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Shit got serious rapidly in this afternoon's Wrath of Ashardalon session with both the Rage Drake and the big girl herself on the board at the end!  We persevered however, and escaped with her most valuable treasure! Which turned out to be a potion of speed worth 100 gold pieces...

 

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So despite loving "heavy" games I've always been slightly intimidated by Vital Lacerda titles - something I have now rectified after a mate picked up Kanban recently.

 You play a worker in a car factory, picking up designs, parts, making cars, upgrading cars and having the odd meeting - sounds simple and considering you only have 1 worker and 5 locations to place it on a turn it should be a piece of cake. What follows is maybe one of the best games I've ever played - the basic puzzle of taking actions at the right time to get cars into your garage with a few upgrades and make a few points is constantly frustrated by the other players and it takes clever planning to make it all come together.

 On top of the other people around the table getting in your way you also have to contend with Sandra the factory manager who constantly patrols the board and either hands out points (nice Sandra) or deducts points (mean Sandra) depending on meeting certain criteria and being 1st or last on the training level for the area you are in depending what mode you play.

  It's not often these days a game jumps into my top 5 but this has and it may climb higher over time as at every player count it has proven to be an immensely enjoyable couple of hours.

 

 If anyone is interested it also has a pretty wonderful online implementation at http://www.boiteajeux.net mortis316uk is my username if you want to invite me to a game :)

 

 Next up On Mars by the same designer and maybe Vinhos as well - if they keep up the quality I can see a new shelf in my collection expanding over time.

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Had a quick go of the Cult of the Death Knight expansion for Escape the Dark Castle, with the boy yesterday. Brutal, and we didn’t even pick up any of the new curses that are interspersed with the regular item cards. 
 

Made for a nice, gripping go, though, even if we didn’t make it to the final showdown. Some of the new baddies are deliciously grim. I love how they got the retro Fighting Fantasy aesthetic bang on. 

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Kanban sounds interesting.  

 

I've been looking at Cooper Island this weekend.  At first sight it looks dull as ditchwater with the colouration of the player boards all being a bit dingy, (no doubt this was deliberate as a reflection of painted wood), but if you look beyond the initial appearances this is a first class puzzle of a worker placement game.  The idea is 2-4 players are all explorers and have their own individual peninsula of a newly discovered island to develop.   You start by placing one islet tile and one random double tile - the islets poke outwards and provide immediate benefit.  They are important because you also have 2 vessels which sail both ways round the whole island, hopping from sand bank to sand bank with each victory point gained, and gaining benefits from each little islet established by other players as you sail round.  The twist here is that as you develop your penisular upward, each hex place on top of identical hexes yields greater resources - so placing a wood tile above 2 other wood tiles will immediately yield 3 wood, which stays put until used.  You may use these resources for the usual sorts of things - construct buildings or monuments, build little rowboats to enhance your income, supply merchant ships with gold and cloth for VPs and a very flexible "crate lid", but there are many many constraints.  Firstly you start the game with only 2 workers and may only unlock the other ones by achieving various milestones - the game is also very short, only lasting 5 rounds in total.  Secondly, you have to place buildings on the highest empty stacks of your peninsula, after which they may not be further cultivated, but buildings give you benefits from cards which persist through the game so its helpful to build early.  Thirdly you have very limited storage space for resources removed from the hexes or which you gain from other means.  Fourthly there are 3 types of double tile covering all the terrain combos, so there is an element of luck involved when you draw new double tiles, which tends to preclude a fully pre-determined strategy. Fifthly you have to be careful you may actually be in a position to perform the 2 "free actions" at the beginning of each round - an islet and a double tile to lay a new islet tile each round - the little rubble piles removed to be worked into monuments can be a nuisance here.  Sixthly there is a vitally important additional "worker" resource, the Cartographer, which is represented by a scale on your board, which you can boost in various ways and which enables you to carry out additional actions such as placing single hexes.   Monuments are great because they score each round, but you may only work on one at a time until you either gain a sculpting card or have a super worker available (the square tokens).  You also have to feed your workers (yawn) but that is no real problem since it's slow going to obtain the additional ones (if you fail with this your ships get anchored in place until you earn more Vps, which is a nice touch). 

