Tabletop Tuesday: Gaming While Colorblind

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

If you were to sit down and play a game with me, the odds are pretty good that you’d learn something about my genetics.  If said game had different colored pieces for each player, you’d notice that I tend to go for either black, white or something very prominent like yellow.  The reason for this is because I suffer from deuteranomoly, commonly known as red-green color blindness.   For me, colors like reds & greens or blues & purples have a tendency to blend together, making them tough to distinguish from one another.  This can make some games frustrating to play if hues are too similar or if the lighting in our play area is too dim.

Someone who is color blind is often thought of as not being able to distinguish any colors at all – seeing the world in black, white and gray.  In reality, the vast majority of people classified as being “color blind” can see colors, but they are often skewed or tend to blend together.  Red-green color blindness is the most common form.  It occurs in approximately 8% of the male population, 0.5% of the female population and accounts for 99% of all color blindness.  After that is blue-yellow color blindness which is only present in approximately 0.01% of the entire human population.  Total color blindness is a very rare and serious vision condition which inflicts roughly 0.003% of the entire human population.

Left to Right – Original Image, Deuteranope (red-green) Simulation, Protanope (blue-yellow) Simulation

Now, here’s an example.  Most of you should be able to tell the difference in these images.  I, on the other hand, have a hard time distinguishing the left and center images from each other at all and the rightmost image is just slightly different.  As you can imagine, this kind of deficiency can throw a serious wrench in gaming since so many games rely on colorful iconography to relay important information.

In most cases, my red-green problem is just a minor inconvenience, but color blindness of any type presents a unique challenge for game designers and can become an issue for groups of players who have one or more color blind individuals among them.  One of the best positive examples of this is theTicket to Ride by Days of Wonder.

I won’t go into a huge breakdown of the rules for Ticket to Ride, but there is a fair amount of color matching that needs to be done between the cards and the different train routes.  In addition, each player has a unique set of colored trains that they use to mark who has claimed which route.  It can be a huge mess and, in fact, I have a really hard time playing the mobile app, Ticket to Ride Pocket because the greens and oranges tend to blend together.  However, Days of Wonder has made the boardgame itself (and the iPad version of the app) much more color blind friendly by including shapes on the route spaces that correspond to shapes printed on the cards, making it easier for me to match them to each other.
Where shapes are impractical (perhaps your game has too much iconography as it is), then bright primary colors can succeed.  Runewars by Fantasy Flight Games is a great example.  The 4 different factions in this empire-building wargame are light blue, dark purple, red and green.  Having a lighter blue against the darker purple makes them easier to distinguish from one another and the red and green pieces are colored using very stark, bright hues.
A selection of components from the Runewars: Banner of War expansion
Boardgamegeek is also chock-full of resources for various games to make them more color blind friendly.  Usually, these take the form of reference sheets or alternate component lists.  Last but not least, if you have any type of color blindness or know someone who does and it seems like a game company hasn’t taken this into consideration, contact them!  Most game companies appreciate any sort of feedback that will help them make future releases more attractive to prospective players.

This humble article could have easily turned into a discourse on ocular genetics.  The subject is pretty fascinating, so here are just a few links to websites where you can learn more!


Tabletop…uhh, Wednesday?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Surprisingly, a lifetime of analog gaming has done little to prepare me for dealing with digital problems. I must’ve rolled every die I owned and played every spell card I could get my hands on, but I just couldn’t make the stars align so that Tabletop Tuesday could happen on…you know…Tuesday. I apologize for this scheduling hiccup.

Without further ado, let’s take a joureny 38,000 years into the future and take a look at a fantastic (albeit hard) little co-op game called…

death-angel-logo-horizontal

 

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game is a co-operative card game for 1-6 players by Fantasy Flight Games.  It plays in about 30 minutes, but new players should be prepared to double that for their first time through.

Components: Fantasy Flight can always be counted on for solid components and this game is no exception. The cards are a nice, sturdy stock, and the art is very crisp and fresh while capturing the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40,000 setting. The rulebook is another story and is definitely a step back for FFG in terms of layout and comprehension.  It’s worth noting that the two Print on Demand expansions available for the the game use a lighter, more flimsy card stock that just does not match up with what comes in the base game.  This however, does not affect play.

