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Subject: A Defense of X-Files by Way of Ghostbusters rss

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Michael Brown
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After receiving the recent Kickstarter edition of Ghostbusters, playing it once with a group, and promptly boxing it up and sending to live with someone who can appreciate it more than I ever could, I started thinking about just how many licensed games are dropping as of late. It seems if you like something (a fandom), a game probably exists about it, and people both love and hate it in equal measure. My eyes scanned my game shelf and X-Files popped out at me because I decided immediately upon purchase and playing it a few times that this game got to stay on the shelf where Ghostbusters did not. I had to ask myself why I made that call.

I recall when X-Files came out there was a great deal of criticism regarding the mechanics of the game, mostly due to the creator's previous work on Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Fury of Dracula, Descent. Big games, lots of minis, lots of moving parts. Great games in and of themselves, but not what X-Files presented to us at all.

X-Files went a different, and somewhat controversial direction. And I'm personally very pleased with that and feel I got to add a unique experience to my shelf rather than treading ground the designer has already walked in past designs. The mechanics, art, turn structures, and overall feeling is all there to me. I like playing cards and hand management anyhow, so that seems a good move, especially cooperatively against the seedy machinations of The Syndicate. It feels like the show, going from location to location as a team or solo, solving mysteries, watching out for and dealing with sabotage, with the tension of the race mechanic to keep the game moving at a nice pace. It's not a dungeon crawl with X-Files characters, there are no dice whatsoever, and a clever Syndicate player can decimate even the best agents (one guy in our group is a fantastic Syndicate player).

I won't belabor the point too much further, but the bottom line is that while Ghostbusters fell flat for me as a licensed game that ultimately missed something in its translation, X-Files nailed it and I'm happy that the designer took a chance to go a different direction even if initially it was criticized. I'm enjoying this game in a very different way, and I'm also pretty excited to see that expansion and how it enhances an already great experience.

I don't know if others have had similar experiences with this game, but would love to have a conversation about it.



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Craig Groff-Folsom
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While I agree with the larger point, I'd love to know what a fantastic Syndicate player does. As my group's default Syndicate player, I draw garbage cards and hope the X-File deck slows the players down enough for my slow chit-pulls to reach the required number.
 
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sacha cauvin
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We do not play the syndicate any more.
I found rules here on BGG to automate it, And its fun.

Cant wait for the expansion
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Michael Brown
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Dave41fan wrote:
As my group's default Syndicate player, I draw garbage cards and hope the X-File deck slows the players down enough for my slow chit-pulls to reach the required number.


I've had your experience at least half the time as Syndicate. Our player, Charles, is really good at reading us, so sets up nice traps and gets us to spread out and spread thin.

He's won every time so far that we've played against him.
 
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Nate Murray
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general hoth wrote:
We do not play the syndicate any more.
I found rules here on BGG to automate it, And its fun.

Cant wait for the expansion


Really?

Interesting!
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Grant Whitesell
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I think if you automate the Syndicate player you're missing out on the best part of the game - the staredown. You're turning what should be a primarily psychological and reading-your-opponents game into a complete randomfest, multiplayer solitaire.

The thing I like about this game is how asymmetrically it plays. Yes, you do depend on having good draws to a certain extent. But to be a really good Syndicate player, you have to realize that your biggest enemy at the table is Fox Mulder. Once you realize that, the '0' card becomes your best friend. Waste his ability. Exhaust his influence.

Your second biggest threat is Skinner. Third, Krycek and Fourth, Scully.

I like this game an awful lot, and so does my group. I really don't think the negative response to it is warranted. It's exactly as complicated as it needs to be and still be accessible to non- or light gamers.
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Craig Groff-Folsom
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GrantZilla1979 wrote:
I think if you automate the Syndicate player you're missing out on the best part of the game - the staredown. You're turning what should be a primarily psychological and reading-your-opponents game into a complete randomfest, multiplayer solitaire.

