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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Evolution

Evolution is a English translation of a Russian Card Game from Right Games, which they were kind enough to send to me. boardgame-Evolution-TheOriginofSpecies-box-new-face-eng

Lets take a look inside…

Theme

You are a creator, a giver of life, you have a divine plan for your own band of creatures to dominate the world, living in harmony with each other, mostly, while snacking on the creations of your fellow almighty beings.

You will take your creatures from the simplest of organisms and transform them in goliaths that will stride amidst the other beast, kings of all they survey. Of course, even the mightiest beast can be slain by a parasite, or starve to death without a sustainable food source.

There can only be one winner, so evolve carefully, only the fittest will survive…

Unboxed

In the box you’ll find:

  • 84 cards;

  • 25 tokens;
  • 2 dice;

  • Rules

Now, the quality of the game is not as high as you might like, especially given the $30 USD price point. The cards are ok, but they won’t stand up to mistreatment. The tokens are serviceable, evolution-generalviewbut there aren’t enough of them really and the box is simply a card board box in a sleeve.

The artwork is cute and design of the cards works well. I like the fact that most of the cards are dual purpose, so although there are only 84 cards in the deck there are many more options, not including playing the card as a new animal.

Sometimes the translation is a little wonky, but it’s certainly better than my Russian so I have no real complaints there. Overall the game gives you what you need to play, just don’t be expecting Fantasy Flight quality components.

 

Playing the Game

Each player is dealt 6 cards at the start of the game, then the first player is determined randomly.

In turn order each player can either play a card or pass, but once you pass you can no longer play any more cards that round.

Cards can be played face down as a new animal or face up as a trait. Most cards have two traits so you always have lots of options on your turn.

boardgame-Evolution-TheOriginofSpecies-card-3

Each card you play will add a new trait to an existing animal or create an entirely new one. Cards that show +1 or +2 on them increase that animal’s food requirements but they also increase the points the animal is worth at the end of the game.

Once all players are done playing cards its time to feed your animals. Depending on the number of players a random amount of food tokens are placed in the centre of the table. In player order each player may take one food from the pile or activate one of his Carnivorous animals.

boardgame-Evolution-TheOriginofSpecies-card-4

If a player chooses to take food he may also activate any number of trait cards. If a player chooses to use a Carnivorous animal he turns the trait sideways, to show it has been used and attacks any animal on the table, including his own. 

The defending player may activate traits such as Running or Tail Loss to prevent the attack, if the attack is successful the player takes two blue food tokens from the surplus and places them on his animal, if it is unsuccessful the player gets nothing and must find other ways of feeding his animal.

boardgame-Evolution-TheOriginofSpecies-gameplayexample-1-eng

Once all the food is gone and all the players have activated all the traits they want to use it is time for the Extinction Phase. Each animal that hasn’t got enough food (1 food plus the number of +1 or +2 traits on them) becomes extinct and is removed from the game.

The next player clockwise then becomes the first player and deals a number of cards to each player equal to the number of animals they have in front of them +1.

The game continues until there are no cards left in the deck. The last round is played out and then the game is scored. For each surviving animal the players score 2 points, plus 1 for each trait and +1 or +2 for traits that had increased that animals food requirements (such as Parasite and Carnivorous.) The player with the most points wins.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed it. The game is fun because most of the traits have a counter, for example, adding Swimming to your animal means that it can only be eaten by a Carnivorous Swimming Animal. Looking for ways to score great combos and feed multiple animals at once is good fun. For example, having a Carnivorous animal with Co-operation means that when you eat an opposing animal two of your animals are fed, if you have a third with the scavenging trait he would be fed too.

boardgame-Evolution-TheOriginofSpecies-card-1

The different ways to combine the traits to create different combos are probably endless. The game is pretty cutthroat though as players will be constantly trying to eat your animals, or giving them parasites to up their food requirements to an unrealistically high amount that you will be unable to achieve.

So, it’s fast and fun, it’s a filler game with a nice competitive edge, but it’s also expensive when you consider it’s rivals in the same price bracket. That said I look forward to playing it again and trying out new and interesting combos. 

Right Games will be demoing this and other titles in Essen in October, they will be in HALL №7 at booth 7-05. You can check out more from at them at their website, including the expansion for Evolution, here.

Next week: Conflict at the Carrock

Monday, 22 August 2011

First Impressions: Eruption

Last week I mentioned that the folks over at Stratus Games had sent over a print ‘n’ play version of their new game Eruption for me to try out, so I did. Sadly, my printer did the artwork no justice whatsoever but I can still talk about how the game plays and whether or not it’s a good game.

Eruption is a family orientated tile laying game, featuring constructive thinking, adaptive decision making and direct conflict. In Eruption you control a village that is under threat of destruction by a volcano. On your turn you will attempt to direct the flow of lava away from your village and towards your opponents. Skilful play will reward you with both cards and resources.

Eruption features several mechanics that ensure all players will remain fully in the game. Losing players are given bonuses as the adrenaline drives their villagers to work harder. In addition as one player enters a new danger zone, he gets to start a new eruption location that heats up everyone else's villages to bring them more into line with the loser.

