Reviews written by HiveGod
Played as a gonzo storytelling RPG romp with 4 or fewer awesome players this beast rises from the dead—golden halo shining out against the darkness of existential angst—forms a cult and saves the motherfucking world. Played as a *game* game with dull people who couldn't embellish a narrative skeleton even if you handed them the meat-suit, it remains inert in its grave and goes all Lord of the Flies on fun.
Facts about Tales:
- That which does not enrich you will grant you beatings.
- You can drink your way out of a rockslide.
- Allah says NO.
Optional adjustments for maximum enjoyment:
~ Change time of day at the start of each new round
Instead of waiting for the deck to run out—which never happens—advance time at the beginning of the first player's turn: morning --> day --> night --> morning --> &c.
~ Consider playing to a hard total of Story + Destiny
Rather than having each player choose a secret combination. For example, first person to get S+D=12 can win. (This converts a multi-hour slog into a delightful hour-plus—which means we get to play it more often!)
~ Go more RPG than board game with the statuses
Some statuses can overstay their welcome and/or become unfun when combined with others—don't be afraid to hand-wave them away with a merciful "You have suffered enough."*
~ Only play with awesome people
*YMMV, but personally I love getting dogpiled under a mound of crazy statuses—in my last game I was a scorned, crippled, diseased outlaw vizier. HELL YEAH
tl;dr — Don't know from the show, but as a storytelling/adventure game this works great.
This is a "story game" first and foremost—it provides, via cards and mechanics, a series of dots that you and your friends can connect to spin an engaging yarn of your time out in the black. In that regard it has far more in common with Runebound (and the like*) than Merchant of Venus. As it stands, this is a pretty middle of the road pick-up-and-deliver game—but it is an awesome story game.
*This is firmly in the "pull a card, roll some dice, have crap happen" family.
I suppose I should admit that I am not a Firefly fan—I never got past the first couple episodes of the TV series (especially when they were pandering so obviously to segments of fandom that I am not a member of**), though I did enjoy Serenity. This is important to know as my flaccid interest in the license in no way detracts from this fine game.
**Genius move to connect with your core audience, but semi-alienating for the rest of us.
As a licensed product this one transcends—to an amazing degree—the usually poor treatment such things get. The bits are all gorgeous and high-quality, especially the money (and I loves me some paper money†). The game is mechanically sound, works, and provides an interesting storytelling engine. Instead of phoning it in the designers and producers definitely heaped some love and skill on this.
†If you're the kind who would replace the beautiful, evocative, and thematic paper money in this game with [shudder] poker chips then straight up this game ain't for you.
Speaking prematurely and from the hip I get the impression that the sweet spot for this will be 3p—I fear that with 4 there will be just too much "story" flying around as well as too much downtime waiting to get back to yours. But we shall see...
Sagrilarus sez: "Firefly comes with about a dozen scenarios to play but after 20 sessions amongst our group we’ve come to the conclusion that the best approach is to just play for cash. Find a job, keep flying. One of the scenarios does just this, and the nice part is that you can adjust the length of the game by the amount of money needed to win. We opted for a $25,000 game, which is pretty steep, but moved the finish line to $15,000 because, well, it’s Firefly."
tl;dr — Potentially light and mild, it's a great social game when played in 30ish minutes, but sags if it goes longer. Expansions are the seasoning and so should be used sparingly to create the game that suits your current mood. Terribly cruel when played to win, though.
Neat for what it is, a kids' game that can be played for blood (farm wars, anyone?). The vanilla version is a pleasant-enough pastime. Where Carc really shines, though, is as a game system—the mix 'n match expansions allow you to complicate or flavor the game as you will.
UPDATE: Revising down to 3 stars. This was shockingly novel at first, being only the second Eurogame I'd ever seen, but now... And another thing: The 8,000,000,000 different farm-scoring schema make for bizarre parallel-dimension gaming where some people at the table have evil goatees and some don't, leading to the disastrous overlay of competing realities, some where farmers lie on their backs and gaze at duck-shaped clouds scudding by and others where you can only get promoted by stabbing your boss in the neck.*
*So, 12 years later, it looks like this has settled down—the standard seems to be German 3rd Edition rules with "farm-centric" scoring of cities for three points each. I like the simplification—as well as the change making the tiny two-bit mini-cities worth four points instead of two, eliminating a rules exception, always a good thing.
UP-UPDATE: This is the game that made me realize that most expansions are crap—they just add plaque that calcifies a decent game into an immobile, spiky mess. (Or, to go to the other extreme, bloats it out so it can't even wear pants anymore.) Expansions, in general, are a terrible idea unless:
a) It was a part of the original game (as designed) that got peeled off to make the base game simpler/cheaper,
b) Actually adds an element that enhances repeat plays, or
c) Fixes one or more broken elements that really shoulda been caught during playtesting.
Only three expansions for Carc fit any of that—The River, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders. Everything else is dessicated mummy-crap.
