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Shadowrun: Crossfire» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Shadowrun – a Boardgame MMO? rss

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ghost whistler
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Or a card game MMO, to be more precise.

I’m going to give a brief review of the game, focusing on the points that are relevant for brevity’s sake. The game is, on the whole, good as opposed to bad, but it feels very incomplete and somewhat expensive for what you get. That said the components are excellent quality.

Crossfire is a simple card game with a cooperative aspect. Players are mercenaries, or shadowrunners, in a cyberpunk world infused with magic. They aim to complete objectives set out in missions by defeating obstacles represented by cards. Each runner takes on a role that does little more than decide the makeup of their starting deck, to which cards are added by spending money earned by defeating obstacles. Cards and obstacles are tied to the roles and cards acquired in play can be used by any role. There are two levels of obstacle difficulty, represented in two decks, and a deck of meta-obstacles known as the crossfire deck the purpose of which is the make the overall game experience more difficult as the runners take their time.

As runners complete missions, or successfully survive aborting them, they earn persistent rewards in the form of upgrades. These can be swapped out and chosen as the runner sees fit at the start of play. This is why I say MMO, because the game wants players to attach to their runners and personalise them in order to make game play easier and make more difficult objectives more accessible. I’m not sure how this works in practise since you could just as easily choose a starting Karma (experience points) level for a given mission and let the players pick some upgrades for that run. In fact 1 of the 3 missions included requires at least 70 points worth of upgrades.

This is my main problem with the game: the complete dearth of missions. As a starter kit it’s barely adequate, but 3 missions total? That’s utterly inexcusable and totally lazy on the part of the developers. It really is. At the very least I would expect to see weekly missions posted online (as you might with a video game MMO). The likely alternative is the obligatory expansions spaced over many months to add more content. I have no problem with that per se, but with how little the game shipped with (and for the price tag of £40 – compared to the Cerberus engine decbuilders which are £10 cheaper and have slightly more content) that’s not good enough and I don’t think people should settle.

The missions included are decent enough; both are varied although one, Crossfire, is essentially the default game mode. In order to stand a chance against mission 3, fighting a dragon, you will need to play and beat Crossfire about 20 times (and the more Karma you accrue, the less you can earn as well). The second mission, Extraction, is sufficiently different and requires runners keep a client alive until the end. Both are fun, both are not enough. The game should have shipped with at least 5 missions, each including open ended objectives and fully scaleable with any number of runners at any Karma level. I fear many players will have abandoned the game by the time sufficient content is released as there isn’t enough variety to sustain this long term by itself. The Dragon Fight mission should have been cut and saved for that expansion, but I suspect it will ultimately be anticlimactic. There is no ‘endgame’ content here; once you’ve upgraded you aren’t going to get anything for beating that dragon other than the satisfaction of doing so. More Karma is highly unlikely to be necessary – what would you need it for?

The game’s difficulty is extreme. This is a problem. It is certainly satisfying to beat a mission, but doing so can seem more like luck by avoiding drawing really harsh obstacles or crossfire events. It is extremely easy for characters to be overwhelmed and placed into a position where they lack the resources to make meaningful choices or the health to withstand the consequences. A game should be a challenge, especially if its cooperative, but crossfire lends itself too often to situations where the difficulty can swing wildly against you by forcing you to take extra damage at the flip of a card, or discard cards the lack of which prevents you from doing anything. For example there is a rule that, before dying, runners that take too much damage first become Staggered. The effect of this is to force you to lose all cards in hand and prevent you from buying more or doing anything except drawing 1 card on your turn and, if you can, playing it. What’s the point? How are runners expected to really endure that? Healing is few and far between, which again is not something I have a problem with per se, but the runners’ health is such a precious resource that losing even a little can doom a game.

This isn’t a bad game; but it needs more content. The obstacle and crossfire decks are decent sized, but even they will become stale in time, though I’m not sure an endless supply of more and more is the answer. Likewise the black market deck (from where runners acquire extra cards) doesn’t have a huge variety. Interestingly I’m not sure the solution is to make it bigger and bigger either, most of the cards within are quite potent as their costs increase. No, I think the game’s future lies in offering more fundamental content starting with more missions.