As well as directing lava in the game you can also build walls to help stem the flow and protect your village. You also have the option of playing cards to build walls, change the lava flow or simply cool your village down.

When the first village burns the game is over all the players have one final turn, the player with the lowest Heat score is the winner.

Pros

  • It’s Fast and Fun
  • It Looks Beautiful
  • Multipurpose Cards give you lots of options on your turn
  • It’s simple yet there is enough depth to keep adults entertained
  • The Rulebook offers three alternate play methods including teams, last man standing and a variant which allows you to choose your lava tile from 3 face up stacks.

Cons

  • There is an element of direct conflict with the other players. I don’t mind this but if you do this might not be the game for you.
  • The game lacks any variability other than the decisions made by the players so it could start to feel repetitive after a lot of plays.

Neutral

  • The cards are very important to the strategy, which I like, however it can sometimes be difficult to get them in the mid game which can leave you feeling a little hamstrung.
  • I haven’t seen the final version yet so I can’t comment on the production quality. That said what I have seen looks great.
  • I’d like to see some more variants, maybe a co-op version or a version where the players play from a hand of Lava tiles.

So there you have it. Eruption is a fun family game, which does require you to conflict with the other players in order to earn extra cards and resources. It’s simple to learn and teach but it allows for tactical and strategic decisions to be made by players. Hopefully the nice people at Stratus will send me a lovely review copy to replace my poorly printed one…

Does it sound like something your family would enjoy, then check out more at Status Games today.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Board Game News 9: Thunderstone Goes Digital, Descent Reboots and Cyclades gets a Sequel

And now, a little later than advertised, THE NEWS…

AEG News

Our friends over at AEG have announced another expansion for Thunderstone, will it be the last one? Heart of Doom will reveal the 8th and final Thunderstone as well as offering a special scenario end game variant to the game, which has me personally very excited.

However, this is possibly more exciting. As someone who recently purchased an android tablet AEG announcing the release of Thunderstone for Android, Facebook and iOS is really awesome.

The base game will be free to play with additional content being unlocked for cash. There will also be a campaign variant which has me very interested, as well as multiplayer options too.

FFG News

Descent is getting a second edition. This news is being met with a lot of mixed feelings, even from me. I love the base game of Descent and I love the campaign variants. However, even in the best of games there is always room for improvement. However, when the original designer doesn’t seem to be involved in the reboot is it time to worry?

The FFG press release explains how the system will be streamlined and simplified, that the playtime will be shortened and the campaign system will be built in from the start. But the question is, will the simplification take the game too far away from the tactical miniatures game we love?

Also, the campaign system is a very different idea to the way that Descent was originally meant to be played. Descent was originally intended to be a whole dungeon crawl in one evening, a Zero to Hero experience. Through popular demand it turned into a D&D lite system with campaign expansions. This new set seems to be aimed at the D&D lite market, rather than Descent’s original audience.

That said, I’d prefer that. In fact I was going to write my own D&D lite system based on the Descent rules, but now I’m going to hold off and see where FFG are going with it.

Good news for Descent fans however is that nothing you have will be made obsolete as all the heroes and monsters will be updated in a Conversion Kit.

Either way, check out the new description page, the new tiles and art look fantastic and I’m really interest to see where this one will go.

Matagot Editions News

Matagot Editions would like you to know about two new titles they will be releasing at Essen this year.

takenokoThe first is Takenoko, a game about building a bamboo garden to appease the Sacred Panda.

From 2 to 4 players, the participants will have to cultivate the land plot, irrigate them and grow one of the three species of bamboo (green, yellow and pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener. The best player will be congratulated by the Japanese Emperor himself.

The second release is for the very popular Cyclades, which will see it’s first expansion at the fair this coming autumn.

This expansion is composed of four modules which require the original game to play. Each module can be integrated one by one. For the most fun, all modules are combined and provide almost endless new strategies. 2 to 5 players will join and discover new Gods, Heroes and dark mythological creatures from Hades' empire

 

And this weeks releases courtesy of Board Game Guru

The highlight of next week’s new releases is, probably, Hasbro’s ‘Battleship Galaxies: The Saturn Offensive’, this is a new space combat game using miniatures.

Mayfair’s first official Map expansion set for ‘Steam: Rails to Riches’ (including three maps) will be here on Tuesday as will the 270th issue of Strategy and Tactics (containing a two player game of the The American Revolution)

I have had a restock from Victory Point Games; including two new titles ‘For the Crown’ and ‘Keep up the Fire’

Later this week I am hoping to have Spielbox 4 and Eggertspiel’s ‘Principatio’ – I will make them available to order when they arrive.

Happy gaming

Paul

 

Parting Shot

Thanks Paul and check back tomorrow for my First Impressions on Stratus Games’ Eruption.

Chris

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

LOTR LCG: The Hunt For Gollum

It’s been a long time coming but the first adventure pack for Lord of the Rings the Living Card Game has finally arrived on the shores of the United Kingdom, but is it any good??? Lets find out…

Hero

Each Adventure pack contains a selection of cards and a new quest so I will be begin by looking in detail at the new Hero and the new player cards.

