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Subject: Switching Sides to Outplay Others: An Honest Review rss

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Lord Chacha
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The first question that should pop into your head right about now is "Why the term honest review?"

See, when you play this game and become the primary piñata for all the monsters and the Gatekeeper himself, you tend to become a bitter samurai. Losing every time while you’re only half an inch away (in cardboard metric measurements, of course) from entering the portal can make you a very honest person, bringing out that part of your vocabulary that your mother never taught you.

But that’s where the fun comes from Switch: Secrets of the Temple.
You start off as a character in feudalistic Japan, slashing your way through hordes of malicious monsters to get to the Magical Chime in order to win the game. Piqued your interest? Take a look at the story, there’s a good reason why the behemoth has Hugo for a name.

The gameplay starts off slowly, with each player filling his Wish Limits (hand size) and finding their corresponding Eye card. This enables the activation of each character’s legendary weapon. However, once the Magical Chime is drawn, the game switches from being a relaxing stroll in the park, leisurely hunting Eye cards to a game of exterminate your (ex-)friends.

The player that draws the Magical Chime will immediately gain control of the treasure chest, which must be brought along with you through the portal. With all the cool equipment each character has, nothing can be more exhilarating than smashing your opponent’s armor with your Legendary Naginata and prying the treasure from his cold, dead fingers.

Most uniquely to Switch (being the mechanic that the game is named after!), the rooms that the characters traverse in will be switching positions as the Magical Chime lets loose a new deck of cards, the Unleashed cards. These cards will spawn a horde of monsters randomly in every room; destroy rooms (yes, you heard that right!) and empowers the immortal Gatekeeper, the monstrosity trying to prevent you from winning the game (excluding the other five players, of course!)

The game keeps switching (no pun intended) in direction, but this keeps tensions high and laughter aplenty. Players will be forced to betray past loyalties and backstab their friends to claim victory but it’s not all doom and gloom as four monsters plus the Gatekeeper battling against one hapless player is a hilarious sight to behold (as I have experienced many times over!)

The game moves at a reasonable speed but switches to a more hectic pace once the Magical Chime is out. Beginners can look to finish the game within 90 minutes but experienced players can expect anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. The game takes about half an hour to learn (the rulebook contains only 8 pages!) but while the learning curve is deceptively simple, it becomes challenging as you have to outsmart everyone else in order to win! Any number of players from as few as 2 to as many 6 can participate in knocking each others’ lights out, or if there’re some grudges to be settled among two groups of your friends and if you’re looking for a fun way to settle your differences, just team up and shut the others up in a multiplayer co - op game!

The defining mechanic for Switch is based on its room tiles that switch about frequently and determine the movements that players make, usually triggered by Wishes or Events. A timely switch can help you pick up some powerful items, get access to your Eye card, enter the portal and subsequently win the game or (my personal favorite) screw your "friends" by placing them closer to monsters or the Gatekeeper himself. After the Unleashed cards have taken effect, rooms begin to get destroyed, upping the pace of the game by a few gears, making it almost like sudden death!

From what I’ve seen, Switch: Secrets of the Temple is one of the faster paced, engaging and overall fresh new games on the scene. Combining the best elements of older board game stalwarts and introducing many interesting mechanics, Switch promises to be one of the more anticipated releases of the year. I wouldn't be surprised if this boardgame wins boardgame of the year award,and if it does,you heard it here first!Don’t take my word for it though, make sure you try it out for yourself. Just make sure you really know who your friends are and watch where you’re walking, you never know how things will switch once the die drops!


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Marcus Lau
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Great review.
 
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Geert VG
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friedricetheman wrote:
Great review.

Indeed, very inspiring thumbsup
 
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Bob Aarhus
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The aforementioned article isn't so much an "Honest Review" as an "Overlong Advertisement" of Switch. It lacks a thorough assessment of the game mechanics, its adaptability to more (or fewer) players, and commentary on aspects such as downtime and randomness.

The "review" does have a lot of exclamation marks. That's how you can tell an ad from a review, kids.

Since I've only played this game with six players, it is probably too early (and unfair) to characterize it as a colossal failure. But I've been playing games long enough to spot the weakest ones in the herd and, unless the 'future expansions' remediate the problems, this one's destined for the back shelf.