Disclosure: I am harsh becuase it would be unfair and disrespectful otherwise. This is a good effort and to condescend to it would be to do it a disservice.

7/10: good, needs work.

Thank you.
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Marc Bennett
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this review is well written and I agree with your end rating, however I disagree on some of your points.

more content, I totally agree. although given the size of the box I am fairly sure more content is coming.

as far as the missions and difficulty issues, I agree with rhado. I feel if the game didn't have mission cards and the crossfire rules were listed in the book as the standard play mode, no one would be complaining. I see everything after crossfire as a bonus. also I am sure more missions are coming. the game is HARD that is true. but it fits the setting. in shadowrun nothing is suppose to go as planned. if you survive it was good. while the game is hard it can be beaten. as a long time shadowrun RPG player if it was any less hard it wouldn't be realistic.

one last comment im not sure I agree with the MMO comparison. MMO stands for "massively multiplayer" and I don't see 4 players as massive. although I do think they are going to expand it to 6 in an expansion, there are 6 max health and health tokens"
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Gordon J
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I've played 4 games so far and I still haven't made a decision on whether I like it or not. The one thing this game does not have is a sense of movement. In the game obstacles get drawn and placed in front of you, you defeat them, next turn you defeat more obstacles, next turn obstacles get placed in front of you, ..... There is no sense of exploring the Shadowrun universe. In Legedary Encounters the aliens move room to room, you can try to scan for them or kill them in the different rooms as they get closer and closer to you. In Space Hulk the card game the aliens move back and forth to different locations, and you can move your Marines to different tactical spots. There is a feeling of movement or exploring. Shadowrun has none of it.

I like the Black Market and I like how you have to work together to defeat the challenges. I finally had fun with this game when I played the Extraction/Client scenario and gave my solo runner a bunch of karma rich upgrades and finally, barely beat the scenario.
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This recent glut of reviews about this game has already helped me realize this isn't a very good game or deck-builder.
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Bret Callender
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Wytefang: this review ( and I think most here ) rated the game pretty high. The only critiques against the game that make sense to me are difficulty, the lack of mission variance and continuation, and the abstraction (lack of translation from source). Missing roles and grouping archetypes together to get the 4 roles removing technical rules for rigger, adept, shaman etc keeps the game simple and playable. The missions are few (though there are already several missions for free online) but even if crossfire was the only mission I would be happy with replayability. That karma is the only thing that transfers game to game is again a boon for people who might not play with the same group every time. There was obviously a big debate on long term development vs entry level play and if the goal was inclusiveness they succeeded. And last and most difficulty, if you're playing to win and can't handle losing this game is not for you. Those first few victories especially will be hard earned (and sweeter for it). If you like shadowrun and none of that is a deal breaker; it's worth a try. I can (and did) lose every game in an 8 hour session. We played a few games intentionally handicapped, one with a new player, a couple of 2 player extractions at 5 karma, and a couple crossfire with 2 players and 5 karma. Nothing that happened diminished my desire to play this game often.
 
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ghost whistler
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Klaxas wrote:
this review is well written and I agree with your end rating, however I disagree on some of your points.

more content, I totally agree. although given the size of the box I am fairly sure more content is coming.

as far as the missions and difficulty issues, I agree with rhado. I feel if the game didn't have mission cards and the crossfire rules were listed in the book as the standard play mode, no one would be complaining. I see everything after crossfire as a bonus. also I am sure more missions are coming. the game is HARD that is true. but it fits the setting. in shadowrun nothing is suppose to go as planned. if you survive it was good. while the game is hard it can be beaten. as a long time shadowrun RPG player if it was any less hard it wouldn't be realistic.

one last comment im not sure I agree with the MMO comparison. MMO stands for "massively multiplayer" and I don't see 4 players as massive. although I do think they are going to expand it to 6 in an expansion, there are 6 max health and health tokens"


Thank you.

I think it's safe to say Catalyst intends for this to be expanded. The problem is how and when. I'm all for more obstacle variety, but i don't think that will make the game better. the lack of mission variety is the real problem. It almost wants to be a toolkit - like the tabletop rpg - but with no guidance for mission design. Given how different the 2 missions are and how they fundamentally play with the rules of the game it won't be easy to design and balance missions.

