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Subject: Impressions of Tomb from a con demo. rss

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Kris Johnson
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This is a combination review/session report based on playing the game once.

Tomb is a board game in which each player recruits a party of stalwart adventurers from the Troll's Head Inn and sends them to explore crypts in The Goldenaxe Catacombs. The objective: kill monsters and get loot. I happened upon an impromptu demo on Saturday afternoon on the third day of Con on the Cob 2008.

The game starts with players populating the crypts of The Goldenaxe Catacombs with a wide variety of Monsters, Traps and Treasure (Crypt cards, which are placed face down in the crypts). There are 16 crypts in the basic game, (The flip side of the game board is The Tomb of the Overseers, a more advanced game featuring 22 crypts and more advanced rules.) each of which can contain a specific number of Crypt cards; crypts close to the Inn can hold only 1 card each, while those in the far corners of The Goldenaxe Catacombs hold 5 cards.

After the crypts have been populated, players spend one or more turns in the Inn recruiting characters and (optionally) drawing Inn cards. There are four character classes: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. The majority of the 84 characters appear to be single-class, but a number combine one or more classes; such was the case with Ichaerus, a Cleric/Fighter/Wizard I recruited early in the game. Each character has four stats and a special ability. The stats—Attack, Skill, Magic and Holiness—are each defined by a number of Green, Blue and Red dice. Here are the stats for Grim, the Cleric I recruited on my first turn:

Attack: 3G, 1B, 0R
Skill: 0G, 0B, 0R
Magic: 0G, 0B, 0R
Holiness: 0G, 3B, 1R


When Grim makes an Attack, he rolls 3 Green dice and 1 Blue die; when he makes a Holiness check, it is with 3 Blue dice and 1 red one. All dice in Tomb are 10-sided, and the color of a die indicates its chance to roll a success: Green dice have only a 30% success rate, Blue dice have a 50% success rate, and Red dice have a 70% success rate. Grim has a fairly puny Attack, which is the domain of the Fighter class; his Skill (the primary stat of the Rogue class) and Magic (important to the Wizard class) are both nonexistent, and his Holiness (as one might expect from a Cleric) isn't too shabby. Each die face is either blank or decorated with an axe; axes indicate success.

Grim also grants each character in the Party an additional Blue die to all of their rolls for each Wound they have. This was an ability that I completely failed to remember during the game, which undoubtedly made things a bit more difficult for Ichaerus, The Iron Duke (a Fighter), Ricart Darpor (a Rogue) and Sir Aleron D'Ilchant (another Fighter). These five characters comprised my party for much of the game, but I managed to stumble on a bit of luck early on and my party was pretty stable. The three gentlemen I was playing with weren't so fortunate, and as a result the four of us managed to get at least 16 recruited characters killed over the course of about two hours.

As long as a player has at least one character in his party (maximum party size is five), he may enter the tomb and begin exploring crypts. When a party enters a crypt, a symbol in the entrance indicates which player becomes the Crypt Master. The Crypt Master picks up all of the cards in the crypt, announces whether there are any Traps to disarm, and controls any Monsters. In the event that the crypt contains only Treasure cards, they are immediately given to the player whose party entered the crypt.

Each Trap, Monster and Treasure card has an XP (experience point) value, occasionally zero; successfully disarmed Traps and defeated Monsters go into a players Bank, and Treasure looted from crypts can also be banked, though players have the option of equipping their characters with any Treasure they loot. Banked XP is (for the most part) safe; equipped Treasure, on the other hand, is lost (along with its XP) if the character to which it is attached is killed. Equipped Treasure may also be pickpocketed by Rogues from other parties, though the consequences of failing a pickpocket attempt is death if the Rogue fails the attempt the targeted party has an opportunity to retaliate, which could result in the death of the pickpocketer [Edited based on feedback in comments].

During his turn, the actions available to a player depend on where his party is currently located. In the Inn, players may recruit additional characters to the party or draw two Inn cards. There are four types of Inn cards: Items, Spells, Prayers and Tactics. To be eligible to draw Spell or Prayer cards, at least one character in the party must have dice in Magic or Holiness, respectively. (Additionally, a player must discard all of his Spell cards if his last character with dice in Magic dies. Ditto for Prayer cards and Holiness.) There is no hand limit, but Inn cards have no XP value, so eventually the party will have to venture out of the Inn. In the Tomb, a party may move, pickpocket, or enter a crypt (normally, a party may not move and enter a crypt in the same turn).

