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Barnes on Games: Champions of Midgard and Survive! Space Attack! in Review, Cthulhu Wars, Thunderbirds, new VPG titles

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Survive space attack board game review

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There Will Be Games

A very good WP game and something made by a F:ATtie.

First up- Champions of Midgard Review. I'm kind of surprised this game isn't getting more attention here. It's a very fun, very approachable worker placement game in the vein of Waterdeep or Stone Age. It adds some fun monster fighting, dice drafting and lots of good fantasy Viking stuff. It's easy to play, but it lacks a sense of escalation and it may be a bit repetitive for some folks. It's kind of a meat-and-potatoes design, and I quite like that- very on the level, very cut-and-dried. But it also has a few neat tricks, like this awesome "Blame" mechanic where the person who whiffs the troll fight earns the scorn of the village...or if he makes the kill, he gets to effectively point at another upstart Jarl and say "well, where the hell were you?"

Second is Survive! Space Attack!, a review over at the Review Corner. F:AT's own Geoff Englestein and his family are the re-imaginers, and I think they did an outstanding job of preserving everything great about Survive! while gently introducing some new concepts that are totally in the spirit of the original. Stronghold games is definitely doing right by the classic Survive! brand, and although I was iffy about a change in setting I think it succeeds.

Cthulhu Wars is pretty much all I want to play right now. I absolutely love it, and I'm really quite stunned by how good a design it is. It's VERY stripped down, very highly editorial and refined. There is no fat or filler in the design, and it is one of those that doesn't put ANYTHING in the way of having fun. Except that price point. It's definitely a "Cadillac class" game, but at least it is an extremely good one that may actually deserve to be an expensive centerpiece for a collection. The figures actually made me laugh, they're so audacious. Review on this will be next week.

I put in a request at Modiphius for Thunderbirds and without notice it showed up like two days later. It's a new Matt Leacock co-op design, and I think it may be his best game to date. It's really well done, and like a GF9 game it's like he sat down to design and he started with "What does a Thunderbirds fan want to do in this game". Because presumably, everyone would say "pilot the Thunderbird machines around the world, rescuing people and fighting The Hood." The teamwork aspect is pretty neat, you have use the machines to get around and you can pick up anybody. You can also load pod vehicles onto Thunderbird-2 to take to disaster locations. The system is really very simple, has lots of fun die rolls, and I _love_ the way it stages the Hood's schemes so you have three crisis points throughout the game where if he reaches them on his track, the game ends. And you have to handle that while also dealing with the disasters, which can also end the game. It's a neat, colorful game that borrows a major gameplay element from...Life. The board game, not life.

I've also got a couple of new ones from VPG on the pile...one is The Hunt, a new Jeremy Lennert (Darkest Night) piece that sounds a little like Black Morn Manor. Up to six players go into a house hunting a monster, but one of them IS the monster. It's a deduction thing where you have to fight other players using magic weapons to try to deduce who is the monster and what weapon you'll need to use on them. Could be really neat. The other is Wings for the Baron, which is about aeroplane manufacturing in Germany during WWI. It's an esoteric subject, but I like that. It looks to be an economic game where you develop technologies to get contracts from the government, all the while the war is going on and things like morale, inflation and the effectiveness of allied airpower affects what you do. It sounds great, but I have to say that it definitely has a spreadsheet look. Which may be appropriate thematically.

There Will Be Games Survive space attack board game review

Survive space attack board game review
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Survive space attack board game review
Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #214390 06 Nov 2015 21:46
Cthulhu Wars is pretty much all I want to play right now too.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214393 06 Nov 2015 22:00
If it were more sanely priced, I think it would be all anyone here would want to play.

But you know...I kind of think it wouldn't be the same without those obnoxious figures. I read a comment from Sandy Petersen that he chose the colors because he wanted them to be like old fashioned plastic dinosaurs.

God, I love that.
bfkiller's Avatar
bfkiller replied the topic: #214394 06 Nov 2015 22:06
I've tried Cthulhu Wars twice. It didn't do much for me. I thought the pacing was off and it ended both times just when things started getting interesting.
OldHippy's Avatar
OldHippy replied the topic: #214396 06 Nov 2015 22:50
That's quite enough talk about Cthulhu Wars now thank you. It's prohibitively expensive, especially for someone off the market for now, so I can't even think about it and yet... here I am, thinking about it.

