Come on in for this monumentus edition of Next of Ken, where nominations are now open for the Fortress: AT's Reader's Choice 2012 Awards! I'll give you all the details inside. Also, reviews of two great games from independent publishers this week as I'm featuring BattleCON: Devastation of Indines and Sentinels of the Multiverse: Enhanced Edition. Join us, won't you?
Alright, the moment you've been waiting for is here--nominations for Fortress: AT's Reader's Choice 2012 Awards are OPEN! That's right, now you can make your voices heard--and as I learned last year, there are several publishers who are listening to those voices. So let's be heard!
Here's how it's going to work this year, as it's a little different from years past. (Don't worry, I'll also start a sticky thread with all of this information so it's easy for everyone to access as they need it.)
NOMINATION PERIOD OPEN: NOW
NOMINATIONS CLOSE: February 18th
You'll be nominating up to five games in each of the categories listed for Reader's Choice Awards for 2012. You don't have to nominate five--you can nominate one or two if you'd like--and if a category doesn't interest you, you don't have to nominate anything at all. The nominations are merely guidelines, as there is no hard and fast categorization rule. So yes, you can name Dixit: Odyssey as "Best Wargame of 2012", but unless a large number of others doe the same, don't expect it to make the finals.
At the conclusion of the nomination period, I'll tally the votes, and take the top 5 nominations in each category. We'll then have a week's worth of voting from those top 5, where we'll crown a winner and runner-up in each category.
WHAT TO SUBMIT:
So without further ado, here is the list of categories!
Best Wargame 2012:
Best 2-player Game 2012:
Best Storytelling/Adventure Game 2012:
Best Deckbuilding or Card Game 2012:
Best Expansion 2012:
Best Reprint or New Edition 2012:
Best Beer n' Pretzels 2012:
Reader's Choice, Game of the Year 2012:
Even if the Darkness Wraps Up The World, Hit It and Tear it Apart
One of my most pleasant surprises during my time as a reviewer was Level 99's BattleCON: War of Indines. It was a fighting game that came out of nowhere and knocked my socks off in terms of innovative mechanics, strong gameplay, and great fighting game feel. I liked Flash Duel a lot and was initially skeptical of BattleCON as being a similar knock-off, but the games were completely and totally different, much to my pleasant surprise.
Designer D. Brad Talton Jr. is back with a standalone sequel, one that I missed the Kickstarter campaign for. However, I did receive a preview pre-production kit, and we've been tinkering around with it a little bit. The sequel is called BattleCON: Devastation of Indines and it serves as both expansion for the original as well as a standalone set.
Players in BattleCON try and best their opponent in a fighting game match, and they do this with a cool system where each card represents half of an attack, and you pair them for each move. These pairs handle everything from your movement, to your attack range, to interacting with your own special abilities.
Speaking of abilities, that's probably the coolest element of Battlecon. The original game came with 18 heroes and the amazing thing was how much differently each played than the other. You had characters who would rush in swinging, characters who could absorb damage and come back for more, characters who wanted to pepper their opponents at range...it was staggering how much differently each character played. You could do exceptionally well with someone who matched your style, then find yourself completely floundering with a character that wasn't a good fit for you.
Level 99 is really ramping things up further with Devastation of Indines. You're getting another 18 characters (there are some Kickstarter bonuses, but I think 18 is the standard amount.) And these characters all bring new abilities to the table, though there are a few that are slightly similar to older characters. If you consider though that this is meant to be a standalone game as well, that isn't terribly surprising. Every fighting game needs a few specific archetypes, so you're going to have a little bleed-over here and there.
The core gameplay hasn't changed, as it's the characters and their card and ability interactions that determine the gameplay. And that's the real meat and potatoes of the game, the joy of learning a new character, how to use their powers to your advantage, and along the way pummel your opponent into submission. Sounds like a good time. Along the way, you'll use characters like Clinhyde and his 3 Stim cards that give him additional powers, but at a price; Voco Astrum, who summons zombies to the field to protect him and hinder his opponent; Gaspar Geddon, who can make clones of himself to simultaneously launch attacks...the list goes on and on.
What's really remarkable though is the additional material that is being put into the game. In this age of Kickstarter, where you have to entice potential pledgers with a wealth of bonuses, this has to be one of the richest amount of extra gameplay stuff I've seen offered. You get new Arenas that not only have effects on the battle, but can transform and flip during the battle to completely change the rules again. All characters now have two Super Moves instead of one, which is a fantastic change. They seem less powerful as a whole, but are more flexible in terms of who your opponent is and what you'll think you'll need.
There are also "Striker" cards, which emulate the ability to tag in an assist character--think the original Marvel vs. Capcom for the most direct comparison. It comes with a big deck full of all the characters in the game, and you get to choose one out of a hand of five of them. During a battle, you can summon their help for a variety of effects, such as boosting attacks, providing additional power, pulling back a Special Action card for re-use, or just popping out and mashing your opponent's face in a surprise move. Very, very cool addition to the game and just adds more in terms of variability in options from match to match.
