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Subject: Why so bland? rss

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Joel Yoder
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I like WoW, I really do, and I'm looking forward to my next chance to play. But I also think it could have been so much better.

My main problem with the game is the dull sameness of much of it. Yes, combat is interesting and original, but red dice, blue dice, green dice, reroll, attrition, etc. all basically boil down to getting a certain number of hits on your opponent while avoiding damage. There are various interesting ways of doing this, but they're still just ways of doing the same thing.

90%+ of the character abilities involve gaining dice or influencing their results. Of those that don't, many allow you to gain back health or energy, which is basically just another way of avoiding damage. I question whether the rare non-combat abilities such as polymorph and blessing of freedom are worth spending precious gold on.

The quest cards are also very similar. The italicized text is so generic and boring that nobody bothers to read it. I wish they had used that space for special conditions which apply only to that quest, or special rewards you may get, to make choosing quests more interesting.

Worst of all are the equipment cards. There's no anticipation when getting your loot, because all the cards are so dreadfully similar. Here are four level three cards that I pulled almost at random from the pile:

Icicle Rod: Add RRB to your dice pool, regain 1 energy per round.
Electrocutioner's Leg: Add RR, reroll +1, add 1 to damage box.
Archeus: Add RRBG to your dice pool.
Fist of the People's Militia: Add RRR, attrition +1, reroll +2

None of these cards is much different from the others.

As I said, I enjoy playing WoW, and I can't wait to play it again. But it's definately not the thrill of discovering the game, of wondering what the next quest will bring, or what fantastic item I might get for beating it.

Other games in this genre have similar problems. Look at the cards in Runebound or Dungeoneer and you will see a very similar trend. I find it hard to believe that the creators of these games suffer from a lack of imagination. So what is it? Is it an attempt to keep the game balanced and less luck prone? Does it make it easier to playtest? I'm truly curious. What do other people think?
 
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Matthew M
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I was just having a similar discussion with my friend after a game of WoW last night. I think the theme is there to be found in the different mechanics, however doing so slows down a game that doesn't need to be slowed down. So rather than imagining what it is about Archeus that not only provides melee ability but also defense and ranged ability uncharacteristic for a sword, you just add dice to your pool and roll them.

In short, I don't think the game is inherently bland at all, but to play it within three hours it becomes so - something I feel is a bit unfortunate. I think using a narrative as much as possible (aka roleplaying) does help. The theme comes out more if you talk about how lucky a shot your hunter made rather than saying how many 7+ he rolled.

-MMM
 
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Steve Werth
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To the extent combat is bland, it accurately replicates the video game-playing experience. Except that instead of having to kill 100+ monsters to level up, you only need to kill 2. Really, there's nothing to do in the video game other than kill monsters, and almost immediately characters become obsessed with increasing their DPS by just 1 point more, or their armor or STA by a few more points, which differs from adding another dice to your dice pool by, ah, nothing.

Hence the stale gameplay: add another dice to the pool? You betcha! After all, that's what I just spent the last 2 hours grinding to do (in the online game). But still, the weapons are unfortunate, and I blame this on one thing specifically: FF's desire to streamline the game by taking out crafting skills. Which would have doubled the length of the game unless FF came up with some system where players could only craft armor/weapons/potions when it was NOT their turn.

The blandness you feel is endemic in the fantasy adventure game genre. When all there is to do is move and attack, there rapidly becomes very little benefit to obtaining items that neither help you attack, or move faster. And is rolling 2 dice against a 1 hit point orc really that much different than 10 dice against a 5 hit point dragon? Nope.

 
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Guy Riessen
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Hence the reason why people play roleplaying games--in order to bring life into these formulaic combats. Not that there is anything wrong with isolating these gameplay elements out of an RPG and into a boardgame, but that's exactly what it is--an isolation of parts from a whole. If you're looking for more, I recommend joining a roleplaying group.
 
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David desJardins
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Steve Werth wrote:
The blandness you feel is endemic in the fantasy adventure game genre. When all there is to do is move and attack, there rapidly becomes very little benefit to obtaining items that neither help you attack, or move faster. And is rolling 2 dice against a 1 hit point orc really that much different than 10 dice against a 5 hit point dragon? Nope.