No.

I did love the Survive re-theme though. I was very impressed at how much it felt like Survive, the bones of that game are clearly very strong. I do prefer the original setting simply because it's less common, but I have to admit that the reimagining was fantastic. After having played for years it's refreshing to have the game feel new again and the tiny rule tweaks are so subtle the game doesn't change much... but it's enough to feel worth it. I can actually see a good reason to own both. If your group is like our ... ie: Survive addicts.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #214400 07 Nov 2015 01:10
I liked it enough due to that one play to make me seek out a trade I could tolerate for it. That ~rarely~ happens.

You have to really like minimalist designs and old-school wargames to like it. Not hex and counter type shit, but more like something along the Supremacy line, kind of. Definitely unique, definitely fun.

The big monsters do add some gravitas to it, I have to admit. Playing with giant, evil little dolls is pretty much always awesome. If you can't agree with the last sentence, this game pretty much isn't for you. I think if it had 1/4 size big bosses it would still rock, but I would be less interested in owning it.

Fun damned game. Can't wait until it gets here.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #214408 07 Nov 2015 07:54
The hell with it. I'm going all in.
Between PM'ing Pete and Charlie, Michael's brief opinion of CW is sending me over the edge.

To subsidize the cost, I've been selling off some choice pieces from the collection. An added benefit is opened shelf space!

As an aside, I spoke with Sandy and Arthur at Gencon. Nice fellas. Sandy signed my CoC 2nd edition, and my Field Guide. When I criticized them both for their first KS, they assured me they learned a lot, and encouraged me to follow them in October. They gave me two CW minis and I was on my way.

While I'm not as impressed with the developing CW KS as I thought I would be, it's still an opportunity for me to get all this shit at once.
FYI - the new faction is going to be cast in pink.
ThirstyMan's Avatar
ThirstyMan replied the topic: #214409 07 Nov 2015 08:04

drewcula wrote: Sandy signed my CoC 2nd edition.


Sandy knows you VERY well then....
OldHippy's Avatar
OldHippy replied the topic: #214418 07 Nov 2015 12:09

ThirstyMan wrote:

drewcula wrote: Sandy signed my CoC 2nd edition.


Sandy knows you VERY well then....


Nah, he lets everyone and their uncle sign that thing.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214421 07 Nov 2015 12:30
Get this- I get a package yesterday and its a 2nd copy of Cthulhu Wars! I have two now! I'm sure it was a mistake, I've contacted them to see what they want me to do with it...maybe if I sell it and agree to pledge that amount...

I'm not going to lie. I would totally go all in, $600 for all expansions if I could afford it. Yeah, I could buy like 12 other games for that...but a) I don't want to buy and store 12 games b) the next 12 games I get will be review copies anyway and c) out of a given 12 games, I would still probably rather play CW.

One thing that I think really distinguishes CW is that unlike just about any other collection "centerpiece", it is something that somebody can see on your shelf, say that looks cool, and you can have them playing it in 10 minutes. You don't have to say "we'll set aside a Saturday to play it" or "I'll have to go back and study the rules" or "we have to have six people for it". It's really accessible. The playtime is literally in Eurogame parameters, the component density is low, you don't have to know 20 different decks of mini cards, setup is minimal, and the action is immediate.

The cost is an issue, sure. But you know, you don't drive a Lamborghini and argue that it should cost as much as a Toyota. I never thought I'd be arguing for "luxury" games, but I kind of get it...at least in regard to this particular design and product.

In a way, this game being so expensive almost makes it sort of the antithesis of the Cult of the New...it's not a $35 one-and-done throwaway. If you put into this game, you are (hopefully) investing in something to play for years to come. It's not a product of the "churn". It's designed and sold to be THE game. I actually have come to respect that...do I get a 1%er t shirt now?
wadenels's Avatar
wadenels replied the topic: #214422 07 Nov 2015 13:21

Michael Barnes wrote: If you put into this game, you are (hopefully) investing in something to play for years to come. It's not a product of the "churn". It's designed and sold to be THE game. I actually have come to respect that...do I get a 1%er t shirt now?


I already have games that I've been playing for years and will probably be playing for years to come. They didn't cost $150 for the base and $700 for the whole package. I'm a little bit miffed about CW because it looks like the sort of game I would love, but in the Land of Sanity* over here there's no such thing as a $700 board game.

