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Matt

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6
Go to the Space Alert page

Space Alert

335 out of 357 gamers thought this was helpful

This game was picked up by a friend and pitched to me as a “cooperative real-time strategy board game”. It turned out to be a combination of a heart attack and a stroke all bundled up in a science fiction theme.

The game is set to a sound track that acts as the the DM while the players try desperately to keep up and communicate. The players (while listening to a 10 minute audio file) lay down action cards and keep track of their prediction of what will happen on the board. After the audio is done, the board is reset and the actions are carried out to the demise of the players.

First things first: this game is hard. Very hard. So hard that a group of experienced gamers who usually enjoy a good challenge, barely made it through the tutorial missions. In time, it might get easier but the game mechanic is so different than anything we’ve played before that we had a tough time making heads or tails of what was going on the first couple rounds.

After playing this game several times, I can sort players into three types…

The Boss

This person is always captain and is “in control of the situation”. They give orders out like candy and are certain that they know what needs to be done. The problem is that no one ever knows exactly what needs to be done because it is simply too much information to keep track of at once.

Several times we had our version of “the boss” say that an enemy was dead several turns ago when it wasn’t or know that we had enough fuel when we didn’t.

The Perfectionist

This person usually ends up not playing because they couldn’t get all of the information they thought they needed to make a good decision. This is not a game for players with analysis paralysis! Or maybe you might prescribe this to one of your friends in order to solve his AP…

Either way, if you can’t eventually just say “screw it” and throw down some actions, you’ll spend a lot of time doing nothing and the ship will suffer for it.

The Quickster

This person has picked up his round three cards before round one has finished. The main issue with this person is that they don’t really realize that they are way ahead of the group. So when a player asks the quickster if he can go throw another fuel rod in, he says “sure” and ends up throwing it in five turns too late.

Gameplay

The game is quick and fun. It can cause fights when someone does something incredibly stupid, but odds are everyone will do something incredibly stupid, so it evens out.

The audio file aspect is really neat and adds some cool features (I especially like the radio silence parts). It is annoying, though, if someone speaks over an important bit and you miss something. If you get something wrong, you can end up placing a monster incorrectly or not even placing a monster at all. With no obvious way to cross-check what you heard short of replaying the audio file, I always worried that we were screwing up the game.

The Good
The audio file is a cool mechanic.
The attention to theme is really awesome, especially in the stories that can be read during the tutorial missions.
The table talk (arguments) followed by missions going all wrong makes for a great time.

The Bad
The audio file is a double edged sword…potential to screw up the way a mission is supposed to go because you miss something.
The game is really hard (but maybe we just suck).
The real time aspect of it stressed me out…but that’s a personal complaint and might be a good thing for other people.

Overall

This is a really solid game. It’s got tons of replay value and a cool new way to play board games. (It’s new for me…if there is something else out there like it, let me know). It makes for great table-talk and has a terrific theme…if you can get over the stress of playing it.

7
Go to the Fury of Dracula page

Fury of Dracula

156 out of 164 gamers thought this was helpful

I’ve played this game twice so far, once as Dracula and once as a hunter. For both play-throughs there are a few things I can say about the game.

First of all is that this game is LONG…maybe. The two times I’ve played the game has taken 4-5 hours. But both times, the game very nearly ended in the first 20 minutes. If Dracula makes a strategic error early in the game or if the hunters get lucky the game can end very quickly. But if the hunters miss their chance or leave a hole in their strategic “net”, one slip can add another hour to the play time.

Second commonality was the combat. The one word I would use to describe it is “meh”. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t terrible…it just is very far from good. The game can get into a sort of groove when the hunters are just chasing around the board running into a trap here and there. But whenever combat happens the game grinds to a halt. This might have been because we hadn’t played too many times, but it still felt like it was a bit too slow paced. The searching parts were so frantic that it seemed like a fight should feel more frantic, but it isn’t so.

Some of the fight mechanics are a bit odd/nifty. Not being able to use the same attack twice in a row was pretty cool. Looking up the outcome of the combat based on what the other person used was confusing.

As Dracula

The first time being Dracula is overwhelming. You’re thrown a few decks of cards, a bag full of tokens a small map, a big character sheet, and a one card cheat sheet. My first major issue with it is that there is too much to handle that absolutely needs to remain secret with no good way to keep it as such.

They give you a mini-map and say that you should look at that instead of the main board to hide where your eyes are looking, but then give you no good way to mark where the players are on the mini map. They also don’t give you a good way to mark down where you’ve been. For the first few rounds I was having to keep lifting up my played locations to see if I had been there. This actually led to some meta-gaming which I’ll talk about later. In the end we used a D&D DM screen to hide most of Dracula’s content and a paper and pen to keep track of where I had been.

