Jumping around in our Top 10 topics, we’re going to go to books and or series. I was thinking about doing more movies, and I’ll come back to them, but felt like time to do books for some reason. I’m lumping series together, because I …
Tag: Lord of the Rings
We’ve all seen Simpsons Monopoly and Monopoly for a specific football team or baseball team, national parks, or city. Those are all IP’s put onto Monopoly, intellectual properties. Those aren’t going to make this list, I’m looking at my top 10 favorite games that are …
But the question is, should we love trilogies. It’s really easy to think of a lot of them that at least started out as trilogies. Lord of the Rings is an obvious example, Star Wars x3, Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean, Back to the Future, The Matrix, etc. There are tons of examples trilogies out there, some of them better than others, but it’s a really popular format for telling a story, and when done well it can work really well, but it’s not always done well.
Let’s talk about how fairly often a trilogy happens, and we can delve into some of the issues based off of that. The creator of the story has an idea for one story, maybe more, but one that they know they can get published or produced. So they go to the publisher or producer and sell them on this story and they get it made. Now, it’s a huge success and the publisher or producer comes back to them and asks for more and not just one more, two more of the story or film or whatever it might be. So the creator creates another story picking a spot in the middle for a cliffhanger between both stories and then those are published or produced. However, the second and third don’t do as well. What went wrong?
Now, it could be that there just wasn’t anymore story to tell surrounding certain characters or ideas or even worlds. That can happen, but probably isn’t going to be the biggest issue. Probably as often it happens that the creator didn’t have any more stories to put in that setting and to get something a little bit more out there published or produced, they agree to a multi-thing deal which includes what they are actually interested in creating as well as two things that will be more successful for the company that they signed the deal with. Both of those examples, there really shouldn’t have been a second thing created at all, because there really wasn’t anywhere to go.
But, I think there’s another issue that often befalls trilogies, and that’s their ability to tell a complete story. Pirates of the Caribbean is a great example of this. In the first movie, we get a complete story, we get Jack going from being a pirate down on his luck, getting what he thought he wanted, realizing it wasn’t what he wanted, and overcoming everything in the end. Same with Star Wars: A New Hope, we get a complete story including third act metal ceremony. Then comes along the second film, in particular in Pirates of the Caribbean, less so in the original trilogy (Star Wars). You get the creators knowing that there will be a third film, so they tell part of a story. You get some build, maybe even some change, but in the end, the biggest issue still hasn’t be resolved. Instead, you have to wait for the third film. And that’s fine, if you can watch both films back to back, but most of the time if it’s something you’re really excited about, you’re seeing the film or reading the book when it comes out, not when both are out. So you get the second part which is the start of a story and ends with a small resolution, and the third part which is the continuation of the second part and then the final resolution. So combined you are telling a single story, but both parts are going to leave you feeling a little wanting, unless they are masterfully crafted.
So, how can you get around this in a trilogy? Sometimes you just plan on it being a trilogy. Lord of the Rings is a prime example of this, Fellowship of the Ring doesn’t tell a complete story, Frodo is still going to Mordor, the same with The Two Towers, Frodo is still going to Mordor, and that’s the end of the story (kind of, there are a lot of third acts) when he throws the ring into Mount Doom in Return of the King. However, in each of those, we know there’s the through story line going on with Frodo getting the ring to Mount Doom in Mordor, but we also have other characters getting a story as well and there’s story, especially in Return of the King and The Two Towers that gets told apart from Frodo’s journey that has groundwork laid in earlier books, but finishes up and tells a story there. We have the massive battle between the forces of good and evil in Return of the King which sees Aragorn become King. We have in The Two Towers multiple stories that are told and wrap with Merry, Pippin, and the Ents and the battle of Helms Deep.
Lord of the Rings does two things that should be pointed out. It has a through line so it doesn’t feel like the parts of the trilogy are disconnected. This is the Frodo and Sam story line that they need to get the ring to Mordor and Mount Doom. It’s the key piece of the story and in fact, if they fail, the whole thing fails and that runs throughout all of the books. At the same time with have Gandalf, Aragorn, Merry, Pippin, Gimli, and Legolas doing there own things, making a difference in another part of the world. And even though they aren’t carrying the end game thing, the ring, they still have an important part to play. So we get complete story arcs, from beginning to end, for them in the books and not across all the books, but in each book there is a beginning and ending point.
This varies from my Pirates of the Caribbean example because it has a through line throughout the whole thing, Pirates has characters who repeat but the first movie stands separate from the last two of the original Pirates trilogy. And Lord of the Rings has a beginning, middle and end to each book, versus Pirates 2 & 3 where you have a beginning and middle and a middle and end split respectively.
What does this mean as a creator?
First, a trilogy isn’t the end all for writing, you don’t need it to be a trilogy. The Dresden Files, a series that I love, is on book 17. So you can clearly go longer if you have more story to tell, so don’t let a trilogy limit you. And don’t let the idea of it needing to be a trilogy or anything like that force over complexity and bloat into your stories.
