Emivaldo Sousa
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So... Panic Station...

(Awkward silence)

All right, this is not going to be a regular review of the Panic Station game. I’m late to the party and much has been said already about it, but I would like to give my impression about it after having played it. Because I'm just one of those weird internet people that likes to share his opinion.

So, what I will do is give my opinion about the game in the light of what other people have already said about it.
Rules:
First print sucked but we are past that. Most recent rules are still confusing in some respects but mostly for thematic reasons. They are OK. Also, the system is flexible enough that you can introduce some house rules if you think you can add something to the mix.

Theme:
The general idea is sound: enter an alien infested space station in order to try to crush the E.T. menace, having to deal with both giant shrimps and a traitor in your group. But I have to agree with others that most of the theme falls apart in the details, with a bunch of mechanics that does not make sense thematically. I understand they are abstractions and you simply have to use your imagination to glue the thematic pieces together. Fair enough.

But that said, some of those abstractions are just too easy to make fun of and they can easily break immersion.

Complexity:
I’ve heard some people saying that the game is complex and that this is one of the reasons some people do not like it at first. I strongly disagree with this. If people dislike the game it is not because they didn’t “get it” from a gameplay standpoint.

The game is simple and the concepts involved are even simpler: explore the base, kill giant shrimps, lie a lot or try to catch who is lying to you before it is too late.

Everybody inherently knows how to lie and that a grenade is the best solution for a room filled with aliens.

If someone does not like the game it is not because it is complex. It is because things can get a bit unintuitive and they are not on the mood to lose themselves into an adventure with an nonrestrictive and somewhat confusing rule set.

Does the thing work?
With what comes inside the tin box, no. This game needs the right set of players:
. Players that are in it for the fun and don’t care to behave themselves a little thematically Instead of just trying to x-ray the whole thing in order to find its weak spots.
. People that likes the metagaming of lying and creating doubt and paranoia.
. People that see the value behind gaming experiences like tales of the Arabian Nights and Android.
. People that are there not because the game mechanisms are great, but because the game mechanisms facilitate great experiences that they have to build themselves.

It has been said that with the right group of people almost anything can be fun. But Panic Station is more than just an excuse to have fun. Despite all its shortcomings, the game succeeds in creating a paranoia inducing environment, is succeeds in creating tension and it succeeds in promoting the metagame of deceit.

The game can be very fun. And I’m not using the word very lightly here. I do mean very, very fun. Like a barrel of monkeys fun, really.

Where do I stand on all this?
I love Tales of Arabian Nights.
I respect Android but I think it is just too long and too pretentious so I sold my copy.
I like Panic Station and will play it occasionally with great pleasure. With emphasis on occasionally.

I think that repeated plays can lead to some repeated behaviors that can hinder the fun, like only trading gasoline, consecutive passing turns and isolating every team in its own corner. But, to be fair, those things will not be so frequent if the players are up for a bit of roleplaying.

And an important final note:
One other thing that came to my attention was the presence of the designer in the forums. I personally think that this is great. It means he is interested and that he is passionate about his work. That’s the kind of people that I would like to see working on the gaming industry, getting better and better in their craft learning with their failures and successes.

He is more than welcome to disagree with my review, point things that I missed or simply got wrong, as passionately as he sees fit. Just saying.
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Emivaldo Sousa
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I just forget to mention that I think that Panic Station might be in a unique position in terms of market placement:

Eurogamers do not mind much theme abstractions, but they prefer a more airtight ruleset.

Ameritrashers understand that the more versatile the game is, the easier it is to find some rules inconsistencies, but they do not accept well teleporting equipment and android prone to infections.

As the designer pointed out somewhere it seems that RPGs and fans of "tell your story" adventure games are really the main target audience.
 
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David Ausloos
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It is effectively a game that might not work for all the reasons you mention, but let me stress out that there are alot of both eurogamers and AT-gamers that have no trouble with the game for the reasons you mention.
The new rules-set (especially the fantastic Pegasus-edit that will form the basis for all future printruns) will provide players with a solid set of rules to play the game effortlesly. It is however a game that needs a group that knows the rules well, as given the hidden information aspect any mistake can ruin a session.

While some thematic gamers will have problems with the abstraction, I have played with countless AT-gamers at Conventions who had no problem accepting the game's abstractions and submerge themselves in the sea of paranoia and psychological warfare.

Thanks for your critical review.
Always nice to see people are enjoying the game, despite their reservations.
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Emivaldo Sousa
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ausloosd wrote:

It is effectively a game that might not work for all the reasons you mention, but let me stress out that there are alot of both eurogamers and AT-gamers that have no trouble with the game for the reasons you mention.
The new rules-set (especially the fantastic Pegasus-edit that will form the basis for all future printruns) will provide players with a solid set of rules to play the game effortlesly. It is however a game that needs a group that knows the rules well, as given the hidden information aspect any mistake can ruin a session.

