Recommend
59 
 Thumb up
 Hide
74 Posts
1 , 2 , 3  Next »   | 

Panic Station» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Reeeaaalllly? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Jason Farris
United States
Citrus Heights
California
flag msg tools
badge
There is a duck in every game. You may not see it, but it's there.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Panic Station is the latest in a long line of traitor games. I say this because the reality is that our little gaming hobby is exploding and almost every genre and type has a long line of games that came before and a seemingly long line on its way. In a world where there were few choices in games, I think this game would likely stand out. But this world gives you many exceptional options and is Panic Station really that special?

1: Wherein our intrepid heroes realize they are in a paranoia movie:

Here’s the premise. You are a group of humans with their friendly android counterparts who have to go on a bug hunt in a space station. And, you can get infected and become carriers for the bugs. Sound like Alien? Aliens? The Thing? It should and it is a great theme for a game of this type.

Everyone starts out human but after the first round or two, someone is guaranteed to be infected and become the evil bug host that will then try to infect others who will try to infect others who will… you get the picture. The humans win if they find the bug hive room on the station and flame it with three gas cans worth of fuel. The bugs win if there are only bugs left.

Each player starts with a character card for their human and their android. They get a number of actions per turn equivalent to how healthy both are, 4 actions at full health, down to 1 if one is eliminated and the other is at 1 health. Actions can be used to explore surroundings (draw a new room card and place it), move one space, shoot/attack something, search a room for items, or use the special ability of a room (such as healing, or accessing a computer for a host of other abilities. Pretty basic and easy to pick up.

Each player also starts the game with three infection cards in their color and 2 random cards or 1 random card and a gas can depending on how you are playing. The human also has a permanent flamethrower equipped and the robot has a permanent gun equipped. Other than infection cards, most item cards you get will be items that can be used in any action adventure game. Flak vests, gun upgrades, med kits, bullets, gas cans, heat scanners, and such. All item cards are drawn from a common deck and the "host" card is seeded randomly in the top several cards. On the first turn of the game, everyone must search a room for items, which guarantees that someone will become the host.
Whenever a player moves into a room with at least one other player, they must trade a card with one player in the room or attack one player. If you have no bullets or weapons (more on that later), you must trade. Guess who is the only one allowed to trade their infection cards? The Host of course. Once a player receives an infection card, they are infected unless... wait for it... the other player trades them a gas can. In that instance, the gas can player is not infected (but still has the other player’s infection card). So, in theory, if the host trades his three infection cards with three players and they all pass the host gas cans, its game over for the host unless the other players can be killed. Once infected, other players can then start passing their own infection cards around.

In addition to the infection angle, there are also large bug creatures that start popping out and picking people off. Certain rooms spawn them and searching a room the second time onward spawns them. They have 1 or 2 hit points and deal 1 or two pints to all player androids and humans in a room with them at the end of the round. They can also be spawned through item card draws. They are placed somewhat randomly and move somewhat randomly, so it’s never entirely safe around them unless you are at least two rooms away at the end of the round. They can be attacked/shot. They attack infected and non-infected alike.

The alien hive room is seeded randomly at the bottom of the room deck and so there is a push to explore to get it into play before the aliens overwhelm the humans. Once it’s out, it is a race to get one human, and 3 gas cans an into the hive room to spend an action vaporizing everything.

There are some other goodies along the way including locked doors that can only be opened via a key card you have to draw from the item deck (or via a computer terminal room you have to find in the room deck), heat scanning which reveals the number of infected versus non, and hallways you can run through without paying an action point.
Looking back at my description, the game appears solid and seems like some quick and tense fun. but looks can be deceiving.

2: Wherein our heroes realize that they are in a really bad monster movie on MST3K

But then there’s the silliness that continually rips you out of your suspension of disbelief. Theme vs. game play is an old chestnut on the geek. In most games I could care less what the theme is. It’s the game engrossing me not the pretty bits. In war games and traitor games, however, I think theme is very important. And this game has serious theme issues. In fact, the theme is so badly pasted onto this game that it makes you wonder if the designer tried to shoehorn their favorite theme onto the wrong set of mechanics. It appears to have worked for some as you will see this mantra all over the forums for Panic Station, "You just have to suspend your disbelief,: and "It’s a design choice to make the game more fun." To be honest, once someone tells me I just need to suspend my disbelief, it’s already too late. The act of consciously trying to suspend my disbelief means I’ve already been pulled out of the game. Let’s take a look at some of the many real problems with suspending your disbelief.

1. In the future, we will still use those beat up old red gas cans we’ve been using since the 50’s.

2. It will also require three full gas cans to operate one flamethrower. While it takes multiple actions to find or trade for these gas cans. Magically, you can hose the hive down in one turn.