There are two missions online, but one of which, Ambulators, is just a demo version of Crossfire. I have not tried Close the Portal.

The difficulty is like playing a multiplayer online video game, like Call of Duty, but where you can't respawn. You can have fun, take out a few baddies, and then...party wipe game over. Reload.

In fact I'm not sure that it's accurate to say the game is 'hard', it just overwhelms you to the point you can't really make meaningful choices.

I also didn't mention that the game has a lot of character variables: each metatype has 3 unique and differing values: health, starting hand size, and starting money. That may bring variety to the gameplay, but it makes it harder to balance. The elf for instance has 4 health; if she gets two obstacles in front of her she's really really going to struggle which, given that it takes but one player to die to end the game, forces the other players' hands. The dwarf starts with 5 health and 2 cards, but really that might as well be 3/4 health and 4 cards since 2 cards will not defeat an obstacle. Certainly they can choose not to be the starting runner (at least initially), but since everyone has at least on obstacle...

Again it's not a bad game, but it needs something.I would be very interested in hearing what Catalyst makes of these criticisms and what their plans are.
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ghost whistler
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wytefang wrote:
This recent glut of reviews about this game has already helped me realize this isn't a very good game or deck-builder.


It's not a bad game, it just needs some more stuff.

It's not really a deckbuilder per se. You buy cards, they go into your deck, they are more powerful. But i wouldn't really call it a deckbuilder because you aren't so much building a deck as getting more cards to become more powerful. I think deckbuilding, as a mechanism and a style, encompasses a bit more than that. YMMV
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Klaxas wrote:
MMO stands for "massively multiplayer"


MMO stands for "massively multiplayer online"

I suspect what the OP was thinking of is that Shadowrun is trying to be like an RPG, since he discusses getting attached to your character as it improves. I'm not positive, since I don't know everything in his head, but MMO certainly doesn't make much sense, especially as he compares it to Call of Duty in a later post and that is also not an MMO by any proper definition.
 
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ghost whistler
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MMO in the sense you have a persistent character levelling up to do missions. The game is mission based, like an MMO. That's what it needs. So, again like an MMO, Catalyst could put out regular content in the form of missions.

Hopefully not wait 6 months for 2 more missions and some other bits and bobs.

The CoD comment was an analogy for the difficulty of the game. Not in relation to MMO games.

HtH
 
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Brad Keusch
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Sounds like a hard version of the pathfinder card game. The latter I had many of the same complaints about, but they were even more egregious. At least here the missions sound varied, in pathfinder they are exactly the same. I love the idea of persistence when it comes to a card game, but no one has seemed to really find the magic formula that works yet. I will keep my eye on this game when the expansions come and see if the tune changes some.
 
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Marc Bennett
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anatana wrote:
Sounds like a hard version of the pathfinder card game. The latter I had many of the same complaints about, but they were even more egregious. At least here the missions sound varied, in pathfinder they are exactly the same. I love the idea of persistence when it comes to a card game, but no one has seemed to really find the magic formula that works yet. I will keep my eye on this game when the expansions come and see if the tune changes some.


that's what I thought before playing it. with pathfinder most of the missions are the same, (a couple are not) but the big difference is the characters. in pathfinder you have a persistent deck, and lots of character abilities even with fresh characters. in shadowrun, your deck is not persistent and you start with no abilities. however you can have a ton of characters that can all level up separately and its more sandbox development any character can get any ability so you can tailor the character to your playstyle. with shadowrun it will be MUCH easier to have multiple "campaigns" going at the same time, and you can even mix new and experienced characters on a mission.
 
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ghost whistler
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anatana wrote:
Sounds like a hard version of the pathfinder card game. The latter I had many of the same complaints about, but they were even more egregious. At least here the missions sound varied, in pathfinder they are exactly the same. I love the idea of persistence when it comes to a card game, but no one has seemed to really find the magic formula that works yet. I will keep my eye on this game when the expansions come and see if the tune changes some.


I have seen reviews of Pathfinder, but never played it.

