Woo… we’ve reached the point where event registration is open for GenCon. Let’s talk a little about how the process went with getting registered for events. There are two big things to note that we did, since there were two of us, when when we […]
Tag: Marvel Legendary
Let me start by saying that Deck Building is one of my favorite game mechanics, and one that has been around for a while. Also, let me say that there are two different, distinct ways you can qualify deck building. I am not referring to the collectible card game method (or even living card game), where you can build a custom deck leading into the game. Yes, you do build a deck of cards to play with in those games, but the game itself isn’t about deck building. In some ways, they are the basis for modern deck building games, though.
In those games, you would build your deck of cards, however many that might be, from cards you had bought and collected. You were looking for interesting interactions and synergies between cards. That is something that still definitely exists in modern deck builders. But the modern deck builder doesn’t have you create your deck ahead of time. In fact, everyone starts out with the same cards and then you can build and expand your decks beyond that.
That is what makes the mechanic interesting, in a lot of the early deck builders, you would customize and try and develop your own strategy for the game based off of a set of cards that were available to everyone in the game. Dominion, the first popular deck builder, created an economy where you would search to combo cards to the point where you could buy victory point cards, in particular the high cost victory point cards which were one way to end the game.
While I do appreciate the mechanic in Dominion, Dominion does have one serious flaw to the game. There will always be a best strategy because everyone is purchasing from a static market of cards. This can lead to a run away leader problem in the game, or if the cards don’t synergize well, the strategy is then just to buy more money, so you don’t actually end up using the combinations. Also, the game has a medieval theme that could literally be any sort of economy, so it’s very very themeless. Toss in inconsistent art throughout the game and expansions, and I’ve moved on from my copy of Dominion.
But Dominion was the one that started it for deck builders, maybe not the first, but the first big one. From there we’ve moved on to a few different ways of deck building.
The first big advancement is the rotating market. The game Marvel Legendary is a great example of this. While the market is limited more so than in Dominion, the market rotates as people buy a card, you flip a new card down. This means that the market is constantly changing and there isn’t a way to create a specific strategy as clearly that is going to be the best. This helps solve the run away leader problem. It also provides more strategy for creating your deck as the option of just buying money isn’t going to fix your problem in the game of figuring out card synergies.
In a cooperative game, like Marvel Legendary, you can still make your decks highly focused as you’re talking about what is out there and who might want what card when it comes around to their turn. But in Clanks! In! Space!, you are playing a competitive game with a rotating market. This means that someones you might buy a card that isn’t ideal for your deck, just because you don’t want anyone else to have it.
There are also interesting ways that they fixed the fixed market issue in Dominion in other games without it being a rotating market. Xenoshyft: Onslaught is a good example of this. In the game you are working together to defend your base, but I might have the role of the science department while someone else might have the barracks. Because we have different roles we have different powers that make our strategies unique. If you are the science department, you have the two unique cards in your deck from the start, and you can get a discounted buy on science cards each round. That means your deck is going to lean a certain direction because it’s easier for you to load up on a certain type of good card than it is for other people. Variable player powers cover over a lot of issues you can run into with deck builders by actively making people build their deck in different ways or they won’t be building it the most efficient way using their resources.
Xenoshyft: Onslaught also has another interesting mechanic that helps. One issue with deck builders is that as the deck gets larger, you can either get a deck that is too big to really get the cards you want together, or gets too full of early game cards that you don’t get enough money at the same time to purchase more. Xenoshyft: Onslaught fixes both of these issues in unique but good ways. The first thing it does is you area always gaining money to your hand each round of the game, in the first three rounds, you get an extra xenostatham (money unit), in the next three, you get a three xenostatham card, and in the last three rounds, you get a six xenostatham. Now, this means you are never short money, but it adds bloat into your deck. Xenoshyft: Onslaught realizes this, so in the middle rounds, you can trade three one xenostatham cards for a three xenostatham card, and in the last three rounds, you can get your threes to sixes. This keeps the deck cleaner. It also allows you to use troops that you can buy in the first three rounds as discounts on troops in the later rounds, this helps keep the deck thin and focused.
