1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 Next » 
’ve been torn on writing this for a while, but I find this cannot delay any longer. For those who are only here for the board games and don’t wish to read anything more personal, full disclosure: this is a 100% personal post.
I had planned on writing something lengthy, uplifting, and faith-filled in contrast to the uncertain situation we have found ourselves in right now, but I think conciseness (for a change) is the best approach here.
Tomorrow (September 19th, 2018), our daughter will be born at 37 weeks into my wife’s pregnancy. We have had a really rough pregnancy, with talk our daughter having Down Syndrome (ultimately tested and came back negative), skeletal dysplasia (commonly associated with dwarfism), underdeveloped lungs, and severely enlarged kidneys. The talks have ranged from “she might prove us all wrong and do just fine” to “you may only have hours with her” and everything in between. We’re having a scheduled c-section at a hospital about 90 minutes away from home and are optimistically looking at several weeks or months with her staying there in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
This uncertainty about what trials we, as a family, may face when she is born has been weighing heavily on our hearts and our minds for several months now. We have a 2-year-old boy (Archer) whose life may also be about to change in ways he can’t expect. All of that uncertainty will end, in one way or another, tomorrow.
If you have provided us with a review copy of a game, I ask for your patience as we try to figure out what our lives will look like going forward. I have a list, and several of them are ready to be reviewed as soon as I have the time to write them and those should appear soon enough. There are others that still need played more before I feel comfortable with a review, and that timeline is something I cannot commit to yet.
But ultimately why I am writing this, and all I am genuinely asking for, are prayers. I believe in God and have a strong faith. It has been tested these past few months and has come out even stronger than it was before. I am firm in my conviction that, no matter God’s plan for our little Elowen, it was according to his plan and we will one day be able to look back and see the reasons for our pain and tears throughout this process.
But as we approach the time where my daughter will come into this world, I am convinced that we cannot have enough people praying for her to be a fighter and to come out strong. I’ve wanted a daughter for so long now, and I pray she will get that chance to grow and be a presence in our home. Here are the messages my wife, Nicole, sent out yesterday regarding Elowen and her conditions:
Had appointments in Iowa city today. Elowen’s kidney’s are bigger than 2 weeks ago so there is still concern there. I am also starting to have excess swelling and higher blood pressure. Not currently having preeclampsia but borderline. They have decided due to Elowen’s stomach size that I should have a c-section so she does not get stuck coming out vaginally. Also due to the blood pressure I am having the c-section will be this Wednesday the 19th which is 37 weeks gestation. Do not know the time yet. They are still unsure about how she will do after birth. I had a steroid shot today to help with her lungs and getting another tomorrow. Lots of prayers needed especially for her when she is born since we do not know what God’s plan is for her life here. Thank you all for your prayers!
Sorry about my short post earlier about the baby. Wanted to get some prayers in. Throughout my pregnancy Elowen has had many medical concerns. Her most pressing concern is she has very enlarged kidney’s. Doctors are concerned on if they are working properly. She may need dialysis or surgery after birth or a kidney transplant later on. Due to the fact that her kidneys are so enlarged, therefore making her stomach enlarged, it is putting a lot of pressure on her lungs, which may cause them not to work well. She also may have a form of skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism.) I was originally going to be induced October 3rd because of all of this but now I have started to develop high blood pressure and swelling. Not yet preeclampsia but borderline. Due to this they have decided to do an c-section on Wednesday the 19th. This is 37 weeks gestation which is not too early but still early, and with her health concerns we are unsure of Elowen’s future. We may be in the NICU for a week or months or she may pass away at birth. I do know, weather you believe it or not, that God is powerful and his power is supernatural. If it is his will he can heal her. It is all up to his plan for her life here though! I ask that we all be calling on his name and that power in the next few days to heal Elowen if it is his will.
I want to thank you, in advance, if you are reading this and you say a prayer or two for Elowen. Whether you pray or not, your sharing of this post is equally appreciated so that it may reach more eyes and receive more prayers than it ever could through my own efforts.
Look for an update, possibly with pictures, a little later this week as we find out how she does and get a better idea of what the next weeks and months have in store for us. Thank you and God bless you for prayers and for sharing. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me directly via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:58 pm
A few of you may already be aware, but it is time to open that awareness up to a broader audience. Last week I had a game design idea reach fruition, and thus The Honor of the Queen was born. 9 cards, 15 counters, and 4 pages of rules is all you need to print out to try this out. But I'm getting ahead of myself a little here.
The idea for the game's constraints came from Button Shy Games, actually, when they tweeted out a few weeks ago that they were on the lookout for designs that use 9 cards and a few components. Challenge accepted. I also happened to dialogue a little with Alf Seegert, designer of games such as Fantastiqa and The Road to Canterbury, regarding our shared love for literature. He encouraged me to attempt a design in the future with one of those stories in mind, and there was where the theme eventually came into play.
Lancelot, the greatest of all of King Arthur’s knights, was accused of having romantic trysts with Queen Guinevere. First to accuse him was Meliagaunt, whom Lancelot challenged in combat to prove the Queen’s innocence. During the contest, Lancelot cleaved his opponent’s head in half and cleared the Queen of those charges. However, rumors continued to abound and soon other knights became suspicious. Sir Agravain and Sir Mordred gathered twelve knights and stormed Guinevere’s chamber, finding Lancelot there with the Queen. Now you, as Sir Lancelot, must try to escape and fight your way out of the castle and prove the innocence of Queen Guinevere before King Arthur has her burned to death for infidelity.
Object of the Game
You are fighting to escape the perils of the castle and, at the same time, trying to defend the Honor of the Queen you love. You will test your Knightly Virtues against those of the 14 knights standing in your way and fight to emerge victorious. If you can defeat 8 of the 14 knights along your path you will clear the name of your Queen and escape into the night. However, all is not as easy as it may seem. With every failure to defeat a knight, your Knightly Virtues will decrease and the Honor of your Queen will move one step closer to peril. Should you lose to 7 knights, or have two of your Virtues reach a value of 0, Lancelot will be banished from the lands and the Queen will burn for her sins.
There was a sliver of time left to slip this one into the BGG Solitaire PnP Design Contest, and so a thread for the game is up and running where you can find the files to print the components and the rules. I can make changes until the 16th, and after that the game is locked in for the contest.
So my hope, dear readers, is that you might find some interest in trying out the game. Even if you cannot get to it by the 16th, every little bit of feedback will help this game grow and evolve before I send a final submission over to Button Shy.
So check out the thread, and be sure to post there and let me know any feedback you have regarding this quick-playing solitaire game.
(Originally posted at: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/review-for-o...)
Thank you for checking review #67 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
An Overview of Sentinels of the Multiverse
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a game designed by Christopher Badell and Adam Rebottaro and was published by Greater Than Games in 2011. The box states that it can play 2-5 players and has a 30-60 minute play time and a BGG Weight Rating of 2.50.
A mad scientist holds the world hostage with his terrifying inventions. An alien warlord from a far away galaxy brings his limitless army of bizarre minions to conquer the planet. A giant rampaging robot cuts a swath of destruction across the coast, destroying major population centers. And who will stand in their way? A team of heroes, all with impressive powers and abilities stand between the world and the forces of evil. Will you help them? Answer the call to protect the multiverse!
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative, fixed-deck card game with a comic book flavor. Each player plays as one of ten heroes, against one of four villains, and the battle takes place in one of four different dynamic environments.
Each player, after selecting one of the heroes, plays a deck of 40 cards against the villain and environment decks, which “play themselves”, requiring the players to put the top card of the appropriate deck into play on the villain and environment turns. On each player’s turn, they may play a card from their hand, use a power printed on one of their cards in play, and draw a card from their deck. Each round starts with the villain turn, continues clockwise around the table, then concludes with the environment turn. Each villain has various advantages, such as starting with certain cards in play, as specified by the villain character card. Play continues until the heroes reduce the villain to 0 or fewer HP, or until the villain defeats the heroes, either via a win condition or by reducing all the heroes to 0 or fewer HP.
Gameplay differences for 1 Player
Technically, even when playing solo there should be a team of 3-5 heroes facing the villain. So the real difference here is how many hero decks you are willing to control during the game. I find 3 to be a nice number for making a balanced team, although I’ve gone as high as 5 in the digital version of the game (review on that coming soon…). By controlling all of the heroes yourself, there are some serious benefits and detriments that pop up.
The benefit comes from an ease of coordinating a strategy among the team of heroes. This allows you to tackle some mighty challenges that could otherwise get thrown off with imperfect information and imperfect coordination. It also allows you to make that perfect pairing without personal preference for heroes getting in the way of the ideal match-up.
The drawback is keeping tabs on what you have in each hand as you go. Some characters can end up drawing a ton of cards, forcing you to try and remember everything you’ve seen so far.
This is the superhero game I wanted when I first discovered Marvel Legendary a few years ago. As a fan of the superhero genre, this delivers the experience I would want and more. The base game provides ten unique heroes, each feeling different to play as than the other ones in the set. It provides four villain battles that can, and most of them frequently will, push your team to the limit. Each villain operates differently as they work toward their own dastardly plan. The only tragedy is that there aren’t real comics featuring these characters, bringing their stories to life.
However, there is the next best thing (apart from this game, of course): The Letters Page, a podcast where the creators talk about an aspect from their created game and dive deep into their background, the major events in their story arcs, and answer questions from players of their game. There is such a rich and deep history, and the storyteller in me can’t get enough of these.
I want to emphasize here: every single character, villain, and environment deck in the game feels unique. As you branch out into expansions you’ll get some with similar strengths (i.e. several characters who are really good at hitting things hard) but how they accomplish that can vary wildly. Even in the base game, there are a lot of character combinations that you can run against each villain and environment pairing to get a different challenge each time.
The gameplay on this is simple in structure: Play a card, use a power, draw a card. I love the simplicity of the game, and how MOST turns are that straightforward. Certain heroes can break that mold, but rarely in a way that really bogs down and ruins the flow of the game. Even the environment and villain turns are pretty easy to navigate, as they involve resolving start of turn effects, playing the top card of the deck, and resolving any end of turn effects.
The game scales well based on Hero count, which is a great strength and also why it wouldn’t be ideal to play with fewer than 3 heroes (damage that is H-2 becomes 0, for instance, which is not the intent. The baddie should almost always hit when the card intends for it to hit). When playing solo, any combination of 3-5 heroes will play well for you because the enemies scale in power with the number of heroes.
Even when a hero is knocked out of the fight, they aren’t completely out. I love the idea that they still can help support with their reverse side. Is it as interesting as playing cards from your deck? No. But this solves the problem of player elimination in a game that will frequently exceed the advertised 30-60 minute time printed on the box.
I am putting this as a strength here, but some might view it as a negative (my wife might be one of those…) – every card in every deck will tell you what it does. Some are simple in the effect, while others have a fair amount of text. Everything you need to know is self-contained on the card, but you’ll have to do a lot of reading of the cards. Not just your own, but the villain and environment cards as they surface, too. And the villain card itself. There is a lot to track, which excites me as a player as it adds layers to the gameplay. But there will definitely be those who see this and run far away in the other direction.
