B K
United States
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Overall Summary

Too Many Bones is a tremendously fun game that is also exceptionally well designed. I was on the fence initially about purchasing, primarily because I was concerned that the game would be too much of a luck based experience for the length of the games that were being reported. I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised with the overall design and experience. The game length certainly goes long (2 – 3 hours), especially with 4 characters. The shortest scenario can be less and the longest can be more, although with fewer players the time does decrease. I have played significantly with two players and kept most games around the 1.5 – 2.0 hour mark. This game length actually works very well because the game has much more tactical depth than I anticipated. I have to admit, I saw the 16 space board and the mat full of dice and fully anticipated a game with the outcome determined by the luck of dice rolls with tactics playing a small part. That turned out to be a very incorrect assumption.

Tactical decisions are absolutely crucial in terms of the impact on the results. Placing one character in the wrong spot at the start of combat, moving into the wrong space at the wrong time or targeting the wrong enemy can have a huge impact on the overall outcome of the game. Enemy behavior and damage output are highly predictable (not fully deterministic, but with a low standard deviation of possible outcomes), and one of the things that added to our game time, especially with 4 players in tough fights, was the several moves ahead strategizing and careful positioning of characters to absorb the big hit that was coming from the enemy and be positioned to counter in a way that would take one or two key enemies out of commission. As I am typing this, I remember a few really challenging battles and how rewarding it was as we tried to map out the first one or two complete rounds and position our characters for maximum impact. All-in-all, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the depth and competency of the tactical combat design.

Spending a lot of time trying to carefully map out the first 8 – 10 moves of combat may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This is also where I think the game will shine and why I really recommend for a broad universe of players. At the hardest difficulty, especially with 2 players, tight play is really a requirement (maybe not so much with 4, which I will discuss later in more detail). However, the difficulty adjustments work really well and do a fantastic job of creating the same interesting experience, with all the same tactical depth, but a much more forgiving environment. I really think this opens up the game for people who either (i) don’t believe they are the strongest tactical players, but still appreciate a game with these features and (ii) players who want to play faster and not make turns chess-like exercises. At the lower difficulties, players can have the same tactical experience, can make moves quickly, and be comfortable they have a solid chance of winning even if they didn’t assess that the move they made was setting them up for a monster attack 3 or 4 turns later. For those that like a very challenging environment, it is there, for those who do not, the game has a built in difficulty to accommodate.

I thought the individual encounters were extremely well designed. This certainly could have devolved into one fight right after the next with little variety. There absolutely are a lot of encounters that will be a battle, but the choices they offer in encounters are very interesting. Some are options that avoid battles altogether and they generally provide a nice risk/reward balance between choices. Even when a battle is a certainty, there were always interesting choices that often resulted in significant wrinkles thrown into combat that made it very different. I really feel like the encounter design goes a long way to make every battle feel unique and different. I will talk more about enemy and loot design, but these also help to provide unique combat experiences instead of one long chain of similar fights.

This game is a very solid 9.5/10.0 for me, and I generally grade on a tough scale. This is an exceptional game. The core combat is very elegant. The designers have been able to wring out very interesting decisions for players to grapple with from a 16 space board. I really believe this is a must play for anyone interested in tactical combat or fantasy adventures as the game is exceptionally elegant with deep combat while being very easily customized to players’ skill levels without negatively impacting the overall experience. Finally, the game has a great flow and balance from beginning to end. There certainly is a snowball effect that occurs, which I will detail later, but overall my experience has been that characters ramp up and the challenges ramp up roughly in step, and it all culminates in an exciting and challenging final boss battle. I certainly experienced this in our 2 players games, and although the 4 player games were a little less challenging (detailed below), all-in-all the campaigns followed a really nice and balanced difficulty ramp that well mirrored character progress.


Background

I have 12 campaign playthroughs. 11 have been with two players, 7 of these with one character each and 4 with two characters each. One game has been played solo with one character. I have the base game without any add-ons. My intent is to provide both a review and critique of the design quality. I will not provide a step-by-step rules review or gameplay walkthrough. I do believe for a prospective buyer supplementing this review with a strong video gameplay walkthrough would be beneficial and there are people much better at that then me.


Component Review

Component quality is generally a low consideration for me unless they impact the playability and to the extent that basic components work, I am happy. So generally with premium priced and produced games, I don’t have much to say. In this case, I have a few specific complaints and a more abstract commentary about the components and overall price. That will be at the end of this section for anyone wanting to skip over my pontifications on game pricing and component design choices.


