Yes, I did just do a Board Game Battle and a Beyond the Box Cover for Marvel Champions, but I’ve had a chance to play it a handful of times now, with a few different heroes and villains, solo and multiplayer, so I think that…
There are times when you stumble across a game on sale and you don’t know anything about it. But because of the theme or a look of the game, and how big the sale is, it is worth checking out. This was the case with The Hobbit game, I got it on a winter inventory clear out sale at a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store).
The Hobbit is a semi-cooperative game where players are bidding with dwarf cards to see how far they move on a board, but it’s done at the same time, each spot has a different skill or ability that you can raise the level of, so that when you reach locations in the Hobbit story. There you need to complete challenges, and the person who is doing the best gets first crack at them, but those challenges can be difficult and do you want to push your luck further into the pile to get more treasure early or hope to gain it late. At the same time, as a group you need to complete these challenges otherwise Smaug will advance towards Esgaroth (Laketown). You have to work together to make sure everyone is building up their skills, but you can’t discuss how you’re bidding. This leads to people getting something they don’t need at times or someone being under powered, so you have to be careful with that. But in the end, the dwarf with the most gems wins.
This game is interesting because it’s not that complex. You are playing a card, moving on a board, and getting skills. But the semi-cooperative nature adds in some depth to it. You want to get your skills high fast so that you’re able to collect more gems that’ll win you the game. However, if you do that at the expense of others, then Smaug is going to move more and that can cut short the game. So if someone hogs all the skills early in the game, they can get early gems but those might be worth less than later challenges which would give more gems so even in a short game trying to push the end you could still end up losing. For some people, this semi-cooperative nature isn’t going to work, but for me, and the times that we’ve played it, it’s been fun. Everyone can see what everyone else needs so you’re trying to be strategic getting the skills that you need, but not getting it too out of balance, and inevitably it does with someone being extremely cunning but having no power, and that makes it hard to beat some of the challenges. This semi-cooperative nature can be enhance by adding in the rule that if Smaug reaches Laketown the game is over and everyone loses.
A downside to the game is that it can be a little bit simple. I think the rule that everyone loses if Smaug reaches Laketown is almost needed in the game. Otherwise it can have someone rush to get as much treasure as possible and it’s possible that they will end up winning just because they are the only ones with enough skills. There is still luck with that, though, because to defeat these encounters, you are rolling dice and then supplementing with the skills that you have. I’ve pulled off a win by passing on all the smaller treasure encounters and only grabbing the big ones, and I’ve seen that cause people to lose as well if they get a really poor roll while going for those bigger treasures. I think that first blush the game can be a bit simple and the die rolls a bit too random for some people, but there is more strategy hiding in the game than one might expect.
Let’s talk about the theme a little bit. I think that the semi-cooperative nature works for The Hobbit because while Bilbo isn’t after anything more than an adventures, the dwarves want to get as much as they can and to take back the mountain for the riches that are in there. The greed is what is driving them, and that’s what drives the players in the game. You are trying to get the most gems, because that’s how you’re going to win. For that reason I’d say that it’s fairly thematic, but there’s also just this abstract push your luck piece to it as well. It’s a game that you can bring the theme into it, but one that won’t feel like it has as much theme as it might compared to some other Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth themed games.
Finally, let’s talk about the components. The artwork on the game is really nice. It’s very much art that was done before the movie, so if you’re expecting to see something that’s similar to that, it’s not going to tick that check box for you, but it’s classic Hobbit/Middle Earth art. But the game has plastic little gems which is what really makes it shine on the table. They are very cute and actually very thematic because as players, you want to have the games just to play around with. It’s the same mold that’s being used for other games, like Century: Golem Edition. Beyond that, it’s just a well done production of a game.
Overall, this is a fun game. It’s a light game, as much as I liked to talk about how there is more depth than it first seems, it never has a ton of depth to it. Can you workout where you want to be and get that certain ability or land in a certain spot to make your dwarf better? There’s both luck of the dwarf cards that are dealt to you, which you use to bid, and luck as to what everyone else plays. But the game says it only takes 30-45 minutes, which seems right to me, and so for a lighter game, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I’d recommend this game to people who like Lord of the Rings/Hobbit/Middle Earth, as it has a decent thematic feel to it, and even if they aren’t gamers, it’s pretty easy to understand.
