Come on in for another home-cooked episode of Next of Ken, where on this week's platter I'll be serving up more thoughts on moving (yeah! Groovin'? YEAH!), Dick Clark's passing, companies' restocking woes, Sirlin's Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition gamble, Summoner Wars goodies, and Lords of Waterdeep reviewed. All with a side helping of gravy...always, always gravy. Join us, won't you?
It Always Takes you Over, and Sets Your Spirit Dancing
- Finally moved the last of our stuff from the old house to our new one. Man, talk about hellweek, getting moved on a deadline sucks royal ass. We've felt like we're holding our breaths just waiting to enjoy our new house. Well, as of Sunday we can finally exhale.
But the boxes...oh, the boxes...where the hell are we supposed to put all this stuff?!?
One of the big tasks is putting together three large bookshelves for the rec room. One of the things I will actually miss about our old house was this cool large walk-in closet in the upstairs hallway that was seemingly custom made to be a game closet. It even had some built-in shelves that made it easy to store a hell of a lot of games.
Make no mistake, the new rec room is going to rock. No more heading up the stairs for games, the gaming table is right there and the bookshelves will line the wall right beside the table. Perfect!
Now...to put the damned things together. Any volunteers?!?
- Related to this, man is it a bitch to move a game collection or what? The side effect to this is I may just have to do a "Barnes Blowout" type game sale somewhere in the near future. Though Barnes has taken to squatting in the shops of local merchants and randomly peeing on their wares, so I'll have to be very, very careful.
"How mucha you take for the BillyZ, eh?"
I'm usually a trader, but it's not doing much to shrink my collection...in fact, I usually end up getting more back in return than is going out! It always starts the same..."I'm going to shrink this collection, make some f'n trades,man!" Before you know it though I'm out there haggling like a crazy person, and the collection grows instead. Oops.
Moving a few hundred games will give you new perspective on them, though. They're harmless while they're sitting on shelves; but I was feelin' some hate for some of these that hadn't been played in over two years and yet...I'm having to lug them around.
I can't imagine Frank Branham having to move his HUGE freakin' collection. Moving just a few hundred nearly killed me.
- This is the spot where I'd normally talk about how much I'm enjoying Season 2 of Game of Thrones on HBO, but there has been literally zero time for any other entertainment consumption. So they sit on the ol' DVR, along with a pile of other shows I have to get caught up on. I'm not sure what I ever did without DVR, but it's a lifesaver.
I'm assuming there's been plenty of killing, Tyrion, and titties, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't be GoT without all that, now would it?
- Dick Clark passed away recently, and it dates me just a bit to say I remember American Bandstand being on Saturdays when I was a kid. The funny thing is, my parents were marvelling at his longevity even then. Guy was everywhere--hosting game shows, swinging to pop music, you name it, Dick was there.
American Bandstand was a great place to hear top 40 music and see artists "perform" (usually lip-synched) before MTV gained its foothold.
After that, and to a lot of slightly younger folks, Dick Clark was more synonymous with the New Year's Eve special. Even after his stroke, he soldiered on with each broadcast, although Ryan Seacrest had most of the hosting duties from that point forward. I always tried to catch a little of the ball dropping each year; it's very sad that last year's was the last time for him. Luckily, we were all watching last year, kids with their party hats and noisemakers too. Cheesy family man? You betcher ass. But Dick Clark, with his warm Americana and Apple Pie persona, would've been proud.
- I wonder what the heck is going on with so many companies struggling to get new/reprinted products into customer hands. I'm not sure I remember it ever being quite as bad as this. Take three big games, Mage Knight, Eclipse, and King of Tokyo. White hot buzz, rave reviews from those lucky enough to nab copies, and yet still after many many months none to be found anywhere.
Couple that with Kickstarter projects that keep skidding past date after date "Spring 2012...er...Q2 2012...um...this year sometimes?"
I think it's something to do with the visibility we have into the hobby. We see more, and oddly enough it makes us all the more impatient. I get that. But it doesn't explain the difficulties in restocking.
I know this--once King of Tokyo is back on shelves again with engraved dice, I am all over that one. What a great game that one is. With all the great press it's received, they could've sold a few hundred thousand of them in the meantime. Hurry up, KoT!
This is Me in My Finest Hour, I'm Calling You Out
Speaking vaguely of Kickstarter, David Sirlin has posted 3rd Edition Puzzle Strike and the Shadows expansion here:
This has generated some controversy for Sirlin, as at present there is no upgrade path for 2nd Edition owners.