Bilbo is a great hero, yes his threat is pretty high for his fairly meagre stats but his ability is very helpful indeed. That extra card draw can be a very helpful thing, as it not only increases your chances of drawing the cards you need but it can also help powerup abilities like the Protector of Lorien where the ability to discard cards can be crucial.

Lore Cards

Rivendell Minstrel is a pretty good quester with 2 will power, but like most high quest Allies she suffers from a lack of hit points. Her when revealed ability however can be very useful and will continue to get more useful as the game develops. She allows you to search your deck for a song card, currently there is only 1 but another appears in the Conflict at the Carrock expansion and no doubt more will appear throughout the current cycle.

Strider's Path is an event that allows you to immediately travel to a location as it is revealed ignoring its Travel Text. This is useful for immediately reducing the threat in the staging area as well as bypassing some of the nastier effects on Location Cards.

Spirit Cards

Westfold Horse-Breaker is a Rohan Ally with a 2 resource cost, which is a bit high for 1 Will Power and 1 Defence, however his special ability “Discard to Ready a Hero” is much more useful. 

Mustering The Rohirrim is an event that allows you to search the top 10 cards of your deck for a Rohan Ally and add it to your hand. In a pure spirit deck this probably isn’t much use yet, but as the game goes on this could be a handy card that will allow you to manipulate your deck more successfully.

Leadership Cards

Dunedain Mark costs 1 resource but adds +1 attack to the attached hero. In addition the attached hero can pay 1 resource from his pool to move the card to another Hero. Additional attack is always welcome and the ability to move it different heroes can really help in a pinch.

Campfire Tales costs 1 resource and allows all players to draw a card, this introduces some versatility into the Leadership deck which had previously been too resource heavy with nothing to spend it on.

Tactics Cards

Winged Guardian is one of my favourite new cards. This 2 cost ally has a defence of 4 and the sentinel ability meaning it can defend attacks against any player. Each time the eagle defends however you must pay a tactics resource or it is discarded. Still, this is worthwhile if it keeps your heroes in play and able to attack.

The Eagles are Coming is another card that will increase in usefulness as the Adventure packs are released. This one allows you to search the top 5 cards of your deck for an eagle ally and put it into your hand. Considering how powerful the current eagles that have been released or spoiled are this card can potentially be a big boost considering it costs nothing to play.

Neutral Cards

Song of Kings is the first of many songs, this one costs 1 resource and is attached to a hero, that hero can now spend resources as if he were a Leadership hero. This effectively makes one hero in your party a dual sphere hero and it is the first time when a three-sphere deck is truly playable.

The Hunt for Gollum

This months quest sees the start of the six-pack cycle of adventures where you set out together to seek out and capture the miserable creature Gollum before he can cause too much trouble.

This first adventure is a level 4 adventure, although it is considerably less difficult than Journey Down the Anduin which is also Level 4. 

The Story So Far

Gandalf has requested your assistance in the search for the elusive creature known as Gollum. Your search begins in the Anduin Valley between Mirkwood Forest and the Misty Mountains.
You make your way along the bank of the Anduin River, a likely place for Gollum to find food.

The Hunt Begins

To setup the quest simply add 1 card per player to the staging area. The highest threat card in the encounter is a 3, however there are a few cards with the keyword surge so it is possible to start with a high threat or no threat at all in the staging area.

After the Heroes successfully quest the first player draws three cards from the top of the deck and adds 1 of them to staging area discarding the other two. Because this happens after the quest phase but before Travel and Combat you have a lot of options here.

For example the game revolves around clue cards, in order to complete the game you must have at least 1 clue card.

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So putting a clue card into play may be a good idea, unfortunately it also contains the keyword Guarded which will add another card to the staging area. This step also allows you the option of dealing with or avoiding the nastiest enemies in the set depending on your current situation.

The Hunters from Mordor get hideously powerful when there are multiple clues in play. Their 2 Threat and 2 Attack are multiplied by the number of clues, this is devastating in both the Quest and Attack phases. Choosing to put them into play early on so that they can be dispatched could be a good plan, but it’s almost always better to just discard them. They really are thoroughly unpleasant and with 5 in the deck you’ll be very luck if you can avoid them for a full game.

With a high quest party the 8 progress points needed to clear this stage should come with relative ease. The only thing that could slow you down would be an excess of locations in the staging area.

A New Terror Abroad

To complete the second stage of the quest you will need 10 progress and at least 1 clue, failing to have a clue in stage 3 will result in you returning to this stage and having to complete it all over again.

It is worth noting here that Clues are lost when the Hero they are attached to is damaged. Other than combat there is only one way this can happen; Evil Storm is an event card that damages all characters controlled by a player with a threat of 35 or higher so keeping at least 1 player under the 35 threshold could be a good plan. Failing that having Eleanor on hand to cancel cards is a good alternative.

The 10 progress required to complete this section of the quest will accumulate much more slowly than the previous stage, this is due to the quest text.

