Matt DawkinsUnited States
Our first board game night at a local comic book/game shop was a resounding success! This shop opened up near where my wife works just two months ago, and we've both dropped into the store on occasion. We found out that they were starting up a board game night at the store and we cleared our schedule and attended for the first time tonight.
If you're picky about this sort of thing, I will go ahead and warn you now... we played Betrayal at House on the Hill for the first time tonight and I plan on explaining our experience in detail, so if you're worried about spoilers for one of the potential outcomes for that game, I strongly suggest you skip on down to the next game. I will give one more warning in the text below before I get into the details of our specific scenario. You've been warned!
Katie and I both played this one along with four other people. Betrayal kicks off as a tile-laying game, as you explore the house. As you lay down and explore certain rooms, you'll stumble upon items, events, and omens. The events and omens generally affect your player's stats, some positively, some negatively, and some entirely dependent on a dice roll. Every time a player comes upon an omen, that player must conduct a haunt roll, with which he/she rolls several dice. If the number rolled is less than the number of omens on the board, the haunt is initiated, and the entire game is flipped on its head. At this point, one of the six players is selected to betray the other five players, and all other players compete against the traitor to decide the game. The scenarios are wacky and range from supernatural horror stories to science fiction tales with aliens.
Once the haunt begins, a scenario is selected based on what omen was drawn and in what room it took place. I believe there are 68 different scenarios, each vastly different and providing for a completely unique play experience. In our case, I believe a madman omen card was drawn in the pentagram room. At this point, we check a chart, and the chart informs us who the traitor is and what scenario we'll be facing. The remaining explorers (now titled "Heroes") split up and read the scenario and what they must do to win it, and the traitor gets his own instruction manual that instructs him how to play the bad guy and what he must do to win the game.
Scenario spoilers below!
For our scenario in this game, we were faced with an insane demolitionist who had placed time bombs on all of the other players! The traitor's ultimate goal was to detonate a big bomb that would take out the house and everyone in it after so many turns. In the meantime, he could detonate the individual time bombs on each player if they came within a certain proximity to him, or if he rolled above a specific number on his turn to set off the time bomb of the person sitting to his left at the table that still had an active bomb in his possession.
The Heroes could perform a knowledge roll and attempt to diffuse the time bombs on them, with a successful roll resulting in the removal of the bomb. On the other hand, a low roll could result in accidentally detonating the bomb and taking out anyone in the room with you. Since one of our players had maxed out his knowledge stat in the first half of the game, we all decided to meet up with him and have him defuse our bombs, rather than attempt individually and risk blowing ourselves up. Unfortunately, he could only attempt to defuse one bomb per turn.
The final two turns were epic and rousing. Katie and I each died in the last two turns, both of us victims of separate detonations decided by dice luck and just happening to be the two people sitting left of the person who became the traitor. The remaining three heroes managed to diffuse their time bombs, survive a dynamite attack, and rush the traitor to defeat him and win the game.
I was thoroughly impressed with the game. It was a blast (hah!), and while it certainly relied on a lot of dice rolling, there was a significant amount of strategy involved as well. Furthermore, the variety and replayability is enormous with all of the different random scenarios and house layouts for every time you play a new game.
It is a three-player game, so I don't know that we'll be adding this one to our collection yet, but we certainly hope it's a staple of game nights from now on, because we both loved it.
At this point, we brought in two more players for an 8-player game of Tsuro. This was the first time for almost everyone at the table to play it, including Katie and I, although we were familiar with the game and knew how to play thanks to the TableTop video featuring it on YouTube. Not that it is a difficult game to figure out if we had not watched the video before hand. It was extremely easy for everyone to catch on, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it plays quite quickly as each game was somewhere between just 5-10 minutes long.
For those unfamiliar with it, I highly recommend tracking down the TableTop episode featuring it on YouTube. The Tsuro portion is about 10 minutes long, explains everything you need to know to play the game, and you get to watch a complete game in that timeframe as well. However, if you choose not to do so, in a nutshell... it's a tile-laying game, and each tile has several paths on it. Each player has a dragon token, which the place on a path at the beginning of the game. Your token never leaves that path, and your path is determined by the tiles other players and yourself put down throughout the game. If your dragon runs into another dragon or runs off the board, you're out of the game.
Katie was the fourth person out and settled for 5th in the first match, while myself and our game night host were the last two on the board. In the end, he had the final play, and the choice of placing a tile that caused us to both go off the edge or a tile that causes us to run into each other. In the event that a tile is played that affects multiple dragons, the tile placers moves his dragon first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table. So, in the instance where we're the only two left and he's putting down the tile, I would have actually won the game if he placed a tile that causes us to both go off the board. So our host placed the tile that caused our dragons to do a kamikaze dive into each other and we tied for first.
In the second match, Katie and I both made it down to the final three with our host's daughter, when she played a tile that saved herself and knocked me off the board. Katie then played a tile that kept her in the game, and the other player was left with just one tile and no choice but to run herself off the board, giving Katie the win.