oSL13-cardfan

Rules: The poor layout of the rulebook only adds to the confusion of a ruleset that requires at least one game devoted solely to learning how to play. After stumbling through a few turns (both solo and with friends) I finally got comfortable with how a turn is supposed to be played andonce the ball gets rolling, SH:DA does a good job of capturing the feel of an elite team of Space Marines beset on all sides by horrifying alien creatures.
Gameplay: My experience with the game varies. As a solo game (once I got the hang of the rules) it plays quick and easy. With a group, things tend to run a little longer due to the small space the game occupies and the fact that players generally gravitate towards discussing the best courses of action. In both cases, SH:DA succeeds in delivering tense moments where success or failure hinges upon a die roll. The luck factor is mitigated some by the ability to gain re-rolls, but sometimes you’ll lose a team member in the blink of an eye.  If a player loses both of their team members, then they are eliminated from the game completely – a huge black mark for me.
Overall: This game is well worth the price of entry for something to pack up and play either with a few people or by oneself – especially if you’re a 40k fan. However, there are several other games that will scratch the same itch with less frustration at the rules and without the possibility of player elimination.The aforementioned Print on Demand expansions (Marine Pack 1Mission Pack 1, Tyranid Enemy Pack and Deathwing Space Marine Pack) add some nice new options to the game and are well worth picking up, but do little to mitigate the luck/elimination factors.
While it might sounds like I don’t think too highly of this game, I have to say that it holds a place of honor in my collection.  It’s random and difficult and the rules are frustratingly stacked against the players, but it’s a very satisfying experience to go through – even when you lose horribly to a horde of Tyranid horrors so large that you never had any hope of defeating them.

Tabletop Tuesday: It’s good to be the King

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Another day, another game.  This week, I’ve put together a review of one of my favorite push-your-luck dice games.  Before I get into the thick of it though, I wanted to mention to you guys that I’ve been working on the monthly format for Tabletop Tuesday moving forward.  Every month you can expect a TT article covering important news in the world of analog gaming, a feature discussing the hardcore tabletop lifestyle that I live every day and at least 2 brand-spankin’-new reviews.  I hope you guys enjoy the content and, as always, I’m always happy to receive feedback!

Now, on to the review…

My love for kaiju movies and the giant monster genre in general can be likened to Godzilla himself – large, menacing and when it decides to surface, it will take the combined force of several other monsters and a few potshots by the Japanese military to bring it down.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at King of Tokyo by IELLO – a dice game for 2-6 players that plays in a lightning fast 20-30 minutes.

Components: Despite being a dice game, King of Tokyo has an impressive array of components.  The dice themselves are large, solid and just plain fun to roll.  They hit the table with a satisfying clatter and have easy to read symbols.  It’s hard to explain with mere words just how amazing these cubes are.  Each player will also get to choose a monster standee and matching score tracker.  These are simple, sturdy cardboard and the artwork is bright and vivid.  The cards used for various monster upgrades and special abilities have got some great artwork on them and are printed on good stock with a nice satin finish.  I’d recommend sleeving them, but then they won’t fit in the box insert (always a bummer).  Finally, the game has a board to denote which monster is in Tokyo (more on that later).  It’s small and simple, but is on par with the other compnents as far as quality.

Seriously, these dice are amazing!


GameplayKing of Tokyo is a filler game through and through.  It sets up, plays and breaks down very quickly.  Players take turns rolling the six base dice and matching up symbols to gain different effects.  You can attack other monsters, heal damage that’s been done to you, gather energy (which is used to buy cards) or score victory points.  You get three throws of the dice in a turn and can keep whichever dice suit your needs between throws – will you try and wrack up as many victory points as possible or will you pummel the arrogant giant ape that’s currently occupying Tokyo?  There is a surprising amount of depth here for so random a game.  The different combinations you can get may allow you to go for one big victory point rush in a single turn or give you the opportunity to gain a little energy, heal your monster and do a little damage.  Like any dice game, it’s hard to plan your turn in advance, but I’ve yet to feel like I’ve been cheated by the dice.

Rules: King of Tokyo has a simple, full-color rules insert that is mostly easy to understand.  The game has a few quirks (mostly concerning the scoring of victory points).  Once you’ve got a game under your belt, however, you should be good to go.  Pick up the dice, roll, choose which ones you want to keep and repeat.  At the end of your three rolls, you compare your dice results and score victory points, damage opponents and gain energy accordingly.  At the end of your turn, you can spend any energy you’ve gained on upgrade cards that will do anything from giving you an extra head (which allows you to add one of the green bonus dice to your rolls) to forcing you to fight the military and sacrifice health for points.  Possibly my favorite mechanic is the press-your-luck decision of entering Tokyo.  If the Tokyo space on the game board is empty and you roll one of the damage icons, you enter Tokyo.  While in the city, you gain extra points at the beginning of each turn and any subsequent damage rolls you make are directed against all of your opponents.  The flip side to this is that only one monster can be the King of Tokyo, so any damage rolls your opponents make are directed against you and can not be healed.  If you take damage, you can choose to leave Tokyo, but you then sacrifice the bonus victory points.  It can be risky, but so far I have seen many a game won by a lone monster taking on all comers and finishing strong atop the smoking rubble that was once a Japanese metropolis.