One thing that all the games that I’ve mentioned thus far do better than Dominion as well is that they’ve added theme back into a deck builder. The cards that you are buying and using make sense in the game for the ultimate goal of the game. Wen you’re recruiting heroes to fight against a super villain in Legendary, it makes sense. When the cards have certain abilities on them, they make sense for the hero. That was a huge move forward from what we had been previously seeing in Dominion, and while Dominion might still be the most popular, it gave people a lot more options for games.
There are now some other interesting things that have been added into deck building that make certain deck builders unique.
A game like Cry Havoc, while not a pure deck builder, has some deck building in the game as you add in various terrain cards to your deck. It uses a draw two and pick one methodology of building up your deck. So depending on where you are locate don the board will determine what you want to take, and whom you might be fighting.
Aeon’s End (a game that I’ll have the legacy version of the game on it’s way, but this one does something unique as well. It’s interesting because instead of shuffling your deck like you do with every other deck building game I can think of, you literally just flip your discard pile. However, when you discard cards on your turn, you can sort the order that they go into your discard as long as they are used in the game time in the game. That means that you can stack your deck in an interesting way and specifically create hands, especially earlier in the game.
Deck building is definitely a mechanic that has been extremely popular and I think will remain popular, though we’re now seeing less pure deck building games. A game like Cry Havoc has deck building, but that’s fairly secondary in the game, and you’d actually be able to play the full game without doing any additional deck building if you wanted (if I remember correctly), but it’s fun to see a fairly familiar mechanic showing up in a diverse cross-section of games that wouldn’t always seem like deck building games. It’s also led to some interesting games that have hand building that can work similar to deck building, but you have access to all the cards from the start and then lose them as you play them.
So, to wrap this up, if deck building seems like an interesting mechanic, where would I start?
That’s a tough question, Dominion is probably the purest deck builder out there, but there are a ton of expansions, so it might seem a bit intimidating to get into. It’s also not the easiest game to sell to people to play, because the theme is very bland. But if you are playing with less gamer-y people, I would start with Dominion.
If you’re playing with people who are used to playing games, just not deck builders, I’d probably start with Xenoshyft: Onslaught. The game has some very interesting choices in it, and it’s fun to face off against a bunch of alien bugs. Marvel Legendary is good as well, but there are so many expansions, I wouldn’t consider it a great starting deck builder. You could look at Legendary Encounters games and just pick the them that works best for you, whether that’s Alien, Big Trouble in Little China, Firefly, or one of the others. These games all offer more to do with your cards and a lot more depth of strategy than Dominion while still keeping the focus on deck building.
What are some of your favorite deck building games?
I mentioned the topic in the Kickstarter FOMO post, but I wanted to talk more about different game mechanics that you might here people talk about when it comes to describing a board game, this will be a bit more focused definitions than the Jargon […]
If you go into Fantasy Flight Game Center (or to their website), you see loads and loads of board games that have Star Wars on the side of the box. They have X-Wing, Armada, Rebellion, Imperial Assault, Legion, and Destiny, and I’m probably missing a couple, not to mention the RPG where they have Force and Destiny, Edge of the Empire, and Age of Rebellion. It’s really cool to see them because they all give you different feels for games, Rebellion lets you feel like you’re controlling the over arching saga of the original trilogy. X-Wing gives you space dog fights, and Armada gives you big interstellar combat. Imperial Assault gives you quick hitting rebel missions and Legion pits larger forces against each other. And Destiny gives you a card game with Star Wars art and a lot of fun dice.
These are all games that Fantasy Flight has taken from a license and turned into a ton of products. I’m pretty sure I’m evening missing a game. There are also other games like the Game of Thrones living card game or the new game that came out from CMON, Song of Ice and Fire. There’s a whole system of games, the Legendary Encounters based off of Marvel Legendary (another licensed property) for Alien, Predator, Firefly, Big Trouble in Little China, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now X-Files. The point of writing all of that was that there are a ton of board games that have cool properties behind them and there are more coming out all of the time.
