Barnes on Games- Fireteam Zero H2H with Raf, Descent RTL, WHQ: Silver Tower

Barnes on Games- Fireteam Zero H2H with Raf, Descent RTL, WHQ: Silver Tower Hot

Michael Barnes     
5051   0

Swept from the table.

It isn't often I write a bad review. You see, I select and request everything I review. I am not showered with free games and obliged to cover them like some of the video reviewers are. If I want something, I have to look it over and go out with hat in hand. By that point, I'm usually pretty sure that what I'm asking for will at least be decent. So it's very rare, really, that I get to write negatively about a game. I don't like doing it, I think it's a downer, and it's a waste of my time. If I were a full-time critic and that was my only job, I might feel differently about it. But I do not care to waste my time – or your time – running somebody's game into the ground. My lack of interest is often a criticism in itself.

So this Head to Head on Fireteam Zero with Raf Cordero is a negative review. Sort of. I brought him on to do it with me because I knew that he had a much more positive opinion and I wanted to have a head to head that was more on the opposite ends of the spectrum than they usually are. It's part of our kick-off of the new Miniature Market website, they completely redid Review Corner so it doesn't look terrible.

I do not like this game at all. I tried, I really did. It's funny, when I don't like a game, I usually wind up playing it MORE before the review than if I do. I'm looking for something to grab on to, something good in it. I could find nothing other than it is easy to play and doesn't take long. Dumb and short. Not always a bad thing, but here it is.

The setting, mechanics, visuals…every single thing about this game is completely uninspired, pedestrian and redundant.  The miniatures suck. The card titles suck. The rulebook sucks. The CD (come on) sucks. It takes a couple of beats from Gears of War, but it doesn't help its case. It's repetitive to the extreme. The cardplay is awful. The dice system is awful. This game actually made me angry, and on the last session I did with some friends it got swept from the table. That is the ultimate indignity. You put the box at the end of the table and literally sweep it from the table and into the box without sorting.Halfway through that lame game, I just didn't care even though it is a $100 retail title.

Oh, I know, there are expansions coming that add artifacts or whatever. Won't help. This game is terminally uninteresting and it's a poster child for Kickstarter shovelware.

Blech.

But the positive side of it is that it put in the mood to play dudes in a hall games, and that's timely because of the Road to Legend app and Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. I've also been digging into Assassinorium: Execution Force (GOTY in an alternate reality where it came out in 1991).

I finished the Road to Legend campaign yesterday and there is a lot of promise in what the app does, but there are also some issues. Some of which linger from the first edition of Descent ten years ago. It still feels like it takes way too long, for one thing, and for another "card creep" bogs it all down. The app has some grade A "Winds of Magic" bullshit going on, events that cause you to suddenly hit every character for 5 points, 8 points of damage. Shadow Dragons popping up out of nowhere. Endless spawns right at what should be the last 10 minutes of the game.

But it works well, and it does away with the stupid Overlord business altogether. I've added a couple of expansions, but to be honest what they bring to the campaign as it stands right now isn't much. I think I saw two of the monster groups out of the expansions show up, and none of the tiles or shop items. Maybe that is coming in the next campaign, I don't know.

Funny thing is, this version of Descent REALLY feels like a Diablo board game minus the loot. In one of the quests, you have take out these goblin banners because they keep dispensing goblins. That really reminded me of Diablo. Or Gauntlet.

I've just played Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower one time as of this writing, but it kind of blew me away (with Winds of Magic). It's very modern, very lean…but it's also old fashioned and fussy with a paragraph book, WYSIWYG models, having to look up tables , and so on. The setup is really interesting, depending on which rune you are going after, you build an exploration deck and it's random. No pre-designed map layout. Activation is similar to Claustrophobia, but streamlined and cleaned up. The setting is AWESOME, don't care what the AoS haters thing. It's psychedelic and weird, frankly more in line with what Priestly and co. had in mind when they came up with Warhammer in the first place. This is druggy fantasy more like Moorcock, Vance, or Gygax than the rote Tolkien stuff. I'll probably do a full review in a couple of weeks. But the from the hip word is "awesome".

