Reviews written by HiveGod
*Well, low adventure, too—but you get the idea.
You know what you did. Save your disingenuous cries of innocence for the torturer. No one ends up in THE DARK CASTLE for paying their taxes on time or giving bread to orphans or keeping their hands to themselves. I saw the way you took that stick to the guard. Not your first time and—shut the fuck up and listen to me—not your first time and that's okay. We're gonna need to be right bastards to make it out of this hellhole alive. It would be best for all of us if you really were the reason all those kids went missing, rather than just a simple miller...
If you're wondering about the mechanical aspects of this you should just keep stumbling around in the dark until you trip over a "competitive, medium-weight, card-driven, engine-building board game". You'll be happier, and so will I. Because then me and my fun-loving, crazy-creative, bend-over-backwards-to-entertain-you RPG crew can play this in peace** without anyone complaining about a lack of "meaningful decisions".
**Okay, not so much "peace" as a kind of pleasant, norm-straining mayhem.
Here's a meaningful decision for ya:
With the current setup at the table, which one of these will cause the greatest amount of side-achy, spit-taking mirth?
a) dick joke
b) body horror
c) violent slapstick
d) all of the above
Hint: IT'S ALWAYS THE D
PS. ALWAYS, ALWAYS USE THE SOUNDTRACK
Nowhere near a balanced game—it didn't even date one "at another school" (that picture totally came with the wallet)—this is a "horror simulation experience" that tells the story of what happened aboard the doomed whaler Ishara on Halloween Night, 1850.
Think of it as a hex-'n-counter wargame / single-scenario RPG skirmish / party game and you're dead on. The slashes are important here because this thing is a goddamn frankenbeast stitched together from storm-flung carcasses. There is nothing else like it—not even close—and it lives. IT LIVES!
You can do it as a head-to-head wargame, or—for best results—as an event with 5 other people! (Don't forget (like I did) that when a player runs out of whalers & neutrals they can help run the monsters...)
When the first wind-blown fast food wrapper slapped across a faceplate they knew they were making real progress.
If you're stumbling in here because you read some reports of this game taking five hours and are currently speechless with apoplexy (like I was) then know that the game actually has a clock—it's just that it's hand cranked by the players themselves. Or not. So... with 5p, a hefty dose of AP, and no one interested in turning the crank, yeah, you're looking down the barrel of an epic-game game day burned to play a mild, engine-building, tile-placement euro. (MAXIMUM SHUDDER)
So play with three (four max) who play quickly and understand that moving the game forward at a good clip toward a satisfactory end is playing well (rather than stalling it out and gumming it up) and it's a pretty good time.
With the right people who play snappy I dig it pretty hard as an emergent narrative / storytelling engine.
Here's the deal: Every game is only interesting for so long; good games tend to finish inside this time limit while bad games tend to ignore it (and routinely blow well past it). And so we play with:
- no drafting
- no Corporate Era cards
+ everyone starting at 1 production in all areas
+ Prelude cards
+ "World Government Terraforming" from Venus Next (at the end of each generation the 1st player advances one of the global parameters one step, ignoring all bonuses)
to keep the game peppy, and to leave us wanting more.
I like the general feel of this fantasy world, as well as the breadth of choice on your turn; however—and this was agreed to by all present—the game was fussy and cramped compared to Talisman. Several players wished out loud that we were playing Talisman instead, as it seems to move more quickly and can support more players with less downtime.
Wow. Just... wow. Everything about this set is completely off the charts. The art on the terrain hexes is gorgeous and evocative, the winter rules make the game feel exactly like you'd expect—vehicles are slowed and you can't see much of anything beyond immediate contact. You can fire into the fog and hope for the best, or you can maneuver into close combat and savage each other. Tense and brutal.
The Winter Combat cards add a huge amount of thematic immersion and crazy turns of event. I have watched what should have been dramatic, game-winning turns (Their Finest Hour) end up completely repulsed and negated by a couple of flopped Winter cards. Out of Fuel, Out of Ammo, and, oh, an Ambuscade, to boot! Sorry 'bout your offensive, there.
UPDATE: After four "learning" games—separated by enough time to make the rules hazy, and with different players at each session—it's clear to me that this is only going to shine with complete knowledge of the various powers, and especially the contents of their decks.