“Forced: At the beginning of the quest phase, the first player looks at the top 2 cards of the encounter deck. Reveals and add 1 of those cards to the staging area, and discards the other.”

This means that you will always get an additional card in the staging area each turn. In addition to that there are still quite a few cards with surge which generate more cards in the staging area and the clues have the guarded key word which will also generate cards.

If that wasn’t enough the scenario also includes a few cards to remove progress from the quest, including the Misty Mountain Goblins and the Flooding cards.

 

On The Trail

Once you do finally make it to stage 3 you’re home and dry, throw as much Will Power as you can at the quest, avoid damage on your clue bearing heroes and rack up the 8 progress you need as quickly as possible.

Players without Clue Cards cannot quest in this stage and if at any time you have no clues between you, you must return to the start of stage 2.

The most dangerous cards you will face in this phase are the Hunters From Mordor. If possible just get your heads down and run for the exit as quickly as possible, hanging back in this section of the quest could lead to a serious delay.

Thoughts

Most you probably know that I was beginning to get disillusioned with the game, having read my review a few weeks ago. So what about Hunt For Gollum then? It certainly doesn’t fix every problem I had with the game but it does address a few of them.

Firstly the increased card choices are great, more variety is always good in a game like this. Sure some of them are future proofing themselves and aren’t that useful right now, but there are some great cards in here, in particular Dunedain Mark and Winged Guardian.

In addition, Bilbo makes a great hero. His high threat and low hit points may exclude him from some quests but for use in the Hunt For Gollum quest he’s pretty good.

The quest itself? I enjoyed it, it’s not so hard as to be impossible but it also presents a challenge. The only seriously nasty card in the set is the Hunter from Mordor but because the quest gives you ways stop them entering play they don’t feel too bad. Of course, they can spell doom quickly once they’re in play.

However, one of my favourite things about this pack is the single Neutral Card that it introduces, the Song of Kings.

This card opens up the real possibility of playing a 3 sphere deck and it makes taking Sneak Attack and Steward of Gondor a no brainer in almost any deck. Does it violate the purity of the spheres? Maybe a little but it’s makes deckbuilding so much more interesting!

Final Thoughts

Was The Hunt For Gollum worth the wait, for me it was. The options that this set offers in deck construction will be a boon to any player struggling to complete the quests from the baseset. The variety that the expansion introduces will help spice up the game for the those who were getting bored with it and the quest itself is fun and interesting even if it’s not that innovative.

Overall Hunt for Gollum is a good expansion and a good quest, which if nothing else, adds to the variety and replayability of the baseset.

Lord of the Rings Scenario Reviews are made possible by our friends at Board Game Guru.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Board Game News 8: Dice Tower Awards, Gen Con, FFG Star Wars and More

There’s plenty of news about at the moment after Gen Con and Origins but I’m just going to cover the things that are personally interesting me or that I’ve been asked very nicely to talk about. Right then, lets get to it…

Gen Con

Superfly Pete, a member of the late Associated Gamers group and owner of the Superfly Circus has put together a fantastic magazine covering all the new goober that was on show at Gen Con Indy.

Check it out here

Dice Tower Gaming Awards 2010

The master of game reviews Tom Vasel has asked me to let you guys know that the DT Gaming Awards are up on the site along with the accompanying podcast. If you don’t normally listen to the dice tower it might be worth tuning in for this episode as these awards are voted on by a large committee of gamers that aren’t concerned with keeping the publishers sweet.

This years winners do get a little repetitive after a while though, but still some great games were nominated and some great games won so check out the list of the winners even if you don’t want to listen to the episode.

Russia invades the UK

RussianBoardGames.com is home to Right Games, they have recently started publishing games in English and have sent me a selection to try, which I hope to be reviewing here in the next couple of months. If you want to learn more check out their site. 

Stratus Erupts onto the Scene

Stratus Games is a company that focuses on making family games, but games that are fun and easy to teach. Myself and a few other bloggers have been sent a preview copy of their latest game Eruption and I can say I’m certainly interested to play it, check out the video below.

The art is wonderful, no? Anyway, keep an eye on the blog for more info on this title and if you like what you’ve already seen the preorders are up now!

It’s a Trap

Star Wars, it’s freaking Star Wars and FFG, that’s like a match made in heaven. FFG now owns every single property license that I love, Warhammer, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I’ve made no secret of my love of FFG on this blog, even if they don’t send me free games *sad face* and the fact that they have snagged this IP is music to my ears.

What I do find kind of interesting is that they don’t seem to have a license to produce board games set in the Star Wars universe, this seems odd given that FFG is known more for that than they are for their miniatures games. It’s a shame too because I would have loved to have seen a conquest game in the Star Wars universe from FFG, that would have been immense.

Regardless, they are still going to do great things starting with a miniature game called X-Wing, which will most likely fill the void left by the loss of Wings of War last month. Secondly they have announced a new co-op card game, which will be an LCG but designed jointly by Corey Konieczka and Nate French.