Overall: King of Tokyo was a game that I bought based on a brief description and a few promotional shots of the box art.  I am a huge Japanese monster movie fan, so this was a no brainer, however unlike some other games, KoT really delivers on solid gameplay and integrates the theme very well.  There are two expansions that add more monsters and a few extra cards to help differentiate them from one another, but the base game delivers on that feeling of giant kaiju clashing in the middle of a city filled with terrified, poorly dubbed humans.  What more could you want?


Tabletop Tuesday: Comrades in Arms

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Good day, fellow Board Barons! This week I intend to expand your horizons exponentially with a few of my favorite tabletop gaming podcasts & webseries.  Even when it is delivered in a timely fashion, Tabletop Tuesday can only deliver a certain amount of information at a time. It is my hope that these recommendation will help sate your appetites for dice, tokens and miniatures in the long, cold period between Tuesdays…

 

dicetower

When talking about board gaming podcasts, it would be rude not to mention the colossus that strides the air waves known as the Dice Tower.  Way back in May of 2005, a gentleman by the name of Tom Vasel began a journey that would start with a show about designer board games and press onward into 2014 with a media network that includes other podcasts, videos and even it’s own convention.

Today, Tom and his current co-host, Eric Summerer talk about the games they’ve been playing, open up the show to features from guest contributors and count down their weekly Top 10 list.

 

d6g

I don’t know if I owe the guys behind The D6 Generation a beer or a punch in the nose.  No other tabletop gaming media source has been responsible for introducing me to so many games.  Every two weeks, Russ Wakelin, Craig Gallant and their special guest host go on a 3-4 hour adventure as they discuss what they’ve been playing, cover hot news in the tabletop gaming world, and perform an in-depth game review.

It’s very clear that these guys not only love games, but love sharing them with other people. The attention to detail in their reviews is overshadowed only by their enthusiasm.  They almost always have one board gaming luminary or another as a guest host and the show always feels fresh, interesting and never takes itself too seriously

susd

Last but not least, we have the hilarious duo of Paul & Quinns – captains of the staunch British webseries known as Shut Up & Sit Down.  Blending humor and cheesy effects with deep and thorough reviews, the guys at SU&SD cover games as easy and lighthearted as Escape: the Curse of the Temple to games that are thick, rich and take at least 8 hours to play like Twilight Imperium.

What’s truly extraordinary is that their videos often clock in at around the 20 minute mark and even with all the goofing around they do, I have never finished one of their videos feeling like I didn’t have a decent (albeit basic) grasp of even the most complex game.  These days, I often check to see if they’ve reviewed a game that’s next up to be added to my collection.


Tabletop Tuesday: My Little Pony Collectible Card Game

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Hello and welcome to 2014, fellow dice lobbers!  I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season.  I personally scored several delightful new games that I’m excited to share with you all over the next few weeks, but one of them stands above the rest.  On December 13th, 2013 Enterplay released the My Little Pony: Collectible Card Game.  Seeing as how My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is such a hot property right now, this comes as no real surprise and since I’m a bit of a brony myself I was eager to see how it played.  After skirmishing a bit with the starter decks and taking part in a few organized play events, I am happy to report that this game is just plain fun!

mlpccg2

Components
Being a card game, there’s not much to say about the components for My Little Pony.  The cards are a good quality standard card stock and the layout is easy to read and understand – for the most part.  I have noticed some confusion in new players (myself included) over the numbers that indicate a card’s cost to bring it into play versus a card’s strength value.  I don’t think this is a flaw, though.  Parsing out the information on the cards just takes some practice like any other game.

I particularly like the variety of artwork used for the cards.  Almost all of it comes from screenshots of the show and they really reach out into all sorts of different scenes and characters to create a diverse card pool.  In addition, some of the flavor text will have fans of the show chuckling to themselves.

lyra1

Rules & Gameplay
Given the source material, it’s easy to understand that MLP is not a game about direct conflict.  Unlike Magic or Pokemon, you won’t be pitting your characters against one another in mortal combat.  Instead, each player has 2 decks – a play deck and a smaller problem deck.  During set-up, each player will find a starting problem in their problem deck and flip it face up.  By playing characters to these problems, players will accrue points.  The first player to 15 points wins the game.

As simple as that sounds, there is a surprising amount of depth here.  Players can play their characters to either their own problem deck or their opponents.  Each problem also has different conditions that must be met in order to “confront” it and gain points.  Normally, these requirements revolve around having a certain amount of power from one type of character and a certain amount of power from a different type of character.  The types revolve around each of the main characters from the show – Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Applejack and (my favorite) Rarity.  I don’t want to get to deep into the whole deck construction and meta-game side of the game, though.  The core idea is what’s important and that is simply that you will have multiple types of characters at your disposal to solve these problems.