The changes to 3rd edition are pretty far-reaching, with the key change being that Combine now costs you -$1 for the turn every time you play it. This finally hits the right balance of rush vs. econ. vs defense, as before Rush could tend to be overpowered with very little negative side effects.
Having been on the playtest team I both understand the need to update as well as the concerns that people have. After all, it sucks to have to re-buy anything, especially the base set of a game.
I look at it like this, though--much like the "problems" with 1st/2nd edition, these changes are the sort of things you'll only bump into if you play the game several dozen times. What this means is that if you're a casual player and own one of the other versions, you don't "need" to get this to continue to have fun with and enjoy the game.
"What of the expansion?" you might ask. After all, surely you'd need to upgrade to3rd edition before getting the expansion, right? In my opinion, you could most likely pick up the expansion and play it with your existing 2nd edition set. Will it be "perfectly tuned and balanced?" Maybe not. But unless you dig deeply into the game, I promise you you're not going to notice. And in the bargain, you'll get ten brand new characters and 24 new bank chips with which to play with--including a big focus on the red Attack and blue Defense chips that were sort of incidental to the meat of the gameplay prior to this. With the expansion, you'll actually see people win with reds instead of just purples, and the variety is welcomed.
And if you do get those multiple plays out of it? I'd say money well spent, and if you want to keep exploring, well, there's more "space" to dig into if you're willing to pony up the coin.
Despite all the hub-bub, Puzzle Strike remains one of the premiere experiences in deckbuilding with its asymmetrical characters and head-to-head gameplay. If you've held out this long without trying it, this really is a good time to jump in, probably the best time ever.
Does it suck for early adopters? Yeah, it might. But in the end, the game is better for the continued development. Either way, David continues to bring video game sensibilities to board game design, and the clash of cultures can sometimes be quite fun to watch.
Fools Like Me Who Cross the Sea
The new Summoner Wars decks are here, and Plaid Hat Games continues to surprise me by layering cool stuff on such a simple "chuck some dice to hit" system.
The first of the new factions is the Mercenaries. Now, longtime players will already know that Mercenaries have been available in the various Reinforcement decks or as promos for some time now. They finally have their own deck, and I have to say that I'm really surprised that their focus is...walls?
Don't get me wrong, they have some cool powers. Their Summoner Rallul can drain energy from Walls and turn them into card draws, which is ridiculously cool. But if you'd told me that this would be a chunk of their focus, I wouldn't have believed you at first. It seems...strange, thematically. I suppose that the notion is that they're working from the shadows of the walls, maybe? I dunno.
Anyway, it's nice because now there are *real* threats to your walls. It hasn't felt in the past like losing all your walls could be a valid losing condition because it was so inefficient for your opponent to try and take them all down. Now? Not so much.
The Filth is the other deck and they are seriously cool. Their new mechanic is basically 'morphing' their common units into their more powerful, grotesque form.
Their common units deploy for free and can move about the board, but their real power is in their mutation cards. You need a common unit to place them on, but these cards turn them into much more powerful threats. It's possible to rush your opponent with your cheap units, wait to see which can breach enemy lines, then mutate and go for the kill.
And if you're worried about getting those mutation cards matched up, or losing out on card advantage (because if your foe kills a mutated unit, you've just lost two cards), then look to their Summoner for help. He can fish mutation cards either from the draw deck or discard pile. So just when you thought you'd dealt with the poisonous vomitting mutant, you'll watch in horror as the Cultist in front of you morphs into that same horror.
Just another delicious layer on the frosting of Summoner Wars. I keep waiting on them to run out of design space; they keep surprising me each and every time. Keep up the good work, Colby and crew.
Funeral But Nobody's Died, Dressed in Black and Black Inside
We played the print and play The Thing that I talked about several weeks ago. As is the duty of any game's owner, I took on the role of the bad guys. However, like a doofus, I left in a couple of cards from the expansion that were intended for 5-6 player games only (to even the odds, more or less, for The Thing.) One in particular ravaged everyone's hand to the point they could do very little after that.
It's definitely a cool little game, especially for fans of the movie. It lacks that polish here and there; you'll find rough spots that need some hemming up. There's a lot of task assigning and dice rolling, which now that I think about it resembles Stone Age's gameplay a little bit. But think more along the lines of a Stone Age with odds you can actually, deeply effect through cardplay, plus the bluffing element of "Who's infected?" And killin'. Lots and lots of killin'.
