Wait, wait, wait, isn’t Dungeons and Dragons fantasy? Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons is epic fantasy and we’re adding aliens into the mix. And not just some weird creatures from another plane, we’re adding in spaceships and craziness like that to Dungeons and Dragons, deal with […]
Tag: Star Wars
Board Game Battle – Star Wars Imperial Assault vs Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth vs Mansions of Madness
We have a triple threat match this time as we have three heavyweights from Fantasy Flight facing off. The reason that they get to face off is because all of them have app integration.
What this means for all these games is that you don’t need to have someone playing the bad guys. Too often in a pseudo dungeon crawl you can have a situation where it feels like the one person running the monsters is up against everyone else and more facilitating their fun than having as much fun themselves. There are then games like Gloomhaven where no one has to run the monsters, but everyone still has to do stuff on the monsters turn. In these games, you get an app that does that, it tells you the rules for moving the monsters and what you have to deal with them. Or where to place tiles and what the puzzles are.
Let’s meet the contenders.
Imperial Assault is a Star Wars game where you are playing adjacent to the main characters, since you wouldn’t want to play as Luke and have him die before he can blow up the first Death Star. You, instead, play around the edges of the Star Wars world and the big stories that are happening in the original trilogy. It uses it’s app to help you know when to activate storm troopers and other troops out there, but you still have to go through, when someone activates and see which of the moves that they need to do.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth
JiME, as I’ll shorten it to, takes place between the movies, I believe, and it gives you an interesting combination of characters to play with. You can play as Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, or Aragorn from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but they also have created two separate characters for the story as well whom you can play as. In my opinion, I get why they picked some main characters, but I’d have preferred if all the characters were side characters who no one has heard of because they aren’t in the books, and you run across characters like Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, and Aragorn. The app, in this case, runs a ton for you. You build your board, you put down markers, and you have you cards and character information in front of you, but when you’re interacting with a marker or fighting a bad guy, the app helps walk you through what you need to know. With the map, it also will be unique each time.
Mansions of Madness
Welcome to the world of HP Lovecraft. It’s almost impossible to a Fantasy Flight Board Game battle without mentioning something to do with Lovecraft. In this one, you take on a role of an investigator and you try and find your way through a mystery as you’ve been called to a mansion or somewhere else where something mysterious to do with the elder gods is happening. The app helps create a unique setting every time you play through the game or at least a few different ones, for each scenario. It also gives you those tokens to interact with that you place on your unique board and as you delve into the story being told. It also controls the monsters, letting you know what they can do or whom they will go after. It also keeps track of when the end game is coming up for you.
I should point out that all of these borrow from each other, though, Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, borrows a lot from both of them. You can kind of tell the order that Fantasy Flight put them out because of that. JiME works well, and I like the campaign aspect to it, which you get in Imperial Assault, but you don’t get in Mansions of Madness. I also like the combat in JiME, it works well, and comes directly from Mansions of Madness. It’s simple and clean and lets you know what to do, whereas with Imperial Assault there’s more that you have to dig through to make the combat work.
I do think what separates them the most is the story. Now, I like all the worlds that they are set in. Lord of the Rings is a great fantasy setting. Star Wars is an iconic Sci-Fi . Lovecraft is synonymous with horror. So Fantasy Flight has basically everything covered that I like. I would say that JiME, thus far, seems to have the weakest story. Now, I don’t think it’s all that week, I guess I should say, JiME feels like you should be playing something more epic than you are because you have Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn, and to a lesser Bilbo, you want to play through the trilogy or The Hobbit, but instead you’re off dealing with bandits. Imperial Assault would have had that feel, but you get to see moments with Vader, you are playing through parts of the movies, but because you’re the E-Team (not even good enough to be the B-Team), it doesn’t matter if you die, and it doesn’t matter if you orbit out from the main Star Wars story for a while. And with Mansions of Madness, you’re playing a single story at a time, and there isn’t a particular story that people really expect when they are getting something from Lovecraft, they just know Cthulhu.
JiME gets the early advantage because it takes mechanics from both and it’s able to counter the moves. However, it ends up throwing some predictable moves when it comes with the characters that it has. It gets bounced, but puts up a good showing. We get down to Imperial Assault which throws some strong nostalgia haymakers but eventually tries a complicated move with it’s bad guys and gets caught.
1…. 2…. 3….
Mansions of Madness
The champion of the app companion Fantasy Flight games is Mansions of Madness which has done so much creative with it’s game and it isn’t just in Mansions.
Now, I will say, I’d always be glad to sit down and play any of these games. These are three of the top contenders out there to take down Gloomhaven, Gloomhaven is just too good, but I’m going to be getting these to the table coming up here on Malts and Meeples.
