For a lot of people board gaming is a social activity, but 2020 has made that less likely and harder to do at least in bigger groups. For some people with serious medical concerns or just general concerns about Covid, that isn’t an option, or …
Tag: Aeon’s End War Eternal
We’re getting down to it, getting close to the Top 10 games, only a few more of these lists. It’s been a blast as always putting these out and I’m glad that people are enjoying them. I’d be very curious to know what your top …
Welcome to a new series of Board Game articles. In this series I’m going to be looking at a number of different mechanics in board games, starting off with one of my favorites, deck building. I’m going to explain how the mechanic works and then give a few examples of games that are really focused on that and how they use deck building. This is really meant for newer people into board gaming to let them learn about a new type of game and how it works.
Most people are familiar with games that use decks of cards, from the kids game Candyland to something like Uno or Skip-bo to party games like Cards Against Humanity. All of these games use a communal deck of cards that players draw from to get their hand or to take an action and then they play those cards. It’s a very straight forward concept and you have a deck of cards that is consistent that you’ll be drawing the cards from and you’ll get whatever you get from that pool of cards.
A deck building game builds upon this idea of the deck of cards, but instead of having 108 cards in the Uno deck that everyone shares, instead you have your own deck of 10 or 12 or some number of cards. And when you start the game everyone’s decks are the same. But as the game goes on, you purchase more cards from a pool of cards that are face up to add to your deck. So when you have to reshuffle, now your deck is different than another persons deck.
A simple example of this is Ascension. In Ascension, you start with a deck of 10 cards, eight that give you points to purchase more cards, and two that let you fight monsters. The cards that you buy, some of them allow you to draw more cards when you play them, or get more points for purchasing more cards, or they’ll help you fight monsters. So by the time you shuffle again, you will have two or more different cards than the person you’re playing against, so the hand you’ll draw will be different from a hand of cards that they can draw. The further you get into the game and the more cards that you add to your deck, the more different your deck of cards will be from another players and the more different your strategy will be from another player. The deck building aspect of the game allows players to create a deck that matches how they want to play the game.
All deck building games give you a way to acquire more cards. In Ascension you purchase them, so a card that costs more will mean that you need more points to purchase it, so you might not be able to right away. This tends to be a core mechanic as well of a lot of deck building games is that they build up to you doing bigger and bigger things, but we’ll talk about what that mechanic is known as in a future article.
There are two main types of deck building games. The static market game or the changing market game. Ascension is an example of a changing market game. You have six cards to make your purchase from or to fight if they are monsters. When you purchase a card or defeat a monster, a new card is flipped down into the market form a draw pile and you don’t know what that card is going to be. So a card you want one turn might not be there the following turn, or might not be there at all again in a game. In a static market game you have a certain number of piles of cards, all the cards in those piles are identical so when you buy the top one, you know what the one underneath it is going to be. This allows you, from the start of the game, to determine a long term strategy throughout the game and to really dictate what your deck is going to be capable of doing. Dominion is an example of a static market deck building game. Now, it comes down to preference as to which one you like better. With the static deck it is going to more heavily favor the more experienced player or the player with better long term planning skills, because at the start of the game you can sit down, look at the static market and make your plan. If a changing market, you might come in with a plan but then need to adjust it on the fly, but it’ll keep the game more balanced between more and less experienced players. Neither is really a bad thing, it just comes down to personal preference.
Let’s talk about some deck building games that you might want to checkout if this sounds interesting.
Gateway/Intro To Deck Building Game
Ascension – For me, Ascension is the ideal deck building game, the changing market place means that a more experienced player doesn’t have a massive advantage and while there are some better strategies, it all depends on how the market comes out. It also works well because you are just doing two things with your cards, mainly, you are either buying with the purchasing power on the cards or you are fighting a monster with a fighting power on a the cards. A few cards do a few more things, like draw more cards from your deck but they are generally simple. The theme isn’t really there, but in most pure deck building games, which Ascension is, the theme will be missing or barely there anyways.
