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Mycelia Board Game Review

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Outback Crossing Review

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28 Oct 2023 15:04 #340873 by Jackwraith
Had a couple regulars in today. I wanted to try War of Whispers again because I need to get something into Uba one of these days. We had played with three the first time and I liked it, but wasn't blown away. Four is entirely different. The push-pull of choices and awareness of others' intentions ramps right up and you begin to consider how to maintain your own position while still not feeding someone else who's obviously favoring the same empire that you are. That happened with the Horse Empire, in that I knew the player to my right also had them top of the heap (x4 points per city at the end of the game) but I didn't want to enable what she had and figured we'd come out of that even. So I went with the Tusk Empire and tried to maintain against another player pushing at them with the Red/Eagles nation. In the end, it didn't matter, as my rival for the ponies won, 27-24-24-17. It's a good game at three, but it's a great game at four. At four rounds and with a simple production (cubes, cardboard tokens), it also was cheap (I traded for my copy) and doesn't outstay its welcome, either.

Then we thought we'd try Tiny Epic Dungeons at four. I've won playing solo and with two, but three seemed to have been a sticking point. Every time we tried with this same group at three players, we'd lose. Sometimes they were really close losses, but they were losses. This time it was Evelynn, the Dryad Druid; Nili Songheart, the Halfling Bard; Zezili, the Human Monk; and since all of those were picked before I did (I was setting up, like usual) and we didn't have a tank, I took Sir Gamelyn, Guardian of the Order. We made good progress through the dungeon and didn't encounter a huge number of goblins, dispatching them quickly every time they popped up (we had three on the board for the briefest of moments at one point during the game, but then never more than one or two for more than a turn.) We also had great luck with the loot. By the end of the game, I'd assembled the entire set of the Lion, which meant that I could be the perfect tank, healing three wounds every time I took a swing at something. Evelynn also found three pieces of the Phoenix set and a Chain Lightning spell, which was incredibly useful in cleaning up the goblins. Zezili also found three pieces of the Panther set (I didn't stack the deck!) and was doing incredible damage with every attack, as a result. Nili didn't have that kind of luck, but kept assisting where and when she could. We smashed through the Wraith, the Minotaur, the Vampire Imp, and the Dungeon Crawler(!) before finally discovering the Boss' lair, which held the Hydra, which we'd never faced before.

A couple people dove in and hit it a couple times early on in the lair, but then lured it out to the four Minion rooms that we had to get it to before being able to significantly reduce its 32 health. In the course of that action and more goblins showing up, both Nili and Zezili got knocked out, but we managed to keep grinding away at the boss. I stayed alive through multiple rounds on 1 health because the Hydra would inflict 3 and then I'd heal those 3 back. It did the same to me a couple times, as it heals when it rolls the torch dropping symbol (in addition to the torch dropping another space.) Finally, I was knocked out and we were one more attack from it knocking out everyone and us losing the game with it on 2(!) health, before Zezili finally put the killing blow in, dropping the Claw of the Panther to reacquire his Inner Focus ability so he could make a second attack and put it away. A really thrilling ending. I think the game may just have a significant bell curve from 1 to 4 players, where it eases off at the edges and becomes really difficult in the middle.
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29 Oct 2023 11:53 - 29 Oct 2023 14:38 #340881 by dysjunct
Mycelium: A Mushlings Games. Based on some existing art property of cute little forest mushroom people; original artist was brought aboard for the game. The art is top notch. The game is on a hex board very Catan-like (but static). You have your little mushroom colony and you send out tendrils under the ground to reach other hexes (like roads in Catan) which lets you bring back resources. Some of the resources are "spores" (a currency you use to build roads or get special abilities) and some are VPs. Unlike Catan there's no trading, and you can attack other people's roads to prevent them from bringing home the goods. First third of the game was exciting and dynamic, then the middle turned into a long slog where all the starting resources had been gathered and the rare drops were quickly pounced on. Late-middle to endgame turned out to be a somewhat tedious contest of spreading out your network as much as possible, hoping you'd be in the right place when a new resource appeared. And attacking other people's networks.

