I made my regular trip to our outstanding Friendly Local Gaming Store the Wyvern’s Tale on Friday, when a little display caught my eye. There was a small box of games the size of a pack of gum, eight in total, with various themes and play mechanics. The marketing is clever as each game has a 3-letter title, and the dimensions really are about the size of a 5-stick pack of Juicy Fruit, Big Red, or Spearmint gum. I snapped them all up immediately, as they all looked pretty appealing and it was hard to tell exactly what they were about, given the limited amount of space on the box. They make good use of it though as each box tells you how many players can play, the skill level (1 casual, 2 intermediate, or 3 challenging), and how much time is required for an average game (usually 10-30 minutes). Originally a kickstarter, this was one gaming project that flew under my radar. I’m glad they made their goal!
Each game includes a number of cards about the size of a stick of gum, and some compact instructions. The mechanics they use vary widely, and show some serious creative design. Wisely, the instructions point you to instructional videos to show you how to play each game fairly quickly. We haven’t had a chance to play them all yet, but I would encourage you to check out SHH, which challenges players to cooperatively spell out words using all the letters in the alphabet only once! A perfect score is 26! The cards are really quite attractive and illustrate each letter with a picture of something that starts with the word (D for Dog, U for Umbrella etc.).
HUE uses multi-colored cards to create fields of color that players try and connect to form continuous areas of that color. The last card in your hand is your score card, and you only count up the fields of color that are on that last card. Play may include covering one third of a card previously played, allowing for a good deal of strategy for this one. Not to mention you have to save a card that has the colors you want in order to score at the end!
FLY is a dexterity game that is pretty unique. the cards are arranged next to each other to form a gingham table cloth like a classic picnic. On the “table” are several flies that have symbols and colors on their back. Players take turns dropping the swatter card from a height determined by putting the sky card in the end of the game box. If you completely cover the fly with your swatter, you keep that card and try to form sets of three of the same color or symbol.
LIE is basically liars dice, but the unique twist is there is a die on either end of the card. When you are dealt your hand, you can choose which end to use at the beginning of the betting phase. This allows you to either stack your hand with a lot of a certain number, or pick various numbers to have a variety.
We haven’t tried the more challenging games of TAJ and GEM, which involve bidding and quite a bit of strategy. TKO is a really cool 2 player boxing game, and BUS uses the unique card dimensions as roads to form a city in which you pick up passengers on your bus. All of these games are fantastically creative and demonstrate a wide variety of skills and mechanics. I would recommend checking out the videos to see which ones appeal to you.
These games pack a whole lot of fun into a small package. If you are looking for compact games you can pack for your con bag and play in line while waiting for a panel or game to open up, these would be excellent candidates. Similarly, you can throw them in a purse or pocket and break them out at a bar or restaurant while waiting for other friends to show up, or as a quick game before everyone arrives for a weekly game night. Each game sells for $6, and the website will sell the whole collection as well as a carrying case for $50. Highly recommended.
If you were one of over 219,000 backers from Kickstarter, you should have received your Exploding Kittens deck from Elan Lee and The Oatmeal. If you haven’t, you need to have a serious talk with your postal carrier. But don’t threaten them, that’s like a crime or something… I think.
First off, this game is hilarious. The cards are so funny and if you have the NSFW deck, you may not even be able to play because you laughed so hard you peed in your pants. Yes, this almost happened. And make sure you keep the decks separated. It could cause some awkward moments between you and your kids, you and your neighbors or you and your mother-in-law.
Setting up the deck for a group takes less than two minutes and then you are ready. Play is fast and furious and it can be as quick as five minutes depending on where a kitten shows up. The hardest aspect of the game that we found was that, unlike many other card games, you drew from the deck at the END of your turn. Don’t forget that.
We only played three hands and we were already using strategy to screw with each other. We were using Nope cards to negate the cards of each other (including other Nope cards) and using See The Future cards to dictate what Skip (immediately ends your turn), Attack (next player must take 2 turns in a row), or Shuffle cards we needed to play. When you use a Defuse card to negate the Exploding Kitten card, you are allowed to place that kitten back in the deck wherever you choose. That could even mean the top of the deck! In our last hand of the night with only two cards left in the deck and not knowing what the other player had, it was highly stressful and… I lost that hand… to my wife. She laughed.
