.
UP-UPDATE: Now that we're into Memoir '44: Winter Wars I must reiterate my assessment of how effing gorgeous this looks when it's all set up. One glance and you're helplessly drawn into the magic circle... I swear it makes me want to put on a sweater it looks so cool.
Played so far with the new roles and action cards, and we're still losing half the time with only four epidemics (n00b setting/sleepin' kitten mode), so I can't even fathom the virulent strain, or the fifth (!) disease, or the bio-terrorist... let alone Legendary setting with seven (!!!) epidemics.
Tons of great mix-'n-match mayhem in this box. Should keep us busy for the next little while.
This is the expansion that truly fulfills the promise of the Runebound system, showing just what can be done by swapping out a few cards while adding a few small components and a single breath's worth of new rules. The result is an entirely new adventure that feels nothing like the base game. A must-have for all Runebound owners.
Very different feel from the base game. It's an often awful choice whether to travel by day or night... do you bake in the desert sun, stumbling along with withered lips and wild eyes or do you chance getting ambushed in the pale light of the desert moon? Also, the travels and travails of the legendary quests are a great change of pace from the "kill reds until you get the game-winning one" strategy of The Rise of the Dragon Lords. You only have to kill a single red (any one will do) to set yourself up for the endgame, but even that doesn't seal the win—you still need to complete that fourth quest. All in all, great fun.
PS. A nifty detail: the more legendary quests you complete, the more narrow your possible story becomes; some legendary allies will leave you if you kill certain encounters, for example. Sometimes you have to flee a monster in order not to upset the very entourage that makes you a legend... The result is that power comes at a price—the more you can do, the more judicious you have to be. So instead of just juggernauting across the landscape and leaving a trail of dead, you actually have to pick your fights based on the legend you are building. This helps keep the stories thematic and prevents (to some extent) run away leaders.
A terrific expansion. The new story works well and it's just plain fun being a giantkiller. The non-apocalyptic endgame plays out much better than the original Rise of the Dragon Lords scenario. A must-have for all Runebound owners.
I've always loved the Y-wing: armored and plodding, the thing is a pig that packs a wallop. Feels just right on the table, especially loaded with a double brace of proton torpedoes. There's nothing quite like locking a target, blasting 'em with the ion cannon to stop 'em dead and then cooking 'em off with a volley of torpedoes... unless it's doing it again!
Nifty additions all around, though when treasures clump up in the dungeon deck it can lead to one player killing something insignificant and ending up with more magic crap than he knows what to do with.*
*FIXED: We play with just one of each treasure card, making them extra-special instead of so commonplace you'd swear they were selling them in the dungeon gift shop.
Traps sound cool at first but can end up more annoying than anything else.*
*FIXED: We use only one of each trap card. So, yeah, this means some of them go from six instances to a mere two in the dungeon, but having them twang off twice in an entire game is more exciting than watching a clump of four grind someone's turn into a drudgery of card-flipping for everyone.
The Legendary Asia map is neat even if they only hint, in a sideways fashion, at the Yeti taking his due from every trip over the frozen passes. It's just a little bit sad, though, that the majestic beastmen have become accustomed to the regularity of train timetables, captive and lazy with the development of a taste for human flesh.
Fig. 1 — With the sounding of the dinner whistle, Urrghlik readies himself for music with his meal, wrung from a chorus of tasty throats.