There's a really good game in there, and the art and graphic design is almost disgustingly adorable. But the narrative arc is borked. The resource drops are controlled by a deck of cards; everyone turns over one at the start of their turn. A new deck could easily fix the resource-poverty of the mid/late game.

As is, 2/5 stars.
Last edit: 29 Oct 2023 14:38 by dysjunct.
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30 Oct 2023 13:04 #340887 by hotseatgames
Completed the first campaign (Psycho Reaver) of Borderlands: Mr. Torgue's Arena of Badassery. I played the entire thing solo because I have not had the opportunity to play with others yet. This campaign is rather long, compared to the others included in the campaign. Overall this was a fun experience and I look forward to getting to play with a group. Some general thoughts:

Characters start out very weak, as you might expect. I would say if someone intends to play one-off games, they would do well to approximate how many skill tokens someone might acquire prior to that mission. Once characters level up a few times, they become real death machines, and that is very fun.

You definitely get that good co-op feeling of plotting out the ideal round, and making the most of each character's turn is very rewarding. Still, at the end of the day this is a dice game, and you can get fucked pretty easily.

During the course of a mission, if you draw the Bounty token from the bag, you can go on an optional side mission after your current mission. These are short, and there are a ton of them. You generally have about a 1 in 40 chance of pulling this token. It happened one time during my entire campaign. I would consider a house rule to make these come up more often, perhaps.

My party consisted of Aurelia Hammerlock, Mr. Torgue, Gage the Mechromancer, and Claptrap. Once she gets properly leveled, Aurelia is devastating, but the real star of the show is Claptrap, believe it or not. He is by far the most flexible hero, and can be specced to dish out a ton of damage.

My overall current feeling about the game is that I am glad I backed it, I may purchase some of the content I didn't buy during the campaign, but also, some aspects do seem like they could have used a bit more time in the oven. I think it's a solid 7/10. Add a point if you are a big Borderlands fan, which I am.
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30 Oct 2023 15:19 #340889 by Msample
DARKEST DUNGEON

This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, mechanically its fairly clean once you get going. Initial start up was a bit clunky as we deduced all the different types of cards needed to set up the initial Quest, Boss, etc then we got going.

Thematically vs other dungeon crawlers , DD is more of a slog/demoralizing adventure. I get that its supposed to be hard. While you gain gold, it doesn't buy you enhancements like other crawlers so much as just ( attempts ) to fix all the damage you emerged from the dungeon with. And you'll always come out beat up , sometimes a lot . Getting back to the Hamlet with a lot of damage and drawing a card that only grants one day to heal can really set you back. It seems weird that you can't do more in the Hamlet if you're really beat up . I guess we could have swapped out a beat up character for a new one, but the thematic disconnect still exists - why not heal more if you're beat up ? Most crawlers give you a clean slate once you get back to town.

About the only "good" object you can gain are trinkets - but even they have downsides . You use them for a good effect, then you rotate the card and have to endure a negative effect to flip it back. There are Positive Quirks, which are good.....but they are usually replaced by Negative Quirks, which will replace a Good one if you get more than 3 total Quirks, which can happen fairly easily .

The characters to choose from have good variety, and each one has several different ways to build them via Action cards.

We may go back and play again at a later point, but the grind makes it a bit less appealing. We got to the Level 2 Boss Quest , guessed incorrectly where his room was so had to explore every room to get to him. When our Crusader died 3 rooms from the Boss room we stopped as there was no way with two more monster rooms before the Boss we'd beat it.

In short its good if you wanna hack and bash, not so good if you want to collect items and outfit your characters with cool gear.
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30 Oct 2023 22:10 - 31 Oct 2023 08:34 #340895 by Sagrilarus
Thunder Road Vendetta.

I was expecting smacking into people to have some sort of effect. But it's more or less bumper cars? No damage, right?

