Like a better version of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and Mr. Jack (though The Confrontation still gets the nod because of theme). Predict what your opponent will do, with elegant asymmetry between the forces. At its core, this is basic rock-paper-scissors, but also a good simulation of military command, where you're probably doing that anyway, and trying to out-think the opposition based on past tendencies. Ultra-quick game-time and the "could've, should've" after the game leave you wanting more.
The cards seem very tacked on for the sake of theme, and could be implemented better.
Loving this game more (from 7 to 8). I like asymmetric games where there is a brute force (French), and a guerilla force that has to be constantly on the move while engineering precise surgical strikes when they make sense. Made even more interesting since the Spanish have the advantage early. The Spanish has to stall and remain flexible, then decide whether to go for the delay or blitz victory depending on the situation and the cards. Once you commit to the blitz (the gamble), there's no going back (since you can't split those cubes up).
I'm still not convinced the Spanish can win if the French doesn't make a single mistake, but in reality, the French often do (I've lost all 3 games as the French ). I use drunkenKOALA's elegant tweak that makes it more interesting/asymmetric from the start: each player starts with an extra card in hand (besides Artillery/Murat and Jose Molina y Soriano). Helps the Spanish slightly since they have a lot of cards that say "play before Turn X".
An experience that uses a game to make you care about an ambitious setting with its flawed cast of characters. The flavor text, so drab and puerile in novel form, grips me in the context of a game.
Old-school Ameritrash sometimes tips the experience toward 1 player, with the other player serving as an 'AI' (e.g. Space Hulk). This one takes it a step further, with you working on the narrative of your detective, while simultaneously playing God for the other 2 players, helping with upkeep and putting down 'smart' events at the right time. And it's other 2, because 3 is way way optimal (like old-school Ameritrash, the downtime gets too much with each player having a bunch of actions to optimize and spend at once).
The engine that drives the game is the light/dark resource duality, and needing to manage it to properly time your card-play. It's fun, and forces you to strike a balance between helping yourself on your turn, versus screwing others on their turns (and there's a ton of direct screwage; view of it as teaching your opponents life lessons!); drawing cards and picking things up along the way, versus spending them to lower card costs. Reminiscent of Mammoth Hunters and Lords of the Rings TCG (hey, it's called twilight too!), but the engine is far more integrated into the theme than in either of those.
Four main things to do: 1. Place evidence on suspects to solve the crime and prove your guilty hunch (hidden objectives, hidden majority system, with plenty of bluffing and negotiation) for a ton of end-game VPs. 2. Work on the conspiracy puzzle, building a cute communal jigsaw puzzle to link factions to the murder, and raise the VP values of certain resources. 3. Accumulate good baggage to resolve your narrative arc favorably, and have your happy endings. 4. Trade between resources via board locations.
Thematic integration on all levels. Every innovative mechanism has a place in the theme, and is thoughtfully blended together. The flavor text adds so much color that you have to consciously stop reading them so you'll actually have a shot at finishing the game.
The only real drawback is downtime, since you take your actions all at once, and have lots of ways to optimize, but pick suitable opponents and you're fine. Plus I'm having a ball on others' turns reading flavor text, thinking up my next day, and looking out for opportunities to play dark cards.
Definite perfect 5 on design, and while I'm not sure this one has legs beyond the 20 or so plays the cards are supposed to provide (got abandoned expansion-wise due to the mass of wusses that misunderstands this game), this will be a 4 or 5 on want-to-play until further notice.
bleached_lizard develops thoughtful variants for several FFG games, and his Android: The Director's Cut v3.0 thoughtfully points out and tries to fix thematic inconsistencies. Will explore when I tire of the game.
In this era of multi-use card games (every card in Glory to Rome, Race for the Galaxy, Innovation etc has a gazillion uses), Netrunner has aged well, and sets the standard for single-use cards.
True to its CCG lineage, the complexity is all in the cards and the combos you make with what you put onto the table. But never getting caught with your pants down on credits (money), cards and clicks (actions) is also crucial. The play-or-draw action never fails to work for card games, giving you the option of either a more cautious approach, or to go in guns a-blazing and to hell with the consequences.
Unlike other CCGs, though, it's not merely about the meta-game. Awkward match-ups can occur, but good play (reading and signaling the enemy) can potentially overcome them. You do not win or lose merely via deckbuilding, with the face-to-face merely being a foregone conclusion; decisions during play can actually swing the game. My favorite part about CCGs was designing flavor-rich thematic decks which I would unfortunately never dream about taking to a tournament. It's great to have the freedom (or at least the perceived freedom) to design decks that are both thematic and competitive in Netrunner since in-game play matters a lot more.
The wildly asymmetric gameplay is a huge draw, especially in 2-player games. It's the Corporation vs. the Netrunner, with no clear-cut roles of offense and defense. Instead, each player tries to run out or prolong the clock at different points of the game. And layered throughout is the bluffing, where the Corporation throws out a few signals and the Netrunner needs to have discipline.
The "awesome theme" in here -- with many calling this the most thematic card game ever made (in my book, that's Lifeboat) -- is a little contrived by the game forcing you to call every single thing by its thematic name (including in the hard-to-follow rulebook), but hey, after 30min of brainwashing, it works. You get to be one of the cool kids who discusses strategies involving R&D, HQ, Programs and when to Rez Ice, instead of just where to place random pieces of cardboard (helps that I love cynical/dystopian themes). Pretty cool that the game tries to incorporate the hand, draw deck and discard pile organically too. My only reservation here is that "make a run" sounds wussy. Why not something like "let's run on it" or "break the system" or "plug in" etc? I like the "jack out" term.
I wasn't sure after a few uneven plays early, but see now that the play style (especially of each faction) didn't click with me yet. Suspicions confirmed: the potential for smart play means 'fun, themed decks' and 'tournament-competitive decks' aren't mutually exclusive, and win/loss isn't determined primarily by match-ups. Finally a customizable game I can love again! I haven't obsessed like this over a game for a long time (with deckbuilding ideas popping into everyday life), so this deserves a bump to a 10!
Current small card pool means the faction you choose really limits your strategy (just a core theme, with variations on it), but this lowers the entry barrier, and makes deckbuilding a breeze. Factions help lend theme while simplifying the customization process, and cause the upgrade packs to be incremental changes (since 20 cards are split among 7 factions). Smart decisions everywhere. Looking forward to growing with the game.
Warts that have emerged after hundreds and hundreds of mostly online plays, with a few tournaments thrown in:
- The tournament scoring rules are flawed, biasing against certain deck-types and increasing the impact of luck. I say just do straight wins and losses (with 2 games against an opponent, if it's 1-1, so be it), and never any elimination rounds. The current flaw also magnifies the Corp/Runner imbalance (which I'd normally have no problem with). FFG listens to the fans! Still need to get rid of the system for elimination matches though: I favor tennis tiebreaker-style, keep alternating sides until one player wins 2 in a row.
- Always the fundamental fact that a Runner can dig out of bad initial luck, but a Corp might just lose based on a poor initial draw.
- As the card pool grows larger, Runner deckbuilding gets more and more fun, but Corp deckbuilding is a headache, since there's very little wiggle room after putting in your requisite agendas, Ice and economy (whereas the Runner never really needs to respect any sub-type constraints). I understand trimming A+B+C into A+B, but I hate have having to trim A+B+C+D synergy into just A.
- The once-a-month incremental change helps nobody except FFG's coffers and marketing department. It'd be fine if the data packs were used to address issues with each iteration, but it appears that the cards are set well in advance. This means issues that leak out to the public take a long time to address (if at all), and the 'fix' might actually fix it too much. A big expansion every 3-4 months or so would do much better in terms of game balance and maximizing strategy space, plus foster deeper exploration (instead of, say, 1 tournament with each set of cards) and it'd be less overwhelming to have to update decks every month. On the FFG side, I suspect incremental changes are a bigger barrier to entry and keeping players than less often step changes (all the data packs do is just create buzz). I'd like some stability instead of just having 1-2 tournaments with each card-pool before it's on to the new cards, and constant tweaking again. This would've worked fine in the past when there weren't many good games around, but in this golden age of tabletop gaming, I don't have enough gaming opportunities to focus on keeping up with the monthly release schedule when there are so many other fine games that function perfectly without it, and so many others to experience.
Like any game involving bluffing, level 1 is getting ensnared, level 2 is anticipating and optimizing, level 3 is bluffing once again. Games are highly varied, and every 5 or so games, a new OMGWTF moment emerges. Even if no data pack is released anymore, the game is still a classic with unlimited replayability.
Taking a sabbatical from this game, starting from Opening Moves (my previous one was during Humanity's Shadow). I hope Corp-Runner balance will be better when I return, the designers/developers will be less close-minded, silver-bullet cards like Jackson Howard, Datasucker and Plascrete Carapace become less common or are restricted/banned, and the distribution model can slow down.
...Currently downgrading my Netrunner collection to the bare minimum. Think I'll just play Draft and see what decks I can build out of my card-pool to teach newbies with. I only foresee maintaining decks to demo the game.
Favorite 2-player Short - Runner-up (Waiting for card release to slow down or hoping for draft format to be good, more potential and rated higher than favorite: Flash Duel)
Better than expected. Shapers have a new unique play-identity and are now the equal of the other factions in every way, though a negative side-effect is that it made the Runner-Corporation balance even worse (would have been better if Criminal and Anarch took a step back instead). HB has a big/giant-ice style. Incremental tweaks for every faction except NBN.
This one illustrates the problem with rating these data packs: I like the awesome Runner cards and their design, but worry about how this data pack completely tilted the table against the Corporation, with no guarantee in the future that balance will ever be restored.
A year on: Personal Workshop, the centerpiece of Noise-shop solo-play, has been nerfed by Jackson Howard. Emergency Shutdown remains a threat. Snitch is getting better. Pop-up Window is necessary, Marked Accounts, Chimera, Test Run are nice to have. Vitruvius is a must for HB.
Project Beale, Midseason Replacements and the new NBN legitimize the faction. Ronin, Dedicated Response Team, Ruhr Valley, Retrieval Run, Darwin create new possibilities. Nearly everything is a winner here.
The Jinteki stuff is okay (doesn't top what Spin Cycle did for Jinteki) and seems to explore new directions instead of buttressing already strong ones. Criminal stuff is unmemorable. Neutral cards are interesting and provide new directions.
Gives Jinteki a slight boost (it still needs better Ice and money); Criminal makes off like a criminal (and to a smaller degree, all Runners) with Compromised Employee and Sat Uplink after not getting any good toys in WLA; NBN's Big Brother is cool, and the ChiLo division can stand by itself once more ways to trace during a run without using Ice are available (Bernice Mai!); neutrals continue the 'neutrals are crap' developmental line of thinking; other factions get a little flexibility or nothing, depends on how you look at it.
Overall, introduces a new deck-type (new Jinteki), but less essential than WLA, which has Corp agendas. Surprise for me, since I thought the lower influence cards in here would have a bigger impact and make for more varied uses.
E3 Feedback Implant is very controversial in my mind, and is an extreme I hope the game avoids. They've got to strike a balance between powerful faction-hate cards like this (Plascrete isn't as big a hate on Weyland), and super-versatile cards that should be big-splashed everywhere (e.g. Compromised Employee).
A year on, looks like a mandatory pack for Jinteki thanks to Trick of Light and Fetal AI. Others can pass.
Must-get: Project Atlas - More deck-searching for the faction that benefits most from it... Imp - More Viruses for Noise's ability, and kicks Demolition Run's ass. Makes Aesop's even better!
Add these to the toolbox Ash 2X3ZB9CY - more powerful than Red Herrings, but more expensive and unique. Probably 1 copy in a Red Herrings deck. Restructured Datapool - keeps runner on toes if scored early TMI - math nightmare, keeps up the proud NBN tradition of big-value Ice. Don't lose the trace! Caduceus - math nightmare, functions like a weaker Closed Accounts Draco - flexible (love to rez this early with no +0 power), great for NBN, math nightmare in mid-game. Cheap sentries that end the run are hard to find. ZU.13 Key Master - Gordian Blade is really good, and this one's really close. I do like cheap icebreakers. Enables Kate to not use a Console (which I find a hindrance, except for Grimoire). Necessitates Rabbit Hole The Helpful AI - better than expected, not too bad on a 3-4 run turn. Helps on the icebreakers that require 2-3 credits to pump, and my favorite was using it to deflect Caduceus, then trashing to pump the next piece of Ice. Peacock - only if you can't spare the influence for Gordian Blade
Meh Braintrust - the only good thing about this one is the 3/2. Text is too expensive Spinal Modem - locks you into Rabbit Holes. Prefer Grimoire for both Anarch identities (Whizzard doesn't have enough to deviate from virus package), and why does Kate want to spend influence on Toolbox-lite when she can Mod Toolbox or just not run a Console? Whizzard, Master Gamer - not that bad. Whizzard places stress on lightly-defended remote servers (without need for B*** Jobs), at the expense of pressure on Archives, so just a matter of preference, and you can interchange identities with a Noise deck. The downside is he doesn't have enough cards right now (or the influence) to branch out from the virus package. He runs a smaller virus package (I don't like Medium), but still too similar to Noise.
Ick Mandatory Upgrades - wtf no. Put 3 copies in and you'll draw them late; put fewer in and you won't draw them early. Plus this needs to be completed early and Bioroids suck early. Snowflake - not this kind of mind game please. Cheaper than Wall of Static, but you'll probably spend more in the short-to-medium run, plus you might not even end the run. Morning Star - seems popular, but I prefer cheap icebreakers like Corroder where you surprise-install with 1st click and run run run. Hadrian's Wall and Heimdall 1.0 are the only barriers with more than 2 sub-routines too, I think (in comparison to Battering Ram). Cortez Chip - not usually worth putting this down just to stop your opponent from rezzing something he'd rez next turn anyway. Plascrete Carapace - this is defense for PSF, not Scorched Earth, and is hence useless. Put 1 down and you likely still can't stop SE, put 2 down and Weyland laughs at you after you wasted clicks and credits. Plus I'm not okay with tags, period, with resource-heavy decks, so stop the problem at its root, not the symptom (using Plascrete). I much prefer Decoy to guard against Weyland/NBN/Data Raven if I can spare the influence.
So shitty it should be all by itself HB: Stronger Together - Bioroids don't need +1 str when runners are always using clicks to break sub-routines. Doesn't help with HB's early weakness when those Bioroids can't defend a server by themselves. Doesn't help at all if the runner never installs the right icebreaker. Plus I like constant benefits (Engineering the Future) instead of lumpy benefits, especially if lumpy benefits are stacked late on a faction that's weak early, and might never actually arrive.
Other Janus 1.0 - can't splash it anywhere, since sub-routines are kinda shitty for costing 15 (plus it's a Bioroid and breakable), but remarkable for introducing a new deck-type: Chum-Janus 1.0. Though still risky since you spend a lot of shit to make 1 server impregnable, and the Runner will never go there anymore. Still, this card gave me the biggest eureka deck-building moment.
Overall, small incremental change to the metagame, since 20 card types are spread over 7 factions, which keeps things accessible.
