Time is short this week, so I'm dishing up some delicious gaming bites, ranging from quick snacks to light meals. And, uh, don't forget to, like, brush and floss your teeth afterward. So while this food analogy is rapidly crashing down...join us, won't you?
When You Feel Safe, When You Feel Warm, That's When I Rise, That's When I Crawl
Still digging American Horror Story. The last episode "Piggy Piggy" established their mythology more firmly. The violence was cranked up a few notches as shows on F/X get a lot of leeway.
Plus, the ending of the Piggy Piggy storyline proves that the writers have a pretty macabre sense of humor...I like that. It's a good show and on my "must watch" list every week.
We're also all caught up on Once Upon a Time, one of the two fairy-tale based shows on network TV this season. This one has all the familiar characters trapped in the prison of our own world and yet don't even realize it.
It's enjoyable, certainly moreso than Grimm which just wants to plod through every episode. But understand this--Once Upon a Time is a show without a cynical, winking bone in its body. It is totally and completely earnest. That will strike a lot of folks as corny, but y'know, with so many shows and movies so wrapped up in being ironically clever and spouting off endless instantly-dated pop culture references, it's actually kind of refreshing. It's not like the Shrek films, which stopped functioning as movies right after the second one.
Speaking of Grimm, I haven't watched the third episode yet, but the first couple had the crime of being boring. I'll give it like two more episodes, tops, to see if it picks up. I'm not particularly hopeful.
Ain't No Sound But the Sound of His Feet, Machine Guns Ready to Go
Bakugan -- I don't know if I ever fully formed a rant against Bakugan, so if I'm repeating myself in front of any long-time readers, forgive me.
Has there ever been a shittier kids game than this one?
On the surface, it looks so cool...these little plastic balls that, when rolled over heavy magnetic cards, spring to life in the form of monsters, warriors, and dragons. But that's where the "coolness" factor ends. The reality is you end up with little plastic guys who break easy, no longer close properly, and won't spring when they're supposed to, even when rolling directly over the cards. Worse still, the money grab is probably the most blatant I've ever seen. A couple of years ago, a "strong" Bakugan had like 600 power. Now? They routinely print them with over 1000 power. Any balancing factors? Uh, none. It costs you no more to include a 1000 power Bakugan as it does a 450 point one. It's ludicrous.
I bet you're asking, though, why is this showing up in this Gaming Bites column? It's simple--my kids love it. They don't ask to play it as much as they used to, but my youngest son asked for it the other night, and I sat down and played it with him.
Because honestly, that's my job as a parent, right? It's about the kids having fun, not me so much. I have fun when they do.
I heard a podcaster not long ago talk about putting their nine-year old through a game of Le Havre. That's about the most hideous gaming story I can think of. Why would you do that to a child? So you can say, "Hey, my nine-year old played Le Havre with me?"
Kids are young only once. I indulge them with what they want to game. Years from now I'll remember these days, and I want them to as well. Thankfully, they won't look back and go, "Remember when dad made us play that shitty two-hour worker placement game?"
Childhood scars averted, my friends.
Ghost Stories -- I like this game. I really do. But it hates me. And I'm nearly sick to death of sitting down to it only to have it aggressively step on my testicles.
I've been begging my brother to finally learn the rules for White Moon; supposedly, that helps things. We'll see.
Incan Gold -- Speaking of great family games, we played this the other night and I've got to say, this is one of the best family games ever made.
The decisions are so simple--keep going, or run away? As the treasure grows, and the danger gets ever closer, how much are you willing to risk?
It's not even a game you have to handicap. My five year old little girl won a game because she had a round where she hit 30 points, and there were several other rounds where both my wife and I were too greedy and were BURIED ALIVE in the tomb.
Incan Gold was something I was kinda cold on when I first played it, until I realize it's one that needs to be played with the right attitude. And you'll definitely want to let the curse words fly when you risk "one more go" and end up eaten by spiders. Just make sure you wait until your five-year old daughter is not at the table before you unleash the filth flarn flarn filth!
The version that came out before the Gryphon Games version was terrible, with tents that were cards that you had to crease and fold in half. I like the newer version with the little fold-out tents.
This one deserves a spot on your family gaming shelf. Every time I bring it out, I wonder why I don't more often.
Summoner Wars Master Set -- I'm just going to reiterate how insanely good this is. We've played several games and I just feel like I'm scraping the tip of the iceberg. In my last game, I think I finally figured out a rock-solid Benders strategy. I was starting to enact it but I'd fallen too far behind. Still, I actually got into a situation where I had a chance to kill his Summoner, and with one more hit, I would have. That was my last stab before the lights went out for good.
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and go buy a copy. I'll wait.
Innovation: Echoes of the Past -- My wife is the reigning Innovation champion, so when we got a copy of the Echoes of the Past expansion for review, she was pretty excited.
Innovation is definitely one step removed from a pure abstract game, but the joy is in finding the ridiculous combinations of powers. "If I activate this power, then remove this from the board, then return this card, and steal his card, then..."
The expansion adds new cards, but instead of just shuffling them in, you have a preset number of cards for each age based on the number of players.