Until you know the decks and how they operate, you can get stuck in some bad situations. The game doesn’t tell you not to bring a team of The Visionary, Tachyon, and Absolute Zero against Citizen Dawn for your first game. You’ll likely get crushed, as The Visionary and Tachyon aren’t known for dropping a lot of damage (they have some ways, but that isn’t their focus) and Absolute Zero is an absolute beast to effectively play (which is why I have a strategy guide for him!) and Citizen Dawn is arguably the most difficult villain in this box to face. One really bad first play could ruin the experience enough that it never sees the light of day again. Thankfully, many decks are fairly intuitive and can find some ways to work together with whatever other heroes they pair up with so the horrible situations are few and far between, but there is definitely going to be a learning curve on how to best use any of the heroes and to know what cards are in their decks.
While there is a lot of replay value in the box, it is limited at the same time because this game benefits from variety. There is a ton of expansion content you can pick up to expand the game, and you’re going to want to eventually pick them up. If you’re looking for a one-time purchase that you can be happy with for a hundred plays, you can certainly find that with this game. But odds are you are going to want to expand after a dozen or two plays, especially playing solo and controlling 3-5 characters. You’ll get the hero experiences a lot faster than if you always play this with others.
This game’s greatest strength can also be considered its greatest weakness: everything is unique. Playing as Legacy a few times does not prepare you to play The Visionary’s deck. Fighting against Baron Blade does not prepare you to fight against Omnitron. There is a steep learning curve on how to effectively pilot each character’s deck, as well as how to fight against each villain and how every environment deck interacts with said villain. It will take many, many plays to get to a point where you can intuitively construct a strong, well-rounded team to handle the exact challenges that said villain and environment pairing can throw at you.
If there was one complaint that I would wager on hearing, it would be that this game is “fiddly”. I don’t find that to be the case, but I know enough about the term to understand that a player who dislikes having to do upkeep, move cardboard pieces around, and remember to trigger beginning of turn and end of turn effects might find this game to be an unfavorable experience. I have never found the task to be too challenging, and the game includes some excellent cardboard reminders you can place on cards for effects that they have triggered. Also, d10 are a godsend for tracking HP values on cards, as they allow you to see quickly who has the lowest/highest HP. They don’t come in the game, but are the one investment that will definitely help with some of the upkeep on the game.
This is one of those weird games to define for me, personally. I love this game and the superhero theme that it perfectly executes. This is everything I could ever want from this type of game, and one I will always enjoy playing. But I doubt it will ever be among my absolute favorite games (read: Top 5), even though I really, really enjoy the game. And I can’t really put my finger on the reason why. Maybe I haven’t experienced it enough yet, having only about a dozen non-digital plays (and another 6-7 digital). I don’t have all of the characters and combinations available, nor have I mastered every character I do own right now.
This is a game I’ll pull off and teach to any who are interested and willing. I have a friend who I regularly watch the Marvel films with, and he’s the first on my list of friends to teach this game to. It is a game I know my wife will never love, despite her willingness to watch superhero movies, due to its cooperative nature and the amount of text reading this requires in a hero deck. And I’m okay with that – thus why the review is from the solo perspective rather than 2+. But I have played it with more, and it provides a fun and interesting experience at all player counts. I prefer 1-3 as the range for players, as the rounds move faster. I would be hard-pressed to play at 5, unless they are all experienced, just because of how bogged down it can become.
Yet this is a game I really enjoy having in my collection, as I love throwing together a few heroes and clashing against a massive villain. I doubt I will ever find a character I love to play more than Fanatic in this game, but I have not met a hero deck I couldn’t at least appreciate playing (even if there are some I definitely do NOT play well…I’m looking at you, Tachyon). The lore behind this game is mind-blowing, and I want to jump out there and start writing short stories about some of these events (or side events that never “appear” in the card game) that are talked about on The Letters Page podcast. With the release of Oblivaeon into the hands of players, the card game has reached its conclusion in terms of content so now is a great time to dive in – you can pick up the box that appeals most to you in terms of the heroes you want to play.
So while this may never be a Top 5 game overall for me, it definitely has earned a place as a Top 5 solo game for me and is one I enjoy just as much when playing with other people. Almost every battle feels epic in a good way, especially after that first round or two where your team of heroes has already lost half of their health and you see no possible way of winning. Until you begin to chain together some impressive cards onto the table, gaining power to hit back hard and take those threats down.
My biggest gripe with it, as a solo game, is that I win too often. Yet it does a great job of making every victory (well, almost every victory) feel like a hard-fought and hard-earned victory. And while I know my wife will never become a convert to the great experience of Sentinels of the Multiverse, I look forward to the day when my children are old enough to play this (with some help reading, perhaps) with me and we can bond as superheroes taking down Baron Blade before he can pull the moon into the earth. And then make our own stories about our favorite heroes and heroines from the game…
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.
Tue Aug 28, 2018 10:38 pm
(Originally posted at: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2018/08/14/review-for-t...)
Thank you for checking review #66 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**A prototype of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review.
An Overview of Liberation
Liberation is a game designed by Jon Simantov and was published by Button Shy in 2018. The “box” states that it can play 2 players and has a 20-25 minute play time.
For hundreds of generations, the tyrannical Intercosmic Dynasty has ruled the galaxy with a titanium fist. Their power and reach is spreading, but so is word of their misdeeds. A band of resistance fighters known as the Liberation has begun striking at the Dynasty from a hidden base. Will you help the Liberation gain enough support before their secret base is discovered, or will the you wield the awesome power of the Dynasty to hunt down these traitors and bring them to heel?
Using a tiny deck of only 18 cards, Liberation plays out a miniature rebellion of galactic scale on your tabletop. An asymmetrical game of cat and mouse, the Dynasty player expands their web of power, occupying and exploiting planet cards, while the Liberation player strikes from the shadows, sabotaging the Dynasty’s hand and performing daring missions. The odds are long and the stakes are high. Can you stall long enough to cycle through the deck 3 times, earning enough support to topple the Dynasty, or will you scour the galactic map, tightening the noose around the secret base of the Liberation to attack and destroy them? The future of the galaxy is at stake!
Gameplay differences for 2 Players
There are none, as this is a 2-player only game!
You want tension in a game? This has it in spades. You never feel as though you’re safe as the Liberation, and you rarely feel as though you have enough time to find and attack them as the Dynasty. That is exactly the sort of balance you want to find in this sort of game. Every minute of the game is capable of gripping you and holding your attention firmly in place.
I love asymmetry in games, particularly of the 2-player flavor. This succeeds better than most, providing different actions for each turn, different missions on the cards, and very different objectives to win the game. Both sides, when you play them, feel like they are starting at a disadvantage. Both sides, when you play them, will have you feel like the other side has the better and more powerful missions they can use on cards. I’d say this game was pretty successful at the asymmetry based on these reactions.
It is a small detail, but I appreciate the idea to have the Dynasty choose their starting planet from their opening hand before the Liberation gets to choose their face-down base from their opening hand. This allows them to see where the early focus will be for the Dynasty and try to choose a planet that isn’t literally next door to the Dynasty. Unfortunately, I’ve been dealt a hand that had 2 adjacent and 1 within two spaces of the starting Dynasty planet. That opening hand sucked…more on that later.
There is a higher cost on the Dynasty actions, which feels really thematic. Their stuff packs a punch, but they can’t spam the actions apart from Recruit Spy. The Liberation has a lower cost, meaning they will need less to play cards, but that is because they aren’t occupying cities and therefore don’t have a tableau of cards to exploit. I’ve mentioned this several times already, but this manages to feel thematic and somehow balanced. The Liberation feels the advantage early in the game (usually) while the Dynasty ramps up in power as the game progresses (usually).
Discards are face-down, hiding some information from those who are able to take absurdly good mental notes over the course of a game. Every card drawn by the Dynasty and every mission played by the Liberation provides some information for the savvy player to exploit in trying to narrow down the possibilities. I’m horrible at this, but others would be really good at tracking those things. The only saving grace comes in those face-down discards.
The artwork for the cities, as well as the map itself, are fantastic. I’m not sure if this is final artwork or not, but I really like the look and feel of these cards during gameplay.
The four cards making up the map are double-sided, and therefore the side showing and the cards they connect to will make for a different map every single time you play. Cities that are adjacent in one game might be on opposite ends of the galaxy in another. It is a small detail, but a critical one that enhances replay value and prevents a “always start on X city as the Dynasty” strategy from being emergent.
A gamer who likes to be active and aggressive may find the Liberation side of the game to be a complete bore to play. I didn’t have the issue, finding both sides to be equally exciting to play. However, the Dynasty is clearly the aggressor of the game as their win condition requires that approach. Which will make them the interesting side to many players, simply because they control the tempo of the game with action while the Liberation is trying to dodge via reaction.
This is courtesy of a friend I taught the game to, who raised the concern even before we started playing. The Liberation has an Evade action, which lets them return the base card to their hand and secretly put down that same card or an adjacent card as their base. His concern? There is no way to make sure the opponent plays honest here. I’ll grant him that point, and others might feel the same concern. But if you can’t trust your opponent to not cheat in a 20-minute game, that’s a player problem rather than a game problem.
While the length of the game prevents this from being a dealbreaker, it is disheartening if the Dynasty has unusually good luck early in the game. I had a game end before we even finished the deck one time because he attacked the right city, which was within 3 thanks to Launch Fleet. Will it happen often? Probably not. Will it happen sometimes? Yep. Lucky guesses can end the game before it really gets going. Thankfully, it takes very little time to reset the game and it is short enough that it should be no issue to try again.
This game needs player aids. Desperately. I felt that from my first play, and my friends have confirmed my own belief. Is it something planned? I don’t know, and I’ll gladly provide an update once I find out. But this game demands a reference to remember what exploit, directive, occupy, mission, sabotage, and evade all mean and the sequence of actions. One card for the Liberation, one for the Dynasty. If not cards, then extra sheets on the paper that the rulebook will be printed out on. Something more than the rulebook itself is needed here, for the benefit of the players.
I have played this game more times than I have played Star Wars: Rebellion. So many feel that is one of the best games ever made, thus its place in the BGG Top 10. However, Liberation manages to distill the overarching conflict in Rebellion into an 18 card game that you can play several times in one sitting. You could probably log in 6-10 plays of this in about the time it would take for two players to get in one round of Rebellion, and this one is ultra-portable and ultra-affordable.
Will it replace Rebellion in a collection, you ask? If you are that player who absolutely loves Star Wars: Rebellion, then it is likely you love the minis and the battles and the missions and everything else. So the short answer is no, it probably won’t “replace” Rebellion in most collections. However, this is that game you will definitely want in your collection to help scratch the Rebellion itch when you simply don’t have several hours to set aside and play the game. Both can easily exist in a collection because they don’t compete in terms of length or portability.
