Usually, I like to play some number of “horror” games as Halloween approaches. Well, it’s actually been a few years since I’ve done that successfully, but I still cling to the idea that it’s something I enjoy doing. So then, with October 31 breathing down my throat, it was nice to actually get a few of these games played last week at game night. In my bag, I brought along things such as Fury of Dracula, Letters from Whitechapel, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, the Walking Dead card game, and the game we got to the table first this week…
It was still early, so just Chris and James joined me in a “medium” length scenario (Home Sweet Home) that had us needing to build lots of barricades around the colony and in the outside locations. We didn’t jump on this really early, though, since we were also worried about searching around in the outside locations for stuff we’d need for crisis cards, as well as trying to empty out the colony a little so we wouldn’t be too overwhelmed by new zombies there. One of James’ characters was Thomas Heart the Soldier, who was able to kill 2 zombies at a time, so he hung back to protect the house while some of our better gatherers went out.
My secret objective was the “Leader”, which meant that in order to win, the colony had to succeed and I had to control the most followers. And on the first turn or so, I thought I had gotten lucky when the Crossroads card had Mike Cho the Ninja show up to save my other character (Jenny Clark the Waitress) from a zombie horde in the hospital. But then, when I sent him back to the colony to help fight zombies there, he took a frostbite as his second wound, and despite Jenny making a terrible racket tearing apart the hospital, I couldn’t find the medicine I needed to save him before the start of my next turn, so he died. Easy come, easy go, I guess.
Thankfully, my other starting character was Gabriel Diaz the hunky Fireman, who could dig deeply into location decks looking for survivors. So after the debacle with Mike Cho, I sent him out to start looking. But on his first trip out the door, I rolled a bite on the exposure die and he died. Thankfully, we realized that James hadn’t drawn a Crossroads card for my turn, and when we looked at it, it actually triggered when I moved a character from the colony. Rolling back time a little, I instead decided to use the Crossroads effect and drive a noise tanker truck back to the colony, giving me a handful of fuel but bringing 6 zombies back with me instead. From how we read the order of operations, I think that’s right, anyway, that you don’t roll the exposure die until you arrive at the new location, meaning that I never had to roll it since I basically stayed at the colony based on the card effect.
By then, it was getting into the 4th (of 6) turns and I think we had a crisis card that required tools or we’d lose 2 morale. James went first and fought some zombies, but I don’t think that he contributed anything to the crisis. He did manage to find Bev Russell the Mother at the school with two kids, though, which made me even more worried about me actually getting enough followers to complete my secret objective. So my main focus for the turn was to send Gabriel out somewhere looking for more people. I contributed a card or two to the crisis, but Chris said that he had it under control.
Now, for most of the game, Chris’ two characters (Alexis Grey the Librarian and Kodiak Colby the Woodsman) had been out in the surrounding locations searching for stuff. Alexis mostly hung around the Library (since she’s knows it so well and can search there very effectively, while Colby hit a number of places. But he had contributed a number of cards to earlier crises. But then, on this turn, he used the “Attract Zombies” action with Alexis, which overran the Library and had her get eaten, dropping our morale to just 2. It was very fishy, but there were a lot of zombies at the Colony right then, so maybe it could have been helpful. He also dropped several cards into the crisis stack, so perhaps he was going to have us over-fulfill the crisis to get that morale hit back.
That was, of course, until we flipped the stack over and saw the 3 or 4 non-tool cards that he had thrown into it, losing us the crisis and dropping morale down to 0. He of course then flipped over his evil, nasty Betrayer card and celebrated his solo victory over James and me.
Time: 71 minutes
Score: Chris* – Win; Norton & James E* – Lose
Ratings: Chris 8, Norton 8, James E ?
Losing this game made me like it even more than I did the first time. There’s just so much cool stuff going on here, and while some of the core mechanics aren’t all that new or unique (hidden roles, contributing cards secretly to a common crisis, going to locations to dig through decks of cards there…), they are handled so freaking well in Dead of Winter.
