Sunday, 21 September 2014

Board Game News Flash - Battle Systems

As you know, we here at Unboxed like to support the UK gaming companies. Battle Systems is one such company. Their awesome Kickstarter which I am backing, is more than fully funded but they are still adding great new material including this fortress setup!


If you are looking for great fantasy dungeon terrain from some lovely home grown talent you cant go far wrong with Battle Systems. Their project is only live for 16 more hours so dont hang around, if you like the look of the terrain go back it because without your support the project will not reach full scale retail.


So if you like what you've seen, click on this link and find out more.

I love it! I hope you do to.

Chris

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The 100 Club – Lord of the Rings

Hey guys, it’s time for a new series of reviews I’m calling the 100 Club. The prerequisite for these reviews is I have to have played the game 100 times and the only game that currently qualifies is The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game.

approach_to_dol_guldary

First of all, let’s take a look at what I originally wrote about this game not long after it’s release in 2011

I’ve been pretty negative about this game but it does have some good solid mechanics and it does feel like an epic adventure at times and I love the production quality and the art work.

However I feel that the base set is too restrictive in card choices to complete the included quests. I also feel that there simply isn’t enough replayability in the base set because there are only 3 included quests. In a CCG this wouldn’t be a problem, but in an LCG I feel like the base set should be all you need to buy to play casually.

The RRP for LOTR LCG is £30, when compared to a deckbuilding card game like Thunderstone or Dominion (£35) the replayability of the game is simply nowhere near as strong. In fact, for the same money Warhammer Invasion has tons more replayability out of the box.

Overall LOTR LCG feels incomplete, that you will need expansions in order to keep the game interesting and while I realise that is the point I’m not sure it should be counted as a positive in the games favour.

All of this said, I will be buying the first six expansions and reviewing them and discussing how they change the game and if they make the game more like the game I want it to be.

Well… I’m still playing it… LOTR LCG has become my go to solo game, which is why I’ve racked up so many plays in the last three years. The game presents two challenges, the first is deck construction.

Deck Building

Building a successful deck is an art form and not one I have mastered but I keep on trying. Usually I start by selecting which heroes I want to use for the given scenario, often this will be based on the theme of the encounter. For example playing through The Black Riders I chose to theme my decks around hobbits and restricted my choice of heroes and allies to those that appeared in the early half of the Fellowship of the Ring.

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Alternatively I might decide to build my deck around a series of combos. For example my Ranger Deck which is a monsphere green deck that focuses on Ranger Allies and Traps.

I always play each scenario blind, i.e. I chose my deck then starting the adventure, having never seen the cards I’m about to face. This means that sometimes the deck I’ve lovingly crafted is totally useless against the chosen adventure. Whatever the case I learn from my failure and I take the deck back to the drawing board where I retool it for the current adventure with the knowledge I now have. Sometimes that just means stripping out useless cards (for example Traps in The Black Riders as most nazgul can’t have attachments.) other times it might mean switching out a hero or two, or it might mean changing spheres entirely. Some adventures call for very specific builds to counter the machinations of the deck, for example treachery heavy encounters might call for “Cancel When Revealed” effects or “Condition Removal” which, thankfully is no longer as rare as it used to be.

This process of building a deck and then testing against a scenario is half of the fun of the LOTR LCG and if that doesn’t sound interesting to you then this game really wont get your motor running.

Blood-of-Numenor_MagaliVilleneuve


Adventures

The second challenge this game offers is the adventures themselves. Building the right deck will only get you so far, the rest is determined by how you play that deck. Knowing when to spend resources, when to quest hard and when to engage your enemies.

The LOTR LCG currently has 42 Adventures available, with an additional 11 coming this year. That is to say nothing of the nightmare decks that are being produced to “up” the challenge for older scenarios. That is a lot of variety and each quest is unique and fun. I have played 166 games of LOTR and I still have 5 quests I’ve not played and several others that I’ve never beaten.

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I tend to play a quest until I beat it, which tells you something about my win ratio for this game. Sometimes the quests can be so difficult that the game stops being fun and becomes a frustration that you want to feed into the shredder. However, finally beating a quest that you’ve been stuck on fills you with a sense of relief and happiness.

