At least 3 of the games here are new to me or new to the group, so this is a wall-of-text warning! If you already know a game just skip to the last 2-3 paragraphs for how the game went =)
This last Saturday was international tabletop day. On this day, initiated by Geek & Sundry, gamers & non-gamers alike are invited to lay down whatever else they had to do, and instead play, discover and introduce board gamers at public events around the world. The organiser, Dave, of the weekly board games group I attend was able to set up the normal room we have on Wednesday evenings for the whole of Saturday for an event there, where we could go to spend far longer than usual on gaming and could invite friends who might not be able to make the usual time. There’s no way I’d turn down the opportunity, so I went along, bringing my lovely girlfriend Grace and later going and fetching my friend Chris (Who shall henceforth be referred to as Handy due to the name clash!) to join the other awesome people at the group for a whole day of games.
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
On arrival with my slightly-more-than-I-should-have-bought games I was greeted with a wonderful sight of the whole room being full of people playing games, which I’m pretty sure is more than I’ve seen before at the group. Most were in for longer games (As we can’t usually do so easily on Wednesdays) but one pair were in a near-to-end game of Glen-More, so we grabbed drinks and waited the few minutes for them to finish before suggesting and jumping into our first game of the day – Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.In Legendary, players are pitted against a Mastermind/Scheme combination that is chosen before each play. The objective of the players (usually) is to build up enough fighting power to defeat the mastermind 4 times, before either the hero deck or villain deck run out (considered a draw) or before the ‘Evil Wins’ text on the Scheme card is fulfilled. Players in the game are playing in a sort of battlefield control position as agents of shield, and will be picking up hero cards throughout the game to have them lend their aid to the battle. When the game starts, players have a number of weak Shield Agents & Troopers, and will be using ‘Recruit Points’ generated by this to recruit heroes from the Headquarters area into their decks to gradually build in power over the game. As well as the recruit points (Which is 1/agent) there is also ‘Fight’, (1/trooper) that can be used to attack villains that’re attacking the city and, ultimately, the mastermind himself.
Each turn, the active player draws a villain card from the villain deck and places it in the rightmost space of the city, moving any villains or henchman already there to the left to make space. If any are pushed off the end of the 5-card track, they ‘escape’ and a card is removed from the HQ, reducing the time the heroes have to gain victory. Villains have 3 things that take effect at various times, ‘Ambush’, ‘Fight’ and ‘Escape’, with the former happening right as the card is drawn, Fight happening when a player fights them, and escape happening if they go off the end of the track in addition to the loss of a hero card. There are 3 other card types in the villain deck, Scheme Twists (Which vary in effect based on the scheme in play), Master Strikes (A special effect unique to the mastermind in play) and Bystanders, hapless onlookers who get carried off by villains unless players rescue them.
Next in their turn, a player will play cards (She/He will have 6, which are drawn at the end of each turn after discarding current turns cards) in the order they wish. For the basic cards like troopers & agents, the order doesn’t matter, but the various heroes in the game have effects that are powered only by other cards already played, so it becomes important to work out the optimal way to play (For example there’s a gambit card that lets you reveal the top of your deck and drawn it if its an x-men hero – If you first use another gambit card ‘Stack the Deck’ you can deliberatey put an x-men hero on top for a successful use of the ability). Then, in any order, players can spend their recruit and fight points to gain heroes/fight villains in the city (You can recruit/fight as many things as you wish if you have enough fight/recruit to do so). At the end of their turn, a player discards any cards still in their hand and that they’ve played, then draws a new hand of 6 cards.
Players keep this up until they’ve fought the mastermind 4 times or lost the game due to the evil wins condition (You can always attack the mastermind if you have enough fight on your turn). Presuming they managed to do the former, the game is over and points are added up (Or possible the ‘Final Showdown’ variant occurs, where players duke it out for a few extra points off the mastermind). The points you get are to determine an individual victory, and are picked up by fighting the villains and mastermind – each player maintains their own victory pile of bad guys they’ve personally defeated (And bystanders they’ve saved), making this a semi-cooperative game as players must work together to win, but ultimiately want to nab more points for themselves if possible.
