Now, this isn’t something that I’ve gotten into much yet, but I think it’s interesting to talk about because it’s definitely a part of our growing hobby. Like any growing hobby or popular thing, eventually people create the fancy version of something or some sort …
We’re getting down there for the Kickstarters that I’m still waiting on. In fact, I got one that was delivered a few days ago with Calico, a game about quilting and cats. I’m sure I’ll be talking about that more coming up. But today’s games are interesting, mainly because Stormsunder: Heirs of Ruin, right now I’m only backing it for $1, let’s see why.
Stormsunder: Heirs of Ruin
As we’ve talked about before, I like big epic campaign games, however, I have quite a number of them coming. I held off on Stormsunder for a few different reasons, first it was in between two big projects, Marvel United and Frosthaven, but also because it was by a company I wasn’t as familiar with, but I still couldn’t quite walk away from it.
What kept and keeps drawing me to it is that this is a deck building/deck construction game. So while in Gloomhaven you have your hand of cards, this one allows you to upgrade a changing hand of cards as your character levels up. In this one you’re adding those cards, and your character is growing and developing and unlocking new skills, and that system for leveling up your character just makes a lot of sense to me.
One thing that has kept me on the fence, besides the price, it’s a big campaign game so it’s going to be expensive, but also just the amount of game play. It boasts 300 hours of content, and that’s a lot. In fact, that might be too much. I love epic story campaign games, but when do I have too many that I won’t ever get to them all? Plus there are more coming out and more that I’m going to be talking about. I can play them solo, and I want to do that more, but if I play for two hours twice a week, let’s say, just Stormsunder: Heir of Ruins would take me 75 weeks to get through. Now, I could make that go faster, or I could take breaks, but it’s a lot of time.
So, no real excitement meter to do on this one. The pledge manager is opening up soon, theoretically, and I have to decide if this is one that I want to get the game or not. I’m looking at it and seeing so many things that sound cool that I really want to back it, but it isn’t cheap and there’s so much content. So, will I back it, that’s up in the air.
HEL: The Last Saga
I like games that have a bit of a dark feel to them. Tainted Grail is a great example of this, there’s something about a darker story that you just kind of feel, or at least I do, that I can get pulled more into the theme by the game itself. And this one has a Norse theme wrapped around it as you lead a second team into an unknown land to look for those who have gone before you, and no, I’m not talking about Tainted Grail again, though it does sound like it.
This game gives you more dice chucking, and almost randomness in the game play than Tainted Grail does, but still seems to be heavy with story. You go to various points on the map in the game and you find out what has happened to your clansmen who have gone before.
There were several things that drew me to the game besides the theme, first there is the religion mechanic. And different characters in your clan, they might be druidic, Norse, or Christian and depending on which they are, they can tap into their religion to unlock powers that you can use. I also like how the different member of the clans play differently. Not only do they have a different religion potentially but also they different powers beyond that.
I’m still really excited for this one. I can see it getting to the table pretty fast when it shows up. I like the theme, I like the setting, and the game play has looked good from what I’ve seen of it being demoed.
Excitement Meter: 8/10
Did you back either of these? What sold you or didn’t sell you on Stormsunder: Heir of Ruins? Should I back it when the pledge manager opens?
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Now we’re getting to some games that were pretty recently Kickstarted for me, though one of them I’ll be getting the first stuff probably in the next month, which is exciting. Both of these were really big Kickstarters so lets dive into them. Marvel United …
New series of posts, when I get stuck on what to write about, I’m going to go through and see what Kickstarters I’m waiting on, talk about why I backed them, and if I’m still excited for them, or what makes me excited about them. …
This is one of my favorite mechanics in games, it adds a lot of variety to games and to the strategy of games. However, it can be one of the trickier, though there are trickier mechanics, to teach in a game.
The idea of variable player power is that each player can do something different in the game. Now, that might mean that you’re the only player who can do something, or you can do something better than anyone else. And this isn’t because of the skill that the player possesses themselves, it is instead something that the game grants the player the ability to do.