(By the way, did you know there are a half dozen special spots on the board that, according to the rules, have no meaning now, but will be brought into play by those future expansions? You have to hand it to the publisher, there's nothing like a game that comes with its own built-in need to Buy More From The Company.)

It is fortunate that the rules point this out, because the rules are otherwise poorly organized and written, and do not take into account situations that arise in normal gameplay. Hasn't anyone heard of playtesting?

That's one of the reasons why our supposed 90-minute session went for over three hours. Three painful hours of my life that I won't be able to recover. We spent a lot of the time handing the rules back and forth, making guesses as to which paragraph applied, and finally coming up with the ubiquitous 'house rules'. Now there's a theme for a great game: you make up a game as you go along, adapt rules from other games, and reason your way out of tight situations. I don't think that was the designer's original intent.

If you are of the camp that believes frustration = fun, then by all means, "Switch" is the game you've been waiting for. Characters run around the board, trying to retrieve 'items' (without which, you stand no chance of surviving the monsters themselves, let alone your 'friends') and finding their 'eye' (a token that enables you to use your 'Legendary Weapon'). Of course, you encounter bad guys along the way, they kill you (because you haven't obtained your Items or your Eye), and you get to start the process over again. And again. And again.

Randomness prevails. Some people got their 'Eye' on turn two (because they drew a card that gave it to them), while others had to slog their way through the house, go to secret rooms, and hope that their 'eye' was located there (although it could have been in one of six very distantly separated locations). Gee...getting your 'eye' on turn two versus getting it on turn 14 might make a difference in game play. Ya think?

Because -- if someone hadn't mentioned it -- this is one of those 'roll and move' games. Yes, that's right, you get to roll the die and move the spaces. Around the board. One at a time. Roll three 'ones' in a row? No problem, you might just roll a 'six' next time, that's called suspense! (By the way, this mechanic was last seen in cave paintings from the neolithic era, and was one of the reasons most of us gave up on 'Monopoly' and 'Life' and tried something else. Granted, in certain circumstances this mechanic might work. Here, it doesn't.)

Meanwhile, we were all waiting for the "Chime", the part of the game where a Wish Card is drawn and suddenly the MacGuffin that we are all waiting for (a treasure chest of some eternal significance) suddenly appears, and now we're all after the guy who's got it. And waiting. And waiting.

HOUSE RULE: If you are playing with six players, make sure to shuffle the "Chime" into the middle-third of the Wish Card deck. This will shorten the game without significantly compromising gameplay experience. Our "Chime" was the next to last card drawn, and the notion that the 'real fun was about to begin' was lost on us.

Oh, yeah, I suppose the main element of the game -- the fact that the rooms can 'switch' on you -- is supposed to evoke knee-slapping hilarity as characters near their goals only to be thwarted by other players. Or monsters that were one room in front of you are now one room behind you. Or something. I don't know, because the room-switching really didn't have a significant impact on the game. It was more of a burden than a feature, and elicited another round of questions (i.e. does an unclaimed item move with its room?) that weren't explicitly written in the rules. There was very little knee-slapping.

(I haven't been in too many games were people were literally *praying* that the game would end, and to be fair part of the three hour game time was spent in a philosophical discussion of whether games, however bad, should be played to their conclusion as a moral imperative. In that sense, the game succeeded in transcending routine play and moved onto some higher plane -- although that might have been attributable to the MSG from the Kung Pao chicken we had ordered).

Fortunately for us all, the gods intervened and were merciful. The player with the MacGuffin had just been killed by the Gatekeeper, and the MacGuffin sat alone on a space in a room. The next player drew the "Destroy any Room" card and, with the rules silent on what happens to items in destroyed rooms, we all invented the House Rule that said, "Treasure Chest destroyed with room, game over!" And there was much rejoicing.

Don't get me wrong, there are positive elements to the game. The production qualities are stellar. The game may scale better to three or four players. With the right set of people, this may be a blast. As with any other game, your mileage may vary.

Otherwise, this is "Arkham Horror" meets "Candyland"; this is "Sisyphus versus Abbot and Costello, the Director's Cut". It is all randomness and chaos, with no clear strategy for the victor other than to roll dice and hope for the best. If that's your game, go for it. As one of the participants in our session noted, though, "The only way to win is not to play this game..."


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Dean Tan
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Dear Bob,
I am the designer of this game.

1. I truly struggle to curtail or control reviews or comments by enthusiastic players or critics. I can only strive to improve the game from it. I will put up an FAQ sections in the website for Q & A.

