It’s a light week for news, but I have an Ironheart rumor. Plus, I spend most of the time looking at the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) to figure out who my five favorite bad guys are. Who are your favorite villains? Thank you for checking…
Like normal, I’m stealing slightly from something that I’ve been watching. Into the Badlands. The world has “ended” after something happened and there’s this Badlands split up and ruled by barons in the show, but that’s not what I care about. What we’re caring about here is this city of Azra that people know about in the show and believe to be some paradise that they can maybe find and escape to.
In our case we have our city of “paradise”, Zenefil, and there’s a deity in the world who has created this for the adventurers to find. Now, that sounds great for our adventuring party, but the world otherwise really sucks. There are powerful chromatic dragons that are ruling the lands with fear.
So this is clearly going to basically be the whole thing getting to the paradise of Zenefil, but generally if something sounds too good to be true, it probably will be. And the deity should definitely have put a limit on how many people can actually get in. So while I said adventurers, everyone and their mother is going to consider themselves adventurers and probably be willing to kill to try and get there. Plus, then you’d have the dragons who would be trying to stop the people from leaving because they need subjects to torture or it’s just dull.
Beyond the dangers of the other people going and the dragons, I’d make it sort of a puzzle/mystery sort of thing where players need to figure out clues and decipher things that the deity is giving them in order to eventually make their way to Zenefil. This will do two things, it’ll weed out some of the weaker NPC’s that they might run into for a while so it becomes less chaotic, it also kind of gives you points of timing for other NPC’s. Beyond that, it allows you, the further they get away from the dragon kingdoms towards Zenefil, they should start seeing more monsters and natural things like that.
You can also add in less natural things as well, depending on what you want to do with Zenefil. Do you want it to be an amazing sanctuary and refuge against the dragons, or do you want it to be a equally as bad, if not worse place. Now, you can have the players need to fight at this point and try and defeat the deity or the deities monsters/henchmen.
This is going to be more exploration focused in some ways as your clues can lead them to various landmarks along the way and put them into unique situations. Also it’ll be an exploration into what the player characters are deciding to do with the other NPC’s that are running about as well. I think that there’s going to be a lot of interesting stories to tell with that, will the PC’s help some less fortunate NPC’s, will they leave an NPC that is injured out there who can be brought back as a nemesis? Is there another group that is their arch rivals? Play around with those emotions and groups of people, heck, even family members.
So, would you run a game like this? Would this be something that you’d do for a whole campaign? For me, this is a higher level campaign, or the second arc of a campaign. If you can set-up the dragons as rulers in the first one somehow, then you could create the paradise/Zenefil part as the second arc at a higher level. It would give the players less competition and more reason to not just worry about their own survival.
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So, not my main topic for today, but I figured that it was probably worth posting about. I know last year my Gen Con coverage with the games that I picked up and got to demo or play there was fairly popular and I was looking forward to going to Gen Con again this year.
However, like many things in 2020, Gen Con has been cancelled. Not really surprised by it, even with Indiana having plans to slowly re-open the state as it flattens the curve on Covid-19, having so many people come from not just out of state but around the world would have been risky for not only the people attending Gen Con, but also the population of Indiana/Indianapolis just with more chances of the disease being spread.
Am I saddened that Gen Con won’t be happening this year? Yes, it saddens me, but I have been expecting it for a while. They might have figured out a way with their costs as to not go bankrupt, and they have announced the dates for Gen Con 2021 that I’m already looking forward to going to.
I think we have to ask what this means for board game companies. While sales are huge at Gen Con and a chance to get people excited about your game that is coming to Kickstarter, the cost of shipping games and paying for the space is also high. For more established game companies, they’ll be able to release their Gen Con games through their own stores and probably end up making about as much money. But it will hurt on the hype. There’s always some hot game coming out of Gen Con that does more sales because of buzz built there than it would have otherwise. Likewise, smaller or newer companies, one of the biggest benefits is brand recognition. When people walk through the dealer hall multiple times, they can run across a company that they haven’t seen before. It might be a harder year for those less established companies, just for brand recognition.
