27th October 2020
Gaming night at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues in what would the last game of the last meetup before Lockdown 2 came into effect.
The third and final game of the evening was 'Skulls of Sedlec', in what seems to be a game about digging up skulls and then errr... proudly displaying them in a pile for all to see?
Skulls of Sedlec is a microgame that comes from microgame publisher Button Shy who appear to specialise in creating games with 18 cards.
Their games are hand crafted and they aim to release 1 a month.
What's in a game?
As is befitting the name microgame, Skulls of Sedlec is small enough to fit in your pocket.
The wallet is of course a bit of a gimmick, but it's a nice addition and I like it.
How's it play?
The objective of Skulls of Sedlec is to create a pyramid shaped layout of cards. Points are scored depending on how cards are placed in relation to other cards.
The size of the pyramid depends on the number of players but always has 3 layers of cards and thus 6 layers of skulls. Layers of cards are 'offset' (Like bricks in a wall.), this is important when calculating which cards are 'adjacent' to other cards.
On to playing
When 'building' a pyramid, players must start at the bottom and work up, thus there must be at least 2 cards in a layer before a card can be placed on the layer above.
In their turn, a player can perform 1 of 3 actions.
Play continues until all cards have been taken and played into pyramids.
Then pyramids are scored, there are 5 class of skull and thus 5 ways to score points.
Highest score wins.
Simple to learn, but lots to think about. Skulls of Sedlec packs a some solid gameplay into a tiny package.
I really like that the face-down stacks of cards visually represent a graveyard and 'digging' turns them over. It's a clever touch and good example of maximising what's available in a game. Less can be more.
The 2 card hand limit is a great mechanic too: It gives players enough choice to give them tricky decisions, but it stops players from hording cards - making their decisions easier.
Every card can potentially score points, so every decision when playing a card is meaningful and you really can't ask for more from a game in my opinion.
Skulls of Sedlec is a 2 or 3 player game. It's worth noting that that there's an expansion that takes the player count to 4, adds a new class and increases the deck size up to a heady 24 cards!
A good little microgame that is a perfect filler with some depth. One I'd like to own and that's not just because it comes in a neat wallet (Although it does add to the appeal.).
I'm just glad that the publisher hasn't started numbering their wallet games, that would be too hard on my real wallet!
6th October 2020
For the first time in nearly 7 months we're in Woking at 'The Sovereigns'. The last we were here was the 17th March!
The Woking Gaming Club isn't really back up-and-running yet, but a few of us have raised our heads above the parapets to wave the flag and of course; play some games.
The first game of the night was 'Medium', a light word-association card game.
What's in a game?
How's it play?
Before play begins the deck must be created, the number of cards used depends on the number of players. The deck is shuffled and the 3 crystal ball cards are shuffled into the bottom third of this deck.
6 cards are then deal to each player.
Finally, the scoring tokens are laid out with the scores face down and the 1, 2 and 3 numbers displayed.
Play continues until the 3rd crystal ball card is drawn, which triggers the endgame. The game then continues until the current round is completed and all players have had an equal number of turns.
Each player then tallies up the scores from the tokens to their left and right, highest score wins!
There's not much to say. As you can see from above, Medium is a light game that may appeal to casual players, it is a game that can be quickly learnt.
It's not a deep game either, random chance can play a part and sometimes you'll get 2 words that have no obvious commonality. There is some room for strategy in Medium though. The player that goes 2nd will have the opportunity to play a hopefully suitable second word.
We didn't play the game extensively, but it seemed if a common word wasn't guessed first time, the 2nd and 3rd guesses weren't going to be any better.
It's a strangely stressful game, I think it's because your guess will also affect your partner's score.
Conversely; when it's not your time, observing how other people play is fun.
One potential issue was the scoring, each 'level' of scoring has a 1-point variation in its score and some people are not fond of it. We house ruled it and used the other side of the tokens for scoring, a successful first guess would get 3 points, down to 1 for a successful 3rd guess.
If you like somewhat stressful word-association games, then you might like this. Easy to learn and play, it's a reasonable little filler game.
17th March 2020
Tuesday has rolled around again and we're at 'The Sovereigns' with the Woking Gaming Club.
The club members agreed that due to the threat of the Covid-19 virus, this would be the last get-together for the club until we were no longer required to socially-distance ourselves.
The first game of the evening was 'Cartographers'.
Do you fancy getting out and about, doing a bit of exploring? Perhaps finding a forest or two, or even a river? Then this game may be for you.
That's right, in these days of self isolation and being stuck at home; we played a game about going outside!
Cartographers is a style of game I've yet to play called 'roll and write'.