Strengths of Component Design:

• The poker chips are great quality and I do especially appreciate the strong graphic design and information layout. A poker chip is a relatively small area, and the designers did a great job of laying this out such that all the information is clearly visible and easy to follow

• I don’t get hung up on dice. I realize there has been a number of conversations about this that I really can’t relate to. The dice have six sides and I never had any issue understanding what was printed on them. They work fine for me

• The character mats and battle board all work very well. Dice seem to slot in very well and the overall layout is visually appealing and functional. From my perspective, these work great

• I found the rulebook to be solid. I will say I generally find I get through rulebooks pretty cleanly and maybe more so than others based on games that have had high levels of complaints that were not an issue for me. With that said, I do believe most people will get most of what they need on one or maybe two readings. Where things get a little more dicey is some of the descriptions of individual skills and attributes, which appear on the reference sheets. Certainly not an issue that should scare anyone, but I am guessing some things like Rage will send most people to a FAQ


Weaknesses of Component Design

• I don’t like the card stock. It certainly is more expensive (I am guessing much more expensive) than traditional paper stock. It smells bad, which is a very minor issue and it is very slick, which is a bigger issue. While I believe the slickness is wearing off over time (or I am just being more careful) it continues to be an issue. Cards slipping and being hard to pick-up are minor inconveniences. The biggest issue is the encounter deck, which is supposed to be secret to the players, often slips and slides revealing future encounters (this is especially bad for Tyrant encounters and special encounters which are very easy to notice when the deck moves

• Additionally, related to the cards, the font on the dark side is pretty hard to read. This never really impacts anything, but separating the base encounters from the solo encounters is an experience in eye strain


Now my big picture commentary on game pricing and value many will want to/should skip:

I generally do not comment on a game’s price in my review. I will try to give my best description of the strengths and weaknesses of the game and let readers determine how this fits into their budget. That is the same way I am reviewing this game and nothing about the price will be reflected in my score nor does it impact my view on any of the subsequent gameplay analysis.

With all of that said, this game is expensive. It’s $125 plus the inefficiencies of shipping from a small publisher. To be clear, I have no regrets and believe, at least for me and considered in a vacuum, the value is good and I am really enjoying the experience. So why am I even talking about this? I certainly don’t know where all the costs went into the game, and so this is a bit of a non-fully informed piece of commentary. I do think though there is a bit of a kid in the candy store design that went on. I have personally never seen this card stock, and certainly hope to never see it again, and certainly feel like the premium expenditure was wasted. I have heard that the dice are premium as well, and while functional, I certainly do not see additional value above most games. As I said earlier, the poker chips are functional and well designed, but I certainly do not get a lot of value vs other alternatives.

What I don’t like is that even with the price tag, there are 3 add-on characters held back as add-ons. I am already starting to feel the need for more variety and I do think that character variety is going to be the thing that eventually will cause the game to go stale. I could certainly pay $25 each for 3 new characters (and very well may as the game is great, absolutely fantastic). With that said, in addition to the money, I have to deal with availability issues and timing delays associated with a small publisher vs retail shipping. I certainly feel that cutting back on some of the premium frills and adding an extra character or two to the base game would be a much better value for me, and quite frankly would provide the variety that this game will likely need after a few more playthroughs. Again, doesn’t take away from a great game, certainly doesn’t change my very strong recommendation. I do think designers need to think about price points and add in costs where it makes sense and certainly not cut key features (like enough character variety) to make room for high end components. I certainly understand this is a topic different players will see very differently. In my opinion, despite producing an amazing game, the designers may not have made great decisions all the way through in weighing cost vs utility of the component design, and holding back 3 characters as add-ons is a bit frustrating.


Gameplay Summary and Review


Campaign and Combat Gameplay Review

The gameplay is fantastic. You will see below a lot of weaknesses, but in reality none of them take away from the experience in a way that the strengths don’t significantly overcome. Consider them as much critical analysis as they are definitive weaknesses. For certain, YMMV in terms of how much they bother you, but for me the gameplay was incredibly solid overall. I also believe the difficulty can be tweaked with the designer provided difficulty levels so that the game can be equally enjoyed by highly tactical as well as more casual players alike without detracting from the experience.


Strengths of the Campaign and Combat Gameplay

• The designers really created a highly tactical game that shocked me in its depth. Some of the reasons this is the case are detailed below, but the success is a function of a lot of really smart design decisions, anyone of which could have derailed the system if implemented poorly. This includes things like the combat and defense die design, the order of unit placement on the map, scouting, back-up plan design, and many other things that worked very well as a system. It really is a great example of the sum-of-the-parts adding up to a greater whole because all of these individual systems and mechanics work so well together

• The initial battle map unit placement is fantastic. Monsters are placed first, the initiative (turn order) is determined next and then finally the characters are added to the board. Maybe it does not sound magical, but this order sets up an incredibly deep tactical opportunity as players have full visibility of the board and are granted a very profound ability to set themselves up for either a very strong start or potential disaster depending on where individual characters are placed. In tough fights, these decisions are crucial, and never felt random, as you can map out (at least to a pretty significant degree) how the 1st round (and subsequent rounds to some extent) will play out