To cap this all off there's a BattleQuest mode that basically acts as a cross between an RPG/Fighting Game hybrid and a side-scrolling beat-em up. Players can team up to work their way through a series of rooms filled with baddies, working their way level by level until they reach the Boss. The Boss of course will have its own special rules to make the final battle even tougher. There are two dungeon set-ups in the rulebook. One is a shorter battle through a Crypt, toughing your way through a pair of Werewolves until you have to fight Ancella's Ghost, who can shift between planes and be very frustrating to hit. Then there's an epic 9-level quest through Magister Kilgrem's Labratory where you have to defeat his mechanized experiment to win.
While my brother and I were battling at this the other day, I looked up and said, "We definitely should be playing this system more." There is miles of replayability in either the base game or this one, and combine them both? Unbelievable.
If you absolutely have to choose between the two, you should grab Devastation of Indines, as the added arenas and play modes definitely add to the gameplay.
The only downside I can come up with is that this game needs a dedicated opponent to really thrive. Learning each character, how they interact with the system, these are things that take repeat plays, and the best way to enjoy something like that is with an opponent who will take the time to learn it with you.
I think that aspect is something to be cherished and celebrated, but not everyone has someone that they can rely on to hammer out those two-player games repeatedly. But if you have someone you think you can play even semi-regularly, this is definitely a game with depth worth checking out.
Below is the designer's Youtube tutorial video for how to play the original BattleCON: War of Indines. It's fairly thorough and the gameplay demonstration applies to Devastation as well. If you're interested in a breakdown of exactly how the game plays, check it out for more details.
Fighting and Free, Got Your World In My Hand
We're on a roll this week as I finally got my hands on a copy of Sentinels of the Multiverse Enhanced Edition. This one was hard to come by for awhile as only a limited number of copies had trickled out and were quickly and eagerly gobbled up.
I reviewed the original Sentinels very favorably if you'll recall, it's a game that showed me how well a multi-deck card-based co-operative game could be done, and made me realize once and for all that I really had no use for Lord of the Rings LCG.
If I had to as a recap encapsulate the experience of playing Sentinels, think this: players choose from a selection of 10 hero decks, a villain, and an environment deck where the battle takes place. From there, the players take turns using their cards and powers to do damage to the villain and his minions. The bad guy has his own deck with threats and events that pop out of it, dishing out damage to the heroes or thwarting their ability to fight effectively. Each hero has their own flavor and selection of powers they can use to evade the villain's tricks, battle through his or her henchment and hopefully turn the lights out on the vile super-powered criminal.
What's fantastic about the game is how it captures those whole mega-issues where the team had assembled for a climactic battle at the end of a major story arc. For example, in this game, you can have a team of four heroes travel to the Mars base where they'll do battle with the alien warlord Voss who is bent on dominating the earth. During the battle, the armored hero Bunker unleashes a torrent of bullets, taking out a couple of Voss' goons, while Tachyon uses her blinding speed to dash in and disable one of his traps. Suddenly the base's defense mechanisms trigger, causing an explosion that sends everyone flying forward. Voss laughs as he prepares to turn his deadly powers on the wounded heroes...it's these kinds of stories that the game tells, and it is in my mind the best representation of comic books that I've played in boardgaming. It's really, really good, highly immersive, and the number of combinations in the base game alone keeps you coming back for more.
I've also heard the game compared to a Final Fantasy boss battle, and I don't think that's too far off in terms of describing the feel of playing the game.
None of these praises from me are particularly new as they echo everything I've said about the game previously. But what's really great is that with this new edition, Greater Than Games have fixed every possible complaint to be had from the previous edition. When the 1st edition was published, it was in a tiny box that you could cram all the cards back in, but to hell with organization. The new box is full-sized, super sturdy, and has plenty of room for all the cards released to date for the game, including swank dividers making organization a snap. The other major issue was scalability, where a larger group of heroes simply had an easier time than a smaller one. Now, several of the cards have been reworked to include the "H" Hero symbol as a variable. A card
that once may have done 2 damage to a hero will be worded as "Deal H damage to a hero", so with 5 players one of the heroes is taking a much larger hit than before.
Is this a bummer for adopters of the 1st edition? Yeah, maybe a little. All of the card errata is available on their website, and all current and future expansions are compatible with the original edition anyway, so it's not as though early adopters are totally out of luck. And for most of you I'm guessing you've already found alternative storage solutions anyway (my original Sentinels set is in one of my unused Nightfall boxes.) So if you can handle remembering a little card errata here and there, you're good to go--or if you weren't worried about minor balance issues to begin with, just continue to play as you already are.
If you've been on the fence previously though, this new edition is an absolute no-brainer. Thematic, interactive gameplay; a co-op where the "alpha dog" syndrome is very minimal as everyone has their own card decks and powers; awesome comic-inspired art; and tons of replayability in the form of different hero teams, different villains, and different environments. If you're even remotely a comic book fan I will simply say again that this is one of the best treatments I've ever seen a comic book-themed game get, and with two expansions out and another on the way there's plenty more action to keep you hooked for a very long time.
I don't truly gush about games all that often, but this is one that I have no qualms about doing so, as it's a fantastic game. Go get it.
Another edition in the books, thanks so much for reading. Remember, get your nominations in for the F:AT Reader's Choice Awards, and good luck to all your favorites! I'll see ya in seven.