What's in a game?
The only bugbear with the game is the pad of blank maps, which you tear out and give to each player. Even though 100 sheets enough for a lot of games, the idea of it makes me wince!
If you do run out of sheets however, you can download and print extras from the website.
Dave, the game's owner had the wisdom and foresight to also purchase a couple of sets of coloured fine line markers to use with the game (More about that below.).
How's it play?
First there's setup.
Play begins by turning over an exploration card.
Scoring occurs at the end of every season and is broken down as follows (As well as end of round actions.):
Once the score for the winter season has been calculated, the score for all 4 seasons is tallied. Highest score wins.
Cartographers is a fun and interesting game.
Interesting because of how the scoring works, it gives players short term and long term goals. Not only are there 4 scoring objectives, each objective is scored twice and they are scored asymmetrically.
Objective 'A' is scored in rounds 1 & 4. So working towards it in rounds 1 & 4 will earn a player points. Objective 'A' scores no points in rounds 2 & 3, however working towards objective 'A' in rounds 2 & 3 can pay dividends when it's scored again in round 4. This may mean neglecting other scoring opportunities though.
Objective 'B' on the other hand, scores in rounds 1 & 2, after that it's worthless. So to make the most of this scoring opportunity, players will have to concentrate on it for the first half of the game.
All of this makes players think about short, long and mid term goals and how to maximise scoring opportunities.
Additionally, players cannot predict what terrain/shapes will appear if at all or the order they appear. Nor can they predict when ambush cards will appear. Players also need to be flexible and be able to change their plans.
This culminates in giving players lots of factors to consider and decisions to make - which is good.
Another interesting thing about Cartographer is the number of players it supports. It's essentially only limited by the drawing implements/time required. You could use the entire pad and play with 100 people at once if you had the time/space/pencils!
There is theoretically no downtime as everyone draws their shapes at the same time. I say theoretically, because they'll always be that player that takes too and wants to draw in too much detail! 'Do you really need to draw the chimneys on the houses in your village. What! Now you're doing the smoke too!'. You know what I mean.
The addition of the coloured markers - whilst an extra expense added quite a lot to the experience. I imagine using the pencils a little duller. It's a shame they couldn't include coloured pencils or something along those lines. Obviously costs need to be kept down though.
Even so, I found it a good game and would play it again.
11th February 2020
Tuesday night with the gaming club at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues.
The final game of the night was 'Glory to Rome'.
Glory to Rome is a game about the glory of Rome, well sort of. It's a game about rebuilding Rome after the 'great fire of 64 A.D.'.
Become a leader of Rome by building fountains, villas and statues, even the Basilica! Of course, players also get to build a latrine... glory to Rome indeed. Well... I guess someone has to!
Glory to Rome is an engine building card game which has an interesting central premise; which is that the function of cards change in the context of how they're used. This isn't something new or unique to Glory to Rome, however I've not seen it used as extensively as in this game.
What's in a game
Glory to Rome has a lot of cards and some of these cards serve multiple functions.
By far the biggest stack of cards in the game, order cards have multiple uses:
When constructing a building, it needs a site to lay the 'foundation' on. There are site cards for each of the 6 different types of material. Site cards are covered in stripes
These cards are 'jack-of-all-trades'. They are wildcards.
Rome demands card
This oversized card goes in the centre of the playing area and is a discard pile/pool for order cards.
There are 6 bonus cards, one for each type of material. When scoring at the end, the player who has the highest amount of a material in their Vault acquires it's bonus card. Each bonus card is worth 3 victory points.
Used to represent the first player in a round.
That's it for cards.
Player boards (Or camp board.) serve 2 functions. They are a player aid and they also track certain cards and actions the players have played. The boards track influence, clientele, stockpile & vault.
The quality of the components is pretty standard, nothing standout, but by no means nothing bad either.
The art on the cards is minimal, almost simplistic and feels a little bit amateurish. It does however, give the cards a distinct look, is uncluttered and clean looking. I guess it's down to taste.
How's it play?
Setup is pretty simple.
Whoever is the first player decides to either 'lead'... or think!
When all players have completed their actions, all cards that were played as role cards are placed in the pool. Any Jacks played are returned to their stack.
Play proceeds to the next turn and the Leader card moves to the player to the left.
That's the basics out of the way, now on to what the role cards actually do.
The player board has 4 sides and each side has a function.
I think that is more or less it for most rules.
There are several criteria that trigger the end of the game.
Play continues until all site cards for all materials have been used, out-of-town site cards do not count towards this.
The deck of order cards is depleted.
The catacomb building is completed.