• This is not a random dice chucking game. You will certainly roll dice throughout the game, but the attack and defense dice design make the game much more deterministic then one might expect. Attack dice have 4 sides with 1 damage, 1 side with 2 damage and 1 side with a bone. Defense is the same except there are 3 sides with one shield and 2 with a bone. While there is still a random element when these dice are used, it is predictable. Certainly outlier events can occur, but these dice provide a relatively manageable level of predictability and are the only dice that monsters use (other than the bosses who have their own specific die). This makes monster behavior and attack and defense effectiveness relatively predictable. It certainly is not a puzzle with a single outcome, but players always have pretty good visibility as to how monsters will behave. There are a few exceptions related to monster back-up plans, but for the most part, players have a high level of agency in the outcome despite all of the dice rolling

• Monster abilities are well designed. I have to admit, I was initially skeptical that this fairly long list of abilities would not translate to a more interesting game and instead be a lot of noise with limited tactical implications. These certainly are not just annoying combat modifiers to keep track of. Many of these abilities dramatically impact combat and change the option set available to players in significant ways. I will discuss in more detail the relative value of stat vs. skill training improvements later, but these abilities, especially on 5 and 20 point monsters, really can impact tactics and are often a catalyst for players needing to focus on skill development instead of just bumping up stats exclusively in the mid and late game

• Back-up plans, especially for characters was a great design choice. Similar ideas have been implemented in games for current failures to accrue as future benefits, but it really works well here. It also goes to my earlier point, that luck is not really that big a factor in many aspects of the game, especially most parts of combat. The balance is really good here generally, rolling a miss (bone) is usually a little worse than an outright hit, but the backup plans are often still very valuable such that these misses overall really don’t have a huge impact on the win/loss rate of combat. For better or worse, it’s tough to blame the attack and defense dice for the outcome (skill dice is a slightly different conversation mentioned below)

• A second impact of the monster abilities is that the monsters really do feel very different. They are not just stats with a different name. I won’t go through the full list, but abilities like Hardy (damage reduced to 1), Flight (can only be targeted every other turn), Corrosive (destroys armor for the battle), Break (destroys attack dice for the battle) and many others make monsters very different from each other and keeps battles lively and fresh while forcing players to significantly adjust tactics from fight to fight

• My first impression of the HP chips was that they were weird. I actually grew to love them as the physical height of the stacks give easy visual feedback on the life of units. And they are quick and easy to manage

• The basic and tyrant encounters are really fantastic. I think the designers did an amazing job overall (with a couple of exceptions I will describe below) with the scenarios. This really is not a series of the same fight over and over again. You get good variety from the monsters themselves and on top of that, the encounters provide substantial variety. You may have the choice to be impaired in many different ways to get better rewards. You may have the ability to sacrifice some rewards for an easier battle with many creative ways this is enacted. You may fight on a limited board or with different rules in different rounds. You may be able to choose to avoid combat all together which can have its own risk and reward dynamics. Sometimes there is no fight at all. Tyrant encounters (boss specific encounters added to the encounter deck) were generally really cool and often played into the final battle in interesting ways

• Difficulty levels work very well. The changes can significantly improve the players’ ability to win, but in no way impair the gameplay or experience. New characters start with better stats at lower difficulties, which makes a big difference, but overall the gameplay is fundamentally unchanged

• One more day. There were so many times we needed to stop playing and always there was a check on time to see if we can just get one more turn in. If not, can we at least set-up the encounter and see what the choices are. Despite the pretty long game time, it really goes by so fast. I found us getting lost in this game as much as any I have experienced (multiple hundreds of games)


Weaknesses and Critical Analysis of Campaign and Combat Gameplay

• The game is meaningfully easier with 4 players than 2. This certainly can be managed with difficulty, although I really believe there needs to be an additional level of difficulty for 4 players. We are going to play our next 4 player game without one of the day 1 training to ramp the challenge. I don’t think the decision to have 4 monsters on the board at once regardless of the player count works well. With 4 characters, we really have been able to steam roll campaigns. This is because with 4 players you have both an even number of units, but maybe more importantly, you have so much agency in placing characters that you can really control the battlefield. With 2 players, you really have less control and that leads to many more situations where you can be overwhelmed at the highest difficulty levels, especially in the critical day 4 – day 6 window. 4 player games give players more tactical options and therefore much stronger battlefield control and I think that if 2 player rules had been balanced around a 2 or 3 monster count, this would have made 2 player games difficulty more in-line with 4 players. Certainly you can play on lower difficulties with fewer players, which is fine, but some of the tactical options disappear with 4 enemies and 2 characters as your ability to control and influence that many enemies is greatly diminished

• Too many backup plan extensions in Trove Loot. While some are good, many are somewhat mediocre and we often had enough that the utility for the Trove Loot started to be diminished. I actually believe 3 tiers of loot may have been beneficial to the design, with some of the weaker trove loot merging with the better regular loot and a third tier of the best trove loot and maybe additional, interesting non back-up plan high level loot. It’s weird that I found the regular loot more interesting and better done (not more powerful, just more interesting) then the higher tier Trove Loot

