27th June 2021
Sunday is here and I'm logged into Board Game Arena.
Playing board games is a great way to escape your troubles and ignore what's been happening outside your window and across the globe for the past 2 years and to do that, we chose to play a game about not 1 pandemic, but 4 of them!
The first game of the evening was Pandemic.
What's in a game?
The components in Pandemic are all of a reasonable quality as you would expect, nothing feels particularly cheap. The pawns are made of plastic and not wood, but that's a trivial quibble. The other markers are constructed of satisfyingly thick plastic.
The plastic 3D research stations are a nice touch as are the colourful, translucent, acrylic disease cubes, it also makes them easier to pick up and move - which for the cubes will occur frequently.
Artwork on the board is functional more than pretty, which is fine and everything's easy to understand, the same is true of city and infection cards which show locations on the board as opposed to containing illustrations.
The small amount of artwork in the game mostly appears on role cards, which each have a good quality unique illustration that depicts their role, event cards also contain some unique artwork.
How's it play?
On to play
The turn structure for Pandemic is as follows: The active player has their turn, which consists of 4 actions, then they draw 2 cards from the player deck, finally the 'board' has its go. Once all of this has been completed, the player to the left becomes the active player.
Play continues until one of the following conditions is met.
If the marker on the outbreak track reaches its 8th and final space; the players collectively lose.
If, at any time a disease cube needs to be added to the board and none are available in that colour; the players lose.
If a player needs to draw 2 cards from the player deck and cannot do so because none or only one is available.... you guessed it; the players lose.
If all 4 diseases are cured, then the players immediately win. Diseases do not need to be eradicated in order to win.
Well, Pandemic.... what's there to say about this game?
Pandemic is a pillar of modern cooperative games that has been followed up not only by a slew of expansions and spinoffs, but also a number of differently themed games such as Horrified that employ similar mechanics.
Some of Pandemic's elements and mechanics may seem a bit trite nowadays, but that's simply because they're part of a game that popularised those mechanics in the first place and is a testament to Pandemic's longevity and influence.
Pandemic utilises the tried-and-tested game flow of alternating between player turns and card-driven board actions in a game that is a globe-trotting race against time. In a turn, players are faced with the difficult choice of trying to stem the spread of the 4 diseases or instead trying to interact with the other players and swap the cards necessary to cure those diseases. Ultimately, players will need to find a balance between the two approaches.
As with other cooperative games, bad luck may play a major role in Pandemic and mitigating that bad luck is vital to winning.
Decisive actions, recognising priorities and acting on them are also vital to success, as are knowing when to use role special abilities.
Pandemic is also hard, I think this comes down to Pandemic's rules for swapping city cards between players which requires them to be in that card's city in order to do so. It's unlikely players will be able to collect 5 cards of single colour on their own so coordination between players is vital.
We've played a few of the iterations that followed Pandemic and it always felt like this rule has been softened a little. Is that as bad thing, I suspect YMMV?
Pandemic does a good job at evoking the feel of a spreading global crisis and the desperate worldwide fight to contain it.
I have to admit, considering the events of the past 2 years, we haven't had much compulsion to play Pandemic. Even so and despite the difficulty, I feel that if you like cooperative games, it's still worth playing, it challenges players with making difficult decisions at nearly every avenue and is satisfying to win.
24th June 2021
We're round Simon's and continuing an evening of gaming.
For the second and final game of the night, we played Roll For Adventure. Read my blog about it here.
24th June 2021
It's a Thursday evening and we're round Simon's for a couple of games.
The first game of the night was Paper Tales.
As the name implies, create the tale of building a kingdom and warring with your neighbours over 4 generations or in Paper Tales' terms - 4 rounds!
What's in a game?
The quality of the game's components is to the usual standard as you would expect, which is fine.
The building and unit cards feature some bright, colourful and stylised artwork which I found quite charming.
How's it play?
On to play
Paper Tales is played over 4 rounds and there are 6 stages to each round. Other than the drafting in the Recruitment stage, each stage is played simultaneously by players
Play continues until 4 rounds have been completed.
Then players then tally their victory points on the score board with the victory points on their constructed buildings.
Highest score wins.
So, Paper Tales is something of a curious beast.
It feels like a deliberately small scale game that merges a little bit of card drafting, a little engine building and card combo mechanics with a little bit of resource management.
The game broadly presents 2 routes to scoring victory points.
Using unit cards with high combat values in war can theoretically score a player 24 victory points and in a game if this scale, that can be a sizable score.