This is an interesting pairing as Nate French is already responsible for most the LCG lines at FFG  but he was also lead designer on The Lord of the Rings LCG. Corey was the lead designer on Death Angel, another co-op game which shares some features with LOTR LCG. Putting these two together could produce a better game than either could do separately as both DA and LOTR have problems, so I’ll certainly be interested to check it out.

One concern that has been raised on various forums is that this will be simply be a clone of the LOTR LCG, however, simply reading the description page shows that this is not the case. I’m certainly going to pick up the base set but we’ll see where things go from there.

It’s also worth noting that FFG has assured us that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that other games and even a Roleplaying game is in the works, so Star Wars fans keep your eyes peeled for more goodies in the future.

New Games

Finally, this weeks new game releases in the UK, these come courtesy of our friends over at Board Game Guru.

'Dixit : Odyssey' – A stand alone game with new beguiling artwork and new ways to play the 2010 SDJ winner

‘Conflict at the Carrock’ is the second adventure pack for Lord of the Rings The Card Game

‘The Shifting Sands’ is rhe first Asylum pack in the Ancient Rituals expansion for Call of Cthulhu LCG

‘Mask of the Archmaestar’ is the fifth Chapter pack in the ‘Secrets of Oldtown ‘ expansion for A Game of thrones LCG

‘Signs in the Stars’ and the ‘Eclipse of Hope’ are the fourth and fifth battle packs in the Morrslieb Cycle expansion for Warhammer Invasion.

‘A Few Acres of Snow’ – Martin Wallace’s 2 player game about the French and British struggle for supremacy in Canada is my favourite 2 player game of 2011. Its uses the ‘Dominion’ build a deck mechanic to make a challenging and asymmetrical wargame. Highly recommended

‘Field Commander: Napoleon’ is the third and most ambitious of DVG’s solitaire war games, allowing you to play individual battles of combine them into a campaign.

‘Proud Monster Deluxe’ is a huge wargame that covers the whole of the Eastern front.

‘Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II’ is a reprint of the eight game in the Operational Combat series from MMP, it can be combined with Case Blue to make a truly huge wargame

‘Victoria Cross II’ is an updated version of Worthington Games first ever release, in which players re fight the battles of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879

‘Boots on the Ground’ , from the same publisher, is a tactical squad level game of modern combat

‘Lock and Load : Heroes of the Gap’ is a stand alone module about the first days of a hypothetical World War three

‘C3I Issue 25’ has a whole host of scenarios and variants for GMT games and includes Frank Chadwick's (Victory Pont games) ‘Battle for Moscow’ as a bonus

That’s it from me for this week, check back on Wednesday when I’ll be talking about the latest adventure pack for the Lord of he Rings LCG.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Nightfall

A couple of months ago at the UK Games Expo I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Mark Wootton from AEG. Afterwards he gave us all some games, my co-conspirator Mark Rivera from Board Games in Blighty quickly snaffooed War of Honor, leaving me with Nightfall.

Although I’m not going to say no to free games Nightfall did not appeal to me. I am not a huge fan of the theme, despite being a big fan of Buffy, Angel and Supernatural. In addition, what I knew of the mechanics of the game led me to think that my primary play group would struggle to grasp the game.

So, I took it home and put in on a shelf, every now and then I’d throw it in my backpack and take it to my game night only to never take it out. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I gave in and my friend and I sat down to learn the game, what did we think of it? You’ll have to wait and see…

Theme

Night has fallen and the world has descended into chaos. Vampires and werewolves roam the streets, locked in mortal combat with one another, backed up by hordes of undead. Hunters have joined forces to hold back the night but it is too little too late…

Unboxed

In the box for Nightfall you will find:

  • 228 Order Cards
    • 60 starting minions
    • 84 additional minions
    • 84 actions
  • 60 Wound Cards
  • 24 Draft Cards
  • 31 Card Dividers (to help organize the cards)
  • 3 Extra Card Dividers (for promotional cards)
  • 1 Rulebook

Once again the quality of the game is what I’ve come to hope for from AEG. AEG continue to learn from past mistakes and improve their games with each new release. Nightfall comes packaged in a box similar to the thunderstone expansions and includes dividers for all the cards plus the promos. The rule book is nicely set out, well written and easy to understand. 

There is some great art in the game, initially I wasn’t a fan of it but the more I look at it the more I grow to appreciate it.

Overall Nightfall is well packaged and well presented and a good deal for the price.

Playing the Game

Each player starts the game with 12 identical cards, 2 copies of each of the 6 basic cards which are one of the 6 different colours in the game (Red, White, Blue, Yellow, Purple and Green)

The each player is dealt 4 Draft Cards. They choose one of these cards and place it face down in front of themselves and pass the rest to the next player. They then choose another card from the cards passed to them and place that face down and pass the rest on. This time the players will choose a card from the cards they were passed to be placed face up in the public area. The last Draft card is then thrown away.

Finally enough draft cards are dealt to bring the number in the public area upto 8. Then each draft card is replaced with the stack that matches it. The ones that were chosen by the players become their own “private archives” and only they may purchase cards from these stacks.