It was serviceable. A solid seven.
Last edit: 31 Oct 2023 08:34 by Sagrilarus.
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02 Nov 2023 11:29 #340917 by Jackwraith
Games on the impending review list over the past couple weeks:

Got another game of The Last Kingdom in. Well, a half game because we were playing with a full complement of five people and the first round was a grind. This is the Monday group, so everyone has work the next day and one of them started pointing that out when we hadn't even finished said round by 10 PM. So we called it with Alfred well in the lead because of Beocca the monk which makes a killer point-generating combo. I really like this game, but it seems like there are a couple significant outliers in combos like that and one Market action that is far and away the best choice and which everyone tries to go for whenever it becomes feasible (e.g. affordable.) I'd be playing this more except that it feels like it requires a very competitive "gamerz" audience to really come off.

Played another game of Land and Freedom with that same group, since there were only three of us this week. I was the Moderates this time and, as with every other session we've had, won the first draw for Glory after year one. The Moderates not only start with Initiative (which lets you put one of your tokens in the bag after each event and another after the year closes) but it's relatively difficult to dislodge them unless either the Communists totally focus on maxing out Soviet Support or the Anarchists have the right draw to boost both Liberty and Collectivization by several places on their tracks. But once we get into year two, both of those goals are much easier because of progress that is usually made in year one. But we lost to Franco with the final event of year two when the Aragon front joined the Southern one in fascist flames. It's a fair bit of introspection on my part to think that I might have been able to contribute more to the group effort, but had been so effectively boxed out by both of my opponents that I decided to see if they would carry the ball a bit more to stop the common enemy. When they were unable to (or claimed to be), we lost. That balancing of personal goal against joint goal is the central conceit of the whole game and it's a great one. I wonder if we should try to improve our table talk levels to maximize its aspects, though.

My copy of Tiny Epic Crimes finally showed up (a day after they announced the next game in the series- Tiny Epic Cthulhu -which I am terribly unenthused about at present time, for a few reasons) so we played a two-player of that. It's a very different experience from playing four, as it feels a bit more desperate in terms of fewer resources and options and longer hauls to even get to the evidence. I'm thinking that this one may really benefit from the mini-expansion (Crooked Capos) at smaller player counts.
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02 Nov 2023 11:49 - 02 Nov 2023 11:50 #340918 by charlest
We have really enjoyed Last Kingdom. Haven't played it at five, but have found it excellent at three and four. Our three player game lasted 90 minutes and was great. It's by far my favorite Gamelyn release.
Last edit: 02 Nov 2023 11:50 by charlest.
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02 Nov 2023 12:30 #340919 by Jackwraith
Yeah, I've been really surprised by it for a number of reasons. IP stuff can often be contrived or bogged down by putting setting before the game, but this one captures the spirit of the series quite nicely. On top of that, it's just a solid game, beginning to end, with a lot of variety. It was weird how quickly it showed up, without any real advance notice or rumor that I knew of, hit Kickstarter as a completed project, and then delivered; in several cases, long before other stuff that I'd pledged for. Because it was so quick, I half-expected a half-assed job, but it's been great. Again, my problem is finding the "right" people to play it with.
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02 Nov 2023 16:24 #340920 by Shellhead
I realize that it is just a branding thing, but the words "tiny" and "Cthulhu" don't belong in the same title.
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02 Nov 2023 16:28 #340921 by Shellhead

Sagrilarus wrote: Thunder Road Vendetta.

I was expecting smacking into people to have some sort of effect. But it's more or less bumper cars? No damage, right?

It was serviceable. A solid seven.


Sounds disappointing, like that Alien game where nobody dies but everyone gets demoralized. On the other hand, collision damage was one of the more problematic aspects of Car Wars. Rather than try to litigate the physics of each collision, players were direct to just pick up the vehicle tokens and randomly drop them back on the map. And a motorcycle running head-on into a big rig resulted in equal damage for both vehicles.
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03 Nov 2023 08:28 #340924 by hotseatgames
The trick with Thunder Road is bumping into rock walls, oil slicks, etc.
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03 Nov 2023 10:45 - 03 Nov 2023 10:46 #340929 by charlest
What I love about Thunder Road is how it re-asserts the worth and joy of output randomness.