2. As was the condition of the sale of the 50 sets at Spiel, a new set of cards will be shipped. The missing 16 Unleashed Cards does cause the end game to differ as the rooms are destroyed too quickly before the player with the chest can escape.

3. The randomness of the chime was to create unpredictability in every different time you play the game. Sometimes, the Unleashed Cards are activated when you are unprepared and sometimes you may have more time to do so. There are 36 Wish Cards. If there are 6 players and a player draws 1 Wish Card at the start of his turn (not including the ones he gets for defeating monsters), it will take the most of 6 turns before you hit the chime when you placed it at the last spot. Unfortunately we have 2 camps on this, to make it predictable or unpredictable. We are still contemplating adding the additional Chime back to the Wish Cards. We removed it thinking it was sufficient.

4. I hope the below can help:

a) You can use the weapons in your Power Cards to help you defeat the monsters and when it is used, you can equip it again in your next turn. The Items are merely additional tools.
b) In your Power Cards, there are also skills that accelerates their movement by an additional +2. All the players have one except Diego.
c) The Unleashed Card that allows you to pick the room to remove is titled Earthquake, and one of the consequences of it in the rules at page 8 rule No.5 Earthquake is if the Treasure Chest is in it, remove and place it in the Item Point of the room where the Gatekeeper is in.
d) The unclaimed Item Cards (placed on the Item Card Slot) on the Board are left on the Board when the room switches. If it is the Treasure Chest, it switches together with the room.

5. We are still experimenting with the idea of giving an element of defensive power set for the possessor of the Treasure Chest to withstand the onslaught of everyone.

I had in mind of the casual gamer with this game. The randomness and some strategy elements are good for the underdogs in the game as anyone has a chance to win in the end, not the mightiest and the strongest.
It is imperative that constructive criticism continues so that SWITCH is improved before shipping. Thank you again.


Dean
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Marcus Lau
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Bob - I think you and I are somewhat similar in taste when it comes to games. I love heavy games (especially 18xx and wargames) but we must understand that Switch is catered for a different crowd. The light, casual monopoly/cranium/candyland players who are looking for something a little more meaty than monopoly. Bear in mind that Switch was made for these players in mind.

Ever try to teach your wife 18xx? Until now, my wife still refuse to play 18xx with me. I have tried 18FL, 1889, 18GA but nothing works. I even tried Railroad Tycoon and Age of Steam but with limited success ("she commented that it 'was too dry!' and 'feels like work' among other comments"). The only games that she likes are Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, Carcassonne and Cineplexity. She even finds Settlers of Catan a bit on the heavy side.

But, when I put Switch on the table, she would gladly join us for a game or two. Even winning a few times too.

Remember, just because the game is not meaty enough, it doesn't mean that the game isn't good. It's just that we are not the target audience for it. As for me, I am happy with Switch as long as my wife enjoys it too.
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Bob Aarhus
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Dean and Marcus,

Thanks for your comments.

First, my post was mostly a reply to the initial "review", which was less of a review and more of a love-fest for Switch. I understand people want to be enthusiastic about games they enjoy, but there is a responsibility in reviewing to look at all angles. I supplied the negative angles because the previous reviewer failed to (and this after a couple folks responded "great review", including Marcus: it was not a great review, it was at worst a shill, at best a fanboy fantasy).

Second, this has nothing to do with "heavy" or "light" games. A light game with confusing rules and frustrating mechanics that does not scale well to six players is just that -- confusing and frustrating. I was not alone in this opinion. I dare say all of us found the game less than satisfactory. We are all experienced gamers, most of us put in a couple conventions a year, and all of us invest a lot of time and money in games. Good "light" games (say, Knizia's 'Poison', 'Race for the Galaxy', or tne new 'Galaxy Trucker' to name a few) will always find their way to the table because they are good and enjoyable and competitive -- not because we're willing to call a bad game good simply because it is 'light'.

Dean, that you are still experimenting with the rules and working out ways to improve it is laudable, but this is supposed to happen before publication, not after. I understand there are timelines to be met, and sometimes publishers are pushing hard, but nothing -- repeat nothing -- beats extensive playtesting (including blind playtests). There are plenty of groups that are willing to do this for you, if you haven't already turned to them. (If you have, let me know their names, and I will steer other designers clear of them -- they didn't do their jobs this time.)