Players then act in player order completing all the stages of their turn before play passes to the next player. A Player’s turn is as follows:

  1. Attack
  2. Chain
  3. Purchase
  4. Cleanup
Attack

Here the player attacks with all the minions he has in front of him.He attacks with each minion one at a time and can direct minions to attack different players or all at the same player. Defending players can choose to block minion attacks, multiple minions can block the same attack but each minion may only block once per turn. If a minion blocks it is rotated to show the number of health it has lost. If the attack caused more damage than the minion had health then the player draws wound cards for each excess wound caused.

Once a minion has attacked it is discarded. Note that when a starting minion would be discarded it is exiled instead, removing it from play.

Chain

Next the player has the option of starting a chain. To start a chain the player can play any card face up on the table. They can then connect any cards from their hand to that card as long as the large moon on their card matches with at least one of the small moons on the card played. They can continue to play cards until they no longer want to or can no longer chain.

image

Once they are done all the other players in player order have the opportunity to chain from the last card the active player played. After each player either plays or passes the chain is resolved with the last card played resolving first.

Although this sounds complicated it isn’t really. In essence it is a more formalised version of a the way cards are played in a Collectable Card Game.

The chain is the only way to get cards into play.

One very important thing to note is that you must resolve all possible card text, even if it is not to your advantage.

On the bottom of each card is a Kicker, this is a bonus ability which is triggered by playing the card on top of a card that has a large moon the same colour as the kicker. This can be difficult to do but is generally worth the effort.

Purchase

Next you can spend influence to buy new cards. Each turn you start with 2 influence to spend. Effects in the chain may also add to your influence and cards from your hand may be discarded to give you 1 influence for each discarded card. Influence may be spent to acquire any number of cards, including duplicates of the same card. The cost to purchase is shown in yellow on the card. You may also buy cards from your own private archives, but never from an opponent’s unless a card effect allows it.

Cleanup

Finally you refill your hand to 5 cards. If you have a wound card you may perform the text on that card. You may only trigger one wound card per turn. In the base set there is only one type of wound effect which reads “Discard all wounds from your hand and Draw 2 Cards for each wound discarded” In this way Wounds make you more powerful

Ending the Game

The game is timed by a stack of wound cards which is equal to 10 times the number of players. When the wound stack runs out the current attack or chain is completed, with additional wounds from the unused stack being used if necessary. Then all the players add up all the wounds in their decks and the player with the least number of wounds is the winner.

Thoughts

I like it… And I was very surprised by that. What I initially thought would be a barrier is the theme, but the theme takes a back seat to the mechanics. When you play Big Ghost you’re not thinking about him being a werewolf, you’re just looking at the 5 damage he is going to meat out on your turn.

I like that unlike a lot of deckbuilding games your starting cards are not useless. Unlike Militia in Thunderstone which are generally best used as sacrificial lambs most of the starting cards in Nightfall have great special abilities. +2 Influence on Yuri for example is just as good as Mesmeric Presence.

The fact that these starting cards are one use only makes them feel special too. You’re not just going to throw them down without thinking about it because once they’re gone you can’t get them back.

I also like the fact that wounds make you more powerful, meaning that players who are behind can still stay in the game and cause havoc. Being able to draw more cards because you’re wounded gives you greater options on your turn. In addition, because you can discard cards to gain influence it also gives you a greater buying power.

Because in Nightfall you must carry out all actions and kickers in a chain if possible you have to think carefully about what you play and when. For example, playing Flank Attack which nullifies an order lower down in the chain, on your own turn is a bad plan. This is a skill that takes a long time to master, but it is where the skill of the game lies. It’s not just enough to match the colours on your cards, you have to think about how those cards will affect the state of play. If your card tells you to destroy a minion and you’re the only player with minions in play, well it’s goodnight minion.

On my first few plays through I wasn’t sure if the game wasn’t just pure luck as new players were just as likely to win as people who already had a few games under their belt, but once you begin to understand the complexities of the chain and how to manipulate it, the game really does become a game of skill.

Nightfall plays quickly, or at least it does with low player counts and I like that. It feels meater than a filler game but it plays just as quickly. In fact, the direct conflict element of the game makes it feel more like a CCG, but one where you can build your deck as you go. It is certainly very different to any other deck builders I’ve played and that’s definitely a good thing.

Does it have any problems? Maybe. I’m not sold on the whole draft setup mechanic, it takes a long time for what it is, but perhaps that will change as players become more familiar with the game. Because of the random nature of the setup it is sometimes possible that some cards become useless due to the lack of colours in the game. Although this can be frustrating it immediately becomes part of the strategy of the game too.

One of the biggest problems however is that a player can choose not to start a chain. It can be very advantageous to play minions on another players turn as they are more likely to be in play at the start of your turn. The fact that if the other player chooses to not start a chain you can’t play any cards either means they can deny you this opportunity. In theory everyone could continue to pass and play no cards forever. In this way strong players in a good position can pass their own turn and use the other players turns to devastate their opponents. This problem is probably only an issue in the two player game.

Final Thoughts

I really like it. I’ve only played the game two and three player so far but it works really well at this level.