Weyland and NBN got stronger and must get this, Jinteki slightly (be better once it can actually be able to rez Janus reliably) while HB got thrown in the shit-can (despite having the most cards) and can pass. Kate is queen now (though more because of improved viability for Rabbit Hole; she just has more flexibility now with Consoles), Criminal got basically nothing (my Criminal WLA looks identical to Core, just a tiny bit of influence flexibility with Peacock if you want), Noise got a great boost with Imp, and Whizzard can't be independent yet.
So, 4 out of 7 factions got shiny new toys to play with, while 3 got coal in their stockings. Pass if you run Criminal and HB/Jinteki (I really love my Janus deck though, but it's the exception, and I can always swap Janus out for Archer again). Disappointed about lack of early support for Jinteki, everybody's favorite ugly stepsister; I'll shelve it till Bullfrog comes out.
Base: 5+5 +What Lies Ahead: 2+4
I put 3 for Design since wtf is up with Atlas vs. Braintrust? And why is HB so shafted in a HB-centered data pack? Expansion Value 3 since 4 of the 7 factions got shiny toys to play with while 3 got coals in their stockings.
...Time has revealed that Plascrete is the kind of 'meta-hate silver bullets' that detracts from the game.
- Each player builds in secret, so you need to attack in order to see what they're building. - The combat system, reminiscent of the Starcraft board game, shows off the RTS rock-paper-scissors model, with scouting points enabling you to obtain more favorable match-ups. - Surprise attacks are modeled via simultaneous action selection, and also help the loser catch up.
Ultimately, it abstracts away the things I don't care for (moving units around, clicking furiously), and distills it down to the actual strategic decisions you make in the game -- allocation of resources, power and workers, which buildings and units to go for, whether to rush or tech.
Simple base mechanism of play-1-draw-1, which is suitable since the fog of war would make cheating too accidentally easy if it were more complicated. But there is depth there too since you decide whether to play the card face-up as a new construction or face-down as a resource (reminiscent of Race for the Galaxy). Higher-tech buildings also require time, 'foundation' to construct, reminiscent of Glory to Rome, and show off the rush vs. tech extremes.
Heart of the game is in the combat system, which consists of matching units up in a CCG-like way. Different kinds of attacks can be pulled off too, so it's fine that the board is abstracted into my base, the battleground and your base.
And what game out there provides a mini-rulebook for each faction? The Terran-Protoss-Zerg + cool idea (Colossus) dynamic is conveyed through the card decks and innate abilities, with player differentiation everywhere.
Played 2 games so far, and both were a little short and degenerate due to lack of skill, but this has potential! Hopefully those games are a natural consequence of rushing, and there'll be more varied kinds (e.g. tech winning out over rush).
Original, ambitious, respectfully adapts/abstracts its setting, and in due time, hopefully very playable.
Terran has a worker-based economy where workers can be used to generate power, resources, 2 rerolls per, or militia defense. Balanced units. Power is generated by workers and power plants and used to build advanced units and weapons. Upgrade cards are Unit Technology (unit-specific, each Force can only hold 1) and Tech Facility (global). All Upgrade cards need power, but are built in the Tech space, so don't need to assign Unit Technology until Construction (but then it's permanent).
Kahoum has a worker-based economy where acolytes can be used to generate power, 1 reroll per or Novice defense. Units can be upgraded with power. Need power for buildings AND units and everything. Acolytes and Obelisks produce power (3). Upgrades are Obelisk Abilities that can only go on Obelisks (2 per). These are used in battle only if the Obelisk is voluntarily risked as a supporting unit that is placed last, and always in support. They can be protected by cheap Psi Walls. Emergency Defense can be used for 2 power instead.
Xenos produces (cheap, swarm, 6 per sometimes instead of 4, weak) units on Forces/buildings and generates power through Eggs. Resources played into the Queen space are Eggs and during Construction, they move to Larvae. Next time, the Larvae become New Adults, as units, or are sacrificed for power. 2 Larvae may be held over to provide flexibility. Eggs can be fast-tracked to New Adults through a power per 2 Eggs. Eggs go straight to New Adult during Emergency Defense. Upgrades are all played into the Gene Pool and assigned during Construction. Unlike Terran, only 1 general tech (Brain) allowed, but unlimited unit-specific techs (Genes) allowed, at a cost of 1 extra power per assigned tech. Genes once assigned are permanent. Most Genes allow units to 'Evolve' into a different type of unit (with chain-Evolves) for defense or sacrifice 1 attack type for another. The Queen can be risked in battle but if she is Wounded, eggs then cost 2 resources each (unless base is attacked).
Colossus Forces (weapons) do not have unit types. Where you build it on the Colossus determines what unit type it is. 2 slots for each type (except Building / Base Defense, which is built outside, and unaffected by Pilot, System Upgrades or anything naming 'weapon'), 2 slots for upgrades, 1 slot for Pilot (global tech). Upgrades can bleed into other weapon slots if needed. Lasers are normal, missiles disintegrate if you roll a 6 (i.e. they're kamikaze), guns provide units immediately upon construction (windfall world!), close combat allows maximum of 1 attack regardless of # of units. In every battle except a Raid, Empty Buildings on the Base Mat (but not Base Defense unless defending base) are at risk of destruction via the Chasis Cards, since the Colossus is a mobile base.
In due time... it remained pretty unplayable. The combat system is inventive, but a total slog of calculation and icon-identification. Not a good sign for any game when I actually dread battles and wish we could just hurry up and play cards to hasten the end. The dense information on cards and the awkward combat also means you're drowning in squares, circles and colors, and unable to appreciate the big picture, in which case I'd rather play a big game with figures.
After playing a 'real' game with back-and-forth that threatened to go the distance (instead of just 15-min rush crush due to mistakes), projected playtime would have been 120-150 minutes. I could've fit a big-box game with figures into that timeframe, and the entire thing felt like a mechanical exercise instead of Starcraft. This game should be Starcraft, fast and furious, and having playtime extend over an hour for total abstraction is a killer.
A+ for ambition and originality, but this needed a lot more streamlining and development.
I'm still giving this 1 or 2 more shots. I'm very forgiving here, because 1) I sleeved the damn thing, 2) I like RTS, 3) the game is so innovative.
Takes the best part of Axis & Allies (island-hopping) and adds a few modern ideas to keep it fresh. With 3 theaters of war to worry about, decisions are now more complex than dividing your IPCs by 3 and figuring out how to allocate the remainder. Strangely, a more complex game is now divided between 3 players only, with 2 who really control two sides, but that's definitely OK, vanilla A&A has too little strategic value and downtime per side.
VP track gives a nice hold-on-for-dear-life feel to Japan, Britain takes a beating early and holds the line while dividing between two theaters of war, while USA figures out how to spend its IPCs.
Twilight Imperium fills my island-hopping needs now, but if in need of something lighter, I could give this a whirl.
2-player war game that's as simple or complex as how you want it. There is some luck, but good tactics can overcome it most of the time.
Very fun to play, as I really love the theme and some of the quasi-historical scenarios. Fantasy + Medieval = awesome. Lore cards are fun and add some welcome chaos to a game that could become repetitive after a few turns. Like the strategic element the formations bring, and the quality of bits is just awesome.
Biggest weakness of the game (and also Memoir '44) is that the ending can feel very anti-climactic sometimes, especially if it's unexpected due to lucky dice rolls.
I haven't found the need to use Call to Arms yet, as I like to make do with the initial placements already in the adventure. Maybe this will be essential after I play each scenario a lot of times. Right now, the only use I get out of it is being able to deploy the Hill Giant and Earth Elemental.
This is my favorite of the hidden loyalties genre, as it strikes the best balance between free-form deduction and game-mechanical structure (since Werewolf-style free form can often go too out of hand and depend on the play group). Battlestar Galactica is my favorite TV show, and the board game does more than justice by conveying the tension, paranoia and gritty atmosphere, in addition to porting key events in the show through event cards. Is this the first ever game that does justice to its license? There's Dune, but this might be the first that captures the spirit of a TV show so well.
The weakness with hidden loyalties is the game can get boring or drawn out once you are exposed (hence it's better for the game to be short). BSG runs against type by offering >3 hours playtime, and can be subject to this, but combats it by offering many choices, and the innovative Destiny Deck mechanism. There are many ways to frak with the other side and sow confusion, many opportunities to interpret signals, many ways to frak with them mentally and spitefully, and many things still to do once your mind is somewhat made up.
The gameplay can definitely feel a little rote if the loyalties are revealed early. But the strongly integrated theme allows me to overlook this, and nearly every deficiency with this game.
Now that the arc is likely complete, the Base Game remains at a 9 due to lack of variety and some 'solvability', but the entire series is a definite, true 10, capped by the amazing Daybreak expansion. There are so many options and sandbox-element cards that no two plays will ever feel the same again.
My 2 recommendations 1. Beginner: Destination = Earth, Cylon Attack Cards (after removing 21 non-CAC Crisis Cards), no Battlestar Pegasus, no Exodus Loyalty +1 (and therefore no Conflicted Loyalties, and none of the modules from Exodus). Guaranteed 2 cylons. No Pegasus in order to get rid of Airlock and to give cylons an advantage after taking away the CFB. The thematic bonus of no Pegasus going to Earth is just gravy.
2. Expert: Destination = Ionian Nebula, every single module. No guarantee of 2 cylons, but maximum ability to cycle the Loyalty Deck (via Airlock, Personal Goals, disaster tokens and executions with Nebula etc).
3. Intermediate: (because everybody insists on the CFB but isn't experienced enough for the Nebula...) Destination = Kobol, every module, but Conflicted Loyalties and Loyalty +1 are optional. Recommend CL for 6er Mutineer (a little harder to let the cylon be the last card, + make it a little harder for humans). Recommend doing Loyalty +1 pre-sleeper if not using.
Also, Beginner is more suitable for 5-player while Expert is more suitable for 6-player (where Treachery/Mutiny kicks into overdrive, there is rule complexity from the Mutineer/Cylon Leader, and you need 4 potential human turns in between the 2 Basestar Bridge turns). And consider banning Political Prowess for Expert (due to Airlock availability) but not Beginner.
House-Rule Considerations (in decreasing order of priority) 1. Ban Cain aka Scout + Blind Jump cheese. C'mon, she was only in like 2 episodes. Added bonus of actually giving a reason to pick Adama. Negotiable if going to Earth. 2. Ban Cally. Nobody else has that good a combo of ability + miracle, and her presence makes the game less fun for everybody (totally disrupting unrevealed-cylon strategy). 3. Protect unrevealed cylons from disasters with Ionian Nebula. Just ruins it for everybody when an unrevealed cylon trips the mine, especially if through no fault of his own. Favor letting humans and unrevealed simply toss disasters away (HARDENED) when they draw them or shuffle and draw an extra Loyalty Card. 4. Tory's ability requires Consolidate Power. Else her power is out of whack compared to other card-draw characters. 5. For Crossroads, don't eliminate, just execute (and don't shuffle an extra card into Loyalty). For revealed cylon, this additionally means dropping his/her Super Crisis Card(s).
Political Prowess isn't so bad when Pegasus is often destroyed (so no Airlock), and the new Treachery/Mutiny makes people come in and out of the Brig so much that the one skill check it's used on becomes less pivotal. Plus Change of Plans.
Who I've played in Base-only:
Zarek - 1
Roslin - 1
Base: 5+3 Pegasus: 3+4 Exodus: 2+3 Daybreak: 5+5
Favorite 5-player Long Favorite 6-player Long (with Daybreak expansion)
3 years in the making, an eternity by FFG's expansionist standards, as we the faithful waited for a conclusion to the series that never appeared inevitable. It's finally here and it's worth the wait!
By going back to basics and refining the core tenets of what makes BSG great, instead of half-assing a shitty new idea, Daybreak sets itself apart as the best expansion by far, and quite possibly the only good, meaningful one. Treachery is revamped, and reinforces the most fun part of BSG: the hidden-cylon sabotage. Mutiny introduces ambiguity, the single best ingredient for rousing plays of this, plus it finally fixes the 6-player game by letting the mutineer play a normal game instead of being outed. The dynamism in 22 provided Mutiny cards and facility into the Brig also set the stage for the shocking, legendary moments that make BSG great. Cylon Leaders now truly have their own goal to complete at their own pace, instead of being forced into their agenda and unbalancing the game.
New skill cards are always good for diluting the core cards and adding variety. So many new characters means it'll take a while to play them all, even longer to explore all the combinations.
Earth introduces a minigame of mission management, which is a great distraction when playing with Cylon Attack Cards (instead of 'quiet space'). It also provides a phenomenal incentive for hidden-cylon play to dick with the missions, spike the missions, and activate blind missions to guarantee no jump icon.
Like Season 4, this expansion is violent, with Treachery and Mutiny combining to sucker-punch the unwary.
All FFG expansions that fix and refine rather than add have been sure winners. What can they do next? Will there be more? I'd like alt-versions of all the characters and a character-development mechanism similar to that in Android, a 'campaign' ruleset to visit all the Destinations across multiple games, and a new Colony endgame, but if that's it, and it likely is, then thank you to everybody at FFG that adapted the source material so carefully, and ended things on such a high note.
Just want to say again how awesome Daybreak is.
You can tell the quality of a BSG expansion by its roster of characters. All Daybreak characters are powerful, but in a way that remains fun for everybody (including potential for soft-reveals), unlike Pegasus and Exodus characters, which are either overpowered, not fun or both. Unlike even base-game characters like Adama and Chief.
And there are other subtle things, like Change of Plans mitigating the raw (over)power of Political Prowess, or more Food crisis cards in Daybreak.
Best FFG expansion ever, hands-down. I'd like to think it's because this wasn't rushed.
New Skill Cards: The 0-strength skill cards create more opportunities for subterfuge and paranoia because they screw up the colors in your card-counting. The 6-strength cards are swing-y. And Political Prowess is not fun at all, completely crippling unrevealed-cylon strategy (along with Cally).
New Crisis Cards: Emphasis on sending players to Brig/Sickbay to synergize with Ionian Nebula. But a pain if you're setting up a retro game with Cylon Attack Cards as it completely screws up the jump icon and CAC math.
Loyalty +1: Pretty retarded. Trying to over-fix a problem (that executions aren't scary enough) that was flawed in the first place (Airlock is fine, but crisis abilities that gave free executions weren't), and creating a bigger problem as a result. The possibility of having a Cylon or Sympathizer card as the last card in the Loyalty Deck (hence possibly bringing in the 2nd cylon with a wrong execution) does not scare you from executing somebody early to check him, or executing the Admiral on New Caprica just 'cause (which incidentally isn't even a problem if you don't use NC).
You want there to be the threat of the last card being a cylon (so you can't determine the 2nd cylon through process of elimination), but don't want it to actually happen.
Cylon Fleet: Not bad. Some complain that it takes away from the bluffing game and puts more into space. I say the more deterministic nature of when and where the fleet will come from allows you to plan better and set up better lies. Being a pilot is no longer boring as you can vie for the CAG title. Tough decisions come up in adjusting the jump timing and manipulating the pursuit timing. Critics have not adjusted from their natural instinct to protect/escort civilian ships and jump as soon as possible, when it is no longer always the optimal solution.