The Forum Romanum is built and the player who built it has at least one of each type client in Clientele and one of each material type in their Stockpile. If this occurs, then that player wins an outright victory! Victory points are not tallied!
When any of these conditions are met the game immediately ends and points are tallied (Except in the case of a Forum Romanum victory.).
Players score 1 point for each Influence point.
Players score the cards hidden in their Vault.
Players score bonus cards for the materials in their Vault.
All victory points are tallied, highest score wins.
Glory to Rome is pretty straightforward to learn once you get your head around the central premise that your hand represents, people, buildings, materials and more.
Like other games that use similar mechanics, it forces players to make difficult decisions on what cards to use for what.
Glory to Rome is an engine building game on 2 tiers.
How cards are placed on the player board on the Clientele side is essentially building an engine. Giving players extra or bonus actions.
Placing buildings is the other way of building an engine.
Together they give players quite a few options to explore.
The game's owner stated that certain cards can break the game, but that wasn't my experience when we played it. Upon looking at some cards after the game ended, I could see what he meant though.
Glory to Rome also asks players to watch each other and see what they do and in particular, what they put in to the pool. The pool is the best source of cards - provided it has what you need and you have the cards to get them.
Glory to Rome is perhaps a little too long to play for what it is, but otherwise it's a fun game.
22nd December 2019
Sunday is here at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. 50 Fathoms is still on hiatus so for the final get together before Christmas we're playing board games.
The first game was 'Agatha Christie's Death On The Cards'.
Will the other players learn your darkest secrets? Will you catch the murderer? Or will you manage to get away with murder! Only the cards can decide in... Death On The Cards!
What's in a game?
Death On The Cards uses 3 different types of cards. Secret cards, game cards and the 'Murderer Escapes!' card , game cards are further divided into other cards:
How's it play?
First there's setup, which is a little different depending on the number of players.
What's social disgrace? When a player has all of their secret cards turned face-up, all of their secrets have been revealed and they're disgraced.
What does this mean? It means that when they become the active player, all they can do is discard exactly 1 card and draw 1 card.
It is possible to come back from social disgrace as there some cards that allow secret cards to be turned back face-down.
How the game ends will depend on the player's role in the game.
'Death On The Cards' plays with 2-6 people and what's interesting is how the game changes depending on the number of players.
With 2 players, there's no secret to who's the murderer. The game is a war of attrition.
Now, for some maths (Hopefully my maths is correct.).
Let's look at it with 3 players.
Now lets look at a 6 player game.
This means it becomes easier for the murderer to get away with it in bigger game. Now I don't see this as a flaw, but it is definitely something that changes the dynamics of the game.
With 3 players for example, 'Death On The Cards' can be played as a straightforward card game.
With 6 players, it's much harder to capture the murderer. Players will need to form alliances and target suspicious players as quickly as possible. But then, this gives the murderer and accomplice opportunities to bluff, lie, double cross and sabotage their 'allies'. It becomes a lot more like a hidden role game.
Anyway, regardless of the mathematics, the game mechanics fit the theme very well. 'Death On The Cards' can learned quickly and plays quickly too . It's a great filler game and even though I'm not a fan of hidden role games, it's a lot of fun.
It's definitely worth giving it a try.
10th December 2019
It's a Tuesday evening in Woking and we're at 'The Sovereigns' with the board game club.
The first game of the night was 'Cockroach Poker'.
Now I mean this in a good way: But Cockroach Poker is quite possibly the most horrible game of all time.
It's a horrible game all about horribly lying and bluffing.
At the end of one game a player said to me. "Can we please now play a game where we don't all hate each other!".
That sums Cockroach Poker pretty nicely.
What's in a game?
Cockroach Poker consists of nothing more or less than a deck of 64 cards. There are 8 types of card (All based on types of 'horrible' creature.) and 8 copies of each type.
Because my blog demands a bullet-point list, i thought I'd list what's on the cards.
All the cards are well illustrated with stylised pictures of all the 'creepy-crawlies'. The art hasn't skimped on either, there could have been just 8 illustrations for the 8 types. But they are different pictures for each card, so 64 in total.
How's it play?
Setup: Deal out the entire deck to all players. Players must keep their hand of cards secret.
Cockroach Poker is a game about trying to guess whether the other players are speaking the truth or lying through their teeth
Their are 2 ways the game can end.
The game will immediately end when any player has put the 4th card of a single type into their playing are.
Or when any player must play a card to another player, but has no more cards in their hand.
In both cases, when this occurs, that player is the loser and all other players are winners!
Cockroach Poker is a clever little bluffing game. Telling the truth is equally bad for players as lying, so there's no 'easy' get-out by telling the truth.