• I liked special encounters. I thought it was also good to have a controlled and predictable day 1 – 3. However, I think it was a missed opportunity to only have 3 additional special encounters. From a pure design theory it is also a strange decision. I feel like a player either won’t like the concept and not appreciate the 3 special encounters, or like me, will like it and believe that only having 3 additional special encounters is really an underutilized mechanic. I think these were an interesting concept, similar to the mechanic in Robinson Crusoe to add cards to the various decks based on encounter decisions, but in this game is just too underutilized to feel like anything other than a missed opportunity

• This game by design has a snowballing effect, meaning each loss results in the overall chance of success in future encounters to be lower and each win means the chance of success in future encounters is higher. This effect is also pretty big, because enemies get tougher and certain locked dice and loot and consumables that were used are no longer available. This is not necessarily a bad design decision, but it does have ramifications on other elements of the design that I don’t think were properly adjusted for…

• Day 4 – 6. These are really key days. The characters have not really reached a point that they have had many training opportunities, but are now in the deep end of random encounters. I previously said that encounters are really well designed with very different conditions. That is true, they are, and it is overall great for the game. However, some of these unique vagaries don’t scale well at all with the day count. Reducing stat values is much more impactful early on. While adding an additional 20 pt baddie or multiple 5 pointers is very manageable late game, getting a card like this on Day 4 or 5, especially with 2 players is an automatic loss. Nothing that can be done. One of three things really needed to be done to mitigate this – (i) a mulligan system for encounters (which obviously could be houseruled); (ii) a less snowballing reward system (partial rewards on a loss or a make-up ability); or probably the best (iii) tiered encounters where players would either have some agency in selecting encounters or where more difficult encounters come into play on day 7 or later

• I will detail my thoughts on character advancement below in the character section, but a high level design decision I found strange is when the designers did and did not include bones on the skill dice. I have said over and over this is a very tactical game with much less luck than I expected. I mentioned above, the actual encounter selection is one possibly large element of luck that can disproportionally impact the win/loss of the overall campaign. In a single encounter, one element that can really disproportionally impact the encounter outcome is bad skill dice rolls. Some skill dice have bones, some do not. Some have multiple bones and others do not. Some, like grenades, even do not have the ability to choose not to accept the outcome and put it back in the mat. With all the elements of the game that have luck mitigated by design, it’s a bit odd how much leverage can be tied to a handful of key skill dice rolls vs everything else. I am a little hesitant to just outright say it’s a weakness, as there are some back-up plans and loot that can mitigate this, it just sticks out when you roll 100 dice during a battle and there is more leverage on 5 key rolls than the other 95 combined

• Initiative rolls for characters is a piece of the game I was very negative on after a couple of plays. Specifically the character initiative roll introduces a significant random element that has a profound effect on the outcome. Playing some more games with 4 players I have mellowed significantly on the topic, but I still think it’s an issue with 2 players, especially late game. With 4 players, this is more likely to even out and you have a lot more control of the battlefield to deal with poor initiative rolls. In a two player game, with 4 strong enemies in the late game, a poor roll can be devastating. One initial thought I had was to allow dexterity to be used to move up the initiative track. I haven’t tested it, but I think it’s actually overpowered to the characters benefit late game where you have more dexterity to spare and early burst damage and key defense skill dice are crucial to success. I have definitely thought about house ruling no roll and just using the mean of the dice to place it. I am a bit curious why the designers didn’t go that route or a less random die. Something like four sides at the mean with two a single point higher and lower would have been much more manageable. In a two player game with Boomer, that initiative die roll can have many multiples more leverage in it than any other die roll. I think this is relatively easily houseruled, but as written initiative can certainly cause some big luck impacts that can’t be mitigated

• Training and the stat vs. skill selection. This is another area I do not find to be nearly the weakness I did after a couple of plays, but is still worth mentioning. My initial thought was that just piling into stats was the optimal choice. It clearly is in the early game and doing this has a dramatic impact on snowballing to victory instead of defeat. What I have realized after more plays is that this is not a great strategy for late game because (i) some 5 and most 20 point baddies have abilities that will require the correct skill dice to manage and (ii) when you get multiple 20 point baddies and tough 5 pointers on the field at one time you can’t keep up with just basic stats and the battle is decided in the first round or two where burst damage and high level protection is more valuable than an attack or defense die, even if it can be used 4 or 5 times in the battle instead of one. Now, with that long argument for why this is not an issue, I still think having separate rewards for stat advancement and skill dice would have been a good idea. The optimal strategy is to go mostly stats early and not shift to skill dice until later. Breaking this up so that different rewards governed each (training for one, something else for the other), would allow for additional interesting scenario choices and would force players to work in skill dice earlier (obviously you can still do this, but it is often suboptimal and my assumption above assumes the game and encounters would be designed around this)

