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Subject: A Middara "Grain of Salt" Overview... rss

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Jerry Ruesch
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I’d first like to say that this review is more of a preview/playtest than a final review of a project that is currently still open for funding via Kickstarter. Please keep that in mind. Without further ado…



Middara is the second game created by Succubus Publishing, a small company headed by Clayton Helme, Brooklynn Lundberg, Brennon Moncur, and Ian Tate. It’s a modern fantasy co-op, 1 to 4 players with an optional 5th player as villain. It is a very story-based game. The closest I can relate it to would be Mice and Mystics, but the game play definitely has more of a Descent kind of feel to it.

Story:
From what I have been told, on Middara, no one ages, or dies, except by the intentional beheading or otherwise violent end. Death is not a natural process. To keep a population, two individuals will come back to Earth (yes, our earth) to have a child and then place them with a foster family until they are old enough to rejoin their parents back on Middara. So technically they are Middaran, but they still have to call earth their birthplace. I’m sure their interplanetary passports must be hell to figure out. Something interesting comes from this setup, however. The world of Middara is a fantasy paradise where magic, demons, angels, pixies (?), and so forth thrive, but Earth is home to more technological wonders. This will give the game that modern feel that I mentioned. It’s conceivable that a wizard on Middara might cast a fireball spell with one hand, while chucking a phosphorous grenade with the other. Heaven forbid someone ever tries to bring over a nuke to the new world.

Edit 6/24/15: Succubus Publishing released a wonderful little YouTube video going over their lore. http://youtu.be/BDf43G_aPNM

Setup:
I haven’t seen but a small cave setup at this time. Tiles are about 6" square and the game will come with 35 double-sided tiles. How you set up the tiles will be dictated by the current story. As will enemies, allies, treasure chests, traps, points of interest, and unique physical changes such as a walls, chasms, water etc… Whatever doesn’t have a miniature, will be included as a token to be added to the board. You will need a bit of room for this game. A simple 4 tile set up is 1’ square, and it’s been indicated that some of the encounters could use as many as 10 tiles. I’ve seen the airship set up personally and that was something like 2 ½ to 3 feet long, and 2 feet wide, and you still have to consider the room needed for the players. You have to find a good way to keep all your cards readily available, and even though there isn’t a multitude of decks you have to keep control of, unlike games like Arkham Horror, you still need to keep track of your armor, weapons, items, abilities, magical barriers, relics, familiars, and character sheet. The base game at this point will not include a playmat, but the Kickstarter does have ones made of neoprene available as an add-on at this time. I actually think they will come in very handy, but not necessary to play the game. You could just as easily set your cards in front of you in any order that makes the most sense. Just make sure you give yourself enough table space to do so. As far as setup time is concerned, it seems that will depend on the current story encounter being set up (think of Descent). But since there aren’t 10 million different card decks to have to worry about, I think it will be fairly quick.



Gameplay:
You will be playing through a story. There will be a storybook that you will play through. This is the heart of the co-op version of the game. It will revolve around the 4 base characters, letting them explore the story rich environment of Middara. They will encounter enemies, NPC’s, and various other monsters along their journey. The thing to take into consideration, however, is that this is not the only way to play the game. There will be a Crawl setup to the game as well that doesn’t take place in the main story, but instead lets you test your mettle in an ever changing, never ending wave of monster goodness. It gives the base game more of a sandbox feel, and, those NPC’s I mentioned earlier get to be played as actual characters. In the Story mode they just pop in occasionally as the story dictates and are usually just there for support. The Story revolves around just those 4 base characters. So if you want to play 5 players, it would be best to play either in a Crawl, or have the 5th player play as the villain in an encounter.