Having a card pushed towards and trying to guess whether your 'friend' is lying or not can be a stress. But when a player chooses to pass the card, it doesn't get them out of hot water. It just changes the source of the stress, now players are hoping that their opponents are can't see through their statement.
I've also seen players counting the number of cards that have already been played before making a choice. But it doesn't matter because the whole deck has been dealt out to players!
Not only is the game negative and horrible, so is the end. The game only plays to the first loser and everybody else wins! No one wants to be the sole loser!
So in summing up: Cockroach Poker is a horrible, horrible game and everyone should play it.
24th November 2019
Sunday at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues.
The next game was 'Codenames'.
I have it on good authority that spies, above all other things, really like having codenames.
So it's a good thing that the game 'Codenames' is all about spies.
Actually, it's a team based card game about words, but I digress...
Whats in a game?
How's it play?
Codenames requires a bit of setup.
When describing Codenames I've not really explained the dilemma and challenge facing the spymaster players.
The example I used had 'cat', 'pigeon' & 'ant' as all being blue. But in reality, it's more likely that not all of them would be the same colour, 'pigeon' might be red. Now the blue spymaster could simply say, "Animal, two.". But then they run the risk that the team might select 'pigeon' instead of the other choices and if they select the wrong word first, it stops their turn straightaway!
So the spymaster has to select clues that don't draw their teammates to the wrong answer. This can be downright tricky.
Now the spymaster could play it safe and select, "Meow, one." for 'cat' and use 1 word clues. The problem with playing it safe though, is that it probably won't win you the game unless you're already ahead. So doing 2 or 3 word clues can be a good way of getting ahead.
The same principle applies to the other team members. When the spymaster gives you a clue for 3 words, managing to find all of them grants the team a good advantage. But getting wrong can prove a bad thing.
It's a good implementation of a 'risk/reward' mechanic. A successful risk pays off and a unsuccessful risk penalises.
There's only one small drawback to Codenames and that is that it basically needs at least 4 players to play and ideally even numbers of players too.
The game goes up to 8 players, but I can't see a reason why team size should be limited to 4 (Other than it takes a longer to come to a consensus with bigger teams!).
Codenames is easy enough to learn to be a 'crossover' game and has a high replay value. It's probably a bit too long for a filler game, but makes an excellent party game. Particularly when with larger groups and/or family members.
16th November 2019
Gaming night at 'Matakishi's' continues.
The final game of the night was 'Ringmaster: Welcome to the Big Top'.
Step right up! Step right up! Come and see which player can creates the most magnificent circus.
Watch! As players become catastrophically confused by cunning card-plays of weirdness Gasp! As players are perilously perplexed by uncannily unpredictable game mechanics.
Yes Sir! All the fun of the circus!
What's in a game?
Ringmaster is a card and all it has and needs is a deck of cards.
All the cards are illustrated with nice and occasionally humorous pictures. Many of the cards are tongue-in-cheek.
Finally, the game comes with a nifty little draw string to to carry the game in, if you don't want to lug the box about. It's a cool little addition.
How's it play?
First, the deck is shuffled and 3 cards are dealt to each player, the remaining cards from a draw deck. A first player is then determined.
The active player draws a card from the deck and then plays 1 card.
There are 4 types of card in the game:
I can't really explain much about the rules, because players simply do what's written on the card they're playing.
There are no endgame conditions in Ringmaster! OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the endgame is determined by cards that are played. This means that different players will most likely have different winning criteria.
This makes Ringmaster unpredictable and the game tends to end very suddenly and abruptly.
Ringmaster ticks the right boxes! Easy to learn, quick to play and fun.
As well as random ending conditions, there are cards that occasionally completely change the game, forcing all players to discard their entire hands or every card they've played etc.
Ringmaster can be random and chaotic, but retains enough strategy to still engage players.
If you've just spent the last 3 hours playing a monstrosity of a game that's made your brains dribble out of your ears. Then Ringmaster makes a great finisher for the evening.
16th November 2019
Saturday night gaming at 'Matakishi's' continues.
The second game of the evening was 'High Society'.
Some people are just obsessed with reputation, luxury, wealth and prestige and will pay anything to elevate it. Well almost anything.
These are the trials and tribulations 'endured' by the aspiring wealthy and privileged, where image is everything.
What's in a game?
High Society has broadly speaking 2 types of card.
How's it play?
First give each player a 11 card bidding deck. Then shuffle the status cards to form a deck and determine a starting player.
4 cards in the status are coloured green, they are the 3 prestige cards and one of the scandal cards.