But after repeated plays, I don't like the deterministic nature and how you can game the system by constantly leaving 1 basestar on the board to prevent spawn build-ups. It also encourages a cylon to reveal early (a no-no for fun plays!) and spam the Basestar Bridge and properly manage the CFB, which can get "stuck" without proper supervision. Having the CAG is great, but I miss the more thematic sudden surprise attacks, which resulted in less frequent but often more intense space battles.
Conflicted Loyalties: Not a big addition. Players rarely go for their goals, as it's not usually worth it. Just something to make you feel a little more special if you're not a Cylon.
These create so many secrecy-violation headaches that I sometimes just don't bother with them at all.
Ionian Nebula: Player elimination is terrible especially when 1) it comes at the end of a 3+ hour game, and 2) you could prepare all game for it yet still get eliminated because of player spite and bad luck. Just 7 Crossroads Cards also makes the Crossroads phase feel rote. And drawing a disaster as a Cylon is just the worst fate possible, completely ruining your experience, and might even push you to reveal early instead of playing it close to the bone (outweighing the need to get rid of your trauma on Galactica). But having allies sprinkled around as "extra actions" is great, and makes the game feel tighter thematically.
Like Exodus Loyalty +1, you want the threat of a disaster, but not for it to actually happen.
Could play without trauma hands, just put a random token on a new Ally each time.
New Characters: Complete trash. Either unbalanced, uninteresting thematically and mechanically, or both. Tory should be nerfed. Gaeta and Cally can both provide NPEs (Gaeta less so with the Cylon Fleet). Anders' OPG sucks if you're a Cylon. Also, I expect my characters to be Exodus-only if I forked out money for it.
Overall, I appreciate the idea to make space combat better and have conflicted loyalties, but the expansion is terribly flawed, especially in combination with some previous ideas (like Sympathizer + Basestar Bridge). It almost seems like the design team was hamstrung by the direction of making all modules independent of each other, and stretched thin in balancing all the different combinations of modules you can play with, resulting in not a single combination that feels well-tested and balanced. The new characters are the embodiment of this, with shitty abilities that would have been so much better if they were dependent upon the 3 modules. And the new characters are just mind-bogglingly bad, overpowered and/or unbalanced (mind-boggling because they're not even main characters).
A lot of new ideas here, and the expansion is almost worthy of a high rating merely due to quantity.
Cylon Leaders - stupid. I haven't played one yet (and probably won't for a while), but don't see how it can be interesting. And from the standpoint of other players, the Cylon Leader is a non-factor in the game. Sure, he does stuff to help or harm you, but you don't really account for it, and treat it as a random card-draw. You're more interested in the loyalties of the other players. The Cylon Leader feels merely like a player-controlled game AI for a balancing mechanism.
Oh, and you win, or lose, as a Cylon Leader. Nobody cares. One of the best parts of BSG, the shared joy of victory with allies whom you might have barely known, is lost when it comes to the Cylon Leader. Nobody gives a frak if you won or lost.
If you are in the camp that believes that whatever team the Sympath. joins wins the game (and that's a very persuasive argument), then the Sympathetic Cylon is unsatisfying because the winner is determined by a random card-flip (for Humans Win or Cylons Win), instead of at least having some control over the Sympathizer's loyalty by tanking Food.
I have a variant to fix the Cylon Leader idea, by tackling defend-the-loser instead of average-but-volatile player count.
New Caprica - I can see why some might dislike it (boring/scripted), and I wouldn't dream of including this in a game with many new players, but I love it. It replaces the last 2 jumps in the base game with a thrilling finale, and puts a satisfying bow on the game session. "A Distant Sadness" plays on loop in my head in the New Caprica phase, and I really get into it. Also breaks up the jump cycles, which can get a little repetitious near the end.
I'm not comfortable with the idea of burning civilian ships early on so you have fewer to unlock on New Caprica though.
Requires some tweaking, since NC is easier for humans. One idea I'd love is to keep the destination a secret until the distance is reached (roll a die), so players can't destroy civilian ships and raise morale with abandon, for fear of ending up in Kobol. More thematic that way too; the fleet never knew it when they chanced upon Kobol and New Caprica.
Treachery - Seems like a good idea theoretically, but they have shockingly little impact on the game (except, of course, in the Destiny Deck), and often actually help the humans. Reckless skill checks don't happen often, and serve only as a deterrent. I have a Treachery variant that gives each character 1 Treachery to start, punishes discards, and makes reckless skill checks happen more often, that's a lot better.
Execution - Awesome idea in theory, and always fun to do. I like that you simply come back as a new character if you're wrongly killed, instead of player elimination. Lets you try more characters as a result. Game-wise, I wonder if the penalty of losing 1 morale (and some cards, but it's fine if the player already has few cards) is too lenient for executing people. There are many situations where you could just execute somebody to have your peace of mind about their loyalty. Design principles that speed up the revelation of people's loyalties make the game less interesting.
Allows you to get rid of an unrevealed Cylon that is doing more harm by staying on the Brig. A shame that the Brig is less crowded with the advent of execution though. The Brig is fun.
Other - Basestar figures are awesome. Nearly made me buy the expansion for them alone. New skill cards and crises are always great.
Overall, some of the design principles are still a work in progress. But I appreciate that the designer has tried to address criticism and shortcomings with the base game. For example, Treachery cards make a Revealed Cylon's turn slightly less boring; and Cylon Leaders and Sympathetic Cylons are not perfect solutions to even-numbered games, but they at least provide an alternative to the oft-criticized Sympathizer. There's also no ignoring the perks of getting more cards and basestar models. Dress it all up with a thrilling finale in New Caprica. It's not perfect, but I can't envision ignoring all aspects of it and playing the base game vanilla. Multiple elements of Pegasus will always be incorporated into my future plays of the base game, even if just the basestars.
Puts a twist on your regular trick-taking game in that if you get too greedy and trump too much or at the wrong time, you're stuck with the bottle and score negative points. Wickedly clever, the theme actually fits and makes explaining the game easier to understand. This is the first trick-taking game I've played in a while that has a disruptive, innovative twist that is natural and is not there for the sake of twisting the game.
Elegant design that solves a lot of problems with hidden-loyalty games. No luck in information-gathering, with the only source of preemptive luck coming in obtaining items. The race to get items and selectively win duels makes the game remain interesting after all affiliations are known, which is rare for games in this genre. Every single thing you do is a signal, and you have complete control over what you do (unlike, say, Shadow Hunters, where you're restricted by dice).
On the downside, the game can take a while to get moving initially, as random attacks and bags fly around. Maybe if everybody knew one person's affiliation at the start?
Has the Clue dynamic where yes, you can go find out everybody's affiliation for sure, but you waste actions that others would have spent on searching for items. To get to the next level (in this and Clue), you need to interpret what other people are saying and doing.
Really an area-majority Euro at heart, but the asymmetric powers and cards are so well done that the cubes truly morph into unique figures. Each faction has a point of differentiation in every single facet of the game. Puts all those Euros that half-assedly differentiate each side (really, Age of Empires? Just 1-2 national advantages to call yourself differentiated? that's it?) to shame.
And the Euro mechanisms are completely integrated into the game, unlike Cyclades, where the auction sticks out like a sore thumb. Chaos doesn't introduce anything that's dramatically new, but glues together its thoughtfully implemented parts seamlessly. A true Euro-Ameritrash hybrid. The cards, variable powers and lurid theme scream Ameritrash, but excellently integrated European design principles include:
- if you fall behind early, cards will favor you. - the action budgeting system (a la Through the Ages and La Strada) results in virtually no downtime. - a gazillion ways to score VPs, but counteracted by a brilliant balanced-scoring concept. There are two often-divergent ways to win: -- dials or VPs -- and you need to equally go down both paths, before deciding which objective to push for.
Rules were really easy to learn, especially with the player aid, and a 4-player game took only 2 hours!
I'm convinced this can be re-themed into a pooping game (the corruption tokens) to show the more prejudiced of Eurogamers what they're missing out on! Or just give it the El Grande Sterilization Treatment.
Need to see how the balance is, but currently it's a 10 from me.
Favorite 4-player Med-length Favorite 5-player Med-length (with Horned Rat expansion)
This expansion doesn't try to mess with perfection - the delicate asymmetric balance of the 4-player base game (which according to the stats threads, is pretty fine). Instead, it comes with an entirely new set of cards for a different-flavored game, plus support for a 5th player (the Horned Rat).
The different flavor seems to have a large majority of base-game fans crying foul, but I've liked it so far, and the chaotic interactions of cards. Great to shake things up. Kweku's summary of the difference in cards is excellent.
Base game has a more distinct flavor for each of the Gods. It's more obvious that Khorne is bloodthirsty, Nurgle wants to ruin, etc. so each God probably feels more differentiated, which is something I dig.
The expansion trades some of the unique identity of each God and blurs the lines a little bit. Khorne's now playing more cards, Tzeentch no longer always out-stalls the others because other Gods have more 0 cost cards, and Nurgle no longer always has the initiative for scoring off ruinations. This disappointed me at first, but the trade-off is that the expansion is much more dynamic and less scripted. Ultimately I approve of this trade-off. - Not 'scripted' in the bad sense, but that in the base game, you telegraph your intent clearly, and simply had to stall to avoid doing so; here, the cards give you a little more flexibility.
The cards in the expansion create many more interesting decisions. Many of the cards in the base game create a void, removing or blocking tactics in the game without offering much to think about in exchange.
OK, so I'm Khorne and I need to crush Slaneesh in Estalia. In base game Slaneesh plays Field of Ecstacy and there's no combat. OK.
In the expansion Slaneesh plays Festival of Sinew, and you can come in there and fight him -- it will just give him one power point for every unit you summon. So rather than sending in multiple Bloodthirsters, maybe send in my Greater Daemon to limit his benefit? But then that will leave me with less power to spread out this turn. Hmmm. Stuff to think about.
More interesting stuff about Chaos Cards: In the expansion, many of the cards are double-edged swords (other players can use for own benefit) or promises (if you fulfill a requirement like "if you dominate this region...") The base game I think had some of this, but it's more common in the expansion, and these cards promote interaction and decision-making for the rest of the round for every player.
Well-Roundedness: The expansion seems more well-rounded in that combat is more important for all Gods, and to me Domination seems more important as well. The balance between Gods may be better in the base game (not entirely convinced) but the balance between the game systems is better in the expansion IMO More ways to get 4-5+ DACs a turn too, instead of it simply being Khorne's domain.
Conclusion: The base game is relatively conservative, and the expansion is its wild sister. I suspect that Euro-oriented players may enjoy the base game more.
The Horned Rat, the 5th player, is cleverly integrated into the game. The rats don't poop like other cultists -- they are poop. They play unlike any Chaos God so far, focusing on dominance and participating in ruinations, and I like that change-up.
The 4er base game is still a strong contender, but at all other player counts, or if the Rat is involved, I'd likely go with the more fun expansion cards (especially since the Base upgrades are scripted), since the game balance there isn't necessarily fine-tuned anyway.
Not a full 5 on incremental value of getting the expansion, since the base game itself is already so good for so many plays. And Nurgle did get nerfed (he's weaker, but I'm not sure he's weak, as the loud minority on BGG claims).
After more plays with the Morrslieb cards, I'm ready to give my stamp of approval. Rating raised from 9 to 10. I don't think this expansion is getting a fair shake from the base game adherents, the loudest faction on BGG. It's a different, wilder style, that caters to a different audience. It isn't necessarily worse than the base game.
Havoc is very powerful and game-altering while Transmogrify is weak; but so too are Battle Cry and The Skull Throne!
So Khorne's 1st upgrade is still an auto-pick. Would you rather go back to the base game, where every God had an auto-pick for his 1st upgrade, and so many of the upgrades were boring, yet mandatory? There are now actually a couple of interesting, fun choices on the upgrades. And this swings the Morrslieb cards for me.
Nurgle is weaker and less focused than in the base game. But that does not necessarily mean he is weaker than the other Gods. The changed roles of the Gods, the wider possibilities for DACs (instead of just Khorne needing to worry about it) and increased options with the cards are all new things to adapt to, and give the game a nice 'alt-universe' look.
The pillars of Ameritrash are Adventure and Dudes-on-a-Map. In that regard, welcome to the big leagues, Christian Marcussen; the world has not seen a rookie season like Merchants & Marauders + Clash of Cultures, anointing him as the only designer outside of Corey K to dare tackle both pillars and do it well.
Reminiscent of Merchants & Marauders with 3 actions a turn and 1 being somewhat scripted (Port Action in M&M, Activate City in CoC). There is morality like in M&M (be peaceful or go to war). But instead of running your avatar around the board, you explore and found cities all over the board.
Has the exploration (pretty rare in board games) to make it a true 4X game. Like Eclipse, use the early Explores to shape your strategy. Unlike Eclipse, this game has SOUL, courtesy of the cards. Action Cards break rules, Objective Cards give short- and long-term goals, Event Cards bring dynamism. The latter can be mitigated by timing your personal progress so you tackle an Event Card when you feel ready for it.
The cool factor comes from the modular city-pieces, which look spectacular and further the theme and gameplay. Also makes the Cultural Influence implementation in this game unique (all 4X games need both a political and military element).
Tech 'tree' isn't as overwhelming as I'd expected. Focus on the first line first, then see what opens up to you. Zoom in on the blue or yellow techs depending on what you need at the moment. Not as bad as, say, Starcraft. The nice player board with the perfectly sized cube cutouts also looks and works great, and makes it easy to track opponents' techs.
I have a soft spot for board games that remind me of video games I used to play, and this is a combination of two of my greatest time sinks as a teenager: Age of Wonders and Age of Empires II. City mood upkeep and the general idea for the former, exploration and TRADE ROUTES (never seen this in a board game before) for the latter.
This game changed my fundamental understanding of a civ game (because it has no Upkeep).
9 is pretty conservative right now. I expect this to go to 10, after more plays or after the expansion drops with 14 civs, elephants, horses and civ-specific techs. Drool. I also want 2v2 rules. This game checks off on nearly everything I want for my grail game.
Concern right now (and why it's not a perfect 5 on want-to-play) is that the player interaction seems very doggie-pile, like in Merchants & Marauders. I take yours then you take mine tit-for-tat, even worse if a 3rd player is within interference range. Will hope to mitigate this (and defend better) in future plays.
...on more plays, looks like it's more a first-attacker advantage. Just be careful, players seem to get into a vacuum with the building, then get boned before identifying the threat.
The concern is that civ-specific advances railroad you into a strategy, but the fun and differentiation is well worth it for me. Besides, it provides some direction early when your objectives aren't defined yet, and having so many civs means I won't tire of civ-specific paths any time soon. Also adds a little bit of variability to the early game.
Some cards now might also benefit certain civs and make the game more swingy, but hey I welcome those shocks.
Leaders are just OK. I like that in the 2er or 3er map, they allow more early exploration and efficient movement. 'Leader Assassination' card now becomes mildly confusing.
I like the extra buildings strengthening the other 3 advance paths, and the implication that you no longer need a coastal city to achieve size 5. A shame they didn't provide updated player aids and boards though (or at least provide stickers like they did with pirates); now one has to sift through a double-sided reference card in addition.