In addition to characters, players will also be able to play one time events to boost their own cards or hinder their opponent in some way.  There are also resources which will attach themselves to characters or zones of play to enhance or diminish them in some way.  Troublemaker cards can also be played to make problems harder to solve.  Overall, there’s a lot going on!  Luckily, the rulebook is laid out well and is easy to read.  All the basic concepts are covered and ought to be enough to get people started.  Unfortunately, the rulebook is not particularly helpful when players need to clarify a rule or determine the order of operation for certain special abilites.  So far, it has fallen to the community to discover such rulings.  This is not uncommon with card games, however and shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether or not you want to invest in the game.

Final Thoughts
The MLP card game is a lot of fun to play for both fans and non-fans alike.  The rules are easy to learn and Enterplay has released a number of starter decks that are well suited for casual play.  The game is also very rewarding for more hardcore gamers who want a deep card game with a lot of important choices and options.  I’m not terribly fond of the distribution method; random booster packs help encourage a robust environment for trading, but are not helpful for casual gamers or new players.  However, given how popular the game is already, most new/causal players shouldn’t have a problem finding someone willing to lend a helping hand, err… hoof.


Tabletop Tuesday: Holiday Mega-Guide, part IV

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Well folks, Christmas is a week away so this will be the final installment of the Holiday Mega-Guide.  I hope you all have enjoyed the recommendations so far.  I’m wrapping things up this week with miniatures games, which hold a special place in my heart.  I’ve been collecting, assembling and painting miniatures for far longer than I care to admit.  Most traditional miniatures games offer a rewarding hobby experience with multiple model kits that must be assembled and painted in addition to their deep strategic and tactical game play.  Some forego all the mucking about with glue and brushes by offering pre-assembled, pre-painted miniatures.  In the future, I’ll discuss the merits and flaws of various miniatures games that follow these models, but for now let me share a few favorites that you might just find wrapped and waiting for you this holiday season…

 

Star Trek Attack Wing by Wizkids

I’ve sung the praises of Fantasy Flight Game’s Star Wars: X-Wing the Miniatures Game on several occasions.  It’s a great game and well worth checking out, but lately I’ve been exploring it’s younger cousin Star Trek: Attack Wing.  Basically, WizKids went to FFG and said, “Hey, you guys created a brilliant set of mechanics for moving ships around – why not let us slap it onto the Star Trek license we have?”  Fantasy Flight was more than happy to oblige them and after a little tweaking, WizKids was able to adapt a set of rules used to simulate dogfights in space to the more complex maneuvers of capital space craft battles.

Players will choose 1 of 4 factions and create a small fleet of ships crewed by various popular figures from all across the Star Trek universe.  The starter set contains 1 ship for the Romulans, Klingons and the Federation with the Dominion (which includes Cardassian ships) as a “sold separately” entity.  The game itself deseverse a full review (FORESHADOWING), but the basic run down is that each player has 100 points to spend with each ship, crew member and upgrade costing a certain number of points.  Once you’re ready to play, you can select a mission and get to exploring  and )more importantly) battling across the final frontier.

Attack Wing offers both veteran miniatures gamers and newcomers a lot.  The game has a great set of mechanics that are easy to learn and hard to master.  The various references and nods to each of the Star Trek shows and movies are enough to keep die hard Trekkers hooked, but the components are a mixed bag.  The cards, movement templates and tokens for the game are all high quality card stock with a nice linen finish.  The screenshots used for most of the cards are just fine, but some characters get some very unflattering images (I’m looking at you, Dukat).  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the ships have a serious scale problem.  Suffice it to say that the Defiant is bigger than the original Enterprise.  It’s cirngeworthy if you’re a fan, but doesn’t really hinder the game at all.  All in all, Attack Wing is a great game with plenty of material to keep Trek fans happy!

attack wing1

 

Dungeon Command by Wizards of the Coast

The classic image of orcs and elves clashing against one another spans both miniatures games and more than a few collectible card games.  With Dungeon Command, Wizards of the Coast has created something that takes the best of both genres and distilled it into an easy to play game with a fast set-up and compelling distribution method.  In Dungeon Command, players engage in skirmishes between warbands made up of various fantasy races.  During the course of the game, they will spawn troops and attempt to lower their opponent’s morale in order to claim victory.  Currently, boxed sets exist for Orcs, Goblins, Undead, Drow (dark elves) and Adventurers (a mix of humans, elves, halflings and dwarves).  Each box contains a selection of pre-painted figures and several interlocking map tiles.