Unlike Robin Hood and Lovecraft’s work which can be slapped on anything because they are public domain, there are a lot that need to be licensed. So, what are some of these other stories that I can to see board games made out of?
I’m going to give the title of the book, TV show, movie, and some description of what I think would make it an interesting game or how I might go about building a game. I’m also going to be avoiding things that I know are already board games, you might not know there is a Kung-Fu Panda game, but there is, so I won’t be making my own for that.
R.I.P.D. is a movie and comic about a cop who dies and then becomes a cop in the after life taking crazy bad guys. I like the theme for this one and think that with a bunch of minis and different cops who you could play, it could be a fun game playing against a scenario(s). You’d be trying to defeat different bad guys, or maybe a scenario would have you get information while trying to survive long enough to get back out. There’s a good number of stories that you could do with it, and while it is a lot of the current meta, I’d lean into the supernatural. Give the players and monsters abilities that they can use that are a bit game breaking, but come at a cost to the monsters of the players. That would then give the game a unique feel as compared to other scenario based games because it’s the last ditch sort of move instead of other variable player powers.
Now, there is something coming out that can have some tie in to this series by Patrick Rothfuss, but I want to take it in a different direction than that game. That one looks like it is more about the whole fantasy world, and like I said, it isn’t an actual game on the series, it just has a module for it, so it counts for me. I’d focus on the time at the university. People could take on different students, doing different things for different classes and the game would be split into four or five parts which would be different years at the school. Each turn you’d take an action to either study, go to classes, make money, or if you are playing a character who has money, just get money. You’d play as different characters who are studying at the university and at the end of each round you’d score points and depending on how you did and your income, you’d get your tuition set for the next year which would take money from you, and you’d repeat the process. If you didn’t have enough money, you’d be limited to actions in town or going and taking out a loan to be able to stay in school, but that would be costly for you. I think you could make this game interesting by having characters increase in skills, do sneaky things, and complete missions for teachers. I think I’d then have the players try and get as many points as they could in completing their education or at least advancing in it.
Killjoys is a space television series about a crew who picks up criminals and turns them in and deals generally with all the problems that are going on in their world. I don’t think I’d make my game as dramatic as the show, but I do think I’d set it up so that it really focuses on bringing in those criminals like the earlier part of the show does. It would somewhat be a pick-up and deliver game where you fly to a planet, pick up what you need, and deliver it back for money. However, the longer you go, the more troubles you are going to run into completing missions and also the more events and worse events that will be happening to the Quad, the area of planets you are working in. In the end, the winner would have the most money at the end of the game from bringing in criminals, but you have to decide how to use it because you might want to upgrade your ship, weapons, or crew to make the jobs easier.
I’m a little surprised I haven’t heard of one besides some company branding an ouija board with Stranger Things, because of money. For those who don’t know, Stranger things is about a girl who escapes from the grasp of an evil company that is messing around with her abilities and is also looking into another dimension, the Upside Down where there are monsters that start bleeding over into this small town. I would make this as an asymmetric game for up to five people as that’s about how it works in the game. There are the kids, the teenagers, the adults, the company, and the upside down. The upside down and the kids would be required to play the game, but the rest could be optional. As the kids, you are trying to keep Eleven safe and close the portal to the Upside Down, as the Upside Down, you are trying to capture all the kids or get enough monsters into the world that you win. If you were the adults, your goal would to find one of the kids who gets lost in the upside down, and as the teens your goal is to kill as many monsters as possible. Finally, as the company, your goal would be to keep Eleven alive, but have her under your control, and not have anyone else win for a certain number of rounds. I could also see cutting it down to three factions and having the people of the town, adults, teens, and kids, all be the same person. But I think it could be interesting, each group having their own special powers and goals that they are going for in the game.
What are some stories that you think would turn into a good board game? What are some of your favorites that are already board games?
