Dan and Al's Excellent Adventure
Golly, I still haven't reviewed Space Cadets: Away Missions. Let's fix that right now.
It's a great game. The golden age SF setting is great, I love the Saucermen and brains-in-a-jar and so forth, but the big takeaways from this design are a couple of really quite innovative mechanics that I hope, quite frankly, that other designers rip off. That's high praise, Al and Dan. Because Overkill is just genius- it's not dissimilar to the surges from Kevin Wilson's Doom system, but it limits hits to one and then gives up to three possible choices to spend your "heroic moment" on.I think it's smoother. I also really like the pacing, which keeps things escalating until the aliens get to that red alert point. And I like the crafting and item management. All of which feel very fresh, on top of the lighter SF approach.
So there, Stephen Bunocore. You squeezed about 9 ½ stars worth of reviews out of me between this and Survive! Space Attack. Jeez, F:ATties...y'all are making some good games these days...WHQ card game figures in there too.
Jim Felli, the guy that gave us Shadows of Malice, offered me an early peek at his next game Zimby Mojo. So I have a prototype of it sitting here by my desk. I usually do not have any interest at looking at anyone's prototypes, but this was definitely an exception- Shadows was one of the more interesting, original designs of the year and I had to see what this guy cooked up next. Apparently, the answer is "human flesh" because this is a game about rival tribes of cannibals seeking to usurp the current cannibal king. The catch is, they kind of have to work together to do so. But then it's every man for himself post-regicide. I won't go into it much, but this is another really unique, unusual design. It reminds me a bit of Wiz-War, but with some crazy rules for stacking and cooperation. Definitely keep an eye out in 2016 for this one.
Game three of Blood Rage... it is quite good. I'm not ready to commit to "great", but I think it is an outstanding piece of design work. I would definitely call it Lang's most assured, disciplined work to date and I am wondering if, six years on, it is a game that effectively replaces Chaos in the Old World. It is definitely more of a Eurogame on the hybrid scale, with guided decision points and strictures to keep things to a tight process and an almost shockingly tight timeline. Definitely looking forward to playing it some more…it is a contender, that's for sure. But I think I like Cthulhu Wars better. It's looser, wilder and more obnoxious.
Warhammer Quest is also making a very strong end-of-year bid for my covered GOTY shortlist. I would, at this point, say that it is probably the best game in its class. If there really is a class of card-based dungeoncrawl/adventure games. I think it blows Pathfinder out of the water, and I liked Pathfinder. I'm thinking that the Delve quest is the best of it, better than the five scenario campaign. You pretty much play with everything so it's hugely variable and the goal is just make it through to the end. I played that mode last night for the first time and it pretty much sealed the deal on the game. It's a keeper, and even though more would be nice it is 100% complete and dynamic out of the box.
Really enjoying Pixel Tactics too. Really cool card battler from Level 99, the kings of card battlers. It doesn't look like much with cards FULL of text and tiny pixel art characters, but the gameplay is really cool. Other than Argent, I think it is probably their best game.
Still loving on Heroes of Normandie as well, I've played all of the scenarios in the core box (Slaughterhouse twice) and I've got more on the way, including Shadows over Normandie. Barring ASL, this is the only game in its class I really care about these days. I love the looser, ahistorical approach that goes for a more cartoon WW2 approach. It's refreshing given the old folks home austerity of so many WW2 titles. Yet it still delivers a great squad-level game with tons of cool detail. The last scenario was a blast, the US deploys on opposite sides of a map with a Nazi HQ in the middle, protected by MG nests. The US needs to blow it up, but the squad got split up. One side has the detonator, the other the dynamite. This scenario really showed what the heroes do- Clint (yep) had the TNT, he rode a jeep up to the house under heavy fire and busted in through the window to hose the place down before the other guy showed up with the plunger. But there was also a Nazi sniper skulking around, taking shots and wiping out units. So much fun.