Everything that sucks! And some things that don't.

Nuggets of wisdom amidst incoherent ramblings. You're welcome.
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Of dinosaurs and other monsters...

Christian Heckmann
Rheinland Pfalz
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Back in January, I mentioned as a sideline that I'd be looking forward to trying and probably failing to play all of my ten favorite games of all time over the course of this year and now that my Top 50 has officially concluded, you should also know what those ten games are. Turns out, I was kind of wrong. Because it's only February and I have already played more than half of them. Six down, four to go. Two of them played over the course of the last couple of days. Getting in the last ones shouldn't be too hard, should it? Anyway, here's what hit the table lately.

Last Friday, a couple of people came over in order to play some games (duh) and while we were waiting for all of them to arrive, we played a game of Martial Art which Imagine had brought with him. It's not bad, I think. Beautiful artwork, easy gameplay, pretty quick once everybody knows what they're doing... It's a simultaneous action selection/hand management/bluffing game about warring factions in feudal Japan. Basically everybody chooses a card from their hand at the same time, then everybody reveals, all of the players can play additional support-cards and/or special abilities kick in and then the player with the highest score gets a battlefield-card with VPs on it. Repeat until victory.

We played a four-player-game and I don't think that that was the optimal player-count. With four players, there's two battlefields to fight over and the player with the second-highest strength gets one as well. But with four players, things get chaotic fast. I usually like it when there are a lot of different cards with varrying powers and stuff, but in this one, at least with four players, I couldn't shake the feeling that less would have been a bit more. You could never be sure what would actually happen when you put your card down, because of the amount of special abilities on the cards of the other players. Add to that some other changes to the rules introduced by the battlefield-cards and/or weather-cards from the Martial Art: Battlefields-expansion and things got chaotic really fast. That's probably fine for people already familiar with all of the possibilities, but first-time-players would probably be better preserved in a game with a lower player-count. Apart from that, nothing I really need but yeah, a neat, quick-playing pretty little game.

The main-course of the evening was the hot new dinopark-builder DinoGenics. Pretty components, an intuitive worker-placement-framework, a nice theme, what could go wrong? Not much. On the other hand, it didn't really blow my mind either. It's not bad in any way, mind you. As said, the components are top-notch, the gameplay is robust, the theme works and works well, but there's just nothing to elevate it it above that. Plus while it's an undeniably functional game, it is a bit pedestrian in execution, especially considering the well implemented theme. I mean, sure, running a real dinopark (???) probably involves quite a bit of busywork, but having to constantly dig for the right DNA-cards to build your next attraction out of, bring in new goats to feed your hungry hungry dinosaurs and balance the books on the side in order to be able to pay for all of this stuff is just a bit tedious, especially considering the dearth of worker-placement-spots on the main-board. The most attractive spots are usually gone early on during a turn so the last few workers are just bumming around on spaces that are semi-useful at best.

So I decided early on that this was too much of a hassle for me and after pulling ahead early on through the use of a manipulation-card that was clearly superior to those that the other players had gotten early in the game, I decided to just turn my park into a giant freakshow, creating mutant after mutant and then having them multiply via goat-infusion. It worked like a charm. While the other players were struggling with the scarce worker-placement-spots and tight resources, I didn't know what to do with my workers half the time. Oh, I also won by a pretty wide margin (something in the ballpark of 140 to 130 to don't know, far behind) which was kind of anticlimactic. Sure, at the end of the game, people were catching up fast, but the fact that they would have overtaken me in... I don't know, two turns or so, was little comfort, especially since I obviously put so very little effort into my strategy, just churning out monstrosity after monstrosity that required little maintenance while the other players were putting real work into their parks, blocking and constantly getting into each others' ways. Perhaps it was their fault that nobody tried to compete with me for mutants, who knows? Perhaps an experienced player would have been able to lever out my strategy with ease, but as it was, I effortlessly cruisde to victory after seven rather uneventful turns. That doesn't kill the game for me, though, it's still pretty and the theme works well, it's just... it doesn't inspire any real awe in me, so while I'd be okay with playing it again, I'd hardly ever ask for it.

Afterwards we decided that there was still enouh time for another game and we chose Cthulhu Wars, a game from my Top 10 that had to hit the table again sooner rather than later. I was dealt the Sleeper, my opponents were Yellow Sign, Cthulhu and Windwalker. I don't think that I had played the Sleeper before, so I was eager to try out the dreaded lethargy-strategy. And at the beginning of the game, things worked out well enough, I fortified my position around North America, grabbed the spellbook that allowed me to put a gate on my faction sheet and proceeded to summon the mighty toad (Tsathoggua? I can never remember how to spell that thing's name...) on the second turn. Things looked good. That is until I got a bit cocky and picked a fight with Cthulhu and two starspawns (or let's rather say "didn't run when I had the chance"). I thought that my five units and ten combat dice should be enough to at least make a dent into his three units (with twelve dice), but no. I rolled four pains, he rolled four kills which completely obliterated my forces including old toadface. Sure, I got an Elder Sign and a spellbook out of the deal but coupled with the fact that the King in Yellow kept capturing my cultists in North America lead to me being pretty much out of the game. It was over a turn later and I didn't even manage to get all of my spellbooks. Final scores were 39:39:31:21 and Cthulhu and Windwalker shared victory.

And you know what? Nobody is to blame for this besides myself. I picked that fight with Cthulhu. I failed to stop the King in Yellow while I had the chance. Sure, it is possible in games of Cthulhu Wars to be ganged up on by multiple players but that wasn't one of those instances. I just left myself too open and therefore my stuff was up for grabs, so the other players would have been imprudent if they hadn't taken the opportunity to capitalize on my mistakes. It was still very fun, though. I didn't play a lot of Cthulhu Wars lately, mostly because it's impossible to bring that box(es) to meetups but that game encouraged me to push for it to hit the table again soon, because it is a really, really good game. The third best of all time, to be precise.