If you are the kind of gamer that becomes frustrated by loss, step away from this game now. However if you are the kind of gamer that enjoys a puzzle then this really might be for you. LOTR LCG offers a two part puzzle, the player deck and the adventure. Playing the adventure gives you clues about how to build your deck, which in turn allows you to solve the adventure. After you lose the game horribly (and it can be truly brutal) if you don't go away and look at your deck and fine tune it, then, for me, you’re playing the game wrong.

The LOTR LCG is a problem solving game and each time you think you know how to solve the problems the developers introduce new ones to screw you over!

out_of_sight_by_ilacha-d7hyu51


Easy Mode

LOTR LCG is a game I often play co-op, however the other players started to become frustrated with losing the game over and over… Enter Easy Mode.

Easy Mode starts you off with more resources than normal, allowing you to do more with your opening turn. It also removes several of the nastier cards from the Encounter Deck. However, Easy Mode is not a walk in the park. I often play on Easy Mode when playing solo (because it has been acknowledge that solo is the hardest way to play this game!) and I still lose 66%-75% of the games I play.

However Easy Mode does drop the difficulty and removes cards that just “take the fun out of the game” and that, for me, has really helped keep me playing. It enables me to enjoy the unfolding story (the Against the Shadow cycle was great) without removing the challenge entirely.

As the player card pool grows the earlier scenarios become easier. Easy Mode and Nightmare Mode help fix this. When a scenario first drops it might be too tough to beat on Normal, so drop the difficulty to Easy, then when you have a few more cards to play around with go back and play it on normal and if you’re feeling really brave kick it up to nightmare (I wont be doing that!)

znoi

Expansions

Nothing has kept this game alive for me more than expansions. I own everything up to the current cycle with the exception of the latest POD expansion.

Because I tend to play a scenario until I beat it, I tend not to revisit it, except to play it with a different player count, so for me expansions are vital to keep my interest in the game up. Although at this stage I’m sure I could go back and replay all the scenarios again because I’ll have forgotten half of them.

However, it’s not just the additional Adventures that the expansions bring, they add new player cards that offer different and evolving strategies and prompt me to design new and interesting decks.

The Saga expansions hold a lot of promise for me. Replaying the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings storylines with a “what if” element is something we’ve all wanted to do, right? The saga expansions also make me want to build more thematic decks, rather than relying on tried and tested deck builds. For example building and testing two hobbit themed decks recently gave me a lot of enjoyment as they both defeated the Black Riders scenarios in very different ways.

Arwen_MagaliVilleneuve

Thoughts

The Lord of the Rings LCG is likely to remain my most played game for the next year, probably for the next two to three years. Being able to play solo and co-op have helped keep the game alive. The addition of new quests that challenge my ability to build successful decks keeps my interest in the game high. The quality of the products themselves stop me from questioning whether the money spent has been worth while (just take a look at the artwork I’ve dotted through this article) and the continued support for the game from FFG has given me the faith to invest heavily in the system knowing it’ll be around for years to come.

Is it a good game? For me, yes, it allows me to adventure in one of my favourite fantasy realms. It requires problem solving skills, as well as forward planning skills. It forces you to think creatively and work around specific problems. It often asks you to solve two diametrically opposed problems with a single deck, forcing you to play a different way.

Is it a good game for everyone? No, I don't think so. It requires a lot of time and patience, it isn’t the kind of game you just pick up and play, straight out of the box. To really get the most out of it you need to invest a lot of money in the game. For every player with 100+ plays under their belts I think there are probably 5 players with just one.

isengard

And that’s it from me for another week. Incidentally, the following games are closest to hitting the 100 Club.

  • Thunderstone 92
  • Zooloretto 87
  • Carcassonne 77
  • Pandemic 66
  • Toc Toc Woodman 59
  • Legendary 57
  • Warhammer Invasion 52

Until next time, have fun gaming, Chris

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Perfect Match? – Dungeon Escape

This week’s guest post is from Designer Anthony Tunis, focusing on how he designed Dungeon Escape. Anthony’s game was born out of a desire to play games with his wife and young family members, so if you’re looking for a dungeon themed game for non-gamers, perhaps this is it. Read what Anthony has to say and if it sounds like your kind of game then check it out on Kickstarter.

Designing Dungeon Escape

I recently designed a card game called Dungeon Escape. I wanted share a little bit about my reasons for designing or better yet remixing a classic game like memory.

