Monday, November 21, 2011

First Impressions: Civilization and the Lord of the Rings LCG

This past Saturday was a good day for gamin'.  I got to head to my friendly local game store after class and spend the whole day playing games.  We started off with Civiliza...err, Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, got to try the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game and ended on a high note with Red November.  Now, I've already reviewed Red November and both Civilization and LotR were learning games, so I'm just going to give some impressions and notes rather than any full reviews.

First up was Civilization.  Before I say anything else, I must once again give Fantasy Flight Games kudos for posting all of their rulebooks online.  Being able to skim the rules beforehand (as well as watching Drakkenstrike's excellent components breakdown) took some of the edge off of setting up the game, but we still took out time with the rules until we got used to the turn order.  The components lived up to Fantasy Flight's usual standard - especially the map tiles, which were rich and vibrant, and the market board, which hosted a lot of mechanics/components very efficiently.  I was particularly enamored with the combat system, but I'll save that analysis for the full review.  Overall, Civilization was a blast and I am eagerly looking forward to playing it again.

Now, halfway through Civilization, I noticed a brand new box sitting up on the demo shelf.  I gasped audibly and leapt our of my chair to grab it and peruse it's grim contents.  This was the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game - a game that I've been lustily eyeing for a while now.  It's good.  Very good.  Probably one of the best cooperative experiences I've had from Fantasy Flight.  The cards are stunning and I often found myself totally absorbed in reading the bountiful flavor text and staring wide-eyed at the beautiful portraits on each card.  If you like the idea of forming a fellowship consisting of your favorite characters from the books as well as a few unique additions provided by FFG, then check this game out - and bring a friend.  I'll be reviewing this as soon as I can get my Gollum-like mitts on a copy.  In the meantime, there's a wonderful introductory video series on the FFG page (at the bottom).

Lastly, as the store was closing, we broke out Red November.  For this game, we were joined by a few new recruits who had never served aboard a gnomish submarine before.  Due to time constraints, we ended up rushing a bit and there were a few turns that were dominated by one player or another dictating what someone should do (a classic problem with co-op games), but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves - despite the fact that the sub somehow caught fire and we all died.

Things will be quiet for the next week as I head out of town for Thanksgiving.  I've got a few posts in the works, though, so expect a lot more in the coming weeks.  Have a safe and happy holiday!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Now with 86% more links

Yesterday was a pretty busy day for me, gaming wise.  My after class meet-ups at the friendly local gaming store seem to keep bearing more and more fruit.  This week, I got a chance to play Eminent Domain by Tasty Minstrel Games and Earth Reborn by LudicallyZ-Man Games.  Both were very good and offered something unique.  I'm especially interested in playing more Earth Reborn as that game seems incredibly dense and meaty once you progress to the more difficult scenarios.

After a long day of deckbuilding and dice rolling, I headed home and got to work on rehabbing my Protectorate of Menoth army for the Longest Night event.  My Flameguard are now maxed out with the unit attachment and I grabbed a Vassal of Menoth to bend the filthy powers of the arcane to the Lawgiver's will.  I'm very much looking forward to getting back into Warmachine/Hordes and getting myself one of those Witchfire patches for attending the event.

In other news, my Rogue Trader game is on hiatus for pretty much the rest of the month.  Personal problems among my players and the approach of Thanksgiving have necessitated a recess.  I have no doubt that we'll be able to pick the game up and run with it once our schedules finally clear up, though.  In the meantime, we're planning on using this time to get a few more board games to the table.  This week - Fortune and Glory by Flying Frog Productions!

Also, I've taken the liberty of creating a twitter account specifically for posting my many, many gaming updates.  Check it out - @plus2cents!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game

Last night I sat down to a game of Talisman.  This is becoming an annual affair for me - an itch that I feel the need to scratch once every 10-15 months.  Often considered to be something a classic, Talisman is a strange mix of mechanics that I have no reason to like, but that I still enjoy every once in a while.  But I don't want to spoil my review, so read on, intrepid adventurer and see if the quest for the Crown of Command is right for you...

Components: There's not a lot to say about Talisman's components.  It's Fantasy Flight.  The figures are top notch, the cards are sturdy and the board is absolutely gorgeous.  I'd like to point out the artwork on the board itself.  The board is laid out in fairly standard Ameritrash style (simply square spaces going around the board), but the artwork and layout do wonders in making it feel like a more lush and definitive setting than, say, Monopoloy.

Talisman's board injects a lot of theme and flavor into what is an otherwise very basic design

Gameplay: This is where Talisman suffers the most.  The gameplay is completely random.  Roll based movement means that you can never be sure where you're going to end up.  You do have the ability to move either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the board, but that often ends up just being a choice between landing on a space where something bad will happen or a space where something potentially bad will happen.  Much like Settlers of Catan, there is no meaningful strategy that one can apply to playing Talisman.  You're basically spending the whole game reacting to your opponents moves and your own luck with the dice and encounter card deck.

Rules: For what it is, the rules work very well in Talisman and are as balanced as they can be in a game that is based almost exclusively on chance.  Characters roll dice, decide which space to move to and then are confronted with challenges that largely consist of a random roll to see if they can reap their space's rewards while avoiding it's pitfalls or drawing from the event deck and hoping you pull a shiny new sword instead of a devastating dragon.

Overall: Despite my harsh breakdown of the gameplay & rules, I still like to play Talisman - just not often.  The theme and overarching goal of the game is something you'd expect to see in a strategic, choice-driven fantasy game like Descent or Runebound, but the reality is that need to approach Talisman as a casual, goofy game where you may end up as a toad hopping around avoiding ghosts or a troll decked out in Holy Crosses and Crusading lances with a unicorn mount.  This game will often leave you feeling helpless and without any control over your own destiny in the game, but with so many tactical games that hinge upon a player's actions from turn to turn, Talisman offers the opportunity to just kick back, roll some dice and see what happens.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who reviews the reviewers?

I've been working on my next couple of reviews, but I've also been sifting through my boardgame wishlist on Amazon and trying to slim the damn thing down.  As of right now, I have 50 games listed and I've been desperately searching for reviews, demos and insights on these games to determine where I can trim some fat.  This quest has led me to an excellent series of video reviews by Jeremy Salinas (aka Drakkenstrike).

Jeremy's components breakdowns have become my benchmark for learning more about a given game.  His reviews are unique in that they are concise, well put together and well executed.  Do yourself a favor and give his YouTube channel a look - and don't waste your time trying to find a better video. Trust me.  You'll get lost in a jungle of stumbling words, confusing rules explanations and monstrous neckbeards.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Super Dungeon Explore - Preview

I'm still working on how I'm going to format entries that aren't reviews (and how I'm going to format reviews that aren't just copy/pastes from, but for now let me go ahead and share this link to the D6 Generation Facebook page that shows off all the components of Super Dungeon Explore by Soda Pop Miniatures.

Ok, yeah.  That was basically an excuse to cram as many links as possible in as short a post possible, but the game looks really damn good.  I'm looking forward to the possibility of a D6G review and/or some video reviews on Board Game Geek.