Wow. I don't know if I've ever felt more "meh" about a game than I do about Tyrants of the Underdark. It isn't especially "bad" at all. It's a "solid" game, no doubt. It's just so unbelievably ordinary, mundane and - just for Repo - workmanlike. It is a game almost completely devoid of energy, excitement or enthusiasm. It feels like the designers- the guys that did Waterdeep- looked at the popular deckbuilders of the day circa 2013 and made their own version of that. It's odd that it is so non-compelling though, because they have a couple of ace ideas. There's this spy thing where you can circumvent the usual requirement to have presence in an area to impact it...and there are multiple effects that spies can have, so you might be kept guessing what a player's agenda is where they have spies. It depends on what cards they are buying out of the market. There's also a great card dumping thing where you "promote" cards to your Inner Circle at the expense of banking the card out of game until the final point count. And it has some good area control antics including supplanting, assassination and ousting. I thought "Ascension plus El Grande" was a can't miss proposition, but the game has practically no voice of its own. Even the setting- Menzoberranzan and its suburbs- is boring. It doesn't help that it looks like they took a prototype board and said "fuck it, let's just print that." The pieces suck too, terrible little shields. And the whole thing is like $80 retail...
So the first miss from the D&D board game line...and from Gale Force 9, who co-produced this thing. But regardless of my opinion in this review, I have a feeling that this is going to be a really popular game. Probably because it is so bland, redundant, and uninteresting. If it had come out in 2013, I think I would have received it more warmly. But this one just bored me in 2016, especially in a year where I recently played A Study in Emerald which does the deckbuilding/intrigue/area control thing MUCH better.
The other Debbie Downer review is 51st State Master Set, which I look at with my writer Grace P. over at The Review Corner. I really, really wanted to like this. I had the old version for a while but I could never get into it. I liked Imperial Settllers OK, but prefer the post-apocalypse setting over the freemium mobile game illustrations it had. So after several games of shuffling resource counters around, trying to make guns or people turn into oil cans or bricks, I realized how much I just did not really care for it. The solo game is the pits, Imperial Settlers did it better. Multiplayer does that same thing that IS did, which is to say the last turn takes as long as the first four as players try to figure out the best path to navigate through their assortment of cards and abilities. I enjoyed playing it a couple of times because there is a lot of potential for combos and some good depth, but I'd be alright without ever playing it again.
Zombicide: Black Plague is tracking well and I've got a set after playing a friend's copy. There's a lot of things I really like about, especially as a reasonably playable six player game. The leveling mechanic is great, I really like the medieval zombie-smashing more than the usual grim and gritty umpteenth generation Dawn of the Dead stuff, and it has PEGBOARD CONSOLES which is one of the greatest and most unjustly derided developments in game production history. They even have little card racks so you stick your backpack cards in them! Of course, it's CMON so there is a ton of content not included in the box (but in the rules) so that's irritating, but overall it's a fun hack and slash.
But I would also rate it as INFERIOR to Deathwatch: Overkill, which is kind of a similar concept. Genestealer cults>zombies. They don't have a limo. But D:O is a two player, non-solo affair. Also much simpler with no cards/equipment.
In other GW Summer Homecoming 2016 news...I got Lost Patrol and it's great. I never played the old edition so I can't compare them, but this is a really fun game. It fits right in with D:O and the other recent games- very simple rules, very straightforward dude-moving and dude-shooting concepts. But it has the typical minimal but impactful chrome rules. In this, it's scouting tiles with easy visibility rules and this nasty business where the jungle sort of changes (or you just get lost) which can result in your group of SM scouts getting separated and lost. It is SUPER HARD for the scouts, no doubt, and that has caused some usual internet bitching. The Genestealers are just crazy hard to kill and defend against. There's a couple of ways to tweak it without breaking it, but what I settled on was allowing the Scouts to shoot with two dice looking for sixes (but only allowing one hit) and the one with the Heavy Bolter to roll three dice, same thing. It seems to have balanced it out more. But you could also do hits on fives/sixes too and I think that might work.
I've played it with River maybe 20 times in the past week. At first, he didn't get playing the Genestealers at all but I think he gets it now, attacking aggressively and using the Infestation markers to create deeper spawn points. We've had a couple of games that wind up in these brutal "last 100 feet" battles right before the drop pod.
Can't wait to paint the models in this one, I want to do the white/purple Genestealers and Ultramarine scouts.
We have also been playing Warhammer 40k. The Battle for Vedros version. I'm writing up a three part article about Battle for Vedros chronicling our experience with this new, almost secret product line. In short- it could be really great if GW can figure out how to sell it. It's kind of a shambles though. "Snap fit" minis that aren't, a HUGE gap between the two pages of rules in the box and the real 40k rules, and marketing it toward younger kids but having human heads dangling from an Ork's belt on the Ork Boyz box. I love it, but it seems like whoever is handling this particular product line doesn't quite have a handle on how to make it work. The GI Joe like packaging is great, the paint set is awesome, the rules are simple and fun. More on this later.
To bring us back to the summer of 2014 and the ERP, I got in the new Ra yesterday. Please do not spend $60 on this awesome game. That is a ridiculous price for it. The board is really cool, it's embossed/textured and it has a nice cloth bag and a plastic Ra figure. But it SHOULD retail at $39.99.