Expanding the Horizons (A Day To Play New Games)

Today was “I Bought This Game and I’m Going to Play It” day at the FLGS, Armored Gopher Games.  This is the day that the FLGS sponsors once in a while in order to allow the patrons to get a chance to play all of those neat little games that we just don’t get time to play, but they looked so darn cool.

I was pretty happy with the whole gamut of games I got to play today.  As it happened, they all ended up being card games, but that doesn’t really bother me.  I was just glad to broaden the horizon a bit.

The first game that we played this morning was Let’s Kill by Atlas Games.  The cheery concept behind this game is for each of players to portray a thrill killer trying to get the most points for their kills.  Each player draws and plays victims, locations, weapons, surprises, and events.  You can kill without a victim, a weapon, and a location.

If you have a warped sense of humor and appreciate black humor, it’s a fun game.  One of us won by killing his a victim that turned out to be his own mother in his basement.  Again, it takes an appreciation of the macabre, but hey, my family loves Kittens in a Blender as well, so what do I know?

The next game we played was Cthulhu Gloom.  Cthulhu Gloom is a variant of the card game Gloom, which I have never played, but I think I get the general point, even if my first exposure was Cthulhu flavored.  The point of the game is to have as many of your family members die in absolute despair, and whomever gets the lowest score wins.

You play events onto the cards to make your own family worse, or to make your opponent’s family members happier.  The Cthulhu version also ads a few artifacts that modify your story when you have a few special symbols showing.  In general, you also use the cards to “narrate” what just happened, which was kind of fun.  It was a fun game, still a bit macabre, but not quite as dark as Let’s Kill, if only because it was a bit “removed” from the real world.  It wasn’t too hard to get the hang of the game, and I’d play it again to see if it gelled a bit more next time.

The next game on the docket was Penny Arcade’s Gamers Versus Evil.  This is a deck building game, and I’ve never done one of those before.  Essentially, you have a limited amount of resources, you use those resources to buy better cards from various piles, and slowly become a bit more versatile in what you are doing.

There are “boss cards” that you can spend resources to “beat,” and “boss loot” that is better than some of the other cards that you can buy, that go up in cost as the bosses advance in level.  Once you beat all of the bosses, or purchase a certain number of stacks down to nothing, the game ends, and you add up the number of victory points on the cards you have  (the initial resources you have not having any victory points, thus giving you incentive to upgrade as much as you can in your hand).

I did have fun, but I couldn’t shake two impressions of the game.  One, it was a little confusing.  I caught on, but he “in jokes” on the cards did nothing to help explain how the game should work, and all of those in jokes, while they may have come from some amusing strips, are a little disjointed.  I didn’t dislike the experience, but given a choice, I’d pick some other games to play if I had the option of playing it again.

Finally, we broke out the new Star Wars Living Card Game.  I’ve actually been fairly excited about trying this one out.  We watched the tutorial on Fantasy Flight’s website, which was actually fairly well done, although there were a few fine points that it missed  (or that just didn’t click until we played the game and reread the rulebook).

The artwork and components in this game are gorgeous.  The cards all have painted artwork, and though much of it is based on scenes from the classic trilogy, there are some cards that depict characters from the Expanded Universe as well  (I was happy to pick out a few pictures of Mara Jade gracing the cards, for example).

The rules are a bit complex.  I don’t know if I would have picked up exactly what the rules were explaining if I had just watched the video or just read the rulebook.  The combination made it much simpler to understand.  The rules aren’t counter-intuitive, but there are a lot of phases in each turn, with their own rules for each phase.

While the rules are a bit complicated, once you get the hang of them, they seem pretty solid.  That having been said, I still will have to play the game a few more times before I’m sure if the individual cards are as solid as the base rules.

I had a lot of fun with the game, but when I played the game, and when I watched the next game, it seemed like there were several cards that were very “swingy” in how they effected the overall gameplay experience.  In the first game, my Coruscant Blockade would likely have really dominated the game if it had come out sooner, or if I had Coruscant as one of my objectives.  My opponent played a Wookiee that let him attack the same objective twice that, if he hadn’t gotten to play it, he would have been in a world of hurt.

The first game was Sith versus Rebel Alliance.  The next game was Jedi versus Imperial Navy.  It seemed like both of the military groups  (Rebel and Imperial) were able to field lots of lesser units more quickly, while the Jedi and Sith could field fewer units that could get pumped up to monstrous proportions, but those characters had a limited amount that they could do, since the sheer amount of power they could bring to bear would tear through the smaller military units.

Then there is the matter of the Death Star timer.  The Dark Side just pretty much wins by hanging in long enough for the Death Star timer to reach the end of its track.  This advances one every round, barring cards that change that fact.  The track also jumps forward one of the balance of the Force is tipped to the Dark Side, and it jumps forward if the Dark Side takes out an objective.  But here is the crux.  If the Dark Side takes out an objective, the timer jumps forward one for every objective taken out.  So the second objective that the Dark Side takes out jumps the timer up by two.

While I understand the “Rebels have to make gains, the Empire just has to endure” nature of the gameplay, and it makes sense for the setting, I think there might be a bit too many conditions ticking the Death Star clock forward.

Overall, I had a lot of fun.  The game was fun, there was a lot to do, and the components are just fun to play with, and the cards are gorgeous to look at.  However, I’m not sure how finely tuned the game is.  I want to play it a few more times to figure some things out.  Just learning the game today, not really fine tuning the decks and just playing the pre-made decks, and only seeing two games, maybe the game ebbs and flows a lot differently once the strategic options become second nature.  I did have enough fun that I  at least want to play again to find out.

All in all, it was a long, full, fun day of getting some wider gaming exposure, and I’m glad I got the chance.  Thanks to Armored Gopher and all of the gamers that came out to play today.

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