I like how fast it plays, I like the CCG style feel of the game. I would like more climatic ending to the game but overall Nightfall is a really enjoyable game. If the theme has been bothering you I wouldn’t let it, it honestly melts away when you start playing. That said, if you’re not a fan of direct conflict then this game probably isn’t for you.

Nightfall is a new favourite of mine and I look forward to picking up some expansions and to trying out the game with a higher player count.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Thunderstone Wrath of the Elements

Eight months on and Thunderstone is still one of the most highly requested games in my house. However, when you play a game that many times its essential that you change it up as often as you can and so that brings me to another Thunderstone Expansion, Wrath of the Elements.

Wrath was actually the first expansion I bought for Thunderstone after Dragonspire but what did I think of it… lets find out.

Unboxed

In the box for WOTE you will find:

  • Card Dividers for both WOTE and the Original Base Set
  • 30 Militia to replace the ones found in the base set
  • 12 additional disease cards
  • 51 Monster cards
  • 84 Hero cards
  • 112 Village cards
  • 1 Thunderstone Card
  • 33 Randomiser Cards
  • 5 Reference Cards

One of the big things about this expansion was the box control. Obviously if your coming in from Dragonspire, like I was this imagewasn’t such a big deal but at the time it was a huge improvement over the base game. WOTE included dividers for every card in both the expansion and the base set along with a box layout to help sort the cards for you.

The great thing about this for me is that I can stick all the cards into my Dragonspire box and use the WOTE box to store other card games, I’m currently using it for WFRP 3.

The 30 reprinted Militia cards were for players who bought the original print run of Thunderstone which omitted the word Hero on the Militia Cards. As a side note that has been corrected in later printings.

Everything else in the box is up to the standard I’ve come to expect from AEG, the rulebook helps clear up most of the ambiguity on the cards and the AEG team over on BGG do the rest. 

Playing the Game

So, what new elements does WOTE add? Well, if you’re coming at the game from Dragonspire, nothing. However if you only own the base set of Thunderstone then WOTE introduces 2 new card types and a couple of new mechanics.

Traps

WOTE introduces Death Traps and Dire Traps. These cards are Dungeon Features (like Treasures, Guardians and Settings in later sets) and can be added randomly to your dungeon setup at the start of the game.

If you are using traps they are shuffled into the dungeon deck in addition to the three normal sets of monster cards. If a trap card comes up when you refill the hall it triggers and generally does nasty things to you. For example the Rolling Boulder causes players to flip over cards, destroying the first 3 heroes that show up. This can be particularly nasty if you reveal high level heroes while your opponent only revealed militia.

Guardians

The second new element in WOTE are Guardians, the set comes with only one of these, the Dark Champion. This is a big boss at the end of the dungeon, a rather thematic ending that isn’t too overpowered in game terms.

When setting up the game, after shuffling the monster cards but before placing the thunderstone in the deck count ten cards off the top of the deck and shuffle the Guardian into those ten cards and place them at the bottom of the deck. Then place the Thunderstone normally.

The guardian acts exactly like a normal monster except that when it reaches Rank 1 it immediately moves into a new Rank called Rank 0 allowing there to be 4 monsters in the hall.

Thoughts

What do I think of these two mechanics? Personally I’m not a fan of Traps, they are a bit too random, they can be very detrimental to your strategy, but most of all they are a bit of a faff and they slow the game down.

Guardians however I do like, they aren’t so much of a power house that they cause you too much of a problem, but they do add a nice thematic element, the Big Boss. I’d love to see a big Dragon Guardian card, that would be cool!

New Cards

Obviously, in a deckbuilding game, the reason you buy an expansion is for the new cards so lets take a quick look at some of the stuff in the box.

New Monsters

There are 4 new monsters included with WOTE these are:

Elemental Nature – This is an odd collection of monsters that have no real unifying theme. For example the Earth Wrath requires Magic Attack, while the Fire Wrath is immune to spells and unequipped heroes and the Thunderwrath cannot be attacked if spells or weapons are used.

This diverse nature makes these Elements quite challenging as you have to build your deck to face a multitude of challenges.

Elemental Pain – These monsters all have a breach effect which triggers if they move into rank 1, usually they will destroy a certain kind of hero from the top 5 cards of your deck. A couple of the Torments can be difficult to clear, especially the Magic Attack only ones.

Golem – The Golems focus on strength, meaning that Heroes with strength less than X cannot attack. In the most extreme case heroes with less than 8 strength cannot attack! Luckily the expansion introduces ways to boost your strength.

The Horde – The Horde comes with a set of place holder cards that are replaced with the actual horde card when they come up. Each Horde card gets increasingly harder to kill (1 additional Hit Point). They start out easy at 3hp but rise to a difficult 12hp! Each Horde in your deck is worth 1 Victory Point x The Number of Hiorde in your Deck. It is worth noting that the FAQ in the book states that this is capped at a maximum of 5 Victory Points per Horde card, a clarification that really should be noted on the card itself.

