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Subject: Hate It / Like It / Love It - Agents of SMERSH Review rss

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David Jensen

Smyrna
Georgia
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If you enjoy role playing games where adventure is as fun as winning you’ll enjoy Agents of Smersh. This is a co-operative choose your own adventure book played out over the board.

Style: Adventure.
Mechanic: Reading Encounters, Dice Rolling, Choose Your Own Adventure, Area Movement

Overview
As an international agent you’re sent to track down the elusive evil Dr Lobo. By visiting cities across the globe you’ll have interactive encounters with outcomes that change with every decision you make Successfully completing encounters using customized d6 will help you collect intel, uncover henchmen hideouts and ultimately trace the whereabouts of your nemesis. Throughout your journey you’ll have a chance to customize your spy - do you prefer stealth? weapons expert? disguise? This is an adventure game; one where you’ll be reading through stories to interact with the game and pass skill checks using d6 to receive rewards or penalties . What agent would be complete without increasing skills and collecting powerful gadgets & weapons? Collect these as the game progresses. The agents are in control of when to hone in on Lobo or await collecting additional intel to hunt, capture and detain him.

A in the overview indicates a mechanic or unique aspect that separates this game from others.
1. Decision making allows you to feel in control. Encounters allow you to choose from a list of 7 or more responses. These responses result in a specific action/ skill check appropriate to your decision. What’s incredible is how thematically linked your decision is to the story you’ll unfold. In one example I chose 'disguise' which allowed me to be invited upon a private yacht of a known terrorist, befriend, get close and assassinate him before snatching a briefcase and return it to HQ.
2. Build tension before you even have to roll! The customized d6 are high quality and not equal in there ratios. You’ll be drawing blind from a bag of dice to determine which ones you have available during your skill check. This adds some well needed variety to an old mechanic. Draw the injury dice and you can either crit strike for double impact or injure yourself; draw a ‘vanilla’ dice and have safer odds.
3. Varying End Game Speed and Conditions. As with most co-ops you’ll compete against a deck of cards where you’ll be constantly trying to balance your speed of capture vs collecting more intel. In addition, the conditions for victory are more challenging as the game progresses. Players will decide to collect more intel and watch the conditions to win increase or can start using intel to capture Lobo and hope they’ve collected enough to lock him up for good.

Hate It
You will not like this game if you are not willing to read cards or a book to progress the game. The area movement is not the highlight and there is little strategy involved. This is strictly an adventure style RPG where you play the role of international spy.
Like It
The victory conditions change, there is a chance you could lose when you have reason to expect to win after so much intel – Surprise! Poor or excellent dice rolls will affect the game significantly; there is no modification to the dice, only that you get to roll additional dice to help succeed. This is a dice rolling co-op so these are necessary for the game to play the way it does. The pieces, bits and cards come in great number and can be overwhelming for some. Fuddling through the turn order and awaiting someone else to complete their long turn action could significantly affect some folks enjoyment of the game.
Love It
Any RPG or board gamer who enjoys the thrill of the adventure and who can get into character.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I purposefully don’t rate categories. In a world where Uno is replayable and some consider Catan to have a theme; is it worth it? I've attempted to identify key mechanics and turn play that will help gamers decide if a game possesses that unique element which draws them to play on.
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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
United States
Irvine
California
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notyetsuperman wrote:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I purposefully don’t rate categories. In a world where Uno is replayable and some consider Catan to have a theme; is it worth it? I've attempted to identify key mechanics and turn play that will help gamers decide if a game possesses that unique element which draws them to play on.


While I respect this, can you tell us:
Did you enjoy the game?
How many times have you played?
If so, did you play the base game or with KS extras?
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Run with me
Singapore
Singapore
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StevenE, I can dig what the OP review method possibly as he felt that many reviews are normally too subjective (mine too). I bought the game (from CSI) and dreaded every second of it regretting my purchase since I read a review from someone else that this game sucks. Finally when it arrived, I read the rules, called a few friends together and played it. Surprisingly, its quite fun (not stellar but still fun), thematic and at times complex. However, the game outcome hinges on a dose (healthy or unhealthy dosage?) of luck just like in normal life.