But there can be lots of different ways to attack. E.g., in Dungeons and Dragons, there are lots of different magic spells: a Sleep spell might be particularly useful against one type of enemy, and a Fireball spell against a different enemy, and Magic Missiles against a different enemy, etc. Some "fantasy adventure" games have tactical combat that brings out these differences. Others (like WOW:TBG) abstract the combat so much that it's just a numerical exercise. In that case the strategy comes down to managing numerical resources (e.g., "energy"), and the strategic maneuvering around which battles to fight (but not as much how to fight them).
 
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Robert Rossney
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Really, there's nothing to do in the video game other than kill monsters, and almost immediately characters become obsessed with increasing their DPS by just 1 point more, or their armor or STA by a few more points, which differs from adding another dice to your dice pool by, ah, nothing.


This is so wrong I hardly know where to start.

I don't think I've killed a monster in the last 2 months, because I've been working on making enough money to buy my epic mount.

Which I'm doing by having my level-2 alt buy and sell goods at the auction house.

Which I got started on because I found that the things my level-60 main character were crafting (don't forget crafting) weren't selling for as much money as they once had, and so I started looking into the economics of the auction house, installed the Auctioneer mod, and started tracking commodity prices, and the next thing I know I'm playing a game that I didn't even know existed two months ago.

I was so involved with this that I totally missed Christmas in WoW, speaking of another thing that you can do in WoW without killing monsters.

Some of the most fun that I've had in WoW is just plain exploration. Learning where you can jump out of a zeppelin without dying. Figuring out how to sneak my high-level human into the Tauren starting village.

And then there's always pulling Stitches into Westfall. (Now that is funny.)

And I'm not even on a RP server.
 
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Joel Yoder
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Getting back on the subject of Wow the boardgame...

Steve Werth wrote:
The blandness you feel is endemic in the fantasy adventure game genre. When all there is to do is move and attack, there rapidly becomes very little benefit to obtaining items that neither help you attack, or move faster. And is rolling 2 dice against a 1 hit point orc really that much different than 10 dice against a 5 hit point dragon? Nope.


You have obviously never played Magic Realm. There is so much more to do than move and attack. In my last game, I found the dragon essence early, a treasure which provides continuous purple color (magic power). But I was playing the Black Knight, a non-magic character. Still I held onto it since it was a "great treasure" and I needed to have one to win the game. Then later I found the flying carpet at another treasure site, which needs, that's right, purple magic to work. I was able to fly across the board and sell the royal scepter to the guard, earning fame I wouldn't have gotten had I sold it at the inn next door.

On the one hand, you have a flying carpet, a power producing great treasure that just happens to summon the occasional dragon, and a scepter which makes you famous if you return it its rightful guardians. On the other hand, you have a weapon that gives you three red dice, armor that gives you three green and one rollover, and a potion that heals damage. Which game sounds more interesting to you?

If only you could play Magic Realm in three hours...

--Joel
 
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Ava Jarvis
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Steve Werth wrote:

The blandness you feel is endemic in the fantasy adventure game genre. When all there is to do is move and attack, there rapidly becomes very little benefit to obtaining items that neither help you attack, or move faster. And is rolling 2 dice against a 1 hit point orc really that much different than 10 dice against a 5 hit point dragon? Nope.


Only in the ones that emphasize combat over everything else. This is easy to do in games, and is one of the killers of an RPG session---in fact, there seem to be a lot of people who claim to play RPGs but are really in it to kill monsters endlessly. ("Munchkin").

Joel gave a great example with Magic Realm, of an adventure game that isn't at all bland. There's also Arabian Nights (one of the best paragraph games ever). The characteristics they share are 1) more detail, and 2) the detail matters in game play. This also makes them a long experience.... in the case of Magic Realm, MUCH longer than any WoW session will take.

I agree with Matthew, though---the theme comes out through the play itself, not through the description of the powers. To me, this game isn't bland---or at least, it's only bland if you run through and you don't notice the game play. It would be like running through Magic Realm and not reading the text---except it's difficult to do this in Magic Realm or Arabian Nights because, well, you need to read the text to figure out what to do. You are forced to indulge, so you do---and usually you find wonder. The other games are, in a way, too convenient---look at the red dice, look at the blue dice, look at the green dice, calculate some odds.... if you wouldn't normally stop and think, you won't, and you pass it all by.