3. In the future, Humans will have flamethrowers welded to their bodies that are impossible to remove, or else androids are too stupid to operate them.

4. Those same stupid androids will be deadly shots with their guns which cannot be given to a human. I bought this one as I could see an android having a gun arm... until I saw a gun upgrade card that was, you guessed it, a gun with trigger, stock and all.

5. Humans designed androids to catch the same diseases they do. Good job.

6. In the future, humans do not believe it is prudent to arm themselves before entering a hostile ship to destroy an alien menace. Yes, they have a flamethrower and their android has a gun, but nobody has ammunition. Because humans of the future know that it is better to waste more time scavenging around for ammunition and getting eating by aliens than to arrive prepared.

7. In the future, your android can be 5 rooms away, get "infected" and immediately infect you. This is some infection.

8. In the future, Humans will use gasoline as the ultimate prophylactic to stop alien diseases and to prevent unwanted pregnancy (okay I lied about the last part).

9. In the future aliens produce eggs, mindless bugs, and insidious mind control parasites. Yes, I’m sure there is an ecosystem that can explain it, but this is plain kludgy. If it was like Heinlein’s Puppetmasters, I would have bought it. Then they could have at least justified having no ammo. "We have to go in naked guys."

10. In the future, humans can have flak vests that would save their lives, but can’t wear them to stop a bullet until they get more stuff first. Yes, you can die with implements that ordinarily would save you stuck in your hand because you can never have less than 5 cards (part of that whole infection mechanic).

Okay, that was entirely unnecessary, but I really enjoyed writing it because the game feels that ridiculous when I play it. You could tear Agricola apart the same way and make fun of how my farmer’s children grow up to adulthood in less than one year. The difference here is that Agricola has little dependence on theme. It would still be a compelling game if you themed it as Junkyard Wars. Panic Station requires a theme to be a decent traitor game. Unfortunately, this one is absurd. Just think if this had been a given a cyber/hacking theme. 1 minor science fiction twist and the whole game would make more sense.

3: Wherein the MST3K reference breaks down

This brings me to the final nail in the Panic Station coffin. It’s not like the market has no traitor games and has no good traitor games. Sure it’s worth getting Panic Station if you feel like you just need one more game with a traitor mechanic or if the need for novelty is intense you must have newness. But really, shouldn’t we hold designers to a higher standard? The market will say no, as the knockoff games in the video game industry reflect. The knockoff will sell too.

I have tremendous respect for Stronghold Games, and the designer appears to be a very responsible and highly respected member of the geek. However, I have to live by my standards to and I cannot let this slide. I may be a curmudgeon but I’m my own curmudgeon. I think many people will still like Panic Station, but if you are like me and you need to have some shred of belief in the plot, to stop from outright laughing, then this is not the game for you. A few holes are fine but when I can drive a truck and the zombie horde following it through the holes, then I call it a day.
86 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Boyd
United States
Abilene
Texas
flag msg tools
I Play With Toy Soldiers.
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
AMEN!

We tried this and we were in disbelief of these same issues.

Thank you for posting this.
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Dolan
United States
Highland Lakes
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
But it all works and is a hoot to play.
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Erin Sparks
United States
Garden City
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I feel this way about Goldland (you can only kill a mountain lion with a shovel, etc.) and I was mocked. Solidarity, brother.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Farris
United States
Citrus Heights
California
flag msg tools
badge
There is a duck in every game. You may not see it, but it's there.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Phlegm wrote:
But it all works and is a hoot to play.


Yes and no. The mechanics sort of work. We had one game effectively end due to player error. This is one thing I forgot to add in my review. Everything is on your honor and there is a lot of information. I don't think anyone would deliberately cheat, but it is almost too easy to make a game breaking mistake. Putting the wrong cards on the scanner spaces or giving out someone else's infection card by mistake can ruin the game.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bradley Martin
Canada
north bay
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
for me that doesn't really feel like an issue, sure new people make mistakes, but there are plenty of games that get messed up by player errors, some it's writing, others it's not understanding the correct gameplay mechanics. A properly done explanation of the game should circumvent these issues
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Ausloos
Belgium
Ranst
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Smilinbrax wrote:
Phlegm wrote:
But it all works and is a hoot to play.

Yes and no. The mechanics sort of work. We had one game effectively end due to player error. This is one thing I forgot to add in my review. Everything is on your honor and there is a lot of information. I don't think anyone would deliberately cheat, but it is almost too easy to make a game breaking mistake. Putting the wrong cards on the scanner spaces or giving out someone else's infection card by mistake can ruin the game.


