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The Others: Better than the others

J Updated
The Others: Better than the others

Game Information

Publisher
Designer
There Will Be Games

The first in a three-part series about The Others, where we look into mechanics that set the game apart, the heroes of F.A.I.T.H., and the seven Sins.

I’m not a tremendous fan of “many vs one” games. I enjoy and have enjoyed several of them. We were hardcore Descent 1st Ed. players for a number of years. I also tend to find, for example, the “many vs one” format of Tiny Epic Zombies more interesting than I do the co-op version. However, I currently only have two games that are solely of that type in my collection: TMNT: Shadows of the Past and The Others. I picked up the latter because 1) I’m an Eric Lang fan and 2) I’m fond of religious mythology and zealotry as themes. Given that this was a cyberpunk (another favorite) version of that religious theme, it was right up my alley. But what has turned it into a favorite is the smoothness of the mechanics, the ease of gameplay, the flexibility of the system, the constant variety presented by different heroes, different Sins/Acolytes, and different scenarios, and, perhaps just as importantly in our crowded schedule-world, the speed with which one can finish a game.

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Let’s be honest: dungeon crawls are called that for a reason. Games of this type frequently take a significant amount of time to play, even when they’re relatively simple “open a door and die”-type games like Dungeonquest. As someone who enjoys playing 8-hour sessions of Here I Stand, this may seem like a strange thing for me to cite as a positive. But there are times that all-day games are good and times when they’re a little less than good. We can set up and finish a game of The Others in two hours. Each scenario has three goals. Each Sin has one overarching ability and a host of monsters that all have the same stats. Each FAITH group is limited to seven heroes for a game. And, most importantly, every game is on a clock (the Apocalypse track) that makes the game progressively more difficult for the heroes as they, likewise, hopefully get stronger with upgrades. All of those factors combine to produce a game experience that moves swiftly. There are tactical decisions that are important, but there are few decisions that are made that can’t be recovered from, if needed. This is a game that propels you toward the end because, after all, the apocalypse is comin’.

What highlights all of this is the interwoven turn structure. Too many games of direct conflict suffer from the “I GO, U GO” approach. Games Workshop’s wargames are notorious for this, in which hyper-modern combat is reduced to one side moving every figure he/she has and unloading every bit of ammo they can before the opponent can do anything. Games like Descent are likewise burdened, in which the Overlord can take all of their actions and utterly transform the game state for the heroes, at which point they have to stop and reassess how their entire environment has changed. The Others, in contrast, uses a structure where every hero has two turns in each round. After any hero has taken a turn, the Sin player has the option of responding. This is similar, to cite GW again, to Epic Armageddon, where each player acts with one unit and then the opposing player can respond. Combat and gameplay are, thus, interwoven and the situation feels more dynamic, as players react to the changing situation in “real time”, as opposed to watching the entire situation change while they can do nothing.

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What this also reinforces is the overall aspect of the “push your luck” mechanic that appears in the game in several ways. The Sin player generally has fewer opportunities to act than the FAITH players do. Thus, the Sin player has to pick and choose when it’s most advantageous to act, knowing that if they engage too often, the FAITH players will be left with a number of actions at the end of the round where they can do what they want without a response. The most prominent aspect of “push your luck” in the game is the use of Corruption. As with most of these types of games, the Sin player/Overlord has a certain advantage built in. Playing as one vs many, there usually has to be something that gives the ‘one’ player an edge. In this case, it’s the unending stream of Acolytes, Abominations, and the Avatar that the Sin player can spawn onto the board, plus the Apocalypse track. For the heroes to make progress, they’re going to have to run the risk of gaining more power now in exchange for setting themselves up to be hindered in the future. That works both ways, in that Corruption doled out by obstacles on the board or direct actions by the Sin player will also make the heroes more powerful in their next encounter, just like taking voluntary Corruption will. But it also pushes them closer to the precipice of surrendering health and the bonuses that said Corruption provides when they’re wounded, sometimes leading to a quick and grisly demise.

I think the game is more dynamic tactically than most dungeon crawls, as well. While positioning is important (Shooters keeping another hero between them and a target in case they don’t kill it, blocking Nests to limit the Sin player’s options, etc.), it’s not the be-all and end-all that it often can be in most constructed map games. There’s no such thing as blocking corridors, for example. Models can move diagonally and through walls (doors, windows) at will. Line of sight is only blocked by those walls and there are no considerations for range or blocking figures. This makes ranged combat rather seamless, albeit only able to take place in the streets (since there are walls inside.) Furthermore, with the constant presence of things like Fire and Corruption tokens, which tend to inhibit or redirect movement by the FAITH team, there’s a certain amount of assessment that has to take place regardless of what goal (monsters, scenario, clearing) the heroes are attempting this round. On top of that, all players have to stay aware that, once per round, the Sin player can drop in an Acolyte to a fight that brings a condition that could easily tip the scales in their direction. This is on top of whatever cards the Sin player may have on hand, half of which are tailored to the Sin in question. All of these combine to keep the game shifting rapidly, keeping players involved and on their toes. Oh, and there’s always the clock…

