Wow...Christmas came early for me today. FFG sent me a package with all three of their big December releases- TALISMAN, COSMIC ENCOUNTER, and ANDROID. The timing is perfect, since I've been laid off from my job and I was already lamenting the fact that I wasn't going to be purchasing any of them until after the new year, if then.
So here's a scouting report...
TALISMAN- The big news here is plastic's back. Yep, miniatures. And miniature toads. It is pretty much the same as the Black Industries edition, but produced to FFG standards. That's kind of a good and bad thing. The printing is a lot better overall, I think, but I don't like that the cards are all the "teeny" size FFG cards with itty bitty fonts. The BI version had a little more diversity in how the cards looked with those brightly colored backs and all. The rulebook is a little better, and apparently there is some redevelopment but I can't really tell what that is just yet. There are a couple of different cards. Bottom line- if you have the BI version, get the upgrade kit just to stay current and have access to the expansions. If you don't have the BI version, get the FFG one. If you don't want expansions, stick to the BI version.
COSMIC ENCOUNTER- It's weird, because it's kind of a step forward and a step back. It's much more like the older editions in a lot of ways- the board, planets, and pieces are less stylized than the AH edition and the card art and layout is strangely more rudimentary than in that version. Destiny tokens are replaced by cards, like in the old days too. But you get 50 aliens, flares, technologies, a fifth player, and a bag full of plastic UFOs. I do like that the artwork has returned some of the more comical style that the AH edition didn't have with its oh-so-serious faux-Giger aliens. It looks like a winner overall, and I think it'll appease most fans of the game. I know I'll be mothballing the AH version but I'll miss the cool ass battle boats and spiral board.
ANDROID- Good god. I played a couple of sample turns and my early impression is that it is an adventure game, it's a Kevin Wilson adventure game, but it's really pushing the envelope in a lot of ways. Character development means a lot more than getting +1 magic die or a new sword. Each character has a branching subplot with positive and negative outcomes that develop over the course of the game. The game has a very novelistic feel that I think is sort of groundbreaking in terms of game narrative. I think it could really advance what we expect from adventure games. The puzzle mechanic to visualize conspiracies is pretty genius. A couple of possible negatives though- I don't think the game is as much of a "murder mystery" game as advertised. It feels more like you're trying to pin evidence on your hunched suspect while steering it away from the person you think is innocent. There's no set murderer at the beginning of the game and who it is develops over time and isn't really resolved until the end of the game via a complex and strangely convoluted resolution system- there's not really a feeling of metagame investigation, deduction, or detective work but I guess with all the other plot elements going on the murder is just a part of it all since you get points for navigating your personal stories and whatnot. It is also fairly complex, with a lot of rules and a hell of a lot of text. And it could run very long. One thing is for sure, I think Kevin has really hit it out of the park in terms of creating a game world- there's more flavor text, fluff, and background than I think I've ever seen in a board game. The production is mostly spectacular- embossed artwork on the box, thick stock rulebook, FFG standard counters and components. Some of the art is a little ugly, I think, but by and large it looks awesome on the table- sort of like the opening vista of LA in BLADE RUNNER.
So my Christmas is already over...anybody hiring a writer?