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Subject: A Waffling Review rss

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Chris Williams

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So I have played this, to date, soloing with a single character once or twice, soloing with two characters once or twice, and a three player game with three players once. I have not yet played the campaign.

The game that I was expecting was a thinking-man's coop. No more brute force, roam around a map to press a button and make things disappear. This is a game where we'll actually have an interesting mechanism to work against as we're coordinating to get through the game. That's what I was hoping for, and that is honestly what I got.

In that respect, I have to give Apocalypse Chaos a big thumbs up. This is, finally, a coop that I feel like I'm having to play a game, while playing the game, rather than just having a social experience.

One negative that I had heard about and expected, going into it, is that the theming is pretty light. The bad guys have generic names, it's unclear why they can punch me but they can't come into the ship, etc. Personally, I'm fine with that. The game still looks good and the deck of bad guys seems to have a pretty good variety of tricks that they can pull. Between the different tile powers and the campaign, there's still a lot of good content in the box, so it's not like we're talking about an abstract strategy here, or something which will play out the same way every time.

So for me the negatives are these:

1) The rules are very poorly written. I feel like they were written into English by a non-native speaker ("adjacent" should be "in line of sight") and with a mandate to fit the rules and the campaign into 20 pages, or it would be over budget. Many more diagrams are needed (it was unclear what initiative was, because the lightning bolts just looked like a symbol, not a count). A few rules in the book are simply wrong (with corrections on the site and in the notes to Rahdo's run through), like telling us that the heroes may shoot in any direction (wrong, they may only shoot horizontally or vertically). If you go through the diagrams posted on the forums by the designer and watch Rahdo's run through, I think that everything is cleared up, but that shouldn't be necessary.

2) The game feels like it was really only play tested for 2 characters. If you try playing it with 1, 3, or 4 characters, there will almost certainly be balance issues.

3) The game feels like, even beyond that, it wasn't playtested very much at all. There is a tile, in the game, where characters can completely shut off the flow of badguys. And this seems to both be a necessary tile - otherwise, I don't know that any amount of cleverness would be sufficient to win at the rate bad guys appear, unless you got horribly lucky with the selection of bad guys, their movements, your dice rolls, and where you were positioned. But also one which can make the game go from "impossible" to "too easy". With 2 players, it's possible that you can't successfully camp the tile which keeps the enemies from spawning won't be completely possible. With 3 or 4, it definitely is. But if you are spending your dice to keep the hole plugged, you're likely to use your dice trading/modifying tricks up to accomplish it.

You can only move once per round (if you can move at all). If you get unlucky enough to be on the ground, it's not very hard for the bad guys to work through your HP in a single round. Players really have to stay on platforms if they want to survive. Defense rolls usually end up being meaningless, because you're on a platform. Move rolls usually end up being meaningless, because you don't want to leave the platform. Punch rolls usually end up meaningless, because you're out of range to punch. If you decide to go for it anyways, and go down to the ground, you're really betting your life that on the next round you're going to roll another movement.

For a puzzle game, the odds of getting stranded on the ground - with 1 or 2 characters - are pretty good, particularly if you're using your dice trading/manipulation to deal with plugging the vortexes. Unless you're playing with 3 or 4 characters, in which case, you have such freedom that you can do anything you want.

The game does offer some ability to scale, in that you can decide the difficulty of bosses that you want to put into the deck, to ramp it up or down. But I do feel like if you're doing that, the number of cards included in the game is a bit short.

I was thinking, before I played with the group of three players, that the freedom of dice manipulation among a higher player count would be mitigated by the cost of coordinating between different people. But, after a round or two, that seemed to sort itself out, and we were perhaps more effective, because we could focus on our characters and spot each others mistakes. So, more players just seemed to make it easier, in general.

It is, despite my complaints, a good game. With 2 characters, choosing which bosses to include, and maybe some house rules, I think that you could find a way to balance the game so that it isn't impossible or too easy. (Possibly, I was just playing poorly when I soloed, because it was late, and the game will become much more do-able without the vortex-stopper when I am more awake or more experienced with the puzzle.) But I would recommend against playing with any other character count for the moment.

The annoying thing about the game isn't that it isn't a good game, it's that it seems like a great game handicapped by a rushed and under-budgeted production. It feels like they spent all of their money on the plastic columns and went, "Well, there goes the money to playtest this game and make sure the rule book makes sense." I feel like, if they had trusted the game to be as good of a game as it could be, they would have put in the time and effort to really work out the kinks. And if they had done so, it could have been a tent pole game. Instead, it is a game specifically for 2 players, that will only work out as it was intended and as you want it with a lot of love and attention, but not with anything less.

I hope to continue chipping away at it, to optimize the experience. But it's a shame that it's necessary.
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Patrik Severinsson
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I agree with most of your review, especially that the room which shuts down the enemy spawning points is overpowered. This is especially true for the intro scenario. It's effect is not as bad in the campaign scenarios, where you normally don't have to kill all the enemies, just stay out of their way and complete the mission before the board gets flooded with fire tokens. Lately, we've been playing without that room and the game is still beatable.

I disagree with your analysis about which dice results are useful. We rarely camp out on top of the platforms. Having two characters moving together and pooling their defense has worked out a lot better for us. That also makes the move, defense and melee dice results useful.

I think you should try and play the campaign scenarios. They will force you to play the game in different ways and you don't necessarily have to play them as a campaign.
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AnalyzerOfGames wrote:
Players really have to stay on platforms if they want to survive. Defense rolls usually end up being meaningless, because you're on a platform. Move rolls usually end up being meaningless, because you don't want to leave the platform. Punch rolls usually end up meaningless, because you're out of range to punch. If you decide to go for it anyways, and go down to the ground, you're really betting your life that on the next round you're going to roll another movement.


A couple of things that I don't understand:

How do you camp on a platform without the platform getting destroyed?

In my experience, keeping the platforms from collapsing is no easy task. Then again, I don't modify the enemies I face. I randomly draw from the whole pool and also randomly place the tiles as directed in the rulebook. So, sometimes things line up for an easier sessions sometimes it goes the other way.

I get that your strategy has been to stay on platforms, but how are defense dice meaningless? Withstanding attacks is crucial to completing missions and living long enough to kill your enemies. Eventually, the platforms collapse.

The game is definitely beatable with or without the Cryoscan room, and that's not a bad thing. It has a very good difficulty level in my opinion. I have won 3 games and lost 6.
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