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Subject: 'Sugar & Spice & D-20 Dice' (Proto)Review Chatter: House of Borgia rss

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Hai Kulture
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Liar’s Dice Goes Machiavellian






I wonder how he felt about dice and the people who roll them...




Long before House Stark, House Lannister, and a half dozen Cottage Upstarts decided to get all hot for The Game of That Rather Uncomfortable Looking Chair Singular, House Borgia was doing it right - having friends over for tea, cakes, and an immediate funeral.

House of Borgia takes the simple bid and bluff mechanic of Liar’s Dice - adds an arsenic bite of Hidden Roles, the whisper of light Social Deduction, a little bit of flair and a lot of shadows. Players are tasked with pulling strings for their Cardinal puppet by taking actions based on die face bidding. The goal is to have your secret Pope-on-a-Rope on a short enough leash to gain the most influence while using enough skillful guile to not have your hands caught in the incense jar come end game.




Shadow Puppet Theater Presents: The Papal Chase





In the pre-game, players are secretly dealt a Puppet Card denoting which Cardinal they control behind the scenes. Mats representing each candidate are randomly arranged in a vertical chain or ladder. The struggle for power is represented by pushing the contenders up and down this ladder and influence is tracked and tallied by ‘coin’ in their collection plates.

The game is played in a series of rounds with three phases:

Phase 1: Bidding and Action

In this phase, players are bidding on the number of action symbols shown on all the dice rolled this round. Players roll their dice (6 for 2 players; 5 for 3-4; 4 for 5-6) in secret behind a screen and each die has five action icons and a ‘Fate’ symbol which acts as a wild for purposes of bidding. A bid is made by the starting player, for example: Three Poisons, meaning that the player is stating at least three Poison/Fate symbols are to be found on the collective secret dice pool. The next clockwise player is allowed to call a bluff. If no bluff is called, the bidder is allowed to take that action.

BRIBE: Move a Cardinal Mat to the very top or very bottom of the ladder

POISON: Remove 2 Influence Tokens from the ladder and place them back into the Influence Bank. These may be 2 tokens from a single Cardinal Mat or 1 token from two different Cardinals.

JUDGEMENT: Redistribute 2 Influence Tokens between 2 Cardinals. 2 tokens from one Cardinal to another or 1 token from two different Cardinals to two others.

ACCUSATION: Accuse a Cardinal of being the “Antipope” (a resounding ‘YE BE THE ANTIPOPE!’ really hammers it home and makes me wish I had that niftiest of Antipope Meeples). The Antipope Marker is placed on the mat and the respective Cardinal can no longer gain or lose Influence in any manner until it is removed.

RUMOR: Start a rumor about a player’s motives. A Rumor card is placed or moved in front of another player representing whispers about which Cardinal may be in league with them. A player can only be tagged with one Rumor at a time, so any previous cards are returned to the center and a player may never place or remove a Rumor in front of their own play zone. Oh how damning these rumors can be, as we shall see…

After the unchallenged bid’s action is taken, play proceeds clockwise and the next player must make a bid of any action always increasing their bid in number. A bidding round might begin with a safe call of ‘Two Bribes’, followed up with ‘Three Judgments’, and boldly jumping to ‘Eight Bribes’. Bids and Actions are made and taken until someone challenges a bid.

Phase 2: Calling a Bluff

When a bluff is called all players must reveal their dice and the total symbols of that action and the total Fate symbols are counted. Fate symbols being not actions, but wilds, are treated as weight in the truthfulness of the bid. A called bid of ‘Eight Poisons’ would be considered ‘truthful’ if 5 Poison symbols and 3 or more Fate symbols were revealed in the collective dice pool.

If the player is found to be bluffing (total symbols less than the bid), they lose a die permanently from their stash and do not take the action.

If the player is found to be ‘truthful’ (symbols revealed are equal to or more than the bid) the bidder takes the action and the accuser loses a die.


Phase 3: Rallying Influence

Before a new round and roll is readied, the Conclave rallies influence for their favorite Cardinals. The top three Candidates on the ladder gain Influence from the general bank – 3,2,1 respectively. Unless of course one of those chaps – well…HE BE THE ANTIPOPE! (No coin for that collection plate.)

A new round begins so long as all players have at least one die. Once a round ends in which someone lost their final die, becoming 'powerless' through a bad bid, end game commences and final scoring begins.

Endgamery

All players reveal their secret Puppet card. For every remaining die a player has 2 Influence are added to their Cardinal. The Cardinal with the most Influence is elected Pope and the player who puppeteered that Holy Man wins the game, jumping about in all that Vatican gold Scrooge McDuck style.