Apart from the standard Inn and Tomb actions, it is also possible to cast Spells or Prayers or use Tactics, provided the card allows it. One card, for example, allowed me to immediately return to the Inn and recruit two new characters; assuming I was in the Tomb, this would normally take three turns: one turn to return to the Inn (which can be accomplished in a single turn, regardless of distance), a second turn to recruit the first character and a third turn to recruit the second character.

While some Spells, Prayers and Tactics are used in place of a normal turn, others can be used to react to something another player has just done. These cards can be played outside of a player's turn, but do not otherwise affect the turn order. In one case, after an opponent's Rogue had failed to pickpocket my Rogue (and, thus, was killed), I used a React to immediately recruit him into my party.

When the final crypt has been opened and all Crypt cards have been removed from the Tomb, the game is over and the player with the most XP wins.

Despite a very lucky start, the ability to move around the Tomb more than twice as fast as most of the other players and some sneaky tactics that made it difficult for any party but my own to enter the final crypt, I still managed to fumble and lose the game by 10 points. My downfall was brought about by two things: first, a monster that forced every character in my party to make a Skill, Magic or Holiness check before battle began; a failed roll meant death, and four of my five characters either failed the check or were killed in the ensuing battle. The second component in my defeat was a decision to retrieve two monsters from my XP Bank to fight for me in the final battle. The monsters were worth a total of 13 XP and both were killed in the course of battle. That thirteen point loss more than accounted for my ten point deficit at the end of the game.

Had my convention budget been larger by about fifty dollars, I would have done what one of the other players at the table did: run immediately to the dealer room and purchase a copy of Tomb. The game was a lot of fun and, despite a minor rules snafu (there were some questions about how and when Spells and Prayers attach to characters in the party), ran very smoothly. I'd play it again in a heartbeat, and I'm very curious about The Tomb of the Overseers side of the board as well as the campaign play.
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Adam Adamson
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Nice review, but I do want to point out onw mistake:

KJToo wrote:
Equipped Treasure may also be pickpocketed by Rogues from other parties, though the consequences of failing a pickpocket attempt is death.


Death is not automatic from a failed pickpocket. Per the rules, if you fail, the opposing character may attempt to catch you. "Any Character trying to catch a Pick pocketing Rogue is allowed one Attack at the Rogue before he/she gets away, following the standard rules for attacking. The Rogue suffers Wounds from this Attack, like any other, before returning to his/her Party. If the Rogue is killed, any attached Items are given to the attacking Character."
 
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Chris
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I wonder how many people you played with and if you played with a full board or like at Gencon they only used half of the board for demo games. The game has an insane amount of downtime with more then 3 players. 3 may even be too many but 2 is insufficient as you know what half the cards are in the crypts. The game has it's faults but yes it can be fun at times. I am just glad I was not the one in my group to have bought it though.

Also the game can easily break itself in a two player basic game. Not really "Broken" but it tends to not be as much fun with certain combinations of characters. I don't think everything was thought out. But all in all it is a OK boardgame for a first time venture.
 
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Kris Johnson
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Valharik wrote:
[...]Per the rules, if you fail, the opposing character may attempt to catch you. "Any Character trying to catch a Pick pocketing Rogue is allowed one Attack at the Rogue before he/she gets away, following the standard rules for attacking. The Rogue suffers Wounds from this Attack, like any other, before returning to his/her Party. If the Rogue is killed, any attached Items are given to the attacking Character."


I never actually looked at the rules booklet while we were playing, so I was just going by what I was told. If I recall correctly (and I may not), my Rogue was able to defend the pickpocket attempt, though whether with his Attack or Skill I can't be certain. The outcome was a dead Rogue, who I then immediately recruited into my party.
 
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Kris Johnson
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lordunborn wrote:
I wonder how many people you played with and if you played with a full board or like at Gencon they only used half of the board for demo games. The game has an insane amount of downtime with more then 3 players. 3 may even be too many but 2 is insufficient as you know what half the cards are in the crypts. The game has it's faults but yes it can be fun at times. I am just glad I was not the one in my group to have bought it though.

