This is my first review on Tomb. While I was writing this thread, I was seriously unsure whether I should post yet another review for a game that has already filled with so many well-written reviews. After some thoughts, finally I came to conclusion it is still good to share my feelings about how I discovered Tomb and how I look at it. I think it's still worth sharing my side of story.
Please be warned that this is a rather long review where I have also included a small part sort of a session report just for readers to understand better why I concluded about the game the way I did.
I have been writing reviews in BGG for about a year now, not too many, mainly on the games I own and those I seriously felt compelled enough to talk about after playing them. If readers are interested to know what I have posted so far, just feel free to follow this link: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/browse/boardgame/0?usern...
I am a hardcore fan of AD&D RPG, Talisman, Carcassonne, Cosmic Encounter, Mahjong, and recently Ticket to Ride: Europe and Small World. I usually buy only very selected type of games, mainly for my own group board game session, playing board games once a week at my house. I'm also a miniatures collector, specifically D&D minis, that's why most of my reviews are focused on this special genre. I started playing board games since I was very young, most probably before I was 10 years old (can't remember exactly when).
How I Bought Tomb
I came to know Tomb from my FLGS where they have a last copy on the shelve and I was just checking it out on BGG one or two months ago. After test played it at one of the games cafe which happens to have a copy, I finally decided to buy it as I feel that it is worthy after several plays.
The Painful Discovery
I test played Tomb with my buddy at a games cafe about three times, and that made up my decision. As the thread title suggested, there must be pain somewhere, and it started with the dice. The color between blue and green dice was almost impossible to tell under the yellow light (which is the condition in the cafe). My buddy kept complaining about it because he can't see which dice to roll. Every turn when he rolled a dice, it was a painful experience to us (to my buddy because he had to search through the dice, and for me because I had to keep listening to his complaints). But fortunately, the Tomb that I bought may have been improved after player's complaints, and the dice color has been slightly changed with better contrast between the blue and green dice. *Pheeww*
Then the second pain came with the rules as we play along. We had loads of arguments and debate especially on the react, turn and battle rounds definitions. We got so confused during our first session that we ended up not finishing the game and went home with lots of question marks in our head. That's where I received my third jolt of pain, where I was trying to resolve all the rules problems by reading most of the threads posted and I was so wrong for doing that!! All the arguments and different opinions almost cause me to have fits!! It has gotten worse when those posts were obsolete in nature and some newer rules and development have superseded them..and u can just imagine the madness that I was getting myself into for playing Tomb..
We decided to play second test play at the cafe again and this is where I received the first shock (and pain) of playing the game. My entire party of 5 characters, well equipped with items and spells, got completely wiped out during the first crypt that I entered, which consist of only one Tomb card (Trap!)! My entire party was killed by a trap called Word of Peril, where the TN (it was 7 that time, 2 + number of characters) gets higher from the number of characters in a party. So we restarted the game because we conceded no point in continuing since I need perhaps 10 rounds to be on par with my buddy in terms of characters and items/spells (5 rounds to recruit characters and probably another 5 rounds to get items, spells etc). We didn't manage to finish the game this time again due to too many arguments and ambiguity in rules and things about characters and monsters etc... We went home with a slightly disgusted feeling as this time we had very strong arguments on certain rules, and my buddy has very low tolerance for game rules ambiguity. The bad feeling after the test play is another pain to me because me and my buddy are childhood friends that have been playing all kinds of games together for the past 20 years..
So I began posting some questions in the game's forum to seek opinions and rules clarification and that's where I met Mike (mjacobsca) who was so willing to help and clarified some of the rules and made the game so playable now, zillion thanks to him.. With the rules cleared, we had a third test play session, in which by this time, I have already bought Tomb and ordered the expansion Tomb: Cryptmaster. This time we played with our third gamer and made it a 3-player session. It was such a blast!! Mid way through, my buddy was leading when suddenly he faced 2 traps in one of the crypt, he failed the test on the first trap and he was denied from using a treasure card that grants his character +3 blue dice in any roll. Then he failed the second trap called Disintegration, and as a result, his entire party got wiped out!! We were so excited and my house almost erupted with joy as this throws the game wide open since my buddy had to rebuild his party and that slows him down 5-8 turns in progress. The game went on with the third gamer winning by a fraction, a mere 3 points..
My Tomb Review
We have played 4 games by now and Tomb turns out to be our group's current most preferred game! Below are what I think could be its strengths:
Excellent Theme of RPG with strong dungeon raiding element, with every player controlling a party of characters, something unique to me, instead of the every player control just one character.
Great Re-playability with so many different combos and effects, with 80+ characters, tons of Tombs cards, spells, prayers, items, etc..
Fantastic board game Bits (except the dice), top quality boards and character cards.
Superb Player Interaction where players always get to do something to other players and this make it so fun to play..
Minimum Downtime. Players get to their turn fairly quickly and even during other player's turn, they may have something to do too, such as becoming the Cryptmaster or having some cards or characters that allow special abilities to be carried out.
Quick Setup time. It can be setup and play in less than 10 minutes, really nice in this aspect.
