So I’m picking this one again because it’s one of my favorite themes and feelings in games. Also, the Dice Tower did a Top 10 list recently as well, so you can see how mine compares to theirs. But I am taking a slightly different…
Tag: Dead of Winter
Another mechanic that I really love, action points/allowance is basically how many things you can do on your turn. Now, I want to say that this differentiates from something like Monopoly or Clue where you can do multiple things on your turn, possibly. I doubt many people were comparing them, but just to lay it out easily, in Monopoly or Clue you have prescribed actions for your turn, you move and then you buy (or pay rent or draw a card). It is in that order, you can’t buy where you’re on if you landed there the previous turn, you have to move and then do something, possibly. In an action point game, you can do your actions in any order in the turn or the round. But now, without further ado, let’s get to the list.
10 – Homebrewers
It’s time to fire up the old brew system and see what sort of beers you can bring to the judges in this quick engine building game with some interesting options for action points. You have a limited number that are determined what they are based off of the dice you roll, which is something you’ll see more of. However, you’re not locked in, you can always trade with other players or spend some money to change to dice to face whatever side you need. This game is quirky fun and has cool pieces and a cool look to it. While the theme might seem a little specific to people who love beer or brew beer, I think it can be enjoyed by most, and like I have said, it plays fast. Definitely a fun game with action points that are dice you’re spending.
9 – Village Attacks
Village Attacks is a fun game where you are the monsters who have been terrorizing the village, and now for some reason they are trying to storm your castle with their pitchforks and torches and just ruin the nice thing that you had going on. In the game you have a certain number of actions as the number of dice that you have, you’ll see that kind of come into play later on the list as well, however, this one is fixed in terms of dice. You roll them hoping to get what you need or making due with what you get. There are plenty of choices for being locked in though, because each scenario is going to lead you in a different direction. Plus, there is some mitigation of the dice if you roll three of a symbol you can reroll all of them. I like the theme of the game and while it has got dark artwork in it, the game actually plays pretty light.
8 – Photosynthesis
This game gives you an allowance of action points that you can save up over rounds if you wanted, but it’s all about using those points to grow and harvest trees at the right time so that you’re setting your trees up to get more sunlight the next turn to get your more points for planting more seeds, growing more trees, and gaining more points. This is an abstract-ish game that works because of the aesthetic of the game. You’re trying to set it up as much as possible so that you’re not being blocked for growing your trees and getting more light while blocking opponents, but if you just focus on blocking, you probably won’t be doing as well overall in gaining the light points that you need. A clever way to get your allowance of action points and a lot of fun to play.
7 – Sword & Sorcery
My favorite dungeon crawler doesn’t work for this list, but Sword and Sorcery does as it gives you regular and combat action points to play with, plus some standard actions that don’t require action points that you can do as well, and you can do them in any order, so it gives you a lot of variety for your turn. Combat action points are simple, it’s just about how many times you can attack, but the regular action points, you can use them to leverage more damage on combat or you can use them to break down locked doors, or other actions. I actually think that the action point system in here is a little bit weak as it’s very much overshadowed by combat. You feel like you’re mainly just using it for aiming, but there’s certainly the possibility to use it in more interesting ways.
6 – Dead of Winter
I like it when games change up how you can do action points or action allowance, it’s not just having a certain number of points to grab from your actions, what you roll on the dice matters for what actions you can do. It helps focus in a turn that could otherwise have almost too many actions to do, and you can get more actions by saving more people, but that might end up costing you in the long run, because you’ll likely need to produce more food, and you’ll definitely need to place more zombies at the end of each round. But having those extra dice can help decrease the likelihood of a bad roll so fairly often it’s worth it to get those extra survivors so that you’re able to pull your weight around the colony. And to get what you need in order to be able to complete your objective.
5 – Star Wars: Rebellion
This game is sneaky with how it let’s you do actions, it doesn’t seem so much like action allowance or selection, but you are really limited to how many leaders you have, and if you’re the Empire and you can capture an enemy leader, it is a big advantage. Plus, you have tough choices as to how you want to allocate your leaders. You pick missions at the start of each round at the same time as your opponent. You can assign as many of your leaders as you want, but if you do that, you won’t be able to move ships or try and thwart the enemies leaders on their missions. So you can limit you actions and how many of your action points you spend on missions to try and stop the other person, but you’ll get less done and not get closer to your goal. It’s a fun system of figuring out how you want to use your action points each round, and you get more as the game progresses.