Unlike many miniatures games, Dungeon Command is played on a board that players assemble from the map tiles included in their faction box.  These tiles have a grid of 1″x1″ squares and indicate where a figure can move on a given turn.  The map tiles are nice thick card stock and are double sided to represent either a woodland battlefield or a set of dark cavernous tunnels.  The figures are pre-painted soft plastic and are decent for the $40 cost of entry.  It’s worth noting that these miniatures can easily be re-purposed for the fantasy roleplaying game of your choice and each Dungeon Command boxed set comes with cards so that the pieces can be adapted to the Adventure System series of board games.

Wizards of the Coast really hit it out of the park with DC.  I would’ve easily paid for each of these faction boxes just so I could use the miniatures for an old fashioned game of Dungeons & Dragons, but the fact that there’s a solid game in and of itself there is just excellent.  The card driven mechanics help keep the game within the realm of skill rather than chance – though players will still have to draw the right cards from their deck at the right time to ensure victory.  If the space ship battles of Attack Wing don’t aren’t your cup of tea, then you may want to take up your sword and sally forth with Dungeon Command.

 dc1

Happy Holidays, everyone!

That wraps it up for the 2013 Holiday Mega-Guide.  I hope you guys get exactly what you’re looking for this holiday season.  As always, your feedback on Tabletop Tuesday is greatly appreciated!  Happy Holidays!


Tabletop Tuesday: Holiday Mega-Guide 2013, part III

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

With stockings hung by the chimney with care, you’re going to want a few smaller gifts to make sure you’ve crammed the spirit of giving into every nook and cranny.  Luckily, there are dozens of great games that come in small packages.  This week, I’m going to share 3 of my favorite small-box games that work great as stocking stuffers, Secret Santa gifts or just a little something for yourself while you’re out and about!

Love Letter by Alderac Entertainment Group

Love letter is a simple card game of only 16 cards.  Thematically, these cards represent different members of a royal court – from the lowly Soldier all the way up to the beautiful (and totally available) Princess.  Players are attempting to curry favor with these various members of court in order to gain the affection of the aforementioned Princess.  Every turn, players will draw one card and play one card.  Each type of card has a potent ability that, if played correctly can lead to another player’s elimination from the current game round.  Each player will attempt to knock out their opponents by playing the right castle servant at the right time and by keeping a careful eye on which cards have already been played.  Should the players reach the end of the deck, then they will have to compare the influence value of each of their final cards and see who has the highest.  THe winner of each round gains an affection token and the first to 4 is the winner!

Love Letter is a great filler game.  It is easy to transport and can be broken out in nearly any environment.  AEG currently sells 2 versions of the game – The Kanai Factory Edition and the Tempest Edition.  The difference between the two is purely cosmetic (though I prefer the artwork in the Kanai version).  A 3rd version based on the Legend of the Five Rings setting is due to come out soon as well.

princess

Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson Games

It certainly isn’t the right holiday for a game about the living dead, but Zombie Dice is too fun a stocking stuffer to pass up.  This push-your-luck dice game is fast to set up, easy to play and tons of fun for those short breaks between bigger games or while the family is unwinding after a holiday meal.  Players take on the role of zombies trying to be the first to eat up 13 sweet, sweet brains.  Each turn a player will take 3 of the game’s 13 dice and roll them in an attempt to score brain symbols.  As long as a player doesn’t roll the dreaded shotgun blasts they are free to keep rolling until they decide they’ve had enough for the round.  However, if a player happens to roll 3 shotgun blasts, they’ll lose any brains they’ve accrued on their turn.

The dice in this game are gorgeous.  They are thick, chunky and have a nice bit of weight to them.  The iconography is colorful and easy to see even from across a gaming table.  What’s more, the game gives players a nice tense experience as each player needs to decide whether to go for the gusto on their turn or play it safe and gather brains slowly.  If you want to add a little holiday flair, there’s always the expansion that includes a Santa die!

zombiedice

Kanzume Goddess by Japanime Games

Not every game that comes in a small package has to be a quick, fun filler.  Kanzume Goddess is a serious deckbuilding game with a more adversarial tone than others of its genre.  The game begins with players choosing from a suite of different gods and goddesses from Greek and Norse mythology.  Each of these character cards lists various special abilities that the deity can leverage during the game.  From there, play begins with each player taking a small set of basic currency and defense cards.  Kanzume Goddess plays like many other deckbuilders out there, but has one unique mechanic that really sets it apart.  A player in KG can only play multiple cards during their turn by linking them together.  Each card has a primary type indicated by a colored symbol in the top left hand corner.  This symbol has two smaller symbols beside it that represent which type of card can be played after it.  Only by chaining cards together can a player hope to defeat their enemies.  Figuring out which cards will  create the most powerful combos takes a decent memory and a little luck, but can be very satisfying.

Kanzume Goddess has found a place on my game shelf as my current favorite deckbuilder, but it might not be for everyone.  This has nothing to do with the game itself and everything to do with the game’s artwork.  The various mythical beasts that players draft into their decks are represented by girls with…*ahem*…legendary proportions.  The art itself isn’t any worse than say…a Soul Calibur game, but it’s worth mentioning because it is a bit over the top and may not be suitable for younger audiences.

s1003

Yeah, that hug is probably totally platonic.