In our game, we were fighting against Dr Doom, against a scheme taken from my custom-schemes deck, which are mostly from boardgamegeek, which has a loss condition of 15 Bystanders KO’d and has twists KO’ing Bystanders directly off the top the deck (+ any in the city). We played reasonably friendly (Generally my preference ^^) and went for unique decks rather than competing for any in particular. The heroes in play were Electra, Punisher, Professor-X, Wolverine & er, one other. I mostly went for Professor-X, which I made use of to get rid of the more competitive punisher cards from the HQ as well as for fighing bad guys, Grace had a Wolverine Focus, and Rachael/Lee mostly went for the other heroes, although we all dabbled outside our core hero when good cards came up.
We were able to defeat the mastermind after 4 twists had come up (The 5th would have KO’d enough Bystanders to end the game). Everyone had managed to take out at least a few enemies over the game and contributed towards out victory, but as is the nature of semi-coops there were still points to be determined. Near the end of the game I’d had a couple of awesome combo’s in taking out a lot of enemies at once as well as the mastermind a couple of times, but Grace did well throughout the whole game and took victory. We played with final showdown rules, and I think it was Lee that just about won that for the final mastermind card for a few points, although it was not enough to catch him up at this stage. I enjoy this game a lot, with it competing with Smash Up for most played for me, and I love having a deck of custom schemes that’s 2-3 times the amount I have of official ones. On the them of L*y: *, we next moved onto Legacy: Gears of Time!
Legacy: Gears of Time
I think I’ve talked about this time-turning game before, so I’ll try to keep this short! In Legacy: Gears of Time, players are ‘antiquitects’, making use of a time-machine artifact to travel through time and ensure the Legacy of our race remains intact with the greatest of inventions. Over the course of 4 rounds, players travel back through time, play technologies, influence technologies and play ‘fate’ card special abilities to vie for points and ultimate prove themselves the greatest timelord (Um…well that’s how I’m choosing to see it ^^).
Each round is played over 4 turns. During the round players may only travel backwards through time, and due to limitations of how many technologies can be invented in each age, players may find themselves stuck too far back to make the impact they need. This creates an interesting headache-inducing puzzle of how to make sure that the Internet you just tried to introduce in recent history actually has electricity and computers to be successful. Placing technologies requires you to discard cards, so to get that high-scoring Flight card played you may have to sacrifice other useful technologies till a later time, making it harder still to ensure it happens.
At the end of each round is a scoring phase. First, any non-influenced or duplicate technology cards are removed. Next, points are calculated. Each card is checked and points are given to the player who influenced it the most, but also to the players who have the most influence over it’s prerequisite technologies – For example Red controls Space Flight & it’s successful, so she scores 12 points, blue created Flight, so he gets 6 points for space flight too, in addition to the points that flight gives already. The result is that despite bigger, better technologies being worth huge chunks of points, controlling the more simple things is important for the extra points gained when they’re used for other things! (Basic tools for example is worth just 1 point, but there’s 3-4 things that require basic tools and each give it 1 more point). Thirdly influence cubes are removed from each technology – Successful technologies return the influence to players ‘influence pools’, while failed ones return to the supply (So having lots of successful ones helps you influence things more in later rounds).
Confused yet? Well you probably should be, because this game gets beautifully complex while maintaining a fairly simple level of mechanics (If you want railroads to happen, you need to create a combustion engine, if you want a combustion engine, you need the wheel and fire) which are fairly intuitive in their tech tree’s. When you add in that there’s a lot of player interaction in the game through being able to infleuence other players technologies and go back before them to invent them earlier (Making theirs obselete) you have one heck of an awesome game.
In our game, I started with Space flight in hand, as well as a few other cards of lower levels to complete. I would probably have gone for the more basic cards first, but after another player put down Flight as their first technology, I jumped at the chance to put a high-scoring card down and tied myself to trying to make sure everything needed for Space Flight would happen throughout the game. Grace got Genetics fairly early in the game also, while Lee & Rachael had a bigger variety of things to go for, as well as filling in the infrastructure for our high scorers which net them plenty of influence for later in the game. The first 2 rounds went by very friendly, and we got the higher technologies working very quickly with everyone having just the right cards to make it happen. I got out into the lead a bit along with Rachael thanks to Space Flight working from early in the game, although it was giving Lee as many points as it was to me ^^. When the 3rd/4 rounds hit, things got tense, as we could no longer just help each other out due to the constraints of what we had left to invent. I invented another high-up technology, the internet, with Rachael discovering an analytical engine that let it work. A number of other technologies changed hands but for the most part everything stayed intact with the big technologies still working. Thanks to multiple counts of technologies being nicked from under me I went into the last round with only 5 cubes to the 7-9 of the others.