A kind of silly but obvious example of this is in the game Magic Maze. In that game you are trying to, without verbal communication, move a group of heroes through a mall so that they can pick up what they need and then get out before time runs out. In this game each player has a certain power, you might be able to move the heroes down while I can move them up, someone else can move them left, right, and so on and so forth. While all the powers do basically the same thing, move the heroes, each of them moves it in a unique way. And now I wouldn’t really consider this a great example of how variable player powers can be used in a game, it is obvious, because you are doing something different than anyone else, in fact, you are only doing things different than everyone else.
In most variable player power games, your power isn’t the only thing that you can do. Most of the time there will be a set of common actions that you can take, but you’ll have some added thing that you can do in the game. Pandemic is a good example of this. In Pandemic everyone has the same abilities, you can travel, treat a disease, trade a card, or cure a disease. However, if you are the Dispatcher, you can move other character pawns, not just your own. If you are the Medic, you can treat a disease better. And the same goes for the likes of the Researcher and Scientist and all the other characters. They can all do the basic actions the game, but they can improve upon a basic action or add in a whole action or affect that is specific to them.
Why I like this mechanic so much is that it makes each role in the game feel different. And it means that each time you play the game it feels different as well. In the Pandemic example, if I play the Dispatcher, I’m doing actions that are helping us win the game but that are consistently different than those of the Medic. I care about getting people to where they need to be versus healing a disease. So next time when I’m the researcher and my actions are all about getting people the cards they need, I can coordinate and plan with the Dispatcher to get me to where I need to go so that I’m not using the cards I need to help someone else cure a disease. Sure, you can repeat or find a favorite character for playing or team that you like for winning, but some of the fun is trying out new things. And that’s even more interesting, in my opinion, in a competitive game, because generally that means you are changing how you target a win, I’ll talk about on of my favorites with that coming up here.
Homebrewers – Now, I’m sure people have a bunch of different games that I could have put here, but this newer game is one that I really like that plays fast. In this game you are brewing and improving your homebrewed beer. You do this by adding ingredients to your beer, this improves your beer so it makes it more likely you’ll play in the Summer Beer Fest and Oktober Fest. Where the player powers come in is that each character can do something unique. One of the homebrewers is better at cleaning their equipment, another is efficient so they get an extra action die in a month. All of things that are done are simple, and at the end, you end up with a lot of crazy sounding beer that might be good or might just be weird. If that theme doesnt work for you, Pandemic is also a great opion.
Xenoshyft: Onslaught – Again an area that could have a lot of different games, but I really like this one because it combines two or my favorite mechanics, player powers with deck building. You even get to blow up some bugs in this cooperative game. In Xenoshyft: Onslaught, you are fighting back wave after wave of bugs who are trying to get into your mining base on an alien planet. To do this, you create a line of defense, but what’s fun is that you can help other people with their defenses as well, so it’s very cooperative in nature. The player powers come in with what group of the security defending the base you are. If you are a medic, that means you start with a special card to start in your deck and it means that you get a few special abilities that unlock over the various waves of bugs. It can be a discount when it comes to buying weapons, armor, more troops, medical supplies, and then they start to build from there. It’s a very tough cooperative game, but I like it a lot.
Lords of Hellas – Now, this one is my most controversial pick because there are a lot of good ones out there, and some people don’t like Lords of Hellas all that well. I really like it, though, because of the variable player powers and multiple win conditions. In this game you are either trying to control two groups of land areas, a completed statue, defeated three monsters, or control areas with five temples. At the beginning of the game you pick a hero, and that hero has a unique power. This can help you decide what you want to go after in terms of winning the game. It can be as simple as just starting the game with a priestess but that means you can start going down the path of getting temples faster. But it leads you a bit in a way to win, though, when I got the extra priestess and was going for temples, I actually got closer to winning with two areas controlled. But I like the different options that it gave you and there were a ton of different heroes, so you could really tailor it to how you wanted.
