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Joseph Kopena
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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Jacob Hollow's a heavily theme-based card game revolving around zombies, demons, unnecessary medical experiments and the like. It's been well-accepted by the casual gaming crowd at work and has gotten mostly favorable comments from some of the "more serious" gamers I've played it with. In short, on the up side, it's got great theme and a reasonable amount of decision making. On the down side, there is a fair amount of down time. Some more detailed observations, starting with the negative and getting better:

- Dice: At first I was bothered by the dice, something along the lines of "What is that hideous shade of pink and how do I get rid of it?" However, after looking at them for a bit, now I like it. The yellow and pink dice work very well in terms of looking good/the look fitting in with the blood, gore, and pus oozing around. They are pretty convenient for keeping track of your stats. However, they're also real easy to accidentally knock around and lose track of the stats. It sounds silly, but it's a real issue! We've had some serious game-impacts caused by dice getting shuffled around in the midst of chaos associated with the arrival of the pizza-delivery dude. It's also real hard to sit there and fight the urge to not pick your dice, your opponent's dice, any dice in reach and start rolling them around in downtime like you could in many games.

- Packaging: The box is terrible. This is arguably a minor point, but the copy I'm playing with is in serious need of a Dr Gerhard-style rejuvenation. The first issue you'll encounter is that it's a tuck box that holds two stacks of cards. You pretty much invariably wind up with misbalanced stacks either basic you didn't split them properly or they shift around. Later, if you play a bunch of times, you'll discover that the box rips very easily (this is magnified by the difficulty of getting things in and out). In any case, a two-piece box of more solid card would be much nicer. A perfect example is the box for BANG! It not only stores thing really well, but the two halves work well for holding stacks while playing in less than ideal places (for example, I often play on airplanes while traveling).

- Cards: Card production is ok but not great. They're perfectly functional to play with and they shuffle ok, but they're not super-duper quality. To give you a feel for this, some are just slightly taller or wider than others, by 2 to 4 millimeters. It's not enough that you can tell during gameplay and use it as a mark, but it demonstrates the production quality. I haven't really noticed, but some in my gaming circle that are better than shuffling than I note that they're pretty stiff and hard to work with, even after having gone through more than a dozen games.

- Small games: The game supports two to six players. However, the two player game is notably more simplistic and less interesting than games with more players. Winning by investigating seems to not be a real option, the best strategy in this case seeming to be to kill the other player as fast as possible. That eliminates a lot of the decision making, but the worst blow to the two player game is that as there are only two players, relatively few locations are revealed. That cuts down even more on the decision making and the number of interesting events.

- Downtime: The most serious problem this game is is downtime and the length of the game. I would definitely put this game into the light card game category. However, there can be substantial amounts of just sitting around. Most of this is waiting for people to read the text on the cards, of which there are prodigious amounts. It can really detract from the fun. It gets better as people are more familiar with the cards, but there are so many and each has so many details that unless you're absolutely rabid about the game and play constantly, you're not going to see huge speedups. This can also make the game go on for much longer than a relatively simple game like this should.

- Art: I wouldn't say there's any art that really detracts from the game. Like most CCG-type games with a lot of card types, there is some that's just kind of bland and totally forgettable. However, there is some that's really cool. Most notable in my mind is the cornfield. In general, it all fits in pretty well with the theme and is suitable creepy.

- Flipping: Randomness is resolved by flipping cards from the deck and revealing the "horror number" in the bottom corner of the card. This is much nicer than rolling dice, even if only because it's a pleasant change. It's in this area that you start to realize there's slightly more going on in the game than is immediately obvious. For example, each monster has a set of "evade" numbers which allow you to duck the fight if you flip one of them. At first it's not obvious that the different numbers matter---most give a 1/3 chance based solely on flipping. However, there are cards that affect these, so the specific numbers can actually be important. For example, some are less amenable to playing the "They Have Your Scent" card, which allows the casting playing to adjust the evade flip up or down by 1.

- Subtlety: Similarly, combat is resolved by flipping a number of cards equal to your combat strength and summing. At very first play it doesn't seem to matter what order you do this in, although the pattern of alternating stronger/weaker has a nice light theme element to it of "punch/punch back/etc." However, after playing a little bit, it's clear that it's very important because you can play different cards at different times. There's definitely some amount of thinking and careful observation going on here.

- Elements: The different character abilites are well varied, seem balanced, and fit in nicely with the story. Although a lot of the monsters are very similar, there are enough that really stand out thematically and gameplay-wise to make interesting set of horrors. Real stand outs include the insane Cooper Brothers, local farmers so tough that you gotta beat them twice before they stay down, and The Children, who pretty much stomp (and nibble) on all your hopes and dreams of making it through the game alive.

- Theme: The flavor of this game is awesome. Even if you're not super into horror or the macabre, it's pretty good if you have the slightest interest in zombies, demons, creepy Nazi-type doctors, Cthulu, or anything like that. The flavor text is all entertaining and builds a pretty good story. Third World Games also has several chapters of a novel with the game backstory up on the web. I haven't looked at them yet, but several friends have said they're at least entertaining, especially if you then go and play the game.


In short, Jacob Hollow is a pretty good game. I don't know how much longer everyone will retain interest, but for the past couple of weeks we've been playing it quite a bit in the local gaming groups and at work. It's probably a little too plodding to be a classic card game, but it has great theme and good mechanics. It requires a lot of fast thinking/reaction times and good memory/observational skills (for example, it helps a lot to roughly keep tabs on what's been flipped so you know what's in the discard pile), so I would say that it is a good game in this category of fast-playing, low-strategy, high people-and-information management games.
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Joseph Kopena
United States
Philadelphia
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Re:User Review

I forgot to say: A couple people have talked about using different counters of miniatures to present the players as they move about to locations. It works fine to use the player cards that you're given at the start. We haven't had any trouble doing so.

--
- joe
You must fight the farm hand twice and win both times to gain the reward.
 
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Derek Mitchell
United States
Independence
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Re:User Review
As far as character tokens go, our group uses different color d10's. Not only are they easy to move around to different locations, but they also work to show your current Investigation Points.

The only drawback is that everyone else can see how many IPs you have, so it can work against you. Regardless, using the dice is a lot easier than moving the character cards around the table.

On another note, I really recommend checking out the backstory on the TWG website. It really adds a new level of play to the game when you know the personalities of the characters (I always knew there was something weird about Winston!). They've got the first six chapters up, with the 7th to be released soon.

Just FYI!

Derek

- Nice review, by the way! -
 
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Simon Dunkley
United Kingdom
Chorley
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quick tip, scan and print the character art and make a small double sided stand up of each investigator. looks nice to. nice review of a good game.
 
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Scott Everts
United States
Foothill Ranch
California
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I've made character standees for the game and they are now in the file section. Should make it easier to track location.

Enjoy!
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Dave Kidd
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ScottE wrote:
I've made character standees for the game and they are now in the file section. Should make it easier to track location.

Enjoy!


Printed 'em out, cut 'em up and played the game... Nice... Thanks... (and they fit nicely inside the box too!!!)....
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