Clint Walker
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I'm actually a bit surprised that more hasn't been said about this game, especially since the whole Hunger Games phenomenon has exploded over the last couple of years. Maybe it's possible that more don't know about, which is possible since I haven't actually seen the blasted thing on a shelf anywhere. Keep in mind though that I buy almost all my games online, after my last experience at a "gamining store" was so negative I vowed never to return to one again, following an incident involving some horrendous blobs of sweat-stained, squinty-eyed attitude and their snotty reaction to a simple question involving Settlers of Catan.

I only found the game just as a matter of luck, after impulse led me to type the words "Hunger Games Board Game" into amazon, and much to my surprise, up popped Training Days. I figured I had to act now because it would just fly off the shelves. And yet again, it's radio silence out in the gaming universe on this one, perhaps due to a few negative reviews floating around.

This is fair, as the game does have a few problmes. Yet, the part of me that's always seeking out intresting games that are based off of screwy and unexpected books/tv shows/movies, I feel like I should take a moment to sing the prases of what I belive is a nifty little tie-in to the Hunger Games experience.

Concept of the Books:

It's amazed me a bit as to how much of what The Hunger Games is has been kept under wraps, even with the movie approaching. It's a trilogy of young adult books dealing with young Katniss Everdeen's experiences in and around something called "The Hunger Games."

Set in a dystopian future where Americia is now known as someplace called "Panem," citizens in an opulent Captial live the high life. They can afford to because virtually all their goods are taken care off, shipped in from the hard work going on in 12 "districts" scattered all over the country. These districts are kept dirt-poor, and under the watchful eye of the Captial's "Peacekeepers", as they exist only to produce the raw materials the Capital needs to kick their heels up.

These districts once staged a rebellion against the Captial, but unlike something like, say, Star Wars, this particular rebellion failed, and as punishment for ever daring to do such a thing again, the Capital forces the districts to take part in a yearly event known as The Hunger Games, whereupon two teenagers (dubbed "Tributes") are randomly selected from each district. They are all shipped to the Capitol and forced to enter an enclosed battle arena where, using randomized weapons, they must kill to survive. The last kid left wins.

This game is not about the Hunger Games.

See, because a board game, from a company called "WizKids," built around kids killing each other might be a distasteful idea, Traning Days is actually set in the days leading up to the Games themselves, when the various tributes are sent to a training facility, and their various talents are tested and guaged so that the people running the games can figure out what weapons to throw in, or which tributes will gain the eye of outside sponsors.

Objective:

Have the tribute with the highest approval rating at the end of three days.

How is this done:

Each turn players "participate" in various events dealt to the table by putting forth "effort" (bidding) using tokens with hidden amounts. Once they're all revealed, additional factors are added in (abilities, earned special powers, a die roll) to determine who actually won the event.

Game Play:

1. The player who goes first each turn turns up a number of event cards to the table, the number of which is equal to the number of people playing.

2. Starting with the first player, players place one "effort token" (of their three) face down on any event.

3. Going clockwise around the table, each player does the same.

4. This process continues going around and around until all players have placed all three of their effort tokens.

5. Starting with the first event revealed, all players reveal how much "effort" they put into said event. Players then add in the appropriate requred skill attribute from their particular Tribute, plus special abilities, plus one roll of a six sided die, and whoever has the higest amount wins the event, the approval points its worth, and any rewards it may come with.

The endgame may sneak up on you.

This is an element of the game that some have complained about. I think it's one of the game elements that gives it some bite. See, the game ends after a number of "days." Mixed in with the event deck are three "End of Days" cards. If ever one of these cards turns up during the start of a turn, that signals the end of one day. These cards are also worth approval points just like everything else, and whoever wins that event itself gets to go first on the start of the next day.

So when you consider that after each "day," all cards in the discard pile are reshuffled back into the deck, that means that all three End of Day cards are always ready to pop up, and as such, this game COULD be over very quickly (theoretically in three turns).

Some have complained about this, which is unfair to a degree. Not every board game we play has to be some fifty dollar table swarming monster where by the two hour mark every girl sitting at the table has her head on her hands and secretly wondering if she can bail out early. Training Days, what with it's surprise (and perhaps unintended) emphasis on table talk, this "surprise" endgame concept works because it forces the players to go full bore at all times on each and every event, because you don't know when the curtian's going to come down on you.

And geez, if the game ends too quickly for you, you can always set it up and play again. For crying out loud, there's almost no setup. you just pick a character and shuffle a deck of cards.

Each tribute is different.

Although none of the named characters from the books appear in the game, it's clear the designers spent a lot of time trying to make sure the various pairs of tributes match how they were in the books. Given that each district has it's own speciality in what it contributes to The Capitol, the tributes all have differing skills and abilities that show that.

For instance, District 1 is what would be considered a "favored nation." They're closest to the Capitol in terms of geography, and they've built their whole "industry" on grooming their teenagers to be masters at the Hunger Games if they're selected. Their kids are strong and fast and not to be screwed around with. This means that their strength and cunning stats are through the roof, while on the other hand their stats for Charm are really low since they aren't trained to be likeable.

