Continuing on the top 5, we’re going to look at board games that I have played, for the first time in 2020. This is a bit of a more challenging list to do this year. It might seem like that shouldn’t be the case because …
Become those who songs are sung about in the epic dungeon crawler from Steamforged Games.
- Quick to set-up
- Non-standard fantasy races/classes
- Dungeon crawl
- Session Length
- Campaign Game
- Dungeon Crawl
- D20 based
- Very much D&D inspired
I think that they do a solid job on the page. I get some idea of the game play and while there are obviously a lot of minis in this, they could highlight them a lot more. And that’s not saying that I want them to highlight it more, in fact I appreciate that they don’t. Too often games like this focus on the minis and then not at all o the game play.
I also like how they show off a number of guest writers for it, which some fun names in there. I like it when games can pull in more creators to help give different parts of the game a more robust and interesting feel to it. It also helps with the diversity in the game, because a smaller team, though Steamforged Games is not small by any means, can mean that you have less diversity in the game and creators.
I will knock them a little bit, as I do most campaigns on Kickstarter, the information for the game play is pretty low on the page. So I don’t have a ton of idea until I’m about halfway down and they’ve tried to sell me on add-ons shown off the minis a few times. And while the section is fairly large, I feel like it’s actually light in details for the game play itself.
So, this part is interesting and I am looking at the game from what I can tell in the rules, plus watching some game play.
They talk about simple character creation and it being simple to get up and go overall for this game. This is both true and a lie. Character creation is definitely simple, you get a starting set-up for your character, you toss on a couple of tokens to note things, and that is great. I like how simple that get into the game is. Same with setting up the map, you have a starting map spot and your character and that is it, and you’re ready to go.
But it’s also a lie. When building your character, you get to choose how you progress. They made it free and open so that you won’t have to be stuck in a class. I like that aspect about it, but that means in future games and future times when setting up your character, it won’t be as simple, in fact you’ll have to keep track of what you’ve done. Plus the action dungeon crawl itself. Gloomhaven doesn’t pretend it has fast set-up, this does, this probably has longer in game set-up than Gloomhaven does just because you are flipping a card, that tells you what map tile is next, you find that tile, then you need to figure out what bad guys go on there, then you need to shuffle up the combat order that people go in, the marching order. I’ve played Shadows Of Brimstone which uses a set-up mechanism like that, it’s faster to get it going on the table, it is not faster when all set-up time is considered.
I do like how the enemy AI works. It isn’t completely unique, as things like Sword and Sorcery and Imperial Assault have done this as well, but it’s basically a list of things. If the enemy can do the top thing, that means they do that, if they can’t, look at the next one, and so on and so forth. It makes enemy combat easy to do, but can make it a bit predictable. This compared to Gloomhaven which has an enemy deck so you don’t know what might be flipped up.
Back or Brick
So there are things that I like about this game and things that I don’t. I do think that this game has some interesting characters, but at the same time, it also has a lot of D&D related characters and monsters and I could just play D&D. Then there is the D20, I didn’t talk about it much in game play, but you are rolling a D20 to do things, and the issue with that is that a D20 has massive variability. In Dungeons and Dragons that can be an issue, but D&D is a much about the role playing as it is the roll playing. This is a board game, so as much as they want it to be like an RPG Board Game, it is going to be a board game first, which means that variability sucks. For me, this ends up being a brick because of that, and because I don’t believe the set-up and getting going is that much faster, it just shifts it to down time in the game versus at the start of the game. Add in the title, I like the idea of bards singing about your deeds, but from what I can tell the name is just a fun name and doesn’t have anything to do with what you really are doing in the game.
How about for you, is this game a back or a brick?
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 …
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
So the first one isn’t actually even a cooperative game, but I wanted to put it on here, because in terms of semi-cooperative games, it is one of the best ones out there. In this game you are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. But, there might be a traitor in your midst. You have to try and figure out how the traitor might be, as well as complete the overall objective, plus feed your survivors, deal with zombies, build up defenses, and deal with daily issues that pop up. It’s a really fun game, fairly long, but one that has a ton of theme about zombie survival. It also has this amazing thing known as Crossroad Cards. These are cards that offer story and tough decisions that can happen when certain actions are taken or when certain locations are gone to. It helps keep the game very immersive and interesting. This won’t be for all players who want to work together, but if you want to sow that seed of doubt, Dead of Winter is a great option.
