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Earthborne Rangers

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25 Sep 2023 23:13 - 26 Sep 2023 06:21 #340635 by Gary Sax
Earthborne Rangers was created by Gary Sax
I realized that I've written a bit about this game but I don't think I ever posted anything to the forums; we don't really have any discussion of this I can find besides briefly in the kickstarter thread. Anyway, headline is that it's a kickstarter FFG-style LCG produced as sustainably as possible. It's about a post-apoc future where humanity knows they fucked up the world and goes into arcologies for thousands of years while the machines they set loose heal the environment. Then the remaining humans come out and live somewhat harmoniously with the world. It's based on the Arkham LCG gameplaywise in broad strokes.

Anyway, I played the demo of this game on TTS maybe 3-4 times. I don't quite know if it's good, but it is pretty different and interesting. It's a much bigger twist on Arkham than I thought it was going to be. It's low punishment, unlike arkham, you just fatigue out and maybe get a little injured---then you can start fresh the next day. You kind of wander about the map open world style finding missions to do and following the main storyline, and the cards have a variety of links to the tales of arabian nights style storybook. You get Arkham style card upgrades to your deck and there's a good variety of deckbuilding options to do that don't get quite as involved as Arkham decks for good and for bad; it doesn't feature the mind boggling niche card draw and other weirdo deck goblin nonsense, but there's also less creativity in deck building than AH as well.

The feel is pretty different if you've played this style of game and AH in particular---you don't need to constantly clear all obstacles and oftentimes you'll just avoid something and travel on by hiking your way out of the location or let it be and fatigue yourself doing whatever you're trying to do. Similarly, the game is nicely thematic because it's not like even the predators and bad cards you face even "fight" you in some kind of enemy phase where they automatically punch you so you're way less of some kind of gameplay exterminator of things on the board. Finally, all enemy and friendly card behavior is triggered off a 1/3 random icon that comes up whenever you take a test to do something which is quite an interesting and creative twist than like all of these style of games.

My concerns are variety and repetitiveness. I think you're going to get tired traversing between locations since the locations only seed in a 12 card deck of biome cards and some either random generic character cards or ~5 location specific cards. Compared to the modular decks of Arkham, this is not much variety in the equivalent of the encounter cards ("bad cards" as the team covenant crew always says). Also, a lot rides on the gameplay creativity of the main missions---the demo only features some fetch quests and character interactions without any more complicated quests that I ran into. The game clicked a little bit better for me when I realized that each location in the game was more the equivalent of a location in Arkham Horror LCG than a scenario, and you may only spend 2-3 rounds at the location before heading out. Maybe that will overcome the possible repetitiveness of the biome decks.

I ended up preordering the base set, I'm looking forward to messing with it. It's expensive to buy now since they're doing an exclusive deal in the US to sell at MSRP and the game is just naturally a bit more expensive due to production decisions. My partner does not care for Arkham Horror LCG because it is so punishing and this really strips most of that away and has you exploring and solving problems instead, with no punishment if you "die" by fatiguing all your cards. We'll see! I do think that it is closer to what kickstarter is for, it's definitely pretty experimental and not made by a game company with big deep pockets that runs kickstarters for a living---one of the guys is a hippy looking former FFG employee (Navarro). The boldest experiment, to me, is productionwise by trying to only use sustainable packaging, cards, wood, etc.
Last edit: 26 Sep 2023 06:21 by Gary Sax.

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27 Sep 2023 14:42 #340649 by Kmann
Replied by Kmann on topic Earthborne Rangers
My copy is currently on a boat and due to arrive next month. I'm jazzed for it. It's the first Kickstarter I've backed and it's been relatively smooth. A few minor hiccups and delays aside of which Earthborne Games were fully transparent about.

As well as backing a copy I also got invested in the creation side of the game. I've been listening to their loose and rambling fortnightly podcast since the very start so it feels like I've been on the journey with them. As Gary said, it's been a very old-school campaign in that they needed the funding to make the game. It wasn't a glorified pre-order campaign with various tiers and numerous expansions and exclusives. Overall, it's been a good experience. Am very keen to finally play the thing.

From what I understand the game opens up and the story/missions do get more interesting/intense after the demo but don't quote me on that as I haven't played the demo. I really dig the art and the world they've created and hope the gameplay matches it.

