20th October 2019
Sunday gaming at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues as there is no 50 Fathoms.
The final game of the day was 'Aye, Dark Overlord!'. A compact and simple 'storytelling' card game about making excuses to your boss. So if you've ever had a job you were really bad at, you'll be right at home.
What's in a game?
Aye, Dark Overlord! is a pure card game and has no other components.
How's it play?
One player will assume the role of the Dark Overlord, remaining players all take on the role of his inept minions.
The hint and action cards are shuffled and each player is dealt 3 hint cards and 3 action cards.
The premise of Aye, Dark Overlord! is that the minions are returning from some mission that they were tasked with by the Dark Overlord. The mission was yet another failure! Now the Dark Overlord wants to know why it failed?
As well as hint cards, action cards can be played.
Withering look cards are only played by the Dark Overlord player.
Once a minion has received a 3rd withering look card it's game over - and not just for the game! The minion is carted off to the Dark Overlord's dungeons for an 'appropriate reprimand'. All the other minions breathe a sigh of relief.
For the next game, whoever got 3 withering look cards should be the Dark Overlord.
Aye, Dark Overlord! is a strange beast and I don't know entirely what to make of it.
Mechanically, it's a very, very light game, almost nonexistent.
However, to me it seems that this game has its roots in 'improv' acting or storytelling. Pass the buck seems it's a bit like 'yes, and' and interrupt a bit like 'yes, but', which are improv terms.
Which I think, for a game like this, means you need a particular kind of player for it to work, it just won't work if players don't 'buy in' to it.
Personally, I found it quite hard to 'gel' with the game. Maybe I need to give it another try?
But if you have an interest in the improv side of this game, it may be your cup of tea.
7th September 2019
Saturday evening. Matakishi's. Game night.
Tonight we decided to play another classic board game. This time it was 'Britannia', a game originally published in 1986, over 30 years ago.
Britannia is a historical game of invasion and conquest and when I say invasion and conquest, I really do mean constant invasion and conquest.
In Britannia, players do not play a single nation or tribe or whatever. Instead they play a colour and each colour has 4 nations of varying size. Each colour will have 1 nation that benefits from a 'major invasion', this explained later.
Britannia is played over 16 rounds and centuries of time. The game starts with the Roman invasion (So around 43 A.D..) and end with the Norman invasion (Around 1066 A.D..).
Even though each player has control of 4 factions, the factions do not appear at the same time in the game. They appear when 'historically appropriate' in various turns throughout the game.
What's in a game?
How's it play?
The rules for Britannia are relatively simple. The complexity comes from the interaction with the other players.
Before the game begins we have set up. Each player chooses a colour and is given all the relevant tokens for that colour, the play begins.
One other thing worth noting are 'major invasions'. Each player will have a faction that has a major invasion at some point. A major invasion means that the relevant faction gets to turns in a row.
Britannia is played over 16 rounds. Scoring occurs throughout the game, but not on every round. In fact not all the factions score at the same time, some factions score on entirely different rounds.
Additionally, when scoring is carried out, different factions score different points for controlling different areas of the board. Which means that different factions may have different priorities. However quite often opposing factions score points for the same regions, invariably pushing them into conflict with one another.
After all the rounds have been completed, points are tallied and highest score wins.
Britannia is a wargame and as such is very confrontational. It's a game that charts the historic invasions and conquests of early Britain. It turns out there were a lot of invasions and conquests! Players will more or less be in constant conflict with other players and there's no way to avoid it.
Combat is a key component in Britannia: Luckily, the basics of the rules are simple to remember. Mostly players will be looking into how to expand into and hold high scoring areas and this drive most of the game's conflict.
Asymmetrical rules make Britannia interesting and quite unique.
I like how the asymmetrical factions give different players advantage at different times. So for example; whoever has the Romans will gain an early lead, but after that they will have smaller factions appear.
Combined with the asymmetrical scoring that gives different players different objectives means that the end score is always unpredictable.
I do have a couple of minor criticisms of Britannia.
Britannia should only really be played with 4 players. Sure you can play with 3 or 5 players, but it's not optimal.
Britannia can take about 4 hours to play, so it requires quite a time commitment. I guess a millennia of invasions of Britain can't be played out quickly!
But these small criticisms aside; Britannia is an involved but entertaining game to play.
29th June 2019
It's a Saturday lunchtime at 'The Sovereigns'.
We should be playing 50 Fathoms, but sometimes life interferes.
So instead we are playing Princess Legend.
Will the Prince find his Princess (Yay!), or will he get the Queen instead (Boo!)! Only you can find out in... Princess Legend.
Princess Legend is a 'bluffing/social deduction/hidden' role card game. Everyone is given a role to play and the 'Prince player' tried to guess who is the Princess.
What's in a game?
Princess Legend is pretty light on components.
A deck of 8 cards. They are actually coasters and not traditional playing cards in size. Each card has a colourful portrait on it. There 3 types of character on the 8 coaster.
A bunch of tokens to track scoring.
And that's it!
How's it play?
The amount of coasters that are used in a game is equal to the number of players plus 1. Thus if you play with 4 players, the game would be played with 5 coasters.
Princess Legend is played with a minimum of 3 players and 4 coasters. The Prince, the Princess, the Queen and the Maid are always used in all games. The other characters will be used dependant upon the number of players participating.
Every player will play the role of the Prince. The Prince's role moves clockwise round the table in every round.
Firstly, the Prince coaster is given to the player in the Prince role in this turn. The coaster is kept face-up as everyone knows who is the Prince.
