Monday, 5 December 2016

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Ever since Fantasy Flight Games announced an Arkham game in the LCG format I have been interested. I have had a load of fun playing Eldritch Horror and the idea of a more compact game in that vein and coop to boot was to good a concept to pass up. 

First things first, you should play this game without reading any spoilers at all. I am going to avoid them completely in my review and I suggest when you open your game that you do not look through all the scenario cards. Doing so will spoil some enjoyment of the game.
A game in full swing

Arkham Horror: The Card game is a fascinating mash up of LCG concepts with an RPG underlay. The deck you might build in a competitive game like Magic or Netrunner in this case represents the character you are going to take into the story that the game creates. This decks contain equipment you might use, allies you can call upon, spells to conjure and events to help you on your way. 

The scenarios are where this game gets really clever. In the core there are 3 scenarios making up a campaign called Night of the Zealots. Each scenario has an Act deck, which advances as the investigators make progress in the scenario, and an Agenda deck, which acts as clock for the machinations of the forces that plague the good people of Arkham. I can't say too much without spoiling but the designers are already playing some very clever tricks with the space they have created. I was genuinely surprised by some of the moments during my playthrough of the campaign and I can't say that about many games. 

An Encounter deck, made up of different sets of cards depending on the scenario, sets obstacles in the way of the investigators to be overcome, on top of anything the scenario throws at you. Finally there is the chaos bag which is made up of a number of tokens drawn to decide the outcome of the various tests you will encounter. 

Let's visit the deckbuilding for a moment. Each investigator has their own rules for deckbuilding which is a neat trick in and of itself. However the cards you put in your deck at the start of the campaign are not the be all and end all of this process. As you advance through the campaign you gain experience depending on how well you do in a given scenario. This experience can be used to buy better versions of the cards in your decks or give you access to allies, equipment and other cards you didn't have access to before. This is a fascinating series of choices that you are presented with in between scenarios, as you try and hone your deck to deal with the challenges ahead.

I have been immensely impressed with Arkham Horror: The Card Game. The rulebooks are some of the best that FFG have produced, and I would be the first to call them to task for such things. The designers have created a fascinating design space that they can now play with and they are already showing signs of having fun with that space. Arkham is a huge amount of fun, with emergent stories, great decisions and fascinating design philosophy behind it. A strong start for a game that I am sure will grow into something amazing.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Legends Untold Preview

I’m always happy to help out some fellow designers especially a local group like Inspiring Games. I first met them down at UK Games Expo where they were demoing their upcoming game ‘Legends Untold’, an RPG in a box style affair that sees you delving into caverns and dungeons to complete various missions.

They recently put out a call for people to preview ‘Untold Legends’ and they were good enough to shove a pre-production copy into my hands. I’ve had a chance to play through the game in solo mode but the game can take up to 4 players.

The first thing that will hit you about the game is there is a lot going on. There are quite a few moving parts to your character made up of their class, some talents and equipment. This is not a bad thing however as each part of your character is reasonably straight forward to understand and the combination of weapons and talents to turn you into a powerhouse is one of the attractions of a game with RPG-like character building.

Quick aside here but an important one. Our hobby is getting progressively more inclusive and I love to see designers considering this when commissioning the art for their games, so kudos to the team for including male and female characters and not overtly sexualising the later.

Pick a character, any character.

You get a mission to complete and descend down into the depths of the dungeon. The location cards are really nicely illustrated and very evocative of the areas you are exploring. The version I received had playing card sized locations but I believe these are going to be larger during the Kickstarter. Each location tells you whether barriers lie ahead, what encounters you are likely to have and also the light levels that are present as you enter and exit. The later is important for scouting ahead giving you a real feeling that you are picking your way through the dark places of the world.

The location cards are really nice!

Missions aplenty!

