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Subject: To Hell and Back: 2-Player Impressions of The Others rss

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Lawrence
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Tustin
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To Hell and Back
2P Impressions of The Others




Preface

I enjoy medium-heavy eurogames with relatively simple mechanisms that hide a wide expanse of depth and difficult decisions. Games with variable player powers and setup simply sing to me, and I can never resist a game with good production quality and well-integrated theme. My favorite games are The Gallerist and Kanban: Automotive Revolution.

Obviously, dice chucking Ameritrash isn't normally my cup of tea. However, after being absolutely floored by Blood Rage and loving Arcadia Quest, Eric Lang could do no wrong in my eyes. And so, I backed without a second thought.

At this point in my reviews, I would normally go into an overview of mechanics and gameflow. However, I'm going to skip that since we literally spent most of the day playing our games back to back after opening it.

Impressions

Times Played Before Review: 2 times at two player
Play Time - Game 1: 180 minutes learning game (Haven's Last Stand w/four heroes)
Play Time - Game 2: 150 minutes (Battleground of Souls w/four heroes)
Times Won: 2 (Both as sin)
Version: FAITH Pledge Level (Kickstarter)

The format here was borrowed from
Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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I want to be clear that this is in no way meant to be an all encompassing review. These are labeled as "impressions" since we've only played with 2 players and 2 games. Read on to see why we won't be playing more than those 2 games.

Pros
1. Absolutely beautiful miniatures.
Upon opening the box, one of the first things you see is the miniature for Pride. Part of me feels like "miniature" is an insult to the ridiculously detailed and vivid Sin. The first thing my girlfriend said after seeing it was that we HAD to paint it. Her excitement was palpable.

2. As the Sin player, you aren't just playing the game; you're playing the FAITH players across from you.
While playing as the Sin, you're constantly playing mind games with the FAITH player. Often times, FAITH players find themselves in a constant battle over whether or not it's worth it to take corruption for those extra bonus rolls. After all, it's just one corruption, right? Convincing them that this is indeed a great idea is my favorite thing about playing as the Sin player. In a multiplayer game, I can see this going further by attempting to convince players to play to benefit/save themselves, rather than playing for the team. Planting seeds of discord and distrust would make for an interesting social aspect.

3. The Sin reactionary turns were a refreshingly new mechanic (for us at least).
We've never played a game where one side doesn't really have a turn. This creates constant tension every turn, as the FAITH player never knows when the sin will take their turn. As the Sin, it's fun watching them sweat while desperately praying that you won't use that last reaction token or play another fiendish Sin card.

4. The base game comes with an amazing amount of replayability.
Disregarding the 2 expansions and 5 other sins that came in the kickstarter package, there's a lot of replayability in the box:

- Every sin sets up differently. The sin player chooses between two different sins and three different acolytes, allowing 6 different combinations.
- Heroes and upgrades vary between games. Your starting heroes and upgrades determine a lot of what will happen in a game. Starting with Leah (leader) will give the FAITH team more turns, while having that extra bruiser can go a long way towards clearing the map a bit faster. Part of the FAITH team fun is figuring out optimized team setups and combinations of abilities.
- There are six scenarios, each with two different maps. Terror scenarios focus on killing monsters, while Corruption scenarios focus on cleansing (with an interesting Dark Past mechanic) and Redemption stories focus on saving Innocents.

5. The dice aren't obnoxious.
As a heavier eurogamer, I absolutely abhor dice. My girlfriend often jokes that she's allergic to them. Unlike many roll-to-succeeed games like Eldritch Horror, we feel like we have more control over our outcomes. FAITH members can take corruption, while both sides can maneuver figures and leverage abilities to make the most of their fights.

6. The games are tightly balanced.
We've only played two games, but both were much closer than we anticipated. In the first game, the FAITH player would've won with just one more hero turn. In the second game, we were well into the third (and final round), but the game had gone on a little too long and my last Apocalypse card was a doozy.

There are a lot of issues on BGG with The Others feeling like a treadmill. Although the FAITH player did sometimes feel frustrated that the sin could bounce back quickly, she always felt like she was making progress. As a sin player, I realized that while I was able to chuck A LOT of dice in combat and play some very swingy abilities, the sheer number of turns that the FAITH players got more than made up the difference.

Cons
soblue 1. It's a long game.
We're pretty quick players and neither of us have AP issues. We play much heavier and more intricate games in much less than the average box times. I can understand 3 hours for a learning game, but 2.5 on our second was just way too much for two players. In the end, we can't justify such a long play time for the amount of strategic depth. In less time, we'd be able to knock out a game of Scythe and Kanban: Automotive Revolution, with each providing more depth and interesting decision making than The Others.

soblue 2. Much of the social aspect is lost at 2 players.
As mentioned above, I feel like the game is really at its prime at 5 players. With an actual team of FAITH players, there's much more interesting table talk and interaction. At 2-player, the FAITH player also doesn't feel as much attachment to her own character(s).

soblue 3. The base game doesn't come with enough dice.
I didn't mind this as much, but my girlfriend really had a hard time. In the Others, rolling more than 10 dice is a frequent occurrence. With repeating exploding dice, you'll often find yourself keeping track of numerous different stats - damage, corruption, defense, etc. while trying to remember just how many more dice you were supposed to roll... and wait, did you remember to roll that sword icon, or did you just roll it?

The Bottom Line

In the end, The Others was a toss up for us. We seriously debated about whether or not the game should be kept on the shelf. I try to keep a somewhat trim and streamlined collection. While I liked the unique asymmetry and mind games of The Others, it just wasn't enough to earn an entire cubicle on our shelf. The long gameplay and fiddly setup essentially guarantee it will never be played on a weeknight, and since most of our plays are 2-player, we'll never really be able to play the game at its full potential anyways.
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Max Maloney
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Portland
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Nice review, though I disagree with your implication that Scythe is a deep game.
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Kent
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Not sure how it could have taken so long to play the game, other than being a genre that you are unfamiliar with, perhaps. I also play medium to heavy eurogames.

Also, there should not be attachment to hero characters. This is sort of like playing a tower defense puzzle game where you must expect to sacrifice your characters aggressively with corruption to stand any reasonable chance to win, IMO.

I feel it may be best at 2. That is the only player count that I will be playing for now, so I cannot comment on the social aspect, except to say it could actually be less fun at higher player counts when characters must be sacrificed in order to win.
 
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