Good news: I don't think that this is hopeless, but you've got to come up with a better way of writing rules and expressing how cards interact with each other, anticipate questions, and so on. We looked for what happens when rooms with items move -- and could not easily find it, so we had to 'guess' what happens (and in one case, we guessed wrong). That's not good. It doesn't inspire confidence in the design. It went downhill from there.

Bulletin: randomness doesn't help the novice player, and it is not to be used as a "field-leveler" between experienced and inexperienced players without some push-back from those who take games a little more seriously (i.e. if you want your games to be played by people who aren't as serious about gaming, fine -- I'm here to warn those who are serious that there are other, better games out there). Randomness helps whoever benefits from the random effects. Because there is so little strategy to the game, you have turned a "let's roll dice and whoever gets highest wins" theme into a two-hour nightmare. I would have liked to use my spells and weapons in conjunction to come up with a clever way to win. All of us would have. That didn't happen, despite our best efforts.

I think, in the end, you simply "randomed" your way into a no-fun experience (again, this was with six players). Perhaps you should limit the number of players to something more manageable, like four (this should have come out during playtesting). But again, I'm not going to call a game that's abysmal for six a 'good' game simply because it is better with four -- that's the designer's job to make that call and reduce the number of players. You cannot throw a bunch of elements into a game, start the wheels spinning, and assume everyone is going to have fun. We didn't.

Dean, I am more than willing to play this game again (if I can get anyone else to play it again) in "playtesting" mode and give you feedback (offline, e-mail to e-mail) as to what steps you might want to think about to improve play and organize the rules for a large number of players. I think underneath it all there is something to this game that is screaming to get out, but you've suffocated it in all of the entropy. (I wouldn't offer to do so if I thought the game truly hopeless.) Maybe I'm being so hard on the game because there are some inspired ideas and nifty mechanics that just...didn't...quite...gel...
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Dean Tan
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Here is a little story about us. A while back I got hooked up again in the local game shop with my son playing his Pokemon. One thing led to another and I was drawn back to playing board games again. Being casual gamers, we have the usual moans and groans about some of the games, the rules and the all errata that we have to look up in the internet. One day, I decided to tell the crew to “stop complaining and talking, let us just do it, lets build a board game to know what its like”. Outplay Games was the vehicle formed by me for us to ride in. With minimal cost and started from a group of cousins and friends, we grew with volunteers and contributors from everywhere whom contributed with the art, design and play testing. Game shops and Local Distributors also chipped in with advice and logistic support. The first philosophy of making SWITCH was if you think you are going to make money, forget it, get a job. For the young and enthusiastic gamers that helped us, this project was to inspire them that if they have a dream, with perseverance and hard work it can be done, just don’t talk about it, do something with it.

The journey to design and publish was full of trials and tribulations. It became sort of an epic journey for most of us as we learnt the whole process of designing and publishing a board game. We made prototype miniatures that simply was fantastic. Alas, the minimum quantity requirements and cost simply blew us away. No printers wanted to talk us until we met our present printer who just wanted to take a chance on us with a special arrangement. We even have a soundtrack composed by an Award winning composer friend of ours (and I have no idea what to do with it LOL) and a script from a writer! What started as a talk has simply ended as a community project. Our goal was only to get to SPIEL! Imagine, when everything came at the last minute (even up to 30 minutes before departure), it was a nightmare.

The Expansion Set plan was an idea from the original design that we could not include in the Secrets Of The Temple and it is still being play tested. It would be too tough to digest unless you have an experience playing SWITCH. It involves multiple team ups like a team of 2 or 3 against another. Hence, the inclusion of the Star Point on the board and the same information in the rule book.

The coolest thing about designing and going to Spiel is that now we have so many friends from all over the world from game designers, distributors and gamers. We are working with them on some cool ideas that have been thrown at us. We are also now working with some channels as to the translation for certain countries. SWITCH will always be opened for new ideas to make it better (hopefully before the 13th Revised Edition LOL) so from my point of view, game designers should be humble and take the positive points of a critic and improve on it and we are working hard on it.Thanks
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Dean Tan
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Merry Xmas All!
FYI - After nearly 1 and a half months of sorting out the cards and hair pulling moments, the complete set of new cards have been posted to All the purchasers batches by batches since last week.Also included are the Switch Rulebook Version 1.02 and a new back of the box sticker. I hope to sleep now, phew
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