I’ve done a competitive person games list for that person who might be just a bit too competitive. Yesterday I did a stocking stuffer list. Today I’m looking at games for that person who loves to work together and like cooperative games. Dead of Winter …
Tag: Dead of Winter
We’re onto the top half of my Top 100 games. We’ve seen a number of games drop out of the top 50 so far, that means we’re either going to have new games or games that have rise, you’ll have to find out. You can …
There are a lot of games out there that are based off of other games that feel pretty similar to them. Ascension and Dominion are both Deck Building games, and they really don’t do that much mechanically unique from a lot of other deck building games. But every now and again, there are games that do something different, something that makes them fell mechanically unique. I already did a list of unique themes that you can find here. Let’s see what I can find for unique mechanics.
10 – Potion Explosion
Now, Potion Explosion is not that unique in terms of video games, but for a mechanic in a board game it has something very cool. You are taking/collecting marbles to mix together in your potion. That piece is pretty standard set collection fare that you see in a lot of games, but it has a mechanic where, because you are pulling marbles from a tray and then more marbles drop in, that if you pull a marble and then like colored marbles hit, you take those marbles, and if more like colored marbles hit, you can take those, so you can set-up a big chain reaction of marbles to use on your potions. It’s a simple mechanic to add into the game, but they execute it well with the tray that holds the marbles and allows them to roll. There’s also more strategy than it feels like there would be, but is still a simple game to teach.
9 – Captain Sonar
This one is interesting to have on the list, because I don’t know that it has a single completely unique mechanic, but the combination of trying to figure out hidden movement, breaking down and repairing systems, and navigating all at the same time, and getting systems loaded, there’s just a lot going on in this hectic game. But they work together extremely well. You get that pressure of trying to hunt down the enemy sub and figure out where they are and what they are up to. And if things go poorly and you need to resurface, all of a sudden they have a chance to find you. This game is also interesting because it’s a big group game but doesn’t have a party game feel.
8 – Dice Forge
I believe that there are a couple other games that have done this, but none, in my opinion, as successfully as Dice Forge, and that is dice customization. In this game, which is basically just a seeing who can get the most victory points over a few rounds, you are swapping out the faces on your dice so that you can get more of several different resources, whether it’s to purchase more and better cards that give you points, or if it’s money that you can spend to get more points, or maybe even just more points. The game gives you a number of strategies for it. But the most fun part is popping off the side of a die and replacing it with something better which really then allows you to customize your strategy going forward.
7 – Hats
Hats is an interesting one to put on the list because it’s just a very small card game and all you’re doing in it is collecting hats in front of you and trying to keep what you want for scoring on the table at the Madd Hatter’s tea party. But how it works is interesting because the cards you get for scoring are from the table. So if you aren’t careful, you could set it up that a color of hat you’ve been collecting might not be able to be scored anymore. So it’s a give and take of collecting a variety of hats but also keeping a lot of scoring options open. It can be pretty thinky at two players. Just the play of the table and how you get cards in front of you feels different and unique to me. So many games you use your own hand for scoring, but in Hats, what you have in your hand, you might not use for scoring at all.
6 – Photosynthesis
First the theme is quite unique, growing trees is not that common a theme, but it has one really interesting and cool mechanic and that’s the sun. In this game the sun rotates around the board and there are games that do that with the moon as well, but the sun rotating can determine if you’re tree is going to get any sunlight and give you points to grow your trees more so and eventually remove your biggest tree which will get you points. But the game is played a certain number of rotations of the sun, and there are a number of spots it can be, but the taller the tree is, the more shade it casts, so it’s a balancing act of blocking your opponents trees at times while getting your own to get the sun in a lot of situations or consistently getting energy to use from the sunlight.
5 – Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Not the most unique mechanic anymore, because they’ve come out with two more Crossroads games, though only one of them has been well received. But Dead of Winter is a zombie survival game where you have a main objective, personal objectives, and possibly a traitor, but what makes it unique is that there are Crossroads cards. These cards will only get triggered in certain situations, maybe if you take a certain action or go to a certain place or have a certain character. But that’ll immediately interrupt your turn and you’ll be given a little bit of story and then have to make a decision, it can be something that might help the colony, but most of the time it isn’t and you’ll have to choose between a couple of bad options. It’s a fun mechanic that adds more theme into the game and makes a pretty tough game considerably harder.