I didn't back the expansion in the KS. Their original plan was to send the core and expansion at the same time but that proved too ambitious so the expansion was delayed. The expansion, a new ranger set and a core box second printing will be going live after this fulfilment is completed.

Interestingly they'll be ditching KS and running this campaign on Gamefound. The initial motivation for the move was KS's environmentally unfriendly plan to use the blockchain a year or so back. KS also did some other malarkey after that which I can't remember right now. Maybe something to do with AI? Anyway, they began looking at GF. Ethics aside, GF's campaign tools were also apparently superior.

If anyone's interested the preview is up here: gamefound.com/en/projects/earthborne-gam...orne-rangers-reprint
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31 Oct 2023 13:18 - 31 Oct 2023 13:19 #340902 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Earthborne Rangers
If you are on the fence and asking yourself "do I want to play this," I can safely say you can watch the back half of this Team Covenant playthrough. If it looks bad, definitely skip, that's what this game is, but it also has a lot of the feel good moments and synergy in it since esp Steven of Covenant is pretty good at card games. They also get to story resolutions, add new player cards to decks, etc.

Last edit: 31 Oct 2023 13:19 by Gary Sax.
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31 Oct 2023 20:50 - 31 Oct 2023 20:53 #340907 by Frohike
Replied by Frohike on topic Earthborne Rangers
2:54: "These cards are gorgeous."

Welp that's enough for me. All in. ;)

Seriously, though, the graphic design and art on this one is top shelf.
Last edit: 31 Oct 2023 20:53 by Frohike.
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31 Oct 2023 22:57 #340908 by Ah_Pook
Replied by Ah_Pook on topic Earthborne Rangers
I'm curious how much of this game is going to come down to milling the encounter deck looking for card x to do a quest while running into the same cards over and over. It has some of that from what I've seen, which granted isn't that much. Will have to wait and see on this one still. It's got such a great style and vibe though.
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31 Oct 2023 23:25 - 31 Oct 2023 23:27 #340909 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Earthborne Rangers
Yeah, I agree, especially with the small "encounter deck" equivalent (path decks) that have clearly good and clearly bad cards in it.

There's also a weird outsized effect of path card churn when you have one and to a lesser extent two players since you see less of the deck and it's much lumpier. Three of four players you're automatically churning the deck pretty quickly. Somebody has to take scouting cards in solo or 2p.
Last edit: 31 Oct 2023 23:27 by Gary Sax.
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21 Jan 2024 09:19 - 21 Jan 2024 13:18 #341594 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Earthborne Rangers
Coming back to this, it has been an enormous hit in this house. Between this game and Voidfall, and I'd have a hard time telling you what my best game of last year was. I put up a review here and on BGG.... if you want to read it on BGG where it went up last month: boardgamegeek.com/thread/3208899/earthbo...orld-doesnt-hate-you

My spouse loves the game and we've just about wrapped up the story. It's got some rough edges because of the small team, rules-wise, but is pretty straightforward for the most part to navigate around the problems. Moreover, the campaign guide, where most of the mistakes are, has an online version that is up to date and excellent---this game has a tales of arabian nights vignette book.

Really, really good game. Best adventure game I've personally played that provides a sense of travel. It's also probably the first tabletop game I've played that provides a good sense of a violence not usually necessary game. They're running a reprint Gamefound that starts on like Tuesday if you want a copy below MSRP that should execute pretty quickly and has expansions: gamefound.com/en/projects/earthborne-gam...orne-rangers-reprint

I've been thinking the past couple days, because we're reading lord of the rings in our house right now, that this is the right fit for type of game for a lord of the rings game. LotR in reality is just a travel and encounter book for the most part, not an armies or battling property. In a lot of ways, you could make a game based on this system that was far more representative of the book source material with this engine than the LCG it got.
Last edit: 21 Jan 2024 13:18 by Gary Sax.
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23 Jan 2024 09:59 - 23 Jan 2024 10:29 #341609 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Earthborne Rangers
I'll echo Gary Sax here and say this game is good and has its hooks in me. I'm approaching the climax of the main plot and have had a great time with it.

