Between campaign building, I want to go back to some of the board game lists. And this is probably my favorite mechanic for a game, where people can do things just a bit differently than other players. 5. SmallworldThe lightest game on the list by far, […]
Tag: Cry Havoc
Jumping back into another board game list, this time going with another mechanic I like quite well. Area control is a fun mechanic because it really pushes conflict in the game, and the games that do area control well really encourage that conflict to happen. […]
This one is a bit out there in some ways. I would say that there has been attempts at unique powers for a while and some solid successes, but there was a time where the difference between who you were and who I was in the game was that I was the thimble and you were in the iron in Monopoly.
For a lot of people, that’s what it is still in gaming. Even if they’ve progressed away from Monopoly and into games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne, the difference between you and me is that I’m blue and you’re red. Otherwise everything we do is the same. And that’s a-okay in a ton of a games. There isn’t a need for your character to be slightly different than mine, but in some games, it makes the game a whole lot better.
Back in 1949, there was an attempt to make “unique” characters when Clue came out. Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, and the rest of the cast allowed you to pick your favorite based off of more than just color of the pawn you were using. Now, they gave you some art, but it really wasn’t a unique character at that point. You were really just picking a color still. But in some ways that was the start of having unique characters. It gave some foundation that could be built off off later.
Now, we see two prominent ways that unique characters are done in board games. There are more ways beyond that, but there are two major ways. The first is the special power route. Your character has something specific they can do that no one else can. The other way is the asymmetric route. Definitely the harder of the two to pull off, because what you do in the game is always different than what I do in the game.
The first type, is the special power or action that only you can take. A great example of this is Pandemic. In this game you have a base set of actions, treat disease, move, trade cards, etc. that everyone in the game can do. But each character has their own special action that they can take or improvement upon one of the other actions. For example, all characters can treat a disease by taking a cube off of the city they are in, but the medic can take all of the disease cubes off of the city they are in. The dispatcher, on the other hand, can move people on their turn, versus just having to move yourself. The rules still apply the same way for how they can move other people’s pawns.
You can start to see from Pandemic how having unique powers can make the game different each time in different ways. In fact, unique powers are a really good way to keep a game replay-able over a long period of time.
There are games that keep the base action for you, but allow either for changing your unique power or setting up your own unique powers. Two examples jump into my head quickly. The first being Smallworld. Since the races and powers are randomly shuffled, you might end up with flying wizards one time, and wealthy wizards another time. In this case, the game, like in Pandemic, dictates what your unique power is.
There are games, however, that allow you to determine how unique you want your character to be. This is the other example, Blood Rage (also Seafall does this), where you can spend action points that upgrade your clan. A pair of warriors can be made to be worth more in battle for you, or you can gain points when your warriors die in battle and go to Valhalla. Maybe your clan leader is now worth more points, or you can move your ship in a certain way. Maybe you have access to monsters now. Based on how you draft cards, you can shape your own player board to be unique. This type of game is interesting because at the start of the game, your clan is the same as everyone else’s clans. But as the game progresses, the clans play more and more differently depending on your cards, and which ones you choose to use. In Seafall, had the game been good, it was similar where you started out with the same base at the start of the first game, but you could buy upgrades that left from game to game, but you could also put in permanent upgrades as well, so the more you played the more unique you were.
Now, that has been the simpler type of player powers to talk about. The more difficult is the asymmetric player powers. The reason that this is tougher is because even if there is the same base to the game, everyone plays with that differently.
A great example of this is Root. In Root everyone has some pretty similar actions, but how they go about doing all of them is completely different. While you all might be moving troops and trying to control areas, the cats, to gain more troops have to build up various buildings, where as the birds are trying to create an order or cards that they play. The woodland creatures are just trying to get onto the board by using cards in yet another way, and the Vagabond is doing something else different with their actions.
This type of game is very interesting, and Cry Havoc is another example. There is one fairly big downside to a completely asymmetrical game. The time spent teaching the game the first time you play it is pretty to extremely high. In Root, for example, you have to explain a fair amount about each character, even though some of the base actions might be the same. In Vast, this problem is made even larger by the base actions being a greater variety. Cry Havoc is probably the easiest of them to teach, because the base actions for everyone are the same, just the buildings, objectives, and special powers mean that how you play the game as each faction is different.
You can see how this has all moved on from Clue where you had a name for your character, but that was about it that made you unique from just being a different colored pawn.
There are a few more ways that games try and add differences. The other most common, though what you can do might not change, is the hidden traitor role in a game like One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Resistance. These games, what everyone does is basically the same, some expansions provide more variability to the game, but in the base, you can hide your actions because you are doing the same thing as everyone else.