Yes, you have “loyal” and “traitor” roles. But even as a loyal player, I was continually distracted by the need to fulfill my personal objective, which ultimately led me to ignore some of the fishy things that Chris was doing. And then, even thou Chris and Kodiak Colby were clearly evil to the core, he also had to stay his hand until he had everything in place to achieve his victory condition as well. It just adds in a fantastic layer of complexity to take something that has become so ubiquitous in this type of game to a whole other level of fun with even more interesting decisions.
More than that, the most unique mechanic in the game (the Crossroads cards) work out really well for what they’re intended to do. In a lot of other games, something like this might just be a random event deck that screws over or otherwise toys with the players and their plans. But Crossroads cards almost always introduce an interesting choice that makes you reconsider your plan in cool and thematic ways, rather than making you scrap your plan because of something that you couldn’t prepare for.
I’m not quite ready to just wholeheartedly sing its praises, but so far at least, I feel like Dead of Winter is definitely living up to it hype for me.
Speaking of hype, Chris just received his copy of Tiny Epic Kingdom, so we pulled it out with a petty big group of us. I grabbed the Centaurs, who like to be in the plains regions, so I sort of fell into a strategy of getting lots of food (which is produced by the plains) and rushing out all my population (which you need food to make).
It worked pretty well, and I was able to get all 7 dudes on the map by endgame. Unfortunately, the rush part of my strategy didn’t work out, because someone else was able to trigger the end that same turn by completing their “technology” track.
There wasn’t much fighting all game long… at least until the last turn, anyway. But then, it was a huge free-for-all as we turned on each other like monkeys on a cupcake. The biggest mistake I made in the game was spending most of my magic resource on that last turn to upgrade to the final level of my tech (which only scored me a couple of points at the most) instead of holding it back to use in defending myself (because you have to have magic and/or ore to increase your power). Instead, I lost 3 territories on that turn and ended up with a very mediocre score.
Meanwhile, James used his Orcs’ powers to win some easy battles, pick up extra territories, and win pretty comfortably.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Tiny Epic Kingdoms. But there’s also not really much that really excites me about it either. And for the most part, the feeling I had is that the simplicity of the rules and balanced action selection mechanic is going to pretty much keep people on par with each other until the last turn, where chaos will ensue until the most opportunistic person pulls out the win. Like so many microgames before it, I don’t see it having much staying power for me at all. But I’m also not offended by it or anything, and I’d welcome the chance for it to prove me wrong.
I had heard a crazy amount of praise for this game since its release, so I finally picked it up recently when I saw it at Barnes & Noble. Then, while we were all sitting the after TEC, I cajoled everyone around into playing one big session of ONUW.
As it turned out, we actually ended up playing twice. I had the app for my iPad, so Eric Summerer’s silky voice guided us through both sessions. We started off with just the more core roles (werewolves, seer, troublemaker, robber, villagers… and the masons since we had so many people) in the first game, but then added in a few others for the second.
in that first session, Keith claimed pretty quickly to be the Seer, and said that he looked at two cards in the middle of the table. We asked him what he saw, but he hesitated and was only able to tell us one of them. I, of course, assumed that this was just a failed ruse on the part of a werewolf, and was ready to lynch him right then. As it turned out, he was telling the truth and just couldn’t remember, so I sort of screwed that game up for the humans. Keith then got his revenge, however, as he took the win as the solo werewolf in the next game.
Time: 9 and 10 minutes
Game 1: Werewolves (John* & Ray*) – Win; Villagers (Chris*, Norton*, James E*, Keith*, Kenny*, & Stacy*) – Lose
Game 2: Werewolf (Keith) – Win; Villagers (Chris, Norton, James E, John, Kenny, Ray, & Stacy) – Lose
Ratings: Chris 5, Norton 6.5, James E 5, John 6.5, Keith 6.5, Kenny 7.5, Ray 7, Stacy 7
Despite all its flaws, I still enjoy playing the “real” version of Werewolf from time to time. I’ve also tried out a number of these “Werewolf-lite” games as well and enjoyed most of them, too. And after these first couple of plays, I’d say that One Night Ultimate Werewolf probably does the best job of boiling the whole Werewolf experience to its most elemental parts.
I don’t know that I like it more than games such as The Resistance and Coup, but while those games do similar things, they also feel pretty different. But you definitely feel like you’re still playing Werewolf (for good or bad, I suppose) while playing ONUW… except that it only takes about 10 minutes, which is pretty incredible.