I have seen Arabian Nights played in such a way that the players just sped-read the text to themselves, and just wanted to see where they would go next. And then say "This game is so boring." Usually people do read the text, but if you're gaming for the sake of efficiency, you obviously are going to lose immersion on the way---and for paragraph games, that tends to do them in. They share the closest bonds to RPGs out of boardgames, and like RPGs, if you just view it all as a way to optimize killing the next level of dragon---the theme is toast.

Many RPGs are not "bland-proof" by a long shot.

(I think that's why I liked Fudge a while back. It really doesn't get in the way. I have also done short-running campaigns---a couple weeks, maybe, at a time---of RPGs without any dice whatsoever, and only a few rules. That completely breaks the "RPG" categorization for a lot of people right there, even if role-playing is the supposed heart of an RPG.)
 
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Steve Werth
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I'm sure Magic Realm is an exception to my comment about the entire genre being bland: while I haven't played it I've admired it from a distance. This doesn't change the fact that the machine driving the genre is the quest to get the better sword, to fight the bigger orc, to get the even better sword, to fight the even bigger orc. It is a design challenge, but clearly not an impossibility as Magic Realm indicates, to make a game that provides incentives to do other things. Recruit followers? Great idea. Manipulate the economy? Also a fantastic idea (and incidentally one of the ways Blizzard says you can enjoy playing WoW, which is of course true as the above poster addressed).

Having played WoW for 8 months, I was disappointed to see that the most interesting aspects of the video game were sacked for the board game. What died? Exploration, crafting, economy manipulation. Those are big losses. What is left? Moving and attacking, and accumulating spells/talents/items that help you move and attack.

What is also true, as an above poster mentioned, is that combat in games may become so intricate that it creates a new gaming "experience" all on its own. Of the 8 character classes in the online game, each one has to be able to do damage to a monster and kill it resulting in (roughly) an overall downtime over thousands of kills of the same amount across classes. Taken to extreme abstraction, each class should be able to kill a same-level monster, recover, and then be ready to kill another every (say) 60 seconds. Of course in the online game, a large number of variables can be added to make the combat seem different. A warrior just attacks and eats some food after combat. A priest has a weaker attack, but needs to rest less after combat because she just heals herself. A hunter shoots arrows at a distance which probably means the hunter takes no damage so the hunter has no subsequent downtime, but arrows cost money so the hunter must spend X amount of additional time recouping the loss. Mages cast spells which kill monsters relatively quickly, but their downtime is (intentionally) greater afterwards as while they replenish their mana. Each of these variables can be fiddled with to maximize efficiency.

In the online game, this is all interesting and all makes sense. In a board game, there must be abstration involved, and because the tendency is to abstract to equality (because in WoW at least, the classes really were designed to have equal "fight ability"), you get the WoW boardgame where warriors roll 6 red dice, and mages roll 6 blue dice. But there's also attrition and the green dice, so the boardgame still makes some nod to complexity. In fact, the boardgame may be as complex as it ever could be in terms of trying to define different fighting styles. But there's the problem: the boardgame is just about fighting, and nothing else. So the items, the talents, and spells just add dice to your dice pool.

Maybe this will be changed in the expansion?
 
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Joel Yoder
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Steve Werth wrote:
In fact, the boardgame may be as complex as it ever could be in terms of trying to define different fighting styles. But there's the problem: the boardgame is just about fighting, and nothing else. So the items, the talents, and spells just add dice to your dice pool.

Maybe this will be changed in the expansion?


I think you do a great job of summing up the boardgame's strengths and limitations. As I said before, I like the game. It's definitely got more strategy than Runebound, Dungeoneer, Talisman, etc. The fighting system is complicated enough, and the ways to develop characters diverse enough, that there's plenty of entertainment to be had. But as you say, it doesn't go beyond that.

The expansion could improve things by including more routes to success. Right now you fight monsters to gain exp. so you can fight stronger monsters. That formula could be varied in a number of ways: different ways to gain exp., ways to gain more exp. for weaker monsters, ways to get combat power besides exp.