 

Player interaction is very limited - you simply have to pay one resource to use a spot already occupied (the greater limitation is you may not do the same thing twice in one round) - however competition for the "royal order"cards may be a big factor with a higher player count - in a game with limited VPs, the 3+ points available are extremely attractive (the downside is you tie up a worker there).  The rule book and player "boards" (they are really flimsy, much like the Underwater Cities ones) are extremely well designed - great use of space and lots of examples make things crystal clear, and you don't need any other aids once you have grasped the iconography because it's all there in front of you on your board.

 

I've read that a solo game has been developed and is available in German, but I can't see the point - working 2 boards is fine given the limited interaction.

 

Not sure if the abovemakes sense, but it's one of those where you go from "how the Hell am I supposed to achieve anything at all here, its impossible" to a sly grin when you get some synergies working for you.  Pics are from 2 different games - one in which Red gained some success from spreading out rather than developing upward.

 

 

 

 

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I’ve got cooper island on order - just waiting patiently for the retail stock to arrive :( 

 

 I actually picked up the solo against cooper deck as it was only a few £ and I like a simple automa rather than running 2 hands. 
 
 There’s also a site with some lovely overlays for the player board that I think I’ll be ordering as well , the ones they do for Maracaibo are excellent. 

 

 https://shop.brettspiel-news.de/brettspiel-zubehoer/31-maracaibo-overlay-set.html

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41 minutes ago, Mortis said:

I’ve got cooper island on order - just waiting patiently for the retail stock to arrive :( 

 

 I actually picked up the solo against cooper deck as it was only a few £ and I like a simple automa rather than running 2 hands. 
 
 There’s also a site with some lovely overlays for the player board that I think I’ll be ordering as well , the ones they do for Maracaibo are excellent. 

 

 https://shop.brettspiel-news.de/brettspiel-zubehoer/31-maracaibo-overlay-set.html

 

The overlays look really useful, thanks.

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On 23/02/2020 at 20:56, Mortis said:

So despite loving "heavy" games I've always been slightly intimidated by Vital Lacerda titles - something I have now rectified after a mate picked up Kanban recently.

 You play a worker in a car factory, picking up designs, parts, making cars, upgrading cars and having the odd meeting - sounds simple and considering you only have 1 worker and 5 locations to place it on a turn it should be a piece of cake. What follows is maybe one of the best games I've ever played - the basic puzzle of taking actions at the right time to get cars into your garage with a few upgrades and make a few points is constantly frustrated by the other players and it takes clever planning to make it all come together.

 On top of the other people around the table getting in your way you also have to contend with Sandra the factory manager who constantly patrols the board and either hands out points (nice Sandra) or deducts points (mean Sandra) depending on meeting certain criteria and being 1st or last on the training level for the area you are in depending what mode you play.

  It's not often these days a game jumps into my top 5 but this has and it may climb higher over time as at every player count it has proven to be an immensely enjoyable couple of hours.

 

 If anyone is interested it also has a pretty wonderful online implementation at http://www.boiteajeux.net mortis316uk is my username if you want to invite me to a game :)

 

 Next up On Mars by the same designer and maybe Vinhos as well - if they keep up the quality I can see a new shelf in my collection expanding over time.

Lacerda is my favourite designer. I think I've played all his games, apart from Escape Plan, and I own CO2 Second Chance and Lisboa. I backed the Kickstarter that's just finished for the deluxified Kanban. It's a great game but pretty ugly in the old edition. New one looks lovely. Not cheap though.

 

All his games share a density that comes from very tightly integrated mechanisms rather than the way a lot of more complex games go, of having loads of stuff or being really long. Lacerda games don't outstay their welcome, and each decision is really meaningful. He also manages to tie the theme into the gameplay far better than most euro game designers. He's a genius.

 

I persuaded my wife to play Lisboa the other week and she said she hated it, but she liked it when we played it again a week later. There is an obstacle to overcome to learn his stuff I think because they aren't like other games, but once you know them the playing time is quite reasonable. 

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A brave dwarf enters a dungeon.

 

Second room in (the first was a corridor), he falls off a plank into the catacombs where he proceeds to lose the light of his torch for a turn and shortly thereafter is bitten by a poisonous spider, but against the odds he finds an exit back up to the dungeons above.  Trooping ever onwards through a couple of nondescript rooms he encounters a despicable trap - the ceiling collapses blocking his route in (tile rotates 90 degrees) so now there really is only forwards. Into a dead end obviously...but fortune favours the brave and he finds a secret door!  Into a dead end obviously.  Never change, Dungeon Quest.