However, if you are going to write a trilogy, or even if you are writing something that you have a bigger idea for, but you just need to get one written and published first, think about through line and think about a complete story. Now, it’s hard if you think that you are only going to get a single shot at creating your idea, but give yourself room. Don’t bloat your idea to fit everything in to a single thing, instead, tell a nice complete story and leave room in the world for there to be even more story. Star Wars, the original trilogy, does this well. You have them blow up the Death Star, that by itself could end the story in A New Hope, however, Vader isn’t killed, so the villain is still out there. If nothing ever came after A New Hope, it wouldn’t feel like it’s missing anything, but it’s natural that we pick back up again with Darth Vader and the Empire. So create a first story, even if you don’t know that you’ll get more like that. Give the main characters a big win but leave a villain out there defeated but not destroyed. That way, you can come back and pick up with the same characters and continue a story.
Also leave plenty of your world unexplored after your first story, especially if you don’t know if there will be more. Lord of the Rings, we get through some mountains, but we know that Mordor is still out there, but we’re not there yet, and there are other lands to explore as well that we haven’t seen or gone to. Star Wars: A New Hope, they really aren’t that many locations and then they have a ton of other planets that they can create and use in future films because they didn’t have them hop from planet to planet all the time. This gives you room to create more mystery and more adventures in which to tell your complete adventure. Pirates of the Caribbean really feels like it hits up so many locations in the first film, even though it’s somewhat limited, so you don’t feel like there are a lot of players left to join the story in this small world they’ve created, as compare to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars where who knows what new enemies or allies might be out there.
Now, I’m sure there are more things out there that you can do when creating a trilogy. I do want to wrap up with that I’m not trying to bash on trilogies. I think fairly often they can work. The original Star Wars trilogy and Lord of the Rings are great examples of this. Even The Hunger Games, which I didn’t talk about much, does a good job of making the 1st and the 3rd stand separate as their own stories. But don’t limit yourself to that if you want to create an epic, and tell a complete story each time, those are just my rules for writing a series or trilogy.
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I’ve talked about a lot of games that are about that epic adventure for a small group of characters. Birthright is about epic things, but not on that smaller level. Birthright is about great leaders going to battle against other nations, probably with other world …
I’ve been toying around for a little while the idea that I might start doing some more top 10 lists. We might still do some video ones in the future, but finding the time with a toddler is tricky. So I wanted to do, from what I’ve played, go through my top games in a given mechanic or style.
This first list is going to be Deck Building Games, now on BGG, they combine pool and bag building games as well, but I’m only going to do deck building. However, it is going to include deck construction games as well. Because you are technically constructing the deck, it is just prior to the game, but it is also a large part of the game. I will call out those games. In deck building, you are constructing the deck to do something in the game, it might be getting victory points, it might be for buying more cards, fighting or many other things. Let’s see what my list looks like.
10 – The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth
It’s a long title and an interesting game, a deck construction game, you start out with an archetype and some character cards. But you can play against type, so maybe Gimli as a leader and Aragorn as a tank, and between scenarios you can spend experience to level up the deck and get better cards. How you use the cards is interesting, most of the time you are looking for successes on cards, but you can also use cards for a more permanent ability, but the better the ability, more likely it’s to have successes on it, which means you want it in the deck for your challenges so that you can pass them. It’s a good mechanic because it makes so many decisions tough. Plus, there’s a campaign for it, and an app driven story, this is weaker than Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition for that, but the app helps so much, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, it’s definitely a game to check out.
9 – Dragonfire
I haven’t played this game as much as I’d like though I have played both Dragonfire and Shadowrun: Crossfire, which are both built off of the same system. I’m going with Dragonfire because that’s the one that I own. The game offers interesting scenarios and challenges for the players to defeat, and you start out with your class which means that you are a little bit better at something than others. You get to purchase cards to improve your deck, but at the same time, you’re trying to deal with monsters and avoid becoming exhausted or taken out. It’s a tough game that I don’t feel like I fully have a grasp on the strategy for it yet, but I like the deck building aspect and I think that it does some interesting things with leveling up your characters. Definitely a fun time to play, and while I like the Shadowrun RPG theme better than the D&D RPG theme, I think that both are fun, so either works, just depends if you want fantasy or cyberpunk.
8 – Magic: The Gathering
MtG was a game that I loved and I’d play all the time for a while, but unfortunately I don’t have a group anymore for it. But I still love it for the deck construction aspect of it. You could build all sorts of crazy decks, and I think, almost as much as playing it, I loved finding an odd card that didn’t have an obvious way for it to work, but I would figure out a way to create a deck around it. Sometimes they were cool decks, and sometimes they failed horribly, but it was always fun to experiment. And then we got into commander which adds a challenge of only having a single copy of a card in the deck and a 100 yard deck, so there was always something new to try and build. I miss playing it as often sometimes, but it’s a classic and extremely popular game for a reason. It’s also addictive to open packs once you get into it.
7 – Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
This is just a fun game as you get to play through the books, getting further in your education and improving your deck. You get to sling spells, get friends to help you and try and defeat everyone. The game starts out pretty simple, and I like that, because it can continue to add in mechanics and rules and cards for each book that you go to, which makes it more thematic. It does get longer the further in you go because, while you are theoretically getting better cards the longer it goes, in the later chapters, you’re dealing with the villains from the first books as well as the ones from the later books so that number always increases. But Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is just a good deck building game and a good theme that will draw people in.