For just being a short filler, the game is a blast and we'll definitely be adding it (or Tsuro of the Seas, due to release in a few months) to our collection.
With time for one more game, Katie and I split up at this point. She went to tackle a four-player game of Ticket to Ride, one of her favorites. This was actually the first time she's ever played the original game without the 1910 Expansion and the Mega Game. She lost by a mere two points, and would have taken the win with the Globetrotter bonus ticket present in 1910.
Meanwhile, I continued venturing into new territory with...
Our host's son introduced this game as his favorite, so we sat down for a five-player game of LNOE. The game has several different scenarios to select from, and we picked one that had four of us (the heroes) defending a manor in the center of town while the remaining player controlled the zombie horde and attempted to storm the manor. The heroes win if they defend the manor until sunrise (17 turns), the zombies win if they can get nine zombies into the manor at once.
Melee combat between the heroes and the zombies is nearly identical to Risk. Whether attacking or defending, heroes always roll two dice and zombies always roll one die, and zombies win ties. If a hero rolls a higher number, he fends off the zombie. If a hero rolls a higher number and doubles, he kills the zombie. If a hero rolls the same number or a lower number, the zombie wounds him. Generally speaking, unless you have some fantastic dice luck, you're generally going to be taking wounds from zombies or just fending them off in melee combat against them. If you fend them off, that just buys the evil zombie master one more turn to move the rest of the horde closer to you.
Sounds unfair for our heroes right? Well, here's the catch. There are numerous weapons scattered across town. There are ranged weapons, which allow you to shoot at and attempt to kill zombies from a distance where they can't attack back, and there are melee weapons, which provide combat bonuses for the heroes in the melee combat situation described above.
So, when our scenario first begins, all four of us make a mad dash out of the manor and towards buildings in town, attempting to find weapons that would give us a chance to defend the manor from the approaching zombie horde. Heroes' movements are decided by a 1d6 roll, zombies move one space per turn. I run into trouble almost immediately, when the zombie master plays a card that allows the nearest zombie to me to move straight to my space and attack me. I started the game with a one-time use fire extinguisher, so I tossed my fire extinguisher and ran off, escaping from the zombie.
One of our heroes, the Sheriff, was fortunate enough to start with a Revolver, so he has returned to the house and is attempting to fend off the horde all by himself. I searched and found a Chainsaw, that now enables me to kill a zombie if I beat him in a fight (I no longer have to roll doubles to kill zombies). However, if I use the Chainsaw and lose a fight, I lose the Chainsaw as well. The other heroes come up with a Pistol and Garden Shears. As we race back to the manor, things are looking bad. There are seven zombies inside the manor with more on the way, and if just two more zombies get inside, the game is over. Our Sheriff, the sole hero in the house, tosses Dynamite to take out three zombies, and then the rest of us start arriving in the house.
Pistol guy starts picking off stragglers, while Shears runs into the house and jumps into the middle of the horde. The zombie master moves four zombies all to attack Shears, and an epic cat-and-mouse game of cards follows. Zombie master plays a card to give all of his zombies +2 dice on their attack rolls, I play a counter card to negate his bonus, zombie master plays a counter card to my counter that requires him to roll above a certain number (he fails), zombie master plays yet another combat bonus card, Shears uses his character's ability to counter that card (he fails), and combat finally resumes. Shears kills two zombies and takes two wounds, then ends the match by using a first aid kit to fully heal himself. Not a good round for the zombie master.
The Sheriff opens our turn by shooting and killing the sole remaining zombie inside the house. With the inside of the house taken care of, I dive into the horde approaching the manor and buy more time for everyone outside. I kill the zombie I attack, and then I've placed myself in a tile adjacent to three other zombies. You see, the zombies have a zombie hunger trait which requires the player controlling them to move towards any heroes within adjacent spaces. By moving to where I did on the board, the zombie master is required to move all three zombies into my space instead of moving them towards the manor. Thanks to my handy Chainsaw, I kill two of those three zombies and take a wound from the third (however, I chose not to use my Chainsaw in the third fight when I saw that the zombie rolled a 6 and I could not possibly top that, so I did not lose my Chainsaw for losing that fight).
With 10 turns down and 7 turns remaining, the other group finishes their Ticket to Ride game, and it's getting late and is time for several of us to head home. With no zombies remaining in the manor, we call the game and give the win to ourselves, the valiant heroes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this game as well, and it can be played with just two players too! I don't think that Katie would enjoy the theme (she's not a fan of zombies), though if she could get past it (which I'm not sure about, it is a pretty dominant theme in the game) I believe she would enjoy the gameplay itself. I would love to add this to our collection, but I remain skeptical that Katie would play often.
All in all, what an amazing board game night with a fantastic group of new people that we met. We had an absolute blast and we'll be back for more next week.