I give this game an A+. It’s fun, funny and funky and not something you’ve played before. You can play it with the kids or go ‘adult’ with the NSFW add-on. Everyone will have fun playing. If they don’t, you need to have a serious talk with them. But don’t threaten them, that’s like a crime or something…
Have you been able to play yet? And did you have trouble retaining bladder control? Don’t lie!
I got a chance to play an intriguing card game over the weekend called Citadels from Fantasy Flight. It is a fairly balanced blend of strategy and randomness that I look for in board/card games. The goals is to build a diverse city as quickly as possible, while assuming different roles each turn that provide different abilities to give you advantages over the other players. Some roles like Bishop, Merchant, Warlord, and King give you extra income based on what districts you already have built in your city. Assassin allows you to choose a role that cannot act that round (murder!), thief allows you to steal the gold from a particular role, architect allows you to build multiple districts in a round, and draw more cards, etc.
The interesting mechanic is how these roles are chosen. Each round, the roles act in the same order, and whoever chose King the last round, picks first for the next round. One role is randomly removed and not available that turn. Once the current King chooses whatever role they want for the next round, they pass the cards to the next player. Once it gets all the way around to the last player, they can choose either the last card, OR the one that was randomly set aside by the king. Players can use logic, and what roles were available when they chose their role to try and figure out what others chose, but there is always a bit of mystery about who chose what. When the thief or assassin announce their targets, they chose ROLE targets, not player targets, making it quite entertaining to conceal your role, while still gaining a tactical advantage in building your city faster than the other players. More information can be found at this intro site.
I would certainly recommend picking this one up. We were playing with 7, but can be played with between 2-7. I would think this game would be better with more players rather than less to increase the amount of available roles and intrigue. If it is out of stock at your FLGS, take heart! According to the Fantasy Flight site, it looks like a restock is on the slow boat from China.
I went to SCARAB last week, and was able to play a round of the Living Card Game “Hull Breach” by NSB Games, Inc (‘Not So Broken‘ in case you were wondering). Grognard that I am, it took me a long time to get accept the idea of playing a card game, thinking that it bore too much proximity to Magic the Gathering for my taste. However, I’ve started to enjoy a number of what folks call “Living Card Games” which are not collectible. While expansions may be available in a living card game, they are fixed expansions with predetermined cards, and are available to anyone equally without the need to buy numerous ‘boosters’. I’m explaining this here because some people may not give a card game a chance for fear of that element of many games we are aware of.
Hull Breach was run for me by a fun husband-wife team at SCARAB after showing up too late for my preregistered slot. I love picking up a new thing at a Con, as I mentioned months ago in my previous article, and the idea of things blowing up in space was too attractive to not try for my slot of dead time. Hull Breach did not disappoint.
The Setting is rich, which is the game’s strongest asset. 25th Century, space is the new war ground of the corporations vying for dominance in interstellar trade. Xeros Orbital Shipyards, Anaheim Manufacturing, and Bank of the Galaxy are the three corps that come in “Corporate Wars”, a full game. The other box set, Loyalty and Vigilance, houses three additional factions, which I would summarize as the Brown Coats, the Imperial Navy, and the Galactic IRS. I’ll let you know what they are really called when I pick up that set, but that’s the long and short of it.
The Cards in this game are well laid out, with everything available at a glance in a very intuitive way. Costs or assets are color coded with up and down arrows reflecting their cost or production value. A series of icons along the bottom of each card that are generally very uniform show you the firepower and armor of each unit, along with the unit’s carrying capacity if it is capable of housing marines, ships or drones.
Game play begins with a setting up phase where each faction builds their space station and defenses. Each faction manufactures resources at differing rates, and station additions can add to that total. Initial ships are deployed and minimal defenses erected, and play begins.
The strategy in Hull Breach is to build your forces up for an epic onslaught during the Engagement phase. Multiplayer games may differ, but in a two player game, it would seem that throwing everything at the enemy is a fairly sound strategy as combat continues until one side or the other is defeated or withdraws. In a multi-player game, leaving some ships at home becomes a bit more of a necessity, as the other players can take advantage of your recent struggles to set upon your unprotected base.