Finally, they are doing something as an online Gen Con over the same time period. To be determined what that is. But I’m glad that a lot of cons that are being cancelled, CMONExpo, Board Game Geek, Dice Tower East, and more are doing online “conventions”. This might be something as little as them playing games online or talking about upcoming games and giveaways and things of that nature, but it’s nice to have those board gaming options still show up. It won’t be the same, but hopefully it’ll be a chance for some board game companies to still get the brand recognition and game sales that they need to keep the hobby growing.
Were you planning on going to Gen Con this year? What do you want from an online version of the convention?
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Recently I did an article talking about the different types of games, and one that I mentioned was campaign games. These are games that tell a story throughout as you play them and you are playing scenarios that tie together over time and create one big narrative. Campaign games can be Legacy games but don’t need to be destructive or changing in nature, it can just be a grand story that is told throughout.
Let’s get to the list:
10 – Sword & Sorcery
This is a big dice chucking ameritrash campaign game where you take your group of heroes of old who have been brought back in the nations time of need. You get to level up, get new skills and attacks and generally be pretty awesome as you chuck dice and go through a pretty simple story. The game really gives you a lot of dice to chuck and a lot of cool abilities to use. Just in the base game there are plenty of characters to checkout and you can get a whole lot more in small character expansions or in the bigger box story expansions. This is probably one of the most classic in terms of story that you’ll find for a campaign. It is a bit fiddly, but the upkeep and monster actions are fairly simple and the story is small enough that you don’t feel like you’re spending all your time adjusting the board and looking up story elements in the book, but the initial set-up can be pretty slow.
9 – Risk Legacy
Probably the campaign that has the least amount of story in it. However, the board changes in a legacy style as you play and you can unlock things as new things happen in the game to create even more weird challenges. The story of this game really comes from the players as you face off against each other over and over again for points in this Risk based game that allows you to win not from taking over but by getting victory points for taking out your enemies bases and completing missions. Each game goes pretty fast, which is enjoyable, and you feel like you’ve gotten that Risk dice chucking combat done, but without it overstaying it’s welcome. Plus, unless an odd situation happens, you’re always going to be able to hope back into the game and possibly mess someone up and get back into contention, versus being eliminated. Not a ton of depth to this campaign, but a fun time.
8 – Star Wars: Imperial Assault
The Star Wars dungeon crawl, Imperial Assault offers you two ways to play. First, you can do it with someone running the empire and working within the game to create scenarios and a story that you play through. Or you can be completely cooperative and play through the game using an app that helps you with your book keeping as to everything the empire needs to do. This was the precursor to Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth in what it was doing with the app. The story is fun, and what I really like about this story is that it’s adjacent to the original trilogy story, at least out of the core box. So you don’t play as Luke, Leia, or Han, and you can’t kill of Darth Vader or the Emperor, but they might show up in your story as someone to help you or someone to run away from. It’s fun to see how they can weave that together and create a fun experience of a campaign.
7 – Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Another not that story driven one, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, has you play through a campaign of the books, getting new threats that you’re raising to finish and new bad guys you’re trying to beat. This is a deck building game that builds on itself as you play more and more games of it, there are seven total games to play out of the base box, one for each book, and you gain new abilities and new cards to build you deck in each one. It starts out simple, but eventually has you focusing more into what you can do really well. You get to play the main characters the base box has Neville, Ron, Hermione, and Harry, and take them through their times at Hogwarts. A downside is that while the game is simple, the longer you go, the more bad guys you have to beat.
6 – Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
One that I just got into recently but this game has so many things that I love. First, there is a digital component, not that that makes the game so amazing, but because it makes it more immersive as you’re trying to “solve” the case put in front of you. Then with that, you’re also using your own deduction skills, I really like using deduction and puzzling through things, even if I’m not great at figuring out the puzzle all the time, right away. There is so much going on in this game, story wise, that you feel like you’re in it trying to actually solve this case. It reminds me a bit of procedural crime TV shows, but you get to be the main characters. And while I’m not a huge fan of those shows, being a character in that show is fascinating. And while we were investigating, we were getting cards and things to be added into future cases because of what we’d studied before so out of the base box, with five cases, you develop a whole story as these cases tie together.