In the 4th round, a lot of under-handed control-switching went on! Grace stole Space Flight from me (That I couldn’t really do anything about as I had so few cubes), leading me to put 1 influence cube on her Genetics and use a fate card that made a tech I influenced worth 0, revenge!
This was the ‘new game to me’ of the day, so I’m glad to have been able to try something a little different. San Marco is an area control game with players trying to get the most (aristocrats?) down onto the various islands for scoring. Each turn, half of the players draw 5 (action?) cards and 3 limit cards, then split that hand up before offering it to the other half of the players. As the other player gets first choice, you need to find a balance so that you get what you want. Within each round everyone keeps going until someone hits their limit (10), after which all other players get one addition turn before moving the round marker onwards.
Cards have a variety of actions. First is to just place a cube in the shown territory, in order to vie for majority. Second switches out one opponents in any territory for one of your own. Third is to build bridges, which can hop a cube to another island when placed (Making the first cards slightly stronger as you get choices), 4th is an expulsion card, so you can remove other players cube from a selected territoy (2-5 removed, decided by a dice). Finally there’s the ‘Doge’ (Much wow), when you get this card you can move the Doge piece across any number of bridges and then score him based on who has the most/second-most cubes on the island he ends up on. You have to pay points to use other players bridges, or if he’s on an island with no bridges you can just pay 2 points to move him anywhere.
For our game, we had Mike strike out an early lead on points, while Grace kept pace not much behind and me & Handy lagged way back. Despite not getting a scoring card until the last round, I was ahead of Handy for the most part just from other players scoring Islands with my cubes on in second place. As we were quite far behind, myself & Handy generally did a lot to mess with grace & even moreso with Mike, which catapulted Handy up to near Mikes score. Naturally I started plotting with Grace after as the 2 players at the back, which gave her the chance to push back again. When the game came to end-game scoring (All islands are scored instead of just the ones the doge moves too) I was able to net a ton of points as my poor performance over the rest of the game had led to my having more cubes left on the board than anyone else. Myself & Grace ended up on a tie for first, which resolved to Grace being the victor with control of San Marco.
It was quite fun, but I’m not sure how I feel about how strong the king-making aspects of the game are. It was pretty cool to be able to manipulate how well the other players were doing despite being far behind earlier on, but it also resulted in a lot of sling-shotting on the scoring rather than much consistency. Still, I think this would be a great game for introducing new players to games!
As a member of the resistance, it’s up to you to perform missions against the evil government and take them down. Between 4 & 9 others will join you to aid you in those missions, but a number of them have loyalties elsewhere!
As a spy, you and your cadre of traitorous kin have infiltrated the resistance and have been assigned to sabotage their raids. Unlike the resistance, you know exactly who’s on your team and you must work with them to keep the resistance in the dark to succeed at your task!
Anywho, this is a bluffing and deception game of 5-10 players and 2 teams. I struggled for a while on how to talk up how this game goes which is why I went outside the walls of text norml for those lines above ^^. There are 5 missions, each with a different #players requirement, and the first team to get 3 missions go their way are the victors. Each turn one player is denoted the teams ‘leader’, and must find a team to go on a mission with you (Of course you could avoid picking yourself, but why wouldn’t you if you’re a good guy..) to hopefully get a success on the mission track for your team. Once you’ve made your selection, all players vote on if they think it should go ahead, if equal or majority reject, the mission doesn’t go ahead and the leader token is passed around for the next player to build a team to do it instead. If 5 rejects happen in a row then the bad guys automatically win, so a team has to be accepted eventually.
If a majority vote for a mission to go ahead however, then the players in that mission get given a pair of cards – a success and a fail – and choose one to put in for the mission. The cards going in are shuffled (And so are the others to obscure who put in what) and then revealed. If even a single failure card makes it into the mission, then the spies win that round, otherwise the resistance are successful. The mission marker is then moved onto the next and the attempts track is reset to 0 ready for the next mission. As mentioned above, as soon as one team gets to 3 missions their way they win! The great bit about this game then is the deception and bluffing each person much manage to ensure victory for their team. The resistance need to try and prove themselves that way so that they’re accepted on missions, while the bad guys want to do the same, while trying to redirect distrust onto the innocent. A very simple game suddenly becomes hugely complex and interesting!