This has then been expanded upon with games like Dead of Winter and Shadows Over Camelot. Shadows Over Camelot gives the bad guy more that they can do, if there is even a traitor in the game. In Dead of Winter, each player has a hidden objective. So while you have the exact same set of powers, you are trying for a slightly unique state of the game when it ends, mainly what you have in your hand at the end of the game. For me, these games can be a bit more hit or miss, because depending on if there is a traitor or not, it can greatly hinge the game on various things, and it can at times force you to look like the traitor to actually win the game. If there was some balancing mechanic for it, it would make the game better, but potential hidden traitor and hidden objectives is very hard to pull off well in a game.
That’s a lot variable player powers and the range that can run. Personally, I’d be interested in seeing a reworking of Clue so that Professor Plum can do something different and better than Colonel Mustard, but that’s already been done in some of those investigation games, like Fury of Dracula.
What are some of your favorite variable player power games? Are there some where certain combinations are too broken to play with so you’ve banned them at your table?
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We’ve done small games, we’ve done story games, I feel like the logical next step is going to be suggesting some strategy games.
Who would you give a strategy game too? With the stocking stuffers and story games, a lot of them could be played by people who aren’t big into board games, but strategy games, you are going to want to give those to a person who is more of a board gamer already. Otherwise, you’re less likely to know what the person will like the game. I am going to put a few lighter strategy games on the list that would work for more people, but generally speaking, these are going to be heavier games.
Now, this was on both the story and the strategy game list, so consider that if you are thinking of buying a story board game for someone. Gloomhaven has a ton of interesting decisions and a ton of decisions for combat and work with your team (or by yourself) in order to figure out the most optimal strategy to beat the scenario that you are playing. And the strategy changes pretty often when you have changing characters. The card driven combat works really well for the strategy of this game, and it isn’t a pure strategy/abstract game, so it doesn’t force you to play optimal strategy to win.
This is a lighter strategy game where you face off against another player in a race to the opposite side of the board. You either move or put down a wall on the board on your turn. It’s pretty simple in the rules, you can’t block the other person from being able to make it across the board, but there are some interesting strategies. It can play up to 4 players, and with a larger number of players it’s more random, but with two players, this game can become very strategic as you try and figure out when to block your opponent. The game is simple, looks simple, but offers some good decisions.
Star Wars: Rebellion
Another big box game, this one, the Dice Tower has described as “Star Wars in a box”. You get the feel of the epic space opera that is going on between the Empire and the Rebels as the Empire tries to track down the rebel base and wipe it out and the Rebels seek to complete missions to under mind the Empire’s hold on the galaxy. Now, there is some luck in the game because of dice rolls, but you can try and mitigate that some, and I know the expansion takes the combat which is primarily dice rolling and updates it some. But the biggest part of the strategy comes from deciding what missions to complete, trying to figure out where to move your troops to search, if you’re the Empire or where to bluff troops to try and draw the Empire away from your base, if you’re the rebels.
Fae is basically an abstract game that they have placed some theme on. In the game, you are trying to complete rituals on the board by separating the different groups of druids so that they aren’t next to any other druids. Once that is done, each color of druid in the ritual scores points. But there is strategy as to what areas you are trying to score points in, how you want to move the druids, and how you want to get the points scored because you have a secret color that you’re going for, as does your opponent, but each druid ritual scores for each color in the ritual. It’s a nice balancing act of strategy, but then trying to hide your information from you opponent by what you do.
This is one of the grand daddies of modern board gaming, but still holds up well. In the base game, you are building, as a group, a landscape where there are towns, monasteries, and other features. You each have a certain number of meeples that you can use as farmers, soldiers, thieves, or priests that will score you points in the game or at the end of the game. The strategy in this game comes into where you are playing the tiles for the landscape and how and where you are using the meeples to complete the various scoring options. It’s not a difficult game to teach or to play, but there is strategy as to how you use your meeples and where you place tiles that will determine how well you do.
Another crossover with the story list, Pandemic Legacy is definitely a strategy game, but again a fairly accessible one. The mechanics make sense for what you are doing, but like most good cooperative games, it gives you a lot of difficult decisions. You always feel like you want to do two or three more things than you’re able to do, so you have to skip doing something. This game really shines too for the story aspect that might allow you to get more people into heavier games. The game also does a good job of laying out what a person can do in an easy way so that you don’t have to remember as much.
This area control game plays very interestingly and quickly as you take on different factions which each has their own unique powers. It also has an interesting combat mechanism. This game also has interesting strategy in that all the factions play very uniquely and you can make that even more unique by allowing each faction to use more of their unique ability cards. So some people might be all about combat, but others might be all about collecting gems to score points. It seems like a game that plays well at a variety of player counts as well.
Finally, this game is heavy strategy and is not a beginner level strategy game. Root is an amazing asymmetrical game where each persons factions in the game might have the same base mechanics but are handled differently for each faction. I really enjoyed playing the birds with their regimented planning of actions, but there are the cats which are all about area control, the woodland creatures who are all about subverting the powers that be, and the vagabond who is trying to complete quests. And with everyone making different decisions, the game is still completely balanced. This is one of those heavier games though that a person new to board games might think looks pretty, but might be a bit much to teach.