First off, my name is Anthony, I like to hit the gym and I love sports. In my free time I play video games, watch a ton of movies, and of course, HBO. I know so far this sounds like a profile from a dating site, but what I meant to say is that I don’t have a lot of gamer friends. Yet, I still love to play and collect card games. I tend to read the directions a lot but don’t get to play often.

I can’t get the wife to play Munchkin or Magic but she will definitely sit down and play a game of Wizard or Uno, go figure. Everyone loves fantasy themes, so I wanted to create a game based on those themes that was quick, didn’t involve a lot of serious thinking but still added a bit of strategy and luck. Oh, and I also wanted to create something a non-gamer would play.

I’m always designing games and end up trying to make them huge and epic but this game literally took me about an hour at work to come up with. I made some quick prototype cards on PowerPoint (that’s all I had at work). I played the game solo all night. The hardest part was trying to remember whose turn it was, the left or right hands (being left handed I secretly did better on those turns).

Forest Deck Card

I played and tested this game out over the next month with anyone from my five-year-old godson to my teen sister, and even the wife. They all seemed to really enjoy it. The game didn’t involve extensive play testing because the main ideas have been around forever. We all played the game of memory as children so the rules are familiar. Flip over two cards and try to match them.

However, to add a grown up theme to the game and give it that fantasy CCG feel I added a few elements. First was the artwork, which I personally love, mainly because I didn’t draw any of it. Each card presents itself as its own piece of fantasy art. Next, I added hero cards to the mix, each players gets to randomly select a hero to use. A player can battle their opponent’s hero and try to steal their matches. Using dice lends a bit of luck as to which player wins a battle, but hero abilities and equipment cards offset some of the luck factor. Finally, it doesn’t matter how many matches a player has at the end of the game in Dungeon Escape. Each match is worth a set number of points so a bit of strategy becomes involved. Does a player take several one point matches or try to find a match worth three points? The player with the most points, not the most matches, wins the game.

There is even a bit of story to the game for the RPG fan. Start with your hero in the dungeon, make your way up to the castle, and escape into the forest. There are several gameplay variations that all add another fun and different element to the game. Dungeon escape is for 2-4 players ages 5 to adult and each game takes around 5-10 minutes. It also fits in your pocket, which means it can be played on the go. So if you have some time, check it out on kickstarter. Thanks for listening.

Anthony

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/vampires/dungeon-escape-a-classic-game-of-memory-with-a-twi-0


How To Play

Kickstarter Video

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Board Game News–The UK Kickstarter Special

So, at the UK Games Expo myself and several members of the UK Gaming Media Network shot some video of prototypes currently on Kickstarter, so watch the videos below and then go back the projects that excite you.

Luchador 2nd Edition – Backspindle Games – Ends 18th June

Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice brings the flamboyant and colorful world of Lucha Libre Wrestling to your gaming table.

The first edition was launched last October at Spiel in Essen where it rose quickly into the top 30 on the Boardgamegeek GeekBuzz listings for most popular game. It eventually finished twenty-sixth out of over 600 new releases at the event and last weekend Luchador! received the UK Games Expo Award for Best New Family Game.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backspindle/luchador-mexican-wrestling-dice

Waggle Dance – Grublin Games – Ends June 29th

Four years ago Mike Nudd, (Waggle Dance's designer) wanted to make a worker placement game where choice was a key game mechanic, where players always feel they are in control of their own strategy and where simply 'getting more workers', wasn't always the optimum strategy. With game mechanics in place, Mike thought long and hard about the best way to provide a context and theme for his fledgling game.

Enter the Bees!! One day Mike stopped to help a distressed bumblebee in the street. As he fed the creature a mixture of water and sugar, something clicked and Mike realised that bees were the perfect theme for his emerging game. Waggle Dance was born (you can read more at: http://www.grublin.com/MikeNudd)

In Waggle Dance you are in charge of your very own beehive. You will marshal your resources deciding what to concentrate on: building a bigger hive, creating more bees, or creating honey by collecting pollen. There is no clear optimum strategy and there are always things to do - your moves will always be informed what your opponents are doing.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1811420414/waggle-dance

Brave the Elements – Chaos Publishing – Cancelled

Unfortunately it looks like Miles has cancelled the funding for this, but I’m sure it’ll be back, either through kickstarter or another means, so if it’s peaked your interest make sure to check out Chaos Publishing’s website.