4 – Mansions of Madness
First of two back to back Fantasy Flight Lovecraftian games. I really do love their system, and I’ll talk about it more with the next game as well. But it just works, they limit your actions and you really feel like you’re getting close and you can do most of what you want, but most of the time it feels like one action, one thing short of what you needed to do on your turn. Good action point games give you just enough to mitigate most of the issues while slowly building up the threat of whatever it might be in the game over time, at least for cooperative games with action selection. And while it’s something that Fantasy Flight has been doing for a long time with the Lovecraftian Mythos games, it still works and offers a great challenge.
3 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
As said before, Fantasy Flight has a standard thing with their games where you have a limited number of actions that you can take. However, you get to pick from a great variety of actions and all of them feel like it’s a good option but never enough. Whether you’re moving, searching for clues, playing cards, gaining resources, etc., the two actions you get on your turn is never enough. Even when playing the game in story or easy mode, you still feel the pressure as you try and determine what are going to be the most helpful things to do. They have a system for their Lovecraft games, and it’s done well.
2 – Pandemic Legacy
Four actions per turn, but you can do whatever actions you want. This one is what I qualify as an action allowance game simply because every turn you get the same number of actions. It works well in this game, because the four actions that you get, they never feel like quite enough. That’s a common theme for action allowance is that you never have quite enough. Combine this piece of the game into a tense experience as the story unfolds, it does a good job of creating pressure that makes a familiar game be more challenging but also feel fresh again.
1 – Blood Rage
Blood Rage is a round based action limit game where you can spend actions to help with your area control, get monsters onto the board and possibly even gain more action points. This looks like a dudes on a map game with lots of great plastic pieces. But there’s more to it, there’s a strategy in using your action points that starts with the cards that you draft in order not to be out of the round too early and let your opponent have more access to the areas and be able to ramp up their number of troops and actions early on in the game. And some strategies might need a lot of action points while others are going to be more focused on maintaining a board presence, so it doesn’t just lock you into trying to get those points.
The most interesting part about this was actually figuring out what qualified as an action point or action allowance. For some of them, you can spend a whole lot of action points at once, but it might limit you in the future, Photosynthesis for example can go from having 15 sun points one round and 0 the next round depending on where the sun is facing on the board. So I think when I started this out, I thought that Action Points were going to be a little bit more straight forward, but it really is a mechanic that games use in a wide way.
What are some of your favorite games that use action points or action allowance as one of their main mechanics? Did I forget any big ones in your opinion? Are there some that I should checkout?
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It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves.
This list is basically the opposite of yesterday’s list which was focused on small games that are going to have a small footprint, small box, and generally a smaller price. Epic board games are going to generally be in a larger box and they are going to pack a lot into the game, so whether it’s in a fantasy world or a sci-fi setting, the game is going to feel big and epic. Also, stocking stuffers are going to be more apt to be games for a newer gamer, these, you are going to want to know the person likes board games.
Aeon’s End: War Eternal – This game actually doesn’t have a ton of pieces to it or a giant board at least. It’s a deck building game, but the game feels epic as you face off against an giant monster who is trying to destroy the town of Gravehold. You take on the roll of a breach mage who is casting spells to deal damage or out last the plans of the giant monster. To do this, you are building up a deck of cards, so it’s a pretty standard deck builder that way, but, in a twist, you never shuffle your deck, so if you are clever, you can pull off some interesting combos.
Betrayal at House on the Hill – This game is different from the first in that it has a sprawling footprint. You’re building out this massive haunted house, and eventually, there will be a twist when the haunt happens and someone is going to be a traitor. This game is a really thematic game that leans into the horror theme. The best way to describe it would be that you are playing through the movie Cabin in the Woods, if Cabin in the Woods was a mansion instead of a cabin. You never know what the haunt is going to be, because an omen card in a certain room is going to take you to a specific haunt. The game is a bit swingy in that someone can, with a bit of luck be very strong or the haunts can be a bit unbalanced, but it’s very thematic.