The core of the system comes down to a 3d6 roll vs a target number with your talents and equipment providing a variety of bonuses and abilities to manipulate dice rolls. As you move through the dungeon you will be called upon to scout between locations, tackle barriers, engage with mystical devices and strange denizens of the dark places of the world. The encounters you have are varied and interesting with a lot of scope to play around with the core mechanics as the game evolves.

Another of the core mechanics which I loved was that of time. A lot of the encounters you have will take up time, represented by a ticking deck of cards made up of the scenarios you aren’t using. On the mission card you will have a timer that tells you when to resolve an event on those cards, which may or most likely will not, benefit you.

This gives a really interesting feeling of controlling your own experience of the game as you are constantly considering your choices in how to tackle the various encounters you come across. Will you take your time and think your way past the Gas Vent, bringing on another event more quickly, or will you just plunge on through and hope for the best betting on not breathing in any toxic fumes.

On my own solo journey into the depths I encountered strange crystals, flooded passageways, irascible goblins and giant spiders that wanted to eat my face. Each mission is different giving you a lot of game from a small box and as the game expands and grows the variety is going to get even more compelling.

Getting ready to descend into the depths

I really liked ‘Legends Untold’. The team have set out to give an RPG feel out of a card game and that is precisely what they have done. The game has a really interesting design space that can be used to come up with all sorts of adventures down the road and I know they have big plans for the world they have created and in the support they plan for the line. This is a really promising start from a small company and I look forward to seeing more of their work in the years to come.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Blades in the Dark - 1 chef enters, no chefs leave

It's been a while since my Blades group has gotten together but we managed to finally get back up and running just recently. Diving back in with glee I checked over my prep from last session, seeing that I had actually done some, and made a few notes. I wanted to lay out the turf map more before the players and I had a few jobs on offer as well!

After their initial tussle with the Red Sashes they had a visitation by a rather jovial ghost who wanted his ex-second in command murderised. This was Roric leader of the Crows faction, or at least used to be before he had a fatal case of getting stabbed. They considered this offer and a couple of others I threw at them, including a follow up job from Baz, who once again wanted them to obtain something for him on the side.

Going through how claims and turf worked I then just laid out all their possibilities, they are a Shadows group, and let them have a think about where to go. They decided to get themselves a network of informants, which we quickly concluded where related to Scott's characters connections. Hitting them up for info. they were under the thrall of Ulf, a dangerous Skovlander who would find them and deal with them if they were even seen dealing with anyone else. Deciding that murderising him was the only way to go they set off to Tangletown where he was based for a good old fashioned assassination.

The Leech, Una, and the Hound, Hallam, strode in the front door going for the direct approach to meet Ulf and set him up for a grisly end to be perpetrated by the Lurk, Idrim, who was making his way up the back of the boat.

Focusing on Idrim for a moment he rolled to Prowl his way onto the boat only to screw it up monumentally. A chef made his way out of the kitchen on top of the boat and proceeded to piss off the side onto Idrim's head. Wondering where the noises of protestation were coming from below, the chef looks down to see a man attached to a rope climbing his way up the side of the boat. He raises the alarm!

A little earlier Una and Hallam are making themselves comfortable and keepin an eye on Ulf, figuring out a way to get him on his own. Surrounded by his men, and telling stories to some children, Ulf finally shoos away the kids and stands up to greet a new arrival. Turning to see who it is Una and Hallam recognise the leader of the Red Sashes, Mylera Klev, entering with her bodyguards (I had decided on this due to a 5 on the engagement roll). They greet each other, and make their way into a private area of the bar, which is basically a small converted shipping container.

Meanwhile, somewhere more sneaky, the Lurk is hanging from a rope whilst a Chef sets off the alarm, a bell on the prow of the boat. Weighing up his options, he plunges a grappling hook into the chest of the chef, using him as a weight to repel off the prow of the boat and into the water. The lurk's approach has been ruined!