Unique Design on the board, character cards and other cards (spells, monsters, tactics, etc). I don't want to compare it with Talisman, but it doesn't lose out too much.
Generous in Character choices, my personal favorite. 80+ characters, and I have not even added in the expansion, that would be great! I love varieties especially in characters, so this is definitely a big plus point.
Interesting Game System and it certainly have introduced a refreshing feeling since I have been playing many other types of RPG board games. Battle system is simple (only after I have sorted out all the ambiguity issues) and fun to play with. It has also done away with the gold system, where players have more problems and decisions to make in spending gold coins for resources. This has been simplified and I think it is a strong point, and players may now focus on simple party buiding and dungeon raiding!
Very good Surprise element is build into the game, where players will be surprised in the most unexpected manner. This keeps the game refreshing and injected a bit of tension during game play.
Good Balance between strategic planning and randomness in card draws and dice rolling, making it always challenging and exciting to play with.
Then, of course, there must be some weaknesses in this game that caused so much pain. They are listed as follow:
Poor production of Dice in the earlier version. However, it was slightly improved later on.
Poorly written Rules that easily push away many potential gamers who love this genre of board games. It is ultimately frustrating to play the game without having first sorted out all the rules issues.
Can be too Random for some gamers as the cards are somehow randomly drawn (for both Tomb cards and Inn cards), which is also in the case of characters. However, it has a better control of strategy compare to Talisman since it is not entirely randomnized.
Very strong PVP element where players can easily have tons of ways to screw up other players, even to the point of stealing items, killing off a character and may even potentially cause the other party to get completely wipe out. So players need to be careful with this element as some gamers simply can't tolerate such game system or playing style.
It is a reasonably Complex game, where players are required to understand, remember and know exactly when to use which item, spell or tactic, in order to enjoy playing this game. A considerably difficult game to play especially for newbies, IMHO. Just imagine a player needs to remember all 5 characters' abilities (assume the player wants to play it safe and started raiding the crypt only when fully loaded), plus items, spells, prayers, tactics, and treasures. Understand and knowing when to do certain actions such as react, turn and battle rounds actions all requires good planning and a sharp mind to play it effectively. Seasoned RPGers like us too, find it tough in the initial stage to remember all the abilities and when to do what. So, be warned.
25 Inn Cards for each type: spells, prayers, tactics and items is simply not enough. After just 2-3 games we can easily see many cards re-appearing. That's the reason why the expansion is crucial to make this game much better. Very fortunately, the drawback of having small number of Inn cards is covered by the high number of monster cards, treasure cards and characters, and this eventually made the game still feel refreshing to play with after many plays.
Slightly long Playing Time. 2 players game took us close to 2 hours to finish, and 3 players game about 3 hours. Some gamers like to play shorter games, so this can be a problem to some gamers if they prefer a quick game.
Changes I Made in Playing Tomb
Though every gamer may have different preference in playing board games, but I have personally adopted certain rules to suit our taste and it has worked out pretty well so far. It may not be perfect for everyone but it certainly made the game much more playable and fun. Below are just some of the ways I have changed or house ruled for better enjoyment of Tomb:
I used the house rule of 10 card (mixture of spells, prayers, tactics, items and treasures cards) maximum in hand for each party. This eliminate excessive analysis paralysis that causes downtime and the problem of cycling cards.
Clarify all the definitions on reacts, turns, battle rounds, timing conflict, different names that are actually referring to same things, etc..
Clarify all the Inn cards effects as on how it interact with other cards or characters. And all Inn cards except items can only be used once per entire combat.
Every player must and should always have a maximum of 5 characters at any point of time, except one of the character's special ability to allow it as the sixth character.
Players can't draw any Inn cards in the Inn when they have a hand full of 10 cards, unless it is triggered by some card's effect, monsters abilities or character's abilities.
My Feelings About Tomb Now
Yes, the learning process was painful in the initital stage and I have even considered giving up on it. It was such a difficult game to grasp the rules and it was even more painful to get confused along the way and the hair-pulling experience was less than desirable. If given a choice, I do not wish to go through it again.
Despite the very negative review so far, Tomb is a surprisingly "painfully-addictive" sensational board game to hardcore RPGers like me!! And to be honest, I am so glad and absolutely pleased in the end, that I didn't give up on Tomb and still gave it a final shot, by playing it another few more times before I conclude on its potential. No regret whatsoever...
Tomb, IMHO, is indeed a highly playable game! For hardcore RPGer like me, it was a new gem uncovered by chance. As long as the rules ambiguity are resolved, there are loads of fun and excitement in playing the game, to be enjoyed and to be experienced!
It has all the crucial elements I personally look for when buying a board game: high replayability; highly interactive among players; little downtime; strong RPG theme; good variety; and the surprise factors in every game play. It is a simple game that is packed with so much quality and value that's probably marred by some issues that are completely avoidable if the manufacturer had put in more thoughts before launching it. The amazing twists in the process of discovering this game is simply unbelievable and it's worth it after all.
