Barnestorming- Temple of Elemental Evil in Review, Lift Off, Small Box Games

Barnestorming- Temple of Elemental Evil in Review, Lift Off, Small Box Games Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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Temple of Elemental Evil

This week my review is over at Miniaturemarket.com, and it's the new Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System title- Temple of Elemental Evil. Aside from that Magic/Heroscape thing coming out later this year, this was my most anticipated release of 2015. And I have to say that even though I really love it, it is a disappointment. This was a great opportunity to gently nudge the system toward a "2.0" stage. The new campaign rules are great and there are a lot of elements I wish were in the past games, but it comes across as a "1.5" version. The scenarios, for example, are much simpler and really kind of same-y- get to tiles 9-12, fight the boss. The town scenarios are a great idea, but they're really kind of dumb interludes between the usual hack and slash fare.

 

 

I actually haven't mixed everything into my giant pile of D&DAS fun, but there are some things that aren't going to mesh completely due to the campaign setup. One thing I love is that they did away with that obnoxious "roll a natural 20, level up" crap. You buy levels between scenarios along with various upgrade tokens that get more expensive for the party as a whole. You sell treasures back and can share money. I like that there are outcomes to scenarios based on how many healing surges you've blown, so monsters can level up with you and special cards get added into the decks. This is all good stuff.

But it also makes the game WAY too easy. Veterans won't break a sweat, even on the fire rune-inscribed tiles. After like six scenarios without a single death, it sort of felt like we were on easy mode or something.

Also, one last gripe, most of the monsters kind of suck. The cultists are boring. And you will be fighting them ALL THE TIME. You do get some fun elementals, a black dragon and this complete groaner- the doppleganger. Oh, that guy in your party? It turns out he was a doppleganger. ON THE LAST TILE. The real dude is back at the stairs!

I heard from none other than John Clowdus the other day, Mr. Small Box Games. I haven't heard from him in a while, was very happy to see him pop up. And he bore gifts. He sent me his new game Soulfall and the umpteenth edition of Omen, which looks like it scales it down a bit and gets it back to basics. Still love that game. Soulfall looks quite interesting, it has that "Clowdus touch"- strange concepts, intricate cardplay options and unusually evocative artwork. Review forthcoming on that one.

I saw the art for Lift Off and had to ask for it...it looks really cute. I played a solo test and it looks pretty promising. It's kind of a pseudo-co-op take on the Survive! style game (see also: Downfall of Pompeii) where you have these aliens trying to get out of their planets' core and on to various egress devices, each of which requires different kinds of cards to fuel and each of which can hold a different number of aliens. So you have to get your guys out there and onto these methods of escape and then sort of jointly (or not) fuel them up. There's some cool ideas here, but it is quite a bit more complicated than Survive! so I think it comes across as sort of an "advanced" family game. Which could be a really good thing. More on this one later.

Probably pulling the trigger on Forbidden Stars if some sales go through...*sigh*

Barnestorming- Temple of Elemental Evil in Review, Lift Off, Small Box Games There Will Be Games
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Posted: 12 Jun 2015 07:17 by charlest #204081
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I'll never get your love of D&DAS. Super Fantasy has twice the color and gumption.

I see that Soulfall cover and I just think Free Willy.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 07:28 by Gary Sax #204083
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This has got to be the most flooded genre due to kickstarter, right? That seems like it's an issue.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 08:19 by iguanaDitty #204089
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Gary Sax wrote:
This has got to be the most flooded genre due to kickstarter genre, right? That seems like it's an issue.

I never liked D&DAS anyway, but agreed that with more games covering the same ground more than a vanilla approach is necessary to be interesting. Especially with 3 games out already that are all basically the same.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 08:27 by VonTush #204091
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At this point just about every genre is flooded, not because of KS individually, but rather because the industry as a whole is hitting a saturation level that is sustainable only because of the 3 month life cycle or community consciousness of most games.

Regarding the D&D:AS, I've only played Ravenloft, I really just didn't like it. To be honest I never got a sense of setting. I also found myself more engaged with maximizing my resources against the mechanics rather than exploring and spelunking. So it just felt like resource management in fantasy dress.

What I've been playing recently for my dungeon-crawl/hack-and-slash craving is Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King in Arcade Mode. It's a dice chucker and likewise a bit too easy but I do get that sense of heroes of substantial power slashing through waves of enemies that the D&D:AS never really provided. It feels like Gauntlet the Board Game and made some great improvements over the original Super Dungeon Explore.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 09:46 by Michael Barnes #204098
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It's definitely a flooding issue...I can't even keep up with what's new, what's current, what's out this week anymore. I look at the front page on BGG and half of the hot list is games I've never even heard of. Invariably, two out of three of those are Kickstarters.