Using the commotion caused by the chef raising the alarm the Hound gets himself on top of the shipping container and listens in to Mylera trying to recruit Ulf to help her out in Crow's Foot. Hallam is spotted and in order to get out Una fires of a smoke grenade. Cutting the ankles of the men standing above Hallam, about to kill him, one of them strikes back, narrowly missing a deep cut on her back. As she falls, Hallam scoops her up and jumps off the ship into the awaiting water, where the Lurk meets them in a boat.

Seeing Mylera leave they quickly decide to take a shot at her! The Lurk grabs a grenade from the Leech and makes off after her. Scurrying along the rooftops, tracing her path below, the Lurk briefly loses sight of her and decides to drop down nearby for a better look. Something is afoot though as there is no longer one Mylera, but 3! With bodyguards! Unsure which is which he decides the better of it and retreats with the other two to their hideout.

This mission went wrong in all sorts of ways but it was an absolute blast for everyone. We all loved how much drama the game gave us depsite the team screwing up, and they didn't come away completely emptied handed. They now know what my Red Sashes clock is all about, but who knows what Baz is actually up to. I am really enjoying the sandbox nature of the game and the players are being fantastic which really helps!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Helping Hands - Tiny Epic Western Unboxing

I recently mentioned that I was going to be getting some video shot of various things and this is my first attempt: an unboxing of the Tiny Epic Western game I just received in the post. Please feedback and let me know what you think. I'm already looking at doing the following for next time:

1) Higher camera angle so the components are easier to see and the light is better.
2) Better lighting
3) Better sound, lapel mic on the way for this kind of thing and I have some old podcasting equipment that needs dug out.

You can go an marvel at the video here:

Tiny Epic Western Unboxing Video



Saturday, 8 October 2016

Star Trek Panic! - Review

Hot off the presses at Gencon Star Trek Panic was grabbed for me by a mate heading over there. I'm not usually one for seeking down games in this manner but in this case the game may never be easily available over here due to some weird licensing issues. Anyway on with the review!

Look at that thing! Ain't it cool!
Star Trek Panic sees you and up to 5 buddies crewing the original series Enterprise through 5 different missions whilst fending off attacks from Romulans, Klingons and pesky Tholians. Do this before the Enterprise explodes and you win! Each mission has a different requirement for completion: maybe you'll have to survive a Klingon attack or do some research into a strange ageing disease. Either way the core of the game comes down to the cards you play.

On a players turn they do draw up to their hand size, maybe trade a card with someone else then get down to the nitty gritty of flying the Enterprise around and dealing with the Mission and Threats that are on the board. Cards allow you to phaser or torpedo threats, commit resources to missions, repair your ship (it's going to need that a lot!) and do other special things depending on the card. Once you have played cards, as many as you want, you see if the missions is complete, move the threats about and draw some new ones.

Threats constantly encroach upon your ship, mostly starting at long range and then flying towards you, gradually phasering you to death. The threats are a bit varied as well, but I won't spoil the surprises! Once they take down your shields they can shoot at the ship directly and even board if they get too close. As you take damage you put awesome tokens on the shields and the ship that just makes everything feel really dynamic, I mean just look at this!

It's not looking good!
It's a pretty simple co-op game but that doesn't mean it's not fun. The game feels great with the awesome model of the Enterprise in the middle taking damage with the fantastic cardboard explosion markers making it feel really threatening and that you are in a lot of trouble. I love the plastic shield barriers that protect you initially as well, could have just gone for cardboard but the slight transparent plastic just feels right.

The missions are nicely varied and the constant build of the threats round your ship make you feel under pressure. We were pretty beaten up by the end of our first playthrough but we made it, just, which is exactly what I want from a coop game. There is a good amount of replayability in the game and I can see this one staying in my collection for a while as a good light coop game.

If you can get your hands on this one I thoroughly recommend it.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Playtest meetups, Video, Arkham and other things

It's been a little while but I am still beavering away at various game projects and events.

