This is a mechanic that I don’t always love in games. Push Your Luck, if it’s the whole game can get a bit tiresome because it just feels like, are you luckier than I am. But push your luck in games has some interesting things …
Tag: Dead of Winter
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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Final top 5 list, I think that I could maybe come up with some more lists, but I might do eventual lists of games that play best or up to two through six or seven to give ideas for games like that. As I know that’s something that I want to think about as a person who hosts a board game night, what games provide that range in player count or allow players to split up more.
But we finish off with action points. What are action points, they are points or tokens that tell you how much you can do on a single turn. Maybe you can take five actions, and then you allocate those points to specific actions you can take, like moving or attacking.
5. Dead Men Tell No Tales
A cooperative game, in this one you are spending actions to try and find treasure on a pirate ship that is haunted and currently on fire. You have to contain the fire, try and find the treasures, deal with skeletal deck hands, and you have a certain number of actions you can take to do all of that. This game is like a lot of cooperative games in that you feel like you can never do enough. The interesting thing this game adds in with action points is that you can pass on your unused action points to the next player. So it might be that you are limited in what you can do, but the next person has a lot of useful things that they can do. You can move closer into position to set-up what for your next turn and then pass any unused action points to the next player so that they can do more. In a lot of cooperative games the action points are static but you can act upon other characters, in this one, you can’t do that, but you can pass out action points.
4. Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter is an interesting game on this list as it uses dice as your action points in the round. The dice don’t encompass every action you can take in the game, but the strongest actions, the ones that help you complete objectives are going to spend a die. Not only that, but the number you roll on the dice makes a difference as well. Some characters aren’t able to search or kill zombies with a low die roll. So in that case your die, which is supposed to be your strongest action is now made weaker and it looks like you are hurting the colony and people are starting to suspect you are the traitor more, but at the same time, they can see the roll, so they know it wasn’t great. And then you get more dice and actions when you have more survivors, but you are also responsible for more zombies showing up and more mouths to feed and making the game harder that way.
3. Arkham Horror LCG
This game doesn’t use the points as a physical token, but a lot of the games with action points don’t. Action allowance might be a good way of describing it as well, because you have a certain total number of actions you can take on a turn. Arkham Horror does this well, limiting you to two actions, and while you can do the same actions multiple times, you always feel the crush of not being able to do enough. Arkham Horror LCG is a placeholder on this list for all of Fantasy Flights Lovecraftian games as you feel the crunch Arkham Horror, Elder Signs, and Mansions of Madness as well. It’s a system that works well for them as it keep the tension high when you don’t have enough actions to do everything that you’d want.
2. Blood Rage
Action points are huge in Blood Rage as you try and get into territories, move troops around, and be able to hang in the round long enough to stop your opponent from doing what they are trying to do. What I like about the action point system in Blood Rage is that certain actions cost a certain number of action points. And the monsters, who are possibly more powerful or useful in some other way, also have action point costs. So you’re trying to balance using your action points so that you don’t run out much before anyone else, because once you are out of action points, you are out of the round at least in being able to take the large actions that are going to be most useful long term.
1. Pandemic Legacy
This game does great with action points, basically each turn the active player spends up to four action points, moving around, curing diseases, trading cards, and finding cures. Then as the game continues, you gain more and more actions that you can take. At the end of the game, you’re trying to balance out these actions in hopes that you’ll be able to survive. Pandemic does a really good job with these actions, because it evolves over time. A lot of games have more of a static action pool with maybe unique characters have special player power actions that they can take, but Pandemic Legacy, both seasons one and two, give more options as you play and unlock more of the game.
There are a ton of games that use this action point/action selection mechanic. It’s a strong mechanic for adding tension to decisions, because you’re almost always short of the action points you want to use in a round. This mechanic, however, isn’t always an ideal for players who might have AP, because it makes your choice really matter. But let’s talk about some honorable mentions:
Forbidden Desert/Forbidden Island – Cooperative exploration games that feel like Pandemic light.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Another Pandemic like game that also has a bit of a Dead Men Tell No Tales feel to it as well, this time you’re being fire fighters though.
KrosMaster Arena – Plan your movement and attacks in this Chibi MOBA style game. A little bit simple at times, and almost ways a best way to use your action points.
The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game – This game is all about the Fate Points, as the action points are called. It’s a pool of action points which is a very different feel from a lot of the games as you as a team have to replenish and manage that pool of points.
What are some of your favorite games with action points? Is action points/action selection a mechanic that you enjoy?
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