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  • Review : DC Deckbuilding game Crisis 2

    Review : DC Deckbuilding game Crisis 2

    What’s better than teaming up as the Justice League and getting to beat in the faces of some of the DC universe’s mainstay villains? Doing it in a Green Lantern centric expansion! I must say that I am not a huge superhero fan, but if there’s one set of characters that I can get behind it has got to be the Lanterns. Just a few weeks ago Cryptozoic Entertainment released yet another installment in their DC Deckbuilder series, Crisis Expansion #2. For those unfamiliar with it, the core game resembles that of many other deckbuilders (like Dominion) where you start with a small set of cards and over the course of the game add or remove additional cards to your pile. With the Crisis expansion they take what would normally be a pretty competitive game and turn it on its head so that you and your friends can work as a team to overcome various challenges. Now that we’ve managed to play a few sessions of this new release we figured that I ought to write a quick review.

    The set up was incredibly simple, if you’re already familiar with the base-game there are only a few more short steps to take. So far we’ve been able to play through it twice and for the purposes of this review I’m mostly using that second play through. Courtney wanted to play as one of her favorite characters, Black Canary, and I opted to weild the blue ring of hope as none other than Saint Walker. I should also mention that we opted to ramp up the difficulty a little bit (which turned out to be A LOT) by adding what I’ll call the “Immortal Vandal Savage variant.” This variant meant that our strength would grow more slowly than usual while the game itself continued to become more and more challenging.

    The game started off pretty slowly. As Saint Walker I was working to collect Hero & Superpower cards; meanwhile, Black Canary enabled Courtney to break the rules slightly and start employing the lowly villains which she had worked to defeat. It wasn’t until about halfway through the game that everything came crashing to a halt and we suddenly realized how much harder the added challenge from this variant really was. Over the course of one turn I had well over half of my deck destroyed leaving 14 cards remaining, eight of which were weaknesses (useless cards that just slow you down). Not only that but I had to give up Saint Walker and have him replaced by a random superhero, Shazam! who turned out to be nearly useless for the rest of the game. I had never felt so hopeless while playing a game. Luckily though, Black Canary was able to carry my dead weight and we just barely scraped by with a victory… no really it was incredibly close.

    During our very first playthrough of the game we felt like it was a little on the easy side, which is why we decided to use some of the added difficulty options the second go around. With that boost I’ve gotta say this game was incredibly challenging which was right up my alley but you definitely gotta know what you’re getting yourself into. We tend to play quite a variety of co-op game somewhat often so I am not entirely sure how often we’ll be able to play this particular one. The biggest highlight for me so far are the slew of new playable superheros which this adds. When you decide to play competitively, nearly all of the new cards can also be used. One of the DC deckbuilder base games is required in order to be able to play with this second Crisis Pack and I’d recommend using the Heroes United deck as it ties in well with the theme. I’m really looking forward to playing the base game with these new cards added in and I’m sure Courtney is as well, as she just so happens to claim that it is her favorite game we own.

  • Review : AquaSphere

    Review : AquaSphere

    AquaSphere is a game of researchers doing science in their deep sea lab by programming robots to carry out tasks. That probably sounds like a lot, which is part of AquaSphere’s “thing,” the game seems pretty complex but is actually surprisingly easy to grasp once you figure it out. The first thing you’ll notice about the game is that the board is really colorful and seems pretty intricate. What is important to know though is that the board is broken down into six almost identical sections and once you understand how one of these sections works you will be able to understand them all.

    Most games generally require you to plan ahead and AquaSphere is no exception. What makes the game stand out though is that it kind of points you in the right direction and tells you what to expect in a very subtle way. Players need to program a robot ahead of time and specialize it for one of seven particular tasks including: gathering octopods, expanding your lab or acquiring a research card, etc. It takes place in a series of four rounds, the first usually being the longest as everyone learns the game, and players are told ahead of time what will be added to the board in the following round. Many parts of the initial setup are partially randomized in a way that you will get a slightly different experience each time, which is nice if you’re playing with a bunch of experienced gamers because this will help even the playing field somewhat.

    Recommended for: People who’ve already played a worker placement game like Lords of Waterdeep or Agricola. While they are very different from AquaSphere, understanding those types of mechanics will go towards laying the foundation to understanding and appreciating what this great game has to offer.

    What Drew likes most about the game: The game works really well in some very subtle ways, once the game starts going it plays very smoothly and quickly. The scoring track puts some hurdles in your way which require players to diversify their actions. Being able to build up your laboratory and specialize it how you like is extremely cool and fits the modular feel of the game perfectly. Finally, there are a number of goals to work towards all of which reward you if you are able to reach them.

    Bonus points for: Modular setup & gameplay… ALWAYS bonus points for modular games!

  • Review : Landed

    Review : Landed

    You, yes you are the head of a terraforming corporation as humanity widens its sprawl across the known universe! Who needs to find another Earth when you can set up shop and just make one wherever you want? However, you’re not the only one with this bright idea, there are other corporations (players) out there whom you will have to compete with for terraforming contracts!

    That is Landed in a nutshell and Argyle games will be launching a Kickstarter to help publish the game in the next month or so! It is a tile laying game and I ought to say I like tile games quite a bit, Carcassone was one of the first games Courtney and I ever played and on most days Betrayal at House on the Hill is one of my all time favorite games.