Jason, with all due respect, but that is not a problem of the system but of the players. All hidden information games are easy to misplay.
In any case, sorry to read the game didn't work for you.
You are sure missing out on some tense sessions.
thanks for the review.
22 
 Thumb up
0.10
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Smith
United States
Troy
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yes, the last time I taught this game, it was to a group of very experienced gamers. I struggled with how to explain the "you have a gun but no ammo" issue, and the "humans can't use guns" issue, and the "you can't use your items unless you have at least 6 cards" issue. After they laughed and smirked at these thematic incongruities, we played the game and had a really good time.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
S G
United States
Essex Junction
Vermont
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
But then there’s the silliness that continually rips you out of your suspension of disbelief.


I think what's really missing is that Panic Station requires a modest suspension of belief in order to enjoy the wonderful meta-game that is on offer here. Like a good novel, good games often have their own innate physics...heck, classic cartoons work because they were such effective caricatures of everyday physics. If any one of us had been in on the development of this game, we might have tried to make it thematically more accessible, more consistent, but I have no problem accepting the game as it is in order to enjoy it.

I suppose the real complaint might be that there's a failure of imagination here, but given the difficulty of coming up with a game that's fun to play and plays quickly, I'll give them big-time props for not using trading in the Mediterranean or another game in the utterly exhausted fantasy genre.

Still, I won't look at the game quite the same way after reading your list; it is a pretty long list so I can see why at some point one just can't see past those things. But I will continue to enjoy it.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Det var bara en hake...
Sweden
flag msg tools
Help, I'm being held prisoner in an overtext typing facility! I don't have much time, they could find out at any m
badge
I'm that weirdo whose number of badges sold prior to yesterday Bail Organa is keeping track of
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
That "putting the objective at the bottom of the deck" mechanic that's also in Lost Patrol always seemed a bit counterthematic to me. Thematically, you're exploring the place, trying to find the right location. Mechanically, you're just spamming rooms knowing the right one won't show up until time X at the earliest.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nite Wolf
Sweden
Göteborg
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I personally haven't played the game (yet), but while I consider some of the issues mentioned by the OP to be minor complaining, others sound indeed bad enough to somewhat mess up the experience of the game as traitor games do take a lot from their immersion value.

Off-topic: brilliant overtexts Kaffeedrake, thumb for that.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
'Bernard Wingrave'
United States
Wyoming
Ohio
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I would love to see thematic explanations for the items in the original post, so I can use them when I teach the game for the first time.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Davey
United States
Eagan
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Smilinbrax wrote:

Just think if this had been a given a cyber/hacking theme. 1 minor science fiction twist and the whole game would make more sense.


This is brilliant.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Det var bara en hake...
Sweden
flag msg tools
Help, I'm being held prisoner in an overtext typing facility! I don't have much time, they could find out at any m
badge
I'm that weirdo whose number of badges sold prior to yesterday Bail Organa is keeping track of
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Nitewolf wrote:
Off-topic: brilliant overtexts Kaffeedrake, thumb for that.


Spare a thumb for

Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
flag msg tools
I've been offline from BGG for the last couple of weeks, but I'll be back very soon!
badge
I'm that weirdo that keeps track of how many badges Kaffedrake has sold prior to yesterday
Avatar
mb


- we make up a set!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Farris
United States
Citrus Heights
California
flag msg tools
badge
There is a duck in every game. You may not see it, but it's there.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ausloosd wrote:


Jason, with all due respect, but that is not a problem of the system but of the players. All hidden information games are easy to misplay.
In any case, sorry to read the game didn't work for you.
You are sure missing out on some tense sessions.
thanks for the review.


I agree that it is a player issue and I also think this game allows for more player error to mess up the game than others.

I do look forward to your next game David. As I said previously, many will still like Panic Station, it's just a bit much for me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Wood
United States
Darien
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I find it interesting, that usually when there are negative reviews, there are quite a few people who come out of the woodwork to defend the game. Its odd, that in this review it's not the case.
I just purchased the game, and I haven't gotten the time to play it yet, so I cannot say anything either way. From what I looked at and read previously, I don't think my play group will have a problem with the thematic inconsistencies, as long as the metagame goes well. I plan to read the full strategy section to everyone before we start the game, I think that will help more. Hopefully, I will also get to be the host, and I can lead by example by making loud accusations and wild behavior.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Petr Mojzis
Czech Republic
Praha 4
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I disagree with you.

Some explanation for your points are in the rules, some are not.

For me it does not matter. I can make the similar list about almost any ameritrash game not only about eurogames like Agricola.

The key is the thematic "feel". I understand it didn't work for you. It however works thematically for me and most of the people in my group. We just feel like we are there fighting dangerous aliens, trying to burn the hive while knowing someone is infected and is working against us.
7 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I haven't bought the game, but knowing its supposed to be a 45 minute game, I guess I've always assumed its a streamlined euro-ised traitor game which had to throw out a lot of chrome to get it to run smoothly and quickly. I assume BSG for example is much more thematically coherent, but it comes with a 4X time investment.

