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Subject: The Evolving Review: The Others rss

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Kasey HR
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Florida
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The Evolving Review: The Others


The Evolving Review is a review series where I try something a little different. Rather than present you with a finalized opinion on a game, I will present an ever-developing review starting with my first impressions and continuing through my subsequent plays. Throughout this series, I will try to focus on the experience of actually playing the game, dedicating very little time to components, rules, or even mechanical overview, except when these affect the gameplay experience.


The Others



The Others is a one vs. many game set in a the universe of apocalyptic-horror. One player will take on the role of the powerful forces of "Sin." The other players must cooperate as the agents of F.A.I.T.H. in order to impede the destruction of the Sin player.

1. First Play:

[2 players; as Sins Player]

I think the rules for this game require a brief introductory comment. Let me say this: the game structure is not complex in the slightest. In fact, its dead simple. I explained the entire structure of the game, a hero's turn, and the nature of the Sin's turns in under 5 minutes. However, the game utilizes a slew of icons to accomplish a wide variety of different mechanical tasks. For that reason, I had to go icon by icon, explaining what each one meant and how it affected the game state. That being said, none of the individual mechanics are complex, so once you know what each icon represents, you will likely not need to reference the rulebook.

The game took me about 30 minutes to setup on my very first try. This was likely due to my unfamiliarity with the components in general. I expect that this will become much shorter in future plays.

The very first thing you will l hear about this game will generally be about the quality of the components. It is true - the miniatures are fantastic and the rest of the art is very well done. However, you don't need me to tell you how good they are - just go take a look yourself at the multitude of images posted all over the internet. They're great, and they definitely draw people to the table. The graphic design is straightforward and clear. All the components function well and accomplish their mechanical and thematic role in the game.

Now lets talk about the important bit: the gameplay.

For my first game I played as the Sins; specifically, I chose Pride with the corrupted Doctors acolyte. In each game, the Sins player will select a different combination (1 of 2 sins in the base game, and 1 of 3 acolytes, again, in the base game. With expansions this increases to 7 Sins and several more acolyte types). One thing that stood out to me was the fact that the different monsters are basically generic with their only effective difference being their respective strength values.

At first, this was a huge disappointment. The only thing which immediately stands out about any given Sin or Acolyte is a rather weak passive ability which persists throughout the game, subtly changing the problems which the Heroes have to deal with. However, my worries were quickly chased away when I drew my starting 5 cards from the "Pride" Sin deck. This deck not only provides the uniqueness for each Sin, but also allows the Sin player to choose how to shape the nature of their monsters and their respective abilities.

What I realized very quickly is that the Sins player is really playing a hand management game. Your hand of Sins cards contains a combination of potentially devastating one-off events, personal objectives with awesome rewards should they be fulfilled, and even simple enchanments that affect the ongoing game state from there onwards. There are two aspects of these cards I feel I must mention, as these design features really enhance the gameplay:

(i) The cards often have to be played at the beginning of a Hero's action, but only take effect if something occurs during that Hero's turn that would trigger the effect. This is great because the Sins player gets to set up traps for the Hero players, but traps of a very particular and thematic variety - traps of desire. The Hero may have wanted to do something with their turn, but now the Sin has played a card that, if not immediately dealt with, will give the Sin too much power to ignore. So the Sin's actions caused the player to be torn between accomplishing their original mission, and this new threat to their overall capacity to succeed. Or perhaps the Sin played a card that fits right into the plan of the player, but now seeing what enacting their plan could bring about, their fear of giving the Sin too much could cause them to delay or cancel their current plan... Try something else, something safer...

(ii) The cards which give the Sins some awesome boost often have a choice on them: one which is posited not to the Sins player, but to the Hero players! Again, this is another mode of trapping the Heroes in their own desires. Do we let the Sins player get x or do we negatively affect ourselves in some way, y? By putting the decision in the players hands, the Sins player is allowed to torment the players and not just beat up on their miniatures on the table in front of them.