Blood Rage – With a name like that, how could it not be epic? In this game, you are taking your tribe of Viking warriors through combat and area control in order to get the most glory. However, beware where Ragnorak is happening, because that can knock your troops off the board. Blood Rage is, at it’s heart, a card drafting game where the cards you pick at the beginning of the age determine your strategy for that age. But it feels like it plays out on the table in a massive way, with big epic conflicts, monsters on the board, and the strategies are all based around different deities from Norse Mythology. The game looks cool on the table and the minis help give it it’s epic feel.
Cry Havoc – In what turns out to be a bit of a euro-style area control game, you really get to play through a giant cinematic game of different factions warring over the crystals. Humans are able to attack from different areas in support. The mechs can build up stronger technology and call in satellite support. The pilgrims are a peaceful alien race that just cares about growing as many crystals as possible. And the trogs are everywhere on the planet, because it’s their home world, and they’re trying to fight everyone off. In this game you’re getting points for crystals in the few rounds that you are playing and scoring. But it has a tricky bit of combat and interesting card play to be able to get to other areas, fight your battles, or in the case of the pilgrims, set-up your fortified areas. It looks cool and feels a bit like Avatar.
Dead of Winter – Dead of Winter is a survival zombie game where you are in charge of a group of survivors. You need to go out and find food, deal with zombies, get medicine to heal people, deal with crisis that are happening and complete a main objective. There is a ton to do in this game, plus, beyond that, you have your own goal you need to complete and there might be a traitor in your midst. All of that is great and epic feeling as you try and figure out who the traitor might be, but there are also crossroads cards which offer you tough decisions if the right conditions are met that makes this game feel even more epic.
Gloomhaven – This is, in my opinion, the ultimate big epic board game. It’s a massive box, massive footprint on the table, a ton of characters to play. Now, it comes with a large price tag, but the number of hours worth of play, it’s worth the price. Gloomhaven has a nice story to it, but it shines in the scenarios where you have to work with your teammates in your card play to get it really ticking, because the monsters hit back and they hit back hard. It’s a lot of strategy and it’s just fun to play, plus unlocking new characters keeps the game feeling fresh. It’s like a video game RPG, but on a board.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition – The only Lovecraftian game on this list, I considered Arkham Horror LCG, and while it does have a great story, it doesn’t feel quite as epic. Mansions of Madness though is an epic horror game in a box. You are using an app to drive the story and provide ambiance for the game. But that doesn’t take away from the board game piece, it just enhances it and can cause the game to be set-up differently each time you play a scenario. And there are tons of scenarios out there and expansions. You take on the role of an investigator who has been called in for something odd happening, but can you stop it in time or before you become too injured or insane to carry on?
Pandemic Legacy Season 1/Season 2 – I’m lumping both of them together, but both are pretty epic stories. As a Legacy game, it means that you have a limited number of plays through the story, but the story is good, and you feel like you get your value from them. You are playing what is basically Pandemic, a game where you are a member of the CDC going out to deal with diseases. The basic game is fairly epic, but when you add in an evolving story, it becomes more epic and challenging as you have to adapt to the strategies that the changes in the game is leading your towards. It’s fun to play through, even twice, like I’ve done, because there is a good story with it and a lot of story and interesting decisions.
Root – These are cute woodland creatures, they won’t be epic, will they? Yes, they will in this asymmetric game where players take on the roles of different factions of woodland creatures. Maybe you are the vagabond who is getting new items to be able to do more things or planning out your long term strategy as the Eyrie who need their orders to be carried out in a certain way and things will go poorly if they aren’t. Or maybe you are the Woodland Alliance who don’t start with much, but need to create a strong position on the board. And then there is the Marquise de Cat and his cat troops who are trying to keep control on the areas and expand their power. It’s big, it’s epic, and everyone feels really unique in the game.
