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10
Go to the Millennium Blades page

Millennium Blades

99 out of 113 gamers thought this was helpful

The hype train is pulling into the station and it’s : MILLENNIUM BLADES!

Level 99, known for their ambitious overages, decided to create a faux thousand year old CCG to rival The Magic and The Poke, but didn’t. They went a step further and created a game about playing a faux thousand year old CCG by playing it, but not.

The result is a ‘best of’ Millennium Blades in one big box. No commons. No fillers. No swamps. It’s bursting with professional tournament heavy hitters. It’s a board game that’s a card game that simulates a collectible card game. In fact- it simulates CCG Life.

Read on True Be-Bladers…

Between a Clock and a Card Place

Millennium Blades simulates the CCG world from booster buying and deck tinkering through tournament play with gratifying sweeps and agonizing defeats. The game plays in about two hours through 3 repetitions of two distinct phases: The Deck Building Phase(A real time – dare I say it – ‘Card Gathering’ round) and The Tournament Phase(A mechanically simple yet deep and puzzley tableau card play round).

Before getting into the gist and gel of the phases, let’s talk about The BLADES DECK.

Not a deck. Not your deck.

THE BLADES DECK.

All caps.

Respect and gravitas.

Millennium Blades is a card game about cards. A lot of cards. A capital D-E-C-K deck.

The true centerpiece of Millennium Blades is the BLADES DECK.

This main deck is composed of a foundation of 118 Core cards (solid anchor cards, tournament advantage accessories, and the rare gem of a find) shuffled with 12 swappable mini decks of 12 cards representing boosters and expansions (decks focusing on various mechanics and themes).

That’s the BLADES DECK.

A monolith of 250+ cards sitting smack dab in the center of the table.

And it is glorious!

How does one purchase, ponder, and paw through all that card stock?

DECK BUILDING

The deck building phase is a real-time phase of 20 minutes broken into shifts of 7, 7, and 6 minutes where players can take any action they want, as much or as little as they see fit, until time runs out. You have oodles of options in those 20 minutes which paradoxically seems like plenty of time and feels like not enough. There’s plenty of chaos as time ticks down and you’re trying to cobble together some order in constructing a tournament ready deck.

Looking for that perfect world beating card? Purchase a face down card blind from the STORE with stacks of fat cash. Sure you only know the general set, but tearing open that metaphorical booster might just let you sweep the coming tourney. You might find an Accessory to give your faltering deck a jolt against the Cards of War. A Deck Box could give you mad points, if you fill your hand and tournament tableau with just the right cards. You know, you just know in your Heart of Cardness that when you flip it over that this is the Grail Card you have been cash questing for…

Or not…

Hit the AFTERMARKET and sell that useless bit of cardage for some quick cashola. While you are there, make sure to peruse the face up throwaways from other players. You know what you are getting here and they may have foolishly put up for sale exactly what you need. Or perhaps they are holding a card most useful and with a smile, a little coercion, and coinage you can make a trade. Tuck away those ‘maybe usefuls’ in your Binder card pool for later. Have you been accumulating a little too much starchy cardboard fat? Burn away your excess by building a Set Collection for some spare endgame VP or fuse a wad of cards into a draw from those tempting promos decks.

The clock’s ticking – but there’s time to buy one more card, right?

Hold on – I might want to swap something in from the binder that might be just a little better now that I think about it…

Wait! Why am I standing here typing at you?!!

I need to get ready for the tourna…

*BUZZ*

Time to make the best of what you’ve got.

TOURNAMENT TIME

We’ve all heard of the calm before the storm. There is none in Millennium Blades. The deck building phase is a real time physical storm of card grabbing and deck building. It is a mental storm of trying to figure out what you want to do later in the tournament while doing a bunch of sifting and organizing in the now.

Deck building is the Chaotic Storm. The tournament is the calmer storm after the storm.

The Storm of Order.

Players take 8 card ‘singles’ (6 to normally play – 2 for just-in-case back up plans), a Deck Box, and two Accessories and sit down to a calm and orderly turn by turn game of Tournament Simulation. All the rules you need are there on the cards.

Play a Card, and if you so choose, Take an Action

That’s it.

All very civilized.

*snicker*

If the deck building phase is about grabbing cards, the tournament is about grabbing Ranking Points. Massive amounts of Ranking Points gained through combos, chains, and slick card play. Those sweet, sweet rankings are what being a Blader is all about.

And all this comes down to playing six cards, turn by turn, in a tableau and utilizing their own card effects in the best possible way.

Some of the main effects to consider are PLAY, FLIP, SCORE, and ACTION. PLAY effects take place as soon as your card hits the tableau. FLIP effects happen if somehow the card turns face down through other effects. Flipped cards are considered textless, attributeless dead placeholders. SCORE effects enter play come the tournament end, so long as that card remains face up, of course. And ACTION – well – we find ourselves at that if-you-choose crossroads I mentioned above. Flipping an ACTION card face down activates the effect while blanking the card out. Have a SCORE card granting RPs for every Dark symbol come tournament end and an ACTION card with said Dark symbol? It’s time to weigh plusses and minuses against RPs.

There are also cards granting ONGOING effects as long as they remain unflipped. TOP cards have power throughout rounds as long as they stay the face up card closest to the front of your tableau parade. Your front cards may CLASH with opponents or you can REACT to stop an opponent’s savvy move dead in its tracks.

From the Storm of Chaos came 6 proud cards, jigsawed together into combos and power plays.

Literally, it’s about playing your cards right.

Oh – and those massive amounts of RPs for doing so, of course.

FINAL-ISHIOUS ThOUGHTS

I really like this game and that should be fairly obvious. Umbrellas up for the positivity shower.

I’ve played the game almost two dozen times with various gaming groups, CCG loving Magic Users and CCG avoiding Poke-nons alike. Many walked away wanting to play again for various reasons – most still seeking that ‘one last card’. However, these are my final thoughts – so enough of them, back to me.

E-Harmony

Millennium Blades is touted as ‘at its heart a Commodity Trading Game…’and there’s been some Talking Heads chattering away and tossing about the word ‘Economics’.

If I squint really hard I can see that. Personally, I find all that buying and selling and trading not to be ‘stocky markety ‘ but ‘Ebay in the moment’. Unless you have something someone wants, you are probably going to wind up with less than you paid for.

The buying and selling and burning cards for points and promos, I can’t help but peel away the veneer and see the man behind the curtain: a way of gaining and discarding cards. It isn’t quite deck drawing and it isn’t quite drafting. It’s a hybrid. It is clever, satisfying, downright brilliant fun, and CCG sims to a tee, but I am just not seeing the ‘stock’ in card stock.

Accumulating Cold Card Cash isn’t getting you the bulk of your end game VPs, playing cards are what gets you there.

I see the cards and plenty of them and that’s what I love.

I told you that BLADES DECK was the centerpiece for me.

Feel free to keep your Economics. I’m going to throw a few more E’s into the mix.

Exploration, Experimentation, and Evolution.

All those little 12 card meta-boosters that get mixed into the monolithic deck – they all focus on different mechanics and thematics. Some protect your deck. Some destroy others. Some destroy your own tableau for the gamble on those massive Rankies. Some like to flip. Some challenge you to keep them steadfast to the end. They each favor and flavor some effect or aspect of tournament play.

Figuring most people I was going to play the game with weren’t going to opt for a ‘sit around my kitchen table’ card study session like I had access to, I leveled the playing field. I studied the starter decks and some random cores for purposes of fielding questions, but I’ve been playing the boosters blind. The thrill of Exploring the decks and what they can or can’t do for my any-given-night’s play style and the Experimentation with different combinations of mechanical twists is a real high point in my book.

The Evolution of this game works, like real evolution over time and without realization. Most of those ‘interesting potentials’ I slide into my binder in any given game get peeked at again once or twice, but never really see the light of play because I’m focused on what’s running hot for me at the moment and how to tweak it over the edge. A few games later I wish that binder was a reality because I don’t have the same cards and I’m cobbling together a new strategy and they would have been perfect. Dots get connected between games while still playing in the now. After half a dozen games with a dedicated group, you can almost hear the mental clicking and people begin asking for and desperately seeking “The Guy…you know the one who did the Thing”.

I’m sure in time we’ll be playing like the Power Players we represent.

The play’s the thing and it begins evolving.

Keep your Economics. I’m in it for the Exploration, Experimentation, and Evolution .

After a dozen plays I still feel like I am splashing my toes around in the card bath.

Millennium Blades for all its simulation and parodying of CCGs distills some of the best aspects of them in two hours…and across games.

It’s a beautiful thing

(At least I think so. I don’t really play CCGs. I mean it is what I gather from standing about 20 feet away from them at all times. )

(So..ummm…yeah…there’s that.)

All My Money Goes to Garfield University

There does seem to be unspoken question or two whispered on the winds.

As a CCG Sim, is Millennium Blades a game for CCGers?

Is it Niche-y?

Personally – I don’t think so.

I’ve never really played CCGs. I bought a Magic deck once – like you do – tried to fathom what this stack of cards had to do with the very tiny words on the fold out sheet of paper and gave up. A few people have tried to teach me since, but I tap out rather than tap mana. Pokemon was something crybaby boys cried about when their cards got stolen at summer camp. I just looked down and continued to eat my bologna sandwich quietly. The closest thing I have to a Perma-Deck in my game collection is a Mage Wars mini Trapper Keeper.

So nope – CCGs are not my bag…errr…deck box. However, I do know CCC.

Collectible Card Culture.

I know people buy decks and boosters – metric tons of little tear open boosters. I know decks are built. There are tournaments. There are Sealed Deck events and The Swiss-es (Swissi?). I have seen tables of people with cards lined up edge to edge going at it. I know if you don’t have enough trolls or goblins or some sort of minions in front of you, your wizard gets sucker punched in the gut and you had better start turning mountains sideways for biblical Frosted Flakes. I know the players gotta play-play-play and Charlizards gotta char-char-char or do something burny I imagine. I know new cards and decks and sets come out every other day so the House of M can be fed. I know the guy who spent $500 on cards will most likely always win out over the guy who spent $5.

I have a CC-Concept, even if I am not CC-Specific, as do most who game.

CCG is a known quantity in the Cardboard Kingdom. If you have ever been to a game store, visited a game site, or even walked through a Barnes and Nobles at a leisurely pace, you have probably bumped bums with something both collectible and cardy.

It is this nebulous Collectible Concept that comes from drinking the Cardboard Kool-aid at even the Gateway Level that makes Millennium Bladesa fascinating concept. Not steeped in true CCG-Life I can’t say if Millennium Blades is an accurate CCG Sim – but it certainly relishes in CCG Concept.

I bought cards. I sold them. I built decks. I watched them decimate or disintegrate in tournaments. I had a blast and I didn’t care if the guy who spent $500 beat my $5 poor girl deck because it didn’t matter.

Paper money isn’t rent money.

I may not be a CCGer, but if playing my idea of one (which may indeed be the fuzzy piecemeal idea of one and all it entails) in board game form is as close as I come, I’m fine with that.

A bologna sandwich always tastes better when no one is sitting next to you hyperventilating ‘Pikachu’ through their tears anyway.

One thing I will say is that Millennium Blades is a game of fictional Power Gamers playing the ultimate faux Power Game, but it might not be the game for certain flesh and blood Power Gamers or at least Power Gamers unwilling to step back and enjoy the fun. While you might be playing and planning to create the Ultimate Deck, can you ever be sure? There are too many cards – too much uncertainty for some. The excess of Millennium Blades can limit access and a Power Gamer might never feel in control or find themselves facing a Nietzschean futility fatality. In crafting order from chaos – it comes down to making the best of what you have, which might not seem like enough. There’s unbalance, there’s overpowered cards and combos which are in the nature of poking the CCG beast in the belly and all in fun – but it might not be the idea of it for a certain mindset.

For others, well…

In the Designer’s Foreword Mr. Brad Talton of the Hat says that it is his hope that Millennium Blades ‘captures the emotions of playing a collectible card game: excitement, desperation, discovery, hope, dread, and camaraderie.’

And it does.

Any given game of Millennium Blades hits all those notes and then some. It’s an ambitious idea distilled into an accessible game of equal parts clever design, evolving game play, and tongue-in-cheek fun. It is a game that sits firmly in the middle ground of non-CCGs stepping up into a conceptual simulation and CCGs stepping down for a laugh at themselves. It is a game that lends itself and bends itself to a fair percentage of the tabletop and a far wider berth than a simple confining niche. What is there to say about a game that does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it with the Level 99 patented elegance and excess, but…

10 OUT OF 10

[***END TRANSMISSION***] *

*(Reposted from the B-Other – with less jokes, personal commentary, and nifty graphics. Wanna overhear a Time Call to Steve Jackson? Track it down…)

9
Go to the Star Wars: Imperial Assault page

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

104 out of 118 gamers thought this was helpful

An Open Letter to Jack the Downgrader

So begins an unconventional review. Imperial Assault is a bit of a 2-for game, combining a campaign crawl and a tournament ready skirmish system in one box. The musings to follow will address where Imperial Assault stands and stands out as a ‘dungeon crawl’ and more specifically how it compares to the other existing crawls from FanFlight. It is a discussion of a reskinning and some familiarity with Descent and the ‘Surge Dice Engine’, while not necessary, is convenient. Not that any of that matters to dear ol JtD 😉

Rebooting the Basecrawl

In 2005, FanFlight unearthed a coffin of a box called Descent:Journeys in the Dark upon the world, shining some revamp torchlight on their license-to-expire game Doom (2004). With Doom, players got a meaty basecrawl of a game filled with tiles, minis, cards and the all important ‘surge dice’. With Descent, players got the same Hungry Man dinner of a crawl and FanFlight got to not keep all their game engines in someone else’s IP basket. The ‘surge dice’ engine was set free and shackled firmly to their own universe. The SDE worked and worked fairly well, so much so, it has been templated, retooled, and reskinned over the years into the FanFlight Tabletop RPG House Engine for Crawls. It has been caressed by a tentacle or two and now finds itself fricassee’d by Force Lightning with Imperial Assault.

