Over the years, I have played a wide variety of board games and have a lot in my collection. I have pure Euro games and bit dice chucking Amerithrash games. This got me thinking about the different types of gamers that people are and which …
This is a special edition one because ISS Vanguard is a new game from Awaken Realms. This is a massive space game, and I have liked Lords of Hellas and Tainted Grail, but will I back this one?
Unfortunately I can’t drop in anything more than I link, like I do with Kickstarter for the page, you can find it here.
- Space Theme
- Great Track record
- Exploration period
- Campaign Game
- Leveling, upgrading
- Ship and planet parts of game
- Aesthetic/Graphic Design
- Cost & shipping
This is Awaken Realms, and this is their own crowdfunding site, it is going to look good. They know what to throw up to get people to check it out, and they’ve been advertising this a ton. I think it’s important to note that, because it’s been launched for all of an hour and 5 minutes on their own platform and it is at $467,000. Now that’s a lot of money, this game is going to make a ton of money for them, but it’s a risk because I’d guess this would be over a million or near that, if it was on Kickstarter.
But besides that little note, Awaken Realms really knows how to create a great looking game and a great looking page. Tainted Grail had a nice dark moody look to it that matches the game, this page gives you that sense of excitement and largeness of the game and space. And while certainly, from some of the playthroughs if you check them out, things can go wrong, this game looks like it’s less dark and more about the massiveness of space, exploration and adventure.
I also like that with this new layout the pledge levels aren’t off to the side, you can see what you’re pledging when you go through the whole process and the page has bookmarks/navigation along the side for more than just risks. This whole page looks really nice and functional for what I need. And now, I will say, the playing section, that part as I always say, I want it higher and more, but Awaken Realms generally has done a great job with games, so I don’t need as much from them, they have done a great job with getting playthroughs out.
This game has a lot of things that attract me to it. There is dice rolling, which isn’t one of them. I don’t’ mind dice rolling, but the fact that you’re rolling dice and that’s a bit part of the game on the planets doesn’t have me super excited. Now, I don’t think that it’s going to be a bad part of the game, but I like a lot of mitigation of the dice rolls, or better yet card play, but there also seems to be some of that as well, or planning that comes with it.
I do really like how the game is split into two phases, there is the ship phase. You’re doing things around the ship, playing through that book so that you can get ready for the next planet that you decide to go to, and you have a wide variety of planets to go to that you can pick form. You can upgrade the crew, the lander, the ship itself, you can do a lot of different things, heal up, whatever it might be, and that’s a big part of this big game, so I do get my euro piece to it which apparently I want.
Then you get down to the planet, and there’s a ton of story, you’re exploring, looking for things, trying to complete missions, fight aliens and monsters and ideally not die, but let’s be honest, it’s an Awaken Realms game, you’ll die at least 4 times. And you can go back to planets again, but whatever state you left that planet in is what it’ll be like when you get back there again, which I think is really interesting and makes the game feel even more epic than it would have otherwise.
Back or Brick
Not going to draw this out, this was an instant back for me. I signed up for the notification when this was put up on Gamefound right away when they announced that they were going to do their own crowdfunding site. And the question I had for myself was minis or not. I did end up going with the minis because they look amazing, Awaken Realms did minis before board games, but they feel like they’ll add more to the immersive experience of the game.
How about for you, is this a back or a brick?
We’re back with the next ten, a bullet point of what I said in the first part (which you can find 100 through 91). If you aren’t caught up, you can find yesterdays 90 through 81 to see as well. But we’re back for the next …
What, more Gloomhaven, how is that possible. Well, before we’d just been playing scenarios and I was talking about what I liked, we’ve officially beat what seems to be the final story of the main quest. We have more side quest and an expansion that we’re going to do, but we’ve “beat” the game. So I wanted to do some final thoughts about it.
I knew, going into Gloomhaven that it was a beast of a game but I was up for that. I thought that I’d enjoy it from the get go because of how the combat worked, how the scenarios worked, and how there was story to the game, and it’s been almost two years of playing almost every other Tuesday, plus some long Saturdays knocking out a bunch of scenarios, but it was worth it.
If you’re been following my Top 100 Games, you would know that I had Gloomhaven as my #1 game. And there are a lot of reasons for it, the story aspect, the unique combat, and the giant epic nature of it all really speak to me and have helped me figure out that I like games like that a lot. Also the bit of a legacy aspect to the game is a ton of fun as well. Is it a perfect game, I don’t think so, but it’s the closest that I’ve found.
Let’s talk about it a little bit more in detail, because I think there are two primary things that hold people back, besides the size of the game, and that’s, do the characters feel different, and do the scenarios feel different?
Do the Characters Feel Different?
I think that this is a clear yes for me. We unlocked every character in the base game and we’ve played all but two of them (plus there’s a new one in the expansion), and the characters have felt different. Some of them were great at healing, some of them would boost others attacks, some of them would go fast and do bits of damage, but always been in and out. Others would go in there and tank and even others would do massive amounts of damage, but were a bit of a glass cannon. There were ones that slung spells, and some that played riffs. Each of the characters felt unique and basically all of them felt like you can tailor them a little bit to how you wanted to play. And while I always wanted to find a tank, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by pretty often playing a support type of character in the game, because how the supported was different for each character. And yes, we all probably had our favorites coming out of the game, but I don’t think any of us hated a character that we played or even disliked a character because they felt weaker or anything like that.
Do the Scenarios Feel Different?
