Alright, now we’re into the sweet spot for games. There are a lot of them out there that really work best at 4 players. This can be for a number of reasons, but most of the time it’s because 4 players is the maximum player […]
We had another character retire, this one, so it’s time to do a bit of a write-up on it. The Summoner was not a character that I played, but an interesting character that a friend played, however, it didn’t seem like the easiest character to play.
You can probably guess what the Summoner does, it summons things. Now, that in itself is pretty cool, you get to control a lot of creatures and your cards either summon creatures or you can make them do things. However, it really seemed like it’s a bit tricky and a bit focused. The issue with it, is that until you’re at higher levels, you basically summon small creatures that might get off one round of attacks and then die. So if you don’t set it up correctly, you’re going to have a lot of time where you aren’t as powerful. It helps that summoning creatures though gives you XP.
Some of the reason, though, it might have been tricky at the start is that we had the Sawbones and Quartermaster starting at the same time. So we didn’t have a strong character that was really a tank yet. At the end, some of the animals that were able to be summoned could tank a little bit, but not that much. It did however, save us several times being able to swarm an enemy or having meat shields that protected us from enemy attacks. Again, they tended to be one hit and done, sometimes two hits and done, but soaking up a large attack really helped us stay alive longer.
Once you kind of figure out the strategy for the deck and get some of the stronger summons, it is interesting. You get summons with ranged attacks and summons with pierce. This made those summons very effective at higher levels when monsters might not have many more hit points but they have shields. They really do offer a nice utility, and if you are facing off against weaker monsters, you can sometimes just send a couple of summons off in their own direction, as long as there isn’t a door for them to open.
Overall, I think that this character is fairly complex, not because of complexity of actions, but because of the amount of management that you need to do for this character. And the fact that your summoner needs to be in the mix with their summons to give them additional actions makes it good that the character isn’t too squishy. There’s also the aspect of balancing out the use of cards, because when a summons dies, it burns the card. If you aren’t careful you can run through cards too quickly.
I’m ready personally to play not a support character, and while the summoner definitely is more combat focused, through the summons than a lot of characters, it does still have that feel that it doesn’t do too much for itself. I think if you’re someone who likes battlefield strategy and tactics, it’s going to be a strong character for you to play. You definitely can set-up what happens on the battlefield with where you place your summons and who you have them attack.
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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, […]
I don’t really think I planned on going with some board game history and mechanic posts for a series, but I liked how the previous one turned out, and I thought it would be interesting to look at some more mechanics in that in-depth a way.
Story games are interesting because they care as much about the story and theme as they do about the mechanics a lot of the time. But for a long time there weren’t a ton of story games. Games, for a long time, were pretty straight forward either luck or logic games. A game like Chess or Go doesn’t really tell a story because it’s all been abstracted away. Even though you have two armies facing off in chess, they are just pieces that have specific movement rules, not like they are tied into the different types of characters and why they move the way they move.Or you would have luck based games. A game like Monopoly seems like it has some more story that is going on, but the game is so random that you can’t really tell a story in it.
Then there started to be some story games, but they weren’t your regular board games. RPG’s were the first games that really told stories and really focused in on story telling. There was story in some games prior to that, war games for example told the story of a battle, but D&D and RPG’s were the first to really create those story gaming moments. But even they had a lot of rules at the beginning, now we’re seeing the loose story based RPG’s that don’t care nearly as much about the rules or have abstracted most of the rules away into a single, simple roll of the dice for anything.
But in board games there were games that tried to delve more so into story, and we’ve actually seen the idea of story telling board games really take off as of late. A lot of this can be attributed to the growth of the hobby, but some of the earlier ones also helped the hobby grow. While games like Catan or Ticket to Ride have abstracted away all of the story and are some of the biggest ones for growing the hobby, story based games helped the hobby continue to grow into the big hobby it is today. Finding that sweet spot of where people could play a game the way that they want while still having some rules and structure makes gaming a lot more appealing to a lot of people.
There are a number of different story telling games. There are some that are basically light RPG’s and some that are board games that tell you a story. We have a number of interesting examples to look at though in board gaming.