The other way to generate victory points is from the abilities that unit cards may possess, maximising the usage of those abilities can require careful consideration.
It's also a somewhat challenging game, not that this is a bad thing. That's because when playing Paper Tales, it never feels like there's enough gold to deploy all the cards you want or enough turns/resources to construct buildings you want. There's 5 buildings to construct and only 4 turns, and that's not including upgrades!
It's worth noting that decisions made in the 1st round may have a significant impact on options and decisions in the final round.
Players are forced to make tricky, meaningful decisions, which is always good.
The aging mechanic is unusual and represents the transitory passage of time and is something players need to watch out for, those unit cards are only around for 2 rounds! However, there are also ways for a player to exploit this mechanic to their benefit with card abilities.
For a game that only gives players 4 or possibly 5 cards to work with, there's quite often a combo that can be created.
Paper Tales has in terms of rounds a quite short playtime, yet somehow feels a little fiddly for a game of this scope and the handful of times we played it, the short playtime made the game feel a little unsatisfactory.
It's all about maximising resources and exploiting card combos, but as I said above, because it's a challenging game, it can be hard to optimise your strategies in early plays, i.e., it has a steep learning curve despite it's apparent simplicity.
That's not to say it's a bad game, because it's not, but it sits towards the heavier end of a what might be considered 'light' or 'filler' game in my opinion, which is considering what I'd consider it to be.
I'd have no reservations about playing it again.
It's worth a look, but I think it needs playing at least a couple times before passing judgement on it.
18th June 2021
It's a Friday evening and I'm round Simon's to play a couple of games.
The game of the night was Arkham Horror: The Card Game, read my blog about it here.
15th June 2021
It's a Tuesday evening at The Sovereigns with the Woking Gaming Club. Continuing a theme, the second and concluding game of the night was another cooperative game.
Previously; we'd defended the kingdom from invaders by rolling for adventure. Now, we're going to defend the kingdom from invaders by being tiny... and epic!
What's in a game?
Like all Tiny Epic games, this comes packaged in a small, sturdy box with a bunch of tiny components.
Artwork on the region cards is nice enough and fairly evocative of their respective regions, meanwhile the art style used for the enemies and player characters reminds of art used in various fantasy videogames, which is no bad thing, it's bright and colourful, which I like.
How's it play?
On to play
To some degree, play in Tiny Epic Defenders is determined by the turn deck.
In each turn, reveal a card from the turn deck and activate it's action.
When the epic foe is revealed, the endgame is triggered. The turn deck is still used, but no new cards are added and play continues until one of the following conditions is met.
The players must reduce the epic foe's health to 0 in order to win.
If the threat level of the Capital City reaches maximum at any time during play, then the players lose.
Tiny Epic Defenders is quick to set up, learn and play, with those artefact tokens it also looks pretty cool when your ITEMeeple is tooled up.
It seems to play a little different to most other cooperative games I've encountered. Those other games tend to make players choose between working towards an objective or managing an ongoing problem of some kind. Tiny Epic Defenders' is mostly about the kingdom and characters surviving the attrition the game throws at them until the epic foe appears, then players have to balance their actions between defeating the epic foe and defending the kingdom.
Like other cooperative games, managing bad luck is vital to victory, in this case it from the turn deck.
This means it's a game about mostly adapting and optimising tactics in preparation for when the epic foe appears and I feel it's particularly important to defend against dire enemies as its the only way to earn artefacts, which can prove vital to victory.
How the turn deck works in conjunction with the horde deck seems like a clever mechanic; players will know how often they get to act and generally how many times enemies attack, but not the order. It makes the game feel like the luck mechanic isn't too unpredictable, which is no bad thing.
Adding cards from the horde deck however, introduces two further elements into this. Firstly, escalating the threat by adding more enemies and secondly, by also introducing a new random facet to the turn deck because the added cards are hidden until they're revealed.
All of this works to raise stakes and tension as the game continues.
Having said that, when defending against enemies, it felt a little unsatisfying and futile when they were only sent to the discard pile instead of being defeated outright, but I guess that's necessary for the turn deck to work.
I also found the tactics a little on the lighter side, ultimately, there were only 6 total locations that needed defending and decisions tended to be between lowering threat in a region or sitting a region waiting to defend it when it was inevitably attacked in an enemy action.
It's not a gamebreaker, I'm just not sure how well it holds up to repetitive play.
