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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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Is Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons the Best Comic Book Game?

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12 Mar 2020 13:45 #307975 by Michael Barnes
On the cover, five women (including two non-white characters) are...

Hark, the Golden Age of Prospero Hall is in full swing.

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12 Mar 2020 23:57 #307976 by marlowespade
I still can't get over how awesome it was to open the box, unwrap the cards, walk through the setup, and be up and playing in mayyyyyyyyybe 10 minutes, tops - while understanding completely how to play and win right out the gate. All credit to Prospero Hall for making this so accessible in the best way possible.
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13 Mar 2020 00:26 #307977 by Gary Sax
This is kind of an awkward question because it makes me sound like an elitist game hermit, which to be fair I sort of am...

Do you play these games regularly? Like, do you look at your shelf and go "I want a light game that's like a coop game I've played a million times but has a way better and integrated theme for game night?" I'm glad that people might play this game instead of Pandemic, but I don't really play Pandemic anymore either after wearing it out years ago. Some of these Prospero Hall games feel like much better, thematic light games that should be on store shelves to improve the lives of mass market gamers... but I'm not sure how that fits into my gaming. Anyway, I know this is delicate because it feels like I'm shitting on the article but it's a genuine, non-sarcastic question.
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13 Mar 2020 00:43 #307978 by RobertB
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13 Mar 2020 00:49 #307979 by marlowespade
These are actually exactly the kind of games I look for to close out a game night after I've played something weightier or have had a few too many beers to play something that needs 20 minutes of setup time. And I'm an elitist solo game hermit!

(Also, I'll note that my long-suffering non-gamer wife has absolutely zero interest in anything in my collection, but will gladly spend an evening playing Villainous and now WW. So I guess I'm a "yes" to your question.)
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13 Mar 2020 06:53 #307983 by Michael Barnes
@Gary Sax, that’s a fair question to ask and it similar to what Charlie was asking the other day- how much longevity/engagement do these games have over time?

Here’s my response. I don’t care! These PH jams are -exactly- what I want to play right now at 44 years old. I do not give a crap about the latest 3 hour game that takes 30 minutes to set up and requires 4 players minimum. That is where having a “lesser” alternative is useless. When I have time and crew to play something big and hearty...that’s going to be Dune or something of that stature and class. But most times I have 2-3 players, an hour or so, and I want something high impact and low commitment. Which is, frankly, what I think _most_ people with limited time and higher priorities than gaming really want whether they say they do or not.

Yes, these are the games I reach for these days. Tracking my “development as a gamer” whatever that means, they are something of a perfect storm. Setup is usually zero (I am totally over setup), they have appealing licenses (always cared a lot about setting and theme), they are immensely accessible (I strongly value accessibility), and they have mechanics that he’s close to classic Eurogame models (remember the ERP?). They are also very tastefully made (I’ve crusaded against tackiness and tastelessness in games all my life), inexpensive (I’m done with paying more than $60 for a board game), innovative (which I always appreciate), and -heartfelt- (an intangible quality that shines through in how they treat licensed).

As a matter of fact, the last big game thing I did. I played Villainous, Top Gun, Horrified, and some other non-PH titles like Wildlands and Letter Press and that was exactly what I wanted out of the evening.

With all that said...for all of their accessibility, these games may actually NOT be a good fit for the more serious hobbyist. These are not really aimed at Terra Mystica diehards, the Pax Pamir worshippers, or the GMTistas. They are far more mainstream in every way, but “pop” games are what I want the most right now.
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13 Mar 2020 08:23 - 13 Mar 2020 09:18 #307985 by Josh Look
I've been reaching more and more for these types of games over the last few years. I'm not sure there's any one easy answer as to why. What I do know is that I'm tired of unnecessary design, there only to elevate a game to the "hobby" level. I no longer have the heart for these clever for the sake of being clever games, or outside of the box mechanics, doesn't have to actually be fun, for the sake of being a fresh idea to impress hobby nerds who crave some sort of mental masturbatory satisfaction. I'm more interested in how much we can trim the fat, get to the point with less systems and still preserve the more intangible, immersive details (or "theme," if you want to call it that). Prospero Hall is doing that consistently, and more so, they are getting better at it. Wonder Woman is a clear evolutionary step by leaps and bounds over Horrified.
Last edit: 13 Mar 2020 09:18 by Josh Look.
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13 Mar 2020 09:14 #307987 by Josh Look
Re: Pandemic