Have you played these games? Which one is your favorite?
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Jumping back into another board game list, this time going with another mechanic I like quite well. Area control is a fun mechanic because it really pushes conflict in the game, and the games that do area control well really encourage that conflict to happen. […]
I’ve talked a lot about theme in board game before and how I like board games with a good theme on them. Instead of talking so much about why I like themes in board games, I think I’ve covered that decently well, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite themes in board games and why I like them.
Now, that could be less exciting, because there are a lot of generic themes out there, and a lot of games that are using themes over and over again. Especially now with copyrights not being extended to kingdom come, there are more works that are now public domain. A few years ago Sherlock Holmes became public domain and HP Lovecrafts work some time before that.
So what are some of my favorite themes on board games?
Epic Fantasy –
Super generic, but I really do enjoy a good fantasy game. Especially since a lot of them have a better developed story than most. Now it helps that I’m a big fantasy fan, so I can quickly understand what is going on with the various fantasy tropes and it allows me to get quickly into the story being told. Games like Gloomhaven and Legends of Andor do a good job of baking story into the actual game play themselves. I think what I like about the fantasy theme on board games is that it gives me a bit of that feeling of playing an RPG in a lot of the games and I can make my decisions like I am that hero. In a lot of ways it scratches my itch to play an RPG when I can’t be in a game as a player or as the GM.
I did a big board game battle post about all of the Fantasy Flight games that I’ve played with the HP Lovecraft world theme on them. I’m a bit surprised with how main stream Lovecraft is in board games, but it works in most of the cases. I will say that it gets slapped onto a lot of games that don’t need it. Like in Unspeakable Words, you’re just doing a pretty standard word game, but it has the Lovecraftian theme and cute Lovecraftian artwork on it. Now, that’s fine because it takes a game that wouldn’t have artistic direction and gives it some, but it’s kind of silly. Then there are games like Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, and Arkham Horror LCG that are just steeped in theme. Those games seek to make you feel like an investigator of some background who is really going through this world, dealing with the monsters, progressing the story, looking for clues, and sometimes dealing with the events of the normal world. It also does a good job of setting an aesthetic that is generally pleasing to play in but also being a horror focused game. It really doesn’t rely on blood and guts like some horror games would.
Another super generic option, like epic fantasy, but I figured I should say more than just Star Wars. While the Star Wars games are great that I’ve played, Imperial Assault and Star Wars: Rebellion, there are other sci-fi games out there that I’ve liked as well. It’s interesting because you have a wide variety of scope with games in the Sci-Fi genre. Games like Star Wars: Rebellion, Battlestar Galactica, and Cosmic Encounters are planet level Sci-Fi games. And while Cosmic Encounters doesn’t feel like quire as grand a scope as Rebellion, it’s still a bigger game in some ways. Compare that to Imperial Assault and Clank! In! Space!, those games have a focus that is much more on a smaller part of the world. You’re on a planet or in a space ship dealing with things, but you aren’t as worried about the whole cosmos. Having that variety is what makes Sci-Fi such a strong genre to me.
Now, there are so many more genres out there, but you’re not going to have that much issue finding games in these genres, and I tend to gravitate towards them. There is one that I want to see more of though.
Weird West –
I really enjoy the weird west setting. Some might say that it’s a bit Lovecraft mixed with the wild west, and that’s probably pretty accurate. But when people say a Lovecraft game, that’s generally meaning 1920’s and Arkham area. Weird west can be a lot more than just that, and I like Shadows of Brimstone for that, though I’ve only gotten it to the table once. I need to go back and fix the monsters and hopefully stream that game at some point in time so I can actually play it some more. But the game is interesting and has some cool big moments to it.
Now, some might say this is part of fantasy, but I think I would qualify it differently than “Epic Fantasy”. Theming of games like Lords of Hellas, which I haven’t played or Santorini which is really an abstract game, but has the Greek mythology added to it, that’s a theme that I can get behind. What makes it generally pretty thematic is that all the deities have their own powers which really do track with the mythology that you’re in. Even if you aren’t going the standard Greek, there are now a lot of games with Norse Mythology. Blood Rage on the cards you draft does a really good job of creating that mythological feel for each deity that you can draft cards from. In fact, those cards are where you really get the theme of Norse Mythology in Blood Rage.
I could go on talking about more themes in board games. There are games with a heavily influenced theme by Japan and/or Anime. There are games t hat have cool adventuring themes that give you the Indiana Jones feel. There are a few themes that I’ll generally avoid though. If a game has the “trading in the Mediterranean” theme, that’s a hard pass for me. I’m also kind of done with the zombie theme at this point. I do like Dead of Winter, so I’m not opposed to it, but a zombie themed game isn’t all that interesting to me most of the time.