Also the game can easily break itself in a two player basic game. Not really "Broken" but it tends to not be as much fun with certain combinations of characters. I don't think everything was thought out. But all in all it is a OK boardgame for a first time venture.


We played a four-player game, and it seemed to work well. The left/right CryptMaster mechanic of crypt raiding kept us busy as a general rule and we were all pretty interested in what was going on with the other parties even if we weren't directly involved in the fracas. I can understand how the downtime might detract from the game, but at least at the convention it was not an issue. I don't see that it would be much of a problem at my own gaming table, either, as we're used to games like Arkham Horror, Marvel Heroes, Wealth of Nations and Shadows Over Camelot where there is similar opportunity for down time.
 
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Chris
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Yeah the crypt entrance arrow means that on the player to your left or right you MAY be involved. but the turns are rather long and you just really sit and wait. there is NO way you would want to play this with 6 players. Also I recommend never playing the basic side again. it was fine for one game but flip over the board and play the full game.
 
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Chemist .
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I wish your review would have a lot more commentary, pros, cons, etc. than just being a short list restating the rules and mechanics.
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Kris Johnson
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SDSUChemTA wrote:
I wish your review would have a lot more commentary, pros, cons, etc. than just being a short list restating the rules and mechanics.


Pros

o The board, cards and tokens are very nice. Nothing felt flimsy or cheap. I didn't get a chance to look at the rule book, so I can't comment on that.

o The basic concept is simple enough that we were up and running within 10 minutes or so of sitting down at the table. Compare with something like Arkham Horror (a game I love) that takes half an hour of prep before the first turn.

o There's a lot of variety in the characters, at least from the perspective of a first time player. This led to a little bit of delay when some people were considering who to recruit at the Inn, but overall I felt it made the game interesting.

o The game practically begs for an expansion. The Tomb board is separate from the Inn board, so it would be simple to expand with a new board (two sides = two new Tombs) and additional Inn cards. I think there are only about 25 of each Inn card and we cycled through two or three of the decks, so adding even more variety would be good. We didn't even come close to using all the characters, but there's no reason an expansion couldn't include new characters, too.

o I really like the implementation of the genre. The setting, characters, items, etc. all felt familiar (in a good way). It seemed like it would be a very good "between campaigns" game for fantasy roleplayers who wanted to blow off some steam. (In this respect, it is similar to WEGS, which I played at the same convention.

Cons

o The rules were a bit vague about the whole issue of attaching Spells to characters. We saw at least one card (a Tactic, I believe) that affected Spells attached to characters, but it wasn't until we were nearing the end of the game that someone found language in the rules indicating when Spells should be attached.

o The party tokens are too similar in color. More than once during the game a player moved the wrong party token because he confused it with his own.

o The MSRP of $60 is a little steep. At least one vendor at the convention was selling it for $50, which was good for an impulse by at a convention, but I'd have a hard time justifying more than $40 after the heat of the moment had passed.

Could Go Either Way

o It's difficult to judge the overall game balance from a single session, but thanks to a lucky draw when I recruited my second character it certainly looked like I was going to run away with the game. Then I ran into an encounter that killed 80% of my party and my domination came to a screeching halt (I blame lack of foresight—and magic—on my part). I lost the game by 10 points (53 to 63), but the guys who came in third and fourth place only had about 22 points each. Whether that speaks to balance issues, bad luck or strategic errors is unclear.
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David Winter
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Someone gave me 88gg for a rules translation and all I got was this lousy overtext
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KJToo wrote:

o I really like the implementation of the genre. The setting, characters, items, etc. all felt familiar (in a good way). It seemed like it would be a very good "between campaigns" game for fantasy roleplayers who wanted to blow off some steam.


I find this is one of the things thats good about tomb, as I do a lot of gaming with a group that are primarily RPG'ers that will boardgame when pushed, Tomb just appeals to them so I don't need to push too hard.
 
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Gary Bradley
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A few nitpicks for completeness:

Quote:
To be eligible to draw Spell or Prayer cards, at least one character in the party must have dice in Magic or Holiness, respectively.


Not true. You can draw these cards freely, however you cannot PLAY them unless you have characters with the appropriate dice.


Quote:
(Additionally, a player must discard all of his Spell cards if his last character with dice in Magic dies. Ditto for Prayer cards and Holiness.)


