Gloom of Kilforth: No more new games - play what you’ve got!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

No more new games - play what you’ve got!


Inspired by chats with fellow BGG user boom04, and after reading numerous other gamer blogs about playing x games x times, I’ve decided to put a ban on new games being purchased in 2014, with the sort of cop-out caveat that ‘expansion purchases only’ are still allowed.  Whilst saving shelf space and cash and pleasing my non-gamer wife at the same time, it will also allow us a year to play through all the games we’ve already got – and there are a fair few of them, though a very modest collection compared to many other gamers.  If a brilliant, must-have game emerges this year I’ll just have to wait to see if it survives a few months of fair reviewing and the cult of the new to become a lasting classic, and if so I should theoretically have no problem picking it up in 2015 anyway.  I’m also prepared to be proved wrong and break my ban if it’s THAT good.  However, since I have three Kick Starters on their way this year already - Myth, Kingdom Death: Monster and Shadows of Brimstone (spot a pattern??) - we should have enough to be going on with anyway.

So Sam and I, and whoever we can drag in along the way, are going to go through the collection and tick each game off as we go until we’ve tried the whole list.  Outside of play-testing my new designs and solo gaming I usually only really get a weekly evening of proper gaming so actually playing through everything we’ve got solidly might prove tricky.  So far, in January, we’ve managed to stick to the plan though, so I’m interested to see if and how that persists.  I’m going to outline the games played, a brief overview or mini-review of my experiences with said games, and then at the end of the year maybe even decide which ones are for the trade pile and fight my instinct to not trade anything away.  Here are some thoughts on key games, some games that we won’t really need to play, and also what we’ve played so far in no particular order…




Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

I genuinely had a bout of buyer’s remorse after picking TtA up at UK Games Expo 2012 for a whopping £60, and I figured that despite my enthusiasm for the Civilisation theme it would probably never get played due to time and complexity.  It was a minor agony to pick up and get into rules-wise so when we finally did get around to playing it we took it in stages as the rulebook suggests.  The Basic game in one week’s session, the Advanced game the next, and finally the Full game the week after, with a few rules lookups on BGG.  After that it soon became the regular fixture for three of us for a good few months in 2013 and I absolutely loved it.  After years of gaming, this complex yet bland-looking Euro – albeit with one of my favourite themes ever (always loved Civ on the PC) – unseated all of the trashier minis games and adventure games in my collection to became a strong contender for my favourite game of all time.  And to be honest it remains a contender to this day too.  Nothing beats that feeling of taking a couple of almost cave dudes with pointy sticks and evolving them over the course of an evening (but really over centuries of empire building) into fighter pilots and astronauts.  However, once we discovered the brilliant http://boardgaming-online.com (BGO) the game – and my learning and enjoying it – really took off.  After a comparative handful of weekly TtA games in real life over a few months I’d soon racked up over 100+ games online, and I sometimes won some too.  The online version takes away all the aggro of setting up, playing and tearing down a 5-6 hour game and…  drags it out over days and weeks instead!  But it works beautifully and you can just take it one turn at a time.  I’ll always want the option of being able to pull out the real thing though, and nothing beats that tactility of real cards and physically building your empire over pizzas and beers.

Real life games played in 2014 = 0
Online games played in 2014 = 30+, most of them ongoing



Eclipse

The only thing that knocked TtA aside from its regular weekly spot in 2013 (apart from the fact that we went digital with BGO) was the discovery of another little semi-Euro game called Eclipse, which is weirdly similar to TtA, but which also has plastic space ships which can explore the galaxy and blow shit up.  Seriously I love so much about this game: the awesome components, the development of techs, the blueprints of the ships as you gradually tool up, the absolutely brilliant mathematical way your planets build your economy in science, material and money – it’s just so ‘neat’, the little ships multiplying as your power grows, the exploration aspect of this game, something which I really miss in TtA, and finally, the theme really beautifully evokes Mass Effect, Star Trek, Star Wars, and even the books of Iain M Banks.  I’ve had much less success at winning Eclipse than TtA – I’m not confident enough yet to be aggressive enough I think - but I enjoy it almost as much.  Eclipse became our weekly go-to game in 2013 up until our regular number three player, unfortunately for us, upped and left us to move to Dubai, fortunately for him.  Eclipse definitely works better with three or more players (four players works really nicely) so it won’t see as much play when there are just two of us, though occasionally we are able to rope other victims into playing it too.  It’s on the list in any case, and even if we can’t get a bigger group, Sam and I are going to battle it out at some point and hope that the increased AI presence from the expansion content still keeps us busy and engaged enough.