If treasure cards were more varied and interesting, then powers that allowed you to get more treasure cards, be more selective when getting loot, gain more gold, or use treasures of higher levels would be viable. Thus a character could advance in power in other ways than just getting more exp. This is just one example.

Hopefully the expansion will "open things up" a bit. Maybe they'll include some new quest cards that are actually worth reading, too.

--Joel
 
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Ava Jarvis
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Ideas...

- Individual goals/quests. Return of the Heroes has this. They don't involve fighting monsters all the time either, but most of the quest steps are of the pick-up-and-deliver variety. You have a main goal to complete (several steps) and on the way minor tasks (one or two steps, and you get experience). There are also various [edit: third-party] additions to Runebound that make this a prime feature rather than one that only pops up randomly.

- Exploration a la Candamir, which is a little more interesting than most adventure games. You have a deck of cards that consist of arrows with sometimes icons. For a certain amount of movement, you can draw one card per movement. In each arrow direction, you can see whether you're going to run into an item (some kind of raw resource, usually), an animal to fight, or just the ability to keep going. Sometimes it's just a question mark, which could be anything when you arrive there. This seems to replicate exploration the best, because there a particular amount of unknown involved.

- Bigger map. Maybe modular. But the idea of a particular district having more than just the one big space would be nice. Perhaps something inbetween the current map and Fury of Dracula, where there are small places you can move to---but you don't have the requirement to subdivide the area? The map is already pretty big, however. How would this work? Do we need it?

- Trading and selling. This difficult to do, because there are only two sides in the game. If you turned the game into individuals rather than teams, people can agree to team-up for certain monsters, and everyone can trade and sell to each other.

- Services. You can learn useful skills... outside of fighting. Repairing army. Ability to "map" or be psychic. Plain old training up of skills, or the ability to teach certain services. Services are offered at a price of course. Create items from raw resources you gathered. If there are secret locations you know about through exploring, you can also sell this knowledge. There are certain levels of services, although you would probably want to have a few base types of service, and then make smaller variations on them.

- Perhaps with monsters who aren't ravaging bundles of muscle and fur/scales/feathers, you can have a particular ability in which you can try to reason with them (convince to leave you alone, convince to leave, convince to hunt down some other player....). You could make (dangerous and difficult) deals with demons or dragons. Or these particular things could simply be part of a quest.

- Endgame goal: you still ought to defeat some baddie. If people agree to group, they can win the game together; alternatively they can try to solo it (and hopefully usually die trying). The game probably opens up when, instead of set teams, you can have the open choice of choosing to group or not. This way you could also get to play alongside people of various abilities, rather than just your neighbors.

You would need to come up with some mix of these so that various routes to the endgame victory have reasonable chances of occurring, and there aren't too many dead-ends on the paths.

I think a lot of these would stretch the game out however and make it even more complicated. I don't know how big of an audience there is, or if the level of disatisfaction is enough, or whether it's enough to just accept the game as is and move on. I mean, really... it would never be another Magic Realm.

Maybe you could combine the game with a paragraph book of some sort. That seems the shortest way, except that, well, you'd need to come up with a paragraph book.

 
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Mike zebrowski
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You guys do realize that this is a licensed games and that FFG is pretty much stuck with following the source material, right?

Mike Z
 
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Mike Zebrowski wrote:
You guys do realize that this is a licensed games and that FFG is pretty much stuck with following the source material, right?


Yes. Sorry.
 
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Graham Smallwood
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Heh, no need to apologize. Even though some of the more creative suggestions might not fit in the WoW paradigm, it still points out that too much... magic has been lost in the translation to board game.

And not only that, if you consider the boardgame to be just a game about the fighting in the computer game it falls short on that count too. The most important factors in the computer fighting engine are range, aggro, and adds. Blue dice try to handle symbolizing range, but the other two are sorely missed.

So the game is a solid production of a powering-up style character fighting game, but the WoW theme for the fighting is thin and it certainly isn't a port of the full game.
 
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Dorque wrote:

So the game is a solid production of a powering-up style character fighting game, but the WoW theme for the fighting is thin and it certainly isn't a port of the full game.