UP-UP-UPDATE: Resurrecting this as a mild social activity; as a "game" game it gets 2.5 stars, when consumed as a small bowl of whipped cream it's 3 stars. The deal with the expansions is to understand that every tile added into the mix is another turn—and if you've got multiple axes to consider (with several expansions at once) then those turns can become very long indeed. The game works best when it comes in well under an hour; it wants to be short.** I can honestly only see using one expansion at a time...
**The closer to 30 minutes the better.
I forgot what an awful little game this can be: so much grief, so many ambitious building projects that will never be completed, so many farmers stabbing each other in the tummy with pitchforks from the backs of rage-donkeys.
I'm not sure how the rest of world plays this, but man, we are just plain mean to each other.
UP-UP-UP-UPDATE: Back up to 3.5 stars where I expect it to stay. When grokked and played accordingly—as a shortish social activity with one big and maaaybe one small expansion at a time it's a pip.
CODA: GROINS IMPLY BOOTS
The sheer ruthlessness required to play the game competitively is entirely at odds with the presentation: cutesy li'l squares of bucolic cartoons, and the meeples themselves, adorable and nonthreatening, the very symbols of "points without pain" Eurogaming. If the package reflected the truth of it the art would be dark and violent: fields strewn with fresh grave-mounds, dangerous roads to nowhere festering with spleen-stabbing thieves, sprawling slums with gaping holes in the walls patrolled by gangs of baby-stomping kingsmen.
This is what you must do to win: sucker your opponents into fights that you either dominate or walk away from (leaving them overextended), place tiles to ensure their followers are trapped in projects that will never be completed, and never share points unless you are so far ahead it doesn't matter... and even then, hook yourself in for +1 at the last minute to steal the "joint effort" for yourself.
You must crush dreams, snap their bones and suck the marrow. You must be prepared to engineer fallen crests and hopelessness. I'll be honest: I felt like a complete jerk at first, as playing to win in Carc is really about making everyone else lose, and the constant pooping in the punchbowl can suck the fun right out of the party. But if you wish to do your best then that tile must be placed where it maximizes both personal gain and does the most harm to your opponents.
In the end the countryside puzzle we are constructing is a façade that does nothing to conceal the suffering of the nameless, numberless peasants who are too small to see from our lofty perches of intrigue.
Carcassonne is an assassin in clown paint.
Rating bumped up to 4 stars.
How can life be like a game?
Well, if you lived next door to a pie factory, owned a gun and were immortal, then your life would be exactly like Dungeonquest. Every day you would wake to the maddening smell of fresh, hot pie; you would load your gun and hop the wall only to
get in a firefight with the geriatric security guard and catch a hot one in the neck
make it through the window above the jacuzzi-sized mixing tubs, briefly
get "raspberried" by a robot
And so on, forever, because while guns make you brave, pies make you stupid. And immortality makes you eternally susceptible to both.
Any game where you can get your head whacked clean off by a swinging blade on your first turn gets an easy 4 stars in my book.*
*I am totally sneaking that card into Agricola. "You want to bake bread? Test armor, jerk sauce!"
First play: The card-combat mini-game was like hitting the pause button on the game proper to do this other thing, breaking the flow of play. It got to where one person was complaining every time combat occurred—since it stopped the game dead in its tracks—and I learned to dread any combat. Not because it was necessarily deadly or scary, which would be nicely thematic, but because it seemed like such an incongruous bolt-on interruption of what was an otherwise hilarious character grinder.
After 11 plays: While the card combat looks weirdly complicated at first, it gets easier with repeat plays. Still, the setup, play, and cleanup just takes too long and feels at odds with the spirit of the game. It is literally possible for the person doing the cleanup to still be sorting & shuffling when their turn comes back around in a full 4p game... Ultimately we ditched it for:
The DQ Combat Die!
Using these rules:
Test Agility. If you fail, take damage as below & fight!
Roll the Combat Die until someone dies.
COMBAT DIE (1d6)
1-2 — 1 wound hero
3-4 — 1 wound each
5 — 1 wound monster
6 — 2 wounds monster
Reroll "1 wound hero". Second roll stands.
Do +1 wound whenever you wound the monster.
At the start of combat, roll 2d6. Subtract the low roll from
the high roll & do that many wounds to the monster.
If you have 8+ wounds, inflict only 1 wound on "2 wounds monster".
The quick fix that makes the game an easy 5 stars for me.**
**Ditched as in "literally tore the rules out of the rulebook and threw the cards in the trash". We take our DQ seriously around here.
Obligatory DQ Haiku:
stone door grinds open
dead end | dead end | secret door !
starve to death alone
After 3 plays: A lighter "take that" card game with THE AWESOMEST THEME POSSIBLE: disparate genre tropes wedded as conjoined twins to do battle with enemy Frankendecks. The presentation and form promise hilarious, rapid back-and-forth; this is unrealized in actual play as everything bogs down with the reading Reading READING of too much text on most every card, leading to more rereading and rules-interaction head scratching.
Perhaps this will pick up with familiarity?
