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…
Tag: Arkham Horror
We’ve all seen Simpsons Monopoly and Monopoly for a specific football team or baseball team, national parks, or city. Those are all IP’s put onto Monopoly, intellectual properties. Those aren’t going to make this list, I’m looking at my top 10 favorite games that are…
What, another order already? This one I did in particular because I want to help support my local game stores, and Chronicles of Crime is a game that I’ve heard a lot about. If you are in the Minneapolis area and want delivery (and are close enough) All Systems Go is a great shop that does delivery and they were delivering my Ms Marvel – Marvel Champions pack to me, so I decided to add to my delivery and support them.
Why did I pick Chronicles of Crime?
There are multiple reasons, first, I really like games that have some sort of puzzle or deduction to them. Escape room games like Unlock or Exit are good examples, Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition or Arkham Horror The Card Game even have elements of them. So I like detective style games as well, even Clue, the classic, I still enjoy because of the puzzle of figuring out information as efficiently as possible.
The other thing is that is has an interesting app integration piece. Now, that’s going to disappoint some people, but I really find it interesting, though it can’t be played without the app. The app scans QR codes allowing you to interact with people and ask them about clues or other people you might have found during you investigation. But that’s not the coolest piece of the app in my opinion. Instead, there is a video component that you can use basically as VR if you want, where you can look all around and see the crime scene. While you’re doing that, you’re telling the other players what you see and they’re grabbing what might be useful clues for you to use later in your investigation.
The other thing that’s really cool about this for me is that there is a community aspect to it. It’s not just the company making scenarios, you can go out and get scenarios that other people have created and put together so maybe someone did a dog napping or there was a grisly murder, you don’t know. But there can be an ever increasing amount of story just from the base game. Plus there are expansions, there is a Noir expansion that looks cool, but I’m more excited for the Redview expansion which is a kids on bikes, almost RPG like version of the game, so it doesn’t have to just be crime, you can do wildly different things with it.
So hopefully that explains why I was interested in the game and picked it up. Does it sound like a game that would be cool? Maybe see if your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) and get it ordered in for you and help them during these times.
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If you’ve been keeping up with my Top 10 List, you’ll have seen a number of the same games on there over and over again, some of my favorites, and it gives you an idea of how they fall into various categories and mechanics, but I wanted to do one that’s going to hit a number of different games, and that is going to be small(er) box games. Now, I’m not going with Micro Games, so it doesn’t have to fit in a mint tin, pack of gum, or be a regular old deck of cards, but games that are in a box that’s smaller than a Carcassone box.
10 – Second Chance
The first of several roll (flip) and write games on the list. They just work really well for packing a punch in a small box. In Second Chance, you’re trying to fill in as much of a grid as you possibly can with a bunch of Tetris like shapes. The trick is that the next shape you add, from two cards flipped, must touch one of your previous shapes somewhere. Now, smaller shapes would generally be ideal because you can fill it in more solidly, but there are a limited number of one or two square cards in the deck, so you have to hope that they come up at a time that you can use it. If you eventually can’t use either of the two shapes flipped, you then get a second chance, a card that only you can use, however, if you can’t use that, you’re out of the game and you count up the empty squares and that’s your points, the person with the fewest empty squares wins. It works really well because you don’t have down time since everyone is using the same cards, just with a different starting card.
9 – Criss Cross
Smallest game on the list, it’s barely larger than a deck of cards, but it offers a whole ton of fun. In this game, you are rolling dice and placing those dice on a 5×5 grid, trying to get like symbols next to each other to score points in both the rows and columns. The tricky bit is that you need to put those two dice faces for a round next to each other, orthogonally, or like a domino would fit into a grid. Adding to that, the fact that it’s scoring both rows and columns means that you need to think hard about getting points both ways, because while more like symbols in a row gives you more points, being able to score in more directions might be better. Plus, you can put the dice faces anywhere, so you have to worry about not giving yourself two single spaces not next to each other, because that means you can fill in the last roll. A lot of fun and plays fast with no downtime.