• Boomer is overpowered. Significantly because of range, and secondarily because of very strong skill dice in late game battles. After a few days of training, the characters stats tend to blend together. So by day four, they start to look very similar, except melee characters have to waste dexterity to move in certain situations and have limited targeting ability. Boomer has generally the same stats, but can attack anything on the board without having to move. Just so much more effective. Late game, when monsters are tough and capable of doing massive damage with devastating abilities if not properly managed, her burst damage is game changing. Get her a back-up plan or item with re-rolls to mitigate dice rolls, and it’s very easy to one shot 20 point monsters and do meaningful damage to other monsters on just her turn. Late game is often decided in the first round or two, and Boomer often does the deciding. And her standard back-up plans are good

• Dangerous darts. Maybe I will play it sometime, but probably not. In an otherwise tight design, this is pretty extraneous. Lockpicking was integrated enough that I came around to neutral on it in the end, but dangerous darts not so much


Character Advancement and Upgrade Review

The character design is strong with each character feeling really unique, especially when skill dice start to make their way into play. In the early game, there is a bit of an issue as optimal play tends to drive players to stat boosts and result in the characters melding together. However, as the mid and late game unfolds, the skill dice become critical and as these start coming out, the characters again start feeling very unique. All-in-all the skills are unique and well thought out. We started wanting to play longer campaigns just to be able to explore more of the skill trees on single playthroughs.


Strengths of the Characters and Upgrade System

• Characters are very unique with most having specific, unique mechanics. Rage generation, grenade building, resurrecting and ripostes are all pretty interesting designs that reside in the skill dice of specific characters. Just really made the characters feel different in the mid and late game

• Overall the skill tree design was really well done. The trees are interesting with characters having multiple trees and prerequisites for more powerful dice. These trees added to the challenge of die selection on upgrades

• The skill dice themselves were also very interesting. Some are more straight forward dice that heal, provide strong shields or do outsized damage. However there are some very interesting ones. Holy hand grenades which are consumable items that can be supercharged by element 325, something that can be rolled on a separate dice was great. Zappacks that can bring dead characters back to life or do significant damage to enemies was also interesting as it also relied on charges from another die that had to be found. There are a lot of other dice that would combo with other dice or just were interesting on their own. Overall, just very cool getting these dice and bringing them into play. The designers did a great job of not only providing unique and interesting effects, but doing so in a way that was typically well balanced and never detracted from the overall gameplay


Weaknesses of the Characters and Upgrade System

• I have eluded to it earlier, but the early game is one of primarily stat growth, which results in early game characters feeling very similar. This is a minor quibble as the mid and late game changes this dramatically as skill dice come out

• I said it before, but I think 2 more characters in the base set would have helped a lot with the lifespan of the game. I can see now that the first thing that is going to make me tire of the game is playing the same characters over and a little more variety would have helped. I explained above the trade offs in components that I would have preferred and the fact that I can’t order from Amazon and have in two days, but instead would have to wait no telling how long to get (and don’t know which are definitively in stock) makes this more than just a money issue

• The tank can’t be used as a tank. More an observation than a real weakness, but because Pickets lockable dice are so powerful once in place, we found ourselves afraid to all out tank with him, because the cost of him being knocked out was so much greater than the other characters who had much less to lose. If things got tight, we would always protect Picket above all else so he wouldn’t lose his locked dice. Not a huge issue, but in 2 player games, this was a real concern for the snowballing effect. Losing Picket and then all of his dice for the next scenario, was often the first big step of a downward spiral


Conclusion

I am generally really tough to impress and am very diligent in researching games before I buy. I really only want to spend time playing good or great games. And I can say this a great game, and one whose overall quality was a big surprise to me. I really hoped it would be good, but looking at a 16 square board, tons of dice and poker chips, I did not see greatness coming, but it absolutely did. The design quality is very impressive. Despite the small board and dice, this is a very tactical and skill based game. Much of what goes on is actually very predictable and this is absolutely a game that someone who wants to think multiple moves ahead will be thrilled with the ability to do so in this game. Very little of what the enemies do isn’t visible several moves ahead. A beauty of this game, however, is the experience can be equally rewarding and phenomenal playing a turn at a time by players just wanting to have fun, although at less than 4 characters, that will likely mean playing at lower than the highest difficulty level if winning is to be achieved. Encounter design is fantastic and varied, monsters feel unique with abilities that dramatically change the tenor of the battles and the bosses and their related encounters and skills are really well designed. The four characters have very unique skills, and once these start coming into play, each character feels very different in mid and late game. The campaign has a fantastic arc with character growth balanced by increased difficulty that peaks in really fantastic boss battles.