Secondly, the remaining coasters are shuffled and dealt face-down to the remaining players. One coaster is placed into the middle of the playing area is played by nobody.
Once dealing has finished the Prince must close their eyes, then all the other players must reveal their roles (Now only the Prince does not know what everybody else's roles are.). Then all the players (With their eyes open.) are satisfied that they've seen everyone else's role, they turn their coasters back face-down again, the Prince can open their eyes once more.
Now play can commence.
Let's do this thing!
The Prince's objective is to guess which player is the Princess (Or if it's the coaster in the middle). To do this, the Prince must ask the other players questions.
However, the objectives of the other players will be different. Other players will want to get the Prince to pick a certain face-down coaster. Each player's objective is different according to their role.
However, there is a limit to the questions that can be asked. The Prince can ask each player only one question each (In any order.). When all players have answered a question, then the Prince has one final question that they can ask anyone.
Not only is the Prince limited to the number of questions that they can ask. They are also limited in what the question can be. There are only 3 questions that can be asked. They are:
How the players answer this question is dependant on what role they have.
Once the Prince has made their guess on who is the Princess, all the other players reveal their roles. Then we see who has scored a point in this round.
Play progress until each player has played the Prince 1, 2 or 3 times (Depending on number of players).
Then points are tallied. Highest score wins.
Generally, I dislike bluffing/hidden role games. But this is one of the better ones I've played. I like how your put into random, shifting teams each round and then trying to work with your temporary colleagues.
Princess Legend also seems to differ to many other hidden role games: In most hidden role games, your role is hidden from all other players. But in Princess Legend, your role is only hidden from the Prince.
I think that this makes the game a little less intense, a player only has to deal with questions from one other player and even then, there's a maximum of 2 questions to answer.
And those answered are never really challenged, because the Prince play must use logic and reasoning to try and figure their choice. When a player lies to the Prince, figuring out it's a lie will provide information in itself.
So I think Princess Legend is a 'tolerable' hidden role game - which for me means it's quite good - for that sort of game.
14th May 2019.
Tuesday has rolled around again and that can only mean gaming night at 'The Sovereigns'
First game of the night is Mysterium'. Mysterium is like a ghostly version of Cluedo.
It's quite unusual in that it is both an asymmetrical and co-operative game.
One player takes on the role of the ghost of a murder victim.
All the remaining players assume the roles of psychics or mediums.
The game takes place during a 'seance' in which the ghost will feed all the other characters with confusing and strange imagery, hoping they will figure out the murder
The ghost player knows who their murderer is and is trying to communicate this to the other players.
What's in a game?
The ghost player sits behind a screen which contains information pertinent to them. The ghost player also keeps a deck of cards behind the screen.
Each of the other players is given a character to play in the form of a character portrait printed on what can only be described as sort of 'pocket'. The art for the characters is good and makes them look suitability exotic for people that can communicate with the dead. Each player is also given a meeple.
Markers are set out for the 3 different clue types. These represent the classic Cluedo cards for person, location and weapon.
The game also has a vintage looking clock which serves as a turn counter.
Before the game starts the ghost player determines who the murderer and suspects are.
The in line with each respective clue marker they layout a number of cards (dependant upon difficulty). Thus next to the person marker, they would lay the murderer, suspects and innocent people. Next to the location marker, they would lay the murder site, suspected sites and unrelated sites - and the same for the murder weapon.
And now you're pretty much ready to go.
How does it Play?
The ghost player is trying to provide the other players with the information on who the killer is, where the murder occurred and what was used to do it. But cannot talk to the other players at all.
Every turn, the ghost player draws a number of cards from their deck. The ghost play can give them to the other players. These cards contains all manner of strange and weird imagery.
When the ghost player gives other players these cards, they are trying to get them to pick the correct clue card.
For example; if the killer was a fisherman, you might give them a card with picture of a boat or a fish or even the colour blue.
So once the psychic players have received cards from the ghost player, they have to use them to try choose the right card. When they have selected what they feel is the right card, then they put their meeple on the card.
Once all the players have done this. The ghost player will indicate if they are correct.
If a psychic player is correct, then they take the clue card, put it into their pocket and move their meeple on to the next set of clues.
If the player's guess was incorrect then they stay on the current set of clues.
Play proceeds until all psychic players have 3 cards in their pockets, or time runs out, (In which they all lose.).
If all the players manage to get their 3 clues in time, the play proceeds to the epilogue.
During the epilogue, all the clues for all the characters are revealed. The psychic players now have one attempt to guess who the killer is from all the available clues.
If they guess incorrectly, everybody loses.
If they guess correctly, everybody wins.
I've glossed over the rules somewhat, but the gist of it is there.
Apparently, the game can involve using a secret voting mechanic when making choices. But all the players I spoke to prefer the idea of open discussion when making choices and I have to agree. The group discussions add a lot to the game in my opinion. This makes the game a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
The art on the cards is a mixture of weird and wonderful imagery, highly detailed and allowing the ghost player a lot opportunities to use them as hints and clues. In fact the whole look of the game and it's art direction is moody and evocative. I like the clock as the game timer.
I also like how the game manages to be both asymmetrical and co-operative. Quite often asymmetrical games can be a lonely experience, (As anybody who has played the prison guard in 'Escape from Colditz can attest.), but Mysterium changes that dynamic.
I think this is an entertaining game and one to be played socially. It's also straightforward enough that anyone can join in a contribute.
Finally, now everyone is on the same side and you can watch the ghost player try to keep a neutral expression when you are about to make a stupid choice!