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The three different types of scenarios (Terror, Redemption, Corruption) also add to the variability of the game. You still have to keep in mind the usual environmental factors like monsters or Fire, but you also have to consider the nature of the scenario. Terror scenarios can often be slugfests, based mostly on killing Abominations as fast as possible. But "Haven in Flames" almost requires you to douse Fire around the map; as one option to fulfill the second goal, but also to keep the Apocalypse track from moving too quickly. Similarly, Redemption scenarios emphasize movement to be able to get the Innocents to the starting space. But the Avatar is usually out earlier than other scenarios and defeating it is a goal option in both "Battleground of Souls" and "Into the Breach". Likewise, Corruption scenarios provide another challenge via the Dark Past cards and a potential traitor hero emerging while you attempt to clean the streets of Corruption. However, in "The Darkness Within", the Apocalypse track moves faster if there are too many monsters on the streets. So, like the best games, there are multiple paths to victory in The Others, but you can’t pick just one and utterly neglect the others. Teamwork and diversification of responsibility (and the importance of Fixers!) will be essential for success.

Three notes:

The first is about City actions and NPC tokens. While they seem like ‘extras’, these are actually fairly essential to the game play for FAITH, in the same way that the Acolytes can be for the Sin player (which we’ll cover in part two: We have Sinned.) A lot of newer players tend to forget that placing a City action uses ALL of the available actions, so if you’re in a tight spot and can move to a place that heals 2 wounds and gives you an Upgrade for one action, that’s not a bad deal. The Others is a game about fine margins, because you’re dealing with a fair amount of dice in many instances, which means that you want to hedge the odds in your favor as much as you can. This is what’s important about certain heroes that can often be overlooked because their special ability involves City actions (which we’ll cover in part three: Keep the FAITH.) They can be quite powerful, especially if they involve the Orbital Strike token and you’re trying to complete a scenario goal that involves removing all monsters from a particular spot, for example. The City actions can be a shortcut or a temporary boon to whomever activates them, which could be enough to keep the Apocalypse track from advancing or winning a scenario for FAITH.

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The second is about the NPC tokens. Again, The Others is about fine margins. Each of the tokens (Ravenscorp, Proxy, Commissioner) provides a little bit of leeway on said margins that can be extremely useful for the FAITH players. That’s why those tokens are available in the majority of the maps for each scenario. You can probably figure out per scenario which one turns out to be most useful (Ravenscorp for Redemption scenarios, etc.) but none of them should be ignored if the prospect for acquisition is there. Again, it’s all part of the web of tactical choices available to the heroes (and for the Sin player to plot against… “Coming for that Proxy, my pretty?! [insert maniacal Margaret Hamilton laugh here.])

Finally: Upgrades. Like most dungeon crawls, loot is an important feature of The Others. Finding Upgrades can be key to succeeding in many games and certainly make it easier to take more risks in achieving goals. And, certainly, there are items that seem to ramp up the power of the heroes significantly, especially if they’re handed to the right heroes (say, Eagle with Marksmanship or Wengsi Wong with the Laz Blade.) Anyone who’s ever been an Overlord in Descent can remember the moment when someone drew the Grinding Axe from a silver chest and the game simply flipped. The difference here is that the items that can truly control the game simply don’t exist and all players have to remember that the number of hero deaths in the game is finite: If you lose 4 heroes, the game is over. There are no points to be accrued or lost. It’s do or be done. So, Wengsi may be tearing ass across the board, slaughtering everything within reach, but if the rest of the team can’t keep up and gets cornered, the darkness may not be far away. Again, I think the utility of the items is as well balanced as the rest of the game and nothing in my experience sticks out as one or two cards being the key to defeat or victory for either side.

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Alrighty, then. Next time, we’ll cover the seven deadly Sins, their minions and Acolytes, favorite cards, a few tactics, and a few words about the local Hell Club.

There Will Be Games

Marc Reichardt  (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Marc started gaming at the age of 5 by beating everyone at Monopoly, but soon decided that Marxism, science fiction, and wargames were more interesting than money, so he opted for writing (and more games) while building political parties, running a comic studio, and following Liverpool. You can find him on Twitter @Jackwraith and lurking in other corners of the Interwebs.

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Articles by Marc

Marc Reichardt
Staff Board Game Reviewer

Articles by Marc

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drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #305971 09 Jan 2020 10:24
Great stuff. Keep it coming Marc!
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #305976 09 Jan 2020 11:13
Thanks! Wasn't sure how much traction it would get here, given that this game seems to be on the list of things dismissed as "CMON minis explosions", but I think it's quite solid, if not for something genuinely innovative, but more for how the whole package works together. I was kind of looking around for something else to work on (uba and I have been talking about a couple things that are a bit more esoteric and I'm in the middle of one of them now) and realized that I hadn't done anything on a game that I've played quite a few times in recent years. Also, it's an Eric Lang design and I'm an unabashed fan.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #305980 09 Jan 2020 12:06
I think most of the "CMON minis explosions" dismissiveness is mostly fueled by the cost and the fact that individuals can't consume everything. Therefore, it is necessary for individuals to dismiss some games and focus on other games. This isn't limited to expensive mini's games. There is just too much of everything, so individuals are taking a "hard pass" on the majority of games that are out there. However, I feel that the one thing we absolutely don't have here is a hive mind mentality regarding which games are worth notice, discussion, and coverage. It's just that the number of people contributing to the discussion, and detracting from it, is getting smaller and smaller.