Now, while the characters feel different, I think that this is one of the areas that Gloomhaven isn’t perfect. It’s not much of knock, but there are a lot of scenarios where the win situation is just kill everything, so that part of the scenario feels the same. And we also happened to hit the run in, grab this thing, and run back out a number of times in a row. But, while the end goal most have been similar fairly often, the story leading in was always interesting and helped the scenarios feel different, but more so than that, the monsters made scenarios feel different. A black imp is very different than a drake which is very different than a skeleton archer in what they do. So you had to play now you played each scenario differently and that’s often where you got most of your differences. Plus, then, you have the unique characters. There were some scenarios that we had to wait until we had a better team to come and deal with it, but that was part of the fun of the game that made scenarios feel unique, there were some characters that were just better in different types of scenarios, and generally, even if they weren’t ideal, you still had a chance to figure it out.
Overall, I don’t really have complaints about Gloomhaven. Maybe that some of the scenarios or more of them anyways, could have been goal oriented, but combat is easier to explain and make as a goal than something that’s trickier, and there was good variety in combat anyways. While I don’t think that Gloomhaven is going to be the game for everyone, I think that a lot of people will enjoy it. The combat is a bit more tactical than your standard Ameritrash game and there is more story than Euro games. And while it is big, the game, once you’re into it, isn’t that difficult, it might just take a couple of scenarios to teach someone who doesn’t do dungeon crawl games all the time.
Overall Grade: A+
Gamer Grade: A+
Casual Grade: C+
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This won’t be a full review, as I’ve only played the first scenario in Gloomhaven, but I’ve done it twice, since we didn’t win the first time. But I did want to get up some initial thoughts quickly.
Legacy Game vs. Dungeon Crawler
One of the things I wanted to talk about was where this game fits on the game spectrum. The reason I want to do that is that oftentimes, people say “Oh, this game is X type of game,” and try to stick something into a single category. But Gloomhaven can be compared to both legacy games and dungeon crawlers. There are things about it that are typical of legacy games — for example, you can upgrade cards and place stickers on them. Even if you go back and play the same class again later, the cards still have the stickers on them, and that will be impact your game. At the same time, this doesn’t fit so well into the legacy game category when compared to true legacy games like Pandemic Legacy or Seafall. Unlike these, Gloomhaven can be played through again, and actually seems to have solid replay value, in my opinion. In fact, at some point I’ll probably start streaming a solo playthrough if I have time (but I want to get further ahead first, and I’m going to have 7th Continent to stream first), and it’ll be different, because I can pick different starting classes and swap in different abilities. And the game is also a dungeon crawler in that you are going through various dungeons and scenarios, and fighting and killing bad guys. But it isn’t just that, because the world changes and your party changes in those legacy-style ways I mentioned. And there is just a feeling of more when compared to a dungeon crawler like Shadows over Brimstone, which is still a fun game, but Gloomhaven just feels like more than your standard.
Eurogame vs. Amerithrash/Ameritrash
I know the term is Ameritrash, but I feel like Amerithrash is a more fun term to describe the same thing. So with that out of the way, what do I mean when I use that term? It’s a style of game that is quite strategic in terms of combat. And while it doesn’t have the Eurogame point salad like you can end up with — here’s a point, there’s a point, everybody gets a point — Gloomhaven has a strategic level that allows you to plan more and be less swingy than in an Amerithrash game. However, it still has the “kill the bad guys, grind it out, go in guns blazing” feel that I expect from Amerithrash games. And there are some swinging points in the game, and your best laid plans might not work out as well as you had hoped. This game walks a line of being something that can be highly strategic and could be looked at as simply a puzzle, but that also feels like, if you divorced the theme and epicness from it, it wouldn’t carry the same weight.
Battle is a Blast
In my opinion, one of the coolest parts of the game is having your own unique class-based combat deck of cards. You have access to your full collection of combat cards, specific to each character. This means when I’m playing my character, it feels different than when someone else is playing theirs, and after playing once, or maybe twice, you know what your character is good at and how they work. Each combat card has a top and bottom half, and you play out two of them each round. You are going to do the top of one and the bottom of the other. When you put them down, you select one of the cards to give you your initiative value. That is an interesting thing in that, most of the time, you want to go fast before the bad guys can get a chance to go, but to set up combos with other characters, a very fast character might have to go slower to get that benefit. That makes it quite strategic, and because you’re on the same side, you can talk about it, but you can’t give specifics. You can’t say, I’m going to move 4 spaces and then do 3 damage to that guy. You can say something like, I’m going to go as quickly as I can and rush that skeleton and try and take him out. But you never know if what you have planned is going to work. Maybe the monsters go before you and they move and ruin your plan. Or maybe an ally does, even if you’ve tried to talk it through. But even when you’ve picked which parts of which cards you want to use, you can always swap that around. Or maybe the attack you planned that would get rid of your card for the scenario isn’t worth it anymore — if that happens, you can always just do a basic attack instead. This helps with analysis paralysis, as you always have something to do.
You’re Running out of Time
With the combat deck for each character, it also works as a timing mechanism for how long you can keep going in the battle. Eventually, you’ll run out of cards. Cards you’ve discarded can come back to your hand, but at a cost. Either you take a short rest and randomly lose one of those cards, or you take a long rest, which takes your whole next turn. If you take a long rest, you get to choose the card you lose and gain some health, which is often key, but it costs you a turn, and you then take your turn at the end of the round, so you’d better not be in a spot where you might just creamed damage-wise if you really need to heal up. This causes each decision to have a lot more pressure, because when you’re out of cards and you can’t play two anymore, you are out of the scenario and can’t help your teammates anymore. This is also made trickier because your best cards, when you use them for their best feature, don’t go into the discard pile — they are lost right away, so that can speed up how long you are able to hang on in combat. It’s a very cool timing mechanism that really forces you to think and makes you feel the pressure of beating the scenario quickly.
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