Games played in 2014 = 0 yet, hopefully this will change soon



Nations

This was an intriguing prospect from the outset, a pared down TtA without all the hassle of setup and tear-down, taking it in turns to take turns - like Eclipse (instead of taking all your actions at once in TtA and then going to put the pizzas in whilst you wait for your next turn), less hassle of upkeep and corruption, more even-handed wars that don’t effectively remove players from the game for hours, etc.  So I squeezed it in as a last minute Christmas 2013 purchase before the gaming embargo slammed down.  It had good stock for me coming from the Lautapeli guys who made Eclipse, and when I opened the box I was only mildly disappointed to see that they’d taken the bland graphic design of TtA and made it…. slightly less bland.  The artwork is a moderate improvement, and the variety of cards is great.  That you’ll only get to see a handful of them each game increases replayability but changes it up from a strategic race to grab the cards you know are eventually coming (in TtA) to a reactive, tactical game based on what might be coming down the line.  It’s unlikely but you might never see any Leaders for example.  Or Advisors as Nations calls them.
It plays a hell of a lot faster than TtA - in one session in January we were able to play three games in one evening.  The solo option is great too and as I’ve said elsewhere it is a doddle to grasp, but a bugger to master, as it should be, and is a great tool for learning the game. There are extra event tiles included specifically for the solo game and a lot of thought has clearly gone into this side of it, which I appreciate, and it rates your play by comparing you to a famous leader like the old Civ PC games used to, so you have a score to strive to beat each time.
I've played about 8 solo games now and would happily break it out again soon. This potentially gives me an unfair advantage in multiplayer games, but you can (and I have) offset that by using the included setup rules to start off on a harder level to other players by producing less resources each turn.
On the whole, I love it and think it will replace TtA in 'real life' for the most part, mainly due to play time, though I will never part with my TtA.

Games played in 2014 = 3



Agricola          

Medieval farming – ugh.  How did this get in here?  Well, I’d been asking for recommendations for Euro games to buy (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/637276/ameritrasher-wants-a-euro/page/1) and Agricola had held the top spot on BGG for so long I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Since I usually prefer guns, swords, dice, monsters and theme in my games the notion of breaking out ‘the farming game’ isn’t usually appealing to me.  But it was on the list, Sam had spanked me at it last time, and I remember enjoying trying to beat my score in the solo version, so we broke it out.  And it was way more enjoyable than I remember!  In fact I seem to remember thinking this exact same thing last time we played.  After some careful agonising and repeatedly bagging the first turn marker just so Sam could not, I managed to build the best farm I’ve ever made and filled every farm space, which I often don’t manage to do.  I also blocked him on the family reproduction and this resulted in a resounding victory which could have coloured my opinion of the game – last time he wiped the floor with me so maybe we only enjoy games we win!  I really like, and am equally frustrated by, having to choose which actions you can do each turn out of the many that you want to.  And seeing this mechanism carried over into much more thematic games like Robinson Crusoe makes me appreciate just how cool worker placement games can be.  It also has to be said that with the animeeples the components really are quite nice, and it’s a pleasant game to look at, though not beautiful.
So many other games owe Agricola a debt and it’s easy to see why.  I think I’d enjoy it more if at the end you had to fend off an army of orcs which came to burn down your farm, but as it stands it’s still a pretty great game, and we’ve not even cracked open the Komplex card decks yet!  Next time…

Games played in 2014 = 1



Runebound (Second Edition)

Thematically, this is more like it for me – high adventure in a magical world!  That said I’ve racked up some negative experiences with FFG, and their games, and particularly their games’ tendencies towards being beautiful on the surface but bloated and messy underneath.  Unfortunately Runebound embodies these traits quite heavily, and this session was a reminder as to why it doesn’t get played often.
We had to use a few variants to make it more manageable and interesting.  We always play 4 XP to level up instead of 5 because 5 would literally be unbearable – next time we’ll probably play the one where it costs 1+n XP to level up where ‘n’ is the number of level ups you already have.  We’ve got loads of the small deck expansions so the treasure deck is split into the three types (allies, magic, and armour/weapons) and three of each card go into each city’s market deck so that you don’t get hosed if you’ve been dealt the wrong hero class.  Luckily we both had fighters so that wasn’t too much of an issue this time around.  You also have to use Judd Jensen’s excellent Cities of Adventure rules or the cities are boring as hell.  And with hindsight we probably should have used Mr Skeletor’s Midnight/Doom Track from the solo play variant just to have a stronger time limit.  It was an enjoyable game bashing baddies, experiencing bizarre and occasionally pointless events (I had an old hero’s ghost helplessly following Sam around for almost the entire game until he finally decided to whack it on the ghostly head), and levelling up, and there’s a metric ton of variation with the little expansions mixed in.  Though it totally vexes me how the easier green and yellow cards dramatically outweigh the more difficult blue and red cards in quantity, when in actuality you’re looking to move on from green and yellow encounters asap, and the reds which you encounter every game, are limited to just a small handful, it just means that all that green and yellow variety is wasted, whilst the reds become repetitious.  It eventually came down to us both having two out of the three runes required to win, but it went on far too long, well over 3 hours, and after it became obvious that Sam was going to beat me to that final rune, it still took another good twenty minutes to play out the inevitable conclusion.  And those movement dice.  :yuk:  I think I remember defending them years ago, but now I just find them overly complex for what little they achieve.
Overall, it was slightly less enjoyable than I remember, and it dragged with two players so I’d hate to play it with more players, it seems designed almost for solo play – if the included solo doom track rules weren’t completely broken.  But Sam enjoyed it more this time around, so again, maybe the enjoyment is more to do with who wins the game…  ;)

