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What BOARD GAME(s) have you been playing?
Rliyen wrote: Anyone remember the beginning of the D&D module, Ghost Tower of Inverness? You know, the Duke's Seer who goes to the Tower, gets his ass kicked, and then get schlebs to investigate for him? Yeah, that's what happened to me. I got three rooms in, and got two Corruption levels and had to retreat.
I do remember Ghost Tower of Inverness! I ran it for a couple of friends during spring break in 1981, then gave it away to another friend so he could run it.
Then a few 2p, bit of a runback with my friend from earlier in the week.
13 DAYS; I was the US this time and he was the USSR. He didn't accidentally cause the nukes to fly this time, so it went the distance and I won on prestige. 5/5 stars.
PUZZLE STRIKE II. I think I am now convinced that this is Sirlin's best and shows how he's grown as a designer. Early in his career he was so maniacally focused on trying to max out both asymmetry and balance that his games suffered for it -- oftentimes kludgy as various ad-hoc fixes got slapped on to fix some minor balance issue that became apparent after 370 games or something. This plays smooth and consistently. Still very balanced and asymmetric but there's a clear focus on usability. There's a few things that really impress me about the game as I've gotten a bunch of repeat plays recently.
The first is the choice to make each bank a separate, self-contained deck. In Dominion and many of its imitators (including Puzzle Strike I), you select ten sets of cards to make the bank. There's usually some recommended setups, but most people end up selecting them randomly after a few plays. This leads to many banks that are not very good. There will be degenerate combos, where it's a race to get the broken combination of cards ASAP and if you don't do it then you auto-lose. Or there will be cards that don't synergize particular well with the other cards in the bank, so they are effectively dead cards and you're playing with a de facto bank of seven or eight cards, so the strategic space is much more constrained and therefore less interesting. Sirlin's solution is to make the bank an entire 60-card deck. No mixing or matching of individual cards. This not only makes setup much faster, but lets each bank lean into a particular theme or mechanic, while preventing dead cards or degenerate combos. One bank focuses on discard effects, one on chaining cards of similar colors together, and so on.
The second is that there's no interrupt effects or anything else to worry about when it's not your turn. I think this makes the game ideal for adaption on BGA. One of the things that hurt the online implementations of Yomi and Puzzle Strike 1 was how often the game had to pause to check to see if people wanted to do stuff when it wasn't their turn. With this, no, you just play.
The third is the narrative arc of the game. Things start pretty mellow and then get completely nutty. The last few turns of the game, you have no idea how you're going to survive this turn, then you somehow do, and you have no idea how your opponent will survive, then he somehow does, until eventually someone's gem pile blows up.
About the only thing that isn't great about it is the "Grand Finale" rule, which only exists in multiplayer. I think it's to make people not have to wait around if they're eliminated -- once someone busts, everyone else gets one more turn to try and crash as many gems as possible; whoever crashes the most wins. It's weird and has a bunch of rules that only apply to that mode. I think it would be better to just play until all but one person is eliminated; once someone busts, everyone else should be pretty close to being dead already. But, this is really a 2p game at heart so it shouldn't matter too much in theory. 5/5 stars.
SUB TERRA II. A complete Kickshitshow that managed to deliver against all odds. I loved the original Sub Terra so this was a no-brainer. The Kickstarter funded easily, but then the covid lockdowns closed Chinese factories, then a bunch of other delays happened, then the publisher started the typical doomloop of apologizing, promising regular updates (which would happen maybe twice before radio silence would take over for months), promised shipping dates would quickly blow past, etc. The publisher laid off all employees but forgot to change the Kickstarter password so some disgruntled employees logged in to complain about missing paychecks. Retail copies of the game showed up in the wild before any backers ever saw their copies. Eventually the publisher declared bankruptcy, which I thought was just the end. However, an angel company bought the publisher's assets, which included multiple pallets of unshipped games -- apparently the games were produced but the publisher couldn't afford to ship them. The new owner contacted all the backers, explained the situation, and offered to ship the KS rewards to all backers, with the caveat that we'd have to pay for shipping again (at cost) -- there was no money to ship things and the new company couldn't afford to eat several thousands of dollars in shipping. Unfortunate, but I bit the bullet and finally got the game plus two expansions.