1%er t-shirts are so nouveau riche

* - Where Mega-Civilization is on the shelf...
wadenels's Avatar
wadenels replied the topic: #214423 07 Nov 2015 13:21
duplicate post
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #214425 07 Nov 2015 13:28

wadenels wrote:

Michael Barnes wrote: If you put into this game, you are (hopefully) investing in something to play for years to come. It's not a product of the "churn". It's designed and sold to be THE game. I actually have come to respect that...do I get a 1%er t shirt now?


I already have games that I've been playing for years and will probably be playing for years to come. They didn't cost $150 for the base and $700 for the whole package. I'm a little bit miffed about CW because it looks like the sort of game I would love, but in the Land of Sanity* over here there's no such thing as a $700 board game.


After seeing it and holding it in my hand, I can absolutely guarantee that there's no reason this should cost consumers 150$. The cost on the game is probably 35$, delivered to Sandy's fulfillment center. Make no mistake, this is the single most overpriced game I have ever seen. The idea that one could drop $700 on ~one game~ kind of baffles me. Now, to be fair, at that price point it's a complete gaming system, but it most assuredly will not provide the same entertainment value that a 36" HD flat screen, Xbox One, and a half ounce of kush would at the same price.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214428 07 Nov 2015 13:56
Whoa now, I'm not saying the game is worth the price. It is premium priced out the ass, which is a polite way of saying that it is intentionally priced over the market to create a gravitas of luxury, exclusivity and superiority. It's how Apple sells computers.

There are some things in the box where I am kind of shocked that corners were cut...like the plain 6mm D6s. Come one, everything has custom dice. A $200 game sure as shit better have them. The player mats are thin cardstock. I've played $20 games that had punch board ones.

It's kind of like clothes...you may be completely happy with a closet full of Wal-Mart t-shirts and you don't see the value in an Yves Saint Laurent shirt. Or you may value that YSL shirt more than all of those Wal-Mart shirts. They both do the same fundamental thing, but there are other elements- some personal- that assign worth to them.

Price is totally the issue with this game, no doubt about it.

If he did a $75 version of the game with "normal" pieces, it would be all you guys would be talking about. But he's made over a million bucks on the premium pricing, so there's that too.
wadenels's Avatar
wadenels replied the topic: #214429 07 Nov 2015 14:23
I would definitely look into a $75 version. Especially if I could get all the add-on content for a more reasonable price.

I get the premium pricing argument, but I guess I don't really get the motivation. Board gaming of this type doesn't have a massive consumer base, so pricing yourself out of large segments of the market doesn't seem savvy. Apple can get away with it because they provide something markedly different from the rest of the market and can continue to do so because of proprietary tech and IP. There's no such analogue in board gaming.

It's also strange to attach the terms gravitas and luxury to a thing that has CTHULU WARS printed in big-ass letters on the side.
ThirstyMan's Avatar
ThirstyMan replied the topic: #214431 07 Nov 2015 14:33
Mmm. I really like my WotR CE edition which cost me $700 (including shipping).

It's a thing of beauty with all the painted figures, so I don't care. I guess this is the same kind of thing.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #214433 07 Nov 2015 15:05




Who's to account for taste?
Ancient_of_MuMu's Avatar
Ancient_of_MuMu replied the topic: #214438 07 Nov 2015 16:47
The thing that keeps me swinging back and forth on Cthulhu Wars is not the price, it is the fact that I have read a couple of times that, like Dune, it needs to be played with a bunch of players who all know and understand all the powers of the races, otherwise someone will do something unexpected and run away with the game. I can't guarantee it will be played often enough to reach that familiarity level.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214440 07 Nov 2015 17:14
It's just six spellbook powers and one faction power, really. As long as the most experienced player briefs everybody on how each faction can win, I haven't seen that as an issue. The rulebook includes very specific strategy tips for every faction too. It is a Dune-class asymmetry, but it's much simpler. "Shub, spread out and summon monsters. Cthulhu, use that submerge power to hit any weak point on the map. KIY- desecrate early and often. Nyarlathotep, focus on gates."

It's also a 60-90 minute game so it's not like investing in a 4 hour learning game. It's EXPONENTIALLY simpler than TI3...much easier to grasp than CitOW.