The unfortunate bit about the game being deeply tied into the discussion it invokes is that it’s really hard to talk about it after the fact! In our game, Myself, Suzy, Mike, Handy, Grace & Mark, all playing resistance members of course (Despite their being 2 spies, what) worked to complete the missions. The spies did well, with 1 being in the first round and letting it pass, and both being in the 2nd round and letting it pass threw a huge spanner in the works as it put them in good stead. The 3rd or 4th also had Suzy and failed, so I was somewhat suspicious of her, but I was totally oblivious to Mikes treachureus nature throughout! After those first 2 passes 3 missions in a row failed with us trusting the pair of them far too much, well done spies!
Resistance vs Resistance Avalon
A couple of people have mentioned not being sure what the different is between these 2 games. Well, for the standard game as we played on Saturday, nothing but the theme, the difference comes in with what things can be added to throw various spanners in the works! In resistance, there are a set of ‘Plot’ Cards (I haven’t played with these yet so not 100% on the following), each time a mission is to be made, the leader of that mission draws one plot card and gives it to a player of their choice. Each plot card has a special effect, such as looking at another players allegiance, or forcing them to play their mission cards face up. The effect of this be that individuals get better information over the game, but the spies have more opportunities for deception (People may trust them more as they know they succeeded a mission or two, but they can still fail the next for example!). I really want to try out a game using these to really get a feel for the effect it has on the game.
In Avalon, you instead get ‘roles’. These are similar in that individual players get abilities, but they’re instead tied to the allegiance card players receieve at the start of the game. The main two are Merlin & the Assassin. Merlin is a good guy, but knows who all the bad guys are, and the Assassin is a bad guy that, if he/she can guess who Merlin is at the end of the game can win the game for the bad guys despite what else has happened. This has a huge impact on the game, as the bad guys get a big focus on trying to work out Merlin, Merlin has to do his best to stay hidden while also pushing for good teams for missions, and the other good guys need to try and trick the bad guys that they are in fact the real Merlin players! Those 2 are used pretty much every game, but there’s more such as Percivil (Good, knows who Merlin is), Mordred (Bad guy, hidden from Merlin), Oberon (Bad, knows noone) and Morgana (Bad, Reveals to percivil as Merlin). I think Avalon has the better system, but picked up resistance as I’ve not tried it and Coup is in the same universe ^^.
In Smash Up, players choose 2 factions from a variety of uniquely themed possibilities, then ‘Smash them up’, i.e. shuffle them together to make their deck of cards to play with. In our game on Tabletop Day, Grace had Robot Pirates, Handy had Trickster Plants, I had Steampunk Elder Things & Mike had Alien Zombies to vie for superiority.
The aim is Smash Up is to have the most points, with the end of the game being triggered when one player hits 15 points. Points are gained by placing minions out on various ‘base’ cards that are drawn at random and laid on the table. Each minion has a power rating, and when the power of all minions on a base reaches or exceeds that bases ‘breakpoint’, it will score, giving points to 1st/2nd/3rd more powerful contributor. In addition, each base has a special effect that comes into play, such as ‘Each time you play a minion here, you may play another minion of power 2 or less’, or ‘After this base scores, return the highest power minion for each player to the bottom of its’ owners deck’.
Each turn, a player may play 1 minion and 1 action from their hand in any order. Most cards have instantaneous effects, but some also have ongoing, (Permanently doing something) talent (May use this once on each of your turns) or special abilities (At some specific time, usually ‘Before a base is scored’ or ‘After a base is scored’. Once they’re done with their turn, bases are checked for breaking, with any that have power at their breakpoint triggering to capture (At this point, players can play ‘before this base is scored’ cards – even if this makes the base go under the breakpoint, it will still score now). Scores are then distributed to the players with the most power, in the case of a tie, both players score the higher amount of points.