When the 4th green card is drawn, the game ends immediately - there is no bidding on the 4th green.
Next is the game's sting in the tail. The player who has the least amount of money in their hand is eliminated from the endgame!
The remaining players total the value of their luxury cards and modify them by any prestige/scandal cards they have. Highest score wins.
There's a few clever little things to think about here.
Because a player can only add to their bid, players will be faced with tricky choices. If you really want a card a card, do you bid low hoping other players won't try and out bid you? Or do you start with a high bid hoping to discourage others and use less cards. For example: Using a 4 and 6 is worse than using a 10, even though they have the same value, in the first case you're using up 2 cards instead of 1 - and you can't bid if you don't have cards.
Also; there's nothing more infuriating then when you want to push up a bid by 1 or 2 and you've got nothing less than a 5 in your hand.
The endgame mechanic adds an extra level of unpredictability to the game. A game can last anywhere from 3 to 15 rounds. Players will know when there's a chance that the game will end because they'll see that 3 green cards have been played, but they won't know exactly when the end is coming. All of this can affect how you bid.
Finally, there's the player elimination in the endgame. The sting in the tail that constantly niggles and lingers in the back of every player's mind when they're playing.
It doesn't matter how well a player has done in the bidding if they're eliminated for having the least money. It is painful.
All in all, High Society is a quick to learn game that is quite fast to play and makes an excellent filler game. It's mechanics push players into making meaningful and tricky decisions. Other than constant stress, what's not to like?
10th November 2019
Gaming Sunday continues at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
Next up was; 'Legends Untold'. Legends Untold is a sort of hybrid card game RPG. The players take on the roles of nascent heroes thrust into adventure by circumstance.
These heroes will form a party and explore either caves or dungeons, whilst the role of 'GM' is played by various decks of cards.
There are 2 Legends Untold games, 'The Weeping Caves' & 'The Great Sewer'.
What's in a game?
Legends Untold packs a lot of cards into a relatively small box. These include:
How's it play?
The setup for each game depends on which scenario card is used. The scenario will tell the players the number of card to put into each of the game's decks.
The game is divided into 4 phases.
Time and events
As explained above, the scenario will determine how big the event deck is. A common size is 6 cards.
Legends Untold has lots of different types of tests. Lots of them.
Like I said, lots of types of tests.
There are 2 types of trap. A normal trap which is encountered when drawing a card from the obstacles deck and a booby trap drawn from the adventure deck, either before combat or when searching.
Combat in Legends Untold occurs over a number of stages.
Each scenario has its own victory or defeat criteria.
Generally, if all the PCs are knocked unconscious, it's a defeat.
Legends Untold includes rules and components for a campaign. The campaign is about saving the refugees of an invasion
During the campaign, PCs will increase in level as it progresses. Additionally, the results of a scenario will have some impact on later scenarios in the campaign. This includes rating the players on how many refugees they managed to save.
It's sort of like a legacy game but without being asked to rip up any cards!
There's a lot to think about here. The game certainly packs a lot of stuff into a small box. But is it good stuff?
The exploration mechanics are quite good. Choosing to follow light or dark routes both have advantages and disadvantages. I like how the readiness rules interact with traps.
I like the event deck and how it works. I like how as the event deck gets smaller, events become more common. It gives players the feeling that they are working against the ticking clock.
Decisions regarding the spending of time become very important.
I like how talent cards are also used as hit points. It removes an extra element of bookkeeping from a game that already has a lot of things going on.
Losing an ability when wounded makes you feel weaker.
When PCs gain levels, they gain additional talent card, thus they also gain more hit points.
But perhaps there are too many character stats and thus tests related to them. More often than not, I found that stats became irrelevant, because across all the characters, they always tended to be someone who gave a +2 bonus.
Not only that, there are so many rules regarding tests, that the rule book is never closed.
I understand need for variety and the need to make all PC stats relevant. But tests could use some streamlining. In my mind more complexity does not equate to more depth.
Combat is equally clunky. It's quite confusing that ranged and melee combat are the same but also different. In melee , it's good that both attack and defence are resolved in a single roll. But why couldn't the same philosophy be applied to ranged combat? I know that the game needs to differentiate between PCs and foes who do and don't have ranged attacks. But I feel that combat needed more work, more testing and more streamlining.
Finally, the setting is quite uninteresting. It's pretty generic and uninspiring. Because of the I found it hard to engage with the game. Perhaps it as the steep learning curve. Or perhaps it's because I've played quite a lot of RPGs over the years
However, it's quite an ambitious game in its own way. I'm not willing to write it off without trying it another couple of tries.
I play, I paint.