4 – Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension
You’ve been sucked through a wormhole and are being pulled into a black hole, so you really need to get out of the 9th Dimension. Fortunately you have a bunch of random elements on the ship that you can use for fuel, unfortunately you’re not sure how well they’ll work. What makes this unique is that the elements do different things, they’re all going to move someone, but some might move you towards the nearest ship, some might push you away, or some might pull ships towards you. And when your ship fires off is completely dependent upon the element that you’re using. The elements fire in alphabetical order, so you might have a card that’ll move you a long ways but it’s later in the alphabet, so you need to use that when you’re confident that it’ll pull you towards a ship that’s ahead of you, and not the wrong way. It’s a simple mechanic but one that works well and causes a lot of tough decisions to be made.
3 – Cartographers
This flip and write does a fair number of things that other flip or roll and write games have done before, or even other board games with the scoring set-up. And combined those by themselves are pretty unique, but there’s one very unique thing that this game does. It causes you to pass your sheet and someone else will write on it. As you are creating your map, monsters might show up, and when they do, you pass your sheet either left or right and that other player puts the monster in the least useful spot possible. And you get negative points if you can’t completely the map around the monsters. Just that screwing over of your fellow players is very interesting and normally roll and writes can be a bit solitaire so this adds in some more interactions.
2 – Xenoshyft: Onslaught
So, in the introduction I gave an example of how a lot of deck building games aren’t that unique. I think that Xenoshyft: Onslaught does something unique in how you can use the cards. In most deck building games, even cooperative ones like Aeon’s End, there are certain steps that you have to do to help the other players at the table. In Xenoshyft, however, you can simply pass them a card while you are setting up your defenses. This means that the person in charge of the armory who can get weapons cheaper can pass the medic a weapon, or maybe someone has six troops in their hand, they can pass an extra to another player to add to their line of troops. Compared to other cooperative deck building games, and actually many cooperative games in general, this one allows you to cooperate and collaborate more on what you are doing.
1 – Betrayal at House on the Hill
Now, this one I’m putting here because of the two halves on the game. There are other games that have multiple distinct parts, Galaxy Trucker for example, but with Betrayal at House on the Hill, you go from a tense cooperative game of exploring a house, mainly tense because you don’t want someone to get too much stuff or too powerful, to a game where it is one versus all as someone becomes the traitor. It does a good job, in my opinion of balancing the tension. There’s less to say on this one, because the mechanic is pretty simple, find enough omens, have a bad enough roll and bad things will happen.
Now, I’m sure I’m missing some that I’ve played and many that I haven’t played that could be unique or do a twist on some more common mechanic. What are some of your favorite games with unique mechanics?
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I’m ashamed, I forgot to do this yesterday, but Back or Brick is back today as we look at the board game based off of the 1980’s film They Live from John Carpenter and starring Roddy Piper (professional wrestler) and Keith David (The Thing, Armageddon, …
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 of those genres that can tell a lot of interesting things because you can look at the struggle of man to overcome, the in ability of humanity to stop their own doom, or the breakdown of society and how it could fall apart and rebuild.
This is building off of my articles on where to start in comics and the article on zombies in pop culture. The format is going to continue to be a little bit different every time, mainly because it can be, but I want to talk about some things that have worked well and some that don’t work as well.
I think that we can all think of a lot of apocalyptic or post apocalyptic stories out there. About 5 years ago we had a lot of them being taken on in the Young Adult style with books series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner. Some of these worked better and some were disappointments, at least for myself. Since then, the genre hasn’t really died off, we have Netflix putting out shows like Daybreak and The Rain where things are going horribly wrong or have gone horribly wrong in the world. The genre as a whole has kind of been all over the map though with a lot of goofy stories as well as many very serious takes on the genre as well.
Now, I’m not sure that any particular take is going to be always the right one. Some that take themselves too seriously become overwrought and melodramatic, while others can try and do a humorous take on it that just ends up being hit or miss. And there’s also an element where some authors are trying too hard to be profound on a topic that is going to lend itself to a lot of speculation.