Combat, once engaged, is resolved by rolling multiple d10’s with a target number based on the defender’s armor rating, plus any special abilities. After a successful assault, enemy ships can be boarded for marine v. marine combat, and the ship commandeered. That occupied ship has the potential to revert back to enemy hands if you are foolish enough to remove your garrison (or if it is unfortunate enough to be killed in the line of duty). The end result of the boarding action, however, is a snowball effect as ships turn to your side in the war against the enemy faction.
I had a lot of fun with Hull Breach, and picked up a copy. The retail price tag is a little hefty at just over $35.00, but the production value is pretty high (see the photos of the interior). Each box comes with a book of short fiction, three decks of cards, 10d10, two bags of tokens, and a small well bound little rulebook.
Game play is interesting, fast moving, and allows for enough strategy to make things fun without slowing down overall play. Many cards in the game allow you to search through your deck often, which certainly is fine, but eliminates some elements of luck of the draw, which may appeal to some and less to others, and can take time. If you’re unfamiliar with the game and the cards in your deck, it will require more time to play, but I think we finished our two player game in 20 minutes (with a win for me, by the way), so it was far from burdensome. Discovering it was one of the highlights of the convention, for me.
Living Card games draw the most value from deck building, and NSB Games plans on supporting the game with additional expansions. While corporate cards are color coded to be separate from non-corporate cards, I would like to see additional expansions be unique to various factions to help to refine the flavor of that particular faction. In living card games like Fantasy Flight’s Netrunner, factions have to build from their own decks, but may use other cards on a limited basis through the use of influence, creating a very specific world feel and play style that is closely tied to the faction itself. Hull Breach, I feel, could benefit from the same time of restrictions, or perhaps by tying the advantage of each card to the faction playing it. I think think the author’s of the Hull Breach setting are proud of what they’ve put together, and they should be. as the factions really appealed to me. Building on that is the way to go as more products go forward. Hull Breach is a fun, fast, easy to play game that has great potential. Keep an eye on this one, and see if your FLGS can’t get you a copy. You’ll be glad you did.
Recently I’ve picked up a few games for the iPhone that started out as more traditional board or card games. A lot of them are great versions of the originals, with the added bonus of always being in your pocket, and allowing online games with friends who may not be able to make game night. They also tend to be a fraction of the cost of the physical board game.
One of my favorites is Hive. I bought this first as a physical board game at the recommendation of the Wyvern’s Tale. Essentially it is like a game of chess, in which different bugs move in different ways, and the object is to completely surround the opposing player’s bee. This is one of those easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master games, and has won a ton of awards. It quickly became one of my favorite games, and the quality of the physical tiles is fantastic. They have a nice weight and are clearly built to last. Not sure if you’re crazy about the concept? At a list price of $32, that can be a lot for something you may or may not like. Why not try it out first? The $2 iOS version will teach you all the rules through a tutorial, has two player local or online play, as well as play against various difficulties of AI. If it becomes one of your favorites, you can always pick up a copy at your friendly local gaming store!
Another one I tried out at a recent board game night was Fluxx. This is another seemingly simple game, that can great pretty crazy pretty quickly. The main goal is to collect “keepers” that match whatever the current goal card has on it. Keepers can be physical things, or concepts such as cookies, pizza, love, dreams, music, the brain, the rocket. The goals combine these like “Hearts and Minds” which requires both the brain and love, or “Dreamland” which requires both dreams and sleep. It’s kind of weird starting out, but you quickly get the hang of it. Other cards allow you to draw or discard more cards, or affect other player’s hands to try and get the keepers you need to win! There are a ton of expansions for Fluxx, The physical deck lists for $16, but if you’re not sure, the iOS version will only set you back $3.
Quarriors is a dice and card game that requires a little more screen real estate than most, so is iPad only. I’ve had my eye on this at the game store for some weeks, but never pulled the trigger. I *do* love dice games, but I didn’t know if I would like this one or, (more importantly) if my wife would like it as she is often my co-player. At a list price of $70, I really wanted to be sure. In Quarriors you start out by rolling dice to give you Quddity, a type of currency you use during your turn to summon your minions or capture other dice that are available on the cards dealt for the game. The cards are either other minion or spells which boost or augment minions, quiddity, or how many dice you draw from your bag. Overall I think it is enjoyable, but not something everyone would be in to. Is it worth $70? I don’t know. Is it worth $4? Absolutely!