Medium Weight Deck Building Game
Clank! – Now, regular Clank! isn’t my favorite way to play Clank!. I like Clank! In! Space! better, but there’s just a little bit more going on than a medium weight deck building game. Clank! again has a variable market and monsters to fight, but you’ve added in some additional elements. It does more of one thing you see in Ascension, which is creating combos based off of who you’ve gotten, and it adds in more than just purchase and fight. You now have the ability to move and you are pushing your luck. Also, good cards might have negative consequences as well. It adds a bit more complexity and a bit more strategy to the game, even with a changing market place.
Heavy/Complex Deck Building Game
Aeon’s End: War Eternal – I had a few options to pick here, but I went with Aeon’s End: War Eternal. A lot of deck building games add to their complexity not so much the deck building aspect, but from additional pieces to the game play. Aeon’s End: War Eternal (or any of the Aeon’s End Games) are good examples of this. The deck building uses a static market, but you are presented with more choices. You have to cast spells at monsters, but to do that you have to purchase more spells, but with your money you also need to open breaches to cast those spells. Plus, all of the Aeon’s End games add in something else interesting, not only is there a lot of strategy to what you get from the market, you also don’t shuffle your deck, you just discard cards, so if you can plan it out correctly you can stack the deck in a particular order to get a lot of well balanced hands or maybe a hand with a lot of purchasing power in order to get a very strong spell. There’s just more to think about, though this game is cooperative so a more experienced player can help and teach a new player to the game.
Now, there are a lot of deck building games out there to choose from and some that fall into the category that I’d qualify as more deck construction games that work off of some of the same principles as a deck building game. Have you tried a deck building game before? Do they sound fun to you?
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It might be kind of the wrong time to talk about this, we’re in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, however, I think with that, for some, comes more time to delve into more story, including that of the Apocalypse/Post-Apocalyptic in nature. This is one …
This is going to be another Top 10 list that hits on a bunch of games that I like a lot. There’s something about cooperative games that is quite nice, mainly being able to sit down and if someone at the table is lagging behind in knowledge of the game, they can be brought up into the game without needing to know every rule perfectly because we can all work together and learn as a group versus be stomped if you don’t fully get the strategy in a competitive game.
So what are my top 10 cooperative games?
10 – The Lost Expedition
Number ten on the list is the smallest game of the group but also one of the easier ones to teach and get to the table. In this, you are your fellow players are trying to lead your team of adventurers on hikes twice a day so that they can get to the Lost City of Z, but the jungles are dangerous, and you never know what might be coming up next. But that’s for you to decide as players, without discussing, you put down cards for a morning and evening hike that might get you more food or cause you to find bullets or maybe you get hook worms, and no one wants that, but there are difficult decisions to make on each card, and you can discuss that part. One of the games that really has something built into to stop alpha gamers from being able to run the game. It’s a lot of fun, and it plays fast as well, which some of the games further on the list won’t.
9 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
The first, but not the last Lovecraft Mythos game on the list from Fantasy Flight, this one is the smaller or the two, though it packs a lot of punch. In this one, like all of Fantasy Flight’s Lovecraftian Games, you are an investigator working together with the other investigators trying to stop whatever horror is being called through by cultists. But in this you can be fighting, but much of it is investigating, and the game is just basically cards and a bunch of tokens. You don’t need a bit board to tell a big story or change up the game. The different things that the cards can do and how they can use them to create a town or house or other locations and it feels different is impressive. Now, with the base box, it’s only a 1-2 player game, but with another core box you can play up to 4, so if you have a larger group it’s something to consider. And Fantasy Flight does a great job of supporting this, as they do with all their living card games, so there is always more story coming out.