So is it a New Hope or just a Clone War?

Let’s discuss:

A Long, Long Time Ago on a Tabletop in an Apartment Far Away

Where I’m Coming From

I live with a Dungeon Master. I admit it. I’ve come to terms with it. I’m ok with it. His BG CB reference handle: The Boy. He’s a nice chap who is only really evil around the table and doesn’t look anything like that strange gnome-like fellow from the cartoons. (I have a vague recollection of a single VHS tape from my childhood, but was force fed the series on DVD. Is it me? – because I don’t really trust that guy!)

I’m laying down my Imperial Assault impressions from hitching my life wagon to Herr Doktor The Boy and his Dungeon Crawl kink. In the back of his mind, he is constantly treading the glory day corridors of HeroQuest into Warhammer Quest and now he Quantum Leaps through the new millenium hoping his next Dungeon Crawl is the Dungeon Crawl home.

(I am 100% the Player Character in these situations, but I have spent enough car rides home listening to him preach the Evil Overlord end of the spectrum to know the ins and outs. 😉 )

Deathstars & Darths:Spacing Out the HouseCrawl Engine

Where Imperial Assault Is Coming From

Well – it’s coming out of the dungeons of Descent and the surge dice engine. In order to see where it stands among the various iterations and implementations allow me to cast Detect Mechanic and share some impressions on the delvings through FanFlight HouseCrawl over the years.

Descent 1.0 – I have played the black pudding out of that game (and predecessor Doom) over the years. Why so much HouseCrawl the First? Because The Boy loves it and so do I. As Overlord, he was in love with the card burning for threat fuel mechanic. With his mega deck of death, he could play little cards to nuisance players through the dungeon or just sit tight as we got too cozy and then discard, discard, DISCARD to fuel a major hurt at the most inopportune moment. As a player, I have to admit I would get chills when all those cards would go flapping down and he would grab a hoard of threat – Oh no! What is going to happen!!!! The Tension! The Mystery!

So many good times and epic endgames and just as the word ‘perfection’ forms on the lips, someone slaps a palm down on the giant shiny red Reset Button. Great story dungeons – not one lick of character progression. Let me rephrase that – not one lick of character progression between adventures via a campaign system. A night’s adventure in Descent was a night – 3-5 hours in a single dungeon with teleports back to town to upgrade stats, gain skill cards, and purchase loot within a play session, but at the end of it all someone slammed a car door and Memento style everyone blinked and reset. Each new adventure started at The Square One Restart Tavern and you hoped to find that nifty sword you had again with a certain sense of deja vu.

Road to Legends/Seas of Blood One could invest in the ‘campaign’ system which allowed for Overlord/Hero progression with all sorts of upgraded dice, perm skill progression and stat boosts, and no one ‘forgot’ they had a very nice bit of armor come the dungeon end. What was forgotten on FanFlight‘s part was all the vast epic dungeons and fun story/text box elements. All the battles and dungeons became bland slap ups on confined selections of tiles. You could now venture forth on a few bite-sized encounters a night but progression became pointless as story arcs were left by the wayside for fiddle-faddle on a world map. Journey to the Old Tree! Why? To fight a few Beastmen and gain some gold. Ok – now let’s move some things around on the map and tick off a box or two on the campaign sheet. Now it’s off to the Giant’s Tomb! (which if you read my rating on Yelp was highly over-rated and not so much a ‘tomb’ as two rooms, one of which luckily happened to contain a ‘Giant’.) We tried running the original adventure books with the campaign set up, but it never quite jelled. It always felt as if they were two separate animals and FFG never really thought of merging epic story arc dungeon crawling and campaign progression/world map fiddle-faddle wholly, but spawned two separate creatures from one starter coffin box womb. Bit of a Cam-Pain that.

Mansions of Madness was a fun sidestep. The surge dice went on hiatus to be replaced by a single D-10 and combat decks. The HouseCrawl ideas remained at a basic level and the engine found itself in a new chassis. The adventures felt deeper – there were interesting adventuring things to do aside from Descent‘s ‘open door/clear room’ formula. Sometimes there were patches of not much happening though as you wandered about, but on both the player end and the evil end there was atmosphere by the tonnage. There were self contained stories of horror and exploration. Things mysterious could be investigated and puzzles could be mucked about with. Keeper Big Bad got to collect and spend threat to create some extra hurt and insanity. Games were tighter and shorter at about 2-3 hours, mostly due to PC’s finding themselves on the wrong end of the life stick. But again- no progression. After end game – you developed a case of game-nesia and woke up on some other mansion’s lawn at square one and gun loaded.

Descent 2.0 Well this was going to be the solution to everyone’s problems. Built in campaign system, skill cards, character progression, overlord progression, all with shorter and tighter game play. Hallelujah! Worked for me – I really liked the ideas presented on the Hero end. Resident Overlord The Boy hated it. He wept at the loss of the massive Overlord deck and threat currency to fuel evil plans. He felt he had nothing to do aside from push monsters around, roll dice, and hatch a bit of occasional wickedness from his whopping deck of six Cards Against Heroics (which if he played those cards right – might be able to add a whole other card to. Steepled fingers of indifference.) This is one of the caveats of the Antagonistic Dungeon Crawl – if Team Evil doesn’t have as much to do or isn’t as interesting to play as an Adventurer – how many times are you going to find someone willing to bite the broadsword and do it? Especially when locked into the role by an overarching campaign? Descent Reboot created linked adventures, streamlined play, and put character progression in the forefront while leaving the evil robe of the Overlord in tatters. He was completely bored and without his desire to Overlord it sits on the shelf and we reverted back to 1.0 and Mansions.

So where does Imperial Assault fit on the top of the historical heap?

Simply put: It is a ‘Best of’ of the FanFlight Surge Dice HouseCrawl Engine in a box

The engine is still the same and familiar- all those colored dice of different strengths. Hits vs Range. Collecting surges to power boost skills. The fat has been trimmed and the dents puttied and both heroes and villains can join in an interesting and rewarding experience.

So let’s check the track list on this Greatest Hits.

Track 1: Two For The Price of One Ain’t Bad

Campaign Dungeon Crawl and Skirmish Game in one box! With a separate rule set, sizable choice command card decks, and a point build system – the tiles, figures, and deployment cards of the campaign crawl instantly covert to a two-person chess match of a Skirmish. X-wing Lite: The Ground Force Game. Certainly with a gleam in the FanFlight eye as a tournament style endeavour, but there from the get go. No conversion kit necessary from the expansion expansive company standard. Quite Progressive.

Track 2: Rumble in the Non-Dungeon

Some of the skirmish aspects have drifted into the dungeon. The boards are tight. Things get heavy and in your face quickly. Crawling is only a category placeholder as the game play is to a fast tempo of run-and-saber.

Unlike Descent, all the heroes don’t take their turns in succession as one massive collective Hero Turn. In all previous iterations of Descent-type and FanFlight HouseCrawl – you could clear a room of a few baddies before the Monster Farmer even got a chance to activate them. Like a skirmish game, IA crawl is strictly – activate one Rebel then Imperial activates a figure or deployment group. Rinse and repeat. Since the Rebels are usually outmanned – you can be looking at two or more Imperial Forces activating after all the rebels have taken their turn. Timing is a major player in Imperial Assault and strategy and tension increases accordingly. As Grand Master Imperial, The Boy approves of the turn for turn method between Rebel and Imperial. He feels he gets to react more to what we’re doing rather than let it all play out and bat clean up.

Track 3: You Take My Breath (and Rest) Away.

Imperial Assault missions allow for little time to catch your breath and while the chance to ‘Rest’ and heal is an offered action – the opportunity is rare. In Descent, you could move from room to room – clear things out and port back to town for a lollygag because nothing was going to happen until you walked through the next door. Sure the Overlord got to draw a few cards and build a threat pittance – but you could take a breather on occasion. The tight maps of IA mean somebody is always coming after you. Sure there might be a closed door over there, but there is no guarantee it isn’t going to open on its own in a moment and ol Darth is going to start heavy breathing. The most I have had a chance to do as a Rebel Player was duck around a corner and collect my thoughts or lick a single wound. There’s no opportunity for strolling and especially crawling. The game also uses an Imperial Turn Counter which may (or may not) create a hidden time limit for a mission. In one mission we were working well, but slow, and lost to the timer. In another – on edge from that effect – we tried to play it quick, but got reckless. Turns out we wouldn’t have ‘turned out’ – so we could have played a slow cat and mouse game. Rebels are completely in the dark on most mission aspects. It creates a feel of working on limited intel.

Track 4: Threat Is Back And It’s Going To Make Trouble

Threat is back – sort of – but enough to keep my Overlord happy. There isn’t the massive Overlord deck of disposable/usable options from Descent 1.0, but the Imperial Player generates threat currency every round like Mansions (and I think for pulling off his own hidden in-scenario objectives but I am unsure of Campaign Secrets.) He can use it to bring in reinforcements, deploy secret troops, power evil Imperial zaps, etc. Admittedly, he still misses the big deck of nastiness, but feels he has enough to do and enough decisions to make that he’s playing also and not just pushing ‘monsters’ around.

Track 5: Build Me Up JabbaHut

Upgrading is done well. The Imperial player can look forward to choosing new evilness to add to his bag of tricks from his Agenda cards and Imperial skill decks at the end of the day, hijacking the campaign to force missions and increasing general darthiness. The poor struggling Rebels can look over the meager overpriced loot to buy and upgrade skill choices.Scanning the scope of the Rebel Skill packs the other night, nothing truly wow’d me. There’s just a chance to improve and grow bit by bit like you are getting a wee bit more battle hardened between missions. No Jedi Masters here. No tossing squads of Stormies around the battlefield. Even though it is in the Lucasverse, progression seems realistic and the Imperials always seem to have the upper dark gloved hand.

Closing a Blast Door, But Opening a Windu

In the end – sure – it’s just the the FanFlight HouseCrawl mini, tile, & surge dice engine under a Vader helmet (but it is an engine that always ran fairly smoothly in my book). It’s a ‘Best Of’ album of past concepts with a shiny Star Wars skin on the already decent Descent foundation. Pierce and Cleaves are back without even an attempt at being Lucas-fied. The hordes of Beastmen have a fresh coat of Stormtrooper paint. This may be a galaxy far far away but it feels close and familiar enough with a handful of tweaks, retools and enough fresh ideas to keep things oldie-but-goodie-but-interesting.

Ducats for Dooku well spent.

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Cutthroat Caverns page

Cutthroat Caverns

119 out of 128 gamers thought this was helpful

(A sneaky whispery mini font-size would have been a deuce-zed natural up there.)

Let’s Get This Party Started: Pub Crawl

Ok, well, there’s no tavern in Cutthroat Caverns but it is where all good adventures start and makes for a nifty introductory turn of phrase.

However, Cutthroat Caverns is a good fermented beverage and twisted gluten addition to game night.

AND it is ‘Dungeon Crawling Distilled’ through card play. Unless you’re that guy who enjoys poking through every barrel for a matching pair of copper pieces – what is the best part of dungeon delving?

Survey says…

SLAYING MONSTERS AND GAINING XP!

And that’s what Cutthroat Caverns is all about – Killing Big Bads and Gaining Prestige.

There’s just one teensy-weensy old school catch: only the person who actually lands the killing blow gets all the tasty fame and glory.

The rest are left holding the Bag of Holding.

Party On: Critical Hits and Backstabbing Twists

Game play is pretty straightforward and easy to pick up after a practice encounter.

You build an Encounter Deck of nine cards – this is what stands between you and the exit. You must work together to defeat all the encounters – failure to do so (read: Party Death) results in the warm fuzzy feeling of a nice cooperative loss.

Players start the game with 100 Life Points and start an Encounter with a random Initiative Turn Order number and a hand of seven cards from the Party Deck. This is a thickly satisfying deck filled with variety and three major card types:

Attack Cards: The bulk of the deck and the bulk of this set are simple numbered cards: 20, 40, 50, Critical Hit 100. These are cards that will damage monsters. The number on the card is the damage you do. Some have a character picture on them and if your face is smiling back at you, you can double your damage and make it uncounterable. Some cards do no damage and yes – that can come in very handy. Some cards add a little mechanic spice like Crowd which does a little damage for you and halves the damage of people behind you or Double Strike which allows you to play two attack cards for a combat round.

Item Cards: A small slice of rarities that if they pop up are placed in front of you in an inventory for later use. Things like Potion of Iron Skin, Alchemists Fire, or a Potion of Healing might give you a crucial advantage in a later round or save your skin.

Action Cards:This is Cutthroat Caverns after all and these are some dirty tricks to play directly out of hand to make sure you jockey for that killing blow. Some daggers up your sleeve include: Edge Out which allows you to cancel another player’s attack, My Hero which redirects unwanted monster attacks, and Counter Strike which gives you a chance to take an extra slice or two out of the Big Bad if he takes a slice out of you.

So with all that in place, the top card of the Encounter Deck is revealed (bringing some hot tears and a variable rule for the encounter this battle – more on that later – cause you know, heart of the game and all that) and Monster Hit Points are scaled to the number of players.

A Combat Round begins – and the Cutthroatery commences.