Think back to 2010, when Ravenloft came out...it was an event. Everybody was talking about it. Now, a game like that comes out and vanishes anywhere from a week to a month later. Because something else is out, taking its place. The only games that seem to stay perennial, "over the churn" as it were, are things like X-Wing and Netrunner. Games with serial marketing, strong organized play and a la carte components. Say all you will about serial games, that is a very smart strategy in a market where there is this kind of turnover in interest.

Is it really healthy for the industry, gamer or genre to have SO MANY choices that are really fundamentally the same? If you wanted to play a dungeon crawl/dudes in a hall board game in 2000, you had like maybe five choices. Now there's likely at least five times that many currently in print and on the market, not counting anything in Kickstarter funding.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 09:46 by Josh Look #204099
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I've only played Soulfall once but I really enjoyed it. Yup, it's a John Clowdus game.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 09:48 by Michael Barnes #204100
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I know, right? I read the rules and they just couldn't have been written by anybody else.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 10:21 by VonTush #204105
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Michael Barnes wrote:
Is it really healthy for the industry, gamer or genre to have SO MANY choices that are really fundamentally the same?

To be honest, I think so. In general the industry, customer base and game selection have all grown and none have hit a point of critical mass. And despite some doom and gloom predictions, I don't see that happening any time soon.

The other day I was in my FLGS shop discussing how jaded I've become towards new releases. And during the discussion the owner mentioned that he's confused and saddened in a way that time and time again some of the best games ever printed gather dust on his shelves, bypassed for the new hotness. But that's also why the lights are still on in the shop.

That's what it sounds like ToEE did...It remained stagnant and tried to recreate the magic from five years ago. It didn't do more when it could have. Perhaps ignoring the past five years of industry change?
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:11 by Mr. White #204107
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I love the DD:AS games. For my dollar the best dungeoncrawlers outside of Advanced HeroQuest.

I made generic character sheets for all the official classes so you can now toss the cards, name the characters, use any minis, etc. I've also put together a loose campaign system where you adventure from one location to another and roll on what scenario you'll play. The first three games are a ton of fun under this system.

fortressat.com/forum/10-ameritrash/14597...das-campaigns#145977

Haven't played ToEE yet because I was hoping there'd be more new. These game boxes are fairly large. Not sure I wanna stack that's 4 high...The only two things that'd I'd look to add at this point are a) a hero pack of the kids from the D&D cartoon or b) a Dragonlance adventure. Neither have any modern currency so I don't expect to add any more at this point.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:17 by Mr. White #204109
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Super Fantasy...never played it, but looks like crap. I'm not a fan of any sort of cutesy art...unless it's by a Senor Aragones.

Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:23 by charlest #204111
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The art sucks but the game is great. You should read Barnes' review.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:31 by Mr. White #204113
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From Barnes - "Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault- GREAT dungeoncrawler, fired by the return of D&DAS. And the fact that this genre is over-represented in my collection as it is. $28"
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:42 by VonTush #204114
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The plus side of having saturation to the level we have is that there's likely an aesthetic and complexity to fit your style.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:48 by charlest #204117
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Mr. White wrote:
From Barnes - "Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault- GREAT dungeoncrawler, fired by the return of D&DAS. And the fact that this genre is over-represented in my collection as it is. $28"

Yes and I of course disagree with him on that. I was just saying if you've never heard of it you should check out his review.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 11:53 by Mr. White #204118
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charlest wrote:
Mr. White wrote:
From Barnes - "Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault- GREAT dungeoncrawler, fired by the return of D&DAS. And the fact that this genre is over-represented in my collection as it is. $28"

Yes and I of course disagree with him on that. I was just saying if you've never heard of it you should check out his review.

Looks like we've got our first candidate for a 'crossfire' style article.

Barnes and DDAS vs Charlest and SF!
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 12:31 by charlest #204123
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I've only played it twice, and DDAS once so I don't think I'm the guy for that.

But a good idea. I could a Myth vs. the world where everyone tells me I'm an idiot, but I still love that game.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 13:15 by mikecl #204128
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VonTush wrote:
That's what it sounds like ToEE did...It remained stagnant and tried to recreate the magic from five years ago. It didn't do more when it could have. Perhaps ignoring the past five years of industry change?