 

A glimmer of hope however, another secret door - such luck!  An empty crossroads follows into a tight corridor which brings our vertically challenged adventurer into the treasure chamber itself!  In this game you could pretty much consider that a win.  By now it's past midday with instant death awaiting should the sun go down, so there's no time to waste!  Two turns spent pushing luck, gathering treasure and trying not to wake the dragon and he decides enough's enough, time to get out of there. He heads out in the rough direction of his starting tower with a vague notion of somehow finding his way back, and for a turn or two it doesn't look too bad.  A couple more empty chambers await until disaster strikes and he stumbles into another trap, this time it's poisonous gas which costs him three turns at the worst possible time, and also forms an inescapable loop back to the treasure chamber.  Bah!

 

With time fast running out he decides his only chance is a desperate and risky attempt to get back through the catacombs through a staircase revealed in an earlier search.  Finding a treasure chest and dodging the magic missiles of an evil mage, he somehow manages to outwit fate in the final turns (rolling over an increasing number in order to keep playing) but to no avail!  On the very last turn he needs a six to continue, but with a roll of one it's game over, man, game over!

 

All that dosh.  That would have been a huge win.

 

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With sound effects:

 

raargh Cryptid

B91CA193-0995-4E55-9542-46F780A39C6C.thumb.jpeg.6d01624069e16c3e5a58cd3707c1e927.jpeg

splish Empires of the North

6A0B3795-7D39-43BD-AD52-BD9AD10D6297.thumb.jpeg.17e79b438be15515996feae3a12ccfc1.jpeg

kerching Imperial 2030

E42535DC-A492-448F-8AA5-F3234C5977A6.thumb.jpeg.e17d8a279005fd79546c06c78dc5eebb.jpeg

toot-toot Rail Pass

970E4C6F-6EC1-4B57-87B1-926FF97A9531.thumb.jpeg.9827d8f920b9ab48d2c5b65d7785943d.jpeg

 

 

And of course Die of the Dead 

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Hope you liked Cryptid and Rail Pass, we had another game of Keyper today and despite slightly melting our brains we're getting the hang of it and like what it does. 

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Imperial Assault, Legends of the Alliance on the go today.  It's all kicking off in the cantina!

 

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Finally got around to playing Dune for the first time last week, having been given the game as a present at Christmas. I think we were initially put off by the idea it was going to be obscenely complicated, but it really isn't at all. We picked it up pretty quickly, and all had a great time playing also. Sadly right now I only have my girlfriend and a mutual friend to play board games with, and Dune seems to need more than 3 people playing to really get the most out of it. Still, it could be a good one to introduce on those few occasions we get a big group going.

 

I've managed to organise a 7-player game of Scythe in the past in a North London gaming bar, and that involved having to teach 4 of the players how to play from scratch. I can see Dune being a much easier game than Scythe to teach and potentially a lot more fun also.

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Posted (edited)

Currently Dungeon Degenerates Hand of Doom. This is a co-operative game in which a motley crew of 1-4 of filthy varmints break out of jail and run around the game world bopping enemies on the head (possibly with a giant Frankfurter - the "luncheon truncheon" because it may also be eaten) and pursuing their own agenda whilst the world drifts further into doom each round.  It has some really interesting mechanics:

 

Good things

 

Spoiler
  • Non fantasy-cliched characters each with their own backstories and traits "raised by a toothless bearded hag", who gain new skills at a fairly rapid rate (their basic stats don't improve and there is no bookkeeping required).
  • Status conditions, often a fiddly bugbear, are simple to identify and track using tokens.
  • A rather excellent combat system which combines simplicity with reasonable sophistication of different enemy powers and characteristics.
  • Interesting encounters which may be approached in different ways and which might vary according to the characteristics of the space you are in.
  • A big phat loot deck, including unpleasant surprises (although not too many alternative weapons / armours if that is your bag).
  • The ability of individuals to split off from the party to form pairs or solos.  I’m playing with 2 characters for reasons of space, and for the game to continue if one of the two is defeated in combat.  I used the Void Witch and the Witch Smeller to start out and now I’m rolling with the Mercenary Alchemist and the disgusting Corpse Burner (who may eat certain defeated enemies to recover health at the risk of being poisoned).
  • A very interesting mission structure - it isn't linear at all.  You have a choice from the very beginning - you can either defeat your jailer in unarmed combat and go on the run, or accept an offer from him to get out and help his mates retrieve an artefact.  After this initial mission, several alternatives will be available. Some missions are restricted to certain character types.  In my current campaign I've done the beating up, plundered a tomb, helped a shady apothecary, acted as bounty hunter for my faction and am off to make mockery of a religious cult.
  • The game world changes over the course of a campaign through exploration and as danger cards are drawn each round and these increase the threat level in certain territories, (other things may change too). Defeating enemies will conversely reduce the threat level in your location. Friendly towns may turn into hostile settlements (and vice versa).  Once the threat level reaches 6 in any location the big old hand of doom appears on the map and more bad things happen.  One campaign mission starts immediately after the previous one ends so you either need to leave the board in place or photograph it and player hands.
     