Combat as Dracula is a very bipolar activity (read “awesomely thematic”). During the night you are Jarl of Europe! Nothing can stand against you and you make decisions to go away or towards hunters on a whim. “I could easily escape this attempt to trap me,” you confidently think to yourself “but I think I’ll head directly into the trap and fight my way out…I have more than enough health.”

Then you start to do that. You may get through one combat round and either send someone to the hospital or running in terror. But then…dawn. It’s a bit like getting caught with your pants around your ankles…by your entire extended family…and for some reason they’re trying to kill you.

During the day “The Mighty Dracula” ™ is reduced to three attacks. Waving his sun-scorched claw in a feeble attempt at clawing, wiggling around in an attempt to dodge the stakes raining down upon him, and escapeing as a man but like a pansy.

This was how both games ended. With each Dracula being overly offensive during the night and getting stuck in a tight spot during the day.

As A Hunter

Being a hunter can be tedious and frustrating. In fact, it was most of the game for me and the other players. There are a few instances of fun logic-ing to be had but mostly we spend our turns blindly stumbling around the map hoping to get some scent of a trail.

It did seem that the cards are stacked in your favor though. There are a lot of cards that reveal certain parts of Dracula’s trail or that let you choose a couple cities to see if he’s been there. But with so many cities to choose from, the decision to go to one city or another is a random guess most of the time.

The most frustrating aspect was the need to (once on the trail) keep on the trail despite traps that you will soon fall in to. This situation happened a couple times in both games. The characters would spread out across the map. One character would hit Dracula’s trail a few turns back. That one character would have to keep trying to hit Dracula’s trail in order to not loose him while the other characters try and get all the way across Europe (a slow process) before the chasing character gets delayed too much from the traps.

Most of the time this led to the chasing character hitting some crazy trap that forced him to give up the chase before the other characters caught up and the trail would go cold. The first time this happens it is pretty fun and exciting. But 3 hours into the game it is a bit tiring.

Combat as a hunter is a bit limited but runs about the same as with Dracula. The same complaints stand for both. During the day, you search for Dracula desperately hoping to find him when he is weakest. During the night, you still search for him, but you hope in the back of your mind that you won’t actually find him until dawn.

Meta Gaming

My first instance where I decided that this game would be something that I would enjoy was a few turns in when someone asked me where I was (I knew that I wasn’t any where near there). I had the thought that I might have some fun. I pretended like I misheard them slightly and asked them to repeat it. I then put on my “worried” face and frantically looked through a few of the cards on my trail. When I looked at some of them I breathed a sigh of relief and happily responded that “No, I am not and have not been at that location.” They spent a while searching around there and I secretly sneaked in the other direction.

There are some ambiguity issues with the game. As a hunter the character found a card that said “Sensationalist Press”. It says that if a card on Dracula’s trail is about to be revealed, Dracula can play the Sensationalist Press and the card won’t be revealed. Dracula ended up playing this when we had a card that we listed off two cities and if Dracula had been there, he flips the trail cards over. We found out later that we didn’t list any cities that were on the trail. Dracula meta-gamed to make us think that we had mentioned a trail-city when we hadn’t. This makes thematic sense and seemed like a good time to play the card. However, the card specifically says “If a card on Dracula’s trail is about to be revealed…” In this case, a card wasn’t about to be revealed. We let it slide because it was a neat move, but we all felt that it really was classified as “rule breaking” and shouldn’t be done in the future.

Thematically it seems like everyone should stay together. It even makes sense (if you can pull it off) to stick together because in a fight, you are way more powerful. The problem is that I can’t see it happening. Movement across the board is so slow that during the day (when you want to spread out to find him) you don’t have time to band together at night (when you want to stick together). A small complaint, but there you go.

The Good
Fun time hunting/fleeing.
A great social game for putting your heads together and trying to guess what Dracula would do.
As Dracula, there is so much awesome from having them on your trail and then slipping away.
Great theme. Makes you truely scared of the day/night if you are Dracula/a hunter.

The Bad
Can be tediously long.
Combat isn’t very good.
Some ambiguity in the rules.

Overall

I gave this game a 7 because I had a lot of fun with it. For all the griping I’ve done, it is still a solid game even if it can drag on. A friend mentioned a game (Letters from Whitechapel) with a Jack The Ripper theme that was similar. He described it as “Fury of Dracula without the combat.” So if the deduction part of Fury of Dracula intrigued you but the combat turns you away, consider taking a look at that game.

One parting note was that both times I started this game a little late in the evening. So this review is probably a little more harsh than it deserves.

9
Go to the The Resistance: 3rd Edition page
60 out of 67 gamers thought this was helpful

The Resistance is a game that I’ve been waiting for to get to this site, just so I could “Favorite” it and “Heart It”. The only serious downside that I have found is getting enough people to match its “5-10 players” requirement.