    So how does Landed distinguish itself? Well the first thing that players will likely notice is that the tiles are hexs rather than the traditional squares you see in most tile games, which means there will be more permutations in how you might arrange them on the table. Next up, each player will have a hand of contracts which if completed will score you points. They all require you to connect tiles all of a certain color, the more in your set the more you will be rewarded. However, since you don’t know what contracts your opponents are holding you might be setting them up to steal all of your glory. Finally, some tiles have a special icon on them which can grant you a bonus “Wonder” card, a one time use ability that will let you do something unique. One of my favorite parts of the game is that these Wonder cards are limited so that the game encourages you to play aggressively early on in the game.

    Bonus points for: being a compact game that still packs a big punch, being very easy to teach & being published by a Chicago local!

  • Review : Vault Wars

    Review : Vault Wars

    Don’t tell anyone else this, but I’m a sucker for trashy reality television & there was definitely a point a few years back where I wound up binge watching Storage Wars. Maybe it was because I had been working at a record store at the time and always found it hilarious that on the show they would claim that obviously worthless junk actually had some sort of value. There was no way that those records weren’t moldy!

    Vault Wars by Floodgate Games was one of my favorite games of last year and it captures the haggling, auctioning and guessing in the television show so well. In Vault Wars the players act as novice adventurers who need some loot in order to jump start their career. Coincidentally there are a bunch of vaults whose owners have gone delinquent on their payments. Maybe the past owners were eaten by a dragon or maybe they just settled down and gave up on the life of peril and intrigue. Their vaults of treasure are about to be auctioned off and that’s where you come in!

    The vaults each contain various numbers of items, represented by a deck of cards, which range from the completely worthless “Junk” to invaluable gems or armor. The contents of each individual vault go up for auction and players need to pay storage fees between rounds on anything they decide to keep. What makes Vault Wars great is that each vault has its own special rules and usually some players will have more information about what might be inside than others.

    The auctioning and bidding mechanisms fit perfectly with the theme of the game. Additionally it is extremely easy to teach and at this point I practically have it down to a science when it comes to introducing it to new players. The game plays with 3-5 players but I feel like it really shines when played with 4.  Much of the fun comes down to figuring out who might know more about the contents and whether they’re trying to bluff that the vault is valuable or not. Because of this, typically more experienced players will have an advantage over those who’ve never played but it isn’t to the point where it takes away from the game. So far I’ve had this game work for just about any audience and I highly recommend checking it out!

    Bonus points for: Having a magnetic clasp on its box!

  • Review : Schrodinger's Cats

    Review : Schrodinger's Cats

    Science and cats, what could go wrong!?!

    Unfortunately in this world we live in it might not always be convenient to play a five hour game of Arkham Horror. Whether you’re looking for something to play in between other games, while you’re waiting for more to arrive or even just something to rope your non-gamer friends into it is nice to have a few quick play games handy. That’s where this week’s game profile comes in, Schrodinger’s Cats (Kickstarted in 2015 by 9th Level Games)  is a fast-paced deduction game that anyone can enjoy.

    Thematics

    Erwin Schrodinger was an extremely accomplished noble prize winning physicist who among many other things has a thought experiment attributed to his name. Schrodinger’s cat (the thought experiment) involves a cat that is trapped inside of a closed box which also contains a vial of poison. At some arbitrary point in time the vial will break and poison the cat, killing it. However, as outside  observers we have no idea whether the cat is alive or dead unless we open the box. The thought experiment claims that the cat is simultaneously both alive and dead up until the moment the box is opened.

    Surely my understanding of quantum physics is severely lacking and I have in some way butchered the works of Mr. Schrodinger. Luckily Schrodinger’s Cats (the game) puts me firmly on comfortable ground. The players are cat-physicists performing experiments, guessing and bluffing what the contents of various boxes may be.

    Gameplay

    Schrodinger’s Cats bears many similarity to pub games like Liar’s Dice or Skulls & Roses. Each player secretly has a number of cards which can be either Dead Cats, Alive Cats, Empty Boxes or The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (wild card). Additionally each player receives a cat physicist card that will give them a unique one time use ability. Players take turns one-upping each other hypothesizing about the distribution of cards at the table until at some point someone is called out on their bluff and the truth is revealed.

    What sets Schrodinger’s Cats apart is that players are able to optionally reveal some of their cards in order to lend credibility to their claims. By doing so they are also given the opportunity to exchange some of their remaining cards with the ones still in the deck. This creates an interesting twist to a pretty classic style of game.

    Final Thoughts

    Schrodinger’s Cats aims to keep itself simple while remaining fun and it definitely accomplishes this well. The art keeps the game very approachable and I’ve gotta say that the theme is pretty darn clever! That said, without adding any variant rules, the game does involve a layer of player elimination. One player will always be eliminated fairly early on and must wait while the game continues. Luckily as players are eliminated the game will accelerate towards its conclusion. Additionally the game lends itself well to coming up with house rules and some of the player elimination issues can be alleviated in fairly interesting ways. Despite the player elimination element the game isn’t very cutthroat so it is very easy to play another quick round after the first has ended.

    We have definitely enjoyed playing Schrodinger’s Cats and if it sounds interesting to you I highly recommend picking it up. The game works perfectly as a small box game and lends itself well to just about any social setting.

    #of players: 2-6 (best with 4 or 5)
    playtime: ~20 minutes
    Bonus points for:
    Clever cat-physicist names… Albert Felinestein would like to have a word with you!