Overall Grade: B-
Gamer Grade: C+
Casual Grade: B
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If you’ve read my previous reviews on Root and Cry Havoc, you can see that I really like asymmetrical games. Skulk Hollow, when it came on kickstarter last year, was a game that caught my attention right away. The look had a bit of that cute woodland creature feel that you get from Root. It was also from the same company that made a silly light game that I have enjoyed, Planet Liftoff!. Based off of that, I decided to take the plunge into the world of Skulk Hollow.
Skulk Hollow is an asymmetrical strategic game where one player takes on the role of foxes who live in the area and the other player ancient guardians that have awoken. The Foxen are trying to disable the guardians while avoiding having their leader perish. To do this, they have to get close enough to the guardian and either shoot them or leap onto them and hack away with their swords. The Guardian, on the other hand is trying to take out to Foxen leader, but they’ll also have some additional objective. It might be getting a certain number of tentacles into play or just taking out a certain number of the foxen heroes. Whomever completes their objective first wins the game.
The game play is pretty simple. Each player has a certain number of cards in their hand and they can play a number, this varies for the Guardians as there are several different ones out of the box that can have varying numbers. These all you to move, attack, maybe heal, leap onto the guardian, or whatever it might be. What’s impressive is that while the Foxen always have the same decks, each Guardian has their own unique deck, and that’s because all the guardians have their own unique ability. Raptra can fly whereas Grak can stomp, so those abilities show up uniquely on the Guardians own deck. Some of the Guardians, and some of the Foxen folk can augment their turn by having spent cards to collect what basically amounts to energy, which can allow them to take various free actions as well by spending the cubes. The game really gets down into a game play where you are trying to guess what your opponent has in their hand and using your cards as efficiently as possible.
I’ve talked some about what makes the two sides asymmetrical and how the guardians all play differently and have different objectives, but it isn’t just them. The Foxen also have the ability to change up their faction. With the Foxen you have the ability to change out your leader. In the base game, they suggest that you go with the Foxen King who has more health than the other Foxen leaders but no special abilities. The abilities of the Foxen leaders can be healing or giving additional moves or pulling cards back from the discard pile. That can change up how the Foxen play as well, and really adds to the replayability of the game. Just out of the box, you have four guardians and four leaders, so you have 32 unique plays of the game with playing both sides once in each combo, which should be plenty to allow you to go back and try a set-up again with it feeling different.
Thus far it’s mainly been about the game play. But I’d be remiss not to talk about the quality of the game. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of Pencil First games and this game definitely keep the standard high. The Foxen meeples are nice, the cards a great, and the boards for the different Guardians are really nice as is the board of the Foxen lands. But what brings the quality level up a lot is the production quality of the guardians. This could have been a game where they created plastic molds and we ended up with impressively detailed minis, but they didn’t do that, because that wouldn’t have matched the aesthetic of the rest of the game, instead we got wood meeples for each guardian. But they aren’t your classic meeple sculpt, they are amazing and fairly large cut outs that match the shape of the monster board. So it’s a very unique cut that makes each Guardian feel unique, and some of them come with extra wooden pieces as well, such as Raptra with a cloud for when they are flying. This really makes the game pop on the table and gives it a similar aesthetic feel to Root.
Now, the game isn’t perfect. You can get into situations where one or the other side will just slowly bleed until they are gone, but they can prolong the game. This happened in a play that I had and while 40 minutes seems generally accurate for the game, that play took over an hour. There was a bit of teaching to that time, but it reached a point where I was pretty sure I was going to lose as the Guardian, but , not being familiar enough with the game, we just didn’t want to scoop. I think especially with the more basic Foxen leader and Guardian this is more apt to happen because of how the winning condition is combat. So I’d be healing to not be able to do something to then have it taken away to heal again, and repeated for a while. This isn’t a massive negative to me, mainly because, I haven’t found this to be the normal for the game. And maybe with a bit better luck in terms of card draw I could have gotten out of it, but it didn’t happen. Just know that it is possible that sometimes one side could be in a position that it’s nearly impossible for them to come back from but not quite dead and that last little bit can be slow.