The Others is a machine composed entirely of such psychological traps. It is the wretched, beating heart which is infused into all of its core mechanics and which allows it to become more than a standard 1 vs many dungeon crawler. The corruption mechanic is, perhaps, the central way in which the designer has worked this problem-type into the game - and its superbly sadistic.

Each hero has a character sheet with two "bars" on it. One of those bars represents that character's corruption level. The other bar represents both that players health and bonus abilities they receive for voluntarily taking corruption. You see, at any point when a hero has to make a die roll (say, for combat or attempting to cleanse an area of fire, etc) they can choose to take a point of corruption to gain a series of bonuses to their roll. Thats the good part. The bad part? Once you've maxed out on corruption, you start taking wounds whenever you would be forced to take corruption otherwise. Did I forget to mention that many, MANY of those cards in the Sins player's hand allows them to force players to take corruption, often without even having to touch a single miniature or even roll a die? Oh yes. There are many of those evil, evil cards.

So lets get this straight. This, like almost every other fighting miniatures on a map game has a bunch of dice throwing. I dont like dice throwing games. There, I said it. However, the ways in which this game incorporates randomness mitigation is not only mechanically interesting, but thematically perfect. Lets take an even closer look at this specific system:

Both the Sins player and the Heroes must deal with randomness in almost all their actions to accomplish any given task. The Heroes can, at any point, however, mitigate that chaos by giving into corruption; the more they corrupt themselves, the more power they have over their fate. However, the more corruption they take, the more they open themselves to direct influence by the Sins player.

As the Sins player forces the Heroes into more and more treacherous scenarios, they are also encouraging them, directly ot indirectly, to take those corruption points. Come on. Take the extra die and the free direct hit. Go on, slaughter my monsters - at the end of the day, you'll be one of my monsters too. Win this fight and lose the battle.

Thats the problem that The Others keeps throwing in the Heroes' faces. One of my problems with similar games, i.e. Zombicide, or even the campaign sprawling classic, Descent, is that these games often feel like you are just moving plastic around and rolling dice until you have an outcome. No doubt, these games employ systems to mitigate the randomness of the dice - however, no game Ive played in the genre has put chaos mitigation so center-stage and tied it in so well with an overarching theme.

In The Others, Its not a matter of "rolling well", but of choosing when and how much to take risks and when to take control. Indeed, the question, the game posits is - who among us is, in fact, in control here?

Most of my favorite games tackle this problem in unique and interesting ways - Twilight Struggle and its decision space of chaotic yet potentially super effective military actions vs. the slow and determinate spread of ideological influence; Dominion or, as I call it, a clockwork deck-engineering battle against the chaos of card draw.

Am I directly comparing The Others to two all-star games such as Twilight Struggle and Dominion? Of course not. It would be ridiculous to try to rank these titles together after only one play. As such, I will have to get The Others back to the table again in order to figure out just how much I like it - but I do want to play it again and I do like it. Come back and check for the second part of this review series where I will discuss the developments in my opinion of The Others after a second play.
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reaching out from the in-between spaces...
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Baldwin
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Very original idea for reviewing.
 
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Kasey HR
United States
Florida
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Jorune wrote:
Very original idea for reviewing.


Thanks!

Ive been tossing the concept around for a while and thought that The Others would be perfect to start on, especially because there are so many variable elements in the setup of the game.
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M M
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Jorune wrote:
Very original idea for reviewing.

I agree. Strongly approve.
 
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Matthew Guillemette
Canada
Toronto
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Awesome idea for a review, and perfect game to start with. Played it for a second time today, again as FAITH, and lost badly AGAIN. Quickly losing friends to play with... Will give it another try, and definitely looking forward to another review in this series for this polarizing game, cause I really WANT to love it...

Thanks!
-Matthew
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Andre Azevedo
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
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Id love to hear the opinion after more plays!

 
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Mark Manville
United States
Madison
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Neat idea -- but merely an idea unless you actually follow through with it. Hint hint
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