Next Week – 

The Holiday Mega-Guide will conclude next week with a feature on something a little more hardcore than what I’ve covered so far.  Gird your wallets and prepare your souls for the wonderful world of miniatures gaming!


Tabletop Tuesday: Holiday Mega-Guide 2013, Part I

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Happy Holidays fellow Token Titans!  It’s that wonderful time of year where the temperature drops, the snow begins to accumulate and folks find more time to spend in-of-doors playing tabletop games!  For the next few weeks, I’ll be recommending some of my favorite games to suit any gift-giving situation.  With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, I think it’s best to start with 3 of my favorite party games.  Each of these games is suitable for 3 or more players with easy rules and fast gameplay.

Aye, Dark Overlord by Fantasy Flight Games

Aye, Dark Overlord is a personal favorite and has lead to many a night spent gasping for breath due to raucous laughter.  One player takes on the role of the twisted and evil Rigor Mortis, a powerful wizard (and skeleton) who has made the unfortunate mistake of hiring a troupe of bumbling goblins as his less-than-firm right hand.  The other players act as these subordinates and play begins with Rigor Mortis discovering that his minions have failed him in their latest task.  Using the games Hint Cards, the other players must weave a tale of blame and finger-pointing that ensures the Withering Gaze of their understandably irate boss doesn’t fall on them.

ado1

A hapless goblin prepares for the worst…

ADO requires a fair amount of creativity, ad-libbing and outright treachery from each of the minion players.  Using the hint cards to weave a story isn’t necessarily for everyone, but with the right group players will find themselves in tears as they try and pass the buck to their neighbors using Hint Cards like Zombies!, The Black Knight, or Naughty Succubi.  The Rigor Mortis player, on the other hand will have to keep it together to spot any holes in the narrative and exploit them by dishing out Withering Look cards.  This fell gaze brings whoever it is bestowed upon one step closer to defeat.  Once a player has accumulated 3 Withering Looks, the game is over and their fate is sealed!

ado2

Now THAT’S a Withering Look…

With beautiful card art, fast-paced gameplay and a great theme, Aye, Dark Overlord is a great party game for a creative party of 4-10 players.  The game comes in a nice, small box that is easy to cart around and sells for the modest price of $24.95

 

The Resistance: Avalon by Indie Boards and Cards

Next up we travel to far off Albion where the court of King Arthur reigns in perfect peace and harmony.

Well, almost perfect.  In The Resistance: Avalon, players will embark on quests for king and country.  Unbeknownst to many of them, there will be traitors hiding in their midst.  At the beginning of the game, players will secretly draw loyalty cards that will mark them as faithful servants of Arthur or despicable followers of Mordred.  From there, players will nominate some among their number to embark on quests.  A vote is then called to determine if those nominated are trustworthy.  If they are, then play continues.  If not, then it means the good of the realm has been forestalled and the dissension sewn by Mordred’s minions has brought them one step closer to victory.

avalon1

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a Minion of Mordred

Assuming the quest-goers have the rest of the kingdom’s blessing (the vote is based on majority), then they’ll get to contribute either success or fail cards to see if the quest is successful.  Loyalist players will always want to play success cards.  Minions, however, will have to choose carefully.  Playing a fail card will result in Mordred moving one step closer to victory, but it may expose you as a traitor which will make derailing future quests more difficult.

Avalon is a great hidden role style game with enough depth to keep everyone involved.  The rules are simple and the game plays quickly.  Once players have the basics down, they can also introduce new roles like Merlin, Percival and the Assassin which can add more strategy for loyalists and traitors alike.  The game supports 5-10 players and is a steal at $19.99

 

Red Dragon Inn by Slugfest Games

We’ll close Part I of the Holiday Mega-Guide with Red Dragon Inn.  For a game that’s all about drinking, gambling and backstabbing your friends there’s a decent amount of depth and strategy that players will have to leverage against one another.  The premise of the game is simple – each player takes on the role of a fantasy adventurer that is relaxing after a hard day of dungeon-crawling with his compatriots at the local tavern.  Using their plunder to buy drinks and engage in rounds of cards, each player attempts to lie, cheat and swindle their way into the overflowing purses of their friends.

rdi1

Just a few of the cards from Red Dragon Inn 2

The game begins with each player choosing a deck which represents a different kind of fantasy adventurer.  Their  are currently 4 completely interchangeable sets to choose from and each set has 4 characters ranging from the smug bard to the pious paladin.  The decks all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but overall seem to be well balanced.  After choosing their decks, players will play cards to either add drinks to their opponents drink pile, open a round of gambling in an  attempt to take gold from other players or utilize their character’s unique ability cards to prevent other players from doing the same to them.  Everyone has to pay the piper, though and at the end of each player’s turn they must turn over the top card in their ever-changing drink pile and suffer the consequences of the foul brew that is placed before them.