Unless…

(And that’s a big ‘unless’ isn’t it?)

Unless a player has a Rumor card in front of them that matches their Puppet. Those Cardinals are removed from the ladder, no matter how much Influence they wield, and those players are eliminated from the game.

I told you those Rumor cards packed a very potent potential punch for the prospective pontiffs.




Final Plots and Ending Thoughts

House of Borgia plays as quick, tight, and sharp as a poisoned dagger.

The bluffs and counterbluffs are constant – not just in the bidding, but more importantly, in the side game of pulling your puppet strings without detection. The threat of the Rumor card is more than a Scarlet Letter; it is a Brush that Tars. Being tagged by an accurate Rumor is hard to deflect, play too Influence Obvious to earn a matching Rumor in early rounds and everything after becomes poor misdirection in a flop sweat glaze. The Rumor Threat creates an interesting table dynamic of Playing to Win without Looking to Win. The best players play a slick and consistent middle game of ‘Do Unto Others Just Enough, So They Might Do Unto You Without Realizing It (Or The Fact That You Are Doing Unto Yourself A Little More). In my short time with the prototype for review, I regret not being able to play with the full allotment of six. In our four player games, there was always a potential unassigned Meat Puppet or two on the ladder to act as a conspiracy cushion. With a full Puppet Theatre, an even subtler hand is required as any bit of misdirection could wind up aiding someone else.

The Threat of Rumor is the gel and the gist of House of Borgia. So now let’s direct our attention to the Elephant in the Shadows: Player Elimination. PLAYER ELIMINATION! There are whole factions gathered at the Gates of the Cardboard Kingdom clamoring for ‘Elimination’ to be, rather ironically, eliminated from the tabletop.

How dare you Game Designers!

YE MUST BE THE ANTIPOPE!!!


Well, in terms of theme, can you really expect to make a Pope without permanently breaking a few Puppet strings? In a game that plays in thirty or under, I think it can be considered justifiable. Just in case you can’t - there are a few play variants to turn that sticky Rumor into an endgame Influence penalty rather than an ousting and adds a spoonful of sugar to that potentially poisoned cup.

Hey CB! Thoughts on being saddled with a Rumor and facing Endgame Elimination?



No need to apologize. You didn’t fail me.

You just blew it for yourself.

Personally, I never shy away from player elimination. You want to knock me out in the first five minutes of King of Tokyo? I'll happily wander off without a word and poke through your medicine cabinet. Elimination fits in Borgia, nested in the theme and game play. If you see that time bomb of a Rumor sliding in your direction midway through the game, chances are you brought it on yourself. Slap on a better poker face, quietly backpedal, and you might pull through.

The House of Borgia rewards the light touch and not the heavy hand.

That being said, Borgia is not a game for the Guile Challenged. The Werewolf you wouldn’t have a One Night stand with. The Barney Fife of Nottingham. The person whose idea of subtle manipulation is second only to Edward Scissorhands trying to cop a feel in the back row of the Bijou. We know those players. The Transparent have no place in the Shadows and hold no court in House Borgia. This is not a fault of the game, but a ruffle in a gaming group. An evident player becomes an easy Influence 'dump and dupe' ripe for a Rumor just shy of endgame, turning a your carefully plotted second place into first. Third game around it can be a little less charming.

But not really laugh

The House of Borgia can be cruel.

While bidding, bluffing, and influence manipulation are the draw, the sidebar of social deduction can open up quite a bit of table talk. Not the heavy Power Powwows of Coup or The Resistance, but by the second game or so my gaming groups certainly felt a sense of immersion. Hooded eyes peered over dice screens, fingers were steepled, and a running commentary of Blackadderisms began on just what exactly so-and-so might be up to and how badly they just showed their hand or choreographed their nonchalance. Personally, I dropped the Clockwise Rule for Calling Bluffs after the initial Learner’s Games as accusations began to come out of turn naturally.

The House of Borgia draws you into the Shadows.

The House of Borgia also has their final thoughts…

Cesare?



(Hmmm…well perhaps the opinion of someone not so invested in the vestments.)

Clocking in at 30 minutes or less, House of Borgia is quick and tight and scratches the itch of someone looking for Filler Fulfillment while bringing quite a bit of game and theme in tow.

By its own merits, The House looks good on papal and is certainly not a Bore-gia.

I like that.