Skulk Hollow – By far the smallest game on the list and only a two player game, it still feels epic. You have the foxen heroes who all of a sudden have to deal with a guardian. The guardian of the realm probably isn’t a bad guy, but with the foxen folk there now, they seem like one. One player plays as the guardian and the other as foxen folk, each with their own goals. The foxen folk always want to take down the guardian, but the guardian might be trying to get certain tokens out or maybe kill the leader of the foxen folk, or just kill as many foxen folk as they can. The game plays fast, but it packs a punch for what it does.
Star Wars: Rebellion – The original trilogy in a box, it’s going to be epic. Again a two player game where one person is the empire trying to find that darn rebel base. The other player, as the rebels is trying to complete missions in order to subvert the empires evil plans. It’s a good cat and mouse game with all the big players that you’d expect from a Star Wars game. It’s been close basically every time I’ve played it and while the rebels can be a bit trickier to play and this is a longer game, it is engaging the whole time and not too hard. The asymmetry is pretty limited and that makes teaching the game easier than the previous two ones, even with the different character goals.
Sword and Sorcery – Another big dungeon crawl with a lot of characters, Sword and Sorcery takes you on a tighter story than Gloomhaven does, but in what is more of a dice chucking game. The story is cool, and the monsters, while limited, offer a good variety of challenges. What makes this game especially unique is the death mechanic, where if you die, you aren’t out of the game, you have limited things you can do, but you can also respawn as long as you have enough soul gems. There are a ton of characters to play, and while the story is quite linear, I do feel like it’s a game that I could play through again with different characters and the game would feel different.
T.I.M.E. Stories – This game is basically time cops as you try and police the time stream, going to Earth in different eras as well as to completely different worlds. It’s an interesting game because you run through different stories, which are expansions for the game. T.I.M.E. Stories, for everything, is the most expensive game on the list, but it’s worth checking out. The story in the base game is interesting, and it only starts to show you the plug and play nature of the system. Each story, also, has it’s own epic feel, and you get to run through the story, making better decisions each time or maybe finally going down that rabbit trail that you probably shouldn’t have gone down.
Village Attacks – Maybe, as compared to the rest of the games, you want to play the bad guys. In Village Attacks, you and a team of other monsters has to deal with pesky villagers who are coming to your lair with their pitchforks and torches. You need to protect yourself, because that’s very rude of them to attack you. Can you survive the onslaught of monsters coming? It’s a fun cooperative game and very challenging as there are so many villagers. I had a blast playing it at GenCon, and I’m super excited to get my kickstarter copy. If you want to get this game, you need to check out the possibility of a late pledge from the kickstarter.
XenoShyft: Onslaught – Sometimes you just want to squish some bugs. XenoShyft is basically Starship Troopers where you have to defend this mining facility from all sorts of waves of bugs. This is another deck building game, and it’s a tough deck building game, but you always feel like you’re getting better and have a chance. The cool and unique part of the game is the fact that you can play your cards to help other people, because sometimes you might have a lot of weapons that you can’t use, but someone else might need them, so you have to balance it out to make sure that there isn’t a weak link. This is a tough game to win, but a ton of fun.
There are so many epic games out there. If you want a longer game that you can play a lot, there are a lot of good options out there. I’d recommend starting with some of the smaller ones on the list, XenoShyft: Onslaught, Pandemic Legacy, or Aeon’s End. But if they already like epic games, and you want to splurge, Gloomhaven is a game that you can’t go wrong with. Yes, it won’t be for everyone, but it is a massive epic game and unless you want a ton of dice rolling, which Gloomhaven doesn’t offer.
Is there an epic game out there that you really love? Or is there one that is really epic that you want to get?
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Normally, this would be another Halloween article, because I’ve been doing those every Wednesday, tomorrow, since it is actually Halloween will be my Halloween themed article. Instead, you are getting more of my top 100 board games, which will wrap up on Friday. ***Disclaimer***These rankings…
Oh yeah, it’s Halloween time again. I think last year I did a few Halloween themed articles, this year, I’m going to do top five lists every Wednesday on different Halloween themed things in various mediums. Not sure which all topics will be covered, but I’m starting with board games.
Now, when I say things like “Halloween Horror” and “Spooky” in the title, these are games that fit the Halloween theme. It doesn’t mean that they are the scariest games out there, but instead, these are games that I want to play around Halloween, and there are games out there, like IT: Evil Below, that I’ve really interested in getting my hands on eventually, but that I haven’t played yet.