8 – Say Bye to the Villains
A really tough game for the list, one that you’ll lose way more often than you win. In Say Bye to the Villains, you are Samurai who are going to be taking on various villains and you have ten days to prepare. That can be done by increasing your stats or by figuring out a villains cards and how tough a villain will be or by giving someone else a card. However, all of these things cost time, and the better ones might cost multiple days, and you only have ten days to prepare. So while the game is cooperative, you always feel like you haven’t prepared your stats well enough or that you haven’t figured out enough for a villain so you just need to try at the the end and hope it works. Thus far in around ten plays, I have yet to win the game, but in the vast majority of them, we’ve been really close, so one of these days it’ll happen. The game can overstay it’s welcome just a tiny bit if someone spends their time really fast they then have to sit around, and in a higher player count, that could be a little bit.
7 – Just One
This party game works perfectly on this list because it packs a punch for a small package. First, it’s a fully cooperative party game, which is pretty rare, but it’s also clever, borrowing some from Scattergories and Taboo and other older party games that maybe don’t hold up as well. One person is “it” and they flip over a card and show it to everyone else and pick a number from 1 to 5, that corresponds with a word, then the other players write down a one word clue for that word. However, then the players have to compare their words, and any duplicate clues aren’t shown to the person who is it. The clues are then revealed and that person needs to guess what word it was, if they get it, you get a point. If not, you lose a card, limiting how many points you can get. Now, it is a party game, so scoring is optional, in my opinion, but the game itself is a really fun time.
6 – The Lost Expedition
This one has shown up on the adventure list, but it’s a small box game that’s a lot of fun. In this game you’re trying to navigate from the start of the trail all the way to the Lost City of Z. However, there are creatures, native tribes, rivers, and more that need to be traversed to be able to get there. So as a group you’re playing down cards that will allow you travel further down the trail, but they’re going to cost resources and you have a limited supply of those, so you have to balance wanting to push ahead as fast as possible with gathering more resources as well. The game does a nice thing as it’s a cooperative game, it helps alleviate a situation where there is an alpha player who wants to tell everyone what to do because when playing down cards for the morning or evening walk, you can’t discuss the cards in your hand, so the biggest decision can’t be alpha gamed.
5 – Sushi Go Party!
I really like this game because of the variability to it. In regular Sushi Go, you have a fixed pool of cards, but in the Party version, you can swap out your appetizers, desserts, and specials, and more so that it is a different combo most of the times. You can make it as challenging or as easy as you want to score points. And the game is just a really good drafting game that doesn’t give you down time. You’re mainly just trying to draft sets, but some of them offer a lot more points if you get a large number of them, whereas, others you can split into smaller sets, or others will give you negative points if you have to many of them. The artwork is very cute in the game as well, which helps it hit the table with a wider variety of players.
4 – Point Salad
So there’s a joke about games where they can be a point salad, meaning that they give you a million different ways to score in the game, like you can put a million toppings onto a salad. In Point Salad, it gives you a million ways to score, but you have to decide which ones you want to take, and which veggies you take to build up your salad. The game is great because it plays fast, it offers interesting decisions and its tongue in cheek naming. Overall, it’s a pretty simple game, but offers good replayability and you can’t have the same strategy every game because the scoring cards you can draft will vary based off of what cards are actually being used and what pile those cards might be in. A fun and fast game.
3 – Welcome To…
The highest roll (flip) and write game on the list, as it’s my favorite that I’ve played thus far. In the game you’re building your perfect Stepford neighborhood, with it’s white picket fences, parks, and pools. Will you be the best at developing your neighborhood. The great thing about this one is that you can play basically an infinite number of people because everyone is using the same three pairs of cards each round, well, picking one of them to use. It’s a challenging game as you’re trying to complete specific neighborhood layouts but also focusing more on one of the things, parks or pools, can net you more points, but you’ll also be missing out on points as well. The game plays fast and everyone is involved in the whole game, so a lot of fun, and one that if people have access to a printer to print the sheet or has the game, works really well online.
2 – Hanamikoji
A great small box card game where you are trying to win the favor of various Geisha. To do that, you need to give them gifts, one might want a comb, while another might want a flute, it depends on the Geisha. To get them those gifts, you and your opponent, it’s only a 2 player game, are going to take turns doing one of four actions. Each person can do each action once per round. It might be that you discard a card face down that won’t be a gift for any of the Geisha. Or you play two face down that you’ll use as gifts later, or there is a play three face up, your opponent picks one and you get the other two, or two groups of two face up, your opponent picks one and you get the other. It offers a lot of strategy, but there’s enough hidden information to keep the game challenging every time you play it.