The new powers are Forecasting, which lets you tuck away a powerful card from a later age and spring it for free at the right time, and Echoes, which are cards that have abilities instead of one of their icons and you get to keep these abilities so long as they're splayed properly.
I liked the powers, a lot of them seemed crazy and game-changing. Even though in a two-player game you only get three of the new cards per age, they're enough to make their presence felt.
The setup is a pain in the ass now, though. You can't make preset decks or anything like that, you have to set up the game at the start by seperating not one but two sets of cards from 10 different ages, then make decks for each age appropriately. I also wasn't as keen on the fact that in a two-player game, some of these cards are dependant on cards from the same set, so a lot of times stuff that looks like it's going to be awesome doesn't come into play all that much.
Storage is no good either if you're the owner of the slimmer Innovation box. Neither the base game nor expansion box has room for the other, so you end up carrying around both boxes, or throwing them out in favor of some other solution.
I think the new cards do spice up the gameplay, though. I like having a cascading stack of effects due to Echo, and if they line up just right, you can do some pretty cool combos that way. I also like how there are now variable amounts of cards for each age based on number of players...no more 2-player endlessly toiling in Age 1. It seems like this, coupled with players needing one more Achievement to win if using the expansion, and games are often longer and a bit more back-and-forth.
My wife wasn't as keen on this though, she felt like the setup was too much for what you were getting. She also didn't like how wonky the color mixes could be--due to randomization of the cards from the two sets, you could end up with very few of a certain color for a given age, making it much more difficult to plan.
Still kinda torn on this one right now, I like the new cards but the setup headache makes vanilla Innovation still look pretty attractive. I'll update you fine folks as soon as we have more games under our belt.
Eaten By Zombies -- I know you guys are sick of hearing me talk about deckbuilders, but this is one I Kickstarter'd back in the summer, and I'm glad I did. "But this is a different type of deckbuilder!" is a phrase of almost desperation that I'm sure you're also tired of hearing from game publishers, but in this case, this is more of a deck deconstruction game more than anything else.
The premise is simple, you're four survivors of the zombie apocalypse, but the hordes are growing, supplies are dwindling, and time is running out.
Each turn, a certain number of zombies will appear from the deck. You have two currencies in the game basically; fight and flee. Zombies have values in these two ratings, and at the start of the turn you'll have to choose which of the two you want to do.
Should you succeed, you'll get to nab swag from the central stash based on how many points of fight or flight you came up with.
Fail, however, and you have to sacrifice cards from your hand and deck to match the damage. Now, if you're like me and have played lots of deckbuilders, you're aware of how powerful deck-thinning strategies generally are. So the first time you take a hit in Eaten By Zombies, you'll probably smile, chucking out those weak starter deck cards and thinking how awesome things are.
Then you take that second chomp, usually much harder than the first, and it dawns on you that this don't feel so good! And when your deck runs out of cards, you become a zombie. Last player standing is the winner.
Interestingly enough, in multiplayer games people that succumb to the zombie horde do become active zombie players, and have their own way of influencing the game. Unlike other games where joining the evil team has benefits, however, is the fact that if you outright kill the next-to-last survivor, then the last survivor wins the game. The zombie players can only win if someone ends up with a handful of zombie cards, so they have to manipulate the game and the zombie horde to make that more likely.
It's been tough for the zombie players to have much impact so far. Usually around deck go-through number 4 (during which 4 zombies shamble out of the deck every turn), people start finally dropping like dominoes. Problem with that is, you'll turn into a zombie, only to watch the next guy fall too, and oops, that last guy is the winner. It's almost to the point where I'm thinking a player might opt to go "zombie strategy" early, so that they have time to manipulate the game. It's a risk though, because if two players try it, they will hand the game to the third player.
I like the "Deck as damage" mechanic, I've enjoyed that ever since the days of Star Wars CCG. I also like the retro art design on thecards, some of the illustrations are alternately gruesome and hilarious.
One thing I'm hoping is not a trend for Kickstarter games though is the lack of an editor/proofreader. There are some pretty egregious typos on several of the cards, stuff like "resuffle", "begaining", "redouced"...it doesn't really affect gameplay, but it's distracting.
The ammo box is great, I love the dividers with FAQs already on them, but the rulebook...man, it is totally soup. Download the newer version that's on the web, which is an improvement to say the least. Then there's the fact that the designer has made some rulings that almost counteract common sense--things you wouldn't even think you'd be able to do--and you've got a game that can be tricky to make sure you're playing "properly."
Despite its issues, I like the cutthroat gameplay, and really enjoy how the game ramps up from "man, I got this!" to "WE ARE DOOMED THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM." I'm starting to think that fleeing is a fool's game as it costs you when you flee, and once you can no longer flee, you'll usually be taking a HUGE chunk of damage.
Anyway...I know this was basically a fleshed out mini-review, but I'll talk more about it as I get to play it even more. I feel like there's a nice amount of strategy here, and remember the old saying--in the face of the zombie apocalypse, you don't have to be faster than the zombies, just faster than your friend. That will tell you all you need to know about Eaten By Zombies!
Well, despite the fact that these were mere Gaming Bites, I hope your belly is sated for another week. So until the hunger for more gaming goodness--or tasty brains--strikes, I'll see ya in seven.