Geoff Engelstein I believe came up with the concept of input versus output randomness. Input randomness is much less offensive to modern board gamers. It's a random deal of action points or cards to utilize on your turn, but your actual actions are reliable and not left to chance. It's the type of randomness popular in Euro style games.

Output randomness gets a bad rap. Thunder Road features both, but the real brightness in the design is in the clusterfuck of collisions as Mark points out.

When someone gets bumped to the board edge, everyone starts hollering "get him!" And goading others into entering the danger zone for an auto kill. Same with rocks and pushing people into hazards.

The sheer chaos of several cars slamming in a chain reaction and then someone exploding is like a big middle finger to the low drama efficiency ethos of many modern designs.
Last edit: 03 Nov 2023 10:46 by charlest.
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03 Nov 2023 12:30 - 03 Nov 2023 12:33 #340933 by Sagrilarus

charlest wrote: What I love about Thunder Road is how it re-asserts the worth and joy of output randomness.

Geoff Engelstein I believe came up with the concept of input versus output randomness. Input randomness is much less offensive to modern board gamers. It's a random deal of action points or cards to utilize on your turn, but your actual actions are reliable and not left to chance. It's the type of randomness popular in Euro style games.

Output randomness gets a bad rap. Thunder Road features both, but the real brightness in the design is in the clusterfuck of collisions as Mark points out.

When someone gets bumped to the board edge, everyone starts hollering "get him!" And goading others into entering the danger zone for an auto kill. Same with rocks and pushing people into hazards.

The sheer chaos of several cars slamming in a chain reaction and then someone exploding is like a big middle finger to the low drama efficiency ethos of many modern designs.


I agree with all of this, but our particular play of the game felt tame. It is kind of unintuitive that you can slam into somebody and there is no damage. They just get moved a space. Feels more like bumper cars at an amusement park than a race to the death in the desert. I'm not going to say it's a bad game, but it certainly did not feel like a freewheeling slugfest which is what I anticipated. Maybe this is just first time blues. It may get better.

I used to call Geoff's concept decision-then-luck because I am not as articulate as he is.
Last edit: 03 Nov 2023 12:33 by Sagrilarus.

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03 Nov 2023 12:33 #340934 by Shellhead

charlest wrote: Geoff Engelstein I believe came up with the concept of input versus output randomness. Input randomness is much less offensive to modern board gamers. It's a random deal of action points or cards to utilize on your turn, but your actual actions are reliable and not left to chance. It's the type of randomness popular in Euro style games.


This is a crucial insight, and I wish I had that precise terminology in mind when I was talking about this distinction with respect to risk recently. I realize that there are gamers who enjoy all kinds of games, but I feel that the input versus output randomness is generally appealing to very different sorts of gamers. I feel that the gamer who prefers input randomness is driven by anxiety, and is unable to let go of that anxiety even during a relaxing hobby activity. Gamers who prefer output randomness might seem comparable to gamblers in mindset, except that the stakes for the gamer are practically zero, so it's strictly for entertainment value. I know that I would rather spend my limited free time with people who seek entertainment than prisoners of anxiety.

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03 Nov 2023 13:09 #340935 by dysjunct

Sagrilarus wrote: I used to call Geoff's concept decision-then-luck because I am not as articulate as he is.


In some RPG design space there's a threefold distinction:

1. Fortune-up-front. Roll dice, then decide what you do, and what happens, based on the dice. Rare (but not unheard of) in RPGs. E.g. roll, then decide which dice to allocate between defense, offense, and movement.

2. Fortune-in-the-middle. Decide what you do, roll dice, then use the dice to see what happens. The dominant mode: "I swing my sword at the goblin." "Okay, roll to hit." "I missed, damn."

3. Fortune-at-the-end. Decide what happens, roll dice to determine the effect. Used in some rules-light dungeon-crawlers where you automatically hit but then roll for damage.

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