In spite of appearances this is absolutely not a game for non-gamers. It has all of the weird timing issues and rules confusions you may come to expect from card games. The above combined with the intricate cascading and chained mechanics means it's pretty easy to get lost amongst all of the cards and objectives on the table. There are also a lot of implicit assumptions I can make about how the game functions because I've played a lot of video and card games. Strangely enough, I don't think it's really intended to be a game for hardcore CCG gamers either. The card balance can be a bit wonky with some clearly overtuned cards and efficiency minded players have already discovered a few infinite recursion exploits. The sweet spot in terms of complexity is folks who like Arkham but aren't too good at it.

The challenge effect system is really fantastic and has so much scope for making the game feel reactive and alive. No other board game has come close to emulating an open world video game before. The plot provides enough time pressure to keep you moving but throughout the game you have a strong sense of agency over what problems you'll solve and broadly how you'll go about solving them. I've been tracking my campaign on rangersdb.com and I think overlaying my route on the map over time ala the Hero's Journey from Breath of the Wild would be very fun to see. It'd also be an interesting comparison as I suspect my route would differ significantly from anyone else's.

Beyond the nice art, the gameplay exceeded my expectations. I'm off to hit that Gamefound page going live in a minute or so!
Last edit: 23 Jan 2024 10:29 by sornars.
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23 Jan 2024 13:40 - 23 Jan 2024 13:41 #341611 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Earthborne Rangers
Also if you look at that gamefound, it's easy to be deceived---the actual gameplay portions are not cheap but aren't over the top expensive. The core set is 80 dollars and that is extremely reasonable for what is, conservatively, the equivalent of a base Arkham Horror LCG set with a big additional campaign and investigator expansion all in one.

It's the extras that are crazy expensive.
Last edit: 23 Jan 2024 13:41 by Gary Sax.
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02 Feb 2024 04:54 - 02 Feb 2024 05:48 #341695 by southernman
Replied by southernman on topic Earthborne Rangers
So, GarySax and Sornars - my question is on replayability and, to a lesser extent, variety ?
I don't mind a game that has limited surprises on a following (or two) playthru as long as the full campaign actually takes a reasonably long time, basically so you can forget a lot of it rather than your short-term memory being able to say do this on that card and this on that other card, or if different choices take you on a vastly different direct or story track.
I do have enough games on my shelves for a few years non-stop gaming, but this game does intrigue me reading about it so I'm watching a prologue playthru. Although I have seen some comments already that the expansion(s) don't blend in that well.
Last edit: 02 Feb 2024 05:48 by southernman.

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02 Feb 2024 12:09 - 05 Feb 2024 16:51 #341699 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Earthborne Rangers
The prologue is pretty iffy. I wouldn't worry about that.

You have a main narrative that kicks in day 3, and there's a main plotline with several branching choices. While you're doing that, you're traveling around also picking up side quests and deciding whether to do them. Sometimes you have choices on how to resolve them. Generally when you resolve one, you get a reward if it's the end of the quest, which is how you upgrade your deck and make it better. It very much has the rhythm of something like skyrim. You'll know if you like that format, you'll like this. And, of course, if you like the actual mechanics---I would spend a little time with the demo on tts to see if you like the arkham lite style deckbuilding in this game and the setting. Just run one day and you'll have a good idea if it's for you mechanically.

As for replayability, I'm not sure. My wife and I have played through 29 days of the game, and finished the main story in the early 20s of days. Some people go through it faster. But my wife loves the environment and world building enough that she wants to do all the side quests, so we are sort of cleaning up the last side quests right now and meeting the characters we didn't meet organically along the way.

I would replay the campaign again, we may do it with some friends we know who are interested. It's breezy enough that you can take some side branches but it's not going to be super different. What will be different is running a different deck with different skills and backgrounds and different value of the player card rewards. But ymmv here.

As for expansions? There aren't any yet. And they fit perfectly---you bring your characters from the end of your playthrough of the base campaign directly into a temporally contiguous campaign underground.
Last edit: 05 Feb 2024 16:51 by Gary Sax.
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05 Feb 2024 13:49 - 05 Feb 2024 13:53 #341718 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Earthborne Rangers
+1 to everything Gary Sax said above.

