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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

First Impressions: Thunderstone Advance

This is not a full review, but as the title implies my impressions after playing the game once.

As you all know Thunderstone is a firm favourite in my house, hitting the table nearly 70 times in the last year; so when I heard AEG was updating and streamlining the game I was excited and a little nervous.

When I saw the previews, which showed the updated graphic design I was very impressed, they’ve certainly come a long way. However now I finally have a copy of the game (courtesy of AEG) and here is what I think.

Preparing to Play

First and foremost the rulebook is a MASSIVE improvement, clarifying every single rule and making me realise that I’ve been playing things wrong for ages! Admittedly they were minor things, but this is a testament to just how clearly written this rulebook is.

The switch to “Keywords” over cumbersome text is something that has been coming for a long time and I commented on with the release of Thornwood Siege. In Thunderstone Advance cards feature several keywords which clarify their timing, similar to the system used in Cosmic Encounter. The distinction between “Battle” and “Aftermath” for example removes the need for long winded rules like:

All Dungeon Effects trigger before you begin the battle. However, the Battle Effects of the Monster you are fighting resolve either during or at the end of the battle. All Battle Effects occur, regardless of victory or defeat.

Any cards destroyed by a Battle Effect remain in play until the end of the battle — Heroes fight until the bitter end! All other Battle Effects occur during the battle

Now it’s simple, Battle Effects occur before and Aftermath afterwards. The Keyword Trophy also replaces the harder to explain cog icon.

In addition to the rules being simply better in every way, it seems they were also written by someone with a sense of humour making them fun to read even for a veteran player.

 

Anyway, enough about the rules, what about the game?

I liked it.

But…

The artwork is not as nice as previous sets. This is really the first thing that strikes you. Yes, the layout is a huge improvement but the art is kinda… meh. Also, why are all the weapons on a pink background? I know they were trying to make them stand out more from heroes and other cards but I’ve got to say the weapons look ultra bland compared to their old school counterparts.

The new game layout is also a little harder to take in than the old “dominion style” layout. The villagers especially feel a little, tucked away, down at the bottom of the board. However, I think that the layout will prove to be better in the long run and will work visually well for new players.

New mechanics? I really liked them. The familiars are a great little boost without being overpowered or over complicated. The fact that when you use your familiar he is discarded into your discard pile is a genius mechanic. Not only does it generate a small cost for using the card (you effective only get 5 cards in hand when the familiar comes back out) but it also means that you get the extra boost from the familiars often in the early game and less in the late game as it would take longer to cycle the card through your deck. The prepare action is a great addition that doesn’t remove the usefulness of the scout. It’s not an option I’ll take often but could be handy late game when buying stuff just clutters up your deck.

Game play? It felt faster (although reading all the new cards takes more time). The synergy between the Regular and the Long Spear make for a faster start to the game. The additional XP generated by the Thunderstone Shard allows you to make use of your familiar quickly, while the reduced cost of levelling up Regulars means you can get more heroes into your deck from the get-go.

Playing on the wilderness side of the board meant I was more inclined to risk the dungeon as the odds of finding something to kill were higher when attacking a higher rank meant only a –1 penalty not a –2. Thus I was willing to risk going when I didn’t have enough attack to beat any monsters but with a lucky card draw I just might.

The Trophy Keyword made it very easy to keep track of what bonuses cards were giving me as I could often overlook a monster in my hand under the old system. However the increased XP gain meant I concentrated more on heroes than on items, spells or villagers in the village. This may have been because I was rushed for time and the fewer cards I had to read the better but it could be something more.

Curses? The new curses I picked up all had an option to remove them from your hand without skipping a turn to do so. There was always a price involved in this and no benefit like you might get if you used a cleric but it did make me feel like I had more control over how my party would deal with their problems.

Overall, this set is a series of small changes that seem to make a vast difference and aside from a few minor quibbles, this is inarguably the best thing to happen to the Thunderstone line since Dragonspire and one of the best and clearest products, from a rules, card graphic design and wording point of view on the market today!

Well done guys!

Newsflash: Sentinels of the Multiverse

I love the concept of SOTM but the execution was a little… lets say wonky. The box isn’t really big enough to hold it’s contents, you need a pen and paper to track stuff and the card text is rather open to interpretation. But the theme and the art and open ended possibilities of the game make you overlook the little things.