So with all that ado, let’s get onto the list:
There has been a murder, and one person as the ghost is trying to get investigators pointed down the path of whom their murder might be. This is a lighter game, but it’s an interesting and fun one that is accessible to most people. The artwork in this game is beautiful as well, as the ghost is giving you abstracted “visions” to see if you can match up those images with the location, the weapon, and the murder for your own personal case. Then you have to see if you can figure out which one of all of the cases actually is the murderer. The game has some weird methods for how you get to guess which one it is at the end, but those can be house ruled, basically just allowing everyone to guess at the end with all the card information. It’s also nice because you can talk as a group to help people who might be falling behind in understanding their cards. The aesthetic of the game is what really makes it a Halloween game. The cards artwork is just weird, sometimes haunting, and generally amazing.
4- Xenoshyft: Onslaught
This one is technically a horror game, but less of one than the higher ranked ones. I feel like this one you’re getting a bunch of Starship Troops as you fight off waves and waves of bug aliens. What works well in this game is that it’s a fully cooperative deck builder. So you can help each other out, but it’s also a game you’re not going to win that often as you start dealing with larger and larger bugs and they hit your base. This game has some nice pressure to it as you each are defending your own part of the base but you can help the other people out, so that means if you are the last one to go, there might not be much to help you, so you hope you are lucky enough to have some easy bugs you can take out without them getting through. The game is pretty easy to teach as well which is nice, so it’s one that you can get to the table easier or quicker as compared to some of the higher ranked games on this Halloween list.
3- Dead of Winter
There are so many zombie games out there. I haven’t actually played that many of them, but Dead of Winter is a big favorite of mine. The game puts you in charge of a group of survivors after the zombie apocalypse, so that’s normal. But then borrowing from The Walking Dead, the game isn’t as much about the zombies, though, if you aren’t careful they will kill you, it’s about who you can trust. You all have your secret goal that you need to do to win, and someone might be a traitor who is trying to get their own objective that’s different from the groups main objective. You always feel like you are pushing your luck in this game, and most of the time, you don’t know who you can trust. Dead of Winter is a big game with a lot of decisions, it’s probably a board game that would take a whole game night, if you wanted to get into it. There are a few wonky things about it, but that’s mainly with how the winners are determined, but the rest of the mechanics are great.
2- Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
I only wanted to put one Lovecraftian game on the list, and Mansions of Madness, to me, is the most Halloween. I think that Arkham Horror or Arkham Horror LCG also work, but with the app integration into the game, the little bits of random spookiness that can happen are really good. And the variety of scenarios is really good. And while I might personally be about done with the first scenario because I’ve played it a number of times, it’s good that it’s not too hard and enjoyable enough to replay. This game lets you feel the tension as you get injured and are running away from a monster in hopes that it won’t catch you, because another hit and you’ll likely go down. You get the pressure as your sanity slowly disappears, and you know that the plot is progressing, even if it feels like you aren’t progressing.
1- Betrayal at House on the Hill
Is this the best game on the list? It’s one of my favorite games that’s for sure, but with Betrayal at House on the Hill, it feels like Halloween. You are exploring an old spooky house with a group of misfits who probably shouldn’t be working together. Then, in a twist, one of the people turns on the group to enact some evil plan. There can be issues understanding the haunt and how it works, but the haunts are extremely thematic, and if you can immerse yourself in the theme of the game, that balancing issue of the haunt is much less of an issue. This would be the game that I’d pull out nine times out of ten when someone who has played some board games says they want to play a scary board game or a Halloween board game.
There are so many more Halloween games that I want to play. I haven’t played Fury of Dracula, and that seems like an important Halloween game to play. I haven’t played any Zombicide game, and that might not happen, but a game like Legendary Encounters: Alien is interesting to me as well. Or, in my collection, I have Shadows of Brimstone, that game has great horror themes, but it’s a big game that is hard to get to the table at times, so I just don’t have enough experience with it to put it on the list. I’m also curious to see if a game like Folklore: The Affliction, would make it to the list as well.
What are some of your favorite horror board games? Is there one, based off of my top 5 that you think I need to play?
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