New Heroes

Blind – The Blind monks are a really cool set of heroes that focus on Light. In their early incarnations they can destroy light items (repeatedly) to score additional MAGIC ATTACK, while the Level 3 version powers up by having no light present at all.

Diin – This is an interesting Hero that powers up using Militia. At level 2 he transforms Militia into an exact copy of other Heroes in your hand, at Level 3 he can discard a militia to take the top hero from any stack and have it join you until the end of battle. This strategy would work really well when combined with the Highland Officer from Thornwood Siege.

Divine – The Divine is a selection of clerics which powerup off diseases and a monster cards. In his level 3 form he can be hugely powerful allowing you to destroy a disease to draw 2 cards and to draw 2 cards for each monster in your hand.

Gangland – An interesting group of heroes that allow you to generate gold in the village for each hero card in your hand. This turns these normally worthless cards into a gold mine for you meaning you might be able to afford items you previously couldn’t. They are also capable fighters, with the level 3 version getting an attack of 7 if you reveal 5 gold or more.

Gohlen – These fighters allow you to get an ATTACK bonus for monster cards in your hand, turning potentially useless cards into additional power. At level 3 he gains the power to potentially poach victory points from other players.

Runespawn – The Runespawn is a capable Wizard Thief who not only gets MAGIC ATTACK but also grants strength bonuses to her fellow heroes.

Toryn – The Toryn can be a potential machine of infinite damage. The Toryn can carry any number of weapons, turning a potentially useless hand of 5 weapons and 1 hero into massive damage. His attack of 2 and strength of 7 in his basic form is awesome, rising to a massive ATTACK 4 Strength 9 at level 3.

New Village Items

Ambrosia – This is a great card, not only does it give you 2 Victory points but it also grants all heroes +2 Strength and +1 ATTACK, great for dealing with Golems and for carrying heavy weapons.

Amulet of Power – This grants all heroes +3 strength and gives off 2 light, a nice multipurpose item.

Blacksmith – This handy fellow allows you to draw an extra card in the village and he allows you to make an additional purchase if you buy a weapon. Very handy if you have lots of Toryns!

Claymore – IF you can find a hero to wield it this is an awesome weapon that meats out 5 damage and allows you to claim 1 additional monster worth 1 or 2 Victory Points from the hall.

Creeping Death – This is one of the most expensive Village cards out there with a cost of 9. The card reduces the HP of all monsters in the dungeon by 2 allowing you to take them if it would kill them. It also gives all other players a disease!

Cursed Mace - +6 ATTACK but you gain a disease, perfect for use with the Divine or other clerics that powerup off destroying diseases. Downside is that it generates no gold.

Foresight Elixir – This is a nice card for reorganising the top of the dungeon deck, but it also allows you to draw 2 cards and reveal it to ignore the effects of a trap.

Illusory Blade – Take a weapon from the village for a turn but destroy it at the end of battle. Very helpful in a tight spot but it can also be very destructive.

Magi Staff - +1 MAGIC ATTACK but also destroy the card to remove monsters from the hall. It’s a good way to not have to waste a turn to get rid of a monster you can’t defeat, or one that has a battle effect you’d rather not deal with.

Magic Missile – An awesome early game spell that deals +4 MAGIC ATTACK but only against rank one. Very helpful for dealing with Magic Only creatures like the Smoke Torment.

Sage – This villager allows you to destroy non-Hero cards for XP. i.e. you can destroy diseases to gain experience! He can also be destroyed to gain 1 gold per hero in your hand. This is an ability that rarely seems worthwhile given that he costs 4 to purchases.

Shortbow – Another bow that is effective in rank 2 and 3 with a bonus if equipped to an archer.

Tavern Brawl – This card is all about messing with other players hands or decks, neither of which I care to do very often.

Tax Collector – This card generates 1 gold for each player in the game, making it less useful in two player games. It can also be destroyed to force all other players to discard a card with a gold value and you gain that much gold, however with many cards having a 0 Gold Value on them you can’t guarantee this will be a helpful move.

Final Thoughts

Wrath of the Elements does a lot of things very well. Firstly it corrects a lot of mistakes made in the original game. The organisation of the game is a lot better, the rules are clearer, more diseases were added to stop you running out and reprints were included to make the game work better.

There are still occasional cards that could be clearer, usually these are fully explained in the glossary but in some cases the card is lacking information it needn't have.

WOTE adds new monsters that force you to think differently and new heroes that allow for deckbuilding along a theme. It adds some great new village items and quite a few multipurpose items that collate multiple abilities into a single card.

What it adds that I don't like are ways to mess with the other players decks and hands. If you include a lot of the cards from Wrath of the Elements in a single game your deck and hand can end up being decimated, either by monsters, traps or other players. While I can see that there is strategy in destroying another players hand or deck it doesn’t feel particularly heroic to me. However, when this effect is diluted down with other expansions it doesn’t bother me as much.

Overall I really enjoyed Wrath and I think that the new cards offer great new ways to build your decks. Each of the Heroes is very focused but they also work well in concert. Some of the village cards are not as useful or appealing as I’d like but in general this is a great expansion that adds a little of everything!

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