And while it is a very decent little casual to avid gamer Filler, it makes for a tasty Appetizer also. It stirs the stew pot of paranoia and sets a tone, making it an apt starter course for an evening of bluff, betrayal, and a long road game of something akin to Battlestar Galactica or Dead of Winter.

I really like that.

I like a game that stands on its own and yet plays well with others.

House of Borgia brings a lot to the table in a small portion – bluff, bluster, and shadows.

Enjoy the beer and pretzels.

Definitely pass on the wine.

The Hai Mind Ranking: 9



[*** END TRANSMISSION *** ]









It is amazing how useful out of context historical quotes can be!




---heart Hai
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Frock Lobster
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Great review. Really excited for this game!
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Scott Almes
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Thanks for the very fun review!
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Ben Rubinstein

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Thanks for the review! I've been following this and I'm glad to hear some thoughts.

Just a personal opinion, but you might want a bit lighter touch with all of the puns & allusions. A few of them I had to reread several times to grasp of your meaning, and a few more left me baffled even after a reread. The form is fun, but don't let it detract from the function.
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Jason Washburn
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There are other reviews coming. I quite love her style! Very exciting to see the review and the wonderful thoughts.
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Jason Hancock
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Amazing review! Glad you are enjoying it!
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Jason Washburn
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From TGIK Games:

This was a great deduction game where the engagement level was high and even when it wasn’t your turn, there was an investment or hope the bidding would work out in your favor. When an action is being played, even when it isn’t your turn, you are hoping that your position will be improved. There was a good amount of time to plan what your bid will be and the presentation of new information was never too much to force you to have to think about your turn for too long. I look forward to playing this game again and I will back this game when it is live. Compared to the other deduction games I play, like revolution, this is a lot more fun. Revolution gets bogged down by the voting process, especially in a large group. I was never disengaged by HoB and I look forward to playing it again.

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S C
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I'm going to get hate for this but 'it's great and my negatives are not really negatives, you should buy it!' reviews trigger my suspicion.

Is this a paid review?
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Hai Kulture
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scott3387 wrote:
I'm going to get hate for this but 'it's great and my negatives are not really negatives, you should buy it!' reviews trigger my suspicion.

Is this a paid review?


Paid??? Excuse me....HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *wipes tears from eyes* I wish. Has anyone ever heard of me? Doubtful. And if paid, would anyone really be shelling out for a bunch of tangential rambling, tongue-in-cheekiness some chap 4 boxes above didn't get, and out-of-context Borgia quotes in faux podcast form? Doubly dubious.

Not all positivity comes from coin.

And interestingly enough, the BGG in-house spellchecker doesn't recognize 'positivity', so I guess it really is a suspicious thing in the Cardboard Kingdom. Hmmmmm...duly noted.

Seriously though, you get no hate from me and I word vomited up the thing. Valid point, I say.

Although isn't the end result of sound and decent game design to not have a pond stocked for negative fishing?

The thing is this. House of Borgia plays in about 30 minutes. You roll dice, make a bid, take an action, move some cubes, rinse and repeat until someone says "Hey! Wait a minute!". It's quick, uncomplicated, and there aren't a lot of moving parts. The fewer moving parts - the fewer things to be broken I find.

One thing I edited out of the review (yeah I know - this looked edited?) is I don't like Filler Games. Well - not entirely true. I will play an evening of a half dozen 'quickies' and have a great time. What I don't like is 20 minutes of matching colors or collecting sets of gems before playing Imperial Assault because whatever house I'm 'game nighting' in likes to feel 'warmed up'. I can't say The House doesn't do what it sets out to do whether a Filler Fan or not. Have a bit of fun and paranoia and play again or because of the theme and play style feel sufficiently 'warmed' and 'upped' to play a bigger brother in the same vein. As stated, I like games that play well with others.

I also don't care for Hidden Role Social Deduction games. I'll play them and have a bit of fun because I am agreeable. I just don't see the Werewolf addiction. If I wanted to sit in a circle and chat about stuff - well I'd work in a cube farm and go to the monthly team builder. Not my cup of tea - but Borgia had a light breeze of social deduction and I didn't have to close my eyes while someone shouted at me. No complaints there.

Player Elimination
? Some people haaaaaaaate it and I don't. Even nested in the theme of 'Drink bottled water at the Borgia's' (Allusion Translation: Word on the street is they poisoned people) gamers who don't like Player Elimination won't like Player Elimination. Whether it be softened with alt rules or the result of your own failings, it isn't going to fly with some. Whether by luck or the result of a bad tell, getting tagged by a rumor that is going to target you for an endgame boot five rounds later isn't going to be a romp for a bad bluffer or elimination frowny face. Or course, the problem of my fellow gamer, isn't necessarily my problem - if it isn't.