Those are just some of them that I like, there are so many out there, even something like Gloomhaven falls into that category but I skipped dungeon crawler games because while it is a variable power, it feels and plays different, and I’ll talk about dungeon crawler and what that means coming up anyways. What are some of your favorite games with variable player powers? Does it sound interesting to you if you haven’t played a game like that?
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So, after over a week off, though 10 Minute Marvel podcast still came out, for a little bit of a vacation and a chance to reset my brain during Covid-19 and protests, I wanted to come back with a Top 10 list that is a little bit more light hearted. These are games that you can play when life has felt stressful, these games aren’t always going to make you relax, but they are light, fun games, without too much in the way of stress inducing moments.
10 – Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
If you’re familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you’ll know that they are silly books where they are taking you through some sort of crazy scenario, and if you make a wrong choice, generally almost at random, you’ll end up dying. Now, that doesn’t sound like that much fun, and it was annoying in the books at times where you’d feel like you were in a dead end and have to go back and start over again. In the board game version, something bad will happen if you die, but then you’ll reset to the previous decision and you always have a chance to go back. This game has some great writing, and is meant as silly fun for a group of players to sit around a table, make poor decisions and work through this cooperative story together. It’s extremely light and is just a fun time at the table for everyone as you go through the nonsensical story.
9 – Tokyo Highway
There are some games on this list because they are silly fun, there are others because the aesthetic is just amazing. Tokyo Highway is one of the latter. What’s basically is just little wooden cars and Popsicle sticks ends up looking like a piece of artwork on the table as the crazy roads interweave between everything. Can you get your roads to go over or under other roads in order to place your cars, and with that can you do that without knocking over precariously balanced roads with little to no room between them? The games rules are extremely simple, but there’s a little bit of tension at times as you place things, but mainly you’re just appreciating how cool it looks on the table.
8 – Small World
Now, I call this game a Risk killer, and for a lot of people, Risk isn’t a feel good game, so how can Small World be a feel good game? It’s because not only does it encourage conflict and encourage wiping someone else off the board as much as you can, it does that for everyone so you’re never down and out. If your race gets overrun, just get a new one and do it back to them, and you always have a special power, maybe you have something that makes sense, like pillaging orcs, but you might have something more out there like seafaring giants or flying sorcerers. Just the combinations, the massive swings from round to round, this game is meant to be light, and the combat doubles down on that, no more rolling lots of dice like Risk, now it’s just simply put down your tokens, and if you have two more than your opponent you take over their territory. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can always come back with another crazy combination, this wouldn’t make the list, but you’re never really down and out, and facing off wealthy ratmen against barbarian elves is just fun.
7 – Draftosaurus
If you haven’t seen Jurassic Park, you probably know about it. And the idea of a park with dinosaurs in just a lot of fun. Draftosaurus is a dinosaur drafting game where you’re trying to get pairs, as many different or as many the same, or other combinations, of dinosaurs to score the most points. You draft from a handful of dinosaur meeples that you have, and the game just is fun and vibrant. The dinosaur meeples look amazing, and the game play is very simple. The only thing that I don’t like about this game is that it doesn’t come with a score pad. It’s on the list of things to do for me to find one and print it off and laminate it so that the scoring will be more fun. That said, the game is simple, fast, and looks amazing because of the dinosaur meeples, it’s hard not to have fun when you’re playing it.
6 – Century: Golem Edition
This game is such a simple but beautiful game as you are building up an engine through a hand of cards to trade gems for other gems and get more gems so that you can activate golem that give you points. This is a feel good game because the artwork is amazing, the metal coins are nice, but it really comes down the gems that you are trading around. The gems are just beautiful translucent plastic pieces, that you can find in other games as well, but they just make the game because it’s fun to play around with them. In the end, you’re really playing a solitaire sort of puzzle with a shared pool of cards to purchase from. The game move incredibly fast as you have a card that you’ll play or purchase each turn, so you don’t have a lot of things to think about. There’s a more standard version as well where you are trading spices, but in my opinion, the Golem Edition looks better and is more feel good.