But I guess if you are playing with folks that don't brief you, you might have an instance where you don't understand how to approach a faction.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #214442 07 Nov 2015 17:48
I learned the game after being on a plane for 3 hours, being in a car for 2, after drinking.

The game is, as I said, very old school and basic. There's no CRT but there's a unit chart, to give an idea of the scope of the game.

Learning the factions is a BIG DEAL though. Had I known what my bud Jim's Hastur powers were I would not have gone after Al so hard, I'd have gone after Jim. I'd have defended the glyph spots more.

That said, I had a fucking blast. Van Morrison will forever be indelibly etched into my mind as The King In Yellow because of that game (Slim Slow Slider was playing in the background as the game began.

The odd and amazing thing about the game is that it is fun on a higher level. It's a fun game and solidly designed. But the design kind of fades into the background, sort of an invisible hand guiding the players' interactions. It's very subtle.

There really isn't a "learning game". No need for one. Maybe a "learning turn" at most. The best way to teach it is to break out a faction, show physically what shit does and how many points of Juice (as I dubbed the Power Track) things take to do. Show how the power and ritual tracks work. THATS IT. 10 minutes, tops.

Then, each player should read their spells and what their GOO's powers are, so everyone knows. 20 minutes from soup to nuts, and it can be done while playing. Seriously.

If you're worried about your group not liking it, don't buy until you've played. It's soooooo much money. But in my opinion, the game's price is justified because it is EXACTLY my kind of game. An updated, streamlined MB Gamemaster game with wicked sick models and over-the-top asymmetrical powers.

I despise that Barnes can get review copies so easily. I had to trade the equivalent of a kidney for my copy and this cunt gets two for free. THE HUMANITY!!!
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214443 07 Nov 2015 18:11
Two copies, Peter my boy. Two copies.

We are pretty much on the same page here. It also happens to be EXACTLY the kind of design I like the best and want to play the most. All things considered, it's on par with Nexus Ops and I would say that learning both games is about equivalent.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #214455 07 Nov 2015 20:29
Not that I care very much, but for those of you that indict games on such things, how 'bout that font on Champions of Midgard? Usually that kind of thing pulls out the graphically-oriented people around here.
Da Bid Dabid's Avatar
Da Bid Dabid replied the topic: #214456 07 Nov 2015 20:55
I am not stating this just to be inflammatory, I honestly am just having a very difficult time with Barnes' positivity toward CW. Almost everything about this game seems to hit your complaints about game design decline over the last few years, naming a few: obnoxious kick starter model, overproduced miniatures (which you are lauding as a strength OUT OF NOWHERE for just this game), and being a game system vs complete package (even at $700 i promise you wave 3 will be coming). I'm blown away the positives you see overcome these things. I've read enough of your reviews to know its not simply that luxury aspect, which you now belong to, pushing you to pass over these things... but it is what my thought would be for such a drastic 180 if I wasn't as familiar with your work.

I myself would love to play this game, but I'm kidding myself already owning TI, Runewars, Dune, Chaos, and with Blood Rage incoming. Although, selling Blood Rage if its not my thing to fund a trial of CW is a very real possibility that has crossed my mind.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #214457 07 Nov 2015 22:21
Well you know I appreciate criticism and frankly I'm surprised it took so long for someone to say something

You aren't wrong- there are issues about this game that irk me greatly- all of which are tied to how it is sold. My position on Kickstarter hasn't changed and I still think that it's a bad path to go down when we are getting to $200 MSRP games that people are backing practically sight unseen. One of the reasons that Psycho Raiders is so refreshing is that it is like counter-programming to the out of control Kickstarter miniature games.

But here's the deal. I requested a review copy of this game in part because I wanted to see what one of these "Cadillac" games was like. I wanted to see if there was something I was missing. And folks I trust spoke highly of it so I thought if nothing else, I'd be writing up yet another half-baked, decent but unremarkable Kickstarter title that if wind up selling or trading.

But I solo played it the day I got it and then with three that evening. And I loved the game- the design speaks for itself, I think, without the audacious miniatures and premium price.

So I have two options here. I can continue to rant about the cost, Kickstarter, etc. and ignore my feeling about the design, or I can come out and say "folks, this is a damn good game" regardless of politics or economics. If I were to be negative about this game, I'd be dishonest

And I like it enough- having actually played it and not putting $200 up front on it a year in advance or whatever- to be convinced that Mr. Petersen's work here with the expansions might be something I'd be willing to buy. I mean, this is not some random dude that came up with a generic, copycat game. It's the dude that made Call of Cthulhu and had a hand in making Doom, Quake and other foundational games.