Now that the obvious is behind us, let’s talk about Liberation. This game is good. So very, very good. It has tension regardless of which side you are playing. The map is small enough that the Liberation can never feel completely safe, and as the Dynasty you always have this sense that those Liberation scum are right under your nose (and oftentimes they are!) if you could only find it. The deck makes the Dynasty feel like they have all sorts of time, until the Liberation goes and discards half of it with one card. And then the pressure is on, and desperation ensues. Everything builds up for one grand attack, launching superweapons. And then the Liberation manages to exploit two of the Dynasty’s occupied cities, setting them back a turn. And then they do it a second time, which is enough to allow the Dynasty only one shot before the game ends. With a gut feeling of two possible parts of the map, the Dynasty fires on one duo and misses, allowing the Liberation to secure victory and reveal the other city in mind was their base.
That right there happened in the last game I played of Liberation and holy smokes, it was amazing. Even in losing, this game is way too much fun. How this can happen without chits or resources or meeples simply blows my mind. This is a game that impressed me from my learning session against Jason Tagmire of Button Shy Games himself, and continues to amaze me with every play. This is the game I want to always have with me, so that when it is just me and one other person I can pull this out for a nice, tense 20 minutes of gaming. Every card’s ability, in the right situation, feels amazingly powerful, You’ll never be able to pull off everything you want to as the Dynasty, as the costs are high to launch your mighty effects, but you’ll always feel that growing sense of power and it is awesome.
The fear when you are the Liberation is high when you realize they can strike at any planet 3 away from one they occupy and that contains pretty much the entire map between all the cities they control. Simple turns with simple actions that lead to tense, exciting gameplay. For less than the cost of a fancy dinner. Skip the dinner for a month and get this game, then take this with you when you go to said fancy dinner. You don’t need a ton of space for this one, and it’ll be exactly what you want while waiting for ages to get your food. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. This one has earned the “keeper” status for my collection, and I look forward to getting many more plays out of the game.
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Liberation. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.
(Originally posted at https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/review-for-t...)
Thank you for checking review #65 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**A copy of this game was provided in exchange for an honest review.
An Overview of InBetween
InBetween is a game designed by Adam Kwapinski and was published by Board & Dice in 2017. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 20-40 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.44.
InBetween is a game for two players, competing against each other to either protect or devour the inhabitants of Upsideville in a tug-of-war between the Human and Creature dimensions.
During a game of InBetween, the Creature player is trying to devour the inhabitants of Upsideville by drawing them ever deeper into its home dimension, while the Town player is trying to increase the safety of the inhabitants in the Human dimension until they are secured from the Creature’s depredations. Players take turns playing cards and using abilities that will draw the Characters further into their dimension. At the same time they are trying to increase their Awareness of their opponent so as to enhance a powerful one-time ability that may affect the game’s outcome. There are several routes to victory in InBetween; a player can win by drawing enough Characters into their dimension, or by increasing their Awareness to its highest level.
The fate of Upsideville is in the hands of the players. Will the Town and its people be able to win and walk peacefully once again around? Or will the darkness triumph, and the horrifying creature will walk freely between the alleys?
Gameplay differences for 2 Players
There are none, as this is a 2-player only game!
The turn structure is really simple, having you take one of three actions: play a card and possibly pay to activate its ability, draw back to five cards in your hand, or gain energy equal to the number of people currently flipped to your side. Easy choice, right? Except that the latter two actions can be seen as dead actions, making it so you don’t make any impact on the board state and allowing your opponent to get another play before you can react. But in order to do the most effective action, you want some of that energy to pay the activation on the card you play. And in order to get cards, most of the time you need to use that draw action. Trying to decide when, and how often, to draw cards and gain energy is a wonderful struggle.
I love that you can see the path that the turn marker is going to follow, allowing you to plan ahead for placement to advance your own characters or to try and win a character to your side enough that your opponent gets nothing when the marker reaches that spot. Oftentimes I’m looking 4-6 characters down the line as I’m planning my turn out, trying to decide which actions I might want to try and trigger or which characters I definitely don’t want her to trigger.
The player reference cards have everything you could want on there, and I’m coming to value a good reference card more and more in a game. This not only helps during gameplay while learning the game, but also serves as a nice refresher point when the game hits the table again after a period of time.
Letting the town deck have equipment cards is a really nice addition. Thematically, of course the creature won’t be making use of things like shotguns, walkie talkies, etc. It helps give the town that feeling of having an edge, but there are ways the creature has of dealing with those cards as well. But I love few things in this game more than looking down at 2-4 equipment cards in play when I am the town and know I’m reaping the benefit of those effects long after paying the initial energy cost.
The artwork is very evocative of the theme in this game. If you’ve seen the show Stranger Things, you’ll recognize and appreciate some subtle things on the cards that will remind you of the show. But even without that knowledge, a player gets a sense that one side is really creepy and disturbing and full of bad news. I really enjoy the enhancement that the art brings to the experience on this game.
The push-pull mechanism in this game is simple yet enjoyable. In order to raise your awareness, you need to have a cube on the townsperson when the marker is on that character. In order to get that cube on there, you need to have them on your side of the InBetween state. However, you can easily offset what your opponent does by playing cards to move their characters back, making it so you need to decide whether it is better to advance your own “scoring” opportunities or try and prevent theirs. This provides great decisions and some tension along the way. Even more enticing is when the cube is advanced to the 2nd or 3rd space on the character card, allowing the player to raise awareness AND trigger the action on the character card. The one thing you never want to see is your opponent getting a cube to the 4th space, which makes them secured (if on the town side) or devoured (if on the creature side). That pretty much locks that character down for the rest of the game, although there are a few ways to offset that.
The game is fast enough that we often play a best-of-three series. I love small box, thinky games like that where you’re finished fast enough to play again and fun enough you want that immediate rematch if you’ve lost.
There are three ways the game can come to an end: a player reaches 6 awareness, a player gets 3 characters to the secured/devoured state, or there are 5 characters remaining of the 10. I love the concept of three ways of ending the game; however, I’ve never seen it get close to two of these endings. It has always been Awareness, and almost always with one player at 4-5 when the other hits 6.
The game provides moments of dread when you see that the marker is about to hit a run of 2-3 characters that will boost your opponent’s awareness. Even worse is seeing you have no cards in hand with matching symbols or, as has happened, you have no cards or energy at this point so you need to simply pray that you get really lucky with a draw and can play something to survive. It provides tension, but it also feels just a little like you’re helpless to react. Ultimately, the result is “plan better” for the next game, which you’re almost always going to want to play again.
A small nitpick, but worth mentioning. The only place that the name of the game appears is on the small side of the box. Not on the cover. Not on the back. I guess it does appear, in really small print, on the bottom side as well. But this really, really limits the marketing to the gamer who is trained to pick up the box, look at the cover and the back to see what the game is about. It takes some looking on this one. Not a dealbreaker by any means, as the art on the front and back are stunning and thematic.
When I heard about this game, it was advertised as Stranger Things in board game form. And there is no denying that inspiration for the theme likely was pulled from that popular series. That in itself should help this game sell copies, but is that theme the only star for this box?
Thankfully, no. There is such a great little game wrapped up in this small box that it feels like a shame that this isn’t getting more buzz. Then again, small box 2-player games typically fly under the radar as a rule and it truly is a shame. This delivers an experience that you’d want for the size and price of the game, providing an asymmetric experience with a serious tug-of-war element as both players battle over influencing the ten townspeople. I love the sense of dread that grows when you see a series of 2-3 townsfolk coming up that will increase their awareness if you don’t make the right plays and get the right cards for the job. And the sense of excitement when you manage to come out of that gauntlet and still be in the running to win the game, jockeying to return the favor in a few turns.
The biggest flaw in the game comes from the unlikelihood that it will end in any way except the 6 Awareness route. I’ve never seen it come close to ending any other way with the few people I’ve played against, and maybe we’re just really bad at the game. Somehow I don’t think that is the case, though.
While the town is more interesting to play due to the variety of cards, the creature has its own benefits with some powerful abilities they’ll see more often. But that is balanced further by the frequency of symbols – there are 7 different creature symbols but only 4 for the town. This makes it an interesting dynamic for the push-pull that happens for the circle of townspeople. I love how different these two sides feel, even though the goals are the same regardless of the side you play.
So if you like 2-player games with a little bit of a puzzle during gameplay, coupled with very direct interaction between the players and asymmetric sides, this is definitely one to check out. You don’t need to be a fan of the Stranger Things show to appreciate the game, nor is any knowledge required to play. This is a nice, tense game that could be categorized as being on the lighter side of thinky fillers, and is one I always look forward to getting onto the table.
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at InBetween. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.
(Originally posted with pictures at: https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/gen-con-2018...)
Saturday was my final day at Gen Con, as had been planned from the start. I would make my few purchases after my Lord of the Rings LCG event and hit the road, hoping to get home before my lovely wife was in bed. I had one thing initially scheduled for the day, but a chance meeting of Travis Hill on Friday night led to us planning to meet this morning to actually get to talk some and play his prototypes. What followed on Saturday, in just two meetings/events, made it easily the most memorable of days.
Travis Hill, Low Player Count, Penny Rails, The Struggle is Real
In all honesty, Travis might have been the most genuine, humble, and awesome person I had the honor to meet over the course of the convention. He was on my list of people I really wanted to connect with, and he is even more awesome in person than I ever expected. If you want some excellent podcasting in your ears, go listen to the Low Player Count podcast. Seriously. It is the podcast that got me hooked on podcasts, and I haven’t missed an episode in quite some time.
Travis also helps in the community by working on rulebooks. A task most wouldn’t envy, but I certainly do. It is a necessary job he performs, and I loved hearing him talk a little about what he looks over as part of the rulebook editing and just how busy he is with that. It means more designers and publishers are taking the rulebook seriously, something that I, as someone who frequently reads rulebooks and teaches players from them, can genuinely appreciate. A year from now, I hope to be doing a fraction of the great work that Travis is providing with his editing of the rulebooks.
I’d like to say that his two games were the highlight of this hour of time, but that’d be a lie. The games were both excellent. I loved Penny Rails so much, and he was truly excited to hear that I didn’t already have a background in train games. I am 100% certain that I will be setting aside some money in the coming months to back Penny Rails when it hits Kickstarter (or, the open market if it goes straight to being sold), as I found it to be a really clever game and easy enough for a non-train gamer to understand how it played. The scoring was equally straightforward, at least with the way Travis explained it. And I have no doubt that his rulebook for the game will present it well.
Then I got to try his solo game, right now called The Struggle is Real. It was an interesting little deck manipulation game that I found to be a nice challenge. Once again, his interactions and his genuine excitement at watching his game unfold and hearing my thoughts as it went was the most memorable part. I wish Travis lived closer, as he is the sort of guy I would love to hang out with (gaming optional) all the time. I hope to continue to interact with him, to talk solo and 2-player games, to play more of his games as they progress in their designs, to learn some lessons on editing rulebooks that I can implement if the opportunity ever arises to help with that, and to talk coffee.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – The Wizard’s Quest Event, Caleb Grace, Fantasy Flight Games
By this point in the convention my social anxiety was finally hitting me in full force. I grabbed my quest pack and sat down at a table in the area, but not near any of the other amiable groups of people who were deep in conversation. I took my time and opened up the set, read the rules, and a Fantasy Flight guy let me know that if I needed some people to play with to let him know, as he could get me paired. After a long delay, I got up and went to find people to join and, ultimately, only made it to the other side of the table. Best decision I ever made, in hindsight.