Speaking of characters, this is probably the single most open game when it comes to character creation. Yes, there are 4 main characters, but their archtypes are not set in stone. They have one or two base abilities that define them as a person, they have an in-depth backstory, and their stats do vary a bit from one another, but they are not considered wizard, thief, clergy, warrior, or any of the other main archtypes that we have become accustomed to throughout the years of various RPG’s. There are decks that will represent these ideas, and as you level up you get to decide on which of these abilities your character will focus on. You might decide to be that ultra-stealthy thief type who also has the ability to freeze the ground making your pursuers slip and fall while you leap over that low hanging wall and out of sight. Or perhaps you want a heavily armored warrior who has the ability to fly and heal himself after a tough battle. I think it was said that there were 110 different abilities ranging from 5 different classes: Assemblage (the ability to summon Espers – spirit helpers), Cruor (tapping into raw forces of power), Sanctus (heavenly powers such as healing, shielding, but containing a few offensive abilities as well), Subterfuge (basic thief like skills, not as much focusing on combat, but more utility), and Martial (your basic warrior combat skills). You’ll be able to build your character up, over time, with a wide mixture of these abilities. Create the hero you want to be, not the one the game wants you to be.

As far as the game play itself goes, each hero gets a number of actions as listed on their character sheet. It seems that 3 is the average. This will most likely get changed by abilities or items you may pick up along your journey. You can spend all, some, or none of those actions during your turn. What you don’t use on your turn you can save up for your next. Sometimes waiting behind a rock, letting your foe come in close while building up your strength for 2 fireball attacks might be more beneficial than charging forward with one swing of your sword. Generally you can use a single action point to move up to your speed, but if you want to move three times, you can. You simply have action points, what you do with them are up to you. And I REALLY hope that I’m not getting that wrong, because in our play through none of us actually tried that. LOL Fighting will cost 2 action points. And various other abilities have their own action point cost. You have to be careful with your actions. You will not be able to do more than one or two things on your turn unless you save up your points. For example, with 3 action points, you’ll be able to move towards that monster ahead of you and take a swing at it with your axe, but you will not be able to heal (let’s say your heal ability takes 2 action points) your bleeding comrade next to you on that same turn. At the start of your next turn, you will get your base 3 points back, or possibly more if you have a certain potion, item, passive ability etc… The order in which characters activate and take their turns is going to be dictated by an initiative track (which will feel much like Mice and Mystics) where a card for each character, NPC, and monster will be shuffled together and placed down one at a time to indicate who goes first, second, and so on. This can change depending on the story being played. Some stories might actually indicate a specific order. One such situation might be that in the prior story Rook and his group fought the enemies fast enough and quietly enough that the group of Cave Sickles in the next room are unaware of their presence. The story will flow very much like this from what I understand. You can either succeed or fail at a task, and how the story continues from there will be a bit different. You continue fighting in initiative order until one side or the other wins. How long this will take, once again, I do not have an exact answer, it’ll depend on the setup, and how focused the players are. But that’s the way it is with most games.

Combat is performed with a combination of different colored 6-sided dice (Descent anyone?). There are numbers in the middle and a combination of different symbols in the corners. Some dice give you higher numbers and some with give you a wider range of symbols. The symbols will usually relate to your items/abilities. You’ll start off with 2 blue (most basic) die and then either add to or change that with your items, abilities. This is where the more organized your play area is the better off you’ll be. You calculate all the changes you need and then roll. Each character and enemy will have a Dodge value. This is the number you have to roll over to hit them. Generally they won’t be rolling a dice as defense, but if they have some natural passive ability, or some spell cast on them it is possible that they might roll a die to add to their Dodge value for that turn. Keep in mind, as a character, you can do the same on an enemies turn if you have 1 action point available. It’s not a bad idea to keep one or two action points available at the end of your turn of you are up front and trying to Dodge incoming attacks. If you still roll above that target number, you hit them. Damage is dependent on high above that target number you rolled. Say you needed a 10 to hit, and you rolled a 13. You just did 3 damage. Now, if the target has any armor, you have to subtract it at this point. If the target has a bad-ass leather jacket (it’s a thing, I had one) they’ll subtract 2 points. This can be difficult to get around sometimes, but there are abilities, and weapons that’ll let you do damage without the enemy being able to use their armor for defense. Let me give you an example. I was Remi during our playtest, and I was using a mace and shield. I took 2 blue die for my base, but my mace said I used a white die. Now, this wasn’t an addition to my blue, but a replacement. So I was going to roll a blue and a white now, but the mace also said that if I used a shield in my other hand I used a bronze die instead of a white. It also said that if I rolled a “shield” symbol on a die I get +1 damage. So basically, my roll was one blue, one bronze, with an option of extra damage if I rolled any “shield” symbols.

