Looking for a card game where you get to judge cartoon characters? Looking for something quick and easy to set up and play? Want a game with lots of unique looking characters, random questions to ask about them and to be co-operative? Well, I think you’ve just described Unusual Suspects; a game where you see a bunch of suspects and ask a witness a bunch of random questions, from if the suspect is interested in politics, to if they have a record player. Sound strange? Well the clue was in todays title!
Harbour is a worker placement and resource management game, where you play an entrepreneur who has been invited by Dockmaster Schlibble and Constable O’Brady to set up business in their bustling town. You set up your warehouse and take a hard look at how the market is doing before making your first trades. Designed by Scott Almes and published by Tasty Minstrel Games it was first released back in 2015.
Great Scott is a drafting game of invention from Sinister Fish. While at UKGE this year I had the opportunity to secure a copy of Great Scott. Ostensibly I was there to buy for someone else, but at their recommendation I ended up taking a copy home too. I had never before pondered the need for a Diabolical Donkey Destroying Banana Bender, but I have come to an all new appreciation for the device, and here’s why.
Each invention is put together with cards, three concepts and two assets laid out in a particular order to create a coherent and descriptive name, effectively boiling down to a simple formula:
Adjective – noun – verb – noun – noun
Each section is it’s own deck, players take two of each, and commence building by drawing card from a deck, taking one, and passing their hand to the next player. You begin fairly free form, but as the cards are passed around you find yourselves with fewer and fewer gaps to fill, and the pattern you’ve tried to create may suddenly be completed or broken depending on which stack you draw from. Everyone then pitches their idea, describing how it works and what purpose it serves. Everyone picks a favourite and a second favourite, and the next round begins.
Points are accrued from scores on the cards, matching pairs or groups, the commendations of others for a fantastic pitch, and alliteration. So while you may score fewer points by building a Colossal Cactus Burning Bee Booster than an Alarming Albatross Attracting Ape Automaton you may still recover some ground by describing the method by which your huge device might hold back the bee extinction by immolating cacti, compared to the guy who’s mechanical gorilla has led to an albatross infestation.
I love draft games as a format, it’s been a while since I did a Magic: the Gathering draft, but I still love a round or two of 7 Wonders every couple of months. Drafts tend to leave you completely oblivious to begin with, and madly desperate towards the end, so adding the draw step gives Great Scott a little bit more freedom to build an invention you can be proud of, but doesn’t give you sufficient support to make the game too easy.
It’s a sign of a good game that round by round players end up with very similar points, and by the end of Great Scott the point difference between first and last place is quite narrow. There’s a good balance of random and tactical play, and it always leaves you with an invention that is sheer chaos to try and pitch to the crowd. However, it’s this mechanic that does cause a few issues.
For those without a very creative mind, trying to describe their inventions can be difficult, especially for those who perhaps don’t know the less common words like Bitumenising, meaning that points accrued in the commendations phase are often lost. The Aspect cards break down into animal, vegetable, and mineral, and it’s entirely true to say that animals are funnier than most rocks and plants like Diabolite or Elm; there are a few shining examples like arsenic and dynamite, but it’s still a bit of a struggle to derive humour from Bauxite for example.
Really that’s an issue with target market. I still rate the game very highly, it’s good quality daft fun that kills an hour without effort, and even comes with a set of baggies that are slightly too small for any single deck in the box. Ah well, still a nice consideration.
A game for the criminally imaginative, that’s the tagline. Whilst board games have enjoyed a massive resurgence in the 2000’s and beyond, so too have games where there are less typical boards involved. This month, we investigate a game that’s been on my “to play” list for quite some time – Rogues to Riches. This was a game I backed on Kickstarter quite some time ago and I received it late last year. We finally got around to playing it as a small group at this past GeekOut Bristol Meet and I will say it’s one of the most funny games I’ve picked up in quite some time. Read on for our full review!
In those moments between games, where people are sat around waiting for the last couple of people to show up so you can dig into the game you’re really waiting to play, and it’s been a boring week so conversation is running thin, there aren’t all that many games that you can set up in seconds and play in under an hour. Zombie Dice is one of them, and it’s one of the best. (more…)
If you want a quick game that you can pick up and play when you and your friends are looking to kill an hour or two, you shouldn’t be looking through the Fantasy Flight catalogue.
Inspired by the works of H.P Lovecraft, a fellow you may have noticed we discuss a lot, comes a cooperative survival horror that takes place in the town of Arkham Massachusetts as it is besieged by unearthly horrors that foretell the coming of something far greater, far older, and far worse. Our plucky investigators must uncover clues, gather eldritch seals, and journey into the unknown to save the world, or die trying.
How to Play
Short version of the set up: Each player takes a character, who has a health value, sanity value, and particular ability; an Ancient One is chosen who will also impact the game, both while slumbering, and if/when awakened. Separate the many decks and tokens, making sure the monster tokens are randomised in some way such as piling them into a cup or hat.