Just to talk about speculation, I feel like there are two that I can kind of compare as to how one does it decently and the other does it poorly. In The Hunger Games, we have this idea of spectacle, and that humans, even when things are going poorly are going to want spectacle and probably even want more and greater spectacle, especially if they are at the top of the food chain. This is something that we can see already in our society where people love things like Survivor, or even before our time with the shows in the Roman Colosseum, so The Hunger Games has a feeling of something that is grounded and truthful to it. Compare that to Divergent. The issue with Divergent, besides that the story just takes a left turn that everyone saw coming is that they split up humanity and society in a way that doesn’t make any sense. At no point in time before has society split itself along those lines in such a way or tested people so that they would be split that way. It feels like an illogical jump for a society to make and one that doesn’t really aid the society in the long run. So even though, I would say, there is some overlap, the speculation and the ability for a post apocalyptic story to have a ring of truth to it makes a big difference.
Now, I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how it’s moved into other mediums. It’s easy to think of books, films and TV shows, but in many ways it’s just as easy to think of video games. The Last of Us is a prime example of a post-apocalyptic game, and the Resident Evil games take place during or after the apocalypse. But probably less known to some, though obviously something I like, is how it’s made it’s way into board games. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Season 2 are basically board games about the apocalypse and the fallout from that. And it gives you an interestingly written story. Even a game like Dead of Winter, which I’ve mentioned in the zombie article, is definitely about survival after the apocalypse. While I don’t have a ton of post-apocalyptic games on my shelf, I have a lot that are about thwarting that great disaster from happening, basically all of the Lovecraft Mythos investigative games from Fantasy Flight fall into that category. In those games, Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Eldritch Horror, Elder Signs, you’re always trying to stop a great old one from coming through, or something along those lines. Even fantasy games like Gloomhaven, Sword & Sorcery, and Aeon’s End: War Eternal, while maybe not as heavily apocalyptic as some, have bits and pieces of that thrown in, especially if you fail the campaign.
Finally, there are RPG’s, and I think when it comes to a medium that is built for the apocalypse, RPG’s are that medium. Even if it hasn’t happened, the fact that you’re going on an adventure to do something, it’s going to be to stop something bad, and generally that’s some form the of the apocalypse for at least part of the world. And if you make it up to level 20, it’s probably for the whole world. In fact, one of the campaign books for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is Princes of the Apocalypse. There’s just something about the story of an malevolent god trying to destroy humanity and the player characters becoming humanities champions that just works well for a story. It’s one of those things where you can joke that it’s a story as old as time, but it works for so many reasons as it gives you that heroes journey and that final thing for them to overcome.
Well, that was kind of rambling, I had a lot that I wanted to talk about what I like from apocalyptic stories and why some of them don’t work as well if they ring a little hollow. Plus, I couldn’t go an article without talking about how it has flowed into the RPG and Board Game mediums. What are some of your favorite apocalyptic stories from whatever medium it might be?
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Alright, the classic mechanic in board games, rolling some dice. Whether it’s Monopoly or Clue rolling dice to move, Risk where you roll dice to attack, or Yahtzee where you roll dice to fill in a sheet, dice have been a staple of board gaming for a very long time.
When I am creating this list, I’m not just looking at games where it is mainly rolling dice, I’m looking at games where rolling those dice is a very important part of the game. So it’s not just going to be a bunch of roll and write games or older games, but a variety of games that rely on dice. I would guess that some people won’t consider the games to use the dice enough, but for me, it’s one of the major mechanics in the game, which is enough to get it onto the list.
10 – Sword and Sorcery
A good ameritrash game to take the #10 spot on the list, Sword and Sorcery has some story to it, but it’s all about crawling through the “dungeon” to advance the story, running across different monsters, fighting them and then going back and doing it all again. When you fight monsters, it’s about chucking dice. If you can gang up on them, you get get some automatic hits, or if you have the right items, you get more automatic hits, or if you aim, and maybe with all of that and a good roll you’ll be able to take a monster down in one hit. This game is about making you feel like a hero fighting through the dungeon and it might be a little bit easy. That said, the dice rolling is fun, especially with the extra symbols on the dice, not just hits or misses, because if you get the right combo, maybe you can boost your damage some more or ignore their armor. Of course, after your turn, you have to roll for the enemies and they might just hit you back hard and take you down as well. It’s a good straight forward dice chucking dungeon crawling game.