However, news out of the Greater Than Games camp today says all that’s about to change:

Greater Than Games has just launched a Kickstarter!
Why?  Well, last year, we published the cooperative, comic-book themed card game, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and released it at Gen Con!  Since then, we have received a lot of great attention.  Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower called us the #1 game of Gen Con 2011, and then, Sentinels of the Multiverse was named Game of the Year by Drew “GeekInsight” Massey at Giant Fire Breathing Robot!

As a result, it’s hardly surprising that we are now out of Sentinels of the Multiverse.  All gone.  Sold out.  We actually “sold out” well before PAX East and had to tell some distributors, "No, we're keeping these 150 copies to take to PAX East."  So!  We're re-printing Sentinels of the Multiverse, but BETTER.  Really, we were inspired by the level of quality we were able to attain with our Rook City expansion, and are no longer as satisfied with the initial print run.  The Enhanced Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse will include a bigger, stronger box, filled with much higher quality cards.  The new box will hold all Sentinels of the Multiverse cards, including the core game and expansions, and divider cards to keep things organized.  There will be tokens, TOKENS, for tracking hit points and various modifiers!  Even the rulebook is even getting spruced up.  Adam is in the process of touching up and improving the art, making the game look even better than before.

And the price is staying the same!  We're making all these improvements to the game, but it will still be only $39.95 because it is important to us that our game is not only awesome, but affordable.

As if that weren’t thrilling enough, the Enhanced Edition is not even the main focus of our Kickstarter.  The Kickstarter is primarily focused on next expansion from Greater Than Games: Infernal Relics!  Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics features ancient deities, extra-planar elder gods, and fallen angels, all of which seek to alter the very fabric of reality, with two arcane heroes joining the cast of Sentinels of the Multiverse to help fight these new threats to our existence!

Famed board game designer, Richard Launius, (the brains behind Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Defenders of the Realm, and many more!) joins the team of Greater Than Games for this supernatural new Sentinels of the Multiverse expansion!  Adam, Paul, and Christopher were excited to collaborate with Richard to make the characters and challenges of Infernal Relics come to life through story and gameplay.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics, our second expansion, features two new, magical heroes, four powerful villains, and two exciting environments. Besides just expanding the number of characters and environments available to players, Infernal Relics introduces new mechanics and exciting new challenges, while still maintaining the theme and gameplay that make Sentinels of the Multiverse thrilling!

So, go check out our Kickstarter and spread the word! We will have updates full of information and fantastic art, and there will be many surprises along the way.  With your help on this Kickstarter campaign, we’ll get the funding we need, not the funding we deserve.

Excited? Me Too!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Board Game News 17–Take it Easy hits the iPad

Lots of news this week including several kick-starter projects, new iPad and iPhone releases plus this weeks gaming releases in the UK and a new segment on gaming cons and clubs in the UK.

Kickstarter

Orchorde

The Board Game review site Roachware is joining Dice Hate Me and our own Little Metal Dog Show / Board Games in Blighty in the big bad world of games design. 

The game itself is called Orchorde. In Orkhorde each of the up to six players leads a tribe in a bigger orcish warband. Each round the members of the tribe are set to a number of tasks: food has to be collected, raids have to be done, the shaman tries to mollify the gods – and don't forget the unavoidable fights about who's the boss. But it is most important for the orcs to gather trophies and renown. The tribe that collected the most renown when the game ends, wins.

If you want to know more about this game and how to get involved in the funding process check out the full press release here.

Expedite

The guys at Turnham Games would like you to know about their kickstarter project called Expedite.

Expedite is a strategic 2-4 player route-building game.  The game is a fast paced race to 100 points for the win.  Players chose between four options per turn.  Each option may not only advance their position but may advance opponents as well.  There are two unique elements of Expedite.  The first is the ability to buy hubs away from opposing players, providing an endless variety of strategy.  The second is the splitting of available points when a World Trade Card is played.

Combining skill and luck, Expedite offers 100's of hours of game play.  It is easy and intuitive for novice board game players, but the interwoven nature of the game will provide a challenge for experienced players.

Check out their video and more at Kickstarter. .

Eureka! Trivia

The guys at Eureka Trivia would like you to about their new project.

Eureka! Trivia is an interactive trivia video designed for digital distribution, enabling convenient playability on televisions and computers. Eureka! Trivia features 50 fun contemporary questions lasting approximately an hour, best played at parties or with groups of friends, like us! Players can enjoy five categories: History, Science, Humanities, Sports, and Pop Culture without the need for a cumbersome board or game pieces.

Once a question is posed, a visual timer begins. Each player has 30 seconds to write down their answer for a point. 30 seconds later, the answer is revealed and players compare answers to award points. At the end of the game, the player with the most points is crowned the "King of Eureka!" In the rare event of a tie between players, three additional questions occur as a tie-breaker round at the end of the game.