Every Round Counts – Thirsty Knight Games – Ends June 30th

You are a rookie bartender hired by the dwarven ex-adventure Gorak Longbeard, who is the head bartender and owner of the Troll Head Tavern. Gorak has decided to run a competition, a simple competition which is the rookie bartender who serves the most beers keeps their job for another day!

In the game, you each take a turn being the dealer. Each player gets dealt 5 cards. There are three different type of cards, White, Yellow and Red Cards. The white cards are divided into Customer Cards (these cards show you how many dice you will roll); Re-roll Cards (these allow you to re-roll a given amount of the dice) and bonus cards (which give you bonus points); the Yellow cards ( which help you)  and Red cards (which you play on your opponents to hinder them)

Each Player in turn plays yellow cards if they have them, replenishing their hand, then they count (not out loud) how many dice symbols are shown on their remaining cards and decide how many beer glasses they are going to roll on the custom dice and place the beer token on the number they are calling on there beermat, each player in turn plays any red cards they have in their hand on any of their opponents. After this the players reveal their hands and roll the custom dice and score their hand, with adjustments from the cards (if any), then receive the coins they have won that  turn  and after every player has had a turn at being the dealer, the coins are added up and the winner is the one with the most coins.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/901846785/every-round-counts-0

 

Next England Captain – Too Much Games – Ends July 11th

Fight to build a career in the mad world of football! Build your reputation and use your skill to triumph in this unique board game.

Next England Captain doesn't take itself seriously. In each 20 minute game, players build a footballer's career. Compete to become the biggest name, using football to mock football in a silly and rather random way. You really, really don't have to know anything about football to love this game, but there are some hidden gems for the true fan.Embrace the madness and pledge today!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/571379634/next-england-captain


Frankenstein’s Bodies – Funded

 

Although Frankenstein’s Bodies has already funded I wanted to mention it here because, according to several members of the UKGMN, “It’s one to watch!”

'Frankenstein's Bodies' is a very interactive board-based card game for 2-6 players lasting 50-70 minutes. In the game you play surgeons aiming to create the finest bodies from the parts (cards) available. Points are gained for bodies that are made from parts matched for serum colour and gender. But it's more than a straight race to stitch parts together. Players can surgically remove parts from each other. But there is a risk of having these 'infected' and so become worthless. Master Surgeons can be brought in who offer extra expertise (points) and prevent other player's 'Surgery'. The game ends when one player has completed two bodies, or the draw deck runs through twice.

'Frankenstein's Bodies' is quick to learn with it's intuitive design and game play that comes out of the premise of competitive surgery. But with steep competition and high levels of interaction every game is very different.

Each player has one lab with two benches. Here are body parts on the benches. Normal poker sized cards are used to build the bodies.

For more details visit www.frankensteinsbodies.com or follow the link to the rules.

When 'Frankenstein's Bodies' hits the table you can expect a lively game with a lot of interaction as players steal heads, or fight infections. We have been play-testing and honing the game for over two years, making sure that there is some serious fun to be had from playing.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/258813455/frankensteins-bodies-body-building-the-barons-way

 

And that’s just a selection of the videos we shot at the UK Games Expo, you can see more content from the UKGMN by visiting our channel or by checking our newly updated video page.

Monday, 9 June 2014

CGE are working their Magic

This week’s guest post comes from UK Gaming Media Network member and all round nice guy, Paul Grogan from Gaming Rules.

Paul has been demoing titles by Czech Games Edition for years and now he actually works for the company. (That’s the dream right!) So here is Paul with a quick synopsis of what to expect when the game hits later this year.

Alchemists

This years big game from CGE is something very different.  It is a medium to heavy euro game with a heavy deduction element that uses a smartphone app.   Interested?  Then read on.

In 'Alchemists' (working title), each player is a young Alchemist working at a University, trying to deduce the match between the 8 ingredients and the 8 alchemicals.  They do this by mixing two ingredients together and evaluating the result.  They more potions they mix together, the more information they get.
Potions are mixed together using a smartphone app, which is pretty cool.   It tells all players the result of the mixing, although only the player who created the potions knows which ingredients he used.

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Prototype Artwork

Now, the University library is a bit empty and needs more books, so the alchemists are tasked with writing journals, to publish their theories.  Players earn reputation (Victory points) by writing journals, and the University might also fund their research.   However, it is not always necessary to be correct when writing a journal (just like real life), and you can enjoy the limelight while it lasts.  But if you are wrong, a fellow alchemist may debunk your theory, which loses you reputation.

