Tag: Near and Far

Board Games – Campaign vs Legacy vs Story vs Normal vs RPG

Board Games – Campaign vs Legacy vs Story vs Normal vs RPG

This might sound like a battle, but it’s not. It’s something that I have been thinking about, and you can see why if you check out my Back of Brick of Stormsunder. There are a lot of different types of games, but I think that…

My Top 100 Board Games – 80 to 71

My Top 100 Board Games – 80 to 71

I’m back with the next round of the rankings. I’m going to run this basically straight through just because it would stretch out until the end of the year if I didn’t, so hopefully you are enjoying the board game content. I had fun putting…

The Evolution of Story Games

The Evolution of Story Games

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.

Image Source: Across the Board Cafe

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.

Image Source: Zman Games

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.

Image Source: Z-Man Games

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.

Image Source: Stonemaier Games

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?

Image Source: Catan

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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RPG Lite

RPG Lite

Sometimes you want to sit down and play an RPG, but you don’t want to have to find a Game Master (GM) or spend the time creating characters and have five minutes to play after after hours of preparation. So, you need to come up…

Holiday Gift Guide: Epic Games

Holiday Gift Guide: Epic Games

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…

Holiday Game Guide: Story Games

Holiday Game Guide: Story Games

I’ll be getting to some heavier strategy games, but those aren’t going to be the games for everyone. Some people want a game that focuses more on the storytelling aspects of the game. I’m not going to say games like Dungeons and Dragons which are inherently more involved role playing storytelling games, because while they are awesome, they are a bit more involved and have a different barrier of entry than board games to getting them to the table.

Image Source: Cephalofair Games

Gloom

This is a dark storytelling game where everyone has their own family of misfits and your job is to make your families life the most miserable until they all have perish. You each take turns playing cards on your characters or other peoples characters, but the real fun of this game comes in with the storytelling. When you play a card, you add to the story and the world that you are building where all the families live how the horrible things build up over time until your family eventually has passed away. There is a lot of alliteration on the cards, and the game while having so many horrible things happen feels like the book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, in a lot of ways. The game plays fast, and because of the storytelling, everyone is involved.

Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

Now this game you aren’t telling the story yourself, but you’re making the decisions for your character as they traverse the house of danger. With a name like that, what could possibly go wrong. But the game is fun and silly as you make decisions and even when you die, like you would in the choose your own adventure books, you come back where you left off. You can also play with as many people as you want for this game and either have a single person reading the story, or it is more fun to pass the story cards around so everyone has a chance to be the lead of the story.

Near and Far

This is the most gamiest of all the games on the list thus far. Near and Far has you take various characters through the world of Near and Far and interact and unfold a story as they search for a lost city. The game has a couple of really nice story elements to it with a great board that is in a book. So each game, as you progress through, you play a different set of pages in the book, and there are different story elements for the world. Then as you explore the locations, you can start to craft your own characters story and get traits that might help you in future games. I love the artwork in this game, and even though it has a story aspect to it, it’s definitely replayable because of the game mechanics themselves.

Image Source: Z-Man Games

Legacy of Dragonholt

Legacy of Dragonholt is the closest thing to a role playing game on the list, and actually could be consider role playing game lite. You do build a character you’re going to play with, and the whole story takes place in certain passages of a book. You have a lot of different scenarios you can read through, as you try and solve the mystery that is taking place at Dragonholt. It’s a very accessible game and gives people a little bit of a feel of a role playing game without the investment that you might have otherwise with Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.

Gloomhaven

This is a beast of a game, and you’ve seen how much I write about it and love it. While the combat is actually pretty tactical, Gloomhaven has a bunch of story between things as you progress forward to try and figure out what the gloom is that is coming to the town of Gloomhaven. You also have city and road events that give you a chance to make a lot of different story decisions. The ever changing cast of characters you are playing with keeps the game vibrant as well and a lot of fun. Now, this is by far the heaviest game on the list and won’t be for everyone as it does combine that strategy with storytelling, but if it seems interesting, the number of hours in the game makes it very worth the price tag.

Image Source: Zman Games

Stuffed Fables

Stuffed Fables is an adorable game where players take on the characters of various stuffed animals who are protecting their little girl from the monsters and things that live in the world under the bed. So while she sleeps you keep them from waking her up. This game has a book with maps in it like Near and Far, but the game play itself is simpler and the story is more tightly written. Each page of the book plays slightly different, but everyone about this game is crafted so well from the weapons that the stuffed animals fight with to the amazing figures in the game. It’s a game that also isn’t too complicated so with a little bit of help, a kid would be able to play this game with adults.

Now, there are a ton more storytelling games out there. Once Upon a Time, T.I.M.E. Stories, 7th Continent, Arkham Horror LCG, Arabian Nights, but there is one more I want to touch on.

Pandemic Legacy

Pandemic Legacy is a game that has a lot of strategy and thinking through turns, but the game itself as you play through the various scenarios has a ton of strategy to it. The way the story progresses from month to month works really well. If Gloomhaven is too much of a bear for you with a strategy and story game, Pandemic Legacy is going to fit that niche for a lot of people. And getting it to the table will be something people want to do again and again.

What are some other story games that I’ve missed? Do you have one that is your favorite? Are some of these games too light for you?


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Email us at nerdologists@gmail.com
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Visit us on Facebook here.

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

I’m doing something that’s a bit different style, I realize that there can be a lot of terms for various nerdy hobbies that might be a bit confusing. So I wanted to, for board games, run through what some of these terms are, if they…