5 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Arkham Horror is an interesting one to put on the list, because as a Living Card game it’s getting new campaigns and parts to old campaigns pretty often. Out of the base box, you have a three part story where you do the first scenario and what you do in that causes changes for future scenarios. There is a lot that I love out of this game, first you get to play through a surprisingly immersive story for something that is done just with cards. You have interesting and different characters as well in the story. And even with just cards, they do wildly different things at times. Add in that you can do some deck building in this game, not during the game but before or between, you can develop the strategy that you want to take into a case, it might be a strategy of more fighting or more investigating, or blending and balancing the two depending on your style, and unlike some of these campaigns where eventually you’ll have played through it, this one is still getting new content all the time.
4 – TIME Stories
This one has less of a through story than a lot of the campaign games, but there are certain elements that tie it together. You are always worried about another time agency that is trying to mess with time and multiverse in it, and thus far, I’ve really enjoyed every scenario. I feel like they’ve managed to change them up a bit, and while you often have combat or things that are just rolling dice and hoping to get lucky, it does work very well. Each scenario has very strong story elements to it as well as you are trying to figure out a puzzle and an optimal path through the game to win, but with that, you’re exploring and uncovering elements of the story as well. I really like the fact that you are put into “vessels” and that’s how you time travel in the game, and sometimes, you don’t do well enough and your “vessel” dies, but jumping back into the past, you can join the game again and do another run to try and solve the puzzle. It can get a bit repetitive for some, but I haven’t found that to be an issue.
3 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Second Legacy game on the list, and I will toss in Season 2 as kind of continuation of this if you want more content. Pandemic is a great cooperative game where you are trying to cure diseases. Pandemic Legacy offers much of the same with that, but story and a changing and expanding rule set as time goes on. The game never feels too complex, but it is more challenging than the regular game. I really like how they manage losing in the game, you continue on if you lost twice in a month, and help you balance that out by getting more useful cards back in your deck that allow you to bend the rules. And the story, while not complex is good, and it has a nice twist to it. I don’t think that the twist was all that surprising, but definitely changes up the game.
2 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
This game just screams epic campaign game. You get to level up and improve your character and you get to explore a massive story as you travel through the lands of Avalon. There are some things I really enjoy about the game, first is the story element. You get to delve into so much of a massive exploration journal and find out so much about the world. This is a dark world as well, and I really appreciate that the storytelling is set in that and that there is a survival element to the game as well. This can be a punishing game that makes you travel around places and do the same things multiple times, but that’s kind of the point of the game as you are traveling through this grim dark Avalon facing off against monstes, trying to hold the Wyrdness at bay by keeping Menhir lit, and struggling to find food. It’s played out over several chapters and you definitely don’t see everything in the game, so it’s a campaign you can come back to again and explore more to see if you can do better.
1 – Gloomhaven
My #1 game of all time, no surprise it’s at the top of the list. Gloomhaven just is a wonderfully massive game. It tells a good story, I wouldn’t say as good as Tainted Grail, but beyond that, the mechanics are amazing, I love the card combat and movement that you have in each scenario as you try and puzzle out what is going to be the best and what the enemies might do. And there’s just so much content in the game, not just scenarios, but also monsters to fight and characters to play as. I love that you have to retire characters at certain points, and that then gives you a new character that feels different from other characters, there’s just so much interesting things going on in the game and there are apps to help make it faster to get to the table that are great. I’ve talked about this a lot, so I’ll stop there, but it’s amazing.
One thing I’ll point out about this list, with the exception of Risk Legacy, all the games on the list are cooperative. It’s fairly rare for there to be competitive campaign games, that I’ve seen, though there are some out there with the likes of Charterstone, which is fun, and Seafall, which is long. But most are going to lean cooperative, so think about that, if you don’t love cooperative games and you want to play a campaign game. And I have a lot more to play and coming than I’ve already played. I really want to get the likes of Betrayal Legacy, Clank Legacy! and Aeon’s End Legacy to the table as well sooner rather than later, because all of those are campaigns based off of games that I already love. Also, I left Dungeons and Dragons off the list, because, I want to keep it board games versus adding in RPG’s which are great but different experiences.
What are some of your favorite campaign games? What are some that I should checkout?
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