1 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
When I was thinking of this list, I kind of forgot that this would apply, but it’s probably my favorite “small box” game. I put it in quotes, because the more expansions that you get, the larger a box you’ll need, but if you just get the base game, and that’s all you’d need for a while, it comes in a small box. And it gives you a bigger gaming experience than some as you’re playing through scenarios in a greater story just using cards and a few tokens. The downside to that scenario based story is that once you’ve played it once or twice, you’ll know the story, then you’ll want to get the cheap expansion packs, and eventually it’s not that small a game anymore. Still, you can get a lot from that small box.
I have a lot more small box games that pack a lot of punch that just missed the list. Things like Hats, Letter Jam, Homebrewers, Century: Golem Edition, Not Alone, Onirim and more just missed the list, and I think when boar dame night in person starts up again, some of them will go higher up the list, because a lot of smaller box games play faster and are easier to pick up on.
What are some of your favorite games that come in a small box?
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I have a lot of mechanics that I like, deck building was an easy list for me to make and while I don’t always love area control, there are some of the games that I love that use it. But variable player powers, that is probably my favorite. For those who aren’t as familiar with the concept, simply, it means that I can do something that you can’t. That can be that I could move a piece for free, or do a more powerful version of an action, but I can do something unique. It’s that feeling of doing something different that gives you the feeling that you are special in the game or that you have a different direction in the game than other players can that is really cool.
10 – Lords of Hellas
You’re playing as a mythological Greek character, of course they are going to have their own powers. They have a couple of things that are unique, first they have something that they get while setting, up, in my case, I was getting a priest/priestess to start the game. And then you have a special ability that only you can do. It kind of helps focus you on what you want to do for a win condition because those are so diversified as well. The game has a lot of unique things that you can do as well, because when temples are built, it might trigger drafting a blessing. And those blessings are unique powers to you a well so you become more unique and diversified as time goes on the further you get into the game.
9 – Dice Throne Season 1 and 2
These characters are completely unique in the game. They roll their own unique dice, they have their own unique decks, and their player board is going to do unique things as well. The game is pretty simple in concept as it uses Yahtzee and King of Tokyo style rolling where you can roll three times and you see what you get, but when you actually dig into what the characters can do, there’s a lot of interesting things that allow you tweak dice or that you can focus on. The Pyromancer plays very different than the Shadow Thief who plays different than the Gunslinger who is different than the Cursed Pirate, so you do need to plan out your strategies and hope that you have the cards to make the dice rolls work. It’s probably the simplest game on the list, but it gives you that feeling of playing a special character without you learning so much that’s new.
8 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
There are a number of things that make you unique in this deck building game. First, your deck is going to be constructed differently at the start, you are going to have a card in there that is special to you. So that’s a unique power. The set-up of your breaches for casting spells is also unique, but not really a power. Finally, on your player board, you have an ability that you can charge, that ability is probably pretty powerful and it’s unique to you. All of that gives you a unique feel and a unique focus. If you plan it right, you can set-up good synergies between the characters where one character can get a spell cheaper and pass that spell to another player, and that other player can then focus on getting breaches open to cast more spells for better use of the games money.
7 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Spoilers, this isn’t the only Arkham game on the list. Fantasy Flight does a good job of making all the characters with unique powers. Not only do you have a unique skill set and health and sanity levels. But it’s the character powers and unique character items that really can set you apart. And generally, you’re going to need to use those powers because it’s going to give you something that you can do that is just better than a regular action. Now, they don’t always come into play, but to really optimize your game, you’re probably going to want to use those powers. There’s just a lot to love about this game and the variable player powers is just the icing on the cake.