Games played in 2014 = 1
                                                                                                     


Defenders of the Realm

I still love this and would happily play it regularly, we had a great time play-testing the free expansion material, and a load of extra expansion content for Richard, particularly the hopefully forthcoming Companions and Catacombs expansion.  Great mechanics, amazing Elmore art, which I was practically raised on with AD&D, and a real sense of tension all the way through, this is easily one of the best coops available.
Sam is slightly less enamoured with it at the moment though.  We lost three times in a row on all the basic settings, which was somewhat of a surprise since the last few times we played it we had no trouble thrashing those generals.  The Wizard and Sorceress didn’t show up in all three games so maybe that had something to do with it.  I love Defenders of the Realm, I think it nicely fills a grand fantasy war adventure niche, and the support of its designer Richard Launius in supplying continuing free content to expand the experience and of its champion, my man DrCrow, in answering any and all rules questions, are just the highest bar set for board games - Eagle Games are so lucky to have both of them involved.  I’m buzzing for the next trove of content that Richard will dream up for this beauty.

Games played in 2014 = 3


                       
Mage Knight Board Game     

This is another long, long game, and one session of it took all night, a session which I won fairly decisively.  Sam played Krang and I played Wolfhawk and we played a standard Conquest game with all the new stuff shuffled in but none of the new scenarios and no Volkare.
It has to be said, I love Mage Knight.  The wealth of decisions, the way the world randomly populates as it goes, the effects of terrain, the varying encounters, reputation, influence, the deck building and levelling up – it all adds up to a really intricate and detailed package, with tons of brain burning decisions to be made every turn.  Thematically I’m not fond of it all taking place over just three days, I’d prefer it if each action represented a day or something, and I’m not familiar with, nor very interested in, the MK world, but these are very small complaints.  Between this and TtA I became a huge Vlaada fanboy, and that led to my impulse purchase of Dungeon Lords, which I still haven’t yet tried.  As a solo game, Mage Knight is pretty peerless.  As a multiplayer game, as Sam rightly pointed out, it’s a lot like you’re playing different games on the same board at the same time.  Outside of PvP, much like Runebound – though a far superior game to Runebound - there’s little else you can do to influence each other, and the PvP is of no real interest.  I get that the threat of it might add an edge to the game or whatever, but if you come to blows in a two player game like this it’s going to seriously affect the rest of the game one way or another.  Next time we’ll play one of the cooperative Volkare scenarios instead.

Games played in 2014 = 1



Dungeons & Dragons: The Fantasy Adventure Board Game

We broke this out over the hols at the family’s when we had a little downtime and there were no other board games around.  If time permitted I wouldn't actually mind finishing the campaign, more for closure than anything, but this is not a bad little dungeon crawler.  Very simplistic, it’s sort of aimed at families or kids, much like HeroQuest.  The levelling up is too arbitrary for me (you finish x adventures so you go up a level) and we haven’t yet reached the more complex scenarios, so it’s more of a little goblin basher early on.  Also, again like HeroQuest, it’s really not that much fun for the DM player.  Will probably hang on to this until my son is old enough to play, but at the moment it’s really just extra parts for the D&D Adventure System games like Castle Ravenloft.