OH SWEET JESUS HOW DO YOU SLEEVE A STICKER
It's a game! It's an art project! It's a cruel psychological experiment! It's all these things and more... like a roller coaster full of plus-size swimsuit models* it thrills and titillates through the ups and downs. Only three games in and the burning of Earth 12769 already has a unique narrative. And this is without opening any packets. With sticker and Sharpie we have left our mark on this embattled world—the warlords of Thunderia, New Sparta and Sasquatchistan showing themselves to be more than willing to pop nukes in pristine old-growth forests and water the virgin plains with the blood of orphans in order to... to... uh, I used to know the reasons why, but now all I know is hate.
*Or a gaggle of hairless, pouty, male underwear models flopped on a tatty sofa if that's your thing instead.
Don't fool yourself—if you're not defacing the hell out of this game you're not even getting 1% of the experience it has to offer. It's like the difference between masturbating to an underwear catalog vs. a threesome with real people. Tell yourself whatever makes you feel better all alone with your anal retentive proclivities, but if you're not putting your mark on it you are not playing the game.
This is, only three games in, among the best gaming experiences I've ever had.
9 YEARS LATER: After 3 plays, couldn't get this to the table ever again. Sigh...
But oh, what a theme! Makes you lose your voice, though. "I feel a 'nyar' comin' on... NYARRR!!!"
The unofficial subtitle for this game is "Guess Wrong & Fight!" It's best to avoid everyone as the loser of a sea battle tends to get hammered into an irrevocable last place. On the surface this would seem to be anti-piratey but in reality it's probably accurate—skulking around avoiding "fair" fights while preying on the weak.
It is terribly annoying, though, as the winner gets more and more powerful and goes over the horizon into the sunset.
Best played with the understanding that it's a completely random experience game that doesn't yield to thought, planning, or strategy.
It started with a prison shanking and ended with the detonation of a two-angels-fucking superweapon. Somewhere in the middle there was an ecstatic frenzy over a heart-shaped box carved from a magic tree, a zeppelin assault with tin-man–firing cannons, and a puppet show no one will ever forget, no matter how hard they try...
This is what I like to do in pretty much every game, formalized and made the entire point of the exercise. The rules are somewhat obtuse and seem at odds with what they're trying to achieve, which is probably why this beautiful experiment fails so often for so many, as it's a fragile thing that requires the right people to play it the right way with the right mindset in order to properly come together, inflate with hot air, and soar. But man, if you can pull it off it's slick as hell.
Just ignore any gamey, fun-murdering card counting bullshit and focus on the storyteller's maxim:
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
And everything'll be just fine.
Note: For our first game we just kinda went for it—there were plenty of rules irregularities but the story came through intact and everyone had a fine time. For our next game I'll suggest playing cards into a stack instead of a line so the magnitude of cards isn't reflexively obvious, and maybe judging the "winner" of the story-bit with a vote, using the number of cards played as a tie-breaker. While a vote won't work in mechanism-focused super-competitive groups (who shouldn't be playing this anyway) it will for us, as we prize a good story over winning or losing.
Anna says it's somewhere between Día de Muertos and "just drugs." Either way, it's 100% uncut square repellent.
It's not merely an "alternative gaming experience"—it's utterly unique. I'm a huge fan of the the "roll some dice, pull a card, have crap happen" family of games and own many of them; DD is in its own category. There's nothing like it, and there won't ever be anything else like it. What you have here is a deeply detailed, living world wedded to a damn fine game engine. I was initially drawn in by the unalloyed vision of the art—which of course made me instantaneously suspicious of the game itself (so many pretty morons stumbling out of Kickstarter these days) but after reading the rules I was cautiously optimistic.
Then I played it.
And I'll never be the same again.
After 3 plays: Finally started our campaign, contracting the Fungal Parasite and delivering the Soothsayer's Head to the warlocks at the Stone Circle—the cat is sick from licking the head clean... Absolutely loving this boardgame-inflected RPG and the small stories it tells. Everyone's champing at the bit for the next play...
...where we murdered fools and did drugs and became Lord Scrott's bitch.
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH
After 5 plays: A party will typically run into more than one monster at a time—you're essentially running into a whole party of monsters! We love laying them out and coming up with the emergent narrative of why they're together and what they're up to. With a good shuffle you'll never see the same party twice, making every encounter feel unique (even if you've murdered that one guy before).
And so far we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the loot deck.
Bottom line: If the art speaks to you and you like this kind of game, GET IT. It's milk for the motherless.
Disclaimer: I have not read the books and have no desire to, having previously gorged myself sick on pulp fantasy as a child. I'm already full and burping rainbows tinged with blood.
I love the way the box art evokes '70s pulp fantasy—the lurid blacklight colors, the hero surging ferociously forward as his foes fall fatally felled. Even the title font is reminiscent of an acid rock album cover.
The game pretty much hits all those marks—psychedelic and muscular, you cleave through masses of enemies, giving each of them a gullet-loosening taste of steel or a marrow-roasting blast of black magic. And the whole time the axes wail with soul-blistering guitar solos that propel you forward into the arms of either an appropriately outsized sex object or Death Itself...
Also, few things are as satsifying as dual-wielding a hapless goblin to death who was probably doing nothing more than innocently poking his head out his front door to see what all the ruckus was about.
That said, with no visceral connection to the source material I find that I vastly prefer Wrath of Ashardalon.