It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these, mainly because what I’ve grabbed has been immediate from my FLGS the last few times and mainly been expansions for Marvel Champions. Though, I did pick up Yggdrasil Chronicles when I was there, as …
Tag: variable player powers
It’s that time of year again, and I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m doing and when I’m going to try and consistently do it from here on out. We’re doing my Top 100 Board Games of ALL TIME! Now, this is …
We’re back with another mechanic for a board game, not one that you see all that often, but one that covers what is really quite a breath of board games. If you are looking for fast paced tension, real time games are going to give you that in spades.
As the name of the mechanic suggests, real time games are about doing stuff in real time. That can be moving pieces, rolling dice, solving puzzles, really anything, but you have a time limit that you are working against. Now, it can be that one person needs to do something, then the next, then, the next and you are trying to get it done as quickly as possible while still taking turns. Other times it might be that everyone is doing stuff at once.
Let’s give an example of a game like this, I actually talked about one in my Board Game Mechanics for Variable Player Powers, which you can find here, Magic Maze. In this game you have a group of fantasy heroes who are going shopping at the mall. A silly premise, but each player has a direction that the character can move, north, south, east, west, up some stairs, into new rooms, etc. The game has a timer that is running and you can move to spots which allow you to flip the sand timer, plus you need to move to spots where you can get the items, plus you need to get out as well. This is all done in real time with players moving the pawns, and it’s done cooperatively. The trick is that no one can speak, the only form of communication that you can do is put a pawn in front of someone to let them know you need them to move one of the characters. So it’s very tricky to coordinate because everyone is having to keep track of 4 heroes and where they are moving.
Probably the biggest thing that real time adds to games is tension. There is a clock, a timer, something that is counting down. And it isn’t like in something like Scattergories where you have a limited amount of time to come up with as many answers as possible and then compare the answers, in that, the comparing the answers is really part of the game. In most real time games, when you hit the end, the game is over and you either in or lose. There is no tallying up points, there is no checking to see if you did well enough, and while that can show up in some games that offer some real time, for the most part, it’s pretty obvious how well you did in the game. So it’s a constant pressure to make sure you are getting the right thing.
For that reason, I think that these games are going to generally be fairly polarizing. Even for myself, real time games are not something I want to pull out all that often because they can be stressful. And it requires people to make split second decisions, and for a lot of people, that can be too much pressure to work on. There are some games that help with that a little bit, but even those, because there is a real time element are going to be more stressful than your average game. These types of games are definitely not ideal games for people with analysis paralysis.
So, if these games sound interesting to you, what are some that work well?
Fuse – In this game it’s a race against time as you try and defuse as many bombs as possible. The trick to this is that you are trying to roll dice to do that. Each player will take a turn as fast as possible to roll some dice, and then each player takes one and adds it to a bomb they need to defuse. But, there are rules as to what dice are needed to defuse a bomb. One might need to dice that add up to the value of a third die. So you need to pick numbers that work for that, or it might be that the numbers need to increase. If you can’t take a die to help defuse a bomb, you have to take one off of your current bombs and put it back into the bag of dice. So you need the luck to work out in your favor. All of this while an app counts down time and everyone is trying to make sure everyone can get a die but also not take too much time discussing.
Captain Sonar – This one is interesting because it’s actually one that has less tension, which is odd considering you are on two teams of subs who are trying to figure out where the other is and sink them. Each player has a different role on the submarine. One person is the Captain who is giving orders, telling players what direction to move, conferring with the First Officer who is readying systems like mines and torpedoes, the Radar Technician who is listening to the other teams Captain and trying to figure out by mapping their path where the other team is, and working with the Engineer to keep systems up that the Officer will want to use. Now, that seems like there is a lot going on, and there is, it’s a fairly lengthy game to teach, but what each role does is quite simple. The reason that this game is less stressful is that while it is real time, there is no complete this before time runs out. It’s just tracking down the other ship, that means as the Captain I can announce which direction we’re moving as quickly or slowly as I’d want. This is definitely a different feel than a lot of other real time games.