While some thematic gamers will have problems with the abstraction, I have played with countless AT-gamers at Conventions who had no problem accepting the game's abstractions and submerge themselves in the sea of paranoia and psychological warfare.

Thanks for your critical review.
Always nice to see people are enjoying the game, despite their reservations.


Congrats for the game, despite my reservations, I have no doubt you created something that is providing tons of fun all over the world and this is a great accomplishment. I'm sure the revised ruleset can only add to the experience and that's why I really respect and appreciated your involvement in the game's discussion.

Regarding my ameritrashers and eurogamers comment I can only speak from my own point of view and experience, and that's roughly what I have encountered, with the obvious exceptions that apparently comes with every rule . But as you pointed out, I might be off the mark here.

Surprisingly (or maybe not) I have not encountered many problems with players mistakes. I think some rules are not the most intuitive because of the thematic reasons pointed out, but if you carefully explain them, the whole thing is very easy to grasp.

Best. And keep the games coming.

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Arthur Rutyna
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Great review!!!

I couldn't have stated my thoughts on this game any better. I enjoyed the game even though my only play of it was both with people who wanted to get into the theme (metagame), and Eurogamers that tried to break the mechanics (trade gas cans only).

I understand that not ALL games are about "gaming the the game system mechanics", but are about enjoying the experience. And I play games for enjoying the experience.

So NO, I will NOT only trade gas cans with you Mr. Eurogamer (this game sucks because I know how to break it). I will give you whatever I feel like giving you, and LIE like hell that YOU (Mr. Analyze the crap out of everything) are the HOST!!!
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Stephen McHale
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zinho73 wrote:


isolating every team in its own corner.



Lately when we play I try and avoid doing this at all costs. I know it is probably the best strategy but when I see other people doing it I know the game is going to be less fun so I find a reason to move and trade. When people are moving and trading the game is at its best. There are some games I really want to win but for me when I play this game it is more about having fun.
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David Ausloos
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Horrid Beast wrote:

I too think it is great that the designer has gotten involved in the threads. I don't play this any more because I tend to run to my corner if I am not infected as does the rest of our group. It did steal all the joy away from it. If a solution could be found to prevent this then I would be interested to play it again such fixes. I just don't think enough play testing has been done on not just this game but others like Dungeon Run. A solution I will present here free of charge to the designer is a quickened automatic game end in which the virus will be unleashed through the air-conditioning vents or something similar after so many rounds. This would completely change the game and make it a blast :O)


I have witnessed this behavior during the countless playtesting of the game with a few groups, but the fact is that it can easily be broken.
This way of playing only really works in a 4-player game. with more players it is almost impossible to create a situation were everyone can go a different direction.
Statistically, given the number of exits present in the deck, it is also unlikely it will happen with every 4-player session, as even without strategies formed on placement of rooms it will most possible happen many times a player bumps into a dead end or closed door.
For the infectors the placement of the rooms is crucial, as they need to manipulate the station lay-out in such a way the number of exits and possible directions is as limited as possible.
In one of my last sessions, the host managed to create a real mean bottleneck in the station that forced all the players to pass through the same corridor. Needless to say the human team was infected in not time
But, of course...if a group wants to they can certainly game to game to some extend. So I understand why this could ruin further plays.

As a possible help, let me note that their will be an Expansion at Essen that will present a new mission for the team that forces them to work together in such a way confrontation is in any case unavoidable.
I can't tell you more without ruining the surprise




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Emivaldo Sousa
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Hey! We got some expansion news here ninja . Good stuff.

On the subject of gaming the system, some people think that people that do that are always jerks or evil or something.

It can certainly be the case, but I think that Sometimes it happens quite naturally in a wish to win the game and even unintentionally. There are several games with more broad systems that are open to that, like Descent and others.

The problem is that once one door is open some people simply cannot resist to go that way again if it will get them the victory.
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David Ausloos
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My point was more towards the idea infectors can block paths leading away from the center in an extreme direction by careful placement of rooms. But in any case, the chances of it being possible, especially with more than 4 players, are slim at best.

Anyway, the expansion will hold a few suprises to create an even more challenging game, outside the new mission option that is already a tough challenge in itself.


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Justin Steurich
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ausloosd wrote:

As a possible help, let me note that their will be an Expansion at Essen that will present a new mission for the team that forces them to work together in such a way confrontation is in any case unavoidable.
I can't tell you more without ruining the surprise ;)



What expansion? I have heard nothing of this. When can we hear more?
 
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Jack Dietz
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Yep, it's very weird.
One thing that broke immersion for me is the complete lack of death rules.

You control two characters - so how did the trooper get the gas can the droid found in the vault? You just killed an android. So do you take all ammo cards that player has? Do you take all ammo cards that player has played in front of them (if they have any)?

For that matter, how do droids get infected? These are biological aliens, not machine aliens.

The rules are not clear on when the parasites move. Terms "round" and "turn" should have been used instead of using "turn" to actually mean "round" in the sense most players understand it.
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