Each tribute has an "expertise" and a special ability.

Each "regular" event has a related "expertise" that goes with it. If you are the tribute who has that matching skill, then you get a pretty big advantage in trying to win it, in that if your "6" value effort token is placed on it, you'll always win it outright.

Each tribute also has a static ability that works for the whole game, which, like the personalized stats, are also made to match the theme of the district they came from when possible.

You can get help.

You aren't totally alone on your quest to impress your Hunger Game overseers. Some events will net you not just points, but the right to gain an "ally." This is one of the more unique aspects to the game, one that sort of allows you to customize the experience. As you gain allies, you are allowed to select a random tribute from the pile of unused ones, and then attatch it to the right of the tribute you slected to play the game with. The "wings" on the sides of each tribute star card will link up to provide you with bonuses to your stats.

There are few rules regarding this. Your first ally, if gained, MUST be the other tribute from your district, and they're never allowed to be seperated for any reason. Plus, you always build the chain to your right, with "your" tribute sort of at the head of the line.

After that though, you're always allowed to "switch around" any allies beyond the first one, always when you're about to add a new one, to change up whatever the bonus might be.

Keep in mind that you don't ever gain any of the allies' expertieses or special abilities. you only get the "plus" bonuses you see in those big circles when you join the tribute cards together.

There are also "Special Events"

Special events are the big ones in the game, as not only are they worth the most, but whoever wins them gets to keep the card and they'll get a special ability that lasts the whole game.

These special event cards never make it to the discard pile (even if, in the unlikely event that no one bids on them, as they're taken out of play) which means that each special event only happens once per game. So act now while supplies last.

There's an "official" variant that actually helps.

Training Days is one of those "modifier" games where it's built around a simple process but can be somewhat overly complicated by lots of various modifier cards all over the place. Those used to CCG games, where such things are common, won't have a problem with it, but it can be easy to forgot things like "Oh yeah, I've got that special ability card that lets me add two to so-and-so."

One of the game's designers notafied me that if there is a reprint, it may include a rule change that helps this out; namely that each player can only have TWO earned special event cards in play. If you win a third, you must decide whether to keep it (thus discarding one of the two you already have) or take it out of play. It's a simple change, but a good one.

The order of the events as dealt is important.

This is one of my favorite aspects of the game. As mentioned, each turn events are dealt to the table in a way that you can keep track of their order. As these events are won, whatever bonuses they may get you kick in at that very moment, which means they can be used to help win other events that turn. Some players may notice this and may put more effort into the first couple events, while ignoring the ones further in the deal.

The parts are a bit...emmm...let's say wonky.

One slam against the game is that the parts are cheap. Yeah, I suppose. As mentioned, just about EVERY copy has tribute cards where the cardboard is warped. This doesn't affect gameplay, but it certianly doesn't look very good when they're on a table. Plus the event cards aren't made of the best quality either, but don't let that be overstated. I've played games with cheaper, and they won't fall apart or anything, especially since this is a game where you have limited physical contact with the cards (you don't ever have a hand of them you hold in your sweaty hands).

Perhaps somewhat more distressing is the non-uniformity of the pieces. Well, it's diestressing if you are a freak about such things like myself. If you look closely, the shaded patterns on the back of the tribute cards is slightly different, making it possible to determine if you are selecting a male or female tribute (not a huge deal..but still...) and I've noticed that one of the effort tokens (in my copy at least) has its printing offset far enough that an astute game player can always tell which one it is when it's placed on a card.

Taking this even further, I guess it would have been nice if the effort tokens had been pre-punched, as it's possible to end up tearing one or taking it off the runner with one of those little cardboard "tabs" on it, and then boom, once again, you've essentially "marked" that token. Again, it's not that big a deal, as long as you're careful when punching them out, but again...

Customer Service is paying attention.

I had a problem with copy, and after struggling to get help for a bit, was pleased to find out that a rep from WizKids contacted ME to help me with the damaged bit. It's a minor thing really, but it is nice to know that there are actual human beings behind these products that care that the people who buy them are happy.

This is a game you have to "talk out."

Another slam against the game is that there are a LOT of little modifiers and rules printed in VERY little writing all over the place, and because of that, it's a game where players often always need to doublecheck what's going on.

I'll give you that the writing on the event cards is VERY small and VERY hard to read (especially if you have the Santa Claus view). What that means though is this is a game where you just need to have a lot of open discussion (sometimes even negotiation if you're trying to gang up on a player) so everyone knows what's going on and what strategy they should use when they're competing.

Keep in mind that this is essentially a bidding game, and in any other game with any other theme where bidding against other players is involved, there would be a bit of table talk. That's why it doesn't bother me here. It's one of those games where players at the table have to do a bit of jawin,' very much like poker, with their fellow players about just how much they should bid and the risk involved in putting effort into something with no potential payout.