Galaxy Trucker – Now this almost falls into the Scattergories category of “real time” games. The reason I say that is because about half the game isn’t in real time. Instead you are dealing with complications that are coming your way. This can be pirates or asteroids, or picking up supplies for your ship. But where it is real time is the building of the ship. You are fighting with your opponents over tiles that are all face down to start. So you are frantically trying to get the ship put together with enough engines, cannons, crew, cargo room, and power so that can make the best run possible and have as little of your ship blow up as possible. The issue is you need to connect the pieces right. If there’s a two prong connector keeping it together, it better connect to a two prong and more things like that. And some parts just deadend, so it might be a nice cargo area, but do you want it if you can’t protect it with space cannons or shields? I’m not sure how much more complex this is than Captain Sonar, but there are more decisions that need to be made in this game about building your ship and more things to keep track of when doing that.
I will say that out of all of the games I’ve mentioned, Magic Maze, Fuse, Captain Sonar, and Galaxy Trucker, I’m fans of two of them, the other two I’d play but they’re just okay. Magic Maze and Fuse have a much higher stress level and I like playing board games to relax so stressful board games won’t cause me to freeze up, but they aren’t high on my list. With Captain Sonar, it is real time but it’s not as rushed feeling. And with Galaxy Trucker, the game is goofy, you poorly put together space truck will fall apart some and that’s fine, because it’s supposed to, you’re just hoping it’s better than everyone else’s. One final real time type of game I want to mention are Unlock and Exit, both of those score you against how long it took you to solve them. These are good gateway style real time games, I just didn’t mention them because I just talked about them with Escape Room games.
Do you like the tension of real time games or are they too stressful? What are some of your favorites?
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Time to do another quick talk on a board game that I know I might not get to the table again all that quickly. I want to do these when I know I’m not ready to do a complete review of the game, do the …
So, I thought that with my Dominion review, and Dominion being an extremely popular game, I thought I should write a bit about what sort of games I like, what I don’t like, and what I’m looking for.
To start out with, there is one thing that I really look for in a game, though not every game, but Theme is extremely important to me. Theme helps me get immersed in the game, and while I really can lean into tactics of the game and the strategy, without a good theme, though, I’m less likely to pick up again, and if the theme doesn’t come through, I’m not that likely to continue playing a game. If it’s just a puzzle, once I’ve figured out the puzzle, even if that puzzle is variable, I’m less interested in playing it again. That’s a lot of the reason that I don’t like Dominion. You are just finding the puzzle in the collection of random cards you’re going with, and that’s it. The theme could be about trading coins and it wouldn’t make a difference for the game.
And within theme, there are certain things that I’m apt to be more interested in. I’m a huge fan of Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi. Thankfully, there are a ton of games with those themes. Now, let me say, I’m not a fan of Medieval games with a light fantasy sprinkling on it, but really you’re trading cubes. I want fantasy, and I like a slightly darker fantasy. Things like Gloomhaven and Sword and Sorcery, yes, they are epic fantasy, but they have some odd things going on that don’t just make it the standard heroes rushing in and smashing everything. I’m excited to get games like Apocrypha to the table, because it’s a dark urban fantasy setting. And with horror, while I don’t mind something like zombie horror, I prefer that Lovecraftian style of horror or campy horror. Which, isn’t always the best, because Kristen claims I don’t need 8 different Lovecraft horror games, I suspect that’s wrong, but I also don’t get all of them to the table that often. With Sci-Fi, I don’t know that I have any subset that I love more than others, I think that I have a harder time finding Sci-Fi games that really excite me because a lot of them can end up being cube pushers, and I’m really looking for that theme or that continuing story.
That’s another big thing that I really like, I like Story Based games. Now, that can fall into a few different categories. There are games where you are playing a one off story/scenario where you have an objective that you’re trying to complete. I find that sort of game okay. It’s definitely not my preferred type, but if the scenario is strong, I’m cool with that. I prefer campaign or legacy style games. Now, not all legacy games are story based but they often still keep the pretense. Charterstone which is a fun game theoretically has a story, but in reality, it’s the loosest of threads holding it together. And I’m going to say that I prefer campaign games where you don’t end up destroying stuff, because I have a couple of copies of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 that I had a blast playing and I’m not sure I want to get rid of, but what am I going to do with them? I should just harvest them for parts. Thankfully, there are a ton of campaign games out there, and now there are more legacy games that once you’re done with them, you can continue playing them. Charterstone is a great example of this, but there’s also games like Betrayal Legacy, Aeon’s End Legacy, and Clank! Legacy that allow you to continue playing them. And while I’m less likely to play them once the main story is done, it’s nice that it’s not just a one time investment.