What are some themes you like in board games. What are themes that you want to see more of in board games?
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We’ve done small games, we’ve done story games, I feel like the logical next step is going to be suggesting some strategy games.
Who would you give a strategy game too? With the stocking stuffers and story games, a lot of them could be played by people who aren’t big into board games, but strategy games, you are going to want to give those to a person who is more of a board gamer already. Otherwise, you’re less likely to know what the person will like the game. I am going to put a few lighter strategy games on the list that would work for more people, but generally speaking, these are going to be heavier games.
Now, this was on both the story and the strategy game list, so consider that if you are thinking of buying a story board game for someone. Gloomhaven has a ton of interesting decisions and a ton of decisions for combat and work with your team (or by yourself) in order to figure out the most optimal strategy to beat the scenario that you are playing. And the strategy changes pretty often when you have changing characters. The card driven combat works really well for the strategy of this game, and it isn’t a pure strategy/abstract game, so it doesn’t force you to play optimal strategy to win.
This is a lighter strategy game where you face off against another player in a race to the opposite side of the board. You either move or put down a wall on the board on your turn. It’s pretty simple in the rules, you can’t block the other person from being able to make it across the board, but there are some interesting strategies. It can play up to 4 players, and with a larger number of players it’s more random, but with two players, this game can become very strategic as you try and figure out when to block your opponent. The game is simple, looks simple, but offers some good decisions.
Star Wars: Rebellion
Another big box game, this one, the Dice Tower has described as “Star Wars in a box”. You get the feel of the epic space opera that is going on between the Empire and the Rebels as the Empire tries to track down the rebel base and wipe it out and the Rebels seek to complete missions to under mind the Empire’s hold on the galaxy. Now, there is some luck in the game because of dice rolls, but you can try and mitigate that some, and I know the expansion takes the combat which is primarily dice rolling and updates it some. But the biggest part of the strategy comes from deciding what missions to complete, trying to figure out where to move your troops to search, if you’re the Empire or where to bluff troops to try and draw the Empire away from your base, if you’re the rebels.
Fae is basically an abstract game that they have placed some theme on. In the game, you are trying to complete rituals on the board by separating the different groups of druids so that they aren’t next to any other druids. Once that is done, each color of druid in the ritual scores points. But there is strategy as to what areas you are trying to score points in, how you want to move the druids, and how you want to get the points scored because you have a secret color that you’re going for, as does your opponent, but each druid ritual scores for each color in the ritual. It’s a nice balancing act of strategy, but then trying to hide your information from you opponent by what you do.
This is one of the grand daddies of modern board gaming, but still holds up well. In the base game, you are building, as a group, a landscape where there are towns, monasteries, and other features. You each have a certain number of meeples that you can use as farmers, soldiers, thieves, or priests that will score you points in the game or at the end of the game. The strategy in this game comes into where you are playing the tiles for the landscape and how and where you are using the meeples to complete the various scoring options. It’s not a difficult game to teach or to play, but there is strategy as to how you use your meeples and where you place tiles that will determine how well you do.
Another crossover with the story list, Pandemic Legacy is definitely a strategy game, but again a fairly accessible one. The mechanics make sense for what you are doing, but like most good cooperative games, it gives you a lot of difficult decisions. You always feel like you want to do two or three more things than you’re able to do, so you have to skip doing something. This game really shines too for the story aspect that might allow you to get more people into heavier games. The game also does a good job of laying out what a person can do in an easy way so that you don’t have to remember as much.
This area control game plays very interestingly and quickly as you take on different factions which each has their own unique powers. It also has an interesting combat mechanism. This game also has interesting strategy in that all the factions play very uniquely and you can make that even more unique by allowing each faction to use more of their unique ability cards. So some people might be all about combat, but others might be all about collecting gems to score points. It seems like a game that plays well at a variety of player counts as well.
Finally, this game is heavy strategy and is not a beginner level strategy game. Root is an amazing asymmetrical game where each persons factions in the game might have the same base mechanics but are handled differently for each faction. I really enjoyed playing the birds with their regimented planning of actions, but there are the cats which are all about area control, the woodland creatures who are all about subverting the powers that be, and the vagabond who is trying to complete quests. And with everyone making different decisions, the game is still completely balanced. This is one of those heavier games though that a person new to board games might think looks pretty, but might be a bit much to teach.
What are some of your favorite strategy games? Maybe you just want to get the person a nice chess set.
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Are you excited for this game review, because the game sure is. Yes, Clank! In! Space! has all those exclamation points in the title and it’s really excited to have a TableTopTake written about it! So let’s get jazzed, people, and jump into this game […]