Some factions (Cthulhu ones) have another mechanic called ‘madness’. Some cards in these decks cause players to draw madness cards into their hand. Each madness card is identical, with the ability ‘Draw 2 cards or return this card to the madness deck’, and are worth -1VP at the end of the game (So even though you ended the game by getting to 15, you might actually have less than that when checking scores), as a result, it’s good to try and spend actions to get rid of madness cards if at all possible – Though the draw 2 cards ability might also be enticing.
As far as our game goes, I’m not sure what to bring up as it’s quite a tactical game with little long terms strategy (Which is fine for a 30-60 minute game ^^). I did very poorly, as I was unable to get enough minions out onto the field to get many points – I did manage to use my Elder Thing twice (10 power minion, unaffected by other players cards), but doing so requires destroying 2 of my other minions which led to the ‘nothing much out there’ situation ^^. I was also only able to get my powerful ‘Everyone else draws 2 madness cards’ near the end of the game so didn’t get much opportunity to spam it (Which I could have done with steampunk). The finally nail in the coffin is that the other players were being frustratingly ‘friendly’ in going for different bases more than competing – Some of my minions have effects such as ‘Each other player at this base draws a madness card’, which is powerful…If I can hit more than one person at a time.
The other players fared somewhat better, with mike picking up on how to effectively use the aliens to farm VP quickly (Place invader for instant VP, retrieve to hand, rinse-repeat), which is strong in that noone can stop you from doing it (Particularly with Zombies where you can retrieve from discard even if it’s killed) – I think his only mistake here was in retrieving it the same turn as placing it, as leaving it out to be killed would actually have been beneficial as Zombies benefit from minions in the discard pile. Handy did reasonably well and I think was roughly on par with Mike for points, while Grace raced into the lead as the ‘friendly’ nature I mentioned of little competition for bases also meant Grace build up powerful robot combo’s over multiple turns, instead of needing to find ways to do it in one. Grace took home a tidy victory by the end of the game.
Among The Stars
Among the Stars is an excellent Card-Drafting game, with mechanics akin to 7-Wonders in choosing cards, but in my opinion going far above-and-beyond with variable setups, variety among cards, and lack of silly icons to represent everything. In this game players are building Space Stations, which they build off of their Main-Reactor that they start with, to vie for the most points and the best station. Each player in the game gets a race that provides some special ability over the course of play and while they have small impact, can help to give some direction in how to build.
Each turn in Among the Stars has players choosing a card from their hand, building it (Or discarding for an action), then passing the rest of their cards onto the next player (Clockwise first year, Anticlockwise second, etc). To build a card, the cost in the top right is paid (Generally just credits, but sometimes power also) is paid to the supply, and the card is placed adjacent to any existing location in their station. Each card has an ability, described on the card, that provides either an instanenous bonus (white background) or delayed bonus (yellow background) as well as a direct point value (Delayed bonuses are calculated at the end of the game). Alternatively they can discard for an action, which is either take 3 coins, or build a power reactor (A cost of 1 coin location that provides 2 power). I should also mention that power is an area-limited resource, in that it can only pass 2 distance by adjacency, so to build power-hungry locations on the edge of a station first requires some power reactors built in the right positions.
Each year, players take 10 credits and 6 new cards from the deck. All 6 cards are used over the year either to build or for actions, which means stations get quite large and complex, making for an interesting puzzle in making best use of the abilities on the cards used. The 10 credits each year are quite tight, so it’s likely played will need to discard for coins a few times in a game if they want to be able to build the higher scoring locations in the game.
In addition to the above are a few extra elements to add in when players know what they’re doing. First is objectives (Which can be added first game really, but we had a high player-count and a time-limit on Saturday ^^), a few of these are drawn at the start of the game and placed face-up in the middle of the table – At the end of the game, these are checked and given to the player that fulfilled the conditions on each (Such as most military locations, or least power reactors). Next is conflict cards, which I still haven’t played with despite playing the game an absolute ton – These provide additional discard-actions that introduce higher levels of player interaction in the game, with the set in the base game letting you take one to compare a specific location type in your station to another players and stealing points off them accordingly (I don’t think they’re hard to use, I just haven’t felt a need for super-heavy player interaction, would be nice to try it though!).