The thing I like about this game is how asymmetrically it plays. Yes, you do depend on having good draws to a certain extent. But to be a really good Syndicate player, you have to realize that your biggest enemy at the table is Fox Mulder. Once you realize that, the '0' card becomes your best friend. Waste his ability. Exhaust his influence.

Your second biggest threat is Skinner. Third, Krycek and Fourth, Scully.

I like this game an awful lot, and so does my group. I really don't think the negative response to it is warranted. It's exactly as complicated as it needs to be and still be accessible to non- or light gamers.


In my experience, I'd flip the agent list completely. I can't do anything to Krycek with 5 wounds when everyone is feeding him the combat cards (+investigation equal to wounds, or ignore wounds). If I don't draw a combat cancel, he's going to walk right through the X-files. As for Scully, she becomes the closer and the extra pull begins to unbalance the cost/VP balance. Again, if I can't draw a science cancel, she won't be deterred.

Mulder does nothing because the agents are cleaning up virtually all the X-Files every turn (or every other turn) anyway. There is no predictability to who is going to investigate which X-File because the +1/-1 modifiers are typically just ignored and everyone can fly around the country on the jet card (which is free for everyone and doesn't count as a card play!). There are 3 or 4 X-Files on the board but I have at best 1 combat cancel, 1 science cancel, etc. I can deploy cards everywhere (and often do) but defending one X-File with two character-specific stops just leaves all the others open. Defending with one character-specific stop means I have a 1/4 chance of using that card to slow them down.

At this point I'm strongly considering a very meticulous documentation of the next game I play so it can be discussed in concrete terms rather than nebulous concepts. I truly have no idea how the Syndicate is supposed to markedly alter the Agents' odds of winning.
 
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Grant Whitesell
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Krycek won't be able to use the + Wounds to investigate every turn. There's only so many of those cards. And if the Agents are leaning on that, there are ways to get those cards away from them.

I'm undefeated as the CSM, and I play with very savvy people - my usual Netrunner opponent for one - which may be why I've got a pretty good hit rate on my investigation cancels.

Remember you have the ability to swap out cards or bluff that you're replacing it. You pay the influence to take the card back into your hand and replace it with *a* card. I've used this to good effect several times.

Don't play for the optimal board state, play the one that exists. I know that sounds trite - as does the next bit - play vs. the players, not the board.

Watch them. Who trades with who? Who emerges as the "leader?" Who shows the most confidence? Who's sitting on the biggest hand and waiting for others to tell them what to do?

Also - L'Ively is your friend. +1 may not seem like a lot, but you don't need a lot. Just throw their math off enough to keep one more X-File on the board. Almost every time I get him up, mistakes are made.
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bill wood
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I don't get the negative feedback at all.

This game found a sweet spot that allows a gamer to play with a non-gamer X-Files fan (e.g., me and my spouse) and leave both happy. It's not the deepest game in the world, but it's not supposed to be.
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Justin
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My wife and I just played our first game and I'd echo all the positivity found in this thread. I can see how a more analytical person than me could pull out some flaws, but as a light mental back and forth, it really worked for us.
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Michael Brown
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I would like to add to this discussion that I finally won a game this past Friday night as the Syndicate and it was a landslide. This was with three agents vs one me. The same group that played Ghostbusters with me when it came out joined me for this one and gave it a rousing show of support when we were done, which made it even better.
 
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John Alexander Bell
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This game adds psychology and takes out a lot of randomness. Ok, drawing random cards is actually like throwing dice, but reading the players as the CSM is crucial. When you know how the Agents behave and know how your players use the Agents abilities you can bluff a lot. For example I had two open X Files in the South, leaving me four Syndicate card slots. The round before Mulder played a card to look at my hand and discard one. He knew afterwards I had two very powerful cards. I exchanged a bluff for a bluff in the South, forcing Scully to be extra careful during her turn and choose the other X File, where she spent the +1 on every Science Card discarded. But there waited "Every Science investigation is canceled". It has some very nice Poker-like aspects and feels a lot like the struggle between theAgents and the CSM that is a major part of the first half of the series.
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