Now, I mention that Charterstone doesn’t have much story to it, and I don’t think it really has much theme to it, but if the theme is light, there are ways to make it feel like more than it actually is. The biggest way to do that, and another thing that makes me interested in a game is Great Artwork/Bits and Charterstone has both of these. The art is consistent and nice and you feel the lightness of the world that Stonemaier Games created through the artwork is great. And the coins in there are amazing, and the little tuck boxes and magnetic boxes are nice in the game. So those aesthetic pieces are very important. Or there are games like Clank! In! Space! where there are some nice pieces, but the cards don’t have the best artwork, but I like it because the art references something and sometimes you just want to figure out what the joke is that is on the card. Another example of a game that has great pieces but not a great story/theme is Century: Golem Edition where it’s a good engine building game, but there’s no theme. The art is just amazing and the pieces, the coins and gems and gem cases are great. That game just looks good on the table.
When a game is that more abstract style, I can enjoy heavy strategy games, but I tend not to be great at thinking five turns ahead or twenty to the end of the game, so I don’t always do the best, I might think two turns ahead, So for those more abstract games, I prefer Family Weight games. And I have a lot of family weight games in my collection, some that are more introductory games like Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassone, but there are some very abstracted ones like Photosynthesis and Century: Golem Edition that I have as well. Now, Photosynthesis is probably heavier than family weight, but go back to that aesthetic paragraph, that’s where it belongs. But Century: Golem Edition is a great example of a game that is a family weight strategy game that looks amazing and is very abstracted away from the looks. Like, why does it matter that you’re getting gems to trade gems, but the strategy is still simple enough that it’s fun and I can pull it out with any group. Sagrada is another game like that. And there are reasons why I have Azul over Sagrada and that’s because the theme, while not there, is easier to sell than Azul, even to myself.
I haven’t even touched on mechanics, and really I’m cool with a lot of mechanics. I like Area Control, Cooperative, Deck Building, Action Points, Engine Building, Drafting and so many more I’m sure. But if I were to pick one that stands out above the others that I love, that would be Variable Player Powers. I love it when I have a character that does something slightly different than other people. Some of the reason that I like it so much is that it allows me to be slightly different and unique than everyone else in the game. And it means that I have to think about my strategy in a slightly different way than everyone else. That means that every time that I play the game the game is going to feel different or could feel different. I enjoy it when it’s fully asymmetric like Root or Cry Havoc, but those are harder to teach because they can be completely different as to how you play. So games like Small World where you have different races and powers that get put together, that’s great because you feel unique multiple times during the game. Though, that makes the game very light in Small World, so games where you have one that you’re playing with throughout the game is great, that’s one thing I love in Xenoshyft: Onslaught, because I have a unique starting deck and unique powers throughout the game.
Now, that’s a lot of information, but I wanted to write this because of my TableTopTakes for Dominion yesterday and just thinking about some of the responses from Board Game Geek that I got when posting it there. Some very good ones and some that basically just said, “You’re wrong in every sentence” without providing any reasoning for saying that. When I do a review and give my ratings, I try and think about the game as to why someone might like it as well, and while a grade will suffer if I don’t like it, I try to base it on more than just that. And really, I do like most games, there are just some that I’m going to gravitate towards and overlook flaws in the game because it’s my type of game. Plus, there are some games that I’ll read a 30 page rule book for because it’s my type of game and if it’s not my type of game, I’m less apt to get it.
Hopefully that helps clear up some of why I don’t like Dominion or why I love some games that might be less popular, Xenoshyft: Onslaught for example. Obviously, everyone is going to have their preferences and I hope that I can somewhat divorce myself from mine when I look at a game, but that’s certainly not possible to fully do. But beyond that, I’m curious to know what other people look for when they look to buy a game or what intrigues you about a game to get you to pick it up?
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