But yeah, I honestly thought this game was going to be a derivative DoaM with big, silly figures. I didn't expect a highly refined, streamlined and editorial design that feels very studied, balanced, and tuned for maximum fun.

And yeah, I do kind of get the luxury thing now. I pulled out those figures with my friends and nobody tsk-tsked, frowned at the cost or questioned whether gaming needs an enormous vagina-mouthed Hastur molded in ridiculous yellow. Everybody laughed, wanted to hold it and look at its detail and play the game that it comes with.

That doesn't get around the fact that a full set of this game is $700...although you can buy just the core set for $125 or so, which is realistically about the cost of Space Hulk or that new GW Horus Heresy game. And it's not that much more than an X-Wing wave or what people spend when a new Magic set comes out.

I do wish the game were less so that more people could play it. And I think if a large publisher took it on and made 50000 copies instead of 10000, pacing the release of expansions instead of putting the entire line out at once it wouldn't have to be so expensive.

But there again...it's a small family run company that made over a million bucks and counting by selling a premium priced luxury game that people are willing to pay for. Can you really blame them?

TL;DR- I love the game, bottom line. Regardless of everything else.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #214461 07 Nov 2015 23:34
Better hold onto that game for me, Barnes. Looks like I might've gotten robbed. Shit's not looking good.

I might be on my way down to Joplin, MO to go get some shit back.
Da Bid Dabid's Avatar
Da Bid Dabid replied the topic: #214465 08 Nov 2015 07:46

Michael Barnes wrote: Well you know I appreciate criticism and frankly I'm surprised it took so long for someone to say something

You aren't wrong- there are issues about this game that irk me greatly- all of which are tied to how it is sold. My position on Kickstarter hasn't changed and I still think that it's a bad path to go down when we are getting to $200 MSRP games that people are backing practically sight unseen. One of the reasons that Psycho Raiders is so refreshing is that it is like counter-programming to the out of control Kickstarter miniature games.

But here's the deal. I requested a review copy of this game in part because I wanted to see what one of these "Cadillac" games was like. I wanted to see if there was something I was missing. And folks I trust spoke highly of it so I thought if nothing else, I'd be writing up yet another half-baked, decent but unremarkable Kickstarter title that if wind up selling or trading.

But I solo played it the day I got it and then with three that evening. And I loved the game- the design speaks for itself, I think, without the audacious miniatures and premium price.

So I have two options here. I can continue to rant about the cost, Kickstarter, etc. and ignore my feeling about the design, or I can come out and say "folks, this is a damn good game" regardless of politics or economics. If I were to be negative about this game, I'd be dishonest

And I like it enough- having actually played it and not putting $200 up front on it a year in advance or whatever- to be convinced that Mr. Petersen's work here with the expansions might be something I'd be willing to buy. I mean, this is not some random dude that came up with a generic, copycat game. It's the dude that made Call of Cthulhu and had a hand in making Doom, Quake and other foundational games.

But yeah, I honestly thought this game was going to be a derivative DoaM with big, silly figures. I didn't expect a highly refined, streamlined and editorial design that feels very studied, balanced, and tuned for maximum fun.

And yeah, I do kind of get the luxury thing now. I pulled out those figures with my friends and nobody tsk-tsked, frowned at the cost or questioned whether gaming needs an enormous vagina-mouthed Hastur molded in ridiculous yellow. Everybody laughed, wanted to hold it and look at its detail and play the game that it comes with.

That doesn't get around the fact that a full set of this game is $700...although you can buy just the core set for $125 or so, which is realistically about the cost of Space Hulk or that new GW Horus Heresy game. And it's not that much more than an X-Wing wave or what people spend when a new Magic set comes out.

I do wish the game were less so that more people could play it. And I think if a large publisher took it on and made 50000 copies instead of 10000, pacing the release of expansions instead of putting the entire line out at once it wouldn't have to be so expensive.

But there again...it's a small family run company that made over a million bucks and counting by selling a premium priced luxury game that people are willing to pay for. Can you really blame them?

TL;DR- I love the game, bottom line. Regardless of everything else.


TL;DR - "I'm a huge hypocrite" ;)