It looked a bit dull: every deck was just flip a card, it's a sword/armour/item, flip a card it's a spell/blessing, flip a card fight a monster.

Seemed very unthematic and just drawing endless loot.

I wouldn't say Shadowrun isn't thematic. But that's down to the missions. Really the game stands or falls on the missions; the basic mechanics are a skeleton for the missions to put flesh on. This is why it's so disappointing there are so few. I would love a response from Catalyst on when we might see more.
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Ernie K
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Most deckbuilders are strategic in nature. You're building an engine, refining you draws and building to an endgame. This feels much more tactical, not building for the longterm, but grasping for the right kind of tools to get you just around the next corner and pray you get a chance to reload.

The difference of putting bought cards into your hand instead of your discard would seem to reinforce this view. I wonder how many of the complaints we're seeing on the boards are a result of "fish climbing trees"?

Though I do agree that more missions are going to be necessary for this game to thrive, Shadowrun has a pretty solid tradition of player-generated content as well, the recent RPG from the license being a good example.
 
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John Middleton
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The main problem I have with Crossfire is that it is basically a math engine Euro with some Shadowrun art. You could retheme it to Rail-barons in the west with little impact on how it plays.

It does not really tell a coherent Shadowrun story other than the characters are woefully under equipped to run against anything.

The "campaign" progression via the Upgrade stickers is really generic and does little to instil a sense of Character to the roles. It is mostly geared towards improving their math ability against the equation obstacles.


Ok Euro-style card game, but without a real sense of the game world.




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DegenerateElite wrote:


Ok Euro-style card game, but without a real sense of the game world.


I wouldn't go that far, but if you compare the stuff that is out now to the PACG last year, it similar - 3 missions, not much fluff etc.

question will be how they expand it, worst case the game bombs and crossfire won't get any more packs. but even then I can see people coming up with new missions and maybe a campaign mode.

although, considering the ongoing COOP craze and the success of the LOTR LCG and PACG, I really hope catalyst manages to make it available enough that people will buy into it.
 
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John Middleton
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It is the mathing out of your damage that makes this a Euroish game in my eyes.

Pasted on theme is secondary., though I agree there are many Euro where theme is essential and very well done.





The thing is missions are not really missions. They are more accurately different playstyles that score and time in multiple ways.

They are not stories with background or a series of linked events in a campaign structure.
 
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Bret Callender
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I'm pretty sure the devs expected and maybe even hoped for user generated content. So there are unlimited missions. For campaigns it really depends on what you are looking for. For more game to game continuity while keeping intact the design choice to let characters of different karma levels play together you could easily run a one night thing where you play each mission and get some carryover items, maybe not fully heal, move on to the next. For a more league style play with a continuing plot line here's how I would do it (this still allows for mixed karma, non continuous play).
Each mission has 4 possible outcomes, one assigned to each role color ( these could or could not include loss and abort). Each player gets an outcome sticker. On the next mission the mission rules are modified based on most frequent color. This could be totally different missions (needing 4 missions per level) or maybe 2 missions that are just modified based on outcome, or 1 mission with modifications based on outcome stickers. It could be as easy as making 4 different bosses or as complex as totally different plots based on outcome. There would have to be a limit as outcome based missions would still have to lead to the next set to avoid exponential plot option growth. This idea just came to me as I was reading this thread so it might be really stupid. I have limited time or I would gladly do this and share it (I'll probably do it but getting it presentable enough to share is where it gets to be too much).
 
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John Middleton
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Except the missions are not story based. They have one line of background text. Since they are not story based, then a campaign has no plot development. Indeed a campaign would, at this point, consist of grinding the same couple of missions over and over to get karma upgrades.

The missions only change how you setup the cards, score points at the end, how the timing mechanism works for that mission, and how Obstacles are handed out.


These are all mechanical things, not story things.

User generated content along those same lines would be ... lame.
 
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ghost whistler
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There's also no guidance for user created content. There's no general guide to balancing encounters or when to end scenes etc. You can see that crossfire and extraction are very different affairs - which is a good thing. But that doesn't help the enthusiastic amateur. Some people will homebrew, which I welcome, but whether what they create will be payable, who knows?
 
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ghost whistler
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I'm thinking of revising my score down to a 6.