Each round players take turns to explore the town of Arkham, it’s various locales and notable features, experiencing strange and terrible moments ranging from an uncomfortable experience with the patrons of Velma’s Diner, to an alien nightmare descending upon them in the docks. All the while the Mythos deck raises new challenges on the world as a whole, challenging the group to race against the Terror Track whose inevitable progress will eventually conjure the Ancient One from beyond to obliterate the world. How could such unimaginable power be prevented?
Portals to the other realms are opening throughout the town, spilling forth monsters, but allowing investigators to pass through those places where the Old Ones roam; the Plateau of Leng, Yuggoth, The Dreamlands, R’Lyeh; and in the process gaining great knowledge, allowing them to close, and potentially seal the portals, ending the flow of unearthly terror. Or they’ll go mad, die, or be lost forever to the void. If enough portals are closed and/or sealed the Ancient One has failed to invade Arkham… today.
But if it does… oh, if it does… should any one of an alarming number of factors be met and the Old One emerges, it’s a mad scramble to fight it back into the dread domain from whence it emerged. Too many monsters, too many open portals at once, too much fear in the hearts of mortals, or simply too much time elapsing, all of these things can bring the likes of Yog Shothoth, C’Thulhu, Yig, or mighty Azathoth down upon the heads of the investigators, who must use their meagre weapons, failing magic, and inadequate wits to fend off the creature for another lifetime.
This is a sincere invitation to anyone who can find me a game that better represents the nature of Lovecraft’s classic style of horror. Daunting, complex, and leaving you feel utterly hopeless and filled with unease; the very threat of what you must face if you do not succeed in the first phase of the game is tension-building stuff. As the game fills with complexity you find yourself facing more and more challenges, the pace becomes frantic, and your pulse only races faster. You’ll grow to fear the streets, the sky, and the inevitable march of time.
It makes strategy tough, that’s a fact. You find yourself pursuing each moment rather than planning the long game. Who has the capacity to close portals? What resources to the group have and how easily can they be traded? How much sanity or health can you afford to lose before running for the asylum or the hospital? At any moment, Mythos, a bad roll, or a bad event card can throw all plans you thought you had completely out of the window.
With so many variations in terms of character combinations, effects of the various Ancient Ones, random card effects, and the myriad expansions available for Arkham Horror, it can present you with a massive variation in every game giving it incredible replay value, assuming you have that kind of time on your hands of course.
Let me start by saying that this game hates you. You need to be clever, cohesive, strategic, and above all lucky at all times to stand a chance of beating Arkham Horror. It’s a tall order to simply prevent the Ancient One from emerging, it’s an even bigger ask to fight it. People will die, and you just have to try and work out whose better off surviving to try again, and if you can control the survival rate at all. Do not play if you like winning, expect to fail.
Like all Fantasy Flight games there’s a lot to keep track of, more so for the size of Arkham Horror, and it only gets worse as you start adding expansions, of which I have one, and I’m already daunted. If you plan to play this game in the afternoon set it up in the morning, and don’t plan to be done until the evening. You might be done, but don’t expect it. This means that there’s plenty to forget, and by the time you’re part way through the game and you suddenly realise that you’ve entirely forgotten a rule, or a major factor, or if you suddenly realise you’ve been neglecting to include certain parts, then it can upset the balance of the game.
No other game has had me out of my seat and yelling at dice, or so excited I was literally shouting at the friends around the table. This is a Fantasy Flight game, I’m not saying they’re all great, but this one is definitely up there on their hit list, as monstrous as it may be it’s worth all the laborious set up to play.
If the sheer size and complexity of this game is simply too much to bare, fret not, for a simplified version exists. Though still complex for its size, Elder Sign provides a faster and easier game experience that could (and frankly should) serve as a gateway into playing the leviathan Arkham Horror. As busy adults with lots of grown up things to do it can be a struggle to find time and space for a game like this, but it’s absolutely worth your time to do so.
Shameless promotion here, my friends at e-Collectica games will be celebrating the store’s 10th birthday on October the 15th with their longest ever Games Day, 10:00 – 19:30 at the Darwin Community Centre in Shrewsbury. If you’re in the midlands and want to join us for nine and a half hours of games come on over. We’ll be featuring a Ticket to Ride tournament, a couple of roleplays and your chance to learn some new games, or just play some favourites. More info at the event page on Facebook.
Considering the fact that I’m reviewing board games at the moment, this will make two in a row without a board. Board next week, promise.
For now let’s take a look at a game of greed, betrayal, and (surprise) sabotage. In the same vein as The Resistance and Werewolf, Saboteur is about strategy and deception in equal measure.
How To Play
A band of dwarves dig to find gold. They know roughly were the gold is, and are going equipped to clear the tunnels to find it. Oooh but there’s a snake in this particular grass, as a handful of the dig team are traitors to the cause trying to grab what they can for themselves by leading the group down blind paths and breaking tools. If the earnest workers discover who the traitors are they can break their tools in turn. (more…)
Bristol is home to some really cool companies and this months event is no exception. We’re going to be hosting a charity tabletop day over at the Southmead Pizza Hut branch, so if you’re up for some tasty food and you’re up for trying a board game or two, come along, say hi and I’ll get you settled right into a game!