9 – Dead of Winter
I like the idea of games where the number of the dice matter, and not just in a simple comparison of does my number beat your number, if so, I win, like Risk. Dead of Winter gives you a lot to do with those dice. You can kill zombies, if you rolled high enough, you can search locations, if you rolled high enough, or you can barricade or do other things spending dice to keep the small group of survivors alive another day. There is no dice mitigation in this game, so that means that what you roll you get. Now, there are always things you can use the dice for, but it might not be what you really want. And while the dice roll is a random thing, it is one of the things that makes everyone look a little bit like a traitor, nothing that they can do about it, but it feels like a bad roll is somehow more likely to make a traitor. And that’s what Dead of Winter is about, it’s about fighting zombies, but it’s more about can you trust your fellow survivors, so are they out to get you?
8 – Village Attacks
Sometimes you just want to be a monster, and Village Attacks, you’re able to do that. You and your team of monsters are just resting in your castle most likely at the top of a cliff that somehow manages to keep the village below it in constant shadow when those pesky villagers decide to ruin your evening by attacking your castle with their pitchforks and torches. Can you fend them off? That’s what you use the dice for, they give you the ability to move, attack ranged, attack close and do other things, such as defend against the damage that might be coming your way. There’s less dice mitigation in this one, so you better hope that you roll well. But if you do roll three of the same symbol you are always able to reroll that until you don’t have it anymore. The theme is just fun, and while the game is a bit dark, I’ve found that it plays sillier because of the theme and the idea of these monsters just wanting some peace and quiet but the villagers keep bugging them.
7 – Homebrewers
I love beer, so Homebrewers might be higher on my list than some, but it’s a fun small engine building game where the engine that you’re building is the beers that you are creating. You do that by getting ingredient cards and adding them to your different brews. But the dice play a major part in that, the dice you get have to clean up the mess you’ve made while brewing, get you ingredients, add in ingredients, get you grain for brewing, and brew your beer, so your one roll is very important. However, there’s good dice mitigation just in case you rolled almost all of a single symbol. You can trade dice with other players. Maybe I have two brew and no grain and you have no brew and two grain, we could swap a grain and a brew so that both of us are able to brew. But maybe I think you’re in the lead and you brewing will help you more than just doing a simple trade would help me, so instead, you can spend a dollar and change the face of a die. The game plays fast and feels almost like a filler type engine building game, but it’s a ton of fun and who wouldn’t want to drink a bacon nutmeg ale?
6 – Criss Cross
Smallest game on the list and only roll and write on the list. This game is very simple and very dice driven, you are putting down pairs of dice like they’re dominoes onto your sheet, as is everyone else. And you’re trying to get symbols next to each other so that you can score points in both rows and columns. It might seem like there’s an optimal solution that everyone would gravitate towards form the dice rolls, but you are free to put the pair of dice down on on your grid where ever you want, and you get to pick what symbol you want to put in a starting corner, since there are an odd number of squares. So the strategy for the game and plan for it diverges based off of whether or not you can match symbols next to each other at the start. Overall, the game is simple, it plays fast, but it’s a good little filler dice game that I like a lot.
5 – Sagrada
Most of the games on the list, you’re rolling the dice and using them to resolve something. in Sagrada, you’re rolling the dice, then drafting dice, an using them to create a stained glass window. That by itself sounds like a lot of fun, but you have rules as to where you can an can’t place dice. You can’t have the same number or same color orthogonally adjacent to each other (left – right and up – down). Plus at the start of the game, you get to pick a stained glass window that you’re going to make. That is going to mean that you need certain colors in certain spots or certain numbers. So that locks in what you can pick even more so. Can you grab the right dice or get them to come out of the bag so that you can complete your stained glass window?