Mansions of Madness
Maybe they are fans of horror, Mansions of Madness takes a horror element from HP Lovecraft’s work and gets turned into an investigation and survival game as the players take on the roll of paranormal investigators in Arkham Massachusetts during the 1920’s. You’ve been called in to deal with a strange situation at a Mansion, or maybe into the sea side town of Innsmouth to investigate the creatures coming out of the water. This game is app assisted as it helps you with fighting the bad guys and monsters, figuring out the secret plans of the cultists and trying to stop them, and solving puzzles along the way. The app does a good job of helping with some of the book keeping in the game and keeping the scenarios different when you play them, because the game can change it up based off of what you have, so the mansion might not look quite the same between scenarios. This is a really fun game with a ton of story in it. However, if the Lovecraftian theme doesn’t work for you, Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth is kind of the next iteration of Mansions of Madness in using an app, just a fantasy setting we all know well.
Say Bye to the Villains
Maybe you want a small game, Say Bye to the Villains is a very challenging game where you are Samurai who know of some villains that you’ll be facing off against. You have 10 days to research them, prepare your skills, and do anything else you need to, to get ready. The days are basically point values on your cards. The higher the point value, the more time it might be. I have probably played this game 15 to 20 times and I have yet to win. This is an extremely hard game, because like most cooperative games, there are a lot of things you need to do and not enough time to do them. Each villain has face down cards modifying their attacks, and you won’t have time to figure out all of those and get yourself ready to fight them. The game is almost a tiny bit too tight that way, but if someone is up for a challenge, it’s a really good game.
One type of game I haven’t put on the list is campaign games. Gloomhaven isn’t the original campaign game, but it’s probably the most popular. Currently it is the highest ranked game on Board Game Geek, now that is hobby gamers, so don’t let that fool you into thinking that this game is going ot be something that you can pick up easily. In fact, for most people, I’d recommend start with Jaws of the Lions. Jaws of the Lion is Gloomhaven, just in a smaller box. But if you want an epic dungeon crawl game with story, adventuring, leveling up and unlocking new characters, this game is amazing. I just finished it up a week ago, and it was a great time and probably over 250 hours into the base game and the expansion and we didn’t even do all of the side quests. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s definitely worth it, and a game that will give you so much value compared to a lot of other games just with how much you can play it, and once you’re into it, how much you want to play it.
Finally, the game that is fitting for this year, but also is for that person who is interesting in board games if they are cooperative, but hasn’t played a ton of board games. Pandemic is a modern classic when it comes to board games. It’s a game where you are fighting back and trying to find cures for four diseases around the board. Like I was talking about with Say Bye to the Villains, this game has you feeling like there’s always a little bit more that you want to do. You want to be able to get over to one area to treat diseases while also getting to another area to hand off a card to another player to help find one of the cures, plus use a card to build another research base to make things easier to get around. The game starts off as challenging, but the more you play the easier it’ll get. If the person is already familiar with this game and you want to take the next step, I highly recommend Pandemic Legacy Season 1, 2, and most recently 0. Those will give you the same feel, but have a story that evolves.
There are so many cooperative games out there, for really challenging ones like Robinson Crusoe, comic based ones like Marvel Champions and Marvel United, pirates in Dead Men Tell No Tales and Forgotten Waters, so I lot to choose from. I mentioned dungeon crawl games with Gloomhaven, and there are a ton of fully cooperative ones out there. If you want it as a theme for a cooperative game, you can probably find it. But these are some that I really enjoy, shouldn’t be too hard to find, minus maybe Say Bye to the Villains, and offer a lot of fun and interesting challenge.
So, I’ve done two of these before, you can find the general idea and the character ideas already starting to be fleshed out. Next I want to talk about the level bosses in the game.