I don't think you could port the full fighting mechanics. I think most people agree that the fighting part is very well done, and some of us think it's themey enough, and some of us don't.

I think it is themey enough and well done. Joel thinks it is well done, but not themey enough.

I was simply playing off some ideas I had while reading the arguments about why the game isn't "enough", even though I don't necessarily agree with the arguments and think the ideas would stretch the game out far too long. I think being constructive is better than complaining and a lot more fun, though people might take it the other way 'round.
 
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Dorque wrote:
The most important factors in the computer fighting engine are range, aggro, and adds. Blue dice try to handle symbolizing range, but the other two are sorely missed.


Aggro is handled in the form of monster abilities that are triggered on dice rolls.

I'm not sure what you mean by "adds". Do you mean buffs or DoTs?

Mike Z
 
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Graham Smallwood
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Hey, I guess I can see that. The low number penalties are you doing something that gets you directly hurt. Roll too many dice and you can get smacked.

Adds are mobs that jump you when you are peacefully trying to slaughter someone entirely different. In the computer game, it happens when you try to pull someone that is too close to another enemy and he brings a friend, or when you are in a fight and a roving patrol monster walks up to your fight and jumps in. Nothing compares to the rush of terror when you are barely making it through a dungeon and you pick up an add.

I'd have liked if the blue guys served the purpose of adds. Like, you never have to fight them, but if you are in a fight in their square, each round there is a chance he'll jump in. Like on an 8, then 7+, etc. Although as it stands, if blue dice are the abstraction of range, and the low die penalties are the abstraction of aggro, then I can live with blue mobs being the abstraction of adds.

I guess personally, the fighting feels like the abstraction abstracted the fighting too far from PC WoW. I'd need pulling and slowing effects and spell interruption in the range system, damage tracking and attention grabbing in the aggro system, and fear-sheep-calm-stun in the add system to feel like I was playing PC fighting. The BG nailed the character development part at least.
 
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Joel Yoder
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I want to stay away from comparisons to the PC game if possible in this thread. I've never played it, and I'm trying to judge the boardgame on its own merits, not on how well it captures the PC game.

The point I'm trying to get across is not that the game is not "themey" enough, but that it doesn't have enough variety. The treasures are all very similar to each other, as are the quests and to a certain extent the powers.

I enjoy the game for its mechanics, but it would have been nice to enjoy it for that sense of discovery too. The first time I played it, I was eager to see what neat treasures and quests would be revealed as I wandered through the world. But I quickly realized that all the treasures are simply variations on a theme, and all the quests are basically the same (just scaled differently).

Of course, this generic quality does tend to make the game less colorful, but that's not my primary problem. I just wish there was more variety. As it is, each game feels pretty much like the last. This limits its replay value. Fortunately there is a bit more variety in the character decks, and a generous selection of them. But I doubt this will keep the game fresh for long.

--Joel
 
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Yoder wrote:
I want to stay away from comparisons to the PC game if possible in this thread. I've never played it, and I'm trying to judge the boardgame on its own merits, not on how well it captures the PC game.


You are being paralogical. You are complaining that the game doesn't have enough theme while admitting ignorance of the source material that the game is derived from.

The quests and treasures in WoW are all remarkably similar. Treasures usually boost different attributes and very rarely have unique special abilities. There are 4 basic quest types in WoW and most of them revolve around killing monsters.

Mike Z
 
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Mike Zebrowski wrote:
Yoder wrote:
I want to stay away from comparisons to the PC game if possible in this thread. I've never played it, and I'm trying to judge the boardgame on its own merits, not on how well it captures the PC game.


You are being paralogical. You are complaining that the game doesn't have enough theme while admitting ignorance of the source material that the game is derived from.

The quests and treasures in WoW are all remarkably similar. Treasures usually boost different attributes and very rarely have unique special abilities. There are 4 basic quest types in WoW and most of them revolve around killing monsters.

Mike Z


The enforcer strikes again, trying to quench any criticism of anything FFG produces. How predictable.