Games played in 2014 = 3



Forbidden Island

Okay, this is kind of a cheat too because I haven’t played much of the actual board game in ages.  However, it deserves a mention because I have played loads of games of it on the iPad because it plays so quickly.  I probably wouldn't break it out in ‘real life’ unless I'm introducing new players/kids – it made a great present for my 8 and 9 year old nephews for example.  I love the simplicity of the game and the theme, the artwork is absolutely beautiful, and I just think it’s really a perfect little game.  I don’t know why the Forbidden Desert theme doesn’t really do anything for me, I guess it doesn’t seem as exotic or interesting somehow – if they were movies I’d be more interested in seeing Forbidden Island than Forbidden Desert.  I guess I should give Desert a go sometime.  Maybe it’ll make another nice present for my now 9 and 10 year old nephews…  But yes, Forbidden Island will remain in the collection as a gateway game should the need ever arise to introduce somebody to gaming this way.  If it comes to game night though, I’d much rather play and get my teeth into something meatier.

Games played in 2014 (on iOS) = 10



Uncharted: The Board Game

Played an absolute crap ton of this at work last year – over 50 games – with a work-mate who’s not strictly a board gamer but who loves the PS3 games.  Thought I'd be burnt out on it but actually still enjoy it when I do get the chance to play.  It helps to be a fan of the theme because it is quite pasted on, and I’m not a fan of the ‘stills from the video game’ art, nor the very basic graphic design, which is actually a bit of a ball-ache when you’re recompiling the decks at the end of each game (Why do normal treasures have the same borders as normal action cards?  Why??), and indeed it seems like a little bit of a wasted opportunity given how rich and beautiful a game based on the Uncharted series could and should be.  But there’s something extremely compelling in its quick fire, highly tactical, take-that style gameplay that just makes every game a tense and very enjoyable battle for your life – grab the treasures, shoot the bad guys, beat your mates, simples.  Also, having played every single variable layout, game type (regular competitive, coop, solo survival and direct shoot-each-other versus mode), and variable powers hero included I’m still stunned at the enormous replayability.  Honestly, on the surface I can see how this game has been overlooked by the community at large, but I picked it up for £20 and it’s actually a little gem, and not one I’ll be getting rid of any time soon.  In terms of price against play time it’s probably one of the most valuable games in my collection, though to be fair that probably wouldn’t be the case if my colleague didn’t get into it the same way I did.  I intend to do a more detailed review of this at some point to try to help raise its profile some more.

Games played in 2014 = 2



DC Comics Deck-Building Game

Okay, this one gets an honorary mention in the list because in the unlikely event that I don’t get to play it this year, like Uncharted I’ve actually already played it enough with my work mate at lunchtimes to have given it a thorough road testing, so it fills that spot of sort of ‘non-gamer’ game.  And it stands up pretty well.  The theme is almost absent apart from the pretty pictures, it’s bordering on a game of top trumps in that respect, but it’s so simple and fast to set up and batter through a game that it sticks around.  It also allows you to pull off some cool, ridiculous combos that aren’t really balanced at all, but that’s part of the fun.  Like with Forbidden Island and Uncharted, I’d usually prefer to play something heavier come game night, but this is a sweet little filler game – and they have their uses too.  I don’t know if I could strongly recommend this game, it just filled a gap for us.  In all honesty, Marvel Legendary looks more compelling, but this game was another cheapy, and at £20 it was actually a third of the price of Legendary in my FLGS. The set up for Legendary looks like a bit of a nightmare, and that semi coop gameplay seems a bit hokey.  And from the reviews if you play full coop it sounds way too easy.  And at the end of the day I’d take Batman over, well, any Marvel hero…  :whistle:

Games played in 2014 = 0



So that’s it for January, hopefully I’ll do a catch up again soon – I think we’re going to crack on with Doom next.  And finally, here’s the rest of the games we want to get through this year:


Arkham Horror
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game
Eclipse
Invaders
A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game
Warhammer Quest
Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Claustrophobia
Doom: The Boardgame
Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth
Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game
Gears of War: The Board Game
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
Resident Evil Deck Building Game
Rune Age
Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
Star Wars: The Card Game
Thunderstone
Call of Cthulhu: Collectible Card Game
Return of the Heroes
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
War of the Ring (first edition)
World of Warcraft: The Boardgame
Dominion
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Dungeoneer: Vault of the Fiends
Zombies!!!
Space Crusade
Talisman
HeroQuest
Revolver
When Darkness Comes
Lord of the Rings
Gloom of Kilforth: A Fantasy Quest Game (this will obviously get a lot more play than the other games, but I’ll try not to go on with myself about it too much)



And here are the games we haven’t even played yet, which we’ll hopefully get to squeeze in at some point too:

The Ares Project
Constantinopolis
Dark Darker Darkest
Dungeon Lords
Magic Realm
Omen: A Reign of War
Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster






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