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Prototype Artwork

Adventurers also turn up wanting to buy potions, earning you valuable gold, which is used to buy powerful artefacts, and also to pay for your journals.

Alchemists will be released in 2014, in time for Essen.  It plays 2-4 players and takes 90-120 min to play.

Liz Mackie from Nearly Enough Dice was able to catch up with Paul at the UK Games Expo for a quick video overview too!

You can find more videos from the UKGMN on a our youtube channel.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Board Game News 39–Trobils, Waggle Dances and Indian Gods

Whatever plans you’ve got for this weekend, cancel them and get down to Birmingham for the UK Games Expo! That’s right, this weekend is the best three days in British Gaming and I’ll be there with bells on… well, maybe not bells. Yes, the UK Gaming Media Network will be out in force, filming interviews and demos with anyone who will stand still long enough so feel free to look us up and ask for a game and if you can’t make it you’ll be able to see all the fun we had on these pages over the next few months with our collection of new videos!

And now for the news, we have a new game from a British company Grublin Games, Waggle Dance, a beehive building game… you know, for the man for has everything! As well as that we have a very orange game about eliminating space vermin, a family friendly game about writing computer code and a two player card game full of Indian Mythology. And of course Paul is here as well to tell us all about the new shiny must have board games.

Asking for Trobils

Asking for Trobils is a wacky, worker-placement board game where players hunt and rid the galaxy of space vermin called Trobils!

Asking for Trobils is a 2-5 player board game.  It's easy to learn with almost no downtime between turns while still having a strategic balance and theme.

Game time runs between 60-90 minutes, no matter how many players, and if you expose it to gamma rays, cool stuff happens (not really, don't do that).

Image does not represent the final product as stretch goals may increase production value of the game.

The O-Renj star system was full of wonderfully happy beings... until... Trobils appeared!  They're incredibly destructive and tenacious creatures.  Your job is to catch and eliminate as many Trobils as possible.

You'll make connections around the star system with pirates, smugglers, and other riffraff.  Deal with merchants, search the asteroid belt for ore, and build the perfect traps to catch the Trobils plaguing the system!

Why is Everything Orange?

We like Orange. And it's colorblind friendly!

A family test playing Asking for Trobils at our local game store 8th Dimension.

Check out Asking for Trobils on Kickstarter for more info.

Code Monkey Island

In today's world, programming is becoming one of the most important skills for students and professionals to have. And programming isn't just for programmers - even for designers like myself, knowing how to program is almost a requirement to keep up with the tools we use and build every day.

Already, countries like England, Finland, and Estonia have made programming part of the core curriculum for elementary school students, and in the past year alone, incredible tools have been built (and funded by platforms like Kickstarter!) to help teach very young children how to think like programmers.

I wanted to pick up where those tools left off, and create a crazy fun, family-friendly board game that could help kids ages 8 and up learn real programming concepts used by real programmers. Enter Code Monkey Island!

If Code Monkey Island sounds like something you’d like then check out the Kickstarter right now.

Grublin Games

Following from the 2013 overfunding success of Cornish Smuggler, Grublin Games is proud to announce their next Kickstarter: Waggle Dance, launching on the 27th May.

About the Game

Build a beehive, collect pollen and make honey – be efficient, be strategic, outmanoeuvre your opponents! Waggle Dance is a euro-style worker-placement dice game for 2-4 players, designed by Mike Nudd & published by Grublin Games Publishing.

“We wanted to design a game that had pure gameplay at its core, is beautifully designed, portable (we’re still working on the box size, but it’s probably going to be pretty close to the RftG size) with a truly impressive component count, and all for a very competitive price.” - Henry Jasper - CEO Grublin Games

Waggle Dance has been designed to be accessible by all, but without sacrificing any strategic depth. The entire game is language independent and with a brief concise rulesheet.

“Basically, we wanted to make the perfect gateway game”
- Henry Jasper -

Mike Nudd is an experienced game designer, already having one successfully published boardgame under his belt: (White Wolf’s Vampire: Prince of the City) and has been actively designing games for the last fifteen years.