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Deck-building games are showing up a whole lot more on Kickstarter these days, and are becoming a more popular style of game. The best-known game of this type is Dominion, in which you build up a deck of cards to gain victory points. A lot of these […]
One topic that I wanted to spend more time on was talking about different types of games for different types of board game nights and board game groups. Depending on who you have coming, it is really going to make a difference in what type of games you are going to play.
For this sort of group, you are really looking for more party games. You want turns that can take a while so that conversations can happen, and you want games that are simple enough for people who might not be familiar with the game so they won’t forget the rules in between their turns. Party games are ideal for this. A couple of my top recommendations would be Cards Against Humanity (or Apples to Apples if you are feeling tamer) or Stipulations. Both of these have quick rounds where people either play cards or write something down, and whoever is “it” picks the winner out of the different ones. They are good because the rounds are fast, everyone is involved in the rounds at once, and if you get into a conversation between rounds, there is no confusion as to where you pick up again.
Let’s Work Together Groups
There are a couple of reasons for having this sort of group of game players. The first is that while this type of players like games with story and depth to them, everyone isn’t on the same level of game playing, so if that group was playing a trickier game, the same people are always going to lose. The other reason is that if someone in the group tends to lose poorly, it can ruin the experience for everyone else. So instead of not inviting certain people depending on what games you want to play, for either reason, you are able to play games that are more cooperative. The best examples of this, in my opinion, are the Lord of the Rings Board Game and Pandemic. Both of these offer a number of different strategies, so if someone wanted to play it one way, they can, and it allows for a lot of discussion and working together at the table. If you get tired of games where people purely work together, games like Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Dead of Winter are great options as well. While the team is working together, someone is randomly chosen to become a traitor — it’s a whole lot harder to have hard feelings when it is a random card or roll of the die that determines the traitor.
This group is able to handle games that pit players against each other, and that one player can work on their own to win instead of letting it be based on someone else’s decision (or even partially based on that). As a casual group, it still focuses on faster and simpler games, though. You wouldn’t sit down and play the Battlestar Galactica board game with this group, but instead, you’d play Carcassone or King of Tokyo. A lot of the Euro-style games fall into this category. While something that another player might do could stop you from doing what you wanted, everyone is actively trying to meet their own conditions to win the game, not (most likely) stop other people from winning.
I was thinking about putting this group and the next one into the same group, but I think, at times, there might be a reason to differentiate. Serious gamers are people who love very in-depth games. They want to spend the time to work through a long game of Marvel Legendary or Arkham Horror, and they don’t mind so much if the game is cooperative or competitive. If the game is challenging enough and different enough and really allows them to flex their game logic muscles, they are going to enjoy the game. These are the people who try and figure out the optimal strategy for Dominion, and probably own most of the expansions for it. They take their gaming seriously, and when they play, they expect the other people in the group to do that as well.
These people play Risk and are out for blood. They make and break alliances with no concerns about who they beat down in the process. They also aren’t going to have a qualm about knocking out a player early in a long game and just letting them sit there. A cutthroat group is going to want to play long and challenging games, and while they may have hurt feelings in the game, they are able to get past that once the game is over. A player for any group besides the Serious Gamers group isn’t going to be able to hang with a cutthroat group, and even the serious players are going to have more fun elsewhere. I do want to clarify: I’m not trying to say that this group is a bad group. If you play this way and have friends who do as well, more power to you. But often, it’s hard for cutthroat gamers to mix well into other groups and vice-a-versa, probably more so than any other combination.
Just to close up this topic: a lot of these groups work well together; people who are part of a talking group can easily play games that cooperative and casual groups like. And serious gamers can enjoy playing cooperative games and casual games as well. However, it is important to be aware of the dynamic of your group and know how they play. If you have people who are expecting to play serious and challenging games and all you have is party games, some people won’t be having as fun a time, for example. But if you know the type of group you have and what type of player you are, you can always have a fun board game night for everyone.
What type of player are you with board games?
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