The Resistance plays on the player’s logic and emotion. In each game two things usually happen. Either the correct people are chosen for the missions (and they play the “correct” way) which leads to a possible logical conclusion about who is and who is not a spy. The other thing that happens to us (and the situation that is more often encountered) is you can logic it down to a few possibilities and then it is just people’s words against each other.

While you’re a member of the resistance, you have little to do but defend yourself. There was a lot of “well, I know I’m not a spy, but I can’t really say anything to convince you of that” going on while I was a resistance member. Every so often you’ll get into a scenario where you can really lead the discussion on why a certain person is a spy but most of the time it’s the spies that get to have the most fun.

Being a spy is stressful. Certain ways of thinking enter your head that you didn’t think to consciously control. Things such as saying “they”/”them” instead of “we”/”us” when talking about the resistance. Also pushing too hard for certain rosters tends to get you (or your partner(s)) into trouble. Nothing that I’ve played can beat the thrill of being a spy and having resistance members point to you during discussion and say “well, we know he’s not a spy”. You start to worry “how do I react? I should be happy…but not too happy”.

All-in-all this is a solid party game if you have the minimum amount of people to play. One complaint that the group had is that there are too few missions, but even with the complaint, we haven’t tried to lengthen the game (not sure if it would ruin a round or not).

So far about 3/4 of the games have been awesome. The last quarter, while still fun, had a sort of helplessness to them. Either the resistance couldn’t figure out anything and lost 3 missions quickly, or the spies didn’t get chosen (or messed up their play) and the resistance won 3 missions quickly.

I can’t comment on the expansion included in the game because we haven’t gotten around to playing it. I assume it makes it more interesting but so far we’re having so much fun with original, that we haven’t even read the rules for the expansion.

Good: Awesome, intense play. I love the tabletalk that goes on. Most thrilling game I’ve ever played while a spy. Games are quick.

Bad: Hard to find 5 people (I need more friends). About 1/4 of the games are “helpless” and there’s nothing that either side can do to stop the other side.

7
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
63 out of 70 gamers thought this was helpful

In my experience, my feelings toward this game vary quite a bit based on how the game progresses. It can really be broken down into three situations.

The first situation is when you are absolutely unsure who the Cylons are for most of the game, than near the end you are in the process of being boarded, you’ve lost a couple civilian ships, are out of vipers, but you are only one jump away from your destination that you are ignoring your ship falling apart around you.

Then there is the situation where you think you know who a Cylon is and others agree with you and you go against that player as a group to find out in the end he wasn’t a Cylon.

Then there is the situation where the Cylon(s) have exposed themselves and are slowly whittling away at your resources while the humans flounder for what seems like forever until finally meeting defeat that was assured an hour ago.

The first situation is amazing and truly puts me in the mood of the BSG series. The feeling of hopelessness that looms constantly over all of the characters as unknown powers are manipulating their chances at survival. This, in my opinion, is what really makes the game.

The second situation is also fun though not as much. It can be frustrating for the one player who is being accused, but still retains that sense of insecurity that goes along with not knowing.

The third situation is why I don’t love this game. It happens too often to ignore and always puts the human players in a bad mood. They Cylons have a lot of fun slowly destroying the human fleet. But it is known by the players that the game is over for a while but it just drags on.

If you enjoy the deceit and betrayal of trying to decide who is a Cylon but don’t enjoy all of the other mechanics (along with the length), I suggest looking into The Reistance. It’s a quicker game with similar “guess who the bad guys are” mechanics. Though BSG wins outright in immersion.

7
Go to the Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game page
40 out of 48 gamers thought this was helpful

I bought Wrath of Ashardalon first and this second. Overall the former is much better with slightly more refined mechanics and balancing. I’ve played several games with this and it has always been a good time. It doesn’t give any real chance for role playing but then again, I don’t think it was designed to.

The stories are fun and the random tile system is a good way to add replay value though it seems to fall a bit short. It doesn’t quite come out random enough each time to truly feel like a different adventure. In the end, it does get a little old to be going into the same castle over and over again, even if you have a different objective each time.

The minis are neat and have been useful in my D&D4E adventures. None of the pieces of this game really feel too cheap but they certainly aren’t of the best quality. Just the sheer number of minis you get was awesome, though I’ve never gotten another game with minis (except WoA) so it might just be par for the course.

I have played this many times with D&D vets when no one feels like DMing and it has always been fun if a little bland next to D&D proper. I have also played it a few times with people that know nothing about D&D and they picked it up surprisingly fast.

If you like the combat of D&D4E and you want to spend the evening killing monster hoards, this game is for you.

If you are looking for a game that will simulate D&D, I suggest you look elsewhere.

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