8 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
When it comes to deckbuilding a lot of them do similar things, you add cards, you maybe buy more cards or attack, and then you draw a new hand until you can’t fill the hand and then you shuffle up your discard and repeat the process. Aeon’s End: War Eternal is unique because you never shuffle, when you discard cards, you choose the order they go so that you can create, if you’re good at card counting, a hand or combo that you want to get because it’s going to be strong. It’s a lot of fun to see how that piece of the puzzle fits together. Plus, you’re all trying to take down a nemesis who is bent on taking out the town of Gravehold. And each nemesis plays differently. I have really enjoyed both plays of this game, and it’s a good challenge, there are a lot of mages, who play differently, and there are expansions galore for the game with even more nemesis and breach mages to choose from.
7- T.I.M.E. Stories
One of the most unique games on the list, T.I.M.E. Stories has an element of an escape room game, it has some role playing aspects, and there’s a good amount of narrative to it. You are all part of a time agency who is trying to stop unwanted time incursions from happening and messing up the timeline. This means you might be going to the earth in the 90’s, or another dimension where there is magic and dragons. And it can change that wildly in each of the expansions and each time you play. Now, each scenario can only be played once, but to get through and beat the story it is at least a couple hours of excitement for 4 players, if not up to 3, and it’s cheaper than a movie at that point. Plus, the upside, and sometimes downside, is that because it’s such a sandbox, you can do anything in the games, and the creators have done a good job of doing that, creating interesting puzzles and mechanics to test out along the way.
6 – XenoShyft: Onslaught
You and your fellow crack team of marines, scientists, and medics have been tasked with protecting a mining facility from hordes and hordes of giant monstrous bugs. Why did they build a mining facility on this remote planet, money of course, but now you’re about to overrun with bugs, can you fend off the waves they’re throwing at you? This is a very tough game, even though it makes it’s deck building easier than a lot of others. You can help other people, you can give them troops or weapons that you’ve bought for your deck to help them shore up their defenses, they can give you stuff in return, or use stim packs and grenades to help you when it’s your turn to face a wave of monsters. This game is clever in what it does, and it creates a good amount of tension, plus I like that the game is basically all simultaneous so there isn’t downtime for anyone.
5 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Seems a bit on the nose to be playing right now (article written 4/13/2020 during Covid-19 Pandemic), but it is a really good cooperative game. I could have put down either season of Pandemic or base Pandemic on the list, and any are great options. Can you prevent the spread and find the cures to four diseases before they run across the world and destroy everything? This game is pretty simple compared to the other ones, but still offers a lot of good choices and you always feel like there are 1-2 more things that you need to do on your turn and you hope that you’ve picked the right things so that you don’t have an outbreak on your hands. Also, do you have a good combination of characters that are able to fight it off and can you use it to the best of your ability. A lot of questions, but it’s a good game, a simpler game, and one that you can play faster and with more people than some because it an easier game to pick up.
4 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
When Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table came to the lands of Avalon, they were wild and untamed and the Wyrdness and Foredwellers twisted the land, but they forced it to their will, creating Menhir, but now that was long ago, and the Menhir are starting to go out and the Wyrdness is coming back over the lands. You and your fellow adventurers are only going out because those who were supposed to have saved you and your village have gone out and not come back. Can you survive the twisted lands of Avalon? This game works really well as it’s a very tough game where survival is the goal but not a guarantee, and you spend so much time exploring and discovering new things about Avalon and you might not have wanted to know. Then you go from the exploration piece of the game and jump into combat which can be tough as monsters aren’t always meant to be beaten and diplomatic encounters can turn violent if you’re not careful. There are chunks of the game that are pretty well split up where you can do daily actions separately or explore while someone else fights, but this is a grand free flowing game that tells an interesting story.
3 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
You, and your fellow paranormal investigators have been called to a mansion to explore some unnatural goings on. This might be a crazed cultist leading a band of cultists and trying to summon a deep old one. It could be you’ve made it to late and a town has been overrun with Deep Ones and you need to figure out how to escape. You and your fellow investigators could get split up in two different timelines and need to work together to solve the mystery and get the one who time traveled back. There are a lot of different scenarios, and an app that helps you keep track of everything. The game is set in the Lovecraft Mythos, but it has more of an investigative feel to it, than leaning into as much horror. If you want a game that is fairly big but doesn’t feel as daunting as some dungeon crawlers, Mansions of Madness is a good option.