I think anyone on the fence for this game really needs to find a way to play it. It’s a game where the overall quality of the design will likely really positively surprise you. This is a game where the whole is better than the sum-of-the-parts and the experience is much richer and deeper than I would have imagined just looking at a picture of the components. At the same time, I don’t think most gamers should be intimidated at all by the game either if they have experience playing even just light tactical games. It certainly can be played at a high tactical level, but is equally fun playing a turn at a time with easily implemented difficulty adjustments designed in to find just the right challenge level for a wide range of players and styles.
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Brian Baker
United States
Fishers
Indiana
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An excellent review! Your analysis and critiques are well thought out. It's obvious you've spent a fair amount of time with the game! I think I also found a couple of strategy tips.
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Alexandre Santos
Belgium
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Once again thank you for such a tremendous review. Looking forward for the continuation of your adventures in gameland
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Mike C
United States
Indiana
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Great job with the in-depth review!

Here's one thing I strongly disagree with:

Quote:
• The tank can’t be used as a tank.
This totally depends on how you build Picket!

We've had multiple adventures where Picket is an impenetrable, unstoppable tank. Seriously, in one of them he only lost a single HP in one battle the entire game (to be fair, that was Greenhorn mode).

In these games, he used either one (Constant Defense) or zero skills from his red profession, which kept his Locked slots open for Defense from his Innate +1. He got his Defense stat high and protected others with his orange profession. He could Shield Bash baddies for a dozen or more damage in a single turn! Plus when he got Raider Armor it was game over.
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Beau Bocephus Blasterfire
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Berrien Springs
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This is perhaps one of the greatest reviews I have ever read. I appreciate how you broke the game down and explained why you either liked certain aspects or disliked them. Great review!
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Steve Wrenn
United States
Bushkill
PA
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What? You thought I'd have some interesting overtext?
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EXCELLENT review!
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Jim
United States
Milton
Wisconsin
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Please review more games.
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Johannes Benedikt
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thx for this great, in depth review and for the time you put into it.

The indepth discussion of the negative parts was particularly helpfull, since it touches quite a few points that had me concerned all along.


In the end probably the biggest concern is characters getting stale. Since you already played 12 sessions (I imagine around 4-6 sessions with the same characters) were you challanged in how to level your character in every game or did some sort of "optimal path" occur to you after a few plays that made deveations from this optimum seem like a bad choice under any circumstances.

My other big concern is the stat levelling. You touched on this at great detail which was very informative, yet I think you didn't mention with how many non-stat skills (skills that grant you more personal dice) one usually ends up at the end of the game. I think I wouldn't enjoy it if it doesn't make sense to go for more than 2 personal skills per game or something like that and I can see how this would make chars. become stale pretty quickly.

Keep up the good reviewing!
Have fun playing!
regards,
DA_Maz
 
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B K
United States
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SirManatee wrote:
Great job with the in-depth review!

Here's one thing I strongly disagree with:

Quote:
• The tank can’t be used as a tank.
This totally depends on how you build Picket!

We've had multiple adventures where Picket is an impenetrable, unstoppable tank. Seriously, in one of them he only lost a single HP in one battle the entire game (to be fair, that was Greenhorn mode).

In these games, he used either one (Constant Defense) or zero skills from his red profession, which kept his Locked slots open for Defense from his Innate +1. He got his Defense stat high and protected others with his orange profession. He could Shield Bash baddies for a dozen or more damage in a single turn! Plus when he got Raider Armor it was game over.

Good points and my original comment should have been much less definitive. I do think that these locked dice are some of the most powerful and typically go that route. And its not so much he can't take damage, because he can. What I see happening is in battles there are points where you are making decisions anticipating the next couple of attacks. What I find is in that decision making process, we tend to not tank with him and generally use others to take hits if he could be put at risk, just because the downside of losing him (with 3 locked dice) is so much greater, and so others often are protecting him in the back half of battles. I definitely agree with you its much more conditional than my comment stated.

Also agree that Raider Armor, if gained before Picket is built out, is game changing and I agree it is worth building Picket around standard defense dice vs. the lockable skill dice in that situation.

Thanks for the perspective. It was good.
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B K
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DA_Maz wrote:



In the end probably the biggest concern is characters getting stale. Since you already played 12 sessions (I imagine around 4-6 sessions with the same characters) were you challanged in how to level your character in every game or did some sort of "optimal path" occur to you after a few plays that made deveations from this optimum seem like a bad choice under any circumstances.


That is a good question that I didn't touch on. I actually think the designers did a great job of designing so there is not an optimal build strategy. There are really few dice I think are universally inferior to others. So what dictates my builds are often the specifics of the game. Things that factor into dice selection that cause it to be much more situational than optimal path are:

1. Monster abilities - each tyrant has its own specific abilities and a certain group of monsters that also have specific abilities. Drafting dice that best deal with these monster abilities (especially the tyrant, 20 pt baddies and even some 5 pt) is crucial. There are abilities like hardy, thick skin and flight that make damage over time dice like poison and napalm much more effective then they would be in other scenarios. Certain monsters and tyrants are geared to hit hard making certain high powered defense dice like riposte and like a kobold much more valuable then they are against poison and effect focused monsters. Adapting dice selection to best face the monsters abilities is critical and creates and environment where there really is not a one-size-fits all optimal path.