4 – Dice Throne Season 1/2
While this isn’t a pure dice game, it is one of the games that most heavily uses the dice. You’re rolling them every round, Yahtzee style, in order to hit your opponent and take down their health faster than they can take down yours. What’s interesting about it is that straights or four of a kind, that can mean a different sort of attack for each character. The Pyromancer might set someone on fire so that they are going to take more damage over time. The Shadow Thief might steal the CP (combat points) from another player and deal more damage because of that. And if you’re really lucky or can manipulate a roll so that you end up with all sixes, you can pull of a great ultimate attack. Then, assuming the damage can be defended against, the defending player rolls a single defense roll which might block damage, hit back for a little bit, or do something else, depending on the character. The game shines because of the cards, in some ways, though, because you can improve your attack or defense by playing down upgrade cards. So if you get a great combat upgrade, you might be able to swing for more or open up more options for what you can do on combat. It’s a really fun game and plays fast.
3 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Mansions of Madness is one of those games where you use the dice to check everything. If you need to see if you know the lore of something and won’t be going more insane, look at your lore skill, grab that many dice and roll them. If you need to fight off a monster from the depths of the oceans, it’ll tell you look at your strength and roll that many dice. The only thing that you don’t use dice for is puzzles, as those are handled by the app or something so simple that anyone could do it. But Mansions of Madness uses the dice well and like a lot of the games in the Arkham line from Fantasy Flight, there are ways to mitigate the dice with rerolls, or you can spend clue tokens to turn clue rolls into successes. I think this is a good example of having just enough mitigation in the dice that it doesn’t feel so lucky, but you’re always hoping for that perfect roll and as you get later in the game and need better rolls with less resources, often, it adds to the pressure.
2 – T.I.M.E. Stories
For what is basically a complicate Choose Your Own Adventure with a bit of escape room thrown in, you get an interesting game with a lot of dice rolling. Some might argue it’s too much dice rolling as you test your skills to see if you can get enough agility to slip a key off the cooks belt or to fight off a crazed monster down in the tunnels. You never know what you’re going to run across that you’ll need to make a roll for. Now, the rolling, like I said, is not some people’s favorite piece to the game, it can be random and it can be quite swingy. So you might make it through a couple of tough encounters with ease and then an easy encounter might just wipe you out and cause you to restart a run. But for me, that’s some of the fun of the game, in the game you aren’t be swapped into the best vessels from that era or location, so you aren’t going to always be the perfect team. Plus there’s the time die which gives some variability to how much time you’re counting down and that can also cause you to have to go on another run. A controversial pick, but one that I enjoy.
1 – Betrayal At House on the Hill
So remember, when I do these Top 10’s, it’s going to include a lot of my favorite games, but dice rolling in Betrayal at House on the Hill tends to be somewhat important. I don’t think that it uses it best out of all the games on the list, but it’s my favorite. In it you’re using dice for combat, but more importantly for the haunt. The haunt is when the game shifts from being cooperative and turns into a fight for survival as one character becomes the betrayer and has their own winning objectives compared to the other players. This roll is known as the haunt roll and you’re trying to roll more than a certain number to keep it from happening. So a poor roll early in the game could cause the haunt to come on faster. While this can be an issue for some, I like that fact that ti’s not as standard a feel as a horror movie because you never know when the haunt is going to happen or if you’ll be prepared to win.
There are a whole lot more games where dice can play a big roll. I actually left Star Wars: Rebellion off the list, because I think that the expansion changes up combat some so that it’s not as luck and dice driven, but it does have a lot of dice in there as well. And you can see that even though some of my favorite games use dice, not all of them is it the highlight of the game. T.I.M.E. Stories is on the list because I don’t mind the dice, but I’m there for the story, whereas other games use the dice really well, like Dice Throne or Mansions of Madness where it’s so key to what you’re doing.
Let me know in the comments below what some of your favorite dice driven games (or at least games where the dice are very important) are. Are there any that you think I need to checkout? Looking at my shelf, I need to get Formula D to the table which has a lot of dice to roll as you race.
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Another mechanic that I really love, action points/allowance is basically how many things you can do on your turn. Now, I want to say that this differentiates from something like Monopoly or Clue where you can do multiple things on your turn, possibly. I doubt …