On the one hand this suggests a huge amount of replay value—it would take at least four plays (once as each power) just to get to the starting point of deeper understanding—but in reality it's going to be difficult to string together connected plays with the same people in a culture where very few are interested in wearing a game out.
But I love the idea of this, the mythos and presentation, and so I must try...
This is about as close to 4th Edition D&D as I'm willing to get. I hear the first row gets soaked—is this true? I brought a +1 rain poncho just in case.
UPDATE: I just watched Ravenloft curb-stomp Descent in the alley behind the dumpster. I'd call the cops, but I'd really rather not get involved.
UP-UPDATE: Full of High-Fantasy-meets-Gothic-Horror goodness. Like a vampire sucking on a hobo it's a simple meal with a very strong flavor.
Though rife with shocking nudity and Masonic devilry, the game functions well enough for what it is, a "super-filler" that hosts up to seven players in 30 minutes. It's pretty, engaging, and the small decisions are nice. At the end you're rewarded with an awesome/mediocre/just-plain-sad tableau that tells the story of your soaring/forgotten/broke-ass civilization.
The game suffers grotesquely when players don't counter-pick—the player who manages to seat themselves between two milquetoasts will win with a shockingly massive score. We're talkin' 37-42-52-87-33 shocking.
"What the hell were you doing?!" I ask Ms. 87's neighbors.
They blink as if slapped. "I was building my civilization," they say.
"For the love of God," I rave, "Why did you keep passing her exactly what she needed?!"
"Well," they mumble, "I had other things to do."
"Yes," I gurgle through clenched teeth, "Like making sure she doesn't double all our scores!"
So, yeah, this game requires mouth-pooping in order to work. When everyone keeps a scatalogical eye on their neighbors—and even up- and downstream some—it's a nice little card drafting game that's over quickly enough that you don't notice the undigested corn.
When playing with people who refuse to poop in their neighbor's mouths, I strongly suggest you sit between two of them in order to maximize your score.
After 25 plays: Much better (I'd rate it an 8) with the 7 Wonders: Leaders expansion. Leaders allow you to focus your strategy (just a little), or at least build some synergy. Or, with a poor selection, have hilariously random historical figures running your show. Hatshepsut in Rome?! ~LULZ
tl;dr — A solid 4 stars in the world where Dune never existed; a weak 3 in the timeline where it does.
Thoughts after first play:
Rex, AKA "Wrecks"
Really, very nifty. The wildly asymmetrical player powers make for interesting combinations during alliances, the whole thing being a variable machine the players can construct as they go—a machine that spends most of the time shuddering sideways while gloriously out of whack; much of the experience is spent desperately trying to get everything back in balance, only to have it veer madly into crazyland again. But that's what makes it memorable—it's rife with delicious quintuplethink and opportunities for clever play.
The shoehorned Twilight Imperium IP, which is, according to FFG's marketing, "rich, vibrant, and evocatively adjectival", is okay, I guess, though it does end up making it feel more like David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of Dune—a familiar thing bent in weird ways. It's definitely in the "milk the cat" category.
After 3 plays: So far this is a "birthday game" where I can only manage to get it played once a year by forcing everyone to do so on my birthday. This is unfortunate as it's clear this relatively straightforward experience requires constant contact in order to mature into what it's supposed to be. You're playing learning games until all six players are intimately familiar with the various powers, which means it's not the Real Deal until that seventh game. If we're only playing it once a year it's going to be a very long time before that happens—and even then, blowing the dust off it annually leads to victories that hinge on the losers' ignorance of the rules, which aren't really victories after all.
THE END: Splurged for a PnP copy of Ilya's Dune, making this superfluous.
STRIPPED FOR PARTS & RECYCLED
This shouldn't work. It shouldn't! And yet...
Also: The free app is pretty sweet—it runs through the whole script (based on the roles in play), makes atmospheric background noises to cover the inevitable shuffle of tiles, and has a configurable countdown timer which then calls for the vote.
We almost always set the timer to just a few minutes to make the tedious reconstruction of the night-shenanigans flowchart as frenetic and sloppy as possible. Otherwise you risk some anal retentive concrete thinker painstakingly putting it all together into an airtight case—which is boring and not the point of the game. Keep it short and slapdash so logic loopholes can snare the hasty. Then play again... and again... and again...