2. Character combinations and builds also effect other characters. If the monster abilities cause you to build one character a certain way, this often impacts other characters dice selections. Just as an example, if you build Picket to be able to give defense or take attacks from other characters, that will enable you to focus on attack with other characters. If Picket is not in the mix or he goes for a more self focused strategy, it may mean that picking up defensive dice for other characters like smoke screen or like a kobold is a good strategy.

3. Even character count can impact. For example a grenade that can stun a 5 point baddie is great in one or 2 player, where 5 points is a meaningful amount of the total. In a four player game, it is less effective as 20 pt baddies come out earlier and stunning a 5 pt baddie is much less impactful.

All-in-all I think optimal path was very well designed around. My "issue" is as much that I tend to need a lot of variety to stay engaged with cooperative games. I really like them, but just tend to feel I have experienced what they have to offer in fewer plays than probably many people.

DA_Maz wrote:


My other big concern is the stat levelling. You touched on this at great detail which was very informative, yet I think you didn't mention with how many non-stat skills (skills that grant you more personal dice) one usually ends up at the end of the game. I think I wouldn't enjoy it if it doesn't make sense to go for more than 2 personal skills per game or something like that and I can see how this would make chars. become stale pretty quickly.


I had concerns about this after the first couple of plays, but have arrived at a different conclusion. In the 9 - 10 day games, I would say I ended up getting 5 or 6 skill dice on average and in the longest games 7 or 8. This depends a lot on winning all or most battles and the luck of the encounter draw (how many training points are available). What I experience in the longer games are three effects that drive me away from an all or almost all stat build:

1. Once day counts get up to 9+, the enemies usually have pretty strong attack power and debilitating abilities. Having high damage output and mitigation in the first two rounds becomes critical. You absolutely need the strong base stats you build early, but you also need to be able to take out a 20 pt baddie or leave it and kill all the 5 pts in the first round or have a defense combination that stops them from taking a character of yours out in the first round. These later battles are often won by killing the key baddies early with a barrage of skill dice and then you can use the base attacks to mop-up.

2. A number of dice (even across multiple characters) synergize well, so there is an incentive to pursue this as the subsequent skill die is worth more than the previous.

3. Many skill trees are set-up such that the next die is more powerful than the previous, which gives incentive.

With that said, I probably buy all (or almost all) stats the first 5 days or so before shifting to a much more skill dice focus (but still adding stats as well). That does result in a more stat focus build on the shortest campaign. For most campaigns I think it would definitely be sub-optimal to only have 2 skill dice and I generally had 5 or 6 and more in the longest scenarios.

I hope that helps and I will say again I was also on the fence about the game and I think its in the top 3 new games I have played this year. I can't say this will be true for everyone, but I think most on the fence will end up being happy because I do believe its a better game than at least I anticipated.
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Mrs. Vickies CHIPS
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Really well done review. It seems we share very similar opinions on many things in the game also, so I agree with nearly all your points

I typically don't care about much components either, but I really like the chips and other things here though, and don't mind the cards since they don't really need sleeves. The tiny print and shades are an issue though (and they are slippery, but because you don't hold them in hand it doesn't really matter).

I really like the mini-games but understand why others don't, those damn darts are tough to beat though it seems.

I had many of the same hesitations that were also mostly alleviated

Truth is I am in a VERY bad financial situation, and really could not afford the game, but the more videos I watched and reading I did the more I could not resist the utter brilliance, uniqueness and attention to detail that went into it and had to have it anyway.

Here's hoping for more great content in the expansion, and some nice surprises and neat additions to the game in the coming campaign

Cheers


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John Medany
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I really excellent review which I agree with many of your points on (I do however enjoy both the lock picking and dangerous darts games).

I do feel I need to comment on your price component quality point though - if only to help push people over the edge of buying it ...

From my personal point of view (who not only had to deal with the small publisher issues but also the mechanics of getting a copy in the UK) I'm actually really ok with the cost, and as a contrast really love the card stock - its pretty much the only game I have that I regularly play that I haven't felt the need to sleeve (and I only use premium sleeves as I have the feel of 'penny' sleeves) which actually balances the comparative costs with other games somewhat (I probably spent more on sleeves for Gloomhaven and 7Th Continent than I did on the games).

I do kind of agree that the 7 characters should have been in the base game - however, they were stretch goals in the Kickstarter so were added later ... and from the production videos weren't fully fleshed out until they were funded (which is better than 'fake' stretch goals) which is why they are an addon.