 

Not so good things

 

Spoiler
  • Each player has a laminated map which includes a single track for experience, wounds, max HP, gold and luck.  This is a good idea in theory since it obviates other counters and dials, but the little squares are a fiddly to position and keep in place.
  • The game is very colour dependent - various regions are colour coded and this seeps into the enemy and encounter decks - it would be (I imagine) tricky or much less enjoyable to play with colour vision impairment.
  • The map can be a little tricky to understand at first despite a pretty good rule book, but it is admirably detailed.
  • Although one may travel by river and across the lake, some journeys from one corner of the map to another are inevitably lengthy (in theory there are fast travel void gates but these don't seem particularly common).  There is the risk of an encounter and fight at each step along the way (seen this compared to a JRPG with random encounters and that isn't a bad comparison in some ways).
     

 

A matter of taste

 

Spoiler
  • Art style - the cod-umlauted German in place names such as Brüttelburg and Würstreich which seems to be a metal thing (Motorhead, Motley crue etc), Teutonic crosses etc.  In truth the enemy designs are so disgusting at times they are actually pretty good to the point of being really funny, but individual mileage will vary.
  • The luck factor.  Regular readers will know I like a fair bit of luck with my crawlers and this provides that in (ace of) spades.  Firstly, combat is decided by rolling 2 dice each for attack and defence - the total must be below the relevant skill (strength, magic etc) being tested, and if successful the higher dice value is taken for damage dealt or defended.  Party members are engaged by enemies according to their targeting preference and may have 2 or 3 at any one time, each of which may typically hit for 3 or 4 damage.  Defence rolls are applied to all enemy attacks, so missing the test entirely will potentially be extremely damaging (there is a guard status which is designed to mitigate this by using the power die to mitigate damage from one enemy even if the test is failed) and which you quickly learn to adopt when crowded). You may also use luck to re-roll but luck is a hard stat for some characters to raise and is also used to reduce the doom counter (game over if it reaches 6).  Secondly the danger draw will increase the danger level of a location or region each round and it includes reshuffle cards so in practice this also results in games feeling different.
     

 

 

Reminds me a little of Darkest Night (creeping menace), Hexplore (bold or stealth travel, encounters, creeping menace),  Folklore (loot rolls, variety of loot items), and Shadows of Malice (the heavy black borders on some tokens) but not sure there is anything quite like it out there.  Love or hate the artwork, this is clearly a labour of love.  And who can't enjoy a game set in the Realm of the Sausage?

 

Note - the top photo includes an error - the Hand of Doom should not be out on the map as yet.  In the lower photo, the team has to trek up the right hand side of the map though the paths of the bog (paths slow you down since you can't march as quickly as you may over roads) up to where the overlay piece is, in order to explore the depth of the crystal chamber for a vital component).

 


 

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Edited by Cosmic_Guru
tidying up, adding a few more thoughts
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A friend and I played Star Wars Rebellion over TTS at the weekend.

 

I'd resisted TTS for a while before I miss the "physicality" of games - plus other than the official stuff it seemed

a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

 

But it was only way he'd be free (and we could save it to do over a series of little periods), and we both own the game (+xpac) so felt slightly less guilty about being piratey. It works really well! I assumed there would be more automation (expecting scrips etc to make it quicker/simpler) but it was more a table top simulation (shocking I know :P).


Wouldn't replace playing the game in person ever - but as a makeshift workaround for a friend with limited time (damn kids) it was a good compromise.

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