It wasn’t too long after this that someone sat down across from me. I did a double take: Caleb Grace, long-time designer and developer for the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. I was able to talk to him, breaking out of my shell because I knew I couldn’t waste this chance. And wow, what a fantastic guy! We talked about the digital card game (he was pleased to hear I tried and enjoyed it!). That led into the Limited Edition set that has the digital game and the 2-player set and he confirmed many players’ worst fears: right now, he knows of no plans to release that 2-player set outside of this bundle. So if you want these cards, or the quests, you need to jump on this limited edition offer. Thankfully, the digital game is really good so it should be worth the price in the long run.
We talked about the Saga series for the game, and I learned that he originally sat down and outlined the entire book series by chapters and used that to help map out the progression of quests and he wanted, back in 2012 when it started, for the game to be able to end with one group at the Black Gate while the other was (at the same time) trying to dunk the ring in Mount Doom. I haven’t made it there myself, but I understand he was successful in that. And, through all of the conversations with him, he kept emphasizing how much he loved the community of players and seeing their reactions to cards and sets. And that he loved what he was currently doing at conventions: sitting among the players.
And then the unthinkable happened: Caleb asked if I wanted to play against him. Gulp. Yes, of course. A surreal experience I never, in my wildest of Gen Con dreams, could have imagined.
For those not in the know, the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has been a completely cooperative gaming experience since its release in 2011. The Wizard’s Quest allows you to change it into a competitive mode, constructing the deck your opposing team of 1-2 players will work through while they do the same for you. In the competition, teams alternate going phase-by-phase through the quest. The first one to either finish, or the last one standing, will win.
I busted out my faithful Hobbit deck of Sam, Merry, and Pippin. He brought Cirdan the Shipwright, Arwen, and Caldara. And I ultimately lost the match, but not before one of the longest, and most intense, and most epic game I’ve ever played.
Because he is Caleb Grace, people took an interest in the game, and sometimes stopping to watch for a while. Everyone loved seeing the encounter deck hammer down on him, and early on his deck was bleeding allies while mine was building up a board state to progress. By the time I got to Stage 2, where a really strong enemy would attack early in every round, my Samwise Gamgee was able to defend the attack without a scratch (most of the time) and so I handled that area better. But the deck worked against me too, often inflating the number I needed to surpass by questing so that I would break even time and again. Ultimately, that was my demise. He was able to recover enough that he finished Stage 3 of the quest while I was still trying to regain enough control of the locations so I could start placing progress on the quest.
It will be a game of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game that I will never, ever forget.
And maybe, some day, I can get a chance to play with Caleb Grace once more. I love the game and the community, and I hope to do my small part moving forward to contribute by reviewing the expansions and writing about some of the decks I’ve tinkered with. I’ve been tempted a few times to just shift into a Lord of the Rings blog, and I’d jump at the chance to be more involved with the game.
Recap & Thoughts
So to close things out on the shortest post of the three, here are a few small lists:
Five People I Didn’t Meet But Wish I Had
1.Trey Chambers, designer of Argent: The Consortium, Harvest, and Empyreal: Spells & Steam
2.Paul Grogan, Gaming Rules!
3.Christopher & Adam, Greater Than Games
4.Jamey Stegmaier, Stonemaier Games
5.Isaac Childress, Cephalofair Games (Okay, so I got to say hello as I was leaving, but I really would have liked to sit down and talk with him for a while and see Founders of Gloomhaven or the new Gloomhaven Expansion)
Five Games I Wanted to Try But Didn’t Get the Chance
1.Empyreal: Spells & Steam by Level 99 Games
2.Thunderstone Quest by Alderac Entertainment Group
3.Founders of Gloomhaven by Cephalofair Games
4.The Reckoners by Navuoo Games
5.Everdell by Starling Games
Six Things I’d Do Differently for Gen Con 2019
1. Schedule fewer things from 10-6 each day – I had less than two hours on Thursday, three hours on Friday, and about an hour on Saturday that were able to be used in the main hall. I gained a little time on Friday with Mystic Vale being cancelled, but overall I had such little time to stop at booths, greet the publishers and designers, and demo games at the tables. Big mistake. I’d almost prefer to just have this time to roam the halls and schedule just the must-play things like the Lord of the Rings event.
2.Schedule more things after 6:00 – I had an event planned on Thursday night and it was cancelled, leaving me wandering for a while. No event on Friday night also left me looking around and finding almost nothing that I could do without a long wait. This is the time to meet with people, sit down, and play some games. I failed horribly at this.
3.Plan sooner, stay longer – My coming to Gen Con was a late decision, and I could only scrape together enough for gas, food, and hotel funds for a short time. My ability to eat for cheap allowed me to make a few small purchases, but honestly I’d rather arrive Wednesday night and head home Sunday afternoon.
4.Volunteer at a booth or two – I wanted to do this, but my short stay and the daytime events meant I couldn’t swing it. I missed out on getting to know a few people better, teaching a game I love to others, and just having a good time without navigating huge crowds. Next time, I will definitely take a shift or two just to enhance that experience.
5.Business cards – It hit me the week of Gen Con that having business cards would be a great idea. Thankfully, I wasn’t able to stop and greet a ton of people in the industry so I didn’t necessarily miss out this time. But next year, I want to be able to hand out some information as I am meeting with others in the industry.
6.Backpack – I had bags that were good in size, but none of them had padded shoulder straps. So my con experience was one of great discomfort, navigating with bags I had to hold (and dig into my hands) or that would rub on my shoulders. Biggest mistake I made overall, and one I won’t repeat.
5 People I Would Consider Cosplaying
1.Aragon, The Lord of the Rings
2.Perrin Aybara, The Wheel of Time series
3.Joel, The Last of Us
4.Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly
5.A Viking Warrior
(Originally posted, with photos, at https://cardboardclash.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/gen-con-2018...)
Friday marked my one and only full day at Gen Con, and I was determined to never leave the area throughout the day. I was successful in that task, although it was a painful and exhausting process. I still have the soreness and bruising to show for it, and this day taught me a LOT of lessons that I’ll use going forward if I return to Gen Con.
I made a mistake in listing way too many items. Of those, I traded 12, plus a few other things I sold in the marketplace that I had to lug 3/4 of a mile to the trade location. Three bags of stuff. Boy, it was heavy. Then I walked about 1/2 a mile to the convention center and shuttled back to my car. It was a packed area, an in spite of the immense crowd it was relatively well run and I was able to make all my trades and head back out in under an hour. So I consider that a bonus, since I had to find about 24 different people.
Carla Kopp, Weird Giraffe Games
Carla was on my must-meet list and I specifically sought her out early after the Hall opened. It was great interacting with her, as she’s been really receptive to solitaire gaming and I helped provide some feedback during Stellar Leap’s testing that might have impacted its solo progression. The time was short, though, as she was the one manning her small section of a booth and I didn’t want to prevent her from making sales. It was incredible seeing the final product with Stellar Leap, though. Sadly, when I tried to get with her later she was teaching a game and I was at a point of exhaustion myself so I never made it back in to catch up more. Next time, I’ll be better prepared so that I’m not lugging around such cumbersome items and will be able to stay longer and move around better.
Carthago, Capstone Games
One of my top must-try games for the Convention was Carthago by Capstone Games. And as luck would have it, I was able to try it out with 2 players! The ships available in the ports, and the number of seats to purchase, both scale based on player count. There are also some dummy discs that go on the action selection space, essentially making certain actions cost a little more to use. This was every bit as fun as I anticipated, and after much debate on which Capstone title to bring home I settled on this one. I love the market of cards, and how they can be used for the actions depicted, the goods shown, or the value of money. Multi-use cards are the best, after all. You get 15 actions over the course of the game, promising a very tight experience. I played an Age, which was 5 of those actions, and played those poorly but still had fun and could see the incredible experiences that await us when we play this one. It’ll be hitting the table tonight, in fact, being the first game I punched and prepped after I got home from Gen Con.
Call to Adventure, Brotherwise Games
I wanted to sit down and demo this game, but never got the chance because there was always a crowd surrounding the table and they were always just starting in on the games. But I did take 15 minutes to observe as it was being played, so that I could at least report back some here.
The game looks like it will uphold the fun that it promises in the campaign. I didn’t see a single thing to deter me from how the game’s experience will be. I’m excited, as a fantasy genre fan, to hear that the Stormlight Archive is going to be an expansion for it in 2019. However…
I can’t picture this being a game my wife would want to play. I’ve tried and failed in the past with games that had any emphasis on storytelling, and while it is a side feature of it some of the appeal would be in actually coming up with stories after a game ends. This game is one I would love to pieces, but she would likely only play it when forced to do so. The runes looked like fun to cast, but she’d associate them too much with being dice.
So if I picked this up, it would probably be for solo play and to use with friends. Thankfully, I know a friend who is as big into Stormlight Archive as I am, so this might have to be something I pick up to play with him when that arrives in 2019. Watching this played confirmed everything I expected to see, which is a good thing for the game. If you’ve been on the fence for the game, I think you may be pleased with how this one turns out.
Mystic Vale: Havens event, Alderac Entertainment Group
The event was cancelled. This was something I discovered only after walked clear across the convention center to the corner of Hall A, rushing to beat the noon start time. I get that things happen to prevent an event from being able to be held. But this was one of two events I was super excited for, and my disappointment at hearing this was cancelled, only after getting to the table, was tremendous. I was told something about an offer to get sleeves instead, paying just shipping, but in my frustration I can’t be sure. Nor can I find my worthless ticket to the event. So I’m out $6, and still so very sad. I LOVE Mystic Vale, and they promised stuff to take home as part of the event. But the bright side was it bought me a little time.
Escape Plan, Eagle-Gryphon Games
This was another must-see game on my list after my glowing experience with the other Vital Lacerda games. Unfortunately, the game was only on display and not for actual playing. However, I was able to talk at length with Randal Lloyd, the Marketing Director for Eagle-Gryphon Games. He showed off the mechanisms in the game, and did a great job of explaining how the game will function. Like any Vital Lacerda game, the core action choices are simple but the interactions and ripples from those actions are what makes the game incredible. This is a “lighter” game design, but still quite a meaty, thinky game. The components looked incredible, and the game is going to have quite an impressive presence on the table. I love the premise of the game, having performed a heist as a group and you start playing at the point where it has become every thief for themselves in trying to avoid capture and escape the premise with as much loot as possible.
It has a modular board that is built by the players over the course of the game. There are 3 exit tiles, but only one of them will be revealed as the true exit. There are asymmetric player goals. You can influence and recruit the gangs to help distract the police, you can bribe the police, you can put on disguises, and so much more in your attempts to thrive. I am so sad this wasn’t playable, as I am seriously excited for this game after seeing it in person and hearing it explained. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to back this one on Kickstarter. It is going to be excellent, as every Lacerda game has already been.
Bosk, Floodgate Games
This one came by happenstance, as I knew a local gamer (Josh of the Board Boys Podcast…be sure to check their podcast out. It is FANTASTIC listening every 2 weeks, and they almost exclusively play games in the BGG Top 100 and give their thoughts after playing the game) would be at the Floodgate booth volunteering his time. He was showing off Bosk, which was very much in prototype form but looked pretty interesting. The game is played over two halves, with the first being placement of trees onto the board on the corner intersections of squares. Scoring happens based on majority in each vertical and horizontal row (so essentially every tree helps score on two lines).