6 – Ascension
This is the most generic deck building game on the list. In it, you have a basic starting deck, you get to buy more cards that allow you to buy more cards or fight monsters that show up. You can combo things together with card draw and constructs, and that’s probably the only unique bit is that you have constructs that you can play out and they stay out while heroes go into the discard at the end of the turn. So you can vary your strategy by either going construct heavy or maybe hero and attack heavy or buy heavy. Each of them gives you a chance to win because you get points for killing monsters, but you can also get points for getting cards and some constructs are worth a lot of points. This is my preferred introduction to deck building.
5 – Clank! In! Space!
Some games take themselves seriously, but Clank! In! Space! is not one of those games. You’re an adventurer/thief, stumbling around Lord Eradikus’s spaceship, trying not to make too much clank so that you don’t get tracked down and knocked out. The cards are all references to other sci-fi things, and it just works really well. It’s a deck builder where you have a few different types of cards that can combo together to create some epic turns, if it shuffles out right, plus it’s push your luck with deck building as well, because you can go further into the spaceship to get a better treasure, but it’ll take you longer to get out and Lord Eradikus might get you before that happens. But if he doesn’t, you’ll be in a much better spot to win. The game is light fun with good replayability.
4 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
Aeon’s End: War Eternal is such an interesting deck building game that gives you a chance to not have to worry about the randomness of your deck. When you buy cards, they go into the discard, when you spend your cards on a turn, they go to the discard, but cards that you spend on a turn, you can sort those. That’s not a big deal if you’re shuffling the deck, but you’re not, when you run out of cards, you just flip your deck, so it gives you the ability to potentially set-up hands. Add in the game play, which has an interesting spell casting mechanic where you need to prep them, tough monsters to fight, and a town to defend, the game gives you so much replayability just out of the base box and then there is more in expansions and other editions. It’s just a nice twist on deck building that works really well for my style of play, plus it’s cooperative.
3 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Another deck contrusction game on the list, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a great experience creating your character so that they can investigate, attack, or deal with whatever might come up better for a given story. And then you get to take them through a campaign, so it’s not just a one off game, so between games you get to improve your deck so that you’re more prepared for the next part of the story. And characters, depending on their skills will be able to use certain types of cards better or will need help on some skills, so will need more of those cards in their decks, you can really tailor your investigator how you want.
2 – Marvel Champions
It was hard to know where to slot this one in, it’s deck construction, so you build your deck before the game, but it is so much fun. I’ve been writing about it a bunch recently, and it just works for me, all it’s missing is a campaign, which we’re getting. In it, you play as a superhero who is taking on the likes of Rhino, Ultron, or Green Goblin. What makes this work and be an interesting deck construction game is the different archetypes. So you could play someone like Spider-Man with defensive cards in his deck to keep him standing longer without having to flip back to the Peter Parker side, or you could be aggressive hoping to end the game faster. It gives you so many options when you’re constructing your deck. It just feels like taking your superhero up against a villain who has some grand or small scheme.
1 – Xenoshyft: Onslaught
Why is this my favorite, it’s actually fairly low rank on BGG, but the game is just a ton of fun, and I think it does some interesting things for a deck builder. You are never short money, which is nice, but when you buy cards and you are creating your defenses to stop an alien bug attack on your mining base, you can help other people as well. So you build up your defenses, but you can also help build up others, so even if someone has a bad card draw, you’ll be able to help them, or vice-a-versa. It’s just an interesting thing that makes the game feel even more cooperative in it’s nature and not something that you can do in many other deck building games. Plus, you’re blasting alien bug monsters, and I’m always down for that.
I’ve left a few games off of here that do have deck construction or deck building in them because I think that, while it’s important for those games, t here are other things that are also as big a part. Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon is one of them, but that one is a story driven survival game with deck construction being part of how you level up. The same goes for Gloomhaven, you can improve your hand of cards versus a deck there, but you can improve your modifier deck as you level up. I wanted to go with games where the deck construction is a huge part of the game. I think with the exception of Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, though you are using the deck for everything, you do need to really focus on the deck building part of the game.
There are a couple of notable deck building games that aren’t on the list. First, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game, I just find that game to be okay. I think that there’s so much in the game now that it can be hard to keep track of everything and you can pretty easily end up with a less than ideal combo of heroes that don’t synergize as well as they could. If that happens, you just get stomped, and I feel like that is pretty common for that game. Dominion also didn’t make my list, and while I know that some of these games, if not all, wouldn’t have existed without Dominion, it doesn’t make Dominion a good game. It’s a pure deck building game, I’ll give it that, but it’s not thematic and it’s not nice to look at, and because it has a static market, someone who has played it more or played with a certain combo is going to be at an advantage because they know what to build immediately, and there’s always an optimal strategy. I like games that make me adjust as I go and stretch me that way, and I don’t think Dominion does that.
What are some of your favorite deck building games? Are there any, based off of what I like, that you think I should check out?
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