The rules do not say that anywhere, implying you simply keep the cards in hand but cannot play them as noted above.

And as others noted, rogues failing to pickpocket are only very rarely killed as a consequence.
 
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Kris Johnson
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GaryB wrote:
A few nitpicks for completeness:

Quote:
To be eligible to draw Spell or Prayer cards, at least one character in the party must have dice in Magic or Holiness, respectively.


Not true. You can draw these cards freely, however you cannot PLAY them unless you have characters with the appropriate dice.


Quote:
(Additionally, a player must discard all of his Spell cards if his last character with dice in Magic dies. Ditto for Prayer cards and Holiness.)


The rules do not say that anywhere, implying you simply keep the cards in hand but cannot play them as noted above.

And as others noted, rogues failing to pickpocket are only very rarely killed as a consequence.


Your nitpicks may be entirely accurate but as I mentioned I never saw the rulebook. The points you mention may have been house rules (though they were not presented as such), misinterpretations of the rules or perhaps a symptom of the misunderstanding surrounding how and when to attach Spell and Prayer cards. I suspect the latter, as it seems logical that cards attached to a spellcaster would be discarded when he or she died.
 
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Chemist .
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KJToo wrote:
GaryB wrote:
A few nitpicks for completeness:

Quote:
To be eligible to draw Spell or Prayer cards, at least one character in the party must have dice in Magic or Holiness, respectively.


Not true. You can draw these cards freely, however you cannot PLAY them unless you have characters with the appropriate dice.


Quote:
(Additionally, a player must discard all of his Spell cards if his last character with dice in Magic dies. Ditto for Prayer cards and Holiness.)


The rules do not say that anywhere, implying you simply keep the cards in hand but cannot play them as noted above.

And as others noted, rogues failing to pickpocket are only very rarely killed as a consequence.


Your nitpicks may be entirely accurate but as I mentioned I never saw the rulebook. The points you mention may have been house rules (though they were not presented as such), misinterpretations of the rules or perhaps a symptom of the misunderstanding surrounding how and when to attach Spell and Prayer cards. I suspect the latter, as it seems logical that cards attached to a spellcaster would be discarded when he or she died.


Get it straight. Spell cards in hand are different than spells attached to casters.
 
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Kris Johnson
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SDSUChemTA wrote:
Get it straight. Spell cards in hand are different than spells attached to casters.


Did I not just acknowledge that 1) I had not personally looked at the rules and 2) the most likely explanation of the issue with this particular session was a misunderstanding of those rules as they applied to attached vs. unattached cards?

When I play the game again I will ensure that Spells are handled properly, but continuing to harp on a rules issue that I've already acknowledged isn't at all constructive.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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KJToo wrote:
When I play the game again I will ensure that Spells are handled properly, but continuing to harp on a rules issue that I've already acknowledged isn't at all constructive.


And just kind of hostile.
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Ken B.
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Geosphere wrote:
KJToo wrote:
When I play the game again I will ensure that Spells are handled properly, but continuing to harp on a rules issue that I've already acknowledged isn't at all constructive.


And just kind of hostile.



It's waaaay easier to keep rules straight when you own like 5 games.

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Gaston Gosselin
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KJToo wrote:

Cons

o The rules were a bit vague about the whole issue of attaching Spells to characters. We saw at least one card (a Tactic, I believe) that affected Spells attached to characters, but it wasn't until we were nearing the end of the game that someone found language in the rules indicating when Spells should be attached.


The rulebook is lacking in a couple of places. The spells was one, and the maximum number in the party was another. I was in a demo of his game as well at the Con, and the person running the demo didn't know that there was a maximum party size until he saw a card which specifically mentioned increasing it. I skimmed through the rulebook and found the language on the last page in the book, in a place you wouldn't expect to see it.

They need Ambrose Monk to revise this rulebook.
 
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R N
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I'm not sure what is unclear...

Spells are covered under "The Card Types", which seems logical (and has nice pictures so its hard to miss).

Attachment is covered under "Play a Card" which is one of the 9 basic actions you can take... like "Move" and "Recruit"

I'm guessing that the problem lies in the fact that the attachment rules are not referenced in the Battle Actions for Characters section. There also could have been some confusion due to similarities with the "Act" basic action...


Party limit is in the glossary (which is in the middle of the document!), this was a poor choice IMO.
 
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