Also not used on Saturday is additions from the Ambassadors expansion. This expansion introduces ‘ambassador’ cards, which also introduce an escalation style akin to 7 wonders ages where ‘1st phase’ cards are used in years 1/2 and ‘2nd phase’ cards in 3/4, with the latter being more tilted towards point scoring and the former towards building an engine (Note that even with the standard cards, the game escalates anyway as the configuration of each players station opens up possibilities for each card built). 3 ambassadors are made available at all times to players, and when discarding for an action a player can ‘buy’ one of the ambassadors, inviting them to their station. To do so they place one of 5 ‘bureau’ cards in their station and then keep the ambassador card in front of them to use over the game (The bureaus are no-effect locations in each of the 5 colours/types, which can be good to complete delayed abilities such as ‘build a 2×2 of purple/recreational locations’). Many ambassadors have player-interaction aspects, and are an awesome addition that I’ve played with a few times and look forward to introducing more frequently as I get more players into knowing the game. (There are also new locations and conflict sets with ambassadors, the former of which I just use in every game for variety).
Our game on Saturday was the last of the evening, with Myself, Grace, Handy, Ian & XYZ(Mark?) playing. After a messy start thanks to the cards not being quite stored properly, I got the game set up (With help for shuffling/sorting ^^) and ready for the 5 player game. One of my favourite parts of Among the Stars is seeing the different configurations people come up with, My station was pretty haphazard, partly thanks to my use of a section seal where I had to split my station in two to most effectively score points, and partly due to tireness ^^. Ians on the other hand was very tight, and revolved around a 4×4 square he’d built for his 2 racetrack locations, with the other 3 being other totally different shapes. Through the game everyone was fairly even (Although Handy dropped back quite far at one point, seemingly to do nothing but get piles and piles of credits, likely as his race let him score 1 point per 2 at the end of stead of 1 point per 3), with everyone having a neat mix of delayed vs immediate abilities (Objectives tend to mix that up more ^^). In the end, Ian struck out into the lead, with myself in second and the others in er..positions that you can see on Dave’s blog ;).
I had an absolutely fantastic day, and I look forward to opportunities to do the same again in times to come. Many thanks go to everyone involved, organizers and the rest of you there to play alike! In fact after playing games all day, myself, Handy & Grace went back to mine and played another game, also getting my housemate Ken involved!
Yes, that’s right, we played a drinking game, a gloriously ridiculous and punishing one at that! DrunkQuest is a game that takes very obvious inspiration from Munchkin, but presents it in a format that’s considerably more fun, and that works great for well, consuming large quantities of drink. The game comes with oversized cards that make for each reading, with there being 3 different types – Player cards, Treasure cards & Monster cards.
At the start of each game, each player takes from the player deck a random hero and either a ship to captain or realm to command. Their hero has a +/- ability that they can use as actions in the game to perform a unique effect, and the ship/realm have an ongoing ability of some kind (The ships are slightly more complex, as you have to ‘load’ them with treasures to active the ability, with you also being able to ‘fire’ the cannons with to give people drinks). Each player then draws 5 treasure cards and a first player is chosen, and the game begins.
Each round, a monster is drawn for the active player. A monster will have some effect and a ‘drink’ value required to defeat it. All players then get a chance to modify that value by playing actions – The active player gets an action, then each other player in turn gets an action, and finally the active player gets one more action before the ‘fight’ commences and well…someone drinks copious amounts of alcohol. Also, at any time players can play ‘instant’ cards, such as ‘copper – choose someone to take a drink’, ‘gold – everyone takes 3 drinks’ or other more interesting effects.
It was the second time I’ve played it on Saturday (The first being on my Birthday at the end of last year), and we had an absolutely excellent time with it! Throughout the game, asides from having many, many beers, we had a number of status effects going around (Which we didn’t play with the first time as they were bonus material from the kickstarter that I wasn’t sure about). Highlights being a ‘compliment’ effect that made my housemate compliment how great someone is every time they beat a monster, ‘vampirism’ that I played on him as soon as he cleaned the compliment effec, making him talk like a vampire to avoid drinks, a cat card that requires Handy to meow before and after every sentence and a number of others besides, on top of the standard modify-drinks and fight monsters mechanics. I wasn’t able to do particularly well over the game, only getting to level 3 (6 wins) while the others were on level 5 for a good amount of time before Handy won, but I guess that probably means I had less to drink ^^. Love it!