Overall, this is a really fun game. I think the rules are simple enough and the strategy/tactics are high enough that it is a good game for both more casual players are board gamers. The look of the game also helps a ton because of how cute the artwork is. One of the artists has worked on Disney projects before, and this has an animated Robin Hood feel to it’s look. I think that’ll help sell people getting the game to the table. Skulk Hollow is a good two player game that has an appeal for most people, I’d think.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B
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If you’ve followed the website for a while, you’ll know that a few years ago I was posting about Risk Legacy, but also talking about Legacy games and what games I thought would make a cool Legacy game, because I’m a massive fan of legacy games. You put it on the box and I’m going to be interested, even if it was disappointing, like, let’s say, SeaFall. Risk Legacy is the grand daddy of all the legacy games, but Risk is a game that I’m only just okay with, was it better in legacy form?
Risk Legacy keeps most of the same rules as the original Risk game. You still get troops based off of how many areas you control at the start of a turn. You still are rolling dice to try and take over areas, But the story of the game is different, in this, you’re still trying to take over a world that somehow was terraformed to look like Earth, just with rougher corners. Things went wrong when everyone came to the planet, so you all splintered off into groups. Each player at the start of the game gets a group and a base. The goal is to reach a certain number of victory points, and your base with worth a point as is everyone else’s bases. So you aren’t worrying about conquering everything, just getting their bases. Then, if you are knocked off the board, you can come back on the next round, so you still have a chance, though a very slim one. Also, factions have powers, but you might not always be playing the same faction so you have to know how to play different strategies with different factions.
Now, I’m going to try and talk about spoilers as little as possible as the game doesn’t have that many things to unlock, but the game was a ton of fun to play. It took Risk which can be a very long game and allowed you to focus in a few territories where your opponents had their bases. We had some games that would stretch on for a while because you’d end up with a lot of base trading so that even if you captured someone else’s base, someone had probably taken over your base the turn before, but all the games were much much faster than a normal game of Risk. It was a massive improvement, and unfortunately you only have a kind of playable copy of the base game afterwards, because I’d love to see Risk revamped to have that in it.
The special powers are great as well. It allows you to get a preferred faction, but not one that you are always going to play. It also means that you’re going to have something that makes you different. I like it when games can do that, so that even at the start of the game, you feel like you’re unique. And, not a spoiler, the factions become more diverse as the game goes on. This is interesting because it means that some factions can become stronger, so do you make changes to the faction to make them better for you now knowing that you might not get it back another game. This is another way that it is really a step up from Risk, being unique in a game where it can feel very generic is really nice. And like, I think, a good legacy game, you are different and then you can become more different and that keeps the game interesting for several games.
The set-up is also different from regular Risk. In normal Risk, every territory starts out with a troop on it, so the world is already populated for war, but that means that your troops are going to be spread quite thin even at the start. In this, you start with a base in an empty location or one that has a major city you founded earlier in the game. That’s where you start, and you can start as close or far from others as you want. You can expand out as slow or as fast as you want. It makes it a bit more of a strategic game versus just jumping straight into dice chucking. And it makes it seem like your choices matter more. There’s no trying to grab as much of Australia as possible, because you’re starting in one spot and someone could possibly block you in. Being in a remote corner or Asia can actually work because you’ll be able to expand out slowly. And, I think it helps with the speed of the game, because you aren’t always fighting each turn, so even though technically you could get to conflict faster, early turns of the game of Risk Legacy go much faster, and because you’re only dealing with trying to take out the bases, it works much smoother.
Finally, how does it compare to other Legacy games? Firstly, it doesn’t have as much to unlock. In Risk Legacy, you basically have a handful of envelopes and a couple of other spots to open. So, you aren’t opening stuff as often as you do in a game like Pandemic Legacy or even SeaFall. To go with that, since you aren’t opening as much, there isn’t as much of a story. There are a few twists that can come along the way, but it isn’t as story driven as Pandemic Legacy. There’s nothing to read at the start of each game, it’s basically put stuff down and start again. But what you do unlock, there’s a lot of fun stuff, and it has those moments of unlocking things and thinking that it is going to massively change the game, and it does. I won’t spoil what those are, but there are some very fun ones that you can get and unlock.
Overall, it was a really fun experience. I think that it still has some of the flaws of Risk because combat is still about who can roll dice with more luck than the other person. But the game length is shorter, the crazy moments of unlocking things is great, and the winning objective works really well. I don’t know that it really adds much more them to the game, but it does make it a whole lot more interesting. If you like Risk at all, Risk Legacy is going to be a really good option for you, and if you dislike Risk because of the length of the game, this could still be enjoyable. If it’s about the dice rolling combat, I’d skip it.
Overall Grade: B
Gamer Grade: B-
Casual Grade: B
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