2 – Marvel Champions: The Card Game
This game has made it on a lost of lists and it’s working it’s way up to being one of my favorite games of all time. The game just feels like you’re in a comic fighting a villain. And you get the full comic feeling as you can team up superheroes as well as flip back and forth between an alter-ego and superhero side in order to rest and recover if the villain knocks you around to me. The game does a lot of clever things, and you can create the team-ups that you always wanted, or at least some of them, eventually Fantasy Flight will come out with more heroes so you can create any team-up you want. And they’ve managed to make the villains feel different as well as the heroes, so you can get a lot of unique games.
1 – Gloomhaven
No surprise here, though there are some slight semi-cooperative elements of the game, mainly having specific goals that you need to do in a given scenario depending off of some card draw, but for the most part it’s working together, and those goals are just perks and don’t make or break the game if you don’t get them. Gloomhaven is an epic dungeon crawling and character leveling game where you and a group of fellow mercenary adventurers go through and try and figure out what strange things are happening in Gloomhaven and the surrounding areas. The story is fun but it really shines with a puzzly sort of card based combat that makes everything work together. And it feels like there’s always more to explore in the game.
I think that one thing I really like about cooperative games is that you get so many great shared stories out of them. Even the ones that aren’t just storytelling heavy can still have great moments in them as you roll the right number to get what you needed or draw the right card. It’s such a shared victory and moment that they often stick out to me. And I know that I have so many more cooperative games sitting on my shelf that I like and that are waiting to be played again or for the first time. What are some of your favorite cooperative games or cooperative gaming experiences?
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After a busy Thanksgiving with a fair amount of driving, I’m back to posting. We’re onto Cyber Monday, but I don’t have anything that I’m really looking for, so let’s talk about some games that you can give to that solo gamer in your life, or possibly some games you can ask for if you are the solo gamer.
Aeon’s End: War Eternal – This one showed up on the epic list as well, but it works in both spots. I’ve actually only played this one solo, and I had a lot of fun with it. In this game you are playing as one or more breach mages (I’d recommend more as it’s easy to play multiple), who are defending the town of Gravehold from the monsters that are attacking it. It’s a cooperative deck building game with an interesting mechanic where you don’t shuffle your cards, so if you are smart, you can set-up a good turn. I’m not to that point yet.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game – While I think that Mansions of Madness can be good solo as well, it’s a big game, so it’s nice to have multiple players for helping track everything. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a smaller footprint of a game and really plays well solo. In multiplayer, between book keeping and turn down time, it might be a little bit slow, but as a solo game, you can go through the story fast. The story in this game works well, the only downside is that it’s a living card game, which means they are coming out with new story packs often.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger – Hence forth this game will be known as CYOA:HoD. But this is a really fun game and one that you can easily play solo. Now, with solo play, I think you lose some of the laughing around the table, but if you want to get through a game quickly, solo play is going to be great as you make choices going through the story and push your luck rolling the die. This game is really just a CYOA book with a little bit added to it, so you could just check out the book, but it’s a good time and works well in game form.
The Dresden Files: Cooperative Card Game – So many long names of board games to type out, but The Dresden Files is worth putting on the list as it’s a fun and challenging puzzle. This one is definitely for a fan of the series, though I do know of someone who played the game first and then read the series because of the game. It’s challenging to solve enough cases while beating enough bad guys, but if you have to come down to a roll at the end, it is every more tough. A well balanced game that does a good job of setting up different player counts and works well as a solo game.