For more check out their Kickstarter page

Out on iOS

Take It Easy

It’s a puzzle, it’s a brain teaser, it’s a game! It’s all three and much more! It is bingo with strategy! Place your pieces one at a time on the board. Try to form continuous rows of color from edge to edge. But one wrong tile and the whole row is worthless. It gets harder as the number of empty spaces on your board, and your possible choices, diminish. Because once a tile is placed, it can’t be moved!

Take It Easy is a simple, yet surprisingly addictive and thought-provoking game that'll give you endless hours of fun.

App Store

 

Features:

•  New iPad, iPad, iPhone & iPhone Retina version all-in-one! Includes stunning 2048-by-1536 high resolution graphics for the new iPad.

• Three entertaining and visually beautiful game modes to choose from.

• The Classic Mode will introduce you to the game that started it all.  Already over a million copies of the award winning board game have been enjoyed by fans worldwide.

• The Puzzle Mode will test your puzzle solving skills with 100 fun and well designed puzzles. This exciting new twist to the game will have you swapping pieces in your sleep. This mode will appeal to puzzle solvers everywhere.

• Last but not least, the Progressive Mode offers 30 stages of different challenges specifically designed for the iOS version.  Conquer all 30 stages before time runs out!

• Local and online multiplayer game play. Play head-to-head against a friend. Or up to 4 players on a single iPad! Or play with friends around the world with the online multiplayer.

• Game Center integration lets you compare high scores with your friends and players around the world. See if you can earn a prestigious spot in the TIE Master leaderboard.

• Over 40 different achievements. Earn points to get that #1 rank and, along the way, win surprising rewards to customize your gameplay.

• More puzzles and challenges on the way!

 

Cons and Clubs

Starting this week I plan to run a regular feature along with the weeks releases advertising games clubs and conventions in the UK. If you want your club adding to this section then please contact me and I’ll do it asap.

This week:

Social Gamers - Crowborough

We meet on alternate Sundays (our next meeting is on 15th April 2012), from 7pm till 10pm with a nominal £1 per head at the Blue Anchor Beacon Road, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 1BB

We are a group of people that meet to have a fun relaxing evening playing modern card and board games. We have a wide selection of games available (I typically bring along 30+ games) to play and all are welcome young or old, male or female, gamers or non-gamers. – Kevin

I wish I could be there Kevin! Right I’ll sign off and leave you with Paul to tell us about this weeks releases.  

 

Out This Week

And now the latest releases from Board Game Guru.

There are four new releases from Queen games arriving on Tuesday. The one I’m looking forward to the most is 'Kingdom Builder : Nomads', Kingdom Builder has become a gateway game of choice, and is brilliant way of starting off an evening of games - it’s one of my top five from 2011. The first expansion ‘Nomads’, adds 4 new boards, 4 new powers, 3 new scoring cards and a 5th player.

'The New Laws' adds 18 new laws for 'Lancaster', these can be mixed in with the original set or replace them.

'Kairo' is a trading game, and 'Discover India' a family set collection game where the profits from the production of the game have gone to an Indian charity. 

'Last Will' sold out very quickly after Essen, however the Rio Grande edition is with us on Tuesday. Players are (like the film ‘Brewsters Millions') trying to spend money as quickly and inefficiently as possible to earn the fortune promised in their rich Uncle's will. The theme of the game works well with the mechanics and I have enjoyed 'Taking my Dog and Butler out to dinner' to waste some money and buying properties at the top of the market only to sell them at the bottom. Recommended!

Other games arriving on Tuesday include ‘Star Trek Expeditions Expansion one’, ‘Bomber Command’, ‘Steam Map Expansion two’, ‘Zombie Dice 2’

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Existenz: On the Ruins of Chaos

I don’t often write negative reviews and when I do I try and write constructive reviews, rather than outright hate. Often if I can’t find nice things to say I wont say anything at all, that was certainly the case when I played this games predecessor X610Z.

The guys over at Quantuum Magic very kindly sent me a starter set plus 20 booster packs for the game and extra playing pieces. This should have been enough for me to at least try the game and enjoy it. X610Z is a creature summoning card game, with a board that is intended to focus the action and cause you to think more strategically.

My friend and I tried the game with the starter decks but with only 3 “Summons” per deck we were basically moving our “life bases” (the sort of King piece) one space a turn.