I’ve heard some very good things about the iOS adaptation of Lords of Waterdeep, but haven’t picked that one up as of yet. Next time you are on the fence about a board game, try before you buy! There may be an excellent mobile version out there already!
Thought it was about time for another pre-weekend Kickstarter update!
Deep Magic: A Tome of New Spells – This is a great project. The stretch goals are awesome and at certain pledge levels you are eligible to send in spells that could be included in the final book.
Deluxe W20 Changing Breeds – A very interesting project involving were-people.
Castles & Crusades Return to the Haunted Highlands – This looks very, very good!
Shaintar: Legends Unleashed – Nice looking project for a campaign setting for Savage Worlds.
Maelstrom Domesday RPG – A new edition!
1d100 A Book of Lists – The ultimate book of random encounters!
Cthulhu Wars – A horror-based board game.
Psionic Miniatures – This is the follow up to the successful Ultimate Psionics compilation.
WarGods of Olympus – A mythology-based miniature battle game.
PLAYING CARD DECKS
DELUXE KICKSTARTER PROJECT!
Dark Sword Miniatures Special Edition Elmore Dragons Diorama – This project is expensive but it is awesome. The dragon might be the largest ever!
Excitement is building for the upcoming Asheville Comic Expo at the civic center. It’s a short two weeks away! Also there may be a zombie problem that may require some assistance from our local super heroes. Other than superheroes and zombies, there are sure to be a ton of comics, collectable toys, and games of all stripes!
Interested in rolling some dice and getting in on some roleplaying games? Sign up at the warhorn to reserve your spot at the table. This just in: Asheville Comic Expo will feature an RPG kids table! Unlike the little table in the kitchen at Thanksgiving, this kids table features Paizo’s Pathfinder Beginner Box, game mastered by local Venture Captain Paul Trani! We’ve reviewed the box here at this site, and it is one of the best introductions to roleplaying games available, led by one of the best GMs in the region! It’s a win-win and a great way to inspire the next generation of role-players.
The Asheville Pathfinder Lodge will be out in force for the event, but there will also be a few other RPGs to try if you are looking for something other than Pathfinder. I myself will be GMing a DCCRPG adventure, Sailors on the Starless Sea. If you’ve read anything on this blog, you probably know I’m a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics. This is your opportunity to give the game a try. Looking for something a little less traditional? Maybe a little wacky? How about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!?! This is an old system from Palladium games, and was one of the Skyland Games guys first RPG book. It is crazy fun! The RPGs are all being run from 12pm-4pm. Each table will take about that long to run, so the hardest decision will be choosing which one to play!
The Wyvern’s Tale will be there with tons of board games, running demos throughout the day. For those who can’t get enough RPGs, some more Pathfinder tables will be hosted back at the Wyvern’s Tale from 6pm-10pm.
The guys from the Deck Box are going to be running some Collectible Card Game events:
Booster Draft: Triple Return to Ravnica Booster Drafts. $13.00 Entry, Single Elimination 8-person pods. Payout will be Return to Ravnica Booster Packs with prizes given out as 4 packs to First, 3 to Second, and 2 each to Third and Fourth (4-3-2-2). This is great because out of 8 players, 4 will get prizes, making the experience a considerable amount more enjoyable for players, (particularly new ones) as the focus is not so much to get First place. It always feels good to win something, and this prize structure maximizes that.
Standard Constructed: $5.00 Entry, Single Elimination 8-person pods. Payout will also be Return to Ravnica Booster Packs with a bit more going to First, but in the same spirit (regarding prizes) as the Booster Drafts above (6-3-2-2).
All the Magic Events will be DCI Sanctioned.
They will also run one Scheduled Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament. This event will be Advanced Format at 4pm, and will be $5.00 to enter.
In addition to that the Deck Box will run Kaijudo demos to give people a chance to try out Wizards of the Coast’s revamp of the Duel Masters card game.
If that wasn’t enough, there is going to be an awesome after party at the Emerald Lounge with Minibosses, Metroid Metal, and Danimal Cannon! It is going to be an incredible show, and an awesome expo! See you there!