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BobBallVO

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Review 5 games and receive a total of 140 positive review ratings.
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page
Go to the Flash Point: Fire Rescue page
Go to the Pandemic page
Go to the Elder Sign: Omens page
Go to the Forbidden Island page
Go to the Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game page
Go to the Forbidden Desert page
8
Go to the The Walking Dead Board Game: The Best Defense page
23 out of 27 gamers thought this was helpful

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(New evidence! - This review has been edited to reflect a game score of **6**, but the initial score cannot be altered. Updated comments at the end of the review.)
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Welcome to another review from Bob Ball, Gametime Gumshoe.

Today’s “redhot” in question – Overview of the Game

The apocalypse has occurred, and you’re one of the survivors.
(I know – none of us expected you to make it, either.)

From the instruction manual:

In this cooperative game, each player takes on the role of one of The Walking Dead Survivors: Andrea, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, or Rick. The Survivors must defend four key locations form Walkers and other various dangers in order to stay alive: The Farm, The Prison, The Town, and The Highway. At each Location, you will find a Resource deck of 25 cards: Equipment, Allies, Food, or Ammunition. Keep these Resources safe or all will be lost!

Your objective: survive 12 rounds of zombie hordes trying to eat you, while at the same time protecting the resources at four different locations from seasons 2 & 3 of The Walking Dead TV show. Stay sharp, friends – because fiends are everywhere on today’s review from the from the Gametime Gumshoe.

“Just the facts, ma’am” – What’s in the box

◆ 100 resource cards
◆ 48 event cards
◆ 76 game tokens
◆ 6 oversize character cards
◆ 6 character pawns
◆ 4 pawn bases
◆ 1 badge of leadership
◆ 4 oversized location tiles
◆ 9 ulterior motive cards (for advanced play)
◆ 3 white six-sided dice
◆ 1 black three-sided die
◆ 1 rulebook
◆ 1 round tracking tile and token

Retail Price: $39.99

Scene of the Crime – Playing the Game

The game plays as many tower defense games do – you shuffle around the board protecting resources from the invading hordes. In this game, the hordes are zombies thirsting for human flesh.
It’s a cooperative game for 2-4 people (with instructions for solo play too, hermits).
I played a dozen games with three people using:
Standard Mode: if your Survivor dies, you continue playing with an unused Survivor
Beginner Difficulty: Event cards are face up on the table for unlimited cooperative planning

There’s also:
Hardcore Mode: if any Survivor dies, the game immediately ends and you lose
Expert Difficulty: Event cards are hidden from other players until played, and there is very little cooperative discussion

Setup:
To start, the four location tiles are placed randomly in a rectangle making a game board (this really is a card game masquerading as a board game). One of the four resource card types (Allies, Ammunition, Food, and Equipment) are placed randomly next to one of the four location types. For example, The Prison may have Ammo, with The Highway having Food. Each location will only have one type of resource card.

Each player starts off with one Equipment card, two Allies, and two Food. One player (chosen by the highest die roll) will start off with the Badge of Leadership. Don’t get too excited, it just means you have to make bad choices first.

Gameplay:

Leader’s turn:
1.) [Optional] You may move Survivors.
2.) [Optional] You may draw a Resource card from your Location.
3.) [Optional] You may trade one item with a Survivor at your Location.
4.) [Mandatory] Play both of your Event cards. (This is the “oh, crap” part of your turn.)

Non-Leader’s turn(s):
1.) [Optional] Defy the Leader’s movement of your character, costing you 1 Food.
2.) [Optional] Draw a Resource card at your Location.
3.) [Optional] Trade with a Survivor at your Location.
4.) [Mandatory] Play one of your Event cards.

Combat!:
Finally, you get to brain the zombies. Ranged weapon damage (from Shotguns, Rifles, and Crossbows) gets added together if the Survivors are at the same location. Melee weapons (Machete, Katana, and Metal Pipe) are separate from the group total.

You’ll get to roll six-sided dice equal to the number of Combat Dice noted on the weapon Equipment card. Every multiple of “5” kills one zombie at your location. Using Allies will modify your roll up 1 point per Ally used. Did you leave zombies alive? Well, they get their turn too…

End of round:
Each zombie on the board deals 1 damage.
Zombies deal damage to survivors first, then to the Resource deck at their location. If there is only one Survivor at a location with Walkers, the Walkers deal their collective damage to the Survivor. Multiple Survivors at a location will decide how to split up the damage amongst themselves. Once there are no Survivors the zombies deal damage to the Resource deck at the location, “eating” one Resource card for each point of damage. This is a good time to remember that there are only 25 Resource cards per deck. Keep them walkers off your Resource deck, yo.

At this point, surviving Survivors with 4 or fewer hit points may use 1 Food to regain 1 hit point. You can only use 1 Food per round to regain 1 hit point, so try to stay away from the bitey end of the Walkers.

Finally move the round tracker marker to the next round, pass the Badge of Leadership to the player on your left, and wash-rinse-repeat until you win or die.