This is the first game in a long time where I just had to shake my head and proclaim ingenuity in the design. It breathes such a fresh air of originality not just into the genre but to board games in general, yet the rules are so simple and elegant.
It's fun allocating dice (and in such different ways for the Humans and Demons), it's fun how the damage system works for Humans, it's fun to build the board up from a single chunky tile, and it's fun how the theme works with little minions flooding the tunnels from unguarded openings.
And I can't rave enough about the components. Before I bought this game, I kept looking for pictures of the minis unpainted (BGG is super misleading with games that come with miniatures; pictures are often tagged incorrectly as "Game" when they should be "Creative") and couldn't find any. Then I looked in the rulebook online, saw the painted minis and laughed that I wasn't going to get hoodwinked by another rulebook that advertised things it provided separately.
And then I opened the box.
All the minis are painted and done very well, with the detail especially evident in the Demon. Strangers would keep stopping by my open box to pick up and admire the figurines, and they would look as surprised as I did when I told them they were pre-painted. At $40 online, and boasting PAINTED MINIS, huge chunky tiles, awesome innovative mechanisms, online designer support, an excellent insert and a satisfyingly huge game box that houses everything securely, Claustrophobia is undoubtedly the best value in board gaming.
Not a must-have. On the cosmetic side, this expansion ruins the amazing storage solution with the base game (can fix by taking a knife to the insert, but then you can't fit sleeved cards in), and difficulty with splitting out expansion components (and needing to do 1 'fix' for base-game scenarios) is a shame. On the gameplay side, the Hellhound and Sicaria are just okay, extra options that are only barely incremental to the already rich roster of characters.
Jury still out on the scenarios. Have way too many to try, since I also have the online scenarios. "The Hunt's Afoot" is apparently the designer's favorite though.
Astounding that an elegant forward-thinking design like this came out in the 70s. The simple system is set up nicely for negotiating and backstabbing, then gets out of the way for the alien powers and cards to take over and tear it down.
I don't like negotiation much, and the theme doesn't grab me, but it's interesting to see the interplay of cards/abilities and the frantic cooperation of players to bash the leader and try to balance the game. No two games ever play the same, despite how much you think you know the cards, and I like to see how hilariously broken the game can get each time. Doing broken things and inviting others to use their broken things on you trumps winning sometimes.
Once-in-a-while/month game though, I feel pretty satiated after each play. Understand the game more now, and each play varies so differently from the next that there's no point not to repeat-play. Very strong contender for the 60-to-150-minute range 4/5/6/7er game.
Perfectly tuned for large groups: Random encounters and alliances keep everybody engaged at all times (and solves the > 4-player interaction by adjacency problem)), while shared wins and random encounters take kingmaking out of your hands.
On the attraction side, alien powers and flares and their combinations introduce a huge variety in each game and always provide something new to think of. Need to adapt and think on your feet, which is also necessitated by the randomness and constant change.
Still forward-thinking by today's standards and more like a gift from the future than a relic from the past. Example: random encounters sound totally taboo ("it's totally random who I attack??"), but it solves large-player-count issues by deftly near-eliminating kingmaking and removing the constraints of adjacency, and just means you need a plan for everybody, not just wounded Joe. Another example: the totally unique concept of a shared victory sounds like kissing your sister, but really, it speeds up the endgame (and hence mitigates leader-bashing and kingmaking) by allowing you to continue pursuing winning solutions that coincide with those of others; I deem it socially irresponsible to delay a likely shared victory to pursue your solo win!
(I can be socially irresponsible sometimes though.)
Favorite 5-player Med-length - Runner-up Favorite 6-player Med-length (with an expansion to add 6th player, preferably Cosmic Incursion)
Like Chaos in the Old World without cards, and not just because it's about monsters corrupting the world. The action system is similar, 6 faction-specific spells/upgrades are key, there are 3 minor unit sculpts and the asymmetry is mind-boggling. Feels a bit like CitOW generalized, with variant factions, maps, turn order etc.
The 'million ways to play Dune' stemming from this being a relic of '70s game design and antiquated rules and rules-writing is a turn-off. Rex is more streamlined and clearer in every aspect, and even if it's off the mark in some places, at least it sticks to one principle.
But the natural evocation of the theme here just works.
Biggest difference is in movement and shipping, and I think this is more a case of preferring whichever system you learned first (Dune or Rex).
Key Differences - More faction powers in Dune. Unfortunately, these are on the fiddly/powerful side: Atreides' Kwisatz Haderach, Harkonnen's Leader Capture, Guild's Maneuver Anytime. I favor keeping the additional Fremen powers. Advantage: Rex - Karama is too many abilities crammed onto a card. Better to have it streamlined into a Cosmic Zap or similarly pithy card (it's a Cosmic Zap with exceptions + faction-specific abilities + 2 generic abilities), which Rex did. Advantage: Rex - Maneuver/Shipping differences: Rex is more dynamic, while Dune = very restricted by whichever strongholds aren't still occupied, and the importance of movement discourages combat and losing the tokens that took a while to develop. Advantage: Rex - I welcome any structure on diplomacy/bribery besides free-for-all. The additional structure actually encourages people to make deals (instead of just relying on a person's word). OTOH, easily ported to Rex. Advantage: Dune - While leader-revivals in Dune make combat even scarier, I prefer leader death to mean something. Advantage: Dune - Winner takes all the spice from killed leaders in Dune while killing leaders gains influence in Rex. I favor the latter since the former results in more separation between winners and losers and makes combat scarier. Advantage: Rex - Increased revival rate in Rex makes combat less scary but also nerfs the Fremen. A wash since it's also needed to balance out Double Spice Blows without Advanced Combat, and get more combat into an 8-round game. - Treachery Deck in Dune encourages creativity with Truthtrance and combat with Worthless, while Strategy Deck in Rex provides flexibility with each card having 2 uses. Advantage: Dune
Overall, combat is less scary in Rex, which is welcome, because blind-bidding combat is already as scary as it can get. I'm concerned that combat in Dune is scary to the point of turtling.
The dice play is a little wonky, as with all Yahtzee-type games, but it's bearable as a facilitator and delivery mechanism of ALLIANCES. Seems to capture the feel of long Dune with that plus the dervish of powers flying around. Takes up to 8, but downtime can get steamy (though not that bad as you can jockey for alliances on other people's turns).
I love that even if you try to commit to an alliance, it is still ephemeral due to the whims of the dice. All alliances are temporary in Dune and shift with the times, whether you like it or not; stay flexible.
The rulebook made me want to cry (in addition to burning my eyes). Game setup made me cry again. As for the game itself, I appreciate the level of detail that went in, but I'm getting too hung up on the layered rule complexity right now. De-prioritizing this (over more streamlined fare like Gears of War and Space Hulk) until I have the time and opponent to play this over and over consecutively to internalize the rules.
Some elements felt weird to me, like the hand of order tiles you manage, and the requirement to activate everybody once before activating somebody again. Artificial gamey constraints like these are jarring after you go through so much effort to simulate things. On a similar note, I've always found it hard to wrap my head around games where your dudes can move across half the entire map given the right circumstance.
Having interrupts be expensive is a nice touch (all other games I've played let you interrupt freely as long as you saved the APs).
Like Dungeon Twister 2, the game hand-holds you through the boring 'training scenarios' to get to the full, standard experience. Wonder if I should just drink from the hose some day.
1st play, as with all wargames, was uneven. I'll bump it a point up since this reminds me of Jagged Alliance, which I can't believe I forgot about. Thanks to Earth Reborn for dredging up those memories of late nights in my childhood clicking away at the computer.
Feels like after my first play of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization: the game seems awesome, but you're too much of a noob with tunnel vision to enjoy it for now. All of us could barely track our own stuff, let alone opponents', didn't dare to fight, and were too busy ironing out inefficiencies to worry about strategy (e.g. I'd upgrade my ships, then not use them, then research a better upgrade next turn... now I have to upgrade the suckas again, argh!!).
But I definitely want to play it a lot more, unlike with other games where I appreciate the design, but interest steadily peters out. Beats Through the Ages because the rules language is so much simpler and more intuitive, and it has an interesting board for real conflict. The game time is very manageable, the rules are unexpectedly simple, streamlined and intuitive (I can explain this to new players in 15min), but wow they nevertheless managed to fit everything into this game.
Reputation Tiles - Nexus Ops Mission Cards (getting random VPs for small successes in battles) Upkeep - any civilization game (I call this the main pre-req for a civ game), Agricola, Dungeon Lords Combat - the Axis & Allies system, most similar to Hammer of the Scots. Also in Nexus Ops. Discs/Cubes - Through the Ages (Happiness/Production) - more discs in play = higher upkeep, vs more cubes in play = more production Player Mat and Action Cost - Hansa Teutonica - peel cube/disc off and read what's underneath. Both games allow uneven # of actions, but HT makes you weigh # of actions vs. ability of each action, while Eclipse makes you weigh the # of actions vs. monetary cost (can you afford to postpone the action to next turn, when it's cheaper?) Supply Track / Tech Tree - a supply board like Puerto Rico, and discounts are possible (but to a certain point, like Quarries) Start Player - like Agricola. Grab it first, the rest follow in seat order.
Not a lot of super-innovative stuff in this game (really just the cute ship customization, and the upkeep-for-variable-number-of-actions concept), but it's amazing how so many elements are packed so tightly and smoothly, with no confusing rules or ambiguous situations at all, like some fine vintage of extra virgin olive oil that just glides down your throat without some grassy shit smell. It's ambitious and it pulls it off.
The perfect marriage of Eurogame and Ameritrash, uniting gamers of both types at a single table.
- Does the game railroad you too much into a strategy? (definitely not, right now, since I'm too overwhelmed to think long-term). I do like reactive luck though, and would have no problem with this, unless it completely handcuffs me from certain strategies.
- Missiles make battles lame when paired with good computers.
- Boring components. Generic ships that seem to be from a parts store. Cubes/Discs. Money cylinder is shit brown and Material cylinder is dark shit brown, gah.
- Player differentiation is tacked on, 7 Wonders style. Not a big deal, just how it is. Probably even a compliment to the game that it runs so well on its tightly condensed engine, that any attempt at variable player powers just rings superficial.
drunkenKOALA says, "Personally there is nothing awesome about Eclipse, but there is nothing bad about it, which I find very impressive. They managed to get all the chrome and essential elements of a space empire game (military, tech, economy, etc) together with almost no text. Every other space empire game has something "bad" about it complexity-wise. Eclipse is really simple and streamlined for its genre which is a huge plus for me. I think the custom ship upgrades is the best part, because there is actually a rps-like counter going on. I like the best part of 2v2 Starcraft a whole lot better than the best part of Eclipse; but I like the worst part of Eclipse a whole lot better than the worst part of Starcraft. "
Couldn't put it better myself. The high highs and low lows of Ameritrash are tempered by the mechanical consistency of Eurogames. Biggest complaint about Eclipse everywhere is over-design, engineered to the point of little dynamism (e.g. no cards, no 'unexpected'), which is the only thing that stops this from being THE game.
Dreads with Missiles + Gluon Computers suck. Not broken, but does force all the players to react or die, which is too much of an impact on the game. And combat could be wilder: the fun's all in customizing the ships beforehand; actual combat is hard to pull off without hurting yourself, since you need many discs to build, move ships around, customize them, then have the bandwidth to colonize afterward.
Four common rule variants - 18XX-style turn order (no-brainer, only left out of the game for lower complexity) - Ships moving through allied player's hex (not stopping) do not betray. - Variable game end, or (my likely preference) play to ~45-50 VPs, with Reputation Tiles only revealed when you announce you're past the game-ending VP limit (e.g. Catan). - Some kind of Missile+Computer nerf (like introducing an energy cost).
On the downside, this game abstracted away all card luck (which I like due to the fat tail) in favor of dice luck. I miss cards sometimes when bringing this to the table.
Wasn't that enamored by the expansion, but mostly because the base game already felt so complete, and is hard to expand without disrupting elegance. Plus there are no cards or other random decks for easy value-add.
Idea of new races is cool but I hate hate hate super-turtle Lyra, which is forced to build the same stuff every game on the side, diverting resources from the main game, and The Exiles' abilities look really weak and incompatible with each other (plus building Orbitals is also like a mini-game on the side). Rho Indi Syndicate (space pirates) is awesome though, and I love its aggression. Magellan is okay, somewhat luck-driven by explorations. Nice touch that the Influence action is more important for Magellan and Lyra.
Rare techs add just a couple more fun abilities and represent the main form of tack-on variety. I appreciate the greater variety of anti-missile and ship-customization strategies. Discovery tiles add more options, but all these are more of the 'more ways to crunch resources for my point salad' vein, plus having same ones available every game is a little boring. Some variability added to hexes.
7-9 players is courting for trouble, and upcoming techs variant is more for the people I'd knock upside over the head with (though I actually take my moves really quickly in this game, and would benefit greatly from seeing the upcoming techs during other people's loooong turns), Ancient Hives and Homeworlds are just okay.
Pretty conservative on the whole, though that's more a compliment to the base game, which didn't really leave any holes to address. I'd be happy enough with just new races in future.
Ion Missiles are fun when they show up early, creating interesting decisions. The Supernova hex tries to add more theme to a game that's more abstracted/streamlined. The somewhat fiddly rules don't quite fit. And intentionally destroying a supernova to cut off a chokepoint just seems wrong.
My first COIN game. This one shapes up to be tricky to explain to new players -- the actions are easy, but it requires independent learners to keep studying the player aid (which is nicely laid out but could have used some graphics or visual aids, and better colors, damn you GMT) during downtime to understand the possibilities with Ops and the intricate asymmetric player powers.
Seems like a treat for 4 players. The theme is gripping, the asymmetry simulates the guerilla warfare well, and the action system is nifty. Lots of considerations with each card -- punt on this card and do the next one? Or figure out which of the 3 options to take? In addition to not getting swayed by the Events and focusing on Ops unless it's really that good, there's also the tough consideration on what options to leave the opponents that follow.
Had one decision where (as Vietcong) I planned it out and punted, feeling confident my North Vietnamese partner would back me up and not let the event fall into wrong hands and... nope! NVA wants to get first dibs on the next card and could care less about NVA + VC guys getting slaughtered right now. That's the moment when my admiration of the game deepened.
Simple rules, Best-of-5, great balance between pushing your luck and showing restraint. I could picture two fencers literally going back-and-forth the whole time. Unique fighters add an extra layer of fun considerations that En Garde doesn't have. And the production value is a bright spot that adds to the zany, cartoon-fighting fun..
Tickles me that there are 20 fighters in the game, or 60 cards solely there in the name of customizing your fighter and adding replayability, while the actual game deck is 25 cards. When other games would probably give you a 60-card game deck and 5 characters (each with only 1 card detailing your ability).
I'm of the opinion that Flash Duel is a variant or collection of house rules from En Garde. It's an extremely well-implemented variant with excellent production values and... value, period. But it's still a "mod" or "conversion" in video-game terms, where it appears obvious that the designer used En Garde as a starting base, and I firmly believe that starting from a base made by others is infinitely easier than building your own sandcastle from scratch. Flash Duel is so chock-full of value and appears to be such a labor of love that it stands on its own. That said, simple, elegant masterpieces like En Garde shouldn't be copied into another game of similar complexity, because it's too simple to begin with (adapting it as part of a more complex game is another story). Taking the sales issue aside (because this variant definitely murdered En Garde and the few fans it had, though side-note, it murdered Schotten Totten even harder in terms of dueling your opponent through discard-tracking), I wish the designer gave Knizia more credit in the rulebook and/or game box, even if it's just "inspired by..." in 8pt font. That's the right thing to do. both designers could put their differences aside and credit can be given without threat of legal action.