If you're looking for a fairly quick-to-play introductory cooperative game to try, you could do worse than look at Tiny Epic Defenders. Or if you like cooperative games and want something a bit lighter, it might also be for you.
15th June 2021
It's a Tuesday evening at The Sovereigns in Woking and if memory serves me correctly, the first time that I've met up with the Woking Gaming Club have met Since October last year!
The first game of the night was Roll For Adventure, a cooperative, dice roller where players must unite to foil the machinations of a Dark Lord wannabe and save the kingdom!
What's in a game?
In Roll for Adventure, our heroes must join forces to defeat The Dark Lord Saur-errr Master of Shadows; how is this done? By collecting the power stones to activate the magical artefact; how is this done? By making lots of dice rolls of course!
The dice are of the smaller variety, which is fine by me, they're made of plastic and finished in a 'marble' look, their edges are nicely rounded and their dots are indentations and not printed. Good quality dice overall.
The territory die is a larger size and has rounded edges, it has artwork related to the territory boards printed on 5 of its 6 sides, the printing seems to be good quality and doesn't look like it'd rub off easily.
The game's variety of boards and tiles are all printed on thick card, as are the components.
The enemy cards are pretty standard quality cards.
Finally; special mention goes to the completely unnecessary and therefore cool little 3d plastic skulls used to track damage on the 4 territories.
Artwork used on the territory boards is fairly minimalist and functional by necessity as space is given over to holding dice. The palette used for the 4 territories extends to the enemy cards and some components.
The quality of artwork used on the enemy cards, hero and adventure boards is all reasonably good. The bright colours scheme used to represent the power stone is pleasantly eye catching.
All-in-all, the components in Roll for Adventure are all of a good quality.
How's it play?
On to play
Like a lot of cooperative games, Roll for Adventure alternates between a player's turn and then the board's actions before moving on to the next player's turn.
The basic principle behind a turn in Roll for Adventure is simple: The active player rolls all their available dice and uses one or more of them of the same number, then rolls their remaining dice and so on, until they've used all their dice. What those dice are used for however, is the crux of the game.
If the damage token for any territory reaches its final spot, the players collectively lose the game.
If at anytime all the players collectively have no dice to roll for whatever reason, then the players lose.
If the players manage to collect the last power stone for their adventure board, then the players collectively win.
Roll for Adventure is an interesting combination of cooperative gameplay and some unusual dice rolling mechanics.
A good example is the Vortex of Resurrection: Using the vortex ends a player's turn immediately. Early in their turn, it's possible a player have the double 5 or double 6 which will be high enough to trigger the vortex, but doing so is a waste of a turn (And dice rolls.), however, waiting until a player only has 1 or 2 dice left means that getting a good result for the vortex is tricky.
Roll for Adventure has no 'set aside' rules or mechanics in Roll for Adventure here, after players use dice, the remaining ones are re-rolled and you can kiss those other useful results goodbye. It forces players to make decisive moves about what they have available now and collectively players need to really cooperate in these decisions too as spreading dice too thinly throughout the board can be a costly error, dice stuck on half completed tasks are a problem waiting to happen. Players need to concentrate on a couple of tasks only if possible and maintain the loop of using dice and then getting them back to use in the following turn.
The same is true of enemy cards, if they're not dealt with quickly, they can linger and repeatedly attack the board, particularly lower rank enemy, which will be commanded to attack the most often.
Balancing the need to get power stones and the need to defeat enemies is key, along with mitigating bad luck that tends to accompany cooperative games. The extra wrinkle here is the need to also manage your dwindling resources - dice!
Actions (Or inactions.) will frequently have an impact on the game and that's a good thing.
That's not to say the game is without some criticism.
With 4 double-sided territory boards, Roll for Adventure has 8 subsystems, at least 4 of which must be learned to play the game. In my opinion, this makes the game feel a little overly complex for the experience it delivers, which a shortish, almost abstract experience.
The game's theme doesn't gel entirely well with its mechanics for me. Do the dice represent various actions of the the player's hero? Or are they minions of the hero sent off on different missions? Whatever the answer, it felt a little unengaging, closer to an exercise in comprehending probability than going adventuring.
Having said all that: The game's balancing kept the outcome in the air all the way throughout and the tension high at the end. If you like cooperative games, Roll for Adventure is worth a look. If you've spent a lot of time playing those coop games where you spend action points to run around a map to perform tasks, this could give you a fresh take on the cooperative playstyle.
I play, I paint.