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The Summer of Boardgames

September 2, 2015

Joe is busy studying for the MCAT, Bill has been tied up with school, Thomas has been sick, and Robert/Boliden the barbarian is “chained to his desk” at work right now. I told him that he should Rage and make a Strength check to break his bonds, but I guess that wasn’t a very helpful suggestion.

Needless to say, we haven’t done much of any roleplaying since wrapping up Rivers Run Red. In the meantime, the rest of us have been hanging out and playing boardgames for the most part. This is what we’ve sampled recently:

Kill Shakespeare

The local comics/hobby store has a play-room in the back with lots of games that can be used freely. After some discussion, we picked Antony’s choice of Kill Shakespeare by IDW. Never again will we listen to him! After spending an hour trying to set the game up and play through the first round, we gave up in frustration and put it away. This is not a casual pick-up game in any way, shape, or form. I would label it “needlessly complex,” but I don’t actually know if the complexity is warranted or not, as we didn’t manage to get to the damn game.

Ticket to Ride

After that debacle, we grabbed Ticket to Ride by Days of Wonder. This is a casual pick-up game, and a very fun one, I thought. The players are railroad tycoons trying to build routes across North America. The rules are simple and each turn is lightning fast, which was a huge relief by that point in the evening. Strategies will change from game to game depending on what cards you get (which will determine what routes you can build), but also in that you can take on goals to build random multi-city routes. If you complete the multi-city routes, you get more points, but if the game ends before you finish them, you lose the same number of points you would have gained if you had succeeded. So there’s an element of risk involved in taking on such goals. Enjoyable game, even though we got kicked out of the store before we could finish. And Antony ended up buying a copy for himself before we left.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

One a subsequent game night, we played two games of Betrayal at (the?) House on the Hill by Avalon Hill/WotC, aka Cabin in the Woods: The Game. It’s a tile-based horror game, where the players are exploring a strange house full of unexplained happenings. At some point, something happens and the source of the strange events is revealed! The neat bit is there are a ton of potential sources, each one loosely corresponding to a familiar horror/monster plot, and each with its own rules and victory conditions for the monster and the survivors. So the back half of each game is different. Even if you get a scenario you’ve played through before, the board will be different, as the house’s layout is random.

In the first game, my character got bitten and then turned into an awful flesh monster that wanted to absorb all other flesh. Drew’s character rigged the furnace to blow before he & Antony escaped from the house. The flesh-monster threw out a tendril to grab Drew before he could flee, but Antony held on to him for dear life! The house exploded in a deadly fireball, taking the monster with it, before Drew could be dragged back to his doom.

In the second game, Antony’s little girl was possessed by an angry poltergeist. This one was a little anti-climactic, as my character was very well-suited in stats and discovered items for performing the mystic ritual to banish the spirit before it could do much harm.

All in all, I thought this was a very worthwhile game, especially if you’re a fan of horror movies. The one kicker is that most scenarios are dependent on certain rooms of the house or items being in play. As a result, the odds might be weighted heavily towards either the survivors or the monster, depending on whether or not those rooms/items had already been discovered, and where they’re located. For example, the poltergeist scenario requires the survivors to gather candles, set them up for the ritual, and perform the ritual. It just so happened that the rooms where one can find candles had already been discovered, were easily accessible, and close together, so there wasn’t much running around required. But if we had to go looking for the candles, the poltergeist would have had more opportunities to screw around with us. Still, with all of the possibilities, I really liked this one.

The Walking Dead

Last night Drew, Antony, and I checked out a bar that had a large selection of games for everyone to play. And with TVs showing non-stop sci-fi movies. So basically a bar for geeks – I wish places like this existed during my drinking days! Anyway, we passed the time with their copy of the Walking Dead game by Z-Man Games (the one with the Charlie Aldard art, not the one with the TV characters on it by Cryptozoic). Players take on the role of one of the main characters from the comic, picking up supporting characters and resources as they blaze a trail of zombies across Georgia. And I mean that literally – every time your character leaves an empty hex, you leave behind unknown number of zombies in that space. So as the game progresses, more and more of the board is filled with the hungry dead. You’ll also encounter zombies as you hunt for food, ammo, and gasoline, and as you look for safe places to live. When you’ve successfully scouted three potential locations, you win.

We had a good time, with Drew dying twice (first as Andrea, then as Shane) before finally winning as Rick. Antony played Dale and amassed a veritable army of other survivors. I had Glen, who I thought was a pretty good character, but I never managed to take the lead. But we were all fairly close to victory when the game ended, which was nice. There was no sense of one player dominating (although having a large group, as Dale had, made zombie encounters trivial), and if you die, you just pick a new character and start again. Most of the time, fighting the zombies is a dangerous proposition, one that you want to avoid, all the more so because they just keep coming! And as the board fills up, securing more resources becomes harder and harder, which slowly turned the sense of ease that I had at the beginning into desperation.

My one real beef is that the encounter cards that aren’t “zombies attack!” were not really integrated into the game’s “fiction.” There would be a piece of art from the comics and a title that suggest a particular event is taking place, but the mechanics of the encounter wouldn’t make much sense in that context. A lot of these encounters involved little psychological tests that you engage in with the other players, which is fitting in a way for a post-apocalyptic game, but it happens on a sort of meta level. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I suppose I was looking to get more into the experience of being a character in the story of the comic.

Every game is slightly different, in that the possible safe spots that need to be explored to win are random, and each player also has a random private location that only they can scout. Although I’m not sure how big a difference that would make in practice – the game board isn’t all that big, really, and the differences in what you need to do to explore the different locations are pretty minor.

All the Leaves Are Brown

A summer of boardgames is certainly not what I had planned for the past couple of months, and it’s been a little frustrating to me that our D&D game is stalled. Hopefully now that the season is almost over, the kids are almost back in school, and Joe is almost done studying for his test, we will be able to get everyone together next time and play some RPGs!


From → Boardgames, Gaming

  1. Pinkius permalink

    Try munchkin! I think you guys would like backstabbing eachother

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