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Subject: Impressions rss

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Gary Beason
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Carrollton
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I saw this played some at BGG Con, and then our group was able to play it. I love the theme, and much of the art looks very good. But a couple things were negatives for me and others in my group.

First, we didn't care for the timed planning phase for two reasons. One is that it didn't really feel thematic. The narrative that we read had nothing about time being an issue--the detectives are checking out a mystery. We're basically guessing at which cards to turn over (for which we're penalized in the endgame), which is okay though not great. We have to find all of the plot cards, so our group turned random cards until we found 1 in each of the 4 areas. And then we made guesses on where the 5th was, partially based on probability (of which section had the most facedown cards). This guessing about the cards again seems contrary to the theme of our being investigators--we're not using logic to find clues but guessing. Yes, sometimes investigators and detectives make guesses, but that's really all you can do in this phase.

The second problem with the timed phase is that it feels like a gotcha. Some coop games challenge players with having to do a lot of objectives, and there's a counter of some type, like Orleans: Invasion. So, it's timed, too, but we can still plan (and still make mistakes). But in this 12-minute planning/programming phase, we're likely to fail because we're not fast enough or placed the wrong piece rather than our reasoning being mistaken. And again it doesn't fit the theme of our being investigators.


Suggestion: I get that if you have no time constraints, every team is going to nail the programming. One suggestion (which I would use as a house rule for the game) is keep the time limit at 12 minutes, but players can use as much time as they want. For every minute over 12 minutes that the team takes to plan, the Dread counter moves 2 spaces. (3 maybe?) It still doesn't address the theme issue, but at least now players make a choice: Do we make the endgame harder to spend more time on the planning?

The second criticism is the Personality Deck. I'm not adverse to randomness and like it a bit. But here didn't work for any of us. I like the idea of the Trauma, but IMO this seemed a weak way to get it into the game. I'm somehow using my Personality and develop a Trauma? It didn't quite make sense--Trauma seems more a function of something happening to my character than some aspect of my character's personality.

Suggestion: I'd rather see the Personality Traits as givens but limited. For example, I have 4 traits with the different symbols and with someway to indicate usage (like a cutout to insert a cube). When I use Milton's Arcane Ritual, I get those symbols to use in the test, but then that trait is no longer available.

In that way, as a player, I see the connection between the traits and the character, constantly reviewing which to use when. Again, the player has the choice rather submitting to a random card draw.


The different types of contests created some confusion (at least at first)--Dread cards, Plot cards, and the Challenge cards. It's not clear why the resolution mechanic needs to change for each type. An elegant test system that is flexible to increase the difficulty seems preferable to creating different resolution mechanics.


I really do appreciate what the designers are trying to do here. We did enjoy the narrative. And we really liked the idea of investigating across London. But the gameplay elements above took a lot away from the game in our opinions, and all of us lost interest in purchasing the game after this session.
 
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Francisco Gutierrez
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Burbank
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"A pilot's greatest virtue is to know when to run" -- "What's this, a joke?"
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In some of the scenarios, time is most certainly an issue. The third scenario has you racing against the clock trying to get to witnesses before the antagonist does... Very cool, very thematic.

As far as finding plot cards goes, I kinda agree. It's sort of a bummer to be guessing where the 5th and 6th cards are. However, and this is the way I explaining to players, there are 24 cards down at the start of the game; if we don't do anything, that's 48 dread. We have to flip some over and beat them if we don't want to face the strongest "version" of the bad guy. (Or lose!)

Finally, I'm not sure why people don't like the personality cards, they are no more random than a die roll. Essentially, you have a 1/6 chance of an extraordinary success (your special card), a 4/6 chance of a regular sucess, and a 1/6 chance of a failure (drawing your trauma).
If you don't like that bit of randomness/ luck, that's fine. I just think that the cards are much more visually appealing than rolling a d6 and referencing a chart.
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Gary Beason
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Comparing the Personality Deck to die rolls isn't my point. They both have faults. But as I said, I don't mind randomness, but it didn't work here for our group. I'd rather choose which trait I'd use as that gives me a choice. Even if I rolled to see if I succeeded (like in D&D), at least I have a choice, which is important because I'm playing the character. With the Personality Deck, it's like rolling in D&D to see which skill you'd use to unlock a door -- oh sorry! You rolled Persuasion!

As for the timed planning phase, there might be other scenarios where it works, but it broke in the one we played. Plus, as I said, there are other reasons I think it's weak. I prefer that players fail for the choices or trade-offs that they make than what amounts to a "slip of the fingers." I get preventing over-analysis, but this mechanic didn't work for us.
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