After that it moves into the falling leaves phase, where the wind direction is dictating where the leaves fall, and players start off their 1-value trees and move up to the 4-value trees by playing a card to determine essentially how many leaves are placed down. So if I played a 4 card, I would get to make a path of 4 leaves on squares going in the direction of the wind. Each placement essentially has two options from the tree, and then from there three options. Let’s see if I can make a visual:
Placement beginning from the corner between the two 1’s on the grid below. The number with an * indicates the placement, the other numbers show the other placement options.
1 2 *4
*1 2 *3 4
*2 3 4
So as you could hopefully see, there are plenty of options to spread out from a single tree. The snag comes if you want to place on a space where someone else’s leaf already exists. It costs you an extra movement per leaf on that space, so to put yours on top of an existing leaf would be 2 of the movement. So on, going up. Only the topmost leaf, at the end of the game, will score points so there is room for some pretty aggressive play here. Finally, there is a squirrel card which lets you place a squirrel on any space without a squirrel. That secures the space for you, regardless of what is showing on the leaf pile, so it is a powerful one-time play.
This one was a fun little game, and I enjoyed the demo of it. It sounded simple at first, but I can see where some competition can jockey into the game for certain spaces, and how things can get very tight since all leaves are blowing in the same direction on a turn. I also like how the board shrinks based on player count, simply making the box a little smaller to play in with 2 but keeping everything else in tact. Photosynthesis failed to impress me, but this might be a much better tree-themed game to have in a collection. The game should be on Kickstarter late this year, and I can’t wait to see what this is going to look like when it is closer to that finished product.
Jason Tagmire, Button Shy Games
This man deserves a separate entry here, because I was able to chat with him a while as we walked to find a table to play on. As with everyone else, he turned out to be a really awesome guy to get to know, and it really pleased me to hear that he’s finding his niche market to be the 1-2 player count. Since that aligns so perfectly with my channel’s focus, I’m hoping to take a lot of looks at future Button Shy titles (and digging into their past catalog, too!) So titles like Ahead in the Clouds, Avignon: A Clash of Popes, Herotec, Pentaquark, That Snow Moon, and Twin Stars: Adventure Series all might be ones I’ll pick up in the future to play and add to the collection. And future titles, like Liberation and Penny Rails, will be must-buy games for me. The games themselves are good, but what really sold me on the company was talking to this guy for 20 minutes while we walked. I love his passion and dedication, and I can’t wait to watch Button Shy continue to grow and thrive in a market where everyone seems to want massive, miniature-filled games.
It might be time to kick around some 18-card game ideas soon…
Liberation, Button Shy Games
Have you played Star Wars: Rebellion? Meet the miniature version of that game, packed into 18 cards. Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is a lot of fun. It shouldn’t work, but it does and it delivers in spectacular fashion. He played as the Liberation, and I was tasked with finding his base. And, as it only fitting, I lost. On my last turn, I could attack one of two spaces. I chose wrong, as his base was on the planet I didn’t attack.
My other biggest regret was not having more time to play it again, but I was cutting it close to the next appointment. The art on here is great, and the only thing it truthfully might need would be a small player aid that defines some of the terms used as I had to look at the rules sheet quite a bit to make sure I was doing it right. But that would make this a 20-card game, which would go against the mold. I expect most people will need to do the same, though, for their first few plays. After that, I imagine it will be a lot better.
Circle the Wagons, Button Shy Games
I’ll keep this one brief. After talking a little about Sprawlopolis, which I enjoyed and reviewed, he asked if I have played Circle the Wagons. I hadn’t so he pulled it out and we played a quick round. Like, 5 minutes from overview to completion. Clever game, and takes the things I liked about Sprawlopolis and implemented them into a competitive format that I think my wife might like. He sent me home with a copy, and more thoughts on this will definitely follow in the future. If you liked Sprawlopolis, you’ll enjoy this as well.
Cardboard of the Rings Listener Event
My time here was cut to nothing by everything before and after this. Seriously, it was a 5 minute sprint across the hall to the area they were at so I could get my ticket for the Wizard’s Quest event on Saturday. But they still wanted me to get some swag if I had some generic tickets, so I gladly dropped $4 worth of those in for the most impressive item I took home. This box is the crown jewel in my Lord of the Rings LCG collection right now. I really wish I hadn’t booked so much stuff in this time slot so that I could have spent time there getting to know them all better.
Crusader Kings, Paradox Interactive
I felt fancy for these next two demos, as they were conducted in a private dining room at a restaurant a few minutes off-site from the Convention Center. It took a lot longer to walk there than I expected, but I was glad to arrive and find they hadn’t started without me. The game looked nice on the table, especially considering it wasn’t a final product or anything. It looked to be a bit of a table hog, but for a game with a Medieval theme and ambitious enough to try and capture a legacy across generations, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The theme is something that really appealed to me. I haven’t played the computer game this is based upon, but that doesn’t appear to be necessary for the enjoyment of the game. The map is small and tight, but the focus looks like it will be as much on family legacy as it is about conquest. Each round has players drafting cards from several decks, each one containing 1-2 action types. Each card also has an event that will trigger upon the use of the card, and not all of those events are good. And not all of them will target you. So you can see what areas the other players are drafting heavily into, and make a strategy around that. There is also a small bag-building element with tokens that have traits and are either good (green) or bad (red) traits to have. These tokens enter into play during combat, crusades, and even marriage. It promises to be an interesting approach, and this demo was definitely cut too short. It was enough, though, to raise my interest in the game a little more.
Europa Universalis, Paradox Interactive
The other half of the table had this game, and it had a very busy board with discs and cubes of four colored factions throughout. This one is further from completion, but we got a longer sample of this game (at least it felt that way). Right now this experience was hindered without any sort of player aid listing the possible actions, so we kept things pretty standard overall. We got to see some conflict resolve, and some rebels took foot in England. There were some marriages, some trading for funds, and many of us hired some infantry and cavalry in our armies and hired generals. This game was being explained as a historical-flavored Twilight Imperium or Eclipse experience. Having played neither of those, I cannot confirm nor deny the accuracy of that statement. However, I can see how this sets the stage for a long and interesting epic of warfare and influence. It is like Risk in a small sense, but far more interesting and with many more layers added to the game. I came in more interested in Crusader Kings, but I might be as interested in this one when it arrives in (hopefully) 2019 on Kickstarter.
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Asmodee Digital & Luke Walaszek, Fantasy Flight Interactive
I won’t keep it secret, nor keep it safe. This is what I wanted in a digital reimplementation of one of my favorite board games. It does so many things right, providing an entry point into the game for someone who has never played the LCG, while also offering some fun and fresh challenges and experiences for the veteran player. If you’ve played Hearthstone, or any of the other multitude of digital “CCG” games, you’ll find some similarities in here with marshaling troops onto the board and choosing who attacks what. You’ll also notice it does a back-and-forth action sequence between the player and Sauron. This is a great change for the digital format.
Some people may have wanted a straight port of the LCG into a digital model, but I don’t think that would have been the right move. It would have made things hard to follow on the screen, for one, as the game progressed. Furthermore, it would have offered very little to current players that they couldn’t already obtain with their collection or on the existing digital tabletop platforms. No, I think they made the right choice here.
This was HARD. I thought I was doing really well, and then things progressed and it all started to fall apart on me. Getting a challenge out of the demo was a reassuring moment.
Also, I got to talk to Luke quite a bit during the time for this and his enthusiasm for the game and getting it right was to be commended. I wasn’t sure, going in, if I would be interested at all in the digital version of the card game. After all, if I am going to be playing a game at home I would rather set up the physical product and sit down to play the game. However, I can see this being a game I could play when I have a limited window for relaxing, playing through a quick quest or two when I can’t set up and play something bigger on the table. I went from being not at all interested in shelling out $99 for the Limited Collector’s Edition, but now I am very tempted. It would get me early access to the game, unlock some Founder’s Packs, and get me a 2-player set that can only be obtained through this bundle.
Coming from someone who left computer and video games behind about 2 years ago, this speaks volumes about the game. It is good. Not quite the same as the game I’ve come to know and love, but it shares the right similarities and has the right differences to allow it to thrive harmoniously with the LCG.
Mario Sacchi, designer of Wendake
The final scheduled meeting of the day for me, and one I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t played any of Mario’s games, but I was very interested in Wendake due to the worker placement and the Native American theme. He was looking to meet interested reviewers, and that one game was enough to make me interested to meet him and discuss whatever he had in mind.
Let’s just say that I’m very, very glad I did.
He started by showing me an overview of the upcoming Wendake expansion which will add French and English forces that can be recruited as allies. It was really interesting, and I love the idea of bartering furs (a Native American resource) for firearms (from the allies).
But the star of the time together was a preview of a game he has coming in the future, which has a working title of Masamune. Worker placement. Recipe fulfillment. And the theme is that you are crafting swords in Feudal Japan. Yep, I can’t think of another game like it. And the most interesting part of the game involves a personal player board where you are placing the swords that you need to craft and how future actions will move them across and down the board to make them more valuable.
Since it is an early enough prototype I don’t want to spoil too much here, as a lot can change between now and its kickstarter. But it sounds like Cardboard Clash will get a copy to review prior to that Kickstarter launching, and so you should be very, very excited for this one. It is going to be a great, thinky game for a collection.
And I almost forgot to mention that Mario designs all of his games to play well with 1-2 players (apart from party games, etc.) so that is a huge win. I’m going to be working really hard to get my hands on Wendake in the future so I can get some plays of that in, and hopefully try out that expansion once it drops. Knowing that the game should deliver an excellent experience at our primary player counts is a huge benefit. I am honored he wanted to sit down with me and show me these two things, and I am looking forward to playing any of these types of games he wants to design.
Fantastiqa: Rival Realms, Eagle-Gryphon Games
The first time I stopped at the Eagle-Gryphon booth I made my first game purchase of the convention when I picked up this little 1-2 player game. I’ve been wanting to get Fantastiqa for quite some time now, and still want to get that in my collection. However, I couldn’t pass up this game based on the player count and the price. So when I found myself sitting alone later that evening, I popped this open and started to set it up while going through the rule book. A young boy who couldn’t have been older than 12, came up to investigate based on the box. He sat down and wanted to play. I explained I didn’t know how yet, but if he was willing we could learn together.
And so, after a short stint through the rules, we were off and playing. The gameplay on this one is simple in concept, but not necessarily so easy in execution for the players. You have three rows that will ultimately hold up to six cards each, making it so you’re trying to be the first to get down 18 cards on your side. There are some clever twists, though, in that you need each row to play in ascending order. There are cards numbered from 1-50 in the deck, each appearing once. Across those 50 cards, there are 5 different terrain types and your adventurer can explore a card only if you discard a card matching the terrain type they are moving onto. Those discarded cards go to a pile in front of your opponent, which they can draw from, meaning you need to consider if the card you spend is the one they might need. There are mountains blocking your path from row to row, so you need to make sure you consider how to adventure vertically since you cannot backtrack on the same turn. There are quest cards you can earn by fulfilling certain conditions. There are tokens to collect via adventuring for special abilities or to use in place of a terrain card. And you score more points by having the same terrain side-by-side and explored, adding another layer to consider for end game incentive.