The winner of Red Dragon Inn is the last player standing.  Normally, I don’t like to recommend games with player elimination, but RDI has a great theme and hilarious sense of humor that should keep every player engrossed to the very end.  As I stated, there are 4 sets to choose from.  Each one can support 2-4 players and retails for $37.99 each.  Multiple sets can be combined to add more players.

Next Week – 

That’s it for Tabletop Tuesday.  Tune in next week for Part II of the Holiday Mega-Guide: Cooperative Games!


Tabletop Tuesday: The Descent of Mansions

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Hello again, folks!  I am happy to be back behind the wheels of the analog gaming train and am very excited to share a newer, hipper Tabletop Tuesdays for today’s gamer on the go.  I’ll still be covering the most exciting news from all the best publishers and designers, but I’m opening up TT to reviews and other features that will do more to showcase the breadth of board, card, miniatures and roleplaying games.

This week, I am actually going to start with a Tabletop Term of the Week since it will tie in nicely with my review of Fantasy Flight Games’ Mansions of Madness.  The term itself is “dungeon crawler” and it is derived from the classic pen-and-paper roleplaying term “dungeon crawl”.  In the context of board games, a dungeon crawler is any game where players take the role of characters to explore, gather items and achieve a given objective.  Often, this type of game has a fantasy theme and involves a fair amount of swords & sorcery.  This is not always the case, however…

 

mansions1

Mansions of Madness is a dungeon crawling style board game set in the pulp horror world of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror line of games (which are themselves based on the works of HP Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos).  This is a one vs. many style game where a single player will act as the Keeper and control all of the monsters, traps and even certain story elements for the other players who act as Investigators trying to put the pieces of the puzzle (both proverbial and literal) together.

mansions 3

So many components! I’m in heaven…

 

Components
Some of you may have heard me rant about the quality of Fantasy Flight’s components elsewhere, but for Mansions it’s worth going over one more time.  This game comes with 350 cards, 32 plastic figures, 15 double-sided map tiles and more cardboard tokens than I care to count.  As always, FFG sets the industry standard for components.  The cards are a thick, linen cardstock with vibrant artwork and clear, easy to read text.  The tokens and map tiles are a dense cardboard with the same linen finish as the cards making them feel very durable and hefty.  The figures?  Well, I know I’ll be taking the time to paint mine since they’ve got plenty of detail.  The Shoggoth model is particularly noteworthy for being both massive AND appropriately menacing.

Unfortunately, I always find myself wishing that the map tiles for this game had some way of locking together.  Since the game has a large number of scenarios, the tiles need to have to capacity to be laid out in any combination of patterns.  Players just end up having to be careful about bumping the board or table so as not to upset the foundations of the mansions they’re fighting for their lives in.  I haven’t had any serious problems with the map tiles in this regard, but it does add a level of tactile tension to an already tense game.

mansions4

Rules & Gameplay
Mansions of Madness comes with 2 rulebooks.  The first is a full set of all the basic rules for both the Investigators and the Keeper as well as basic set-up instructions for the base game’s 5 scenarios.  If you’re like me, you might be thinking that 5 scenarios isn’t a lot.  How are you supposed to get your money’s worth on a game you can only play 5 times?  Well, that’s where the second rulebook comes in.  This mighty tome is the Keeper’s Guide and it details all the super-secret decisions that the Keeper must make for the given scenario.  These secret decisions can be different every time and subtly alter everything from the placement of vital items to the objectives of the Investigators.

The books themselves are full color and double sided.  The main book has a fairly helpful index and all the information is laid out well.  For a game as complex as MoM, Fantasy Flight did a damn fine job of making every player’s actions/options very clear.  The only real tangle comes when you’re first setting up the game.

Before the players can start Investigating and the Keeper can start hurling eldritch nightmares in their faces, all players need to work together to set up the game board.  This is a moderately lengthy process, but it at least ensures every player knows the basic lay of the land.  Investigators are charged with setting up the map tiles and choosing characters for themselves.  Meanwhile, the Keeper will use their mega-secret guide to make a few key storyline choices which will inform them on where to place clue and item cards on the board.  Once set up is complete, the Keeper will read the flavor text associated with the current story being played and the Investigators can begin.