5 – Homebrewers
I wasn’t sure if this game was going to make the list, but as I thought about it, as a beer fan, I feel like it really is a feel good game. It might be less so for people who won’t like/drink beer, but what makes it feel good might even give them a good laugh as well. In this game you’re trying to build up the best engine to become the best homebrewer out there. You do this by adding ingredients to your beers and brewing them. What is fun about it is that you can make all sorts of crazy combinations. If you want a beer with smoke, oyster, and lime, you can do that, and you might end up with that because that makes the most sense for scoring points. At the end of the game, which is a fast game, you can look and see what crazy beers you’ve created. So even though the game is competitive, it’s over fast and not that cut throat in it’s competitive nature, and the beers are just a fun thing to see what you come up with.
4 – Second Chance
This roll and write, or flip and write, is just a fun little game where sometimes you are pulling for a shape to come out, but most of the time, you’re just doodling in the various shapes with their own unique look so that at the end, your board looks different than everyone else’s board, and has it’s own artistic flair to it. In the game you’re trying to fill in as much of your board as possible so that you have the fewest empty spaces left. Whomever has the fewest spaces left is the winner. But the game encourages you, as you’re filling in Tetris like shapes to have some fun with it and doodle in different backgrounds for the shapes so that you know what you put where, but also so that you have your own unique board when you’re done. If you give people the time they need to doodle, it is a very relaxing and feel good game.
3 – Sagrada
Now, with Sagrada there are some more stressful moments, at times, as you hope the right number is going to be rolled on the right color of dice to help you complete your stained glass window, but it’s hard for it to be too stressful because you are making stained glass windows. The game is just beautiful on the table, and the rules are quite simple, really, so when you’re drafting dice, you know what you’re going to want. The fact that the dice are translucent makes it even better because the aesthetic really is reminiscent of a stained glass window. The game also plays quickly, so the end game where you’re more worried about the dice that come out, goes by very quickly and then you can look at what you put together.
2 – ICECOOL
Dexterity games can sometimes be stressful, late game Jenga where you’re worried about knocking the tower over, might not be a feel good game for some people. But ICECOOL does a good job of not making it stressful. You can get good at ICECOOL, but with a theme of being high school student penguins who are trying to skip class and not get caught by the hall monitor because they want to get fish, the whole game is just silly. And whether you are trying to jump a wall, or get a crazy ricochet and go through several doors, it’s just a fun time. The theme and game play seems like it’d be best for younger kids, but I’ve had great success with this just with adults as it’s always just a silly fun time that everyone can enjoy.
1 – Marvel Champions
This game is just a fun game to play. It’s shown up high on a lot of my lists, but that’s because it’s a good game, and because you get to play as your favorite superhero. All the schemes of the bad guys are super villain schemes, and being able to play as Captain America and throw your shield to hit Ultron or Black Panther and break out all the Wakandan tech to take down Klaw is just a fun time. It feels like playing as the comic book characters, and while there is a good amount of strategy to the game, it doesn’t feel bogged down in that, and most of the time, you just do the thing that feels coolest and most like the hero would do and it works well.
There are more feel good games out there, cooperative games can as a whole lend themselves to that because you’re working together. But I didn’t include things like Gloomhaven and Pandemic, because while the end can be a feel good moment as you beat the game, there is a lot of stress in the game. I think out of the ones that I put down, I’d say that only Marvel Champions has some of that stress to it, the rest are very much lighter games throughout. And even with Marvel Champions, playing as a super hero is just so much fun that it has a lot of a feel good vibe to it.
What are some of your favorite feel good games? Are there any that you want to checkout from my list, or that you think I should checkout?