“The theme of using bees and honey really appealed to me. I have long
held a deep respect for the creatures to the extent that I will try to save
exhausted bumblebees I find on the pavement by feeding them sugar and
water. I appreciate that their role in natural cycle of things is important and
I am concerned about the consequences of bees around the world going
extinct. If I can in some small way generate enthusiasm for bees and draw
attention to these issues then so much the better..”
- Mike Nudd - Creator of Waggle Dance

Links

Official Page: http://www.grublin.com/waggledance
BGG Page: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/158572/waggle-dance
Images: http://www.grublin.com/waggledance/images
Grublin Games: http://www.grublin.com/about-us
Mike Nudd: http://www.grublin.com/MikeNudd
Mateusz Szulik: http://matszulik.com/

Maha Yodha

Maha Yodha is a two-player strategy card game set in the ancient and mystical world of Indian mythology. Maha Yodha is simple to learn but has hidden depth, captivating new players and challenging seasoned gamers.

By unlocking these ancient Indian stories and unleashing these warriors of yore, we have created a strategic card game with an unique theme, that is both brand new and several millennia old.

A game of two factions: Asuras vs. Adityas

Maha Yodha comprises two decks, each of which represents a Faction. Each Faction consists of a unique army of Warriors, Weapons and Scrolls.

You will go head to head with your opponent, spending valour to dispatch Warriors to the front-line to not only deal damage but also defend your life. As in the ancient myths, each Warrior has a chosen Weapon, which when paired together award bonus powers. Divine Scrolls, inspired from interesting characters and stories from the Hindu myths will award you with powerful bonus skills, extra valour and deadly force to help you take down your opponent.


Folk art meets modern fantasy art

Maha Yodha features exquisite traditional Indian artwork - Pattachitra, as well as specially commissioned illustrations of celebrated Warriors and Weapons in a visceral modern style. 

You can find out more by checking out Maha Yodha on Kickstarter.

 

This Weeks New Releases

And now here is Paul to tell us about this weeks new releases over at Board Game Guru.

Pick of the week has got to be ‘Ivor the Engine’ - it’s got the artwork of the original series artist Peter Frimin and the design skills of the masterful and eclectic Tony Boydell.

If rural Wales does not grab your imagination then the largest Star Wars mini should do. The ‘Tantive 1V’ was the first ship we ever saw in Star Wars and can now be the centre piece of Rebel vs Empire action on your table top.

‘Blue Moon Legends’ – Reiner Knizia’s 2 player card game re-published in complete form – all nine expansions to the original game are bundled in.

Three new Nightmare decks for Lord of the Rings the Card Game : - 'Return to Mirkwood', 'Dead Marshes' and 'Emyn Muil'

'Coconuts' - silly dexterity game. Look's great.

‘Hordes High Command Immortal Tales’

‘New Haven’

‘Talo’

On UK General release and allowing me to restock are 'Fungi', 'Port Royal' (superb – one of the best games from 2014 I have played so far), 'Camel up!' (short listed for this year’s Spiel des Jahres and I am going to be trying it tonight) and 'Istanbul' (short listed for this year’s SDJ complex award)

‘Unconditional Surrender!’ – hot on the heels of 'Supreme Commander', this is GMT’s second strategic level Western front ww2 game of 2014 and it has  been receiving rave reviews from the Grognard community for its  innovative economic and combat features.

‘Hoplite’ is the 15thh game in GMT’s Great Battles of History series.

Restocks include

'Little Prince', 'Pathfinder : Rise of the RuneLords', (one of my top 5 picks from 2013), 'A Touch of Evil : The Coast'

Happy Gaming

Paul

Thanks Paul.

And finally, I just want to say, due to the large volume of emails I get about Kickstarters I will now only be responding to those companies who address their emails to me. That’s Chris at unboxedbgb@hotmail.co.uk, thank you.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Agents 2.0

A little under a year ago I wrote about an upcoming game from a preview I had been sent called The Agents. Everything I wrote in that review is still true for The Agents 2.0, except for the following changes which make the game, faster and clearer and generally better.

You can read the full review by clicking on the link and I have reposted my summary below for convenience. 

“The Agents is a very well structured game if you enjoy working out puzzles, playing several moves ahead and direct conflict.”

What The Agent’s 2.0 is attempting to do is fix the problems in the original game. Some of these are clarity issues, for example facing in the original rulebook (which is vital to many of the missions and powers) was poorly defined and made it seem like a card was always “facing” you. Now facing has been redefined to clearly state it is only facing you when it’s text box is orientated towards you.