On the whole, like what David said, if you enjoy adventure, cooperative play and like what-the-heck kinda of games, you like this (possibly).

(edit) PS: I always thought that games with an elemnt of luck (though not all games should) are quite exciting and normally ends with a nail biting conclusion. If luck pushes against me, so be it. Learn to roll with it or laugh it out, pat my own back and says "better luck next time"
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David Jensen

Smyrna
Georgia
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The purpose of the review is to help identify games which contain a mechanic that gamers prefer to play.

I purposefully am not rating games. I may do so later as I get a following which likes the preferences I enjoy.
 
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Jake Staines
United Kingdom
Grantham
Lincolnshire
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notyetsuperman wrote:

Hate It
You will not like this game if you are not willing to read cards or a book to progress the game. The area movement is not the highlight and there is little strategy involved. This is strictly an adventure style RPG where you play the role of international spy.


To reply to this point: I have no problem reading text off of a card, and I enjoy games like Arkham Horror which revolve almost entirely around this. And when played this way, Smersh is pretty fun. The Encounter Book, on the other hand, just makes the same encounters feel cumbersome; there's a big difference between drawing and reading from a card, and drawing a card, looking at a table, choosing a reaction, selecting another card, reading a number, then finding the single paragraph in a 300+ page book that matches the key you've derived, bearing in mind that there are multiple entries on each page and entries aren't all the same length. I really enjoyed the game when I played solo with the encounter cards, and I found it tedious when I played with a group of friends using the encounter book. Which is a shame, since the encounters in the book are awesome and the variety provided by the book was a selling point for the Kickstarter campaign for me.

(The same goes for my friends; I had a group over for a boardgaming afternoon, everyone was riveted to the table throughout Mansions of Madness, and most of them spent most of Smersh playing with their phones while things were looked up in the book.)

What Smersh needs, for me, is an Android app in which I can just press a button for "encounter in South America", press another button to choose my response from on-screen options, read the encounter off the screen and then press 'pass' or 'fail' buttons to see the result. I'd pay money for that, and I've already backed the game.
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Roger Cooper
United States
Albertson
New York
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My gaming group tried it and disliked it. One problem is that the rules are just poorly written. The explanation of the Intel tokens, the heart of the game is actually in the appendix!

Even with the rules understood the game just drifts. Movement gets to be rather hard after most airports are closed, unlike Tales of the Arabian Nights where you can traverse the board fairly quickly.

The game takes elements from other successful games, such as Tales of the Arabian Nights, Pandemic and Fury of Dracula, but does not do them well. The encounters lack the exotic flavor of Tales of the Arabian Nights. Movement on the Dr. Lobo track lacks the tension of the spreading diseases in Pandemic. The arbitrary Intel tokens are no match for the puzzle aspects of Fury of Dracula. Instead you just wander the board, finding Intel tokens and finishing missions by visiting random cities.

This would have been a better game if the designer had simply decided what to do. If there was no Dr. Lobo, and just scoring points like in Tales of the Arabian Nights, it would have been a fine race game. If you were trying to sway countries to your side, your missions would have meaningful effects like in Pandemic. If Dr. Lobo was player, hiding from you and throwing encounters at you, it would have been a good clone of Fury of Dracula.
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Michelle Grantz
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I have to agree with the majority that I didn't like this but I think for different reasons. I actually like the encounters, but there is so much of this that is to luck that it just drags it down. The flavor text is a lot of fun and if there was a different way that didn't make you fly through the deck of fate cards so fast to figure out your encounter, it may have been less like work and more fun. I don't mind luck but any chance of using strategy at all in this game is thrown out the window by the massive amounts of decks of cards AND dice. Way too much going on here to even think about having fun while playing this game. cry
 
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