Nevertheless, Tomb is currently our group's top choice in board game sessions and until a new game takes over, I don't see how it will deliver any more pain to me rather than enjoyment and fun! I wish to take this opportunity to thank AEG and the designer John Zinser for creating such a wonderful game and they should be credited and appreciated.
With the new Cryptmaster expansion arriving soon, I just can't wait to play more Tomb to experience more "PAIN"! (though definitely not from having arguments in rules, but from having my entire party being wiped out during game play, oouuchh...!)
- Last edited Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:47 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:32 pm
Great review. You kept me guessing all the way throughout whether you would end up liking the game. Well, I guessed wrong. You persevered, and you were rewarded. I like Tomb too, but it has so many ambiguities that could have been cleared up with a better rulebook. I actually think that the rules are just fine and very playable, but just poorly described in the rulebook. Many of the negative reviews of the game are well-deserved just because of the rulebook. But I don't play rulebooks. I play games, and I'm willing to make up for a bad rulebook with my own rules or supplements from BGG (heck, I'm one of the few who loves Fields Of Fire).
I agree with most all of your review (certainly the important parts). I look at Tomb as a fun game, but one you can't take too seriously because you can and will die horrible party-wide catastrophes. The threat of traps like "Word Of Peril" adds tension to the game as you decide when and how much to bank of your found treasure.
I think this game has to be played with active Rogues to be most fun; if a party gets too powerful, somebody has to steal stuff from them or take them down from afar.
I think the game needed to implement more PvP rules. It just seems natural that a bunch of big, strong men, armed to the teeth with weapons, would want to fight in the hallway as they pass each other. There needs to be more PvP combat to elevate the game. I really like the Spells that target other parties, so hopefully the expansions bring more of this.
I also agree that while the game has an excellent amount of Monster, Treasure, and Trap content, it went the opposite way with the Items, Spells, Tactics, and Prayers. They get old and repetitive fast. It's one of the only reasons I'm interested in the expansions; not because I need more monsters, but because I want more stuff in the inn.
Overall, you can't take Tomb too seriously. It is what it is. It is entertaining, if you can get passed any rules issues, and it plays much faster than a session of D&D. It's not as much fun if you have a power-gamer or a min-maxer who just wants to sit in the Inn and draw cards forever. It's at its best when parties go in blazing, and get their butt kicked. I think the game is better than many of the negative reviews give it credit for, but then again, AEG wrote the rulebook that put so many people off, so they have to pay the price for it. I don't think the rulebook was horrible, but others did, so that's that.
Great review Jin! Glad I could help you enjoy the game! Check out the FAQ I wrote on the BGG Wiki too.
- Last edited Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:52 pm (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:21 pm
Always bring your towel.
Definitely glad you enjoy the game so much. My wife and I bought it and we love it as well. The only thing that put us off initially was the fact that the game IS a meat-grinder. You WILL lose your party at least once in all likelihood. But once we realized the game is designed to destroy you, it became that much more fun Only thing I didn't completely agree with in your review was the apparent difficulty in understanding different parts of the rules. I had always considered them very straightforward, but then, I have been playing AEG games for years, so I may just be accustomed to their rules-writing in general.
Thanks a lot Mike, u have helped me on Tomb and i really appreciate it. Or else, i would have one less game to enjoy playing... Thanks for sharing too...and i agree with your views.
Definitely glad you enjoy the game so much. My wife and I bought it and we love it as well. The only thing that put us off initially was the fact that the game IS a meat-grinder. You WILL lose your party at least once in all likelihood. But once we realized the game is designed to destroy you, it became that much more fun
Thanks for sharing and glad u and your wife like it too. And so true, as soon as we understand that somehow and some time during game play, the game will kill the party, either through traps, or monsters, or from cards and PVP. But after we realize this fact, everything is fun, and characters in the parties are meant to die somehow, just to get the XP needed to win the game.
Only thing I didn't completely agree with in your review was the apparent difficulty in understanding different parts of the rules. I had always considered them very straightforward, but then, I have been playing AEG games for years, so I may just be accustomed to their rules-writing in general.
I'm not sure why, but the original rules and revised rules somehow made me more confused than ever. Perhaps i'm so used to the way rules are written and presented in FFG's games, and i got mixed up along the way. I have also not played any of AEG's game, especially the Legend of Five Rings cards game, therefore, perhaps i couldn't understand the rules completely under this format.
- Last edited Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:49 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:48 am
mjacobsca is the man! His solo variant, "Battle Variant" is the whole reason I purchased the game.
The game is really really awesome!!! It's true the rulebook sucks, but soon you get into the flow of the game and I think it is generally pretty obvious how to deal with the cards.
I think AEG should put his Battle Variant in the official rule-books, or make a nice clean copy with their own suggestions and post it on the official website as a .pdf.
Great review! It's always good to stick with a game and give alternate rules or forums a try before tossing a game to the curb.
Btw, my party got decimated yesterday as well! Good times!
Thanks a lot...glad u had an enjoyable game too...and yes, mike is really a helpful guy...
As far as the less-than-great rulebook: Once you already know the rules, what's the point of complaining about it?
Cryptmaster has been out for a long time now. I got it, and added all of the characters and cards together! No game ever plays the same!