One of the more innovative aspects of this game is the AI of the enemies. Since this is a cooperative game, the game itself decides what each adversary does, and how they move. Unlike most games where the enemy will simply move and attack, each enemy in Middara has a specific list of actions they will perform during their turn. It could be anything from casting a spell to boost their allies, movement, attacking, and sometimes even moving, attacking, then moving again. Each adversary has an included sheet that helps you keep track of these actions. You simply go down the list. If the phrase "continue down" is listed after an action...you continue down to the next line item. Otherwise you look to see if the current requirement is being met. If it is, you do what it says and complete the enemies turn. I really like how different each enemy will engage you. You'll have to be on your toes with different enemy groups and adjust your strategy accordingly.

You will pick up items during these encounters, find treasure chests, and gain experience much like you’d expect from a RPG styled boardgame. You’ll be able to trade in experience for new abilities, and money or items for new and better items when you visit town in between your adventures. Eventually you’ll become the biggest bad-ass you can become. Make it epic.



Rulebook:
Unknown. It has not been released yet.

Art Style:
The art is exceptional. Props to the artists. It’s bright, colorful, fantasy gone wild artistry, and yet it has a unique darkness in some of the pieces. It’s a mix of youthful innocence and your greatest nightmares. Unlike some of the card games out there that have to have a few dozen different artists to make it work, Middara I believe only has a couple of artists, and maybe 3 different sculptors working on this project. They work really well together and so far I haven’t been able to tell one artists work from the other. Having that sense of uniformity in a game, for me, is much appreciated.



Miniatures:
The miniatures are…I don’t have words for the miniatures. They blow me away. The sculpts are by the wonderful and talented Jon-Troy Nickel, his amazing friend Layna Lazar & the unparalleled Rhett Mason. Right now I’ve only seen the 3D-printed copies of the product, but even then the detail they have been able to get has been incredible. The human figures are roughly a 32 mm scale with some of the monsters coming to maybe 2 ½ inches tall. The final material, as of yet, has not been decided, but it seems that a PVC material is highly likely. Someone actually mentioned that they would like to see these figures in metal, and even though Succubus Publishing has admitted that would be possible, it’s not likely we will see these in the base game due to the increased weight. But it may be possible we could see these as an optional add-on at a later point in time.



Final Thoughts:
This game is not going to be a simple fluff piece. It’s an in-depth, story-driven, character developing, mesh up between boardgaming and RPG’s. It will be difficult, but I expect highly rewarding as well. I think the open character creation is a wonderful idea. Combat is simple and straightforward, you just have to make sure you are aware of your weapons, items, armor, and abilities to make the most of your attacks/defense. I have one minor complaint about the dice thus far. I some of the dice are metallic, and I don’t think that translates itself as well to printed material. Is the die your sword uses bronze, or brown? Am I rolling a white or a silver for this spell? I think keeping to primary and secondary colors, as well as black and white, would help to keep the relationship between the cards and the dice simpler. I also think that as far as combat is concerned in general, that there might need to be a bit of tweeking in the balance. The only game I’ve played thus far was admittedly one where we should have been at a higher level, and the individual playing the enemies was rolling extremely high most of the time, but I was nearly wiped out during the beginning of the game with a single hit, from 12 to 2. Until you get to a higher level and get more powerful spells available, a person that has fallen in battle stays fallen. It’s not entirely player elimination, but someone will have plenty of time on their hands if this happens too early in the encounter and someone doesn’t have the right set of abilities to bring you back.

Despite having my wings torn off though, I still had a lot of fun. I am a sucker for miniatures and beautiful artwork. I have more than one game on my shelf I bought for those reasons alone, but this game also has an excellent GAME to back that up. It will be difficult, but knowing that you are truly fighting for your victory is reward in of itself. And the story won’t end because you lose, it’ll just change. Will darkness cover the land because the heroes have become too complacent and weak, or will light rule over all because of the bravery and perseverance of those who gave their lives to a just and noble cause? Only you can decide.

If I have perhaps made a fool of myself and made this a complete mess of a review, please feel free to ask any questions you'd like. I've never written a review here on BGG before, and I hold those who can write a simple, easy to understand, and non-bias review in the highest regard. I hope others will say the same about me.