I haven't finished my first campaign up yet but I am interested in trying out new decks in a second run through once I'm done. I think there's less variability in the main plot than say an Arkham campaign which can have complex branching pathways to shoot for; I suspect a second play will feel rather familiar a second time around but mechanically the game is enjoyable to engage with so trying out new decks will still be a lot of fun.

re: Campaign length, most sessions run 60-120 minutes and a full campaign is somewhere between 15-20 sessions.

I did the prologue and kind of regret it? Because I didn't look at the cards thoroughly and picked cards based off of vibes I ended up with some rather untuned decks. I've managed to course correct them through the in game deckbuilding/reward system but I would've been better off (mechanically) treating my deckbuilding like a proper card gamer. Having said that, the game exists at that weird crossroads of roleplaying and mechanical challenge so I've come to grow fond of my bumbling duo. For example, I picked a Forager background but didn't have the stats/didn't choose some lynchpin cards so my character has upgraded out every single Forager card - apparently he hates plants now.
Last edit: 05 Feb 2024 13:53 by sornars.
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14 Feb 2024 12:48 #341779 by Kmann
Replied by Kmann on topic Earthborne Rangers
I've been mostly enjoying the game. The art is gorgeous, the world-building is rock solid and there have been sublime moments where everything comes together to present an immersive living world around you. The mechanic which sees cards interacting with each other rather than simply reacting to your presence as the main character is fantastic. On top of that the core gameplay is a lot of fun.

On the flip side, I've found the constant setting up of path decks to be immersion-breaking and a bit of a drag. Especially when you get a mission or side quest that has you travelling to a spot four or five locations away. And with only 12 cards making the core of each biome (woods, lakeshore, mountains etc) you see the same cards a lot.

I'm not sure what the answer is but the predictability of the paths could use some jazzing up. As it is I've found myself occasionally groaning when getting a mission and seeing how far I need to travel to complete it and realise how much path deck construction/shuffling it's going to require.

The open world "go anywhere" is a selling point but I think I prefer the Arkham/Marvel style of set up your scenario once and play your session.

The story is pretty good so far, I'm only a third through, but I'd of liked to have seen some branching story paths. So far it seems like variety will come through the side missions you take on in your playthroughs and the deckbuilding of your character.

I have a frustration with the campaign guidebook. They've formatted it in a way that often spoils their own story by having the first thing you read be the end goal of the mission.

In this made-up example, it will read something like:

If you've found the hidden canoe, turn to 1.5
If a character has told you the only way to cross the river turn to 1.4
If you have arrived at the river turn to 1.3

I don't understand why they've done it this way and it drives me crazy.

All that said, I am enjoying the game and do think it's a lot of fun. Getting a mission and planning out your route on the map is really cool. And the small 3-card pool of randomness you generally add to each path deck can have big ramifications. I lost a whole day trying to get into a town due to pulling nothing but predators and obstacles. What should have been a quick transit became a question of survival. Which was quite cool.

So I've landed in an odd spot with the game but overall am leaning positive. I was on the fence about picking up the expansion, mainly due to shipping costs.

In the 11th hour, I did end up backing it. The game's an enjoyable experience and I like playing in its world. How the expansion plays out will be the make or break for me as to whether I stay on the path, so to speak, or move on.
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30 Apr 2024 17:55 - 03 May 2024 06:40 #342237 by beredis
Replied by beredis on topic Earthborne Rangers
Regarding the predictability and repetitiveness of the path decks, it’s a valid point you’ve raised. Games often need to balance between structure and randomness to keep things interesting. Buy Autodesk Advance Steel 2024 online . Perhaps the developers could introduce more variety in the card decks or add dynamic elements that change the gameplay each time you visit a biome. This could help maintain the immersion and reduce the monotony of setting up for longer journeys.
Last edit: 03 May 2024 06:40 by beredis.
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30 Apr 2024 18:47 - 30 Apr 2024 18:50 #342239 by Kmann
Replied by Kmann on topic Earthborne Rangers
They talked about it on an episode of their podcast. The repetition is by design and a thematic choice. It represents you and your character becoming a more experienced ranger as you know what to expect just by looking at the map.
During design, they experimented with bigger biome decks and adding variance etc but found it increased general game fiddliness and made set-up time longer.
Last edit: 30 Apr 2024 18:50 by Kmann.
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