But before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the changes lets first examine what comes in the box.

Unboxed

The Agents ships in a long thin box, with three decks of cards individually packed inside it. A deck of agents, a deck of missions and a deck of point cards. The artwork is nice, it’s very stylised and it’s what originally drew me to look deeper at the game. A lot of it is quite dark and it wont appeal to all gamers.

The cards themselves are printed on plastic, which means they are durable and wont require sleeving to be protected from errant drinks. However, this makes them very slippery, I’ve dropped the point cards all over the place multiple times.

And that brings me to the point cards. When I played the prototype I used dials instead of cards because cards are a bit of a faff, they feel like large tokens and you constantly have to hand in smaller cards to make change etc. There definitely could have been a more elegant solution to points scoring than cards, even keeping score on paper would be better.

Overall though it’s not a bad little package, there are some typos on the cards, which is a shame and the original rulebook still had some clarity issues but for a first time publisher, it could have been a lot worse. In theory the new edition will fix most of these problems.

I can’t find the original game for sale except through kickstarter for the price of $18, which is probably about right for both the contents of the box and the weight of the game (It’s a thinking man’s filler game)

Changes

Lots of changes were made between the prototype and what is now the 2.0 ruleset.

Safe Houses

Safe houses are static cards that cannot be affected by other agents. Each side has half a data token, allowing you to score a minimum of 4 points on turn one, double what you could have scored when placing agents in the original version. Each faction has one safe house when the game starts.

I like the safe houses because they provide a static card you can always count on. In The Agents you really can’t rely on anything being where you left it, at least with the safe house you know your opponent can’t mess with it. That said, I think because the safe house exists there may be less card manipulation happening overall.

Buying Cards

The cost of buying cards has been reduced and you can buy more cards with a single action now. 1 action now allows you to buy up to 2 Agents (for 1 point each) and up to 2 missions (for 2 points each). This means you can get back in the action quicker than before and missions are much more tempting to purchase (more on that later). In addition you can take an action to discard as many cards from your hand as you like and draw an equal number of cards, allowing you to quickly cycle through the decks looking for agents and missions to further your cause and to suit the new situation you find yourself in.

Free Agents

Free Agents now stay on the table until their power is used. If you choose not to use it immediately when played you may spend one of your actions to use it later in the game. This prevents someone scoring “free points” by playing a card, like the Director who says “Retire an opposing player’s mission” when they don't have one. Under the new rules you could choose to wait until an opportune time to activate that card, meaning the points your opponent scores by playing the card are not “free” and actually add an air of threatening anticipation as the player wonders when exactly you’ll activate the ability.

Missions

The biggest and most significant change is the addition of the missions phase. This really make the game for me. Previously, playing a mission took up an action and in most cases scored you fewer points than you could have scored by doing something else with that action. Now missions have been moved to their own phase. After you take both of your actions you can then totally re-manipulate your missions, assigning up to two missions to both of your factions.

You can play any number of missions from your hand, pick up any number from the table and move any number between factions. Essentially you can rearrange all the missions you own to score you maximum points for the turn. Which, not only makes sense from a gameplay point of view, but it also makes sense thematically.

With these rules missions are not on the side-lines, scoring you the odd point when you can get them to work, they are front and centre and the very reason you are manipulating the agents under your control.

Thoughts

All the changes in the Agents 2.0 are positive, the rules are cleaner and easier to follow and the game plays faster and smoother than it did before.

So far, in most of my games, I’m finding that I manipulate the agents less than I did previously. It is possible that is the way the cards have fallen in the games I’ve played or it could be the introduction of the safe houses that effectively split the factions and mean that the cards interact with each other less.

The changes to the way missions and free agents operate in the game have significantly altered the game, generating faster games. The game still requires you to think about every single move carefully, but now you also have to think about how best to defuse your opponent’s most potent missions as well as splitting up his best agents.

Final Thoughts

The Agents is as much about point denial as it is about scoring points and this new edition is no different. It’s not a game I would play with every gamer, but it fills a niche. Fast playing but deeply tactical, it requires more thought than your average “filler” game but at the same time plays quickly enough to not outstay it’s welcome.

Expansions

Saar also provided me with a copy of each of the current expansions which I will review separately.

A review copy of the Agents was provided by Double-Edged Games

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