All that aside, the game is very good -- the woes of the publisher had nothing to do with the designer, who turned in another banger of an experience. It's still a tile-laying exploration game; this moves away from The Descent theme of the original (trapped in a cave, find your way out before your lights run out as things pursue you) and more into an Indiana Jones vibe. Explore a temple built into the side of a volcano, dodge traps and mummified undead guardians, get the artifact and run out. Once you grab the artifact, the temple slowly fills with lava as you all race towards the exit.
Played 3x so far with the kid, lost every time. I'm trying not to quarterback too hard, so we're being a little inefficient, but it does seem pretty hard. But there's lots of good hard choices, a strong push-your luck element as you race against time, and lots of characters with various special abilities. Like the first game, the core system is extremely simple and everything is seamless -- no special cases or one-off kludges. 4/5 stars, could go up.
Jackwraith wrote: I also remember Ghost Tower. I had both of the original C series of modules (Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan was the other) and then picked up the To Find A King duo a few years later. IIRC, Ghost Tower was the first module that actually had Umber Hulks in it (one of the more exotic species of D&D monsters.) I liked it, but really like Tamoachan a bit better. But both of them paled in comparison to the Find a King adventure. That one lasted for years in the post-game stories.
I liked Tamoachan a LOT, Will o' the Wisps EVERYWHERE. The revitalizing vampire was creepy to my 11 year old self.
Re: Umber Hulks.
DM: You see several roughly hewn passages. There's digging sounds to your right.
Player: I look to see what's digging.
DM: You looked right at an umber hulk. Make a save.
Followed it up with Expeditions, the Scythe pseudo-sequel thing. It was fine. I liked the action mechanic of always losing a different option, but the system of points was overwrought. Less an engine builder and more a hike up a muddy trail of struggling to find a step. Minimal interaction. Wouldn’t say no but wouldn’t push for a play either.
And then the boys asked for Sushi Go! before bed. Lost because I couldn’t stop feeding the eldest sashimi and dumplings, but at least I beat the boy who took every possible maki.
A few years ago, I ran a successful and fun session of Zombies for 7 players by dividing the group into two teams. Each team had its own turn marker, so there was an incentive for people to play quickly so their team wouldn't be at a disadvantage against the other team. I could do the same with this ZvH game, making every team three or four players. The time pressure helps make the game play faster, and that helps the game wrap up before people can get bored with it.
I know that many gamers feel that the only reasonable response to a group of 10-12 players is to split them up into two or three separate games. It is reasonable, and less social because people tend to end up trapped at that one table unless two games end at roughly the same time. I prefer a more epic scale game, because everybody can potentially interact with everybody, and those big games can be more memorable. One definite plus for a big game of ZvH will be a good-sized town that takes form on the table pretty quickly, say within the first two or three turns of the game. I will make the helipads more visible by borrowing helicopter minis from Blood Feud in New York.
Just in case, I will play a solo game of ZvH this week, so I can get a feel for potential card issues and interaction questions. I will write up some notes about how to address issues, and then create cheat sheet cards for each player: turn sequence and brief summary of each phase.
One character did get very close to being knocked out (you can respawn if you have enough money, just like the video game).
So far I really like it, but my one frustration is with the "Out of Ammo" mechanic. If your character runs out of ammo, all of their equipped guns are exhausted. You can't ready them again unless you spend an ammo token. Getting one involves getting really lucky, and even THAT is hard if you don't have a valid weapon. Later in the game when you have more guns in your inventory, this might not be a big deal, but in the first scenario you start with one gun. I had a character who literally couldn't shoot for half the game. Maybe I fucked up a rule, but I don't think so.