The strategic implications brought about by the special powers are endless, permuted by all the different possible match-ups. This is a treat of feinting and dancing between experienced players, with subtle layers of strategy that fly over newbies' heads. Wish the fencing theme could have been kept here (Soul Calibur maybe?).
Schotten-Totten/Battle Line was on its last legs, and this game totally decapitated it. They share the Knizia heritage of tracking discards, bluffing and hedging your opponent didn't already draw the card you want, but the well-integrated theme here (still, Soul Calibur would be better!) has disguised all traces of that ugly mechanical body. If I were Knizia, I sue Sirlin for murdering two games, not just one (besides En Garde). Or hire him to be my personal developer and put all the finishing touches on my great mechanisms but ultimately half-assed games.
I don't usually like games that resort to 'play X rounds' in order to add meat to intrinsically deficient content skeletons. Flash Duel is the exception, because you need the luck to even out, and most importantly, the concept of multiple rounds is built into the theme (fighting video games where it's always best 2-of-3, 3-of-5 etc).
I hope this follows the template for Mansions of Madness, and a big box soon follows to fill the GINORMOUS base-game box, with figures like General RAAM to retroactively support the Mission Pack.
A little burnt out on the missions, so POD was a welcome addition. Only played The Showdown so far, but it might be the best to date, with tough enemies (General RAAM is really interesting and thematic), focused gameplay, and some anti-cheesing principles (e.g. Locusts spawn on both entrance and exit when you enter Level 2). Drawback is they forgot to remove the turtle cheese, but just bring General AI 7 into the mix (different-sized card be damned) when you play.
Everything an adaptation of the video game should be: fast and furious; ported missions and clean streamlined flow of play (to help evangelize video-game fans). On the design front, Mr. Konieczka is his usual original self, introducing a modular AI, a fun map-building mechanism to allow for different experiences with each mission, staged missions, order cards as health, and a less conducive environment for bossypants syndrome in a cooperative game.
On the negative front, the rulebook is full of poorly worded ambiguity and mistakes, and fails to cover several situations. The gameplay can also get a little repetitive on the longer missions. And I'm familiar with all the Order Cards now; more variety would have helped.
Each card can be used to lead an action or follow an action, be built for its text effect, or to be used as material for another building. It can represent bonus actions when placed as a client, be used as building material in your stockpile, score VPs and increase client and vault limits when built, score end-game VPs when in your vault, and be available for recycling after being played as actions into the pool. Not to mention you need to time when you can think - draw cards - and make sure your hand is small when it can afford to be and big when you need to respond and go on the offensive, and when to sneak in a jack.
There are so many possibilities, that in this game, and unlike in other card games that aspire to be, like Dominion and Race for the Galaxy (where you know which 6-dev you're aiming for, and what it says on there), strategies grow organically. There is no set strategy to pursue, and you truly have to devise new uses and combos for the modular pieces in your hand at every given time. This is far and away the best of its genre.
I've been wanting to enjoy a good block wargame for a while, and finally found an accessible one in Hammer of the Scots. It's not just the simple ruleset: the graphic design of the map and blocks is very clear, making it much easier to focus on the game, unlike a lot of other block wargames (especially Columbia Games' own shit-pile of graphic design: Rommel in the Desert).
The objective (basically capture-the-flag, but the flags run all over the place) and premise are both very unique. The asymmetry of the sides really conveys the different tactics employed by the brutish English and the raiding Scots. The winter rules and block mobility give this game a lot of motion and daring attacks, and introduce fluidity in the board situation. Axis & Allies-style combat is also very easy to grasp. I groaned when trying to internalize all the thematic 'flavor rules', but was pleasantly surprised to find that the Bruce scenario is devoid of them, and is a great entry point for two newbies. The Braveheart scenario is where the fun is at though, because of William Wallace and Edward's decision on whether to winter.
Currently a little worried about the rich-get-richer syndrome, due to the leader obtaining more build points, and the Scots getting more powerful units if they're winning. Only hope is the cards favor you, which brings me to the worry that between experienced players, it's all about what cards you draw. Some deck management would have been cool. Otherwise, still having a lot of fun exploring the game.
Cooperative game. Objective is to play 1-2-3-4-5 in order in 5 suits (there are 3 1s, 1 5 and 2 of all other #s in each suit). You see everybody else's hand of 4-5 cards but not your own, and there are strict communication rules, so this game is immune to bossypants syndrome, and more like Space Alert, Wok Star etc.
3 options on your turn:
1. Play a card (and draw 1), If it's not a legal play, get a strike. 3 strikes and everybody loses.
2. Give information. Discard a clue token (start with 8) to point out to somebody all the cards he has of a particular suit or number.
3. Discard a card and gain a clue token. But look out if you discard the last copy of a card, preventing a suit from completion!
As the giver, you have to identify the riskiest player and guide him. Who you don't pick can also be telling. I think giving somebody a 1-card clue should also only be reserved for emergencies.
As the receiver, you have to figure out if the giver is telling you to play, keep or discard that card, and if what he specifically said about those cards says anything about the other cards in your hand.
Lots of other second-level and third-level info like in other deduction games.
A lot easier with a regular group, but I think the fun is to figure out the conventions in-game with experienced strangers, then apply them.
The Zendo concept applied beautifully to cooperative play. Shades of Tichu (teams), Pow Wow (don't see what you have) and interesting deductive reasoning are all in here.
I held off trying this game for a while because why do I need sooooo much stuff for a 2-player game whose theme I'm ambivalent about?
It provides the quintessential FFG experience for 2 players. Several elements are reminiscent of Starcraft, like the order stack, the combat cards (bonus if matching unit), and the ton of unintuitive unit and hero abilities -- e.g. the Space Marines -- to memorize (which I don't like as much). Worth the price of admission to check out the initiative track (first implementation of the time track mechanism for 2 players that I know of), and nifty strategy-map implementation to reward long-term planning.
Great siege mentality with the besieger and besieged switching roles depending on who's ahead.
Combat cards aren't perfect, since they can slow the game down (especially with people who care too much, or people who card-count), and there's no way to plan attacks astutely short of card-counting (since you don't maintain a hand), plus it gets fiddly with large battles, but it's cool to resolve battles in a non-traditional way.
Extremely unintuitive game (partially due to originality and partially due to some clunkiness in its language/system), and some effort overhead is needed to get through the first few 4-5-hour games. In the meantime, it's fun to wheel and deal and maneuver countries to backstab each other and take over the world, even if you aren't familiar with the language yet.
The game itself is relentlessly situational, and you work towards, or fail, your goal incrementally -- a skipped rondel space here, a missing $2 mil. there. Whether you like the game depends on whether these tiny, nitpicky details detract from the grand scale of awesomeness that comes with the genius thematic idea of acting as a nefarious enabler of military-industrial complexes in a tense geopolitical future.
Looks like a cash-cow rip-off compared to the original Imperial for those who already own it. I'd choose this over the original though because of the pretty board and colors, solid components, cooler theme and more room for military adventure (more neutral areas, and areas are better connected between powers).
So many things to keep track of in this game! Here are a few reminders for myself:
1. When on Investor, invest in countries that are ready to maneuver, tax or pay out. 2. Controlling 2 adjacent countries = keep spinning them, but watch for buyouts. 3. Getting bought out is okay if many markers are going near Investor. 4. As the Swiss Bank, jump back into the fray when you get to double-Invest and take 2 consecutive countries. 5. Cash flow and Rondel timing is extremely important with 3 players. 6. Try solidifying investments first before acquiring puppet states.
I've liked and performed better in 4-player so far. 3-player seems much less forgiving: I got caught without enough cash in Investor a lot; could never time my investments right; and it's easy to fall behind once the other two players both go strong in a couple of countries.
Very easy to learn, and not too hard to master. It's funny to see newbies say they want to score in a balanced way with their color, then they get tempted and go max out their strongest color at the start of the game. Like a super-blend of Reversi/Othello, Scrabble and Dominoes with the aesthetic look of Blokus. Much prefer with 2er and team-play. 3er is okay if you project for the chaos of the 3rd player, but can often feel trapped in turn order. No point playing with 4.
Dominate a majority of the 10 ages. Tried and true 2 actions per turn, used to draw, play, score (dominate), or very often in the mid-game and after, activate the cards you already have on the table. Activating is beneficial when you have more of the right resources on the table, to either be able to activate an attack or to prevent leeching, though sometimes you do want to let your opponent leech if it doesn't help as much (plus you get a card out of it) or actually hurts him. Visual aplomb is achieved by splaying cards in different directions to achieve cumulative effect of all card icons in a color stack.
Race for influence and ensure you have the spare actions to stake your dominance (else your opponent might). Wasting an action to score is a nice catch-up mechanism, similar to that in Twilight Struggle.
Very CCG-like in terms of keeping all the abilities on the table straight in your head.
Surprisingly thematic, despite needing to game some abilities (I draw after you with this ability, so I get a better card, yay). Splaying in each direction appears to have a concept attached to it. And lots of nicely implemented ideas like Statistics (hah!) and Coal result in drastic externalities on your civilization when you throttle them, providing a nice commentary on over-use.
Completes the Chudyk combo: Innovation for 2er, Glory to Rome for higher player counts. Playing with more than 2 would result in too much chaos and bean-counting. I don't like that you really need to memorize the cards in each Age in order to do well though (like 7 Wonders).
All Yahtzee-family games have been dry and boring. Not so with King of Tokyo, where the card upgrades provide an excellent shot in the arm. It also combats the "all faces of the die are good in their own way" syndrome by layering VPs and health on the game as trade-offs. The two objectives conflict through the decision on whether to man up in Tokyo, resulting in great dynamism in deciding what to go for with the dice.
This is the best '3-attempt' dice game by far, and it has brought the fun back to the retread genre.
It doesn't scale very well, however. All Yahtzee descendants play best with 2 or 3 intrinsically due to downtime, but with KoT, the lowered viability of being King in Tokyo with more players further deteriorates the game at higher player counts. It's reached the stage where nobody dares to go into Tokyo. Think about it: with 6 players, that's at least 5 turns of people whacking you, and at least 10 other-player turns before you get a chance to heal, if you want the 2 VP. I want to try the "Gain 1 energy at the start of each player turn while you're in Tokyo" variant if we play with 5 or 6.
Nah, I think the player scaling is fine, just different. Live and adapt. It just raises the stakes for going into Tokyo, which all players then account for. Raised design from 4 to 5.
Buffed up the worst possible dice result (3 hearts), especially by making it an 'in addition' thing. Differentiated monsters was #1 on the wishlist, and this expansion really hits the spot there, even though there are only 8 creature-specific cards for each deck.
More cards. Absolutely no reason to not get this if you like the base game.
You don't remember how you all got into this tiny lifeboat together. Only that you've grown fond of one of them, and you want to survive this together. Even if he/she doesn't love you back.
Even if it means kicking people to the middle of the boat where they have no power, using weapons if need be, which you stole by mugging them. Even if it means killing everybody else who's helping row the boat. Especially if it's that guy you hate with every fiber of your being for some reason (you can't control who you Love or Hate, can you?). He deserves to be thrown overboard, and have a bucket of chum dumped in right after him to exorcise the bad juju vibes. Happy shark chow!
(I am NOT talking about Lifeboats, which, though it illustrates the depths of human depravity with THE meanest mechanism of all time: voting, is too bright and cheery and dabbed over in primary colors to be taken seriously.)
I always thought card games would be an abstraction that stretched your power of imagination to varying degrees. Not Lifeboat. This is the only thematic card game out there. The luridly awesome theme is so well woven into this one that you can even use "what makes sense" to figure out rules you're not clear with. That is the pinnacle. If this game got on your radar because of the theme, and because you want to backstab, mug, loot and kill your friends, then eat one of them if somebody can prepare the corpse, then... you won't be disappointed!
The game mechanics are not perfect. Fights and negotiation disturbingly remind me of Munchkin sometimes with their loose free-form nature. But the game has many excellent core ideas that still feel fresh nearly 10 years after its release: the love-hate relationships, the Rowing stack etc. There are tensions to balance: how far do you want to show that you love/hate a player? Is a big stack of provisions or not falling overboard more important to you? Do you dare put cards in front of you to have them be immune to The Kid's pocketing, at the risk of having them get washed away if you fall overboard? There is enough game in here, with the opposing forces tugging at you, for the theme to glue it all together into an integrated package. Only thematic card game out there, and it puts a lot of other "thematic" board games to shame.
Unfortunately, seemed like the game could have used some fine-tuning. Provisions always seem to run out early, rowing seems to get nowhere sometimes, and the actions seem too free-form. A little more structure and tightly designed cards would have helped. I get a sense that the game relies on people actually wanting and trying to survive, whereas in games, everybody's turning heel and trying to off everybody and leaving an unpredictable winner/survivor.
Experience is highly dependent on the people you play with. Between a 6 and 8 as a result (2 to 4 rating on 'play experience'). I'll err on the high side since this game isn't getting much love.
Favorite 5-player Short - Runner-up Favorite 6-player Short - Runner-up (not always Short)
Apparently withheld from the main game due to controversial thematic implications. Haven't met anybody who had a problem with it, however (you would never in the first place play Lifeboat with people who have things stuck up their asses). Once you get over the laughs, you realize that the game effect rarely kicks in. The only value I get out of this is to see a person's face when he reads the Cannibalism card for the first time.
Exceptionally annoying that the card backs don't match that of the 3rd edition, especially for the love-hate cards. Also dilutes the Navigation deck further down, It's less fun and feels weird when Navigation cards name players that are not in the game.
Madame Wong is small but has an interesting and powerful ability. The extra player is good too. Liquid Courage is great because Madame Wong keys off it, and it's frequently useful/playable (unlike Cannibalism).
Annoying thing is bad rules on the cards, like the 'once per turn' clause that is missing from Liquid Courage and Madame Wong's usage of it. Or Madame Wong's ability saying 'any' instead of 'any other'.
This was THE game I played in my teenage years, and it occupied my attention for 3 years. Come to think of it, I blew off way too much $$$ on this game, as Decipher is a complete cash-grubbing whore (even relative to other CCG companies). Love the theme, love many mechanisms (the amazing TWILIGHT POOL, the importance and danger of the double-move, the variety of deck-building strategies etc), but hate how so many cards hit the store shelves grossly overpowered, and had to be errata-ed or banned, instantly causing sizable losses in my binder. That just speaks to an inexcusable lack of playtesting. Also, foils were pretty crappy in this game. And the game truly jumped the shark after the 3rd year (when the movie tie-in ended).
I was pretty good at this game, and ranked 1st in Asia from mid-way in 2001 up till 2003 and beyond, when the scene died a slow death. I dare say I would have ranked much better if I got to play the top-level competition in the U.S., France and Canada, since my deck-building and card-playing skills were both top-notch (I knew every single card in the game, and never made mistakes during tournament play). But an ocean separated me from the hotbed of this game, and I never got to see how good I really was.