Those early DDAS games were crap. Virtually no strategy and boringly repetitive. I played Castle Ravenloft through all its scenarios, participated in and contributed to Barkam's variant which made a stab at giving it some decent AI but ultimately traded it away dismissing it as suffering from TMMNEG syndrome (Too many minis, not enough game) .

TOEE is the superior release. It's not doing well, because the system was never that good and times have changed and it didn't.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 17:42 by Michael Barnes #204150
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D&DAS has got to be one of the most misinterpreted designs ever...it just isn't intended to be some kind of deeply strategic/tactical square-to-square game like Descent or whatever. It's a dungeon-themed board game. It's intended to be imminently accessible and really not too much of a step up from Dungeon!. If you're fussing about the AI or whatever, trying to add complexity...you've missed the point.

I really like Super Fantasy and I actually liked the comics style. But ultimately, I look at a shelf that has that, Claustrophobia, Imperial Assault, Space Hulk, Wiz-War and Space Crusade as well as all four D&DAS titles and it feels like it is the right one to pass on even with Claustrophobia and Space Hulk being two player only, Wiz-War really being a take-that game and Imperial Assault really not being very good.

I've said it before...it being actually D&D is a big deal to me.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 17:52 by Mad Dog #204151
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Since it seems relevant, here's a link to the Revisiting DDAS games thread from exactly a year ago.

fortressat.com/forum/10-ameritrash/18047...m-games?limitstart=0
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 19:39 by mikecl #204159
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Michael Barnes wrote:
D&DAS has got to be one of the most misinterpreted designs ever...it just isn't intended to be some kind of deeply strategic/tactical square-to-square game like Descent or whatever. It's a dungeon-themed board game. It's intended to be imminently accessible and really not too much of a step up from Dungeon!. If you're fussing about the AI or whatever, trying to add complexity...you've missed the point.

I know. But I feel it's not so much that I missed the point as they missed the mark ... something you allude to when you say TOEE is 1.5, but you were looking for 2.0. In that sense, I was looking for 2.0 from the get-go.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 22:52 by Motorik #204177
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First post. Just to be clear: I'm not a Polish racketeer using surplus circa-'83 East German microcomputers with dial-up connections to spam boardgamers with great rates on anal mortgages and 5% discounts for Cat Viagra. Really.

I love the D&D Adventure Games, but they have repeatedly and completed bombed with my games group. We're a group of fairly casual players, composed of men and women with a wide range of ages. My group likes OTHER mechanically-simple, thematic dice-rollers: Eldritch Horror, Talisman, Zombicide, etc. The D&D games have FLOPPED bigtime. We're talking a flop of Ishtar proportions.

I've thought about it a lot. My suspicion is that my group dislikes the things that I like about the D&DAS games. The total absence of artwork on the cards, the way the cards have that slightly beige background, the austere appearance of the tiles, the streamlined but not revolutionary mechanics. Between those aspects and the D&D branding, the game has a real retro, aesthetically-minimalist throwback feel that takes me way back to a very specific place. If the game came with cardboard standees instead of miniatures, you could easily mistake it for a relic from 30 years ago. A relic that carries a lot of meta-nostalgic weight for me, and maybe a bunch of other people, but sadly not anyone else in my game group. I think my love for the game is tied in nostalgia, a nostalgia that's reinforced by the spartan (and old-school) look of the components, especially the barren cards and boring tiles. But nostalgia is hyper-subjective, and without the visual zing of full-color art on every card and super-detailed tiles, the D&DAS are gonna fall flat with a LOT of people, especially when there are so many dungeon crawlers out there that are much more interesting to look at than D&DAS.
Posted: 12 Jun 2015 23:30 by Michael Barnes #204180
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Well, that is a mighty good first post and you really get at a lot of the subtle things that make me like this game so much. I actually really like that austere, plain look and yes, there is a kind of pastoral nostalgia that it evokes. It reminds me of simpler times- not only in terms of design, but also in terms of how we used to receive games. In 1985, 1995...these games would be stone classics and you could send them back to those times and it would fit right in. And that could be a reason why they are divisive in a post-Descent setting.
Posted: 17 Jun 2015 17:18 by wadenels #204510
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Lift Off is pretty good. And it is damn cute. It's a lot like Survive if Survive were mostly about the boats. You can try to win via paper-thin alliances, or you can try to win by being a complete shitlord. Either way you're going to have fun and people are going to berate you for it.