Jackwraith wrote: Then we switched to Pax Pamir, which remains probably my favorite Cole Wehrle game and one of my favorites overall. With two Afghan patriots in the opening market, one of my opponents decided to go with the locals and with a British patriot present and nothing Russian, the other opponent decided to go pink. But with nothing Russian, I decided to play the long game and wait for the yellow dudes to show up. However, the Britain player got access to a free Build action when we couldn't get out of Economic suit and soon the board was covered with English blocks. When the first Dominance check showed up, it sat in the Market for a while while the Afghan player switched to Britain and the two of them maneuvered for control. Eventually, one won out when another check showed up and both of them got removed together and they scored their 5 and 3 and I was sitting with nothing. However, I grabbed Alexander Griboyev (Don't pay for Russian patriots) and started racking up those guys, plus a prize I got from an opponent, so I was firmly in control in that respect if I could manage to get some blocks down on the empty map. But then another Dominance check showed up while I had the most tribes and spies out, so I just bought it, giving me three points. We went another couple rounds and the final Dominance check showed up while we were still in the same position (me with the only three tribes out and still with the most spies), so I just bought that one, too and won the game, 6-5-3. It was a bit anti-climactic in that respect, but I wasn't complaining because, again, I'd played the long game and it had paid off. I really need to play Pamir again soon. I've played for years and each time is still enthralling.
The scores sound a little messed up; don't forget that the final dominance check doubles all the points it dishes out (though that of course wouldn't have affected the outcome in this case).
This game is very cool, but its random nature can definitely make things hard. I'm good with that.
Jason starts out as just a camp counselor, though a bit on the creepy side. Whenever he becomes Horrified, he doesn't become Horrified and instead draws a Survival card. Every time another counselor dies, a Snuffed card is drawn and Jason gets a +1 to all die rolls. But you also roll a d6 each time a Snuffed card is drawn, and on a 1, Jason flips over his counselor card and becomes Evil Jason, a Killer with Stalk 2, Attack d8, and Damage 1. Evil Jason stays under that player's control, but he must attack other counselors, cameos, and Otis whenever he crosses paths with them. Evil Jason can win the game if he is the last counselor and then defeats Otis in a fight.
Anyway, crazy game. A half dozen cameos entered play, including a hapless doppleganger of Saffron the pacifist. Counselors often took damage from random non-Otis sources, like the woods or that card that makes you guess cabin card colors or that rapey cameo Big Wayne. Jason was the only counselor who never once got injured, which was very suspicious. Saffron died first but immediately came back as a friendly ghost.
Kevin and Jackson got weapons early and generally beat Otis whenever he showed up, at least early on. Cameos dropped like flies, with three of their bodies piling up in the same square of the same cabin. Eventually the counselors got the items for a Van finale, and limped towards that exit. Big Wayne beat Otis once and also violated CJ, but CJ killed him on the next turn. Near the van exit, Tracy had the shotgun but rolled a one and Otis killed her, and the corresponding Snuffed card actually referenced the shotgun. Later on, all of the dead cameos came back to life, including Big Wayne.
Jason continued his charmed life, picking up a couple of extra survival cards, and some handy items, but no weapons. Right by the Van exit, Jason drew the Snapped card and did one damage to Jackson, which killed him. But Jason never successfully rolled the die to transition into Evil Jason. Later, Kevin was sent to the Barn to fool around with another counselor, and he picked Jason and then played a survival card to get back near the Van exit, leaving Jason stranded on the far side of the board.
In the end, only CJ and Saffron the ghost escaped. They ran into Eddie's gang. CJ killed the first gang member but was killed by the second one. Saffron avenged him, but got killed by the third and final gang member. And that would have been the end, except that Jason was still alive back in camp.
Jason continued on, but didn't find any items for an exit before the body count hit 13. Jason went unarmed to the campfire for final battle with Otis, for an instant loss, probably screaming at the unfairness of it all. THE END.
In fact, it ended before I could turn anyone into a ghost or the Vampire. I'm excited to try it with some friends.
dragonstout wrote: The scores sound a little messed up; don't forget that the final dominance check doubles all the points it dishes out (though that of course wouldn't have affected the outcome in this case).
Ah, right. I forgot to do that as we didn't actually tally the scores because they weren't scoring anything in the last two so, as you say, it wouldn't have changed anything.
I actually managed to kill Bonehead fairly easily with a combination of Aurelia Hammerlock shooting the fuck out of him while Krieg pummeled him with a wrench. Aurelia picked up the module, and a fresh new legendary that Bonehead dropped. What did she get?..... It just happened to be a Berserk Module, that lets her exhaust the card to immediately move adjacent to any enemy spawn point. The satellite was right next to an enemy spawn point... instant victory. Very cool!