Tales of the Arabian Nights and Near and Far are two interesting games where you are going out exploring. There are plenty of game focused parts to what you are doing and you have some skills, but the main focus of the game is going out exploring and getting a little bit of story. So that’s what most people are playing them for, being able to make those few decision bits in their story. Now, I personally enjoy both of these games, but they do have a bit of a flaw to them. That’s in both games the story while being loosely connected at items, especially in Near and Far, are random bits of story that you are reading from a book. The story isn’t cohesive as it goes along so while it starts to feel like a story game, it is missing a little bit.
Take that in comparison to a game like Sword and Sorcery. Now I haven’t played Sword and Sorcery, but it is one that I’ve seen played. In that, and in Tainted Grail, you are finding story events for various scenarios that unfold the story for you. A certain card or a certain place might trigger a different bit of the story. So while you don’t have to find the story in a specific order, always, you are figuring out the story and what’s going on in the world as you go. These games are newer than either Tales of the Arabian Nights or Near and Far (though Near and Far is quite new), and they can get away with it, because you are playing through chapters and scenarios.
That leads us into other scenario games. In particular, I’m thinking of Legacy games here. I don’t know that you’d consider Pandemic Legacy to be a scenario based game, but as you play through and find out more information about the story, it feels like it’s a scenario based game for how you have to win each game. In this case, they are handing out specific story points at very specific points in the game. And that works really well for a game like Pandemic Legacy or even a game like Gloomhaven which isn’t a true legacy game or is the new wave of legacy game where you can play it repeatedly without buying a new copy.
Seafall in comparison gives you a different story feel. While in Pandemic Legacy you can make choices that will affect the game, you are following a pretty linear story. In Gloomhaven you can go further afield from the story, but you are still focused on the story and you get the main story to unfold in a certain order. What Seafall tried to do was too ambitious in creating a story that unfolded in whatever order you read it. The issue is that it doesn’t really work, because you have to be so vague about it. That turned the story into a bit of a mess.
So, what other ways are we seeing stories besides these scenario games?
We’re also seeing story in games where the game is about making up your own story. Once Upon a Time and Gloom are two examples of this. In Once Upon A Time you are trying to create a fairy tale by playing cards while telling a story and eventually leading the story to your own ending that you got at the beginning of the game. This works okay as a game, but does run into a run away leader problem and the rules are just very loose, so it isn’t going to work for everyone. Gloom on the other hand is a depressing story as you try and kill off your family of characters while they are miserable. But the more miserable they are, the more points you get, so you are playing a card each turn and telling a story as you play the card as to why your character is more miserable or someone else’s character is less miserable. These games take the story telling away from the game itself, and mechanically add the story telling element to the game with what the players need to do. The downside to this is that if you don’t have a creative group, or more so, if you don’t have a group that is just going to be silly, the game isn’t going to work as well.
On the opposite side of things you have games that basically are only story. I did an article on them recently with RPG Lite. But two great examples of this are Legacy of Dragonholt and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger. Both of these games are really just Choose Your Own Adventure, with a couple of mechanics added in so that you can’t quite just only do it as a book.
On the opposite side of things you have games that basically are only story. I did an article on them recently with RPG Lite. But two great examples of this are Legacy of Dragonholt and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger. Both of these games are really just Choose Your Own Adventure, with a couple of mechanics added in so that you can’t quite just only do it as a book. That takes away the pressure of the story or the pressure of learning a lot of rules from the players and puts it back onto the game designer, but when you strip away most game mechanics, you can basically just worry about writing a story, it works well.
So, where do I fall with story games?
For me, if a game doesn’t have an interesting theme, I’m less apt to enjoy the game. There are some games where the look is nice enough or the mechanics are good enough, that I like it without having an interesting theme. But most of the time I want theme, and because of that, it means that I want heavy story as well. The story is one way to get a lot of theme into the game. So you’ll see what are commonly called Ameri-trash games showing up on my reviews more likely than a Euro Game because Euro Games tend to be pretty themeless. Even Euro Legacy games, like Charterstone, the story is 100% outside of the game and doesn’t impact what you do or how you play the game at all.