Gloomhaven – Now, to be fair, I haven’t played this solo and I’ve loved it at a three player count. But I know of a lot of people who have played it solo and like it. This is a massive story driven dungeon crawl style game that plays a bit like a video game. It’s challenging, it’s grand, and to me, that’s probably the downside of solo. We just started using the app, but I can’t imagine not using the app if you are playing solo. There’s so much set-up and tear down, that without the app, it would be hard to manage everything, with the app, which is free, it shouldn’t be too bad. This is the spendiest game of the list, so just be aware of that if it sounds interesting.
Onirim – After the biggest game on the list, we have the smallest on my list. This game technically can play two, but it’s really a solo game. It’s a fun solitaire puzzle as you are playing down cards trying to find doors in your dreams, while also hoping not to pull a nightmare. If you do get a nightmare, you have a few choices of what to do, but none of them are good. It’s an abstract game, but it’s one that works well and it’s small so it’s easy to play solo in a lot of different settings. The version I got of the same comes with “expansions” as well, though I’d more call them modules that you can either add to your game or take out. They give a few new things that add to the challenge. Definitely a good small one for someone who might be interested in solo gaming.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Now, maybe you have someone who prefers Star Wars or at least Sci-Fi to fantasy, Imperial Assault is the game that they can solo. It’s a bigger game where you take your group of heroes through an app driven story. It’s a good dungeon crawl game, just with a fantasy setting, and it feels like Star Wars. In it, you are playing adjacent to the main storyline of the original trilogy, but it works well that way. What’s nice as well is that the app has a tutorial that gets you up and running also. Overall, it’s a fun dungeon crawl style game and for someone who doesn’t like fantasy, it’s going to be a great option.
Sword and Sorcery – But, maybe they do like fantasy, but Gloomhaven is just too much to jump into. Sword and Sorcery provides a good option for slaying monsters in this story driven dungeon crawl game. It has a good challenge level, though the treasures that you find can swing it to your advantage as time goes on. Definitely has a bit of a video game feel to it, and the death mechanic, in particular, works really well. This game offers a more limited campaign than Gloomhaven does, but at a much lower price, and it has monster minis as compared to cardboard standees like Gloomhaven. Definitely a fun, dice chucking, dungeon crawl game.
Unlock/Exit/Escape Room Games – I am basically putting a category here, but I believe that all of them can be played solo, I’d just double check on the box. Any of the escape room style games works well, because you are racing against a clock trying to solve a puzzle to escape a room, but instead of it costing $20 per person to go and play in a group in a physical location, you can get the same thing through Unlock or Exit for around $15. The games are challenging and a good time as you try and puzzle through how you can combine items to get what you want. I really like the Unlock games because they are non-destructive, which means that you can pass them on once you are done.
Village Attacks – Those pesky villagers are at it again, attacking you “peaceful” monsters with their pitchforks and torches. It’s your job to drive them back in this cooperative game. I had a lot of fun with this game in a group, but I think it’s going to be strong as a solo game as well, either controlling multiple monsters up against the villagers, since turns are pretty simple, or one monster holding them all off. It’s a bigger game again that requires some set-up, but once you get going, the game moves along nicely and offers a really good challenge.
Welcome To… – It’s hard to create a list without putting a roll and write on it as they generally offer you a chance to hit a certain score total. Welcome To… for me is the best solo play as it offers a good limited time crunch in the game, and forces you to make some tough decisions about what you’re going to do. The game also has more depth to it, which I think a lot of solo players will like as compared to some simpler roll and write games. The theming works in the game, but mainly it’s a fun puzzle to crack as you try and get your houses into order and build your perfect neighborhood.
There are a ton more games out there. Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, I’ve heard is a good solo experience. I know that Mage Knight is a game that people love to play solo, and I have several others sitting on my shelf that I haven’t gotten to yet, such as Tainted Grail. It’s a good time for solo gaming, and if you have someone who likes to relax and unwind with board games, some of these might be great options for them.
What is a solo game that you like? Are there any that I haven’t played or don’t have on my list that you think I should check out?
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It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves. This list is basically the …