6 – XenoShyft: Onslaught
Not one that jumped out to me at the start as having variable player powers, but when I thought about it, you do have unique roles that you do. At the start it’s just that every role can buy a certain type of item cheaper. But as you get further into waves, you unlock more special abilities that make your character unique. Plus, in your starting deck, as this is a deck builder, you get unique things. It might be weapon or armor or a soldier, but you are going to have a unique starting deck compared to everyone else. That really drives the game because you need to support each other, and it has the interesting mechanic where you can trade cards or play cards when another person is going in order to help them get through their line up of alien bugs. So while some of the variable power games on the list have you really as your own unique character where you do that thing, this one is set-up so that you can help the other players which is a unique twist.
5 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
First of two living card games, but all of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham line of products (seeing as this isn’t the first on the list) do a good job with variable player powers. You always are going to have different stats for things like lore, agility, and strength, but you also are going to have a special character power that only you can do, and beyond that, your health and sanity ratios are going to be different as well. Beyond that, each character is going to have a deck that is uniquely built for them. While some of these aren’t technically powers, they are things that make your character feel very unique. And it can help tailor your play style, you’re probably always going to need to be okay at getting clues, but some characters are going to be better at that while others are going to be stronger at attacking. Overall, it’s just a good system and makes any Arkham line of game feel unique.
4 – Marvel Champions
Marvel Champions hits what I want for variable player powers, giving it to me not just because my deck of cards is unique, but because I can do something special as both my super hero side and my alter-ego side. In this game you’re facing off against a villain as a Marvel superhero such as Spider-Man or Captain America. Captain America can do something different as Steve Rogers and as Captain America and those things are different than what Peter Parker can do or Spider-Man. And each character that they release is different. So in a multiplayer game of Marvel Champions, you feel like your hero is that hero and that you can do different things. Then you add in aspects, which are part of the deck building piece, so you might have protection where you are better at defense or aggression that make you even more unique.
3 – T.I.M.E. Stories
This one is a bit trick to talk about because everything is kind of part of the stories in the game. But I’ll give you the premise for the game, you are part of a time agency who is meant to stop time incursions from coming through and messing up the timeline. But it isn’t like you are fully transported back in time, just your conscious is transported. That’s where you get your variable powers from. And the powers your “vessel” as they call them in the game, has, depends on your scenario. Again, I don’t want to go into it too much as it’s fun to determine what a scenario is as you open up the thing, but some of them are fairly obvious at least to the setting with names like Under the Mask and the Egyptian images on the box or The Asylum is probably about an Asylum. I’ve really enjoyed the puzzle nature of the game, and while I think that the player powers sometimes are just okay or won’t be used at all, it is part of the game and you can find some decent combos.
2 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
This is true for all Pandemic games, so if you don’t want to get the Legacy version of the game, just get basic Pandemic. In the game you take on different roles of people trying to stop a Pandemic. The Medic is able to remove disease cubes easier, the Dispatcher can move players around the board faster, the Scientist can discover a cure with fewer cards. And you can upgrade and improve the characters as you go so that they get more diverse and more variable in what they can do. I won’t go into what those upgrade are as it would be a little bit of a spoiler for some of the stuff that you unlock in the game, but it’s a great experience and the fact that you can customize and streamline your team in hopes of being able to better win games, it’s a ton of fun.
1 – Gloomhaven
It’s my favorite game, of course it has variable player powers. In the game, you play as a character and you have your own unique hand of actions that you can do. Some characters are going to be manipulating elements to perform stronger attacks. Others are going to be supporting with healing or they might be the tank or maybe they’re a ranged attacker. But each character is really different and it makes you feel like you are unique. It can be mechanical in what the character can do, but it really does feel like you can do something else compared to your fellow players. And every time you unlock a new character by retiring your old one, it’s something different. Yes, this game is massive, but if you want something that just has so much diversity in the characters, you can’t go wrong with Gloomhaven.
So, I have so many more that I could put on as well. Literally, all of those games are probably in my top 15-20 of all time (20 as of 2019, minus Lords of Hellas that I hadn’t played yet). I also considered another game in my top 15, Star Wars: Rebellion. Board Game Geek has it listed as variable player power and they definitely are. However, it is so asymmetrical that I feel like I need to put it in it’s own separate category, because everything is so different. Sure, you’re still producing things in a similar way, but it’s more asymmetrical for me. And there are others like Sword & Sorcery and Dead of Winter just missed my list, like I said, I love games with variable player powers.
What are some of your favorite games with variable player powers? What are some that I should checkout?
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