There’s an element to this game that really separates it from Pandemic, to the point where I’d argue it’s an unfair comparison. After all, the overwhelming majority of co-ops mimic that “whack-a-mole” foundation. It’s an element that I wish Michael went farther into than he did, and that’s just how big the incomplete information/discussion phase/programming actions without discussion setup is here. It really is *THE* game, and it’s why you should never ever ever play this solo. The planning, coordination, and then trust you have to put into the other players to make the right move is what makes this as a game special. Seriously, the other players are just as much a stumbling block at times as the villain you’re fighting. You really need to be *together* to stand a chance in this game, and you can’t just pretend to have that happening when you play it solo.

I will add that I have to applaud this game for getting around the alpha player problem without the use of any of that overly clever, gimmicky BS like timers or apps that I’ve seen other co-ops use to do it.
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13 Mar 2020 09:29 - 13 Mar 2020 09:49 #307988 by Josh Look
And to tap into my inner Will Kenyon in a “I’m not done with you yet” move....

I’m not going to get into the logistics over whether I’m not “Ameritrash” games are dead, I know the answer and everyones heart of hearts, they know it, too. Its been replaced by the hybrid, while AT has now long existed on the fringe, in weird niche games for weird niche audiences, a pastiche more than an earnest effort to be AT, the quality of those games debatable.

These Prospero Hall games....you know what they feel like? They feel like those kinds of 80s/90s games I lusted after as a kid. Games with awesome themes/settings, amazing looking components with that kind of true toy appeal that games like Cthulhu Wars desperately tries to grasp on to but never gets a hold of, and production with a whole lot of heart, soul and genuine understanding of the IP (ie, not fucking BATCOW). These games feel like a return to that era of mass market games, the roots of AT gaming, but there’s a welcome difference this time around: The games...they’re actually good.
Last edit: 13 Mar 2020 09:49 by Josh Look.
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13 Mar 2020 09:54 #307990 by Michael Barnes
I'm tired of unnecessary design, there only to elevate a game to the "hobby" level.

OMG this is such a profound and far reaching statement of why I hate a lot of current design.

I’ve got a game on the review table right now called Plunder: A Pirate’s Life. It’s very much an outsider thing. It’s self-published by this guy that I hear is a screenwriter by trade. I got it and opened it up and was like WTF is this anyway. The production, the way the rules are written, everything about it is NOT like hobby games. One of the key differentiators is actually from LIFE. You have these little pirate ships and you put crew, cannons, and masts into these pegholed. Resource spending is like Settlers. You roll dice and move your ships around, take over islands, and fight other pirates. There’s a big stack of treasure cards, some of which are NASTY lose-a-point style take that.

It’s like a weird 1970s Ideal or Milton Bradley game. Almost like the designer has not played tons of modern hobby games and just went with what he thought would be fun or interesting. -And it’s oddly refreshing-.

It reminds me of the kind of pre-Kickstarter outliers we used to see like Viktory or Chaostle.

But I’m sure Tom Vasel and the legion of hobby content creators are going to savage it.
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13 Mar 2020 09:56 #307991 by Josh Look
That sounds amazing. Looking into it.