Overall, I couldn’t be more delighted about my purchase of this game. It will likely sit alongside Hanamikoji as one of my favorite small-box thinky filler games in my collection. I can’t wait to try it solo, to teach my wife the game, and to add in some of the other elements that it recommended leaving out for the first play. There is plenty of decision space in a simple game, providing exactly what I hoped for in this box. The only real complaint so far is that this does require a fair amount of table space, which was in short supply at the Convention but should be no issue at all when at home. But it is likely not a game that travels well to a restaurant given the space it requires.
Whew, what a weekend at Gen Con. For those who don’t know, this was my first every convention. Yep, not just first Gen Con. Any convention ever. And I went in thinking I had an idea of what to expect, but there was probably nothing that could have fully prepared me for the experience that awaited me. I played only a fraction of the games I wanted to try, missed out on meeting a few of the people I really wanted to catch, and spent far more time in the evening walking around not knowing what to do once the Vendor Hall closed down. Without further ado, here is my recap for the first day, with posts on the other two days of attendance to follow.
Day One – Thursday
My day started off by driving 7 or so hours from central Iowa to Indianapolis. I wanted to be there before 2:00 to meet with some of the Level 99 Games crew, so I left long before the sun was up in the sky. After an uneventful trip, I went straight to where I parked and shuttled into the Convention Center where I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of things. After finding the Press Room to get my badge, I had about 20 minutes to make my way over to the Level 99 booth.
Chris Solis & Temporal Odyssey, Level 99 Games
First up was meeting Chris Solis, the designer of Temporal Odyssey. He turned out to be a really great guy (something that can be said of every single person to follow in this post) and was very open to playing a quick round of his latest game with me. I had played once before with a buddy of mine. so I knew the basics, but it was great to see his strategies taken and to pick his brain a few times about the importance of certain cards or decisions he made along the way. The game itself was as fun as I remembered, being a fast and furious competition between two time travelers. I pulled out some really fun cards, including a late Paladin (my favorite deck) that nearly won me the game. He managed to just barely finish me off a turn before I would have defeated him. This one is a game I am enjoying in my collection, and will be reviewing in the near future for sure. It plays out a little like a CCG duel, but with the ramp up for each side happening almost instantly. There have been times in both games I’ve played where I’ve been stunned at the sheer power of some of these cards, and that makes it fun and unpredictable as you play. There is a ton of room for this game to grow and expand, which is something I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing.
However, the best part was getting to know him a little and hearing about Terrene Odyssey (the “prequel” to this game) and how a lot of the characters and villains in that game appear on cards in Temporal Odyssey. Being a person who grew up playing JRPG games, the idea of each player forming a party of adventurers really appeals to me, and I’ll definitely be checking that one out. I made one key suggestion to Chris regarding Temporal Odyssey, and was very reassured to see him make note of the suggestion. He takes note of everything suggested by players, which is awesome to hear.
D. Brad Talton Jr., Level 99 Games
Unfortunately, my time with Brad was very short but in that span of time I got to know the man behind the mic in the Level 99 Podcast (highly recommended listening!). We talked BattleCON a little bit, as I have a fair amount of recent experience with it after reviewing Trials of the Indines and the BETA of BattleCON Online back in June. His biggest challenge, with BattleCON Online, was getting the right team in place for the project. My understanding is this is essentially 2.0 right now, as it sounds like there was previously an attempt to make it that didn’t succeed in reaching a final product. This time around has gone a lot better, and having played the online version I am very pleased with the product. There is going to be an Adventure Mode to the online game, which will enhance the experience available to players much like old fighting video games would have storyline experiences to progress through. Look for BattleCON Online to launch on August 10th (you can find it listed already on Steam!)
The final big Kickstarter for the physical game of BattleCON is coming around the end of August (tentative date of the 30th), and will have the box large enough to contain EVERYTHING for the game. Which is great, as I currently have three BattleCON boxes to fit on my shelf and I would really prefer to consolidate them into one box! One of the things I’m most excited for in the campaign will be the “social” goals, which will include things such as submitting fanart and fanfiction for the game. He confirmed it was still his intent to have that (I can’t recall all of the categories discussed a few podcast episodes ago), and I’m going to get to work on some fanfiction in the near future for this Kickstarter.
Finally we talked Exceed, and I asked him why he developed a very similar game when BattleCON already existed. He got to tell me a little about how the randomness of the deck opens the game to where it feels familiar to someone who might come into it with a CCG or LCG background, and makes it so you can have those moments where the right card comes at the right time for you. So while it may be similar in concept to BattleCON, having the players drawing from preconstructed decks of cards rather than having everything open information provides a very different experience.
Exceed Demo Game, Level 99 Games
Since they were demoing the Exceed game at the booth as well, I decided to take a swing at the game and see how it played out. I played as Lily, and was matched against the demonstrator who used Ulrik. Since I knew BattleCON, it made it fairly easy for him to explain the game and were were up and playing with very little downtime. I had to agree with Brad by the end, this game is very different from BattleCON. While the key concept is the game, its execution makes it a totally fresh gameplay experience. Not only with the drawing of cards, but how the turns play out and the ability to always be able to do a Wild Swing, allowing you to play a card from the top of your deck during a battle sequence. The EX attacks are also a nice addition, making it rewarding to play two of the same card on the same sequence for a boost.
While I didn’t end up purchasing anything Exceed for myself (yet), this is definitely one I could have in my collection even if I own everything BattleCON. I’ll be using these two demo decks to teach my friends who enjoyed the BattleCON game, and let them decide which of the two they prefer. Odds are, it will be both that remain in my collection. I’m so glad I got the chance to try the game.
Edward Uhler, Heavy Cardboard
The top of my must-meet list was Edward from Heavy Cardboard and so I sought him out as soon as I was done with my Level 99 Games time. He was demoing the new Teotihuacan: City of Gods coming from NSKN Games. I happened to catch him while the players were already going strong in the game, so he was willing to step aside for a few moments and just chat. I fanboyed a little, and picked up my Heavy Cardboard challenge coin from him in person. I love how he emphasized how important the integrity of his channel is, and how they distinguish between sponsored playthroughs (which is just that: them playing the game to show it to you) and reviews (which are never sponsored or paid for, just them giving the game its time in the spotlight).
He was personable and approachable, and commented on my HC shirt (and that of several others as they passed by the booth). He is as gracious and as humble as he always sounds on the podcast when I listen to them. I had hoped to make it back sometime to catch a demo of Teotihuacan, but never got that opportunity in the whirlwind of the convention. However, this meeting was everything I could have hoped for in a 5-minute greeting and I look forward to continuing to interact with them going forward. Seriously, check out their content. The podcast reviews are thoughtful and have convinced me to try several of my new favorites (notable: Lisboa & Ora et Labora), and their Teach & Playthroughs of games are my go-to source to learn the rules for a game.
Clay Ross, Capstone Games
I made my way to my other must-meet of the convention: Clay Ross. He’s been a huge supporter for my blog since last year, and I wanted to take the time to thank him for that and to let him know how much I appreciate the work he’s done. Honestly, I haven’t met a Capstone Games product I didn’t like, and I brought home a copy of Carthago (more on that in Day Two) to add into my collection. It was a really hard choice between that, the expansion for Haspelknecht, or Arkwright.
The latter game there was only in the debate after Clay specifically talked about that game and recommended I give it a play sometime soon. The prices at Capstone were all great, with games being individually stickered for pricing and showing the MSRP as well as the Gen Con pricing. As I found more and more booths selling their games at MSRP, I really came to appreciate his discounted pricing structure.
Unfortunately, just like Edward, I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with Clay as I would have liked. We got to talk about our love for Lignum and how great it is, as well as The Ruhr/The Ohio and its incredible depth. But it was great to meet him, and to mention how much I enjoy the Deep End Podcast (another must-subscribe. Don’t worry, they don’t produce shows on a regular basis. But they are always worth the wait for the discussion, the banter, and the laughter that comes from listening to an episode.
Firefly Adventures, Gale Force Nine
My first scheduled event at Gen Con at 4:00, and I was torn on whether or not to attend. Honestly, I wanted to go around the vendor hall and this was the first time I learned the hard way about booking things during the Vendor Hall hours. Still, I was excited to try this as a big Firefly fan and knowing my wife isn’t going to be interested in trying this cooperative game. We were playing with the Respectable Folk expansion, and did a scenario that I believe was the Garden Gala. The four of us were ready and eager to dive in, and the person who eventually came to help run it wasn’t the most personable guy. The rules overview was spotty, as we had a lot of questions as we went through the session.
It also didn’t help things that we discovered what we needed to with the very first investigation, which was done by the very first person to act. Then we had to spend several turns “treading water”, so to speak, while waiting for the group of people to disperse to their houses. Luckily for us, it got to a point where the guy we needed was literally the only one (besides the bartender) in the room so we were able to take him on without any complications. Mal shot him up with a shotgun, we retrieved Inara’s stolen items, and high-tailed it out of there before the other folk got to react to anything.
If that sounds like an incredibly boring sequence, you’re right. It was unexciting and left me feeling really unimpressed with the game. Granted, most of that was due to the immense luck we experienced. Another play of that same scenario might have resulted in a very different sequence that would have been more exciting. But ultimately I walked away disappointed and wishing I could regain that time spent at that table. Would I play it again? Sure. Will I buy it? Not without a much, much better experience or two with the game that can show me just how amazing the game can be.
Thunderstone Quest, Alderac Entertainment Group
Next came a long, long break to go check into my hotel, facetime my wife and son, eat, and head back to the convention center for more gaming. It was after 8 by the time I arrived, and I had previously purchased a ticket to attend the newest campaign for Hero Realms. However, that was cancelled a week before the convention so I didn’t know what to do next. I missed my chance to get in on the Stronghold Games event, and so I found myself wandering the Rio Grande room, the Czech Games room, and the Exhibit Hall and eventually sat down to watch two people playing Thunderstone Quest.
During my spectatorship, one of the volunteers came and sat next to me and started chatting. I mentioned I hadn’t played this yet, nor any of the Thunderstone line before. So I was given about a 15 minute rundown of the game and how it is played while watching these two play out the game in front of me. Needless to say, this sounds like a very unique entry into an arguably crowded deckbuilding genre. I wasn’t sure about Thunderstone Quest going into the convention, but I left this short session feeling determined to get a play in the next night if I could. Alas, it never worked out but I was able to get enough of a feel to know that this game is destined for my collection one day. The progressing through levels of the dungeon, and moving your figure from there to the market, all makes for a more hands-on visual than most deckbuilding games. It is almost like a dungeon crawl married to a deckbuilding game, which checks two pretty nice boxes for me.
More than anything, the kindness and enthusiasm of the volunteer convinced me that I wanted to give the game a serious look. Had she not sat there and interacted with me, I might have lurked for a few minutes and moved on without any impression on the game. If you’re not sure about whether or not to back it on Kickstarter, my initial reaction is that this is definitely going to be worth picking up if you like deckbuilders. I can’t promise there are no games like it out there, but it is definitely stronger in the integration than many of the staples.