I'd recommend it to fans of John Carpenter's original. It's full of gory imagery, awesome quotes (even where the cards are wrong--"Cheating, bitch?" was not actually a question.) It doesn't have the liquid smooth gameplay of a Shadows Over Camelot or a Battlestar Galactica but even with the messy spots it's pretty fun.
If you are a fan, try and find one of the many Artscow coupons for either a discount or free shipping, and get you a copy printed. It's still kind of mind-blowing that with the popularity of hidden traitor games along with the prequel last year we didn't see some sort of official stab at a "The Thing" game.
Slaves are Falling Away, Sons are Holding On
Thanks to Wizards of the Coast, I had a chance to play a review copy of the new hotness Lords of Waterdeep. What was shocking to me--and most who initially first heard about the game--was the fact that we were getting a dyed-in-the-wool Eurogame with a decidedly Ameritrash theme. Could it possibly be good?
For gamers well-versed in the popular mechanisms, it's easy to describe Lords of Waterdeep thusly: it's a worker placement game with the added element of "Take that" cards. Players have 8 turns to complete "quests", and quests require a certain mix of "adventurers" (i.e. colored cubes.) You acquire these adventurers either through placing your "Agents" on the board, or through certain cards and quests that grant you additional adventurers.
A lot has been made about how thin the theme is for the game, but there is definitely lip service paid to the game's theme. Quests requiring stealth or work from the shadows often require rogues, while other quests requiring more of a show of brute strength will call on more fighters.
The quests are what drive the game. Each quest is worth a certain number of points, and the more difficult a quest, the more it's worth. Each quest also has a "type" such as Commerce or Skullduggery, and these tie into the Secret Lord cards you'll have. Each Lord save one will get a bonus for two of the different types of quests at the end of the game. This will drive you to seek out and acquire quests that not only match the resources you can get your hands on, but also that match the goals of your Lord.
Now, if it were the usual worker placement game where everyone goes around the tableplacing dudes with the minimal interaction of grabbing something someone else needed, it would be easier to write this one off. However, the Intrigue cards kick things up a notch. Intrigue cards let you steal adventurers or gold from your opponents, or force them to do minor quests that yield very few points, all kinds of "screw you" effects that are sorely missing from most worker placement borefests. I've seen some whining online from Eurogamers who want to find a way to play the game without the Intrigue cards; proof positive that this is more of a Eurogame to appeal to gamers like us instead of those gamers with fragile and easily bruised egos.
The bits and insert for this game are freakin' fantastic. This is probably the best insert for a game I've ever seen. Everything has its own place, and there is a guide at the back of the instruction booklet that tells you where everything goes. The box is oddly shaped but fits everything inside quite nicely. The artwork is the generally solid D&D variety, all in all it makes for a very nice package.
Personally I think it's fantastic--and high time--that Wizards of the Coast is leveraging the powerful Dungeons & Dragons brand in the form of stand-alone boardgames. TSR wasn't shy about spitting out all sorts of games of varying quality, and Wizards has now provided us three adventure games, a Dudes on a Map game, and now a Eurogame, all of excellent quality.
It's important to note once again, though--this is a Euro. It has gorgeous window dressing and light slatherings of thematic trappings, but it's still a Euro. I will gladly argue though that having a palatable theme makes all the difference in the world. I don't want to unwind on game day playing some shmuck who's busy trying to impress some dour authority figure. I get enough "work" at work, you know? But give me a chance to be a powerful lord, working his machinations from the shadows, commanding legions of adventurers to do my bidding? Yeah, I can handle that. Gladly.
Lords of Waterdeep is crisp, plays fast, slips some card-based screwage in there, and is extremely well-produced. Basically, Wizards has set out to make a Euro for Ameritrashers, and I'm happy to report they seemed to have succeeded in spades. This is a great time and a wonderful light family game or one that's perfect to kick off a game night. It's worth your time to hunt down a copy and give it a try.
That's going to do it for yet another edition of Next of Ken. Wish me luck as I construct these bookcases and wade my way through the endless boxes...oh man, the BOXES! They're freaking EVERYWHERE! Send help, man, I don't even....
Ken is a weekly columnist for Fortress: Ameritrash and a member of our staff. When he's not knee deep in playing games for review, he's most likely opening the boxes and getting high off of the plastic vapours.
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