Whodunnit? – Thoughts on the Game

Should you buy this game? Maybe. If you’re non-casual gamer partial to cooperative games this might be up your alley. Like me, you might want to go to your local game store and test play a demo copy before laying down hard cash on this. I like this game, but I don’t love it like some games I own. Having played it more than a dozen times and knowing what I know now, I would probably buy it again – but it wouldn’t be in heavy rotation. I’m rating it an 8, but it’s because I can’t give it a 7.5. It might be easier to learn than what my experience was, because the first two or three plays were very slow and very clunky. I may have to start playing variants soon as gameplay is becoming a little boring.

Pros vs Con(vict)s:

Pros:
This game is pretty fun. Once you get used to the mechanics, you’ll start high-fiving each other after a successful round. You’ll come close to hugging if you win.
The artwork on the game cards, instruction manual, even down to the tokens are very high quality. Some people may prefer the comic book art but for someone who has only watched the TV show, the art really helps me connect with the game.
The operational mechanics of the cards is great. As a lone Survivor with the Machete as my weapon, I get a +3 to my Combat Dice roll. Why? If you think about it, I would be more apt to swing for the fences if I didn’t have to concern myself with hurting others around me. Does the card say that? Nope. But my brain is free to fill in the blanks. Love it.

Con(vict)s:
My biggest gripe, and yes Cryptozoic – this is your fault, is the box and box insert. The box is huuuuuge compared to what you get inside. It’s a store shelf billboard trying to sell you on the fact that this is The Walking Dead game. I can’t fault them for that, but it’s a beast of a box to try to transport when all the components could easily fit in a box the size of Pandemic. And that insert! Whoever designed a beautiful looking insert that allows almost all of the cards inside slide around like a small tornado ripped through zombie town should get a boot on their car. I’m seriously going to look into a card container to fit inside the box to protect the cards. I’m also going to replace the very lightweight, very bouncy six-sided dice.

I’m more a fan of mechanics like in Pandemic or Forbidden Island that progressively get harder. In The Walking Dead: The Best Defense, the mechanics are random enough to doom you in the first or second turns, or be easy enough to not pose a challenge until later rounds. The most recent victory was won by pure chance that the event deck didn’t screw us over very much. The game right before that hosed us in the second round.

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(Update 12/7/13: With about 20 plays under my belt of this game, the review score should be amended to **6**. This game is far too random in how punishing it is. Without a whole host of house rules to give players a fighting chance, a couple of bad cards and a bad die roll will end up with players looking for another game to entertain them. I won’t be pulling this game out voluntarily anymore.)
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Bob Ball, Gametime Gumshoe
Voice actor at BobBallVO.com,
host of quiz show “PopQuizzical” on iTunes,
mental giant on game show “Word Rango” on iTunes

9
25 out of 27 gamers thought this was helpful

Below is a recently posted a short review of BoardGaming.com on my site PopQuizzical.com. On the site it includes fun pictures and links, but hey, you’ve probably seen them before (but it would be great if you’d look sometime).

I love games of all types: video games, audio quiz shows, freeze tag – and especially board games.

It’s been a while since I had a fascination with board games. As an adult I have played a lot of “Settlers of Catan” and some scattered episodes of the games of my halcyon youth, but that was about it. I had no idea there were games I was missing out on, or that my relationship with board games was like having a bad girlfriend. You know, the kind that only wants to play Monopoly, Scrabble, and Sorry! (and she never was).

Now, that lost love has been rekindled thanks to two things: discovering Sentinels of the Multiverse at PAX Prime, and BoardGaming.com.

They’ve gamified everything. It’s insidious.

BoardGaming.com a great place to find out about board and app versions of board games via developer provided information, user reviews, and user supplied game tips. However, that’s not the best part for me. It’s the total gamification of the entire experience. You get points for “favoriting” a game. You get points for owning games. Points for writing a review, for either finding or not finding a review helpful, or for having played and logging you’ve played a game. Points, points, points. Give me them cheevos.

With those points, you can purchase new avatars, new backgrounds for your profile page – all kinds of stuff. You can also buy points (I did, but you don’t have to) to achieve the same effect, but it’s not mandatory.

BoardGaming.com has a very eye-pleasing interface, and if you like board games it’s a great place to find and exchange info. It’s also fun to make lists of games you have, and games you want. Santa, if you’re reading this, the games I want section is very up to date.

Full disclosure: I received no compensation for this gratuitous love for BoardGaming.com. It would be great for you to use any of the invitation links that I have put throughout the post (which gives me points too), but this site has become so much fun for me and I wanted to share it with you. Friend me when you sign up!


Bob Ball
Voice actor at BobBallVO.com,
host of quiz show “PopQuizzical” on iTunes,
mental giant on game show “Word Rango” on iTunes

8
Go to the Forbidden Island page

Forbidden Island

118 out of 125 gamers thought this was helpful

The setup:
You’re an ‘Indiana Jones’ type adventurer. Relics, artifacts, treasure – these are the things that make you jump out of the bed in the morning and fill your dreams at night. And you’ve heard about this island filled with them…

The island has different ideas. Each turn the island is starting to sink back beneath the ocean waves, dragging it’s secrets back to the ocean floor. Unfortunately, you are already on the island. You’re going to have a very eventful day.