Now, we haven’t actually played this as a real game yet, but I’ve used it as sort of a group activity between games a few times lately, so I thought I’d go ahead and talk a little about it. I picked it up on a total lark because it has this awesome, giant black mustache on the front of the box. I had no idea what it was like, but giggled with glee at the thought of inflicting it upon my unsuspecting gaming buddies.
As it turns out, it’s actually pretty cool. The basic idea is that you take one of the cards picturing the iconic moustache from some famous person or character and hold it up to your face under your nose. People try to guess whose it is, and there are a list of increasingly helpful clues on the back to help them out. Whoever gets it first gets the points associated with the clue you last gave, so getting it earlier is obviously better.
And like I said, for the 3 or 4 minutes at a time we’ve been playing around with it, it’s been fun. Especially if you’re participating in No Shave November/Movember this month, it’s a no-brainer to include as a thematic tie-in.
Chris was on a Kickstarter roll last week, so he pulled out this recently fulfilled game as well. Pairs is just a deck of cards with, but it aspires to be much like regular cards in that there are a multitude of different games and variants already developed for it. The main thread running through all of them, however, is the fact that you have face up cards in front of you, and you have to make a push-your-luck decision each turn whether to take another card or not, because if the new card ever pairs with a card you have, bad things happen to you. And since the deck is triangular (numbers valued 1 through 10, with as many cards in the deck as the value… 5 fives, 7 sevens, etc.), there’s a lot you can consider to make your decision. But there’s also a lot of luck in whatever flops off the top of the deck, so it’s definitely a lighter/filler sort of thing.
So anyway, we played the most basic version and then the “continuous” version of the base game. It sort of has a winner (the person with the least points, I suppose), but mostly, it just has one big loser (the person who “busted” with taking too many points).
Time: 4, 7, and 5 minutes
Game 1 (basic game): Norton*, James E*, Keith*, Ken*, Ray*, & Stacy* – 0, John* 8, Chris* 12 (the LOSER)
Game 2 (continuous version): Norton 2, Stacy 4, John 5, Chris 7, James E 9, Keith 9, Ken 10, and Ray 16 (the LOSER)
Game 3 (continuous version): Stacy 1, Norton 2, Keith 3, Ray 4, Ken 5, James E 6, John 8, Chris 17 (the LOSER)
Ratings: Chris 5, Norton 6.5
I was really impressed with how this game actually played. Like I said, it’s very light and pretty darn random, but it also plays ridiculously fast, so it feels like a good balance between decisions and time investment. Chris got 4 or 5 different versions of the deck (different artwork on each), and has a big book of variants that we can explore, so I’m definitely looking forward to trying out more of them in the coming months. I’ll probably also pick this up for me and maybe others (for Christmas maybe) when it’s available in retail.
Lastly, I finished up the night with a couple of games of Android: Netrunner. It feels like it’s been forever since I last played, and for Kenny it had been even longer. He didn’t have his cards with him, so I lent him a deck and we tried to play. But since he hadn’t seen some of the cards and it’s always hard to play a deck you don’t know a lot about, he ended up conceding the first game when I was clearly on my way to victory.
I then pulled out my “core-only” decks, and he took the Haas Bioroid deck against my Kate deck. It was a close game where both of us were doing pretty well and building up well through the mid-game… but then we ran out of time and had to stop early.
Time: 29 and 21 minutes
Game 1: Norton (HB EtF) – Win; Kenny (Noise) – Concede
Game 2: Norton (Kate) 3, Kenny (HB EtF) 2
Ratings: Norton 10
I love Netrunner. And I really hope to play a good deal over the weekend at MACE. But I’ll talk more about that later…
Other Games Played
Ghost Stories (with White Moon)
Time: 81 minutes
Score: Wu Feng – Win; Taoists (Chip, Chris, Keith, & Kenny) – Lose
Ratings: Chris 8
Time: 24 minutes
Score: John 23 (+5), Chris 24 (+4), Stacy 16, Keith 14
Ratings: John ?, Chris 9, Stacy 9.5, Keith 9
* First play for that Person