Instead of trying to understand Yoder, who is taking about elements that are common in games with theme, you just decide do slam him. I'm pretty sure that what he means with 'themey' is just what he talks about in the rest of the sentence: varied, colorful, non-abstract. It just happens that the features of WoW that the boardgame reproduces are the boring and repetitive ones. By simulating them you might achieve theme, but that doesn't mean that you're making the game fun, even to the FFG crowd. In the same way, someone could design a very thematic game about accounting, all about moving numbers around in accounts and ledgers, and maybe detecting fraud through careful statistical analysis of sales reports. I'm sure it'd sell very well to the 'theme crowd'.

Note to new game designers: If you are trying to have a game with high theme, try to avoid the boring, repetitive parts of the theme, and try to keep the parts that make the theme fun and interesting. Making your game boring and repetitive because you are basing your game on something that has boring and repetitive aspects will not make your game good.
 
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hibikir wrote:
The enforcer strikes again, trying to quench any criticism of anything FFG produces. How predictable.


I have never tried to quelch criticism. I do demend that criticisms be backed up by intellectual honesty.

Mike Z
 
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I enjoyed reading through the above threads (especially the first two). I just played my first game of WoW last weekend. I can sum up MY opinion of the game by quoting the title of the thread - 'bland'.

In WoW, the characters are really cool, the combat system was somewhat original and interesting, the board and bits are great, and the artwork was attractive - all trademarks of FF Games (of which I am a big fan).

However, when it comes down to it, the only point of the game is to move from space to space and fight - NOT exactly an epic quest game, IMHO. The combat system, while cool in many respects, seemed to be overcomplicated for its own sake.

So, for my part, I'll stick to Talisman and Return of the Heroes (maybe even Runebound, too) when I'm looking for a character-based adventure game. Yes, I'll still play WoW if my comrades want to (since it certainly does have its merits and I can enjoy it a little bit), but I think the other games I mentioned bring out the 'quest' aspect a little better, and the mechanics are more streamlined.

BTW, I've never played the PC version, but it seems to me, based off comments I've read, that the board game version could have been better if it incorporated some of the other, non-combat related elements of the PC version.
 
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I don't like boardgames in the RPG genre. I love RPGs and I love boardgames, but the combination just doesn't work for me. Blandness is part of it. If there is no DM and everything is done via look-up tables there is no allowance for player idiosyncrasy.

For example, in my D&D campaign the players had tracked a dangerous criminal to a frozen plane and were about to enter the cavern complex he was hiding in (in which it was impossible to teleport or scry). However, the Paladin says "I will pray to my God to reach out to the criminal and offer him his mercy if he surrenders to us". That was the end of that adventure (the Asassin rather spoiled the effect a bit later by killing the repentant criminal, but that is another storymeeple).

Ok, that was fairly irrelevant. I haven't played either version of WOW. In my youth and folly I played Diablo II though. Awful game, I shudder to think of a board game based on it...

I appreciate FFG had to stick with the parameters given. We customers can still discuss game quality, with reference to other parameters though.
 
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Joel Yoder
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Mike Zebrowski wrote:

I have never tried to quelch criticism. I do demend that criticisms be backed up by intellectual honesty.

Mike Z


"Intellectual Honesty?" What are you talking about? As you say, I admit ignorance of the source material. Does that mean I can't critique the game? Are you saying the board game cannot be considered an entity in itself, separate from the computer game?

I don't buy that. And I don't buy "well, that's what the computer game is like" as a defense, either. The boardgame must stand or fall on its own merits.

If someone made a game based on WWI, and it was boring and endless and nothing ever seemed to happen, would you say "well, that's what WWI was like?". I doubt you'd raise the game's rating here on BGG much with that argument.

--Joel
 
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Ava Jarvis
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Yoder wrote:

"Intellectual Honesty?" What are you talking about? As you say, I admit ignorance of the source material. Does that mean I can't critique the game? Are you saying the board game cannot be considered an entity in itself, separate from the computer game?


The game was based on a license from Blizzard Entertainment. It's Blizzard Entertainment that says what can and can't be done in the game, and puts out the parameters of "how this game should be" and has the final nods as to what's produced fits or doesn't fit what they want.

FFG doesn't have as free of a liberty with WoW as they do with, say, Runebound.

So in this sense, the board game and the computer game are linked.
 
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