Players turn their random draw Initiative Cards face up establishing player order for the round. You know where everyone stands as you draw your swords.

Players play an Attack Card face down and player’s take turns in Initiative Order, flipping attacks over and lining them up next to Ye Olde Donjon Beastie. Damage is subtracted from the Encounter’s health in card order.

If the Foulness is Felled – the Killing Blow gets the Encounter and the Prestige Value.

If the Monster lives to see another round – he dishes out some hurt, either as listed on the Encounter for doing something specific (Player who does the most damage/least/etc) or to a player who draws a certain Initiative next round (Player 2).

Between rounds players draw a fresh up card from the Player Deck and redraw Initiative to determine round order.

Between Encounters players can discard down and redraw to a brand spanking new seven before seeing what’s next behind Door Number Tomb.

Piece of cake.

Well sure – if in working together everyone wasn’t working for themselves.

He who lives with the most prestige wins.

And he who dies – well that might be more or less to worry about depending.

It’s My Party and You’ll Cry If I Want You To (and Die If I Want You To): Group Dynamics

Cutthroat Caverns is simple enough to play but there’s quite a bit to the overall picture that makes dungeon delving rather deep.

First off there’s the in rulebook motto to keep in mind:

Without teamwork, you will never survive.
Without betrayal, you’ll never win.

Words to not-die by.

While Cutthroat Caverns is a backstabber – it isn’t an elimination game. You need the other players around to do damage; they just can’t land the kill stroke. The Monsters can bring some serious pain if left to malinger so they have to go down within a round or two. Everybody only has 100 Life Points and they are hard to get back. This makes for interesting round dynamics. The First Round is about coming in strong because that monster needs to drop, but swinging too hard might just leave an easy opening for whoever comes up next or first the next go. As the Monster shuffles off the majority of coil mortal, the backstabbing begins because a dead creature can’t hit you. Just make sure as you try to jockey for the kill, at least someone gets the spoils or the group is going to start limping.

Knowing where you stand in order each round and where you might hope to be the next, leads to a lot of consideration of what other players might be doing and how that affects your own round decision. There’s plenty of ‘He might do this so I should play this, but if she does this I can counter that with this and then this will come in handy next time.”

Dungeon Delving just became a poker match of reading players, bluffing, guessing and second guessing.

And the best laid plans of shadow strategy can fall apart at any time leaving you a final five short of the prestige kill and the next adventurer stepping up to bat.

To add to dungeon depth, each Encounter plays differently because each warps the rules. To me Cutthroat Caverns is Reverse Cosmic Encounter. (And you might know how I feel about that one.) The VPP of Cosmic E allows you to approach the game differently each time. In Cutthroat Caverns everybody’s on a level playing field aside from the cards they hold. It’s the Encounter Variable Powers, or EVP, that keeps the game the same but the approach of each Encounter different.

Let’s get up close and personal with a few game changers from the Cutthroat Bestiary.

Iron Skin Gargoyle who cannot be damaged by attacks less than 20.

The Clockwork Golem who if you fail to score the kill in a given round turns all attack cards to the next lowest number.

Spite who attacks the player who did the most damage and then cannot be hit by that attack number in subsequent rounds.

Medusa who might petrify you, preventing your attack in the next round.

And these Beastly Beauties

The Arc Mages who must be attacked with cards that continue to increase in damage value. Break the chain and feel the pain.

Blood Mage who if survives a round summons another encounter to the Encounter Stack. It’s going to be a long night and one you probably won’t survive.

Each Encounter last about 2-3 rounds and 5-10 minutes so there’s always something new around the corner. By the time you reach the final few, tension mounts as Prestige rises while you are more the worse for wear.

You won’t just be counting Monster Life Points, but your own as well.

We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 34.95
(23.49 at Cool Stuff Inc)

*WARNING* CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE
Not for:
The Cozy Co-op: No holding hands and fighting viruses, just Gasbags.

The Munchkin: Literally. If someone drops in Encounter Four because somebody else is sporting the +1 Hat of Jerk Playing, no one is going to make it. Balance the Jerkification, Young Grasshopper.

The Angry Gamer: But I never said anything about causing someone to snuff it during the final Encounter or two. Especially someone with a big lead and low health. That’s their problem. And you know what they get? Nothing! They Lose! Good Day Sir! You on the other hand might get a flipped table.

Cutthroat Caverns encompasses the ‘Best of’ Dungeon Crawl experience in it’s Slay and (Dirty) Play mechanics. You’ll be trying to play and outplay your fellow adventures, vying for that kill stroke and avoiding the meat shield. Jockeying for what you think might be the glory can turn into a trip up at any moment. There will be curses. Victory taunts. The slap of cards on table and a flourish with cries of ‘Not on My Watch!’

(Trust me)

Oh and there will be Boogens – lots and lots of Boogens.

Let’s just say – this is a SHOUTY game.

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Student Bodies page

Student Bodies

123 out of 132 gamers thought this was helpful

I guess zombies don’t so much ‘stand’ out as lurch or shamble. They always be shuffling, shuffling. Even those fast zombies, I’ve never seen them take a knee. I mean – how much ligature do you have going on there, my undead friend? Still it ain’t easy being green…or grey…or…

In the picture shows, unless you are ‘Zombie with One Eye’ or ‘Candy Striper Zombie’ and the camera lingers on you for a minute, when the credits roll you are going to join that scrolling name horde filed under Z: friends, neighbors, and idle production assistants.

The same is true in the Cardboard Kingdom since the Cult of the Zomb took up residence. There’s plenty of Zompocalypse in a box out there and unless you bring something new to the table – you’re just another grey face in the crowd. There are a couple of Capital Z’s out there that strut their shamble away from the horde, but where does Student Bodies lurch?

So this isn’t a standard review per se – if you want an overview of mechanics and rules and how many standees are in the box – there’s a very comprehensive BG Gold button above. This is a look at how Student Bodies fares against The Horde (and a bit of an open letter of disagreement to a Talking Box Reviewer who scrunched up his face and said ‘samey gamey’ and ‘nothing new’ while I beg to differ). Well – I guess you know where I stand. So without further ado…

“She’s coming to get to (the point) Barbara”

Confined Space: You don’t really see this much from the Cult of the Cardboard Zomb. Zombicide – well The Boy has two boxes full of ten poundage worth of city. Last Night on Earth gives us a slice of Main Street USA and I could probably tile my kitchen by the time I hit expansion 7 of Twilight Creations’ original plague starter: Zombies!!!. There’s plenty more to worry about than The Zomb in not-zombie zombiefest, Dead of Winter. Tower Defense Zombie Panic and shamble drop box Run,Fight,or Die are about staving off the mouths-to-not-feed.

Remember how crowded that walk to Trig class was down Math Hall? Now throw some brain munchers in there. Student Bodies drops you in a box. A box filled with zombies. You need to race through that box, into a smaller box, back through a now more maw crowded box, and squeeze through a smaller box in hopes of hitting an exit before hitting zero life.

There’s no urban sprawl; there’s final moments racing through tightening spaces. There’s no locking the cabin door to buy yourself a turn or two; there’s out in the not-so open. There’s no throwing a glass bottle so uncredited Zombie #3 shuffles away down the alley; there’s tripping your lab partner into the undead dogpile and turning tail to bob and weave three spaces to a very temporary safety. While I can probably sunbathe on the massive board – it’s big hexes and little room. This is when Shaun of the Dead flips and gets ugly. The romantic nightspot/impenetrable fortress is no longer a slice of fried gold. You are in the worst possible place for when the horde starts massing: a confined space.

Welcome to the Boxalypse.

Some Weapons.No Guns: There are no shotgun shell bandoliered survivalists in Home Ec. Quite a few Zombs start you out running on empty though, so that’s nothing new under the corpse raising comet. You often find yourself looting for baseball bats and 2×4’s with the convenient sticky-outy nail and the all important card text: FIREARM. Student Bodies has none. No headshots. No long range day savers. No decent way to thin the pack. Your means of survival are field hockey sticks, janitor mops, and a rather handy inhaler. Most ‘weapons’ work on adjacent enemies with a rare two range (and an even rarer one-shot ZombieBowl effect). That zombie three spaces away and closing is always a threat because he’s coming for you – and he’ll get there. Your bitey former classmates are very up close and personal and there’s little you can do about it until they are inevitably ‘braaaaaaiiiiiiinnnnssss’-ing down your neck. Push comes to shove you’ll be doing quite a bit of pushing and shoving, knocking biters back and to the ground and hoping to ‘unclose’ the gap before they bounce back. You always feel threatened and you always try to stay one step ahead and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have that varsity jacket to throw around your head when that guy you were hoping would go to prom goes ‘nom’ instead.

Art Style: Art never breaks a game for me as after all the play’s the thing, but having a style that stands out helps in the Cult of the Cardboard Zomb. We have come to expect C’MON to call down to the art department to whip up a caricature of a Big Banger for Zombicide. Last Night on Earth has their I-love-it-some-hate-it B-Movie lobby card look. Student Bodies brings a cartoony art theme that stands out from the horde. I dub it ‘Disneyfied EC comics’ and it reminds me of the animated tie-thread that runs through Creepshow II. (They eat…MEAT!) While it isn’t a table point, it certainly is fresh and interesting. Things are going to get downright ugly and uncooperative and having a ‘Saturday Morning Z-poc’ style is a gentle reminder it should all be in good fun. 🙂

Now excuse me while I sucker punch you and run for the exit.

Uncooperative:We’ve come to the true horde splitter. Most Zomb is Us vs. Them in some way, shape, or shambling form. While shooting your buddy first when space clearing in Zombicide isn’t particularly handy, you are still racing about together to make sure the blue key gets to the blue door and exit zone heaven. Dead of Winter plays it grey with Us (..well, most of us – maybe not that guy, but I’m not exactly sure) vs. Them. Last Night on Earth splits players into Us Vs. Them Hero and Zombie teams. Student Bodies is strict selfish play,dirty tricks, and Me vs. You vs. Them. There’s no room in the Boxalypse for holding hands, singing Kumbaya, and bashing undead braincases in the name of togetherness. You were cute in homeroom this morning; now you’re in my way and not my problem.

Gameplay is a pull/push mechanic. Pulling ahead through any holes in the horde you make while pushing the walkers away from you and focusing them on your won’t-make-the-reunion fellow players is the state of play. Keep one step ahead and a few cards for the defensive because they’ll be doing the same to you. Pepper in some backstabbing and trip ups for when you don’t have to outrun the zombies, you just have to make sure your classmate doesn’t.

[Spoiler Alert] Harken back to Season Two of The Walking Dead – you know – Doc’s Farmhouse. Remember when Al Capone from Night of the Museum II (Shane) kneecapped that guy with the lazy eye from Deadwood (Otis) into a late night snack in a high school parking lot because Carl (Carl) couldn’t stay in the house?

That’s this game.

Except you have a soccer trophy.

And Otis is pondering kneecapping you as well.

Finals Week

It’s tough to teach a reanimated corpse new tricks – but I wouldn’t call Student Bodies ‘samey gamey’. It’s a fun, but tense, exercise in tight spaces, smart card play, zombie herding, and dirty tricks.

As Zombie Curriculum goes it may not be a Required Class, but it certainly is a fresh and interesting Elective Course.

Those looking for an evening of Trash and Dash and schooling both zombies and your tablemates – well, you might have seen this coming…

Class is in Session!

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

8
Go to the Hex Hex XL page

Hex Hex XL

113 out of 122 gamers thought this was helpful

What the HEX is HEX HEX?

HEX HEX is a curse and counter-curse game of hot potato. Players bounce a hex around a Casting Circle (Fancy Thematic Term Babelfishery: The Table) through card play, deflecting it from themselves onto other players who return the deflection until in the immortal maxim of Popeye the Mojo Man: “That’s all I can deflects – I can’t deflects no more!” Eventually a player cannot pass the hex and it ‘goes off’. Points are scored. Points are lost. A new round begins.

Simple as HEX

HEX and the Single Player (+ 3-5 others)

HEX HEX is a fast and make-you-furious group dynamic game.

Players are given a Score Card to track Voice (or points – starting at 5) and dealt a hand of five cards. An initial caster throws the first hex at a player making them The Intended. The Intended plays a card from their hand, ponging the hex elsewhere creating a new Intended. Rinse and repeat. Cards are rarely drawn during a round, so eventually you find your defenses depleting with potential hexing headed your way. Cards are your friend.

The HEX HEX Deck has 150 of them to use and abuse.

Basic Deflections: About two-fifths of the deck are basic deflection draws allowing you to turn the hex right, left, or bounce it across the table.

The other three-fifths – well that’s where things get a HEX of a lot more interesting.

Enhanced Deflections: These still pass the hex, but with a little more spice. To name a few: Boosts can kick the hex up a notch in damage power. Compulsions can force the hex to always be passed a certain way. Twains can split the hex into multi-hex pinballing hoodoo. Oh and then there’s Rot – gently poisoning every player it touches.

Counter Hexes: General plan disruptors that can be played out of turn. To name a few: Nulls can cancel cards as they are played. Dismiss can dispel hexes in play. Stun can freeze a player in his tracks and cause a hex to go off prematurely. No one said you had to play nice.

Standing Effects: Rarities that can give you a round rule changing bonus. Why not Ban the use of a named card this round or Charm someone against hexing you?

Play Only When Hexed: Malicious kept-in-hand insurance policies in case you find yourself with hex all over your face in a given round. Spread the point loss love with Divide and Conquer or drag someone down with you with a lovely bit of Spite.