So let’s now talk about the level bosses. A quick recap on the concept for the level bosses, these are not levels of the characters, the character doesn’t have to be the level 4 boss to get to level 5 in character progression, in fact, I’ll be talking about some other ways to get XP in the future. But these are the bosses on the various levels of the MMORPG that the characters are stuck in. So to progress to the next level of the dungeon you need to defeat the dungeon boss for the level you are on.
What characters do on each level of the MMORPT will be leading up to the boss fight, and when you get to the boss fight, you better hope that you are prepared, there are four big things when it comes to the boss fight.
- Evolving Boss Combat
- Programmed Boss Combat
- Vanguard Combat
- Rearguard Combat
Let’s actually talk about them in reverse order of what I’ve put there. Rearguard combat is basically your guilds combat. These are the nameless people who you have in your guild and what they do in combat, is simply keep any minions or smaller bad guys off of you, the heroes, so you can fight the big bad. I want this to be pretty simple in how this works. You probably don’t send your whole guild after the minions or take your whole guild into battle with you, in fact, doing so will hurt morale and cause people to leave, so you need to try figure out the right amount. Too few and they’ll die and you might start taking minimal damage from the bosses minions, too many, you start to lose morale and members will start to leave the guild. But this is a one time thing that you set at the start of combat, basically a pre-combat thing so you can compare numbers with the minions and see what happens. You can also improve your odds, and your morale, by improving the equipment of your guild members, so you might need less to complete a battle if you do that.
Next we have the Hero Combat, this I don’t have nailed down, but I want to do some blend of die and card combat. I like chucking dice, but I don’t want it to be completely determine by what you roll and I want plenty of ways to mitigate the dice. No crit fail, you drop your sword and the boss cuts you in two, because there’s no respawning or restarting with that character. Instead, I want characters to have abilities to dodge, block, and survive, but at times attacks to be blocked of their own, or countered. I know that players will have some more powerful abilities that they can use as well. I want to go with a very MMORPG sort of feel, or video game RPG, where some things will take time to prepare or other things will have a cool down effect for an ability.
After that we have programmed combat for a boss. For video games there are a lot of videos showing exploits for a boss, because they are programmed, so they have patterns that they use. I want to emulate this in the boss battles, and I think this is how I can make boss battles seem very powerful with epic attacks and how do we beat them, all while giving the players a chance. When the boss attacks, that card goes to the bottom of the bosses attack deck, so for their first health bar, there might be only three cards, that means that you will know that is coming up and what attack to prepare against after a little bit, and after even less time if you’ve studied the boss. It takes it from being a more random style of combat to almost a puzzle that you need to figure out and beat. Now, just solving the puzzle could be really easy, but I want to combo that with the players abilities that might take time to cool down or prepare so that they can’t and won’t always have the ideal turn.
Finally, we have the evolving boss combat. Every boss is going to have two or more health bars. Most likely only the first level boss will have two, so it’ll always be “or more”. When a bar is emptied, like in a TV show where the villain gets knocked down and then comes back stronger, I always think of Power Rangers with this concept. I want to do something similar with the boss combat, the boss when their health bar hits 0, the first one or any but the final one, will add an additional one or two cards to their combat cycle and you might even remove a previous attack card from the combat cycle. So it’ll be something that the players can learn, but they’ll have to relearn the pattern and figure out the puzzle without knowing what might be coming up. Added to that, I want when the boss goes into red, so basically when it comes down to the final turn or two, I want some of those newly added cards to have additional abilities that will trigger as well, not a whole new attack, but something making the existing attack more powerful and harder for the players to deal with.
And then once defeated there will of course be loot and XP to be gained, wounds to be dealt with, and morale of your guild to be adjusted, but those are basically outside of the boss battle, and I’ll talk about them as time goes on.
What do you think of the combat idea? Is the idea of the puzzle and evolving boss combat style something that seems like it could work? Do you like chucking dice for combat (Sword and Sorcery), or do you prefer to have more card based combat (Gloomhaven)?