I have 8 constructed tournament-level decks still lying in storage and ready for casual play (well technically, 2-3 of them are good enough to win tournaments, and 5-6 will perform at around .500), or for whomever is interested in playing. The decks are all Standard Format circa 2003, up to Reflections (does not include Mount Doom) and are:
BLACK - Gondor + Rohan + Help in Doubt and Need + Allies / Southron Threats (strong FP, weak Shadow) CLEAR BLUE - Gondor Knights / Corsairs (average FP, strong Shadow) CLEAR RED - Rohan possessions + archery / Gollum + Shelob + Promise Keeping (average but fun FP, inconsistent Shadow) GOLD - Dwarven possessions + drawing + stacking / Dunland anti-possession (strong FP, above-average Shadow) GREEN - Gondor Rangers / Sauron Besiegers (average FP, average Shadow) PINK - Gandalf Trust Me + sneaky Hobbits / Uruk archery (or Uruk Machines) (weak but fun FP, average but fun Shadow) PURPLE - Gondor Noble Leaders / Nazgul beatdown (strong FP, strong Shadow) SOLID BLUE - Elves + Gondor archery / Easterling burdens (strong FP, average Shadow)
My weapon of choice was always some sort of Choke and Denial / Uruk Beatdown (even way back, before it got in vogue and Moria was all the rage) in CLEAR RED, but I have dismantled it.
I was initially wary of this game, since I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and I had reservations that a Stratego look-alike could appropriately convey the theme. But no, the theme flows beautifully and helps you understand the rules a lot quicker than if you were unfamiliar with it, and a satisfying game of bluffing and outguessing lies within, thanks to fog of war and simultaneous card-play in combat.
I'm not thrilled at all that the Deluxe Edition gives you a big box of air and unnecessarily up-sizes the cards and pieces, which is completely dumb for a sub-30min game, and completely tainted John Howe's charming, revered artwork with soulless graphic design. I'm willing to forego the uninspiring variant in the Deluxe Edition to hold on to my out-of-print regular edition and its lovely travel-sized footprint. I hope Fantasy Flight will get around to putting out a more reasonable edition for this game in the future, much like what they did in downsizing Lord of the Rings into the Silver Line.
All copies of that LotR-themed Stratego game need to be seized and burnt!
Enjoyable light-civ/light-war that wraps in 30min per player. Undone by terrible rules-writing and a couple of antiquated ideas.
I like war in the Mediterranean, but wish the empires could have been contemporaneous.
The rules, when written and implemented correctly, are clean. A 'boss' of each phase of the game, a 'trading' phase that is basically white elephant, and Ameritrash-style building + moving that doesn't take too long because everybody's kinda poor. Clever way in implementing resources.
Ameritrash that is as pure as it gets, with the only minor Euro influence being game time, which is a godsend.
Reputed as an 'essential' expansion because it balances the game, but you could've just implemented the balance changes without the expansion. Beyond that, a 6th player is added, all cards have been made more powerful (I like that), there's a new Offering of the Gods phase (purchase a power every turn) with its corresponding Role, Mythological Creatures and a shit-ton of Heroes. Unfortunately, the ton of Heroes was dumped into the game without any official word on how to streamline the process of players rummaging through that shit-ton.
I like the Mythological Creatures, how they're implemented, and getting them to differentiate the civs. By and large though, wish the game had stuck to historicity instead of pulling an Age of Mythology. Turning a blind eye on this since Creatures are fun, Atlantis has been thoughtfully integrated, and the Gods allow more interaction with non-neighbors.
Nevertheless, not as indispensable as most would have you believe.
This is the board game that's given me the closest thing to a feeling of roleplay, in spite of never getting into Sid Meier's Pirates (though it satisfies the Grand Theft Auto itch! And definitely Assassin's Creed Black Flag now that I've played the video game) or even roleplay itself. Mechanisms are simple, just action points, but everything is dressed up in a rich way that made me care. I was totally bummed when my pirate died.
The killer app in the game is the merchant/pirate duality and the sandbox/freedom to make your own choices. 'Morality' is all the rage in video games nowadays, and this one gives heavy consequences for choosing a life forever on the run. Be an inefficient merchant, stuck at least every other turn adrift at sea, or be a pirate, getting to conduct both a port action and steal cargo from merchant ships, but be able to survive the target on your back and the hostility of ports that no longer welcome you. It's easy to switch from a merchant to a marauder, but when should you do it, if at all?
This feels like a 9 right now, but should settle between 8-10. 5 things hold me back:
1) Will other games play out in the same 2-3 general themes (barring some random luckiness): be a pirate and hope the naval ships take a while to mobilize; or wait for a Galleon before being violent. The sheer number of cards in the game and possible combinations gives me optimism. Old-school Z-Man hasn't balked at cramming the box with tons of cards which you only use a few of in games like this and Earth Reborn to add variety and unpredictability. This, along with Mage Knight, puts Fantasy Flight's usual 10-20 play crop of cards to shame.
2) The Event deck was pretty boring.
3) Glory cards reinforce runaway-leader syndrome. Maybe these balance the fact that early leaders get targeted, but I'm not sure you can target players effectively this game, especially if their early lead gets them a ship upgrade quickly.
4) Game could drag with the wrong group. You can spend many consecutive turns grinding and not doing anything meaningful, and that would be a frustrating time if other players bog down in AP.
5) Biggest gripe: player vs. player conflict appears to be dominoes/pile-on. Nobody dares to initiate, then when it happens, whoever wins is so wounded that the other players swoop in for the kill. Maybe lower rewards (don't give the Glory Cards to the victor for a successful boarding too!), decrease the penalty of starting over, or tweak battles so that the luckily targeted loss of any non-Cargo stat doesn't cripple your ship.
6) With 4) and 5) taken together, there isn't much direct interaction, with gameplay often being do your own stuff, then watch others with interest. If watching others gets old, it'd make the non-me time (2/3 or 3/4, or longer if others have AP) a killer.
Based on what I've heard of the expansion, I feel confident it'll address some of the base-game issues (e.g. Galleons) and push this to a 10.
3er was fine, but 4er felt better (in spite of more downtime) because the board got more crowded and incubated conflict in a more natural manner than the PvP scouting rule variant. Maybe that variant is still necessary for 3er.
Whoa this is how you design an expansion! Throw in 10 optional modules with clear implications on how they add to complexity and game-time, and 4 official variants that aid with scalability!
Everything has been a winner so far, though I'd likely never ever try Favor since it seems like a cheat-code no-brainer that caters to the ones who had a problem with randomness. The great thing is that even the weakest modules (Favor, plus Weather and Loyalty are untested but seem fiddly) are very justified thematically. I have to see if the new Galleon cards should be used, even when using the Brig (initial finding is yea they seem better, but keep the Treasure Galleon at Man 2).
Expansions usually just give more of everything. Seas of Glory does that, plus puts in thoughtful ways to supercharge your game, making the sandbox bigger and more evocative. It's not a necessary expansion (hence a 4 on value) as the key changes can easily be ported to Base, but it's a high-value box o' fun, and I'd buy it just for the usability upgrades if nothing (they're not a reason unto their own, but expansions that provide usability upgrades demonstrate how much they care about the players).
Glasses-Captains are kinda a bummer. I get the sense that nobody wants to throw anybody under the bus, so I'll say YO if somebody's nice enough to port your likeness into a game, do the courtesy of dressing the part on your face (and a lot of them did).
The heroes play questing/character development, while Sauron plays area influence and tries to annoy and slow the heroes, so that's 2 games in 1 right there. A weakness is that the heroes can often screw (or fail to screw) Sauron unknowingly, since Sauron advances along his missions using cards (hidden information), and it can be frustrating for Sauron, especially since he can't discuss it till the end of the game. But I think there are enough things in your control to have a fun experience. There's always something to run around and do on the board as the heroes, while planning 1 or 2 turns ahead for a hard-to-stop plot as Sauron is very fun. I thought the combat system, which I had heard bad things about, was very nifty and intuitive (far better than the confusing icons and die-roll modifiers in Fury of Dracula).
There are quite a few original things to wrap your head around, but most of it is procedural, so it's fine when playing with somebody familiar. Theme can help you persevere (as it usually does when I learn rules-complex games like Battlestar Galactica and War of the Ring), and once you do, there's good adventure to be had. It also helps that there are a lot of fresh mechanisms in here. I like Sauron's actions (be balanced, as each action type yields diminishing returns), the multi-choice cards (use either for movement or combat, reminds me of War of the Ring), and I love the draw, rest and damage pools, and strength during combat. I wonder if the designers played WWE Raw Deal before, because the draw-deck-as-health concept, and using your played combat cards to keep track of your strength, are all very reminiscent of that very underrated CCG, and I have never seen them implemented in any other board game.
Very streamlined, intuitive and quick (2 hours with 3) gameplay sets this apart from other allv1 games like Fury of Dracula (the obvious inspiration) and Descent.
My concern is that this seems like a game that wows you the first couple of times, then the weird victory conditions* and lack of variety of cards (this game is the forgotten stepchild in FFG's empire of expansions) start getting more annoying over time. Also a little annoying when rules and FAQ don't cover edge cases, or don't mesh in an intuitive manner, making you wonder if the designers overlooked them.
Sorely needs an expansion for more variety, and I hope they expand upon the Training/deck-building concept, which MEQ tentatively dipped its toes in, before Mage Knight implemented it as a full-fledged mechanism.
Devised a much more intuitive way to explain the victory conditions. - Game end triggers when one side reaches Finale/Shadows Fall - You can get 2 points - 1 point for reaching the Finale/Shadows Fall - 1 point for completing your mission - You only win instantly if you got 2 points and your opponent did not - If the points are tied or nobody reached 2 points, fight a final combat, with the difficulty adjusted by spaces away from the Finale.
Sell your paintings for maximum gain, buy paintings you think will become valuable (but don't spend too much unless you're cooperating with the seller), and use the double paintings wisely.
After my 2nd play (and this time with experienced
opponents), I can see why this is so popular. It helped that I also took a class on auction theory in between my 1st and 2nd plays. Very computational, and you can even develop implicit alliances in the game. I like it, though it might be too opaque and unintuitive for non-gamers or new players. I prefer teaching Ra to newbies because its intuitive auctions are easy to teach, but will play this anytime because the mechanism-heavy auctions offer something entirely different. A gamers' game.
I printed out my homemade deck featuring real artwork through Artscow. Bittersweet memories: it kept me occupied after my mind-blowing trip to Europe (and its art museums), when I came back to the reality of unemployment in a hostile time for new graduates..
I really anticipated playing this, but it fell flat for me. Too much thinking for a 20-minute game, and I felt like I was arbitrarily moving pieces around according to arbitrary movement rules. Really hard to wrap up all the possibilities, and a complete brain workout. The brain-burn involved seems so much denser when you compress it to 20 minutes of game time.
I'm still not liking Mr. Jack right now, but I'd play it against somebody who doesn't over-analyze, because it's quick and pretty with a good theme. Definitely a game that emphasizes thinking on your feet (the moment the character cards are revealed at the start of the turn).
After my 4th play, I understand the game and like it now. This game might sell itself as a deduction game, but the dominating part of it is actually abstract strategy. There is deduction involved in Jack's bluffing and the detective's picking up on tiny movements and inadvertent comments. But to do well in the game, it's all in the character drafts. You want to leave your opponent with the fewest options possible, while properly handling the spatial elements on the board. That's the very essence of abstract strategy.
The asymmetry is very well done. Jack can only escape when he is not witnessed, but it's easier to keep Jack in the light. This buys the detective time, and gives him the option of narrowing down the investigation or ensuring that Jack cannot escape by witnessing all suspects. But as time goes on, it gets progressively easier for Jack to slink into the shadows as the lamps start turning off.
There are a lot of games which are inherently abstract mechanically, but get ruined because of a completely unnecessary theme that doesn't fit at all. But Mr. Jack is the rare abstract strategy game where the whodunnit investigation theme makes the game more enjoyable and satisfying. In contrast, Mystery Rummy - Jack the Ripper hurts its own gameplay with its theme.
theory described it best.
Mr. Jack is a game that:
1) masquerades as a deduction game 2) is actually more of a spatial reasoning game 3) until you both become very good at it, at which point it returns to a deduction game
I got to (2) on 3rd play, just started realizing 3) during 5th play.
Some interesting dynamics from's Mr. Jack perspective:
1. Getting a large number of people eliminated early isn't bad at all, and might even be better. With many, there's the risk that the Detective just gets lucky and finds Mr. Jack in the smaller (maybe only 1) group, but with few, it's easier for you to choose who to protect. 2. Do not go for escape unless you can guarantee it with your character definitely coming out next turn, and you going first (even then, it's difficult because Detective gets last move right before). Nothing's worse than having 2-3 characters able to escape, but not doing so, and letting the Detective know who isn't Mr. Jack. Corollary: might want to keep people in the light after all (which is easier anyway) and go for the shadows only when trying to escape. 3. Each character has 2 states to track: position and status (light/shadow). Characters on display will change their position. Status can usually be changed for anybody, especially shadow -> light. Sergeant (and to a lesser extent, the master of disguise) is the only character that can change other characters' positions, which makes him the most powerful, in my opinion.
A little too deep for me right now, but I'd love to play this game more and be overwhelmed by the options again. Not too hard to learn, but so hard to play. Carefully pick battles you can win, as the consequences are brutal. Decide between entrenching yourself in defense or being flexible. Flank the enemy. Park your artillery quickly in strategic positions. So few actions, yet so much to do...
Downsides: the map is a little overwhelming to take in, and the symbols can be hard to see. Wish locales can be double-lined or highlighted in some other way, so it's easier to see approaches vs. reserve. The map definitely seems to emphasize minimalist beauty over functionality. The perform X-actions format is just asking for AP, causing a lot of downtime between turns. It's a shame because I'd love to ponder my move more, since the ramifications of a bad deployment, unit mix or wrong attacking threat are huge, but I often have to settle for something hasty to avoid taking too long (hopefully this will improve). And the game is horribly confusing on your first play, because of a ton of nitpicky exceptions, and because the rules are unlike anything you've seen before..
I will apply HiveGod's HIS comment here. This is the only game that applies for me.
I've only gotten to play a measly one game so far, but that's more than enough to make this one of my all time favorites. [Game] is like sex when you're fourteen--wait, not like that--I mean, it's everpresent and pervasive, and while you might be fumbling with alien clasps now, you can tell that once you get the hang of it it's gonna be GREAT. You'll probably want to spend the rest of your life doing it. Or trying to get to the place where you're doing it. Constantly.
My girlfriend gave me a poker set a long time ago for my birthday. It had 300 chips in it. People tell me they're of great quality, but I wouldn't know. They feel nice though. I've raided the set for cards and poker chips (for board games), and I only have an empty briefcase now!
As for Hold'em, I'll play it when nothing else is on. That happens a lot, since Hold'em is actually an accepted social activity now. But I don't enjoy picking on little things and trying to read people's tendencies. And player elimination precludes this from being a social game.