Here's a quick interlude: Over the weekend, I visited my parents and learned that they had taken a liking to the stupidly named The Game. I don't particularly like that game. It's cooperative, it's utterly themeless, it's more frustrating than fun to me, but they liked it and I'm not one to skip a chance to play some games. So we played The Game. A dozen times over the course of Saturday and Sunday. I'm not kidding.

I still don't like The Game very much. It is an okay design, even though in hindsight it is so very basic that instead of congratulating Steffen Benndorf on realizing it, I'd be more like "Yeah, well, about time that someone finally designed this". I'm okay with playing it if nothing better is available, I guess. It has a certain "Okay, let's just try one more time"-quality to it, I give it that.

Onward with trying to get all of my favorite games played. On Sunday, D. and me played a two-player-game of Cave Evil and it was... weird. Incredibly short and pretty fun but still, weird. Both of us were strapped for resources for pretty much the whole game. I was constantly looking for metal and the bribe-cards I drew contained very little of that. There was a lot of shadowflame lying about, sure, but who needs that stuff? So I finally got a squad of two excavators together but hardly anything else, so it fell to my necromancer to go out and grab stuff beyond the confines of my lair. D. summoned a Dracor and sent it towards my necromancer and even though it was a quite even fight, I won due to my awesome floating sabre and D.'s incredibly bad die-rolls. So he, having wasted pretty much all of his scarce resources, tried to subdue the Rolling Death that had recently emerged from the central spawning pit. A few really bad die-rolls later, he had to use his one-time-kill-everything-surrounding-me-ability (he played the Psychomancer of Fire) but was stuck in the vincinity of my necromancer-squad (which was armed with multiple weapons at that point and also included a Hellbitch). It wasn't even a real fight. D. rolled far better this time, constantly getting elevens and twelves, but that didn't help against my far superior stats. After about an hour, it was all over and the Blood Sorcerer reigned supreme.

Yeah, sure, Cave Evil is more of an experience and less of a real strategic game (even though there is a lot of crunchy decisions to be made, especially when it comes to resource management), but I love it nonetheless. The four decks are just chock-full of absolutely awesome cards and every time I play, I just WANT THEM ALL and find endless joy in configuring cool squads. For a second in that game, I thought about going down the path of the Shoddy Abomination again, but I'm still not sure that's a good idea. Anyway, it was nice to get this great game to the table once again and winning it was also a neat surprise, because usually I'm so very bad at it. Damn, I want to play it again. Now. I don't care against whom. With a good variant, I'd also be inclined to play this one solo. Hey Nate, you teased that you were kicking around some solo-scenarios a few years ago. What about them?

In other news, Fast Shot continues to delight. I don't know if I'm a big fan of flicking-games in general, I like to play them but I usually see them as more of a fun distraction than a real game. It's not that Fast Shot would change that general sentiment, but... It's just so quick, so easy to set up, so easy to play, so very, very portable. And there's something absolutely cathartic about flicking a disc through an obstacle-course, racing your opponent to the finish-line. I really like this one.

I still wished that the cylinders would have a bit more heft, that way the bowling-like scenarious would work better, but they work quite well for the races. All in all, a very neat little package, I might have to try combining both of the versions for playing a four-player-game soon. Oh, by the way, yesterday, I accidentally read a few passages from the German translation of the rulebook. And they are too good not to share them with you. German readers beware, this might be painful...

Folge den gezeichneten Linien der Auftragskarten und schieße die Scheibchen zwischen den Plättchen vorbei bevor der auf's Tor schließt. schießt der aus versehen ein Plättchen um, stellst er dieses auf seine Uhrsprungs Stelle zurück.

Fällt eine Scheibe vom Tisch, wird sie auf die Stelle zurück gelegt Wohnsiedlung vom Tisch gefallen ist.

That's what the rules say, folks. Hey Jumping Turtle Games-guys, I appreciate the entertainment-value that this translation holds, but... Next time you've got a "translated" rulebook, feel free to shoot me a message and I'll proof-read it.

And finally, we played two games of Claustrophobia back to back. In the first one, I delivered some devestating blows to the human squad but in the end, spawned my second demon too early and had it lumbering around the caves far from the humans' objective, unable to prevent their victory. In the second game, I took control of the humans and was well on my way to find the soulsucking demon but a dead-end stopped my plans in their tracks and to make matters worse, a possessed convict decapitated the weakened redeemer with a single strike of his shovel, leaving the humans without a leader. The final two brutes were trapped by a bunch of troglodytes, unable to thin out their ranks and finally succumbing to the horde because of unlucky die-rolls.

Claustrophobia is unlike most other dungeon-crawlers out there. The human characters aren't mighty heroes, they are utterly expendable and the gameplay reflects that quite well. It only takes a few lucky die-rolls in order to dispatch one of them. I for one like the quick, brutal pace of the game. Plus it's very attractive. I'm glad that I got the opportunity to play it more over the course of the last few months, because I really, really like this game. Now I should probably finally get to reading the rules of the first expansion, because while I've owned it for quite some time now, I haven't played with any of the materials included. Ah well, there's always next time.

So yeah, six games from my Top 10 down, only four remaining. Namely Doomtown: Reloaded, Cyclades, Der Herr des Eisgartens and A Study in Emerald. I think I'm gonna try to get those to the table soon. Stay tuned. And thanks for reading.

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