26th September 2021
Sunday evening gaming on Board Game Arena continued with Cloud City.
Travel around Cloud City and defeat Darth Vader and his stormtroopers... oh wait... what? This is an entirely different Cloud City!
Be an architect and build up tower blocks in your model city to create walkways between them in this 3D tile laying game.
Caveat: We've only ever played this game digitally.
What's in a game?
The games iconography is similarly minimal but easily understood.
I will add that since we've only played Cloud City digitally, it's hard to gauge how it would look with physical components, which could be quite good, judging from the photos I've seen.
How's it play?
On to play
In Cloud City each player will create a 3x3 grid of tiles, buildings and walkways. Points are scored from walkways which are worth points according to their length, thus walkways score 1-8 points each.
Play continues until all players have completed their 3x3 grid, which always takes 8 rounds. Each player's victory points is equal to the value of the totalled numbers on all the walkway tokens they played.
Points are tallied. Highest score wins
In some ways, Cloud City is a standard tile-laying game: Put down tiles to create links and score points from them.
However, because Cloud City adds a extra dimension (Sic.) to gameplay, the game has that sweet spot of simplicity of rules but depth of choice. Players can choose to try and create single long paths that score big on walkways or zigzagging small paths that score little but often. Players will also want to utilise all the empty space that their tiles inevitably generate. Managing to have walkways pass over or under others is an efficient way to rack up points. It lends Cloud City a almost puzzle-like quality.
The rule limiting walkways to 2 per building is excellent, a good example of less is more, it prevents players from relatively easily creating a web of walkways and forces them to try and anticipate the direction they will need to take when putting down buildings, getting it wrong can cost points. Ideally, players will want to have a single snaking walkway that goes from building to building.
That brings me to the game's other central mechanic; drafting.
Cloud City employs 2 instances of drafting.
Most obviously, is the tile drafting. Players can choose which tile from 3 to take to replace one they've played or draw blindly. This is a common implementation of drafting in tile placement games.
It's the other type of drafting that's more interesting. Cloud City's rules mean that player's do not need to immediately connect buildings with walkways and this can present players with a conundrum:
If a player does not immediately place walkways on their buildings, they can be taken later and placed in way to optimise scoring. There's a risk though, since there's a limited number of each walkway, particularly the 8 pointers, of which there are only 3 in each colour. Once they're gone, they're gone and to get one later can make a player lose out.
Conversely, players can take and place walkways immediately, this is safer in one regard, but the risk here is that the tiles placed later may provide alternate better ways to score.
This is something that players will always need to bear in mind.
Cloud City mostly presents players with meaningful decisions to make and I found the urge to try and create the perfect network of walkways fairly compelling. It was a enjoyable experience that was easy to learn and played fairly quickly.
11th September 2021
All day Saturday continues, the next game I played at Wogglecon was Betrayal at the House on the Hill.
What's more fun than exploring the local haunted house with your disparate band of friends. I mean, what's the worst that could happen? It's not like one of them is going to betray you, right? It's not like it's in the game's title!
What's in a game?
The character tiles are decorated in monochrome illustrations with one colour - the player's colour. Artwork used on the room tiles is a little plain but unobtrusive. The paintjobs on the models is nice addition. Thematically, it all fits though.
The game's iconography was straight forward.
How's it play?
The objective in Betrayal at House on the Hill is to explore the house until the 'haunt' is discovered and then maybe defeat it!
Broadly speaking, the game is divided into 2 stages, the second stage begins once the 'haunt' has manifested.
On their turn, the active player can do the following:
The heroes and the traitor continue taking their turns until one or the other complete their objective, in which case they win.
Mechanically speaking, Betrayal at the House on the Hill is straightforward, especially in the first stage of the game. Players add tiles to the map and deal with whatever randomly comes with it, it's fun, but players are just reacting to encounters, all a bit unchallenging mentally.
When the traitor is revealed, this all changes though.
The heroes will find themselves having to complete their objectives while invariably having to keep out of the clutches of the traitor and their monstrous allies. They'll probably have to collaborate to have a chance of success.
Meanwhile, the traitor will have their own objectives, this may or may not involve capturing or defeating the heroes. The traitor can be sure that the heroes' objective will be bad news for them and will want to thwart them.
Betrayal at the House on the Hill has now become a very tense game of cat-and-mouse.
However, there are number of things about the game that irk me.
I'm not fond of traitor mechanics, nor am I fond of one-vs-many mechanics and Betrayal at the House on the Hill uses both! It's a bit of a put-off for me, obviously, YMMV.
Additionally, when the haunt is revealed, all the players must split up to secretly read their objective and in the case of the heroes; discuss their actions while the traitor sits around waiting. This creates a strange, pace-breaking awkward pause to the game.
Finally, having the playing area actually split into 3 playing areas, one for each of the house's floors feels somewhat clumsy to me, it's not a dealbreaker, but it does take up table-space.
There's nothing wrong with the game, it's just not really for me and isn't a game I'd pick to play.
If the haunted house theme appeals and you're happy to play with traitor mechanics, Betrayal at the house on the hill will probably be an enjoyable experience.
I play, I paint.