Roll for the Galaxy, Rio Grande Games
Finally, after about 90 minutes of looking for an event or a game to play, I was able to gettin on Roll for the Galaxy in the Rio Grande room.
Race for the Galaxy is a Top 10 game for me. I love everything about that game, and I know some fans of Race have been converted into bigger fans of Roll. So I have always been curious, although I knew better than to buy it before playing because of the dice. And…
It was okay. I can see the differences, and the reasons why some people might come to prefer this over the card-based version. However, it failed to impress me. The cost to chance a die to what you want it to be is often too steep, and it can be really hard to build an efficient engine because you always need to generate more money to buy dice back into your cup for usage on the next turn. I’m glad I got to play it, but it cemented Race for the Galaxy into my collection. It was possibly the biggest disappointment for me at Gen Con, although Firefly Adventures is competing for that slot.
They say there is such a thing as love at first sight, and in the gaming realm there could exist a possibility to have love at first play. I was fortunate enough, this weekend, to sit down and play my third Vital Lacerda game: The Gallerist. It reminded me, yet again, how impressive Vital’s games are to play. There are so many layers within the simplistic set of decisions placed before the players. Complexity in his games do not come from understanding the actions, but how it all intertwines with the mechanisms in order to get things humming along and churn out the objective you’re trying to accomplish. I’ve seen that struggle in action in all three of these games I’ve played and, sadly, to date I have played all three of these games exactly one time.
Trust me, it will not stay that way much longer.
I have 3 Lacerda plays, yet it is enough to cement him as a top designer for me. Perhaps even enough to lock in the #1 designer spot. In an era where we have a plethora of new games being released weekly, and kickstarters churning out almost daily for games, I am finding more and more that I want to just hunker down and replay the magnificence that is a Lacerda game time and again. The shiny and new isn’t calling to me as strong. Even the behemoth that is Gloomhaven lost its siren song this weekend, propelling Lisboa back to my #1 wish list location.
Not because it is the newest of his games available right now, but because it is arguably his best so far.
His games all contain a lot of layers to them, and they all seem to have some small aspect of worker placement in them. In some, like The Gallerist, it is a pretty big component. Even in Vinhos, the movement of your worker to select your action is a key aspect in terms of actions available and the cost to use them. And so it is only fitting to write my impressions on his games I’ve played, even though I’m stretching all the way back to November of 2017 for Lisboa. Trust me, its impression has never left.
First Impressions on The Gallerist
In terms of theme, this one didn’t really excite me going into the game. Then again, none of his games hit on my favored fantasy or Medieval themes so I know that shouldn’t affect things. But it did, and I wasn’t really excited to play this game apart from knowing it was a Lacerda game and is highly esteemed by a lot of people I know. So when a friend, who owns a ton of games I want to try, mentioned he’d be gaming Saturday, I made sure to clear time to be there at the start. I gave him the freedom to choose any game from the extensive list, and he picked The Gallerist. In spite of the theme, I was excited simply because of the designer and the experience I had with Vinhos and Lisboa. Going into the game, I watched Rodney’s wonderful video to get a handle on the rules and be ready to run away with the game.
First things first, that running away was an epic fail. 4th place out of 4, partially due to poor play early in the game and partly due to a severe lack of collector meeples for the early part of the game. Combined with a player who, even 3 hours into the game, had to ask things like what kickout actions he could take every single time it happened. He made the game drag on just a little too long, but not even that could spoil the lasting impression of the game. The game followed me long, long after I left the table. It still is stuck inside my head, beckoning me to return and play it again.
The worker placement aspect on this one is simple, as there are four spaces to move between (three you can choose on a turn) and each space contains only two actions to choose from. There are bonus kickout actions you can take when another worker goes to your spot and bumps you out. This has no impact on your placement there, as you’ve already done your action. It just provides a bonus. And there are some small actions you can do before and/or after your main action. Simple. Yet oh so complex in the execution.
I spent most of the game scraping for tickets, scraping to pull meeples into my gallery, and then scraping for money. I had value. My objectives were on track to be met. Yet everything took longer because I didn’t build an engine first. It didn’t help that every time I pulled a White collector, it got pulled right back by one of the two players who always seemed to find ways to get more tickets when they needed them. By the time the game fully clicked in how it all worked, I knew the mountain before me was impossible to scale in time. Yet that last half of the game, in spite of constantly needing to find ineffective plans to accomplish what I needed, I had a lot of fun puzzling things out and seeing where I should have focused earlier and how that would affect me now. The loss was 100% on me, and I will plan better and play better the next time.
Considering it was a game that didn’t excite me with the theme, I had way more fun than I could have expected. The strong worker placement in this one makes it likely to be the most successful game to get my wife to try. I think with 2 players it will be more interesting in some aspects, as there are fewer markets to claim tokens from and stiffer competition for points. The assistants will be even more critical to unlock, as you’ll have far more opportunities to leave one behind when moving in order to get that bonus knockout action.
My mind is spinning from the game, more than 72 hours later., and I love it. This game cemented Vital Lacerda as a top designer for me, providing those crunchy, brain-burning euro games that I long to play.
First Impressions on Vinhos (Z-Man Edition)
The one Lacerda game I own, thanks to a math trade earlier this year. The box is beat up pretty bad, but what’s inside is good enough to provide the experience I need. Early on in my game researching, I knew that this and Viticulture both existed and heard them frequently compared to each other due to the implementation of the theme. Let me tell you, that is where the comparisons should end. Yes, they are both about wine making. Yes, they are both very excellent games. But no, they do not provide the same experience. Not even close.
Whereas Viticulture is about working through the seasons to plant and harvest grapes and then make and sell wine, this one is almost more about presenting wine for the fair three times during the game. The process of getting the wine is far more streamlined here, with each round producing more wine automatically. So you don’t have to micromanage as much, but instead focus on what to do with the wine you get and gain more vineyards to get more wine production going on.
This game has a set number of rounds, which means you know exactly how long the game will last. 6 years, with 2 actions per year being taken. Yep, you read that right. Vinhos is played out over the course of 12 actions. But Vital being Vital, there are ways to do way more over the course of the game depending on how you manage what you are given. It also helps having a vineyard in place from the get go, making it so you can focus in other areas as needed.
It still boggles the mind that you get 12 actions in the game. Yet this is a heavy and satisfying puzzle that gets presented, and the actions you’ll choose are affected by the action you last used, the current round, and what your opponents have chosen. Why? Because an action is free only if it is adjacent in space to your last action and if there is no round marker or opponent on the space. You have to pay to jump your marker to a non-adjacent action, pay to place it where the round marker is at, and pay to place it where an opponent is located. And boy, is money ever tight and crucial in this. There is a bank action here which is probably the hardest space to wrap the head around, and is the one space dropped off the game in the revised Deluxe version of the game. I’m still not clear about whether I love or hate the bank space, but I’m glad it is in there for these first plays.
I love that the wine has three different uses: selling for money, exporting for victory points, or using it during the fair at the end of the third, fifth, and sixth rounds.
The fair adds in some really curious elements into the game that I appreciate. It has its own scoring track, which applies just to the fair but has its own serious value to players during the fair time. It is also the key to unlocking addition actions via the experts on the track. Having watched a video for the revised version of the game, I really like the changes made to this entire system and the use of tiles instead of that static track at the top. However, either version opens up options for additional actions gained through wine experts and some bonus scoring through them as well.
All in all, I liked Vinhos but I didn’t love it to the level I have with Lisboa or The Gallerist. I know part of it was the situation, rushing in a 2-player game at the end of the night with both of us having a rough idea on how to play. And then he stopped tallying points the second he was convinced he lost due to some crafty final turn decisions on my part…which I could tell frustrated him since he had been counting his victory for several turns. It’ll shine more in a more relaxed play session, and even moreso if I upgrade to the Deluxe version (something I now intend to do, especially if I teach it to my wife and she enjoys the game). And since it is the game currently in my collection, it is also the one most likely to see the table first.
First Impressions on Lisboa
I have to reach back to November of 2017 for this one, but that shouldn’t be as big of an issue as you’d think. That’s because this game has stuck with me ever since that play, being the game I’ve longed to own and play again. It first caught my attention via listening to Heavy Cardboard review the game. Honestly, without that I may never have tried a Vital Lacerda game (yet), so I have them to thank profusely for these impressions. I actively sought someone who would teach and play the game, and one game night I was able to set up a 3-player game.
Except the person bringing the game had played once. Months before the play. And he had never taught it. So the first hour or so was the three of us flipping through the rulebook and player aids and getting things set up and trying to understand the game. The next hour was full of some fumbling attempts at building an engine to get us to what we wanted to accomplish. And then, gloriously, it all started to click for me. Much like The Gallerist above, about halfway into the game I started to see how things were connected and the brilliance in there. Yet I had veered in some unproductive directions early that forced me to take a while to correct. But man, oh man, I was in love.
Vital says this is simply play a card, draw a card. And he isn’t wrong. But there is so much that happens between those steps as a result of the playing a card that it makes the game interesting and so very enjoyable. Since it has been too long, I can’t speak to specifics as well on this one in terms of the game’s play. And so, sadly, this is going to be the shortest of the impressions left here. I loved the game. The artwork and components were fantastic, even playing the retail version of the game. The tucking of the cards either on top or the bottom of the player board provides some really interesting decisions because a card tucked provides one benefit, but using them to visit the noble pictured (or for the decree pictured) provides a different set of actions you can accomplish. Being able to position yourself to follow another player’s action is critical, and the joint venture to clear the disaster in the city area so you can benefit more when building shops add an interesting layer of majority scoring that I’ve noticed appears in all of his games I’ve played so far.
I made the mistake of telling my wife that the VP in this game are wigs. That convinced her not to buy it for me back in December. We’ve both missed out on plenty of plays of a game that, undoubtedly, we would both enjoy having in our collection. It remains the game I want the most in my collection, and I cannot wait to play it again. I pray that comes sooner rather than later, as this one stands out in my mind as being the best overall Lacerda game with its solid integration of mechanics and theme.
Final Thoughts on Vital Lacerda
I hesitate to name a favorite overall designer, as there are a few who I am yet to be disappointed by. Yet Vital has already climbed into the ranks of those who are my must-play designers. His name would definitely be given a lot of consideration if I were to choose a designer as a favorite, and at the end of the day he might just earn that nod for a few reasons:
His games are mechanically simple yet have layer upon layer of complexity. There are only a few actions to be aware of, yet what you can do within them is where the games come to life and this provides a rich and rewarding experience that sticks with the player long after they leave the table.
Reiterating that last sentence: all three times I have played a Lacerda game, I have been left thinking about the game for weeks afterwards. Because there is so much to do, much of it in the player’s control, there are a lot of ways you can consider adjusting your approach in order to explore a new strategy and become more efficient for the next play.
Vital is a solo-friendly designer. While I am yet to attempt any of his games as a solo experience (since my version of Vinhos does not have it), I really appreciate this aspect and my understanding is that these games have equally satisfying solitaire experiences in the box.