Hexes continue to bounce, boost, multiply and general havoc is created around the Casting Circle until someone is stuck with a hex they can’t deflect and it goes off reducing the voice of the Hexee by one and increasing the Hexor by one in return. (Although that is pretty much never ‘just’ the case.) Multi-hexes keep flying until all go off. (Note: Getting hit by one hex doesn’t take you out of the round. Prepare for the swarm – Oh Defenseless One!) The round ends. Voice is tallied. Hands are discarded and new ones drawn. The sun rises on a new round of curses.

Rounds play out in about 3-5 minutes. A game lasts players plus one rounds. Total time for a good bout of HEX Slinging: 20-30 minutes.

Player with the most Voice wins the game. Oh – and since they speak loudest and carry a big HEX – they also become The Law allowing them to create a rule for the next game played.

HEX Mix

HEX HEX XL is a ‘Big Box’ before Cult of the Big Box became vogue. It combines the best of the original HEX HEX and the sequel HEX HEX Next. It also contains components for two game play variants:

Hexen Stix: Anyone who has picked college cafeteria cutlery shrapnel from their palms after a friendly game of ‘Spoons’ might harken back to days when the liver was a blank canvas with this one. 🙂

A ring of black and tan (Ebon/Bone) wooden sticks minus one player are placed in the center of the table. (We’ve dubbed this – The River) Special HEX cards for this variant are shuffled into the main deck (mostly Grab and a few other one-shots) and a special Hexen Stix deck is placed off to the side.

Whenever the Grab card is played – players immediately attempt to grab a stick from The River Stix (you had to have seen that coming) leaving holders as Ebon or Bone and hold-outs as Naughts. The top card of the Hexen Stix deck is turned over usually granting a boon to either the Ebon or Bone players and a grumble worthy penalty to the Naughts.

Prepare for knuckle scrapes with this one.

HEX HEX Vexed: This variant uses a special off-to-the-side Vexed Deck to introduce ‘Laws’ during the rounds of a standard game.

Players who become Hexed in a given round receive an aptly named ‘Hexed’ token which is flipped to ‘Vexed’ come round end. The top card of the Vexed Deck is flipped and Vexed players are subject to a curse as stated on the card throughout the next round.

An example (and my personal favorite):BAM – each time a Vexed player plays a card they must do so with a flourish and say ‘BAM!’. If they don’t, they lose two Voice.

It’s a bit of silliness. Your knuckles may remain intact, but your pride is up for grabs. 😉

Generation HEX

So who is HEX HEX for? Pretty much anyone who doesn’t suffer from the curse of taking themselves too seriously.

It’s a good game choice for some fast and dirty card play. More substantial than Uno. More edgy than Fluxx.

It is easy enough to ‘gateway’ as mechanics can get picked up in one practice round. It is popular fare in our backyard during summertime BBQ season.

Somewhat locked in at 4-6 players, it makes for a good 30 minute ‘starter’ on group game nights, especially if the ‘main course’ is something you want the gang pre-amped for.

Goes nice with a buffet of the competitive – compliments deck builders, worker placements, and general kingmaking well. A shrimp cocktail of tension before an evening of Battlestar Galactica or counting canned food and treachery in the Dead of Winter.

I would avoid pairing with tablecloth staining cabernets and quiet cube pushing.

Otherwise, just enough spice to add to an evening’s gaming. Here comes the flourish and…

BAM!

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Cross Hares: Testing Ground page

Cross Hares: Testing Ground

66 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

Run, Rabbit, Run – it’s time to chatter about Cross Hares: Testing Ground from designer Jesse Labbe’ and 1A Games.

The backstory is simple. There’s a Problem. The Problem is a Factory. The Problem is a Factory that is poisoning the Land. A Land now twisted and full of chemicals…and unspeakable Things. Oh and there’s a military presence: the Regime. That’s another Problem. So there’s two Problems. The Regime and the Factory. But there’s also…

Hope

A ragtag bunch of furry rebels, insurgents, trouble makers, and fools are bent on stopping the Regime and the Factory. They are the Cross Hares.

And they are racing to see who does it first. That’s a third Problem.

Because at the end – there’s the Glory…

Maybe.

*** *** ***

This was a Kickstarter project (and what I like about them is you can go digging for designer intents and influences). This is the word from Mr. Jesse Labbe’ himself:

The “trail” type game is truly a dinosaur. You roll the dice, you move. You roll the dice, you move. I know there can be so much more. More options, more chances for gain and loss, more strategy and more laughs! So I took all the things I loved as a child and updated them for today. Let’s be honest, if I were to play Fireball Island (my favorite game as a child) today, it probably wouldn’t be half as much fun as I remembered it. BUT, if I recreate how I remember it…I might have a winner!

The Word from Mr. Box is ‘A classic trail-based strategy game with modern-day twists’.

Hmmm…quite a few buzz words a buzzing there. Let’s check Hai’s ‘Dictionary of Game Marketing‘ on a few of those….

Classic (adj): 1) Dripping with nostalgia and quenching the thirst of by-gone gaming days like orange drink from the ubiquitous yellow cooler of hot Field Days. 2) Descriptor attached to gaming mechanic that should have probably remained buried under the moss covered gravestone it was found under.

Trail-Based Game (noun/mechanic): 1) Roll and move board standard. ‘Start’ in one corner and ‘Finish’ in the diagonal opposite with the ‘gamiest’ path between point A and B being the twistiest spaghetti strand you can wedge in. Think Cranium without stopping every five minutes to try and not mold something suggestive out of play-doh. 😉

Modern-Day (adj): 1) Zazz’d up by the Gaming Renaissance (And yes…it does say ‘zazz’d’)

So let’s see what we have here…and if Cross Hares is a winner.

But first: What exactly is this ‘trail gaming’ all about?

*** *** ***

The Trail of yester-Tears: A Brief (and Spotty) History of Trail Games.

Made Possible Today by a Grant from the Mobil Corporation and My Standard TL;DR Tangentialness

How does one talk about a gaming dinosaur in tabletop history? The best way – through the textual Cardboard Time Machine.

(Just tread lightly for the next few paragraphs. I haven’t been born for a bit of this. Step on an errant moth and this review might end abruptly in The Sound of Thunder. :P)

Welcome to the Card-is! Flipping levers. Twisting knobs. Cue the grindy, wheezy noises and 50 year old theme music…

Destination set for…

The 1980’s: The Golden Age of Cardboard. Steve Jackson will begin to slip rules sheets into ziplock baggies and Betamax VCR cases and toss them on the shore to see what starts breathing. Lines between paper and pencil RPG gymnasium of the mind fantasies and cardboard chit war games are going to start to blur. Squad Leader of the 70’s Pack Avalon Hill is going to come down off the back end of Little Round Top with Magic Realm,Freedom in the Galaxy, and Dragon Pass. Game companies (and Workshops) are going to start springing up everywhere. Games will be measured in cardboard chit poundage. Important times.

And less important times.

Kiddie Fare. Sick day and Friend-over-Friday grilled cheese gaming.

We don’t have to circle round to catch a Jurassic Park glimpse of herds of Trail Games migrating. If you squint your grey matter – you’ll see the truth is out there in an evolutionary burst of Von Daniken proportions courtesy of Saturday Morning Cartoons and Movie Franchises.

Oh Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley.

Clever Girls.

The Trail Game is everywhere.

A simple premise. Print some rules on the game box lid. Slap a twisty path liberally sprinkled with ‘Move Aheads’ and ‘Go Backs’ on a middle fold board. Toss in a die (or a spinner to avoid ‘Choking Hazard’ labels). And fill in the blanks of ‘_______ and the _________ ending with the dramatic tension of ‘Race or ‘Chase

Strawberry Shortcake and the Berrirrific Race

G.I. Joe and Destro’s Island Chase

The Superfriends and the Super-Friendliest Racing Chase!

Form of a… Bucket of Excitement!

And yes – hopped up on Frosted Flakes – they were fun. Many was the time I grabbed one out of the cupboard and dear old Dad had to feign dismay at ‘Zoiks! Move Back Three!’ while I leapt from Scooby Snack to Scooby Snack in Scooby Doo and the Haunted Mansion Chase.

And as the decade ran on things got a little more sophisticated to keep up with the Indiana Joneses – but never by much.

Although we can stop at three fixed points on The Trail during this decade that will be important later.

1)Early 80’s. TSR brings The Red Box to the older Toys R Us kids and Dungeons and Dragons hits the mainstream. Along for the ride is a quasi-trail game that’s been out for a bit but gets rebooted into popularity. Dungeon!

2)Later 80’s. Games Workshop takes the fantasy trail theme of the above and turns it into a three ring circus of light role-playing grind. Talisman.

3)Jesse Labbe’ gets knocked off a 3-D Volcano by a rolling red marble. Fireball Island.

And all this has to do with…

…well let’s get back to the review shall we…

…jetting through the late 90’s and the Cardboard Ice Age. The Trail Game the first to go extinct. The Pixelated Plague of Video Games nearly wiping stateside boardgames from the table top. The Euro flourishing in a reverse Black Death of Y2K times. I’d stop at the Dawn of the Gaming Renaissance but I can never really pinpoint it. Something about F-to-the-squared. Is it when Fantasy Flight started using fancy boxes? Or when Flying Frog brought a new dawn to Ameritrash with Last Night on Earth? Nevermind. There’s the Kickstarter Gateway…

and home…Cross Hares.

Let’s begin. Shall we?

*** *** ***

(I will admit there was a method to my madness. I wanted to harken back to yesteryear. I wanted to induce those nostalgic feelings that Cross Hares sets about trying to replicate. I wanted us all to gather in our sleepover cozy flannels and adult-sized Cookie Monster slippers to take a peek in the box. If you skipped that last bit to cut to the chase – grab some animal crackers or a Lunchable and try your best.)

Trail Blazing: Cross Hares in the Crosshairs

Gameplay

The Simple

Simplicity is the heart of Cross Hares. You roll. You move. You roll. You move. Keep pressing forward and don’t look back. Well…look back on occasion because someone may be behind you. If they are, push them back. Then keep moving forward. Looking back – yes. Falling back -no.

The board itself is vast and simple. Varied starting zones give you the choice to leap to the front very quickly or linger behind with the chance to pick up a boon or two on the way. There’s a bottle neck in the middle bringing the opportunity of chaos and confrontation. A re-coop zone of twisty paths and shortcuts to avoid your fellow bunnies for a bit and then the danger strewn straight (but snakey) path to the end game where your greatest enemy is probably your fellow players.

Along the way you’ll land on Testing Ground spaces where a card draw has you facing various enemies and pitfalls that hinder your trek.
You might activate ever-cycling global Events that usually cast a shadow over everyone. Or a chance die roll might have you briefly hop ‘off board’ to a more involved large card Adventure where larger plusses and minuses are to be had.

In the end – the name of the game is Trail and is one of moving ahead and avoiding going back at all costs.

Simple. But that doesn’t mean boring…

The Depth

Each of the ‘Commandos of NIMH’ is a variable player power character. From Tanks that can power through various card types, to more finesse characters with token sets that can lay traps along the way or curse other characters to steal their die rolls.

Each character card also has an inventory grid of Items and Specialties you can power up with boon tokens earned and found along the way. The Item slots are small permanent (until something rips them away of course) boosts you can give your character: a +1 to movement or certain enemy types, an extra card in your hand. The other slots –Specialties– are more akin to stored up super moves you can pull out in a tight situation by discarding the token. How you utilize these sometimes rare and always tenuous boon tokens to ‘build’ your character along the way is up to you.

Add to that a small hand of Stronghold Cards filled with various Player Boosts and Opponent Screw You’s that you can earn and keep on hand for times both opportune and inopportune.

There’s plenty of variety and flavor to the game play between these variable characters, boon choices, and game changer cards to keep things interesting, even if the basic game recipe is still one of the ‘Ahead 8 Back 3 Tango’.

Components

There is a subdivision of the Cardboard Kingdom who make scrinchy faces at League of Kickstarter games for various reasons. One of them being that sometimes they can come off as ‘on the cheap’. Quite a bit can happen cosmetically between ‘pushing’ and ‘production’ for the good and the bad. I’ve been there on occasion, opening a box to a whimper of an ‘oh’ rather than a bang. I usually shrug it off to ‘limited budgets’ and ‘first timing’; after all, the game’s the thing.

No shrugging here. No whimpers. Only one word:

JAZZHANDS!

(That doesn’t look right. That might actually be two words. Sorry.)

Either way I’m tipping a sparkly chorus line hat to both 1A Games and Jesse.

On 1A’s part of production, the effort was put forth. Giant poster-sized board to keep the spaces big and clear. No squinting necessary to determine the different keyed spaces over blanks. The graphic design of the key spaces just subtle enough to blend. Standing up you are looking at a map of the Testing Grounds, sitting down you are at a game board. You can slather on extra layers, but the heart of a Trail Game is the board and this is something to hang on your wall if you were so inclined. Tokens are nice and thick. Cards feel good in the hand.

Another factor that is going to bring a Trail Game back from the dead and to the table in this day and age is the art. Game designer Jesse’ Labbe, wearing a number of sparkly hats himself, is also writer, artist, and graphic designer for the Cross Hares. He brought the art. With Trail Game HeyDay rooted in Saturday Morning and Franchise fare, it almost feels like we can slip-slide on footy pajamas into a parallel dimension and watch Cross Hares over a bowl of Cheerios or pick up a volume 3 graphic novel like Mice Templar. Sardonic art both pays homage to and parodies yesteryear gaming. These rabid bunnies and the dystopia of the Testing Ground are fully realized in a style of Donny Darko-Bluth. Fievel goes Commando.

This is a game fueled on nostalgia and guilty pleasure that is certainly pretty to own.