I am begining to feel this game was not playtested enough: specifically obstacle balance. To have a card like Aerial Combat Drone as a normal obstacle, alongside some of the really easy ones, is bizarre. I think Catalyst thought that increasing the payout would balance it, but i don't agree.

I'm not really sure it's scales well either. You can lose the game in an instant and it can swing wildly. You can breeze through the first scene with nothing more to show for it - the game doesn't reward you for doing really well because the easier obstacles have a lower payout which means you get less tools to work with when things get harder in the next scene. That may seem reasonable, but i'm not sure, in terms of balance, it actually works out.

Then you get hit by a crossfire card!

I've played a game where in scene 2 my elf got staggered (i question if 4 health is feasible at all) and the crossfire level was 3. I made it to the end of the scene, but because the level was 3, on scene 3 i had her and an ork (2 runners) facing 4 obstacles, 3 of which were hard. Because she'd been staggered she only had 2 cards! You just can't even begin to play in that situation, that left an abort run with an ork facing 3 hard and 1 normal obstacle and no matter how awesome your hadn is you aren't going to beat 4 obstacles after 2 scenes (and again with crossfire cards).

I like the abort round idea, but often it's a complete mess because the runner just gets dumped with more than he can possibly handle.

Maybe with 4 runners it works better, but i have to say this game is increasingly seeming as if the playtesting was lacking.
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The game state described above is far enough from my own experiences with the game that I really would like to see a video or turn by turn recount of a play session from ghost whistler's group.

That said, this game is quite hard. The un-upgraded win rate is probably 50-60% with both wins and losses feeling very close. The balance is tight enough that upgrades make the game much easier (thus the difficulty options built-in to each mission).

I also agree with ghost whistler that the Elf's 4 starting HP is too low, particularly for playing a mission with only 2 players. I believe the developer diary similarly discusses the relative strength of the metatypes and their starting stats.
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Gordon J
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My advice to newbies is forget about playing the missions with no upgrade. Grab 4 upgrades, slap them on, and play one of the missions, trust me it will still be a challenge enough (I'm mainly thinking of the Crossfire Mission). I also picked up Legendary Encounters, which I think works much much better than Crossfire did.
 
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I am with kajomboman here, 4 games solo with 2 characters, orc mage/samurai and elf decker/face, 1 initial loss (due mainly to the orc being samurai/mage, then I reversed), 3 wins, all very tense and close, with 2 hp at most for everyone, the last one won at the very last possible turn by the staggered elf top-decking a green card needed to kill the last obstacle (a black one dealing only 1 damagebut that kept changing position and attacking multiple times per round, very annoying)!

So yeah is it hard? Hell yes, is it unfairly so? I don't think so...

If you really want to play the elf in a 2 player game and feel that 4 hp is too low, you should consider giving him the +1 health upgrade, it's only 5 karma.
 
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No_Frets wrote:
If you really want to play the elf in a 2 player game and feel that 4 hp is too low, you should consider giving him the +1 health upgrade, it's only 5 karma.


Assuming you've won enough missions to get 5 karma.

I personally don't think the elf is playable in a 2 player game, in a four it can work so long as everyone protects the Elf. Even then I think if you choose the elf in your party you've opted to play on hard difficulty, there are so many obstacles that can do 2 damage, and then other sources of damage the Elf can go from full health to staggered in one turn by a number of different combinations and there will be nothing you can do about it.

 
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DMaple wrote:
No_Frets wrote:
If you really want to play the elf in a 2 player game and feel that 4 hp is too low, you should consider giving him the +1 health upgrade, it's only 5 karma.


Assuming you've won enough missions to get 5 karma.

I personally don't think the elf is playable in a 2 player game, in a four it can work so long as everyone protects the Elf. Even then I think if you choose the elf in your party you've opted to play on hard difficulty, there are so many obstacles that can do 2 damage, and then other sources of damage the Elf can go from full health to staggered in one turn by a number of different combinations and there will be nothing you can do about it.



FWIW, with 2 heroes I've managed to get the Elf (and her Human buddy) up to 3 upgrades (35+ Karma). The first upgrade she went for was +1HP though.
 
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