We used to remove player elimination in the dorms by allowing eliminated players to buy in again through 40+ push-ups. Buy in at your own risk!
A classic that might look dated nowadays, but still grips you when you're in the game. Puerto Rico perfected the Action Choice Drafting mechanism, putting a twist such that you often do not want to pick a phase and let your opponent free-ride, but instead should set yourself up to free-ride and let your opponent pick it, such that he wastes a turn. The whole game is about setting yourself up to free-ride based on your prediction of sequential events. The only complaint is the fixed turn order (which results in left-of-newbie wins).
This is so much better than Agricola because the preset buildings are finely balanced and combine with each other in a multitude of ways, allowing you to play a much more satisfying perfect-information game (whereas Agricola's Family Game only has legs for fewer than 5-10 plays). That said, it often does seem like the first player to 2 out of Factory-Wharf-Harbor wins (at least in 3er, which I've played the most). Get all 3 and it's game over. I'm very intrigued whenever I see building-strategy victories.
The essence of Mafia/Werewolf formalized and bottled. Shorter play time (20-30 minutes), no player elimination (and more importantly, no elimination of any strategic options you have), and the availability of actual information to base deductions off, all make The Resistance a far superior game.
Having voting results and mission results complements the social aspect, which isn't hurt at all by the game rules.
2 Plot Cards a turn actually dilutes the elegance a bit for large groups (since you have to read cards and keep track of each person's abilities), but that's a credit to how strategically empowering the few rules are. And seems like you do have to throw out a wild guess for the last mission most of the time, but that's still an improvement over having no concrete information in Mafia/Werewolf. And it's an homage of sorts, since you might just have to use the social aspects (arguments, tells) instead of logic to nail the last Spy.
Experience, like Mafia, really depends on how well you know the players, and how boisterous they are. Hence, I'm selective about if/when I play this.
A bloated monster of a game. It lacks the one brilliant idea in Corey's other works like Battlestar Galactica (skill checks) and Middle-Earth Quest (life/damage/rest pools), but is remarkable for how it glues the kitchen sink together. The rules are extremely simple, basically resolve a random event for everybody, then everybody play an action simultaneously, but layered complexity makes decisions tough.
Nearly every area-influence, conquest game you can think of is here in some form. Exploration from Nexus Ops, blitzing from Axis & Allies, building and upkeep in Shogun, plus the threat of getting hit before you can exploit. And of course, A Game of Thrones appears to be the mechanical inspiration.
Still, a little too bloated, with all kinds of tiny cards lying around the table, some confusing rules exceptions, and weird dynamics (especially with a bad map) where the game can sometimes end before the battles get going. Battles can be weird -- losing a battle is harsh, but the game gives the advantage to the attacker, creating a lot of weird I-have-to-attack-lest-he-attacks-me dilemmas, which take getting used to. Not a fan of the Fate Deck, since it's very fiddly to pass it around a big table, and is a lot of work just to simulate fancy die rolls.
Two separate mini-games, with the army battles in one arena and heroes/adventure in the other, with limited, card-driven ways to interact between them. The heroes/adventure element is not fully fleshed out (move here to complete quest, boom, rinse, repeat), and can feel like a burden on the game sometimes when you have to spend 15 minutes every game year on the Quest Phase. Though it does provide a nice respite. Mixed feelings about it, but definitely would have preferred a way for heroes to lead in battle.
Lots of tiny annoyances, but you cannot beat the sheer epic scale of pushing dudes around and colliding in big battles. The highs are awesome and allow me to overlook the lows.
A nice set of simple positive changes with the Revised Edition. Heroes are more mobile, making their abilities better and questing easier and more important. It, combined with heroes' leadership in battle, provides a simple way to increase interaction between heroes and armies, far better than the contrived Commanders module in the expansion. Road to Victory was sorely necessary. Defaulting everything to Epic Variant now really increases game length, but I do like that rune tokens start outside, encouraging early aggro and making the Commander of the Warriors Guild title better early-game.
Still prefer the expansion (and playing base again made me re-appreciate it), but I no longer mind just playing base. Bump from 8 to 9.
Note to self: play to fewer dragon runes in future. 1ed was 6 years to gain 4 w/o Road to Victory, while Revised Ed changed it to 7 years to gain 6 + Road to Victory. Think can easily scale it down to 4 or 5. Encourages conflict too.
I commend FFG for not caving to the demands of the masses and randomly tacking on a 5th or 6th player. That's just a stupid request, since 1) this game system will seriously bog down with more players without any incremental enjoyment (go play A Game of Thrones instead) 2) I like that they focus on getting the 3er player experience right and 3) I have no interest in shouldering the exorbitant cost that'd go into adding 5-6 player support. Don't let the inconsiderate demands of a vocal minority derail the game experience for all (once they realize how unplayable this game is with 5-6). Take a look at Catan, which 5-6 player expansion is the most unnecessary ever and only gets played by chumps who don't realize that you find a different game for 5-6, not try to bend something that wasn't designed for it. Adding 5th and 6th factions, NOT a 5th and 6th player, would be cool though).
What this expansion does is offer a fix for everything mildly unsatisfactory about Runewars. Runewars cobbled together a multitude of parts, and the sum (scale, sweep) was always greater than its parts. This expansion helps glue together some of the more incongruous components.
Too few Tactics, Heroes, Quests, Season events etc, making each game feel a little too rote? More of everything! Especially Heroes, which always decked out, and Season, which becomes more reactive in the expansion instead of guessing what order the cards come up. Heroes are too separate from the main game? Commanders lead armies into battles! The victory condition was too sudden and early? Road to Victory extends the game length just a tad and forces you to defend your victory for a year. Harvest was too weak? Development cards help strengthen them, and further differentiate each faction from the other through "technologies".
The only element I hate and will never use again is the new, stronger cities. Cities were already powerful enough in the base game, in my opinion (and even if they weren't, you still needed to Rally Support for more Heroes), and these new ones make Rally Support overpowered to the point of pushing Acquire Power into obsolescence. I don't like the +1 rune requirement either, plus taking turns whacking each other over areas which you cannot build strongholds or move the runes away in any way just reeks. Plus it makes the Lost City feel like Just Another City. UPDATE: Made my peace with the new cities, though the Lost City point is still a little disappointing.
Commanders are also integrated awkwardly, with many rule exceptions and confusions. It's hard enough to keep your heroes' abilities straight without also worrying about generic tacked-on Commander abilities. I'll only use this if all players are experienced. UPDATE: No reason to use this over the revised Hero rules in the base game, which is a much cleaner and more satisfying implementation. And these two sets of rules do not play well together due to rule contradictions.
Slightly more logic-intensive than Battle Line, due to fewer possible numbers, thereby aiding your proofs, and this is a good thing. Also, the deck seems to run out more often. A great battle of wits against an opponent of equal skill, but plays can get automatic after a while. Like an advanced version of Lost Cities. Haven't tried the Tactics cards yet.
Always play the variant where you claim a stone at the start of your turn. It introduces one more tough decision into a game that has many (dump into the lost stone or not? what if your victory is too slow by 1 turn as a result?). It's also a balancing mechanism to help mitigate bad luck in the card draws.
Quick and elegant stock-market speculation game. Really like the dynamic where you toss out colors you give up on to bid for gold, so you can get the colors you want. It's fun to deduce which color is being tossed out by everybody, so you can get the cheap die. Definite homebrew quality to the artwork, but the cardstock is nice. The VHS box in which the 3rd edition is distributed is friggin' brilliant, making this the most portable game in my collection.
With 3-4 players, you get to see more cards, and what people pass up, to help with your deduction. With 2 players, bluffing plays a larger role, both with your donation, and in terms of driving up the price of a card you know your opponent wants.
This is the little, versatile game that can do anything. Good for 2, 3 or 4 players, playable in less than 30 minutes, easy to explain and ultra-portable.
More a psychology experiment than a real game, and more interesting than fun. But it fills a niche as a filler that can be stopped and started anytime without any hitch, and one that relies on visual dexterity.
Only played the Suicide mission so far. Tense and provides ample strategic considerations with minimal exceptions, without going into tedious bullshit 'flavor rules' like most wargames do. Conflict of Heroes is a very similar game, but lacks the production quality and is unnecessarily complicated.
Not too high on this yet but that might change after I try the other scenarios. It's boring being the Genestealer player in the Suicide mission.
For $100+, I sure wish the figurines could have come ready-made, or at least have a manual on how to cut and assemble them correctly. I screwed a few pieces up, and this often seriously hampers my willingness to play this. The chunky cardboard bits are beautiful, but the glossy cover looks in danger of peeling sometimes. And I dread opening the box to one day find warped tiles.
Finally tried another Scenario (3: The Rescue), and BOY THAT WAS INTENSE. I could practically hear the alien screams and the firefights in the corridors. Confirmed my suspicion that this boils down the hex-and-counter wargame to its bare essentials, and keeps it fast and furious like it should be.
Genestealer strategy was much more interesting, mostly in terms of where to place Blips. Also how to set 'free-involuntary-Reveal' traps, and where would you like to cause a potential jam first. Even if it doesn't improve, screw it: this game is all about switching sides and taking turns to give your friend a shit-in-pants-awesome experience. AI in board games didn't really exist back then, and it is always 'buggy' in modern board games anyway.
4+4. Taking the 1 point off design since Genestealers still suck, just not as much.
Played this when I was into trading cards in my teens. This would have been a great idea for a casual "board game" (as in non-collectible card game), but it had terrible rules for a collectible card game, and hence its quick demise. I think it would have been a great "board game" because the theme is great, the mechanisms flow very well from the theme (Jedi ships have high rate of critical hits, making good luck a bigger factor in winning, just like in the movies; Jedis can deflect shots with their light-sabres!), and there is a good "spend it now or later?" decision with part of the rules. As a collectible card game, however, this was pretty bad. There was just too much luck involved for there to be justified reward in going out and spending a boatload of money on it, so as to be good in it and participate in tournaments. The foils in this game are ultra-pretty! Especially those with Natalie Portman...
I packaged this as a light and fun Ameritrash board game. I have two sets of decks: good Light and good Dark, and crappy Light and crappy Dark. Anybody interested in playing?
Such a beautifully produced game and a clean rule-set that conjures up images of space dogfights. Never played a miniatures game before, so was unprepared for the time invested in setup. With the game already set up though, this would be a treat to play.
Refreshing for a 'board' to be so open and have rules enforced by ships and movement templates.
Own - 3x3 playmat from Hotz
- Core x2
- A-Wing - B-Wing - Millennium Falcon
- TIE Advanced - TIE Interceptor - Slave I - Lambda Shuttle - TIE Bomber
I really want to love this game, with the nifty order-stacking resolution system, the novel deck-management approach to technology and combat, and soooo many unique sculpts + stands for flying units. But the sheer number of technologies and unit types (9 to 11) bogs the game down. Excellent homage for video-game fans, but the swath of units and technologies is harder to justify clunking the game up for me and necessitating more homework.
I'd love it if I had more time to explore this game. The originality and painstaking attention to video-game detail is commendable.
Screw it: I'd play this some more.
Raised from 7 to 8. It's a blast to play (unit/tech complexity concern was overblown and allows for varied repeat plays), since you're fighting for VP spots immediately and ruthlessly, and only tech/upgrade when there happens to be leeway. For now, some unintuitive rule interactions create a lot of disappointments with sub-optimal plays. Hoping to iron this out and get more to the mind games, cunning plays and risk-taking (e.g. planning for a gold order you don't have yet, ensuring your Orbital Defense is out in time).
Hoping at a high/expert level, the order-placement won't boil down to a couple of scripted plays in various situations (first-seat mode, last-seat mode, prevent-invasion mode etc).
All-out war from the get-go, with attackers getting good bonuses. Unlike with other games, there's no 'warm-up' or 'exploration' or any other get-to-know-you phase to ease into the conflict, just balls to the wall, and squeezing in research while you're busy replacing your fallen troops. Not for the faint of heart.
Lowered design rating from 5 to 4, because there are too many unintuitive technicalities and 'glitches'. They provide a differentiator for the expert (e.g. Twilight Struggle), but I think it's overkill here, with all the complexity elsewhere. It's inexcusable that my plays can still be decided on technicalities and gotcha-moments.
Glitches include destroying own stuff any time on turn (enabling pseudo-Liftoff base-replacement, weird liberation rules in team-play), Weasley Retrograde, the entire Defensive Support Module, force-mining to save workers, empty-base glitches (better to leave base empty than defend so attacker doesn't draw 5 cards on a Gold Mobilize), the bad rules on moving into an undefended enemy base (Runewars, Corey's later and more mature effort, handles it much better by calling it and interpreting it consistently as a battle), weird interactions with non-matching attack types + support units + splash damage + cloaking + sacrifice to enable weird-ass unit exchanges). The base game also messed up the Marine (splash damage!), made Archons too powerful (unproven, but in magicgeek I trust), and provided an orbital defense exploit in team-play. Too many oversights.
Favorite 3-player Long (without being a fan of the PC game; it's possible!)
Never played with just base game and never intend to. Most important component is updated cards with fixes for some balance issues and bugs (e.g. Marines with Splash Damage...). Wouldn't be necessary if these didn't exist in the base game in the first place, but it's unavoidable in a game of this scale and detail, and it's good to have a fix later than never. I'd rather FFG take risks and swing for the fences like they used to, and worry about patching little blemishes later (though it sucks if they swung, sales didn't take off, and the expansions/fix packs never arrive).
Leadership cards differentiate the factions further and add some variability in 'path' to each game; highly recommended. It's a plus that it causes most players to not pick Special Victory, so that's less complexity in the game.
Influx of air-only and ground-only areas can hamstring you into an air-based strategy (I haven't seen ground-only areas on planets that have no air-only areas). I like this kind of reactive strategy (and things get more interesting when air is involved), but wish it were more subtle.
Defensive order helps make attacks slightly less scary (though I still refuse to use one at the expense of a regular order), while the offensive module helps to offset the silver bullet of Orbital Defense.
Scenarios are provided, but they look terrible upon a first read. Too many additional steps to setup and special rules to worry about, when the regular game setup itself is fun and variable every time.
Collateral Damage and Infest Command Center are cool, but the fact that they don't work on an undefended base seems weak and unintuitive... and further encourages empty-base cheese. Definitely too weak and useless on Infest Command Center, at least Collateral Damage can make opponent react.
2-4 player majority game with snowball effects. The rules appear so simple, but the possibilities are so endless. The convoluted scoring system (even by Knizia standards) can be hard to wrap your head around in the first play. The rulebook is terribly brief and incomplete. This is one of those epic Knizia designs like Tigris & Euphrates. It punishes you severely for mistakes you think are tiny, and it offers a lot of room to think about and improve your play. Elegant. Still have no idea how to do well in the game.
The light bulb has turned on after my 3rd play, and I'm starting to see why this is a classic with near-infinite replayability, that demands you to think about what you can do better next time after each play. But boy, those first 2-3 plays are shit unimpressive to get through, and a lot of people I've introduced this to got turned off after the first play (including me).
The hardest part of the game is timing. You want to cut through the chaos, and get things to score at the optimum time, which is much harder than it sounds. You also want to fork people and give them tough decisions and trade-offs, while ensuring you don't get caught in those situations.