That’s a crucial idea for the next part.

And so without further ado…

The next part.

The Trail Mix: The Final Word (Finally)

So time to revisit The Word of Mr. Box and the mission statement of Cross Hares.

‘A classic trail-based strategy game with modern-day twists’

Yes – this is a game for the sick day kid all grown up. This a game of guilty pleasure that tastes like grilled cheese and Kool Aid. Not a game of ‘actually was’s’, a game of ‘remembered likes’.

That’s what pure nostalgia is.

It is also a two sided coin and can be a harsh mistress.

For every reason we want to fondly bring something back, there’s a reason it died in the first place.

And like a Trail Board, Cross Hares has plenty of ‘Move Aheads’ and the occasional ‘Go Back’.

Who is it for?

Go Back: Serious Hardcore Gamers and Strategists. Step away from the table. There’s nothing to see here. Roll Dice. Move. Roll Dice. Move. Draw a card. It is exactly what it is. Complaining about it would be like showing up at a hockey game and being put off that it isn’t baseball.

Move Ahead: The Nostalgia Spirited. The Table Looking For a Light Hour Filler. There’s about 5 minutes of rules and nothing to get bogged down in. The game pretty much plays on instinct and a whole lot of luck, good and bad. A light no thinker that in the right circle has plenty of potential for shouts, curses, and laughs.

Is it kid friendly?

Well – we have a return to yesteryear fare for adults, but is it the sick day game for the nowadays? The gameplay is simple enough to say so. I have no offspring of my own, but I have The Nieces and that makes me The Crazy Aunt with The Games. I’m corrupting, yet responsible.

Go Back: It’s a bit dark albeit cartoony. There are themes of War. Dystopia. These bunnies have guns. This is Watership Meltdown. These are not the rodents pokings spiders with sewing needles you seek.

Move Ahead: It’s cartoony albeit a bit dark. The violence is implied. Standing under the shadow of falling boulders and the sooty-faced surprise of nearby explosions. This is a game with potential for those of a certain age. A 6th grader would get enough and miss the parts they should. Teenage Mutant Rebel Rabbits taking the occasional pot shot at each other.

How does it stand on Replayability?

Move Ahead/Go Back: This is one to do the in-place two step on. This is the crux of a Guilty Pleasure Game. Are you going to Binge Play it? No. Is it going to hit the table every week? Most likely not. But like a sick day, the machine gun barrel isn’t going to lose its shine every month or so. There’s a solid game built on top of the creaky bones of roll and move. The card play and lite rpg builds with variable characters keep things fresh. There’s enough drive to push forward and tension about using or losing your collected boons at any given moment to keep things interesting in the hour or so you’ll spend racing around the Testing Grounds. It’s quick enough and varied enough for sprint running, but would fall behind in the marathon. In prepping the review, I played over a half dozen games in a week’s time, testing the various characters on their rabbit runs. I never got bored, never held back on screams and curses, but I am glad that my Kickstarter pledge garners me mysterious expansions to come in the mail and the potential to breathe a little more variety and gameplay life into my Cross Hares in the year to come.

Now comes the tricky bit. The number. Putting a rating ‘price’ on not only gaming value, but nostalgia and guilty pleasure.

This is why I pointed Dungeon! and Talisman out on the Card-is scanner. Two pseudo-Trailers that survived the Cardboard Ice Age to this day. They are a lesson in the power of nostalgia. Our house is a House Divided on the two. My partner, referred to as The Boy, loves Dungeon!. Like Heroquest, he, for some reason needs 3 various copies of it. I find it more dry bones than meat, but he’ll glaze over with The Glassy Stare of the Ghosts of Basements Past. I much prefer Talisman. To him, it’s an Evening Killer Grind. To me it’s wide-eyed glee of remembering ‘that time my friends and I set up all the boards for a week so we could grind through all the decks until we had used up all the stat chips and then had a 3 hour Crown of Command Battle Royale.’ GAH! I still get a bit of the *squee* thinking about it.

But we both agree that Cross Hares sits somewhere in the middle for each of us. Talisman vs. Dungeon. Dungeon vs. Talisman. We were able to stop our Game Shelf of Thrones and scratch a nostalgic itch with a new contender for a game or two.

So since I can’t put a rating price on nostalgia – you can watch as I build it 7-layer nacho style. Hop off the number line when you’ve made your decision.

4 The Start space. That’s about as high as I’ll go on the foundation of roll and move trails. Trust me – dig up a copy of Fat Albert and the Great Junkyard Chase from a faux dusty attic. By today’s standard ‘we’re gonna have a good time’. HEY! HEY! HEY!‘ is not in the picture. Running Tally:4

+3 For design elements: card play, lite RPG boon wrangling, and variable player powers which take it to a playable level. We have a fun factor. Running Tally:7

+1 Slipping a point in for nostalgic factor and delivering on a promise of fuzzy memories. Bringing the concept of what a yesteryear favorite was ‘like’ to the modern tabletop. Fun factor increase. Running Tally:8

+.5 Throwing a decimal in for the Talisman/Dungeon back scratcher effect. If either of those are cozied up in your heart, the Testing Grounds is worth a visit. Running Tally:8.5

+.24 A little bonus for the Zazz factor. I’m not one for the Game Look, but if it is good it deserves a mention. This is spot on. Points earned. Running Tally:8.74

+.01 The sardonic humor of the game leaks into the rule book. I laughed. Rarely does a rule book make me laugh out loud. Recognize. Running Tally:8.75

So final rating 8.75 with a round up to 9 because I can’t get all decimally here. There’s a bit of a needle flicker in general as the slight gravitational pull of ‘roll and move’ tries to tug it down against the very commendable effort of the Cross Hares.

Well, we took a very twisted path and finally made it to the Finish Square.

If you’re still here, the Watership Meltdown of Cross Hares:Testing Ground might be your cup of tea.

Or your nostalgic glass of Tang(tm), as the case may be.

Mmmmm……..tastes like astronaut. 😉

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Smash Up: The Big Geeky Box page

Smash Up: The Big Geeky Box

55 out of 58 gamers thought this was helpful

The Shortness

If you enjoy Smash Up – it’s a box.

You need this.

(Bring on Jack the Downgrader!)

***********************************************************************
The Mediumness

Replay Value: Once you put your cards in it – it will be a tabletop staple

Components: As boxy as boxes get. Length. Width. Depth. All accounted for! 5 Stars!

Easy to Learn: Slight learning curve on shrink wrap removal and getting the lid off. After a few dry runs – storage galore!

Family Gamer (YES):Young. Old. Who doesn’t love boxes!

Social Gamer (YES):Definitely a social centerpiece and object of discussion. Plus the lid holds nachos.

Strategy Gamer (YES):Do you put the Locations cards in front of the Factions? Behind? Should you sort alphabetically? By expansion? A real brain burner.

Casual Gamer (YES): Eh, it’s a box…why not? *indifferent shrug*

Avid Gamer (YES): You need it all! You need everything Smash Up! This is part of the addiction. And you can put everything you need into this slice of the everything you need.

Power Gamer (YES): This box means business. This box has gravitas. This box makes a resounding thump on the table that says prepare for an evening of meaning business and having gravitas.

***********************************************************************
The Longness

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Cardboard Trough

How does one review a box? Well – I figured I would adopt the same tongue-in-cheek manner AEG has in regard to their glorious box. After all it did have its birthing pangs as a bit of Tabletop Day funness.

But if I can get serious for a moment.

As the household sorter for the various bits and chits of cardboard goodness that cross our threshold I wish I could post an open letter to Game Designers/Manufacturers and stick it dead center in the Town Square of the Cardboard Kingdom.

Dear Game Designers/Manufacturers,

Enough with these fancy air moulded plastic trays! (or whatever they are called. The Boy isn’t home right now to ask) Save your money!

xoxox,
Hai

P.S. Thank you for sharing your imagination with our tabletops! :):)

I hate those plastic trays. I’m glad our recycling truck takes them.

I can count on 10 fingers and a few toes a game box I open that still has a plastic tray in it. (Good job Pathfinder ACG!)

Most of the time they are in the blue bin before I am done punching cardboard and sorting decks. Yes – they keep things all nice and happy during shipping. No – they don’t do a lick of good once things are baggied and banded.

Other times they malinger until the first expansion and then become consolidation pointless. To the recycle bin – to be repurposed into future pointless plastic trays!

Some very nice ones I keep – to be Exacto’d ™ into a token holder or trough – once the name of the game box becomes empty space.

I don’t know how many Kickstarter updates I have received about the in’s and out’s and meticulous design paradigms of plastic trays.

I weep.

Heroes of Metro City the real arch-villain is your tray.

Smash Up was no exception to the Curse of the Plastic Tray from the get-go. Cards jumped the meticulously measured ridges. Throw it in the Game Night Game Bag or even stare at it too earnestly and you had a Schrodinger’s Box of odds on dead cats…ummm…cards upon opening. Smash Up became just that – smashed-up. The first ten minutes of gaming becoming Sort-Out.

Two expansions later the tray started getting jammy and yet the cards would still shift like the Chase Vault.

Bottom Line: If you are a card heavy game (especially a deck builder), there is no need to be fancy. Cardboard troughs and dividers. Pleeeeaaasse. Easy storage. (Dividers with snazzy art are always nice – I’m still looking at you Marvel Legendary GRRRRRR!)

The AEG Gang heard the wails and gnash of tooth upon tooth.

And now – there’s a box.

It’s a good box.

(Let’s see if @Jim and The BGdot Clubhouse will let me link a picture)

Big Geeky Box/Bad Geeky Picture

(Is it there? If not I will have to do some hefty post-review editing 😛 If it is – I referenced it against the old box. It is glorious! And there’s my beloved Gilly The Perky Goth. Hi! *GLEE*)

The Box It is indeed a good box. The trough walls are thick. The three troughs are plentiful. The base and 3 expansions leave about 70% of pristine empty space for more expansion goodness. It tantalizes. I dub it Excessivity Necessity!

(I shot the Alderac Boys a quick tweet about reskinning for Thunderstone, Nightfall, and Doomtown. They said the design has worked well for L5R and then repurposed for The Smash. “Definitely possible.” Well – that was vague, but promising.)

Foam Blocks There are six of them. They fit tight and support the cards. I have a box full of AEG foam blocks from Thunderstone. Always useful.

Dividers One word: WOW! Definitely not your standard ‘let’s just oversize some cards and call them dividers’. (And definitely definitely not let’s just throw some bland oversized cards in without even divider names. Maybe we’ll give out some stickers at a Con. I mean for a licensed comic product let’s really go out of the way to keep art variety down to a bare minimum. *long, hard stare at Legendary)

These dividers are wonderful! They aren’t even oversized cards. They are thick plastic like a credit card. You could open a lock Magnum P.I. style with these suckers! Who doesn’t want that in a divider???

Geek Faction/Locations Not the best, not the worst. It was a Tabletop Day gag after all. If you like the W-squared’s mug – you’ve got it. If you want to consume Felicia Day’s soul so you can become her *looks slyly* – you’ve got something to stare at to bring on the hoodoo. It is a pretty decent ‘Screw You’ deck when paired with a strong faction. Cards let you gain bonus VP, cancel other player’s actions and mess with their decks, stack your own deck, and even hijack someone else’s card/minion for a round.

Seriously?!?! A Nine??

Part of what I consider when musing over a game or expansion is: Does it do what it set out to do?

The Big Geeky Box is a box. It did exactly what it set out to do. Throw in some extremely swag dividers and a chaotic faction. I can offer no criticism.

The unspoken motto of The Smash is ‘Everything’s so broken that in the end it all works’ after all. 😉

Smash Up as a whole is a pretty solid 9 on my tabletop. I can’t say The Box is any different. My cards are now neat and happy and it will probably hit the table more because of it.

My only Con for The BGB is the price point. $20? *eep* A bit on the high side for some empty space. BUT when you are surfing that 30% Discount Web and looking for the one little thing to tip you into the $100 free shipping zone – it is the perfect pick-up. 😉

Thanks for The Box AEG!

Now….how about some randomizers?

Pretty please?

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Miskatonic School for Girls page

Miskatonic School for Girls

47 out of 49 gamers thought this was helpful

You can’t extend a tentacle in Lovecraft Country without knocking over a Miskatonic University coffee mug – but what of the lesser known Miskatonic School for Girls?

A Brief Message from the Headmaster (courtesy of the back of the box) says it all. 😉

Welcome to the Miskatonic School for Girls. We’re so glad you decided to have your daughter attend our exclusive school.

Our faculty is looking forward to instructing your child in all that the world, and in fact the universe, has to offer. Hopefully, your daughter will survive the experience in a manner that you will be happy with. Or not. Whatever, it’s too late now.

Sincerely,
N.R. LaHotep
Head Master

I think that gives you a sense of what is in store and that the matriculation rate is quite low at dear old Miska-G. 😉

Miskatonic School for Girls is a game of BFFs vs The GOO and a deck builder with a twist – you not only build your own deck, but your opponents’ stack as well. Well – ‘corrupt’ your opponents’ decks might be a better term, because no one is going to be happy with the personal touches you add. But when you are trying to survive a semester of thinly veiled Cthulhu Mythos faculty, your Non-Euclidean Geometry final, and the Drama Club’s production of ‘The King in Yellow’ with the last shred of sanity standing – it’s every girl for herself.

Let’s take an Innsmouth Look…

Student Orientation:Gameplay

The object of Miskatonic School for Girls is to run your House so it has the last sanity point standing while ‘helping’ the other players run their own to a padded dorm and a one way trip to the mind shattering abyss of R’lyeh where You-Know-Hu is catching his quick 40.