So no hate at all from me - you stated a valid opinion and asked a valid question and I thought it deemed an answer with validity.

In truth, I received a ziplock of papery proto bits in the mail and was asked to give it a whirl. It was a Hidden Role Dice Bluffing Filler Game with light Social Deduction and potential Player Elimination. Some of those tag words I'm not a die hard fan of, but I'll play anything once.

(Unless it's Power Grid...YUCK)

End result: I liked it.

I played it several times. Yes, for the purposes of gathering the Word Children and kicking them from the nest and seeing if they could fly.

But also because I liked it. I enjoyed it. It was fun.

Basically, the reasons I play games.

So what's there to be negative about?









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I might be missing a key piece of information.

When exactly is a player eliminated from the game? I think this comes from my misunderstanding of how the rounds work.

Each round someone loses a die from their pool, and eventually someone reaches 0 dice and the game ends? Does the elimination happen at the end of the game or is there a phase in where it happens earlier?

MUCH CONFUSE.
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Scott Almes
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vip_chicken wrote:
I might be missing a key piece of information.

When exactly is a player eliminated from the game? I think this comes from my misunderstanding of how the rounds work.

Each round someone loses a die from their pool, and eventually someone reaches 0 dice and the game ends? Does the elimination happen at the end of the game or is there a phase in where it happens earlier?

MUCH CONFUSE.


The elimination they are talking about might not be the correct phrase. The winning condition for the game is to get the most points and NOT be identified at the end of the game. So, if you get identified during the game your have a chance of being eliminated from the end game scoring. However, if you get identified, it means your mission changes. You now want to make sure everyone else is properly identified. If everyone is identified, then the most points wins.

So, at no point in the game do players stop playing. You are never out of the game completely.

Some players find this rule a little harsh (although I love it, and we've found tons of groups that love it as well), so we've included some very cool and easy variants in the game as well. Like the Poison variant, which if you get properly identified, then your dice points turn negative instead of positive. That creates a really cool dynamic, too.
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Yeah, that doesn't sound like player elimination to me! Or at least, "player elimination" means something else to me. Either way.

This sounds really interesting. Essentially, it just voids a player's chance of winning at the end game scoring. I would have no dramas at all with having someone "eliminated" at the end of the game. The thing that I am normally a little apprehensive towards is player elimination in the sense that a player is eliminated from the game before the end, and must then watch the game as a spectator.

Essentially, a player who has been identified has their score replaced with 0, and they play to the very end of the game.

This provokes a thought, perhaps the term "player elimination" has too much stigma attached?

Thanks for helping me understand this more clearly :D
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D Micun
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vip_chicken wrote:


This sounds really interesting. Essentially, it just voids a player's chance of winning at the end game scoring. I would have no dramas at all with having someone "eliminated" at the end of the game. The thing that I am normally a little apprehensive towards is player elimination in the sense that a player is eliminated from the game before the end, and must then watch the game as a spectator.


Thanks for helping me understand this more clearly


HaiKulture wrote:
Endgamery

All players reveal their secret Puppet card. For every remaining die a player has 2 Influence are added to their Cardinal. The Cardinal with the most Influence is elected Pope and the player who puppeteered that Holy Man wins the game

(SNIP)

Unless a player has a Rumor card in front of them that matches their Puppet. Those Cardinals are removed from the ladder, no matter how much Influence they wield, and those players are eliminated from the game.


I have to admit your 'MUCH CONFUSE' much confused me as the discussion of being removed by a rumor clearly came under the heading of 'Endgame'.

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What a great review. You entertained me, explained the game to me and made me want it
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Hai Kulture
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scottbalmes wrote:


The elimination they are talking about might not be the correct phrase. The winning condition for the game is to get the most points and NOT be identified at the end of the game. So, if you get identified during the game your have a chance of being eliminated from the end game scoring.


vip_chicken wrote:
Yeah, that doesn't sound like player elimination to me! Or at least, "player elimination" means something else to me. Either way.

This sounds really interesting. Essentially, it just voids a player's chance of winning at the end game scoring. I would have no dramas at all with having someone "eliminated" at the end of the game.


LOL And here we are at my favorite part of the evening, when the mirror gets held up to the mirror and all sorts of semantics get bounced back and forth. I love it!