Take what you've learnt about trick-taking games and throw them out the window, because Sticheln runs completely contrary to your tried-and-true rules of thumb.
It's almost a mathematical complement of Hearts. Nearly everything you do in Hearts, you do the complete opposite here. Tricks actually count for positive points! Everything is a trump! You can play off-suit whenever you want! Wha...??
I'm interested in this game, because I want to figure it out, but two things make me leery about it: perhaps Sticheln is just reverse / unnecessarily complicated Hearts at its core; and Sticheln heavily rewards detailed card-counting (which is really annoying, since there are 5 suits and many numbers). I prefer trick-taking games where you only need to pay attention to the high and/or low cards, not every single number in every single suit.
Better with 4 or 5 players, as there will be more pain suits out there.
Buy a Sticheln deck whenever you see it, because you can play virtually any card game you can think of with it.
Raised rating from 6.5 to 7 after 3rd play. There's a good learning curve to this, unlike most trick-taking games. You can start with counting cards in your pain suit + zeros. Then keep track of which cards in your pain suit have been played. Then repeat with the player to your left. Then the next player. Then for maximum cerebral pain, add more players to the game.
For the last situation, I think it's humanly impossible to keep track of everybody's pain suit. The best you can do is watch your own pain, and be opportunistic with disposing of your closest rivals. Sounds rote and boring, but it's not. People do things you don't expect because you don't know their hands, and there's almost always an important card you missed or counted wrong every hand.
Gabe (blindspot) says, "This is a game for pricks of all ages."
Simpler, purer card-drafting game than Fairy Tale, which means it's better, since too much time in Fairy Tale was spent totaling up your opponents' points and trying to understand what those icons were saying. Keeps the scoring rules simple so you can focus on the drafting.
Combines scoring and other elements in Chinese card games with the partnership system of Western card games like Spades and Bridge (mostly Spades). Huge barrier to entry, and the learning curve is kind of flat after you know how to play. This means after you figure out some basic strategy and conventions, the game plays itself, much like most traditional card games.
That's not a bad thing. It's a comfort to master a game so thoroughly that it becomes almost a lifestyle game instead of something you actively try to understand, and it still provides tough decisions on how to play your hand sometimes, and it's definitely not lacking in tension and excitement, but it does lack a wide-eyed wonder which you find in other games when you defeat everybody else with some mind-blowing strategy that you can't even pinpoint how you arrived at or implemented.
This game provides fun and excitement, but it is what it is: better than almost all traditional card games, but still a traditional card game.
Knizia's magnus opus stands alone: there's no other game like this. You're trying to score the 4 colors in a balanced manner, but the mechanisms set you up such that it is easy to specialize only in one or two, and the route to strengthening your kingdom is often not the route to balanced scoring.
I am a bit leery that heretofore, most games (including on Tigris) have been decided by having the right colors at the right time to win swing-y external conflicts in the somewhat unsatisfying combat system. But there are many options to consider on your turn to outweigh this slightly more luck-dependent component, and this brings up some fine opportunities to bluff/deduce.
Can play this anytime with pen and paper with the free-domain game Celebrities. But I got this anyway, so it looks more like a game, balance issues are kinked out, and you don't get people putting weird-ass Asian pop-star names into the hat.
Setup time is reduced (which is crucial for getting hesitant/dubious non-gamers into the crux of the game, when they realize the genius of repeating clues), but Celebrities does have a more custom/tailored feel.
Cards Against Humanity is the rage now but I find its black humor way too contrived and in-your-face (i.e. we're all being offensive now so nobody is being offensive... haha). I love that ugly biases come out far more naturally and subtly with the associations that grow from a rousing game of Time's Up!, while you're busy laughing.
There's only 1 rule: the time track (last player takes an action), and everything else is just scoring madness + artwork. Problem is the spaces are so balanced that there isn't much point to jump ahead, which makes things less interesting when players are competing at being the slowest. Spaces are always the same, hindering replayability.
I have mounted the beast! I wasn't sure when I got into gaming if I ever wanted to learn TI3, but BSG and Eclipse both got me interested in space/sci-fi (when I've always preferred fantasy), and it was then preserving myself, and making sure every condition was right when I'd lose my TI virginity (a.k.a. not at a con against 7 other experienced players with every single optional rule).
It's long, but it doesn't feel like it since you're constantly plotting and thinking about out-of-turn secondary abilities. And the game length is justified with the diplomacy, trade and political elements, making it a much richer experience than your regular build-'em-up-and-slam-into-opponent.
Rules overhead was surprisingly low too, with complexity coming from card interactions. Worth a try just to pay homage to all the influences this game took in and spawned. And it's not just the usual suspects. This is the original hybrid; always surprising for the uninitiated to discover that the modern grandaddy of Ameritrash is half-Euro. An engine of Puerto Rico + Axis & Allies, decked out in tons of trimmings.
Puerto Rico - Freely acknowledged by the designer. Puerto Rico's leeching system is overlaid cleverly onto the action system, with the timing of when you use the Strategic Action being crucial, as you can use Tactical Actions and Action Cards to put off using the Strategic Action if need be (e.g. Tech-ing late if possible). Leeching also isn't free, with the need to prepare Strategy Allocation counters beforehand. The Strategy Cards are also authored very thoughtfully.
Runewars - Exact same system in moving units around and activating them, though the way of visualizing the retreat in TI3 is pretty cute. Similar map setup rules (also the Distant Suns variant), plus Secret Objective. Pacing in getting VPs is also very similar.
StarCraft - Planets provide either resource or influence, and you exhaust them to use. Build space dock/factory, then build units.
Axis & Allies - Exact 1:1 correspondence of units between A&A and TI3 (with only Bombers and Artillery that are missing), making it easier to get into the language. Also, I've been looking for a good, more involved island-hopping game than A&A for a long time, and didn't realize I should be looking in space.
Eclipse - Trade Contracts are similar to Diplomatic Relations, though of course they're more involved in the granddaddy. Didn't make too good use of TCs and think much of them my first game though; seems a lot more free-form, which I don't like as much. I'm not one for bribes and promises in games. Too many people seem to hold "You promised me 5 turns ago!!!" in as high rigidity as "We need to draw our cards in turn order!!!" and "He's defending, he HAS to roll it; you shouldn't roll for him!!!"
Cosmic Encounter - So many races and thick card decks!
A more unique element is the voting on codes of laws that change the rules, and other game effects from Political Cards via 'Yea' or 'Nay' on the combined influence (delegates) of your planets.
VPs are earned only at the end of each round, and you can usually only claim 1 objective regardless of how many you achieved, unless you took Imperial II. Or you could play with Bureacracy, which has a more deliberate, keep-your-options-open feel. This is how it should be, clawing your way to 10 VPs, with your options steadily narrowing as low-hanging fruit are cleaned out early (but you steadily grow power), and being really behind if you miss out on a VP. Not like all those Euro games that give you VPs for scratching your ass, with final scores in the 200s. Big on timing if you use Imperial II, getting 1 VP every turn and not falling off the pace, then sprinting to the finish like every marathon you've seen on TV. You'd better have enough juice to reach the finish line because if you don't, you're inviting a 4-front (maybe more) war against yourself.
The forerunner of having a variable number of actions per round is also here. You have to optimize command tokens each round between 3 pools: Command Pool (to make Tactical Actions), Strategy Allocation (to leech off Strategy Cards, and trigger some other tertiary abilities on cards/races) and Fleet Supply (to support more ships on each system). Tough decisions here, based on what you think is going to happen next round with both Strategic and Tactical Actions. And getting only 2 Command tokens each round also means you will be vulnerable after a major offensive push.
Public objectives help with reducing turtling, incentivizing conflicts in the center, and also uprooting everything in 1 system to get involved in battles, especially after you've already exhausted the corresponding planets (which you can't hoard the resources from). Play boldly, since nothing's irreplaceable except losing your home system.
No game plays the same way. Many games make this boast, but not like this one, where the map is set up differently, there are so many races, the action card and political card decks are thick, the objectives are different, the tech tree lets you adapt, and there are multiple rich avenues of interaction and conflict (attack/diplomacy, trade, political, strategy card drafting/leeching). You rarely need an excuse to push ships around and engage in giant space battles and land their payload for planetary invasions, but the politics, trade, public objectives etc spin out a unique, epic story with every play.
(This rating and comment is based on the system as a whole, assuming the right expansion modules are salted to taste.)
Flagships are FUN. 2nd Racial techs really help further differentiate the players.
The best part of TI3 is that it layers on diplomacy and politics in a meaningful manner compared to other territorial conquest games. Shards of the Throne ratchets it up with a 'political intrigue' variant. Haven't tried, and it looks fiddly, but I'm optimistic!
The Fall of the Empire scenario has a few amazingly novel mechanisms I'd love to try.
Corey K really helps bring the innovation and life to Petersen's more traditional designs.
I knew all along that I would love this game and it'd be a top-5 for me, since I do like 1960: The Making of the President, and something even better sounded too good to be true. And I wasn't disappointed.
The board feels dynamic (this is a key ingredient for majority games) as there is a lot of opportunity to make pivotal moves that completely change the landscape. In 1960, the scope of your move is usually limited to Gathering Momentum, but even that isn't much of a swing, because all the scoring happens at the end. The varied timing of scoring means you're constantly in a knife-fight in the midst of several fires, and trying to eke out enough leeway in the main battlefront to set yourself up in another region.
I thought I'd miss the momentum system in 1960, but I don't at all. The forced trigger of unfavorable cards means it's an extra thing to take into account in terms of setting up your hand and managing the timing of your cards. And the ticking time bombs in your hand fit better with the salvage-what-your-hand-gives-you feel of the game, because you can't cop out of a bad card. You have to play around it. The trigger also means events happen much more often than 1960, which means the board is more dynamic, and you have to be more deliberate and careful. Every card play becomes a challenge in controlled chaos.
I wasn't 100% sure of a game that boils down to you-play-a-card, I-play-a-card. But each card has 5 uses (3 options + 3 branching options with the Op Points), so you don't feel handicapped but are instead brain-melted by the myriad of approaches available to you (and I thought I'd be well-prepared since I can plan out what order to play my cards in 1960 in 10 seconds). And this game is so tense, you're more worried about coups and nuclear war than trivialities like cards and counters.
I had thought TS would do board positioning better while 1960 would do card-play better. Nah, TS wins hands-down.
Like the 1ed expansion, more options here, often pulling out events from the card-deck to place them in front of you so you can control if/when to put something to play instead of drawing it early/late. The FP gets more toys here, but that's okay since I'm not convinced the FP is even with Shadow anyway. More importantly, the game is less luck-driven and decisions are tougher for the Free Peoples now (where before it rested on how early you could roll WotW and bring in Gandalf the White and Aragorn).
Where before, it was tough to decide whether to keep companions not named Gandalf in or separate them, it becomes even tougher now with Gandalf the Grey: Keeper of Narya added to the mix. Keep him, kill him or separate him? Either way, it's best to keep him around till you can replace his Keeper die with Elrond/Galadriel. But separating is an option now too, with Narya's instant-war being a huge draw.
The stars of the expansion, Keeper and Lesser Minion dice - 'half-dice' -- are a great idea to provide more options and trade-offs with the new characters instead of having them provide the bonus Action die earlier (since before they were charged as overpowered). The rules for their removal and negative effects are interesting, amounting to only keeping 1 Keeper die around at all times (but 2 Lesser Minion dice are okay), and hoping they stay around long enough after Gandalf the White and Witch-king (which is another consideration to delay Gandalf). It adds more game-time due to more actions, but it's justified for the decision complexity it provides.
FP gets Gandalf/Elrond/Galadriel, less luck-driven ways to obtain a 5th die (which is more important to the FP's starting 4 than the Shadow's starting 7) plus the leadership and abilities (including Combat Cards) to defend Lorien and Rivendell, and Smeagol as-is (but with new event cards to affect his effectiveness). Shadow counters with Balrog (near-shuts off the Moria route, more danger for the Fellowship early), alt-Witch-king plus ability to switch, Gothmog (so you can keep Chief of Ringwraiths plus Gothmog around instead of Black Captain until Gothmog's die is gone) and alt-Mouth (makes FPMV harder if it's not 4 VPs at once).
Might take a while to incorporate the variant FP characters, some of which allow the companions to start in their homeland. Alt-Strider and Strider is a toss-up since you won't know how the Hunt goes. Boromir, Gimli and Legolas are a lot tougher to think about due to their new Level 1 status. I suppose it makes the companions more interesting than interchangeable Gimli-Legolas-Boromir and Merry-Pippin.
Very procedural 2-player war game with buckets of dice. I don't have a problem with dice-resolved combat, and the leader-death dice-roll, though luck-infused, is interesting and thematic. But I do have a problem with dice being used in everything, especially for determining control of an area. Like Formula D's black die. You can't do anything. You just roll it.
Looks so luck-dependent, especially the leader-death and area-control dice rolls, but I do feel that the chaos can be mitigated by an experienced player. Some interesting asymmetry. Seems like they went for narrative over gameplay. You get a good narrative experience out of this game, but not so much satisfaction.
Gameplay can get repetitive (I wish the game were 8-10 turns instead of 12), but the new leaders every turn keep things fresh. Still, I really like the theme, and do want to play this some more.
I dug the theme in the first place, and the zany card-play (to cast spells) and furious capture-the-flag gameplay sold me immediately.
The game itself is trivially simple. Get any 2 of capturing treasure or killing wizards. Then it's all the interaction of card text (spells). There are so many different spells, and many can be alternatively used as Energy to boost your other spells and make them more powerful, making for some interesting combos. Cast as many spells as you want on your turn as long as you only cast one attack, then watch the fireworks fly!
Card text and some zany concepts (like eating walls, or switching gravity on and off) contribute to a ludicrously stirring narrative that makes me LOL hard. I haven't LOLed so hard in a game for a long time, and this is the rare game where I sometimes jump in the fray and go for the cheap LOL instead of going for the win by sneaking my 2nd treasure back.
Do have to play with others who get into the fast-and-furious spirit and enjoy the chaos of all the spells flying all over the place. Killjoys who pore repeatedly through card text, question rulings (instead of just doing what makes sense), take forever to optimize a 2-card play, and are bothered by awesome fireworks should stay away.
Favorite 4-player Short Favorite 5-player Short (with Malefic Curses expansion)
Adding a 5th player increases downtime but potentially makes the game more fun by adding an extra person to overcome in order to win (it's anti-climactic if somebody wins quickly and nobody can stop it). I take it as a net positive, especially if playing with the right group.
Spells in this expansion are attack-oriented (good) and the introduction of sector-target spells make it even easier to interact and mess up the plans of others (even better).
I learned this before International Chess, and am much better at this, because it doesn't really involve diagonal movement. Like this more than International Chess too, because the board is more open, with room for sweeping counterattacks. Hence, I'd much rather watch a game of this between experts than International Chess - the latter is soporific.
I learned this when I was 6 years old, and this is the only one that has survived my propensity to get tired of games. I think that more than proves that I will always want to play this. However, I am more interested in trying newfangled board games right now.
Shaded the design down just a tad since it takes a while to develop pieces and get into the exciting mid-game.