Each turn consists of 6 Phases:

1. Go to the Bank
Draw your Purchase Pile into your hand and then draw from your Deck until you have a hand of five.

Deckbuilding Twist: Unlike most deckbuilders – cards your purchase on a turn don’t march off to your discard pile awaiting a shuffle. They go into the ‘Purchase Pile’ which is drawn from first next turn. You can seed your coming hand with all sorts of Mythos Buster goodness. This is a good thing, because your opponents will be putting all sorts of deleterious deities there during your turn interim which also get drawn first. *cue ominous music*

2. Stock the School Store

The Miska-G School Store runs on the Ascension conveyor belt system and two shelves are stocked with 3 cards each. One shelf consists of Student Cards (Good Stuff that you want! YAY!) and the other contains Faculty Cards (Bad Stuff you want to torture others with! Mad Cackle!). Purchase holes are filled. Malingering cards drop off to the discard pile. Occasionally, an event card pops up that gives a little boost or bane that round or a rare Locker Card makes an appearance- which is a rather expensive purchasable perma-power for your House.

3. Pay Your Tuition
It’s card buying time! The Miska-G School Store accepts two currencies: Friendship Points and Nightmare Points. Each card in your hand will generate one or the other or both (although you can only use these particular cards for one currency on a given shopping spree). Friendship points allow you to buy new Students for your deck and Nightmare points allow you to buy malefic modifiers for your opponents. You are allowed one purchase from the Student Shelf (off to your Purchase Pile for next round) and one from the Faculty Shelf (off to the Purchase Pile of the player to your left for their upcoming turn) per turn. If you can’t (or choose not to) generate enough psychic currency for an actual purchase from a given shelf – you draw a weaksauce deck clogger Transfer Student or Substitute Teacher from a common deck instead.

Deckbuilding Twist: This is where you not only expand your deck but also undermine other players by seeding their decks.

4. Pre-Class!
This is where you prepare and prepare for the horrors that lie ahead after First Bell. You can choose to use any Pre-Class abilities in your hand. Now move all Faculty in your hand to the Classroom and all Students to your discard pile. *cue ominous music track two*

5. Class!
Time to sharpen your pencils, break out that Elder Sign you made in pottery class behind Pickman’s back, and defend your fleeting sanity!

Time to Take Your Test!

Draw cards from your deck for every Faculty Member in your classroom.

Deckbuilding Twist: You actually draw from your deck twice on a given turn. The burn throughs and shuffles come rather fast for the Girls of Miska-G.

Any students drawn are your BFFs and are sent to the classroom to face the awaiting G.O.O.s from Pre-Class. Any Faculty Cards drawn are Pet Teachers and are placed into any player(s)’s discard pile. They don’t help you keep your sanity intact, but at least they are off to bother someone else for awhile.

Faculty Members have varied health and your BFFs this round generate Girl Power! Tally up your total Girl Power and use it to defeat the Fiendish Faculty this round by equaling their health. Defeated Faculty move off to your discard pile. Remaining Faculty generate Sanity Damage while a few Students generate Resolve. (Third Years have seen a few things best left forgotten it seems, but are the better for it.) Subtract your total Resolve from the total Damage and that is how much Sanity you lose from the pop quiz on your Necronomicon Primer. Some Faculty have ‘Defeat’ abilities, some have ‘Survive’, and a few Student Cards have BFF Powers to spice things up.

6. Class Dismissed
Send in the janitor with his shaker of sawdust and clean up the classroom to your discard pile.

Hopefully you have some Sanity left because there’s a biology lab with Professor West on the morrow. 😉

But tonight – tonight is Meatloaf Surprise in the Dining Hall!

(Although one look at Lunch Lady Lulu will tell you – that might not be a good thing.)

The Lurkings at the Threshold

In poking about other reviews of this game around the Interwebs – I found the release response of two years ago decidedly eldritch. Is the Mi-go brain goo really that tepid at the Miskatonic School for Girls? Let’s look at some of these immediate cries of ‘con’ ‘retpro’actively – now that some of the deckbuilding dust has settled in the Cardboard Kingdom. Deckbuilding has grown a bit beyond the need for the next Dominion/Ascension clone. 😉

CON????: ‘It’s Different! Oh the Difference! Ia! Ia! Ia!

Can I get a Fthagn?

Miskatonic School for Girls IS different. It has many of the familiar trappings of a standard deckbulder and you will want it to be familiar, but it is different – as different as the offspring of ol Cap’n ‘Wandering Sextant’ Marsh.

Much like Eminent Domain combines Deckbuilding with Euro Role Mechanics to take the genre on a sideways journey, the combination of Deckbuilding with Sabotage/Screw You! play takes the girls of the Miska-G on a field trip.

I asked Luke Peterschmidt about this deckbuilding deviance:

My main point with MSfG was to create the “anti-deck-building” experience. Instead of the game being “optimize optimize optimize see who wins” I wanted a game where your deck was never better than on turn one and it just got worse from there. This was meant to make the player feel like they were losing control (as does extending the time from when an opponent ‘attacks you’ and when that attack deals damage). I like lots of different types of games. I like both Dominion and Ascension, but if you ONLY like games like those, this is not the game for you. If you like games that create an emotional response that goes hand-in-hand with the theme then I think you’ll really like MSfG! It’s very different and that makes me happy.

The key to enrollment in the Miskatonic School for Girls is to keep deckbuild mechanics in your fingertips (after retraining that Pavlovian response to immediately toss your purchases in your discard pile), but wipe them from your mind. The ‘Deck Undermining’ of your opponents is easy enough to grasp, but the ‘anti-deckbuilding’ aspect is going to taint your own deck as well. Each round, corruption in your card stash is going to build and build. Much like any poor soul in a Lovecraft yarn, you are pretty much doomed from the get-go. You aren’t so much building your own deck with Student Cards to ‘optimize’ it as to ‘sustain’ it. You are trying to keep your head above ichor, while doing unto others before they screw unto you. Remember the game isn’t so much about ‘winning’ as it is about ‘not losing’ by clinging to those last few sanity points longer than your classmates.

This sideways play on the deck building genre can be a tentacle slap to the face on your first foray if you don’t clear away pre-conceptions.

Con???? Girl Power meets The Great Old Ones

Some factions of the Big Boy’s Clubhouse in the Cardboard Kingdom have dubbed this game ‘girly’ with all the BFFs and Friendship Point and Girl Power terminology.

Is this a ‘girly’ game?

Hmmmm…does sending a bunch of teeny-boppers down a path of gibbering madness courtesy of the Big C & Co. really smell like Teen Spirit?

Not so much. That’s like calling Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies a children’s book.

Yes – there’s plenty of gals populating the cards, but when you plant your tongue firmly in cheek and call your game Miskatonic School for Girls it stands to reason there would be. And No – these girls aren’t in halter tops or flashing Sailor Moon skirts, making for an acceptable boy-girly experience of sexy postcards meet fleeting definition of gaming. *sigh* These School Girls don’t Love Tentacles.

When did games start meriting ratings of ‘male, female, or other’ based on their cast of characters? So Schoolgirls + Sexless Dimensional Horrors = Sugar and Spice? I best stay away from Shadows over Camelot – total guy game!!!

Con???:There Can(‘t) Be Only One!

Elimination – no one likes sitting on the sidelines, but elimination has been a part of the game scene since the dawn of man and dodge ball. (Admittedly, at 5 foot and a possible inch on tippy toes I did ‘Ok’ in the arena of school yard blood sport.) Miskatonic School for Girls is an elimination game, but in Lovecraft Country most characters end on a ‘Ia!’ note as mad, in a brain jar, or as a bit of squooshy in the bathtub because the AC is on the fritz.

It is reasonable to assume that in a Mythos game, players aren’t going to link arms and run headlong into the Abyss together to see who nabbed a dozen more XP’s overall come Endgame. The Girls of the Miska-G are no exception. You might lose a few sanity points trying to kick your lab partner into the metaphorical maw of The Series of Consonants that Screams at the Center of the Universe, but they are certainly going to lose more. Once the sanity starts slipping away – it is a slippery, slippery slope for everyone. Come endgame just about everyone will be counting their sanity on a cephalopod. If you are first off to the asylum, by the time you refill the chip bowl, it is only about a five minute wait in Gamer Purgatory until someone is declared the ‘anti-winner’.

The Last Call of Cthulhu:Final Thoughts

Miskatonic School for Girls does suffer from some standard problems of the deckbuilder. A player can dominate if draws and purchases come out in their favor and other times players can suffer the cold shoulder of a lousy hand. The further along in the game and the more ‘corrupt’ the decks are the more costly these rounds can be. This is the nature of the Deckbuilding Beast in general, and doesn’t mean this Eldritch one is broken. In a way these ‘doomed’ turns, sort of fit the whole ‘clinging to quickly slipping sanity’ theme. Welcome to Lovecraft Country kiddos.

Quite a bit of love and craft went into this game. The art shines -capturing both the innocence of the student body and the mind-rending horrors shoe-horned into the tweeds of private school faculty. There’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek dark humor and clever H.P. love, but you don’t have to be a Mythoshead to get a chuckle at Cthulhu as a sinister lunch lady. It’s almost worth the price of tuition alone!

Miskatonic School for Girls might not be for everyone, but it might be for you if you like a bit of light-hearted darkness and are curious to dip a toe in the ichor pool of an ‘anti-deckbuilder’.

Conveniently, enrollment is always open. 😉

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Treasures and Traps page

Treasures and Traps

40 out of 42 gamers thought this was helpful

Take it away Stanley Tucci…

Welcome to the 75th Annual Hung*koff* ADVENTURER GAAAAAAMESSSSSS!

And welcome to Treasures and Traps: A Fantasy Themed Card Game of Gateway Proportions.

(I promise I will only mention The M-Word once *glee*)

The Gelatinous Gist

Prove yourself as Top Adventurer of the Realm by being the first to gather a set of Bronze, Silver, and Gold Level Treasure cards in front of you.

Treasures and Traps follows a standard what I call ‘Card Zap’ or ‘Help Me, SCREW YOU!’ format. You play tongue-in-cheek fantasy trope cards on yourself of a BOON variety while sabotaging other players with BANE aspects.

Skullduggery and Standard Action

The play area is broken into Realms (The area in front of each player where cards belonging to them (or forced upon them *heh heh*) are played) and The Wild Lands (A central zone where Semiperm-Events, Monsters, and contested Treasures go to roost)

On a given turn each stalwart Adventures has a ‘2 of 3’ choice of actions:

Entry:Bring a card into play
Exit: Move an in-play card to the discard
ReplaceDiscard an unwanted card in your hand for a fresh-up

Play cards. End your turn. Draw/Discard to 5. Rend and Repeat.

Items, Treaures, Monsters, Traps. Build Yourself up and Back Stab the Competition. Cast a Spell of [Insert Funny Word Here].

Mmmmmmmmmmm…I smell the scent of freshly baked doughnut holes in the morning!

(Completely indirect referencing! So far, so good)

But here’s the Dungeon Twister…

Playing and destroying cards – the Entry/Exit aspect of the game – requires a die roll. Each card has an Entry and Exit number and you must tie or beat that value to bring a card to the table or send that malingering thorn in your side to the great beyond of the discard pile. Fail your Entry roll and it is bye-bye bounty and off to the discard pile with ye. Fail your Exit roll and that knife in your back gets twisted for another turn.

Hmmmm…who put this ‘luck’ mechanic in my ‘throw-cards-at-your-face’ Yellow Brick Road Choral Group gameplay???!!!

(A bit forced – I admit, but I didn’t ‘say-say it’ now, did I? 🙂 )

This aspect of Treasures and Traps sets it apart from the standard ‘what’s in my hand’ play and adds a light element of strategy as you stock, spellsling, steal, and stymie your way to the Winner’s Circle. Do you start off slow and build a realm that will give you roll boosts later on down the line or do you play aggressively with fingers crossed trying to get those bigger and badder cards in play from the starting line?

Enlightening the Hands that Feed You

Treasures and Traps has plenty of rectangular goodness to throw around Adventure style on any given turn. Monsters that can wreck havoc on an opponent’s realm by destroying cards or sauntering off with a precious treasure to the anybody’s game – Wild Lands. Places that can fortify your realm against mischief or send your opponent to Jail until a midnight Exit roll escape. Surprise cards that you can play out of turn to thwart the thwarters and player character haters. Events that can spice things up for a turn or create a total game changer. Traps to hinder and haunt most heinously and of course, the flip side of the title coinage, TREASURE!!!! A few of these sought over and fought over baubles give you die roll boosts and increase your hand size – making them all the more valuable…and stealable. 😉

But WAIT! There’s more….

By reading now…you get a second slice of review chatter pie absolutely free!

Treasures and Traps has a tiny mini expansion (that has its own entry in the BGdot library, but, why not mention it here for One Stop Adventuring)

Expanded Realms the First comes with a dozen new cards to throw into the competition deck, like the Prismatic Cape that can become a treasure of any level. Connivingly Colorful!

It also adds a little CLASS (or 10) to the proceedings. 🙂

Players can now choose a starting class card to give them a little Variable Player Power boost as they enter the Iron Adventurer Competition.

Will you play as the Priest? Resurrecting creatures from the discard pile, dispatched by the Warlord and his bonus to Exit roll Creatures. How will the Blacksmith fare with a bonus to Entry and Exit items? Is he just creating fodder for the Rogue who can place an item in her Realm instead of discarding it by beating an Exit roll by three?

The Final (M)-Word(?)