I wonder if at its core, it is purer abstract-euro than its packaging cares to admit. As such it maybe deserves a knock due to "false advertising" but I suspect one is better off just noting (and snikering at) the non-thematic elements, but then getting over them as quickly as possible to enjoy the streamlined gameplay, much as we do for 99% of the cube pushing euros out there.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Ausloos
Belgium
Ranst
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Rest assure, Panic Station is not an abstract game or euro-game.
It baffles me this is even suggested.

As with any game, abstraction were needed to make it run smoothly, and for a minority of players this might be too much to handle.
I suggest those players to play a simulation.

But as someone in this treath already stated, the mechanics are not the theme, it is the claustrophobic gameplay that renders it: the feeling of intense paranoia rendered by the uncertainty of the players.
The uneasy feeling of vurnability, being pitched against an overwhelming sense of evil.

If you can't look past some mechanical abstractions I guess you will never find out the emotions and tension this game can offer.
Too bad.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Det var bara en hake...
Sweden
flag msg tools
Help, I'm being held prisoner in an overtext typing facility! I don't have much time, they could find out at any m
badge
I'm that weirdo whose number of badges sold prior to yesterday Bail Organa is keeping track of
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
ausloosd wrote:
If you can't look past some mechanical abstractions I guess you will never find out the emotions and tension this game can offer.
Too bad.


To be fair, this can be said for pretty much any game. "If only you'd be willing to overlook {perceived flaw}, then you'd be free to enjoy {perceived merit}. Too bad." That doesn't preclude a discussion of perceived flaws.
19 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Ausloos
Belgium
Ranst
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Kaffedrake wrote:


To be fair, this can be said for pretty much any game. "If only you'd be willing to overlook {perceived flaw}, then you'd be free to enjoy {perceived merit}. Too bad." That doesn't preclude a discussion of perceived flaws.


If you see mechanical abstractions as "flaws", I think boardgames is not an ideal hobby for you
9 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Det var bara en hake...
Sweden
flag msg tools
Help, I'm being held prisoner in an overtext typing facility! I don't have much time, they could find out at any m
badge
I'm that weirdo whose number of badges sold prior to yesterday Bail Organa is keeping track of
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
ausloosd wrote:
If you see mechanical abstractions as "flaws", I think boardgames is not an ideal hobby for you


No one has claimed all abstractions are bad. Evidently some abstractions can be jarring for some people.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Farris
United States
Citrus Heights
California
flag msg tools
badge
There is a duck in every game. You may not see it, but it's there.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ausloosd wrote:
Kaffedrake wrote:


To be fair, this can be said for pretty much any game. "If only you'd be willing to overlook {perceived flaw}, then you'd be free to enjoy {perceived merit}. Too bad." That doesn't preclude a discussion of perceived flaws.


If you see mechanical abstractions as "flaws", I think boardgames is not an ideal hobby for you


I think the point is that we all know games are abstractions, but the question is what your limit is. Otherwise I'd really have to heft around 3 25 gallon cans of gas and a flamethrower to torch a room. That would suck and likely result in me going to jail.

Tic tac toe is really a game of galactic conquest where two races fight to connect 3 planets allowing the winning race to build a doomsday device to eliminate the loser. I don't think you would find that level of abstraction acceptable in a game you play.

I think Ravenloft works in its level of abstraction because it doesn't get in the way of the players. There are too many have toos and illogical abstractions in Panic Station for me that mess up the theme. Obviously, that level of abstraction does not bother a lot of people.

It's just not that black and white.

25 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I wonder as was mentioned earlier in the thread whether the game owuld have been more logically themed in a cyber punk world where you have two avatars serving the "net" and being chased down by viruses, etc. That would resolve the specialized characters and the dual infection issues

However, emotionally I think the idea of my corporal body being co-opted by some sort of alien creature (or being eaten by some nasty insect looking thingy) would be much, much creepier, especially with this scenario you just can't jack out of the computer.

But yeah, it does take a special suspension of disbelief to make this experience game "click" -- but then again it takes a little messing with your mind to put special value in earning VP's in Caylus, on BGG I suspect that most of us are more used to the doing the latter than the former.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nite Wolf
Sweden
Göteborg
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
ausloosd wrote:
Kaffedrake wrote:
That "putting the objective at the bottom of the deck" mechanic that's also in Lost Patrol always seemed a bit counterthematic to me. Thematically, you're exploring the place, trying to find the right location. Mechanically, you're just spamming rooms knowing the right one won't show up until time X at the earliest.


Ok, bye bye Ravenloft, Descent...and just about any dungoencrawler out there. Let us all play Advanced Squad leader...now THAT is a thematic game.
And yes, I say this in an ironic way.


Except of course that in Descent the objective location actually is on the table already from the start.

@Kaffedrake: will do
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2 , 3  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.