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 …
So, I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while, because there was a popular game last year (I’ll review it this week) called The Mind. It was very popular but also got a bunch of dislike around it because people saw it not as a game but as an activity. I wanted to talk about the differences between the two and if that really matters in the long run.
Taking from the Oxford dictionary, the definition of a game is:
“a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck”Oxford Dictionary
According to that definition, is my example of The Mind, a game?
Basics of the Mind are that you are trying to play cards in numerical order without talking, you can see your cards but there is no communication, so you have to guess, based off of feel when to play them down, and you’re trying to get through a certain number of rounds.
By the definition of a game, it doesn’t really take skill or strength, but it is very much luck. And, I think that something that I’d say for a definition of a game, it needs to have a win condition of some sort, I think that competitive is trying to cover for that, but I think a win condition is clearer, because cooperative board games are definitely games even though you’re not competing against someone. So, the Mind, by the technical definition is a game. But, when looking at the definition, it feels like it’s lacking a little bit of what is normally a game because it is just luck based.
So, maybe it’s a combo of a game and activity. I think that you could say that all games are activities. And with the Mind, because you’re mainly just guessing when to play down a card or when to use a special ability, it feels more like an activity to me. And it is a fun group activity as you try and use body language or other non-verbal queues and non-spoiling clues to get other people to play or to have a rush of playing when the numbers are close together. For me, the Mind is more of [redacted – come back for the review].
Is it bad that it might be more of an activity than it is a game? No. I think that many party games, they are best when they are treated more as an activity than a game. When you are playing something like Stipulations and trying to come up with an answer, it’s better to put down something that you think is funny. Same with Balderdash or a game like Cards Against Humanity or Apple to Apples. Even if it isn’t the best answer or the answer most likely to win, it’s a lot of fun just to create moments where you can laugh. And you play until laughing is just starting to fade, and you’ve had a great activity without caring about who wins because you can just be goofy. If you treat them as a game, you won’t get the in-joke answers, you’ll get people trying really hard, and that’s less fun. Yes, you might be removing the game aspect from it or going against the spirit of the rules, but it’s a party game, and a party is supposed to be fun. That’s why I have issues with “party” style games that don’t led themselves to being an activity because they can’t have the same level of fun. I’ll talk about what makes a good party game later as well.
So, with the Mind or party games, they can border on an activity, and that’s fine. I think what’s not fine and some of the reason why I’m writing this article, is because there can be a sort of snooty thumbing of the nose towards these games and the people who play them. Yes, it’s not that complex a game or activity, but are the people having fun, yes. Can it be a gateway for getting people into the heavier and more complex games? Yes. Will it always do that? No, and that’s fine. We want to encourage as many diverse gamers to join the hobby as possible as that will keep the hobby growing and from becoming stale. It might not be a 4X game, an 18XX game, a euro game, or an Ameritrash game, but that’s fine depending on the group, and if they don’t want to move on to those sorts of games, it might be that game group isn’t the right one for you, but don’t disparage someone for having fun in their own way.
What is a light game that you think works better or is more of an activity? Have you tried The Mind, and do you like it? Let me know in the comments below.
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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 …
When it comes to dungeon crawling games, Gloomhaven was the first one that I played and is the one that I love the most. But, with the start of the Malts and Meeples streaming channel, I decided that I should get some more dungeon crawlers because a lot of them you can play solo. Now, if you’ve noticed, Sword & Sorcery hasn’t been played on Malts and Meeples, but I am playing through it now with a friend, so not even solo.
In Sword & Sorcery, you control a character who is an ancient hero brought back in this time of need. You are exploring and different scenarios, getting options presented to you as to what to do, and making choices based on the sort of party that you have. During each scenario, you are fighting monsters, collecting soul points, getting money and other loot and hopefully leveling up your character. Then, as you win, you advance to more scenarios. All in all, the basics of what you’re doing in a game are pretty standard.
Sword & Sorcery does have some unique things, the biggest one being death in the game. When your character dies, you were an ancient soul that has been brought forward in time, so you become a ghost, instead of just being dead. You can do a few things as a ghost, but the main thing you can do and what you want to do, is get to your soul respawn point, respawn, and get back into the fight as fast as possible. Because, if your teammates go down as well, you’ll lose the scenario. This feels unique to me in the game because death isn’t the end. In Gloomhaven, it’s possible to have a character go down half way through a scenario, and while there is plenty of things that player can still help with in terms of running the encounter, you are done playing your character for that scenario. Sword & Sorcery handles that differently allowing you to hop back into the fight, but at a cost. To respawn, you have to use a soul point. And while that doesn’t seem like much of a cost, the soul points are what you use to level up as well, so you’re slowing down your leveling progression, and when you get knocked out and turned into ghost form and come back, you lose a level.