I also think that story is something that is important to games in terms of getting new people into games. There are some games that are simple enough that they don’t need story, but it’s easier to pitch a game to someone where they get to be a hero fighting against the evil corporation, versus a game where they are collecting gems. Even if the second game is a better made and balanced game, it’s still harder to get people to play it.
So, let me toss it out to you, what are some games that are story focused that you really like? How much story do you need in the game?
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A lot of the games that I’ve gone with have been for gamers who might be into board gaming more casually. The games aren’t always simple but they aren’t the heavier games that require that extra time to set-up and tear down. If you want to see the list on the other end of the spectrum, check back to the Holiday Gift Guide: Intro Games article from a few days ago.
The poster child for the big box game, Gloomhaven has all the components and tons of hours of game play. The game mechanics are smart as the card play is clever and adds a lot of strategy to the game. It is a beast to take down and set-up, but if you can afford the game, for someone who is looking for that combination of a big game with a lot of strategy and story, Gloomhaven is amazing.
Near and Far
Another one that’s been mentioned before, this is a story driven campaign game, but they do a really good job of keeping part of it was a game and part of it as the story aspect. There are definitely a lot of decisions to be made as you go out and explore and as you spend time in the town trying to build up your party to explore. You can even technically win the game without doing any of the story part.
Mansions of Madness
This game again has a lot of story, but there is an epicness to the game as you explore through houses and other locations as you try and unravel the mysteries and madness of this Lovecraftian game. As compared to some of the other Lovecraft games, it tells a tight story and the app integration into the game works really well and makes the book keeping aspect of the game a whole lot easier. You get to feel like you’re investigating these mysteries.
Arkham Horror LCG
Another Lovecraft game on the list, this game is a whole lot smaller and faster than the rest of the games. In fact it’s just a card game. However, this card game still feels big because you are going through a cool story and the decisions you make and the level of difficulty you play the game at, makes the game tough. This is the epic Lovecraft game for when you don’t have as much time.
Shadows of Brimstone
This one you could argue borrows or Lovecraft adjacent, but really it’s trying to be its own thing as it’s a big box game with a lot of rules and you are trying to complete missions, role play your characters, and save the town of Brimstone from the dimension that is opening up around it. What I like about this game is that it is Weird West, which isn’t a theme that I’ve seen used that much before in board games or any media and I want to see more of. The game does, however, have a beast of a rule book, though the rule book is laid out pretty well.
Probably the easiest of all of the games on the list to set-up and get into. The rules for this game are probably the simplest of any of the games, but the story of this game gives it an epic feel. Now, it’s probably the game thus far on the list that you can get the fewest number of hours game play and only Arkham Horror LCG plays in as short a time, though with Arkham Horror LCG, there are more scenarios to play through. However, this game is epic, both seasons of it, and they are both definitely worth playing, especially as their prices are a bit lower now.
This asymmetric game is definitely an epic struggle between the factions with a lot of interesting decisions to be made by the players as you try and be the first to the victory point total. The fact that each factions in the game plays differently means that it’ll give the players a lot of different experiences as you play in different roles through multiple playthroughs of the game. And it’s pretty easy to teach all things considered because the basic actions for each faction end in the same result.
Star Wars: Rebellion
This game has been described as, by the Dice Tower, “Star Wars in a box”. I think that’s a very apt description. While Imperial Assault might be boots on the ground, Star Wars: Rebellion is the epic galactic struggle between the Rebels and the Empire. You get to try and complete missions, build troops up, defeat the enemy and if you’re the Empire, track down where the rebel base is hidden. The game play is fairly long, but the decisions and turn structure means that there isn’t much downtime. This game is only really a two player game though.
Now, there are ton more epic games out there. I have yet to play Twilight Imperium 4th Edition (or 3rd Edition) and those are some of the most epic space games. I also have games like The Reckoners and Scythe that I’ve picked up recently but haven’t gotten to the table yet. What are some other epic feeling games that I’ve missed?
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