So, for example, I personally think this looks like a cool game, but have nothing to add to the conversation about it because I have never played it (although as soon as I post this someone will reply that I have indeed played it, I just don't remember it, which is another problem with trying to consume to many games, or maybe I am just getting old).
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #305984 09 Jan 2020 12:55
I totally sympathize with both the cost issue and with the glut of production these days. I'm interested in a lot of stuff that gets discussed here (like, recently, Lifeform and Nemesis) but I just don't get stuff played often enough already, such that I've essentially reduced myself to four channels:

1. Eric Lang
2. Cole Wehrle
3. Scott Almes
4. Michal Oracz

I'll look at everything those guys do, but I won't necessarily buy all of it (like, say, Portal's latest Kickstarter.) Everything else is in the "nice, but I can't afford it, money- or time-wise." Maybe I'll get a chance to play someone else's copy.

As for the cost of The Others, it was in the winter sale bin in a big way this past Christmas, on either CMON's site or Miniature Market, if not both. I was fortunate enough (like usual) to trade for a lot of what I needed and didn't have. But, again, with so much stuff out there, I'm sure it got overlooked in favor of whatever the new thing was that had to be owned.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #305986 09 Jan 2020 13:04
Thanks for the article! After seeing praise for this one here, I remember looking at it but shying away after seeing that's one vs. many. I already have DOOM and a friend has TMNT. And as the would-be game owner, I know I'd always be the "one."
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #305989 09 Jan 2020 13:27
As someone who feels they are always The One (even if it's not an all vs one game) I'm sorely tempted to pick thier up.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #305992 09 Jan 2020 14:17
I sympathize, because I'm almost always "the one", also. I think in all the years I owned Descent 1st Ed., I was NOT the Ovelord... twice? Out of dozens of games? I was always the DM in our old RPG groups, too; not least because I have a lot of stories to tell (as you've, uh, seen here...)

Howevah, I think the game is still worth having, even alongside Doom and TMNT (obvsly), if only because it plays so rapidly. A couple of games with friends who will also glom onto the rules quickly and it won't be that hard to convince someone else to play a Sin in the next scenario, especially if you pick up one of the expansions and it's a Sin you've never played before.

I sometimes think that my people didn't want to be the Overlord since they knew I'd have "inside knowledge" of the dungeons just from owning the game. I specifically didn't look ahead in Descent's quest book for that very reason. I wanted to play them straight. In this case, there's no advantage to having the inside knowledge, since there's no exploration to speak of. Everything is in front of you. Playing a different Sin, though, might have enough of a surprise factor for someone to give it a try.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #305995 09 Jan 2020 15:28
Come to think of it, I wasnt the one in our debut game of Jaws. My wife was the shark and ate everyone.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #306000 09 Jan 2020 17:19

Jackwraith wrote: I just don't get stuff played often enough already, such that I've essentially reduced myself to four channels:

1. Eric Lang
2. Cole Wehrle
3. Scott Almes
4. Michal Oracz

...


Narrowing our channels is a good way to put it. I think we all are doing that.

Honestly, this one was outside my channel because I didn't find it aesthetically pleasing. Which for me, is as good a criteria as any for narrowing down what I want to be playing. ;)

But people keep telling me it is really good. Looking forward to your next article, which might convince me.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306001 09 Jan 2020 17:57

ubarose wrote: Honestly, this one was outside my channel because I didn't find it aesthetically pleasing. Which for me, is as good a criteria as any for narrowing down what I want to be playing. ;)


That's totally fair. I'm going to be commenting a bit more on the art style in the next two segments. I know Tom Vasel also mentioned that he liked the game, mechanically, but didn't find the visual style appealing at all. And, just like food presentation, you gotta like what you're looking at if you're going to be spending hours with it, so I get that.

For my part, this is totally in my wheelhouse from an aesthetic perspective, because I'm just disturbing like that.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #306003 09 Jan 2020 18:06

Jackwraith wrote:

ubarose wrote: I know Tom Vasel also mentioned that he liked the game, mechanically, but didn't find the visual style appealing at all. And, just like food presentation, you gotta like what you're looking at if you're going to be spending hours with it, so I get that.

For my part, this is totally in my wheelhouse from an aesthetic perspective, because I'm just disturbing like that.


Tom totally wrote off Chaos in the Old World because of the "Human Skin" board, so....

Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #306004 09 Jan 2020 18:51

WadeMonnig wrote: Tom totally wrote off Chaos in the Old World because of the "Human Skin" board, so....


I know! That's one of the best parts of the whole design. I'm still convinced that Andrew Navaro ended up as president of FFG solely based on that moment of inspiration.