"Foxface" is not in the game.

Look it up, people. Or do yourself a favor and read the books. In the meanwhile, Training Days is fun little game that will fit the bill just fine until I get a game that lets me turn a bow and arrow on a horde of advancing tributes in the open field.
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Wolfram Troeder
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Boardgaming is not a matter of life or death...
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...it's much more important than that!
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Quote:
Not every board game we play has to be some fifty dollar table swarming monster where by the two hour mark every girl sitting at the table has her head on her hands and secretly wondering if she can bail out early.

was making my day.

Thumbs up and go for Gold

You are not alone out there. :-)
 
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Ethan Van Vorst
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I had never heard of the books before until only a few weeks ago some friends mentioned to me that I should read them as they'd be my cup of tea. And boy were they. Extremely addictive reading and ends on a surprisingly good note. That said this a Hunger Games board game would be a weird little animal, because as you said it is in effect about teens killing each other on live TV. There's stuff more offensive out there than this, of course, but that is the nature of things.

Also I think it's District 2 that has favored nation status with the Capitol, although District 1 is a close second. [/annoying nerd statement]

whistle
 
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Yib-Yab wrote:
This game is not about the Hunger Games.

See, because a board game, from a company called "WizKids," built around kids killing each other might be a distasteful idea, Traning Days is actually set in the days leading up to the Games themselves, when the various tributes are sent to a training facility, and their various talents are tested and guaged so that the people running the games can figure out what weapons to throw in, or which tributes will gain the eye of outside sponsors.

And this is where I lost interest. The game basically ends where the fun begins.
 
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Clint Walker
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You know, the funny thing about the game is (and I have no proof of this) I almost get the feeling like it was designed to be actually set during the Hunger Games themselves, and then some of the terms were changed to move it to the training.

Many, if not all, of the event cards describe things that occured once the game started, and trying to gain approval during the course of the game was important so that sponsors would drop bonus supplies in. Tributes would even form temporary alliances so they could survive the early to mid-stages of the game (just after the inital bloodbath where everyone rushes for the weapons).

The only thing that's not in the game that would make it really seem like it was trying to simulate the Games is some kind of elimination system where people get picked off.
 
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I was lucky enough to try this out when it was still in development. Two of the guys involved in making it came to he game store where I play and let us try it out. I bought a copy as soon as it was released. I do have to agree with the Dice Tower review of it when they say the components are really poorly made. I was also hoping for some expansions, but it seems to have been abandoned my the developers...
 
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Clint Walker
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I agree that componants are a bit wonky, but I don't know...I'm happy if i have a fun game to play all things considered.

I found the dice tower review of this game to be weirdly ticky-tack. I rarely agree with those reviews anyway.
 
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Andrew AtoZ
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Have you heard anything about any possible expansions for it?
 
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Clint Walker
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I asked the designer about it, and he said something along the lines of it being a possiblity.

If I had to guess, I'd think a slightly tweaked reprint might be more likely...one with better bits, the suggested special event rule change, and possibly even "named" tributes.
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Yeah.. I would agree.. A re release with those things, especially better components, and wreaking the girl tribute (from two, I think) would help build a bigger base to support an expansion.
 
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Lake Giles
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redsimon wrote:
Yib-Yab wrote:
This game is not about the Hunger Games.

See, because a board game, from a company called "WizKids," built around kids killing each other might be a distasteful idea, Traning Days is actually set in the days leading up to the Games themselves, when the various tributes are sent to a training facility, and their various talents are tested and guaged so that the people running the games can figure out what weapons to throw in, or which tributes will gain the eye of outside sponsors.

And this is where I lost interest. The game basically ends where the fun begins.


I agree- I am disappointed by that decision.
 
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Todd Woodward
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Excellent review! Hopefully the expansions will actually include the Hunger Games, possibly using approval status for receiving gifts during the games.

On the game store topic, please don't judge all FLGSs by this one experience. God knows I've had my share of bad experiences, but I just ignore those stores and shop at the good ones! I mostly buy online as well, but there's something about walking in a good store and holding the game before you buy that can't be described.
 
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Michael Taylor
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twood1972 wrote:
Excellent review! Hopefully the expansions will actually include the Hunger Games, possibly using approval status for receiving gifts during the games.


I tend to doubt they will - in fact many movie studios turned down the 'Hunger Games' movie because they just couldn't figure out how to make a movie about kids killing kids.

Since I don't expect that anyone ever will, I decided I'd have to do it myself here: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/vsgmr/.

For reasons that will become obvious, I'm probably going to post the rules after I'm finished to here: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1511/outdoor-survival

(You can already see the cards I'll create in the Links section).

I decided that I WOULD use the Attributes and Expertise from this game however, just for fun and to make every tribute able to win.

I was thinking about having some kind of 'carry-over' from this game to the actual 'arena', but I haven't quite figured out how to do it.

I'd love to hear any suggestions...
 
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