What are some of your favorite strategy games? Maybe you just want to get the person a nice chess set.
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I mentioned the topic in the Kickstarter FOMO post, but I wanted to talk more about different game mechanics that you might here people talk about when it comes to describing a board game, this will be a bit more focused definitions than the Jargon […]
What, another TableTopTake in such rapid succession? How does that even happen? It happens when Kristen has people over to watch a miniseries, so I get together with some people have a board gaming day from 2:30 until 11. We got to get two new games to the table, Root and Cry Havoc as well as a couple of other games, The Lost Expedition and Sagrada. So we get to have two TableTopTake posts in back to back days!
Unintentionally, both new games were asymmetrical games where the different factions/races/groups have different ways to score points. In Cry Havoc it’s a little bit different through as you’re fighting on a planet over crystals. We played at the full player count, so one person played the humans, one played the machines, I played the pilgrims, and one player native creatures, the Trogs. You are battling, producing crystals, building up technology, and recruiting troops.
Cry Havoc is part area control game, but it’s really more of a crystal control game. Depending on what races are played, you might not worry as much about controlling areas, but it is something that players have to be concerned about. It also has a bit of deck building aspect to the game as you add cards into your deck that allow you to do the actions of building, recruiting, and moving your figures around the board.
Besides the different races, which I’ll talk about some more soon, one of the interesting thing is combat in this game. In most games with area control you’re looking at a few different standard ways of doing combat. It could be rolling a bunch of dice based off of what troops you have, it could be rolling dice and playing some cards, it could be simple numbers and playing some cards. Cry Havoc does it a little bit differently. It splits up combat into three different parts.You have control of the territory, capturing of troops, and killing off of troops and you split up your combatants over all three areas. In the top part, controlling the territory, the person who has the most troops there wins control of the territory. Whomever has the most on the second part, capturing enemy troops, will capture a troop, this gives a point each turn. Finally, any troops who are put on the bottom section, killing off enemy troops, then kill off a troop. You go from top to bottom figuring out what happens, so even if in the third part someone kills off a person’s majority in troops, that person still maintains majority. However, each player gets a chance to play combat cards which may allow them to change troops, or might change the order that things are figured out in. It’s a very unique combat system and I enjoyed it, though, I was playing the Pilgrims and they aren’t a combat heavy race to play.
Let’s talk a little bit about the different races:
Humans are a fairly straight forward race to play. They are primarily about controlling as many territories as possible and they can take over territories without actually moving into them, as long as they are empty. They have, also, a number of buildings that can help them control an area of combat by adding the equivalent of extra troops to some area of combat.
The Machines are focused on killing things. Their buildings are known as Shred Drones and Orbital Strikes, the Shred Drone can take out a troop in a neighboring territory prior to combat, and the Orbital Strike can remove someone from anywhere on the board. They want to soften up spots for battle and then walk in and take over without much trouble. Then they can leave bunkers behind to help them defend areas after they’ve moved on to their next conquest.
The Pilgrims are not a combat focused race. These four armed aliens really just want the crystals. I could have won with them, but I forgot to use their special ability one round. But they want to find their own corner of the map, hunker down, produce crystals and score points often with a lot of crystals. They are the only ones who can store crystals instead of just scoring for where they are on the planet, and that’s what I forgot to do. But along with producing crystals, they really need to build a lot, because that’s how they produce the crystals both into their own pool and onto their locations.
Finally, the Trogs are only a playable race if you are playing four players, otherwise, while they are always on the board, they are the native inhabitants of the planet and there are a lot of them. However, they are always going to be spread out because there are Trog nests all over the planet that you have to deal with. The fact that they are native to the planet means that they can move around the planet easier, but it also means that they can get spread out on a lot of fronts if they aren’t careful.
I enjoyed this game a lot. It has a nice presence on the table, the game play is pretty straight forward, so once you are into the game, you can just move along quickly and each round is made up of three actions, but you go around taking those actions one at a time, so peoples turns don’t really bog down. However, the rule book, while pretty well written, does run into some issues. The game is made by Portal Games which is out of Poland, and their rule books are not known for being the best translations into English. Most of the stuff for this game makes sense and is laid out well, and they do have examples which is nice, but the explanation for the end of game isn’t great. If you’re looking to learn, I’d check out Rodney Smith from Watch it Played on Youtube and either watch him play the game with his son or watch his how to play video for it just for clarification before you play the game the first time.
Overall this is a good game. It’s pretty straight forward, and all the races seemed to play differently. The combat mechanisms aren’t going to be for everyone, but they are unique and I like them for that reason. This is a game that works well and felt very balanced in my opinion. I mean, for our game, we had the Trogs win, but they one by two points, and then two of us were tied for second, the Machines were lagging behind, but their minis looked the coolest on the board.
Overall Grade: A-
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B
Have you played Cry Havoc before? What are your thoughts on it if you have?
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