The leveling is also interesting in this game. It’s interesting because it’s not a standard leveling. Characters don’t level up based on XP that is gained, there isn’t a divided amount of anything that gets you closer at a regular rate. You have a group pool of soul points, and you don’t get soul points all that fast. You also have to keep a reserve of soul points because if someone goes down and you have none, they are extremely limited in what they can do until they can get back into the fight. Leveling up is also not a cheap affair. You are spending soul points equal to the level squared that you are going up to. So at level 2 it’s 4 soul points, at level 3 it’s 9 soul points, at level 5 it’s 25 soul points. The game hands them out fairly often, but that’s a lot of soul points to get up to the higher levels.
Another part of the game that I really enjoy, is the character creation/skills aspect of the game. Each character has two sides, a lawful side and a chaotic side. When you start the game, you, as a party, decides if you are going to be lawful or chaotic. That is going to give you a different unique character power than if you have played lawful. It also gives you the opportunity to get different abilities. And when you pick abilities, you have a large variety to pick from. So how you build up a character over time is going to be different than someone else might. Because of that, you really do get a good variety in the game and it adds back in some replayability, even if you know what is going to happen in the scenarios. And, depending on if you are lawful or chaotic, you are locked out of picking some abilities which limits your choices some in an interesting way.
They also have some cool rules for characters and monsters in the same area. If there are more heroes than monsters in the area, you have majority, if you have have twice as many you dominate the area, and just for that, you get an extra hit. But it isn’t just for you, it’s also for the monsters, so if you get swarmed or split up, it’s possible that you’ll be taking extra damage. It’s a nice way to make the majority feel like it means something, but it also means that you can get piled on quickly if you aren’t careful. This is one area that strategy is added into the game where it isn’t just the die rolls.
The game has a massive rule book, however, and like a lot of dungeon crawlers, that can be a deterrent from people getting into the game. I don’t think that the rules are all that complex, however, once you’re used to them. Most of what you need to know is explained on the cards for your abilities, and resolved by die rolls. So, once you know how to interpret those rolls, it goes fast. I feel like that’s fairly common for larger dungeon crawlers where they need to cover the edge cases, but most of those things will be fairly rare so the focus of the game is actually pretty straight forward.
One downside to the game is that it’s a bit fiddly. I bought a ton of small plastic bags and that helps keep things sorted. But the game itself does not come with those, which means that it would be a lot of work finding stuff. I think that a tackle box or a cross stitch thread box would work nicely as well. I feel like this is a common issue with a lot of dungeon crawlers. Without an organizer or organization strategy for Gloomhaven, it would have the same issue as well. Also, because of the size of the maps and the amount of tokens, you need a fairly large table to play the game easily. Once you’re into the game you know what you need and it’s easier to keep track of, but set-up can be a lot, thankfully tear down is a lot faster which is to be expected.
I also will say that right now I’m playing the game two player, each of us running a single character. I think that we’re going to consider going to two players each. The reason for that was that we’ve had good luck. The friend seems to roll defense like no ones business, so their character has never been in danger and is often the one focused on. And I’ve had a lot of luck doing large amounts of damage so it’s been fairly easy. I don’t know how much more difficult it will be controlling two characters each or what that will do to the length of play, but we’re hoping it bumps up the difficulty a bit. It should because you flip an encounter card after every heroes activation, so theoretically characters will get hit more. We also have two magic users, so we are limited in what we can use for equipment and want to get more variety.
I have enjoyed this game a lot thus far. I don’t think that it’s as good as Gloomhaven, but it’s a lot of fun. The story has been enjoyable, and I like the fact that when you’re knocked out, you really aren’t knocked out of the scenario. I wish it felt a bit harder or had a good way to scale the difficulty. But there are unique aspects to the game and I’m excited for playing more of it. There are also a lot of interesting characters to play and way more than I will probably ever get to, plus expansions. This is definitely not a game for those who don’t like the luck of the dice though.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: C-
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