I do recommend the component upgrade if you have the 1st edition as the reference cards redesign alone makes them worth while (you have all these if you have 2nd edition)

As to the future - really interested to see what the expansion will bring.
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David Monteforte
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Im gonna have to question the section on picket not being able to tank. Grab his regen die, and get it going asap, then drop a few points on his purple dice for shields and a LOT of bones.

Bones for him are indispensable when you have lots of defense
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Krimson62 wrote:
Im gonna have to question the section on picket not being able to tank. Grab his regen die, and get it going asap, then drop a few points on his purple dice for shields and a LOT of bones.

Bones for him are indispensable when you have lots of defense

Thanks for the comment. Similar to a previous poster above. In my response, I acknowledged this was too firm a statement and tried to lay out when this comes into play. Agree it should not have been made as a blanket statement. The issue is that with certain builds (and clearly not others) there is a very strong incentive to protect him and let other characters die because the knock-out penalty is so much more severe for him with those builds. This makes it hard to use him as a pure tank. And maybe that is the point both of you are making - there is a tank route and a non-tank route, which is fair and I should have made a better worded, less cut-and-dry statement.
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David Monteforte
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bk375 wrote:
Krimson62 wrote:
Im gonna have to question the section on picket not being able to tank. Grab his regen die, and get it going asap, then drop a few points on his purple dice for shields and a LOT of bones.

Bones for him are indispensable when you have lots of defense

Thanks for the comment. Similar to a previous poster above. In my response, I acknowledged this was too firm a statement and tried to lay out when this comes into play. Agree it should not have been made as a blanket statement. The issue is that with certain builds (and clearly not others) there is a very strong incentive to protect him and let other characters die because the knock-out penalty is so much more severe for him with those builds. This makes it hard to use him as a pure tank. And maybe that is the point both of you are making - there is a tank route and a non-tank route, which is fair and I should have made a better worded, less cut-and-dry statement.

Well all things considered, and the length of your review, if that's the only thing we can pick on you did a pretty damn good job
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Mike Keegan
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bk375 wrote:

4 player games give players more tactical options and therefore much stronger battlefield control and I think that if 2 player rules had been balanced around a 2 or 3 monster count, this would have made 2 player games difficulty more in-line with 4 players. Certainly you can play on lower difficulties with fewer players, which is fine, but some of the tactical options disappear with 4 enemies and 2 characters as your ability to control and influence that many enemies is greatly diminished

Excellent point. While BQ points and many encounters scale to Gearloc count, all that really does is delay the arrival of tougher baddies. The fact it can be 4 against 2 is a problem, and I do wish there was a little better scaling in that regard. Almost feels like the 3 difficulty recommendations really correspond to Gearloc count.

Plus, as you mentioned this also compounds the initiative issue many people have, since the odds of having at least one 'loc rolling a high initiative is cut in half.

Regardless, I do play and enjoy and even occasionally win with 2 Gearlocs on Greenhorn, and the Gods of Mischief can laugh all they want when I mulligan a particularity disastrous Round 1 roll....
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Max Packer
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This review was so thorough that I am not going to write my own. I have only played 2 players, so it was nice to have an in depth comparison of extra Gearlocks. Thank you for taking the time for the community!
My only thought is that you won't get far without taking the tactical depth seriously....day 4 will destroy you.
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James
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Quote:
• Dangerous darts. Maybe I will play it sometime, but probably not. In an otherwise tight design, this is pretty extraneous. Lockpicking was integrated enough that I came around to neutral on it in the end, but dangerous darts not so much

I avoid Trove Loot mostly because I find lockpicking tedious. I dread when Dangerous Darts comes up. It's one of the least interesting parts of the entire game. Luckily, you can mostly avoid it, so I've had to go through the motions very few times.

I'd love a different variant of the "take a risk and maybe a new card gets added to the deck" standard encounter that didn't involve the boring darts mini-game.
 
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CardBoard Bear

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great review.

I happen to like cardboard cards and never sleeve them, so I was puzzled by the designer's choice. you mention the plastic cards smell bad, does the smell go away? I'm on the fence with the new kickstarter but I really do not like the smell of bad plastic.

 
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CardBear wrote:
great review.

I happen to like cardboard cards and never sleeve them, so I was puzzled by the designer's choice. you mention the plastic cards smell bad, does the smell go away? I'm on the fence with the new kickstarter but I really do not like the smell of bad plastic.


It has diminished over time. I would say I can still smell it some. I would hate for this to be the determining factor of your decision. The game is tremendous no matter what the cards are made from. I personally would prefer traditional card stock, but I still think this is one of the best releases of the year (probably my 2nd favorite game behind Gloomhaven) and one of the top 5 in the last couple of years. You can see how many issues I pointed out in my review, but even considering all of them, I still think the game is that good.
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Kai B
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Awesome review for an awesome Game, thank you.
 
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