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13 Mar 2020 09:57 #307992 by Michael Barnes
I do want to mention the cooperation coordination element again. That is this game’s THEME. The theme is not Wonder Woman. It’s mutual support, acting as a team, and being able to collectively win while facing individual uncertainty, setbacks, or unexpected turns. The three card baffle, like Josh mentioned, does more to crush alpha player than all of the bullshit hobby gimmicks I’ve seen.
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13 Mar 2020 10:05 #307993 by Jackwraith
Well, in this respect, I'd say I'm with Gary's perspective for several reasons:

1. I don't like co-ops. Once you've solved the puzzle, you've solved the puzzle. It's why I thought jigsaw puzzles were ridiculous as a kid; not only were they a kind of mindless distraction, but they were also ridiculously easy after doing them once. (This is part of why legacy games have never appealed. Anything worth doing once is worth doing again, if you enjoyed it.)

2. Part of the reason I enjoy gaming are getting into the depth of some of those more complex systems. I love games that you can just throw down and play, too. But I also like those that take some thinking.

3. I have zero nostalgia for most games of the 80s and 90s. That's when I was mostly playing RPGs, Magic, and things like Talisman, CE, and Wiz-War. Most IP-oriented games of that era were atrocious marketing ventures that had no intention of making a durable game, as opposed to riding the wave of a movie release or popular show.

Now, in the Prospero Hall case, I'm a huge Villainous proponent, despite not being a Disney fan. However, I'd argue that despite its veneer of "Sit down and play!", it's precisely not the kind of game that you can do that with because it has the Root problem: all the decks play differently and sorting out how they actually play is often a struggle for new players, to say nothing of keeping track of what anyone else is doing. In other words, it's precisely the opposite of WW: CotA. You can physically set it up in less than 10 minutes, but getting everyone to the point of understanding what they're actually doing in the game takes FAR longer than that. This is an inherent problem of any game based on cards, since every turn will be a burst of new information for the new player.

I think they were more successful with Funkoverse, in that its concepts are much simpler to grasp precisely because it doesn't have the Root problem (everyone is playing the game the same way) and because there is no hidden info. I think they were less successful with Jaws because the game, although well-designed, feels very mechanical and doesn't approach the level of intrinsic, IP-oriented joy that the other titles produce. You can easily use Funkoverse to mimic scenes from the actual Harry Potter books or films. Unless you think the crew of the Orca having a larger armory on board because they saved more swimmers is a proper representation of the film, then it's not the same thing. This is the concern I had when the game was announced in the first place; in that it can't properly represent the best parts of the film (the characters) on the cardboard and, thus, ends up being more like the cheap, marketing tools of the 80s than anything else PH has done.

I think they've largely been successful. I like their games. But to suggest that everything they're doing is and has been "the right thing" seems too broad a statement to make. If their output is working for you, great. It's mostly working for me, too. But ask me what I want to play on any given night and it's going to include a lot of stuff alongside PH and it's almost definitely not going to be a co-op.
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13 Mar 2020 11:12 #307997 by Shellhead

Jackwraith wrote: You can physically set it up in less than 10 minutes, but getting everyone to the point of understanding what they're actually doing in the game takes FAR longer than that. This is an inherent problem of any game based on cards, since every turn will be a burst of new information for the new player.


I just wanted to quote this particular remark for being very insightful. Game designers should take note.
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13 Mar 2020 11:12 #307998 by Josh Look
That’s kind of the back and forth between all hobby gamers, isn’t? I will admit that I go back and forth on it myself. When I’m in a real mood for RPGs and playing them regularly, I don’t really have as much of a need for thematic board games and will stray more Euro. Other times, it’s the opposite.

But what is a constant for me is that I am tired of learning games and I am tired of “big new ideas” that don’t actually add any fun, only the fun of learning a new thing. Tried and true systems keep showing up for a reason: They work and some of them are always going to be fun. How you re-arrange them, drop unnecessary elements and add in bits from other things that happen work well here, that’s something I’m gravitating towards more and more. There are also a ton of systems that games just do not need under any circumstance and are there to give hobby gamers to the feeling that they have more to do or more to think about when in reality, they only serve to clutter the takeaway experience from the design and dilute it to a harmful extent. The spaceship stuff in BSG is the poster child for this.

The more I think about it, the more I think The Quest For El Dorado might have been like a big, spiritual wake up call for me.
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