I am actually going to paint it all up at some point, I'm just starting to dip around collecting some paints and supplies. God help me. I also have Betrayal at Calth on the way.

Jackpot week for review copies, so much good stuff in bound. I've got Falling Sky and 2nd edition Cuba Libre coming from the fine folks at GMT, Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal from Academy, and both 51st State master set and the will-likely-be-dumb Doctor Who Card Game: Classic Doctors Edition. Oh. And also Food Chain Magnate.

Barnes on Games- Fireteam Zero H2H with Raf, Descent RTL, WHQ: Silver Tower There Will Be Games
For more information, reviews and articles on Descent Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition click here
Log in to comment
Posted: 26 May 2016 19:28 by Mr. White #228255
Mr. White's Avatar
The BGG entry for Silver Tower doesn't list a designer or artist. Are there credits given in the rulebook?
Posted: 26 May 2016 19:58 by birdman37 #228258
birdman37's Avatar
There's an article in White Dwarf #121 that lists the designers and artists.
Artists/sculptors: Mark Harrison, Colin Greyson, Steve Buddle, David Waeselynck.
Game designers: James Hewitt, John Michelbach, Tim Molloy.

Don't recognise most of them. Although James Hewitt rings a bell - I think he might have worked at Mantic previously (Dreadball/Deadzone)?
Posted: 26 May 2016 20:07 by Frohike #228260
Frohike's Avatar
An FYI in case no one has piped up about this yet. The MM site revamp has actually made Review Corner much less visible. None of the product pages seem to have links to the RC reviews, just the customer ones. When I do go to the Review Corner page (a link just labeled "Game Reviews" in the top section), I get a 10 page list of game reviews that I can't sort, search, or filter.
Posted: 26 May 2016 20:37 by SuperflyTNT #228261
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
What the actual fuck? Did I just watch Mr. Barnes have a bipolar episode or simply a split personality break?
eteam: Zero is one of the blandest, least inspired and derivative games I have played yet this year. I like almost nothing about this title and there is virtually nothing compelling about it. I think the Hellboy-meets-Resident Evil setting is dull, the miniatures are ugly and the illustrations look like mud. I’m trying to figure out what this dreadful game has to offer, what its raison d’etre is.

And in the very next paragraph...
Don’t get me wrong here, that accessibility is definitely an asset. And I don’t think that it is a complete failure by any means and there likely is an audience for it. It is a perfectly serviceable, working dungeoncrawler.

pwned by Raf! Dude had you backpedaling like Lance Armstrong from the steroid clinic LMAO
Posted: 26 May 2016 20:39 by SuperflyTNT #228262
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
As an aside, the 6" wall of tags prior to the review makes the blog format look like ten pounds of shit in a one pound bag.

It's actually so bad I thought the page was broken. I had to scroll down for two or three full swipes (iPhone 6) to get to the review.
Posted: 26 May 2016 21:29 by Columbob #228265
Columbob's Avatar
Frohike wrote:
An FYI in case no one has piped up about this yet. The MM site revamp has actually made Review Corner much less visible. None of the product pages seem to have links to the RC reviews, just the customer ones. When I do go to the Review Corner page (a link just labeled "Game Reviews" in the top section), I get a 10 page list of game reviews that I can't sort, search, or filter.

They're sorted by date posted only. An option for an alphabetical listing would be good.
Posted: 26 May 2016 23:36 by Michael Barnes #228267
Michael Barnes's Avatar
SuperflyTNT wrote:
What the actual fuck? Did I just watch Mr. Barnes have a bipolar episode or simply a split personality break?
eteam: Zero is one of the blandest, least inspired and derivative games I have played yet this year. I like almost nothing about this title and there is virtually nothing compelling about it. I think the Hellboy-meets-Resident Evil setting is dull, the miniatures are ugly and the illustrations look like mud. I’m trying to figure out what this dreadful game has to offer, what its raison d’etre is.