Personally, my own Geek Girl Guide to Gaming definition is:

Player Elimination: 1) Out of the Game 2) It's not that I didn't win; I couldn't.

I attach no time frame within game play to it, no potential for spectatorship, and no mechanic that specifically triggers it. It's a pretty broad definition I suppose.

If my point count is shy of the winner, I didn't win.
If I'm munching on a carrot stick while everyone is counting their points and I'm not; I couldn't win.

Semantics? Certainly. On the one hand -what's the big difference? On the other hand - there's a difference.

Whatever the proper phraseology - Elimination, Out of Gameness, or The Potential to Not Be Included in End Game Scoring Because You Are No Longer Considered a Participating Player - it can happen in House Borgia.

During my brief stay at The House before passing the proto down the mail chain:
I lost a few games with no Rumor tag.
I won a game or two with no tag or the wrong one.
I got tagged correctly very early on and through some sly double bluffing watched it slide away to someone else for a win I was rather proud of.
I got tagged early on and couldn't shake it no matter what - forced to do the Mark of Cain Carrot Munch Gambit come endgame while everyone counted their coffers.
I played a real cool cat game. Some sap was down to one die and the smell of incense was in my nose. And then...I watched that Rumor slide in front of me. Then I watched that sap lose his die. Then I spouted a choice papal unfriendly word or two. I was so so winning - and then I lost. It hit hard - harder than the carrot stick I threw at the new Pope.

And that's how Elimination/Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-If-Not-Elimination rolls in House Borgia.

Everybody plays to the end. Somebody wins. Otherbodies lose. And other otherbodies can find themselves losing slightly beforehand without all the fuss of counting cubes and a few spare seconds to ponder the semantics of elimination.

Because while the phrase is 'Player Elimination', the complaint, when there is one, is usually about 'Spectator Generation'.

It's funny how words work...

...and don't.




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Hai Kulture
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Muemmelmann wrote:
What a great review. You entertained me, explained the game to me and made me want it


Thanks

But shush - ticking those boxes would means it had form, function, and I'm an unpaid 'paid' reviewer.
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Dont't takeit so hard the guy just asked you
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Hai Kulture
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LOL I'm just snowed in and feeling sassy. I appreciated your comment though.

I think any decent review should follow the Three E's

Explain (without being a rulebook. Anyone can grab a rule pdf off the Interwebz in this day and age - and should be able to. Since this was a proto and a blank slate in review territory I did feel the need to go into game play a little heavier than normal and dreaded that. )

Entertain (even a little zazz beats a dry list of pros and cons)

Encourage Thought (Do I want this in my collection? Is it my cup of tea? Should I find out more information? THIS MUST BE MINE!!!? While people seek out reviews for information and opinion, the walkaway should definitely be thoughts and considerations of their own.)
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Jason Washburn
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We are live
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/693352677/house-of-borg...
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Shane
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I was hemming and hawing over whether to back this as I scrolled down the Kickstarter page. I love dice games, I love hidden role social deduction games, and I love games about Holy Dudes.

With shipping I was on the fence about the price tag, but wait.

Who's THIS person with a review featured right on the Kickstarter page? Oh, it's someone whose gaming tastes have always been pretty similar to mine. And she gave it a 9?

Okay then. Guess I'll back it!
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CoffeeGnerd wrote:
I was hemming and hawing over whether to back this as I scrolled down the Kickstarter page. I love dice games, I love hidden role social deduction games, and I love games about Holy Dudes.

With shipping I was on the fence about the price tag, but wait.

Who's THIS person with a review featured right on the Kickstarter page? Oh, it's someone whose gaming tastes have always been pretty similar to mine. And she gave it a 9?

Okay then. Guess I'll back it!


Thank you very much for your support! We appreciate it!


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CoffeeGnerd wrote:
I was hemming and hawing over whether to back this as I scrolled down the Kickstarter page. I love dice games, I love hidden role social deduction games, and I love games about Holy Dudes.

With shipping I was on the fence about the price tag, but wait.

Who's THIS person with a review featured right on the Kickstarter page? Oh, it's someone whose gaming tastes have always been pretty similar to mine. And she gave it a 9?

Okay then. Guess I'll back it!


Thanks Paladin Pally.

But hey...no Geek and Sundry...this one
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HaiKulture wrote:
Thanks Paladin Pally.

But hey...no Geek and Sundry...this one


I'll take personality and Mickey Mouse Christmas cards over a member of Felicia Day's Snobbery Club any day of the week. thumbsup
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