Player interaction exists in his games through following of actions, kickout actions, penalties to go to the same place as a player, area majority scoring boards, and more in his designs. This isn’t just a “play in your own sandbox and see who does better” type of euro game. There comes motivations to pay attention to what others are doing and to vie for certain actions and areas first.
And while it doesn’t reflect on Vital’s design work directly, this is also a great notch in his favor:
His games have ridiculously high production quality. Eagle-Gryphon is doing right by Vital with how they manufacture the games right now, and you can be sure you are getting great value for the massive, expensive box. There is value in the box beyond just what the game experience itself provides (which, arguably, is worth the price tag on its own).
So I’m looking forward to my next Lacerda game. Maybe it will be this week/weekend at Gen Con. I sure hope so, whether it is trying a new game of his or revisiting one of these three that I’ve already experienced. Regardless, Vital Lacerda has cemented his status as a must-watch designer. Be sure to check out the campaign for his newest game, Escape Plan, which looks and sounds amazing. Plus, it gives you a chance to pick up one (or all) of these three games in their Deluxe Kickstarter version (plus expansion for The Gallerist) if you’re looking to add any of these to your collection.
Thank you for checking review #64 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
An Overview of Argent: The Consortium
Argent: The Consortium is a game designed by Trey Chambers and was published by Level 99 Games in 2015. The box states that it can play 2-5 players and has a 60-150 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 3.82.
The time has come for the selection of a new Chancellor at Argent University of Magic, and you are among the likely candidates for the job. Gather your apprentices, ready your spellbook, and build your influence, while secretly discovering and competing over the votes of a limited Consortium of influential board members. Only the one who is able to fulfill the most criteria will be claim the title of most influential mage in the World of Indines!
Argent: The Consortium is a cutthroat worker-placement/engine-building game of manipulation and secrecy in which the criteria for victory are secret and the capabilities of your opponents are constantly changing. You’ll need to outwit the other candidates, use your spells at the right moment, and choose the correct apprentices to manage your plan.
Argent: The Consortium is a European-style game that minimizes luck and focuses on player interaction and strong core mechanisms that allow new strategies to emerge each time you play.
The designer keeps an updated Official Errata/Typo/FAQ thread on BGG.
Gameplay differences for 2 Players
You have 9 room tiles, set in a 3×3 square. Each player begins with 7, instead of 5, mages that they draft from the start of the game. Great Hall A and Dormitory are not able to be used. Infirmary Side B must always be used. All other aspects of the game remain the same.
Quick Take on the 2nd Edition Rules/Errata
This fixes three things that really enhances the overall experience:
•This replaces the 1st edition mage figures/bases/flags with new pawns that have badge rings which attach to the base of a mage.
•The first tiebreaker for a voter is a player with a Mark on that voter. If both have a mark (or neither do), the next tiebreaker is the higher Influence.
•In a 2-player game, the 2nd Most Influence and 2nd Most Supporters voter cards are removed.
It is hard to say which is the biggest change, but I suspect many will point to the first two as being essential changes. Some might have preferred being able to win voters by blitzing the Influence and gathering as much of everything as possible, but this change allows the player who takes the time to know what is being voted on to get the edge in a close contest. The figure change, while not affecting any rules, took away one of the most disappointing aspects of the 1st edition game.
This is my kind of worker placement game, because it has some serious player interaction and it isn’t simple a points/efficiency race. Yes, there is some of that in the game, but this is a satisfying blend of euro gaming and the thematic flavors of Ameri-style gaming. And rather than feel like a game that tries and fails to cater to both crowds, this one swings and hits a home run. At least for me, and for most people I’ve played this with. It opens the door to a lot of niche gamers that might not be interested in one or the other half of that style, and could be that bridge that unifies rather than dividing those camps.
Replay value. Those two words I like to utter a lot, and honestly there is a good reason for that. A game like A Feast for Odin, which is one of the Uwe Rosenberg big box games, is massive and impressive. However, every single game is played out in an identical fashion in terms of what you can do and how to accomplish them. The variety there comes from trying different tactics and, being creatures of habit, we tend to fall into the same routines that end with similar results. Enter Argent: The Consortium. The voter cards change every game (except for two of the 12), making the scoring conditions ever-changing. You never use all of the room tiles to construct the university board, which is great in itself, but then consider each of these tiles has an A and a B side. The magic power cards, which are tied to each of the colored mages you can use as workers, have A and B sides, making it so you can vary the powers of your workers from game to game. And each candidate board has an A and a B side, so even if you don’t choose a different one from the 6 available you’re able to change that experience based on your personal starting powers. Add in the drafting of your starting pool of mages at the start of the game and your head could be spinning from the variance available. And let’s not even mention the three decks of cards which you’re buying/recruiting from over the course of the game and how that add randomness (the only randomness to appear during the game, everything else being part of setup). You could probably play this every day for a year and end up with a different experience based on the parts and pieces for every single play.
Adding to that experience is the potential scarcity of resources on a given setup. For instance, the last game I played there was no location allowing you to gain marks (apart from choosing to take that over drafting a supporter on the Council Chamber location. So there were very few ways to get marks outside of learning spells or taking supporters/vault cards that provided a way to get those. One of us had a lot of those, and so she had a ton of marks out. I like that there can be a scarcity, making it so you need to try varying strategies based on the layout each game.
The rounds have player-determined ending conditions, which is a nice addition here. It has nothing to do with passing, or running out of workers. Instead, there are 3-5 Bell Tower cards and, for an action, you can take one of them. They provide things such as Influence Points, Mana, Gold, or the First Player Token, and so there is benefit to taking one of them. However, the real reason is to bring about the threat of the round ending because once that last Bell Tower card is taken, the round ends. Even if you’ve still got 2-3 mages to place, it is done. So players can all ignore them while doing action after action, or players can accelerate the end of the round to trigger the room resolutions sooner. I love this.
Speaking of the room resolution, I also like that this is a worker placement game where most of what happens is at the end of the round. The sequence of the rooms matters, as it starts from the top and goes left-to-right then top-to-bottom (like reading a book). Something you need to consider when placing workers, as that gold you need to make a buy might not be in your possession until after that buy card activates.
But there is consolation to be found in two places. First, if you place a worker you cannot (or choose not) to activate when the time comes, you can gain 1 Influence Point. So even if you don’t plan well, you can get something. Or if that 1 IP is essential to a future action, you can always opt for that. The other consolation comes when your mage is wounded and is sent to the Infirmary. It no longer gets to take an action, but you immediately gain either 2 gold, 1 mana, or 1 Influence Point (at least on Side A of the room…I forget Side B). So even when things go wrong, you get something. Just not necessarily what you want or need.
The 2nd edition fixes so many small things, but they all add up to an amazingly-better experience. And that is what this review is focusing on, is that new experience. The mage minis are wonderful, and I don’t miss the old style of workers who had to snap onto a base which would get a token slotted into the back. The tiebreaker change is a welcome surprise and it makes the experience a lot better at the end of the game. If you have 1st edition, I highly recommend making the upgrade if you can. At the very least, make that one rule change. It flips the game in the right direction.
This game can have some sharp elbows. Like, really sharp as I found out last night in our game with a friend. I had a round (Round 3) where only two of my mage workers activated spaces, one of them not on a space of my choosing due to a spell that moved them. Sure, three of them got me a small benefit in the Infirmary, but it was very small consolation by the end of that round. It tore down my efforts and put me in a massive hole to where I never fully recovered, ending with just 2 voters and one came by sheer luck. It all depends on who you play with and how they feel about dishing out the brutality. Some players will beat you down mercilessly and then continue to kick you long after you’ve been suppressed. If that is someone you play with, and you have issues with being on the receiving end of that, then you might dislike the game. But most players will walk a middle ground, doing some wounding/banishing/moving of your workers without taking it too far.
Setup and teardown time for this game is quite a task at times. It isn’t the worst game we own for this, but with everything in this box it requires a decent amount of time. The insert that comes in the box isn’t horrible, but it definitely is a game that required bagging right away. What it desperately needs is an officially-licensed insert from a company like Meeple Realty. If one exists, I’m not aware of it. But it really, really needs to exist in order to assist with the time it takes to get onto the table and the organization when it comes back off the table.
This thing is a beast on the table, something to be aware of. It takes far more real estate than you’d expect with all those cards, boards, pieces, etc. Especially if you have more than two at the table to play this one. So if space is a concern, be aware that you’ll need plenty of it.
The player aids. Really, did they need to be a single box-sized thin slip of paper? Not only does it feel like it could rip easily, but this thing is huge. With a game that already will dominate most of the space on a table! Disappointing is the word to use here, as this could easily have been reduced into a smaller booklet, or at least folded in half and put on something a little thicker.
This was the first game that Mina’s Fresh Cardboard really sold me on (the second big must-buy because of her is still not in my collection, sadly), and I’ve personally been delighted with the game ever since our first play. Unfortunately, my wife was left bitter after the first two games, primarily because of the Influence Track as the tiebreaker for scoring the voters. It took nearly 18 months to convince her to try it again, this time with the 2nd edition rules/components and a 3rd player to help bring a greater feeling of balance to the table in order to make the experience more pleasing.
And that play of the game…she enjoyed the game enough to want to play more. She couldn’t remember what she hated so much about it, and that is 99% of the battle. Now there won’t be such fierce resistance to the idea of replaying the game. I think it helps that they changed the tiebreaker to giving priority to marks first.
My opinions on the game have never waned, as you saw if you paid attention to my Top 25 that was revealed in June. It is a Top 10 game for me, and would possibly be Top 5 if my wife enjoyed the game more. I’m holding out hope for her, as it took at least 15-20 plays of Kingdom Builder to finally win her over on that one to where it is among her favorite games.
This is worker placement at its finest, as it has some excellent player interaction coupled with an insane amount of replay value. Seriously, I think you could play this game a hundred times and have a hundred different setups between the candidate sheets, the university board tiles, the mage powers, and the consortium voters. Add in the swath of spells, supporter cards, and vault cards and you’re going to get some fresh experiences along the way. So if you rate your games based on longevity over time, this game will deliver in spades. This isn’t your standard worker placement fare, with predictable paths where you see who plays best in their sandbox. This game can be gritty and grueling, evoking a beautiful worker placement game.
Yet it is far from perfect. I would argue it plays best mechanically at 3-4 players, although I don’t mind the 2-player game with the revised ruling. Players who dislike having conflict and confrontation will inherently dislike some aspects of this game because it thrives on that interaction. The game also takes up a LOT of space on the table. Not quite a Firefly: The Game (with expansions) or War of the Ring level, but it is pretty sizable. The player aids are massive, being a single sheet that is the size of the box. There are five of them, but at that size they add to the immense amount of real estate this game wants to claim.
Some day I hope to get to play a 6th round epic mode of the game. I want to pick up and try the two published expansions (Summer Break and Mancers of the University), especially the latter since it adds in a new type of mage. Regardless of my wife’s perspective on the game and whether or not it eventually changes to where the enjoys the game, it is one I am going remain happy about having in my collection. Even if it only comes out 1-2 times a year to be played with the right group.
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Argent: The Consortium. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.
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