And in the very next paragraph...
Don’t get me wrong here, that accessibility is definitely an asset. And I don’t think that it is a complete failure by any means and there likely is an audience for it. It is a perfectly serviceable, working dungeoncrawler.

pwned by Raf! Dude had you backpedaling like Lance Armstrong from the steroid clinic LMAO

Raf will never pwn me. He's absolutely right about it working and being easy to play. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't suck. The game isn't broken, it's not imbalanced or "flawed" at a design level...it just blows. It's unoriginal, bland and just lame all around. But there is an audience for unoriginal, bland and lame games like this. I was being charitable, damning with very, very faint praise.
Posted: 27 May 2016 05:29 by Brewmiester #228269
Brewmiester's Avatar
birdman37 wrote:
There's an article in White Dwarf #121 that lists the designers and artists.
Artists/sculptors: Mark Harrison, Colin Greyson, Steve Buddle, David Waeselynck.
Game designers: James Hewitt, John Michelbach, Tim Molloy.

Don't recognise most of them. Although James Hewitt rings a bell - I think he might have worked at Mantic previously (Dreadball/Deadzone)?

Man I would have sworn Doug Kovacs (of DCC fame) had done some of the interior illustrations.
Posted: 27 May 2016 05:54 by Mr. White #228272
Mr. White's Avatar
birdman37 wrote:
Don't recognise most of them. Although James Hewitt rings a bell - I think he might have worked at Mantic previously (Dreadball/Deadzone)?

I believe that's right. I think he was involved with Dreadball in some capacity.
Posted: 27 May 2016 08:58 by JEM #228275
JEM's Avatar
Comment in the leaving post on beastsofwar.com regarding his move to "another company" "Your first job James should be to get to re release all the specialist games stuff"

Seems to be the case!

Interested in thoughts on Silver Tower/WHQ in six months or so when the new cardboard smell has worn off.
Posted: 27 May 2016 13:27 by SuperflyTNT #228295
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
Buddy, you were on a roll. You had the game on the ropes, it was swaying and blinking...hands at nippy height, not chin height. Raf was in the other corner, yelling "YOU'LL KILL HIM! REMEMBER NICK BLACKWELL". Thinking back to that fight, you did what Eubank's dad said, "BODY SHOTS, YOU'LL KILL HIM".

And my response above is the press crucifying you for not knocking its head off, into the slathering cheers of the crowd. You couldn't dealt a death blow to Kickstarters everywhere .... REMEMBER: BARNES IS WATCHING.

I'm going to look on my shelf for a toad that needs an absolute trouncing. I'll show you how to really lay into a game, leaving it in the fecal position on the ground. No, that wasn't a typo. The fecal position is like the fetal position, except that the subject is in the fetal position but laying in a pile of their own excrement.
Posted: 27 May 2016 13:57 by Michael Barnes #228302
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Jem, I think that as long as GW supports the new WHQ, it will have staying power. I've played only twice now, and I haven't impressed friends into a game yet, but...I think it might be THE ONE as far as I'm concerned.

The game I played last night was just freaking amazing. I did the first scenario again because I flubbed the end of the first run through. Got a totally different set of encounters, different rooms, different Unexpected Events...it was functionally a completely different scenario.

So we did pretty good (Knight-Questor, Darkoath Chieftain, Mistweaver Saih), had a little trouble with a special Pink Horror mini-boss called The Librarian, but we made it to the last room. And stuff went on in there that was WAY more RPG-ish than what is typical for this genre in board games. Spoilers from here.

Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]


So that was all a nice little bit of action and coordination. Oh, and the Knight-Questor got hit by an Unexpected Event that sucked him up to the ceiling for a turn and then dropped him unceremoniously into the middle of the room.