Edit 6/24/15: As new information comes out about this game, you may find that some of my information is incorrect. Please be aware I wrote this preview with the current information at the time. This is why I decided to call it a "Grain of Salt" Overview. Perhaps I'll trademark that title and write other previews in the future. :-)
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Joshua Nash
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You did a great job. I was starting to vacillate with my pledge, but this review and the gameplay video (yes, the "crappy" one) sealed the deal. Thanks!
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Andy Dunks
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Jerry, this is a very good review. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. This should help get the Kickstarter campaign get back into high gear.
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J Ry
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Great review.

You mention the figures being very high quality.
Translating to expensive molds.

And so far theres... 28 unique molds, and more to unlock.
Any concerns on funding issues regarding the molds?
I know the material has yet to be decided, and that helps dictate the mold used, just wondering your opinon.
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chang chang

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yes!!! yes!! yes!!!
im so happy to be pledging this.
dude thx, the small wondering i had, have being answer!
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Jerry Ruesch
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ropya wrote:
Great review.

You mention the figures being very high quality.
Translating to expensive molds.

And so far theres... 28 unique molds, and more to unlock.
Any concerns on funding issues regarding the molds?
I know the material has yet to be decided, and that helps dictate the mold used, just wondering your opinon.


Actually, I'm not worried about the cost of the molds at all. After talking with the creators, I found out that the money from the Kickstarter will not be the only funding for the game. There appears to be a sizable slush fund in addition to the Kickstarter funds to help with any problems that may occur down the road. They seem to be very well prepared to deliver on their promises. I know some people may be a little nervous that this is a fairly new company, but they have already put quite a bit of their own time and money into the artwork, 3D sculpting, rulebook, and mobile app. They have been putting over 2 years into the development of this product before the Kickstarter. Kind of reminds me of another lesser known company once upon a time, Flying Frog Games, and they have been doing fantastic!
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Alberto Guerrero
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Great review jerry!
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J Ry
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tigspirit wrote:
ropya wrote:
Great review.

You mention the figures being very high quality.
Translating to expensive molds.

And so far theres... 28 unique molds, and more to unlock.
Any concerns on funding issues regarding the molds?
I know the material has yet to be decided, and that helps dictate the mold used, just wondering your opinon.


Actually, I'm not worried about the cost of the molds at all. After talking with the creators, I found out that the money from the Kickstarter will not be the only funding for the game. There appears to be a sizable slush fund in addition to the Kickstarter funds to help with any problems that may occur down the road. They seem to be very well prepared to deliver on their promises. I know some people may be a little nervous that this is a fairly new company, but they have already put quite a bit of their own time and money into the artwork, 3D sculpting, rulebook, and mobile app. They have been putting over 2 years into the development of this product before the Kickstarter. Kind of reminds me of another lesser known company once upon a time, Flying Frog Games, and they have been doing fantastic!


Thanks for that insight.
It helps.
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David Hammel
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I won't lie, I was in regardless, but this def makes me feel better. 1 + art book for me, thanks!
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Jeff Owen
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Excellent review Jerry. I had already backed as of the time I read this review, but this makes me feel much more comfortable knowing the professionality of the individuals making the game, the time they've put into it thus far, and the quality of the game you witnessed. Thanks for writing it.
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Tobias Wilker
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Great review. Thanks.
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Ukko Kaarto
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Thanks for the review. I'm interested in knowing how the story is woven into the game. Does one mission have story elements in it (changing objectives, forcing characters to choose between things miss game based on the character personality etc.) or is a mission just a battle after which the story continues based on how the game went.

I'm in the fence.
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J Ry
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Mordjinn wrote:

I'm in the fence.


That cant be comfortable.
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Jerry Ruesch
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Mordjinn wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm interested in knowing how the story is woven into the game. Does one mission have story elements in it (changing objectives, forcing characters to choose between things miss game based on the character personality etc.) or is a mission just a battle after which the story continues based on how the game went.

I'm in the fence.


Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for that just yet. I haven't seen a storybook at this time. I've only played the game thus far to get the feel of mechanics. I'll ask Succubus if they have a brief scenario WITH written story elements that we play here in the next week. I'll probably be seeing them again this Thursday, so hopefully I can give you more insight then.
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chang chang

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tigspirit wrote:
Mordjinn wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm interested in knowing how the story is woven into the game. Does one mission have story elements in it (changing objectives, forcing characters to choose between things miss game based on the character personality etc.) or is a mission just a battle after which the story continues based on how the game went.

I'm in the fence.


Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for that just yet. I haven't seen a storybook at this time. I've only played the game thus far to get the feel of mechanics. I'll ask Succubus if they have a brief scenario WITH written story elements that we play here in the next week. I'll probably be seeing them again this Thursday, so hopefully I can give you more insight then.


yea, im hoping we get an example or mechanic update on how the game flows from encounter to encounter.. and how decitions and encounters results affect the story. (without too much spolied, please dont tell me how to make nightgale kill zafir, or how to safe him lol )
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Jerry Ruesch
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chang_1910 wrote:
tigspirit wrote:
Mordjinn wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm interested in knowing how the story is woven into the game. Does one mission have story elements in it (changing objectives, forcing characters to choose between things miss game based on the character personality etc.) or is a mission just a battle after which the story continues based on how the game went.

I'm in the fence.


Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for that just yet. I haven't seen a storybook at this time. I've only played the game thus far to get the feel of mechanics. I'll ask Succubus if they have a brief scenario WITH written story elements that we play here in the next week. I'll probably be seeing them again this Thursday, so hopefully I can give you more insight then.


yea, im hoping we get an example or mechanic update on how the game flows from encounter to encounter.. and how decitions and encounters results affect the story. (without too much spolied, please dont tell me how to make nightgale kill zafir, or how to safe him lol )


I asked Succubus if it was at all possible to include an instructional, step-by-step, pre-story encounter to help new people get used to the mechanics of the game. If by any means something like that can be produced before the Kickstarter ends, I'll include a bit about it here. And I'll do my best not let Zafir die, or live. OOOOHHHHH! Schrodinger's Zafir! LOL
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brooklynn lundberg
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tigspirit wrote:
chang_1910 wrote:
tigspirit wrote:
Mordjinn wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm interested in knowing how the story is woven into the game. Does one mission have story elements in it (changing objectives, forcing characters to choose between things miss game based on the character personality etc.) or is a mission just a battle after which the story continues based on how the game went.

I'm in the fence.


Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for that just yet. I haven't seen a storybook at this time. I've only played the game thus far to get the feel of mechanics. I'll ask Succubus if they have a brief scenario WITH written story elements that we play here in the next week. I'll probably be seeing them again this Thursday, so hopefully I can give you more insight then.


yea, im hoping we get an example or mechanic update on how the game flows from encounter to encounter.. and how decitions and encounters results affect the story. (without too much spolied, please dont tell me how to make nightgale kill zafir, or how to safe him lol )


I asked Succubus if it was at all possible to include an instructional, step-by-step, pre-story encounter to help new people get used to the mechanics of the game. If by any means something like that can be produced before the Kickstarter ends, I'll include a bit about it here. And I'll do my best not let Zafir die, or live. OOOOHHHHH! Schrodinger's Zafir! LOL


Currently our story mode starts off with a skippable tutorial section that leads players through a ramping difficulty of encounters. Unfortunately, it's also still in development. We decided to add it on a good portion after writing the starting section. This means it likely wont be done in time to show off before the campaign. However, when we have something to show we absolutely will.
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Jared Gaudino
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Great review! Been eyeing this game on Kickstarter for a while.

Just have one question. Is this a good solo game? Unfortunately I don't have a group to play with, so mostly the games I play are of the solo variety. Thanks for any insight!
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Joshua Nash
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This game can be played solo. That's why I backed it.
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Jared Gaudino
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JPN38 wrote:
This game can be played solo. That's why I backed it.


Appreciate the response. Definitely what I wanted to hear.
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MM
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ropya wrote:
Mordjinn wrote:

I'm in the fence.


That cant be comfortable.


Ropya .... you back it? I just stumbled on this and think it looks promising. Have to checkout some of the video content on the KS page.

PM me if you're more comfortable going that route, will ya?

 
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