First up I've had two playtest sessions since the last one I posted about and both went well. The Edinburgh Playtest group now exists on Facebook and we are growing with every meeting, managing 3 games at once last time we got together a couple of weeks ago. Games shown included Robot Factory, Wreck and Ruin, our second post apocalyptic car game in as many playtests, a Fringe based game I didn't get a look at, one based on Porterhouse Blue and my own design Conspiracy which is really starting to shape up.

A game based on the Fringe which looked fun

Wreck and Ruin

Robot Factory 
A zombie game I forget the name of 

Intense playtesting faces!

I am taking the dive into doing some videos as well, the first of which will be a short unboxing video of 'Tiny Epic Western' a game I recently received from Kickstarter. I'm going very basic equipment wise for now, but if I enjoy it I am planning to invest and maybe take some of the stuff with me to Expo next year and try and do the press thing. We shall see!

Arkham Horror LCG comes out soon and I am very interested in this blend of LCG and coop mechanics. I should be shooting some video of that at Tabletop Cafe when it releases, and we will be doing a launch event as well, more details on that soon.

Other than that I should have a review up soon of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Star Trek Panic, Mafia de Cuba and Arkham Horror LCG when it comes along. All of these will hopefully be accompanied by some video content as one of the things I really want to emphasise with my reviews is the physical artifact of the game. 

Hope you are all enjoying the games spilling out of Gencon, and Essen is just round the corner and I hope to get back to more regular posting soon!

Have fun gaming!


Friday, 12 August 2016

Gencon - I see more games in my future

Not being present at Gencon this year I have to live vicariously through the multitude of updates from BGG and various other sites. Here are the things that caught my eye through the telescope of the internet:

I've been intrigued by the Lord of the Rings game that FFG have had out and now they are planning another coop LCG I can actually get in on at the start. I'm a massive fan of Netrunner and the video that Team Covenant put out of the demo only served to peak my interest further. Definitely one for the christmas list as it releases in quarter 4, probably.

Mansions of Madness 2
Despite coming with a hefty price tag the app integration in this looks really neat. One of the issues with the first game was the unwieldy setup and it sounds like the app eliminates a lot of that straight off the bat. It's really gratifying to see a company like FFG experimenting in this way and really pushing at the boundaries of what a Tabletop game can be.

Runewars: Miniatures Game
FFG breaking into the last big arena they don't really have a share of, yet. This could be really interesting and I have seen plenty of rumours floating around that it may also signal the end of their relationship with GW. Not totally convinced by that as I think it does GW a lot of good to have their IP reach a wider market, but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Dragon and Flagon
Don't know much about this other than it seems to be about a pub brawl in a fantasy tavern with robo rally like mechanics. The components look gorgeous though and if it can replicate the fun and chaos of Robo Rally that would be ace.

My excellent friend Gregor Hutton has snaffled one of these for me as you can't get it in Europe at the moment due to some strange licensing shenanigans. Never played one of the panic games but this just looked a bit too awesome to resist. Might be one of those games my wife will play with me as well as she is a massive star trek fan! First impressions when I get it to the table.

I love the idea of the legacy games but my group were less than enthused by the Risk and Pandemic reskin. A game built from the ground up sounds ideal and I'll be eagerly absorbing reviews of this until it hits these shores.

New Angeles
Yes back to FFG, but you have to admit they are on fire at the moment. A massive sprawling board game specifically designed with a high player count in mind rather than adding expansions to accommodate those players! Count me in! That and the fact that it is set in the Netrunner universe.

Not heard much about this at Gencon but is from the same designer as Suburbia which is a personal favourite of mine. I really love games that involve building something up from the ground and Suburbia has always been fun for the little stories that emerge as you play, Looking forward to it releasing soon and giving it a shot.

There are loads of games on their way now that Gencon has been and gone and Essen is just round the corner. It's hard to see the smaller games from this distanceI'll do another on of these after that show and I'll be sure to write up a review of these as I get to play them.