OH, and also, I had a Familiar spawn...this little bastard reduced all to-hit rolls in the room by one. But you can CATCH these things, and they give YOU a bonus if you do so- it's a contested roll to see if you can grab them before they go away. How cool is that.

I think I referenced the rules one time. This is SUPER intuitive, SUPER easy to grasp.

But yeah, we got our first piece of the talisman, now on to the next adventure.

It is definitely feeling like GOTY material. The cost is high. But I would rather have spent $125 on this than any other game I've played this year. I am all in to buy anything they release for it, and I will get the Mighty Heroes as soon as possible.
Posted: 27 May 2016 13:59 by Michael Barnes #228303
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Oh, and I got the dice stacking thing. It was awesome. I think it's a fun, unique way to resolve that. Don't be so damn serious about it. It's more fun than making an agility check.
Posted: 27 May 2016 14:04 by JEM #228304
JEM's Avatar
One of the things I really like about Zombicide Prison outbreak is those switch-flicking puzzles they make with the rotating doors and such. Still kind of tempted for this at $30 sans minis, but I dunno, that's Caverns of Cynder money...
Posted: 27 May 2016 14:10 by Michael Barnes #228306
Michael Barnes's Avatar
It's a lot of minis to proxy. It can definitely be done, but consider if it's worth the time/effort or if spending an extra $70 is a better trade off.

One thing to note versus Brimstone is that this game is WAY more streamlined. There are really very few counters- some wound/stun markers, portals, a couple of map features, a couple of renown trackers and that's it. Only three decks of cards- the rooms, treasures and skills. If the box were just a little taller, everything could fit in the box, which is about Monopoly/Clue sized.
Posted: 28 May 2016 08:07 by Columbob #228337
Columbob's Avatar
I still have a bunch of those WFB 4th ed/40K 2nd ed familiars lying around. They made lots of them, each cooler than the last.



Posted: 30 May 2016 10:27 by charlest #228376
charlest's Avatar
I still don't get how you can think this is terrible but think D&DAS is so good.

I love the dice stacking thing. Mixing dexterity with strategy games is totally my thing.
Posted: 30 May 2016 17:43 by Sevej #228387
Sevej's Avatar
Michael Barnes wrote:
It's a lot of minis to proxy. It can definitely be done, but consider if it's worth the time/effort or if spending an extra $70 is a better trade off.

One thing to note versus Brimstone is that this game is WAY more streamlined. There are really very few counters- some wound/stun markers, portals, a couple of map features, a couple of renown trackers and that's it. Only three decks of cards- the rooms, treasures and skills. If the box were just a little taller, everything could fit in the box, which is about Monopoly/Clue sized.

I would be surprised if it's not streamlined since there is comparatively little content to the more expansive crawlers, which is not always a bad thing. It's how you use it that matters. I mean, there's very little upgrades, and all heroes share the same upgrade. Heroes are single entities (no race+class thingy), and there is very little outside dungeon content. Heck, they mushed the skill and treasure upgrade in a single deck! Everything else they jammed into the rulebook (encounter tables, monster behavior tables, random events, paragraphs...). In other games, this would have been cards of some sort of reference sheet.
Posted: 17 Jan 2017 13:29 by UniversalHead #242572
UniversalHead's Avatar
I had to come back to this post to refute Barnes's review on Fireteam Zero. I played it last night with 4 people and it was a blast. Very cinematic, a game that came right down to the classic 'last die roll', interesting choices, and yet a straightforward, non-fiddly system. Even the CD (you can download MP3s from the website) is actualy useful, as the scenario briefings are given in faux-WWII style.