Treasures and Traps might not be kicking down the doors of assorted keeps on assorted borderlands with the tried and true Adventurer vs Adventurer in a Race to the Finish theme, but it is a winner in its own right. Quirky art winks at fantasy tropedom on little cardboard rectangles. Once those first few coveted treasures hit the table – the race begins as you defend booty with one hand and back stab with the other. Treasures fly back and forth fast and furious from realm to realm and tantalize from the spoils of the Wildlands. Watch your back and don’t blink – because before you know it someone is going to have a precious metal trifecta and become an Adventuring Olympian.

Treasures and Traps is a fast and furious appetizer of an ‘Opening Act’ or ‘Filler’ game that brings a little fun to the table before making your big Descent of the evening.

Munchkins are welcome to this party. 😉

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

10

BoardGaming.com – The Website

51 out of 53 gamers thought this was helpful

This isn’t so much a review-review as a love note to the BGdot – I don’t think anyone will fault me for that 😉

Dear BGdot,

Everyone who gives a ‘chit’ and has punched one in the Cardboard Kingdom knows the BGG (or as I prefer to call it around these parts – The B-Other

The B-Other is like a Con.

It’s big, it’s vast, and it’s all over the place. You can’t take it all in and there are places you probably don’t want to wind up at.

It’s a bit loud.

It’s a bit smelly.

People are all over the place and you can get jostled – so mind your toes (especially if you have a rep for being ‘Con Shoeless’ :)) and prepare to throw some ‘bows.

It’s fun.

It’s crazy.

It’s a bit seedy.

And sometimes too much.

It’s the end-all be-all because everything is there – but it is easy to miss things or never get to where you want to go.

To quote a friend: ‘You don’t want to go there – but you do because you have to’

The BGdot is like my FLGS.

It is comfortable.

It is clean and bright.

(Both my real life game store and comic book/slight game store are clean and open and bright. The Boy’s comic store is one of those cluttered places with boxes all over and things jammed higgledy-piggledy. It’s scary and drives my OCPD nuts. But it is ‘standard’ comic shop and it suits him 😛 *sigh*)

I can browse and not feel pressured. I can poke around at my leisure.

It is a place that welcomes exploration.

I can get a few nods of recognition (and my share of standard weird glances also LOL).

The staff is friendly.

The members seem nice. I don’t know the people over at that table – but they seem cool.

I can say ‘Hi’ to my ‘chums’ and the ‘regulars’.

I can find information.

There’s even homespun activities – The Quests – much like demo nights or tourneys or just hanging off to the side and watching people play something I have no idea about, but it looks fun. (That’s Mallifaux – at my store. LOL)

The best thing is I can waste an hour browsing, poking around, and chit chatting about…Games!

Most importantly, like my FLGS, it is my clubhouse – OUR clubhouse.

It says ‘This is who I am. I’m a geek. I’m a gamer.’

It is a place I want to take my friends to.

It is a place I want to stock the shelves of and fill them with those strange and magical things called games.

Wonderful and mysterious games. 🙂

I don’t know what numbers were put into the equation when creating the site, but whatever logic, magic, and mysticism was used – it adds up to something grand.

Love,
Hai 🙂

I suppose I should do a little something reviewer-reviewy

Pros

*Clean, sleek, user friendly interface
*Strong in-house review system with regard to various ‘gamer types’
*Open Member Reviews and Game Tips
*Kickstarter Friendly Platform
*Addictive ‘Quest’ System to encourage member exploration and content support
*Avatar System (including game art WOOOO!)

Cons

*Limited Game Library (but always growing :):):) )
(but without 15 years worth of depository – what are you going to do??? 🙂
*Lack of easy breakdown to populate your gaming profile
I have to admit the day I joined I sat down and went through a 3 hour scroll fest through the library. I like that – most don’t. It is a chore to first populate your faves, owns, and wishes. A way to scan the library through alphabetical sub menus would at least create road markers as one browses the game shelves
*Some extreme ‘experience based’ constraints
Favorites and Followed to Following ratios
*No way to ‘sneaky speak’ member to member
Sorry – sometimes Radio HaiMind wants to speak in general or have a sidebar with someone and is forced to broadcast to the masses
*Membership unfortunately subjected to my chatterboxing 🙁
See Above 😛

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

9
Go to the Eminent Domain: Escalation page

Eminent Domain: Escalation

45 out of 48 gamers thought this was helpful

[Note: I won’t be walking through basic game mechanics and will be using familiarity lingo and ‘game speak’ (most of which I’ve made up anyway :)) If you would like to hear my thoughts on ED: The Base feel free to visit and also check out some very solid game play reviews by others. —Hai

By definition ‘Expansion’ means motion in all directions – I like to look at game expansions from all sides. This is an expansion review after all, so without further ado…]

Once Upon a Time the Jolly Dragon at TMG put out Eminent Domain: A Deckbuilder (kind of) in Space (sort of). What it did bring to the tabletop was a unique mechanic of Role Building (nifty). People said ‘I want more Domains!’ Others said ‘I want things to be more Eminent!’ Things were escalating in the universe. The jolly dragon said:

Eminent Domain: ESCALATION

Looking Backwards: Tweaks, Bugs, & General Clean Up

Escalation has got it. Standard procedure. Rule clean up of already clean, streamlined rules. A handful of errata replacement cards to fix some ‘brokens’. A sticker fix for the central board display that I thought was going to drive my OCD nuts, but I hardly know it is there. My OCD salutes you Jolly Dragon.

This Universe Goes to ‘5’
Escalation adds extra base cards for a 5th player. The nice thing is an extra schmoe hanging about the galaxy doesn’t increase game time. With an extra ‘dissent’ or ‘follow’ you can plump up your hand or piggyback another role and burn through the extra Influence VP’s in the same amount of time AND split the pizza money five ways…

Spacey Ships
Remember those little plastic ships you held in your hand and felt a bit ‘spacey’. They came in 3 shapes and sizes but it didn’t really matter. In Escalation – Size Matters! Introducing The Fleet:

The little chaps are: Fighters
The medium blokes are: Destroyers
The big bad daddies are: Battlecruisers

You can trade a certain amount of lesser ships for the next rank. Spending the various ship ranks lets you do different things… as we shall see. *Intrigue mounts* 😉

Shifting Sideways Extending the Already

Locations, Locations, Locations
A good part of ED is nabbing planets for end game influence and as a foundation for Tech. Escalation brings in new start planets and new worlds to the Survey deck in new exciting planet flavors.

Expensive Start Planets: Pricey to flip, but two role symbols

Prestige Start Planets: No Tech value, but an ‘any’ resource slot.

Civilized Survey Planets: Colonize welcome – Warfare go home! Colonize at a 4, but expend a Battlecruiser for a hostile takeover.

Hostile Planets: Unable to colonize – but a Destroyer nets a flip.

Bustling Planets: 1 Destroyer or 4 Colonies cost, but a permanent on table ability upon flip that can be used during the Action Phase instead of playing a card.

Tech Sector
Tech is the ED Power-up. Tech gives you the game changer. Tech is expensive to get, but nice to have. More Tech means more options. More options mean more POWER!!!!!! Who doesn’t want more POW…umm…Tech???

Escalation has oodles of new Tech for your Advanced, Fertile and Metallic stacks. 🙂 Tech to give you Influence grabs. Tech to reduce costs. Tech to ignore prerequisites. Tech that gives continuously replenishing resources and ships. And my favorite: looking for just the right card at the right moment?*O RECON!

And new Escalation Tech can be purchased with ships OR research points. Do you really feel like a Warmonger if you can strangle a guy from across the room, but still have to rely on the nerds at R&D by padding your deck with Research cards? No! Escalation Tech cards can be bought by discarding Fighters for Level 1, Destroyers for Level 2, and Battlecruisers for Level 3 instead of those pricey Research costs.

The Warmonger in me says: Nifty!

Also Escalation has some extremely powerful new Tech available under the Diverse banner. Diverse Tech requires a foundation of a Metallic, Fertile, and Advanced in your empire. The prices are high, but no spoilers if I tell you they are worth the effort. I mean being to able rip planets from other empires, peppering your hand with whatever cards you want, and a constantly replenishing source of fighters and destroyers are worth the effort, right? WHOOPS! *SPOILER ALERT*

Pushing Forward Expanding the Universe

Hi Neighbor!
In ED:Base everybody had their own pocket of the universe. You built your empire and gathered influence. Player 2 did the same. Player 3 rinse and repeat. Everybody stayed in their own Eminent Domain and meandered to the finish line. You could piggyback a role, but little player interaction was to be had. Escalation makes you worry about the universe next door because now they can come knocking. With the right Tech and proper scheming players can now ‘steal’ planets from your empire and shut down whatever Tech is giving you a clear path to endgame, among other nasty ‘annoyances’. But going into Deathstar mode isn’t a sure path to victory as ‘Reparations’ will give your victims a boost. Surrender to your Darkside sparingly!

Unleveling Up the Empire
And last but not least – we have the price of admission.

SCENARIO CARDS

In ED: Base things started out pretty vanilla. Everybody got the same starting deck and set out with some spare change and half a sandwich to build an empire through Role-Building. Escalation introduces Scenario Cards and brings quite a bit more strategic deck building into the mix. Each Scenario Card gives you an asymmetrical starting deck build, a starting Tech (or two or three), and starting planet.

The asymmetrical starts can give you a push of starting Role Cards in one direction so you can hit the ground running or sometimes no cards at all and a single powerful Tech.

Colony Ship lets you start flipping planets from the get go.

Scientific Discovery lets you grab up low level Tech without blinking.

Or maybe you just start the game with a Big Daddy Battlecruiser and an improved fleet have at it!

Things just got very interesting.

These Scenario Cards (the equivalent of ‘Race Powers’ in any other spacey game) really add to the mix by mixing things up. Unleveling the playing field makes each game different and distinct. Each player’s strategy varies based on the starting foot of their own scenario; your path is laid out in the beginning and it is up to your to forge ahead using not only what you can do better, but the opportunities the other players may expose to you as they build up their empires. Best of all, the Role Builder just got a whole lot ‘Deckier’. Your best path to victory becomes one of building the best deck for you: a clean, precise deck that let’s build your empire exactly how you need to while exploiting the other faces in the galaxy as they set out on their agendas.

The Deckbuilder that’s a Role Builder just became an EMPIRE BUILDER and the stars taste a lot less like vanilla now.

Endgame

Expansions can be a tricky business. More mechanics and especially the more cards, more cards, more cards philosophy can either dilute a game or expand it to the point of bloating.

Escalation is just enough. The new mechanics, planets, and Tech give enough ‘mores’ without any ‘lesses’.

The Scenarios and their asymmetrical start-ups take the game to another level, a level at which it just might need to be.

Let’s land our Starfleet for a moment, leave a few planets unsettled, and disconnect the AI so it can dream of electric sheep.

Let’s break the Big No-No Rule and reference another game. A completely different game. A ‘where is she going with this’ game.

A game of monsters slapping monsters. King of Tokyo .
If you’ve played King of Tokyo – raise your hand.
If you’ve played King of Tokyo with Power-up – raise your hand.
If you’ve ever gone back to playing King of Tokyo without Power-Up – raise your hand.

Anybody?

If you’ve missed my little analogy of Mothra and Dice Matching that’s fine. We can return to our regularly scheduled Ground Control to Major Tom banter.

Escalation does what an expansion should, moves the game in various directions.

The Scenarios push the game forward, reinventing the foundations, so you never want to look back.

Ever.

The Jolly Dragon of TMG did a very smart thing with Escalation – they made sure it all fit nicely into the Base-ic box. You’ll never see the need to separate it out again.

That’s the highest rating an expansion can get. 😉

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

8
Go to the Eminent Domain page

Eminent Domain

53 out of 60 gamers thought this was helpful

Once upon a time the Jolly Dragon at TMG put out a ‘space’ deck builder that wasn’t really a deck builder. Or maybe it was a deck builder… with a twist? The key mechanic was the Euro system of Roles – playing a specific ‘Role’ per turn that allowed for specific actions to be taken (but only those specific actions) and piggybacking off of other players Roles in a minor way if possible.

There were 5 possible Roles to play:
Survey Add new planets for potential exploitation ‘unlock’ to your Empire
Warfare Gather little plastic spaceships so you can eventually unlock a planet through ATTACK
Colonize Tucking cards under a planet so you can eventually unlock a planet without the tactile plastic feel
Produce/Trade Put a resource token on a resource slot (PRODUCE) then take it off later for a VP (TRADE)
Research The currency for them ‘spicy’ Techs!

There were 3 simple phases to a turn:

ACTION (optional) Playing a Role or Tech card as a one off for the ‘Action Ability’ – a little minor pre-turn boost

ROLE (mandatory) Playing a Role card as your Turn Mechanic with a Leadership Boon and ‘boosting’ it with other copies of the same Role card from your hand. Other players with a copy of that card could choose to piggyback the Role on your turn if they wished by playing their own cards.

CLEANUP (mandatory) The deckbuilder discard sweep up.

And some gamers would live happily-ever-after…

Eminent Domain is by and large a Role Builder . Your deck consists of Roles and turn by turn you play these Roles and add more copies to your deck allowing you to play that Role more often in any given hand and boosting it. Occasionally you can buy some rather expensive TECH that either stays on table to give you permanent boosts or cycles through the deck giving you the option for a special variable unique Action during the ACTION phase. You ‘unlock’ some planets. You make and trade some resources for VPs. You hold a little plastic ship or two in your hand and feel ‘spacey’. You jump on an occasional Tech for ‘spice’. And when the VP pool dies, he who has the most VP toys wins.