I could describe how the island is sinking, how the cards you draw can help you get closer to relics or your ultimate doom, or how much fun you’ll have losing. Instead, I’ll have you watch an episode of “Table Top” about the physical version of Forbidden Island with a gameplay runthrough, which plays very much like the iPad version:

Watch “Table Top” with Wil Wheaton all about Forbidden Island on YouTube

The iPad version of Forbidden Island does instruction right: even if you don’t go through the tutorial game (which is very informative, btw) the game itself still guides you through the steps you need to complete the mechanics of the game. Whoever thought of this way of guiding the game deserves a hug. But all I can do is give him or her my hard earned cash.

You start off with two tile configurations for the island, and for $1 more there’s an in game purchase for 10 other island tile configurations. I love the idea of losing with new and exciting tile configurations. I parted with another buck for the new configurations, although the more difficult configs will not help my chances of winning. I love supporting great games, and this is one of those.

Conclusion:

Buy it. This game has a multiplayer component for pass-and-play, and another for up to four people to sit around an iPad and play – but for me it’s the availability for solo play. On a sleepless night at 4am (more likely scenario), or with my pals at the local coffee monger (the less likely scenario), Forbidden Island for the iPad is a real winner. Even though you won’t win, because this island is sinking. Fast.

Bob Ball
Voice actor at BobBallVO.com,
host of quiz show “PopQuizzical” on iTunes,
mental giant on game show “Word Rango” on iTunes

9
Go to the Elder Sign: Omens page
55 out of 62 gamers thought this was helpful

I gave in recently and dropped $6.99 to get “Elder Sign: Omens HD”, which is the iPad version. The iPhone version is a separate game, which I did not play. That screen is just too small, yo.

I’m interested in playing the board game version, so I figured the iPad version would tide me over until then.

From the game’s description:
“Elder Sign: Omens is a solitaire cousin to the popular cooperative board game, Arkham Horror. This version relies on a dice-rolling mechanic to advance through various adventures as the player races to stop the machinations of the evil Elder G-o-d-s.”

What I liked

The visuals and sound are amazing!
Not only do you get some interesting cut scenes with nice voice overs, the in game graphics are fantastic – almost like you would expect from a console version of a board game.

The gameplay is fast and easy.
I have read that setting up the board game version for Elder Sign can be complicated – but not the case with the iPad version. I appreciate not having to reset a board or knowing the rules to keep the game moving.

In-game purchases.
Sure, the in-game purchases could have been free – but I’m not opposed to feeding people who make cool games for me to play. Not only are there more powerful monsters to purchase and fight, but more powerful and varied investigators. I can’t wait to be crushed by Cthulhu…

Solitaire play.
Not always am I able to play board games with a group. This has no setup, no clean up, and I can play the game with one hand and eat pizza with the other – and game pieces and dice don’t have to get greasy. Score.

What I thought could be better

Explanations.
I found that my first couple of games I was lumbering through not really knowing what was going on. I would have preferred a tutored first game, where it showed me as I went along what was happening and why. For me it was far too easy to miss that the tutorial videos are under the help menu. They are accessible inside the game as well, as long as you know where to click.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Definite purchase for fans of the Cthulhu mythos or interesting board games. It’s got the cool 1920s-30s feel to the coffee and blood stained map that shrieks H.P. Lovecraft. Fantasy Flight knocked it out of the park with quick, smooth and challenging gameplay. When it includes a tutorial play mode, I’ll make my wife play it too.

You’ll probably love this more than me if you’ve played and liked the original “Elder Sign” board game, but that’s ok. There’s plenty of “Elder Sign: Omens” for both of us to love.

Bob Ball
Voice actor at BobBallVO.com,
host of quiz show “PopQuizzical” on iTunes,
mental giant on game show “Word Rango” on iTunes

9
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page
64 out of 90 gamers thought this was helpful

I saw this game for the first time at PAX ’13 in Seattle. My wife, not a lover of board or card games, took right to it during the hands on demo.

It’s fairly easy to play, my only complaint is that when you buy the expansions card decks you will end up pushing your player markers/pieces out of the main box into another box – so be prepared to make a trip to The Container Store to find a suitable home for your pieces.

The game mat which is only available at Cons or from the Greater Than Games website is a serious help when you are playing with relatively new gamers. The play mat helps keep your cards in order and is very bright and colorful, Just like SotM. At $50 the playmat is pricey and not necessary for play, but is made out of outdoor banner material (easily cleaned) and for me makes the game even that much more enjoyable.

Bob Ball
Voice actor at BobBallVO.com,
host of quiz show “PopQuizzical” on iTunes,
mental giant on game show “Word Rango” on iTunes

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