I usually have a lot of respect for a Barnes review, but I reckon he completely missed the mark on this one.
Posted: 17 Jan 2017 13:38 by Gary Sax #242573
Gary Sax's Avatar
^Just to bug you, he actually said it was his worst game of the year IIRC in another thread. ;)
Posted: 17 Jan 2017 18:06 by Vlad #242582
Vlad's Avatar
I can't make myself care for the story&lore in AoS, but I do like it in Silver Tower.
In AoS, there're walls of text with something about gods and their petty disputes. You don't really need to read any of it to play. It's extensive, if uninteresting background to be read BEFORE dudes fight dudes.
In Silver Tower, you have the adventure book. With short paragraphs to read WHILE you're playing. There's a basic exposition before you head into the tower, and I expect to uncover the rest during the game. In a sense, it is sort of the way the lore is presented in Dark Souls games, which I absolutely love because it doesn't distract from playing and you can take it or leave it (I take it).
Also, another point comparable to DS is the new art direction. It is fantasy, by all means, but it is different from the comfortable stereotypes. There's a sense of mystery to the world and it's inhabitants. It feels fantastic and fresh.
Posted: 18 Jan 2017 15:56 by Southernman #242645
southernman's Avatar
Gary Sax wrote:
^Just to bug you, he actually said it was his worst game of the year IIRC in another thread. ;)

You're naughty :-o !

;-)
Posted: 18 Jan 2017 16:18 by Michael Barnes #242646
Michael Barnes's Avatar
I just absolutely hate this game (FTZ, not Silver Tower). Especially in light of Doom, Conan and TMNT- not to mention Black Plague or Silver Tower. all six of these games do some very similar kinds of stuff in the hack and slash/Guys on a Grid genre. But FTZ is _by far_ the least compelling, least innovative, least unique and least fun of the lot. It is the absolute peak of Kickstarter mediocrity, a game that every publisher would have given a pass to in the era before crowdfunding simply because there is so little to recommend it. It's bland, lifeless, and if you really want this "weird war II" thing, Tannhauser still does it better after all these years. Let along Shadows Over Normandie. It's completely uninspired beyond the designers looking at other GoaG games and thinking "hey, that's easy, we can make one and write some cheese-dick story to go with it - payday!" That said, I have no doubt that the people that made it thought it was a good game. And you know, if you have no access to any of the five other games mentioned in this post alone, you might be fooled into thinking there is something there.

I mean hell, I had fun playing it with some friends but the whole time I was so completely uninterested in the mechanics, setting and gameplay that it was practically irrelevant to my entertainment.
Posted: 18 Jan 2017 17:20 by Sevej #242650
Sevej's Avatar
So Barnes, is Black Plague good? I'm considering Silver Tower because I like its simplicity, but the price is crazy around here. I can get Black Plague for around $100, while Silver Tower will cost me $160+. Specifically looking for that simple co-op. Not sure if Black Plague is simple enough.
Posted: 18 Jan 2017 17:34 by Michael Barnes #242652
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Black Plague is excellent- it is a straight up hack and slash game with some cool leveling mechanics (you get stronger- the game gets stronger), easy to deal with player abilities. A decent AI, and HORDES of zombies in a couple of varieties including animals if you get the expansions.

But Silver Tower has WAY better minis, a much stronger narrative, a more unique tone, more compelling choices, and more innovative things going.

So it's really down to if you want simple and stupid or simple and smart. I like both games about equally, with ST having a GW edge.
Posted: 18 Jan 2017 17:44 by Sevej #242654
Sevej's Avatar
Can you describe more compelling choices & narrative? Do you find going back and forth to the book (for monster behavior especially) disturb the flow of the game?
Posted: 19 Jan 2017 08:08 by Columbob #242673
Columbob's Avatar
My bro printed the monster behaviour for ST on a cheat sheet to speed things up. The book is only referred to for random events and specific room-related stuff.

Last week we lost our first game (for the fifth shard) due to an unfortunate decision on our part and the game caught us with our pants down, but we plowed through it a second time in less than an hour (that dungeon with very few enemies - not sure which Rune shard it was? Edit: Celestial magic, or Azyr).