Eminent Domain set out to do something – create a Euro-feel ‘Role Builder’ – and did exactly that. As someone who sort of rolls her eyes at the Roles Mechanic Genre and finds it limiting, Eminent Domain made it accessible and more interesting. As someone who loves the ‘zazz’ and ‘zap’ of a good variable deck builder, Eminent Domain came up lacking.

Eminent Domain does what it set out to do solidly – it just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A DeckBuilder Head might find it very ‘samey’ and lacking in variety. A ‘Role’ Player might find the decking too random.

BUT if you want to do the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup thing and put a SMIDGE of Deck Builder in your Role Mechanic or a LOT of Role Mechanic in your Deck Builder – this is the game to look into.

The Role heavy/Deck light aspect of Eminent Domain isn’t MY cup of tea per se – but I don’t mind sipping from it on occasion to play an accessible Role Mechanic for my tastes.

But the Jolly Dragon at TMG has since put out the expansion ED: Escalation which puts a whole new spin on things with SCENARIOS and balances the Deck Building/Role Mechanic nicely, expands the universe with variety, makes holding the plastic ships make you feel even more ‘spacey’, and creates a sequel where many more gamers will live happily-ever-after…

…so I’ll see you all over there if you want the low down. 🙂

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

10
Go to the Heroes of Metro City page

Heroes of Metro City

63 out of 66 gamers thought this was helpful

If you read my review of Sentinels of the Multiverse – it should be apparent I am a CapeGirl and I mention there the flood of spandex that has washed ashore in the Card Game/Deck Builder genre.

Honestly, I don’t mind one bit.

Each one brings something to the tabletop.

I’ll probably review each one in depth and in turn.

In short:

Sentinels (The Deck Player): Fight Archetype Baddies with Archetype Heroes – all with unique play style and flavored decks. Capes Undiluted! Sentinels ‘ssemble!

DC Heroes (The Hodge Podge) Sure you are Bats wielding an Aqua Trident while flying an Invisible Jet. Thematically it’s ‘DC ****?’ But if you squint, it is what it is: fast, easy, furious Ascension style deck building fun with a whole bunch of card variety.

Legendary (The Marvel Team-up Collection) A force funnel deck builder where you carefully choose your team (play style) for any given game which focuses just as much on the Schemes and Masterminds as the Heroes.

But today’s walk through the Paneldom is taking us to the Indie comic rack and the Hai Mind is looking at Heroes of Metro City . What some might consider a minor league game (Kickstarter Indie), but with a major league experience in Heroes, Vills, and most importantly – Gameplay.

What HoMC brings to the deck builder’s tabletop is Hero Building. You are literally constructing your hero with the cards you ‘buy’. You choose your powers. You choose your play style. You see if you have what it takes to take on the baddies.

Welcome to ‘I Just Got Bit By A Radioactive Spider’ Day One

*** *** ***

The First National Bank of Metro City

Every deck builder has it’s own currency – what you are worried about building your deck around. The currency of HoMC is three-fold:

ENERGY – Semi-permanent play cards that allow you to activate your POWERS on a given turn.

DAMAGE – How much you can punch the baddies in the face for while attempting to take them down (until they come back 10 issues later).

PLOT POINTS – Your ‘buy’ currency – allowing you to purchase new cards from the supply decks and add to your own.

Set-up and Gameplay

HoMC uses the Static Grid (aka ‘Village’ – in this case ‘The City Supply’) set-up for the supply decks (as opposed to ‘Conveyor’ system of a continuously rotating supply pool ala Ascension, DC, and Legendary).

Everything else is pretty much standard deck building procedure. You get a basic starting deck, spice it up with a few pre-game purchases of your choice from the supply pool, shuffle, deal a hand of five, and cape up. 🙂

The focus of the game is building your hero while defending The City against havoc caused simultaneously by 3 sets of Enemies.

Minions – These are the lowlifes. Literally. They have low life. 😉 Thugboys. Rogue Robots. Lone wandering Ape Men. A hero has to start somewhere.

Villains – Mayhem Middle Management. These are the guys silhouetted on a comic cover going ‘Hey, remember me!’ Once a year they stretch their legs, pop a fishbowl on their heads, and try to rob a bank. You are working up to them, and better make it sharpish. Left too long and they will slowly chip away at your available supply decks while causing general pain in the tights per turn.

Archenemy – ‘The Archie’ – You get one from the deck. Think Great Old One mechanic from Arkham Horror – but swap a deathray or homicidal madness for squishy tentacles. This card sets the general tone of your given game. This is the final showdown. Beat them and it’s end game, Baby. You’re the toast of Metro City. Don’t stop them in time and Metro City is toasted. ’nuff said. 😉

A game turn plays out in 6 quick phases.

1) Reinforce Enemies – any Minions or Villains defeated on the last player’s turn? Flip a new one over to see who’s up to no good.

2) Activate Powers – This is where the Energy and Power cards you drew this round come into play.

Slot an Energy Source Card: Energy cards are semi-permanent plays. You can place them on your player mat and they stay from turn to turn. They have a given Energy Level (1,2,3 etc) and your Power cards have a given Energy Requirement.

Activate A Power by attaching it to an Energy Source with enough juice and you are X-Factored and can use whatever abilities are on that card. You can slot Energy Sources from your hand to Energy Sources on the play mat for a little extra spark in a given round and some Power cards provide an Energy Slot at the bottom when activated so you can create minor chains of Powers.

3)Battle Enemies – It’s Clobberin’ Time! Add up the given Damage you can deal via activated cards this round and compare it to the Life Points of the current cast in the Rogue’s Gallery. Equal to or greater and they are defeated. Enough total damage and you can take out more than one enemy in a round, but it’s all or nothing. Come up short and they remain in play (and we’ll see what happens in a moment). There’s no weakening an Enemy unless a card says otherwise. Defeated enemies are either added to your hand and provide an instant boon (usually Plot Points) and then discarded as usual to boon again next time they roll around or are permanently discarded to the Rubble Pile so as not to clog your deck.

4)Story Development Standard buy phase. Any remaining cards in your hand that provide Plot Points and Plot Points generated this round are used to Develop (buy) one card from the City Supply which is added to your discard.

5) City Destruction Here’s where things get ugly for Metro City. Roll 3 colored 12 sided dice – each linked to an Enemy Type (Minion, Villain, Archenemy) to see if the City Defense is enough to stop whatever evil remains undefeated from Phase 3. (Defeated Enemy Types do not resurface until the next player’s Phase 1.) Roll above a set City Defense number and the given baddie is too busy steepling their fingers and giggling maniacally. Roll under and whatever insidious instructions on that particular Enemy card take place. Usually this involves trashing cards of a certain type from the City Supply into the Rubble, whittling down your available resources, but other dastardly events can take place. Players can make a last ditch ‘Heroic Sacrifice’ by discarding a card from their hand or playing area of the same type (Melee, Ranged, Energy etc)instead of the targeted City Supply card. (A very ‘heroic’ and ‘sacrificial’ way to cull redundant cards from your deck. ;))

6) Clean up Standard deck builder clean up. To the discards with you! Play mat Slotted Energy Sources (not boosts)can remain or be discarded by choice.

The game ends when one player can generate enough damage to defeat the Archie and pops him one in the death ray and is declared Top Cape or when Mr. Big Bad goes to destroy a card from City Supply and there are none of that type to be had and the Hero is unable (or unwilling) to make a Heroic Sacrifice. As long as the Archenemy’s Destructive Power can destroy at least one card, play continues.

ENDGAME

The Goodness

Art: A deck builder needs decent art. You are going to be looking at those cards again and again. Moreso, a game of comics and capes needs decent art. HoMC delivers. The styles on each individual card do run a gambit from Golden Age bubble gum to slicker, darker modern Graphic Novel but it fits. The art is a nice nod and sometimes a wink to the panels and pin-ups of Comicdom.

Variety: The Power cards have enough variety that you can build a nicely themed hero out of whatever the randomizers give you (most of the time). Some might frown as the Static Grid of the City Supply pool can be limiting – but it forces you to focus on and utilize what options you have in order to build the best hero you can be. This is a deck builder about hero building and the Static Grid works best for it. No Bats with an Aqua Trident here.

Gameplay: Turns are fast and intuitive. After a few rounds, it is easy to settle into a buy choice pattern so the buy phase doesn’t get ponderous. There can be an occasional clog when ALL the baddies roll for Evilness and you have to make some tough decisions about what to whittle down in the City Supply. Tension begins to build rather quickly after a half dozen turns or so and those City Supply decks start to thin. Even heroes stop to think ‘Can I pull this off?’ on occasion and then dive back into the fray for better or worse.

The Baddies: Honestly, any hero is only as good as their villains. Going up against Major Slagg, Black Locust, Hitt Parade, Vex, Mister Cataclysm, and Doctor Psychosis to name a few should say it all. Each unique Archenemy brings a different flavor to the game rather nicely. Be ready. They are also going to kick you in the backside on occasion. You’ll learn to love to hate them. 😉

The Badness

Variety: Some people are going to find the Static Grid limiting no matter if it works best or not. Sometimes the randomizers are going to set you up, if not for defeat, way way way down in the hole. Think Thunderstone without any light sources.

The Baddies: Yup. Sometimes they are going to kick you back – hard. Again and again. You will lose. It ain’t easy being a hero.

Components: The cards are a little ‘Kickstarter Bendy’ as I like to say. My major OCD teeth grind is with the tray. I hate deck builders with those dimpled trays. They never work. The cards always flop about and if you sneeze at this particular one they shift all over the place. I have carefully placed this box on the shelf like an angel on the head of a pin and no matter what, next time I take it down an internal exorcism has taken place.

Dear Deck Builder Designers Everywhere,

Do not waste precious money on molded plastic trays.
Two cardboard troughs,divider cards, and foam bricks never fail.
Divider cards with unique art and names printed on the top are money better spent.
I’m looking at you Legendary!!!!!
Thanks!

Love,
Hai

A 10! Come on! REALLY?????

I usually give a +1 if a game sticks to its theme and accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Any deck builder is a deck builder. They have built in flaws by design. You are going to draw lousy hands. You are going to have useless rounds where you can’t do anything. You are never going to be able to get that card you covet. It’s the nature of the beast. Even the best deck builder is going to get gummy and clunky from time to time.

The name of HoMC is Hero Building and in a way these imperfections fit. You are building a hero from the ground floor up and in a sense the tension of ‘If I can just buy that card soon…’ or ‘If I can just get this draw…’ while the villains hammer away at the city fits the bill.
You aren’t that guy with the nifty car and the nifty cave with the nifty computer and the nifty borrowed Aqua Trident. You are trying to be THAT guy and it takes time…and time isn’t on your side in the hero game.

Villains keep making that clock tick.

The best of deck builders can only be perfect in their imperfections and that’s a ‘9’. HoMC brings something unique to table and to the cape theme. It sticks to it – no matter what – just like a true hero.

That’s a ’10’ in my book.

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

10
Go to the Sentinels of the Multiverse page

Sentinels of the Multiverse

127 out of 134 gamers thought this was helpful

The Gaming Renaissance has seen the capes come to town in the past year. DC Heroes, Marvel Legendary, Heroes of Metro City – it’s like the Fortress of Solitude finally melted due to global warming and a flood of spandex has finally begun to wash ashore.

BUT before the coming of Storm to the tabletop (and unless you knew someone that had Capes and Cowls locked in a safe in their gaming den) – the heroes at Greater than Games did Capes. They did it well.

The Sentinels of the Multiverse still stand strong and proud – the first and best in the Cardboard Cape Cavalcade.

DC, Legendary, and Metro each bring something to the table in their own right – but at the heart, they are DECK BUILDERS . You are scrabbling about on a turn jigsawing together a ‘team’ card by card.

Sentinels is a DECK PLAYER .

Each hero is based on a 40 card pre-constructed deck. Your play style, theme, and variable powers are set before the game even begins. You are that hero – undiluted.

And Sentinels brings the heroes.

Between the extensive base, the 3 ‘booster’ type expansions, and the latest mega Vengeance set, you can basically pick your favorite hero from the Paneldom, scrub off their name and find them represented somewhere in the extensive roster of decks.

And each archetype plays out just like you think they would through each deck’s unique mechanics. Speedsters can take on multiple targets with short attack bursts and avoid retaliatory damage. Tanks can dish out and absorb. No one feels samey – the Rage Tank plays far differently than his Brother in Armor. Even more esoteric heroes like Mentalists and Arcanists are represented in the Multiverse – each with their own play style.

The same goes for the Baddies. Each Villain you fight is represented by their own unique over-sized card with their own play style and powers. Each villain comes with their own deck of minions, schemes, and powers that your heroes must deal with turn by turn, card by card. Twisted Geniuses, Tricksters, Dark Gods, and Joykills are all represented. They don’t pop up every now and again with a ‘Remember Me?’ – each turn the Villains bring something to the Tabletop Metropolis for your heroes to face.

Sentinels is co-op at its best. Each round you are working together, deciding who needs to do what to stop the madness you confront. A successful game relies on heavy interaction and table talk and working together to be the best team of heroes you can be. Sentinels ‘ssemble!

Co-op is the name of the game because this one can kick you in the spandex if you aren’t careful. 😉 Replay is high and Greater than Games ranks each Villain and Hero deck on complexity so you can fine tune your challenges and play your way through the learning curve which at a basic level is negligible. They even have a nifty Achievement Sheet on their website to help you set-up situations and scenarios mirroring those of the Pages and Panels so you can take a stab at them yourself – Sentinel style.

A good cape romp lets you play at being heroes. Sentinels lets you BE the hero and that’s why it soars above the rest.

SENTINELS ‘SSEMBLE!!!!!!!!

[***END TRANSMISSION***]

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