The game was quickly abandoned after that and I opened the rest of the boosters to try and find more summons to make the game more exciting. However, after opening all 20 boosters I had found no further summons that did not replicate ones already found inside the starter decks.

The problem here was that you can only have one type of Summons in play. While on the surface this could look strategic, it is actually just a further limitation on a game which suffers greatly from other limitations. After this the game was quickly abandoned and I decided not to review it as anything I might say would not help these guys who were genuinely very nice people.

Then I was sent a copy of On the Ruins of Chaos.

On the Ruins of Chaos fixes a few things. Firstly it provides you with four starter decks that are unique to each other, rather than the almost identical starter decks included in the original. It provides a clearer and more comprehensive rulebook full of examples, a properly mounted board and nicer tokens.

The game is insanely pretty and pretty well produced, although in the few times I’ve actually handled it my box corner has already split. That said I like the layout of the box and the detachable counter container.

The decks themselves contain a vastly increased number of Summons, along with a good selection of crystals which provide your mana for summoning. This means that players will likely have multiple pieces on the board very quickly at the start of the game and fighting will ensue.

Now, I have to say that On the Ruins of Chaos is a huge improvement over the original game and the change from a blind purchase (which included 6 or 7 stages of rarity) to a set purchase format is the right way to go. However, the game just does not work for me and here is why.

The Board

Existenz tries to be the first Trading Card Game that features a board that is integral to the game. However the board is a hindrance to play rather than opening up fantastic tactical options. In a traditional CCG I need to pay a large resource cost to play a tough unit, but once I do I can use that unit as I see fit, in this game I may never actually get to attack because the board dictates where and how I can move and attack. Worse still there is a card called “Battle Royal” that for the low cost of 5 mana allows my opponent to attack backwards and into safe zones for the rest of the game. This turns the tactical play of the game on it’s head.

Other games, such as Warhammer Invasion or Star Wars TCG, have successfully implemented strategic placement of units by using zones. A unit in one zone cannot attack a unit in another so the placement of units becomes a tactical and even a strategic decision. Existenz’s board does a similar thing but it does so in a more complicated way, seemingly only so that it can be a “board game ccg”

Summons

The Summons are the bread and butter of this game and there are 6 different types. The first and most important is your life base. This summon can usually move 1 space a turn and defending it is the only way to win the game. The other 5 types of summons are army, beast, berserker, dragon and vessel. You can only have one of each type on the board, which is fantastic if you draw lots of different types of Summons. However, if you don't you have to wait for your opponent to kill a unit before you can bring in another one.

Now, imagine if your current summons is way out of position and unable to attack, due to the layout of the board. Why would your opponent bother killing it to allow you to summon a new unit closer to his Life Base?

Tying summons to physical pieces on the board limits you to a maximum of 5 units in play and that requires you to draw five different types of summons. This can lead to you having a hand of cards, none of which you can play because that pieces is already on the board. In a traditional CCG this only occurs if your card is unique and only one of that card name can be in play, a usually rare occurrence.

Card Draw

Card Draw can be an issue in many CCG’s, usually you can draw one card per turn, although there are often cards that increase this. In the games we played of Existenz, both players ended up simply drawing a card and that was the card they played that turn, purely because they had no other option.

When the game starts dictating your move it may as well play for you. I, for example, had a Dragon and an Army in play, I had 9 mana and in my hand I had a Dragon and an Army Summons. I could therefore not play the cards in my hands and I had more mana than I needed to move and attack with all my units. Of course neither of my units had enough movement to reach my opponent and attack, so I could effectively do nothing. This continued for 3 more turns until I was finally killed.

With all that spare mana I should have been able to do something. Maybe discard a crystal for a single card draw, self destruct one of my Summons so I could bring in a new one in a better position. But as it was all I could do was move my Life Base one space and wait to be killed as it was obvious I could neither reach my end dot, nor prevent my opponent reaching his.

Conclusion

Existence limits you in everyway imaginable You are limited by the board in the ways you can move and attack. You are limited to playing a single mana crystal per round. You are limited by how much mana you can generate and in the ways in which it can be spent. You are limited in the number of cards you can draw and in the ones you can play due to a physical limitation of the pieces.

On the Ruins of Chaos then is a very pretty game made by some very nice people, but I would much rather play a traditional CCG or LCG than deal with the restrictions that this game puts on your fun. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Boxed Up Fun: Epic Dungeon Army Wars: Advanced

Those guys over at Boxed Up Fun would like you know about a great new board game, Epic Dungeon Army Wars: Advance. Go ahead, check out the video below! It’s awesome!

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