Kelly's Heroes versus the Mythos!
This week, let's have a look at both Heroes of Normandie AND Shadows Over Normandie over on the Review Corner. I really, really like these games a lot as I've already expressed in this column. I think they are, for what I want out of the genre, the best WWII tactical wargames barring ASL (which is, quite frankly, kind of the ULTIMATE rendition of this concept). But they are, interestingly, influenced as much by adventure games and dungeoncrawlers as they are hex-and-counter wargames or miniatures games. It's more Hollywood than Osprey Books. This is especially evident in the horror setting of Shadows. A couple of the included scenarios are out-and-out dungeoncrawls, complete with loot and adventure game-like objectives. But then you can also field an Abrams tank against a Shoggoth too. They really remind me a lot of Earth Reborn, but less sprawling and weird.
I have all of the main expansions for Heroes, but Shadows is the one I keep coming back to play lately. I like the content of the Cthulhu Mythos: Call #1 blister pack expansion, but I HATE that all of the rules/scenarios are online PDFs behind a registration at Devil Pig's web site. Boo to that. And they aren't even a finalized translation at this point!
Definitely recommend these- they made a splash back during their Kickstarters, but it seems like they don't get much talk/action around here. I think folks so inclined would really dig these. There is some classic shitty translation and the rulebooks are typically French (if you know what I'm saying), but if you just shrug off some of the wonkiness these are awesome games.
Playing lots of Armada, talking about it in our forums. I'm about ready to call it my favorite miniatures game. I like it better than X-Wing. It's a Cadillac game to be sure, but it is well worth if it you are a SW fan or like the naval model of space combat.
A Study in Emerald... man, I don't know what to make of this game. The first play I did a two player with a buddy and we were both like "do what now". It has that weird Martin Wallace "arm's length" sense of engagement. And this is the "streamlined" 2nd edition. After he left, I set it back up and did a three player solo trial and I think I sort of understand it a little better. It's a really interesting game- not sure if I like it or not, but it seems to fall prey to the standard Wallace issues. The scoring is pretty cool, don't know about using bombs to blow up the "Royals" but it's right there on the cover, Holmes about to lob TNT at Cthulhu.
Empires: Age of Discovery is really good. I had kind of forgotten about Age of Empires III and I actually didn't care for it back when it was out. But revisiting it reveals a really nice piece of design. Like Age of Mythology, Drover was kind of ahead of the times on this one. It was clearly designed after Caylus and that first wave of worker placement games, but it retains a simplicity of process that got lost after the Rosenberg model took over. There are some simple conversions, but you're converting colonists into specialists. I'm really enjoying this, and the deluxe treatment is especially nice despite some crap graphic design. At least they ditched the horrendous Paul Neimayer illustrations.
HABA sent over their three new "Game Night Approved" family games and... all three are great! Kramer and Kiesling's Adventureland is a cool, simple adventure with some interesting mechanics- and three scenarios that alter the scoring and win conditions on a rising difficulty scale so everybody can play it. Strangely, it kind of condenses everything about a big, adult adventure game into a 30 minute family design. Move, pick up stuff, fight monsters... it's all here but at a really high level. Karuba is a Rudiger Dorn bingo game with an expedition/tomb raiding theme- very neat little game that my kids really like. Spookies might be the best of them, it's designed by the dude that did Beasty Bar and it is a GREAT push-your-luck design obviously inspired by Can't Stop. But it's more concrete- you send kids up the floors of a haunted house to catch ghosts. You get to choose how many dice to roll to hit the next target number, but the more you roll the less the payout is. The fail penalty isn't too harsh, you just put spookies down on each floor on your way back out. And if you roll the number of the floor you are on, you finish and stay put. My kids had a friend over Monday and we played it like three times, they just loved it. I did too.
Mail call- Healthy Heart Hospital is here from VPG, it looks like a fun business game with the perennially-underused healthcare theme... the Flick 'em Up Expansion, which looks adorable... the Arena of the Planeswalker expansion which doesn't look adorable but good... should be getting Talon here this week from GMT- totally stoked for that one. Very interested to look at it after Armada.