Since the game focuses on investigation and solving a mystery, the flavor text of everything from the introduction to a clue card can help the Investigators figure out what their ultimate objective is.  Until they find the right clues, they are almost completely in the dark.  To do so, each player behind the wheel of an Investigator can move through the mansion and spend their action exploring, manipulating their inventory or fighting monsters.  Once each Investigator has taken their turn, the Keeper will gain threat tokens (based on the number of players and other factors) which they can then use to summon monsters, trigger traps or save in a big, scary pile to play mind games with the other players.  At the end of the Keeper turn, an event card may be played depending on what turn it is and which scenario is being played.  These events are almost always bad for the Investigators, but may give them much needed clues on where to go next.

mansions5

Overall
Mansions of Madness is a superb dungeon crawler with a rich theme that is well implemented.  The mystery aspect of the game adds some nice depth even if the clues are sometimes ham-fisted.  Any fan of the work of HP Lovecraft or any of the other Arkham Horror series games should definitely give this one a look.  Furthermore, if you know someone who loves games like Clue or Mastermind but hasn’t taken the plunge into hobby board games, this might be worth a look.  Having said that, I must caution that this game takes a long time to set up which can turn folks off.  It is also a complex game which really benefits from having at least one person intimately familiar with the rules to help guide everyone else.  Despite these minor flaws and nitpicks, I am very happy to have this game in my collection and I see it getting a lot of plays in the near future (especially with all the expansions available for it!)

Wrap-Up
Well that’ it for this week’s Tabletop Tuesday.  I will be continuing to play with the format over the next few weeks and bring you guys some exciting new features and news coverage.  Please feel free to comment or send me feedback via email at plus2cents@gmail.com

Until next week!


Tabletop Tuesday: Mega Man Goes Analog & the Stars Align

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

 

The Blue Blomber Hits the Table!

1240547_694945713867663_2093866298_n

Jasco Games announced on Facebook that they’ll be publishing a Mega Man board game via Kickstarter.  Now, Mega Man hasn’t been treated with the most respectful hand lately, but the folks over at Jasco are no strangers to marrying tabletop and video games.  They currently publish the Universal Fightng System Card Game which incorporates franchises such as Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Tekken and King of Fighters.  There aren’t any details yet, but the following placeholder on Jasco’s website at least looks promising –

In 2013, Capcom and Jasco Games became licensing partners for the exciting property of Megaman! Megaman, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary, is already making his way to debut into the Universal Fighting System universe, with collectible tins that feature both Megaman and Protoman. However, not too far in the near future, Jasco Games will be producing a board game for Megaman. You’ll take control of your favorite hero, and battle Dr. Wily and his forces of evil robots!

Now excitement is natural because, c’mon…  It’s Mega Man!  But as with every other Kickstarter campaign only time will tell – and if Bass isn’t a playable character they won’t see a single red cent from me.

The Legacy Continues…

SeaFall_logo_preliminary_sized

Way back in 1957, the classic game of world domination known as Risk hit the scene.  Over the last several decades, the game has seen dozens of iterations, but in 2011 Rob Daviau shocked many gamers with the concept of a version of Risk that would change and grow from game to game.  The result was Risk Legacy – a game which sees players regularly destroying unused components, writing on the board and creating something unique with each game.

I could go on for ages about the merits of Risk Legacy, but I’ll save that for another time.  I bring it up here only to grant context to the latest announcement from Plaid Hat Games for a new Legacy game from Rob Daviau and his game company, Ironwall Games – Seafall!

SeaFall is a 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) set in an age of sail world that is reminiscent of our world.  In SeaFall the world is just starting to claw its way out of a dark age and has just begun to rediscover seafaring technology.  Players take on the role of a main land empire who each consult with a consortium of advisors to discover new islands, explore those islands, develop trade, send out raiding parties, take part in ship to ship combat, and more.  In fact that ‘and more’ may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.  Just as in Risk Legacy, SeaFall will evolve as player play it.

If you’re as intrigued and excited as I am, you can check out the latest episode of the Plaid Hat Games podcast for the official announcement from Rob himself.

Dark Powers Gather in Roseville, MN

2013-AN-products-V2

With Halloween around the corner, all manner of dark and sinister forces work to sow evil.  Of course, shortly after that Fantasy Flight Games will be hosting their annual Arkham Nights weekend at the Event Center in Roseville, MN.  As in past years, attendees will be spending their time playing games inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft such as Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness and the Call of Cthulhu Card Game.  As an added bonus, demo games of the recently announced Eldritch Horror will also be available!

Tabletop Term of the Week

In honor of Risk, I thought I’d define the game’s primary mechanic – area control.  Many games use area control mechanics in a variety of ways.  The name is pretty self explanatory, but  basically players use their in-game resources to dominate the board in some way.  In games like Risk or Small World, area control is the primary means of victory, but games such as Setters of Catan use area control as a means of gaining resources to be used later.  Regardless of how it is used within a game, area control almost always has players fanning out to take as much territory as possible without spreading oneself to thin.